Part 3 out of 7
"You shall not try again," said she decidedly.
"And why not?" asked he in astonishment.
"Because this visit will be my last, Andre."
"The last?" stammered the painter. "In what way have I so offended
you, that you should inflict so terrible a punishment on me?"
"I do not wish to punish you. You asked for my portrait, and I yielded
to your request; but let us talk reasonably. Do you not know that I am
risking my reputation by coming here day after day?"
Andre made no reply, for this unexpected blow had almost stunned him.
"Besides," continued Mademoiselle de Mussidan, "what is to be done
with the portrait? It must be hidden away, as if it were something we
were ashamed of. Remember, on your success hangs our marriage."
"I do not forget that."
"Hasten then to gain all honor and distinction, for the world must
agree with me in saying that my choice has been a wise one."
"I will do so."
"I fully believe you, dear Andre, and remember what I said to you a
year ago. Achieve a name, then go to my father and ask for my hand. If
he refuses, if my supplications do not move him, I will quit his roof
"You are right," answered Andre. "I should indeed by a fool if I
sacrificed a future happy life for a few hours of present enjoyment,
and I will implicitly--"
"And now," said Sabine, "that we have agreed on this point, let us
discuss our mutual interests, of which it seems that we have been a
little negligent up till now."
Andre at once began to tell her of all that had befallen him since
they had last met, his defeats and successes.
"I am in an awkward plight," said he. "Yesterday, that well known
collector, Prince Crescenzi, came to my studio. One of my pictures
took his fancy, and he ordered another from me, for which he would pay
six thousand francs."
"That was quite a stroke of luck."
"Just so, but unfortunately he wants it directly. Then Jean Lamou, who
has more in his hand than he can manage, has offered me the decoration
of a palatial edifice that he is building for a great speculator, M.
Gandelu. I am to engage all the workmen, and shall receive some seven
or eight hundred francs a month."
"But how does this trouble you?"
"I will tell you. I have twice seen M. Gandelu, and he wants me to
begin work at once; but I cannot accept both, and must choose between
"I should execute the Prince's commission," said she.
"So should I, only----"
The girl easily found the cause of his hesitation.
"Will you never forget that I am wealthy?" replied she.
"The one would bring in the most money," he returned, "and the other
"Then accept the offer of M. Gandelu."
The old cuckoo-clock in the corner struck five.
"Before we part, dear Andre," resumed she, "I must tell you of a fresh
trouble which threatens us; there is a project for marrying me to M.
"What, that very wealthy gentleman?"
"Well, if I oppose my father's wishes, an explanation must ensue, and
this just now I do not desire. I therefore intend to speak openly to
M. de Breulh-Faverlay, who is an honorable, straightforward man; and
when I tell him the real state of the case, he will withdraw his
"But," replied Andre, "should he do so, another will come forward."
"That is very possible, and in his turn the successor will be
"Ah!" murmured the unhappy man, "how terrible will be your life,--a
scene of daily strife with your father and mother."
After a tender farewell, Sabine and Modeste left. Andre had wished to
be permitted to go out and procure a vehicle, but this the young girl
negatived, and took her leave, saying.--
"I shall see M. de Breulh-Faverlay to-morrow."
For a moment after he was left alone Andre felt very sad, but a happy
thought flashed across his brain.
"Sabine," said he, "went away on foot, and I may follow her without
injury to her reputation."
In another moment he was in the street, and caught a glimpse of Sabine
and her maid under a lamp at the next corner. He crossed to the other
side of the way and followed them cautiously.
"Perhaps," murmured he, "the time is not far distant when I shall have
the right to be with her in her walks, and feel her arm pressed
By this time Sabine and her companion had reached the Rue Blanche, and
hailing a cab, were rapidly driven away. Andre gazed after it, and as
soon as it was out of sight, decided to return to his work. As he
passed a brilliantly lighted shop, a fresh young voice saluted him.
"M. Andre, M. Andre."
He looked up in extreme surprise, and saw a young woman, dressed in
the most extravagant style, standing by the door of a brougham, which
glittered with fresh paint and varnish. In vain he tried to think who
she could be, but at length his memory served him.
"Mademoiselle Rose," said he, "or I am much mistaken."
A shrill, squeaky voice replied, "Madame Zora Chantemille, if you
Andre turned sharply round and found himself face to face with a young
man who had completed an order he was giving to the coachman.
"Ah, is that you?" said he.
"Yes, Chantemille is the name of the estate that I intend to settle on
The painter examined the personage who had just addressed him with
much curiosity. He was dressed in the height or rather the burlesque
of fashion, wore an eyeglass, and an enormous locket on his chain. The
face which surmounted all this grandeur was almost that of a monkey,
and Toto Chupin had not exaggerated its ugliness when he likened it to
"Pooh," cried Rose, "what matters a name? All you have to do is to ask
this gentleman, who is an old friend of mine, to dinner." And without
waiting for a reply, she took Andre by the hand and led him into a
brilliantly lighted hall. "You must dine with us," she exclaimed; "I
will take no denial. Come, let me introduce you, M. Andre, M. Gaston
de Gandelu. There, that is all settled."
The man bowed.
"Andre, Andre," repeated Gandelu; "why, the name is familiar to me,--
and so is the face. Have I not met you at my father's house? Come in;
we intend to have a jovial evening."
"I really cannot," pleaded Andre. "I have an engagement."
"Throw it over then; we intend to keep you, now that we have got you."
Andre hesitated for a moment, but he felt dispirited, and that he
required rousing. "After all," thought he, "why should I refuse? If
this young man's friends are like himself, the evening will be an
"Come up," cried Rose, placing her foot upon the stairs. Andre was
about to follow her, but was held back by Gandelu, whose face was
radiant with delight.
"Was there ever such a girl?" whispered he; "but there, don't jump at
conclusions. I have only had her in hand for a short time, but I am a
real dab at starting a woman grandly, and it would be hard to find my
equal in Paris, you may bet."
"That can be seen at a glance," answered Andre, concealing a smile.
"Well, look here, I began at once. Zora is a quaint name, is it not?
It was my invention. She isn't a right down swell to-day, but I have
ordered six dresses for her from Van Klopen; such swell gets up! You
know Van Klopen, don't you, the best man-milliner in Paris. Such
taste! such ideas! you never saw the like."
Rose had by this time reached her drawing-room. "Andre," said she,
impatiently, "are you never coming up?"
"Quick, quick," said Gandelu, "let us go at once; if she gets into a
temper she is sure to have a nervous attack, so let us hurry up."
Rose did all she could to dazzle Andre, and as a commencement
exhibited to him her domestics, a cook and a maid; then he was shown
every article of furniture, and not one was spared him. He was forced
to admire the drawing-room suite covered with old gold silk, trimmed
blue, and to test the thickness of the curtains. Bearing aloft a large
candelabra, and covering himself with wax, Gandelu led the way,
telling them the price of everything like an energetic tradesman.
"That clock," said he, "cost me a hundred louis, and dirt cheap at the
price. How funny that you should have known my father! Has he not a
wonderful intellect? That flower stand was three hundred francs,
absolutely given away. Take care of the governor, he is as sharp as a
needle. He wanted me to have a profession, but no, thank you. Yes,
that occasional table was a bargain at twenty louis. Six months ago I
thought that the old man would have dropped off, but now the doctors
say--" He stopped suddenly, for a loud noise was heard in the
vestibule. "Here come the fellows I invited," cried he, and placing
the candelabra on the table, he hurried from the room.
Andre was delighted at so grand an opportunity of studying the /genus/
masher. Rose felt flattered by the admiration her fine rooms evidently
"You see," cried she, "I have left Paul; he bothered me awfully, and
ended by half starving me."
"Why, you are joking; he came here to-day, and said he was earning
twelve thousand francs a year."
"Twelve thousand humbugs. A fellow that will take five hundred francs
from an old scarecrow he never met before is--"
Rose broke off abruptly, for at that moment young Gandelu brought in
his friends, and introduced them; they were all of the same type as
their host, and Andre was about to study them more intently, when a
white-waistcoated waiter threw open the door, exclaiming pompously,
"Madame, the dinner is on the table."
"YOU ARE A THIEF."
When Mascarin was asked what was the best way to achieve certain
results, his invariable reply was, "Keep moving, keep moving." He had
one great advantage over other men, he put in practice the doctrines
he preached, and at seven o'clock the morning after his interview with
the Count de Mussidan he was hard at work in his room. A thick fog
hung over the city, even penetrating into the office, which had begun
to fill with clients. This crowd had but little interest for the head
of the establishment, as it consisted chiefly of waiters from small
eating houses, and cooks who knew little or nothing of what was going
on in the houses where they were in service. Finding this to be the
case, Mascarin handed them all over to Beaumarchef, and only
occasionally nodded to the serviteur of some great family, who chanced
to stroll in.
