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Yvette Samoris
by [?]

“The Comtesse Samoris.”

“That lady in black over there?”

“The very one. She’s wearing mourning for her daughter, whom she killed.”

“You don’t mean that seriously? How did she die?”

“Oh! it is a very simple story, without any crime in it, any violence.”

“Then what really happened?”

“Almost nothing. Many courtesans are born to be virtuous women, they say; and many women called virtuous are born to be courtesans–is that not so? Now, Madame Samoris, who was born a courtesan, had a daughter born a virtuous woman, that’s all.”

“I don’t quite understand you.”

“I’ll–explain what I mean. The comtesse is nothing but a common, ordinary parvenue originating no one knows where. A Hungarian or Wallachian countess or I know not what. She appeared one winter in apartments she had taken in the Champs Elysees, that quarter for adventurers and adventuresses, and opened her drawing-room to the first comer or to any one that turned up.

“I went there. Why? you will say. I really can’t tell you. I went there, as every one goes to such places because the women are facile and the men are dishonest. You know that set composed of filibusters with varied decorations, all noble, all titled, all unknown at the embassies, with the exception of those who are spies. All talk of their honor without the slightest occasion for doing so, boast of their ancestors, tell you about their lives, braggarts, liars, sharpers, as dangerous as the false cards they have up their sleeves, as delusive as their names– in short, the aristocracy of the bagnio.

“I adore these people. They are interesting to study, interesting to know, amusing to understand, often clever, never commonplace like public functionaries. Their wives are always pretty, with a slight flavor of foreign roguery, with the mystery of their existence, half of it perhaps spent in a house of correction. They have, as a rule, magnificent eyes and incredible hair. I adore them also.

“Madame Samoris is the type of these adventuresses, elegant, mature and still beautiful. Charming feline creatures, you feel that they are vicious to the marrow of their bones. You find them very amusing when you visit them; they give card parties; they have dances and suppers; in short, they offer you all the pleasures of social life.

“And she had a daughter–a tall, fine-looking girl, always ready for amusement, always full of laughter and reckless gaiety–a true adventuress’ daughter–but, at the same time, an innocent, unsophisticated, artless girl, who saw nothing, knew nothing, understood nothing of all the things that happened in her father’s house.

“The girl was simply a puzzle to me. She was a mystery. She lived amid those infamous surroundings with a quiet, tranquil ease that was either terribly criminal or else the result of innocence. She sprang from the filth of that class like a beautiful flower fed on corruption.”

“How do you know about them?”

“How do I know? That’s the funniest part of the business! One morning there was a ring at my door, and my valet came up to tell me that M. Joseph Bonenthal wanted to speak to me. I said directly:

“‘And who is this gentleman?’ My valet replied: ‘I don’t know, monsieur; perhaps ’tis some one that wants employment.’ And so it was. The man wanted me to take him as a servant. I asked him where he had been last. He answered: ‘With the Comtesse Samoris.’ ‘Ah!’ said I, ‘but my house is not a bit like hers.’ ‘I know that well, monsieur,’ he said, ‘and that’s the very reason I want to take service with monsieur. I’ve had enough of these people: a man may stay a little while with them, but he won’t remain long with them.’ I required an additional man servant at the time and so I took him.