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216
VILLETTE.

seated; most of the men remained standing; their sable rank, lining the back-ground, looked like a dark foil to the splendor displayed in front. Nor was this splendor without varying light and shade and gradation: the middle distance was filled with matrons in velvets and satins, in plumes and gems: the benches in the foreground, to the Queen's right hand, seemed devoted exclusively to young girls—the flower—perhaps I should rather say, the bud of Villette aristocracy. There were no jewels, no head-dresses, no velvet pile or silken sheen; purity, simplicity, and aerial grace reigned in that virgin band. Young heads simply braided, and fair forms (I was going to write sylph forms, but that would have been quite untrue); several of these "jeunes filles", who had not numbered more than sixteen or seventeen years, boasted contours as robust and solid as those of a stout Englishwoman of five-and-twenty; fair forms robed in white, or pale rose, or placid blue, suggested thoughts of heaven and angels. I knew a couple, at least, of these "rose et blanches" specimens of humanity. Here were a pair of Madame Beck's late pupils—Mademoiselles Mathilde and Angelique—pupils, who, during their last year ought to have been in the first class, but whose brains never got them beyond the second division. In English, they had been under my own charge, and hard work it was to get them to translate rationally a page of "The Vicar of Wakefield". Also during three mouths I had one of them for my vis-à-vis at table, and the quantity of household butter, and stewed fruit, she would habitually consume at "second déjuner" was a real world's wonder—to be exceeded only by the fact of her actually pocketing elices she could not eat. Here be truths—wholesome truths, too.

I knew another of these seraphs—the prettiest, or, at any rate, the least demure and and hypocritical-looking of the lot: she was seated by the daughter of an English peer, also an honest, though haughty-looking girl; both had entered in the suite of the British embassy. She (i.e. my acquaintance) had a slight pliant figure, not at all like the forms of the foreign damsels; her hair, too, was not close-braided, like a shell or a skull-cap of satin; it looked like hair, and waved from her head, long, curled, and flowing. She chatted away volubly, and seemed full of a light-headed sort of satisfaction with herself and her