“Done! I’ll come up again to-morrow; for, to tell the truth, I am tired to death, and must go and lie down.”
But he told a fib; for he did not go back to his rooms. In spite of the wretched weather, he left the house; and, as soon as he was in the street, he hid himself in a dark corner, from which he could watch the front-door of the house. He remained there a long time, exposed to wind and rain, uttering now and then a low oath, and stamping with his feet to keep himself warm. At last, just as it struck eleven, a hack stopped at No. 23. A young man got out, rang the bell, and entered.
“He is Maxime de Brevan,” murmured the old man. Then he added in a savage voice,—
“I knew he would come, the scoundrel! to see if the charcoal had done its work.”
But the same moment the young man came out again, and jumped into the carriage, which quickly drove off.
“Aha!” laughed the merchant. “No chance for you, my fine fellow! You have lost your game, and you’ll have to try your luck elsewhere; and this time I am on hand. I hold you fast; and, instead of one bill to pay, there will be two now.”
Generally it is in novels only that unknown people suddenly take it into their heads to tell their whole private history, and to confide to their neighbors even their most important and most jealously-guarded secrets. In real life things do not go quite so fast.
Long after the old merchant had left Henrietta, she lay pondering, and undecided as to what she should do on the next day. In the first place, she asked herself who this odd man could be, who had spoken of himself as a dangerous and suspicious person. Was he really what he appeared to be? The girl almost doubted it. Although wholly inexperienced, she still had been struck by certain astounding changes in Papa Ravinet. Thus, whenever he became animated, his carriage, his gestures, and his manners, contrasted with his country-fashioned costume, as if he had for the moment forgotten his lesson. At the same time his language, usually careless and incorrect, and full of slang terms belonging to his trade, became pure and almost elegant.
What was his business? Had he been a dealer in second-hand articles before he became a tenant in No. 23 Grange Street, three years ago? One might very easily have imagined that Papa Ravinet (was that his real name?) had before that been in a very different position. And why not? Is not Paris the haven in which all shipwrecked sailors of society seek a refuge? Does not Paris alone offer to all wretched and guilty people a hiding-place, where they can begin a new life, lost and unknown in the vast multitude? What discoveries might be made there? How many persons, once brilliant lights in the great world, and then, of a sudden, sought for in vain by friend and foe, might be found there again, disguised in strange costumes, and earning a livelihood in most curious ways! Why should not the old merchant be one of this class?