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I believe in nothing. I fear nothing; and I know as much as theoldest libertines, the most vicious, and the most depraved. And Idon't say that I have not been tempted sometimes, when, coming homefrom work, I'd see some of them coming out of the restaurants,splendidly dressed, on their lover's arm, and getting into carriagesto go to the theatre. There were moments when I was cold and hungry,and when, not knowing where to sleep, I wandered all night throughthe streets like a lost dog. There were hours when I felt sick ofall this misery, and when I said to myself, that, since it was myfate to end in the hospital, I might as well make the trip gayly.

But what! I should have had to traffic my person, to sell myself!"She shuddered, and in a hoarse voice,"I would rather die," she said.

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It was difficult to reconcile words such as these with certaincircumstances of Mlle. Lucienne's existence, - her rides around thelake, for instance, in that carriage that came for her two or threetimes a week; her ever renewed costumes, each time more eccentricand more showy. But Maxence was not thinking of that. What shetold him he accepted as absolutely true and indisputable. And hefelt penetrated with an almost religious admiration for this youngand beautiful girl, possessed of so much vivid energy, who alone,through the hazards, the perils, and the temptations of Paris, hadsucceeded in protecting and defending herself.

"And yet," he said, "without suspecting it, you had a friend nearyou."She shuddered; and a pale smile flitted upon her lips. She knewwell enough what friendship means between a youth of twenty-fiveand a girl of eighteen.

"A friend!" she murmured.

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Maxence guessed her thought; and, in all the sincerity of his soul,"Yes, a friend," he repeated, "a comrade, a brother." And thinkingto touch her, and gain her confidence,"I could understand you," he added; "for I, too, have been veryunhappy."But he was singularly mistaken. She looked at him with an astonishedair, and slowly,"You unhappy!" she uttered, - "you who have a family, relations, amother who adores you, a sister." Less excited, Maxence might havewondered how she had found this out, and would have concluded thatshe must feel some interest in him, since she had doubtless takenthe trouble of getting information.

"Besides, you are a man," she went on; "and I do not understand howa man can complain. Have you not the freedom, the strength, and theright to undertake and to dare any thing? Isn't the world open toyour activity and to your ambition? Woman submits to her fate: manmakes his."This was hurting the dearest pretensions of Maxence, who seriouslythought that he had exhausted the rigors of adversity.

" There are circumstances," he began.

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But she shrugged her shoulders gently, and, interrupting him,"Do not insist," she said, "or else I might think that you lackenergy. What are you talking of circumstances? There are noneso adverse but that can be overcome. What would you like, then?

To be born with a hundred thousand francs a year, and have nothingto do but to live according to your whim of each day, idle, satiated,a burden upon yourself, useless, or offensive to others? Ah! If Iwere a man, I would dream of another fate. I should like to startfrom the Foundling Asylum, without a name, and by my will, myintelligence, my daring, and my labor, make something and somebodyof myself. I would start from nothing, and become every thing!"With flashing eyes and quivering nostrils, she drew herself upproudly. But almost at once, dropping her head,"The misfortune is," she added, "that I am but a woman; and you whocomplain, if you only knew "She sat down, and with her elbow on the little table, her headresting upon her hand, she remained lost in her meditations, hereyes fixed, as if following through space all the phases of theeighteen years of her life.

There is no energy but unbends at some given moment, no will buthas its hour of weakness; and, strong and energetic as was Mlle.

Lucienne, she had been deeply touched by Maxence's act. Had she,then, found at last upon her path the companion of whom she hadoften dreamed in the despairing hours of solitude and wretchedness?

After a few moments, she raised her head, and, looking intoMaxence's eyes with a gaze that made him quiver like the shock ofan electric battery,"Doubtless," she said, in a tone of indifference somewhat forced,"you think you have in me a strange neighbor. Well, as betweenneighbors; it is well to know each other. Before you judge me,listen."The recommendation was useless. Maxence was listening with allthe powers of his attention.

"I was brought up," she began, "in a village of the neighborhood ofParis, - in Louveciennes. My mother had put me out to nurse withsome honest gardeners, poor, and burdened with a large family.

After two months, hearing nothing of my mother, they wrote toher: she made no answer. They then went to Paris, and called atthe address she had given them. She had just moved out; and no oneknew what had become of her. They could no longer, therefore,expect a single sou for the cares they would bestow upon me. Theykept me, nevertheless, thinking that one child the more would notmake much difference. I know nothing of my parents, therefore,except what I heard through these kind gardeners; and, as I wasstill quite young when I had the misfortune to lose them, I havebut a very vague remembrance of what they told me. I remember verywell, however, that according to their statements, my mother was ayoung working-woman of rare beauty, and that, very likely, she wasnot my father's wife. If I was ever told the name of my mother ormy father, if I ever knew it, I have quite forgotten it. I hadmyself no name. My adopted parents called me the Parisian. I washappy, nevertheless, with these kind people, and treated exactlylike their own children. In winter, they sent me to school; insummer, I helped weeding the garden. I drove a sheep or two alongthe road, or else I went to gather violets and strawberriesthrough the woods.

"This was the happiest, indeed, the only happy time of my life,towards which my thoughts may turn when I feel despair anddiscouragement getting the better of me. Alas! I was but eight,when, within the same week, the gardener and his wife were bothcarried off by the same disease, - inflammation of the lungs.

"On a freezing December morning, in that house upon which the handof death had just fallen, we found ourselves, six children, theoldest of whom was not eleven, crying with grief, fright, cold,and hunger.