Hardly was the sun down when we shut ourselves into our rooms to begin the work of dressing. Celeste put herself at our service, assuring us that she knew perfectly how to dress hair. The baroness asked us to let her lend us ornaments, ribbons—whatever we might need. We could see that she supposed two young girls who had never seen the great world, who came from a region where nearly all articles of luxury were wanting, could hardly have a choice wardrobe. We thanked them, assuring Celeste that we had always cultivated the habit of dressing each other’s hair.
We put on our camayeu petticoats and our black velvet waists, adding gloves; and in our hair, sparkling with gold powder, we put, each of us, a bunch of the roses given us by Alix. We found ourselves charming, and hoped to create a sensation. But if the baroness was satisfied she showed no astonishment. Her hair, like her daughter’s, was powdered, and both wore gloves.
Suzanne on the arm of Olivier, I on Charles’s, Celeste beside her fiance, the grandparents in front, we entered the theater of St. Martinville, and in a moment more were the observed of all observers. The play was a vaudeville, of which I remember only the name, but rarely have I seen amateurs act so well: all the prominent parts were rendered by young men. But if the French people are polite, amiable, and hospitable, we know that they are also very inquisitive. Suzanne was more annoyed than I can tell; yet we knew that our toilets were in excellent taste, even in that place full of ladies covered with costly jewels. When I asked Celeste how the merchants of St. Martinville could procure these costly goods, she explained that near by there was a place named the Butte a la Rose that greatly shortened the way to market. They were bringing almost everything from London, owing to the Revolution. Between the acts many persons came to greet Madame du Clozel. Oh, how I longed to see the friend of Alix! But I would not ask anything; I resolved to find her by the aid of my heart alone.
Presently, as by a magnetic power, my attention was drawn to a tall and beautiful young lady dressed in white satin, with no ornaments except a set of gold and sapphires, and for headdress a resille the golden tassels of which touched her neck. Ah! how quickly I recognized those brown eyes faintly proud, that kind smile, that queenly bearing, that graceful step! I turned to Charles du Clozel, who sat beside me, and said:
“That is the Countess de la Houssaye, isn’t it?”
“Do you know her?”
“I see her for the first time; but—I guessed it.”
Several times I saw her looking at me, and once she smiled. During the last two acts she came and shook hands with us, and, caressing our hair with her gloved hand, said her husband had seen papa’s letter; that it was from a dear friend, and that she came to ask Madame du Clozel to let her take us away with her. Against this the baroness cried out, and then the Countess Madelaine said to us: