“Oh, my poor Mathilde! How you are changed!”
“Yes, I have had a pretty hard life, since I last saw you, and great poverty—and that because of you!”
“Of me! How so?”
“Do you remember that diamond necklace you lent me to wear at the ministerial ball?”
“Well, I lost it.”
“What do you mean? You brought it back.”
“I brought you back another exactly like it. And it has taken us ten years to pay for it. You can understand that it was not easy for us, for us who had nothing. At last it is ended, and I am very glad.”
Madame Forestier had stopped.
“You say that you bought a necklace of diamonds to replace mine?”
“Yes. You never noticed it, then! They were very similar.”
And she smiled with a joy that was at once proud and ingenuous.
Madame Forestier, deeply moved, took her hands.
“Oh, my poor Mathilde! Why, my necklace was paste! It was worth at most only five hundred francs!”
THE MARQUIS DE FUMEROL
Roger de Tourneville was whiffing a cigar and blowing out small clouds of smoke every now and then, as he sat astride a chair amid a party of friends. He was talking.
“We were at dinner when a letter was brought in which my father opened. You know my father, who thinks that he is king of France ad interim. I call him Don Quixote, because for twelve years he has been running a tilt against the windmill of the Republic, without quite knowing whether it was in the cause of the Bourbons or the Orleanists. At present he is bearing the lance in the cause of the Orleanists alone, because there is no one else left. In any case, he thinks himself the first gentleman of France, the best known, the most influential, the head of the party; and as he is an irremovable senator, he thinks that the thrones of the neighboring kings are very insecure.
“As for my mother, she is my father’s soul, she is the soul of the kingdom and of religion, and the scourge of all evil-thinkers.
“Well, a letter was brought in while we were at dinner, and my father opened and read it, and then he said to mother: ‘Your brother is dying.’ She grew very pale. My uncle was scarcely ever mentioned in the house, and I did not know him at all; all I knew from public talk was, that he had led, and was still leading, a gay life. After having spent his fortune in fast living, he was now in small apartments in the Rue des Martyrs.
“An ancient peer of France and former colonel of cavalry, it was said that he believed in neither God nor devil. Not believing, therefore, in a future life he had abused the present life in every way, and had become a live wound in my mother’s heart.
“‘Give me that letter, Paul,’ she said, and when she read it, I asked for it in my turn. Here it is:
’Monsieur le Comte, I think I ought to let you know that your
brother-in-law, the Comte Fumerol, is going to die. Perhaps you
would like to make some arrangements, and do not forget I told you.