They were once more standing facing each other

The next morning, at half-past seven, Denise was outside The Ladies’
Paradise, wishing to call there before taking Jean to his new place,
which was a long way off, at the top of the Faubourg du Temple. But,
accustomed to early hours, she had arrived too soon; the shop was hardly
opened, and, afraid of looking ridiculous, full of timidity, she walked
up and down the Place Gaillon for a moment.

The cold wind that blew had already dried the pavement. Shopmen were
hurriedly turning out of every street in the neighbourhood, their
coat-collars turned up, and their hands in their pockets, taken unawares
by this first chill of winter. Most of them hurried along alone, and
disappeared in the depths of the warehouse, without addressing a word
or look to their colleagues marching along by their side. Others were
walking in twos and threes, talking fast, and taking up the whole of
the pavement; while they all threw away with a similar gesture, their
cigarette or cigar before crossing the threshold.

Denise noticed that several of these gentlemen took stock of her in
passing. This increased her timidity; she felt quite unable to follow
them, and resolved to wait till they had all entered before going in,
blushing at the idea of being elbowed at the door by all these men. But
the stream continued, so to escape their looks, she took a walk round.
When she returned to the principal entrance, she found a tall young man,
pale and awkward, who appeared to be waiting as she was.

“I beg your pardon, mademoiselle,” he finished by stammering out, “but
perhaps you belong to the establishment?”

She was so troubled at hearing a stranger address her in this way that
she did not reply at first.

“The fact is,” he continued, getting more confused than ever, “I thought
of asking them to engage me, and you might have given me a little
information.”

He was as timid as she was, and had probably risked speaking to her
because he felt she was trembling like himself.

“I would with pleasure, sir,” replied she at last “But I’m no better off
than you are; I’m just going to apply myself.”

“Ah, very good,” said he, quite out of countenance.

And they blushed violently, their two timidities remaining face to face
for a moment, affected by the similarity of their positions, not daring,
however, to wish each other success openly. Then, as they said nothing
further, and became more and more uncomfortable, they separated
awkwardly, and recommenced their waiting, one on either side, a few
steps apart.

The shopmen continued to arrive, and Denise could now hear them
joking as they passed, casting side glances towards her. Her confusion
increased at finding herself exposed to this unpleasant ordeal, and she
had decided to take half an hour’s walk in the neighbourhood, when the
sight of a young man coming rapidly through the Rue Port-Mahon, detained
her for a moment. He was evidently the manager of a department, she
thought, for the others raised their hats to him. He was tall, with a
clear skin and carefully trimmed beard; and he had eyes the colour of
old gold, of a velvety softness, which he fixed on her for a moment as
he crossed the street. He already entered the shop, indifferent that
she remained motionless, quite upset by his look, filled with a singular
emotion, in which there was more uneasiness than pleasure. She began
to feel really afraid, and, to give herself time to collect her courage
somewhat, she walked slowly down the Rue Gaillon, and then along the Rue
Saint-Roch.

It was better than a manager of a department, it was Octave Mouret in
person. He had not been to bed, for after having spent the evening at a
stockbroker’s, he had gone to supper with a friend and two women, picked
up behind the scenes of a small theatre. His tightly buttoned overcoat
concealed a dress suit and white tie. He quickly ran upstairs, performed
his toilet, changed, and entered his office, quite ready for work, with
beaming eyes, and complexion as fresh as if he had had ten hours’ sleep.
The spacious office, furnished in old oak and hung with green rep, had
for sole ornament the portrait of that Madame Hédouin, who was still the
talk of the neighbourhood. Since her death Octave thought of her with
a tender regret, showing himself grateful to the memory of her, who, by
marrying him, had made his fortune. And before commencing to sign the
drafts laid on his desk, he bestowed the contented smile of a happy man
on the portrait Was it not always before her that he returned to work,
after his young widower’s escapades, every time he issued from the
alcoves where his craving for amusement attracted him?

There was a knock, and without waiting, a young man entered, a tall,
thin fellow, with thin lips and a sharp nose, very gentlemanly and
correct in his appearance, with his smooth hair already showing signs of
turning grey. Mouret raised his eyes, then continuing to sign, said:

“I hope you slept well, Bourdoncle?”

“Very well, thanks,” replied the young man, walking about as if quite at
home.

Bourdoncle, the son of a poor farmer near Limoges, had started at The
Ladies’ Paradise at the same time as Mouret, when it only occupied the
corner of the Place Gaillon. Very intelligent, very active, it seemed
as if he ought to have easily supplanted his comrade, who was not so
steady, and who had, besides various other faults, a careless manner
and too many intrigues with women; but he lacked that touch of genius
possessed by the impassioned Southerner, and had not his audacity, his
winning grace. Besides, by a wise instinct, he had always, from the
first, bowed before him, obedient and without a struggle; and when
Mouret advised his people to put all their money into the business,
Bourdoncle was one of the first to respond, even investing the proceeds
of an unexpected legacy left him by an aunt; and little by little,
after passing through the various grades, salesman, second, and then
first-hand in the silk department, he had become one of the governor’s
most cherished and influential lieutenants, one of the six persons who
assisted Mouret to govern The Ladies’ Paradise–something like a privy
council under an absolute king. Each one watched over a department.
Bourdoncle exercised a general control.

“And you,” resumed he, familiarly, “have you slept well?” When Mouret
replied that he had not been to bed, he shook his head, murmuring: “Bad
habits.”

“Why?” replied the other, gaily. “I’m not so tired as you are, my dear
fellow. You are half asleep now, you lead too quiet a life. Take a
little amusement, that’ll wake you up a bit.”

This was their constant friendly dispute. Bourdoncle had, at the
commencement, beaten his mistresses, because, said he, they prevented
him sleeping. Now he professed to hate women, having, no doubt, chance
love affairs of which he said nothing, so small was the place they
occupied in his life; he contented himself with encouraging the
extravagance of his lady customers, feeling the greatest disdain for
their frivolity, which led them to ruin themselves in stupid gewgaws.
Mouret, on the contrary, affected to worship them, remained before them
delighted and cajoling, continually carried away by fresh love-affairs;
and this served as an advertisement for his business. One would have
said that he enveloped all the women in the same caress, the better to
bewilder them and keep them at his mercy.

“I saw Madame Desforges last night,” said he; “she was looking delicious
at the ball.”

“But it wasn’t with her that you went to supper, was it?” asked the
other.

