were now making their declarations



"By God," said Fauchery quite simply to La Faloise.

"My faith," said Nana, bringing the ten big silver pieces and quite determined to laugh about it, "I am going to entrust you with this, gentlemen. It is for the poor You Find."

And the adorable little dimple in her chin became apparent. She assumed her favorite pose, her amiable baby expression, as she held the pile of five-franc pieces on her open palm and offered it to the men, as though she were saying to them, "Now then, who wants some?" The count was the sharper of the two. He took fifty francs but left one piece behind and, in order to gain possession of it, had to pick it off the young woman's very skin, a moist, supple skin, the touch of which sent a thrill through him. She was thoroughly merry and did not cease laughing.

"Come, gentlemen," she continued. "Another time I hope to give more."

The gentlemen no longer had any pretext for staying, and they bowed and went toward the door. But just as they were about to go out the bell rang anew. The marquis could not conceal a faint smile, while a frown made the count look more grave than before. Nana detained them some seconds so as to give Zoe time to find yet another corner for the newcomers. She did not relish meetings at her house. Only this time the whole place must be packed! She was therefore much relieved when she saw the drawing room empty and asked herself whether Zoe had really stuffed them into the cupboards .

"Au revoir, gentlemen," she said, pausing on the threshold of the drawing room.

It was as though she lapped them in her laughing smile and clear, unclouded glance. The Count Muffat bowed slightly. Despite his great social experience he felt that he had lost his equilibrium. He needed air; he was overcome with the dizzy feeling engendered in that dressing room with a scent of flowers, with a feminine essence which choked him. And behind his back, the Marquis de Chouard, who was sure that he could not be seen, made so bold as to wink at Nana, his whole face suddenly altering its expression as he did so, and his tongue nigh lolling from his mouth.

When the young woman re-entered the little room, where Zoe was awaiting her with letters and visiting cards, she cried out, laughing more heartily than ever:

"There are a pair of beggars for you! Why, they've got away with my fifty francs!"

She wasn't vexed. It struck her as a joke that MEN should have got money out of her. All the same, they were swine, for she hadn't a sou left. But at sight of the cards and the letters her bad temper returned. As to the letters, why, she said "pass" to them. They were from fellows who, after applauding her last night, . And as to the callers, they might go about their business !

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