“You do not come often enough, my dear sir, for me to find fault with you.”
“How can I help it, my good lady? I live in the country, and only come hither from time to time to settle my little affairs.”
“Talking of that sir, the letter you expected yesterday has arrived this morning. It is large, and comes from far. Here it is,” said the greengrocer, drawing it from her pocket; “it cost nothing for postage.”
“Thank you, my dear lady,” said Rodin, taking the letter with apparent indifference, and putting it into the side-pocket of his great-coat, which he carefully buttoned over.
“Are you going up to your rooms, sir?”
“Yes, my good, lady.”
“Then I will get ready your little provisions,” said Mother Arsene; “as usual, I suppose, my dear sir?”
“Just as usual.”
“It shall be ready in the twinkling of an eye, sir.”
So saying, the greengrocer took down an old basket; after throwing into it three or four pieces of turf, a little bundle of wood, and some charcoal, she covered all this fuel with a cabbage leaf; then, going to the further end of the shop, she took from a chest a large round loaf, cut off a slice, and selecting a magnificent radish with the eye of a connoisseur, divided it in two, made a hole in it, which she filled with gray salt joined the two pieces together again, and placed it carefully by the side of the bread, on the cabbage leaf which separated the eatables from the combustibles. Finally, taking some embers from the stove, she put them into a little earthen pot, containing ashes, which she placed also in the basket.
Then, reascending to her top step, Mother Arsene said to Rodin: “Here is your basket, sir.”
“A thousand thanks, my good lady,” answered Rodin, and plunging his hand into the pocket of his trousers, he drew forth eight sous, which he counted out only one by one to the greengrocer, and said to her, as he carried off his store: “Presently, when I come down again, I will return your basket as usual.”
“Quite at your service, my dear sir, quite at your service,” said Mother Arsene.
Rodin tucked his umbrella under his left arm, took up the greengrocer’s basket with his right hand, entered the dark passage, crossed the little court and mounted with light step to the second story of a dilapidated building; there, drawing a key from his pocket, he opened a door, which he locked carefully after him. The first of the two rooms which he occupied was completely unfurnished, as for the second, it is impossible to imagine a more gloomy and miserable den. Papering so much worn, torn and faded, that no one could recognize its primitive color, bedecked the walls. A wretched flock-bed, covered with a moth-fretted blanket; a stool, and a little table of worm-eaten wood; an earthenware stove, as cracked as old china; a trunk with a padlock, placed under the bed—such was the furniture of this