This reply made the porter laugh very much, but not a muscle of M. Verduret’s face moved.
“A porter? Well, do you know this colleague of yours.”
“I never even saw him before.”
“How does he look?”
“He was neither tall nor short; he wore a green vest, and his medal.”
“Your description is so vague that it would suit every porter in the city; but did your colleague tell you who sent the letter?”
“No, monsieur. He only put ten sous in my hand, and said, ’Here, carry this to No. 39, Rue Chaptal: a coachman on the boulevard handed it to me.’ Ten sous! I warrant you he made more than that by it.”
This answer seemed to disconcert M. Verduret. So many precautions taken in sending the letter disturbed him, and disarranged his plans.
“Do you think you would recognize the porter again?”
“Yes, monsieur, if I saw him.”
“How much do you gain a day as a porter?”
“I can’t tell exactly; but my corner is a good stand, and I am busy doing errands nearly all day. I suppose I make from eight to ten francs.”
“Very well; I will give you ten francs a day if you will walk about the streets, and look for the porter who brought this letter. Every evening, at eight o’clock, come to the Archangel, on the Quai Saint Michel, give me a report of your search, and receive your pay. Ask for M. Verduret. If you find the man I will give you fifty francs. Do you accept?”
“I rather think I will, monsieur.”
“Then don’t lose a minute. Start off!”
Although ignorant of M. Verduret’s plans, Prosper began to comprehend the sense of his investigations. His fate depended upon their success, and yet he almost forgot this fact in his admiration of this singular man; for his energy, his bantering coolness when he wished to discover anything, the surety of his deductions, the fertility of his expedients, and the rapidity of his movements, were astonishing.
“Monsieur,” said Prosper when the porter had left the room, “do you still think you see a woman’s hand in this affair?”
“More than ever; and a pious woman too, and a woman who has two prayer-books, since she could cut up one to write to you.”
“And you hope to find the mutilated book?”
“I do, thanks to the opportunity I have of making an immediate search; which I will set about at once.”
Saying this, he sat down, and rapidly scratched off a few lines on a slip of paper, which he folded up, and put in his vest-pocket.
“Are you ready to go to M. Fauvel’s? Yes? Come on, then; we have certainly earned our breakfast to-day.”
When Raoul de Lagors spoke of M. Fauvel’s extraordinary dejection, he had not exaggerated.
Since the fatal day when, upon his denunciation, his cashier had been arrested, the banker, this active, energetic man of business, had been a prey to the most gloomy melancholy, and absolutely refused to take any interest in his affairs, seldom entering the banking-house.