The Poet's Princess

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Going through fire and water

Like a rabbit, hemmed in its den by the hunters, Anne curls up in an armchair shoved away to a dark corner. The salon throbs with hostile whisper. The guests cluster around Mademoiselle de Longueville, a tough and sturdy woman with an angular face. Contesting her stepmother’s right to be a guest at the party, she decides to hound her out. She gets up bloated with hatred. Her heavy feet drum on the floor as she charges forward. Her eyes open the fire upon the intruder who took her father from her. Hasn’t she been, after the death of her mother, his legitimate owner? How could that impertinent wench dare to contest it! Shame on him, too! Hasn’t she been everything to him? His daughter, his housekeeper, his ally? And, last but not least, his better part, tolerant to the point to shut her eyes to his lewd philandering?

Coming to her stepmother’s hiding place, she shrinks away from Anne with loathing. Her flat chest heaves and falls stormily, the tufts of her spare puce hair flicker around her flushed face like a nest of vipers preparing to attack.

Anne stands up with a sweet smile. To remain seated, when her stepdaughter is standing, is inconceivable.

“What a wonderful salon! You have an exquisite taste,” she tries to pacify her stepdaughter and come to a certain modus vivendi, aware how extremely unwelcome she is.

“If you can admire these odds and ends then you’re easy to please. Had I not been obliged to minister to my poor father’s household after the death of his dear spouse, my unforgettable mother, I would have thrown it all away long ago,” Mademoiselle de Longueville puts the trespasser off .

“Pray, what are you doing here alone, hiding from us? Aren’t we good enough for a Princess? Though you, a regular guest of the “Blue Room”, are evidently used to smarter surroundings!”

Anne looks desperately for a familiar face in this spiteful crowd of strangers. Alas, the Duke de Longueville, engaged in flirtation with his mistress, has neither interest nor time to come to his wife’s rescue and, deciding for the tactics of the three clever monkeys, he doesn’t see; he doesn’t hear; he doesn’t interfere.

Certain of her father’s loyalty, Mademoiselle de Longueville storms away without so much as a greeting. She exchanges a conspiratory wink with his father’s mistress and joins in their tête-à-tête.

Taking refuge in her dark corner, Anne loses herself in her dreams.

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