“I’m going to the hospital. Nobody ever loved me as she did. Oh, they’re quite right when they accuse the men of heartlessness! Who knows? Perhaps I shan’t see her alive. Never mind, I shall ask to see her: I want to give her a kiss.”
Labordette and Mignon smiled, and as Nana was no longer melancholy she smiled too. Those two fellows didn’t count; they could enter into her feelings. And they both stood and admired her in silent abstraction while she finished buttoning her gloves. She alone kept her feet amid the heaped-up riches of her mansion, while a whole generation of men lay stricken down before her. Like those antique monsters whose redoubtable domains were covered with skeletons, she rested her feet on human skulls. She was ringed round with catastrophes. There was the furious immolation of Vandeuvres; the melancholy state of Foucarmont, who was lost in the China seas; the smashup of Steiner, who now had to live like an honest man; the satisfied idiocy of La Faloise, and the tragic shipwreck of the Muffats. Finally there was the white corpse of Georges, over which Philippe was now watching, for he had come out of prison but yesterday. She had finished her labor of ruin and death. The fly that had flown up from the ordure of the slums, bringing with it the leaven of social rottenness, had poisoned all these men by merely alighting on them. It was well done—it was just. She had avenged the beggars and the wastrels from whose caste she issued. And while, metaphorically speaking, her sex rose in a halo of glory and beamed over prostrate victims like a mounting sun shining brightly over a field of carnage, the actual woman remained as unconscious as a splendid animal, and in her ignorance of her mission was the good-natured courtesan to the last. She was still big; she was still plump; her health was excellent, her spirits capital. But this went for nothing now, for her house struck her as ridiculous. It was too small; it was full of furniture which got in her way. It was a wretched business, and the long and the short of the matter was she would have to make a fresh start. In fact, she was meditating something much better, and so she went off to kiss Satin for the last time. She was in all her finery and looked clean and solid and as brand new as if she had never seen service before.
Nana suddenly disappeared. It was a fresh plunge, an escapade, a flight into barbarous regions. Before her departure she had treated herself to a new sensation: she had held a sale and had made a clean sweep of everything—house, furniture, jewelry, nay, even dresses and linen. Prices were cited—the five days’ sale produced more than six hundred thousand francs. For the last time Paris had seen her in a fairy piece. It was called Melusine, and it played at the Theatre de la Gaite, which the penniless Bordenave had taken out of sheer audacity. Here she again found herself