"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 caused.
"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."
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."