How perfectly reassured I was as soon as I saw the baroness! Small, delicate, supple, stylish, a fairy waist, the shoulders of a goddess, and, besides all this, a certain little air of audacity, of raillery, but in exquisite moderation.
I was spread out on a large pearl-gray lounge, and I was received with marks of frank admiration. M. Worth had been good enough to bring me himself, and he didn’t trouble himself about all dresses.
“How original!” exclaimed the little baroness; “how new! But very dear, isn’t it?”
“One thousand and fifty francs.”
“One thousand and fifty francs! And I furnished the lace! Ah, how quickly I should leave you if I didn’t owe you so much! For I owe you a lot of money.”
“Oh, very little, baroness—very little.”
“No, no; a great deal. But we will discuss that another day.”
That evening I made my first appearance in society, and I came out at the Tuileries. We both of us, the baroness and myself, had an undeniable success. When the Empress crossed the Salon of Diana, making pleasant remarks to the right and left, she had the graciousness to stop before us and make the following remark, which seemed to me extremely witty, “Ah, baroness, what a dress—what a dress! It’s a dream!” On that occasion the Empress wore a dress of white tulle dotted with silver, on a design of cloudy green, with epaulettes of sable. It was queer, not ineffective, but in doubtful taste.
We received much attention, the baroness and I. The new Minister, M. Emile Ollivier, was presented to us; we received him coldly, as the little baroness did not approve, I believe, of liberal reforms, and looked for nothing good from them. We had a long chat on the window-seat with the Marshal Leboeuf. The only topic during that interesting conversation was the execution of Troppmann. It was the great event of the week.
At two o’clock we left—the baroness, I, and the baron. For there was a husband, who for the time being was crowded in the corner of the carriage, and hidden under the mass of my skirts and of my train, which was thrown back on him all in a heap.
“Confess, Edward,” said the little baroness—confess that I was pretty to-night.”
“And my dress?”
“You say that indolently, without spirit or enthusiasm. I know you well. You think I’ve been extravagant. Well, indeed I haven’t. Do you know how much this dress cost me? Four hundred francs—not a centime more.”
We arrived home, which was a step from the Tuileries, in the Place Vendome. The baron went to his rooms, the baroness to hers; and while Hermance, the maid, cleverly and swiftly untied all my rosettes and took out the pins, the little baroness kept repeating: “How becoming this dress is to me! And I seem to become it, too. I shall wear it on Thursday, Hermance, to go to the Austrian Embassy. Wait a minute, till I see the effect of the butterfly in the back. Bring the lamp nearer; nearer yet. Yes, that’s it. Ah, how pretty it is! I am enchanted with this dress, Hermance—really enchanted!”