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|The Scarlet Pimpernel||Baroness Emmuska Orczy|
LORD GRENVILLE'S BALL
|Page 3 of 4||
"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.
"This is a pleasure, Madame; my royal father, as you know, is ever glad to welcome those of your compatriots whom France has driven from her shores."
"Your Royal Highness is ever gracious," replied the Comtesse with becoming dignity. Then, indicating her daughter, who stood timidly by her side: "My daughter Suzanne, Monseigneur," she said.
"Ah! charming!--charming!" said the Prince, "and now allow me, Comtesse, to introduce you, Lady Blakeney, who honours us with her friendship. You and she will have much to say to one another, I vow. Every compatriot of Lady Blakeney's is doubly welcome for her sake. . .her friends are our friends. . .her enemies, the enemies of England."
Marguerite's blue eyes had twinkled with merriment at this gracious speech from her exalted friend. The Comtesse de Tournay, who lately had so flagrantly insulted her, was here receiving a public lesson, at which Marguerite could not help but rejoice. But the Comtesse, for whom respect of royalty amounted almost to a religion, was too well-schooled in courtly etiquette to show the slightest sign of embarrassment, as the two ladies curtsied ceremoniously to one another.
"His Royal Highness is ever gracious, Madame," said Marguerite, demurely, and with a wealth of mischief in her twinkling blue eyes, "but there is no need for his kind of meditation. . . . Your amiable reception of me at our last meeting still dwells pleasantly in my memory."
"We poor exiles, Madame," rejoined the Comtesse, frigidly, "show our gratitude to England by devotion to the wishes of Monseigneur."
"Madame!" said Marguerite, with another ceremonious curtsey.
"Madame," responded the Comtesse with equal dignity.
The Prince in the meanwhile was saying a few gracious words to the young Vicomte.
"I am happy to know you, Monsieur le Vicomte," he said. "I knew your father well when he was ambassador in London."
"Ah, Monseigneur!" replied the Vicomte, "I was a leetle boy then. . .and now I owe the honour of this meeting to our protector, the Scarlet Pimpernel."
"Hush!" said the Prince, earnestly and quickly, as he indicated Chauvelin, who had stood a little on one side throughout the whole of this little scene, watching Marguerite and the Comtesse with an amused, sarcastic little smile around his thin lips.
"Nay, Monseigneur," he said now, as if in direct response to the Prince's challenge, "pray do not check this gentleman's display of gratitude; the name of that interesting red flower is well known to me--and to France."
The Prince looked at him keenly for a moment or two.
"Faith, then, Monsieur," he said, "perhaps you know more about our national hero than we do ourselves. . .perchance you know who he is. . . . See!" he added, turning to the groups round the room, "the ladies hang upon your lips. . .you would render yourself popular among the fair sex if you were to gratify their curiosity."
"Ah, Monseigneur," said Chauvelin, significantly, "rumour has it in France that your Highness could--an you would--give the truest account of that enigmatical wayside flower."
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|The Scarlet Pimpernel
Baroness Emmuska Orczy
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