“How did you find out that?”
“By looking at ’em. The paper was yellow.”
Tantaine smiled kindly. “You know a banknote then?”
“Yes, but I have precious few chances of handling them. Once I went into a money-changer’s shop and asked them just to let me feel one, and they said, ‘Get out sharp.’”
“Is that all?” demanded Tantaine.
“No; I have kept the best bit for a finish. I want to tell you that there are others on the lookout after Caroline.”
Toto had no reason this time to grumble at the effect he had produced, for the old man gave such a jump that his hat fell off.
“What are you saying?” said he.
“Simply that for the last three days a big chap with a harp on his back has been keeping her in view. I twigged him at once, and he too saw her go into the swell crib that you say belongs to that Duke.”
Tantaine pondered a little.
“A street musician,” muttered he. “I must find out all about this. Now, Toto, listen to me; chuck Caroline over, and stick to the fellow with the harp; be off with you, for you have earned your money well.”
As Chupin went off, the old man shook his head.
“Too sharp by a good bit,” said he; “he won’t have a long lease of life.”
Beaumarchef was about to ask Tantaine to remain in the office while he went off to put on his best clothes, but the old man stopped this request by saying,—
“As M. Mascarin does not like to be disturbed, I will just go in without knocking. When the other gentlemen arrive, show them in; for look you here, my good friend, the pear is so ripe that if it is not plucked, it will fall to the ground.”
A TURN OF THE SCREW.
Dr. Hortebise was the first to arrive. It was a terrible thing for him to get up so early; but for Mascarin’s sake he consented even to this inconvenience. When he passed through the office, the room was full of clients; but this did not prevent the doctor from noticing the negligence of Beaumarchef’s costume.
“Aha!” remarked the doctor, “on the drunk again, I am afraid.”
“M. Mascarin is within,” answered the badgered clerk, endeavoring to put on an air of dignity; “and M. Tantaine is with him.”
A brilliant idea flashed across the doctor’s mind, but it was with an air of gravity that he said,—
“I shall be charmed to meet that most worthy old gentleman.”
When, however, he entered the inner sanctum, he found Mascarin alone, occupied in sorting the eternal pieces of pasteboard.
“Well, what news?” asked he.
“There is none that I know of.”
“What, have you not seen Paul?”
“Will he be here?”
Mascarin was often laconic, but he seldom gave such short answers as this.