Mouret protested. “Oh! no, she’s very virtuous, my dear fellow. I went
to supper with little Héloïse, of the Folly. Stupid as a donkey, but so
comical!”

He took another bundle of drafts and went on signing. Bourdoncle
continued to walk about. He went and took a look through the lofty
plate-glass windows, into the Rue Neuve-Saint-Augustin, then returned,
saying: “You know they’ll have their revenge.”

“Who?” asked Mouret, who had lost the thread of the conversation.

“Why, the women.”

At this, Mouret became merrier still, displaying, beneath his sensual,
adorative manner, his really brutal character. With a shrug of the
shoulders he seemed to declare he would throw them all over, like
so many empty sacks, when they had finished helping him to make his
fortune. Bourdoncle obstinately repeated, in his cold way: “They will
have their revenge; there will be one who will avenge all the others.
It’s bound to be.”

“No fear,” cried Mouret, exaggerating his Southern accent. “That one
isn’t born yet, my boy. And if she comes, you know—-”

He had raised his penholder, brandishing it and pointing it in the air,
as if he would have liked to stab some invisible heart with a knife.
Bourdoncle resumed walking, bowing as usual before the superiority of
the governor, whose genius, though faulty, had always got the better of
him. He, so clear-headed, logical and passionless, incapable of falling,
had yet to learn the feminine character of success, Paris yielding
herself with a kiss to the boldest.

A silence reigned, broken only by Mouret’s pen. Then, in reply to his
brief questions, Bourdoncle gave him the particulars of the great sale
of winter novelties, which was to commence the following Monday. This
was an important affair, and the house was risking its fortune in it;
for the rumour had some foundation, Mouret was throwing himself into
speculation like a poet, with such ostentation, such a determination to
attain the colossal, that everything seemed bound to give way under
him. It was quite a new style of doing business, an apparent commercial
recklessness which had formerly made Madame Hédouin anxious, and which
even now, notwithstanding the first successes, quite dismayed those
who had capital in the business. They blamed the governor in secret for
going too quick; accused him of having enlarged the establishment to a
dangerous extent, before making sure of a sufficient increase of custom;
above all, they trembled on seeing him put all the capital into one
venture, filling the place with a pile of goods without leaving a sou in
the reserve fund. Thus, for this sale, after the heavy sums paid to the
builders, the whole capital was out, and it was once more a question of
victory or death. And he, in the midst of all this excitement, preserved
a triumphant gaiety, a certainty of gaining millions, like a man
worshipped by the women, and who cannot be betrayed. When Bourdoncle
ventured to express certain fears with reference to the too great
development given to several not very productive departments, he broke
out into a laugh full of confidence, and exclaimed:

“No fear! my dear fellow, the place is too small!”

The other appeared dumbfounded, seized with a fear he no longer
attempted to conceal. The house too small! a draper’s shop having
nineteen departments, and four hundred and three employees!

“Of course,” resumed Mouret, “we shall be obliged to enlarge our
premises before another eighteen months. I’m seriously thinking about
the matter. Last night Madame Desforges promised to introduce me to some
one. In short, we’ll talk it over when the idea is ripe.”

And having finished signing his drafts, he got up, and tapped his
lieutenant on the shoulder in a friendly manner, but the latter could
not get over his astonishment. The fright felt by the prudent people
around him amused Mouret. In one of his fits of brusque frankness with
which he sometimes overwhelmed his familiars, he declared he was at
heart a bigger Jew than all the Jews in the world; he took after his
father, whom he resembled physically and morally, a fellow who knew
the value of money; and, if his mother had given him that particle of
nervous fantasy, why it was, perhaps, the principal element of his luck,
for he felt the invincible force of his daring reckless grace.

“You know very well that we’ll stand by you to the last,” Bourdoncle
finished by saying.

Before going down into the various departments to give their usual look
round, they settled certain other details. They examined the specimen of
a little book of account forms, which Mouret had just invented for use
at the counters. Having remarked that the old-fashioned goods, the dead
stock, went off all the more rapidly when the commission given to the
employees was high, he had based on this observation a new system. In
future he intended to interest his people in the sale of all goods,
giving them a commission on the smallest piece of stuff, the slightest
article sold: a system which had caused a revolution in the drapery
trade, creating between the salespeople a struggle for existence of
which the proprietor reaped the benefit. This struggle formed his
favourite method, the principle of organisation he constantly applied.
He excited his employees’ passions, pitted one against the other,
allowed the strongest to swallow up the weakest, fattening on this
interested struggle. The specimen book was approved of; at the top
of the two forms–the one retained, and the one torn off–were the
particulars of the department and the salesman’s number; then there were
columns on both for the measurement, description of the articles sold,
and the price; the salesman simply signed the bill before handing it
to the cashier. In this way an easy account was kept, it sufficed
to compare the bills delivered by the cashier’s department to the
clearing-house with the salesmen’s counterfoils. Every week the latter
would receive their commission, and that without the least possibility
of any error.

“We sha’n’t be robbed so much,” remarked Bourdoncle, with satisfaction.
“A very good idea of yours.”

“And I thought of something else last night,” explained Mouret. “Yes,
my dear fellow, at the supper. I should like to give the clearing-house
clerks a trifle for every error found in checking. You can understand
that we shall then be certain they won’t pass any, for they would rather
invent some.”

He began to laugh, whilst the other looked at him in admiration. This
new application of the struggle for existence delighted Mouret; he had
a real genius for administrative business, and dreamed of organising the
house, so as to play upon the selfish instincts of his employees, for
the complete and quiet satisfaction of his own appetites. He often said
that to make people do their best, and even to keep them fairly honest,
it was necessary to excite their selfish desires first.

“Well, let’s go downstairs,” resumed Mouret. “We must look after this
sale. The silk arrived yesterday, I believe, and Bouthemont must be
getting it in now.”

Bourdoncle followed him. The receiving office was on the basement floor,
in the Rue Neuve-Saint-Augustin. There, on a level with the pavement,
was a kind of glazed cage, where the vans discharged the goods. They
were weighed, and then slipped down a rapid slide, its oak and iron
work shining, brightened by the chafing of goods and cases. Everything
entered by this yawning trap; it was a continual swallowing up, a fall
of goods, causing a roaring like that of a cataract. At the approach of
big sale times especially, the slide carried down a perpetual stream of
Lyons silks, English woollens, Flemish linens, Alsatian calicoes, and
Rouen printed goods; and the vans were sometimes obliged to wait their
turn along the street; the bales running down produced the peculiar
noise made by a stone thrown into deep water.

