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Petticoat rule


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Title:PetticoatRule
Author:EmmuskaOrczy,BaronessOrczy
ReleaseDate:December15,2010[EBook#34660]
Language:English

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PETTICOATRULE
BY


BARONESSORCZY
AUTHOROF"THEELUSIVEPIMPERNEL,""I
WILLREPAY,""THESCARLETPIMPERNEL,"ETC.
publisher'slogo
HODDER&STOUGHTON
NEWYORK
GEORGEH.DORANCOMPANY
Copyright,1909,
ByBaronessOrczy
Copyright,1910,
ByGeorgeH.DoranCompany

TO
THEODOREWATTS-DUNTON
THEKINDFRIENDWHOSEAPPRECIATIONHAS
CHEEREDME,THE
IDEALISTWHOSEWORKHASGUIDEDME,THE
BRILLIANT
INTELLECTWHOSEPRAISEHASENCOURAGED
ME
THISBOOKISDEDICATED
INTOKENOFADMIRATION,REGARD,AND
FRIENDSHIP


EMMUSKAORCZY


CONTENTS
PARTI
THEGIRL
CHAPTER

PAGE

I. —AFAREWELLBANQUET
II. —THERULERSOFFRANCE
III. —POMPADOUR'SCHOICE
IV. —AWOMAN'SSURRENDER
V. —THEFIRSTTRICK


VI. —AFALSEPOSITION
VII. —THEYOUNGPRETENDER
VIII. —THELASTTRICK
IX. —THEWINNINGHAND

3
10
23
32
45
51
58
72
82

PARTII
THESTATESMAN
X. —THEBEGGARONHORSEBACK
XI. —LABELLEIRÈNE
XII. —THEPROMISESOFFRANCE
XIII. —THEWEIGHTOFETIQUETTE
XIV. —ROYALFAVOURS
XV. —DIPLOMACY
XVI. —STRANGERS

PARTIII

95
103
112
127
136
148
160


THEWOMAN
XVII. —SPLENDIDISOLATION
XVIII. —CLEVERTACTICS
XIX. —ACRISIS
XX. —AFAREWELL
XXI. —ROYALTHANKS
XXII. —PATERNALANXIETY
XXIII. —THEQUEEN'SSOIRÉE
XXIV. —GOSSIP
XXV. —THEFIRSTDOUBT
XXVI. —THEAWFULCERTITUDE
XXVII. —AFALL
XXVIII. —HUSBANDANDWIFE
XXIX. —THEFATEOFTHESTUARTPRINCE
XXX. —M.DESTAINVILLE'SSECONDS
XXXI. —THEFINALDISAPPOINTMENT
XXXII. —THEDAWN
XXXIII. —THERIDE
XXXIV. —"LEMONARQUE"
XXXV. —THESTRANGER
XXXVI. —REVENGE
XXXVII. —THELETTER
XXXVIII. —THEHOMEINENGLAND

179
185
201
212
215
221
228
233
238
245
267
276
294
308
321
328
333
338
349
359
370
375


PARTI
THEGIRL

PETTICOATRULE
CHAPTERI
AFAREWELLBANQUET
"D'Aumont!"
"Eh?d'Aumont!"
Thevoice,thatofamanstillintheprimeoflife,butalreadyraucousinitstone,
thickenedthroughconstantmirthlesslaughter,renderedqueruloustoofromlong
vigilskeptattheshrineofpleasure,roseabovetheincessantbabelofwomen's
chatter,thedinofsilver,chinaandglassespassingtoandfro.
"Yourcommands,sire?"
M.leDucd'Aumont,MarshalofFrance,primeandsoleresponsibleMinisterof
LouistheWell-beloved,leantslightlyforward,withelbowsrestingonthetable,
anddelicatehands,withfingersinterlaced,whiteandcarefullytendedasthose
ofaprettywoman,supportinghisroundandsomewhatfleshychin.
AhandsomemanM.leDuc,stillontherightsideoffifty,courtlyandpleasantmanneredtoall.HasnotBoucherimmortalizedthegood-natured,ratherweak
face,withthatperpetualsmileofunruffledamiabilityforeverlurkingroundthe
cornersofthefull-lippedmouth?
"Yourcommands,sire?"
Hiseyes—grayandprominent—roamedwitharapidmovementofenquiryfrom
thefaceofthekingtothatofayoungmanwithfair,curlyhair,wornfreefrom
powder,andeyesrestlessandblue,whichstaredmoodilyintoagobletfullof
wine.
Therewasamomentarysilenceinthevastandmagnificentdininghall,that
suddenhushwhich—sothesuperstitiousaver—descendsthreetimesonevery
assembly,howevergay,howeverbrilliantorthoughtless:thehushwhichtothe


