Madame de —— once said to me, “I never invite Monsieur de ——, because he looks unhappy, and as if he expected to be questioned as to the cause.” This naive confession of Madame de —— is what few would make, but the selfishness that dictated it is what society, en masse, feels and acts up to.
Monsieur de ——, talking of London last evening, told the Count —— to be on his guard not to be too civil to people when he got there. The Count —— looked astonished, and inquired the reason for the advice. “Merely to prevent your being suspected of having designs on the hearts of the women, or the purses of the men,” replied Monsieur de ——; “for no one can evince in London society the empressement peculiar to well-bred Frenchmen without being accused of some unworthy motive for it.”
I defended my countrymen against the sweeping censure of the cynical Monsieur de ——, who shook his head and declared that he spoke from observation. He added, that persons more than usually polite are always supposed to be poor in London, and that as this supposition was the most injurious to their reception in good society, he always counselled his friends, when about to visit it, to assume a brusquerie of manner, and a stinginess with regard to money, by which means they were sure to escape the suspicion of poverty; as in England a parsimonious expenditure and bluntness are supposed to imply the possession of wealth.
I ventured to say that I could now understand why it was that he passed for being so rich in England—a coup de patte that turned the laugh against him.
Mr. de —— is a perfect cynic, and piques himself on saying what he thinks,—a habit more frequently adopted by those who think disagreeable, than agreeable things.
Dined yesterday at Madame C——’s, and being Friday, had a diner maigre, than which I know no dinner more luxurious, provided that the cook is a perfect artist, and that the Amphitryon, as was the case in this instance, objects not to expense.
The soupes and entrees left no room to regret the absence of flesh or poultry from their component parts, and the releves, in the shape of a brochet roti, and a turbot a la hollandaise supplied the place of the usual pieces de resistance. But not only was the flavour of the entrees quite as good as if they were composed of meat or poultry, but the appearance offered the same variety, and the cotelettes de poisson and fricandeau d’esturgeon might have deceived all but the profoundly learned in gastronomy,—they looked so exactly like lamb and veal.
The second course offered equally delicate substitutes for the usual dainties, and the most fastidious epicure might have been more than satisfied with the entremets.