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Cécile: Gates of Gold

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Cécile: Gates of Gold is a book in the Girls of Many Lands series relating to Cécile Revel. It was released in 2002 and available with the doll and separately, but retired with the collection in 2005.

Characters

  • Cécile Revel - The main character
  • Dr. Revel - Cécile's father
  • Maman/Mrs. Revel (Mentioned only) - Cécile's mother
  • "Madame" Elisabeth Charlotte/La Duchesse d'Orléans - The sister-in-law to the king; a widow who takes care of Cécile at the Palace of Versailles
  • Françoise - Madame's first-lady-in-waiting
  • Madame de Maintenon - A wife of the king
  • King Louis XIV - The king of France in 1711
  • Marie-Adélaïde - A princess
  • Le Duc de Bourgogne - A prince; Marie-Adélaïde's husband
  • Monsieur Titti - The eldest of Madame's dogs.
  • Mademoiselle Minette - Another of Madame's dogs
  • Charmille - One of Madame's dogs
  • Charmion - One of Madame's dogs
  • Charmonte - One of Madame's dogs
  • Stabdille - One of Madame's dogs; A friend to Bretagne
  • Dr. Fagon - A doctor at the palace
  • Anjou - The son of Princess Marie-Adélaïde and Le Duc de Bourgogne
  • Bretagne - The eldest son of Princess Marie-Adélaïde and Le Duc de Bourgogne
  • Philippe - A page and friend of Cécile
  • Dr. Maréchal - A kindly doctor

Chapter by Chapter Summary

Chapter 1: Runaway Horse

Cécile Revel is walking in the forest of Rileaux, the village where she lives. She is gathering mushrooms for the soup for supper. Her father had warned her to be careful of soldiers. Cécile is pondering on how hard it is for life as a peasant, when she hears hounds baying. Presently, a large group of riders pass, hunting, dressed richly in robes and hats with gilded carts. After a small, chaotic moment of shouting and cheering, the group passes on, Cécile unnoticed. Cécile realizes she has seen the king's hunting party and wishes to have such finery as she saw. She laments on how her mother had died and her few belongings. She imagines her life if she lived at court and pretends to dance with an imaginary courtier. However, Cécile is startled by a runaway horse behind her from the hunting party. She manages to calm him down, as Cécile has a way with animals. She is looking around to see whom he belongs to, when she hears cries for help in French. However, the accent is foreign.

Chapter 2: An Unexpected Reward

Cécile waits to hear the voice again and hears a moan. In a muddy ravine, she finds a rider from the hunting party. Cécile judges the rider to be about the age of a grandmother. She reassures the woman and runs off to find her father. He quickly washes his hands (for health purposes) and comes with Cécile. The woman looks surprised and even relieved when she sees Cécile's father. Dr. Revel realizes her arm is dislocated. With a quick yank and Cécile's help, her arm is fixed. After a while, the woman recovers from her pain and thanks Dr. Revel and Cécile. After scolding her horse playfully, she states her name, Elisabeth Charlotte, la Duchesse d'Orléans. She is known by "Madame," and is from Germany. She is the king's sister-in-law. Madame comments on Cécile's wonderful manners and asks how she calmed down her horse. Cécile, very nervous, explains how she just has a way with animals. When she states her name, Madame glances between father and daughter and says "Revel, it is?" She asks how she can repay Dr. Revel and Cécile for healing her arm and catching her horse. Cécile silently hopes for money so they could have food, fabric for a new skirt, and maybe even soft leather shoes instead of Cécile's hard wooden clogs.

However, Dr. Revel asks Madame to grant Cécile a position at court, which Madame grants. Madame has been in need of a servant to care for her six dogs. She mentions Cécile's calming effect on animals and grants the request. Cécile, beyond shocked, feels numb. A position at court is everything she dreamed about; however, she would not be able to care for her father, who has a cough. Still, she follows her father's wishes and thanks Madame.

Chapter 3: A Warning

Cécile's feet hurt after many hours of walking, but eventually Madame and Cécile find their way back to Marly, the king's hunting estate. The king approaches Madame and confronts her saying, "A search party was sent for you, but I see you delivered yourself back to us." Slightly embarrassed, Madame explains about her adventure. The king then invites everyone to eat supper. Cécile, not sure exactly what to do, is tapped on the shoulder. A young woman named Françoise, Madame's lady-in-waiting, was asked by Madame to help Cécile. Walking throughout Marly, Cécile is almost overcome by the lavish wealth of the estate. However, she is lead into a smaller room and directed to take a bath. Madame de Maintenon appears, and carries with her a certain powerful presence. She shows her obvious disdain for Madame and gives an accusing warning to Cécile to be careful, in the case she wishes to harm or spy on the king. Cécile immediately declares her loyalty to the king, and Madame de Maintenon leaves with a final, ominous air. The maids audibly sigh and start whispering. Cécile is quickly scrubbed, dressed, brushed, and shown to a bed, where she falls asleep, despite the happenings of the day.

Cécile wakes at dawn to find Françoise offering her an gown and chemise. Cécile is surprised to find that such an expensive gown would be made especially for her, sewn only last night. She is amazed that so many pains would be taken for her, only a servant of the dogs, while the children in the villages must run around half-naked because the families cannot afford clothes. With these thoughts, she dresses. Everything fits Cécile perfectly, though the shoes are a little tight. Françoise brushes Cécile's hair and hands her some bread to eat quickly. Françoise and Cécile then go out to the courtyard, where coaches are ready to take the royal party back to Versailles. Cécile sees a happy family walking towards a coach. Françoise, seeing her questioning look explains that the parents are a prince, le Duc de Bourgogne, and a princess, Marie-Adélaïde. They are the grandchildren of the king and have two children of their own. Cécile later learns the children's name to be Bretagne and Anjou.

Cécile remembers with great sadness her father, and how he had walked Madame and Cécile to the edge of the meadow. Through tears, his last words to Cécile were, "You are my pride, Cécile. Be true to who you are." With a promise to write to him, Cécile walked away with Madame. Remembering where she was, Cécile sees Madame step forward. Cécile knows she is in Madame's service, and starts to follow after her but is stopped by Françoise, who quickly warns Cécile, saying, "The first thing to learn, Cécile, is that every single event, every single movement at court, comes with a set of rules. It's called etiquette; many a position has been lost for not knowing who goes first." (This segment is on the back of the book.)

Cécile nervously thanks Françoise, but is filled with apprehension at the strictness of her position at court. Françoise and Cécile eventually join Madame in a coach. Madame comments on Cécile's great posture with approval; however Cécile feels overwhelmed. Madame acknowledges that and comments that sometimes, she too is lost by just how large everything is. She says this is the reason she loves her dogs so much, because they give her "companionship in what can be the loneliest places on earth."

Chapter 4: The Palace

Cécile is surprised that such a beautiful coach can be so incredibly bumpy. Madame inquires as to how Cécile's feet are, and Cécile lies, saying they are fine. Madame declares that around her, Cécile is to speak the truth. With hesitation, Cécile admits that yes, her feet are very swollen, and, though the shoes are gorgeous, they are rather tight. Madame understands and says for Cécile to take off her shoes and put up her feet, as they are alone, with only Madame and Françoise in the coach and a long ride ahead. After complying with Madame's request, Cécile gazes out the window. She sees dark storm clouds in the sky and nervously asks Madame if the procession will take shelter. Apparently, this is highly unlikely as the king has a meeting he does not want to miss.

But with a jolt, the horses start galloping. Madame, Françoise, and Cécile grab onto the velvet handles inside the coach. Cécile fears they will tip, but Madame reassures her, saying that God does not take a person's life before it is time and that her fall yesterday was the twenty-fifth fall in all her years of hunting. Madame is still alive, with some help from Cécile.

The procession travels on. Near a village, there is a massive jolt that sends Cécile flying into Madame's lap. Cécile, extremely embarrassed, apologizes. But Madame takes no notice and looks out the window. Screaming and crying can be heard, so Madame summons the driver. The driver explains the king's coach trampled some peasants. Madame requests a full report, and in a few minutes, the driver returns. Two children were playing in the mud. The driver blames the parents for not keeping proper watch over their children and says that for compensation, the king is giving a few coins to the families. Cécile thinks that no amount of coins is compensation for a friend, brother, or sister, but she hopes her face does not reveal what she thinks.

