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  • BOOK SEVENTH. CHAPTER I.

  • THE DANGER OF CONFIDING ONE'S SECRET TO A GOAT.

  • Many weeks had elapsed. The first of March had arrived.

  • The sun, which Dubartas, that classic ancestor of periphrase, had not yet dubbed

  • the "Grand-duke of Candles," was none the less radiant and joyous on that account.

  • It was one of those spring days which possesses so much sweetness and beauty,

  • that all Paris turns out into the squares and promenades and celebrates them as

  • though they were Sundays.

  • In those days of brilliancy, warmth, and serenity, there is a certain hour above all

  • others, when the facade of Notre-Dame should be admired.

  • It is the moment when the sun, already declining towards the west, looks the

  • cathedral almost full in the face.

  • Its rays, growing more and more horizontal, withdraw slowly from the pavement of the

  • square, and mount up the perpendicular facade, whose thousand bosses in high

  • relief they cause to start out from the

  • shadows, while the great central rose window flames like the eye of a cyclops,

  • inflamed with the reflections of the forge. This was the hour.

  • Opposite the lofty cathedral, reddened by the setting sun, on the stone balcony built

  • above the porch of a rich Gothic house, which formed the angle of the square and

  • the Rue du Parvis, several young girls were

  • laughing and chatting with every sort of grace and mirth.

  • From the length of the veil which fell from their pointed coif, twined with pearls, to

  • their heels, from the fineness of the embroidered chemisette which covered their

  • shoulders and allowed a glimpse, according

  • to the pleasing custom of the time, of the swell of their fair virgin bosoms, from the

  • opulence of their under-petticoats still more precious than their overdress

  • (marvellous refinement), from the gauze,

  • the silk, the velvet, with which all this was composed, and, above all, from the

  • whiteness of their hands, which certified to their leisure and idleness, it was easy

  • to divine they were noble and wealthy heiresses.

  • They were, in fact, Damoiselle Fleur-de-Lys de Gondelaurier and her companions, Diane

  • de Christeuil, Amelotte de Montmichel, Colombe de Gaillefontaine, and the little

  • de Champchevrier maiden; all damsels of

  • good birth, assembled at that moment at the house of the dame widow de Gondelaurier, on

  • account of Monseigneur de Beaujeu and Madame his wife, who were to come to Paris

  • in the month of April, there to choose

  • maids of honor for the Dauphiness Marguerite, who was to be received in

  • Picardy from the hands of the Flemings.

  • Now, all the squires for twenty leagues around were intriguing for this favor for

  • their daughters, and a goodly number of the latter had been already brought or sent to

  • Paris.

  • These four maidens had been confided to the discreet and venerable charge of Madame

  • Aloise de Gondelaurier, widow of a former commander of the king's cross-bowmen, who

  • had retired with her only daughter to her

  • house in the Place du Parvis, Notre-Dame, in Paris.

  • The balcony on which these young girls stood opened from a chamber richly

  • tapestried in fawn-colored Flanders leather, stamped with golden foliage.

  • The beams, which cut the ceiling in parallel lines, diverted the eye with a

  • thousand eccentric painted and gilded carvings.

  • Splendid enamels gleamed here and there on carved chests; a boar's head in faience

  • crowned a magnificent dresser, whose two shelves announced that the mistress of the

  • house was the wife or widow of a knight banneret.

  • At the end of the room, by the side of a lofty chimney blazoned with arms from top

  • to bottom, in a rich red velvet arm-chair, sat Dame de Gondelaurier, whose five and

  • fifty years were written upon her garments no less distinctly than upon her face.

  • Beside her stood a young man of imposing mien, although partaking somewhat of vanity

  • and bravado--one of those handsome fellows whom all women agree to admire, although

  • grave men learned in physiognomy shrug their shoulders at them.

  • This young man wore the garb of a captain of the king's unattached archers, which

  • bears far too much resemblance to the costume of Jupiter, which the reader has

  • already been enabled to admire in the first

  • book of this history, for us to inflict upon him a second description.

  • The damoiselles were seated, a part in the chamber, a part in the balcony, some on

  • square cushions of Utrecht velvet with golden corners, others on stools of oak

  • carved in flowers and figures.

  • Each of them held on her knee a section of a great needlework tapestry, on which they

  • were working in company, while one end of it lay upon the rush mat which covered the

  • floor.

  • They were chatting together in that whispering tone and with the half-stifled

  • laughs peculiar to an assembly of young girls in whose midst there is a young man.

  • The young man whose presence served to set in play all these feminine self-conceits,

  • appeared to pay very little heed to the matter, and, while these pretty damsels

  • were vying with one another to attract his

  • attention, he seemed to be chiefly absorbed in polishing the buckle of his sword belt

  • with his doeskin glove.

  • From time to time, the old lady addressed him in a very low tone, and he replied as

  • well as he was able, with a sort of awkward and constrained politeness.

  • From the smiles and significant gestures of Dame Aloise, from the glances which she

  • threw towards her daughter, Fleur-de-Lys, as she spoke low to the captain, it was

  • easy to see that there was here a question

  • of some betrothal concluded, some marriage near at hand no doubt, between the young

  • man and Fleur-de-Lys.

