the trappings and the position of the man I killed. In，
Connected with this apartment, which was known to the household as the lieutenant's room, there was a much smaller chamber lighted only by a single window, and originally intended for a dressing- room. It had two doors, one of them communicating with Marguerite's room, and the other with the passage; and it was now offered to Madame Leon, who on comparing these quarters with the spacious suite of rooms she had occupied at the Hotel de Chalusse, had considerable difficulty in repressing a grimace. Still she did not hesitate nor even murmur. M. de Valorsay's orders bound her to Marguerite, and she deemed it fortunate that she was allowed to follow her. And whether the marquis succeeded or not, he had promised her a sufficiently liberal reward to compensate for all personal discomfort. So, in the sweetest of voices, and with a feigned humility of manner, she declared this little room to be even much too good for a poor widow whose misfortunes had compelled her to abdicate her position in society.
The attentions which M. and Madame de Fondege showed her contributed not a little to her resignation. Without knowing exactly what the General and his wife expected from Mademoiselle Marguerite, she was shrewd enough to divine that they hoped to gain some important advantage. Now her "dear child" had declared her to be a trusted friend, who was indispensable to her existence and comfort. "So these people will pay assiduous court to me," she thought. And being quite ready to play a double part as the spy of the Marquis de Valorsay, and the Fondege family, and quite willing to espouse the latter's cause should that prove to be the more remunerative course, she saw a long series of polite attentions and gifts before her.
That very evening her prophecies were realized; and she received a proof of consideration which positively delighted her. It was decided that she should take her meals at the family table, a thing which had never happened at the Hotel de Chalusse. Mademoiselle Marguerite raised a few objections, which Madame Leon answered with a venomous look, but Madame de Fondege insisted upon the arrangement, not understanding, she said, graciously, why they need deprive themselves of the society of such an agreeable and distinguished person. Madame Leon in no wise doubted but this favor was due to her merit alone, but Mademoiselle Marguerite, who was more discerning, saw that their hostess was really furious at the idea, but was compelled to submit to it by the imperious necessity of preventing Madame Leon from coming in contact with the servants, who might make some decidedly compromising disclosures. For there were evidently many little mysteries and make-shifts to be concealed in this household. For instance, while the servants were carrying the luggage upstairs, Marguerite discovered Madame de Fondege and her maid in close consultation, whispering with that volubility which betrays an unexpected and pressing perplexity. What were they talking about? She listened without any compunctions of conscience, and the words "a pair of sheets," repeated again and again, furnished her with abundant food for reflection. "Is it possible," she thought, "that they have no sheets to give us?"
It did not take her long to discover the maid's opinion of the establishment in which she served; for while she brandished her broom and duster, this girl, exasperated undoubtedly by the increase of work she saw in store for her, growled and cursed the old barrack where one was worked to death, where one never had enough to eat, and where the wages were always in arrears. Mademoiselle Marguerite was doing her best to aid the maid, who was greatly surprised to find this handsome, queenly young lady so obliging, when Evariste, the same who had received warning an hour before, made his appearance, and announced in an insolent tone that "Madame la Comtesse was served."
For Madame de Fondege exacted this title. She had improvised it, as her husband had improvised his title of General, and without much more difficulty. By a search in the family archives she had discovered--so she declared to her intimate friends--that she was the descendant of a noble family, and that one of her ancestors had held a most important position at the court of Francis I. or of Louis XII. Indeed, she sometimes confounded them. However, people who had not known her father, the wood merchant, saw nothing impossible in the statements.
Evariste was dressed as a butler should be dressed when he announces dinner to a person of rank. In the daytime when he discharged the duties of footman, he was gorgeous in gold lace; but in the evening, he arrayed himself in severe black, such as is appropriate to the butler of an aristocratic household. Immediately after his announcement everybody repaired to the sumptuous dining-room which, with its huge side-boards, loaded with silver and rare china, looked not unlike a museum. Such was the display, indeed, that when Mademoiselle Marguerite took a seat at the table, between the General and his wife, and opposite Madame Leon, she asked herself if she had not been the victim of that dangerous optical delusion known as prejudice. She noticed that the supply of knives and forks was rather scanty; but many economical housewives keep most of their silver under lock and key; besides the china was very handsome and marked with the General's monogram, surmounted by his wife's coronet.
However, the dinner was badly cooked and poorly served. One might have supposed it to be a scullery maid's first attempt. Still the General devoured it with delight. He partook ravenously of every dish, a flush rose to his cheeks, and an expression of profound satisfaction was visible upon his countenance. "From this," thought Mademoiselle Marguerite, "I must infer that he usually goes hungry, and that this seems a positive feast to him." In fact, he seemed bubbling over with contentment. He twirled his mustaches a la Victor Emmanuel, and rolled his "r," as he said, "Sacr-r-r-r-r-e bleu!" even more ferociously than usual. It was only by a powerful effort that he restrained himself from indulging in various witticisms which would have been most unseemly in the presence of a poor girl who had just lost her father and all her hopes of fortune. But he did forget himself so much as to say that the drive to the cemetery had whetted his appetite, and to address his wife as Madame Range-a-bord, a title which had been bestowed upon her by a sailor brother.
Crimson with anger to the very roots of her coarse, sandy hair-- amazed to see her husband deport himself in this style, and almost suffocated by the necessity of restraining her wrath, Madame de Fondege was heroic enough to smile, though her eyes flashed ominously. But the General was not at all dismayed. On the contrary, he cared so little for his wife's displeasure that, when the dessert was served, he turned to the servant, and, with a wink that Mademoiselle Marguerite noticed, "Evariste," he ordered, "go to the wine-cellar, and bring me a bottle of old Bordeaux."
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