The Wonderful Year
THERE is a letter for you, monsieur,” said the concierge of the Hôtel du Soleil et de l’Ecosse.
He was a shabby concierge sharing in the tarnish of the shabby hotel which (for the information of those fortunate ones who only know of the Ritz, and the Meurice and other such-like palaces) is situated in the unaristocratic neighbourhood of the Halles Centrales.
“As it bears the Paris postmark, it must be the one which monsieur was expecting,” said he, detaching it from the clip on the keyboard.
“You are perfectly right,” said Martin Overshaw. “I recognise the handwriting.”
The young Englishman sat on the worn cane seat in the little vestibule and read his letter. It ran:
I’ve been away. Otherwise I should have answered your note sooner. I’m delighted you’re in this God-forsaken city, but what brought you here in August, Heaven only knows. We must meet at once. I can’t ask you to my abode, because I’ve only one room, one chair and a bed, and you would be shocked to sit on the chair while I sat on the bed, or to sit on the bed while I sat on the chair. And I couldn’t offer you anything but a cigarette (caporal, à quatre sous le paquet) and the fag end of a bottle of grenadine syrup and water. So let us dine together at the place where I take such meals as I can afford. Au Petit Cornichon, or as the snob of a proprietor yearns to call it, The “Restaurant Dufour.” It’s a beast of a hole in the Rue Baret off the Rue Bonaparte; but I don’t think either of us could run to the Café de Paris or Paillard’s and we’ll have it all to ourselves. Meet me there at seven.