Dear Martin,
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.
Yours sincerely,
Corinna Hastings.
Martin Overshaw rose and addressed the concierge.
“Where is the Rue Bonaparte?”
The concierge informed him.
“I am going to dine with a lady at a restaurant called the Petit Cornichon. Do you think I had better wear evening dress?”
The concierge was perplexed. The majority of the British frequenters of the hotel, when they did not dine in gangs at the table d’h?te, went out to dinner in flannels or knickerbockers, and wore cloth caps, and looked upon the language of the country as an incomprehensible joke. But here was a young Englishman of a puzzling type who spoke perfect French with a strange purity of accent, in spite of his abysmal ignorance of Paris, and talked about dressing for dinner.
“I will ask Monsieur Bocardon,” said he.
Monsieur Bocardon, the manager, a fat, greasy Proven?al, who sat over a ledger in the cramped bureau, leaned back in his chair and threw out his hands.
“Evening dress in a little restaurant of the quartier. Mais non! They would look at you through the windows. There would be a crowd. It would be an affair of the police.”
Martin Overshaw smiled. “Merci, monsieur,” said he. “But as you may have already guessed, I am new to Paris and Paris ways.”
“That doesn’t matter,” replied Monsieur Bocardon graciously. “Paris isn’t France. We of the south—I am from N?mes—care that for Paris——” he snapped his fingers. “Monsieur knows the Midi?”
“It is my first visit to France,” said Martin.