“I have secured you the sweetest little nest in the world,” cried he merrily. “It is not so fine as this, but more in accordance with your position.”
“Where is it?” asked Paul.
Tantaine waited. “You won’t wear out much shoe leather,” said he, “in walking to a certain banker’s, for your lodgings are close to his house.”
That Tantaine had a splendid talent for arrangement Paul realized as soon as he entered his new place of abode, which was in the Rue Montmartre, and consisted of some neat, quiet rooms, just such as an artist who had conquered his first difficulties would inhabit. The apartments were on the third floor, and comprised a tiny entrance hall, sitting-room, bed and dressing room. A piano stood near the window in the sitting-room. The furniture and curtains were tasteful and in good order, but nothing was new. One thing surprised Paul very much; he had been told that the apartments had been taken and furnished three days ago, and yet it seemed as if they had been inhabited for years, and that the owner had merely stepped out a few minutes before. The unmade bed, and the half-burnt candles in the sleeping-room added to this impression, while on the rug lay a pair of worn slippers. The fire had not gone out entirely, and a half-smoked cigar lay on the mantelpiece.
On the table in the sitting-room was a sheet of music paper, with a few bars jotted down upon it. Paul felt so convinced that he was in another person’s rooms, that he could not help exclaiming, “But surely some one has been living in these chambers.”
“We are in your own home, my dear boy,” said Tantaine.
“But you took over everything, I suppose, and the original proprietor simply walked out?”
Tantaine smiled, as though an unequivocal compliment had been paid him.
“Why, do you not know your own home?” asked he; “you have been living here for the last twelve months.”
“I can’t understand you,” answered Paul, opening his eyes in astonishment; “you must be jesting.”
“I am entirely in earnest; for more than a year you have been established here. If you want a proof of the correctness of my assertion, call up the porter.” He ran to the head of the staircase and called out, “Come up, Mother Brigaut.”
In a few moments a stout old woman came panting into the room.
“And how are you, Mother Brigaut?” said Tantaine gayly. “I have a word or two to say to you. You know that gentleman, do you not?”
“What a question? as if I did not know one of the gentlemen lodging here?”
“What is his name?”
“What, plain M. Paul, and nothing else?”
“Well, sir, it is not his fault if he did not know his father or mother.”
“What does he do?”
“He is a musician; he gives lessons on the piano, and composes music.”
“Does he do a good business?”
“I can’t say, sir, but I should guess about two or three hundred francs a month; and he makes that do, for he is economical and quiet, and as modest as a young girl.”