Ormond had written to M. and Madame de Connal to announce his intentions of spending some time in Paris, and to thank them for the invitation to their house; an invitation which, however, he declined accepting; but he requested M. de Connal to secure apartments for him in some hotel near them.
Upon his arrival he found every thing prepared for a Milord Anglois: handsome apartments, fashionable carriage, well-powdered laquais, and a valet-de-chambre, waited the orders of monsieur.
Connal was with him a few minutes after his arrival — welcomed him to Paris with cordial gaiety — was more glad, and more sorry, and said more in five minutes, and above all made more protestations of regard, than an Englishman would make in a year.
He was rejoiced — delighted — enchanted to see Mr. Ormond. Madame de Connal was absolutely transported with joy when she heard he was on his road to Paris. Madame was now at Versailles; but she would return in a few days: she would be in despair at Mr. Ormond’s not accepting the apartments in the Hotel de Connal, which were actually prepared for him; but in fact it was nearly the same thing, within two doors of them. He hoped Mr. Ormond liked his apartments — but in truth that was of little consequence, for he would never be in them, except when he was asleep or dressing.
Ormond thought the apartments quite superb, and was going to have thanked M. de Connal for the trouble he had taken; but at the word superbe, Connal ran on again with French vivacity of imagination.
“Certainly, Mr. Ormond ought,” he said, “to have every thing now in the first style.” He congratulated our hero on his accession of fortune, “of which Madame de Connal and he had heard with inexpressible joy. And Mdlle. O’Faley, too, she who had always prophesied that they should meet in happiness at Paris, was now absolutely in ecstasy.”
“You have no idea, in short, my dear Ormond, of what a strong impression you left on all our minds — no conception of the lively interest you always inspired.”
It was a lively interest which had slumbered quietly for a considerable time, but now it wakened with perfectly good grace. Ormond set little value on these sudden protestations, and his pride felt a sort of fear that it should be supposed he was deceived by them; yet, altogether, the manner was agreeable, and Connal was essentially useful at this moment: as Sir Ulick had justly observed, a coxcomb in fashion may, in certain circumstances, be a useful friend.
“But, my dear fellow,” cried Connal, “what savage cut your hair last? — It is a sin to trust your fine head to the barbarians — my hairdresser shall be with you in the twinkling of an eye: I will send my tailor — allow me to choose your embroidery, and see your lace, before you decide — I am said to have a tolerable taste — the ladies say so, and they are always the best judges. The French dress will become you prodigiously, I foresee — but, just Heaven! — what buckles! — those must have been made before the flood: no disparagement to your taste, but what could you do better in the Black Islands? Paris is the only place for bijouterie— except in steel, Paris surpasses the universe — your eyes will be dazzled by the Palais Royal. But this hat! — you know it can’t appear — it would destroy you: my chapelier shall be with you instantly. It will all be done in five minutes — you have no idea of the celerity with which you may command every thing at Paris. But I am so sorry that madame is at Versailles, and that I am under a necessity of being there myself to-morrow for the rest of this week; but I have a friend, a little Abbé, who will be delighted in the mean time to show you Paris.”
From the moment of his arrival at Paris, Ormond resolved to put Florence Annaly completely out of his thoughts, and to drown in gaiety and dissipation the too painful recollection of her duplicity towards him. He was glad to have a few days to look about him, and to see something of Paris.
He should like, as he told M. de Connal, to go to the play, to accustom himself to the language. He must wear off his English or Irish awkwardness a little, before he should be presented to Madame de Connal, or appear in French society. A profusion of compliments followed from M. de Connal; but Ormond persisting, it was settled that he should go incog. this night to the Théâtre François.
Connal called upon him in the evening, and took him to the theatre.
They were in une petite loge, where they could see without being seen. In the box with them was the young Abbé, and a pretty little French actress, Mdlle. Adrienne. At the first coup-d’oeil, the French ladies did not strike him as handsome; they looked, as he said, like dolls, all eyes and rouge; and rouge, as he thought, very unbecomingly put on, in one frightful red patch or plaster, high upon the cheek, without any pretence to the imitation of natural colour.
