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List Of Contents | Contents of Ten Years Later, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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always blooming and fruitful, of which those who wish to eat know how to
detect the good fruit, and from which the worthless and frivolous die who
have eaten of it - a circumstance which is by no means to be regarded as
a great misfortune.  Madame, therefore, who had a well-disguised plan in
her mind of constituting herself the second, if not even the principal,
queen of the court, rendered her receptions delightful to all, from the
conversation, the opportunities of meeting, and the perfect liberty she
allowed every one of making any remark he pleased, on the condition,
however, that the remark was amusing or sensible.  And it will hardly be
believed, that, by that means, there was less talking among the society
Madame assembled together than elsewhere.  Madame hated people who talked
much, and took a remarkably cruel revenge upon them, for she allowed them
to talk.  She disliked pretension, too, and never overlooked that defect,
even in the king himself.  It was more than a weakness of Monsieur, and
the princess had undertaken the amazing task of curing him of it.  As
for the rest, poets, wits, beautiful women, all were received by her with
the air of a mistress superior to her slaves.  Sufficiently meditative in
her liveliest humors to make even poets meditate; sufficiently pretty to
dazzle by her attractions, even among the prettiest; sufficiently witty
for the most distinguished persons who were present, to be listened to
with pleasure - it will easily be believed that the _reunions_ held in
Madame's apartments must naturally have proved very attractive.  All who
were young flocked there, and when the king himself happens to be young,
everybody at court is so too.  And so, the older ladies of the court, the
strong-minded women of the regency, or of the last reign, pouted and
sulked at their ease; but others only laughed at the fits of sulkiness in
which these venerable individuals indulged, who had carried the love of
authority so far as even to take command of bodies of soldiers in the
wars of the Fronde, in order, as Madame asserted, not to lose their
influence over men altogether.  As eight o'clock struck her royal
highness entered the great drawing-room accompanied by her ladies in
attendance, and found several gentlemen belonging to the court already
there, having been waiting for some minutes.  Among those who had arrived
before the hour fixed for the reception she looked round for one who, she
thought, ought to have been first in attendance, but he was not there.
However, almost at the very moment she completed her investigation,
Monsieur was announced.  Monsieur looked splendid.  All the precious
stones and jewels of Cardinal Mazarin, which of course that minister
could not do otherwise than leave; all the queen-mother's jewels as well
as a few belonging to his wife - Monsieur wore them all, and he was as
dazzling as the rising sun.  Behind him followed De Guiche, with
hesitating steps and an air of contrition admirably assumed; De Guiche
wore a costume of French-gray velvet, embroidered with silver, and
trimmed with blue ribbons: he wore also Mechlin lace as rare and
beautiful in its own way as the jewels of Monsieur in theirs.  The plume
in his hat was red.  Madame, too, wore several colors, and preferred red
for embroidery, gray for dress, and blue for flowers.  M. de Guiche,
dressed as we have described, looked so handsome that he excited every
one's observation.  An interesting pallor of complexion, a languid
expression of the eyes, his white hands seen through the masses of lace
that covered them, the melancholy expression of his mouth - it was only
necessary, indeed, to see M. de Guiche to admit that few men at the court
of France could hope to equal him.  The consequence was that Monsieur,
who was pretentious enough to fancy he could eclipse a star even, if a
star had adorned itself in a similar manner to himself, was, on the
contrary, completely eclipsed in all imaginations, which are silent
judges certainly, but very positive and firm in their convictions.
Madame looked at De Guiche lightly, but light as her look had been, it
brought a delightful color to his face.  In fact, Madame found De Guiche
so handsome and so admirably dressed, that she almost ceased regretting
the royal conquest she felt she was on the point of escaping her.  Her
heart, therefore, sent the blood to her face.  Monsieur approached her.
He had not noticed the princess's blush, or if he had seen it, he was far
from attributing it to its true cause.

"Madame," he said, kissing his wife's hand, "there is some one present
here, who has fallen into disgrace, an unhappy exile whom I venture to
recommend to your kindness.  Do not forget, I beg, that he is one of my
best friends, and that a gentle reception of him will please me greatly."

"What exile? what disgraced person are you speaking of?" inquired Madame,
looking all round, and not permitting her glance to rest more on the
count than on the others.

