The Court of St. Simon - E. Phillips Oppenheim - ebook

The Court of St. Simon ebook

E. Phillips Oppenheim

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E. Phillips Oppenheim, writing as Anthony Partridge, in 1912. A curious tale in three parts. „The Court of St. Simon”, by E. Phillips Oppenheim tells the story of Monsieur Simon with his consort Josephine, who lives in the demi-monde of Paris, consorts with criminals and artists, and exacts „contributions” from various evil-doers in the „Court of St. Simon” an underground tribunal of, for, and by, the criminal class. One evening, he brings along with the jaded youth Eugene d’Argminac who falls under the spell of blood lust and becomes a criminal himself. Edward Phillips Oppenheim provides a thrill of another sort!

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Liczba stron: 361

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Contents

BOOK ONE

CHAPTER I. A CAFÉ IN PARIS

CHAPTER II. MONSIEUR SIMON

CHAPTER III. THE BEGINNING OF AN ADVENTURE

CHAPTER IV. THE COURT OF JUSTICE

CHAPTER V. BRIANE SEEKS HELP

CHAPTER VI. A WARNING TO D'ARGMINAC

CHAPTER VII. A WOMAN'S HEART

CHAPTER VIII. ENGLISH COUNTRY LIFE

CHAPTER IX. IN THE SUMMER-HOUSE

CHAPTER X. LADY CARLINGFORD IS ASTONISHED

CHAPTER XI. VALENTIN'S LOVEMAKING

CHAPTER XII. A RESPITE

CHAPTER XIII. A DISTASTEFUL MISSION

CHAPTER XIV. D'ARGMINAC DECLINES

CHAPTER XV. A BRIBE

BOOK TWO

CHAPTER I. TRUTH WILL OUT

CHAPTER II. VALENTIN LOSES COURAGE

CHAPTER III. TROUBLE IMPENDING

CHAPTER IV. "IT IS MONSIEUR SIMON!"

CHAPTER V. "THIS IS TRUE?"

CHAPTER VI. THE SILENT STREET

BOOK THREE

CHAPTER I. EIGHT YEARS LATER

CHAPTER II. PROOF OF A ROMANCE

CHAPTER III. A FATHER'S RESPONSIBILITIES

CHAPTER IV. RECRIMINATIONS

CHAPTER V. AT THE SWISS HOUSE

CHAPTER VI. AN INTERESTING VISITOR

CHAPTER VII. TROUBLE AFOOT

CHAPTER VIII. THE TRANSOME DIAMONDS

CHAPTER IX. AT THE FENCING ACADEMY

CHAPTER X. VALENTIN PROVES OBSTINATE

CHAPTER XI. IN COUNCIL ASSEMBLED

CHAPTER XII. AFRAID!

CHAPTER XIII. BEARDING THE LION

CHAPTER XIV. TWO ACHING HEARTS

CHAPTER XV. THE INFORMER

CHAPTER XVI. SOPHY IS RELENTLESS

CHAPTER XVII. UNDERSTANDING

CHAPTER XVIII. IN THE ROSE-GARDEN

BOOK ONE

CHAPTER I. A CAFÉ IN PARIS

THE boy was without doubt inclined towards affectation, yet there was also something of truth, a shadow of honest dejection, in the weariness of his restless eyes. Here, where pleasure had become a science, he sat among the midnight revellers, alone and unamused, flaunting his ennui with something of the self-consciousness to which his years entitled him.

“A type,” one murmured, glancing in his direction. “Behold the young Frenchman, a man before he has left the nursery, a man in experience and evil knowledge, worn out with pleasure before he has had time to be young!”

A type beyond a doubt. Eugène d’Argminac–it was name which he had appropriated, for he was really an Englishman–was good-looking notwithstanding his pallid face, slim, and well-built. He was dressed in the somewhat extravagant mode affected by the young Frenchman of fashion, but with all that delicate, almost feminine care about details which excuses even foppishness. The droop of his white tie, the stones in his studs and links, his single ring, his soft-fronted white shirt, were all exactly in the fashion of the moment. But for his eyes, which were distinctly narrow and set too close together, and the unwholesome air of fatigue with which he looked out upon the gay scene from his table against the wall, he was a not unattractive figure.

