Four Short Stories
Toward the end of September Count Muffat, who was to dine at Nana's that evening,
came at nightfall to inform her of a summons to the Tuileries. The lamps in the house had
not been lit yet, and the servants were laughing uproariously in the kitchen regions as he
softly mounted the stairs, where the tall windows gleamed in warm shadow. The door of
the drawing room up-stairs opened noiselessly. A faint pink glow was dying out on the
ceiling of the room, and the red hangings, the deep divans, the lacquered furniture, with
their medley of embroidered fabrics and bronzes and china, were already sleeping under a
slowly creeping flood of shadows, which drowned nooks and corners and blotted out the
gleam of ivory and the glint of gold. And there in the darkness, on the white surface of a
wide, outspread petticoat, which alone remained clearly visible, he saw Nana lying
stretched in the arms of Georges. Denial in any shape or form was impossible. He gave a
choking cry and stood gaping at them.
Nana had bounded up, and now she pushed him into the bedroom in order to give the lad
time to escape.
"Come in," she murmured with reeling senses, "I'll explain."
She was exasperated at being thus surprised. Never before had she given way like this in
her own house, in her own drawing room, when the doors were open. It was a long story:
Georges and she had had a disagreement; he had been mad with jealousy of Philippe, and
he had sobbed so bitterly on her bosom that she had yielded to him, not knowing how
else to calm him and really very full of pity for him at heart. And on this solitary
occasion, when she had been stupid enough to forget herself thus with a little rascal who
could not even now bring her bouquets of violets, so short did his mother keep him—on
this solitary occasion the count turned up and came straight down on them. 'Gad, she had
very bad luck! That was what one got if one was a good-natured wench!
Meanwhile in the bedroom, into which she had pushed Muffat, the darkness was
complete. Whereupon after some groping she rang furiously and asked for a lamp. It was
Julien's fault too! If there had been a lamp in the drawing room the whole affair would
not have happened. It was the stupid nightfall which had got the better of her heart.
"I beseech you to be reasonable, my pet," she said when Zoe had brought in the lights.
The count, with his hands on his knees, was sitting gazing at the floor. He was stupefied
by what he had just seen. He did not cry out in anger. He only trembled, as though
overtaken by some horror which was freezing him. This dumb misery touched the young
woman, and she tried to comfort him.