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Chapter 2

TWIN ROSES FROM A SINGLE STEM

When Bertin entered, on Friday evening, the house of his friend, where
he was to dine in honor of the return of Antoinette de Guilleroy, he
found in the little Louis XV salon only Monsieur de Musadieu, who had
just arrived.

He was a clever old man, who perhaps might have become of some
importance, and who now could not console himself for not having
attained to something worth while.

He had once been a commissioner of the imperial museums, and had found
means to get himself reappointed Inspector of Fine Arts under the
Republic, which did not prevent him from being, above all else, the
friend of princes, of all the princes, princesses, and duchesses of
European aristocracy, and the sworn protector of artists of all sorts.
He was endowed with an alert mind and quick perceptions, with great
facility of speech that enabled him to say agreeably the most ordinary
things, with a suppleness of thought that put him at ease in any
society, and a subtle diplomatic scent that gave him the power to judge
men at first sight; and he strolled from salon to salon, morning and
evening, with his enlightened, useless, and gossiping activity.

Apt at everything, as he appeared, he would talk on any subject with
an air of convincing competence and familiarity that made him greatly
appreciated by fashionable women, whom he served as a sort of traveling
bazaar of erudition. As a matter of fact, he knew many things without
ever having read any but the most indispensable books; but he stood very
well with the five Academies, with all the savants, writers, and learned
specialists, to whom he listened with clever discernment. He knew how to
forget at once explanations that were too technical or were useless to
him, remembered the others very well, and lent to the information thus
gleaned an easy, clear, and good-natured rendering that made them as
readily comprehensible as the popular presentation of scientific facts.
He gave the impression of being a veritable storehouse of ideas, one of
those vast places wherein one never finds rare objects but discovers
a multiplicity of cheap productions of all kinds and from all sources,
from household utensils to the popular instruments for physical culture
or for domestic surgery.

The painters, with whom his official functions brought him in continual
contact, made sport of him but feared him. He rendered them some
services, however, helped them to sell pictures, brought them in contact
with fashionable persons, and enjoyed presenting them, protecting them,
launching them. He seemed to devote himself to a mysterious function of
fusing the fashionable and the artistic worlds, pluming himself on
his intimate acquaintance with these, and of his familiar footing with
those, on breakfasting with the Prince of Wales, on his way through
Paris, or dining, the same evening, with Paul Adelmant, Olivier Bertin,
and Amaury Maldant.

Bertin, who liked him well enough, found him amusing, and said of him:
"He is the encyclopedia of Jules Verne, bound in ass's skin!"

The two men shook hands and began to talk of the political situation and
the rumors of war, which Musadieu thought alarming, for evident reasons
which he explained very well, Germany having every interest in crushing
us and in hastening that moment for which M. de Bismarck had been
waiting eighteen years; while Olivier Bertin proved by irrefutable
argument that these fears were chimerical, it being impossible for
Germany to be foolish enough to risk her conquest in an always doubtful
venture, or for the Chancelor to be imprudent enough to risk, in the
latter years of his life, his achievements and his glory at a single
blow.

M. de Musadieu, however, seemed to know something of which he did not
wish to speak. Furthermore, he had seen a Minister that morning and had
met the Grand Duke Vladimir, returning from Cannes, the evening before.

The artist was unconvinced by this, and with quiet irony expressed doubt
of the knowledge of even the best informed. Behind all these rumors was
the influence of the Bourse! Bismarck alone might have a settled opinion
on the subject.

M. de Guilleroy entered, shook hands warmly, excusing himself in
unctuous words for having left them alone.

"And you, my dear Deputy," asked the painter, "what do you think of
these rumors of war?"

M. de Guilleroy launched into a discourse. As a member of the Chamber,
he knew more of the subject than anyone else, though he held an opinion
differing from that of most of his colleagues. No, he did not believe in
the probability of an approaching conflict, unless it should be provoked
by French turbulence and by the rodomontades of the self-styled patriots
of the League. And he painted Bismarck's portrait in striking colors, a
portrait a la Saint-Simon. The man Bismarck was one that no one wished
to understand, because one always lends to others his own ways of
thinking, and credits them with a readiness to do that which he would
do were he placed in their situation. M. de Bismarck was not a false and
lying diplomatist, but frank and brutal, always loudly proclaiming the
truth and announcing his intentions. "I want peace!" said he. That was
true; he wanted peace, nothing but peace, and everything had proved it
in a blinding fashion for eighteen years; everything--his arguments,
his alliances, that union of peoples banded together against our
impetuosity. M. de Guilleroy concluded in a tone of profound conviction:
"He is a great man, a very great man, who desires peace, but who has
faith only in menaces and violent means as the way to obtain it. In
short, gentlemen, a great barbarian."