He was busily engaged in arranging those pieces of cardboard which had
so much puzzled Paul in his first visit, and was so much occupied with
his task, that all he could do was to mutter broken exclamations:
"What a stupendous undertaking! but I have to work single-handed, and
hold in my hands all these threads, which for twenty years, with the
patience of a spider, I have been weaving into a web. No one, seeing
me here, would believe this. People who pass me by in the street say,
'That is Mascarin, who keeps a servants' registry office;' that is the
way in which they look upon me. Let them laugh if they like; they
little know the mighty power I wield in secret. No one suspects me,
no, not one. I may seem too sanguine, it is true," he continued, still
glancing over his papers, "or the net may break and some of the fishes
slip out. That idiot, Mussidan, asked me if I was acquainted with the
Penal code. I should think I was, for no one has studied them more
deeply than I have, and there is a clause in volume 3, chapter 2,
which is always before me. Penal servitude for a term of years; and if
I am convicted under Article 306, then it means a life sentence." He
shuddered, but soon a smile of triumph shone over his face as he
resumed, "Ah, but to send a man like Mascarin for change of air to
Toulon, he must be caught, and that is not such an easy task. The day
he scents danger he disappears, and leaves no trace behind him. I fear
that I cannot look for too much from my companions, Catenac and
Hortebise; I have up to now kept them back. Croisenois would never
betray me, and as for Beaumarchef, La Candele, Toto Chupin, and a few
other poor devils, they would be a fine haul for the police. They
couldn't split, simply because they know nothing." Mascarin chuckled,
and then adjusting his spectacles with his favorite gesture, said, "I
shall go on in the course I have commenced, straight as the flight of
an arrow. I ought to make four millions through Croisenois. Paul shall
marry Flavia, that is all arranged, and Flavia will make a grand
duchess with her magnificent income."
He had by this time arranged his pasteboard squares, then he took a
small notebook, alphabetically arranged, from a drawer, wrote a name
or two in it, and then closing it said with a deadly smile, "There, my
friends, you are all registered, though you little suspect it. You are
all rich, and think that you are free, but you are wrong, for there is
one man who owns you, soul and body, and that man is Baptiste
Mascarin; and at his bidding, high as you hold your heads now, you
will crawl to his feet in humble abasement." His musings were
interrupted by a knock at the door. He struck the bell on his writing
table, and the last sound of it was hardly died away, when Beaumarchef
stood on the threshold.
"You desired me, sir," said he, with the utmost deference, "to
complete my report regarding young M. Gandelu, and it so happens that
the cook whom he has taken into his service in the new establishment
he has started is on our list. She has just come in to pay us eleven
francs that she owed us, and is waiting outside. Is not this lucky?"
Mascarin made a little grimace. "You are an idiot, Beaumarchef," said
he, "to be pleased at so trivial a matter. I have often told you that
there is no such thing as luck or chance, and that all comes to those
who work methodically."
Beaumarchef listened to his master's wisdom in silent surprise.
"And pray, who is this woman?" asked Mascarin.
"You will know her when you see her, sir. She is registered under
class D, that is, for employment in rather fast establishments."
"Go and fetch her," observed Mascarin, and as the man left the room,
he muttered, "Experience has taught me that it is madness to neglect
the smallest precaution."
In another moment the woman appeared, and Mascarin at once addressed
her with that air of friendly courtesy which made him so popular among
such women. "Well, my good girl," said he, "and so you have got the
sort of place you wanted, eh?"
"I hope so, sir, but you see I have only been with Madame Zora de
Chantemille since yesterday."
"Ah, Zora de Chantemille, that is a fine name, indeed."
"It is only a fancy name, and she had an awful row over it with
master. She wanted to be called Raphaela, but he stood out for Zora."
"Zora is a very pretty name," observed Mascarin solemnly.
"Yes, sir, just what the maid and I told her. She is a splendid woman,
and doesn't she just squander the shiners? Thirty thousand francs have
gone since yesterday."
"I can hardly credit it."
"Not cash, you understand, but tick. M. de Gandelu has not a sou of
his own in the world, so a waiter at Potier's told me, and he knew
what was what; but the governor is rolling in money. Yesterday they
had a house-warming--the dinner, with wine, cost over a thousand
Not seeing how to utilize any of this gossip, Mascarin made a gesture
of dismissal, when the woman exclaimed,--
"Stop, sir, I have something to tell you."
"Well," said Mascarin, throwing himself back in his chair with an air
of affected impatience, "let us have it."
"We had eight gents to dinner, all howling swells, but my master was
the biggest masher of the lot. Madame was the only woman at table.
Well, by ten o'clock, they had all had their whack of drink, and then
they told the porter to keep the courtyard clear. What do you think
they did then? Why, they threw plates, glasses, knives, forks, and
dishes bang out of the window. That is a regular swell fashion, so the
waiter at Potier's told me, and was introduced into Paris by a
Mascarin closed his eyes and answered languidly, "Go on."
"Well, sir, there was one gent who was a blot on the whole affair. He
was tall, shabbily dressed, and with no manners at all. He seemed all
the time to be sneering at the rest. But didn't Madame make up to him
just. She kept heaping up his plate and filling his glass. When the
others got to cards, he sat down by my mistress, and began to talk."
"Could you hear what they said?"
"I should think so. I was in the bedroom, and they were near the
"Dear me," remarked Mascarin, appearing much shocked, "surely that was
"I don't care a rap whether it was right or not. I like to hear all
about the people whom I engage with. They were talking about a M.
Paul, who had been Madame's friend before, and whom the gentleman also
knew. Madame said that this Paul was no great shakes, and that he had
stolen twelve thousand francs."
Mascarin pricked up his ears, feeling that his patience was about to
meet its reward.
"Can you tell me the gentleman's name, to whom Madame said all this?"
"Not I. The others called him 'The painter.' "
This explanation did not satisfy Mascarin.
"Look here, my good girl," said he, "try and find out the fellow's
name. I think he is an artist who owes me money."
"All right! Rely on me; and now I must be off, for I have breakfast to
get ready, but I'll call again to-morrow;" and with a curtsy she left
Mascarin struck his hand heavily on the table.
"Hortebise has a wonderful nose for sniffing out danger," said he.
"This Rose and the young fool who is ruining himself for her must both
Beaumarchef again made a motion of executing a thrust with the rapier.
"Pooh, pooh!" answered his master; "don't be childish. I can do better
than that. Rose calls herself nineteen, but she is more, she is of
age, while Gandelu is still a minor. If old Gandelu had any pluck, he
would put Article 354 in motion."
"Eh, sir?" said Beaumarchef, much mystified.
"Look here. Before twenty-four hours have elapsed I must know
everything as to the habits and disposition of Gandelu senior. I want
to know on what terms he is with his son."
"Good. I will set La Candele to work."
"And as the young fellow will doubtless need money, contrive to let
him know of our friend Verminet, the chairman of the Mutual Loan
"But that is M. Tantaine's business."
Mascarin paid no heed to this, so occupied was he by his own thoughts.
"This young artist seems to have more brains than the rest of the set,
but woe to him if he crosses my path. Go back to the outer office,
Beaumarchef, I hear some clients coming in."
The man, however, did not obey.
"Pardon me, sir," said he, "but La Candele, who is outside, will see
them. I have my report to make."
"Very good. Sit down and go on."
Enchanted at this mark of condescension, Beaumarchef went on.
"Yesterday there was nothing of importance, but this morning Toto
"He had not lost Caroline Schimmel, I trust?"
"No, sir; he had even got into conversation with her."
"That is good. He is a cunning little devil; a pity that he is not a
trifle more honest."
"He is sure," continued Beaumarchef, "that the woman drinks, for she
is always talking of persons following her about who menace her, and
she is so afraid of being murdered that she never ventures out alone.
She lives with a respectable workingman and his wife, and pays well
for her board, for she seems to have plenty of money."
"That is a nuisance," remarked Mascarin, evidently much annoyed.
"Where does she live?"
"At Montmartre, beyond the Chateau Rouge."
"Good. Tantaine will inquire and see if Toto has made no mistake, and
does not let the woman slip through his fingers."
"He won't do that, for he told me that he was on the right road to
find out who she was, and where she got her money from. But I ought to
warn you against the young scamp, for I have found out that he robs us
and sells our goods far below their value."
"What do you mean?"
"I have long had my suspicions, and yesterday I wormed it all out from
a disreputable looking fellow, who came here to ask for his friend
Men accustomed to danger are over prompt in their decisions. "Very
well," returned Mascarin, "if this is the case, Master Chupin shall
have a taste of prison fare."
Beaumarchef withdrew, but almost immediately reappeared.
"Sir," said he, "a servant from M. de Croisenois is here with a note."
"Send the man in," said Mascarin.
The domestic was irreproachably dressed, and looked what he was, the
servant of a nobleman.
He had something the appearance of an Englishman, with a high collar,
reaching almost to his ears. His face was clean shaved, and of a ruddy
hue. His coat was evidently the work of a London tailor, and his
appearance was as stiff as though carved out of wood. Indeed, he
looked like a very perfect piece of mechanism.
"My master," said he, "desired me to give this note into your own
Under cover of breaking the seal, Mascarin viewed this model servant
attentively. He was a stranger to him, for he had never supplied
Croisenois with a domestic.
"It seems, my good fellow," said he, "that your master was up earlier
than usual this morning?"
