Caught In The Net
2. A Registry Office
The establishment of the influential friend of Daddy Tantaine was situated in the
Rue Montorgeuil, not far from the Passage de la Reine Hortense. M. B. Mascarin
has a registry office for the engagement of both male and female servants. Two
boards fastened upon each side of the door announce the hours of opening and
closing, and give a list of those whose names are on the books; they further
inform the public that the establishment was founded in 1844, and is still in the
same hands. It was the long existence of M. Mascarin in a business which is
usually very short-lived that had obtained for him a great amount of confidence,
not only in the quarter in which he resided, but throughout the whole of Paris.
Employers say that he sends them the best of servants, and the domestics in
their turn assert that he only despatches them to good places. But M. Mascarin
has still further claims on the public esteem; for it was he who, in 1845, founded
and carried out a project which had for its aim and end the securing of a shelter
for servants out of place. The better to carry out this, Mascarin took a partner,
and gave him the charge of a furnished house close to the office. Worthy as
these projects were, Mascarin contrived to draw considerable profit from them,
and was the owner of the house before which, in the noon of the day following
the events we have described, Paul Violaine might have been seen standing.
The five hundred francs of old Tantaine, or at any rate a portion of them, had
been well spent, and his clothes did credit to his own taste and the skill of his
tailor. Indeed, in his fine feathers he looked so handsome, that many women
turned to gaze after him. He however took but little notice of this, for he was too
full of anxiety, having grave doubts as to the power of the man whom Tantaine
had asserted could, if he liked, make his fortune. "A registry office!" muttered he
scornfully. "Is he going to propose a berth of a hundred francs a month to me?"
He was much agitated at the thoughts of the impending interview, and, before
entering the house, gazed upon its exterior with great interest. The house much
resembled its neighbors. The entrances to the Registry Office and the Servants'
Home were in the courtyard, at the arched entrance to which stood a vendor of
"There is no use in remaining here," said Paul. Summoning, therefore, all his
resolution, he crossed the courtyard, and, ascending a flight of stairs, paused
before a door upon which "OFFICE" was written. "Come in!" responded at once
to his knock. He pushed open the door, and entered a room, which closely
resembled all other similar offices. There were seats all round the room, polished
by frequent use. At the end was a sort of compartment shut in by a green baize
curtain, jestingly termed "the Confessional" by the frequenters of the office.
Between the windows was a tin plate, with the words, "All fees to be paid in
advance," in large letters upon it. In one corner a gentleman was seated at a
writing table, who, as he made entries in a ledger, was talking to a woman who
stood beside him.
"M. Mascarin?" asked Paul hesitatingly.