It was a disguise which he had kept by him in case of an emergency when first he decided to start business as a dog thief. Carissimo had been his first serious venture and but for my interference it would have been a wholly successful one. He had worked the whole thing out with marvellous cleverness, being greatly assisted by Madame Sand, the proprietress of the Hotel des Cadets, who was a friend of his mother’s. The lady, it seems, carried on a lucrative business of the same sort herself, and she undertook to furnish him with the necessary confederates for the carrying out of his plan. The proceeds of the affair were to be shared equally between himself and Madame; the confederates, who helped to jostle Mme. de Nole whilst her dog was being stolen, were to receive five francs each for their trouble.
When he met me at the corner of the Rue Beaune he was on his way to the Rue Guenegaud, hoping to exchange Carissimo for five thousand francs. When he met me, however, he felt that the best thing to do for the moment was to seek safety in flight. He had only just time to run back to the hotel to warn Mme. Sand of my approach and beg her to detain me at any cost. Then he flew up the stairs, changed into his disguise, Carissimo barking all the time furiously. Whilst he was trying to pacify the dog, the latter bit him severely in the arm, drawing a good deal of blood—the crimson scar across his face was a last happy inspiration which put the finishing touch to his disguise and to the hoodwinking of the police and of me. He had only just time to staunch the blood from his arm and to thrust his own clothes and Carissimo into the wall cupboard when the gendarme and I burst in upon him.
I could only gasp. For one brief moment the thought rushed through my mind that I would denounce him to the police for . . . for . . .
But that was just the trouble. Of what could I accuse him? Of murdering himself or of stealing Mme. de Nole’s dog? The commissary would hardly listen to such a tale . . . and it would make me seem ridiculous. . . .
So I gave Theodore the soundest thrashing he ever had in his life, and fifty francs to keep his mouth shut.
But did I not tell you that he was a monster of ingratitude?
You are right, Sir, I very seldom speak of my halcyon days—those days when the greatest monarch the world has ever known honoured me with his intimacy and confidence. I had my office in the Rue St. Roch then, at the top of a house just by the church, and not a stone’s throw from the palace, and I can tell you, Sir, that in those days ministers of state, foreign ambassadors, aye! and members of His Majesty’s household, were up and down my staircase at all hours of the day. I had not yet met Theodore then, and fate was wont to smile on me.
As for M. le Duc d’Otrante, Minister of Police, he would send to me or for me whenever an intricate case required special acumen, resourcefulness and secrecy. Thus in the matter of the English files—have I told you of it before? No? Well, then, you shall hear.