“My dear, do you know there is really such a thing as existence without a carriage and horses?”—“I assure you it is perfectly new to me to find that an opera-box is not a necessity. It is a luxury. In theory one can really never tell the distinction between luxuries and necessities.”—“How absurd! At one time I thought hair was given us only to furnish a profession to hair-dressers; just as we wear artificial flowers to support the flower-makers.”—“Upon my word, it is not uninteresting. There is always some haute nouveaute in economy. The ways of depriving one’s self are infinite. There is wine, now.”—“Not own your residence! As soon not own your tomb as your residence! My mama used to scream that in my ears. According to her, it was not comme il faut to board or live in a rented house. How little she knew!”
When her friends, learning her increasing difficulties, which they did from the best authority (herself), complimented her, as they were forced to do, upon her still handsome appearance, pretty laces, feathers, jewelry, silks, “Fat,” she would answer—“fat. I am living off my fat, as bears do in winter. In truth, I remind myself of an animal in more ways than one.”
And so every one had something to contribute to the conversation about her—bits which, they said, affection and admiration had kept alive in their memory.
Each city has its own roads to certain ends, its ways of Calvary, so to speak. In New Orleans the victim seems ever to walk down Royal street and up Chartres, or vice versa. One would infer so, at least, from the display in the shops and windows of those thorough-fares. Old furniture, cut glass, pictures, books, jewelry, lace, china—the fleece (sometimes the flesh still sticking to it) left on the brambles by the driven herd. If there should some day be a trump of resurrection for defunct fortunes, those shops would be emptied in the same twinkling of the eye allowed to tombs for their rendition of property.
The old lady must have made that promenade many, many times, to judge by the samples of her “fat or fleece” displayed in the windows. She took to hobbling, as if from tired or sore feet.
“It is nothing,” in answer to an inquiry. “Made-to-order feet learning to walk in ready-made shoes: that is all. One’s feet, after all, are the most unintelligent part of one’s body.” Tea was her abomination, coffee her adoration; but she explained: “Tea, you know, is so detestable that the very worst is hardly worse than the very best; while coffee is so perfect that the smallest shade of impurity is not to be tolerated. The truly economical, I observe, always drink tea.” “At one time I thought if all the luxuries of the world were exposed to me, and but one choice allowed, I should select gloves. Believe me, there is no superfluity in the world so easily dispensed with.”
As may be supposed, her path led her farther and farther away from her old friends. Even her intimates became scarce; so much so, that these observations, which, of course, could be made only to intimates, became fewer and fewer, unfortunately, for her circumstances were becoming such that the remarks became increasingly valuable. The last thing related of her was apropos of friends.