Saturday, January 12, 2019

the last book I ever read (Au Bonheur des Dames (The Ladies' Delight) by Émile Zola, excerpt four)

from Au Bonheur des Dames (The Ladies' Delight) by Émile Zola:

That night, Denise slept badly. Since her arrival at Au Bonheur des Dames, money had been a terrible worry. She was still a probationer with no fixed salary; and as the young ladies in the department prevented her from selling, she only just managed to pay Pépé’s board and lodging, thanks to the negligible customers which they passed over to her. For her, it was dire penury, penury in a silk dress. Often she had to stay awake all night, maintaining her tiny wardrobe, mending her linen and darning her nightdresses like lace. In addition, she had patched her shoes as skillfully as a cobbler could have done. She risked doing her washing in her wash-basin. But her old woollen dress bothered her most of all; it was the only one she had and she was forced to put it on each evening when she took off her silk uniform, so it was getting dreadfully worn. A stain made her frantic and the slightest tear was a catastrophe. She had nothing of her own, not a penny, nothing with which to buy the little things that a woman needs; she had to wait a fortnight to buy more needles and thread. And then there were disasters, when Jean with his love affairs suddenly descended on her and caused havoc in her budget. Remove a one-franc piece and there was a gaping hole in it; but as for finding ten francs from one day to the next, it was quite out of the question. She had nightmares until daybreak, seeing Pépé thrown out into the street, while she was turning over the paving-stones with her torn fingers to see if there was any money underneath.

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