The Elusive Pimpernel HTML version
IX : Demoiselle Candeille
Her origin was of the humblest, for her mother--so it was said-- had been kitchen-maid in
the household of the Duc de Marny, but Desiree had received some kind of education,
and though she began life as a dresser in one of the minor theatres of Paris, she became
ultimately one of its most popular stars.
She was small and dark, dainty in her manner and ways, and with a graceful little figure,
peculiarly supple and sinuous. Her humble origin certainly did not betray itself in her
hands and feet, which were exquisite in shape and lilliputian in size.
Her hair was soft and glossy, always free from powder, and cunningly arranged so as to
slightly overshadow the upper part of her face.
The chin was small and round, the mouth extraordinarily red, the neck slender and long.
But she was not pretty: so said all the women. Her skin was rather coarse in texture and
darkish in colour, her eyes were narrow and slightly turned upwards at the corners; no!
she was distinctly not pretty.
Yet she pleased the men! Perhaps because she was so artlessly determined to please
them. The women said that Demoiselle Candeille never left a man alone until she had
succeeded in captivating his fancy if only for five minutes; an internal in a dance ... the
time to cross a muddy road.
But for five minutes she was determined to hold any man's complete attention, and to
exact his admiration. And she nearly always succeeded.
Therefore the women hated her. The men were amused. It is extremely pleasant to have
one's admiration compelled, one's attention so determinedly sought after.
And Candeille could be extremely amusing, and as Madelon in Moliere's "Les
Precieuses" was quite inimitable.
This, however, was in the olden days, just before Paris went quite mad, before the Reign
of Terror had set in, and ci-devant Louis the King had been executed.
Candeille had taken it into her frolicsome little head that she would like to go to London.
The idea was of course in the nature of an experiment. Those dull English people over the
water knew so little of what good acting really meant. Tragedy? Well! passons! Their
heavy, large-boned actresses might manage one or two big scenes where a commanding
presence and a powerful voice would not come amiss, and where prominent teeth would
pass unnoticed in the agony of a dramatic climax.