That time over, he succeeded, thanks to M. Chapelain, in finding a place with an architect.
This was not a very brilliant opening; and the chances were, that he might remain a clerk all his life. But the future did not trouble him much. For the present, he was delighted with this inferior position, which assured him each month one hundred and seventy-five francs.
One hundred and seventy-five francs! A fortune. And so he rushed into that life of questionable pleasures, where so many wretches have left not only the money which they had, which is nothing, but the money which they had not, which leads straight to the police-court.
He made friends with those shabby fellows who walk up and down in front of the Cafe Riche, with an empty stomach, and a tooth-pick between their teeth. He became a regular customer at those low cafes of the Boulevards, where plastered girls smile to the men. He frequented those suspicious table d’hotes where they play baccarat after dinner on a wine-stained table-cloth, and where the police make periodical raids. He ate suppers in those night restaurants where people throw the bottles at each other’s heads after drinking their contents.
Often he remained twenty-four hours without coming to the Rue St. Gilles; and then Mme. Favoral spent the night in the most fearful anxiety. Then, suddenly, at some hour when he knew his father to be absent, he would appear, and, taking his mother to one side:
“I very much want a few louis,” he would say in a sheepish tone.
She gave them to him; and she kept giving them so long as she had any, not, however, without observing timidly to him that Gilberte and herself could not earn very much.
Until finally one evening, and to a last demand:
“Alas!” she answered sorrowfully, “I have nothing left, and it is only on Monday that we are to take our work back. Couldn’t you wait until then?”
He could not wait: he was expected for a game. Blind devotion begets ferocious egotism. He wanted his mother to go out and borrow the money from the grocer or the butcher. She was hesitating. He spoke louder.
Then Mlle. Gilberte appeared.
“Have you, then, really no heart?” she said. “It seems to me, that, if I were a man, I would not ask my mother and sister to work for me.”
Gilberte Favoral had just completed her eighteenth year. Rather tall, slender, her every motion betrayed the admirable proportions of her figure, and had that grace which results from the harmonious blending of litheness and strength. She did not strike at first sight; but soon a penetrating and indefinable charm arose from her whole person; and one knew not which to admire most,—the exquisite perfections of her figure, the divine roundness of her neck, her aerial carriage, or the placid ingenuousness