The man frowned a little at this familiar address, and then slowly
"When I took service with the Marquis, he agreed to give me fifteen
louis over my wages for the privilege of calling me 'a good fellow,'
but I permit no one to do so gratis. I think that my master is still
asleep," continued the man solemnly. "He wrote the note on his return
from the club."
"Is there any reply."
"Good; then wait a little."
And Mascarin, opening the note, read the following:
"MY DEAR FRIEND,--
"Baccarat has served me an ugly turn, and in addition to all my
ready cash I have given an I.O.U. for three thousand francs. To
save my credit I must have this by twelve to-morrow."
"His credit," said Mascarin. "His credit! That is a fine joke indeed."
The servant stood up stiffly erect, as one seeming to take no notice,
and the agent continued reading the letter.
"Am I wrong in looking to you for this trifle? I do not think so.
Indeed, I have an idea that you will send me a hundred and fifty
louis over and above, so that I may not be left without a coin in
my pocket. How goes the great affair? I await your decision on the
brink of a precipice.
"HENRY DE CROISENOIS."
"And so," growled Mascarin, "he has flung away five thousand francs,
and asks me to find it for him in my coffers. Ah, you fool, if I did
not want the grand name that you have inherited from your ancestors, a
name that you daily bespatter and soil, you might whistle for your
five thousand francs."
However, as Croisenois was absolutely necessary to him, Mascarin
slowly took from his safe five notes of a thousand francs each, and
handed them to the man.
"Do you want a receipt?" asked the man.
"No; this letter is sufficient, but wait a bit;" and Mascarin, with an
eye to the future, drew a twenty franc piece from his pocket, and
placing it on the table, said in his most honeyed accents,--
"There, my friend, is something for yourself."
"No, sir," returned the man; "I always ask wages enough to prevent the
necessity of accepting presents." And with this dignified reply he
bowed with the stiff air of a Quaker, and walked rigidly out of the
The agent was absolutely thunderstruck. In all his thirty years'
experience he had never come across anything like this.
"I can hardly believe my senses," muttered he; "where on earth did the
Marquis pick this fellow up? Can it be that he is sharper than I
Suddenly a new and terrifying idea flashed across his mind. "Can it
be," said he, "that the fellow is not a real servant, after all? I
have so many enemies that one day they may strive to crush me, and
however skilfully I may play my cards, some one may hold a better
hand." This idea alarmed him greatly, for he was in a position in
which he had nothing to fear; for when a great work is approaching
completion, the anxiety of the promoter becomes stronger and stronger.
"No, no," he continued; "I am getting too full of suspicions;" and
with these words he endeavored to put aside the vague terrors which
were creeping into his soul.
Suddenly Beaumarchef, evidently much excited, appeared upon the
"What, you here again!" cried Mascarin, angrily; "am I to have no
"Sir, the young man is here."
"What young man? Paul Violaine?"
"Why, I told him not to come until twelve; something must have gone
wrong." He broke off his speech, for at the half-open door stood Paul.
He was very pale, and his eyes had the expression of some hunted
creature. His attire was in disorder and betokened a night spent in
aimless wanderings to and fro.
"Ah, sir!" said he, as he caught sight of Mascarin.
"Leave us, Beaumarchef," said the latter, with an imperious wave of
his hand; "and now, my dear boy, what is it?"
Paul sank into a chair.
"My life is ended," said he; "I am lost, dishonored for ever."
Mascarin put on a face of the most utter bewilderment, though he well
knew the cause of Paul's utter prostration; but it was with the air of
a ready sympathizer that he drew his chair nearer to that of Paul, and
"Come, tell me all about it; what can possibly have happened to affect
In deeply tragic tones, Paul replied,--
"Rose has deserted me."
Mascarin raised his hands to heaven.
"And is this the reason that you say you are dishonored? Do you not
see that the future is full of promise?"
"I loved Rose," returned Paul, and his voice was so full of pathos
that Mascarin could hardly repress a smile. "But this is not all,"
continued the unhappy boy, making a vain effort to restrain his tears;
"I am accused of theft."
"Impossible!" exclaimed Mascarin.
"Yes, sir; and you who know everything are the only person in the
world who can save me. You were so kind to me yesterday that I
ventured to come here before the time appointed, in order to entreat
"But what do you think I can do?"
"Everything, sir; but let me tell you the whole hideous complication."
Mascarin's face assumed an air of the deepest interest, as he
answered, "Go on."
"After our interview," began Paul, "I went back to the Hotel de Perou,
and on the mantelpiece in my garret found this note from Rose."
He held it out as he spoke, but Mascarin made no effort to take it.
"In it," resumed Paul, "Rose tells me she no longer loves me, and begs
me not to seek to see her again; and also that, wearied out of
poverty, she has accepted the offer of unlimited supplies of money, a
carriage, and diamonds."
"Are you surprised at this?" asked Mascarin, with a sneer.
"How could I anticipate such an infidelity, when only the evening
before she swore by all she held most sacred that she loved me only?
Why did she lie to me? Did she write to make the blow fall heavier?
When I ascended the staircase, I was picturing to myself her joy when
I told her of your kind promises to me. For more than an hour I
remained in my garret, overwhelmed with the terrible thought that I
should never see her again."
Mascarin watched Paul attentively, and came to the conclusion that his
words were too fine for his grief to be sincere.
"But what about the accusation of theft?"
"I am coming to that," returned the young man. "I then determined to
obey your injunctions and leave the Hotel de Perou, with which I was
more than ever disgusted. I went downstairs to settle with Madame
Loupins, when ah! hideous disgrace! As I handed her the two weeks'
rent, she asked me with a contemptuous sneer, where I had stolen the
Mascarin secretly chuckled over the success of his plans thus
announced by Paul.
"What did you say?" asked he.
"Nothing, sir; I was too horror-stricken; the man Loupins came up, and
both he and his wife scowled at me threateningly. After a short pause,
they asserted that they were perfectly sure that Rose and I had robbed
"But did you not deny this monstrous charge?"
"I was utterly bewildered, for I saw that every circumstance was
against me. The evening before, Rose, in reply to Madame Loupin's
importunities, had told her that she had no money, and did not know
where to get any. But, as you perceive, on the very next day I
appeared in a suit of new clothes, and was prepared to pay my debts,
while Rose had left the house some hours before. Does not all this
form a chain of strange coincidences? Rose changed the five hundred
franc note that Tantaine had lent me at the shop of a grocer, named
Melusin, and this suspicious fool was the first to raise a cry against
us, and dared to assert that a detective had been ordered to watch
Mascarin knew all this story better than Paul, but here he interrupted
his young friend.
"I do not understand you," said he, "nor whether your grief arises
from indignation or remorse. Has there been a robbery?"
"How can I tell? I have never seen M. Tantaine from that day. There is
a rumor that he has been plundered and important papers taken from
him, and that he has consequently been arrested."
"Why did you not explain the facts?"
"It would have been of no use. It would clearly prove that Tantaine
was no friend of mine, not even an acquaintance, and they would have
laughed me to scorn had I declared that the evening before he came
into my room and made me a present of five hundred francs."
"I think that I can solve the riddle," remarked Mascarin. "I know the
old fellow so well."
Paul listened with breathless eagerness.
"Tantaine," resumed Mascarin, "is the best and kindest fellow in the
world, but he is not quite right in the upper story. He was a wealthy
man once, but his liberality was his ruin. He is as poor as a church-
mouse now, but he is as anxious as ever to be charitable.
Unfortunately in the place I procured for him he had a certain amount
of petty cash at his disposal, and moved to pity at the sight of your
sufferings, he gave you the money that really belonged to others. Then
he sent in his accounts, and the deficiency was discovered. He lost
his head, and declared that he had been robbed. You lived in the next
room; you were known to be in abject poverty on the one day and in
ample funds on the next; hence these suspicions."
All was too clear to Paul, and a cold shiver ran through his frame as
he saw himself arrested, tried, and condemned.
"But," stammered he, "M. Tantaine holds my note of hand, which is a
proof that I acted honestly."
"My poor boy, do you think that if he hoped to save himself at your
expense he would produce it?"
"Luckily, sir, you know the real state of the case."
Mascarin shook is head.
"Would my story be credited?" asked he. "Justice is not infallible,
and I must confess that appearances are against you."
Paul was crushed down beneath this weight of argument. "There is no
resource for me then but death," murmured he, "for I will not live a
The conduct of Paul was precisely what Mascarin had expected, and he
felt that the moment had arrived to strike a final blow.
"You must not give way to despair, my boy," said he.
But Paul made no reply; he had lost the power of hearing. Mascarin,
however, had no time to lose, and taking him by the arm, shook him
roughly. "Rouse yourself. A man in your position must help himself,
and bring forward proofs of his innocence."
"There is no use in fighting," replied Paul. "Have you not just shown
me that it is hopeless to endeavor to prove my innocence?"
Mascarin grew impatient at this unnecessary exhibition of cowardice,
but he concealed his feelings as best he could.
"No, no," answered he; "I only wished to show you the worst side of
"There is only one side."