“Eh fi donc!” said the Abbé, “what you call the natural colour, that would be rouge coquette, which no woman of quality can permit herself.”
“No, Dieu merci,” said the actress, “that is for us: ’tis very fair we should have some advantages in the competition, they have so many — by birth — if not by nature.”
M. de Connal explained to Ormond that the frightful red patch which offended his eye, was the mark of a woman of quality: “women only of a certain rank have the privilege of wearing their rouge in that manner — your eye will soon grow accustomed to it, and you will like it as a sign of rank and fashion.”
The actress shrugged her shoulders, said something about “la belle nature,” and the good taste of Monsieur l’Anglois. The moment the curtain drew up, she told him the names of all the actors and actresses as they appeared — noting the value and celebrity of each. The play was, unfortunately for Ormond, a tragedy; and Le Kain was at Versailles. Ormond thought he understood French pretty well, but he did not comprehend what was going on. The French tone of tragic declamation, so unnatural to his ear, distracted his attention so much, that he could not make out the sense of what any of the actors said.
“’Tis like the quality rouge,” said Connal; “your taste must be formed to it. But your eye and your ear will accommodate themselves to both. You will like it in a month.”
M. de Connal said this was always the first feeling of foreigners. “But have patience,” said he; “go on listening, and in a night or two, perhaps in an hour or two, the sense will break in upon you all at once. You will never find yourself at a loss in society. Talk, at all events, whether you speak ill or well, talk: don’t aim at correctness — we don’t expect it Besides, as they will tell you, we like to see how a stranger ‘play with our language.’”
M. de Connal’s manner was infinitely more agreeable toward Ormond now than in former days.
There was perhaps still at the bottom of his mind the same fund of self-conceit, but he did not take the same arrogant tone. It was the tone not of a superior to an inferior, but of a friend, in a new society, and a country to which he is a stranger. There was as little of the protector in his manner as possible, considering his natural presumption and acquired habits: considering that he had made his own way in Paris, and that he thought that to be the first man in a certain circle there, was to be nearly the first man in the universe. The next morning, the little Abbé called to pay his compliments, and to offer his services.
M. de Connal being obliged to go to Versailles, in his absence the Abbé would be very happy, he said, to attend Mr. Ormond, and to show him Paris: he believed, he humbly said, that he had the means of showing him every thing that was worth his attention.
Away they drove.
“Gare! gare!” cried the coachman, chasing away the droves of walkers before him. There being no footpaths in the streets of Paris, they were continually driven up close to the walls.
Ormond at first shrunk at the sight of their peril and narrow escapes.
“Monsieur apparemment is nervous after his voyage?” said the Abbé.
“No, but I am afraid the people will be run over. I will make the coachman drive more quietly.”
“Du tout! — not at all,” said the little Abbé, who was of a noble family, and had all the airs of it. “Leave him to settle it with the people — they are used to it. And, after all, what have they to think of, but to take care of themselves —la cancille?”
“La canaille,” synonymous with the swinish multitude, an expression of contempt for which the Parisian nobility have since paid terribly dear.
Ormond, who was not used to it, found it difficult to abstract his sympathy from his fellow-creatures, by whatever name they were called; and he could not exclusively command his attention, to admire the houses and churches, which his Abbé continually pointed out to his notice.
He admired, however, the fine façade of the Louvre, the Place de Louis XV., the astonishingly brilliant spectacle of the Palais Royal, Notre Dame, a few handsome bridges, and the drives on the Boulevards.
But in fact there was at that time much more to be heard, and less to be seen, than at present in Paris. Paris was not then as fine a city as it now is. Ormond, in his secret soul, preferred the bay of Dublin to all he then saw on the banks of the Seine.
The little Abbé was not satisfied with the paucity of his exclamations, and would have given him up, as un froid Anglois, but that, fortunately, our young hero had each night an opportunity of redeeming his credit. They went to the play — he saw French comedy! — he saw and heard Molet, and Madame de la Ruette: the Abbé was charmed with his delight, his enthusiasm, his genuine enjoyment of high comedy, and his quick feeling of dramatic excellence. It was indeed perfection — beyond any thing of which Ormond could have formed an idea. Every part well performed — nothing to break the illusion!
