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It is five o'clock. Mademoiselle Catherine is "at home" to her dolls. It is her "day." The dolls do not talk; the little Genie that gave them their smile did not vouchsafe the gift of speech. He refused it for the general good; if dolls could talk, we should hear nobody but them. Still there is no lack of conversation. Mademoiselle Catherine talks for her guests as well as for herself; she asks questions and gives the answers.
"How do you do?--Very well, thank you. I broke my arm yesterday morning going to buy cakes. But it's quite well now.--Ah! so much the better.--And how is your little girl?--She has the whooping-cough.--Ah! what a pity! Does she cough much?--Oh! no, it 's a whooping-cough where there's no cough. You know I had two more children last week.--Really? that makes four doesn't it?--Four or five, I've forgotten which. When you have so many, you get confused.--What a pretty frock you have.--Oh! I 've got far prettier ones still at home.--Do you go to the theatre?--Yes, every evening. I was at the Opera yesterday; but Polichinelle wasn't playing, because the wolf had eaten him.--I go to dances every day, my dear.--It is so amusing.--Yes, I wear a blue gown and dance with the young men, Generals, Princes, Confectioners, all the most distinguished people.--You look as pretty as an angel to-day, my dear.--Oh! it's the spring.--Yes, but what a pity it's snowing.--I love the snow, because it's white.--Oh! there's black snow, you know.--Yes, but that's the bad snow." There's fine conversation for you; Mademoiselle Catherine's tongue goes nineteen to the dozen. Still I have one fault to find with her; she talks all the time to the same visitor, who is pretty and wears a fine frock.
There she is wrong. A good hostess is equally gracious to all her guests. She treats them all with affability, and if she shows any particular preference, it is to the more retiring and the less prosperous. We should flatter the unhappy; it is the only flattery allowable. But Catherine has discovered this for herself. She has guessed the secret of true politeness: a kind heart is everything. She pours out tea for the company, and forgets nobody. On the contrary, she presses the dolls that are poor and unhappy and shy to help themselves to invisible cakes and sandwiches made of dominoes.
Some day Catherine will hold a salon where the old French courtesy will live again.
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