The day the letter came, a feverish panic hit our little street. Monsieur Zamaretti, the bookseller, and Alexandrine, the flower girl, came up to see me. They had received the same letter from the Préfecture. But I could tell they knew it was not so bad for them. They could start their business elsewhere, could they not? There would always be a place in the city for a bookstore and a flower shop. Yes, their eyes dared not meet mine. They felt it was worse for me. As your widow, I owned the place. I let out the two shops, one to Alexandrine, the other to Monsieur Zamaretti, as you used to. As your father did before you, and his father did as well. The income from the shops was how I survived. That was how I made ends meet. Until now.
It was a warm, humid day, I recall. The street was soon humming with all our neighbors brandishing the letter. It was quite a sight. Everyone seemed to be outside that morning, and voices rose vociferously, all the way down to the rue Sainte-Marguerite. There was Monsieur Jubert, from the printing house, with his ink stained apron, and Madame Godfin, standing outside her herbalist's shop, and there was Monsieur Bougrelle, the bookbinder, puffing away on his pipe. The racy Mademoiselle Vazembert from the haberdashery (whom you never met, thank the Lord), flounced up and down along the cobblestones, as if to flaunt her new crinoline. Our charming neighbor, Madame Barou, smiled sweetly when she saw me, but I could tell how distressed she was. The chocolate maker, Monsieur Monthier, appeared to be in tears. Monsieur Helder, owner of the restaurant you used to love, Chez Paulette, was nervously biting his lips, his bushy mustache moving up and down.
I had my hat on, as I never leave the house without it, but in their haste, many had forgotten theirs. Madame Paccard's bun threatened to collapse as her head waggled furiously. Docteur Nonant, hatless too, was waving an irate index. At one point, the wine merchant, Monsieur Horace, managed to make himself heard over the din. He has not changed much since you left us. His curly dark hair is perhaps a trifle grayer, and his paunch has no doubt swollen a mite, but his flamboyant mannerisms and loud chuckle have not faded. His eyes twinkle, black as charcoal.
"What are you ladies and gentlemen doing out here gabbling your heads off! Much good it will do us all. I'm offering the lot of you a round of drinks, even those who never come in to my den!" By that, of course, he meant Alexandrine, my flower girl, who shies away from liquor. I believe she told me once her father died a drunk.
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