months, or perhaps years, passed after jacques' meetings on the street with the little woman who did not have time for him.
eventually he forgot her.
one wintry morning as he was walking to the cafe - against an unusually cold and strong wind - a piece of paper from the street blew against his leg and the force of the wind was such that he could not easily brush it off.
he stopped, and peeled the paper from around his lower left leg.
he noticed that it was a letter, or a portion of a letter, and such parts of it as had not been obscured by dirt or water were written in a round, firm hand.
intrigued, he folded it up and put it in his jacket pocket, with the intention of looking at it more closely when he reached the cafe.
the cold and wind and threat of rain were such that madame geraldine had had the outdoor tables moved under the shelter of the building's eaves, and the chairs taken indoors. therefore jaqcues went inside and took a seat at the bar.
after his second absinthe, rain began to beat on the windows, and for some reason this reminded jacques of the letter, and he took it out of his pocket.
a new barmaid was working that morning, under the watchful eye of madame geraldine, who was knitting without enthusiasm in the corner beside the small fire.
the new barmaid was a fat and saucy creature who was not familiar with jacques' taciturn and morose ways and when she saw him reading the letter she attempted to chaff him a little.
"ah, monsieur, a letter from one of your many fair conquests, no doubt."
"no, " jacques replied seriously,"it is a letter i found in the street."
"ah - but perhaps it speaks of love, and will kindle some happy thoughts in monsieur's heart."
"more likely, " interjected madame geraldine, " a begging letter, of the sort altogether too familiar these days. which is why it was torn up and thrown in the street."
"no," said jacques, who had begun reading the letter, "it does not seem to answer to either of those descriptions."
the letter, what was legible of it, read:
.........gustave has been quite of sorts since henri .......... the house at the seashore ..... if only i could! but you know......... perhaps next year uncle bernard can be persuaded ....
there really is nothing more. in three or four years perhaps.... if i learn anything more, i will certainly... claude finishes his military obligation .... perhaps then.... what can one do but hope...
"no," jacques repeated, "there is really not much to it. another absinthe, if you please, mademoiselle."