imaginativemindsuggeststheflutterofunseenwings.
ThenthesilencewasbrokenbyloudlaughterfromtheKing.
"Theyaremad,theseEnglish,myfriend!What?"saidLouistheWell-beloved
withaknowingwinkdirectedatthefair-hairedyoungmanwhosatnotfarfrom
him.
"Mad,indeed,sire?"repliedtheDuke."Butsurelynotmoreconspicuouslysotonightthanatanyothertime?"
"Ofatruth,ahundredthousandtimesmoreso,"hereinterposedasomewhat
shrillfemininevoice—"andthatbythemostrigidrulesofbrain-splitting
arithmetic!"
Everyonelistened.Conversationswereinterrupted;glasseswereputdown;
eager,attentivefacesturnedtowardthespeaker;thiswasnolessapersonage
thanJeannePoissonnowMarquisedePompadour;andwhensheopenedher
prettymouthLouistheWell-beloved,descendantofSaintLouis,KingofFrance
andofallherdominionsbeyondtheseas,hungbreathlessuponthosewellrougedlips,whilstFrancesatsilentandlistened,eagerforashareofthatsmile
whichenslavedaKingandruinedanation.
"Letushavethatrigidruleofarithmetic,fairone,"saidLouisgaily,"bywhich
youcandemonstratetousthatM.leChevalierhereisahundredthousandtimes
moremadthananyofhisaccursedcountrymen."
"Nay,sire,'tissimpleenough,"rejoinedthelady."M.leChevalierhathneedofa
hundredthousandothersinordertomakehisinsanitycomplete,ahundred
thousandEnglishmenasmadasAprilfishes,tohelphimconquerakingdomof
rainandfogs.ThereforeIsayheisahundredthousandtimesmoremadthan
most!"
Loudlaughtergreetedthissally.Mme.laMarquisedePompadour,solittlewhile
agosimplyJeannePoissonorMme.d'Étioles,wasnotyetblaséetosomuch
adulationandsuchfulsomeflattery;shelookedaveritableheavenofangelic
smiles;hereyesblue—soherdithyrambicchroniclersaver—asthedark-toned
myosotis,wanderedfromfacetofacealongthelengthofthatgorgeouslyspread
suppertable,roundwhichwascongregatedthefloweroftheoldaristocracyof
France.
Shegleanedanadmiringglancehere,anunspokenmurmurofflatterythere,


eventhewomen—andthereweremany—triedtolookapprovinglyatherwho
ruledtheKingandFrance.Onefacealoneremainedinscrutableandalmost
severe,thefaceofawoman—ameregirl—withstraightbrowandlow,square
forehead,crownedwithawealthofsoftbrownhair,therichtonesofwhich
peepeddaringlythroughtheconventionalmistofpowder.
Mme.dePompadour'ssunnysmiledisappearedmomentarilywhenhereyes
restedonthisgirl'sface;afrown—oh!hardlythat;butashadow,shallwesay?
—marredtheperfectpurityofherbrow.Thenextmomentshehadyieldedher
much-beringedhandtoherroyalworshipper'seagergraspandhewaspressinga
kissoneachrose-tippedfinger,whilstsheshruggedherprettyshoulders.
"Brrr!"shesaid,withamockshiver,"hereisMlle.d'Aumontfrowningstern
disapprovalatme.Surely,Chevalier,"sheasked,turningtotheyoungman
besideher,"acomfortablearmchairinyourbeautifulpalaceofSt.Germainis
worthathroneinmist-boundLondon?"
"Notwhenthatthroneishisbyright,"hereinterposedMlle.d'Aumontquietly.
"ThepalaceofSt.GermainisbutagifttotheKingofEngland,forwhichhe
owesgratitudetotheKingofFrance."
Aquickblushnowsuffusedthecheeksoftheyoungman,whouptonowhad
seemedquiteunconsciousofMme.dePompadour'ssalliesorofthehilarity
directedagainsthimself.HegavearapidglanceatMlle.d'Aumont'shaughty,
somewhatimperiousfaceandatthedelicatemouth,roundwhichanalmost
imperceptiblecurlofcontemptseemedstilltolinger.
"La!Mademoiselle,"rejoinedtheMarquise,withsomeacerbity,"dowenotall
holdgiftsatthehandsoftheKingofFrance?"
"Wehavenosovereigntyofourown,Madame,"repliedtheyounggirldrily.
"Asforme,"quothKingLouis,hastilyinterposinginthisfemininepassageof
arms,"IdrinktoourgallantChevalierdeSt.George,HisMajestyKingCharles
EdwardStuartofEngland,Scotland,Wales,andofthewholeofthatfog-ridden
kingdom.Successtoyourcause,Chevalier,"headded,settlinghisfatbody
complacentlyinthecushionsofhischair;andraisinghisglass,henodded
benignlytowardtheyoungPretender.
"ToKingCharlesEdwardofEngland!"rejoinedMme.dePompadourgaily.
And"ToKingCharlesEdwardofEngland!"wentechoingallaroundthevast


banqueting-hall.
"Ithankyouall,"saidtheyoungman,whosesullenmoodseemedinnoway
dissipatedattheseexpressionsofgraciousnessandfriendship."Successtomy
causeisassuredifFrancewilllendmetheaidshepromised."
"WhatrighthaveyoutodoubtthewordofFrance,Monseigneur?"retortedMlle.
d'Aumontearnestly.
"Atruce!atruce!Ientreat,"herebrokeinKingLouiswithmockconcern."Par
Dieu,thisisabanquetandnotaCouncilChamber!Joyofmylife,"headded,
turningeyesrepletewithadmirationonthebeautifulwomanbesidehim,"donot
allowpoliticstomarthispleasantentertainment.M.leDuc,youareourhost,I
prayyoudirectconversationintomorepleasingchannels."
Nothingloth,thebrilliantcompanytherepresentquicklyresumedthe
irresponsiblechatterwhichwasfarmoretoitslikingthantalkofthronesand
doubtfulcauses.Theflunkeysingorgeousliveriesmadetheroundofthetable,
fillingthecrystalglasseswithwine.Theatmospherewasheavywiththefumes
ofpastgoodcheer,andthescentofathousandrosesfadingbeneaththeglareof
innumerablewax-candles.Anodourofperfume,ofpowderandcosmetics
hoveredintheair;themen'sfaceslookedredandheated;ononeortwoheads
thewigstoodawry,whilsttremblingfingersbeganfidgetingwiththelacecravatsatthethroat.
CharlesEdward'srestlessblueeyessearchedkeenlyandfeverishlythefaces
aroundhim;morose,gloomy,hewasstillreckoninginhismindhowfarhe
couldtrusttheseirresponsiblepleasure-lovers,thatdescendantofthegreatLouis
overthere,fatofbodyandheavyofmind,losttoallsenseofkinglydignity
whilstsquanderingthenation'smoneyonthewhimsandcapricesoftheex-wife
ofaParisianvictualler,whomhehadcreatedMarquisedePompadour.
Thesemenwholivedonlyforgoodcheer,forheadywines,gamesofdiceand
hazard,nightsofdebauchandillicitpleasures,whathelpwouldtheybetohimin
thehourofneed?Whatsupportincaseoffailure?
"WhatrighthaveyoutodoubtthewordofFrance?"wasaskedofhimbyone
pairofproudlips—awoman's,onlyagirl's.
CharlesEdwardlookedacrossthetableatMlle.d'Aumont.Likehimself,shesat
silentinthemidstofthenoisythrong,obviouslylendingaveryinattentiveearto