"He that wishes the end must take the means," M. de Musadieu replied. "I
will grant you willingly that he adores peace if you will concede to me
that he always wishes to make war in order to obtain it. But that is
an indisputable and phenomenal truth: In this world war is made only to
obtain peace!"

A servant announced: "Madame la Duchesse de Mortemain."

Between the folding-doors appeared a tall, large woman, who entered with
an air of authority.

Guilleroy hastened to meet her, and kissed her hand, saying:

"How do you do, Duchess?"

The other two men saluted her with a certain distinguished familiarity,
for the Duchess's manner was both cordial and abrupt.

She was the widow of General the Duc de Mortemain, mother of an only
daughter married to the Prince de Salia; daughter of the Marquis de
Farandal, of high family and royally rich, and received at her mansion
in the Rue de Varenne all the celebrities of the world, who met and
complimented one another there. No Highness passed through Paris without
dining at her table; no man could attract public attention that she did
not immediately wish to know him. She must see him, make him talk
to her, form her own judgment of him. This amused her greatly, lent
interest to life, and fed the flame of imperious yet kindly curiosity
that burned within her.

She had hardly seated herself when the same servant announced:

"Monsieur le Baron and Madame la Baronne de Corbelle."

They were young; the Baron was bald and fat, the Baroness was slender,
elegant, and very dark.

This couple occupied a peculiar situation in the French aristocracy due
solely to a scrupulous choice of connections. Belonging to the polite
world, but without value or talent, moved in all their actions by an
immoderate love of that which is select, correct, and distinguished;
by dint of visiting only the most princely houses, of professing
their royalist sentiments, pious and correct to a supreme degree; by
respecting all that should be respected, by condemning all that should
be condemned, by never being mistaken on a point of worldly dogma or
hesitating over a detail of etiquette, they had succeeded in passing
in the eyes of many for the finest flower of high life. Their opinion
formed a sort of code of correct form and their presence in a house gave
it a true title of distinction.

The Corbelles were relatives of the Comte de Guilleroy.

"Well," said the Duchess in astonishment, "and your wife?"

"One instant, one little instant," pleaded the Count. "There is a
surprise: she is just about to come."

When Madame de Guilleroy, as the bride of a month, had entered
society, she was presented to the Duchesse de Mortemain, who loved her
immediately, adopted her, and patronized her.

For twenty years this friendship never had diminished, and when the
Duchess said, "_Ma petite_," one still heard in her voice the tenderness
of that sudden and persistent affection. It was at her house that the
painter and the Countess had happened to meet.

Musadieu approached the group. "Has the Duchess been to see the
exposition of the Intemperates?" he inquired.

"No; what is that?"

"A group of new artists, impressionists in a state of intoxication. Two
of them are very fine."

The great lady murmured, with disdain: "I do not like the jests of those
gentlemen."

Authoritative, brusque, barely tolerating any other opinion than
her own, and founding hers solely on the consciousness of her social
station, considering, without being able to give a good reason for it,
that artists and learned men were merely intelligent mercenaries charged
by God to amuse society or to render service to it, she had no other
basis for her judgments than the degree of astonishment or of pleasure
she experienced at the sight of a thing, the reading of a book, or the
recital of a discovery.

Tall, stout, heavy, red, with a loud voice, she passed as having the
air of a great lady because nothing embarrassed her; she dared to say
anything and patronized the whole world, including dethroned princes,
with her receptions in their honor, and even the Almighty by her
generosity to the clergy and her gifts to the churches.

"Does the Duchess know," Musadieu continued, "that they say the assassin
of Marie Lambourg has been arrested?"

Her interest was awakened at once.

"No, tell me about it," she replied.

He narrated the details. Musadieu was tall and very thin; he wore
a white waistcoat and little diamond shirt-studs; he spoke without
gestures, with a correct air which allowed him to say the daring
things which he took delight in uttering. He was very near-sighted, and
appeared, notwithstanding his eye-glass, never to see anyone; and when
he sat down his whole frame seemed to accommodate itself to the shape
of the chair. His figure seemed to shrink into folds, as if his spinal
column were made of rubber; his legs, crossed one over the other, looked
like two rolled ribbons, and his long arms, resting on the arms of the
chair, allowed to droop his pale hands with interminable fingers. His
hair and moustache, artistically dyed, with a few white locks cleverly
forgotten, were a subject of frequent jests.