Mouret stopped a moment before the slide, which was in full activity.
Rows of cases were going down of themselves, falling like rain from
some upper stream. Then some huge bales appeared, toppling over in their
descent like so many pebbles. Mouret looked on, without saying a word.
But this wealth of goods rushing in at the rate of thousands of francs
a minute, made his eyes glisten. He had never before had such a clear,
definite idea of the struggle he was engaged in. Here was this mountain
of goods that he had to launch to the four corners of Paris. He did not
open his mouth, continuing his inspection.

By the grey light penetrating the air-holes, a squad of men were
receiving the goods, whilst others were undoing and opening the cases
and bales in presence of the managers of different departments. A
dockyard agitation filled this cellar, this basement, where wrought-iron
pillars supported the arches, and the bare walls of which were cemented.

“Have you got all there, Bouthemont?” asked Mouret, going up to a
broad-shouldered young fellow who was check» ing the contents of a case.

“Yes, everything seems all right,” replied he; “but the counting will
take me all the morning.”

The manager was glancing at the invoice every now and then, standing up
before a large counter on which one of his salesmen was laying, one by
one, the pieces of silk he was taking from the case. Behind them ran
other counters, also encumbered with goods that a small army of shopmen
were examining. It was a general unpacking, an apparent confusion of
stuffs, examined, turned over, and marked, amidst a buzz of voices.

Bouthemont, a celebrity in the trade, had a round, jolly face, a
coal-black beard, and fine hazel eyes. Born at Montpellier, noisy, too
fond of company, he was not much good for the sales, but for buying he
had not his equal. Sent to Paris by his father, who kept a draper’s shop
in his native town, he had absolutely refused to return when the old
fellow thought he ought to know enough to succeed him in his business;
and from that moment a rivalry sprung up between father and son, the
former, all for his little country business, shocked to see a simple
shopman earning three times as much as he did himself, the latter joking
at the old man’s routine, chinking his money, and throwing the whole
house into confusion at every flying visit he paid. Like the other
managers, Bouthemont drew, besides his three thousand francs regular
pay, a commission on the sales. Montpèllier, surprised and respectful,
whispered that young Bouthemont had made fifteen thousand francs the
year before, and that that was only a beginning–people prophesied to
the exasperated father that this figure would certainly increase.

Bourdoncle had taken up one of the pieces of silk, and was examining
the grain with the eye of a connoisseur. It was a faille with a blue and
silver selvage, the famous Paris Paradise, with which Mouret hoped to
strike a decisive blow.

“It is really very good,” observed Bourdoncle.

“And the effect it produces is better than its real quality,” said
Bouthemont. “Dumonteil is the only one capable of manufacturing such
stuff. Last journey when I fell out with Gaujean, the latter was willing
to set a hundred looms to work on this pattern, but he asked five sous a
yard more.”

Nearly every month Bouthemont went to Lyons, staying there days
together, living at the best hotels, with orders to treat the
manufacturers with open purse. He enjoyed, moreover, a perfect liberty,
and bought what he liked, provided that he increased the yearly business
of his department in a certain proportion, settled beforehand; and it
was on this proportion that his commission was based. In short, his
position at The Ladies’ Paradise, like that of all the managers, was
that of a special tradesman, in a grouping of various businesses, a sort
of vast trading city.

“So,” resumed he, “it’s decided we mark it five francs twelve sous? It’s
barely the cost price, you know.”

“Yes, yes, five francs twelve sous,” said Mouret, quickly; “and if I
were alone, I’d sell it at a loss.”

The manager laughed heartily. “Oh! I don’t mind, that will just suit
me; it will treble the sale, and as my only interest is to attain heavy
receipts—-”

But Bourdoncle remained very grave, biting his lips. He drew his
commission on the total profits, and it did not suit him to lower the
prices. Part of his business was to exercise a control over the prices
fixed upon, to prevent Bouthemont selling at too small a profit in order
to increase the sales. Moreover, his former anxiety reappeared in the
presence of these advertising combinations which he did not understand.
He ventured to show his repugnance by saying:

“If we sell it at five francs twelve sous, it will be like selling it
at a loss, as we must allow for our expenses, which are considerable. It
would fetch seven francs anywhere.”

At this Mouret got angry. He struck the silk with his open hand,
crying out excitedly: “I know that, that’s why I want to give it to our
customers. Really, my dear fellow, you’ll never understand women’s ways.
Don’t you see they’ll be crazy after this silk?”

“No doubt,” interrupted the other, obstinately, “and the more they buy,
the more we shall lose.”

“We shall lose a few sous on the stuff, very likely. What matters, if
in return we attract all the women here, and keep them at our mercy,
excited by the sight of our goods, emptying their purses without
thinking? The principal thing, my dear fellow, is to inflame them, and
for that you must have one article which flatters them–which causes
a sensation. Afterwards, you can sell the other articles as dear as
anywhere else, they’ll still think yours the cheapest. For instance, our
Golden Grain, that taffeta at seven francs and a half, sold everywhere
at that price, will go down as an extraordinary bargain, and suffice to
make up for the loss on the Paris Paradise. You’ll see, you’ll see!”

He became quite eloquent.

“Don’t you understand? In a week’s time from to-day I want the Paris
Paradise to make a revolution in the market. It’s our master-stroke,
which will save us, and get our name up. Nothing else will be talked of;
the blue and silver selvage will be known from one end of France to the
other. And you’ll hear the furious complaints of our competitors. The
small traders will lose another wing by it; they’ll be done for, all
those rheumatic old brokers shivering in their cellars!”

The shopmen checking the goods round about were listening and smiling.
He liked to talk in this way without contradiction. Bourdoncle yielded
once more. However, the case was empty, two men were opening another.

“It’s the manufacturers who are not exactly pleased,” said Bouthemont.
“At Lyons they are all furious with you, they pretend that your cheap
trading is ruining them. You are aware that Gaujean has positively
declared war against me. Yes, he has sworn to give the little houses
longer credit, rather than accept my prices.”

Mouret shrugged his shoulders. “If Gaujean doesn’t look sharp,” replied
he, “Gaujean will be floored. What do they complain of? We pay ready
money and we take all they can make; it’s strange if they can’t work
cheaper at that rate. Besides, the public gets the benefit, and that’s
everything.”