This first fit of dramatic enthusiasm was the third day at its height, when Connal returned from Versailles; and it was so strong upon him, and he was so full of Molet and Madame de la Ruette, that he could scarcely listen to what Connal said of Versailles, the king’s supper, and Madame la Dauphine.
“No doubt — he should like to see all that — but at all events he was positively determined to see Molet, and Madame de la Ruette, every night they acted.”
Connal smiled, and only answered, “Of course he would do as he pleased.” But in the mean time, it was now Madame de Connal’s night for seeing company, and he was to make his debut in a French assembly. Connal called for him early, that they might have a few minutes to themselves before the company should arrive.
Ormond felt some curiosity, a little anxiety, a slight flutter at the heart, at the thought of seeing Dora again.
The arrival of her husband interrupted these thoughts.
Connal took the light from the hands of Crepin, the valet, and reviewed Ormond from head to foot.
“Very well, Crepin: you have done your part, and Nature has done hers, for Monsieur.”
“Yes, truly,” said Crepin, “Nature has done wonders for Monsieur; and Monsieur, now he is dressed, has really all the air of a Frenchman.”
“Quite l’air comme il faut! l’air noble!” added Connal; and he agreed with Crepin in opinion that French dress made an astonishing difference in Mr. Ormond.
“Madame de Connal, I am sure, will think so,” continued Connal, “will see it with admiration — for she really has good taste. I will pledge myself for your success. With that figure, with that air, you will turn many heads in Paris — if you will but talk enough. Say every thing that comes into your head — don’t be like an Englishman, always thinking about the sense — the more nonsense the better — trust me —livrez-vous— let yourself out — follow me, and fear nothing,” cried he, running down stairs, delighted with Ormond and with himself.
He foresaw that he should gain credit by producing such a man. He really wished that Ormond should succeed in French society, and that he should pass his time agreeably in Paris.
No man could feel better disposed towards another. Even if he should take a fancy to Madame, it was to the polite French husband a matter of indifference, except so far as the arrangement might, or might not, interfere with his own views.
And these views — what were they? — Only to win all the young man’s fortune at play. A cela près — excepting this, he was sincerely Ormond’s friend, ready to do every thing possible — de faire l’impossible — to oblige and entertain him.
Connal enjoyed Ormond’s surprise at the magnificence of his hotel. After ascending a spacious staircase, and passing through antechamber after antechamber, they reached the splendid salon, blazing with lights, reflected on all sides in mirrors, that reached from the painted ceiling to the inlaid floor.
“Not a creature here yet — happily.” “Madame begs,” said the servant, “that Monsieur will pass on into the boudoir.”
“Any body with Madame?”
“No one but Madame de Clairville.”
“Only l’amie intime,” said Connal, “the bosom friend.”
“How will Dora feel? — How will it be with us both?” thought Ormond, as he followed the light step of the husband.
“Entrez! — Entrez toujours.”
Ormond stopped at the threshold, absolutely dazzled by the brilliancy of Dora’s beauty, her face, her figure, her air, so infinitely improved, so fashioned!
“Dora! — Ah! Madame de Connal,” cried Ormond.
No French actor could have done it better than nature did it for him.
Dora gave one glance at Ormond — pleasure, joy, sparkled in her eyes; then leaning on the lady who stood beside her, almost sinking, Dora sighed, and exclaimed, “Ah! Harry Ormond!”
The husband vanished.
“Ah ciel!” said l’amie intime, looking towards Ormond.
“Help me to support her, Monsieur — while I seek de l’eau de Cologne.”
Ormond, seized with sudden tremor, could scarcely advance.
Dora sunk on the sofa, clasping her beautiful hands, and exclaiming, “The companion of my earliest days!”
Then Ormond, excused to himself, sprang forward — “Friend of my childhood!” cried he: “yes, my sister: your father promised me this friendship — this happiness,” said he supporting her, as she raised herself from the sofa.