While he was explaining to the Duchess that the jewels of the murdered
prostitute had been given as a present by the suspected murderer to
another girl of the same stamp, the door of the large drawing-room
opened wide once more, and two blond women in white lace, a creamy
Mechlin, resembling each other like two sisters of different ages, the
one a little too mature, the other a little too young, one a trifle
too plump, the other a shade too slender, advanced, clasping each other
round the waist and smiling.

The guests exclaimed and applauded. No one, except Olivier Bertin, knew
of Annette de Guilleroy's return, and the appearance of the young girl
beside her mother, who at a little distance seemed almost as fresh
and even more beautiful--for, like a flower in full bloom, she had
not ceased to be brilliant, while the child, hardly budding, was only
beginning to be pretty--made both appear charming.

The Duchess, delighted, clapped her hands, exclaiming: "Heavens!
How charming and amusing they are, standing beside each other! Look,
Monsieur de Musadieu, how much they resemble each other!"

The two were compared, and two opinions were formed. According to
Musadieu, the Corbelles, and the Comte de Guilleroy, the Countess and
her daughter resembled each other only in coloring, in the hair, and
above all in the eyes, which were exactly alike, both showing tiny black
points, like minute drops of ink, on the blue iris. But it was their
opinion that when the young girl should have become a woman they would
no longer resemble each other.

According to the Duchess, on the contrary, and also Olivier Bertin, they
were similar in all respects, and only the difference in age made them
appear unlike.

"How much she has changed in three years!" said the painter. "I should
not have recognized her, and I don't dare to _tutoyer_ the young lady!"

The Countess laughed. "The idea! I should like to hear you say 'you' to
Annette!"

The young girl, whose future gay audacity was already apparent under an
air of timid playfulness, replied: "It is I who shall not dare to say
'thou' to Monsieur Bertin."

Her mother smiled.

"Yes, continue the old habit--I will allow you to do so," she said. "You
will soon renew your acquaintance with him."

But Annette shook her head.

"No, no, it would embarrass me," she said.

The Duchess embraced her, and examined her with all the interest of a
connoisseur.

"Look me in the face, my child," she said. "Yes, you have exactly the
same expression as your mother; you won't be so bad by-and-by, when you
have acquired more polish. And you must grow a little plumper--not very
much, but a little. You are very thin."

"Oh, don't say that!" exclaimed the Countess.

"Why not?"

"It is so nice to be slender. I intend to reduce myself at once."

But Madame de Mortemain took offense, forgetting in her anger the
presence of a young girl.

"Oh, of course, you are all in favor of bones, because you can dress
them better than flesh. For my part, I belong to the generation of fat
women! To-day is the day of thin ones. They make me think of the lean
kine of Egypt. I cannot understand how men can admire your skeletons. In
my time they demanded more!"

She subsided amid the smiles of the company, but added, turning to
Annette:

"Look at your mamma, little one; she does very well; she has attained
the happy medium--imitate her."

They passed into the dining-room. After they were seated, Musadieu
resumed the discussion.

"For my part, I say that men should be thin, because they are formed
for exercises that require address and agility, incompatible with
corpulency. But the women's case is a little different. Don't you think
so, Corbelle?"

Corbelle was perplexed, the Duchess being stout and his own wife more
than slender. But the Baroness came to the rescue of her husband, and
resolutely declared herself in favor of slimness. The year before that,
she declared, she had been obliged to struggle with the beginning of
_embonpoint_, over which she soon triumphed.

"Tell us how you did it," demanded Madame de Guilleroy.

The Baroness explained the method employed by all the fashionable women
of the day. One must never drink while eating; but an hour after the
repast a cup of tea may be taken, boiling hot. This method succeeded
with everyone. She cited astonishing cases of fat women who in three
months had become more slender than the blade of a knife. The Duchess
exclaimed in exasperation:

"Good gracious, how stupid to torture oneself like that! You like
nothing any more--nothing--not even champagne. Bertin, as an artist,
what do you think of this folly?"

"_Mon Dieu_, Madame, I am a painter and I simply arrange the drapery, so
it is all the same to me. If I were a sculptor I might complain."

"But as a man, which do you prefer?"

"I? Oh, a certain rounded slimness--what my cook calls a nice little
corn-fed chicken. It is not fat, but plump and delicate."