thewhisperingsofthehandsomecavalierbesideher.
Ah!iftheywerealllikeher,ifshewerearepresentativeofthewholenationof
France,theyoungadventurerwouldhavegonetohishazardousexpeditionwith
astauncherandalighterheart.But,asmattersstood,whatcouldheexpect?
Whathadhegotasaseriousassetinthisgambleforlifeandathrone?Afew
vaguepromisesfromthatflabby,weak-kneedcreatureoverthereonwhomthe
crownofSaintLouissatsostrangelyandsoill;afewsmilesfromthatfrivolous
andvainwoman,whodrainedtheveryheart'sbloodofanimpoverishednation
toitslastdrop,inordertosatisfyhercostlywhimsorchaseawaythefrownsof
ennuifromthebrowofaneffetemonarch.
Andwhatbesides?
Afarewellsupper,ringingtoasts,goodwine,expensivefoodofferedbyM.le
Ducd'Aumont,thePrimeMinisterofFrance—athousandroses,nowfading,
whichhadcostasmallfortunetocoaxintobloom;ahandshakefromhisfriends
inFrance;a"God-speed"and"Dieuvousgarde,Chevalier!"andafewwordsof
sternencouragementfromagirl.
Withallthatinhand,ChevalierSt.George,goandconqueryourkingdom
beyondthesea!

CHAPTERII
THERULERSOFFRANCE
Greatactivityreignedinthecorridorsandkitchensoftheoldchâteau.M.le
Chef—theonlytruerivaltheimmortalVateleverhad—inwhitecapandapron,
calmandself-possessedasafield-marshalinthehourofvictory,andsurrounded
byanarmyofscullionsandwenches,wasdirectingtheoperationsofdishing-up
—thecrowninggloryofhisarduouslabours.Piesandpatties,haunchesof
venison,troutandcarpfromtheRhinewereplacedongoldandsilverdishesand
adornedwithtastefulornamentsoftrulyarchitecturalbeautyandmonumental
proportions.Thesewerethenhandedovertothefootmen,who,resplendentin
gorgeousliveriesofscarletandazure,hurriedalongthemarblepassages
carryingthemasterpiecesofculinaryarttothebanqueting-hallbeyond,whilst
thebutlers,moresedateanddignifiedinsobergarbofpuceorbrown,stalked


alonginstatelyreposebearingthehugetankardsandcrystaljugs.
AllofthebestthatthefineoldChâteaud'Aumontcouldprovidewasbeing
requisitionedto-night,sinceM.leDucandMlle.Lydie,hisdaughter,were
givingafarewellbanquettoCharlesEdwardStuartbythegraceofGod—ifnot
bythewillofthepeople—KingofGreatBritainandIrelandandallher
dependenciesbeyondtheseas.
Forhimspeechesweremade,toastsdrunkandglassesraised;forhimtheducal
venerieshadbeenransacked,theducalcellarsshornoftheirmostancient
possessions;forhimM.leChefhadragedandstormedforfivehours,had
expendedthesweatofhisbrowandtheintricaciesofhisbrain;forhimthe
scullions'backshadsmarted,thewenches'cheekshadglowed,alltodohonour
totheonlyrightfulKingofEnglandabouttoquitthehospitablelandofFrance
inordertoconquerthatislandkingdomwhichhisgrandfatherhadlost.
Butinthenoblesalled'armes,ontheotherhand,therereignedapompousand
dignifiedsilence,instrangecontrasttothebustleandagitationofthekitchens
andthenoiseofloudvoicesandlaughterthatissuedfromthebanquetinghall
wheneveradoorwasopenedandquicklyshutagain.
Hereperfumedcandlesflickeredinmassivecandelabra,sheddingdimcirclesof
goldenlightoncarvedwoodwork,marblefloor,anddull-tonedtapestries.The
majesticlionsofD'Aumontfrownedstolidlyfromtheirhighpedestalsonthis
sereneabodeofpeaceanddignity,onefootrestingonthegildedshieldwiththe
elaboratecoat-of-armsblazonedthereoninscarletandazure,theotherpoised
aloftasifinsolemnbenediction.
M.Joseph,ownbodyservanttoM.leDuc,inmagnificentD'Aumontlivery,his
cravatamarvelofcostlysimplicity,hiselegant,well-turnedcalves—encasedin
finesilkstockings—stretchedlazilybeforehim,wassprawlingonthebrocadecovereddivaninthecentreoftheroom.
M.Bénédict,equallyresplendentinagarbofmotleythatrecalledtheheraldic
coloursoftheComtedeStainville,stoodbeforehim,notinanattitudeof
deferenceofcourse,butinoneofeasyfriendship;whilstM.Achille—ablazeof
scarletandgold—washoldingoutanelegantsilversnuff-boxtoM.Joseph,who,
withoutanysuperfluousmotionofhisdignifiedperson,condescendedtotakea
pinch.
Witharmandelbowheldatagracefulangle,M.Josephpausedintheveryactof