“Où est-il? où est-il? — Where is he, Monsieur Ormond?” cried Mademoiselle, throwing open the door. “Ah ciel, comme il est beau! A perfect Frenchman already! And how much embellished by dress! — Ah! Paris for that. Did I not prophesy? — Dora, my darling, do me the justice. — But — comme vous voilà saisie! — here’s l’amie with l’eau de Cologne. Ah! my child, recover yourself, for here is some one — the Comte de Jarillac it is entering the salon.”
The promptitude of Dora’s recovery was a new surprise to our hero. “Follow me,” said she to him, and with Parisian ease and grace she glided into the salon to receive M. de Jarillac — presented Ormond to M. le Comte —“Anglois — Irlandois — an English, an Irish gentleman — the companion of her childhood,” with the slightest, lightest tone of sentiment imaginable; and another count and another came, and a baron, and a marquis, and a duke, and Madame la Comtesse de —— and Madame la Duchesse ——; and all were received with ease, respect, vivacity, or sentiment as the occasion required — now advancing a step or two to mark empressement where requisite; — regaining always, imperceptibly, the most advantageous situation and attitude for herself; — presenting Ormond to every one — quite intent upon him, yet appearing entirely occupied with every body else; and, in short, never forgetting them, him, or herself for an instant.
“Can this be Dora?” thought Ormond in admiration, yet in astonishment that divided his feelings. It was indeed wonderful to see how quickly, how completely, the Irish country girl had been metamorphosed into a French woman of fashion.
And now surrounded by admirers, by adorers in embroidery and blazing with crosses and stars, she received les hommages— enjoyed le succès— accepted the incense without bending too low or holding herself too high — not too sober, nor too obviously intoxicated. Vanity in all her heart, yet vanity not quite turning her head, not more than was agreeable and becoming — extending her smiles to all, and hoping all the time that Harry Ormond envied each. Charmed with him — for her early passion for him had revived in an instant — the first sight of his figure and air, the first glance in the boudoir, had been sufficient. She knew, too, how well he would succeed at Paris — how many rivals she would have in a week: these perceptions, sensations, and conclusions, requiring so much time in slow words to express, had darted through Dora’s head in one instant, had exalted her imagination, and touched her heart — as much as that heart could be touched.
Ormond meantime breathed more freely, and recovered from his tremors. Madame de Connal, surrounded by adorers, and shining in the salon, was not so dangerous as Dora, half fainting in the boudoir; nor had any words that wit or sentiment could devise power to please or touch him so much as the “Harry Ormond!” which had burst naturally from Dora’s lips. Now he began almost to doubt whether nature or art prevailed. Now he felt himself safe at least, since he saw that it was only the coquette of the Black Islands transformed into the coquette of the Hotel de Connal. The transformation was curious, was admirable; Ormond thought he could admire without danger, and, in due time, perhaps gallant, with the best of them, without feeling — without scruple.
The tables were now arranging for play. The conversation he heard every where round him related to the good or bad fortune of the preceding nights. Ormond perceived that it was the custom of the house to play every evening, and the expressions that reached him about bets and debts confirmed the hint which his guardian had given him, that Connal played high.
At present, however, he did not seem to have any design upon Ormond — he was engaged at the further end of the room. He left him quite to himself, and to Madame, and never once even asked him to play.
There seemed more danger of his being left out, than of his being taken in.
“Donnez-moi le bras — Come with me, Monsieur Ormond,” said Mademoiselle, “and you shall lose nothing — while they are settling about their parties, we can get one little moment’s chat.”
She took him back to the boudoir.
“I want to make you know our Paris,” said she: “here we can see the whole world pass in review, and I shall tell you every thing most necessary for you to know; for example — who is who — and still more it imports you to know who and who are together.”
“Look at that lady, beautiful as the day, in diamonds.”
“Madame de Connal, do you mean?” said Ormond.
