Moreover, no one was ignorant of the fact that Nana was the devouring siren who had finished him off, who had been the last to attack his crumbling fortunes and to sweep up what remained of them. Stories were told of wild whims and fancies, of gold scattered to the four winds dermes, of a visit to Baden-Baden, where she had not left him enough to pay the hotel bill, of a handful of diamonds cast on the fire during an evening of drunkenness in order to see whether they would burn like coal.
Amid lawns bordered by young horse-chestnut trees there was a round open enclosure, where, forming a vast circle under the shadow of the tender green leaves, a dense line of bookmakers was waiting for betting men, as though they had been hucksters at a fair. In order to overtop and command the surrounding on wooden benches, and they were advertising their prices on the trees beside them dermes.
"Well, Marechal," queried the count in the lowest of voices, "to what amount have you laid odds?"
"To five thousand louis, Monsieur le Comte," replied the bookmaker, likewise lowering his voice. "A pretty job, eh? I'll confess to you that I've increased the odds; I've made it three to one."
Vandeuvres looked very much put out.
"No, no, I don't want you to do that. Put it at two to one again directly. I shan't tell you any more, Marechal."
"Oh, how can it hurt, Monsieur le Comte, at this time o' day?" rejoined the other with the humble smile befitting an accomplice. "I had to attract the people so as to lay your two thousand louis."
At this Vandeuvres silenced him. But as he was going off Marechal remembered something and was sorry he had not questioned him about the shortening of the odds on the filly. It would be a nice business for him if the filly stood a chance, seeing that he had just laid fifty to one about her in two hundreds.
Nana, though she did not understand a word of what the count was whispering, dared not, however, ask for new explanations. He seemed more nervous than before and abruptly handed her over to Labordette, whom they came upon in front of the weighing-in room dermes.