Page:Idalia, by 'Ouida'.djvu/156

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CHAPTER VII.

THE BADGE OF THE SILVER IVY.

It was midnight and mid-winter in Paris, snow lying thick on the ground; dead lying thick in the Morgue; outcasts gnawing the bones dogs had left, and shivering on church-steps built by pious crowds, who glorified God and starved their brethren; aristocrates skimming over the ice, flashing their diamonds in the torchlight, warm in their swansdown and ermine; wretches who dared be both poor and honest, sleeping, famine-stricken, under bridge-arches, as such a twin-insult to a wise world deserved; philosophers, male and female, who were vile, and got gold, and joliment jouaient leurs mondes, drinking Cote and Rhine wines, and laughing at life from velvet couches. It was a bitter icy night, and the contrasts of a great city were at their widest and sharpest, as the chiffonnier searched in the snow for offal as treasure, and the Princess lost in the snow, as a mere bagatelle, wealth in an