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Marcelle, usually so gay and brave, whose little, plump, dark person and clear countenance, with laughing eyes and healthy mouth, expressed happiness even in trying times, now seemed utterly upset. 'Oh, Paul, if you only knew!' she replied. 'A man came—oh! a frightful, ugly man—who smelt bad, and had been drinking, I think. Well, he told me that the matter was ended, that the sale of our furniture was fixed[Pg 188] for to-morrow. And he had a placard, which he wanted to stick up at the street door.'

'But it is impossible!' cried Jordan. 'I have received nothing; there are other formalities to be observed.'

'Oh! you know still less about these matters than I do. When papers come, you do not even read them. Well, to keep him from putting up the placard I gave him forty sous, and hurried off to tell you.'

They were in despair. Their poor little home in the Avenue de Clichy! Those few little bits of furniture, of mahogany and blue rep, which they had purchased with such difficulty at so much a month, and of which they were so proud, although they sometimes laughed at them, finding them in execrable bourgeois taste! Still they loved them, because ever since their wedding night they had formed part of their happiness in those two little rooms over yonder, those little rooms which were so sunny, so open to space, with a view stretching away even to Mont Valérien. And he who had driven in so many nails, and she who had shown so much ingenuity to give the apartments an artistic appearance! Was it possible that all was going to be sold, that they were to be driven from that pretty nook, where even poverty was delightful to them?

'Listen,' said he, 'I was thinking of asking for an advance; I will do what I can, but I haven't much hope.'

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Then, in a hesitating way, she confided her idea to him. 'This is what I have been thinking of,' said she. 'Oh! I would not have done it without your consent, as you may judge from the fact that I have come here to talk with you about it. Yes, I desire to apply to my parents.'

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He promptly refused. 'No, no, never! You know very well that I don't wish to be under any obligation to them.'

The Maugendres certainly behaved in a decorous fashion. But Jordan retained in his heart a recollection of the coldness which they had shown him after the suicide of his father, whose fortune had been swept away in speculation. He remembered that they had then only consented to the long-planned marriage of their daughter because she was determined[Pg 189] on it, and that they had taken all sorts of offensive precautions against himself, among others that of not giving a sou of dowry, convinced as they were that a fellow who wrote for the newspapers would devour everything. Later on, said they, their daughter would inherit their property. And so the young couple, she as well as he, had taken a certain pride in starving without asking anything of her parents apart from the meal which they took with them once a week, on Sunday evenings.

'I assure you,' she replied, 'our reserve is ridiculous, since I am their only child, since the whole must come to me some day! My father tells every one who will listen to him that he has acquired an income of fifteen thousand francs by his awning manufactory at La Villette; and then, too, there is their little residence, with its beautiful garden, to which they have retired. It is stupid for us to let ourselves be worried like this when they have a surfeit of everything. They have never been cruel to us, you know. I tell you that I am going to see them.'

She evinced a cheerful bravery, displayed a determined air, very practical in her desire to bring happiness to her dear husband, who worked so hard without yet having obtained anything from either the critics or the public, excepting a good deal of indifference and a few smacks. Ah! money, she would have liked to bring it to him by the bucketful, and he would be very stupid to be over particular about it, since she loved him and owed him everything. It was her fairy story, her 'Cinderella:' the treasures of her royal family, which with her little hands she deposited at the feet of her ruined prince, to keep him on in his march to glory and the conquest of the world.

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'Come,' she gaily said, kissing him, 'I really must be of some use to you; all the pain must not be yours.'

He yielded; it was agreed that she should go straightway to the Rue Legendre, at Batignolles, where her parents lived, and that she should bring the money back to the office, in order that he might try to pay it that very evening. And, as he accompanied her to the stairs, as much agitated as though[Pg 190] she were starting on a very dangerous expedition, they had to step aside to make room for Huret, who had at last arrived. When Jordan returned to finish his article in the contributors' room, he heard a violent hubbub of voices in Jantrou's office.