Soon after this we came away, Jimmie beaming with delight over one idol who had not tumbled from his pedestal at a near view.
We were still in the midst of the Paris season. It was very gay and Bee and Mrs. Jimmie had made some amiable friends among the very smartest of the Parisian smart set. When we went to tea or dinner with these people Jimmie and I had to be dragged along like dogs who are muzzled for the first time. Every once in awhile en route we would plant our fore feet and try to rub our muzzles off, but the hands which held our chains were gentle but firm, and we always ended by going.
On one Sunday we were invited to have dejeuner with the Countess S., and as it was her last day to receive she had invited us to remain and meet her friends. At the breakfast there were perhaps sixteen of us and the conversation fell upon palmistry. We had just seen Cheiro in London, and as he had amiably explained a good many of our lines to us, I was speaking of this when the old Duchesse de Z. thrust her little wrinkled paw loaded down with jewels across the plate of her neighbour and said:
“Mademoiselle, can you see anything in the lines of my hand?”
I make no pretence of understanding palmistry, but I saw in her hand a queer little mark that Cheiro had explained to us from a chart. I took her hand in mine and all the conversation ceased to hear the pearls of wisdom which were about to drop from my lips. The duchesse was very much interested in the occult and known to be given to table tipping and the invocation of spirits.
“I see something here,” I began, hesitatingly, “which looks to me as if you had once been threatened with a great danger, but had been miraculously preserved,” I said.
The old woman drew her hand away.
“Humph,” she muttered with her mouth full of homard. “I wondered if you would see that. It was assassination I escaped. It was enough to leave a mark, eh, mademoiselle?”
“I should think so,” I murmured.
The young Count de X. on my right said, in a tone which the duchesse might have heard:
“When she was a young girl, only nineteen, her husband tied her with ropes to her bed and set fire to the bed curtains. Her screams brought the servants and they rescued her.”
My fork fell with a clatter.
“What an awful man!” I gasped.
“He was my uncle, mademoiselle!” said the young man, imperturbably, arranging the gardenia in his buttonhole, “but as you say, he was a bad lot.”
“I beg your pardon!” I exclaimed.
“It is nothing,” he answered. “It is no secret. Everybody knows it.”
Later in the afternoon I took occasion to apologise to the duchesse for having referred to the subject.
“Why should you be distressed, mademoiselle,” said the old woman, peering up into my face from beneath her majenta bonnet with her little watery brown eyes, “such things will go into books and be history a few years hence. We make history, such families as ours,” she added, proudly.