This was the moment to present De Guiche, and the prince drew aside and
let De Guiche pass him, who, with a tolerably well-assumed awkwardness of
manner, approached Madame and made his reverence to her.

"What!" exclaimed Madame, as if she were greatly surprised, "is M. de
Guiche the disgraced individual you speak of, the exile in question?"

"Yes, certainly," returned the duke.

"Indeed," said Madame, "he seems almost the only person here!"

"You are unjust, Madame," said the prince.

"I?"

"Certainly.  Come, forgive the poor fellow."

"Forgive him what?  What have I to forgive M. de Guiche?"

"Come, explain yourself, De Guiche.  What do you wish to be forgiven?"
inquired the prince.

"Alas! her royal highness knows very well what it is," replied the
latter, in a hypocritical tone.

"Come, come, give him your hand, Madame," said Philip.

"If it will give you any pleasure, Monsieur," and, with a movement of her
eyes and shoulders, which it would be impossible to describe, Madame
extended towards the young man her beautiful and perfumed hand, upon
which he pressed his lips.  It was evident that he did so for some little
time, and that Madame did not withdraw her hand too quickly, for the duke
added:

"De Guiche is not wickedly disposed, Madame; so do not be afraid, he will
not bite you."

A pretext was given in the gallery by the duke's remark, which was not,
perhaps, very laughable, for every one to laugh excessively.  The
situation was odd enough, and some kindly disposed persons had observed
it.  Monsieur was still enjoying the effect of his remark, when the king
was announced.  The appearance of the room at that moment was as follows:
- in the center, before the fireplace, which was filled with flowers,
Madame was standing up, with her maids of honor formed in two wings, on
either side of her; around whom the butterflies of the court were
fluttering.  Several other groups were formed in the recesses of the
windows, like soldiers stationed in their different towers who belong to
the same garrison.  From their respective places they could pick up the
remarks which fell from the principal group.  From one of these groups,
the nearest to the fireplace, Malicorne, who had been at once raised to
the dignity, through Manicamp and De Guiche, of the post of master of the
apartments, and whose official costume had been ready for the last two
months, was brilliant with gold lace, and shone upon Montalais, standing
on Madame's extreme left, with all the fire of his eyes and splendor of
his velvet.  Madame was conversing with Mademoiselle de Chatillon and
Mademoiselle de Crequy, who were next to her, and addressed a few words
to Monsieur, who drew aside as soon as the king was announced.
Mademoiselle de la Valliere, like Montalais, was on Madame's left hand,
and the last but one on the line, Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente being
on her right.  She was stationed as certain bodies of troops are, whose
weakness is suspected, and who are placed between two experienced
regiments.  Guarded in this manner by the companions who had shared her
adventure, La Valliere, whether from regret at Raoul's departure, or
still suffering from the emotion caused by recent events, which had begun
to render her name familiar on the lips of the courtiers, La Valliere, we
repeat, hid her eyes, red with weeping, behind her fan, and seemed to
give the greatest attention to the remarks which Montalais and Athenais,
alternately, whispered to her from time to time.  As soon as the king's
name was announced a general movement took place in the apartment.
Madame, in her character as hostess, rose to receive the royal visitor;
but as she rose, notwithstanding her preoccupation of mind, she glanced
hastily towards her right; her glance, which the presumptuous De Guiche
regarded as intended for himself, rested, as it swept over the whole
circle, upon La Valliere, whose warm blush and restless emotion it
instantly perceived.

The king advanced to the middle of the group, which had now become a
general one, by a movement which took place from the circumference to the
center.  Every head bowed low before his majesty, the ladies bending like
frail, magnificent lilies before King Aquilo.  There was nothing very
severe, we will even say, nothing very royal that evening about the king,
except youth and good looks.  He wore an air of animated joyousness and
good-humor which set all imaginations at work, and, thereupon, all
present promised themselves a delightful evening, for no other reason
than from having remarked the desire his majesty had to amuse himself in
Madame's apartments.  If there was any one in particular whose high
spirits and good-humor equalled the king's, it was M. de Saint-Aignan,
who was dressed in a rose-colored costume, with face and ribbons of the
same color, and, in addition, particularly rose-colored in his ideas, for
that evening M. de Saint-Aignan was prolific in jests.  The circumstance
which had given a new expansion to the numerous ideas germinating in his
fertile brain was, that he had just perceived that Mademoiselle de Tonnay-

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