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Really, if you venture often on such declarations, mothers would bevery wrong to trust you alone with their daughters.""You did not understand me right, mademoiselle.""Perfectly right, on the contrary. I asked you if I was betterlooking than Mlle. Favoral; and you replied to me, that it was notthe same style.""It is because, mademoiselle, there is indeed no possible comparisonbetween you, who are a wealthy heiress, and whose life is aperpetual enchantment, and a poor girl, very humble, and very modest,who rides in the omnibus, and who makes her dresses herself."A contemptuous smile contracted Mlle. Cesarine's lips.

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"Why not?" she interrupted. "Men have such funny tastes!"And, turning around suddenly, she began another rondo, no lessfamous than the first, and borrowed, this time, from the third actof the Petites-Blanchisseuses:

What matters the quality?

Beauty alone takes the prizeWomen before man must rise,And claim perfect equality."Very attentively M. de Traggers was observing her. He had not beenthe dupe of the great surprise she had manifested when she foundhim in the little parlor.

"She knew I was here," he thought; "and it is her mother who hassent her to me. But why? and for what purpose?""With all that," she resumed, "I see the sweet Mme. Favoral and hermodest daughter in a terribly tight place. What a 'bust,' marquis!""They have a great deal of courage, mademoiselle.""Naturally. But, what is better, the daughter has a splendid voice:

at least, so her professor told Costeclar. Why should she not go onthe stage? Actresses make lots of money, you know. Papal helpher, if she wishes. He has a great deal of influence in thetheatres, papa has.""Mme. and Mlle. Favoral have friends.""Ah, yes! Costeclar.""Others besides.""I beg your pardon; but it seems to me that this one will do tobegin with. He is gallant, Costeclar, extremely gallant, and,moreover, generous as a lord. Why should he not offer to thatyouthful and timid damsel a nice little position in mahogany androsewood? That way, we should have the pleasure of meeting heraround the lake."And she began singing again, with a slight variation 'Macon, who,before the war,Carried clothes for a living,Now for her gains is trustingTo that insane Costeclar.""Ah, that big red-headed girl is terribly provoking!" thought M.

de Traggers.

But, as he did not as yet understand very clearly what she wishedto come to, he kept on his guard, and remained cold as marble.

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Already she had again turned towards him.

"What a face you are making!" she said. "Are you jealous of thefiery Costeclar, by chance?""No, mademoiselle, no!""Then, why don't you want him to succeed in his love? But he will,you'll see! Five hundred francs on Costeclar! Do you take it?

No? I am sorry. It's twenty-five napoleons lost for me. I knowvery well that Mlle. - what's her name?""Gilberte.""Hallo! a nice name for a cashier's daughter! I am aware that sheonce sent that poor Costeclar and his offer to - Called. But shehad resources then; whilst now - It's stupid as it can be; butpeople have to eat!""There are still women, mademoiselle, capable of starving to death."M. de Traggers now felt satisfied. It seemed evident to him thatthey had somehow got wind of his intentions; that Mlle. de Thallerhad been sent to feel the ground; and that she only attacked Mlle.

Gilberte in order to irritate him, and compel him, in a moment ofanger, to declare himself.

"Bash!" she said, "Mlle. Favoral is like all the others. If shehad to select between the amiable Costeclar and a charcoal furnace,it is not the furnace she would take."At all times, Marius de Tregars disliked Mlle. Cesarine to a supremedegree; but at this moment, without the pressing desire he had tosee the Baron and Baroness de Thaller, he would have withdrawn.

"Believe me, mademoiselle," he uttered coldly. "Spare a poor girlstricken by a most cruel misfortune. Worse might happen to you.""To me! And what the mischief do you suppose can happen me?""Who knows?"She started to her feet so violently, that she upset the piano-stool.

"Whatever It may be," she exclaimed, "I say in advance, I am glad!"And as M. de Traggers turned his head in some surprise,"Yes, I am glad!" she repeated, "because it would be a change; andI am sick of the life I lead. Yes, sick to be eternally andinvariably happy of that same dreary happiness. And to think thatthere are idiots who believe that I amuse myself, and who envy myfate! To think, that, when I ride through the streets, I hear girlsexclaim, whilst looking at me, 'Isn't she lucky?' Little fools!