The Grey Cloak (Chapter 4, page 1 of 18)


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Chapter 4

In the grand gallery of the Palais Royal stood a mahogany table, the
bellying legs of which, decorated with Venetian-wrought gold, sparkled
and glittered in the light of the flames that rose and fell in the
gaping chimney-place. Around this table were seated four persons of
note: the aging Maréchal de Villeroi, Madame de Motteville of
imperishable memoirs, Anne of Austria, and Cardinal Mazarin. The
Italian, having won a pile of golden louis from the soldier, was
smiling amiably and building yellow pyramids, forgetful for the time
being of his gouty foot which dozed on a cushion under the table. This
astute politician was still a handsome man, but the Fronde and the
turbulent nobility had left their imprint. There were many lines
wrinkling the circle of his eyes, and the brilliant color on his cheeks
was the effect of rouge and fever.

The queen gazed covetously at Mazarin's winnings. She was growing fat,
and the three long curls on each side of her face in no wise diminished
its width; but her throat was still firm and white, and her hands,
saving their plumpness, were yet the envy of many a beautiful woman.
Anne of Austria was now devoted to three things; her prayers, her
hands, and her plays.

As for the other two, Madame de Motteville looked hungry and politely
bored, while the old maréchal scowled at his cards.

Near-by, on a pile of cushions, sat Philippe d'Orléans, the king's
brother. He was cutting horses from three-colored prints and was
sailing them up the chimney. At the left of the fireplace, the dark
locks of the girl mingling with the golden curls of the boy, both
poring over a hook filled with war-like pictures, the one interested by
the martial spirit native to his blood, the other by the desire to
please, sat the boy Louis and Mademoiselle de Mancini, Mazarin's niece.
From time to time the cardinal permitted his gaze to wander in their
direction, and there was fatherly affection in his smile. Mazarin
liked to call these gatherings "family parties."

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