The shopman was emptying the second case, whilst Bouthemont was checking
the pieces by the invoice. Another shopman, at the end of the counter,
was marking them in plain figures, and the checking finished, the
invoice, signed by the manager, had to be sent to the chief cashier’s
office. Mouret continued looking at this work for a moment, at all this
activity round this unpacking of goods which threatened to drown
the basement; then, without adding a word, with the air of a captain
satisfied with his troops, he went away, followed by Bourdoncle.

They slowly crossed the basement floor. The air-holes placed at
intervals admitted a pale light; while in the dark corners, and along
the narrow corridors, gas was constantly burning. In these corridors
were situated the reserves, large vaults closed with iron railings,
containing the surplus goods of each department. Mouret glanced in
passing at the heating apparatus, to be lighted on the Monday for
the first time, and at the post of firemen guarding a giant gas-meter
enclosed in an iron cage. The kitchen and dining-rooms, old cellars
turned into habitable apartments, were on the left at the corner of the
Place Gaillon. At last he arrived at the delivery department, right at
the other end of the basement floor. The parcels not taken away by the
customers were sent down there, sorted on tables, placed in compartments
each representing a district of Paris; then sent up by a large staircase
opening just opposite The Old Elbeuf, to the vans standing alongside
the pavement. In the mechanical working of The Ladies’ Paradise, this
staircase in the Rue de la Michodière disgorged without ceasing the
goods swallowed up by the slide in the Rue Neuve-Saint-Augustin, after
they had passed through the mechanism of the counters up above.

“Campion,” said Mouret to the delivery manager, a retired sergeant
with a thin face, “why weren’t six pairs of sheets, bought by a lady
yesterday about two o’clock, delivered in the evening?”

“Where does the lady live?” asked the employee..

“In the Rue de Rivoli, at the corner of the Rue d’Alger–Madame
Desforges.”

At this early hour the sorting tables were bare, the compartment only
contained a few parcels left over night Whilst Campion was searching
amongst these packets, after having consulted a list, Bourdoncle was
looking at Mouret, thinking that this wonderful fellow knew everything,
thought of everything, even when at the supper-tables of restaurants or
in the alcoves of his mistresses. At last Campion discovered the error;
the cashier’s department had given a wrong number, and the parcel had
come back.

“What is the number of the pay-desk that debited that?” asked Mouret:
“No. 10, you say?” And turning towards his lieutenant, he added: “No.
10; that’s Albert, isn’t it? We’ll just say two words to him.”

But before starting on their tour round the shops, he wanted to go up to
the postal order department, which occupied several rooms on the second
floor. It was there that all the provincial and foreign orders arrived;
and he went up every morning to see the correspondence. For two years
this correspondence had been increasing daily. At first occupying only
about ten clerks, it now required more than thirty. Some opened the
letters, others read them, seated at both sides of the same table;
others again classed them, giving each one a running number, which was
repeated on a pigeon-hole. Then when the letters had been distributed
to the different departments and the latter had delivered the articles,
these articles were put in the pigeon-holes as they arrived, according
to the running numbers. There was then nothing to do but to check and
tie them up, which was done in a neighbouring room by a squad of workmen
who were nailing and tying up from morning to night.

Mouret put his usual question: “How many letters this morning,
Levasseur?”

“Five hundred and thirty-four, sir,” replied the chief clerk. “After the
commencement of Monday’s sale, I’m afraid we sha’n’t have enough hands.
Yesterday we were driven very hard.”

Bourdoncle expressed his satisfaction by a nod of the head. He had not
reckoned on five hundred and thirty-four letters on a Tuesday. Round
the table, the clerks continued opening and reading the letters amidst
a noise of rustling paper, whilst the going and coming of the various
articles commenced before the pigeon-holes. It was one of the most
complicated and important departments of the establishment, one in
which there was a continual rush, for, strictly speaking, all the orders
received in the morning ought to be sent off the same evening.

“You shall have more hands if you want them,” replied Mouret, who
had seen at a glance that the work was well done. “You know that when
there’s work to be done we never refuse the men.”

Up above, under the roof, were the small bedrooms for the saleswomen.
But he went downstairs again and entered the chief cashier’s office,
which was near his own. It was a room with a glazed wicket, and
contained an enormous safe, fixed in the wall. Two cashiers there
centralised the receipts which Lhomme, the chief cashier at the
counters, brought in every evening; they also settled the current
expenses, paid the manufacturers, the staff, all the crowd of people who
lived by the house. The cashiers’ office communicated with another, full
of green cardboard boxes, where ten clerks checked the invoices. Then
came another office, the clearing-house: six young men bending over
black desks, having behind them quite a collection of registers, were
getting up the discount accounts of the salesmen, by checking the debit
notes. This work, which was new to them, did not get on very well.

Mouret and Bourdoncle had crossed the cashiers’ office and the invoice
room. When they passed through the other office the young men, who
were laughing and joking, started up in surprise. Mouret, without
reprimanding them, explained the system of the little bonus he thought
of giving them for each error discovered in the debit notes; and when he
went out the clerks left off laughing, as if they had been whipped, and
commenced working in earnest, looking up the errors.

On the ground-floor, occupied by the shops, Mouret went straight to the
pay-desk No. 10, where Albert Lhomme was cleaning his nails, waiting for
customers. People regularly spoke of “the Lhomme dynasty,” since Madame
Aurélie, firsthand at the dress department, after having helped her
husband on to the post of chief cashier, had managed to get a pay
desk for her son, a tall fellow, pale and vicious, who couldn’t stop
anywhere, and who caused her an immense deal of anxiety. But on reaching
the young man, Mouret kept in the background, not wishing to render
himself unpopular by performing a policeman’s duty, and retaining from
policy and taste his part of amiable god. He nudged Bourdoncle
gently with his elbow–Bourdoncle, the infallible man, that model of
exactitude, whom he generally charged with the work of reprimanding.

“Monsieur Albert,” said the latter, severely, “you have taken another
address wrong; the parcel has come back. It’s unbearable!”

The cashier, thinking it his duty to defend himself, called as a witness
the messenger who had tied up the packet. This messenger, named Joseph,
also belonged to the Lhomme dynasty, for he was Albert’s foster brother,
and owed his place to Madame Aurelie’s influence, As the young man
wanted to make him say it was the customer’s mistake, Joseph stuttered,
twisted the shaggy beard that ornamented his scarred face, struggling
between his old soldier’s conscience and gratitude towards his
protectors.

“Let Joseph alone,” Bourdoncle exclaimed at last, “and don’t say
any more. Ah! it’s a lucky thing for you that we are mindful of your
mother’s good services!”

