Â« â€¢ Well ? ' ' they asked her.
She went and sat down on her bench at the rear of the room, and there, with lowered head, folded arms, heavy heart, and empty stomach, she re- mained in silence, her two little feet twitching nervously under her gown.
But I saw things sadder still.
Among the girls who came daily to Mme. Paul- hat-Durand's I had noticed one especially, in the first place because she wore a Breton cap, and then because the very sight of her filled me with uncon- querable melancholy. A peasant girl astray in Paris, in this frightful, jostling, feverish Paris, â€” I know nothing more lamentable. Involuntarily it invites me to a survey of my own past, and moves me infinitely. Where is she going? Where does she come from? Why did she leave her home? What madness, what tragedy, what tempest has pushed her forth, and stranded her, a sorrowful waif, in this roaring human sea ? These questions I asked myself every day, as I examined this poor girl sitting in her corner, so frightfully isolated.
She was ugly with that definitive ugliness which excludes all idea of pity and makes people fero- cious, because it is really an offence to them. However disgraced she may be by nature, a woman rarely reaches the point of total and absolute ugliness, utter degeneracy from the human estate.