They sang, chatted, laughed, and almost overpowered the music by their boisterous levity. Their presumptuous revelry seemed to be every moment on the increase. The Austrian and Russian officers looked upon them with disgust and alarm, and entreated them to desist; but the French officers were regardless of all etiquette. During the dessert, Belleville and some of his friends arose and drew near the table at which the queen and the princesses were seated; this was in the middle of the room, and slightly separated from the other tables. They gazed at the princesses with insolent eyes, and, placing themselves behind the chair of the queen, they began to crack nuts with their teeth, and throw the shells carelessly upon the floor, near her majesty.
The queen continued a quiet conversation with the Princess Wilhelmina, and appeared wholly unconscious of this rudeness and vulgarity; but her face was pallid, and her eyes filled with tears.
"I pray your majesty to rise from the table!" said the Princess Wilhelmina. "Look at the Princess Amelia; her countenance glows with anger; there is a tempest on her brow, and it is about to burst upon us."
"You are right; that is the best way to end this torture." She rose from the table, and gave a sign for a general movement. When the queen and her suite had left the room, Baron Marshal drew near Count Belleville.
"Sir." said he. "I told you before that I was not sufficiently credulous to take you for a nobleman. Your conduct at the table has proved that I did well to doubt you. Yourself and friends have shown that you are strangers to the duties of cavaliers, and utterly ignorant of the manners of good society."
"Ah!" cried Belleville, "this offence demands satisfaction."
"I am ready to grant it," said Baron Marshal; "name the time and place of meeting."
"You know well," cried Belleville, "that I am a prisoner, and have given my word of honor not to use my sword!"