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- Yvette - 3/17 -
Saval that smiling and fleeting glance which women use to show that they are pleased. Servigny grasped his friend's arm.
"I will pilot you," said he. "In this parlor where we now are, women, the temples of the fleshly, fresh or otherwise. Bargains as good as new, even better, for sale or on lease. At the right, gaming, the temple of money. You understand all about that. At the lower end, dancing, the temple of innocence, the sanctuary, the market for young girls. They are shown off there in every light. Even legitimate marriages are tolerated. It is the future, the hope, of our evenings. And the most curious part of this museum of moral diseases are these young girls whose souls are out of joint, just like the limbs of the little clowns born of mountebanks. Come and look at them."
He bowed, right and left, courteously, a compliment on his lips, sweeping each low-gowned woman whom he knew with the look of an expert.
The musicians, at the end of the second parlor, were playing a waltz; and the two friends stopped at the door to look at them. A score of couples were whirling-the men with a serious expression, and the women with a fixed smile on their lips. They displayed a good deal of shoulder, like their mothers; and the bodices of some were only held in place by a slender ribbon, disclosing at times more than is generally shown.
Suddenly from the end of the room a tall girl darted forward, gliding through the crowd, brushing against the dancers, and holding her long train in her left hand. She ran with quick little steps as women do in crowds, and called out: "Ah! How is Muscade? How do you do, Muscade?"
Her features wore an expression of the bloom of life, the illumination of happiness. Her white flesh seemed to shine, the golden-white flesh which goes with red hair. The mass of her tresses, twisted on her head, fiery, flaming locks, nestled against her supple neck, which was still a little thin.
She seemed to move just as her mother was made to speak, so natural, noble, and simple were her gestures. A person felt a moral joy and physical pleasure in seeing her walk, stir about, bend her head, or lift her arm. "Ah! Muscade, how do you do, Muscade?" she repeated.
Servigny shook her hand violently, as he would a man's, and said: "Mademoiselle Yvette, my friend, Baron Saval."
"Good evening, Monsieur. Are you always as tall as that?"
Servigny replied in that bantering tone which he always used with her, in order to conceal his mistrust and his uncertainty:
"No, Mam'zelle. He has put on his greatest dimensions to please your mother, who loves a colossus."
And the young girl remarked with a comic seriousness: "Very well But when you come to see me you must diminish a little if you please. I prefer the medium height. Now Muscade has just the proportions which I like."
And she gave her hand to the newcomer. Then she asked: "Do you dance, Muscade? Come, let us waltz." Without replying, with a quick movement, passionately, Servigny clasped her waist and they disappeared with the fury of a whirlwind.
They danced more rapidly than any of the others, whirled and whirled, and turned madly, so close together that they seemed but one, and with the form erect, the legs almost motionless, as if some invisible mechanism, concealed beneath their feet, caused them to twirl. They appeared tireless. The other dancers stopped from time to time. They still danced on, alone. They seemed not to know where they were nor what they were doing, as if, they had gone far away from the ball, in an ecstasy. The musicians continued to play, with their looks fixed upon this mad couple; all the guests gazed at them, and when finally they did stop dancing, everyone applauded them.
She was a little flushed, with strange eyes, ardent and timid, less daring than a moment before, troubled eyes, blue, yet with a pupil so black that they seemed hardly natural. Servigny appeared giddy. He leaned against a door to regain his composure.
"You have no head, my poor Muscade, I am steadier than you," said Yvette to Servigny. He smiled nervously, and devoured her with a look. His animal feelings revealed themselves in his eyes and in the curl of his lips. She stood beside him looking down, and her bosom rose and fell in short gasps as he looked at her.
Then she said softly: "Really, there are times when you are like a tiger about to spring upon his prey. Come, give me your arm, and let us find your friend."
Silently he offered her his arm and they went down the long drawing- room together.
Saval was not alone, for the Marquise Obardi had rejoined him. She conversed with him on ordinary and fashionable subjects with a seductiveness in her tones which intoxicated him. And, looking at her with his mental eye, it seemed to him that her lips, uttered words far different from those which they formed. When she saw Servigny her face immediately lighted up, and turning toward him she said:
"You know, my dear Duke, that I have just leased a villa at Bougival for two months, and I count upon your coming to see me there, and upon your friend also. Listen. We take possession next Monday, and shall expect both of you to dinner the following Saturday. We shall keep you over Sunday."
Perfectly serene and tranquil Yvette smiled, saying with a decision which swept away hesitation on his part:
"Of course Muscade will come to dinner on Saturday. We have only to ask him, for he and I intend to commit a lot of follies in the country."
He thought he divined the birth of a promise in her smile, and in her voice he heard what he thought was invitation.
Then the Marquise turned her big, black eyes upon Saval: "And you will, of course, come, Baron?"
With a smile that forbade doubt, he bent toward her, saying, "I shall be only too charmed, Madame."
Then Yvette murmured with malice that was either naive or traitorous: "We will set all the world by the ears down there, won't we, Muscade, and make my regiment of admirers fairly mad." And with a look, she pointed out a group of men who were looking at them from a little distance.
Said Servigny to her: "As many follies as YOU may please, Mam'zelle."
In speaking to Yvette, Servigny never used the word "Mademoiselle," by reason of his close and long intimacy with her.
Then Saval asked: "Why does Mademoiselle always call my friend Servigny 'Muscade'?"
Yvette assumed a very frank air and said:
"I will tell you: It is because he always slips through my hands. Now I think I have him, and then I find I have not."
The Marquise, with her eyes upon Saval, arid evidently preoccupied, said in a careless tone: "You children are very funny."
But Yvette bridled up: "I do not intend to be funny; I am simply frank. Muscade pleases me, and is always deserting me, and that is what annoys me."
Servigny bowed profoundly, saying: "I will never leave you any more, Mam'zelle, neither day nor night." She made a gesture of horror:
"My goodness! no--what do you mean? You are all right during the day, but at night you might embarrass me."
With an air of impertinence he asked: "And why?"
Yvette responded calmly and audaciously, "Because you would not look well en deshabille."
The Marquise, without appearing at all disturbed, said: "What extraordinary subjects for conversation. One would think that you were not at all ignorant of such things."
And Servigny jokingly added: "That is also my opinion, Marquise."
Yvette turned her eyes upon him, and in a haughty, yet wounded, tone said: "You are becoming very vulgar--just as you have been several times lately." And turning quickly she appealed to an individual standing by:
"Chevalier, come and defend me from insult."
A thin, brown man, with an easy carriage, came forward.
"Who is the culprit?" said he, with a constrained smile.
Yvette pointed out Servigny with a nod of her head:
"There he is, but I like him better than I do you, because he is less of a bore."
The Chevalier Valreali bowed:
"I do what I can, Mademoiselle. I may have less ability, but not less devotion."
A gentleman came forward, tall and stout, with gray whiskers, saying in loud tones: "Mademoiselle Yvette, I am your most devoted slave."
Yvette cried: "Ah, Monsieur de Belvigne." Then turning toward Saval, she introduced him.
"My last adorer--big, fat, rich, and stupid. Those are the kind I like. A veritable drum-major--but of the table d'hote. But see, you are still bigger than he. How shall I nickname you? Good! I have it. I shall call you 'M. Colossus of Rhodes, Junior,' from the Colossus
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