But Madame Valiere shrank back shyly. “No, let us both go.” She added, with a smile to cover her timidity, “Two heads are better than one.”
“You are right. He will name a lower price in the hope of two orders.” And, pushing the “Princess” before her like a turret of defence, Madame Depine wheeled her into the ladies’ department.
The coiffeur, who was washing the head of an American girl, looked up ungraciously. As he perceived the outer circumference of Madame Depine projecting on either side of her turret, he emitted a glacial “Bon jour, mesdames.”
“Those grey wigs—” faltered Madame Valiere
“I have already told your friend.” He rubbed the American head viciously.
Madame Depine coloured. “But—but we are two. Is there no reduction on taking a quantity?”
“And why then? A wig is a wig. Twice a hundred francs are two hundred francs.”
“One hundred francs for a wig!” said Madame Valiere, paling. “I did not pay that for the one I wear.”
“I well believe it, madame. A grey wig is not a brown wig.”
“But you just said a wig is a wig.”
The coiffeur gave angry rubs at the head, in time with his explosive phrases. “You want real hair, I presume—and to your measure—and to look natural—and convenable!” (Both old ladies shuddered at the word.) “Of course, if you want it merely for private theatricals—”
“Private theatricals!” repeated Madame Depine, aghast.
“A comedienne’s wig I can sell you for a bagatelle. That passes at a distance.”
Madame Valiere ignored the suggestion. “But why should a grey wig cost more than any other?”
The coiffeur shrugged his shoulders. “Since there are less grey hairs in the world—”
“Comment!” repeated Madame Valiere, in amazement.
“It stands to reason,” said the coiffeur. “Since most persons do not live to be old—or only live to be bald.” He grew animated, professorial almost, seeing the weight his words carried to unthinking bosoms. “And since one must provide a fine hair-net for a groundwork, to imitate the flesh-tint of the scalp, and since each hair of the parting must be treated separately, and since the natural wave of the hair must be reproduced, and since you will also need a block for it to stand on at nights to guard its shape—”
“But since one has already blocks,” interposed Madame Depine.
“But since a conscientious artist cannot trust another’s block! Represent to yourself also that the shape of the head does not remain as fixed as the dome of the Invalides, and that—”
“Eh bien, we will think,” interrupted Madame Valiere, with dignity.
They walked slowly towards the Hotel des Tourterelles.
“If one could share a wig!” Madame Depine exclaimed suddenly.