“Ah! no; not her always,” said Mademoiselle: “though she has the apple here, without contradiction,” continued Mademoiselle, still speaking in English, which it was always her pride to speak to whomsoever could understand her. “Absolutely, without vanity, though my niece, I may say it, she is a perfect creature — and mise à ravir! — Did you ever see such a change for the best in one season? Ah! Paris! — Did I not tell you well? — And you felt it well yourself — you lost your head, I saw that, at first sight of her à la Françoise— the best proof of your taste and sensibilité— she has infinite sensibility too! — interesting, and at the height, what you English call the tip-top, of the fashion here.”
“So it appears, indeed,” said Ormond, “by the crowd of admirers I see round Madame de Connal.”
“Admirers! yes, adorers, you may say — encore, if you added lovers, you would not be much wrong; dying for love —éperdument épris! See, there, he who is bowing now — Monsieur le Marquis de Beaulieu — homme de cour — plein d’esprit — homme marquant — very remarkable man. But — Ah! voilà que entre — of the court. Did you ever see finer entrée made by man into a room, so full of grace? Ah! le Comte de Belle Chasse — How many women already he has lost! — It is a real triumph to Madame de Connal to have him in her chains. What a smile! — C’est lui qui est aimable pour nous autres — d’une soumission pour les femmes — d’une fierté pour les hommes. As the lamb gentle for the pretty woman; as the lion terrible for the man. It is that Comte de Belle Chasse who is absolutely irresistible.”
“Absolutely irresistible,” Ormond repeated, smiling; “not absolutely, I hope.”
“Oh! that is understood — you do not doubt la sagesse de Madame? — Besides, heureusement, there is an infinite safety for her in the number, as you see, of her adorers. Wait till I name them to you — I shall give you a catalogue raisonnée.”
With rapid enunciation Mademoiselle went through the names and rank of the circle of adorers, noting with complacency the number of ladies to whom each man of gallantry was supposed to have paid his addresses — next to being of the blood royal, this appearing to be of the highest distinction.
“And à propos, Monsieur d’Ormond, you, yourself, when do you count to go to Versailles? — Ah! — when you shall see the king and the king’s supper, and Madame la Dauphine! Ah!”
Mademoiselle was recalled from the ecstasy in which she had thrown up her eyes to Heaven, by some gentleman speaking to her as he passed the open door of the boudoir arm in arm with a lady — Mademoiselle answered, with a profound inclination of the head, whispering to Ormond after they had passed, “M. le Due de C—— with Madame de la Tour. Why he is constant always to that woman, Heaven knows better than me! Stand, if you are so good, Monsieur, a little more this way, and give your attention — they don’t want you yet at play.”
Then designating every person at the different card-tables, she said, “That lady is the wife of M. —— and there is M. le Baron de L—— her lover, the gentleman who looks over her cards — and that other lady with the joli pompon, she is intimate with M. de la Tour, the husband of the lady who passed with M. le Duc.” Mademoiselle explained all these arrangements with the most perfect sang froid, as things of course, that every body knew and spoke of, except just before the husbands; but there was no mystery, no concealment: “What use? — To what good?”
Ormond asked whether there were any ladies in the room who were supposed to be faithful to their husbands.
“Eh! — Ma nièce, par exemple, Madame de Connal, I may cite as a woman of la plus belle réputation, sans tâche — what you call unblemish.”
“Assuredly,” said Ormond, “you could not, I hope, think me so indiscreet — I believe I said ladies in the plural number.”
“Ah! oui, assuredly, and I can name you twenty. To begin, there, do you see that woman standing up, who has the air as if she think of nothing at all, and nobody thinking of her, with only her husband near her, cet grand homme blême?— There is Madame de la Rousse —d’une réputation intacte!— frightfully dressed, as she is always. But, hold, you see that pretty little Comtesse de la Brie, all in white? — Charmante! I give her to you as a reputation against which slander cannot breathe — Nouvelle mariée — bride — in what you call de honey-moon; but we don’t know that in French — no matter! Again, since you are curious in these things, there is another reputation without spot, Madame de St. Ange, I warrant her to you — bien froide, celle-là, cold as any English — married a full year, and still her choice to make; allons — there is three I give you already, without counting my niece; and, wait, I will find you yet another,” said Mademoiselle, looking carefully through the crowd.
