“Well, you will come spend the day with me day after to-morrow, will you? I shall invite only young people. May I come for you?”
Ah, that day! how I remember it!... Madame de la Houssaye was fully five or six years older than Madame Carpentier, for she was the mother of four boys, the eldest of whom was fully twelve. Her house was, like Madame du Clozel’s, a single rez-de-chaussee surmounted by a mansard.... From the drawing-room she conducted us to a room in the rear of the house at the end of the veranda [galerie], where ... a low window let into a garden crossed and re-crossed with alleys of orange and jasmine. Several lofty magnolias filled the air with the fragrance of their great white flowers....
“POOR LITTLE ALIX!”
Hardly had we made a few steps into the room when a young girl rose and advanced, supported on the arm of a young man slightly overdressed. His club and pigeon-wings were fastened with three or four pins of gold, and his white-powdered queue was wrapped with a black velvet ribbon shot with silver. The heat was so great that he had substituted silk for velvet, and his dress-coat, breeches, and long vest were of pearl-gray silk, changing to silver, with large silver buttons. On the lace frill of his embroidered shirt shone three large diamonds, on his cravat was another, and his fingers were covered with rings. The young girl embraced us with ceremony, while her companion bowed profoundly. She could hardly have been over sixteen or seventeen. One could easily guess by her dress that the pretty creature was the slave of fashion.
“Madame du Rocher,” said Charles du Clozel, throwing a wicked glance upon her.
“Madame!” I stammered.
“Impossible!” cried Suzanne.
“Don’t listen to him!” interrupted the young lady, striking Charles’s fingers with her fan. “He is a wretched falsifier. I am called Tonton de Blanc.”
“The widow du Rocher!” cried Olivier, from the other side.
“Ah, this is too much!” she exclaimed. “If you don’t stop these ridiculous jokes at once I’ll make Neville call you out upon the field of battle.” ... But a little while afterward Celeste whispered in my ear that her brothers had said truly. At thirteen years Tonton, eldest daughter of Commandant Louis de Blanc and sister of Chevalier de Blanc, had been espoused to Dr. du Rocher, at least forty years older than she. He was rich, and two years later he died, leaving all his fortune to his widow.... One after another Madame de la Houssaye introduced to us at least twenty persons, the most of whose names, unfortunately, I have forgotten. I kept notes, but have mislaid them....
A few moments before dinner the countess re-appeared among us, followed by two servants in livery bearing salvers of fruit; and while we ate she seated herself at the harpsichord and played.