And, to cut short all these explanations, she took up her song again:
“Hope, I’ve waited
but too long
For thy manna divine!
I’ve drunk enough of thy wine,
And I know thy siren song:
Waiting for a lucky turn,
I have wasted my best days:
Take up thy magic-lantern
And elsewhere display its rays.
’Tis very nice to run,
But to have is better fun!”
It was on the opposite side of the landing that what Mme. Fortin pompously called “Maxence’s apartment” was situated.
It consisted of a sort of antechamber, almost as large as a handkerchief (decorated by the Fortins with the name of dining-room), a bedroom, and a closet called a dressing-room in the lease. Nothing could be more gloomy than this lodging, in which the ragged paper and soiled paint retained the traces of all the wanderers who had occupied it since the opening of the Hotel des Folies. The dislocated ceiling was scaling off in large pieces; the floor seemed affected with the dry-rot; and the doors and windows were so much warped and sprung, that it required an effort to close them. The furniture was on a par with the rest.
“How everything does wear out!” sighed Mme. Fortin. “It isn’t ten years since I bought that furniture.”
In point of fact it was over fifteen, and even then she had bought it secondhanded, and almost unfit for use. The curtains retained but a vague shade of their original color. The veneer was almost entirely off the bedstead. Not a single lock was in order, whether in the bureau or the secretary. The rug had become a nameless rag; and the broken springs of the sofa, cutting through the threadbare stuff, stood up threateningly like knife-blades.
The most sumptuous object was an enormous China stove, which occupied almost one-half of the hall-dining-room. It could not be used to make a fire; for it had no pipe. Nevertheless, Mme. Fortin refused obstinately to take it out, under the pretext that it gave such a comfortable appearance to the apartment. All this elegance cost Maxence forty-five francs a month, and five francs for the service; the whole payable in advance from the 1st to the 3d of the month. If, on the 4th, a tenant came in without money, Mme. Fortin squarely refused him his key, and invited him to seek shelter elsewhere.
“I have been caught too often,” she replied to those who tried to obtain twenty-four hours’ grace from her. “I wouldn’t trust my own father till the 5th, he who was a superior officer in Napoleon’s armies, and the very soul of honor.”
It was chance alone which had brought Maxence, after the Commune, to the Hotel des Folies; and he had not been there a week, before he had fully made up his mind not to wear out Mme. Fortin’s furniture very long. He had even already found another and more suitable lodging, when, about a year ago, a certain meeting on the stairs had modified all his views, and lent a charm to his apartment which he did not suspect.