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Though Edna had spoken of the dinner as a very grand affair,
it was in truth a very small affair and very select, in so much as
the guests invited were few and were selected with discrimination.
She had counted upon an even dozen seating themselves at her round
mahogany board, forgetting for the moment that Madame Ratignolle
was to the last degree souffrante and unpresentable, and not
foreseeing that Madame Lebrun would send a thousand regrets at the
last moment. So there were only ten, after all, which made a cozy,
There were Mr. and Mrs. Merriman, a pretty, vivacious little
woman in the thirties; her husband, a jovial fellow, something of
a shallow-pate, who laughed a good deal at other people's
witticisms, and had thereby made himself extremely popular. Mrs.
Highcamp had accompanied them. Of course, there was Alcee Arobin;
and Mademoiselle Reisz had consented to come. Edna had sent her a
fresh bunch of violets with black lace trimmings for her hair.
Monsieur Ratignolle brought himself and his wife's excuses.
Victor Lebrun, who happened to be in the city, bent upon relaxation,
had accepted with alacrity. There was a Miss Mayblunt, no longer
in her teens, who looked at the world through lorgnettes and with
the keenest interest. It was thought and said that she was
intellectual; it was suspected of her that she wrote under a
nom de guerre. She had come with a gentleman by the name of Gouvernail,
connected with one of the daily papers, of whom nothing special could be said,
except that he was observant and seemed quiet and inoffensive. Edna herself
made the tenth, and at half-past eight they seated themselves at table,
Arobin and Monsieur Ratignolle on either side of their hostess.
Mrs. Highcamp sat between Arobin and Victor Lebrun. Then came
Mrs. Merriman, Mr. Gouvernail, Miss Mayblunt, Mr. Merriman, and
Mademoiselle Reisz next to Monsieur Ratignolle.
There was something extremely gorgeous about the appearance of
the table, an effect of splendor conveyed by a cover of pale yellow
satin under strips of lace-work. There were wax candles, in
massive brass candelabra, burning softly under yellow silk shades;