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- The Mysteries of Paris V2 - 10/113 -
"To be sure I can. Why, I can buy charming dresses for five or six francs; and boots, the same that I have on now, and almost new, for two or three francs. Look! would not any one say that they were made for me?" said Miss Dimpleton, stooping and showing the tip of her pretty little foot, very nicely set off by the well-made and well-fitting boot.
"The foot is charming, truly; but you must find a difficulty in fitting it. After that you will doubtless tell me that they sell children's shoes at the Temple."
"You are a sad flatterer, neighbor; however, after what I have told you, you will acknowledge that a girl, quite alone and well, can live respectably on thirty sous a day? I must tell you, by-the-by, the four hundred and fifty francs which I brought from prison assisted materially in establishing me. When once known that I possessed furniture, it inspired confidence and I had work intrusted to me to take home; but it was necessary to wait a long time before I could meet with employment. Fortunately I kept sufficient money to live upon for three months, without earning anything."
"Spite of your gay, heedless manner, allow me to say that you possess a great deal of good sense, neighbor."
"Nay, when one is alone in the world, and would not be under obligation to any one, you must exercise some management to build your nest well, and take care of it when it is built, as the saying is."
"And your nest is delightful!"
"Is it not? for, as I have said, I refuse myself nothing; I consider I have a lodging above my station. Then, again, I have birds; in summer always at least two pots of flowers on the mantelpiece, besides the boxes in the windows; and then, as I told you, I had three francs or more in my money-box, toward ornaments I hoped one day to be able to purchase for the chimney-piece."
"And what became of these savings?"
"Why, latterly I have seen those poor Morels so unhappy, so very unhappy, that I said to myself: 'There is no sense in having these ugly pieces of money idling in a box, whilst poor people are perishing of hunger beside you,' so I lent them to Morel. When I say lent, I mean I told him I only lent them, in order to spare his feelings, for I assure you I gave them freely."
"Yes, neighbor, but as they are no longer in want, you surely will not refuse to allow them to repay you?"
"True, I shall not refuse it; it will be something toward the purchase of chimney-ornaments--my dream."
"And then, again, you ought to think a little of the future."
"Should you fall ill, for instance."
And, at the bare idea, Miss Dimpleton burst into an immoderate fit of laughter, so loud, that a fat man, who was walking before her, carrying a dog under his arm, turned round quite angrily, believing himself to be the butt. Miss Dimpleton, resuming her composure, made a half-courtesy to the stout person, and pointing to the animal under his arm, said: "Is your dog so very tired, sir?"
The fat man grumbled something, and continued to walk.
"Come, come, neighbor," said Rudolph; "are you losing your senses?"
"It is your fault if I am."
"Yes; because you say such silly things to me."
"What, because I tell you that you may fall ill?"
"Am I a likely-looking person to be sick then?"
"Never have I beheld a face more rosy and fresh!"
"Very well then, why do you think I shall be ill?"
"At eighteen years of age, leading the life I do, how can that be possible? I rise at five o'clock, winter and summer; I go to bed at ten or eleven; I eat to satisfy my hunger, which is not very great, it is true; I sing like a lark all day, and at night I sleep like a dormouse: I have a mind free, joyful, and contented, with the certainty of plenty of work, because my employers are pleased with what I have done. Why should I be sick! What an idea! Well, I never!"
And Miss Dimpleton again relapsed into long and hearty laughter. Rudolph, struck with this blind, yet happy confidence in the future, reproached himself with having attempted to shake it. He thought, with horror, that an illness of a month could ruin this merry, peaceful mode of existence. Miss Dimpleton's deep faith in her health and her eighteen years, her only treasures, appeared to Rudolph something akin to holiness; for, on the young girl's part, it was neither carelessness nor improvidence, but an instinctive reliance on the commiseration of Divine justice, which could not abandon an industrious and virtuous creature, whose only error was a too confident dependence on the youth and health she enjoyed. The birds, as they cleave with gay and agile wings the azure skies in spring, or skim lightly over the blooming fields, do they think of the cheerless winter?
"Then," said Rudolph to the grisette, "you are not ambitious to possess more than you have?"
"No--that is to say, I should like to have my chimney-ornaments, and I shall have them, though I do not know when; but I have it in my head to possess them, and I will, if I should have to sit up to work all night to do it."
"And besides these ornaments--"
"I want for nothing; I cannot recollect a single thing more that I care about possessing now."
"Because, if you had asked me the same question yesterday, I should have told you I was longing for a suitable neighbor; so that I could arrange with him comfortably, as I have always done, to perform little services for him, that he might return nice little attentions to me."
"Well, it is already agreed, my pretty neighbor, that you shall take charge of my linen, and that I shall clean your room--without naming your waking me early in the morning, by tapping at the wall."
"And do you think that will be all?'
"What else is there?"
"Oh, bless your heart, you have not arrived at the end of what I expect of you. Is it not necessary that on Sundays you take me for a walk on the Boulevards?--you know that is the only day I have for recreation."
"To be sure. In summer we will go into the country."
"No, I detest the country. I like no place so well as Paris. Nevertheless, I went, once upon a time, out of good nature, with a young friend of mine, who was my companion in prison, to visit Meudon and Saint-Germain. My friend was a very pleasant, good girl, whom they called Sweet-throat, because she was always singing."
"And what has become of her?"
"I do not know. She spent all the money she brought from prison, without appearing to be much amused; she was always sad, but sympathizing and charitable. When we used to go out together, I had not then any work; but when I succeeded in obtaining some, I did not stir from home. I gave her my address, but as she has not been to see me, doubtless she has also some occupation, and, like me, is too busy to get out. I only mention this to let you know, neighbor, that I love Paris above every other place. So whenever you can, on Sunday, you may take me to dine at the ordinary, sometimes to the play; or, if you have not any money, you can take me to see the fashionable shops, which will amuse me almost as much. Rest satisfied, that in our little excursions I shall not disgrace you. You will see how smart I shall look in my pretty dress of blue levantine, that I only wear on Sundays: it suits me to perfection. With that I wear a pretty little cap, trimmed with lace and orange-colored ribbon, which does not contrast badly with my black hair; satin boots, that I have made for me; an elegant shawl of silk imitation Cashmere! Indeed, I expect, neighbor, people will turn round to look after us as we pass along. Men will say: 'Really, that is a pretty little girl, upon my word!' And the women, on their part, will exclaim: 'Look at that tall young man! what an elegant shape! He has an air that is truly fashionable! and his little brown mustache becomes him exceedingly!' And I shall be of their opinion, for I adore mustaches. Unfortunately, M. Germain did not wear one, because of the situation he held. M. Cabrion did, but then it was red, like his long beard, and I do not like those great beards; besides, he made himself so ridiculously conspicuous in the streets, and teased poor M. Pipelet so much. Now, M. Giraudeau, who was my neighbor before M. Cabrion, dressed well, and altogether had a very good appearance, but he squinted. At first it annoyed me very much, because he always appeared to be looking at some one at the side of me, and without thinking, I often turned round to see who--" And again Miss Dimpleton laughed.
Rudolph, as he listened to this prattle, asked himself, for the third or fourth time, what he ought to think of the _virtue_ of Miss Dimpleton. Sometimes the frankness of the grisette, and the remembrance of the large bolt, made him almost believe that she loved her neighbors merely as _brothers_ or _companions_, and that Mrs. Pipelet had caluminated her; then again he smiled at his credulity, in thinking it probable that a girl so young, so pretty, so solitary, should have escaped the seductions of Giraudeau, Cabrion,
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