Soon, the coaches continue, and Cécile looks out her window to see a crowd of peasants gathered around the two small children on the edge of the road. She is haunted by that image and can barely believe the driver blamed the parents. The parents work in the fields all day and still barely able to put food on the table, thanks to the king's horrible taxes. Cécile wonders why the king was so busy, he ran over two children, and why the lives of his people are only worth a couple of coins.

The storm soon passes, but Cécile's dark thoughts do not. As they approach the palace of Versailles, they see a thin woman with a child wrapped in her skirts. The woman yells at the passing coach that they have no bread. Madame shakes her head and comments that hunger and a lack of money are everywhere but that nothing can be done. Cécile privately wonders how many loaves of bread Madame's broach, brimming with jewels, could buy.

As the coach continues, the temperature rises. Cécile sees a building with a massive courtyard full of glistening horses and coaches and soldiers. Cécile asks if this is the palace, but with a kindly laugh, Françoise explains that the building is the stable. She points out the palace, and Cécile simply stares at the palace of Versailles. A massive drive of cobblestone leads up towards the palace and beyond the golden gates.

Cécile hears music, "like nothing [she] had ever heard before." After Madame is carried off in a sedan chair, Cécile and Françoise disembark. Cécile is afraid she will get crushed in the crowd of thousands, but as the music swells, King Louis XIV, the royal family, and Madame de Maintenon exit their carriages and file into the palace. Françoise explains that the palace is in the center, where the king can keep an eye on everything. Cécile nods, but gets the impression Françoise is warning her, like Madame de Maintenon. Cécile is still surprised by all the wealth that surrounds her, and her head aches from the cheering. Despite all the ribbons, lace, silk, gold, and feathers, she can only see the desperation of the woman and her child and the despair of the families of the two children that were trampled.

Chapter 5: Madame's Dogs

After the king is in the palace, and the crowd disperses, Cécile and Françoise enter the palace. Once again, Cécile is surprised by the wealth but chokes from the strong stench of perfume and body odor. She longs for fresh air and a look at the sky, but Françoise leads her through more rooms. Eventually, they come to a set of doors, one of which Françoise takes her pinky nail and scratches it down the door. Cécile later learns that the nail of the pinky finger is grown long for exactly this reason. Cécile and Françoise enters the room, fresh, open, and light colored, much to Cécile's relief. Madame is at a table near a window, writing, and barely acknowledges the two girls. To Cécile, she says Françoise will introduce her to the dogs. There are six dogs, all sitting around Madame. Madame says for her to sit on the floor, and Cécile learns that she will never sit in a chair when Madame is present but stand or sit on the floor. Madame starts talking to herself, saying, "I simply have to write another letter. Along with my coin collection, it is what I do. I'll write another letter, seal it with wax, and then, like all of my letters, it will be read before it leaves the palace. That old trollop constantly meddles, as if I'm a danger to France - indeed!" Cécile looks back to Françoise, and she tries to guess her age. After determining that Françoise is probably around twenty, Cécile kneels down to meet Madame's dogs. She admires their strange ears, noses, and eyes, and remembers seeing this certain breed of dogs in paintings with their rich owners. Cécile recalls her father explaining about this breed, Continental Toy Spaniels, being the favorite lap dogs at court. Cécile is, once again, surprised that the peasants couldn't care for their children, yet that the nobles could afford to lavishly care for servants to attend to their dogs. Françoise whispers to Cécile that she cannot "find more loyal and loving dogs than these." Cécile lets the dogs smell her scent and pets them, all the while assuring them that they will all be good friends. Cécile falls in love with the dogs, especially with the fact that the dogs do not care at all about her background and position. After becoming familiar with Cécile's scent, they return to Madame.

Monsieur Titti is the oldest and is the first to greet Cécile and the first to go back to Madame. Mademoiselle Minette is white with black spots. Then there is Charmille, Charmion, and Charmonte, all with curly, golden fur. Charmion starts whining, and Cécile, sensing the problem, places a chair next to Madame. Charmion stops whimpering and curls up next to Madame in the chair. The sixth and last dog is Stabdille, the largest. He is extremely intelligent and curious and "glances to [Cécile] as if to say, See? I'm doing my job. I hope you do yours."