conveyingthesnufftohisdelicatenostrils.Heseemedtothinkthattheoccasion
calledforaremarkfromhimself,butevidentlynothingveryappropriate
occurredtohimforthemoment,soafterafewsecondsofimpressivesilencehe
finallypartookofthesnuff,andthenflickedoffthegrainsofdustfromhis
immaculateazurewaistcoatwithalace-edgedhandkerchief.
"WheredoesyourMarquisgethissnuff?"heaskedwithaneasygraciousnessof
manner.
"WegetitdirectfromLondon,"repliedM.Achillesententiously."Iam
personallyacquaintedwithMme.Véronique,whoiscooktoMme.dela
BeaumeandthesweetheartofJeanLaurent,ownbody-servanttoGeneralde
Puisieux.TheoldGeneralisChiefofCustomsatHavre,soyouseewepayno
dutyandgetthebestofsnuffataridiculousprice."
"Ah!that'sluckyforyou,mygoodEglinton,"saidM.Bénédict,withasigh.
"YourMarquisisagoodsort,andasheisnotpersonallyacquaintedwithMme.
Véronique,Idoubtnotbuthepaysfullpriceforhissnuff."
"Onehastolive,friendStainville,"quothAchillesolemnly—"andIamnota
fool!"
"Exactlyso;andwithanEnglishmiloryourlifeisaneasyone,Monsieur."
"Comme-ci!comme-ça!"noddedAchilledeprecatingly.
"LepetitAnglaisisveryrich?"suggestedBénédict.
"Boundlesslyso!"quoththeother,withconsciouspride.
"Now,ifperchanceyoucouldseeyourwaytointroducingmetoMme.
Véronique.Eh?IhavetopayfullpriceformyCount'ssnuff,andhewillhave
nonebutthebest;butifIcouldgetMme.Véronique'sprotection——"
Achille'smannerimmediatelychangedatthissuggestion,madewithbecoming
diffidence;hedrewbackafewstepsasiftoemphasizethedistancewhichmust
ofnecessityliebetweensupplicantandpatron.Hetookapinchofsnuff,heblew
hisnosewithstatelydeliberation—allinordertokeepthepetitionerwaitingon
tenterhooks.
Finallyhedrewuphisscarletandgoldshouldersuntiltheyalmosttouchedhis
ears.


"Itwillbedifficult,very,verydifficultmygoodStainville,"hesaidatlast,
speakinginmeasuredtones."Yousee,Mme.Véroniqueisinaverydelicate
position;shehasagreatdealofinfluenceofcourse,anditisnoteasytoobtain
herprotection.Still,IwillseewhatIcando,andyoucanplaceyourpetition
beforeher."
"Donotworryyourself,mygoodEglinton,"hereinterposedM.Bénédictwith
becominghauteur."Ithoughtasyouhadaskedmeyesterdaytousemyinfluence
withourMlle.Mariette,thefiancéeofColonelJauffroy'sthirdfootman,with
regardtoyournephew'sadvancementinhisregiment,thatperhaps——Butno
matter—nomatter!"headded,withadeprecatorywaveofthehand.
"Youcompletelymisunderstoodme,mydearStainville,"brokeinM.Achille,
eagerly."Isaidthatthematterwasdifficult;Ididnotsaythatitwasimpossible.
Mme.Véroniqueisbesetwithpetitions,butyoumayrelyonmyfriendship.I
willobtainthenecessaryintroductionforyouifyou,ontheotherhand,willbear
mynephew'sinterestsinmind."
"Saynomoreaboutit,mygoodEglinton,"saidBénédict,witheasy
condescension;"yournephewwillgethispromotiononthewordofa
Stainville."
Peaceandamitybeingoncemorerestoredbetweenthetwofriends,M.Joseph
thoughtthathehadnowremainedsilentfarlongerthanwascompatiblewithhis
ownimportance.
"Itisverydifficult,ofcourse,inourposition,"hesaidpompously,"todojustice
tothemanydemandswhicharemadeonourinfluenceandpatronage.Takemy
owncase,forinstance—myDukeleavesallappointmentsinmyhands.Inthe
morning,whilstIshavehim,Ihavebuttomentionanametohiminconnection
withanypostunderGovernmentthathappenstobevacant,andimmediatelythe
favouredone,thusnamedbyme,receivesattention,nearlyalwaysfollowedbya
nomination."
"Hem!hem!"cameverydiscreetlyfromthelipsofM.Bénédict.
"Yousaid?"queriedJoseph,withaslightliftingoftherighteyebrow.
"Oh!nothing—nothing!Iprayyoucontinue;thematterisvastlyentertaining."
"Atthepresentmoment,"continuedM.Joseph,keepingasuspiciouseyeonthe
otherman,"Iamdeeplyworriedbythisproposalwhichcomesfromthe


ParliamentsofRennesandParis."
"AnewMinistryofFinancetobeformed,"quothM.Achille."Weknowall
aboutit."
"Withdirectcontrolofthenation'smoneyandresponsibletotheParliaments
alone,"assentedJoseph."TheParliaments!Bah!"headdedintonesofsupreme
contempt,"bourgeoisthelotofthem!"
"Theirdemandsarepreposterous,sosaysmymilor.'TisamarvelHisMajesty
hasgivenhisconsent."
"IhaveadvisedmyDukenottolistentotherabble,"saidJoseph,ashe
readjustedthesetofhiscravat."AMinistryresponsibletotheParliaments!
Ridiculous,Isay!"
"Iunderstand,though,"hereinterposedM.Achille,"thattheParliaments,outof
deferenceforHisMajestyarewillingthattheKinghimselfshallappointthis
newComptrollerofFinance."
"TheKing,mygoodEglinton,"calmlyretortedM.Joseph—"theKingwillleave
thismattertous.Youmaytakeitfrommethatweshallappointthisnew
Minister,andanextremelypleasantpostitwillbe.ComptrollerofFinance!All
thetaxestopassthroughtheMinister'shands!ParDieu!doesitnotopenouta
widefieldforanambitiousman?"
"Hem!hem!"coughedM.Bénédictagain.
"Youseemtobesufferingfromacold,sir,"saidM.Josephirritably.
"Notintheleast,"rejoinedBénédicthastily—"aslightticklinginthethroat.You
weresaying,M.Joseph,thatyouhopedthisnewappointmentwouldfallwithin
yoursphereofinfluence."
"Nay!Ifyoudoubtme,mygoodStainville——"AndM.Josephrosewithslow
andsolemnmajestyfromthedivan,wherehehadbeenreclining,andwalking
acrosstheroomwithameasuredstep,hereachedanescritoirewhereoninkand
pens,letterstiedupinbundles,loosepapers,andalltheusualparaphernalia
commonlyfoundonthedeskofabusyman.M.Josephsatdownatthetableand
rangahandbell.
Thenextmomentayoungfootmanentered,silentanddeferential.


