Every night for six months she haunted the cafe. She was always unattended, always in excellent humour. She made few friends among the students. Her scarlet dress grew shabbier. Her gloves and boots were pitiful to Ambroise, who recalled her former splendours, her outrageous extravagances. Why had fortune flouted her! Why had she let it, like water, escape through her jewelled, indifferent fingers! He made no inquiries. She vouchsafed none. They were now on a different footing. Tantalizingly she dangled the purse under his nose as he brought her absinthe—always this opalescent absinthe. She drank it in the morning, in the afternoon, at night. She seldom spoke save to Ambroise. And he—he no longer saw scarlet, for the glorious tone of her hat and gown had vanished. They were rusty red, a carroty tint. Her face was like the mask of La Buveuse d’Absinthe, by Felicien Rops; her eyes, black wells of regard; her hair without lustre, and coarse as the mane of a horse. Aholibah no longer manifested interest in the life of Paris. She did not read or gossip. But she still had money to spend.
The night he quarrelled with his new patron, Ambroise was not well. All the day his head had pained him. When he reached La Source, the dame at the cashier’s desk told him that he was in for a scolding. He shrugged his thin shoulders. He didn’t care very much. Later the prophesied event occurred. He had been much too attentive to the solitary woman who drank absinthe day and night. The patron did not propose to see his establishment, patronized as it was by the shining lights of medicine—!
Ambroise changed his clothes and went away without a word. He was weary of his existence, and a friend who shared his wretched room in the Rue Mouffetard had apprised him of a vacant job at a livelier resort, the Cafe Vachette, commonly known as the Cafe Rasta. There he would earn more tips, though the work would be more fatiguing. And—the Morocco Woman might not follow him. He hurried away.
She sat on a divan in the corner when he entered the Vachette for the first time. He said nothing, nor did he experience either a thrill of pleasure or disgust. The other waiters assured him that she was an old customer, sometimes better dressed, yet never without money. And she was liberal. He took her usual order, but did not speak to her, though she played with the purse as if to tempt him—it had become for him a symbol of their lives. A quick glance assured him that the amethyst had disappeared. She was literally drinking his gift away in absinthe. The spring passed, and Ambroise did not regain his former health. His limbs were leaden, his head always heavy. The alert waiter was transformed. He took his orders soberly, executed them soberly,—he was still a good routinier; but his early enthusiasm was absent. Something had gone from him that night; as she went