"Not so, for it is only a supposition that Tantaine had made away with
money entrusted to him, and we are not certain of it. And we only
surmise that he has been arrested, and thrown the blame on you. Before
giving up the game, would it not be best to be satisfied on these
Paul felt a little reassured.
"I say nothing," continued Mascarin, "of the influence I exercise over
Tantaine, and which may enable me to compel him to confess the truth."
Weak natures like Paul's are raised in a moment from the lowest depths
of depression to the highest pitch of exultation, and he already
considered that he was saved.
"Shall I ever be able to prove my gratitude to you?" said he
Mascarin's face assumed a paternal expression.
"Perhaps you may," answered he; "and as a commencement you must
entirely forget the past. Daylight dispels the hideous visions of the
night. I offer you a fresh lease of life; will you become a new man?"
Paul heaved a deep sigh. "Rose," he murmured; "I cannot forget her."
Mascarin frowned. "What," said he, "do you still let your thoughts
dwell on that woman? There are people who cringe to the hand that
strikes them, and the more they are duped and deceived, the more they
love. If you are made of this kind of stuff, we shall never get on. Go
and find your faithless mistress, and beg her to come back and share
your poverty, and see what she will say."
These sarcasms roused Paul. "I will be even with her some day,"
"Forget her; that is the easiest thing for you to do."
Even now Paul seemed to hesitate. "What," said his patron
reproachfully, "have you no pride?"
"I have, sir."
"You have not, or you would never wish to hamper yourself with a woman
like Rose. You should keep your hands free, if you want to fight your
way through the battle of life."
"I will follow your advice, sir," said Paul hurriedly.
"Very soon you will thank Rose deeply for having left you. You will
climb high, I can tell you, if you will work as I bid you."
"Then," stammered Paul, "this situation at twelve thousand francs a
"There never has been such a situation."
A ghastly pallor overspread Paul's countenance, as he saw himself
again reduced to beggary.
"But, sir," he murmured, "will you not permit me to hope--"
"For twelve thousand francs! Be at ease, you shall have that and much
more. I am getting old. I have no ties in the world--you shall be my
A cloud settled on Paul's brow, for the idea that his life was to be
passed in this office was most displeasing to him. Mascarin divined
his inmost thoughts with perfect ease. "And the young fool does not
know where to go for a crust of bread," thought he. "Ah, if there were
no Flavia, no Champdoce;" then, speaking aloud, he resumed, "don't
fancy, my dear boy, that I wish to condemn you to the treadmill that I
am compelled to pass my life in. I have other views for you, far more
worthy of your merits. I have taken a great liking to you, and I will
do all I can to further your ambitious views. I was thinking a great
deal of you, and in my head I raised the scaffolding of your future
greatness. 'He is poor,' said I, 'and at his age, and with his tastes,
this is a cruel thing. Why, pray, should I not find a wife for him
among those heiresses who have a million or two to give the man they
marry? When I talk like this, it is because I know of an heiress, and
my friend, Dr. Hortebise, shall introduce her to you. She is nearly,
if not quite, as pretty as Rose, and has the advantage of her in being
well-born, well-educated, and wealthy. She has influential relatives,
and if her husband should happen to be a poet, or a composer, she
could assist him in becoming famous."
A flush came over Paul's face, This seemed like the realization of
some of his former dreams.
"With regard to your birth," continued Mascarin, "I have devised a
wonderful plan. Before '93, you know, every bastard was treated as a
gentleman, as he might have been the son of some high and mighty
personage. Who can say that your father may not have been of the
noblest blood of France, and that he has not lands and wealth? He may
even now be looking for you, in order to acknowledge you and make you
his heir. Would you like to be a duke?"
"Ah, sir," stammered the young man.
Mascarin burst into a fit of laughter. "Up to now," said he, "we are
only in the region of suppositions."
"Well, sir, what do you wish me to do?" asked Paul, after a short
Mascarin put on a serious face. "I want absolute obedience from you,"
said he; "a blind and undeviating obedience, one that makes no
objections and asks no questions."
"I will obey you, sir; but, oh! do not desert me."
Without making any reply, Mascarin rang for Beaumarchef, and as soon
as the latter appeared, said, "I am going to Van Klopen's, and shall
leave you in charge here." Then, turning to Paul, he added, "I always
mean what I say; we will go and breakfast at a neighboring restaurant.
I want to have a talk with you, and afterward--afterward, my boy, I
will show you the girl I intend to be your wife. I am curious to know
how you like her looks."
Gaston de Gandelu was much surprised at finding that Andre should be
ignorant of the existence of Van Klopen, the best-known man in Paris.
To assure oneself of this, it was only necessary to glance at his
circulars, which were ornamented with the representations of medals
won at all sorts of exhibitions in different quarters of the world,
together with various decorations received from foreign potentates.
One had been presented to him by the Queen of Spain, while he had a
diploma appointing him the supplier to the Court of the Czar. The
great Van Klopen was not an Alsatian, as was generally supposed, but a
stout, handsome Dutchman, who, in the year 1850, had been a tailor in
his small native town, and manufactured in cloth, purchased on credit,
the long waistcoats and miraculous coats worn by the wealthy citizens
of Rotterdam. Van Klopen, however, was not successful in his business,
and was compelled to close his shop and abscond from his creditors. He
took refuge in Paris, where he seemed likely to die of hunger. One day
over a magnificent establishment in the Rue de Grammont appeared a
signboard with the name of Van Klopen, dressmaker, and in the
thousands of handbills distributed with the utmost profusion, he
called himself the "Regenerator of Fashion." This was an idea that
would have never originated in the brain of the phlegmatic Dutchman,
and whence came the funds to carry on the business? On this point he
was discreetly silent. The enterprise was at first far from a success,
for during nearly a month Paris almost split its sides laughing at the
absurd pretensions of the self-dubbed "Regenerator of Fashion." Van
Klopen bent before the storm he had aroused, and in due time his
advertisements brought him two customers, who were the first to blow
the trumpet of his fame. One was the Duchess de Suirmeuse, a very
great lady indeed, and renowned for her eccentricities and extravagant
manner, while the other was an example of another class being no less
than the celebrated Jennie Fancy, who was at that time under the
protection of the Count de Tremouselle; and for these two Van Klopen
invented such dresses as had never been seen before. From this moment
his success was certain; indeed, it was stupendous, and Paris
resounded with his praises. Now he has achieved a world-wide
reputation, and has nothing to fear from the attacks of his rivals. He
would not execute orders for every one, saying that he must pick and
choose his customers, and he did so, excising the names of such as he
did not think would add to his reputation. Rank and wealth disputed
the honor of being his customers. The haughtiest dames did not shrink
from entrusting to him secrets of form and figure, which they even hid
from their husbands. They endured without shrinking the touch of his
coarse hands as he measured them. He was the rage, and his showrooms
were a species of neutral ground, where women of all circles of
society met and examined each other. The Duchess of --- did not shrink
from being in the same room with the celebrated woman for whom the
Baron de --- had blown out the few brains he possessed. Perhaps the
Duchess thought that by employing the same costumier, she might also
gain some of the venal beauteous attractions. Mademoiselle D---, of
the Gymnase Theatre, who was well known to earn just one thousand
francs per annum, took a delight in astonishing the haughty ladies of
fashion by the reckless extravagance of her orders. Van Klopen, who
was a born diplomatist, distributed his favors between his different
customers; consequently he was termed the most charming and angelic of
men. Many a time had he heard the most aristocratic lips let fall the
words, "I shall die, Van Klopen, if my dress is not ready." On the
evenings of the most aristocratic balls a long line of carriages
blocked up the road in front of his establishment, and the finest
women in Paris crowded the showrooms for a word of approval from him.
He gave credit to approved customers, and also, it was whispered, lent
money to them. But woe to the woman who permitted herself to be
entrapped in the snare of credit that he laid for her; for the woman
who owed him a bill was practically lost, never knowing to what depths
she might be degraded to obtain the money to settle her account. It
was not surprising that such sudden prosperity should have turned Van
Klopen's head. He was stout and ruddy, impudent, vain, and cynical.
His admirers said that he was witty.
It was to this man's establishment that Mascarin conducted Paul after
a sumptuous breakfast at Philipe's.
It is necessary to give a slight description of Van Klopen's
establishment. Carpets of the most expensive description covered the
stairs to his door on the first floor, at which stood the liveried
menials resplendent in gold lace and scarlet. As soon as Mascarin made
his appearance, one of these gorgeous creatures hastened to him and
said, "M. Van Klopen is just now engaged with the Princess Korasoff,
but as soon as he hears of your arrival he will manage to get rid of
her. Will you wait for him in his private room?"
But Mascarin answered,--
"We are in no hurry, and may as well wait in the public room with the
other customers. Are there many of them?"
"There are about a dozen ladies, sir."
"Good; I am sure that they will amuse me."
And, without wasting any more words, Mascarin opened a door which led
into a magnificent drawing-room, decorated in very florid style. The
paper on the walls almost disappeared beneath a variety of watercolor
sketches, representing ladies in every possible style of costume. Each
picture had an explanatory note beneath it, such as "Costume of Mde.
de C--- for a dinner at the Russian Ambassador's," "Ball costume of
the Marchioness de V--- for a ball at the Hotel de Ville," etc.
