The remark set me thinking a moment, but it only complicated the charm of delivering oneself over to sensations.
We met Grace at the head of the staircase. She had never looked more Venus-like than in this fairy glow, with a plant-filled window behind her, opening out into the summer darkness. The music of a waltz of Strauss was rising from below, and I felt a wonderful thrill as she again took my arm.
Our respects being paid to the hostess, Madame Picault, Grace gave me a couple of dances on her card, and introducing me to a slender young girl, with pretty eyes, and two very long, crisp plaits of hair, went off on the arm of some one else.
As my father’s plan of education had taken me hitherto wholly into English society, so far as into any, the unique feeling of being a stranger to my own race came with full force upon me for a moment and I stood silent beside the pretty eyes and looked at the scene. The walls were a perfect gallery of sublime landscapes, and small pictures heavily set; four royal chandeliers threw illumination over a maze of flowered trains and flushed complexions, moving through a stately “Lancers,” under a ceiling of dark paintings, divided as if framed, by heavy gilded mouldings, like the ceiling of a Venetian Palace.
“Is it not gay—that scene there!” I exclaimed.
“It is charming, Monsieur,” said the pretty eyes. “Montreal is altogether charming.”
“Ah, you come from Quebec, Mademoiselle?”
“No, Monsieur, from New Orleans,” she replied confidingly.
Now the Louisiana French are very interesting to us French of Canada. Once we formed parts of one continuous Empire, though now divided by many thousands of miles, and their fate is naturally a bond of strong sympathy to us.
“We have there only the Carnival,” she continued with the winning prettiness of a child. “That is in the spring, and the young men dress up for three or four days and throw bon-bons and flowers at us. When the carnival is over, they present the young ladies with the jewels they have worn?”
“And the ladies return them smiles more prized than jewels?”
She looked up at me in fresh-natured delight.
“Monsieur, you must come to New Orleans sometime, during the season of the Carnival.”
“I shall most certainly if you will assure me the ladies of New Orleans are all of one kind.”
“You are pleased to jest, sir. But judge from my sister. Is she not handsome?”
Her sister,—a Southern beauty, the sensation just then of Montreal,—was truly a noble type. The pretty one watched my rising admiration.
“What do you think of her?”
“She is wonderful.—And she is your sister?”