Nêne/Part 2/Chapter 4

< Nêne‎ | Part 2
Nêne by Ernest Pérochon, translator not mentioned
PART II. Chapter 4


FOR some time Madeleine was perfectly satisfied with life.

Trooper had applied for another postman's job and while he was waiting for it he worked at a few odd jobs, and there was no more talk about quarrels and drinking bouts.

At the Moulinettes, Michael was spending very little time indoors; even on Sundays he was rarely seen about. Madeleine was glad of it.

"He's having a good time," she thought. "He doesn't mean anything by it.— So much the better for me, then! He won't be thinking of getting married again.— That little dressmaker surely wouldn't want my place here!"

In truth, Madeleine had been rather fearful for a while; but now she laughed at herself for having taken seriously such seemingly groundless fears.

Michael did not talk to her often, but always in a friendly way. He left her entirely free; she kept his purse, did the buying and selling as she saw fit. Sometimes she tried to make him go over her accounts, but he only shook his head laughingly and said:

"Never mind! Never mind! I trust you!"

If he had listened to her, however, he might have noticed that she was cheating. For instance, when she told him she had bought a pair of clogs for Jo for five francs, he wouldn't have needed to look very hard to see that the clogs were a very pretty pair of shoes, worth at least double that sum.

Also, he wouldn't have been dense enough to believe that in a whole month she had bought only one cake of chocolate at the grocery, when the children were always having their hands full of dainties.

But nothing roused his suspicion. The housework was done, the children were thriving, the farm was beginning to prosper again; that was all that mattered to him. His mind was much too busy with outside concerns to look very closely at how things were managed at home.

Madeleine noticed this indifference on his part and slyly took advantage of it.

In the drawer below the clothes-press two purses lay side by side. For all ordinary purchases, all necessary expenses, she dipped into Michael's; but when it was a matter of doing something special for the children, she opened her own. She paid out of her own money for everything like dainties, pleasures or unessential finery. It was so easy for her to buy things in this way and the joy of the children was like sunshine in her heart.

Only one thing kept her from going beyond all bounds: her purse was slender; very soon it would be empty.

Some years past she had stopped handing her wages over to her mother, but made her a small allowance, instead, to help her out. She had also sent some money to her brother while he was doing his military service, and even now she slipped him a coin, every once in a while. So she couldn't save up such a lot.

Of course she had those two hundred and fifty francs tucked away in the savings bank, but she wasn't yet thinking of drawing them out. She made her accounts:

"I have eight francs left. All-Saints day's coming in two months, and then Corbier will give me my wages.— If I don't buy anything for myself, I can manage.— I'll have to do with a little less pleasure for the children, that's all.— But next winter I'll catch up!"

One Sunday, walking with the children along the road to Saint-Ambroise, she came across a man named Bouju, a bachelor of thirty-five or so, who was distantly related to her. While walking on beside her, he told her about his affairs, his tastes and how much he had been able to save up. Then he suggested that she would be wise to get married, that he liked her very much, and that—well, here he was, and would she take him?

"My goodness! If I ever expected anything like this——!"

She had stopped walking, taken utterly by surprise, and this idea of marriage struck her as so funny that she began to laugh.

Oh, yes, this man Bouju looked honest enough, and her own heart was quite free—but all the same, it gave her a good laugh.