Paul, who was a little nervous at finding himself among such splendor,
hesitated in the doorway; but Mascarin seized his young friend by the
arm, and, as he drew him to a settee, whispered in his ear,--
"Keep your eyes about you; the heiress is here."
The ladies were at first a little surprised at this invasion of the
room by the male element, but Paul's extreme beauty soon attracted
their attention. The hum of conversation ceased, and Paul's
embarrassment increased as he found a battery of twelve pairs of eyes
directed full upon him.
Mascarin, however, was quite at his ease, and upon his entrance had
made a graceful though rather old-fashioned bow to the fair inmates of
the room. His coolness was partly due to the contempt he felt for the
human race in general, and also to his colored glasses, which hid the
expression of his countenance. When he saw that Paul still kept his
eyes on the ground, he tapped him gently on the arm.
"Is this the first time you ever saw well-dressed women? Surely you
are not afraid of them. Look to the right," continued Mascarin, "and
you will see the heiress."
A young girl, not more than eighteen, was seated near one of the
windows. She was not perhaps so beautiful as Mascarin had described,
but her face was a very striking one nevertheless. She was slight and
good-looking, with the clear complexion of a brunette. Her features
were not perhaps very regular, but her glossy black hair was a beauty
in itself. She had a pair of dark, melting eyes, and her wide, high
forehead showed that she was gifted with great intelligence. There was
an air of restrained voluptuousness about her, and she seemed the very
embodiment of passion.
Paul felt insensibly attracted toward her. Their eyes met, and both
started at the same moment. Paul was fascinated in an instant, and the
girl's emotion was so evident that she turned aside her head to
The babel had now commenced again, and general attention was being
paid to a lady who was enthusiastically describing the last new
costume which had made its appearance in the Bois de Boulogue.
"It was simply miraculous," said she; "a real triumph of Van Klopen's
art. The ladies of a certain class are furious, and Henry de
Croisenois tells me that Jenny Fancy absolutely shed tears of rage.
Imagine three green skirts of different shades, each draped----"
Mascarin, however, only paid attention to Paul and the young girl, and
a sarcastic smile curled his lips.
"What do you think of her?" asked he.
"She is adorable!" answered Paul, enthusiastically.
"And immensely wealthy."
"I should fall at her feet if she had not a sou."
Mascarin gave a little cough, and adjusted his glasses.
"Should you, my lad?" said he to himself; "whether your admiration is
for the girl or her money, you are in my grip."
Then he added, aloud,--
"Would you not like to know her name?"
"Tell me, I entreat you."
Paul was in the seventh heaven, and now boldly turned his eyes on the
girl, forgetting that owing to the numerous mirrors, she could see his
The door was at this moment opened quietly, and Van Klopen appeared on
the threshold. He was about forty-four, and too stout for his height.
His red, pimply face had an expression upon it of extreme insolence,
and his accent was thoroughly Dutch. He was dressed in a ruby velvet
dressing-gown, with a cravat with lace ends. A huge cluster-diamond
ring blazed on his coarse, red hand.
"Who is the next one?" asked he, rudely.
The lady who had been talking so volubly rose to her feet, but the
tailor cut her short, for catching sight of Mascarin, he crossed the
room, and greeted him with the utmost cordiality.
"What!" said he; "is it you that I have been keeping waiting? Pray
pardon me. Pray go into my private room; and this gentleman is with
you? Do me the favor, sir, to come with us."
He was about to follow his guests, when one of the ladies started
"One word with you, sir, for goodness sake!" cried she.
Van Klopen turned sharply upon her.
"What is the matter?" asked he.
"My bill for three thousand francs falls due to-morrow."
"But I can't meet it."
"That is not my affair."
"I have come to beg you will renew it for two months, or say one
month, on whatever terms you like."
"In two months," answered the man brutally, "you will be no more able
to pay than you are to-day. If you can't pay it, it will be noted."
"Merciful powers! then my husband will learn all."
"Just so; that will be what I want; for he will then have to pay me."
The wretched woman grew deadly pale.
"My husband will pay you," said she; "but I shall be lost."
"That is not my lookout. I have partners whose interests I have to
"Do not say that, sir! He has paid my debts once, and if he should be
angry and take my children from me--Dear M. Van Klopen, be merciful!"
She wrung her hands, and the tears coursed down her cheeks; but the
tailor was perfectly unmoved.
"When a woman has a family of children, one ought to have in a
needlewoman by the hour."
She did not desist from her efforts to soften him, and, seizing his
hand, strove to carry it to her lips.
"Ah! I shall never dare to go home," wailed she; "never have the
courage to tell my husband."
"If you are afraid of your own husband, go to some one else's," said
he roughly; and tearing himself from her, he followed Mascarin and
"Did you hear that?" asked he, as soon as he had closed the door of
his room with an angry slam. "These things occasionally occur, and are
not particularly pleasant."
Paul looked on in disgust. If he had possessed three thousand francs,
he would have given them to this unhappy woman, whose sobs he could
still hear in the passage.
"It is most painful," remarked he.
"My dear sir," said the tailor, "you attach too much importance to
these hysterical outbursts. If you were in my place, you would soon
have to put their right value on them. As I said before, I have to
look after my own and my partners' interests. These dear creatures
care for nothing but dress; father, husband, and children are as
nothing in comparison. You cannot imagine what a woman will do in
order to get a new dress, in which to outshine her rival. They only
talk of their families when they are called on to pay up."
Paul still continued to plead for some money for the poor lady, and
the discussion was getting so warm that Mascarin felt bound to
"Perhaps," said he, "you have been a little hard."
"Pooh," returned the tailor; "I know my customer; and to-morrow my
account will be settled, and I know very well where the money will
come from. Then she will give me another order, and we shall have the
whole comedy over again. I know what I am about." And taking Mascarin
into the window, he made some confidential communication, at which
they both laughed heartily.
Paul, not wishing to appear to listen, examined the consulting-room,
as Van Klopen termed it. He saw a great number of large scissors, yard
measures, and patterns of material, and heaps of fashion plates.
By this time the two men had finished their conversation.
"I had," said Mascarin, as they returned to the fireplace, "I had
meant to glance through the books; but you have so many customers
waiting, that I had better defer doing so."
"Is that all that hinders you?" returned Van Klopen, carelessly. "Wait
He left the room, and in another moment his voice was heard.
"I am sorry, ladies, very sorry, on my word; but I am busy with my
silk mercer. I shall not be very long."
"We will wait," returned the ladies in chorus.
"That is the way," remarked Van Klopen, as he returned to the
consulting-room. "Be civil to women, and they turn their backs on you;
try and keep them off, and they run after you. If I was to put up 'no
admittance' over my door, the street would be blocked up with women.
Business has never been better," continued the tailor, producing a
large ledger. "Within the last ten days we have had in orders
amounting to eighty-seven thousand francs."
"Good!" answered Mascarin; "but let us have a look at the column
headed 'Doubtful.' "
"Here you are," returned the arbiter of fashion, as he turned over the
leaves. "Mademoiselle Virginie Cluhe has ordered five theatrical
costumes, two dinner, and three morning dresses."
"That is a heavy order."
"I wanted for that reason to consult you. She doesn't owe us much--
perhaps a thousand francs or so."
"That is too much, for I hear that her friend has come to grief. Do
not decline the order, but avoid taking fresh ones."
Van Klopen made a few mysterious signs in the margin of his ledger.
"On the 6th of this month the Countess de Mussidan gave us an order--a
perfectly plain dress for her daughter. Her account is a very heavy
one, and the Count has warned us that he will not pay it."
"Never mind that. Go on with the order, put press for payment."
"On the 7th a new customer came--Mademoiselle Flavia, the daughter of
Martin Rigal, the banker."
When Paul heard this name, he could not repress a start, of which,
however, Mascarin affected to take no notice.
"My good friend," said he, turning to Van Klopen, "I confide this
young lady to you; give her your whole stock if she asks for it."
By the look of surprise which appeared upon the tailor's face, Paul
could see that Mascarin was not prodigal of such recommendations.
"You shall be obeyed," said Van Klopen, with a bow.
"On the 8th a young gentleman of the name of Gaston de Gandelu was
introduced by Lupeaux, the jeweller. His father is, I hear, very
wealthy, and he will come into money on attaining his majority, which
is near at hand. He brought with him a lady," continued the tailor,
"and said her name was Zora de Chantemille, a tremendously pretty
"That young man is always in my way," said Mascarin. "I would give
something to get him out of Paris."
Van Klopen reflected for a moment. "I don't think that would be
difficult," remarked he; "that young fellow is capable of any act of
folly for that fair girl."
"I think so too."
"Then the matter is easy. I will open an account with him; then, after
a little, I will affect doubts as to his solvency, and ask for a bill;
and we shall then place our young friend in the hands of the Mutual
Loan Society, and M. Verminet will easily persuade him to write his
name across the bottom of a piece of stamped paper. He will bring it
to me; I will accept it, and then we shall have him hard and fast."
"I should have proposed another course."
