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In Three Books.




It was a heavy mass of building, that château
of Monsieur the Marquis, with a large stone
court-yard before it, and two stone sweeps of
staircase meeting in a stone terrace before the
principal door. A stony business altogether,
with heavy stone balustrades, and stone urns,
and stone flowers, and stone faces of men, and
stone heads of lions, in all directions. As if the
Gorgon's head had surveyed it, when it was
finished, two centuries ago.

Up the broad flight of shallow steps, Monsieur
the Marquis, flambeau preceded, went from his
carriage, sufficiently disturbing the darkness to
elicit loud remonstrance from an owl in the
roof of the great pile of stable-building away
among the trees. All else was so quiet, that the
flambeau carried up the steps, and the other
flambeau held at the great door, burnt as if they
were in a close room of state, instead of being
in the open night-air. Other sound than the
owl's voice there was none, save the falling of a
fountain into its stone basin; for, it was one of
those dark nights that hold their breath by the
hour together, and then heave a long low sigh,
and hold their breath again.

The great door clanged behind him, and
Monsieur the Marquis crossed a hall, grim with
certain old boar spears, swords, and knives of the
chase; grimmer with certain heavy riding-rods
and riding-whips, of which many a peasant, gone
to his benefactor Death, had felt the weight
when his lord was angry.

Avoiding the larger rooms, which were dark
and made fast for the night, Monsieur the
Marquis, with his flambeau-bearer going on before,
went up the staircase to a door in a corridor.
This thrown open, admitted him to his own
private apartment of three rooms: his bedchamber
and two others. High vaulted rooms with cool
uncarpeted floors, great dogs upon the hearths
for the burning of wood in winter time, and all
luxuries befitting the state of a marquis in a
luxurious age and country. The fashion of the
last Louis but one, of the line that was never
to breakthe fourteenth Louiswas
conspicuous in their rich furniture; but, it was
diversified by many objects that were illustrations of
old pages in the history of France.

A supper-table was laid for two, in the third
of the rooms; a round room, in one of the
château's four extinguisher-topped towers;
a small lofty room, with its window wide open,
and the wooden jalousie-blinds closed, so that
the dark night only showed in slight horizontal
lines of black, alternating with their broad lines
of stone colour.

"My nephew," said the Marquis, glancing at
the supper preparation; "they said he was not

Nor was he; but, he had been expected with

"Ah! It is not probable he will arrive
tonight; nevertheless, leave the table as it is. I
shall be ready in a quarter of an hour."

In a quarter of an hour, Monseigneur was
ready, and sat down alone to his sumptuous and
choice supper. His chair was opposite to the
window, and he had taken his soup, and was
raising his glass of Bordeaux to his lips, when
he put it down.

"What is that?" he calmly asked, looking
with attention at the horizontal lines of black
and stone colour.

"Monseigneur? That?"

"Outside the blinds. Open the blinds."

It was done.


"Monseigneur, it is nothing. The trees and
the night are all that are here."

The servant who spoke, had thrown the blinds
wide, had looked out into the vacant darkness,
and stood, with that blank behind him, looking
round for instructions.

"Good," said the imperturbable master.
"Close them again."

That was done too, and the Marquis went on
with his supper. He was half way through it,
when he again stopped with his glass in his
hand, hearing the sound of wheels. It came on
briskly, and came up to the front of the château.

"Ask who is arrived."

It was the nephew of Monseigneur. He had
been some few leagues behind Monseigneur,
early in the afternoon. He had diminished the
distance rapidly, but not so rapidly as to come
up with Monseigneur on the road. He had
heard of Monseigneur, at the posting-houses, as
being before him.