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.”
“And we have on hand—” said the Comtesse de Lisieux.
“One hundred and sixty-odd thousand francs from the first subscriptions,” said M. Desvanneaux. “It has been decided that the work shall not begin until we have disposed of half of the sum total. Therefore, the difference we have to make up at present is about one hundred and forty thousand francs. In order to realize this sum, the committee of action proposes to organize at the Palais de l’Industrie a grand kermess, with the assistance of the principal artists from the theatres of Paris, including that of Mademoiselle Gontier, of the Comedie Francaise,” added the secretary, with a sly smile on observing the expression of General de Prerolles.
“Good!” Henri promptly rejoined. “That will permit Monsieur Desvanneaux to combine very agreeably the discharge of his official duties with the making of pleasant acquaintances!”
“The object of my action in this matter is above all suspicion,” remarked the churchwarden, with great dignity, while his wife darted toward him a furious glance.
“You? Come, come!” continued the General, who took a mischievous delight in making trouble for the worthy Desvanneaux. “Every one knows quite well that you have by no means renounced Satan, his pomps—”
“And his good works!” added Madame de Nointel, with a burst of laughter somewhat out of place in this formal gathering for the discussion of charitable works.
“We are getting outside of the question,” said the Duchess, striking her bell. “Moreover, is not the assistance of these ladies necessary?”
“Indispensable,” the secretary replied. “Their assistance will greatly increase the receipts.”
“What sum shall we decide upon as the price of admission?” asked Madame de Lisieux.
“Twenty francs,” said Desvanneaux. “We have a thousand tickets printed already, and, if the ladies present wish to solicit subscriptions, each has before her the wherewithal to inscribe appropriate notes of appeal.”
“To be drawn upon at sight,” said the Comtesse de Lisieux, taking a pen. “A tax on vanity, I should call it.”
She wrote rapidly, and then read aloud: