“Were I not certain of your abilities, I should not offer it to you,” replied Mascarin. “I am in a hurry now, or I would explain the whole affair; but I must defer doing so until to-morrow, when please come at the same hour as you did to-day.”
Even in his state of surprise and stupefaction, Paul felt that this was a signal for him to depart.
“A moment more,” said Mascarin. “You understand that you can no longer remain at the Hotel de Perou? Try and find a room in this neighborhood; and when you have done so, leave the address at the office. Good-bye, my young friend, until to-morrow, and learn to bear good fortune.”
For a few minutes Mascarin stood at the door of the office watching Paul, who departed almost staggering beneath the burden of so many conflicting emotions; and when he saw him disappear round the corner, he ran to a glazed door which led to his bed chamber, and in a loud whisper called, “Come in, Hortebise. He has gone.”
A man obeyed the summons at once, and hurriedly drew up a chair to the fire. “My feet are almost frozen,” exclaimed he; “I should not know it if any one was to chop them off. Your room, my dear Baptiste, is a perfect refrigerator. Another time, please, have a fire lighted in it.”
This speech, however, did not disturb Mascarin’s line of thought. “Did you hear all?” asked he.
“I saw and heard all that you did.”
“And what do you think of the lad?”
“I think that Daddy Tantaine is a man of observation and powerful will, and that he will mould this child between his fingers like wax.”
The opinion of Dr. Hortebise.
Dr. Hortebise, who had addressed Mascarin so familiarly by his Christian name of Baptiste, was about fifty-six years of age, but he carried his years so well, that he always passed for forty-nine. He had a heavy pair of red, sensual-looking lips, his hair was untinted by gray, and his eyes still lustrous. A man who moved in the best society, eloquent in manner, a brilliant conversationalist, and vivid in his perceptions, he concealed under the veil of good-humored sarcasm the utmost cynicism of mind. He was very popular and much sought after. He had but few faults, but quite a catalogue of appalling vices. Under this Epicurean exterior lurked, it was reported, the man of talent and the celebrated physician. He was not a hard-working man, simply because he achieved the same results without toil or labor. He had recently taken to homoeopathy, and started a medical journal, which he named The Globule, which died at its fifth number. His conversation made all society laugh, and he joined in the ridicule, thus showing the sincerity of his views, for he was never able to take the round of life seriously. To-day, however, Mascarin, well as he knew his friend, seemed piqued at his air of levity.