It was the supper place of the moment–Paris has many such which appear and disappear in rapid succession. Every table was occupied save one or two in the best part of the room, reserved for any visitor of distinction who might appear unexpectedly. The usual attractions were in full swing. A Spanish girl, with black hair and a yellow gown covered with sequins, was dancing, a rose in her mouth. A busy orchestra found it harder work even than usual to make their music heard above the clamor of voices, the popping of corks, and the rattle of crockery. Toy balloons bearing the name of the restaurant were floating from every table. Every one who was not laughing seemed to be talking. The boy, who sat with a plate of biscuits and a bottle of champagne before him, neither of which he had as yet touched, beckoned to the presiding genius of the place.

“Monsieur Albert,” he said gloomily, “it is finished here. One amuses one’s self no longer. Already the world is prepared to move on to the next place. Mark my words, your reign is over.”

The popular maître d’hôtel, a little staggered, for he was more used to compliments, extended his hands towards the over-crowded room; pointed, also, to the visitors waiting for tables, who thronged the doorway.

“But, Monsieur,” he protested, “never has the rush been so great. Out there I dare not show myself. There are a dozen who wish tables –English, American, Russian. From all quarters of the world they come to my café. Finished! Mon Dieu! Monsieur cannot be serious.”

The young man yawned. “You have the numbers, it is true, dear Albert,” he admitted, “but the quality! Saw one ever such a rabble–Tourists, the bourgeoisie of the country towns, shop people from the boulevards, scarcely a person of distinction or interest. How can one amuse one’s self among such?”

Monsieur Albert smiled tolerantly. “Monsieur is ennuyé this evening. Another time he will amuse himself well enough here. One cannot pick and choose one’s clients, but there are many here of the distinguished world. Over in the corner there is a Russian Prince–he does not like to be talked about, but his name is in all the papers. Fourget, the great actor, sits behind with Mademoiselle Lalage, who created the part of Cléopâtre. The gentleman with the red ribbon in his buttonhole there is Monsieur d’Anvers, who wrote the play.”

The boy half closed his eyes. “All the usual claptrap,” he murmured. “A Russian prince, a dancer, a dramatist, and an actress. One meets them everywhere at every turn. These are blackberries upon the tree of life here, Albert. Show me, indeed, some one of real notoriety, some one out of the common; show me one single person not of this type.”

Monsieur Albert’s face was turned toward the door. He gave a sudden start. “But indeed, Monsieur, you may soon be gratified!” he exclaimed. “Wait but a little. I return.”

It was Albert at his best who moved toward the entrance, Albert at his best who stood bowing before these two newcomers, who with his own hands removed the cloak from the girl’s beautiful shoulders, who himself led the way to the best table the place afforded, moving backward most of the time, talking always in his most impressive manner. Even the young man who called himself Eugène d’Argminac lost for a moment his look of weariness. They were strangers to him, these two, and they were certainly people of marked and unusual distinction. He watched them as they settled themselves into their places. The man was apparently about forty years old, but his exact age it would have been hard to tell. He was inclined to be fair, with a great deal of deep brown hair carefully brushed back from his forehead. His mouth was strong and prominent, a trifle cruel and yet not sensual. There were little lines about his eyes as though he were short-sighted, and the eyeglass which hung from a ribbon about his neck was evidently not for ornament alone. His forehead was good, his face like his frame–long and thin. He looked like a man who had been an athlete and who was still possessed of great strength; a man of breeding, without a doubt. The girl was dark, colorless, as were so many young Parisiennes, powdered, indeed, almost to the dead whiteness of the ladies of Spain. Her eyes were soft and velvety, her eyebrows silken lines, her lips thin streaks of scarlet. A magnificent rope of pearls hung from her neck, and she carried a gold bag set with emeralds. She sat down, calmly contemplating herself through a tiny mirror, a powder puff in her other hand ready for use. Eugène d’Argminac yawned no longer in his corner. He waited almost eagerly for the moment when Albert at last, after a long consultation with a maître d’hôtel, a waiter and a wine steward, left their table. Then he leaned forward and summoned him.

