“What do you mean?” they cried.
“I know him, I tell you—the son of the Duke de Champdoce.”
“Let us hear all!” cried Mascarin, who was the first to come to his senses. “Explain yourself.”
“Simply this. I know such a young man, and it was the thought of this that made me feel so ill. He is thirty-three. He was at the Foundling Hospital; he left it at the age of twelve and a half years; and he has just such a scald on his shoulder, which he got when he was apprenticed to a tanner.”
“And where,” asked Mascarin quickly, “is this same young man? What is his name, and what does he do for a living?”
“He is a painter; his name is Andre, and he lives—”
A blasphemous oath from Mascarin interrupted him. “This is the third time,” said he fiercely, “that this cursed fellow has crossed our path; but I swear that it shall be the last.”
Hortebise and Catenac were livid with alarm.
“What do you intend to do?” asked they.
“I shall do nothing,” answered he; “but you know that this Andre, in addition to being a painter, is an ornamental sculptor and house decorator, and so is often on lofty scaffolds. Have you never heard that accidents frequently happen to that class of people?”
A MELANCHOLY MASHER.
When Mascarin spoke of suppressing the man who stood in his way as easily as if he was alluding to extinguishing a candle, he was not aware that there was one circumstance which considerably enhanced the difficulty of his task, for Andre had been forewarned, and this note of warning had been sounded on the day on which he had received that letter from Sabine, in which she spoke in such despairing terms of her approaching marriage, which she had been compelled to agree to to save the honor of her family. This feeling was strengthened by a long conversation he had had with M. de Breulh-Faverlay and the Viscountess de Bois Arden, in which it was unanimously decided that the Count and Countess de Mussidan were victims of some plot of which Henri de Croisenois was certainly one of the promoters. He had no conception on what side to look for the danger, but he had an instinctive feeling that it was impending. He prepared, therefore, to act on the defensive. It was not only his life that was in danger, but his love and his future happiness. M. de Breulh-Faverlay had also serious apprehensions for the safety of a man for whom he entertained so great a respect and regard.
“I would lay a heavy wager,” said he, “that we have to do with some villainous blackmailers, and the difficulty of the business is, that we must do the work ourselves, for we dare not invite the aid of the police. We have no proof to offer, and the police will not stir a foot on mere suppositions, and we should not earn the thanks of those we are desirous of assisting if we called the attention of