The comparison caused a laugh; but the incredulous Countess looked at
her daughter and murmured:

"No, it is very much better to be thin; slender women never grow old."

This point also was discussed by the company; and all agreed that a very
fat person should not grow thin too rapidly.

This observation gave place to a review of women known in society and
to new discussions on their grace, their chic and beauty. Musadieu
pronounced the blonde Marquise de Lochrist incomparably charming,
while Bertin esteemed as a beauty Madame Mandeliere, with her brunette
complexion, low brow, her dusky eyes and somewhat large mouth, in which
her teeth seemed to sparkle.

He was seated beside the young girl, and said suddenly, turning to her:

"Listen to me, Nanette. Everything that we have just been saying you
will hear repeated at least once a week until you are old. In a week you
will know all that society thinks about politics, women, plays, and
all the rest of it. Only an occasional change of names will be
necessary--names of persons and titles of works. When you have heard us
all express and defend our opinions, you will quietly choose your own
among those that one must have, and then you need never trouble yourself
to think of anything more, never. You will only have to rest in that
opinion."

The young girl, without replying, turned upon him her mischievous eyes,
wherein sparkled youthful intelligence, restrained, but ready to escape.

But the Duchess and Musadieu, who played with ideas as one tosses a
ball, without perceiving that they continually exchanged the same ones,
protested in the name of thought and of human activity.

Then Bertin attempted to show how the intelligence of fashionable
people, even the brightest of them, is without value, foundation,
or weight; how slight is the basis of their beliefs, how feeble and
indifferent is their interest in intellectual things, how fickle and
questionable are their tastes.

Warmed by one of those spasms of indignation, half real, half assumed,
aroused at first by a desire to be eloquent, and urged on by the sudden
prompting of a clear judgment, ordinarily obscured by an easy-going
nature, he showed how those persons whose sole occupation in life is to
pay visits and dine in town find themselves becoming, by an irresistible
fatality, light and graceful but utterly trivial beings, vaguely
agitated by superficial cares, beliefs, and appetites.

He showed that none of that class has either depth, ardor, or sincerity;
that, their intellectual culture being slight and their erudition a
simple varnish, they must remain, in short, manikins who produce the
effect and make the gesture of the enlightened beings that they are not.
He proved that, the frail roots of their instincts having been nourished
on conventionalities instead of realities, they love nothing sincerely,
that even the luxury of their existence is a satisfaction of vanity and
not the gratification of a refined bodily necessity, for usually their
table is indifferent, their wines are bad and very dear.

They live, as he said, beside everything, but see nothing and study
nothing; they are near science, of which they are ignorant; nature, at
which they do not know how to look; outside of true happiness, for they
are powerless to enjoy it; outside of the beauty of the world and the
beauty of art, of which they chatter without having really discovered
it, or even believing in it, for they are ignorant of the intoxication
of tasting the joys of life and of intelligence. They are incapable
of attaching themselves in anything to that degree that existence is
illumined by the happiness of comprehending it.

The Baron de Corbelle thought that it was his duty to come to the
defense of society. This he did with inconsistent and irrefutable
arguments, which melt before reason as snow before the fire, yet which
cannot be disproved--the absurd and triumphant arguments of a country
curate who would demonstrate the existence of God. In concluding, he
compared fashionable people to race-horses, which, in truth, are good
for nothing, but which are the glory of the equine race.

Bertin, irritated by this adversary, preserved a politely disdainful
silence. But suddenly the Baron's imbecilities exasperated him, and,
interrupting him adroitly, he recounted the life of a man of fashion
from his rising to his going to rest, without omitting anything. All the
details, cleverly described, made up an irresistibly amusing silhouette.
Once could see the fine gentleman dressed by his valet, first expressing
a few general ideas to the hairdresser that came to shave him; then,
when taking his morning stroll, inquiring of the grooms about the health
of the horses; then trotting through the avenues of the Bois, caring
only about saluting and being saluted; then breakfasting opposite his
wife, who in her turn had been out in her coupe, speaking to her only to
enumerate the names of the persons he had met that morning; then
passing from drawing-room to drawing-room until evening, refreshing his
intelligence by contact with others of his circle, dining with a prince,
where the affairs of Europe were discussed, and finishing the evening
behind the scenes at the Opera, where his timid pretensions at being a
gay dog were innocently satisfied by the appearance of being surrounded
by naughtiness.

The picture was so true, although its satire wounded no one present,
that laughter ran around the table.

The Duchess, shaken by the suppressed merriment of fat persons, relieved
herself by discreet chuckles.

