"Lily Fingers," sent in fashion articles, and dealt with questions of dress, etiquette, and society.
Duroy was in all the joy of his appointment as chief of the "Echoes" when he received a printed card on which he read:
"Monsieur and Madame Walter request the pleasure of Monsieur Geo. Duroy's company at dinner, on Thursday, January 20."
This new mark of favor following on the other filled him with such joy that he kissed the invitation as he would have done a love letter.
Then he went in search of the cashier to deal with the important question of money.
A chief of the reporting staff on a Paris paper generally has his budget out of which he pays his reporters for the intelligence, important or trifling, brought in by them, as gardeners bring in their fruits to a dealer.
Twelve hundred francs a month were allotted at the outset to Duroy, who proposed to himself to retain a considerable share of it.
The cashier, on his pressing instances, ended by advancing him four hundred francs.
He had at first the intention of sending Madame de Marelle the two hundred and eighty francs he owed her, but he almost immediately reflected that he would only have a hundred and twenty left, a sum utterly insufficient to carry on his new duties in suitable fashion, and so put off this resolution to a future day.
During a couple of days he was engaged in settling down, for he had inherited a special table and a set of pigeon holes in the large room serving for the whole of the staff.
He occupied one end of the room, while Boisrenard, whose head, black as a crow's, despite his age, was always bent over a sheet of paper, had the other.
The long table in the middle belonged to the staff.
Generally it served them to sit on, either with their legs dangling over the edges, or squatted like tailors in the center.
Sometimes five or six would be sitting on it in that fashion, perseveringly playing cup and ball.
Duroy had ended by having a taste for this amusement, and was beginning to get expert at it, under the guidance, and thanks to the advice of Saint-Potin.
Forestier, grown worse, had lent him his fine cup and ball in West Indian wood, the last he had bought, and which he found rather too heavy for him, and Duroy swung with vigorous arm the big black ball at the end of its string, counting quickly to himself:
It happened precisely that for the first time he spiked the ball twenty times running, the very day that he was to dine at Madame Walter's.
"A good day," he thought, "I am successful in everything."
For skill at cup and ball really conferred a kind of superiority in the office of the _Vie Francaise_.
He left the office early to have time to dress, and was going up the Rue de Londres when he saw, trotting along in front of him, a little woman whose figure recalled that of Madame de Marelle.
He felt his cheeks flush, and his heart began to beat.
He crossed the road to get a view of her.
She stopped, in order to cross over, too.
He had made a mistake, and breathed again.
He had often asked how he ought to behave if he met her face to face.
Should he bow, or should he seem not to have seen her.
"I should not see her," he thought.
It was cold; the gutters were frozen, and the pavement dry and gray in the gas-light.
When he got home he thought:
"I must change my lodgings; this is no longer good enough for me."
He felt nervous and lively, capable of anything; and he said aloud, as he walked from his bed to the window:
"It is fortune at last--it is fortune!
I must write to father."
From time to time he wrote to his father, and the letter always brought happiness to the little Norman inn by the roadside, at the summit of the slope overlooking Rouen and the broad valley of the Seine.
From time to time, too, he received a blue envelope, addressed in a large, shaky hand, and read the same unvarying lines at the beginning of the paternal epistle.
"My Dear Son: This leaves your mother and myself in good health.
There is not much news here.
I must tell you, however," etc.
In his heart he retained a feeling of interest for the village matters, for the news of the neighbours, and the condition of the crops.
He repeated to himself, as he tied his white tie before his little looking-glass:
"I must write to father to-morrow.
Wouldn't the old fellow be staggered if he could see me this evening in the house I am going to?
By Jove! I am going to have such a dinner as he never tasted."
And he suddenly saw the dark kitchen behind the empty _cafe_; the copper stewpans casting their yellow reflections on the wall; the cat on the hearth, with her nose to the fire, in sphinx-like attitude; the wooden table, greasy with time and spilt liquids, a soup tureen smoking upon it, and a lighted candle between two plates.
He saw them, too--his father and mother, two slow-moving peasants, eating their soup.
He knew the smallest wrinkles on their old faces, the slightest movements of their arms and heads.
He knew even what they talked about every evening as they sat at supper.
He thought, too: "I must really go and see them;" but his toilet being ended, he blew out his light and went downstairs.
As he passed along the outer boulevard girls accosted him from time to time.