Charlus

To go back, now, to the remaining events of the year 1719.

The Marquise de Charlus, sister of Mezieres, and mother of the Marquis de
Levi, who has since become a duke and a peer, died rich and old.  She was
the exact picture of an “old clothes” woman and was thus subject to many
insults from those who did not know her, which she by no means relished.
To relieve a little the seriousness of these memoirs, I will here relate
an amusing adventure of which she was heroine.

She was very avaricious, and a great gambler.  She would have passed the
night up to her knees in water in order to play.  Heavy gambling at
lansquenet was carried on at Paris in the evening, at Madame la Princesse
de Conti’s.  Madame de Charlus supped there one Friday, between the
games, much company being present.  She was no better clad than at other
times, and wore a head-dress, in vogue at that day, called commode, not
fastened, but put on or taken off like a wig or a night-cap.  It was
fashionable, then, to wear these headdresses very high.

Madame de Charlus was near the Archbishop of Rheims, Le Tellier.  She
took a boiled egg, that she cracked, and in reaching for some salt, set
her head dress on fire, at a candle near, without perceiving it. The
Archbishop, who saw her all in flames, seized the head-dress and flung it
upon the ground.  Madame de Charlus, in her surprise, and indignant at
seeing her self thus uncovered, without knowing why, threw her egg in the
Archbishop’s face, and made him a fine mess.

Nothing but laughter was heard; and all the company were in convulsions
of mirth at the grey, dirty, and hoary head of Madame de Charlus, and the
Archbishop’s omelette; above all, at the fury and abuse of Madame de
Charlus, who thought she had been affronted, and who was a long time
before she would understand the cause, irritated at finding herself thus
treated before everybody.  The head-dress was burnt, Madame la Princesse
de Conti gave her another, but before it was on her head everybody had
time to contemplate her charms, and she to grow in fury.

Saint-Simon Memoirs

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