“What was he like?”
“Very good looking, about my height, with an aristocratic air.”
“How about the second time?”
“Ah, that is a longer story. I went one day with Mademoiselle when she was going to see a friend in the Rue Marboeuf. She waited at a corner of the street, and beckoned me to her. ‘Florestan,’ said she, ’I forgot to post this letter; go and do so; I will wait here for you.’”
“Of course you read it?”
“No. I thought there was something wrong. She wants to get rid of you, so, instead of posting it, I slunk behind a tree and waited. I had hardly done so, when the young fellow I had seen at the chapel came round the corner; but I scarcely knew him. He was dressed just like a working man, in a blouse all over plaster. They talked for about ten minutes, and Mademoiselle Sabine gave him what looked like a photograph.”
By this time the bottle was empty, and Florestan was about to call for another, when Mascarin checked him, saying—
“Not to-day; it is growing late, and I must tell you what I want you to do for me. Is the Count at home now?”
“Of course he is; he has not left his room for two days, owing to having slipped going downstairs.”
“Well, my lad, I must see your master; and if I sent up my card, the odds are he would not see me, so I rely upon you to show me up without announcing me.”
Florestan remained silent for a few minutes.
“It is no easy job,” he muttered, “for the Count does not like unexpected visitors, and the Countess is with him just now. However, as I am not going to stay, I’ll chance it.”
Mascarin rose from his seat.
“We must not be seen together,” said he; “I’ll settle the score; do you go on, and I will follow in five minutes. Remember we don’t know each other.”
“I am fly; and mind you look out a good place for me.”
Mascarin paid the bill, and then looked into the cafe to inform the doctor of his movements, and a few minutes later, Florestan in his most sonorous voice, threw open the door of his master’s room and announced,—
A FORGOTTEN CRIME.
Baptiste Mascarin had been in so many strange situations, from which he had extricated himself with safety and credit, that he had the fullest self-confidence, but as he ascended the wide staircase of the Hotel de Mussidan, he felt his heart beat quicker in anticipation of the struggle that was before him. It was twilight out of doors, but all within was a blaze of light. The library into which he was ushered was a vast apartment, furnished in severe taste. At the sound of the unaristocratic name of Mascarin, which seemed as much out of place as a drunkard’s oath in the chamber of sleeping innocence, M. de Mussidan raised his head in sudden surprise. The Count was seated at the other end of the room, reading by the light of four candles placed in a magnificently wrought candelabra. He threw down his paper, and raising his glasses, gazed with astonishment at Mascarin, who, with his hat in his hand and his heart in his mouth, slowly crossed the room, muttering a few unintelligible apologies. He could make nothing, however, of his visitor, and said, “Whom do you wish to see, sir?”