Bliss and Other Stories
But ah I the old spider. She was too quick for me. She let me run down the last little ladder of the web and then she pounced. " One moment. One little moment, Monsieur," she whispered, odiously confidential. " Come in. Come in." And she beckoned with a dripping soup ladle. I went to the door, but that was not good enough. Right inside and the door shut before she would speak.
There are two ways of managing your concierge if you haven't any money. One is—to take the high hand, make her your enemy, bluster, refuse to discuss anything ; the other is—to keep in with her, butter her up to the two knots of the black rag tying up her jaws, pretend to confide in her, and rely on her to arrange with the gas man and to put off the landlord.
I had tried the second. But both are equally page 94detestable and unsuccessful. At any rate whichever you're trying is the worse, the impossible one.
It was the landlord this time. . . . Imitation of the landlord by the concierge threatening to toss me out. . . . Imitation of the concierge by the concierge taming the wild bull. . . . Imitation of the landlord rampant again, breathing in the concierge's face. I was the concierge. No, it was too nauseous. And all the while the black pot on the gas ring bubbling away, stewing out the hearts and livers of every tenant in the place.
" Ah ! " I cried, staring at the clock on the mantelpiece, and then, realizing that it didn't go, striking my forehead as though the idea had nothing to do with it. " Madame, I have a very important appointment with the director of my newspaper at nine-thirty. Perhaps to-morrow I shall be able to give you . . ."
Out, out. And down the metro and squeezed into a full carriage. The more the better. Everybody was one bolster the more between me and the concierge. I was radiant.
" Ah ! pardon, Monsieur !" said the tall charming creature in black with a big full bosom and a great bunch of violets dropping from it. As the train swayed it thrust the bouquet right into my eyes. " Ah ! pardon, Monsieur ! "
But I looked up at her, smiling mischievously.
" There is nothing I love more, Madame, than flowers on a balcony." page 95At the very moment of speaking I caught sight of the huge man in a fur coat against whom my charmer was leaning. He poked his head over her shoulder and he went white to the nose ; in fact his nose stood out a sort of cheese green. " What was that you said to my wife ? " Gare Saint Lazare saved me. But you'll own that even as the author of False Coins, Wrong Doors, Left Umbrellas, and two in preparation, it was not too easy to go on my triumphant way.