"Really, you are too funny!" she said at last; "you will make me die of
laughter."

Bertin replied, with some excitement:

"Oh, Madame, in the polite world one does not die of laughter! One
hardly laughs, even. We have sufficient amiability, as a matter of
good taste, to pretend to be amused and appear to laugh. The grimace
is imitated well enough, but the real thing is never done. Go to the
theaters of the common people--there you will see laughter. Go among the
_bourgeoisie_, when they are amusing themselves; you will see them laugh
to suffocation. Go to the soldiers' quarters, you will see men choking,
their eyes full of tears, doubled up on their beds over the jokes of
some funny fellow. But in our drawing-rooms we never laugh. I tell you
that we simulate everything, even laughter."

Musadieu interrupted him:

"Permit me to say that you are very severe. It seems to me that you
yourself, my dear fellow, do not wholly despise this society at which
you rail so bitterly."

Bertin smiled.

"I? I love it!" he declared.

"But then----"

"I despise myself a little, as a mongrel of doubtful race."

"All that sort of talk is nothing but a pose," said the Duchess.

And, as he denied having any intention of posing, she cut short the
discussion by declaring that all artists try to make people believe that
chalk is cheese.

The conversation then became general, touching upon everything, ordinary
and pleasant, friendly and critical, and, as the dinner was drawing
toward its end, the Countess suddenly exclaimed, pointing to the full
glasses of wine that were ranged before her plate:

"Well, you see that I have drunk nothing, nothing, not a drop! We shall
see whether I shall not grow thin!"

The Duchess, furious, tried to make her swallow some mineral water, but
in vain; then she exclaimed:

"Oh, the little simpleton! That daughter of hers will turn her head. I
beg of you, Guilleroy, prevent your wife from committing this folly."

The Count, who was explaining to Musadieu the system of a
threshing-machine invented in America, had not been listening.

"What folly, Duchess?"

"The folly of wishing to grow thin."

The Count looked at his wife with an expression of kindly indifference.

"I never have formed the habit of opposing her," he replied.

The Countess had risen, taking the arm of her neighbor; the Count
offered his to the Duchess, and they passed into the large drawing-room,
the boudoir at the end being reserved for use in the daytime.

It was a vast and well lighted room. On the four walls the large and
beautiful panels of pale blue silk, of antique pattern, framed in white
and gold, took on under the light of the lamps and the chandelier a
moonlight softness and brightness. In the center of the principal one,
the portrait of the Countess by Olivier Bertin seemed to inhabit, to
animate the apartment. It had a look of being at home there, mingling
with the air of the salon its youthful smile, the grace of its pose, the
bright charm of its golden hair. It had become almost a custom, a sort
of polite ceremony, like making the sign of the cross on entering a
church, to compliment the model on the work of the painter whenever
anyone stood before it.

Musadieu never failed to do this. His opinion as a connoisseur
commissioned by the State having the value of that of an official
expert, he regarded it as his duty to affirm often, with conviction, the
superiority of that painting.

"Indeed," said he, "that is the most beautiful modern portrait I know.
There is prodigious life in it."

The Comte de Guilleroy, who, through hearing this portrait continually
praised, had acquired a rooted conviction that he possessed a
masterpiece, approached to join him, and for a minute or two they
lavished upon the portrait all the art technicalities of the day in
praise of the apparent qualities of the work, and also of those that
were suggested.

All eyes were lifted toward the portrait, apparently in a rapture of
admiration, and Olivier Bertin, accustomed to these eulogies, to which
he paid hardly more attention than to questions about his health when
meeting some one in the street, nevertheless adjusted the reflector lamp
placed before the portrait in order to illumine it, the servant having
carelessly set it a little on one side.

Then they seated themselves, and as the Count approached the Duchess,
she said to him:

"I believe that my nephew is coming here for me, and to ask you for a
cup of tea."

Their wishes, for some time, had been mutually understood and agreed,
without either side ever having exchanged confidences or even hints.

The Marquis de Farandal, who was the brother of the Duchesse de
Mortemain, after almost ruining himself at the gaming table, had died
of the effects of a fall from his horse, leaving a widow and a son. This
young man, now nearly twenty-eight years of age, was one of the most
popular leaders of the cotillion in Europe, for he was sometimes
requested to go to Vienna or to London to crown in the waltz some
princely ball. Although possessing very small means, he remained,
through his social station, his family, his name, and his almost royal
connections, one of the most popular and envied men in Paris.

