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List Of Contents | Contents of Ten Years Later, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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her jollity, and the birds, for a brief moment silenced, recommence their
songs amid the leafy covert of the trees.  Galatea," said Saint-Aignan,
in conclusion, "is worthy of the admiration of the whole world; and if
she should ever bestow her heart upon another, happy will that man be to
whom she consecrates her first affections."

Madame, who had attentively listened to the portrait Saint-Aignan had
drawn, as, indeed, had all the others, contented herself with
accentuating her approbation of the most poetic passage by occasional
inclinations of her head; but it was impossible to say if these marks of
assent were accorded to the ability of the narrator of the resemblance of
the portrait.  The consequence, therefore, was, that as Madame did not
openly exhibit any approbation, no one felt authorized to applaud, not
even Monsieur, who secretly thought that Saint-Aignan dwelt too much upon
the portraits of the shepherdesses, and had somewhat slightingly passed
over the portraits of the shepherds.  The whole assembly seemed suddenly
chilled.  Saint-Aignan, who had exhausted his rhetorical skill and his
palette of artistic tints in sketching the portrait of Galatea, and who,
after the favor with which his other descriptions had been received,
already imagined he could hear the loudest applause allotted to this last
one, was himself more disappointed than the king and the rest of the
company.  A moment's silence followed, which was at last broken by Madame.

"Well, sir," she inquired,  "What is your majesty's opinion of these
three portraits?"

The king, who wished to relieve Saint-Aignan's embarrassment without
compromising himself, replied, "Why, Amaryllis, in my opinion, is
beautiful."

"For my part," said Monsieur, "I prefer Phyllis; she is a capital girl,
or rather a good-sort-of-fellow of a nymph."

A gentle laugh followed, and this time the looks were so direct, that
Montalais felt herself blushing almost scarlet.

"Well," resumed Madame, "what were those shepherdesses saying to each
other?"

Saint-Aignan, however, whose vanity had been wounded, did not feel
himself in a position to sustain an attack of new and refreshed troops,
and merely said, "Madame, the shepherdesses were confiding to one another
their little preferences."

"Nay, nay!  Monsieur de Saint-Aignan, you are a perfect stream of
pastoral poesy," said Madame, with an amiable smile, which somewhat
comforted the narrator.

"They confessed that love is a mighty peril, but that the absence of love
is the heart's sentence of death."

"What was the conclusion they came to?" inquired Madame.

"They came to the conclusion that love was necessary."

"Very good!  Did they lay down any conditions?"

"That of choice, simply," said Saint-Aignan.  "I ought even to add, -
remember it is the Dryad who is speaking, - that one of the
shepherdesses, Amaryllis, I believe, was completely opposed to the
necessity of loving, and yet she did not positively deny that she had
allowed the image of a certain shepherd to take refuge in her heart."

"Was it Amyntas or Tyrcis?"

"Amyntas, Madame," said Saint-Aignan, modestly.  "But Galatea, the gentle
and soft-eyed Galatea, immediately replied, that neither Amyntas, nor
Alphesiboeus, nor Tityrus, nor indeed any of the handsomest shepherds of
the country, were to be compared to Tyrcis; that Tyrcis was as superior
to all other men, as the oak to all other trees, as the lily in its
majesty to all other flowers.  She drew even such a portrait of Tyrcis
that Tyrcis himself, who was listening, must have felt truly flattered at
it, notwithstanding his rank as a shepherd.  Thus Tyrcis and Amyntas had
been distinguished by Phyllis and Galatea; and thus had the secrets of
two hearts revealed beneath the shades of evening, and amid the recesses
of the woods.  Such, Madame, is what the Dryad related to me; she who
knows all that takes place in the hollows of oaks and grassy dells; she
who knows the loves of the birds, and all they wish to convey by their
songs; she who understands, in fact, the language of the wind among the
branches, the humming of the insect with its gold and emerald wings in
the corolla of the wild-flowers; it was she who related the particulars
to me, and I have repeated them."

"And now you have finished, Monsieur de Saint-Aignan, have you not?" said
Madame, with a smile that made the king tremble.

"Quite finished," replied Saint-Aignan, "and but too happy if I have been
able to amuse your royal highness for a few moments."

"Moments which have been too brief," replied the princess; "for you have
related most admirably all you know; but, my dear Monsieur de Saint-
Aignan, you have been unfortunate enough to obtain your information from
one Dryad only, I believe?"

"Yes, Madame, only from one, I confess."

"The fact was, that you passed by a little Naiad, who pretended to know
nothing at all, and yet knew a great deal more than your Dryad, my dear
comte."

