The Queen's Necklace

#Fiction #Historical
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Excerpt AN OLD NOBLEMAN AND AN OLD MAÎTRE-D'HÔTEL. It was the beginning of April, 1784, between twelve and one o'clock. Our old acquaintance, the Marshal de Richelieu, having with his own hands colored his eyebrows with a perfumed dye, pushed away the mirror which was held to him by his valet, the successor of his faithful Raffè and shaking his head in the manner peculiar to himself, "Ah!" said he, "now I look myself;" and rising from his seat with juvenile vivacity, he commenced shaking off the powder which had fallen from his wig over his blue velvet coat, then, after taking a turn or two up and down his room, called for his maître-d'hôtel. In five minutes this personage made his appearance, elaborately dressed. The marshal turned towards him, and with a gravity befitting the occasion, said, "Sir, I suppose you have prepared me a good dinner?" "Certainly, your grace." "You have the list of my guests?" "I remember them perfectly, your grace; I have prepared a dinner for nine." "There are two sorts of dinners, sir," said the marshal. "True, your grace, but——" The marshal interrupted him with a slightly impatient movement, although still dignified. "Do you know, sir, that whenever I have heard the word 'but,' and I have heard it many times in the course of eighty-eight years, it has been each time, I am sorry to say, the harbinger of some folly." "Your grace——" "In the first place, at what time do we dine?" "Your grace, the citizens dine at two, the bar at three, the nobility at four——" "And I, sir?" "Your grace will dine to-day at five." "Oh, at five!" "Yes, your grace, like the king——" "And why like the king?" "Because, on the list of your guests, is the name of a king." "Not so, sir, you mistake; all my guests to-day are simply noblemen." "Your grace is surely jesting; the Count Haga, who is among the guests——" "Well, sir!" "The Count Haga is a king." "I know no king so called." "Your grace must pardon me then," said the maître-d'hôtel, bowing, "but, I believed, supposed——" "Your business, sir, is neither to believe nor suppose; your business is to read, without comment, the orders I give you. When I wish a thing to be known, I tell it; when I do not tell it, I wish it unknown." The maître-d'hôtel bowed again, more respectfully, perhaps, than he would have done to a reigning monarch. "Therefore, sir," continued the old marshal, "you will, as I have none but noblemen to dinner, let us dine at my usual hour, four o'clock." At this order, the countenance of the maître-d'hôtel became clouded as if he had heard his sentence of death; he grew deadly pale; then, recovering himself, with the courage of despair he said, "In any event, your grace cannot dine before five o'clock." "Why so, sir?" cried the marshal. "Because it is utterly impossible." "Sir," said the marshal, with a haughty air, "it is now, I believe, twenty years since you entered my service?" "Twenty-one years, a month, and two weeks." "Well, sir, to these twenty-one years, a month, and two weeks, you will not add a day, nor an hour....
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