"Isanyoneintheante-room,Paul?"askedJoseph.
"Yes,M.Joseph."
"Howmany?"
"Aboutthirtypersons."
"Gotellthem,then,thatM.Josephisnotreceivingto-night.Heisentertaininga
circleoffriends.Bringmeallwrittenpetitions.Ishallbevisibleinmydressing
roomtothosewhohaveapersonalintroductionateleveno'clockto-morrow.
Youmaygo!"
Silentlyashehadentered,theyoungmanbowedandwithdrew.
M.Josephwheeledroundinhischairandturnedtohisfriendswithalookof
becomingtriumph.
"Thirtypersons!"heremarkedsimply.
"Allafterthisappointment?"queriedAchille.
"Theirrepresentatives,yousee,"explainedM.Josephairily."Oh!myantechamberisalwaysfull—Youunderstand?IshavemyDukeeverymorning;and
everyone,itseemstome,iswantingtocontrolthefinancesofFrance."
"Mightoneinquirewhoisyourspecialprotégé?"askedtheother.
"Timewillshow,"camewithcrypticvaguenessfromthelipsofM.Joseph.
"Hem!hem!"
Inadditiontoaslightticklingofthethroat,M.Bénédictseemedtobesuffering
fromanaffectionofthelefteyewhichcausedhimtowinkwithsomewhat
persistentemphasis:
"Thisisthethirdtimeyouhavemadethatremark,Stainville,"saidJoseph
severely.
"Ididnotremark,mydearD'Aumont,"rejoinedBénédictpleasantly—"thatis,I
merelysaid'Hem!hem!'"
"Evenso,Iheardyou,"saidJoseph,withsomeacerbity;"andIwouldwishto
knowpreciselywhatyoumeantwhenyousaid'Hem!hem!'likethat."


"IwasthinkingofMlle.Lucienne,"saidBénédict,withasentimentalsigh.
"Indeed!"
"Yes!Iamoneofhersweethearts—thefourthinpointoffavour.Mlle.Lucienne
hasyouryounglady'sear,mygoodD'Aumont,andweallknowthatyourDuke
governsthewholeofFranceexactlyashisdaughterwisheshimtodo."
"AndyouhopethroughMlle.Lucienne'sinfluencetoobtainthenewpostof
ComptrollerforyourownCount?"askedM.Joseph,withassumedcarelessness,
ashedrummedadevil'stattooonthetablebeforehim.
AslightexpressionoffatuitycreptintothecountenanceofM.Bénédict.Hedid
notwishtoirritatethegreatman;atthesametimehefeltconfidentinhisown
powersofblandishmentswhereMlle.Luciennewasconcerned,eventhoughhe
onlystoodfourthinpointoffavourinthatinfluentiallady'sheart.
"Mlle.Luciennehaspromisedushersupport,"hesaid,withacomplacentsmile.
"Ifearmethatwillbeoflittleavail,"hereinterposedM.Achille."Wehaveon
ourside,theinfluenceofMme.AugusteBaillon,whoishousekeepertoM.le
DocteurDubois,consultingphysiciantoMlle.d'Aumont.M.leDocteurisvery
fondofharicotscookedinlard—adishinthepreparationofwhichMme.
Baillonexcels—whilst,ontheotherhand,thatlady'ssonisperruquiertomy
Eglinton.Ithinkthereisnodoubtthatoursisthestrongerinfluence,andthatif
thisMinistryofFinancecomesintobeing,weshallbetheChiefComptroller."
"Oh,itwillcomeintobeing,withoutanydoubt,"saidBénédict."Ihaveitfrom
mycousinFrançois,whoisoneofthesweetheartsofMlle.Duprez,confidential
maidtoMme.Aremberg,thejeweller'swife,thatthemerchantsofParisand
LyonsarenotatallpleasedwiththeamountofmoneywhichtheKingandMme.
dePompadourarespending."
"Exactly!Peopleofthatsortareaveritablepestilence.Theywantustopaysome
ofthetaxes—thecorvéeorthetaille.AsifaDukeoraMinisterisgoingtopay
taxes!Ridiculous!"
"Ridiculous,Isay,"assentedAchille,"thoughmyMarquissaysthatinEngland
evennoblemenpaytaxes."
"Thenwe'llnotgotoEngland,friendEglinton.ImagineshavingaDukeora
Marquiswhohadpaidtaxeslikeashopkeeper!"