Chapter 6: Disaster

Françoise teaches Cécile how to brush the dog's fur, wipe their noses, and clean their teeth, eyes, and ears. Cécile watches the dogs clamor around Madame whenever she writes. At night, the dogs sleep around Madame, while Cécile sleeps in a cot at the perimeter of the room. The next day, the dogs become restless and start whining, and Madame asks Cécile to walk the dogs. Cécile and Françoise leash the dogs, and Françoise helps lead Cécile outside. Cécile asks Françoise if she ever gets lost, and Françoise says she does sometimes, but that "all the paths lead back - eventually - to the palace." Françoise shows Cécile the orangerie, and Cécile sees her very first orange tree. In the courtyard, there is a massive pool. Cécile feels a sharp pull and looks down to see an empty dog collar. She sees Stabdille racing towards two women, Madame de Maintenon and the princess, a small boy, and a carriage. Cécile finally remembers Stabdille's name and calls for him, but he keeps running. Françoise takes the other dogs’ collars, and Cécile runs after the little puppy. Stabdille stands on Princess Marie-Adélaïde's skirts, and she laughs and recognizes Stabdille as one of Madame's dogs. The son of the princess starts playing with Stabdille, but Stabdille leaps at the boy playfully, and though both Cécile and the princess reach for them, both boy and dog tumble into the fountain.

Chapter 7: Doctor Fagon

Cécile goes into the fountain and grabs the dog, and the governess, Madame de Maintenon, grabs the boy. His scraped forehead is bleeding, and he coughs up water. Stabdille, dripping wet, is in Cécile's arms, and her new dress is saturated up to the waist. Cécile immediately starts apologizing, but Princess Marie-Adélaïde graciously shrugs off the incident, saying, "Oh, just a cool swim on a hot afternoon." The boy stops crying and asks about the puppy. His mother says the puppy belongs to Madame, and he wants to become friends with him. Madame de Maintenon says nothing during the incident but glares at Cécile. She signals silently for two soldiers to come, and Cécile bows her head. She becomes extremely afraid she will be sent home, a dishonor to her father. However, Madame de Maintenon only asks for a page to summon Dr. Fagon to examine Bretagne, the little boy. Cécile relaxes for a moment, but Madame de Maintenon warns Cécile that she will blame Madame if anything serious happens to Bretagne. Cécile apologizes profusely, and Bretagne asks to pet Stabdille. Cécile complies, after glancing at Madame de Maintenon and Marie-Adélaïde for permission. After petting the dog for a moment, Bretagne looks up to Cécile and says that he will be king one day and that Cécile must bring Stabdille to him whenever he wishes. Cécile laughs but complies. Bretagne asks Cécile's name and, as she answers, a man behind her echoes her last name. Dr. Fagon, the man, addresses Cécile. "We had a doctor of the same name here years ago shipped off to the Bastille." Cécile is in shock, and remembers the stories she has heard of the Bastille. However, she is extremely sure the man is not her father, thinking firmly it is impossible. She notices Françoise waiting and asks if she may take the dog, but Bretagne shakes his head. Dr. Fagon leans over and asks to examine the great-grandson of the king. The little boy asks for the doctor not to bleed him. Cécile remembers her father's strong opinion of bleeding. He called it "complete and absolute lunacy. Never take away something useful and necessary to the body, like blood." However, Dr. Fagon determines that Bretagne will not be bled this time, as the royal family is bled regularly. Cécile is glad for a moment that she is not royal herself. Dr. Fagon looks at Bretagne's head with a magnifying glass and puts some ointment on it. Marie-Adélaïde thanks the doctor graciously and announces they are going to visit Grandpa, which would be the king's son. As they departed, trailing water, Stabdille tries to follow, but Cécile holds him tightly. Dr. Fagon looks at her and states, "You have that doctor's eyes - rather serious, a bit close together. And you say your name is-" However, Cécile takes her leave and pretends she cannot hear him and hurries back to Françoise.

