Page:A chambermaid's diary.djvu/234

This page needs to be proofread.

ptuous pout the

rented silverware, the table decoration, Mme. Charrigaud's green costume, and the four butlers whose too long side-whiskers dipped into the dishes. He was filled with vague terrors and agonizing doubts as to the proper appearance of his table and his wife. It was a horrible minute !

After some commonplace and laborious replies, exchanged apropos of trivial topics then current, the conversation gradually became general, and finally settled down upon the subject of correctness in society life.

All these poor devils, all these poor wretches, male and female, forgetting their own social irregu- larities, showed a strangely implacable severity toward persons whom it was allowable to suspect, not even of stains or blemishes, but simply of some formal lack of respect for society laws, — the only ones that ought to be obeyed. Living, in a certain sense, outside of their social ideal, thrown back, so to speak, to the margin of that existence whose disgraced correctness and regularity they honored as a religion, they undoubtedly hoped to get into it again by driving out others. The comicality of this was really intense and savory. They divided the universe into two great parts : on the one side, that which is regular ; on the other, that which is not; here the people that one may receive; there the people that one may not receive. And these two great parts soon became pieces, and the pieces