Imprisoned: part nine
The attendant, charging, snatched the Daily Mail from Honoré’s hands, began to refold it himself; looked up, and said, “Monsieur Bercomber, I couldn’t help it…I thought, for a moment, that he was a servant of Monsieur Stevens.”
“Turn out your pockets!”
The order came from Bercomber himself, who snorted at the emptiness of these, as though, if Honoré were not a thief, his time had been wasted coming into this room; then, his voice altering, he asked with some wonder, “Do you read English?”
“No. Yes. I read English, monsieur, but I don’t know it.”
The proprietor strode from the reading room without a word. Honoré, as he was being thrown out, and as this was the way to the street, followed. But Bercomber, holding up a hand, stopped him at the door, crouched and prodded about among a stack of books under the sales desk, emerging with a dark-bound volume, embossed: The Quaker City, or The Monks of Monk Hall.
“Lippard’s books have been somewhat popular…he is like Poe; but, by mistake, this is not in French. I will let you take it. Don’t come back.”
And at length, from his English researches Honoré had gained an insight (as well as a mental picture of the strange and crime-ridden place America must be). Mme Gremot―but really, he thought, Monsieur W. A. Gremot, for she’d said it herself: “He begs me to write”―had gone further in her letter than mere polite condolences; she had told his father in a careful way, in a subtle way, that he could not ask them for money, as he had his brother: “Your nephew Walter is his father’s only heir”. She had told his father that, but for courtesy’s sake, her husband might fairly have dealt with him through a lawyer; and that this was the place in which, on the scale of their friendship, the Belgian Gremots belonged.
Limolette smiled and ignored his wife; he ignored Cattlebur, having not understood him. He said to Honoré, “Come out to supper. Gérard will come too, and you, monsieur”—to Cattlebur―“my honored guest, will choose the restaurant; or, if you like to hear music…”
This trailing off was a prompt, and Cattlebur, reminded of his mistake, answered in French, “I won’t choose, if you’ll forgive me, being that I have only once before ventured to Paris; but I have had very good meals at my hotel.”
“They have a house act at the Nid des Voleurs. The songs are not as immoral as people say.” Limolette was still thinking of music. “But we may begin at your hotel. Honoré,” he added slyly, “will choose for us.”
They found Gérard waiting by a lamppost, breathing through his mouth as he did at anxious moments, and Limolette, in answer to Gérard’s frown, made explicit the slyness Honoré had noted. He rejected Cattlebur’s offer to be their host, this murmured with a quaver of poorly disguised apprehension―“I will ask that the expense be added to my tab.”
(2017, Stephanie Foster)