Athos Ch. 02bytamKitten69©
Chapter 02: The Dinner
Comte galloped home as fast as his horse could carry him. He bounded up the front steps taking three steps at a time and headed for the dining room where the young man had his page gather all the servants in the house. Comte ordered half the maids to polish and clean everything to its finest shine, the other half were to fill all the rooms of the house with the most fragrant and beautiful wild flowers from the meadow on the edge of the estate, the cooks were to prepare a feast fit for the king, Louis XIII himself. Agnan then went to his chambers to find his finest suit.
Meanwhile back at the inn M. de Breuil was passing nervously while Anne sat by the window admiring the country view.
"Please stop that pacing, Breuil!"
"You shouldn't have accepted his invitation, Anne."
"If my memory is correct, dear brother, I do believe it was you who accepted Agnan's offer."
Breuil sighed heavily and sat on the edge of one of the beds in the room they had rented. Anne, seeing de Breuil's despair got up from where she was sitting and knelt in front of the troubled man, placing her hands gently on his.
"Agnan's offer is not all that troubles you, brother."
"We must be careful, Anne, to not draw too much attention to ourselves....if they should send someone ..."
"Hush!" Anne interrupted Breuil. "Let's not speak of that now. We must prepare for the dinner. Go order a carriage to take us to Comte's house."
Breuil knew there was no point in continuing the conversation and therefore left Anne to change while he found the innkeeper.
Agnan's page was frantically trying to select a suit for his master to wear. He couldn't understand why this evening was so important. All he knew was the two guests were new to the area and one of them was a priest and yet his master was acting as if the king himself were coming.
"May I ask why tonight requires so much effort, sir?" the page finally asked.
"Will you stop asking questions and pass me that suit over there!" replied le Comte.
Too busy worrying about the dinner to answer his page. Agnan had tried on every single formal suit he had, each one more dazzling and flattering than the last. Finally he tried on his last suit, a dark purple with silver thread on the edges and a diamond on each wrist. This was his best and favorite suit although he'd never worn it before for fear of it being ruined.
"Ah, sir! This is indeed the best you have tried on," admired the still confused page.
"Yes, yes, I agree. I will wear it this evening," he said to his page, and then to himself thought, "Madame will be impressed. I just hope my efforts are noticed."
The time passed all too quickly for both Agnan and de Breuil. Agnan's servants were tired, because Agnan had made them re-clean, cook and pick flowers since he came out of his chambers. Agnan was frantically making sure everything was perfect for his guests. M. de la Fere, the father, was troubled by the early stages of gout and had retired to his chambers for the evening.
Just as the last flowers were being placed on the table, a valet de chamber announced the arrival of the de Breuil's. Agnan jumped to his feet and went to meet his guests in the ante-chamber; this room was decorated almost as a shrine to the la Fere family, with the walls covered by portraits of past Comte de la Feres. The largest of these was Agnan's grandfather who had served with king Henry IV and was given his sword in return for saving the king's life. This sword was passed down to Agnan's father and one day it would be given to him.
Breuil was still dressed in his black priest's uniform (he had attempted to beat the dust out of the fabric) because he hadn't taken anything else when Anne and he left their home. Anne however was wearing a navy blue dress with a small pattern on the hem. Although the dress was very plain and simple, Anne wore it as if it were the finest dress in the whole of France,
"Greetings," said Agnan to his guests when he entered the room.
"Good evening, M. le Comte," Anne replied, holding out her hand for Agnan to kiss which he did with all the gentleness of the lightest feather.
Then bowing to Breuil he said,
"I hope your accommodations at the inn are suitable."
"Thank you, Comte, they are quite suitable."
"Are to still planning to live here in Berry?"
Just as Breuil as about to answer a servant entered the room and announced that dinner was on the table. Agnan naturally offered Anne his arm which she took with a smile. Breuil followed behind with a heavy heart. He knew all too well how Anne seduced men. He also knew he had lost her to Agnan. The dining room was the smallest room of the house although it was still large; it was decorated simply yet still very lavishly.
The main attraction was the large window that overlooked the courtyard and the meadow which was glowing bright orange and red from the sun setting in the distance framed by the red and gold curtains hanging on both sides. The table was filled with enough food to feed a small country; every extravagant dish known to man seemed to be laid out in front of Agnan and his guests.
"Monsieur, you shouldn't have troubled yourself to prepare all this for us, "Anne said when she entered the room.
Agnan lead Anne to her seat, pulled out her chair and replied with a smile,
"Nonsense. Are you both not guests in my house?"
"My family is renowned for treating our guests like royalty and I do not intend to break with tradition."
As the servants poured out the wine and served the food Agnan turned to Breuil, "Do forgive me, Monsieur, but I believe we were interrupted earlier. Are you planning to live here in Berry?"
Breuil looked nervously at Anne before he replied, "Yes, monsieur, we are."
"Then you will need better lodgings...unless you intended to live at the inn."
"No, Mon ..."
"There is a small cottage on the edge of Berry that is for sale. I am on good terms with the owner and would be honored to buy the house for you both."
Before Breuil could answer, Anne replied with a warm smile, "Thank you, monsieur, we would not want to inconvenience you in anyway."
Agnan's heart seemed to melt when Anne smiled. He was completely under her spell and would do anything to please her.
"It would be my honor, Madame, to assist you both in anyway that I can."
"Now let's begin our meal...Bon Appetite."
Dinner passed very pleasantly. The conversation ranged from politics to religion and many other topics. As the clock stuck 10, Comte and his guests retired to the ante-chamber. A messenger was announced into the room. He was in a long brown riding coat and was covered in dust and clearly he'd been riding all day if not longer. The man bowed low to Comte and his guest before he spoke to Agnan,
"Please forgive my intrusion, Monsieur. If I had known you would have guests I would have waited until morning. I have here a letter from my master."
He held out a sealed envelope to le Comte. De Breuil went very pale and began to shake while Anne kept a sweet smile on her face.
Agnan was wary of the stranger. What could be so important that it could not wait until morning. Why had he rushed in getting his letter to Agnan and, moreover, who was his master? Agnan quickly snapped himself out of his train of thought and took the letter from the messenger.
"Thank you, good sir. Will you be joining us in a drink?''
"I am honored by your offer, M. le Comte, but I must return to my master at once."
"May I inquire as to who your master is?"
"I can not give you his name, Comte, as he wishes to remain anonymous." The man bowed low again and bid Agnan and his guests good night.
De Breuil took this as their queue to leave; Agnan led Breuil and Anne to the door and bid them good night, although Agnan would have loved to spend more time with Anne he was eager to read the letter. Almost as soon as he has shut the front door he'd opened the sealed envelope and read its contents as follows:
Dear M. le Comte de la Fere,
I write to you to inform you that I have sent my daughter and her guardian to you to work in your house; I know this is short notice but it is very important that she learn how to run a successful household and with no mother around to teach her I must send her to you to learn these skills. It is also important that her servant remain close by at all times, for reasons you will soon discover, she will arrive soon after you receive this letter.
From a devoted servant
Agnan went over this letter several times and each time a new question came to his mind; who had sent him the letter, why had he sent his daughter to him and what was the reason her servant had to remain close by? Agnan decided he would find out the answers to his questions tomorrow when she arrived. For now he was content to retire to bed and dream of Anne.