The Court of St. Simon
The Court of St. Simon
CHAPTER III. THE BEGINNING OF AN ADVENTURE
AT three o'clock precisely, Monsieur Simon and his companion, followed by the younger man, left the restaurant.
"My automobile is here if you and Mademoiselle will honor me," the latter remarked, as they stood upon the pavement.
Monsieur Simon shook his head. "If you do not mind," he said, "I will ask you to send yours away. It is better that you come with us."
The young man hesitated. "Do you mean send it away altogether? How about afterwards? Shall I not require it to take me home?"
"We will arrange that," said Monsieur Simon. "Come."
The younger man did as he was bidden, and the three entered a large and remarkably handsome car which was already waiting. Monsieur Simon said but a single word to the chauffeur as they stepped in. D'Argminac sank back in his easy-chair and looked around him with admiration. The upholstering was all white. A soft white rug was upon the floor, and many footstools. There was a table with some books and flowers, an electric shaded lamp.
"No wonder you prefer your own automobile," the boy declared. "Mine is no better than a taxicab compared with this."
Monsieur Simon smiled but said nothing. The car was turned swiftly round, and to D'Argminac's surprise they did not descend the hill. He was beginning now to feel slightly curious.
"We do not descend into Paris, then?" Monsieur Simon shook his head. "We make a call close by," he announced. "After that it is as may be. We shall see."
They drove at a great pace into a quarter of Paris utterly unknown to D'Argminac. Presently they turned off a broad but shabby boulevard into a narrow, ill-lit street, and almost immediately the car came to a standstill in front of a tall, gloomy-looking house. Monsieur Simon descended leisurely and assisted his companion to the pavement.
"We are arrived," he remarked, looking over his shoulder at the younger man. "Follow us, please." Monsieur Simon rang and almost immediately the door was opened from inside. They were now in a very dark courtyard, with another door fronting them. After a moment or two's delay this one also swung back and hey passed into the passage of the house. By the light of an oil lamp which hung down from the ceiling, D'Argminac could see that they seemed to have penetrated into some low-class apartment house. The floor was of uncovered stone, the walls were stained with damp. During the moment that they stood together in the passage, two or three men of villainous aspect came through a door from the interior and swaggered out. A girl in tawdry clothes, smoking a cigarette and shouting the words of a popular song, brushed past them and out into the street. Monsieur Simon drew a key from his pocket and unlocked the door at his right hand. They passed into a small apartment which differed from the rest of the place in that it was apparently clean and moderately well furnished. In the far corner was a desk, at which Monsieur Simon seated himself. He whispered for a moment to Mademoiselle Josephine, who nodded and passed out. Then he rang the bell.
"You had better take a seat by my side," he said to the boy. "It would be really easier for you to come to an understanding of things by listening to me than if I attempt to explain."
D'Argminac did as he was bidden, asking: "One smokes?"
"One smokes always," Monsieur Simon replied, pushing him some matches.
Then the door was opened. A short, pallid-faced Frenchman came hurrying in, carrying a sheaf of papers. He bowed respectfully to Monsieur Simon, but came to an abrupt standstill when he saw a stranger.
"A friend, Briane," said Monsieur Simon. "He is with us for an hour or two, at any rate. What is there to be done?"
"A brave choice, Monsieur," the man answered. "Pierre has just come in with two most excellent reports. Monsieur perhaps remembers the man Jean Henneguy, the thread manufactu