A LESSON IN ARGOT
Late one evening the dainty girl thief, Lisette, went out for a stroll with Hugh, but in the Via Roma they met an agent of police.
“Look!” whispered the girl in French, “there’s a pince sans rire! Be careful!”
She constantly used the argot of French thieves, which was often difficult for the young Englishman to understand. And the dark-haired girl would laugh, apologize, and explain the meaning of her strange expressions.
Outside the city they were soon upon the high road which wound up the deep green valley of the Bisagno away into the mountains, ever ascending to the little hill-town of Molassana. The scene was delightful in the moonlight as they climbed the steep hill and then descended again into the valley, Lisette all the time gossiping on in a manner which interested and amused him.
Her arrival had put an end to his boredom, and, though he was longing to get away from his surroundings, she certainly cheered him up.
They had walked for nearly an hour, when, declaring she felt tired, they sat upon a rock to rest and eat the sandwiches with which they had provided themselves.
Two carabineers in cloaks and cocked hats who met them on the road put them down as lovers keeping a clandestine tryst. They never dreamed that for both of them the police were in search.
“Now tell me something concerning yourself, mademoiselle,” Hugh urged presently.
“Myself! Oh! la la!” she laughed. “What is there to tell? I am just of la haute pegre—a truqueuse. Ah! you will not know the expression. Well—I am a thief in high society. I give indications where we can make a coup, and afterwards bruler le pegriot—efface the trace of the affair.”
“And why are you here?”
“Malheureusement! I was in Orleans and a friquet nearly captured me. So Il Passero sent me here for a while.”
“You help Il Passero—eh?”
“Yes. Very often. Ah! m’sieur, he is a most wonderful man—English, I think. Girofle (genteel and amiable), like yourself.”
“No, no, mademoiselle,” Hugh protested, laughing.
“But I mean it. Il Passero is a real gentleman—but—maquiller son truc, and he is marvellous. When he exercises his wonderful talent and forms a plan it is always flawless.”
“Everyone seems to hold him in high esteem. I have never met him,” Hugh remarked.
“He was in Genoa on the day that I arrived. Curious that he did not call and see Beppo. I lunched with him at the Concordia, and he paid me five thousand francs, which he owed me. He has gone to London now with his ecrache-tarte.”
“What is that, pray?”
“His false passport. He has always a good supply of them for anyone in need of one. They are printed secretly in Spain. But m’sieur,” she added, “you are not of our world. You are in just a little temporary trouble. Over what?”