"I see no other way, however," He suddenly stopped, for a loud noise
was heard in the ante-room, and the sound of voices in loud
"I should like to know," said Van Klopen, rising to his feet, "who the
impudent scoundrel is, who comes here kicking up a row. I expect that
it is some fool of a husband."
"Go and see what it is," suggested Mascarin.
"Not I! My servants are paid to spare me such annoyances."
Presently the noise ceased.
"And now," resumed Mascarin, "let us return to our own affairs. Under
the circumstances, your proposal appears to be a good one. How about
writing in another name? A little forgery would make our hands
stronger." He rose, and taking the tailor into the window recess,
again whispered to him.
During this conversation Paul's cheek had grown paler and paler, for,
occupied as he was, he could not fail to comprehend something of what
was going on. During the breakfast Mascarin had partially disclosed
many strange secrets, and since then he had been even more
enlightened. It was but too evident to him that his protector was
engaged in some dark and insidious plot, and Paul felt that he was
standing over a mine which might explode at any moment. He now began
to fancy that there was some mysterious link between the woman
Schimmel, who was so carefully watched, and the Marquis de Croisenois,
so haughty, and yet on such intimate terms with the proprietor of the
registry office. Then there was the Countess de Mussidan, Flavia, the
rich heiress, and Gaston de Gandelu, who was to be led into a crime
the result of which would be penal servitude,--all jumbled and mixed
up together in one strange phantasmagoria. Was he, Paul, to be a mere
tool in such hands? Toward what a precipice was he being impelled!
Mascarin and Van Klopen were not friends, as he had at first supposed,
but confederates in villainy. Too late did he begin to see collusion
between Mascarin and Tantaine, which had resulted in his being accused
of theft during his absence. But the web had been woven too securely,
and should he struggle to break through it, he might find himself
exposed to even more terrible dangers. He felt horrified at his
position, but with this there was mingled no horror of the criminality
of his associates, for the skilful hand of Mascarin had unwound and
mastered all the bad materials of his nature. He was dazzled at the
glorious future held out before him, and said to himself that a man
like Mascarin, unfettered by law, either human or Divine, would be
most likely to achieve his ends. "I should be in no danger," mused he
to himself, "if I yield myself up to the impetuous stream which is
already carrying me along, for Mascarin is practised swimmer enough to
keep both my head and his own above water."
Little did Paul think that every fleeting expression in his
countenance was caught up and treasured by the wily Mascarin; and it
was intentionally that he had permitted Paul to listen to this
compromising conversation. He had decided that very morning, that if
Paul was to be a useful tool, he must be at once set face to face with
the grim realities of the position.
"Now," said he, "for the really serious reason for my visit. How do we
stand now with regard to the Viscountess Bois Arden?"
Van Klopen gave his shoulders a shrug as he answered, "She is all
right. I have just sent her several most expensive costumes."
"How much does she owe you?"
"Say twenty-five thousand francs. She has owed us more than that
"Really" remarked Mascarin, "that woman has been grossly libelled; she
is vain, frivolous, and fond of admiration, but nothing more. For a
whole fortnight I have been prying into her life, but I can't hit upon
anything in it to give us a pull over her. The debt may help us,
however. Does her husband know that she has an account with us?"
"Of course he does not; he is most liberal to her, and if he
"Then we are all right; we will send in the bill to him."
"But, my good sir," urged Van Klopen, "it was only last week that she
paid us a heavy sum on account."
"The more reason to press her, for she must be hard up."
Van Klopen would have argued further, but an imperious sign from
Mascarin reduced him to silence.
"Listen to me," said Mascarin, "and please do not interrupt me. Are
you known to the domestics at the house of the Viscountess?"
"Not at all."
"Well, then, at three o'clock sharp, the day after to-morrow, call on
her. Her footman will say that Madame has a visitor with her."
"I will say I will wait."
"Not at all. You must almost force your way in, and you will find the
Viscountess talking to the Marquis de Croisenois. You know him, I
"By sight--nothing more."
"That is sufficient. Take no notice of him; but at once present your
bill, and violently insist upon immediate payment."
"What can you be thinking of? She will have me kicked out of doors."
"Quite likely; but you must threaten to take the bill to her husband.
She will command you to leave the house, but you will sit down
doggedly and declare that you will not move until you get the money."
"But that is most unbusinesslike behavior."
"I quite agree with you; but the Marquis de Croisenois will interfere;
he will throw a pocketbook in your face, exclaiming, 'There is your
money, you impudent scoundrel!' "
"Then I am to slink away?"
"Yes, but before doing so, you will give a receipt in this form--
'Received from the Marquis de Croisenois, the sum of so many francs,
in settlement of the account of the Viscountess Bois Arden.' "
"If I could only understand the game," muttered the puzzled Van
"There is no necessity for that now; only act up to your
"I will obey, but remember that we shall not only lose her custom, but
that of all her acquaintance."
Again the same angry sounds were heard in the corridor.
"It is scandalous," cried a voice. "I have been waiting an hour; my
sword and armor. What, ho, lackeys; hither, I say. Van Klopen is
engaged, is he? Hie to him and say I must see him at once."
The two accomplices exchanged looks, as though they recognized the
shrill, squeaky voice.
"That is our man," whispered Mascarin, as the door was violently flung
open, and Gaston de Gandelu burst in. He was dressed even more
extravagantly than usual, and his face was inflamed with rage.
"Here am I," cried he; "and an awful rage I am in. Why, I have been
waiting twenty minutes. I don't care a curse for your rules and
The tailor was furious at this intrusion; but as Mascarin was present,
and he felt that he must respect his orders, he by a great effort
"Had I known, sir," said he sulkily, "that you were here----"
These few words mollified the gorgeous youth, who at once broke in.
"I accept your apologies," cried he; "the lackeys remove our arms, the
joust is over. My horses have been standing all this time, and may
have taken cold. Of course you have seen my horses. Splendid animals,
are they not? Zora is in the other room. Quick, fetch her here."
With these words he rushed into the passage and shouted out, "Zora,
Mademoiselle de Chantemille, my dear one, come hither."
The renowned tailor was exquisitely uncomfortable at so terrible a
scene in his establishment. He cast an appealing glance at Mascarin,
but the face of the agent seemed carved in marble. As to Paul, he was
quite prepared to accept this young gentleman as a perfect type of the
glass of fashion and the mould of form, and could not forbear pitying
him in his heart. He went across the room to Mascarin.
"Is there no way," whispered he, "of saving this poor young fellow?"
Mascarin smiled one of those livid smiles which chilled the hearts of
those who knew him thoroughly.
"In fifteen minutes," said he, "I will put the same question to you,
leaving you to reply to it. Hush, this is the first real test that you
have been subjected to; if you are not strong enough to go through it,
then we had better say farewell. Be firm, for a thunderbolt is about
The manner in which these apparently trivial words were spoken
startled Paul, who, by a strong effort, recovered his self-possession;
but, prepared as he was, it was with the utmost difficulty that he
stifled the expression of rage and surprise that rose to his lips at
the sight of the woman who entered the room. The Madame de
Chantemille, the Zora of the youthful Gandelu, was there, attired in
what to his eyes seemed a most dazzling costume. Rose seemed a little
timid as Gandelu almost dragged her into the room.
"How silly you are!" said he. "What is there to be frightened at? He
is only in a rage with his flunkies for having kept us waiting."
Zora sank negligently into an easy chair, and the gorgeously attired
youth addressed the all-powerful Van Klopen.
"Well, have you invented a costume that will be worthy of Madame's
For a few moments Van Klopen appeared to be buried in profound
"Ah," said he, raising his hand with a grandiloquent gesture, "I have
it; I can see it all in my mind's eye."
"What a man!" murmured Gaston in deep admiration.
"Listen," resumed the tailor, his eye flashing with the fire of
genius. "First, a walking costume with a polonaise and a cape /a la
pensionnaire/; bodice, sleeves, and underskirt of a brilliant
He might have continued in this strain for a long time, and Zora would
not have heard a word, for she had caught sight of Paul, and in spite
of all her audacity, she nearly fainted. She was so ill at ease, that
young Gandelu at last perceived it; but not knowing the effect that
the appearance of Paul would necessarily cause, and being also rather
dull of comprehension he could not understand the reason for it.
"Hold hard, Van Klopen, hold hard! the joy has been too much for her,
and I will lay you ten to one that she is going into hysterics."
Mascarin saw that Paul's temper might blaze forth at any moment, and
so hastened to put an end to a scene which was as absurd as it was
"Well, Van Klopen, I will say farewell," said he. "Good morning,
madame; good morning, sir;" and taking Paul by the arm, he led him
away by a private exit which did not necessitate their passing through
the great reception-room.
It was time for him to do so, and not until they were in the street
did the wily Mascarin breathe freely.
"Well, what do you say, now?" asked he.
Paul's vanity had been so deeply wounded, and the effort that he had
made to restrain himself so powerful, that he could only reply by a
"He felt it more than I thought he would," said Mascarin to himself.
"The fresh air will revive him."
Paul's legs bent under him, and he staggered so that Mascarin led him
into a little /café/ hard by, and ordered a glass of cognac, and in a
short time Paul was himself once again.
