But what joy, the day when she hid way down at the bottom of a drawer the first twenty-franc-piece she had earned, a beautiful gold-piece, which belonged to her without contest, and which she might spend as she pleased, without having to render any account to any one!
And with what pride, from week to week, she saw her little treasure swell, despite the drafts she made upon it, sometimes to buy a toy for Maxence, sometimes to add a few ribbons or trinkets to Gilberte's toilet!
This was the happiest time of her life, a halt in that painful journey through which she had been dragging herself for so many years. Between her two children, the hours flew light and rapid as so many seconds. If all the hopes of the young girl and of the woman had withered before they had blossomed, the mother's joys, at least should not fail her. Because, whilst the present sufficed to her modest ambition, the future had ceased to cause her any uneasiness.
No reference had ever been made, between herself and her husband, to that famous dinner-party: he never spoke to her of the Mutual Credit Society; but now and then he allowed some words or exclamations to escape, which she carefully recorded, and which betrayed a prosperous state of affairs.
"That Thaller is a tough fellow!" he would exclaim, "and he has the most infernal luck!"
"Two or three more operations like the one we have just successfully wound up, and we can shut up shop!"
From all this, what could she conclude, if not that he was marching with rapid strides towards that fortune, the object of all his ambition?
Already in the neighborhood he had that reputation to be very rich, which is the beginning of riches itself. He was admired for keeping his house with such rigid economy; for a man is always esteemed who has money, and does not spend it.