A Gentleman of France

A Gentleman of France


M.de Rosny had risen from my side and started on his journey when I opened my eyes in the morning,and awoke to the memory of the task which had been so strangely imposed upon me;and which might,according as the events of the next fortnight shaped themselves,raise me to high position or put an end to my career.

He had not forgotten to leave a souvenir behind him,for I found beside my pillow a handsome silver-mounted pistol,bearing the letter 'R.'and a coronet;nor had I more than discovered this instance of his kindness before Simon Fleix came in to tell me that M.de Rosny had left two hundred crowns in his hands for me.

'Any message with it?'I asked the lad.

'Only that;he had taken a keepsake in exchange,'Simon answered,opening the window as he spoke.

In some wonder I began to search,but I could not discover that anything was missing until I came to put on my doublet,when Ifound that the knot of ribbon which mademoiselle had flung to me at my departure from Rosny was gone from the inside of the breast,where I had pinned it for safety with a long thorn.The discovery that M.de Rosny had taken this was displeasing to me on more than one account.In the first place,whether mademoiselle had merely wished to plague me (as was most probable)or not,I was loth to lose it,my day for ladies'

favours being past and gone;in the second,I misdoubted the motive which had led him to purloin it,and tormented myself with thinking of the different constructions he might put upon it,and the disparaging view of my trust worthiness which it might lead him to take.I blamed myself much for my carelessness in leaving it where a chance eye might rest upon it;and more when,questioning Simon further,I learned that M.de Rosny had added,while mounting at the door,'Tell your master,safe bind,safe find;and a careless lover makes a loose mistress.'

I felt my cheek burn in a manner unbecoming my years while Simon with some touch of malice repeated this;and I made a vow on the spot,which I kept until I was tempted to break it,to have no more to do with such trifles.Meanwhile,I had to make the best of it;and brisking up,and bidding Simon,who seemed depressed by the baron's departure,brisk up also,I set about my preparations for making such a figure at Court as became me:

procuring a black velvet suit,and a cap and feather to match;item,a jewelled clasp to secure the feather;with a yard or two of lace and two changes of fine linen.

Simon had grown sleek at Rosny,and losing something of the wildness which had marked him,presented in the dress M.de Rosny had given him a very creditable appearance;being also,I fancy,the only equerry in Blois who could write.A groom I engaged on the recommendation of M.de Rambouillet's master of the horse;and I gave out also that I required a couple of valets.It needed only an hour under the barber's hands and a set of new trappings for the Cid to enable me to make a fair show,such as might be taken to indicate a man of ten or twelve thousand livres a year.

In this way I expended a hundred and fifteen crowns.reflecting that this was a large sum,and that I must keep some money for play,I was glad to learn that in the crowded state of the city even men with high rank were putting up with poor lodging;Idetermined,therefore,to combine economy with a scheme which Ihad in my head by taking the rooms in which my mother died,with one room below them.This I did,hiring such furniture as Ineeded,which was not a great deal.To Simon Fleix,whose assistance in these matters was invaluable,I passed on much of M.de Rosny's advice,bidding him ruffle it with the best in his station,and inciting him to labour for my advancement by promising to make his fortune whenever my own should be assured.

I hoped,indeed,to derive no little advantage from the quickness of wit;which had attracted M.de Rosny's attention;although Idid not fail to take into account at the same time that the lad was wayward and fitful,prone at one time to depression,and at another to giddiness,and equally uncertain in either mood.

M.de Rambouillet being unable to attend the LEVEE,had appointed me to wait upon him at six in the evening;at which hour Ipresented myself at his lodgings,attended by Simon Fleix.Ifound him in the midst of half a dozen gentlemen whose habit it was to attend him upon all public occasions;and these gallants,greeting me with the same curious and suspicious glances which Ihave seen hounds bestow on a strange dog introduced into their kennel,I was speedily made to feel that it is one thing to have business at Court,and another to be well received there.

M.de Rambouillet,somewhat to my surprise,did nothing to remove this impression.On all ordinary occasions a man of stiff and haughty bearing,and thoroughly disliking,though he could not prevent,the intrusion of a third party into a transaction which promised an infinity of credit,he received me so coldly and with so much reserve as for the moment to dash my spirits and throw me back on myself.

During the journey to the castle,however,which we performed on foot,attended by half a dozen armed servants bearing torches,Ihad time to recall M.de Rosny's advice,and to bethink me of the intimacy which that great man had permitted me;with so much effect in the way of heartening me,that as we crossed the courtyard of the castle I advanced myself,not without some murmuring on the part of others,to Rambouillet's elbow,considering that as I was attached to him by the king's command,this was my proper place.I had no desire to quarrel,however,and persisted for some time in disregarding the nudges and muttered words which were exchanged round me,and even the efforts which were made as we mounted the stairs to oust me from my position.But a young gentleman,who showed himself very forward in these attempts,presently stumbling against me,Ifound it necessary to look at him.

'Sir,'he said,in a small and lisping voice,'you trod on my toe.'

Stanley John Weyman