Chapter 8: Endless Etiquette

September comes and goes quickly with Cécile learning etiquette and the normal routine of court life. The king's morning ritual of rising and dressing is open to the public, with one nobleman handing him shoes, another his shirt. When the king walked down the Hall of Mirrors and was crowded by people trying to fall into the king's favor, asking if they may join him at the next hunt at Marley, or borrow money. The king would nod or shake his head slightly to indicate his answer. Cécile attends mass, one of the few times she is exempt from her duties. Mass is every day, and though Cécile stands in the very back with the other servants, she can still hear Madame snoring. Madame told Cécile that she just could not help it. Cécile notes that though the sermons are on feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and showing kindness to strangers, few at the court live by those actions. Mass is two or even three hours long, and in the afternoon Madame and Cécile walk the dogs, unless Madame is gone at Marly to hunt. Cécile sees for the first time the Ménagerie. She sees a carousel for the first time and remembers what Françoise had told her about the Ménagerie. Françoise had told her it was filled with exotic animals from distant lands like elephants, giraffes, lions, ostriches, flamingos, and other creatures beyond imagination. Cécile asks Madame if they are raised for food. Madame laughs and replies, "Oh no, Cécile. It is all for enjoyment. The king built it for the princess when she arrived at court. She was your age then." Cécile thinks upon this. Her life would be so different, had she been raised in the court. She tries to shrug it off, but the thought nags at her constantly. As Madame and Cécile walk away from the Ménagerie, Madame comments that the creatures in there mirror some people in the palace. The palace has many ambassadors from China and the New World, plus courtiers that dress outlandishly. Madame adds that there is no way of escape, and the creatures are locked up. Madame tells Cécile she hears of captives, criminals, and slaves that row, in chains, the magnificent French ships. She can hardly imagine that. "Well, sometimes I think there is no greater slavery than to be here at the palace in lifelong service to the king." Cécile nods, because such a brash statement unsettles her. Some things she can think but only to herself. Such ideas, as expressed by Madame, could cost her place at court or even worse. Madame has confided in Cécile how she longs to return home to Germany and that she has requested this many times but that each time she was denied. Madame was whisked away with the royal family every time the king traveled to Marley or Fontainebleau, and she is trapped in France, since the war with Germany is still going with its tenth year. The chances are extraordinarily slim that Madame will even be able to see her family again. She asks Cécile if she misses her father. Cécile is caught off guard, and tries not to cry while nodding yes. She now realizes how much she misses Papa yet only says, "Yes, some." Cécile fears that if she shows Madame how strong her feelings are, she might think her too weak to remain at court. Madame and Cécile continue, and they come to a stop at a courtyard with a fountain in the middle. The center of the fountain is a statue of a giant being crushed under raining rocks. Madame explains that this is from Greek mythology, and the statue depicts a giant who rose up against Zeus. Papa had taught Cécile about Greek mythology, and she recognized Zeus as the greatest of Greek gods. Madame said that the giant's sentence for going against Zeus was being buried under rocks. Cécile understands the pressure of the rocks. Ever since her arrival at the palace, Cécile has been constantly worrying over making a mistake. "I want to do my duty and be a good servant - and thereby honor my father, Madame, and the Sun King. But I was coming to know duty as a crushing yoke upon my shoulders."

