“Do you really mean what you say?” asked Andre.
“Of course I do. I can be firm enough sometimes.”
“Then we will not despair yet,” answered the young painter. “I think that we shall be able to settle this ugly business, but you cannot be too cautious. Keep indoors, and remember that I may have urgent need of you at almost any time of day or night.”
“I agree, but remember this, Zora is not to be forgotten.”
“Don’t fret over that; I will call and see her to-morrow. And now, farewell for to-day, as I have not an instant to lose,” and with these words Andre hurried off.
Andre’s reason for haste was that he had caught a few words addressed by Verminet to Croisenois—“I shall see Mascarin at four o’clock.” And he determined to loiter about the Rue St. Anne, and watch the Managing Director when he came out, and so find out who this Mascarin was, who he was certain was mixed up in the plot. He darted down the Rue de Grammont like an arrow from a bow, and as the clock in a neighboring belfry chimed half-past three, he was in the Rue St. Anne. There was a small wine-shop almost opposite to the office of the Mutual Loan Society, and there Andre ensconced himself and made a frugal meal, while he was waiting for Verminet’s appearance, and just as he had finished his light refreshment he saw the man he wanted come out of the office, and crept cautiously after him like a Red Indian on the trail of his enemy.
As Verminet swaggered down the street he had the air of a successful man, of a capitalist, in short, and the Managing Director of a highly lucrative concern. Andre had no difficulty in following his man, though detective’s business was quite new to him, which is no such easy matter, although every one thinks that he can become one. Andre kept his man in sight, and was astonished at the numerous acquaintances that Verminet seemed to have. Occasionally he said to himself, “Perhaps I am mistaken after all, for fancy is a bad pair of spectacles to see through. This man may be honest, and I have let my imagination lead me astray.”
Meanwhile, Verminet who had reached the Boulevard Poisonniere, assumed a totally different air, throwing off his old manner as he cast away his cigar. When he had reached the Rue Montorgueil he turned underneath a large archway. Verminet had gone into the office of M. B. Mascarin, and that person simply kept a Servants’ Registry Office for domestics of both sexes. In spite of his surprise, however, he determined to wait for Verminet to come out; and, not to give himself the air of loitering about the place, he crossed the road and appeared to be interested in watching three workmen who were engaged in fixing the revolving shutters to a new shop window. Luckily for the young painter he had not to wait a very long while, for in less than a quarter of an hour Verminet came out, accompanied