CHAPTER X. MONSIEUR’S BALLET.
The Styx had fast bound her
Nine times around her.
POPE, ODE ON ST.CECILIA’S DAY
Early on Monday morning came a message to Mademoiselle Nid de Merle that she was to prepare to act the part of a nymph of Paradise in the King’s masque on Wednesday night, and must dress at once to rehearse her part in the ballet specially designed by Monsieur.
Her first impulse was to hurry to her own Queen, whom she entreated to find some mode of exempting her. But Elisabeth, who was still in bed, looked distressed and frightened, made signs of caution, and when the weeping girl was on the point of telling her of the project that would thus be ruined, silenced her by saying, ’Hush! my poor child, I have but meddled too much already. Our Lady grant that I have not done you more harm than good! Tell me no more.’
’Ah! Madame, I will be discreet, I will tell you nothing; but if you would only interfere to spare me from this ballet! It is Monsieur’s contrivance! Ah! Madame, could you but speak to the King!’
‘Impossible, child,’ said the Queen. ’Things are not her as they were at happy Montpipeau.’
And the poor young Queen turned her face in to her pillow, and wept.
Every one who was not in a dream of bliss like poor little Eustacie knew that the King had been in so savage a mood ever since his return that no one durst ask anything from him. a little while since, he had laughed at his gentle wife for letting herself, and Emperor’s daughter, be trampled on where his brother Francis’s Queen, from her trumpery, beggarly realm, had held up her head, and put down la belle Mere; he had amused himself with Elisabeth’s pretty little patronage of the young Ribaumonts as a promising commencement in intriguing like other people; but now he was absolutely violent at any endeavour to make him withstand his mother, and had driven his wife back into that cold, listless, indifferent shell of apathy from which affection and hope had begun to rouse her. She knew it would only make it the worse for her little Nid de Merle for her to interpose when Monsieur had made the choice.
And Eustacie was more afraid of Monsieur than even of Narcisse, and her Berenger could not be there to protect her. However, there was protection in numbers. With twelve nymphs, and cavaliers to match, even the Duke of Anjou could not accomplish the being very insulting. Eustacie—light, agile, and fairy-like—gained considerable credit for ready comprehension and graceful evolutions. She had never been so much complimented before, and was much cheered by praise. Diane showed herself highly pleased with her little cousin’s success, embraced her, and told her she was finding her true level at court. She would be the prettiest of all the nymphs, who were all small, since fairies rather than Amazons were wanted in their position. ‘And, Eustacie,’ she added, ‘you should wear the pearls.’