When the prefectoral axe of the Baron Haussmann hewed its way through the Faubourg St. Germain in order to create the boulevard to which this aristocratic centre has given its flame, the appropriation of private property for public purposes caused to disappear numerous ancient dwellings bearing armorial devices, torn down in the interest of the public good, to the equalizing level of a line of tramways. In the midst of this sacrilegious upheaval, the Hotel de Montgeron, one of the largest in the Rue St. Dominique, had the good fortune to be hardly touched by the surveyor’s line; in exchange for a few yards sliced obliquely from the garden, it received a generous addition of air and light on that side of the mansion which formerly had been shut in.
The Duke lived there in considerable state. His electors, faithful in all things, had made of their deputy a senator who sat in the Luxembourg, in virtue of the Republican Constitution, as he would have sat as a peer of France had the legitimate monarchy followed its course. He was a great lord in the true meaning of the word: gracious to the humble, affable among his equals, inclined, among the throng of new families, to take the part of the disinherited against that of the usurpers.
In Mademoiselle de Prerolles he had found a companion animated with the same sentiments, and the charitable organization, meeting again at the Duchess’s residence, on the day following the revival of ’Adrienne Lecouvreuer’, to appoint officers for the Industrial Orphan Asylum, could not have chosen a president more worthy or more devoted.
Besides such austere patronesses as Madame Desvanneaux and her daughter, the organization included several persons belonging to the world of fashion, such as Madame de Lisieux and Madame de Nointel, whose influence was the more effective because their circle of acquaintance was more extensive. The gay world often fraternizes willingly with those who are interested in philanthropic works.
The founders of the Industrial Orphan Asylum intended that the institution should harbor, bring up, and instruct as great a number as possible of the children of infirm or deceased laborers.
The secretary, M. Andre Desvanneaux, churchwarden of Ste.-Clotilde, as was his father before him, and in addition a Roman count, had just finished his address, concluding by making the following double statement: First, the necessity for combining all available-funds for the purchase of the land required, and for the building of the asylum itself; second, to determine whether the institution could be maintained by the annual resources of the organization.
“I should like to observe,” said the Duchesse de Montgeron, “that the first of these two questions is the only order of the day. Not counting the purchase of the land, the architect’s plan calls for an estimate of five hundred thousand francs in round numbers.”