The Mystery of Orcival
Whosoever needs a loan of money, or a complete suit of clothes in the top of the fashion,
a pair of ladies' boots, or an Indian cashmere; a porcelain table service or a good picture;
whosoever desires diamonds, curtains, laces, a house in the country, or a provision of
wood for winter fires - may procure all these, and many other things besides, at Mme.
Mme. Charman lives at 136, Rue Notre Dame de Lorette, on the first story above the
ground-floor. Her customers must give madame some guarantee of their credit; a woman,
if she be young and pretty, may be accommodated at madame's at the reasonable rate of
two hundred per cent interest. Madame has, at these rates, considerable custom, and yet
has not made a large fortune. She must necessarily risk a great deal, and bears heavy
losses as well as receives large profits. Then she is, as she is pleased to say, too honest;
and true enough, she is honest - she would rather sell her dress off her back than let her
signature go to protest.
Madame is a blonde, slight, gentle, and not wanting in a certain distinction of manner;
she invariably wears, whether it be summer or winter, a black silk dress. They say she has
a husband, but no one has ever seen him, which does not prevent his reputation for good
conduct from being above suspicion. However, honorable as may be Mme. Charman's
profession, she has more than once had business with M. Lecoq; she has need of him and
fears him as she does fire. She, therefore, welcomed the detective and his companion -
whom she took for one of his colleagues - somewhat as the supernumerary of a theatre
would greet his manager if the latter chanced to pay him a visit in his humble lodgings.
She was expecting them. When they rang, she advanced to meet them in the ante-
chamber, and greeted M. Lecoq graciously and smilingly. She conducted them into her
drawing-room, invited them to sit in her best arm-chairs, and pressed some refreshments
"I see, dear Madame," began M. Lecoq, "that you have received my little note."
"Yes, Monsieur Lecoq, early this morning; I was not up."
"Very good. And have you been so kind as to do the service I asked?"
"How can you ask me, when you know that I would go through the fire for you? I set
about it at once, getting up expressly for the purpose."
"Then you've got the address of Pelagie Taponnet, called Jenny?"
"Yes, I have," returned Mme. Charman, with an obsequious bow. "If I were the kind of
woman to magnify my services, I would tell you what trouble it cost me to find this
address, and how I ran all over Paris and spent ten francs in cab hire."