"No," replied Tantaine, "my master does not know everything, and the proof of this is, that I have come to ask you what occurred between Catenac's client and yourself, and this is the service that we expect from you."
"Well, if I must, I must. About three weeks ago, one morning, I had just finished with half a dozen clients at my office in the Rue de Fame, when my servant brought me Catenac's card. After some talk, he asked me if I could find out a person that he had utterly lost sight of. Of course I said, yes, I could. Upon this he asked me to make an appointment for ten the next morning, when some one would call on me regarding the affair. At the appointed time a shabbily dressed man was shown in. I looked at him up and down, and saw that, in spite of his greasy hat and threadbare coat, his linen was of the finest kind, and that his shoes were the work of one of our best bootmakers. 'Aha,' said I to myself, 'you thought to take me in, did you!' I handed him a chair, and he at once proceeded to let me into his reasons for coming. 'Sir,' said he, 'my life has not been a very happy one, and once I was compelled to take to the Foundling Asylum a child that I loved very dearly, the son of a woman whom I adored. She is dead now, and I am old and solitary. I have a small property, and would give half of it to recover the child. Tell me, is there any chance of my doing so?' You must imagine, my dear sir," continued he, after a slight pause, "that I was much interested in this story, for I said to myself, that the man's fortune must be a very small one if half of it would not amply repay me for making a journey to the Foundling Hospital. So I agreed to undertake the business, but the old fellow was too sharp for me. 'Stop a bit, and let me finish,' said he, 'and you will see that your task will not be so easy as you seem to think it.' I, of course, bragged of my enormous sources of information, and the probability of ultimate success."
"Keep to your story," said Tantaine impatiently, "I know all about that."
"I will leave you, then, to imagine all I said to the old man, who listened to me with great satisfaction. 'I only hope that you are as skilful as M. Catenac says you are, and have as much influence and power as you assert, for no man has a finer chance than you now have. I have tried all means up to this, but I have failed.' I went first to the hospital where the child had been placed, and they showed me the register containing the date of his admission, but no one knew what had become of him, for at twelve years of age he had left the place, and no one had heard of him since; and in spite of every effort, I have been unable to discover whether he is alive or dead."
"A pretty riddle to guess," remarked Tantaine.
"An enigma that it is impossible to solve," returned Perpignan. "How is one to get hold of a boy who vanished ten years ago, and who must now be a grown-up man?"
Tantaine's tone was so decided, that the other man looked sharply at him with a vague suspicion rising in his breast that the affair had also been placed in Mascarin's hands; and if so, whether he had worked it with more success than himself.
"You might, for all I know; but I felt that the clue was absolutely wanting," answered Perpignan sulkily. "I put on a bold face, however, and asked for the boy's description. The man told me that he could provide me with an accurate one, for that many people, notably the lady superior, remembered the lad. He could also give other details which might be useful."
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