Four Short Stories HTML version

Chapter XIV
Nana suddenly disappeared. It was a fresh plunge, an escapade, a flight into barbarous
regions. Before her departure she had treated herself to a new sensation: she had held a
sale and had made a clean sweep of everything—house, furniture, jewelry, nay, even
dresses and linen. Prices were cited—the five days' sale produced more than six hundred
thousand francs. For the last time Paris had seen her in a fairy piece. It was called
Melusine, and it played at the Theatre de la Gaite, which the penniless Bordenave had
taken out of sheer audacity. Here she again found herself in company with Prulliere and
Fontan. Her part was simply spectacular, but it was the great attraction of the piece,
consisting, as it did, of three POSES PLASTIQUES, each of which represented the same
dumb and puissant fairy. Then one fine morning amid his grand success, when
Bordenave, who was mad after advertisement, kept firing the Parisian imagination with
colossal posters, it became known that she must have started for Cairo the previous day.
She had simply had a few words with her manager. Something had been said which did
not please her; the whole thing was the caprice of a woman who is too rich to let herself
be annoyed. Besides, she had indulged an old infatuation, for she had long meditated
visiting the Turks.
Months passed—she began to be forgotten. When her name was mentioned among the
ladies and gentlemen, the strangest stories were told, and everybody gave the most
contradictory and at the same time prodigious information. She had made a conquest of
the viceroy; she was reigning, in the recesses of a palace, over two hundred slaves whose
heads she now and then cut off for the sake of a little amusement. No, not at all! She had
ruined herself with a great big nigger! A filthy passion this, which had left her wallowing
without a chemise to her back in the crapulous debauchery of Cairo. A fortnight later
much astonishment was produced when someone swore to having met her in Russia. A
legend began to be formed: she was the mistress of a prince, and her diamonds were
mentioned. All the women were soon acquainted with them from the current descriptions,
but nobody could cite the precise source of all this information. There were finger rings,
earrings, bracelets, a REVIERE of phenomenal width, a queenly diadem surmounted by a
central brilliant the size of one's thumb. In the retirement of those faraway countries she
began to gleam forth as mysteriously as a gem-laden idol. People now mentioned her
without laughing, for they were full of meditative respect for this fortune acquired among
the barbarians.
One evening in July toward eight o'clock, Lucy, while getting out of her carriage in the
Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore, noticed Caroline Hequet, who had come out on foot to
order something at a neighboring tradesman's. Lucy called her and at once burst out with:
"Have you dined? Are you disengaged? Oh, then come with me, my dear. Nana's back."
The other got in at once, and Lucy continued: