Chauvelin had sworn to his colleagues in Paris that he would discover the identity of that meddlesome Englishman, entice him over to France, and then Chauvelin drew a deep breath of satisfaction at the very thought of seeing that enigmatic head falling under the knife of the guillotine, as easily as that of any other man.
Suddenly there was a great stir on the handsome staircase, all conversation stopped for a moment as the major-domos voice outside announced,
His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and suite, Sir Percy Blakeney, Lady Blakeney.
Lord Grenville went quickly to the door to receive his exalted guest.
The Prince of Wales, dressed in a magnificent court suit of salmon-coloured velvet richly embroidered with gold, entered with Marguerite Blakeney on his arm; and on his left Sir Percy, in gorgeous shimmering cream satin, cut in the extravagant Incroyable style, his fair hair free from powder, priceless lace at his neck and wrists, and the flat chapeau-bras under his arm.
After the few conventional words of deferential greeting, Lord Grenville said to his royal guest,
Will your Highness permit me to introduce M. Chauvelin, the accredited agent of the French Government?
Chauvelin, immediately the Prince entered, had stepped forward, expecting this introduction. He bowed very low, whilst the Prince returned his salute with a curt nod of the head.
Monsieur, said His Royal Highness coldly, we will try to forget the government that sent you, and look upon you merely as our guesta private gentleman from France. As such you are welcome, Monsieur.
Monseigneur, rejoined Chauvelin, bowing once again. Madame, he added, bowing ceremoniously before Marguerite.
Ah! my little Chauvelin! she said with unconcerned gaiety, and extending her tiny hand to him. Monsieur and I are old friends, your Royal Highness.
Ah, then, said the Prince, this time very graciously, you are doubly welcome, Monsieur.
There is someone else I would crave permission to present to your Royal Highness, here interposed Lord Grenville.
Ah! who is it? asked the Prince.
Madame la Comtesse de Tournay de Basserive and her family, who have but recently come from France.
By all means!They are among the lucky ones then!
Lord Grenville turned in search of the Comtesse, who sat at the further end of the room.
Lud love me! whispered his Royal Highness to Marguerite, as soon as he had caught sight of the rigid figure of the old lady; Lud love me! she looks very virtuous and very melancholy.
Faith, your Royal Highness, she rejoined with a smile, virtue is like precious odours, most fragrant when it is crushed.
Virtue, alas! sighed the Prince, is mostly unbecoming to your charming sex, Madame.
Madame la Comtesse de Tournay de Basserive, said Lord Grenville, introducing the lady.
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