We are in a little set of lodgings on the fourth floor in the Rue Veron at Montmartre. Nana and Fontan have invited a few friends to cut their Twelfth-Night cake with them. They are giving their housewarming, though they have been only three days settled.
They had no fixed intention of keeping house together, but the whole thing had come about suddenly in the first glow of the honeymoon. After her grand blowup, when she had turned the count and the banker so vigorously out of doors, Nana felt the world crumbling about her feet. She estimated the situation at a glance; the creditors would swoop down on her anteroom, would mix themselves up with her love affairs and threaten to sell her little all unless she continued to act sensibly. Then, too, there would be no end of disputes and carking anxieties if she attempted to save her furniture from their clutches. And so she preferred giving up everything. Besides, the flat in the Boulevard Haussmann was plaguing her to death. It was so stupid with its great gilded rooms! In her access of tenderness for Fontan she began dreaming of a pretty little bright chamber. Indeed, she returned to the old ideals of the florist days, when her highest ambition was to have a rosewood cupboard with a plate-glass door and a bed hung with blue “reps.” In the course of two days she sold what she could smuggle out of the house in the way of knickknacks and jewelry and then disappeared, taking with her ten thousand francs and never even warning the porter’s wife. It was a plunge into the dark, a merry spree; never a trace was left behind. In this way she would prevent the men from coming dangling after her. Fontain was very nice. He did not say no to anything but just let her do as she liked. Nay, he even displayed an admirable spirit of comradeship. He had, on his part, nearly seven thousand francs, and despite the fact that people accused him of stinginess, he consented to add them to the young woman’s ten thousand. The sum struck them as a solid foundation on which to begin housekeeping. And so they started away, drawing from their common hoard, in order to hire and furnish the two rooms in the Rue Veron, and sharing everything together like old friends. In the early days it was really delicious.
On Twelfth Night Mme Lerat and Louiset were the first to arrive. As Fontan had not yet come home, the old lady ventured to give expression to her fears, for she trembled to see her niece renouncing the chance of wealth.
“Oh, Aunt, I love him so dearly!” cried Nana, pressing her hands to her heart with the prettiest of gestures.
This phrase produced an extraordinary effect on Mme Lerat, and tears came into her eyes.
“That’s true,” she said with an air of conviction. “Love before all things!”
And with that she went into raptures over the prettiness of the rooms. Nana took her to see the bedroom, the parlor and the very kitchen. Gracious goodness, it wasn’t a vast place, but then, they had painted it afresh and put up new wallpapers. Besides, the sun shone merrily into it during the daytime.