“Now,” said he, “shall we not confess, after all, that there was no use in making such a fuss?”
“I allow that I was in the wrong,” answered Catenac meekly; and, extending his hands to his two associates with an oily smile, he said: “Let us forget and forgive.”
Was he to be trusted? Mascarin and the doctor exchanged glances of suspicion. A moment afterward a knock came to the door, and Paul entered, making a timid bow to his two patrons.
“My dear boy,” said Mascarin, “let me present you to one of my oldest and best friends.” Then, turning to Catenac, he added: “I wish to ask you to help and assist my young friend here. Paul Violaine is a good fellow, who has neither father nor mother, and whom we are trying to help on in his journey through life.”
The lawyer started as he caught the strange, meaning smile which accompanied these words.
“Great heavens!” said he, “why did you not speak sooner?”
Catenac at once divined Mascarin’s project, and understood the allusion to the Duke de Champdoce.
SOME SCRAPS OF PAPER.
The Marquis de Croisenois was never punctual. He had received a note asking him to call on Mascarin at eleven o’clock, and twelve had struck some time before he made his appearance. Faultlessly gloved, his glass firmly fixed in his eye, and a light walking cane in his hand, and with that air of half-veiled insolence that is sometimes affected by certain persons who wish the world to believe that they are of great importance, the Marquis de Croisenois entered the room.
At the age of twenty-five Henry de Croisenois affected the airs and manners of a lad of twenty, and so found many who looked upon his escapades with lenient eyes, ascribing them to the follies of youth. Under this youthful mask, however he concealed a most astute and cunning intellect, and had more than once got the better of the women with whom he had had dealings. His fortune was terribly involved, because he had insisted on living at the same rate as men who had ten times his income. Forming one of the recklessly extravagant band of which the Duke de Saumeine was the head, Croisenois, too, kept his racehorses, which was certainly the quickest way to wreck the most princely fortune. The Marquis had found out this, and was utterly involved, when Mascarin extended a helping hand to him, to which he clung with all the energy of a drowning man.
Whatever Henry de Croisenois’ anxieties may have been on the day in question, he did not allow a symptom of them to appear, and on his entrance negligently drawled, “I have kept you waiting, I fear; but really my time is not my own. I am quite at your service now, and will wait until these gentlemen have finished their business with you.” And as he concluded, he again placed the cigar which he had removed while saying these words, to his lips.