Chapter I. The Letter.

Towards the middle of the month of May, in the year 1660, at nine
o'clock in the morning, when the sun, already high in the heavens,
was fast absorbing the dew from the ramparts ...
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Chapter I. The Letter.

Towards the middle of the month of May, in the year 1660, at nine
o'clock in the morning, when the sun, already high in the heavens,
was fast absorbing the dew from the ramparts of the castle of Blois, a
little cavalcade, composed of three men and two pages, re-entered
the city by the bridge, without producing any other effect upon the
passengers of the quay beyond a first movement of the hand to the head,
as a salute, and a second movement of the tongue to express, in the
purest French then spoken in France: "There is Monsieur returning from
hunting." And that was all.

Whilst, however, the horses were climbing the steep acclivity which
leads from the river to the castle, several shop-boys approached the
last horse, from whose saddle-bow a number of birds were suspended by
the beak.

On seeing this, the inquisitive youths manifested with rustic freedom
their contempt for such paltry sport, and, after a dissertation among
themselves upon the disadvantages of hawking, they returned to their
occupations; one only of the curious party, a stout, stubby, cheerful
lad, having demanded how it was that Monsieur, who, from his great
revenues, had it in his power to amuse himself so much better, could be
satisfied with such mean diversions.

"Do you not know," one of the standers-by replied, "that Monsieur's
principal amusement is to weary himself?"

The light-hearted boy shrugged his shoulders with a gesture which said
as clear as day: "In that case I would rather be plain Jack than a
prince." And all resumed their labors.

In the meanwhile, Monsieur continued his route with an air at once so
melancholy and so majestic, that he certainly would have attracted the
attention of spectators, if spectators there had been; but the good
citizens of Blois could not pardon Monsieur for having chosen their gay
city for an abode in which to indulge melancholy at his ease, and as
often as they caught a glimpse of the illustrious _ennuye_, they
stole away gaping, or drew back their heads into the interior of their
dwellings, to escape the soporific influence of that long pale face, of
those watery eyes, and that languid address; so that the worthy prince
was almost certain to find the streets deserted whenever he chanced to
pass through them.

Now, on the part of the citizens of Blois this was a culpable piece of
disrespect, for Monsieur was, after the king--nay, even perhaps, before
the king--the greatest noble of the kingdom. In fact, God, who had
granted to Louis XIV., then reigning, the honor of being son of Louis
XIII., had granted to Monsieur the honor of being son of Henry IV. It
was not then, or, at least, it ought not to have been, a trifling source
of pride for the city of Blois, that Gaston of Orleans had chosen it as
his residence, and held his court in the ancient Castle of the States.

But it was the destiny of this great prince to excite the attention and
admiration of the public in a very modified degree wherever he might be.
Monsieur had fallen into this situation by habit.

It was not, perhaps, this which gave him that air of listlessness.
Monsieur had already been tolerably busy in the course of his life. A
man cannot allow the heads of a dozen of his best friends to be cut
off without feeling a little excitement; and as, since the accession of
Mazarin to power, no heads had been cut off, Monsieur's occupation was
gone, and his _morale_ suffered from it.

The life of the poor prince was then very dull. After his little morning
hawking-party on the banks of the Beuvron, or in the woods of Cheverny,
Monsieur crossed the Loire, went to breakfast at Chambord, with
or without an appetite, and the city of Blois heard no more of its
sovereign lord and master till the next hawking-day.

So much for the ennui _extra muros_; of the ennui of the interior we
will give the reader an idea if he will with us follow the cavalcade to
the majestic porch of the Castle of the States.

Monsieur rode a little steady-paced horse, equipped with a large saddle
of red Flemish velvet, with stirrups in the shape of buskins; the horse
was of a bay color; Monsieur's pourpoint of crimson velvet corresponded
with the cloak of the same shade and the horse's equipment, and it was
only by this red appearance of the whole that the prince could be known
from his two companions, the one dressed in violet, the other in green.
He on the left, in violet, was his equerry; he on the right, in green,
was the grand veneur.

One of the pages carried two gerfalcons upon a perch, the other a
hunting-horn, which he blew with a careless note at twenty paces from
the castle.
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Product Details

  • BN ID: 2940012859990
  • Publisher: SAP
  • Publication date: 3/10/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 484 KB

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