“I was directed to deliver this to you. It is for your master,” and the stranger placed a bundle in Breton’s hands. Immediately he turned and disappeared down the stairs. Evidently he desired not to be questioned.
Breton surveyed the bundle doubtfully, turned it this way and that. On opening it he was greatly surprised to find his master’s celebrated grey cloak. He examined it. It was soiled and rent in several places. Breton hung it up in the closet, shaking his head.
“This is very irregular,” he muttered. “Monsieur de Saumaise would never have returned it in this condition; besides, Hector would have been the messenger. What will Monsieur Paul say when he sees it?”
And, knowing that he had no cause to worry, and having not the slightest warning that his master’s liberty was in danger, Breton reseated himself by the candles and continued his indulgence in stolen sweets; that is to say, he renewed the adventures of that remarkable offspring of Gargantua.
AN AENEAS FOR AN ACHATES
In the grand gallery of the Palais Royal stood a mahogany table, the bellying legs of which, decorated with Venetian-wrought gold, sparkled and glittered in the light of the flames that rose and fell in the gaping chimney-place. Around this table were seated four persons of note: the aging Marechal de Villeroi, Madame de Motteville of imperishable memoirs, Anne of Austria, and Cardinal Mazarin. The Italian, having won a pile of golden louis from the soldier, was smiling amiably and building yellow pyramids, forgetful for the time being of his gouty foot which dozed on a cushion under the table. This astute politician was still a handsome man, but the Fronde and the turbulent nobility had left their imprint. There were many lines wrinkling the circle of his eyes, and the brilliant color on his cheeks was the effect of rouge and fever.
The queen gazed covetously at Mazarin’s winnings. She was growing fat, and the three long curls on each side of her face in no wise diminished its width; but her throat was still firm and white, and her hands, saving their plumpness, were yet the envy of many a beautiful woman. Anne of Austria was now devoted to three things; her prayers, her hands, and her plays.
As for the other two, Madame de Motteville looked hungry and politely bored, while the old marechal scowled at his cards.
Near-by, on a pile of cushions, sat Philippe d’Orleans, the king’s brother. He was cutting horses from three-colored prints and was sailing them up the chimney. At the left of the fireplace, the dark locks of the girl mingling with the golden curls of the boy, both poring over a hook filled with war-like pictures, the one interested by the martial spirit native to his blood, the other by the desire to please, sat the boy Louis and Mademoiselle de Mancini, Mazarin’s niece. From time to time the cardinal permitted his gaze to wander in their direction, and there was fatherly affection in his smile. Mazarin liked to call these gatherings “family parties.”