If Mr. Calvert found the pretty and vivacious Comtesse de Flahaut little to his taste, the society of which she was a type offended him still more. It had taken him but a short time to realize what shams, what hollowness, what corruption existed beneath the brilliant and gay surface. Amiability, charm, wit, grace were to be found everywhere in their perfection, but nowhere was truth, or sincerity, or real pleasure. All things were perverted. Constancy was only to be found in inconstancy. Gossip and rumor left no frailty undiscovered, no reputation unsmirched. Religion was scoffed at, love was caricatured. All about him Calvert saw young nobles, each the slave of some particular goddess, bowing down and doing duty like the humblest menial, now caressed, now ill-treated, but always at beck and call, always obedient. It was the fashion, and no courtier resented this treatment, which served both to reduce the men to the rank of puppets and to render incredibly capricious the beauties who found themselves so powerful. All the virility of Calvert’s nature, all his new-world independence and his sense of honor, was revolted by such a state of things. As he looked around the company, there was not a man or woman to be seen of whom he had not already heard some risque story or covert insinuation, and, though he was no strait-laced Puritan, a sort of disdain for these effeminate courtiers and a horror of these beautiful women took possession of him.
“Decidedly,” he thought to himself, “I am not fitted for this society,” and so, somewhat out of conceit with his surroundings, and the Duchess having withdrawn, he bade good-night to the company without waiting for Mr. Morris, and took himself and his disturbed thoughts back to the Legation.
IN WHICH MR. CALVERT’S GOOD INTENTIONS MISCARRY
It was in the midst of such society that Calvert encountered Madame de St. Andre repeatedly during the remainder of the winter and early spring. And though she was as imperious and capricious as possible, followed about by a dozen admirers (of whom poor Beaufort was one of the most constant); though she was as thoughtless, as pleasure-loving as any of that thoughtless, pleasure-loving society in which she moved; though she had a hundred faults easy to be seen, yet, in Calvert’s opinion, there was still a saving grace about her, a fragrant youthfulness, a purity and splendor that coarsened and cheapened all who were brought into comparison with her. When she sat beside the old Duchesse d’Azay at the Opera or Comedie, he had no eyes for la Saint-Huberti or Contat, and thought that she outshone all the beauties both on the stage and in the brilliant audience. Usually, however, he was content to admire her at a distance and rarely left the box which he occupied with Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Morris to pay his respects to her and Madame d’Azay. For while Adrienne attracted him,