“Monsieur Albert!” he cried.

Albert, with a little triumphant smile, obeyed the summons. “Voilà, Monsieur!” he declared. “There are two of my clients whom I think you will not call commonplace. They are different from the others, are they not?”

“Who are they?”

Monsieur Albert smiled. “If one knew their names, Monsieur, if one could tell who they were or what place they occupied in the world, they would perhaps lose something of their interest. Is it not so? Supposing, for instance, the gentleman were a wine merchant, and the lady a manikin!”

“You know very well that they are nothing of the sort,” Eugène protested. “Tell me their names, tell me all you know about them.”

Albert made a little gesture of despair. “If only one could tell!” he murmured. “The gentleman calls himself simply Monsieur Simon. He speaks of the lady as his sister. That, however, one is permitted to doubt. They have been coming here now for nearly five months.”

“Monsieur Simon–but that is rubbish!” the boy exclaimed. “They are people of account, these. Even if they come here incognito they must have a name and standing elsewhere. You are so clever at these things, Albert. I thought that you made it a point to know the names and standing of most of your regular customers. Surely you have discovered something more about them?”

Albert accepted a cigarette from the gold case of his patron, and leaned across the table. “Monsieur d’Argminac,” he said, “I will admit that I have tried to discover who and what they are, these two people, seemingly so rich, certainly so distinguished. I have failed–I admit it–I have failed. We have people about the place, as you know, who are quite willing, for a consideration, to undertake a little espionage. For the sake of curiosity I had these two followed one night. The fellow was caught and beaten, beaten in the open streets by Monsieur there. Since then I have made no effort. Once or twice I have had visitors here who seemed about to claim acquaintance with the gentleman. Always he looks as though he wore a mask. He recognizes no one. I have tried questions, but never have I learned anything for my pains. At present I am content. They are good clients, they excite curiosity, it is a joy to look upon Mademoiselle. I keep my counsel.”

“I should like to know them,” D’Argminac remarked.

Monsieur Albert shook his head doubtfully. “They make no acquaintances,” he said. “I have never seen them speak to a soul.”

“Is Mademoiselle also as unapproachable?” D’Argminac asked.

“Absolutely,” Albert replied. “And, Monsieur d’Argminac,” he added under his breath, “let me have your attention for one moment. Here there are times, on gay nights like this, or towards the time when one leaves, when introductions are dispensed with. A man of fashion like yourself flirts always with the beautiful women. Forgive me if I drop a hint. There was a young man once who tried to flirt with Mademoiselle. He would have slipped a note into her hand. Monsieur observed him. It was all over in a moment, but he is a man of mighty strength. He threw the young gentleman across two tables, caught him up as you or I might a baby. Since then no one has looked at the young lady.”

D’Argminac smiled. “Your story inspires me with fear, Albert,” he declared. “I tremble and I obey. Nevertheless, the coming here of these two people pleases me. I shall remain a little longer. You have shown me some thing, at least, which it does not weary one to look at.”

The monotonous round of gayety rose and fell. More women danced, a negro sang coon songs for the benefit of the Americans. Two Russian dancers, squatting almost on their haunches, went through their ungraceful evolutions. Monsieur Albert walked about, surveying the room with the air of an emperor. He laughed to himself as he thought of the words of his youthful client. Finished, indeed! The café was at the height of its prosperity. There was no such scene as this in all Paris. Suddenly, in the midst of his wanderings, he caught the eye of the patron whom he knew as Monsieur Simon, and obeyed in a moment his commanding summons. Eugène d’Argminac watched their whispered conversation eagerly. Somehow or other he began to believe that he himself was concerned in it. Assuredly Albert had once turned half round and glanced towards him. The face of Monsieur was wholly inscrutable. Only his lips moved, but once his eyes had looked in the direction which Albert had indicated. Eugène d’Argminac was delighted with himself and with the entire evening. After all, then, he was not absolutely past emotions. He had certainly felt his pulses beat a little quicker at the thought that he might be the subject of their conversation.

