The major went away fully satisfied with the house and its inmates;
the walls were of glass and could harbor no equivocal conduct. What
particularly delighted him in his friend's return to virtue was that
it absolved him from the obligation of verifying the accounts.
Nothing was more distasteful to him than the inspection of a number
of ledgers, and as long as Burle kept steady, he--Laguitte--could
smoke his pipe in peace and sign the books in all confidence.
However, he continued to keep one eye open for a little while longer
and found the receipts genuine, the entries correct, the columns
admirably balanced. A month later he contented himself with
glancing at the receipts and running his eye over the totals. Then
one morning, without the slightest suspicion of there being anything
wrong, simply because he had lit a second pipe and had nothing to
do, he carelessly added up a row of figures and fancied that he
detected an error of thirteen francs. The balance seemed perfectly
correct, and yet he was not mistaken; the total outlay was thirteen
francs more than the various sums for which receipts were furnished.
It looked queer, but he said nothing to Burle, just making up his
mind to examine the next accounts closely. On the following week he
detected a fresh error of nineteen francs, and then, suddenly
becoming alarmed, he shut himself up with the books and spent a
wretched morning poring over them, perspiring, swearing and feeling
as if his very skull were bursting with the figures. At every page
he discovered thefts of a few francs--the most miserable petty
thefts--ten, eight, eleven francs, latterly, three and four; and,
indeed, there was one column showing that Burle had pilfered just
one franc and a half. For two months, however, he had been steadily
robbing the cashbox, and by comparing dates the major found to his
disgust that the famous lesson respecting Gagneux had only kept him
straight for one week! This last discovery infuriated Laguitte, who
struck the books with his clenched fists, yelling through a shower
"This is more abominable still! At least there was some pluck about those forged receipts of Gagneux. But this time he is as contemptible as a cook charging twopence extra for her cabbages. Powers of hell! To pilfer a franc and a half and clap it in his pocket! Hasn't the brute got any pride then? Couldn't he run away with the safe or play the fool with actresses?"
The pitiful meanness of these pilferings revolted the major, and, moreover, he was enraged at having been duped a second time, deceived by the simple, stupid dodge of falsified additions. He rose at last and paced his office for a whole hour, growling aloud.
"This gives me his measure. Even if I were to thresh him to a jelly
every morning he would still drop a couple of coins into his pocket
every afternoon. But where can he spend it all? He is never seen
abroad; he goes to bed at nine, and everything looks so clean and
proper over there. Can the brute have vices that nobody knows of?"
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