The Exploits of Juve Being the Second of the Series of the "Fantomas" Detective Tales

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ISBN: N/A
Language: English
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THE COMRADES' TRYST

"A bowl of claret, Father Korn."

The raucous voice of big Ernestine rose above the hubbub in the smoke-begrimed tavern.

"Some claret, and let it be good," repeated the drab, a big, fair damsel with puckered eyes and features worn by dissipation.

Father Korn had heard the first time, but he was in no hurry to comply with the order.

He was a bald, whiskered giant, and at the moment was busily engaged in swilling dirty glasses in a sink filled with tepid water.

This tavern, "The Comrades' Tryst," had two rooms, each with its separate exit. Mme. Korn presided over the first in which food and drink were served. By passing through the door at the far end, and crossing the inner courtyard of the large seven-story building, the second "den" was reached—a low and ill-lit room facing the Rue de la Charbonnière, a street famed in the district for its bad reputation.

At a third summons, Father Korn, who had sized up the girl and the crowd she was with, growled:

"It'll be two moons; hand over the stuff first."

Big Ernestine rose, and pushing her way to him, began a long argument. When she stopped to draw a breath, Korn interposed:

"It's no use trying that game. I said two francs and two francs it is."

"All right, I won't argue with a brute like you," replied the girl. "Everyone knows that you and Mother Korn are Germans, dirty Prussians."

The innkeeper smiled quietly and went on washing his glasses.

Big Ernestine glanced around the room. She knew the crowd and quickly decided that the cash would not be forthcoming.

For a moment she thought of tackling old Mother Toulouche, ensconced in the doorway with her display of portugals and snails, but dame Toulouche, snuggled in her old shawl, was fast asleep.

Suddenly from a corner of the tavern, a weary voice cried with authority:

"Go ahead, Korn, I'll stand treat."

It was the Sapper who had spoken.

A man of fifty who owed his nickname to the current report that he had spent twenty years in Africa, both as a soldier and a convict.

While Ernestine and her friends hastened to his table, the Sapper's companion, a heavily built man, rose carelessly and slouched off to join another group, muttering:

"I'm too near the window here."

"It's Nonet," explained the Sapper to Ernestine. "He's home from New Caledonia, and he doesn't care to show himself much just now."

The girl nodded, and pointing to one of her companions, became confidential. "Look at poor Mimile, here. He's just out of quod and has to start right off to do his service. Pretty tough."

The Sapper became very interested in the conversation. Meanwhile Nonet, as he crossed the tap-room, had stopped a few moments before a pretty girl who was evidently expecting some one.

"Waiting again for the Square, eh, Josephine?" Nonet inquired.

The girl, whose big blue eyes contrasted strikingly with her jet black hair, replied:

"Why not? Loupart doesn't think of quitting me that I know of."

"Well, when he does let me know," Nonet suggested smilingly.

Josephine shrugged her shoulders contemptuously, and, glancing at the clock above the bar, rose suddenly and left the tap-room....