Achorusofindignationfromthethreegentlemanroseatthesuggestion.
"Preposterousindeed!"
"WeallknowthatEnglandisanationofshopkeepers.M.deVoltaire,whohas
beenthere,saidsotousonhisreturn."
M.Achille,inviewofthefactthatherepresentedtheMarquisofEglinton,
commonlystyled"lepetitAnglais,"wasnotquitesurewhetherhisdignity
demandedthatheshouldresentthisremarkofM.deVoltaire'sornot.
Fortunatelyhewassavedfromhavingtodecidethisdelicatequestion
immediatelybythereëntryofPaulintotheroom.
Theyoungfootmanwascarryingabundleofpapers,whichherespectfully
presentedtoM.Josephonasilvertray.ThegreatmanlookedatPaulsomewhat
puzzled,rubbedhischin,andcontemplatedthepaperswithathoughtfuleye.
"Whatarethese?"heasked.
"Thepetitions,M.Joseph,"repliedtheyoungman.
"Oh!Ah,yes!"quoththeotherairily."Quiteso;but—Ihavenotimetoread
themnow.Youmayglancethroughthem,Paul,andletmeknowifanyare
worthyofmyconsideration."
M.Josephwasborninanepochwhenreadingwasnotconsideredan
indispensablefactorinagentleman'seducation.Whetherthepetitionsofthe
thirtyaspirantstothenewpostofComptrollerofFinancewouldsubsequentlybe
readbyM.Paulornotitwereimpossibletosay;forthepresenthemerelytook
upthepapersagain,sayingquiterespectfully:
"Yes,M.Joseph."
"Stay!youmaytakecards,dice,andtwoflagonsofBordeauxintomyboudoir."
"Yes,M.Joseph."
"Haveyoudismissedeveryonefromtheante-chamber?"
"Allexceptanoldman,whorefusestogo."
"Whoishe?"


"Idonotknow;he——"
Furtherexplanationwasinterruptedbyatimidvoiceissuingfromtheopendoor.
"Ionlydesirefiveminutes'conversationwithM.leDucd'Aumont."
Andawizenedlittlefiguredressedinseedyblack,withleanshanksencasedin
coarsewoollenstockings,shuffledintotheroom.Heseemedtobecarryinga
greatnumberofpapersandbooksunderbotharms,andashesteppedtimidly
forwardsomeofthesetumbledinaheapathisfeet.
"Onlyfiveminutes'conversationwithM.leDuc."
Hiseyeswereverypale,andverywatery,andhishairwasofapalestrawcolour.
Hestoopedtopickuphispapers,anddroppedothersintheprocess.
"M.leDucisnotvisible,"saidM.Josephmajestically.
"Perhapsalittlelater——"suggestedtheleanindividual.
"TheDukewillnotbevisiblelatereither."
"Thento-morrowperhaps;Icanwait—Ihaveplentyoftimeonmyhands."
"Youmayhave,buttheDukehasn't."
Inthemeanwhilethewizenedlittlemanhadsucceededinoncemorecollecting
hispaperstogether.Withtremblingeagerhandshenowselectedafoldednote,
whichevidentlyhadsufferedsomewhatthroughfrequentfallsondustyfloors;
thisheheldouttowardM.Joseph.
"IhavealettertoMonsieurlevaletdechambreoftheDuke,"hesaidhumbly.
"Aletterofintroduction?—tome?"queriedJoseph,withadistinctchangeinhis
mannerandtone."Fromwhom?"
"MydaughterAgathe,whobringsMonsieur'schocolateintohimevery
morning."
"Ah,youareMlle.Agathe'sfather!"exclaimedJosephwithpleasant
condescension,ashetooktheletterofintroduction,and,withoutglancingatit,
slippeditintothepocketofhismagnificentcoat.Perhapsathoughtsubsequently
crossedhismindthatthetimorouspersonbeforehimwasnotquitesosimplemindedashiswateryblueeyessuggested,andthatthedustyandcrumpledlittle


notemightbeadaringfraudpractisedonhisowninfluentialpersonality,forhe
addedwithsternemphasis:"IwillseeMlle.Agatheto-morrow,andwilldiscuss
youraffairwithher."
Then,asthelittlemandidnotwinceunderthesuggestion,M.Josephsaidmore
urbanely:
"Bytheway,whatisyouraffair?Thesegentlemen"—andwithagracefulgesture
heindicatedhistwofriends—"thesegentlemenwillpardonthelibertyyouare
takingindiscussingitbeforethem."
"Thankyou,Monsieur;thankyou,gentlemen,"saidthewizenedindividual
humbly;"itisamatterof—er—figures."
"Figures!"
"Yes!ThisnewMinistryofFinance—therewillbeanauditorofaccounts
wanted—severalauditors,Ipresume—and—andIthought——"
"Yes?"noddedM.Josephgraciously.
"Mydaughterdoesbringyouinyourchocolateniceandhot,M.Joseph,does
shenot?—and—andIdoknowalotaboutfigures.Istudiedmathematicswith
thelateM.Descartes;IauditedthebooksoftheSociétédesComptablesof
Lyonsforseveralyears;and—andIhavediplomasandtestimonials——"
And,carriedawaybyanotherwaveofanxiety,hebegantofumbleamonghis
papersandbooks,whichwithirritatingperversityimmediatelytumbledpellmellontothefloor.
"Whatinthedevil'snameisthegoodoftestimonialsanddiplomastous,my
goodman?"saidM.Josephhaughtily."If,ongivingthemattermyserious
consideration,Icometotheconclusionthatyouwillbeasuitableaccountantin
thenewMinisterialDepartment,mafoi!mygoodman,youraffairissettled.No
thanks,Ipray!"headded,withagraciousflourishofthearm;"Ihavebeen
pleasedwithMlle.Agathe,andImaymentionyournamewhilstIshaveM.le
Ducto-morrow.Er—bytheway,whatisyourname?"
"Durand,ifyouplease,M.Joseph."
Themeagrelittlepersonwiththewateryblueeyestriedtoexpresshisgratitude
bywordandgesture,buthisbooksandpapersencumberedhismovements,and


hewasrendereddoublynervousbythepresenceofthesegorgeousandstately
gentlemen,andbythewaveofvoicesandlaughterwhichsuddenlyrosefromthe
distance,suggestingthatperhapsabrilliantcompanymightbecomingthisway.
Theverythoughtseemedtocompletelyterrifyhim;withbotharmshehugged
hisvariouswrittentreasures,andwithmanysidewaybowsandmurmursof
thankshefinallysucceededinshufflinghisleanfigureoutoftheroom,closely
followedbyM.Paul.

