"He is miserably poor, a cynic, philosopher, but as sharp as a needle; and this last fact causes me great uneasiness, for at first I thought that he had been sent to me by some one far above him in position, but--"
"But, doctor," interposed the Countess, "you spoke to me of proofs, of threats, of certain mysterious persons."
"I simply repeated Daddy Tantaine's words. The old idiot said to me, 'Madame de Mussidan knows all about the fate of the Marquis, and this is clearly proved by letters that she has received from him, as well as from the Duke de Champdoce.' "
This time the arrow went home. She grew deadly pale, and started to her feet with her eyes dilated with horror.
"My letters!" exclaimed she hoarsely.
Hortebise appeared utterly overwhelmed by this display of consternation, of which he was the innocent cause.
"Your letters, madame," replied he with evident hesitation, "this double-dyed scoundrel declares he has in his possession."
With a cry like that of a wounded lioness, the Countess, taking no notice of the doctor's presence, rushed from the room. Her rapid footfall could be heard on the stairs, and the rustle of her silken skirts against the banisters. As soon as he was left alone, the doctor rose from his seat with a cynical smile upon his face.