“It was all very simple, my good M. Ratichon,” now concluded my tormentor still quite amiably. “Another time you will have to be more careful, will you not? You will also have to bestow more confidence upon your partner or servant. Directly I had seen that commissionnaire’s blouse and cap, I set to work to make friends with M. Theodore. When my sister and I left your office in the Rue Daunou, we found him waiting for us at the bottom of the stairs. Five francs loosened his tongue: he suspected that you were up to some game in which you did not mean him to have a share; he also told us that you had spent two hours in laborious writing, and that you and he both lodged at a dilapidated little inn, called the ‘Grey Cat,’ in Passy. I think he was rather disappointed that we did not shower more questions, and therefore more emoluments, upon him. Well, after I had denounced this house to the police as a Bonapartiste club, and saw it put under the usual consigne, I bribed the corporal of the gendarmerie in charge of it to let me have Theodore’s company for the little job I had in hand, and also to clear the back garden of sentries so as to give you a chance and the desire to escape. All the rest you know. Money will do many things, my good M. Ratichon, and you see how simple it all was. It would have been still more simple if the stolen document had not been such an important one that the very existence of it must be kept a secret even from the police. So I could not have you shadowed and arrested as a thief in the usual manner! However, I have the document and its ingenious copy, which is all that matters. Would to God,” he added with a suppressed curse, “that I could get hold equally easily of the Secret Service agent to whom you, a Frenchman, were going to sell the honour of your country!”
Then it was that—though broken in spirit and burning with thoughts of the punishment I would mete out to Theodore—my full faculties returned to me, and I queried abruptly:
“What would you give to get him?”
“Five hundred francs,” he replied without hesitation. “Can you find him?”
“Make it a thousand,” I retorted, “and you shall have him.”
“Will you give me five hundred francs now,” I insisted, “and another five hundred when you have the man, and I will tell you?”
“Agreed,” he said impatiently.
But I was not to be played with by him again. I waited in silence until he had taken a pocket-book from the inside of his coat and counted out five hundred francs, which he kept in his hand.
“Now—” he commanded.
“The man,” I then announced calmly, “will call on me for the document at my lodgings at the hostelry of the ‘Grey Cat’ to-morrow morning at nine o’clock.”
“Good,” rejoined M. Geoffroy. “We shall be there.”
He made no demur about giving me the five hundred francs, but half my pleasure in receiving them vanished when I saw Theodore’s bleary eyes fixed ravenously upon them.