Chapter 9: A Season of Rain

Later in the afternoon, Cécile asks Madame about the doctors at the palace. Madame, with passion, states that if the royal people took walks and breathed fresh air, everyone would be a lot healthier. She gives a very passionate opinion of how unhealthy some of the royals live. Cécile asks Madame about Dr. Revel. Madame remembers him apparently and calls him a "man of deep convictions." He apparently joined Madame in her belief that people should breathe fresh air, take walks, and drink a lot of fresh water. Madame continues, "He spoke up against many of the practices at court that tend to kill people off more than help them. He was a good man who stood up for his beliefs." Madame stops abruptly, and Cécile knows not to pursue the subject. The weather changes to rain, and it rains for many weeks, and though the dogs protest, Cécile drags them out into the weather. Cécile spends hours sitting on a cushion on the floor and reads novels that Madame loans to her and writes letters to her father. She tells him of life at court, and asks him about the doctor here, believing he has a cousin or relative by the same name. She also asks for advice with the dog's health, and he always gives a great answer but never addresses the question of Dr. Revel. One day, a page comes and gives a note to Madame. Apparently, Bretagne will not complete his studies without seeing Stabdille. Madame comments on how Madame de Maintenon spoils her children but relents. Cécile steps outside with Stabdille and notices the page is her age. She asks him if he lives at court. The page answers that "all pages live, train, and study in quarters above the stable." Cécile confides that when she first came here, she thought that the stable was the palace. With a grin, the page admits that he too thought that. "I come from the country. I had never dreamed of such a place." Cécile nods, and says, "My dreams were - well, simple. Real life is never exactly like a dream, is it?" She asks the page what he studies, and he says horse handling and etiquette, like Cécile expected, but also science, literature, history, and mathematics. Cécile states there are no places for girls to study those subjects but learns of St. Cyr, a school for girls. Cécile decides that it is impossible for her to attend St. Cyr, and plans to finish her days at court. Madame had said that there is no escape, and Cécile is too young to think of marriage. As Cécile walks towards Marie-Adélaïde's room, Cécile thinks about the princess. She is adored by all of France, and crowds flock wherever she goes. She is happy and gracious and has an engaging smile and melodic laughter. The king adores her. They arrive at her door, and the page says if she needs him, or anything, his name is Philippe. He blushes, adds, "At your service," and quickly leaves. Cécile tries not to laugh out loud at Philippe's attempt to be flirtatious. She walks in and brings in Stabdille. Bretagne smiles and cuddles the puppy, saying, "See? You brought him when I asked for him?" Cécile smiles and watches Bretagne play with Stabdille for at least an hour. Madame de Maintenon, Marie-Adélaïde, and many other women are sitting in a circle doing embroidery. Cécile tries not to listen to the gossip but overhears the women discussing a woman who overeats and they call her a "glutton." Bretagne's tutor comes in, and Bretagne reluctantly gives back Stabdille. Cécile stands at the door with Stabdille, waiting to be dismissed, when Madame de Maintenon gives her a smile and asks where her father learned his medical training. Cécile honestly replies she does not know, and silently thinks she knows little to nothing of her father's past and is now wondering about it. Madame de Maintenon continues, saying a certain Dr. Revel served at the palace, and though some called him brilliant, most called him a lunatic, and the king had to send him away. Madame de Maintenon waits expectantly, but Cécile doesn't admit the man as her father. She says that her father is home, not at the Bastille. Apparently, the doctor only had a sentence of a year and a half. Marie-Adélaïde kindly asks if it is even possible this man is Cécile's father. Cécile struggles inwardly, knowing full and well that Dr. Revel very possibly is her father. But, she thinks, "I would not let his past mistakes become my undoing." She says her father is a peasant, nothing more. Madame de Maintenon replies. "Good. Otherwise I feared that your mind might be tainted by wrong thinking. To go against the court physicians is to go against the king." Cécile curtsies and states that her duty is to serve the king and his court. Cécile is dismissed, and she thinks that of course Papa and Dr. Revel are the same people. But, Cécile is deeply ashamed that she "had been so quick to protect my position and to deny [her] own father."

Chapter 10: The Letter

With December approaching, the outside of Versailles is smothered in snow. Cécile leads the dogs outside, dressed warmly. The dogs are hesitant to walk in the winter weather, and Cécile is reminded of the women at the palace who worry the snow will mess up their makeup and hair. Madame refuses to follow the fashion, saying the women look like white rabbits with their ears pulled back. Cécile urges the dogs on. She hopes the snow will not melt too quickly and notes with a small thrill the grounds are empty. It has been about three months since her arrival at the Palace of Versailles. Stabdille starts eating the snow first, and the other dogs follow. Soon, Stabdille pulls on the leash, and Cécile takes off running with the dogs. Running is greatly looked down upon at court, but Cécile is so excited she cannot help herself. She slips twice, her legs showing from underneath her skirt, and the dogs immediately crowd around her, licking her. Cécile laughs and continues the run. Eventually, the snow sticks to the dogs' legs in clumps, and they can barely walk. Carrying Monsieur Titti, she returns to the palace. In the evening, Cécile is alone in the room and hears two quick scratches and a lengthy one on the door. She opens the door to find Philippe, the page. He holds a letter, and Cécile says that Madame is gone but will be back soon. Philippe says that the letter is for Cécile, and that he fears bad news. Cécile asks, "How do you know?" and snatches the letter. She recalls all of Madame's complaints of her letters being read, and Cécile fears being suspected of spying on the king. Cécile asks if Philippe has read the letter, and he denies it but says he was told. He tilts his head and says, "I'm sorry, Cécile." She abruptly closes the door on him and rips open the letter. The wax was placed on poorly, and the letter is short. It is from the priest of Cécile's village and reads:

