Wretched Haviland!—Where is mercy and what is left for me in the world?—I will rebel about this.—I will give up trying to seek the best, and turn away from Alexandra.
At dinner that night, my grandmother said “You must go to Picault’s ball, my dear;” and my grave, oracular father added: “Yes, you shall go among our people now. I am about to send you to France.”
The prospect of that journey, to which it had been my joy at other times to look forward, affected me little in my disturbed condition.
THE ENTHUSIASM OF SOCIAL PLEASURE.
Grace Carter came over on the way to the ball, and when I descended I found her entertaining my grandmother, while a young man named Chinic, teaming with good nature and compliments, sat near her and rising with the rest grasped me by the hand as I entered. Grace too, smiling, held out her hand. As we went to the door my grandmother delivered me over to her, saying playfully: “Chamilly will be in your charge this evening. He is melancholy. C’est a toi de le guerir.”
“I will be his sister of Charity!” she cried merrily and pressed my arm. I laughed. It was not so undelightful to be taken into the companionship of a graceful girl.
As we whirled along in the carriage, the half-moon in the dark blue sky, making heavy shadows on the trees and mansions, lit her cheek and Greek-knotted hair on the side next me with a glamour so that her head and shoulders shone softly in it like a bust of Venus.
Picault’s was an extensive family mansion of sandstone, built thirty years before for one of the wealthiest merchants of Montreal. It was on a corner.
One end rose into a rococo tower, lit then with the curious kind of clearness produced by a half-moon’s light. In the centre, before the hospital door, projected a pillared portico, under which our carriage drove, and at the other end lurked the shades of a massive gate-way with cobbled road leading through. The carriage-road past the front was bordered by lilacs in bloom—on the one side, as we went through, all shadows, on the other faintly colored, mingling their fragrance with that of huge rose-bushes.
The doors were thrown open, and we saw a great staircase in a wide hall hung with colored lights, and entering passed into one of the most lavish of interiors. As I looked around the dressing-room to which Chinic and myself were shown and saw the windows stacked with tropical plants, the colored candles set about the walls in silver sconces; the bijou paintings and the graceful carving of the furniture; the deep blending of tints and shades in the carpets, curtains and ornaments, I felt another new experience—the sensation of luxury—and dropping back in an easy chair, asked my companion:
“Chinic, what does Picault do?”
“Ma foi, I do not pretend to say,” replied the young Frenchman, half turning towards me from the mirror where he was brushing his hair.” Suffice it he is a millionaire, and I get summoned to drink his wine. Some say he is in politics, others that he deals with stocks; for me it is enough that he deals with the dance and good table. Is it not magnificent to so live? I would sell my soul for fifteen years of it.”