  • From the embarrassed coldness of the officer, it was easy to see that on his

  • side, at least, love had no longer any part in the matter.

  • His whole air was expressive of constraint and weariness, which our lieutenants of the

  • garrison would to-day translate admirably as, "What a beastly bore!"

  • The poor dame, very much infatuated with her daughter, like any other silly mother,

  • did not perceive the officer's lack of enthusiasm, and strove in low tones to call

  • his attention to the infinite grace with

  • which Fleur-de-Lys used her needle or wound her skein.

  • "Come, little cousin," she said to him, plucking him by the sleeve, in order to

  • speak in his ear, "Look at her, do! see her stoop."

  • "Yes, truly," replied the young man, and fell back into his glacial and absent-

  • minded silence. A moment later, he was obliged to bend down

  • again, and Dame Aloise said to him,--

  • "Have you ever beheld a more gay and charming face than that of your betrothed?

  • Can one be more white and blonde? are not her hands perfect? and that neck--does it

  • not assume all the curves of the swan in ravishing fashion?

  • How I envy you at times! and how happy you are to be a man, naughty libertine that you

  • are!

  • Is not my Fleur-de-Lys adorably beautiful, and are you not desperately in love with

  • her?" "Of course," he replied, still thinking of

  • something else.

  • "But do say something," said Madame Aloise, suddenly giving his shoulder a push; "you

  • have grown very timid."

  • We can assure our readers that timidity was neither the captain's virtue nor his

  • defect. But he made an effort to do what was

  • demanded of him.

  • "Fair cousin," he said, approaching Fleur- de-Lys, "what is the subject of this

  • tapestry work which you are fashioning?"

  • "Fair cousin," responded Fleur-de-Lys, in an offended tone, "I have already told you

  • three times. 'Tis the grotto of Neptune."

  • It was evident that Fleur-de-Lys saw much more clearly than her mother through the

  • captain's cold and absent-minded manner. He felt the necessity of making some

  • conversation.

  • "And for whom is this Neptunerie destined?" "For the Abbey of Saint-Antoine des

  • Champs," answered Fleur-de-Lys, without raising her eyes.

  • The captain took up a corner of the tapestry.

  • "Who, my fair cousin, is this big gendarme, who is puffing out his cheeks to their full

  • extent and blowing a trumpet?"

  • "'Tis Triton," she replied. There was a rather pettish intonation in

  • Fleur-de-Lys's--laconic words.

  • The young man understood that it was indispensable that he should whisper

  • something in her ear, a commonplace, a gallant compliment, no matter what.

  • Accordingly he bent down, but he could find nothing in his imagination more tender and

  • personal than this,--

  • "Why does your mother always wear that surcoat with armorial designs, like our

  • grandmothers of the time of Charles VII.?

  • Tell her, fair cousin, that 'tis no longer the fashion, and that the hinge (gond) and

  • the laurel (laurier) embroidered on her robe give her the air of a walking

  • mantlepiece.

  • In truth, people no longer sit thus on their banners, I assure you."

  • Fleur-de-Lys raised her beautiful eyes, full of reproach, "Is that all of which you

  • can assure me?" she said, in a low voice.

  • In the meantime, Dame Aloise, delighted to see them thus bending towards each other

  • and whispering, said as she toyed with the clasps of her prayer-book,--

  • "Touching picture of love!"

  • The captain, more and more embarrassed, fell back upon the subject of the

  • tapestry,--"'Tis, in sooth, a charming work!" he exclaimed.

  • Whereupon Colombe de Gaillefontaine, another beautiful blonde, with a white

  • skin, dressed to the neck in blue damask, ventured a timid remark which she addressed

  • to Fleur-de-Lys, in the hope that the

  • handsome captain would reply to it, "My dear Gondelaurier, have you seen the

  • tapestries of the Hotel de la Roche-Guyon?"

  • "Is not that the hotel in which is enclosed the garden of the Lingere du Louvre?" asked

  • Diane de Christeuil with a laugh; for she had handsome teeth, and consequently

  • laughed on every occasion.

  • "And where there is that big, old tower of the ancient wall of Paris," added Amelotte

  • de Montmichel, a pretty fresh and curly- headed brunette, who had a habit of sighing

  • just as the other laughed, without knowing why.

  • "My dear Colombe," interpolated Dame Aloise, "do you not mean the hotel which

  • belonged to Monsieur de Bacqueville, in the reign of King Charles VI.? there are indeed

  • many superb high warp tapestries there."

  • "Charles VI.! Charles VI.!" muttered the young captain,

  • twirling his moustache. "Good heavens! what old things the good

  • dame does remember!"

  • Madame de Gondelaurier continued, "Fine tapestries, in truth.

  • A work so esteemed that it passes as unrivalled."

  • At that moment Berangere de Champchevrier, a slender little maid of seven years, who

  • was peering into the square through the trefoils of the balcony, exclaimed, "Oh!

  • look, fair Godmother Fleur-de-Lys, at that

  • pretty dancer who is dancing on the pavement and playing the tambourine in the

  • midst of the loutish bourgeois!" The sonorous vibration of a tambourine was,

  • in fact, audible.