She was relieved from her difficulty by the entrance of the little Abbé, who came to summon Monsieur to Madame de Connal, who did him the honour to invite him to the table. Ormond played, and fortune smiled upon him, as she usually does upon a new votary; and beauty smiled upon him perhaps on the same principle. Connal never came near him till supper was announced; then only to desire him to give his arm to a charming little Countess — la nouvelle mariée — Madame de Connal, belonging, by right of rank, to Monsieur le Comte de Belle Chasse. The supper was one of the delightful petit soupers for which Paris was famous at that day, and which she will never see again.
The moralist, who considers the essential interests of morality, more than the immediate pleasures of society, will think this rather a matter of rejoicing than regret. How far such society and correct female conduct be compatible, is a question which it might take too long a time to decide.
Therefore, be it sufficient here to say, that Ormond, without staying to examine it, was charmed with the present effect; with the gaiety, the wit, the politeness, the ease, and altogether with that indescribable thing, that untranslatable esprit de société. He could not afterwards remember any thing very striking or very solid that had been said, but all was agreeable at the moment, and there was great variety. Ormond’s self-love was, he knew not how, flattered. Without effort, it seemed to be the object of every body to make Paris agreeable to him; and they convinced him that he would find it the most charming place in the world — without any disparagement to his own country, to which all solid honours and advantages were left undisputed. The ladies, whom he had thought so little captivating at first view, at the theatre, were all charming on farther acquaintance: so full of vivacity, and something so flattering in their manner, that it put a stranger at once at his ease. Towards the end of the supper he found himself talking to two very pretty women at once, with good effect, and thinking at the same time of Dora and the Comte de Belle Chasse. Moreover, he thought he saw that Dora was doing the same between the irresistible Comte, and the Marquis, plein d’esprit, from whom, while she was listening and talking without intermission, her eyes occasionally strayed, and once or twice met those of Ormond.
“Is it indiscreet to ask you whether you passed your evening agreeably?” said M. de Connal, when the company had retired.
“Delightfully!” said Ormond: “the most agreeable evening I ever passed in my life!”
Then fearing that he had spoken with too much enthusiasm, and that the husband might observe that his eyes, as he spoke, involuntarily turned towards Madame de Connal, he moderated (he might have saved himself the trouble), he moderated his expression by adding, that as far as he could yet judge, he thought French society very agreeable.
“You have seen nothing yet — you are right not to judge hastily,” said Connal; “but so far, I am glad you are tolerably well satisfied.”
“Ah! oui, Monsieur Ormond,” cried Mademoiselle, joining them, “we shall fix you at Paris, I expect.”
“You hope, I suppose you mean, my dear aunt,” said Dora, with such flattering hope in her voice, and in the expression of her countenance, that Ormond decided that he “certainly intended to spend the winter at Paris.”
Connal, satisfied with this certainty, would have let Ormond go. But Mademoiselle had many compliments to make him and herself upon his pronunciation, and his fluency in speaking the French language — really like a Frenchman himself — the Marquis de Beaulieu had said to her: she was sure M. d’Ormond could not fail to succeed in Paris with that perfection added to all his other advantages. It was the greatest of all the advantages in the world — the greatest advantage in the universe, she was going on to say, but M. de Connal finished the flattery better.
“You would pity us, Ormond,” cried he, interrupting Mademoiselle, “if you could see and hear the Vandals they send to us from England with letters of introduction — barbarians, who can neither sit, stand, nor speak — nor even articulate the language. How many of these butors, rich, of good family, I have been sometimes called upon to introduce into society, and to present at court! Upon my honour it has happened to me to wish they might hang themselves out of my way, or be found dead in their beds the day I was to take them to Versailles.”
“It is really too great a tax upon the good-breeding of the lady of the house,” said Madame de Connal, “deplorable, when she has nothing better to say of an English guest than that ‘Ce monsieur là a un grand talent pour le silence.’”
Ormond, conscious that he had talked away at a great rate, was pleased by this indirect compliment.
