“I remain your obedient servant,
Tossing it on the table, Mascarin opened the other letter, which he also read aloud.
“I have to report to you the breaking off of the marriage between Mademoiselle Sabine and M. de Breulh-Faverlay. Mademoiselle is very ill, and I heard the medical man say that she might not survive the next twenty-four hours.
Mascarin was so filled with rage on learning this piece of news, which seemed likely to interfere with his plans, that he struck his hand down heavily on the table.
“Damnation!” cried he. “If this little fool should die now, all our work will have to be recommenced.”
He thrust aside his chair, and paced hurriedly up and down the room.
“Florestan is right,” said he; “this illness of the girl comes on at the date of the rupture of the engagement. There is some secret that we must learn, for we dare not work in the dark.”
“Shall I go to the Hotel de Mussidan?” asked Hortebise.
“Not a bad idea. Your carriage is waiting, is it not? You can go in your capacity as a medical man.”
The doctor was preparing to go, when Mascarin arrested his progress.
“No,” said he, “I have changed my mind. We must neither of us be seen near the place. I expect that one of our mines has exploded; that the Count and Countess have exchanged confidences, and that between the two the daughter has been struck down.”
“How shall we find this out?”
“I will see Florestan and try and find out.”
In an instant he vanished into his inner room, and as he changed his dress, continued to converse with the doctor.
“This blow would be comparatively trifling, if I had not so much on hand, but I have Paul to look after. The Champdoce affair must be pressed on, for Catenac, the traitor, has put the Duke and Perpignan into communication. I must see Perpignan and discover how much has been told him, and how much he has guessed. I will also see Caroline Schimmel, and extract something from her. I wish to heaven that there were thirty-six hours in the day instead of only twenty-four.”
By this time he had completed his change of costume and called the doctor into his room.
“I am off, now,” whispered he; “do not lose sight of Paul for a single instant, for we are not sufficiently sure of him to let him go about alone with our secret in his possession. Take him to dine at Martin Rigal’s, and then make some excuse for keeping him all night at your rooms. See me to-morrow.”
And he went out so hurriedly that he did not hear the cheery voice of the doctor calling after him,—
“Good luck; I wish you all good luck.”
A FRIENDLY RIVAL.