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33
THE DECADENCE OF VERSAILLES

dressed more for bridals than for battles. I held my peace though, walking steadily onward as directed, yet itching to stick my sword into some of their dainty trappings. At the door I came upon a great throng of loungers playing at dice, some throwing and others laying their wagers upon those who threw.

Standing somewhat aloof was a slender young fellow who wore the slashed silver and blue of the King's own guard—I knew the colors well from some of our older officers in the Provincial army. They had told me of men, soldiers and hard fighters, too, wearing great frizzled wigs outside their natural hair, with ruffles on their sleeves and perfumed laces at their throats—but I had generally discredited such tales. Here was a man dressed more gaily than I had ever seen a woman in my childhood—and he seemed a fine, likely young fellow, too. I fear I examined him rather critically and without proper deference to his uniform, for he turned upon me angrily, catching my glance.

"Well, my good fellow, didst never see the King's colors before? Where hast thou lived then all these years?"

He seemed quite as much amused at my plain forest garb, leggings and service cap, as I had been at his silken trumpery. I replied to him as quietly as might be:

"In our parts beyond the seas we hear often of the King's Guard, but never have my eyes rested upon their uniform before."

Observing my shoulder straps he unbent somewhat and inquired: