The Clique of Gold
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
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.
One evening she had hinted at the necessity of retrenching, when Mrs. Chevassat had
shot at her a venomous glance, which pierced her to the very marrow of her bones.
"It must be done," she said to herself.
In her mind she felt as if the five francs were a kind of daily ransom which she paid the
estimable concierge's wife for her good-will. It is true, that, for such a consideration, the
terrible woman was all attention for her "poor little pussy-cat;" for thus she had definitely
dubbed Henrietta, becoming daily more familiar, and adding this odious and irritating
presumption to all the other tortures of the poor girl. Many a time poor Henrietta had
been made so indignant and furious, that she had been on the point of rebelling; but she
had never dared, submitting to this familiarity for the same reason for which she paid her
five francs every day. The old woman, taking her silence for consent, put no longer any
restraint upon herself. She declared she could not comprehend how her "little pussy-cat,"
young and pretty as she was, could consent to live as she did. Was that a life?
Then she always came back to M. Maxime, who continued to call regularly twice a day,
the poor young man!
"And more than that, poor little pussy," she added, "you will see that one of these days he
will summon courage enough to come and offer you an apology."