Four Short Stories HTML version

Chapter II
At ten o'clock the next morning Nana was still asleep. She occupied the second floor of a
large new house in the Boulevard Haussmann, the landlord of which let flats to single
ladies in order by their means to dry the paint. A rich merchant from Moscow, who had
come to pass a winter in Paris, had installed her there after paying six months' rent in
advance. The rooms were too big for her and had never been completely furnished. The
vulgar sumptuosity of gilded consoles and gilded chairs formed a crude contrast therein
to the bric-a-brac of a secondhand furniture shop—to mahogany round tables, that is to
say, and zinc candelabras, which sought to imitate Florentine bronze. All of which
smacked of the courtesan too early deserted by her first serious protector and fallen back
on shabby lovers, of a precarious first appearance of a bad start, handicapped by refusals
of credit and threats of eviction.
Nana was sleeping on her face, hugging in her bare arms a pillow in which she was
burying cheeks grown pale in sleep. The bedroom and the dressing room were the only
two apartments which had been properly furnished by a neighboring upholsterer. A ray of
light, gliding in under a curtain, rendered visible rosewood furniture and hangings and
chairbacks of figured damask with a pattern of big blue flowers on a gray ground. But in
the soft atmosphere of that slumbering chamber Nana suddenly awoke with a start, as
though surprised to find an empty place at her side. She looked at the other pillow lying
next to hers; there was the dint of a human head among its flounces: it was still warm.
And groping with one hand, she pressed the knob of an electric bell by her bed's head.
"He's gone then?" she asked the maid who presented herself.
"Yes, madame, Monsieur Paul went away not ten minutes back. As Madame was tired,
he did not wish to wake her. But he ordered me to tell Madame that he would come
As she spoke Zoe, the lady's maid, opened the outer shutter. A flood of daylight entered.
Zoe, a dark brunette with hair in little plaits, had a long canine face, at once livid and full
of seams, a snub nose, thick lips and two black eyes in continual movement.
"Tomorrow, tomorrow," repeated Nana, who was not yet wide awake, "is tomorrow the
"Yes, madame, Monsieur Paul has always come on the Wednesday."
"No, now I remember," said the young woman, sitting up. "It's all changed. I wanted to
tell him so this morning. He would run against the nigger! We should have a nice to-do!"