CHAPTERIII
POMPADOUR'SCHOICE
M.Durand'sretreathadfortunatelyoccurredjustintime;men'svoicesand
women'slaughtersoundedmoreandmoredistinct,asifapproachingtowardthe
salled'armes.
Inamoment,withtheswiftnessbornoflongusage,thedemeanourofthethree
gentlemenunderwentaquickandsuddenchange.Theyseemedtopulltheir
gorgeousfigurestogether;withpractisedfingerseachreadjustedthelaceofhis
cravat,reëstablishedthecorrectsetofhiswaistcoat,andflickeredthelastgrain
ofdustorsnufffromthesatin-likesurfaceofhiscoat.
Tensecondslaterthegreatdoorsattheeastendofthehallwerethrownopen,
andthroughtheembrasureandbeyondtheinterveningmarblecorridorcouldbe
seenthebrilliantlylightedsupper-room,withitsglitteringcompanybrokenup
intogroups.
Silent,swiftanddeferential,MM.Joseph,Bénédict,andAchilleglidedonflatheeledshoesalongtheslipperyfloors,makingaslittlenoiseaspossible,effacing
theirgorgeouspersonsinwindowrecessesorcarvedornamentswheneveraknot
ofgentlemenorladieshappenedtopassby.
Quiteadifferenttrionow,MM.Joseph,Bénédict,andAchille—justthree
automatonsintentontheirduties.
Fromthesupper-roomtherecameanincessantbuzzoftalkandlaughter.M.
Josephsoughthismaster'seye,butM.leDucwasbusywiththeKingof
Englandandwantednoservice;M.AchillefoundhisEnglishmilor,"lepetit


Anglais,"engagedinconversationwithhisportlyandsomewhatoverdressed
mamma;whilstM.Bénédict'smasterwasnowheretobefound.
Theolderladieswerebeginningtolookweariedandhot,smotheringyawns
behindtheirpaintedfans.Paniersassumedatiredandcrumpledappearance,and
featheredaigrettesnoddeddismallyabovethehighcoiffures.
Notafewoftheguestshadtakentheopportunityofbringingcardsordicefrom
asilkenpocket,whilstothersinsmallergroups,youngerandnotyetweariedof
desultorytalk,strolledtowardthesalled'armesorthesmallerboudoirswhich
openedoutofthecorridor.
OneortwogentlemenhadsuccumbedtoM.leDuc'slavishhospitality;the
manytoastshadprovedtooexacting,thecopiousdraughtsaltogethertooheady,
andtheyhad,somewhatinvoluntarily,exchangedtheirchairsforthemore
reliablesolidityofthefloor,wheretheirfaithfulattendants,stationedunderthe
tableforthepurpose,deftlyuntiedacravatwhichmightbetootightor
administeredsuchcoolingantidotesasmightbedesirable.
Thehotairvibratedwiththeconstantbabelofvoices,thefrou-frouofsilk
paniers,andbrocadedskirts,mingledwiththeclinkofswordsandtherattleof
diceinsatinwoodboxes.
Theatmosphere,surchargedwithperfumes,hadbecomeoverpoweringlyclose.
HisMajesty,flushedwithwine,andwithdrowsylidsdroopingoverhisdulled
eyes,hadpushedhischairawayfromthetableandwaslounginglazilytoward
Mme.dePompadour,hisidlefingerstoyingwiththejewelledgirdleofherfan.
Sheamusedhim;shehadquaintsayingswhichweresometimeswitty,always
daring,butwhichsucceededindissipatingmomentarilythatmortalennuiof
whichhesuffered.
Evennowherwhisperedconversation,interspersedwithprofusegiggles,
broughtanoccasionalsmiletothelipsofthesleepymonarch.Shechattedand
laughed,flirtingherfan,humouringtheeffeminatecreaturebesideherby
yieldingherhandandwristtohisflabbykisses.Buthereyesdidnotrestonhim
formanysecondsatatime;shetalkedtoLouis,buthermindhadgoneawanderingabouttheroomtryingtoreadthoughts,tosearchmotivesordivine
hiddenhatredsandenvyastheyconcernedherself.
Thisglitterwasstillnewtoher;thepowerwhichshewieldedseemedasyeta


