`Very well...but what does he want.
`I don't know; I never saw him in such a state.'
`He can come in.'
M. Lachenel came in, carrying a riding-whip, with which he struck his right boot in an irritable manner.
`Good morning, M. Lachenel,' said Richard, somewhat impressed. `To what do we owe the honor of your visit?'
`Mr. Manager, I have come to ask you to get rid of the whole stable.'
`What, you want to get rid of our horses?'
`I'm not talking of the horses, but of the stablemen.'
`How many stablemen have you, M. Lachenel?'
`Six stablemen! That's at least two too many.'
`These are `places,'' Mercier interposed, `created and forced upon us by the under-secretary for fine arts. They are filled by protégées of the government and, if I may venture to...'
`I don't care a hang for the government!' roared Richard. `We don't need more than four stablemen for twelve horses.'
`Eleven,' said the head riding-master, correcting him.
`Twelve,' repeated Richard.
`Eleven,' repeated Lachenel.
`Oh, the acting-manager told me that you had twelve horses!'
`I did have twelve, but I have only eleven since César was stolen.'
And M. Lachenel gave himself a great smack on the boot with his whip.
`Has César been stolen?' cried the acting-manager. `César, the white horse in the Profeta?' xx `There are not two Césars,' said the stud-groom dryly. `I was ten years at Franconi's and I have seen plenty of horses in my time. Well, there are not two Césars. And he's been stolen.'
`I don't know. Nobody knows. That's why I have come to ask you to sack the whole stable.'
`What do your stablemen say?'
`All sorts of nonsense. Some of them accuse the supers. Others pretend that it's the acting-manager's doorkeeper...'
`My doorkeeper? I'll answer for him as I would for myself!' protested Mercier.
`But, after all, M. Lachenel,' cried Richard, `you must have some idea.'
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