But at this moment Lhomme came running up. From his office near the
door he could see his son’s pay-desk, which was in the glove department.
Quite white-haired already, deadened by his sedentary life, he had a
flabby, colourless face, as if worn out by the reflection of the money
he was continually handling. His amputated arm did not at all incommode
him in this work, and it was quite a curiosity to see him verify the
receipts, so rapidly did the notes and coins slip through his left one,
the only one he had. Son of a tax-collector at Chablis, he had come to
Paris as a clerk in the office of a merchant of the Port-aux-Vins.
Then, whilst lodging in the Rue Cuvier, he married the daughter of his
doorkeeper, a small tailor, an Alsatian; and from that day he had bowed
submissively before his wife, whose commercial ability filled him with
respect. She earned more than twelve thousand francs a year in the dress
department, whilst he only drew a fixed salary of five thousand francs.
And the deference he felt for a woman bringing such sums into the home
was extended to the son, who also belonged to her.

“What’s the matter?” murmured he; “is Albert in fault?”

Then, according to his custom, Mouret appeared on the scene, to play the
part of good-natured prince. When Bour-doncle had made himself feared,
he looked after his own popularity.

“Nothing of consequence!” murmured he. “My dear Lhomme, your son Albert
is a careless fellow, who should take an example from you.” Then,
changing the subject, showing himself more amiable than ever, he
continued; “And that concert the other day–did you get a good seat?”

A blush overspread the white cheeks of the old cashier. Music was his
only vice, a vice which he indulged in solitarily, frequenting the
theatres, the concerts, the rehearsals. Notwithstanding the loss of
his arm, he played on the French horn, thanks to an ingenious system of
keys; and as Madame Lhomme detested noise, he wrapped up his instrument
in cloth in the evening, delighted all the same, in the highest
degree, with the strangely dull sounds he drew from it. In the forced
irregularity of their domestic life he had made himself an oasis of
this music–that and the cash-box, he knew of nothing else, beyond the
admiration he felt for his wife.

“A very good seat,” replied he, with sparkling eyes. “You are really too
kind, sir.”

Mouret, who enjoyed a personal pleasure in satisfying other people’s
passions, sometimes gave Lhomme the tickets forced on him by the lady
patronesses of such entertainments, and he completed the old man’s
delight by saying:

“Ah, Beethoven! ah, Mozart! What music!” And without waiting for
a reply, he went off, rejoining Bourdoncle, already on his tour of
inspection through the departments.

In the central hall, an inner courtyard with a glass roof formed the
silk department. Both went along the Rue Neuve-Saint-Augustin, occupied
by the linen department, from one end to the other. Nothing unusual
striking them, they passed on through the crowd of respectful
assistants. They then turned into the cotton and hosiery departments,
where the same order reigned. But in the department devoted to woollens,
occupying the gallery which ran through to the Rue de la Michodière,
Bourdoncle resumed the character of executioner, on observing a young
man, seated on the counter, looking knocked up after a night passed
without sleep. And this young man, named Liénard, son of a rich Angers
draper, bowed his head beneath the reprimand, fearing nothing in his
idle, careless life of pleasure except to be recalled by his father. The
reprimands now began to shower down, and the gallery of the Rue de
la Michodière received the full force of the storm. In the drapery
department a salesman, a fresh hand, who slept in the house, had come
in after eleven o’clock; in the haberdashery department, the second
counterman had just allowed himself to be caught downstairs smoking a
cigarette. But the tempest burst with especial violence in the glove
department, on the head of one of the rare Parisians in the house,
handsome Mignot, as they called him, the illegitimate son of a
music-mistress: his crime was having caused a scandal in the dining-room
by complaining of the food. As there were three tables, one at half-past
nine, one at half-past ten, and another at half-past eleven, he
wished to explain that belonging to the third table, he always had the
leavings, the worst of everything.

“What! the food not good?” asked Mouret, naïvely, opening his mouth at
last.

He only gave the head cook, a terrible Auvergnat, a franc and a half a
head per day, out of which this man still managed to make a good
profit; and the food was really execrable. But Bourdoncle shrugged
his shoulders: a cook who had four hundred luncheons and four hundred
dinners to serve, even in three series, had no time to waste on the
refinements of his art.

“Never mind,” said the governor, good-naturedly, “I wish all our
employees to have good, abundant food. I’ll speak to the cook.” And
Mignot’s complaint was shelved.

Then returning to their point of departure, standing up near the door,
amidst the umbrellas and neckties, Mouret and Bourdoncle received the
report of one of the four inspectors, charged with the superintendence
of the establishment. Old Jouve, a retired captain, decorated at
Constantine, a fine-looking man still, with his big sensual nose and
majestic baldness, having drawn their attention to a salesman, who,
in reply to a simple remonstrance on his part, had called him “an old
humbug,” the salesman was immediately discharged.

However, the shop was still without customers, except a few housewives
of the neighbourhood who were going through the almost deserted
galleries. At the door the time-keeper had just closed his book, and was
making out a separate list of the late comers. The salesmen were taking
possession of their departments, which had been swept and brushed by
the messengers before their arrival. Each young man hung up his hat
and great-coat as he arrived, stifling a yawn, still half asleep. Some
exchanged a few words, gazed about the shop and seemed to be pulling
themselves together ready for another day’s work; others were leisurely
removing the green baize with which they had covered the goods over
night, after having folded them up; and the piles of stuffs appeared
symmetrically arranged, the whole shop was in a clean and orderly state,
brilliant in the morning gaiety, waiting for the rush of business to
come and obstruct it, and, as it were, narrow it by the unpacking and
display of linen, cloth, silk, and lace.

In the bright light of the central hall, two young men were talking in
a low voice at the silk counter. One, short and charming, well set, and
with a pink skin, was endeavouring to blend the colours of some silks
for indoor show. His name was Hutin, his father kept a café at Yvetot,
and he had managed after eighteen months’ service to become one of the
principal salesmen, thanks to a natural flexibility of character,
a continual flow of caressing flattery, under which was concealed a
furious rage for business, grasping everything, devouring everybody,
even without hunger, just for the pleasure of the thing.

“Look here, Favier, I should have struck him if I had been in your
place, honour bright!” said he to the other, a tall bilious fellow with
a dry and yellow skin, who was born at Besançon of a family of weavers,
and who, without the least grace, concealed under a cold exterior a
disquieting will.

“It does no good to strike people,” murmured he, phlegmatically; “better
wait.”

