“Anyhow,” replied the advocate, “I will give you a receipt for these.”
“Oh! never mind. Time enough to-morrow.”
“And if I die to-night?”
“Then,” said the old fellow to himself, thinking of his will, “I shall still be your debtor. Good-night!” added he aloud. “You have asked my advice, I shall require the night for reflection. At present my brain is whirling; I must go into the air. If I go to bed now, I am sure to have a horrible nightmare. Come, my boy; patience and courage. Who knows whether at this very hour Providence is not working for you?”
He went out, and Noel, leaving his door open, listened to the sound of his footsteps as he descended the stairs. Almost immediately the cry of, “Open, if you please,” and the banging of the door apprised him that M. Tabaret had gone out. He waited a few minutes and refilled his lamp. Then he took a small packet from one of his bureau drawers, slipped into his pocket the bank notes lent him by his old friend, and left his study, the door of which he double-locked. On reaching the landing, he paused. He listened intently as though the sound of Madame Gerdy’s moans could reach him where he stood. Hearing nothing, he descended the stairs on tiptoe. A minute later, he was in the street.
Included in Madame Gerdy’s lease was a coach-house, which was used by her as a lumber room. Here were heaped together all the old rubbish of the household, broken pieces of furniture, utensils past service, articles become useless or cumbrous. It was also used to store the provision of wood and coal for the winter. This old coach-house had a small door opening on the street, which had been in disuse for many years; but which Noel had had secretly repaired and provided with a lock. He could thus enter or leave the house at any hour without the concierge or any one else knowing. It was by this door that the advocate went out, though not without using the utmost caution in opening and closing it. Once in the street, he stood still a moment, as if hesitating which way to go. Then, he slowly proceeded in the direction of the St. Lazare railway station, when a cab happening to pass, he hailed it. “Rue du Faubourg Montmarte, at the corner of the Rue de Provence,” said Noel, entering the vehicle, “and drive quick.”
The advocate alighted at the spot named, and dismissed the cabman. When he had seen him drive off, Noel turned into the Rue de Provence, and, after walking a few yards, rang the bell of one of the handsomest houses in the street. The door was immediately opened. As Noel passed before him the concierge made a most respectful, and at the same time patronizing bow, one of those salutations which Parisian concierges reserve for their favorite tenants, generous mortals always ready to give. On reaching the second floor, the advocate paused, drew a key from his pocket, and opening the door facing him, entered as if at home. But at the sound of the key in the lock, though very faint, a lady’s maid, rather young and pretty, with a bold pair of eyes, ran toward him.