“Say ‘my brothel,’ you obstinate devil!”
At ten o’clock the next morning Nana was still asleep. She occupied the second floor of a large new house in the Boulevard Haussmann, the landlord of which let flats to single ladies in order by their means to dry the paint. A rich merchant from Moscow, who had come to pass a winter in Paris, had installed her there after paying six months’ rent in advance. The rooms were too big for her and had never been completely furnished. The vulgar sumptuosity of gilded consoles and gilded chairs formed a crude contrast therein to the bric-a-brac of a secondhand furniture shop—to mahogany round tables, that is to say, and zinc candelabras, which sought to imitate Florentine bronze. All of which smacked of the courtesan too early deserted by her first serious protector and fallen back on shabby lovers, of a precarious first appearance of a bad start, handicapped by refusals of credit and threats of eviction.
Nana was sleeping on her face, hugging in her bare arms a pillow in which she was burying cheeks grown pale in sleep. The bedroom and the dressing room were the only two apartments which had been properly furnished by a neighboring upholsterer. A ray of light, gliding in under a curtain, rendered visible rosewood furniture and hangings and chairbacks of figured damask with a pattern of big blue flowers on a gray ground. But in the soft atmosphere of that slumbering chamber Nana suddenly awoke with a start, as though surprised to find an empty place at her side. She looked at the other pillow lying next to hers; there was the dint of a human head among its flounces: it was still warm. And groping with one hand, she pressed the knob of an electric bell by her bed’s head.
“He’s gone then?” she asked the maid who presented herself.
“Yes, madame, Monsieur Paul went away not ten minutes back. As Madame was tired, he did not wish to wake her. But he ordered me to tell Madame that he would come tomorrow.”
As she spoke Zoe, the lady’s maid, opened the outer shutter. A flood of daylight entered. Zoe, a dark brunette with hair in little plaits, had a long canine face, at once livid and full of seams, a snub nose, thick lips and two black eyes in continual movement.
“Tomorrow, tomorrow,” repeated Nana, who was not yet wide awake, “is tomorrow the day?”
“Yes, madame, Monsieur Paul has always come on the Wednesday.”
“No, now I remember,” said the young woman, sitting up. “It’s all changed. I wanted to tell him so this morning. He would run against the nigger! We should have a nice to-do!”
“Madame did not warn me; I couldn’t be aware of it,” murmured Zoe. “When Madame changes her days she will do well to tell me so that I may know. Then the old miser is no longer due on the Tuesday?”