They were both speaking of Robineau, who was looking after the shopmen
during the manager’s absence downstairs. Hutin was secretly undermining
Robineau, whose place he coveted. He had already, to wound him and make
him leave, introduced Bouthemont to fill the vacancy of manager which
had been promised to Robineau. However, the latter stood firm, and it
was now an hourly battle. Hutin dreamed of setting the whole department
against him, to hound him out by means of ill-will and vexations. At
the same time he went to work craftily, exciting Favier especially, who
stood next to him as salesman, and who appeared to allow himself to be
led on, but with certain brusque reserves, in which could be felt quite
a private campaign carried on in silence.

“Hush! seventeen!” said he, quickly, to his colleague, to warn him by
this peculiar cry of the approach of Mouret and Bourdoncle.

These latter were continuing their inspection by traversing the hall.
They stopped to ask Robineau for an explanation with regard to a stock
of velvets of which the boxes were encumbering a table. And as the
latter replied that there wasn’t enough room:

“I told you so, Bourdoncle,” cried out Mouret, smiling; “the place is
already too small. We shall soon have to knock down the walls as far as
the Rue de Choiseul. You’ll see what a crush there’ll be next Monday.”




And respecting the coming sale, for which they were preparing at every
counter, he asked Robineau further questions and gave him various
orders. But for several minutes, and without having stopped talking, he
had been watching Hutin, who was contrasting the silks–blue, grey, and
yellow–drawing back to judge of the harmony of the tones. Suddenly he
interfered:

“But why are you endeavouring to please the eyes? Don’t be afraid; blind
them. Look! red, green, yellow.”

He had taken the pieces, throwing them together, crushing them,
producing an excessively fast effect. Every one allowed the governor to
be the best displayer in Paris, of a regular revolutionary stamp, who
had founded the brutal and colossal school in the science of displaying.
He delighted in a tumbling of stuffs, as if they had fallen from
the crowded shelves by chance, making them glow with the most ardent
colours, lighting each other up by the contrast, declaring that the
customers ought to have sore eyes on going out of the shop. Hutin, who
belonged, on the contrary, to the classic school, in which symmetry and
harmony of colour were cherished, looked at him lighting up this fire of
stuff on a table, not venturing on the least criticism, but biting his
lip with the pout of an artist whose convictions are wounded by such a
debauch.

“There!” exclaimed Mouret when he had finished. “Leave it; you’ll see if
it doesn’t fetch the women on Monday.”

Just as he rejoined Bourdoncle and Robineau, there arrived a woman, who
remained stock-still, suffocated before this show. It was Denise, who,
having waited for nearly an hour in the street, the prey to a violent
attack of timidity, had at last decided to go in. But she was so beside
herself with bashfulness that she mistook the clearest directions; and
the shopmen, of whom she had stutteringly asked for Madame Aurélie,
directed her in vain to the lower staircase; she thanked them, and
turned to the left if they told her to turn to the right; so that for
the last ten minutes she had been wandering about the ground-floor,
going from department to department, amidst the ill-natured curiosity
and ill-tempered indifference of the salesmen. She longed to run away,
and was at the same time retained by a wish to stop and admire. She felt
herself lost, she, so little, in this monster place, in this machine at
rest, trembling for fear she should be caught in the movement with which
the walls already began to shake. And the thought of The Old Elbeuf,
black and narrow, increased the immensity of this vast establishment,
presenting it to her as bathed in light, like a city with its monuments,
squares, and streets, in which it seemed impossible that she should ever
find her way.

However, she had not dared to risk herself in the silk hall, the
high glass roof, luxurious counters, and cathedral-like air of which
frightened her. Then when she did venture in, to escape the shopmen in
the linen department, who were grinning, she had stumbled right on to
Mouret’s display; and, notwithstanding her fright, the woman was aroused
within her, her cheeks suddenly became red, and she forgot everything in
looking at the glow of these silks.

“Hullo!” said Hutin in Favier’s ear; “there’s the girl we saw in the
Place Gaillon.”

Mouret, whilst affecting to listen to Bourdoncle and Robineau, was at
heart flattered by the startled look of this poor girl, as a marchioness
might be by the brutal desire of a passing drayman. But Denise had
raised her eyes, and her confusion increased at the sight of this young
man, whom she took for a manager. She thought he was looking at her
severely. Then not knowing how to get away, quite lost, she applied to
the nearest shopman, who happened to be Favier.

“Madame Aurélie, please?”

But Favier, who was disagreeable, contented himself with replying
sharply: “First floor.”

And Denise, longing to escape the looks of all these men, thanked him,
and had again turned her back to the stairs she ought to have mounted,
when Hutin, yielding naturally to his instinct of gallantry, stopped her
with his most amiable salesman’s smile, “No–this way, mademoiselle; if
you don’t mind.”

And he even went with her a little way to the foot of the staircase
on the left-hand side of the hall under the gallery. There he bowed,
smiling tenderly, as he smiled at all women.

“When you get upstairs turn to the left. The dress department is
straight in front.”

This caressing politeness affected Denise deeply. It was like a
brotherly hand extended to her; she raised her eyes and looked at Hutin,
and everything in him touched her–his handsome face, his looks which
dissolved her fears, and his voice which seemed to her of a consoling
softness. Her heart swelled with gratitude, and she bestowed her
friendship in the few disjointed words her emotion allowed her to utter.

“Really, sir, you are too kind. Pray don’t trouble to come any further.
Thank you very much.”

Hutin had already rejoined Favier, to whom he coarsely whispered: “What
a bag of bones–eh?”

Upstairs the young girl suddenly found herself in the midst of the
dress department. It was a vast room, with high carved oak cupboards all
round, and clear glass windows looking on to the Rue de la Michodière.
Five or six women in silk dresses, looking very coquettish with their
frizzed chignons and crinolines drawn back, were moving about, talking.
One, tall and thin, with a long head, having a runaway-horse appearance,
was leaning against a cupboard, as if already knocked up with fatigue.

“Madame Aurélie?” inquired Denise.

The saleswoman looked at her without replying, with an air of disdain
for her shabby dress, then turning to one of her friends, a short girl
with a sickly white skin and an innocent and disgusted appearance, she
asked: “Mademoiselle Vadon, do you know where Madame Aurélie is?”

The young girl, who was arranging some mantles according to their sizes,
did not even take the trouble to raise her head. “No, Mademoiselle
Prunaire, I don’t know at all,” replied she in a mincing tone.

