to put to him the question that tormented me, pretending, however, that the heroine of this ticklish and obscure story was a friend of mine. M. Paul Bourget asked:
"What is your friend ? A woman of the people? A poor woman, undoubtedly?"
"A chambermaid, like myself, illustrious master."
A superior grimace, a look of disdain, appeared on M. Bourget's face. Ah! sapristi! he does not like the poor.
"I do not occupy myself with these souls," said he. "These are too little souls. They are not even souls. They are outside the province of my psychology."
I understood that, in this province, one begins to be a soul only with an income of a hundred thousand francs.
Not so M. Jules Lemaitre, also a familiar of the house. When I asked him the same question, he answered, prettily catching me about the waist:
"Well, charming Célestine, your friend is a good girl, that is all. And, if she resembles you, I would say a couple of words to her, you know,—hey! hey! hey!"
He, at least, with his face of a little hump-backed and merry-making faun, put on no airs; and he was good-natured. What a pity that he has fallen among the priests!