Caught In The Net
3. The Opinion Of Dr. Hortebise
Dr. Hortebise, who had addressed Mascarin so familiarly by his Christian name
of Baptiste, was about fifty-six years of age, but he carried his years so well, that
he always passed for forty-nine. He had a heavy pair of red, sensual-looking lips,
his hair was untinted by gray, and his eyes still lustrous. A man who moved in the
best society, eloquent in manner, a brilliant conversationalist, and vivid in his
perceptions, he concealed under the veil of good-humored sarcasm the utmost
cynicism of mind. He was very popular and much sought after. He had but few
faults, but quite a catalogue of appalling vices. Under this Epicurean exterior
lurked, it was reported, the man of talent and the celebrated physician. He was
not a hard-working man, simply because he achieved the same results without
toil or labor. He had recently taken to homoeopathy, and started a medical
journal, which he named The Globule, which died at its fifth number. His
conversation made all society laugh, and he joined in the ridicule, thus showing
the sincerity of his views, for he was never able to take the round of life seriously.
To-day, however, Mascarin, well as he knew his friend, seemed piqued at his air
"When I asked you to come here to-day," said he, "and when I begged you to
conceal yourself in my bedroom--"
"Where I was half frozen," broke in Hortebise.
"It was," went on Mascarin, "because I desired your advice. We have started on a
serious undertaking,--an undertaking full of peril both to you and to myself."
"Pooh! I have perfect confidence in you,--whatever you do is done well, and you
are not the man to fling away your trump cards."
"True; but I may lose the game, after all, and then----"
The doctor merely shook a large gold locket that depended from his watch chain.
This movement seemed to annoy Mascarin a great deal. "Why do you flash that
trinket at me?" asked he. "We have known each other for five and twenty years,--
what do you mean to imply? Do you mean that the locket contains the likeness of
some one that you intend to make use of later on? I think that you might render
such a step unnecessary by giving me your present advice and attention."
Hortebise threw himself back in his chair with an expression of resignation. "If
you want advice," remarked he, "why not apply to our worthy friend Catenac?--he
knows something of business, as he is a lawyer."
The name of Catenac seemed to irritate Mascarin so much, that calm, and self-
contained as he usually was, he pulled off his cap and dashed it on his desk.
"Are you speaking seriously?" said he angrily.
"Why should I not be in earnest?"
Mascarin removed his glasses, as though without them he could the more easily
peer into the depths of the soul of the man before him.
"Because," replied he slowly, "both you and I distrust Catenac. When did you see
"More than three months ago."