“In a hospital or a ministry,—where all men ruined in body or mind are apt to go,” said Raoul, laughing.
“Where and when shall we invite them?”
“Here, five days hence.”
“Tell me the sum you want,” said Florine, simply.
“Well, the lawyer, du Tillet, and Raoul will each have to put up a hundred thousand francs before they embark on the affair,” replied Blondet. “Then the paper can run eighteen months; about long enough for a rise and fall in Paris.”
Florine gave a little grimace of approval. The two friends jumped into a cabriolet to go about collecting guests and pens, ideas and self-interests.
Florine meantime sent for certain dealers in old furniture, bric-a-brac, pictures, and jewels. These men entered her sanctuary and took an inventory of every article, precisely as if Florine were dead. She declared she would sell everything at public auction if they did not offer her a proper price. She had had the luck to please, she said, an English lord, and she wanted to get rid of all her property and look poor, so that he might give her a fine house and furniture, fit to rival the Rothschilds. But in spite of these persuasions and subterfuges, all the dealers would offer her for a mass of belongings worth a hundred and fifty thousand was seventy thousand. Florine thereupon offered to deliver over everything in eight days for eighty thousand,—“To take or leave,” she said,—and the bargain was concluded. After the men had departed she skipped for joy, like the hills of King David, and performed all manner of follies, not having thought herself so rich.
When Raoul came back she made him a little scene, pretending to be hurt; she declared that he abandoned her; that she had reflected; men did not pass from one party to another, from the stage to the Chamber, without some reason; there was a woman at the bottom; she had a rival! In short, she made him swear eternal fidelity. Five days later she gave a splendid feast. The new journal was baptized in floods of wine and wit, with oaths of loyalty, fidelity, and good-fellowship. The name, forgotten now like those of the Liberal, Communal, Departmental, Garde National, Federal, Impartial, was something in “al” that was equally imposing and evanescent. At three in the morning Florine could undress and go to bed as if alone, though no one had left the house; these lights of the epoch were sleeping the sleep of brutes. And when, early in the morning, the packers and vans arrived to remove Florine’s treasures she laughed to see the porters moving the bodies of the celebrated men like pieces of furniture that lay in their way. “Sic transit” all her fine things! all her presents and souvenirs went to the shops of the various dealers, where no one on seeing them would know how those flowers of luxury had been originally paid for. It was agreed that a few little necessary articles should be left, for Florine’s personal convenience until evening,—her bed, a table, a few chairs, and china enough to give her guests their breakfast.