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A Bookkeeper

A Bookkeeper image
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"Brr - wbat a fog!" said the good Dan stepping out into the Street. He luickly turns up bis coat collar, covers ais rnonth with his muffler, bends down ais head, acd, thrusting his hands into bis coat poclsets, he sets out f or the office, whistling on the way. Without doubt a regular fog. Not so yory thick in the streets, because in the beart of Paris fog, like snow, does not stay long. It is pierced aud torn by the many roofs, absorbed by the walls, and gradually loses itself in the interior of dwellings, even when the doors are open, raaking the stairs slippery and the balasteis moist. The movement of many vehicles and the passing to and fro of the early crowd driven out to work by the pressure of poverty cut it up, carry it away, disperse it, dropping it on the clothes of the office boys, wetting the waterproofs of the shopgirls and dimming tbeir thin, sleazy veils. But at the docks, still silent and deserted, on the bridges, the shore and the river, it is still a dense, heavy mist, opaque, immovable, and the rising sun behind the church of Notre Dame seems shining like a night lamp through a tarnished cover. Despite the wind and the mist, our good man follows the docks. He could easily take another road to reach his office, but the docks have a mysterious attraction for him. He seems to take pleasure in walking along the parapets, in grazing the stone balusters bëaring the elbow marks of loungers. At that bonr and in such weather the loungers are few - only bere and there do we see a womaii carrying a basket of clothes leaning against the parapet, or some poor wretch resting upon his elbows and gazing into the water with a weary look. Our good man regards tbem a little closely - the water iasoconveniently near them - and there seems to be in his mind some strange connecting thought as he looks at them and the river. The river is not cheerful this morning ; the fog mounting between its waves seems to deaden the snrface. The black roofs on the shore, with pipes jutting outunevenlyfrom thechimneys, give a dim reflection of fog and smoke. Our good man does not seem to find this at all melancholy. He is thoroughly drencbed with the drizzle, but he plods on with a pleasant smile at the corner of his mouth. Long, long ago, he became accustomed to t hese f oggy rnornings on the Seine. Besides, he knows that a little distance farther on, at his office, he will find a snug, well lined foot warmer, a good fire in his stovo and a warm plate for his breakfast. These are the joys of a bookkeeper - a prisonlike happiness known only to the poor stunted creatures whose lives are passed in dark corners. "I must not forget to buy some apiles," says our good man to hiruself ;rom time to time. And he whistlès and jastens along. Yon bave rarely seen one mrry to bis vork more cbeerfully. Docks, and still notbing but docks, finally a bridge, and we are bebind tbe Notre Dame. Here the f og is much more intense. It comes from three points at once, almost blots out the high towers of the church, and gatbers in a thick mass at the angles of the bridge, as if striving to conceal somethihg. Onr good man stops. He is at his place of work. Dimly in the dark shadows we can distinguish some forma on the eidewalk, bending over as if waiting for some one. And, much like the venders at the hospital gates and publio squares, they have large flat baskóts filled with oranges, apples and crackers. Ah, the beantiful apples, fresh and rosy in the mist ! Our good man filis his pockets, smilíng at the apple wornan, who shivers with the cpld though ber feet are eneased in a foot warmer. Then he pushes tbrough the fog and touches a door, opens it and crosses a small court, where a cart is standing, with the horse harnessed. "Is there anything for us this morning?" he asks, as he passes along. "Yes, sir, and something very gen teel too." Then he quickly enters his office. It ia very warm and comfortable there ; the stove crackles in the córner, the foot warmer is in its place, and his armchair is waiting for him close up to the window in a good light. Tbe fog makes a rneïlow curtain over the window panes, giving a mild and uniform light. Big ledgers with green backs are ranged in or-der on thair shelves. Ouewould say a uotary's office and study. Our good man breathes at ease. He is at horiie. Kef Jie beginning his work be opens a large olöset, takos out a pair of heavy silk sleeves, which he draws on carefully; also a little red plate and Bomo pieces of sugar. He then peels his apples with au air of satisfaction. The fact is, one could liardly fiud a more cheerfnl little ofíion, better lighted or arranged in snch good order. But, . gularly enongb, one hears the noise of water everyvvhere; it surrounds yon, envelops yon, very mucb as if yon were in the eabin of a steaiuer. Below yon the Seiiie rolls and i bles at the aivhes of the bridge, makiug ; heaps of foani at this point, ged by floatiug debris. Even iii the house itself, all around the office, there is a noise of trickling water. I know not why, but (he sound makes yon shiver. It drops upon a hard surface and, rebounding, falla upon a broad stone floor. There are njarble tables which make it seem still more cold. What do they wash at this strange laundry? What ineffaceable stain? At times, when the trickling and pattering cease, down below we hear the sound of Bolitary dropa of water, one by one, like 6now in a thaw or the beginning of a ehower. We migbt think the fog was condensing, gathering upon the walls and continually dripping. It does not disturb our good man. He is entirely taken upwith his apples, which are beginning to steam in the little red plate, giving out a faint perfume of burned sugar, and the pretty song seems to prevent him from hearing the sound of the water - that horrible dripping 1 "Are y ou ready, recorder?" saya a hoarse voice frorn the adjoining room. Oar recorder casta a glance athis apples and leaves them, with regret Through the half open door a current of cold air, smelling of reeds and marshes, strikes him, and a visión of clothes hanging on a line - i'aded blonses, workingmen's garrnents, a calicó dress stretched at full length by the sleeves and dripping, dripping ! fie has finished and re-enters. He lays down upon tho tablesome smallobjects, all wet, and goes to the stove to thaw out bis fiugers, benumbed and reddened by the cold. "They must have been mad in such wealher as this, " he said shivering. "What is the matter with them all?" When he is again comfortably warm, and when the sugarmelts and runs over the side of the plate, he breakfasts in a corner of the office. While eating he opens one of his great books and coruplacently turna over the leaves. This big book is beautifnlly kept ; the are straight and headed with blue ink, with little reflections of gold powder and a blotier f or every page. Everything is in perfect order. Business seems to be good. Our recorder has the contented air of an accountant looking over a good balance at the end of the year. While he turns over the pages with delight they open the doors of the adjoining room. There is the sound of a crowd upon the stone pavement and hushed voices as if in a church. "Oh, bowyoungsheisl Whatapity !" And there is a hushing and a whisperiug. What is it to our good man whether she ia young or not? He tranquilly finishes his apples and draws toward him the objects which he placed on the table but a short time before. A thimble full of sand, a pocketbook containing a sou, a little pair of rusted scissors, so rusted that they never can be used again. Oh, something else! A working girl's book, all the pages stuck together ; a torn, defaced letter - a few words are still legible - "the child - no money - a month as a nursa" The bookkeeper shrugs his shoulders as if to say, "I have seen all that before." Then he takes his pen, blows away carefully the bread crumbs which have fallen upon his book, makes a little preparatory gesture before getting his hand in the proper position, anc then, in large round letters, he writes, "Felicie Rameau, metal burnisher, age


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