The same day Eveline, who had been making inquiries, learned that Viscount Clena had nothing but debts, lived on money given him by an elderly lady, and promoted the sale of the latest models of a motor-car manufacturer. They separated with common accord and Eveline began again disdainfully to serve tea to her mother’s guests.
In Madame Clarence’s drawing-room the conversation turned upon love, and many charming things were said about it.
“Love is a sacrifice,” sighed Madame Cremeur.
“I agree with you,” replied M. Boutourle with animation.
But Professor Haddock soon displayed his fastidious insolence.
“It seems to me,” said he, “that the Penguin ladies have made a great fuss since, through St. Mael’s agency, they became viviparous. But there is nothing to be particularly proud of in that, for it is a state they share in common with cows and pigs, and even with orange and lemon trees, for the seeds of these plants germinate in the pericarp.”
“The self-importance which the Penguin ladies give themselves does not go so far back as that,” answered M. Boutourle. “It dates from the day when the holy apostle gave them clothes. But this self-importance was long kept in restraint, and displayed itself fully only with increased luxury of dress and in a small section of society. For go only two leagues from Alca into the country at harvest time, and you will see whether women are over-precise or self-important.”
On that day M. Hippolyte Ceres paid his first call. He was a Deputy of Alca, and one of the youngest members of the House. His father was said to have kept a dram shop, but he himself was a lawyer of robust physique, a good though prolix speaker, with a self-important air and a reputation for ability.
“M. Ceres,” said the mistress of the house, “your constituency is one of the finest in Alca.”
“And there are fresh improvements made in it every day, Madame.”
“Unfortunately, it is impossible to take a stroll through it any longer,” said M. Boutourle.
“Why?” asked M. Ceres.
“On account of the motors, of course.”
“Do not give them a bad name,” answered the Deputy. “They are our great national industry.”
“I know. The Penguins of to-day make me think of the ancient Egyptians. According to Clement of Alexandria, Taine tells us—though he misquotes the text—the Egyptians worshipped the crocodiles that devoured them. The Penguins to-day worship the motors that crush them. Without a doubt the future belongs to the metal beast. We are no more likely to go back to cabs than we are to go back to the diligence. And the long martyrdom of the horse will come to an end. The motor, which the frenzied cupidity of manufacturers hurls like a juggernaut’s car upon the bewildered people and of which the idle and fashionable make a foolish