My dear Cécile,
I write to you with sad news. Your father died of smallpox. He was given last rites before his soul went to be with Our Lord, and he was buried one week ago here at Saint Augustine's cemetery.
May God be with you.

Cécile reads and rereads the letter, but her heart shatters. She heard of a smallpox outbreak in Paris but cannot believe it traveled to the countryside so quickly. She believes that the cough left his body weakened, and he contracted the smallpox, his body to weak to defend itself. Cécile blames herself, thinking if she had been there, she could have helped heal him, and he might have lived. Her mind starts racing, wondering what his last hours were like, if he had been alone, and if anyone had comforted him like he had comforted so many others. Cécile needs to know more of her father's past. She needs to hear his voice and thank him for teaching her to read and write. Cécile relives her mother's death, and her heart cracks. Philippe calls for Cécile from the corridor, but she just wants to be left alone. Philippe promises to return tomorrow and once again apologizes, leaving her alone. Cécile feels like she has fallen off a cliff. "I had dreamed of finding heaven at Versailles, but those had been the dreams of a complete and utter fool. I had failed to understand all the goodness, the true wealth that was once under my own roof, with my father. Each day together had been my bag of gold coins. We struggled and we were poor, but we had each other." Cécile hears Françoise and Madame's footsteps coming towards the door. Cécile takes a deep breath, hides the letter under the cushion she is sitting on, and continues to brush the dogs. The dogs scamper around Cécile, licking her, as if they felt her suffering, and were trying to comfort her. Madame is talking to Françoise as she walks in, and Cécile overhears them talking about her and the future ahead of her. Madame says, "At my age, I ask, what does it truly matter if I am poisoned to death?" Cécile ignores Madame and Françoise, as Madame continually asks rhetorical questions. Cécile's eyes well up with tears, and she accidently brushes Charmonte too hard. Charmonte whimpers, and Cécile pets her, saying she is sorry. Madame continues her lecture on whether or not it matters if she is poisoned. "God will take my life when He is ready, and there is nothing anyone can do to add a moment to my life or shorten it, unless it is by His will. I have come to despise eating alone while being watched by a standing audience." Cécile, with a shaking voice, welcomes Madame, and said her dogs had been waiting for her. The dogs run to Madame, and Françoise asks Cécile if she will eat. Cécile shakes her head in response, though normally she loves eating the scraps from King Louis XIV's table. But "her appetite had died along with her father." Françoise says she will watch the dogs and for Cécile to go, but Cécile cannot move. Madame asks if something is wrong, and Cécile slowly shows her the letter. Madame cries, "Oh, Cécile!" and Cécile cries along with Madame.

