Jocrisse placed it on a silver tray, and presented it to the tiny lady of the house.
“Pray allow me, ladies and gentlemen,” said the Lilliputian grande dame, as she broke the seal, “to read this letter—although I am only just learning the alphabet!”
There were a number of persons in the company who understood and enjoyed the concluding words.
The little countess lifted her gold-rimmed lorgnette to her eyes, and read her mother’s letter.
She shook her head, shrugged her shoulders, and opened wide her blue eyes.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” she proceeded to explain, “mama has been called suddenly away. She sends her greetings to you” (this was not in the letter, but the little diplomatist thought it best to atone for her mama’s neglect) “until she returns, which will be very soon” (this also was a thought of her own). “I am to fulfil the duties of lady of the house.”
Then she turned toward De Fervlans, and whispered, holding the lorgnette in front of her lips:
“Mama leaves her money-chest in my care”—adding, with naive sarcasm, “which means that she has left me to battle with her creditors.”
THE HOME OF ANECDOTE
The entire population of Fertoeszeg was assembled on the public highway to welcome the new proprietress of the estate. Elaborate preparations had been made for the reception. An arch of green boughs—at the top of which gleamed the word “Vivat” in yellow roses—spanned the road, on either side of which were ranged twelve little girls in white, with flower-baskets in their hands. They were under the superintendence of the village cantor, whose intention it was to conclude the ceremonies with a hymn of welcome by these innocent little creatures.
On a sort of platform, a bevy of rosy-cheeked maids were waiting to present to the new-comer a huge hamper heaped to the brim with ripe melons, grapes, and Ostyepka cheeses of marvelous shapes. Mortars crowned the summit of the neighboring hill. In the shadow of a spreading beech-tree were assembled the official personages: the vice-palatine, the county surveyor, the village pastor, the district physician, the justice of the peace, and the different attendants, county and state employees, belonging to these gentlemen. The vice-palatine’s assistant ought also to have been in this company, but he was busy giving the last instructions to the village beauties whose part it was to present the hamper of fruit and cheeses.
These gentlemen had wives and daughters; but they had stationed themselves along the trench at the side of the road. They did not seek the shadow of a tree, because they wished people to know that they had parasols; for to own a parasol in those days was no small matter.