A silence ensued. Denise stood still, and no one took any further notice
of her. However, after waiting a moment, she ventured to put another
question: “Do you think Madame Aurélie will be back soon?”

The second-hand, a thin, ugly woman, whom she had not noticed before,
a widow with a projecting jaw-bone and coarse hair, cried out from a
cupboard, where she was checking some tickets: “You’d better wait if
you want to speak to Madame Aurélie herself.” And, addressing another
saleswoman, she added: “Isn’t she downstairs?”

“No, Madame Frédéric, I don’t think so,” replied the young lady. “She
said nothing before going, so she can’t be far off.”

Denise, thus instructed, remained standing. There were several chairs
for the customers; but as they had not told her to sit down, she did
not dare to take one, although she felt ready to drop with fatigue. All
these ladies had evidently put her down as an applicant for the vacancy,
and they were taking stock of her, pulling her to pieces ill-naturedly,
with the secret hostility of people at table who do not like to close up
to make room for hungry outsiders. Her confusion increased; she crossed
the room quietly and looked out of the window into the street, just
for something to do. Opposite, The Old Elbeuf, with its rusty front and
lifeless windows, appeared to her so ugly, so miserable, seen thus from
amidst the luxury and life of her present standpoint, that a sort of
remorse filled her already swollen heart with grief.

“I say,” whispered tall Prunaire to little Vadon, “have you seen her
boots?”

“And her dress!” murmured the other.

With her eyes still towards the street, Denise felt herself being
devoured. But she was not angry; she did not think them handsome,
neither the tall one with her carroty chignon falling over her
horse-like neck, nor the little one with her sour milk complexion, which
gave her flat and, as it were, boneless face a flabby appearance. Clara
Primaire, daughter of a clogmaker in the forest of Vilet, debauched by
the footmen at the Château de Mareuil, where the countess engaged her as
needlewoman, had come later on from a shop at Langres, and was avenging
herself in Paris on the men for the kicks with which her father had
regaled her when at home. Marguerite Vadon, born at Grenoble, where
her parents kept a linen shop, had been obliged to come to The Ladies’
Paradise to conceal an accident she had met with–a brat which had made
its appearance one day. She was a well-conducted girl, and intended
to return to Grenoble to take charge of her parents’ shop, and marry a
cousin who was waiting for her.

“Well,” resumed Clara, in a low voice, “there’s a girl who won’t do much
good here!”

But they stopped talking. A woman of about forty-five came in. It was
Madame Aurélie, very stout, tightly laced in her black silk dress, the
body of which, strained over her massive shoulders and full bust, shone
like a piece of armour. She had, under very dark folds of hair, great
fixed eyes, a severe mouth, and large and rather drooping cheeks; and in
the majesty of her position as first-hand, her face assumed the bombast
of a puffy mask of Cæsar, “Mademoiselle Vadon,” said she, in an
irritated voice, “you didn’t return the pattern of that mantle to the
workroom yesterday, it seems?”

“There was an alteration to make, madame,” replied the saleswoman, “so
Madame Frédéric kept it.”

The second-hand then took the pattern out of a cupboard, and the
explanation continued. Every one gave way to Madame Aurélie, when she
thought it necessary to assert her authority. Very vain, even going so
far as not to wish to be called by her real name, Lhomme, which annoyed
her, and to deny her father’s humble position, always referring to him
as a regularly established tailor, she was only gracious towards those
young ladies who showed themselves flexible and caressing, bowing down
in admiration before her. Some time previously, whilst she was trying
to establish herself in a shop of her own, her temper had become sour,
continually thwarted by the worst of luck, exasperated to feel herself
born to fortune and to encounter nothing but a series of catastrophes;
and now, even after her success at The Ladies’ Paradise, where she
earned twelve thousand francs a year, it seemed that she still nourished
a secret spite against every one, and she was very hard with beginners,
as life had shown itself hard for her at first.

“That will do!” said she, sharply; “you are no more reasonable than the
others, Madame Frédéric. Let the alteration be made immediately.”

During this explanation, Denise had ceased to look into the street
She had no doubt this was Madame Aurélie; but, frightened at her
sharp voice, she remained standing, still waiting. The two saleswomen,
delighted to have set their two superiors at variance, had returned to
their work with an air of profound indifference. A few minutes
elapsed, nobody being charitable enough to draw the young girl from her
uncomfortable position. At last, Madame Aurélie herself perceived her,
and astonished to see her standing there without moving, asked her what
she wanted.

“Madame Aurélie, please.”

“I am Madame Aurélie.”

Denise’s mouth became dry and parched, and her hands cold; she felt some
such fear as when she was a child and trembled at the thought of being
whipped. She stammered out her request, but was obliged to repeat it to
make herself understood. Madame Aurélie looked at her with her great
fixed eyes, not a line of her imperial mask deigning to relax, “How old
are you?”

“Twenty, madame.”

“What, twenty years old? you don’t look sixteen!”

The saleswomen again raised their heads. Denise hastened to add: “Oh,
I’m very strong!”

Madame Aurélie shrugged her broad shoulders, then coldly declared:
“Well! I don’t mind entering your name. We enter the names of all those
who apply. Mademoiselle Prunaire, give me the book.”

But the book could not be found; Jouve, the inspector had probably got
it. As tall Clara was going to fetch it, Mouret arrived, still followed
by Bourdoncle. They had made the tour of the other departments–the
lace, the shawls, the furs, the furniture, the under-linen, and were
winding up with the dresses. Madame Aurélie left Denise a moment to
speak to them about an order for some cloaks she thought of giving to
one of the large Paris houses; as a rule, she bought direct, and on
her own responsibility; but, for important purchases, she preferred
consulting the chiefs of the house. Bourdoncle then related her son
Albert’s latest act of carelessness, which seemed to fill her with
despair. That boy would kill her; his father, although not a man of
talent, was at least well-conducted, careful, and honest. All this
dynasty of Lhommes, of which she was the acknowledged head, very often
caused her a great deal of trouble. However, Mouret, surprised to see
Denise again, bent down to ask Madame Aurélie what the young lady was
doing there; and, when the first-hand replied that she was applying for
a saleswoman’s situation, Bourdoncle, with his disdain for women, seemed
suffocated at this pretension.

“You don’t mean it,” murmured he; “it must be a joke, she’s too ugly!”

“The fact is, there’s nothing handsome about her,” said Mouret, not
daring to defend her, although still moved by the rapture she had
displayed downstairs before his arrangement of silks.

