Just then the servant returned from the bank, and as soon as the man had left the room De Breulh took the notes and placed them in his cousin’s hand.
“Here is the money for De Croisenois,” said he. “Take my advice, and give it to him this evening with a polite letter of thanks.”
“A thousand thanks, Gontran; I will act as you advise.”
“Remember you must not allude in your letter to his introduction to the Mussidans. What do you think, Andre?”
“I think a receipt for the money would be a great thing,” answered he.
“But such a demand would arouse his suspicions.”
“I think not, madame, and I see a way of doing it; have you a maid upon whom you could rely?”
“Yes, I have one.”
“Good, then give the girl a letter and the notes done up in a separate parcel, and tell her exactly what she is to do. When she sees the Marquis, let her pretend to be alarmed at the great responsibility that she is incurring in carrying this large sum, and insist upon a receipt for her own protection.”
“There is sound sense in that,” said De Breulh.
“Yes, yes,” said the Viscountess, “Josephine will do—as sharp a girl as you could find in a day’s journey—and will manage the thing admirably. Trust to me,” she continued, as a smile of hope spread over her face; “I will keep De Croisenois in a good humor; he will confide in me, and I will tell you everything. But, oh dear! what shall I do without Van Klopen? Why, there is not another man in Paris fit to stand in his shoes.”
With these words the Viscountess rose to leave.
“I am completely worn out,” remarked she; “and I have a dinner-party to-night. Good-bye then, until we meet again;” and with her spirits evidently as joyous as ever, she tripped into her carriage.
“Now,” said Andre, as soon as they were once more alone, “we are on the track of De Croisenois. He evidently holds Madame de Mussidan as he holds Madame de Bois Arden. His is a really honorable mode of action; he surprises a secret, and then turns extortioner.”
A NEW SKIN.
Dr. Hortebise’s private arrangements were sadly upset by his being compelled to accede to the desire of Tantaine and Mascarin, and in granting hospitality to Paul Violaine; and in spite of the brilliant visions of the future, he often devoutly wished that Mascarin and his young friend were at the other side of the world; but for all that he never thought of attempting to evade the order he had received. He therefore set himself steadily to his task, endeavoring to form Paul’s mind, blunt his conscience, and prepare him for the inevitable part that he would soon have to play.
Paul found in him a most affable companion, pleasant, witty, and gifted with great conversational powers. Five days were thus spent breakfasting at well-known restaurants, driving in the Bois, and dining at clubs of which the doctor was a member, while the evenings were passed at the banker’s. The doctor played cards with his host, while Paul and Flavia conversed together in low whispers, or else hung over the piano together. But every kind of agreeable existence comes to an end, and one day Daddy Tantaine entered the room, his face radiant with delight.