Paul would have asked more questions, but Tantaine cut him short with a brief good-morning, and went off hurriedly, taking the doctor with him, and seemingly wishing to avoid a hazardous and unpleasant explanation.
“Let us get out of this,” whispered he. “In another moment I should have knocked the conceited ass down. Oh, my Flavia! my poor Flavia! your weakness of to-day will yet cost you very dear!”
Paul remained rooted to the ground, with an expression of surprise and confusion upon every line of his face. All his pride and vanity had gone. “I wonder,” muttered he, “what these disagreeable persons are saying about me? Perhaps laughing at my inexperience and ridiculing my aspirations.” The idea made him grind his teeth with rage; but he was mistaken, for neither Tantaine nor the doctor mentioned his name after they had left his apartment. As they walked up the Rue Montmartre, all their ideas were turning upon how it would be easiest to checkmate Andre.
“I have not yet got sufficient information to act on,” remarked Tantaine meditatively. “My present plan is to remain perfectly quiescent, and I have told Croisenois not to make a move of any kind. I have an eye and ear watching and listening when they think themselves in perfect privacy. Very soon I shall fathom their plans, and then—, but in the meantime have faith in me, and do not let the matter worry you.”
On the boulevard Tantaine took leave of his friend.
“I shall very likely not see you to-night, for I have an appointment at the Grand Turk with that precious young rascal, Toto Chupin. I must find Caroline, for I am sure that with her lies the Champdoce secret. She is very cunning, but has a weakness for drink, and, with Satan’s help, I hope to find out the special liquor which will make her open her lips freely.”
AT THE GRAND TURK.
Tantaine took a cab, and, promising the cabman a handsome gratuity if he would drive fast, stopped at the spot where the Rue Blanche intersects the Rue de Douai, and told the coachman to wait for him, and entered the house where the younger Gandelu had installed the fair Madame de Chantemille. It was some time before his ring at the door was answered, but at last the door was opened by a stout, red-faced girl, with an untidy cap. Upon seeing Tantaine, she uttered an exclamation of delight, for it was the cook that had been placed in Zora’s employment by M. Mascarin’s agency.
“Ah, Daddy Tantaine,” said she, “you are as welcome as the sun in winter.”
“Hush, hush,” returned the old man, gazing cautiously round him.
“Don’t be frightened,” returned the girl. “Madame has gone to a place from when there is no return ticket, at least, for some time. You know the greater the value of an article the closer we keep it under lock and key.”
Tantaine gathered from this that Rose had been arrested, and his astonishment appeared to be unmeasured.