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Villette

27. The Hôtel Crécy
The morrow turned out a more lively and busy day than we - or than I, at least - had
anticipated. It seems it was the birthday of one of the young princes of Labassecour - the
eldest, I think, the Duc de Dindonneaux, and a general holiday was given in his honour at
the schools, and especially at the principal 'Athénée,' or college. The youth of that
institution had also concocted, and were to present a loyal address; for which purpose
they were to be assembled in the public building where the yearly examinations were
conducted, and the prizes distributed. After the ceremony of presentation, an oration, or
'discours,' was to follow from one of the professors.
Several of M. de Bassompierre's friends - the savants - being more or less connected with
the Athénée, they were expected to attend on this occasion; together with the worshipful
municipality of Villette, M. le Chevalier Staas, the burgomaster, and the parents and
kinsfolk of the Athenians in general. M. de Bassompierre was engaged by his friends to
accompany them; his fair daughter would, of course, be of the party, and she wrote a little
note to Ginevra and myself bidding us come early that we might join her.
As Miss Fanshawe and I were dressing in the dormitory of the Rue Fossette, she (Miss
F.) suddenly burst into a laugh.
'What now?' I asked; for she had suspended the operation of arranging her attire, and was
gazing at me.
'It seems so odd,' she replied, with her usual half-honest half-insolent unreserve, 'that you
and I should now be so much on a level, visiting in the same sphere; having the same
connections.'
'Why, yes,' said I; 'I had not much respect for the connections you chiefly frequented a
while ago Mrs. Cholmondeley and Co. would never have suited me at all.'
'Who are you, Miss Snowe?' she inquired, in a tone of such undisguised and
unsophisticated curiosity, as made me laugh in my turn. 'You used to call yourself a
nursery governess; when you first came here you really had the care of the children in
this house: I have seen you carry little Georgette in your arms, like a bonne - few
governesses would have condescended so far - and now Madame Beck treats you with
more courtesy than she treats the Parisienne, St. Pierre; and that proud chit, my cousin,
makes you her bosom friend!'
'Wonderful!' I agreed, much amused at her mystification. 'Who am I indeed? Perhaps a
personage in disguise. Pity I don't look the character.'
'I wonder you are not more flattered by all this,' she went on; 'you take it with strange
composure. If you really are the nobody I once thought you, you must be a cool hand.'
 
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