It was necessary to give a solid foundation to this glory of his youth,
and after a rich, a very rich marriage, to replace social triumphs by
political success. As soon as the Marquis should become a deputy, he
would become also, by that attainment alone, one of the props of the
future throne, one of the counselors of the King, one of the leaders of
the party.

The Duchess, who was well informed, knew the amount of the enormous
fortune of the Comte de Guilleroy, a prudent hoarder of money, who lived
in a simple apartment when he was quite able to live like a great lord
in one of the handsomest mansions of Paris. She knew about his always
successful speculations, his subtle scent as a financier, his share in
the most fruitful schemes of the past ten years, and she had cherished
the idea of marrying her nephew to the daughter of the Norman deputy, to
whom this marriage would give an immense influence in the aristocratic
society of the princely circle. Guilleroy, who had made a rich marriage,
and had thereby increased a large personal fortune, now nursed other
ambitions.

He had faith in the return of the King, and wished, when that event
should come, to be so situated as to derive from it the largest personal
profit.

As a simple deputy, he did not cut a prominent figure. As a
father-in-law of the Marquis of Farandal, whose ancestors had been the
faithful and chosen familiars of the royal house of France, he might
rise to the first rank.

The friendship of the Duchess for his wife lent to this union an element
of intimacy that was very precious; and, for fear some other young girl
might appear who would please the Marquis, he had brought about the
return of his own daughter in order to hasten events.

Madame de Mortemain, foreseeing and divining his plans, lent him her
silent complicity; and on that very day, although she had not been
informed of the sudden return of the young girl, she had made an
appointment with her nephew to meet her at the Guilleroys, so that he
might gradually become accustomed to visit that house frequently.

For the first time, the Count and the Duchess spoke of their mutual
desires in veiled terms; and when they parted, a treaty of alliance had
been concluded.

At the other end of the room everyone was laughing at a story M. de
Musadieu was telling to the Baroness de Corbelle about the presentation
of a negro ambassador to the President of the Republic, when the Marquis
de Farandal was announced.

He appeared in the doorway and paused. With a quick and familiar
gesture, he placed a monocle on his right eye and left it there, as if
to reconnoiter the room he was about to enter, but perhaps to give those
that were already there the time to see him and to observe his entrance.
Then by an imperceptible movement of cheek and eyebrow, he allowed to
drop the bit of glass at the end of a black silk hair, and advanced
quickly toward Madame de Guilleroy, whose extended hand he kissed,
bowing very low. He saluted his aunt likewise, then shook hands with
the rest of the company, going from one to another with easy elegance of
manner.

He was a tall fellow, with a red moustache, and was already slightly
bald, with the figure of an officer and the gait of an English
sportsman. It was evident, at first sight of him, that all his limbs
were better exercised than his head, and that he cared only for such
occupations as developed strength and physical activity. He had some
education, however, for he had learned, and was learning every day, by
much mental effort, a great deal that would be useful to him to know
later: history, studying dates unweariedly, but mistaking the lesson to
be learned from facts and the elementary notions of political economy
necessary to a deputy, the A B C of sociology for the use of the ruling
classes.

Musadieu esteemed him, saying: "He will be a valuable man." Bertin
appreciated his skill and his vigor. They went to the same fencing-hall,
often hunted together, and met while riding in the avenues of the Bois.
Between them, therefore, had been formed a sympathy of similar tastes,
that instinctive free-masonry which creates between two men a subject of
conversation, as agreeable to one as to the other.

When the Marquis was presented to Annette de Guilleroy, he immediately
had a suspicion of his aunt's designs, and after saluting her he ran his
eyes over her, with the rapid glance of a connoisseur.

He decided that she was graceful, and above all full of promise, for
he had led so many cotillions that he knew young girls well, and could
predict almost to a certainty the future of their beauty, as an expert
who tastes a wine as yet too new.

He exchanged only a few unimportant words with her, then seated himself
near the Baroness de Corbelle, so that he could chat with her in an
undertone.

Everyone took leave at an early hour, and when all had gone, when the
child was in her bed, the lamps were extinguished, the servants gone
to their own quarters, the Comte de Guilleroy, walking across the
drawing-room, lighted now by only two candles, detained for a long time
the Countess, who was half asleep in an armchair, to tell her of his
hopes, to suggest the attitude for themselves to assume, to forecast all
combinations, the chances and the precautions to be taken.

It was late when he retired, charmed, however, with this evening, and
murmuring, "I believe that that affair is a certainty."


Guy de Maupassant

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