brittletoywhichahastymovementmightsuddenlybreak.Itwasbutaverylittle
whileagothatshehadbeenaninsignificantunitinathird-ratesocialcircleof
Paris—alwaysbeautiful,butlostinthemidstofadrabbycrowd,hercharms,like
thoseofapreciousstone,unperceivedforwantofpropersetting.Herambition
wassmotheredinherheart,whichattimesitalmostthreatenedtoconsume.But
itwasalwaysthere,eversinceshehadlearnttounderstandthepowerwhich
beautygives.
AnapprovingsmilefromtheKingofFrance,andtheworldworeadifferent
aspectforJeannePoisson.Herwhimsandcapricesbecamethereinswithwhich
shedroveFranceandtheKing.Whyplacealimittoherowndesires,sincethe
mightiestmonarchinEuropewasreadytogratifythem?
Moneybecamehergod.
Spend!spend!spend!Whynot?Thenation,thebourgeoisie—ofwhichshehad
oncebeenthatlittleinsignificantunit—wasnowthewell-springwhenceshe
drewthemeansofsatisfyingherever-increasinglustforsplendour.
Jewels,dresses,palaces,gardens—allandeverythingthatwasrich,beautiful,
costly,shelongedforitall!
Picturesandstatuary;music,andofthebest;constantnoisearoundher,gaiety,
festivities,laughter;thewitofFranceandthescienceoftheworldallhadbeen
herhelpmeetsthesepasttwoyearsinthiswildchaseafterpleasure,thisconstant
desiretokillherRoyalpatron'sincurableennui.
Twoyears,andalreadythenationgrumbled!Acheckwastobeputonher
extravagance—hersandthatofKingLouis!Theparliamentsdemandedthat
somecontrolbeexercisedoverRoyalmunificence.FewerjewelsforMadame!
AndthatpalaceatFontainebleaunotyetcompleted,theParcauxCerfsso
magnificentlyplannedandnotevenbegun!WouldthenewComptrollerputa
checkonthat?
AtfirstshemarvelledthatLouisshouldconsent.Itwasahumiliationforhimas
wellasforher.Theweaknessinhimwhichhadservedherownendsseemed
monstrouswhenityieldedtopressurefromothers.
Hehadassuredherthatsheshouldnotsuffer;jewels,palaces,gardens,she
shouldhaveallasheretofore.LetParliamentinsistandgrumble,butthe
ComptrollerwouldbeappointedbyD'Aumont,andD'Aumontwasherslave.


D'Aumont,yes!butnothisdaughter—thatarrogantgirlwiththesevereeyes,
unwomanlyanddictatorial,whoruledherfatherjustassheherself,Pompadour,
ruledtheKing.
Anenemy,thatLydied'Aumont!Mme.laMarquise,whilstframingawitticism
atwhichtheKingsmiled,frownedbecauseinadistantalcoveshespiedthe
haughtyfigureofLydie.
Andtherewereothers!ThefriendsoftheQueenandherclique,ofcourse;they
werenothereto-night;atleastnotingreatnumbers;still,eventhepresent
brilliantcompany,thoughsmilingandobsequiousinthepresenceoftheKing,
wasnotbyanymeansaclosephalanxoffriends.
M.d'Argenson,forinstance—hewasanavowedenemy;andMarshalde
Noailles,too—oh!andtherewereothers.
Oneofthem,fortunately,wasgoingaway;CharlesEdwardStuart,aspiringKing
ofEngland;hehadbeennofriendofPompadour.Evennow,ashestoodclose
by,lendinganobviouslyinattentiveeartoM.leDucd'Aumont,shecouldsee
thathestilllookedgloomyandoutofhumour,andthatwheneverhiseyesrested
uponherandtheKinghefrownedwithwrathfulimpatience.
"Youaredistraite,mamie!"saidLouis,withayawn.
"Iwasthinking,sire,"shereplied,smilingintohisdrowsyeyes.
"ForGod'ssake,Ientreat,donotthink!"exclaimedtheKing,withmockalarm.
"Thoughtproduceswrinkles,andyourperfectmouthwasonlyfashionedfor
smiles."
"MayIframeasuggestion?"shequeriedarchly.
"No,onlyacommand."
"ThisComptrollerofFinance,yourfuturemaster,Louis,andmine——"
"Yourslave,"heinterruptedlazily,"andhevalueshislife."
"WhynotmilorEglinton?"
"LepetitAnglais?"andLouis'sfatbodywasshakenwithsuddenimmoderate
laughter."ParDieu,mamie!Ofallyourwittysalliesthisonehathpleasedus
most."


"Why?"sheaskedseriously.
"LepetitAnglais!"againlaughedtheKing."I'dassoongivetheappointmentto
yourlapdog,Marquise.Fidowouldhaveasmuchcapacityforthepostasthe
ornamentalcypherthathangsonhismother'sskirts."
"MilorEglintonisveryrich,"shemused.
"Inordinatelyso,cursehim!Icoulddowithhalfhisrevenueandbeasatisfied
man."
"Beingacypherhewouldnottroubleusmuch;beingveryrichhewouldneed
nobribefordoingaswewish."
"Hisladymotherwouldtroubleus,mamie."
"Bah!wewouldfindhimawife."
"Nay!Ientreatyoudonotworryyourdaintyheadwiththesematters,"saidthe
King,somewhatirritably."TheappointmentrestswithD'Aumont;anyoudesire
thepostforyourprotégé,turnyourbrighteyesontheDuke."
Pompadourwouldhavewishedtopursuethesubject,togetsomethingofa
promisefromLouis,toturnhisinveterateweaknessthenandtheretoherown
account,butLouistheWell-belovedyawned,acalamitywhichthefairlady
darednotriskagain.Wittyandbrilliant,forevergayandunfatigued,sheknew
thatherpoweroverthemonarchwouldonlylastwhilstshecouldamusehim.
Thereforenowwithswifttransitionsheturnedtheconversationtomorepiquant
channels.AnanecdoteattheexpenseoftheoldDuchessedePontchartrain
broughtlifeoncemoreintotheeyesoftheKing.Shewasoncemoreuntiringin
herefforts,hercheeksglowedeventhroughthepowderandtherouge,herlips
smiledwithoutintermission,butherthoughtsdriftedbacktotherootidea,the
burdenofthatcontroltobeimposedonhercaprices.
ShewouldnothavemindedMilorEglinton,thecourteous,amiablegentleman,
whohadnowillsavethatexpressedbyanywomanwhohappenedtocatchhis
ear.Shefeltthatshecould,withbutverylittletrouble,twisthimroundherlittle
finger.Hisdictatorialmammawouldeitherhavetobegotoutoftheway,orwon
overtoMme.laMarquise'sownviewsoflife,whilstMilorcouldremaina
bachelor,lestanotherfeminineinfluenceproveantagonistic.


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