But the book having been brought in, Madame Aurélie returned to Denise,
who had certainly not made a favourable impression. She looked very
clean in her thin black woollen dress; the question of shabbiness was
of no importance, as the house furnished a uniform, the regulation silk
dress; but she appeared rather weak and puny, and had a melancholy face.
Without insisting on handsome girls, one liked them to be of agreeable
appearance for the sale rooms. And beneath the gaze of all these ladies
and gentlemen who were studying her, weighing her like farmers would a
horse at a fair, Denise completely lost countenance.

“Your name?” asked Madame Aurélie, at the end of a counter, pen in hand,
ready to write.

“Denise Baudu, madame.”

“Your age?”

“Twenty years and four months.” And she repeated, risking a glance at
Mouret, at this supposed manager, whom she met everywhere and whose
presence troubled her so: “I don’t look like it, but I am really very
strong.”

They smiled. Bourdoncle showed evident signs of impatience; her remark
fell, moreover, amidst a most discouraging silence.

“What house have you been in, in Paris?” resumed Madame Aurélie.

“I’ve just arrived from Valognes.”

This was a fresh disaster. As a rule, The Ladies’ Paradise only took
saleswomen with a year’s experience in one of the small houses in Paris.
Denise thought all was lost; and, had it not been for the children,
had she not been obliged to work for them, she would have closed this
useless interview and left the place. “Where were you at Valognes?”

“At Cornaille’s.”

“I know him–good house,” remarked Mouret.

It was very rarely that he interfered in the engagement of the
employees, the manager of each department being responsible for his
staff. But with his delicate appreciation of women, he divined in this
young girl a hidden charm, a wealth of grace, and tenderness of which
she herself was ignorant. The good name enjoyed by the house in which
the candidate had started was of great importance, often deciding the
question in his or her favour. Madame Aurélie continued, in a kinder
tone: “And why did you leave Cornaille’s?”

“For family reasons,” replied Denise, turning scarlet “We have lost
our parents, I have been obliged to follow my brothers. Here is a
certificate.”

It was excellent Her hopes were reviving, when another question troubled
her.

“Have you any other references in Paris? Where do you live?”

“At my uncle’s,” murmured she, hesitating about naming him, fearing
they would never take the niece of a competitor. “At my uncle Baudu’s,
opposite.”

At this, Mouret interfered a second time. “What! are you Baudu’s niece?
Is it Baudu who sent you here?”

“Oh! no, sir!”

And she could not help laughing, the idea appeared to her so singular.
It was a transfiguration; she became quite rosy, and the smile round
her rather large mouth lighted up her whole face. Her grey eyes sparkled
with a tender flame, her cheeks filled with delicious dimples, and even
her light hair seemed to partake of the frank and courageous gaiety that
pervaded her whole being.

“Why, she’s really pretty,” whispered Mouret to Bourdoncle.

The partner refused to admit it, with a gesture of annoyance. Clara
bit her lips, and Marguerite turned away; but Madame Aurélie seemed won
over, and encouraged Mouret with a nod when he resumed: “Your uncle was
wrong not to bring you; his recommendation sufficed. They say he has a
grudge against us. We are people of more liberal minds, and if he can’t
find employment for his niece in his house, why we will show him that
she has only to knock at our door to be received. Just tell him I still
like him very much, and that he must blame, not me, but the new style
of business. Tell him, too, that he will ruin himself if he insists on
keeping to his ridiculous old-fashioned ways.”

Denise turned quite white again. It was Mouret; no one had mentioned his
name, but he had revealed himself, and now she guessed who it was, she
understood why this young man had caused her such emotion in the street,
in the silk department, and again now. This emotion, which she could not
analyse, pressed on her heart more and more, like a too-heavy weight.
All the stories related by her uncle came back to her, increasing
Mouret’s importance, surrounding him with a sort of halo, making of him
the master of the terrible machine by whose wheels she had felt
herself being seized all the morning. And, behind his handsome face,
well-trimmed beard, and eyes of the colour of old gold, she beheld the
dead woman, that Madame Hédouin, whose blood had helped to cement the
stones of the house. The shiver she had felt the previous night again
seized her; and she thought she was merely afraid of him.

Meanwhile, Madame Aurélie had closed the book. She only wanted one
saleswoman, and she already had ten applications. But she was too
anxious to please the governor to hesitate for a moment. However, the
application would follow its course, Jouve, the inspector, would go
and make enquiries, send in his report, and then she would come to a
decision.

“Very good, mademoiselle,” said she majestically, to preserve her
authority; “we will write to you.”

Denise stood there, unable to move for a moment, hardly knowing how to
take her leave in the midst of all these people. At last she thanked
Madame Aurélie, and on passing by Mouret and Bourdoncle, she bowed.
These gentlemen, occupied in examining the pattern of a mantle with
Madame Frédéric, did not take the slightest notice. Clara looked in a
vexed way towards Marguerite, as if to predict that the new comer would
not have a very pleasant time of it in the place. Denise doubtless felt
this indifference and rancour behind her, for she went downstairs with
the same troubled feeling she had on going up, asking herself whether
she ought to be sorry or glad to have come. Could she count on having
the situation? She did not even know that, her uncomfortable state
having prevented her understanding clearly. Of all her sensations, two
remained and gradually effaced all the others–the emotion, almost
the fear, inspired in her by Mouret, and Hutin’s amiability, the only
pleasure she had enjoyed the whole morning, a souvenir of charming
sweetness which filled her with gratitude. When she crossed the shop to
go out she looked for the young man, happy at the idea of thanking him
again with her eyes; and she was very sorry not to see him.

“Well, mademoiselle, have you succeeded?” asked a timid voice, as she at
last stood on the pavement outside. She turned round and recognised the
tall, awkward young fellow who had spoken to her in the morning. He also
had just come out of The Ladies’ Paradise, appearing more frightened
than she did, still bewildered with the examination he had just passed
through.

“I really don’t know yet, sir,” replied she.

“You’re like me, then. What a way of looking at and talking to you they
have in there–eh? I’m applying for a place in the lace department I was
at Crèvecour’s in the Rue du Mail.”

They were once more standing facing each other; and, not knowing how
to take leave, they commenced to blush. Then the young man, just for
something to say in the excess of his timidity, ventured to ask in his
good-natured, awkward way: “What is your name, mademoiselle?”

“Denise Baudu.”

“My name is Henri Deloche.”

Now they smiled, and, yielding to the fraternity of their positions,
shook each other by the hand.

“Good luck!”

“Yes, good luck!”