On Catinat Street, at the time when the Inspection would come rolling through, Torral found Mévil afoot, his arms dangling limply at his sides. "Where's your carriage? What are you doing here, when all the girls are already out on the town?"
"I don't know." Mévil seemed lost and quiet. Torral took him by the arm.
"And what happened to Fierce? I haven't seen him for eight days. The last time, it was here, he was running around like a madman - I invited him to come along that night, he yelled taht he couldn't, that he was exhausted, and then he took off at full speed. Since, nothing."
"I saw him yesterday, from afar, in the Malais' carriage."
"He's going there!?"
Torral had drawn up short in shock.
"Yes. They talk about him a lot in that house, among others."
"I thought he was smarter than that."
They walked side by side.
"Malais," explained Torral, "is in the process of making a massive killing in the rice business. He got the tax to levy for just 4 million, because the governor didn't dare raising the tax himself. Malais dares - he's enrolled two thousand thugs armed with Winchesters, and the tax is going to make him eight million - but we'll have a revolt on our hands.
Mévil gave a gallic shrug of indifference.
"A revolt's a real bother. They might mobilize us." he insisted.
He was a reserve officer, and designated, if necessary, to command a battery at Saint-Jacques Cape.
Mécil wasn't listening and walked with his head down, eyes fixed on the ground.
"What's up with you?" exploded the engineering.
The doctor, slowly, sighed. "Troubles."
He spoke haltingly. "Problems. I'm in love with a woman - who isn't in love back. There are two women I want..."
"Malais - Abel."
"The young one? You thought she was skimpy."
"Yes. But when I see her, I get butterflies. You remembered, an evening, at the theater? I almost fainted. She electrified me like an electric circuit. I've poured over my books, but I haven't found any comparable sickness. I don't know how to heal myself..."
He paused a second.
"I'll marry her," he squeezed out.
"You're crazy, said Torral.
"That could very well be."
Torral thought it over. "Two women who aren't interested in you! That's a lot for Saigon. Have you tried everything?"
"I haven't tried anything. I'm up against a wall. Marthe scares me and leaves me paralyzed. The other is afraid of me and closes her door."
"So she likes you."
"That really helps!"
They lit their cigarettes. Mévil let his flicker out.
"There are other women," suggested the engineer. "One or another, they're all the same when the lights are out."
Mévil shook his head. "I can't. God yes, there are women - more than I want, more than I could have. Say, right now, they're waiting for me in Cholon, and if I'm on foot, it's because I don't want a coachman to have to go with me to the rendez-vous - it's a secrete adventure, a young girl..."
"Doesn't matter to me. So?
"But it isn't her that I want, or any of the others."
"Take care," said Torral. "If y ou've got it that bad, it's dangerous."
They had walked almost to the cathedral, and stopped there in front of the gate.
"Do you remember," said Torral," the cat that I slammed into this wall that one night? It was the day that Fierce arrived - stupid Fierce - and we were drunk, and we were looking for Boresse Quarter, that reputable district. There's a moral to this story - and a solution to your problems. Some alcohol and some sex, and you'll forget all about these women."
No," replied the doctor. "I've already had this happened. When I'm tormented by my desire for a woman, nothing can distract me from it. I'm too much a creature of these desires, and they make a slave out of me, and they'll do it this time again. I have to obey or.."
They were on the dusty red road. A carriage thundered past right next to them, its wheels squeaking. Mévil was rooted to the spot, the axle wheel inches from his leg.
"Be careful!" cried the engineer, rushing out from behind.
Mévil gave him a startled look, then shrugged. "There's no more danger," he said.
They crossed the street again. "Here we are," said the doctor.
Torral picked up the conversation's thread. "You haven't lost the battle yet. The Malais woman probably likes you, just try to bring her around. use Fierce, idiot he may be! He's your agent on the inside. Find a way to meet her, wherever she is, watch her, follow her, ambush her! And for the other - what the hell! You don't like her, these infatuations aren't that important."
"If I don't get Marthe Abel," stated Mévil, stubbornly, "these infatuations aren't going to go away, and I'll break."
"That's enough," said Torral. "This evening, let's meet again at the club."
They parted, then turned. "But be careful about carriages. You have a dangerous tendency to try to try to match trajectories with carriage's wheels. That's more dangerous than any suppressed infatuation."
- Chapter 1
- Chapter 2
- Chapter 3
- Chapter 4
- Chapter 5
- Chapter 6
- Chapter 7
- Chapter 8
- Chapter 9
- Chapter 10
- Chapter 11
- Chapter 12
- Chapter 13
- Chapter 14
- Chapter 15
- Chapter 16
- Chapter 17
- Chapter 18
- Chapter 19
- Chapter 20
- Chapter 21
- Chapter 22
- Chapter 23
- Chapter 24
- Chapter 25
- Chapter 26
- Chapter 27
- Chapter 28
- Chapter 29
- Chapter 30
- Chapter 31
- Chapter 32
- Chapter 33
- Chapter 34
- Chapter 35
- Chapter 36