Presently Albert, leaving his patron with a most respectful bow, came hurrying across the room toward D’Argminac’s table. “Monsieur d’Argminac,” he announced, “you have indeed the good fortune. The gentleman in whom you are so much interested, and who so seldom asks questions concerning any one, has just been speaking to me about you.”

“What did he say?”

“He asked me your name, who you were, why you sat there alone looking so bored and so weary.”

“And you? What did you answer?” D’Argminac asked softly.

“I told him what I knew–that you were a young gentleman of fashion and perceptions who came here most evenings, but who was inclined to find the place dull. He said that he would like to know you. I am at liberty, if you will, to conduct you to his table.”

Eugène d’Argminac rose slowly to his feet. For a moment he had hesitated. He could not refuse this invitation brought him so triumphantly, yet some part of his magnificent self-confidence seemed to have deserted him as he crossed the floor.

Albert performed the introduction with much ceremony.

“Monsieur,” he said, “and Mademoiselle, I have the great honor to present to you Monsieur Eugène d’Argminac, one of my most esteemed clients.”

D’Argminac smiled faintly. “Albert has many a better one,” he said. “As a matter of fact, he is not pleased with me to-night, for I have told him that this place grows wearisome.”

“You will take a glass of wine with us, Monsieur d’Argminac?” the man at the table asked. “Pray seat yourself.”

D’Argminac drew a chair towards him. “With Mademoiselle’s permission,” he replied, bowing to her, “it will give me much pleasure to join you for a few minutes.”

CHAPTER II. MONSIEUR SIMON

THE conversation was almost entirely confined to the two men. Mademoiselle murmured only a few words, and even then D’Argminac was puzzled. She spoke slowly and with much care. The words were correct so far as they went, yet something in their intonation made it very obvious that these two did not belong to the same social station, notwithstanding Albert’s statement as to their relationship. For the rest, Mademoiselle took very little notice of this new acquaintance. She was entirely occupied in enjoying an excellent supper. Her two companions ate nothing.

“Our much respected friend Albert,” remarked Monsieur Simon, “spoke of you as being the only one of its habitués who found this place wearisome. I must confess that I was interested. You are–pardon me–young, Monsieur d’Argminac, to have exhausted the gaieties of this wonderful city.”

The boy felt for his as yet invisible moustache. The faint irony of the other’s tone was entirely lost upon him.

“I am perhaps older than I look, Monsieur, Still, a year or two at these places is enough. They are all the same–the dance, the women, the music. There is nothing left.”

“You have many friends in Paris?” Monsieur Simon asked.

“I am fairly well known here,” the young man answered. “You wonder, perhaps, that I should care to come to such a place alone. It is simply a whim of mine. I have many acquaintances, at any rate.”

“Your name is French,” Monsieur Simon remarked, “but you are surely English, are you not?”

D’Argminac admitted the fact a little reluctantly. “I was educated in England at Eton, but I prefer the French people and their manner of living. After all, though,” he added wearily, “I am not sure that it is any better here than anywhere else. I found London insupportable, but I am not sure that Paris is much better.”

Monsieur Simon laughed softly. There was a cynical droop to his lips as he leaned forward and lit a cigarette.

“When one is weary of Paris at your age,” he declared, “one must be possessed, indeed, of an original temperament.”

“It is a curse,” Eugène d’Argminac admitted gloomily. “If one seeks contentment, one should resign oneself to be commonplace.”

“You still feel the desire for excitement, I suppose?”

“I would buy it, if I could, at any price.”

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