"You are lying. What is it?"
He blushed not knowing what to say, and she went on in an indignant tone:
"You see very well that you are lying, you low brute." And with an angry gesture and tears in her eyes, she escaped him.
He again caught her by the shoulders, and, in despair, ready to acknowledge anything in order to avoid a rupture, he said, in a despairing tone:
"I have not a son. That's what it all means."
She stopped short, and looking into his eyes to read the truth in them, said:
He had flushed to the roots of his hair.
"I say that I have not a sou.
Do you understand?
Not twenty sous, not ten, not enough to pay for a glass of cassis in the cafe we may go into.
You force me to confess what I am ashamed of.
It was, however, impossible for me to go out with you, and when we were seated with refreshments in front of us to tell you quietly that I could not pay for them."
She was still looking him in the face.
"It is true, then?"
In a moment he had turned out all his pockets, those of his trousers, coat, and waistcoat, and murmured:
"There, are you satisfied now?"
Suddenly opening her arms, in an outburst of passion, she threw them around his neck, crying:
"Oh, my poor darling, my poor darling, if I had only known.
How did it happen?"
She made him sit down, and sat down herself on his knees; then, with her arm round his neck, kissing him every moment on his moustache, his mouth, his eyes, she obliged him to tell her how this misfortune had come about.
He invented a touching story.
He had been obliged to come to the assistance of his father, who found himself in difficulties.
He had not only handed over to him all his savings, but had even incurred heavy debts on his behalf.
He added: "I shall be pinched to the last degree for at least six months, for I have exhausted all my resources.
So much the worse; there are crises in every life.
Money, after all, is not worth troubling about."
She whispered: "I will lend you some; will you let me?"
He answered, with dignity: "You are very kind, pet; but do not think of that, I beg of you.
You would hurt my feelings."
She was silent, and then clasping him in her arms, murmured: "You will never know how much I love you."
It was one of their most pleasant evenings.
As she was leaving, she remarked, smilingly:
"How nice it is when one is in your position to find money you had forgotten in your pocket--a coin that had worked its way between the stuff and the lining."
He replied, in a tone of conviction: "Ah, yes, that it is."
She insisted on walking home, under the pretense that the moon was beautiful and went into ecstasies over it.
It was a cold, still night at the beginning of winter.
Pedestrians and horses went by quickly, spurred by a sharp frost.
Heels rang on the pavement.
As she left him she said: "Shall we meet again the day after to-morrow?"
"At the same time?"
"The same time."
And they kissed lovingly.
Then he walked home swiftly, asking himself what plan he could hit on the morrow to get out of his difficulty.
But as he opened the door of his room, and fumbled in his waistcoat pocket for a match, he was stupefied to find a coin under his fingers.
As soon as he had a light he hastened to examine it.
It was a louis.
He thought he must be mad.