“One seems to smell scorching in your drawing-room, my child,” said the old Princess de Dions smilingly to the newly named Marie, whom M. Le Merquier and she had led to the font. But the presence of all these heretics—Jews, Moslems, and even renegades—of these great over-dressed blotched women, loaded with gold and ornaments, veritable bundles of clothes, did not hinder the Faubourg Saint-Germain from visiting, surrounding, and looking after the young convert, the plaything of these noble ladies, a very obedient puppet, whom they showed, whom they took out, and whose evangelical simplicities, so piquant by contrast with her past, they quoted everywhere. Perhaps deep down in the heart of her amiable patronesses a hope lay of meeting in this circle of returned Orientals some new subject for conversion, an occasion for filling the aristocratic Chapel of Missions again with the touching spectacle of one of those adult baptisms which carry one back to the first days of the Faith, far away on the banks of the Jordan; baptisms soon to be followed by a first communion, a confirmation, when baptismal vows are renewed; occasions when a godmother may accompany her godchild, guide the young soul, share in the naive transports of a newly awakened belief, and may also display a choice of toilettes, delicately graduated to the importance of the sentiment of the ceremony. But not every day does it happen that one of the leaders of finance brings to Paris an Armenian slave as his wife.
A slave! That was the blot in the past of this woman from the East, bought in the bazaar of Adrianople for the Emperor of Morocco, then sold, when he died and his harem was dispersed, to the young Bey Ahmed. Hemerlingue had married her when she passed from this new seraglio, but she could not be received at Tunis, where no woman—Moor, Turk or European—would consent to treat a former slave as an equal, on account of a prejudice like that which separates the creoles from the best disguised quadroons. Even in Paris the Hemerlingues found this invincible prejudice among the small foreign colonies, constituted, as they were, of little circles full of susceptibilities and local traditions. Yamina thus passed two or three years in a complete solitude whose leisure and spiteful feelings she well knew how to utilize, for she was an ambitious woman endowed with extraordinary will and persistence. She learned French thoroughly, said farewell to her embroidered vests and pantaloons of red silk, accustomed her figure and her walk to European toilettes, to the inconvenience of long dresses, and then, one night at the opera, showed the astonished Parisians the spectacle, a little uncivilized still, but delicate, elegant, and original, of a Mohammedan in a costume of Leonard’s.