"You are better now," observed Mascarin; and then, believing it would
be best to finish his work, he added, "A quarter of an hour ago I
promised that I would ask you to settle what our intentions were to be
regarding M. de Gandelu."
"That is enough," broke in Paul, violently.
Mascarin put on his most benevolent smile.
"You see," remarked he, "how circumstances change ideas. Now you are
getting quite reasonable."
"Yes, I am reasonable enough now; that is, that I mean to be wealthy.
You have no need to urge me on any more. I am willing to do whatever
you desire, for I will never again endure degradation like that I have
gone through to-day."
"You have let temper get the better of you," returned Mascarin, with a
shrug of his shoulders.
"My anger may pass over, but my determination will remain as strong as
"Do not decide without thinking the matter well over," answered the
agent. "To-day you are your own master; but if you give yourself up to
me, you must resign your dearly loved liberty."
"I am prepared for all."
Victory had inclined to the side of Mascarin, and he was
"Good," said he. "Then Dr. Hortebise shall introduce you to Martin
Rigal, the father of Mademoiselle Flavia, and one week after your
marriage I will give you a duke's coronet to put on the panels of your
A STARTLING REVELATION.
When Sabine de Mussidan told her lover that she would appeal to the
generosity of M. de Breulh-Faverlay, she had not calculated on the
necessity she would have for endurance, but had rather listened to the
dictates of her heart; and this fact came the more strongly before
her, when in the solitude of her own chamber, she inquired of herself
how she was to carry out her promise. It seemed to her very terrible
to have to lay bare the secrets of her soul to any one, but the more
so to M. de Breulh-Faverlay, who had asked for her hand in marriage.
She uttered no word on her way home, where she arrived just in time to
take her place at the dinner table, and never was a more dismal
company assembled for the evening meal. Her own miseries occupied
Sabine, and her father and mother were suffering from their interviews
with Mascarin and Dr. Hortebise. What did the liveried servants, who
waited at table with such an affectation of interest, care for the
sorrows of their master or mistress? They were well lodged and well
fed, and nothing save their wages did they care for. By nine o'clock
Sabine was in her own room trying to grow accustomed to the thoughts
of an interview with M. de Breulh-Faverlay. She hardly closed her eyes
all night, and felt worn out and dispirited by musing; but she never
thought of evading the promise she had made to Andre, or of putting it
off for a time. She had vowed to lose no time, and her lover was
eagerly awaiting a letter from her, telling him of the result. In the
perplexity in which she found herself, she could not confide in either
father or mother, for she felt that a cloud hung over both their
lives, though she knew not what it was. When she left the convent
where she had been educated, and returned home, she felt that she was
in the way, and that the day of her marriage would be one of
liberation to her parents from their cares and responsibilities. All
this prayed terribly upon her mind, and might have driven a less pure-
minded girl to desperate measures. It seemed to her that it would be
less painful to fly from her father's house than to have this
interview with M. de Breulh-Faverlay. Luckily for her, frail as she
looked, she possessed an indomitable will, and this carried her
through most of her difficulties.
For Andre's sake, as well as her own, she did not wish to violate any
of the unwritten canons of society, but she longed for the hour to
come when she could acknowledge her love openly to the world. At one
moment she thought of writing a letter, but dismissed the thought as
the height of folly. As the time passed Sabine began to reproach
herself for her cowardice. All at once she heard the clang of the
opening of the main gates. Peeping from her window, she saw a carriage
drive up, and, to her inexpressible delight, M. de Breulh-Faverlay
alighted from it.
"Heaven has heard my prayer, and sent him to me," murmured she.
"What do you intend to do, Mademoiselle?" asked the devoted Modeste;
"will you speak to him now?"
"Yes, I will. My mother is still in her dressing-room, and no one will
venture to disturb my father in the library. If I meet M. de Breulh-
Faverlay in the hall and take him into the drawing-room, I shall have
time for a quarter of an hour's talk, and that will be sufficient."
Calling up all her courage, she left her room on her errand. Had Andre
seen the man selected by the Count de Mussidan for his daughter's
husband, he might well have been proud of her preference for him. M.
de Breulh-Faverlay was one of the best known men in Paris, and fortune
had showered all her blessings on his head. He was not forty, of an
extremely aristocratic appearance, highly educated, and witty; and, in
addition, one of the largest landholders in the country. He had always
refused to enter public life. "For," he would say to those who spoke
to him on the matter, "I have enough to spend my money on without
making myself ridiculous." He was a perfect type of what a French
gentleman should be--courteous, of unblemished reputation, and full of
chivalrous devotion and generosity. He was, it is said, a great
favorite with the fair sex; but, if report spoke truly, his discretion
was as great as his success. He had not always been wealthy, and there
was a mysterious romance in his life. When he was only twenty, he had
sailed for South America, where he remained twelve years, and returned
no richer than he was before; but shortly afterward his aged uncle,
the Marquis de Faverlay, died bequeathing his immense fortune to his
nephew on the condition that he should add the name of Faverlay to
that of De Breulh. De Breulh was passionately fond of horses; but he
was really a lover of them, and not a mere turfite, and this was all
that the world knew of the man who held in his hands the fates of
Sabine de Mussidan and Andre. As soon as he caught sight of Sabine he
made a profound inclination.
The girl came straight up to him.
"Sir," said she, in a voice broken by conflicting emotions, "may I
request the pleasure of a short private conversation with you?"
"Mademoiselle," answered De Breulh, concealing his surprise beneath
another bow, "I am at your disposal."
One of the footmen, at a word from Sabine, threw open the door of the
drawing-room in which the Countess had thrown down her arms in her
duel with Dr. Hortebise. Sabine did not ask her visitor to be seated,
but leaning her elbow on the marble mantel-piece, she said, after a
silence equally trying to both,--
"This strange conduct on my part, sir, will show you, more than any
explanation, my sincerity, and the perfect confidence with which you
have inspired me."
She paused, but De Breulh made no reply, for he was perfectly
"You are," she continued, "my parents' intimate friend, and must have
seen the discomforts of our domestic hearth, and that though both my
father and mother are living, I am as desolate as the veriest orphan."
Fearing that M. de Breulh might not understand her reason for speaking
thus, she threw a shade of haughtiness into her manner as she
"My reason, sir, for seeing you to-day is to ask,--nay, to entreat
you, to release me from my engagement to you, and to take the whole
responsibility of the rupture on yourself."
Man of the world as he was, M. de Breulh could not conceal his
surprise, in which a certain amount of wounded self-love was mingled.
"Mademoiselle!" commenced he--
Sabine interrupted him.
"I am asking a great favor, and your granting it will spare me many
hours of grief and sadness, and," she added, as a faint smile
flickered across her pallid features, "I am aware that I am asking but
a trifling sacrifice on your part. You know scarcely anything of me,
and therefore you can only feel indifference toward me."
"You are mistaken," replied the young man gravely; "and you do not
judge me rightly. I am not a mere boy, and always consider a step
before I take it; and if I asked for your hand, it was because I had
learned to appreciate the greatness both of your heart and intellect;
and I believe that if you would condescend to accept me, we could be
very happy together."
The girl seemed about to speak, but De Breulh continued,--
"It seems, however, that I have in some way displeased you,--I do not
know how; but, believe me, it will be a source of sorrow to me for the
rest of my life."
De Breulh's sincerity was so evident, that Mademoiselle de Mussidan
was deeply affected.
"You have not displeased me in any way," answered she softly, "and are
far too good for me. To have become your wife would have made me a
proud and happy woman."
Here she stopped, almost choked by her tears, but M. de Breulh wished
to fathom this mystery.
"Why then this resolve?" asked he.
"Because," replied Sabine faintly, as she hid her face,--"because I
have given all my love to another."
The young man uttered an exclamation so full of angry surprise, that
Sabine turned upon him at once.
"Yes, sir," answered she, "to another; one utterly unknown to my
parents, yet one who is inexpressibly dear to me. This ought not to
irritate you, for I gave him my love long before I met you. Besides,
you have every advantage over him. He is at the foot, while you are at
the summit, of the social ladder. You are of aristocratic lineage,--he
is one of the people. You have a noble name,--he does not even know
his own. Your wealth is enormous,--while he works hard for his daily
bread. He has all the fire of genius, but the cruel cares of life drag
and fetter him to the earth. He carries on a workman's trade to supply
funds to study his beloved art."
Incautiously, Sabine had chosen the very means to wound this noble
gentleman most cruelly, for her whole beauty blazed out as, inflamed
by her passion, she spoke so eloquently of Andre and drew such a
parallel between the two young men.
"Now, sir," said she, "do you comprehend me? I know the terrible
social abyss which divides me from the man I love, and the future may
hold in store some terrible punishment for my fidelity to him, but no
one shall ever hear a word of complaint from my lips, for----" she
hesitated, and then uttered these simple words--"for I love him."
