As he gave his orders, he took off his gown, assumed a long black coat, and carefully adjusted his wig.
“Will Monsieur be back this evening?” asked Janouille.
“I don’t know.”
“And if anybody comes from over yonder?”
“Over yonder” with a detective, always means “the house”—otherwise the prefecture of police.
“Say that I am out on the Corbeil affair.”
M. Lecoq was soon ready. He had the air, physiognomy, and manners of a highly respectable chief clerk of fifty. Gold spectacles, an umbrella, everything about him exhaled an odor of the ledger.
“Now,” said he to M. Plantat. “Let’s hurry away.” Goulard, who had made a hearty breakfast, was waiting for his hero in the dining-room.
“Ah ha, old fellow,” said M. Lecoq. “So you’ve had a few words with my wine. How do you find it?”
“Delicious, my chief; perfect—that is to say, a true nectar.”
“It’s cheered you up, I hope.”
“Oh, yes, my chief.”
“Then you may follow us a few steps and mount guard at the door of the house where you see us go in. I shall probably have to confide a pretty little girl to your care whom you will carry to Monsieur Domini. And open your eyes; for she’s a sly creature, and very apt to inveigle you on the way and slip through your fingers.”
They went out, and Janouille stoutly barricaded herself behind them.
Whosoever needs a loan of money, or a complete suit of clothes in the top of the fashion, a pair of ladies’ boots, or an Indian cashmere; a porcelain table service or a good picture; whosoever desires diamonds, curtains, laces, a house in the country, or a provision of wood for winter fires—may procure all these, and many other things besides, at Mme. Charman’s.
Mme. Charman lives at 136, Rue Notre Dame de Lorette, on the first story above the ground-floor. Her customers must give madame some guarantee of their credit; a woman, if she be young and pretty, may be accommodated at madame’s at the reasonable rate of two hundred per cent interest. Madame has, at these rates, considerable custom, and yet has not made a large fortune. She must necessarily risk a great deal, and bears heavy losses as well as receives large profits. Then she is, as she is pleased to say, too honest; and true enough, she is honest—she would rather sell her dress off her back than let her signature go to protest.
Madame is a blonde, slight, gentle, and not wanting in a certain distinction of manner; she invariably wears, whether it be summer or winter, a black silk dress. They say she has a husband, but no one has ever seen him, which does not prevent his reputation for good conduct from being above suspicion. However, honorable as may be Mme. Charman’s profession, she has more than once had business with M. Lecoq; she has need of him and fears him as she does fire. She, therefore, welcomed the detective and his companion—whom she took for one of his colleagues—somewhat as the supernumerary of a theatre would greet his manager if the latter chanced to pay him a visit in his humble lodgings.