“But such personnages muëts never really see French society. They never obtain more than a supper — not a petit souper— no, no, an invitation to a great assembly, where they see nothing. Milord Anglois is lost in the crowd, or stuck across a door-way by his own sword. Now, what could any letter of recommendation do for such a fellow as that?”
“The letters of recommendation which are of most advantage,” said Madame de Connal, “are those which are written in the countenance.”
Ormond had presence of mind enough not to bow, though the compliment was directed distinctly to him — a look of thanks he knew was sufficient. As he retired, Mademoiselle, pursuing him to the door, begged that he would come as early as he could next morning, that she might introduce him to her apartments, and explain to him all the superior conveniences of a French house. M. de Connal representing, however, that the next day Mr. Ormond was to go to Versailles, Mademoiselle acknowledged that was an affair to which all others must yield.
Well flattered by all the trio, and still more perhaps by his own vanity, our young hero was at last suffered to depart.
The first appearance at Versailles was a matter of great consequence. Court-dress was then an affair of as much importance at Paris as it seems to be now in London, if we may judge by the columns of birthday dresses, and the honourable notice of gentlemen’s coats and waistcoats. It was then at Paris, however, as it is now and ever will be all over the world, essential to the appearance of a gentleman, that whatever time, pains, or expense, it might have cost, he should, from the moment he is dressed, be, or at least seem to be, above his dress. In this as in most cases, the shortest and safest way to seem is to be. Our young hero being free from personal conceit, or overweening anxiety about his appearance, looked at ease. He called at the Hotel de Connal the day he was to go to Versailles, and Mademoiselle was in ecstasy at the sight of his dress, exclaiming, “superbe! — magnifique!”
M. de Connal seemed more struck with his air than his dress, and Dora, perhaps, was more pleased with his figure; she was silent, but it was a silence that spoke; her husband heeded not what it said, but, pursuing his own course, observed, that, to borrow the expression of Crepin, the valet~de-chambre, no contemptible judge in these cases, M. Ormond looked not only as if he was né coiffé, but as if he had been born with a sword by his side. “Really, my dear friend,” continued M. de Connal, “you look as if you had come at once full dressed into the world, which in our days is better than coming ready armed out of the head of Jupiter.”
Mdlle. O’Faley, now seizing upon Ormond, whom she called her pupil, carried him off, to show him her apartments and the whole house; which she did with many useful notes — pointing out the convenience and entire liberty that result from the complete separation of the apartments of the husband and wife in French houses.
“You see, Monsieur et Madame with their own staircases, their own passages, their own doors in and out, and all separate for the people of Monsieur, and the women of Madame, and here through this little door you go into the apartments of Madame.”
Ormond’s English foot stopped respectfully.
“Eh, entrez toujours,” said Mademoiselle, as the husband had said before at the door of the boudoir.
“But Madame de Connal is dressing, perhaps,” said Ormond.
“Et puis? — and what then? you must get rid as fast as you can of your English préjugés — and she is not here neither,” said Mademoiselle, opening the door.
Madame de Connal was in an inner apartment; and Ormond, the instant after he entered this room with Mademoiselle, heard a quick step, which he knew was Dora’s, running to bolt the door of the inner room — he was glad that she had not quite got rid of her English prejudices.
Mdlle. O’Faley pointed out to him all the accommodations of a French apartment: she had not at this moment the slightest malice or bad intention in any thing she was saying — she simply spoke in all the innocence of a Frenchwoman — if that term be intelligible. If she had any secret motive, it was merely the vanity of showing that she was quite Parisienne; and there again she was mistaken; for having lived half her life out of Paris, she had forgotten, if she ever had it, the tone of good society, and upon her return had overdone the matter, exaggerated French manners, to prove to her niece that she knew les usages, les convenances, les nuances — enfin, la mode de Paris! A more dangerous guide in Paris for a young married woman in every respect could scarcely be found.
M. de Connal’s valet now came to let Mr. Ormond know that Monsieur waited his orders. But for this interruption, he was in a fair way to hear all the private history of the family, all the secrets that Mademoiselle knew.
Of the amazing communicativeness of Frenchwomen on all subjects, our young hero had as yet no conception.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:54