M. de Breulh listened with an outwardly impassible face, but the
venomed tooth of jealousy was gnawing at his heart. He had not told
Sabine the entire truth, for he had studied her for a long time, and
his love had grown firm and strong. Without an unkind thought the girl
had shattered the edifice which he had built up with such care and
pain. He would have given his name, rank, and title to have been in
this unknown lover's place, who, though he worked for his bread, and
had no grand ancestral name, was yet so fondly loved. Many a man in
his position would have shrugged his shoulders and coldly sneered at
the words, "I love him," but he did not, for his nature was
sufficiently noble to sympathize with hers. He admired her courage and
frankness, which disdaining all subterfuges, went straight and
unhesitatingly to the point she desired to reach. She might be
imprudent and reckless, but in his eyes these seemed hardly to be
faults, for it is seldom that convent-bred young ladies err in this
"But this man," said he, after a long pause,--"how do you manage ever
to see him?
"I meet him out walking," replied she, "and I sometimes go to his
"To his studio?"
"Yes, I have sat to him several times for my portrait; but I have
never done anything that I need blush to own. You know all now, sir,"
continued Sabine; "and it has been very hard for a young girl like me
to say all this to you. It is a thing that ought to be confided to my
Only those who have heard a woman that they are ardently attached to
say, "I do not love you," can picture M. de Breulh's frame of mind.
Had any one else than Sabine made this communication he would not have
withdrawn, but would have contested the prize with his more fortunate
rival. But now that Mademoiselle de Mussidan had, as it were, thrown
herself upon his mercy, he could not bring himself to take advantage
of her confidence.
"It shall be as you desire," said he, with a faint tinge of bitterness
in his tone. "To-night I will write to your father, and withdraw my
demand for your hand. It is the first time that I have ever gone back
from my word; and I am sure that your father will be highly
Sabine's strength and firmness had now entirely deserted her. "From
the depth of my soul, sir," said she, "I thank you; for by this act of
generosity I shall avoid a contest that I dreaded."
"Unfortunately," broke in De Breulh, "you do not see how useless to
you will be the sacrifice that you exact from me. Listen! you have not
appeared much in society; and when you did, it was in the character of
my betrothed; as soon as I withdraw hosts of aspirants for your hand
will spring up."
Sabine heaved a deep sigh, for Andre had foreseen the same result.
"Then," continued De Breulh, "your situation will become even a more
trying one; for if your noble qualities are not enough to excite
admiration in the bosoms of the other sex, your immense wealth will
arouse the cupidity of the fortune-hunters."
When De Breulh referred to fortune-hunters, was this a side blow at
Andre? With this thought rushing through her brain, she gazed upon him
eagerly, but read no meaning in his eyes.
"Yes," answered she dreamily, "it is true that I am very wealthy."
"And what will be your reply to the next suitor, and to the one after
that?" asked De Breulh.
"I know not; but I shall find some loophole of escape when the time
comes; for if I act in obedience to the dictates of my heart and
conscience, I cannot do wrong, for Heaven will come to my aid."
The phrase sounded like a dismissal; but De Breulh, man of the world
as he was, did not accept it.
"May I permit myself to offer you a word of advice?"
"Do so, sir."
"Very well, then; why not permit matters to remain as they now are? So
long as our rupture is not public property, so long will you be left
in peace. It would be the simplest thing in the world to postpone all
decisive steps for a twelvemonth, and I would withdraw as soon as you
notified me that it was time."
Sabine put every confidence in this proposal, believing that
everything was in good faith. "But," said she, "such a subterfuge
would be unworthy of us all."
M. de Breulh did not urge this point; a feeling of deep sympathy had
succeeded to his wounded pride; and, with all the chivalrous instinct
of his race, he determined to do his best to assist these lovers.
"Might I be permitted," asked he, "now that you have placed so much
confidence in me, to make the acquaintance of the man whom you have
honored with your love?"
Sabine colored deeply. "I have no reason to conceal anything from you:
his name is Andre, he is a painter, and lives in the Rue de la Tour
De Breulh made a mental note of the name, and continued,--
"Do not think that I ask this question from mere idle curiosity; my
only desire is to aid you. I should be glad to be a something in your
life. I have influential friends and connections----"
Sabine was deeply wounded. Did this man propose patronizing Andre, and
thus place his position and wealth in contrast with that of the
obscure painter? In his eagerness de Breulh had made a false move.
"I thank you," answered she coldly; "but Andre is very proud, and any
offer of assistance would wound him deeply. Forgive my scruples, which
are perhaps exaggerated and absurd. All he has of his own are his
self-respect and his natural pride."
As she spoke, Sabine rang the bell, to show her visitor that the
conversation was at an end.
"Have you informed my mother of M. de Breulh-Faverlay's arrival?"
asked she, as the footman appeared at the door.
"I have not, mademoiselle; for both the Count and Countess gave the
strictest order that they were not to be disturbed on any pretext
"Why did you not tell me that before?" demanded M. de Breulh; and,
without waiting for any explanation, he bowed gravely to Sabine, and
quitted the room, after apologizing for his involuntary intrusion, and
by his manner permitted all the domestics to see that he was much put
"Ah!" sighed Sabine, "that man is worthy of some good and true woman's
As she was about to leave the room, she heard some one insisting upon
seeing the Count de Mussidan. Not being desirous of meeting strangers,
she remained where she was. The servant persisted in saying that his
master could receive no one.
"What do I care for your orders?" cried the visitor; "your master
would never refuse to see his friend the Baron de Clinchain;" and,
thrusting the lackey on one side, he entered the drawing-room; and his
agitation was so great that he hardly noticed the presence of the
M. de Clinchain was a thoroughly commonplace looking personage in
face, figure, and dress, neither tall nor short, handsome nor ill-
looking. The only noticeable point in his attire was that he wore a
coral hand on his watch chain; for the Baron was a firm believer in
the evil eye. When a young man, he was most methodical in his habits;
and, as he grew older, this became an absolute mania with him. When he
was twenty, he recorded in his diary the pulsations of his heart, and
at forty he added remarks regarding his digestion and general health.
"What a fearful blow!" murmured he; "and to fall at such a moment when
I had indulged in a more hearty dinner than usual. I shall feel it for
the next six months, even if it does not kill me outright."
Just then M. de Mussidan entered the room, and the excited man ran up
to him, exclaiming,--
"For Heaven's sake, Octave, save us both, by cancelling your
daughter's engagement with M. de--"
The Count laid his hand upon his friend's lips.
"Are you mad?" said he; "my daughter is here."
In obedience to a warning gesture, Sabine left the room; but she had
heard enough to fill her heart with agitation and terror. What
engagement was to be cancelled, and how could such a rupture affect
her father or his friend? That there was some mystery, was proved by
the question with which the Count had prevented his friend from saying
any more. She was sure that it was the name of M. de Breulh-Faverlay
with which the Baron was about to close his sentence, and felt that
the destiny of her life was to be decided in the conversation about to
take place between her father and his visitor. It was deep anxiety
that she felt, not mere curiosity; and while these thoughts passed
through her brain, she remembered that she could hear all from the
card-room, the doorway of which was only separated from the drawing-
room by a curtain. With a soft, gliding step she gained her hiding-
place and listened intently. The Baron was still pouring out his
"What a fearful day this has been!" groaned the unhappy man. "I ate
much too heavy a breakfast, I have been terribly excited, and came
here a great deal too fast. A fit of passion caused by a servant's
insolence, joy at seeing you, then a sudden interruption to what I was
going to say, are a great deal more than sufficient to cause a serious
illness at my age."
But the Count, who was usually most considerate of his friend's
foibles, was not in a humor to listen to him.
"Come, let us talk sense," said he sharply; "tell me what has
"Occurred!" groaned De Clinchain; "oh, nothing, except that the whole
truth is known regarding what took place in the little wood so many
years back. I had an anonymous letter this morning, threatening me
with all sorts of terrible consequences if I do not hinder you from
marrying your daughter to De Breulh. The rogues say that they can
"Have you the letter with you?"
De Clinchain drew the missive from his pocket. It was to the full as
threatening as he had said; but M. de Mussidan knew all its contents
"Have you examined your diary, and are the three leaves really
"How were they stolen? Are you sure of your servants?"
"Certainly; my valet has been sixteen years in my service. You know
Lorin? The volumes of my diary are always locked up in the escritoire,
the key of which never leaves me. And none of the other servants ever
enter my room."
"Some one must have done so, however."
Clinchain struck his forehead, as though an idea had suddenly flashed
across his brain.
"I can partly guess," said he. "Some time ago Lorin went for a
holiday, and got drunk with some fellows he picked up in the train.
Drink brought on fighting, and he was so knocked about that he was
laid up for some weeks. He had a severe knife wound in the shoulder
and was much bruised."
"Who took his place?"
"A young fellow that my groom got at a servants' registry office."
M. de Mussidan felt that he was on the right track, for he remembered
that the man who had called on him had had the audacity to leave a
card, on which was marked:
"B. MASCARIN, Servants' Registry Office,
"Do you know where this place is?" asked he.
"Certainly; in the Rue du Dauphin nearly opposite to my house."
The Count swore a deep oath. "The rogues are very wily; but, my dear
fellow if you are ready, we will defy the storm together."
De Clinchain felt a cold tremor pass through his whole frame at this