"A Naiad!" repeated several voices, who began to suspect that the story
had a continuation.

"Of course close beside the oak you are speaking of, which, if I am not
mistaken, is called the royal oak - is it not so, Monsieur de Saint-
Aignan?"

Saint-Aignan and the king exchanged glances.

"Yes, Madame," the former replied.

"Well, close beside the oak there is a pretty little spring, which runs
murmuringly over the pebbles, between banks of forget-me-nots and
daffodils."

"I believe you are correct," said the king, with some uneasiness, and
listening with some anxiety to his sister-in-law's narrative.

"Oh! there is one, I can assure you," said Madame; "and the proof of it
is, that the Naiad who resides in that little stream stopped me as I was
about to come."

"Ah?" said Saint-Aignan.

"Yes, indeed," continued the princess, "and she did so in order to
communicate to me many particulars Monsieur de Saint-Aignan has omitted
in his recital."

"Pray relate them yourself, then," said Monsieur, "you can relate stories
in such a charming manner."  The princess bowed at the conjugal
compliment paid her.

"I do not possess the poetical powers of the comte, nor his ability to
bring to light the smallest details."

"You will not be listened to with less interest on that account," said
the king, who already perceived that something hostile was intended in
his sister-in-law's story.

"I speak, too," continued Madame, "in the name of that poor little Naiad,
who is indeed the most charming creature I ever met.  Moreover, she
laughed so heartily while she was telling me her story, that, in
pursuance of that medical axiom that laughter is the finest physic in the
world, I ask permission to laugh a little myself when I recollect her
words."

The king and Saint-Aignan, who noticed spreading over many of the faces
present a distant and prophetic ripple of the laughter Madame announced,
finished by looking at each other, as if asking themselves whether there
was not some little conspiracy concealed beneath these words.  But Madame
was determined to turn the knife in the wound over and over again; she
therefore resumed with the air of the most perfect candor, in other
words, with the most dangerous of all her airs: "Well, then, I passed
that way," she said, "and as I found beneath my steps many fresh flowers
newly blown, no doubt Phyllis, Amaryllis, Galatea, and all your
shepherdesses had passed the same way before me."

The king bit his lips, for the recital was becoming more and more
threatening.  "My little Naiad," continued Madame, "was cooing over her
quaint song in the bed of the rivulet; as I perceived that she accosted
me by touching the hem of my dress, I could not think of receiving her
advances ungraciously, and more particularly so, since, after all, a
divinity, even though she be of a second grade, is always of greater
importance than a mortal, though a princess.  I thereupon accosted the
Naiad, and bursting into laughter, this is what she said to me:

"'Fancy, princess...'  You understand, sire, it is the Naiad who is
speaking?"

The king bowed assentingly; and Madame continued: - "'Fancy, princess,
the banks of my little stream have just witnessed a most amusing scene.
Two shepherds, full of curiosity, even indiscreetly so, have allowed
themselves to be mystified in a most amusing manner by three nymphs, or
three shepherdesses,' - I beg your pardon, but I do not now remember if
it was nymphs or shepherdesses she said; but it does not much matter, so
we will continue."

The king, at this opening, colored visibly, and Saint-Aignan, completely
losing countenance, began to open his eyes in the greatest possible
anxiety.

"'The two shepherds,' pursued my nymph, still laughing, 'followed in the
wake of the three young ladies,' - no, I mean, of the three nymphs;
forgive me, I ought to say, of the three shepherdesses.  It is not always
wise to do that, for it may be awkward for those who are followed.  I
appeal to all the ladies present, and not one of them, I am sure, will
contradict me."

The king, who was much disturbed by what he suspected was about to
follow, signified his assent by a gesture.

"'But,' continued the Naiad, 'the shepherdesses had noticed Tyrcis and
Amyntas gliding into the wood, and, by the light of the moon, they had
recognized them through the grove of the trees.'  Ah, you laugh!"
interrupted Madame; "wait, wait, you are not yet at the end."

The king turned pale; Saint-Aignan wiped his forehead, now dewed with
perspiration.  Among the groups of ladies present could be heard
smothered laughter and stealthy whispers.

"'The shepherdesses, I was saying, noticing how indiscreet the two
shepherds were, proceeded to sit down at the foot of the royal oak; and,
when they perceived that their over-curious listeners were sufficiently
near, so that not a syllable of what they might say could be lost, they
addressed towards them very innocently, in the most artless manner in the
world indeed, a passionate declaration, which from the vanity natural to
all men, and even to the most sentimental of shepherds, seemed to the two

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