Caught In The Net
A Turn Of The Screw
Dr. Hortebise was the first to arrive. It was a terrible thing for him to get up so
early; but for Mascarin's sake he consented even to this inconvenience. When he
passed through the office, the room was full of clients; but this did not prevent the
doctor from noticing the negligence of Beaumarchef's costume.
"Aha!" remarked the doctor, "on the drunk again, I am afraid."
"M. Mascarin is within," answered the badgered clerk, endeavoring to put on an
air of dignity; "and M. Tantaine is with him."
A brilliant idea flashed across the doctor's mind, but it was with an air of gravity
that he said,--
"I shall be charmed to meet that most worthy old gentleman."
When, however, he entered the inner sanctum, he found Mascarin alone,
occupied in sorting the eternal pieces of pasteboard.
"Well, what news?" asked he.
"There is none that I know of."
"What, have you not seen Paul?"
"Will he be here?"
Mascarin was often laconic, but he seldom gave such short answers as this.
"What is the matter?" asked the doctor. "Your greeting is quite funereal. Are you
"I am merely preoccupied, and that is excusable on the eve of the battle we are
about to fight," returned Mascarin.
He only, however, told a portion of the truth; for there was more in the
background, which he did not wish to confide to his friend. Toto Chupin's revolt
had disquieted him. Let there be but a single flaw in the axletree, and one day it
will snap in twain; and Mascarin wanted to eliminate this flaw.
"Pooh!" remarked the doctor, playing with his locket, "we shall succeed. What
have we to fear, after all,--opposition on Paul's part?"
"Paul may resent a little," answered Mascarin disdainfully; "but I have decided
that he shall be present at our meeting of to-day. It will be a stormy one, so be
prepared. We might give him his medicine in minims, but I prefer the whole dose
"The deuce you do! Suppose he should be frightened, and make off with our
"He won't make off," replied Mascarin in a tone which froze his listener's blood.
"He can't escape from us any more than the cockchafer can from the string that a
child has fastened to it. Do you not understand weak natures like his? He is the
glove, I the strong hand beneath it."
The doctor did not argue this point, but merely murmured,--
"Let us hope that it is so."