Au Bonheur des Dames (The Ladies' Delight) by Émile Zola:
‘Now then, young ladies, no unpleasant remarks, behave yourselves!’ said Madame Aurélie, with a solemn air, amid this outburst of anger that had swept through her little tribe. ‘Show us the sort of people you are!’
She preferred not to get involved. As she remarked one day in answer to a question from Mouret, the young ladies were each as bad as the other. But suddenly she flared up when she learned from Bourdoncle that he had just come across her son at the back of the basement kissing a girl from lingerie, the same assistant to whom the young man had been passing letters. It was atrocious and she accused lingerie straight out of having laid a trap for Albert; yes, it was a conspiracy against her: they were trying to dishonor her by destroying an inexperienced boy, once they discovered that her department was immune to attack. She only made such a fuss about it in order to confuse the issue, because she had no illusions about her son, knowing that no stupidity was beyond him. For a short while, the affair risked taking on serious proportions, because Mignot from the glove department was involved. He was Albert’s friend and would favour the mistresses that Albert sent him, hatless girls who rummaged around for hours in the boxes; and, on top of all that, there was some story which no one ever got to the bottom of, about the lingerie assistant being given some Swedish gloves. In the end, the scandal was hushed up out of consideration for the chief buyer in ladies’ wear, whom even Mouret treated with respect. All that happened was that a week later Bourdoncle found some excuse to sack the assistant who was guilty of having let herself be kissed. They might turn a blind eye to the dreadful goings-on outside, but the gentlemen would not put up with the slightest indecency in the store.
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