Showing the danger of Confiding one's Secret to a Goat

Several weeks had elapsed.

It was the beginning of March, and though Du Bartas,1

that classic ancestor of the periphrase, had not yet styled the sun “the Grand Duke of the Candles,” his rays were none the less bright and cheerful. It was one of those beautiful mild days of early spring that draw all Paris out into the squares and promenades as if were a Sunday. On these days of clear air, of warmth, and of serenity there is one hour in particular at which the great door of Notre-Dame is seen at its best. That is at the moment when the sun, already declining in the west, stands almost directly opposite the front of the Cathedral; when his rays, becoming more and more horizontal, slowly retreat from the flag-stones of the Place and creep up the sheer face of the building, making its innumerable embossments stand forth from the shadow, while the great central rose-window flames like a Cyclops’s eye lit up by the glow of a forge.

It was at this hour.

Opposite to the lofty Cathedral, now reddened by the setting sun, on the stone balcony over the porch of a handsome Gothic house at the corner formed by the Place and the Rue du Parvis, a group of fair damsels were laughing and talking with a great display of pretty airs and graces. By the length of the veils which fell from the tip of their pearl-encircled pointed coif down to their heels; by the delicacy of the embroidered chemisette which covered the shoulders but permitted a glimpse—according to the engaging fashion of the day—of the swell of the fair young bosom; by the richness of their under-petticoats, more costly than the overdress (exquisite refinement); by the gauze, the silk, the velvet stuffs, and, above all, by the whiteness of their hands, which proclaimed them idle and unemployed, it was easy to divine that they came of noble and wealthy families. They were, in effect, the Damoiselle Fleur-de-Lys de Gondelaurier and her companions, Diane de Christeuil, Amelotte de Montmichel, Colombe de Gaillefontaine, and the little De Champchevrier—all daughters of good family, gathered together at this moment in the house of the widowed Mme. Aloïse de Gondelaurier, on account of Monseigneur the Lord of Beaujeu and Madame Anne, his wife, who were coming to Paris in April in order to choose the maids-in-waiting for the Dauphiness Margaret when they went to Picardy to receive her from the hands of the Flemings. So all the little landed proprietors for thirty leagues round were eager to procure this honour for their daughters, and many of them had already brought or sent them to Paris. The above-mentioned maidens had been confided by their parents to the discreet and unimpeachable care of Mme. Aloïse de Gondelaurier, the widow of a captain of the King’s archers, and now living in elegant retirement with her only daughter in her mansion in the Place du Parvis, Notre-Dame, at Paris.

The balcony on which the girls were seated opened out of a room richly hung with tawny-coloured Flanders leather stamped with gold foliage. The beams that ran in parallel lines across the ceiling charmed the eye by their thousand fantastic carvings, painted and gilt. Gorgeous enamels gleamed here and there from the doors of inlaid cabinets; a wild boar’s head in faience crowned a magnificent side-board, the two steps of which proclaimed the mistress of the house to be the wife or widow of a knight banneret. At the further end of the room, in a rich red velvet chair, beside a lofty chimney-piece, blazoned from top to bottom with coats of arms, sat Mme. de Gondelaurier, whose five-and-fifty years were no less distinctly written on her dress than on her face.

Beside her stood a young man whose native air of breeding was somewhat heavily tinged with vanity and bravado—one of those handsome fellows whom all women are agreed in adoring, let wiseacres and physiognomists shake their heads as they will. This young cavalier wore the brilliant uniform of a captain of the King’s archers, which too closely resembles the costume of Jupiter, which the reader has had an opportunity of admiring at the beginning of this history, for us to inflict on him a second description.

The damoiselles were seated, some just inside the room, some on the balcony, on cushions of Utrecht velvet with gold corners, or on elaborately carved oak stools. Each of them held on her knees part of a great piece of needlework on which they were all engaged, while a long end of it lay spread over the matting which covered the floor.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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