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CHAPTER 20: An Act of Mademoiselle Stangerson
"You remember me, Monsieur?" asked Rouletabile.
"Perfectly!" replied Arthur Rance. "I recognise you as the lad at the bar. [The face of Rouletabille crimsoned at being called a "lad."] I want to shake hands with you. You are a bright little fellow."
The American extended his hand and Rouletabille, relaxing his frown, shook it and introduced Mr. Arthur Rance to me. He invited him to share our meal.
"No thanks. I breakfasted with Monsieur Stangerson."
Arthur Rance spoke French perfectly, - almost without an accent.
"I did not expect to have the pleasure of seeing you again, Monsieur. I thought you were to have left France the day after the reception at the Elysee."
Rouletabille and I, outwardly indifferent, listened most intently for every word the American would say.
The man's purplish red face, his heavy eyelids, the nervous twitchings, all spoke of his addiction to drink. How came it that so sorry a specimen of a man should be so intimate with Monsieur Stangerson?
Some days later, I learned from Frederic Larsan - who, like ourselves, was surprised and mystified by his appearance and reception at the chateau - that Mr. Rance had been an inebriate for only about fifteen years; that is to say, since the professor and his daughter left Philadelphia. During the time the Stangersons lived in America they were very intimate with Arthur Rance, who was one of the most distinguished phrenologists of the new world. Owing to new experiments, he had made enormous strides beyond the science of Gall and Lavater. The friendliness with which he was received at the Glandier may be explained by the fact that he had once rendered Mademoiselle Stangerson a great service by stopping, at the peril of his own life, the runaway horses of her carriage. The immediate result of that could, however, have been no more than a mere friendly association with the Stangersons; certainly, not a love affair.
Frederic Larsan did not tell me where he had picked up this information; but he appeared to be quite sure of what he said.
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