The Count felt that he was choking. He tore off his cravat, and cried wildly, “Proofs! Give me proofs!”
During the last five minutes Tantaine had shifted his ground so skilfully that the heavy library table now stood between himself and the Count, and he was comparatively safe behind this extemporized defence.
“Proofs?” answered he. “Do you think that I carry them about with me? In a week I could give you the lovers’ correspondence. That, you will say, is too long to wait; but you can set your doubts at rest at once. If you go to the address I will give you before eight to-morrow morning, and enter the rooms occupied by M. Andre, you will find the portrait of Mademoiselle Sabine carefully concealed from view behind a green curtain, and a very good portrait it is. I presume you will admit that it could not have been executed without a sitting.”
“Leave this,” cried the Count, “without a moment’s delay.”
Tantaine did not wait for a repetition of these words. He passed through the doorway, and as soon as he was outside he called out in cheerful accents. “Do not forget the address, Number 45, Rue Tour d’Auvergne, name of Andre, and mind and be there before eight a.m.”
The Count made a rush at him on hearing this last insult, but he was too late, for Tantaine slammed the door, and was in the hall before the infuriated master of the house could open it. Tantaine had resumed all his airs of humility, and took off his hat to the footmen as he descended the steps. “Yes,” muttered he, as he walked along, “the idea was a happy one. Andre knows that he is watched, and will be careful; and now that M. de Mussidan is aware that his sweet, pure daughter has had a lover, he will be only too happy to accept the Marquis de Croisenois as his son-in-law.” Tantaine believed that Sabine was more culpable than she really had been, for the idea of pure and honorable love had never entered his brain.
By this time Tantaine was in the Champs Elysees, and stared anxiously around. “If my Toto makes no mistake,” muttered he, “surely my order was plain enough.”
The old man got very cross as he at last perceived the missing lad conversing with the proprietor of a pie-stall, having evidently been doing a little jawing with him.
“Toto,” he called, “Toto, come here.”
Toto Chupin heard him, for he looked round, but he did not move, for he was certainly much interested in the conversation he was carrying on. Tantaine shouted again, and this time more angrily than before, and Toto, reluctantly leaving his companion, came slowly up to his patron.
“You have been a nice time getting here,” said the lad sulkily. “I was just going to cut it. Ain’t you well that you make such a row? If you ain’t, I’d better go for a doctor.
“I am in a tremendous hurry, Toto.”