Just as her impatience threatened to vent itself in action, Iorson appeared bearing a third helping of turkey. Placing it before the irate lady, he fled as though determined to debar a third repudiation. For a moment an air of triumph pervaded Madame’s features. Then she began to gesticulate violently, with the evident intention of again attracting Iorson’s notice. But the forbearance even of the diplomatic Iorson was at an end. Re-doubling his attentions to the diners at the farther side of the room, he remained resolutely unconscious of Madame’s signals, which were rapidly becoming frantic.
The less sophisticated Henri, however, feeling a boyish interest in the little comedy, could not resist a curious glance in Madame’s direction. That was sufficient. Waving imperiously, Madame compelled his approach, and, moving reluctantly, fearful of the issue, Henri advanced.
“Couteau!” hissed Madame. Henri flew to fetch the desired implement, and, realising that Madame had at last been satisfied, we again breathed freely.
A more attractive personage was a typical old aristocrat, officer of the Legion of Honour, who used to enter, walk with great dignity to his table, eat sparingly of one or two dishes, drink a glass of his vin ordinaire and retire. Sometimes he was accompanied by a tiny spaniel, which occupied a chair beside him; and frequently a middle-aged son, whose bourgeois appearance was in amazing contrast to that of his refined old father, attended him.
[Illustration: The Aristocrat]
There were others, less interesting perhaps, but equally self-absorbed. One afternoon, entering the cable car that runs—for fun, apparently, as it rarely boasted a passenger—to and from the Trianon, we recognised in its sole occupant an Ogam who during the weeks of our stay had eaten, in evident oblivion of his human surroundings, at the table next to ours. Forgetting that we were without the walls of silence, we expected no greeting; but to our amazement he rose, and, placing himself opposite us, conversed affably and in most excellent English for the rest of the journey. To speak with him was to discover a courteous and travelled gentleman. Yet during our stay in Versailles we never knew him exchange even a bow with any of his fellow Ogams, who were men of like qualifications, though, as he told us, he had taken his meals in the hotel for over five years.
Early in the year our peace was rudely broken by the advent of a commercial man—a short, grey-haired being of an activity so foreign to our usage that a feeling of unrest was imparted to the salle-a-manger throughout his stay. His movements were distractingly erratic. In his opinion, meals were things to be treated casually, to be consumed haphazard at any hour that chanced to suit. He did not enter the dining-room at the exact moment each day as did the Ogams. He would rush in, throw his hat on a peg, devour some food with unseemly haste, and depart in less time than it took the others to reach the legumes.