And what were her impressions of this flower of chivalry? she tried recalling, as his agent, Phineas Hardheart, crossed the road to enter the shop. (Early, she noted.) A desperate man, but one whom desperation might prick to great heights. A man not be underestimated, not to be trusted, either. Unless he gave his word.
"The Zoo?" she smiled. "I have not been there since I was a little girl."
"Maybe the Park, then," the old man urged, shuffling back to his place behind the counter.
"No," she said, seeing him prepare to receive what he thought was another customer. "This one is mine."
"Five thousand?" she repeated.
Mr. Hardheart, having learned his lesson last time (the salami he had knocked his head against left him smelling of garlic for a week) accepted the chair Madame Schlierbeck offered. He even laid his hat on the floor rather than working it nervously round with his fingers. He had steeled himself for what promised to be a difficult interview by taking a swallow of peach pit brandy just before entering. The fire dwelt reassuringly above his chest.
"His Lordship requires funds."
"Evidently," Madame Schlierbeck remarked, looking over the terms of their previous agreement. "He is still in debt to me for...two hundred fourteen pounds eleven pence."
"A debt he will honor," Mr. Hardheart said briskly, "when he comes into an inheritance, which he intends to do shortly."
"Inheritance? Both his parents are dead. I assume we are discussing an infusion of capital through matrimony."
"These affairs are personal and no concern of yours." He lifted his arm, expecting to find his sleeve stained or soiled, but there was nothing, just a pervading oily incensey feel to this place. He shuddered. The things he did, the dens he entered, all in service to the Choirs, just as his father had done for the previous Earl, and his father before him. A bunch of no-good freeloaders, if you asked Mr. Hardheart. And with such tempers. The Earl's livid face, at their last meeting, when he had been summoned to the station near Tattson Hall, flashed before him. "Get me that money, confound it! I don't care what the terms. I need enough for six more months. Six more bloody months, and then my troubles will be over, one way or the other." He had galloped off, making liberal use of the riding crop, leaving Hardheart stuck at a rural station, with no buffet, for three long hours, until the next train arrived. Typical. He returned his attention to Madame Schlierbeck, who, to his surprise, was quite accurately detailing the Earl's holdings, or lack thereof.
"The estate is heavily entailed, and the entail itself borrowed against. The jewels, so far as I know, have been sold or pawned. He owns a fine team, shares an establishment in Town, and has a collection of...rain gear, I believe, said to be worth something, but hardly fit collateral for the amount we are discussing."