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Monsieur The Viscount’s Friend
by [?]

A TALE IN THREE CHAPTERS.

“Sweet are the vses of aduersitie
Which like the toad, ougly and venemous,
Weares yet a precious lewell in his head.”
AS YOU LIKE IT: A.D. 1623.

CHAPTER I.

It was the year of grace 1779. In one of the most beautiful corners of beautiful France stood a grand old chateau. It was a fine old building, with countless windows large and small, with high-pitched roofs and pointed towers, which in good taste or bad, did its best to be everywhere ornamental, from the gorgon heads which frowned from its turrets to the long row of stables and the fantastic dovecotes. It stood (as became such a castle) upon an eminence, and looked down. Very beautiful indeed was what it looked upon. Terrace below terrace glowed with the most brilliant flowers, and broad flights of steps led from one garden to the other. On the last terrace of all, fountains and jets of water poured into one large basin, in which were gold and silver fish. Beyond this were shady walks, which led to a lake on which floated water-lilies and swans. From the top of the topmost flight of steps you could see the blazing gardens one below the other, the fountains and the basin, the walks and the lake, and beyond these the trees, and the smiling country, and the blue sky of France.

Within the castle, as without, beauty reigned supreme. The sunlight, subdued by blinds and curtains, stole into rooms furnished with every grace and luxury that could be procured in a country that then accounted itself the most highly-civilized in the world. It fell upon beautiful flowers and beautiful china, upon beautiful tapestry and pictures; and it fell upon Madame the Viscountess, sitting at her embroidery. Madame the Viscountess was not young, but she was not the least beautiful object in those stately rooms. She had married into a race of nobles who (themselves famed for personal beauty) had been scrupulous in the choice of lovely wives. The late Viscount (for Madame was a widow) had been one of the handsomest of the gay courtiers of his day; and Madame had not been unworthy of him. Even now, though the roses on her cheeks were more entirely artificial than they had been in the days of her youth, she was like some exquisite piece of porcelain. Standing by the embroidery frame was Madame’s only child, a boy who, in spite of his youth, was already Monsieur the Viscount. He also was beautiful. His exquisitely-cut mouth had a curl which was the inheritance of scornful generations, but which was redeemed by his soft violet eyes and by an under-lying expression of natural amiability. His hair was cut square across the forehead, and fell in natural curls behind. His childish figure had already been trained in the fencing school, and had gathered dignity from perpetually treading upon shallow steps and in lofty rooms. From the rosettes on his little shoes to his chapeau a plumes, he also was like some porcelain figure. Surely, such beings could not exist except in such a chateau as this, where the very air (unlike that breathed by common mortals) had in the ante-rooms a faint aristocratic odour, and was for yards round Madame the Viscountess dimly suggestive of frangipani!

Monsieur the Viscount did not stay long by the embroidery frame; he was entertaining to-day a party of children from the estate, and had come for the key of an old cabinet of which he wished to display the treasures. When tired of this, they went out on to the terrace, and one of the children who had not been there before exclaimed at the beauty of the view.

“It is true,” said the little Viscount, carelessly, “and all, as far as you can see, is the estate.”