That evening the excellent man really condescended to go up stairs, and to bring Henrietta himself eight hundred and ninety-five francs.
He did not bring the whole nine hundred francs, he said; for, having put his two neighbors to some inconvenience, he was bound, according to established usage, to invite them to take something. For himself, he had, of course, kept nothing,—oh, nothing at all! He could take his oath upon that; for he preferred by far leaving that little matter to the beautiful young lady’s liberality.
“Here are ten francs,” said Henrietta curtly, in order to make an end to his endless talk.
Thus, with the few gold-pieces which she had found in her purse, the poor girl had a capital of about a thousand francs in hand. How many days, how many months, this sum would have secured to her, if the furniture-dealer had not been there with his bill! He did not fail to present himself next day, accompanied by Mrs. Chevassat. He asked for five hundred and seventy-nine francs. Such a sum for a few second-hand pieces of furniture which adorned that wretched garret! It was a clear swindle, and the impudence so great, that Henrietta was overwhelmed. But still she paid.
When he was gone, she sadly counted from one hand into the other the twenty-three gold-pieces that were left, when suddenly a thought occurred to her, that might have saved her, if she had followed it out.
It was the thought of leaving the house by stealth, of going to the station of the Orleans Railway, and of taking the first train for the home of Daniel’s aunt. Alas! she was content with writing to her, and remained.
This inspiration was, moreover, to be the last favor which Providence vouchsafed to Henrietta,—an opportunity which, once allowed to pass, never returns. From that moment she found herself irrevocably insnared in a net which tightened day by day more around her, and held her a helpless captive. She had vowed to herself, the unfortunate girl, that she would economize her little hoard like the blood in her veins. But how could she economize?
She was without every thing. When M. de Brevan had gone to engage this garret-room, he had thought of nothing; or rather (and such a calculation was quite in keeping with his cold-blooded rascality) he had taken his measures so that his victim must soon be in utter destitution. Without any other clothes than those she wore on the night of her flight, she had no linen, no shoes, not a towel even to wipe her hands, unless she borrowed them from her friend down stairs.
Accustomed as she was to all the comforts of boundless wealth, and to all the refinements of cleanliness, these privations became to her a genuine martyrdom. Thus she spent in a variety of small purchases more than a hundred and fifty francs. The sum was enormous at a time when she could already count the days to the hour when she would be without bread. In addition to that she had to pay Mrs. Chevassat five francs a day for her board. Five francs were another enormous sum which troubled her grievously; for she would have been quite willing to live on bread and water. But in that direction she thought no economizing was possible.