The strolling actress! All her happiness in life was lost forever: honor, family, wealth. She was driven from her house, stripped, dishonored. She had undergone all possible humiliations and disasters. That did not prevent her supping with a wonderful appetite and joyously holding her own under Delobelle’s jocose remarks concerning her vocation and her future triumphs. She felt light-hearted and happy, fairly embarked for the land of Bohemia, her true country. What more would happen to her? Of how many ups and downs was her new, unforeseen, and whimsical existence to consist? She thought about that as she fell asleep in Desiree’s great easy-chair; but she thought of her revenge, too—her cherished revenge which she held in her hand, all ready for use, and so unerring, so fierce!
THE NEW EMPLOYEE OF THE HOUSE OF FROMONT
It was broad daylight when Fromont Jeune awoke. All night long, between the drama that was being enacted below him and the festivity in joyous progress above, he slept with clenched fists, the deep sleep of complete prostration like that of a condemned man on the eve of his execution or of a defeated General on the night following his disaster; a sleep from which one would wish never to awake, and in which, in the absence of all sensation, one has a foretaste of death.
The bright light streaming through his curtains, made more dazzling by the deep snow with which the garden and the surrounding roofs were covered, recalled him to the consciousness of things as they were. He felt a shock throughout his whole being, and, even before his mind began to work, that vague impression of melancholy which misfortunes, momentarily forgotten, leave in their place. All the familiar noises of the factory, the dull throbbing of the machinery, were in full activity. So the world still existed! and by slow degrees the idea of his own responsibility awoke in him.
“To-day is the day,” he said to himself, with an involuntary movement toward the dark side of the room, as if he longed to bury himself anew in his long sleep.
The factory bell rang, then other bells in the neighborhood, then the Angelus.
“Noon! Already! How I have slept!”
He felt some little remorse and a great sense of relief at the thought that the drama of settling-day had passed off without him. What had they done downstairs? Why did they not call him?
He rose, drew the curtains aside, and saw Risler and Sigismond talking together in the garden. And it was so long since they had spoken to each other! What in heaven’s name had happened? When he was ready to go down he found Claire at the door of his room.
“You must not go out,” she said.
“Stay here. I will explain it to you.”
“But what’s the matter? Did any one come from the Bank?”