Chapter 11: Doctor Revel, My Father

The next day, after mass, Françoise is helping Madame out of her dress, and Madame dismisses her, saying she has several more letters to finish. Cécile is lying on her bed in the corner of the room, trying to sleep. Cécile broods on the fact that her father is gone, and that she had dishonored him, by calling him "a peasant, and nothing more." "Papa had been the kindest and most generous man on earth, and I didn't deserve to be his daughter." Madame interrupts Cécile's thoughts, saying that Stabdille would like to visit Bretagne again. Cécile tries to protest, saying Stabdille has too much energy, might be a trouble, or might disturb the princesses. Although Madame wins in the end, Cécile still asks Madame to tell her about her father. She says she hates being asked all these questions about Dr. Revel and is tortured by the fact that Madame de Maintenon knows more about her father than she does. Madame puts down the envelope and stares out the window. Finally, she looks at Cécile and asks if she really wants to know the truth. Cécile debates with herself for a bit and finally nods. Madame says that yes, Cécile's father was the doctor sentenced to the Bastille and that she recognized him when he came to help her in the forest that day. Madame looks at Cécile and says she had great respect for Dr. Revel but could not do anything against the judgment of the King. He had spoken out against Dr. Fagon, accusing him of killing Madame's husband. Cécile looks shocked, but Madame continues. Monsieur, Madame's husband, was very frail, and at Marly, Madame had a four-hour fever. Her husband said she was not well, and sent her to her room. But later, Madame de Ventadour, Bretagne's governess, came and told her that her husband was very ill. Monsieur could barely talk, but told Madame that she was sick and to go back to her room. Despite his insistence to return to her rom, Madame stayed with him. Dr. Fagon and Dr. Revel came, and Dr. Fagon bled Monsieur twice. Dr. Revel held his composure, knowing that such an old medical tactic would not be changed quickly. Come morning, Monsieur was on his deathbed. Dr. Fagon tried to bleed him once more but Dr. Revel burst out saying Dr. Fagon was killing him and for him to stop. Dr. Fagon ordered Cécile's father to be silent, but Dr. Revel grabbed Fagon's knife and threw it across the room, shouting, "I will not allow you to kill off the royal family!" Madame almost fainted, and was dragged out of the room. Madame learned later of Cécile's father's banishment, and Monsieur died in the afternoon, ten years ago. Cécile's heart stops. She asks Madame is she is certain that this was ten years ago. Cécile figures that she was two years old when her father was banished and that she must have been born at Versailles. Cécile is angry her parents lied to her, but Madame speaks up, saying, "More importantly, your parents were good people, so unlike many here at court who live only for the next pleasure and entertainment. I'm sure they loved you as much as any parents could and gave you all that you really needed." Cécile asks about her mother, and Madame states she only met her once. She was from Normandy, light haired, and of noble blood, though her family became poor. Cécile's papa married beneath him, because he loved her so much. Cécile starts crying uncontrollably, and Madame rips up the letter to Marie-Adélaïde, saying that Cécile would visit Bretagne with Stabdille. "The king believes no one should cry or grieve in public. He likes to see a merry court. I know how it feels to lose those you care about. I thought it might cheer you to go out, but I see I am wrong. Stay here. Sleep, if you wish." She tells Stabdille and Cécile that they will see Bretagne some other time.

Chapter 12: The Coming Ball

Cécile somehow gets through the month, and come December, Madame learns of Cécile's ability to spell well. She asks Cécile to proofread her French letters, so that when Madame de Maintenon reads her letters, she can disagree all she wants with what Madame writes, but that she cannot make fun of her spelling. Cécile complies and finds that Madame's letters are like a novel of court life. She writes about her dogs, King Louis XIV, courtiers, operas, plays, and concerts. She writes about the Huguenots, who were tortured and forced out of France for not following Catholicism. Madame writes of hunger, poverty, and the war with Germany. She writes of how it hurts her to think of the blood, war, and smoke in her homeland, "which the king had claimed, all in Madame's name." And she writes of her family, and how unbearable the loneliness is at court. Cécile is also surprised to learn that, though Madame lives amidst extreme wealth, she owns very little. Françoise, because of her position as first-lady-in-waiting, owns Madame's dresses, and will receive them when new ones arrive. Madame's linens and nightgowns, and even petticoats, all belong to the first chambermaid. Cécile is careful to comment on the spelling, and not the content of Madame's letters. Cécile feels that since her father has passed away, she is beginning to love Madame, who has cared for her and given her a home. She thinks no one can ever replace Papa or Maman, but thinks of Madame as her grandmother. One night Cécile is reading a letter, when she hears the scratch upon the door. She gets up, despite the protests of the dogs laying on her, keeping her warm. At the door is Philippe. Cécile looks back to see the dogs running towards her, and quickly steps into the hall and closes the door. She flushes at being seen in her nightclothes but asks Philippe what is wrong. Philippe, beaming, exclaims he has news and wants Cécile to be the first to know. Cécile is sick and tired of news and asks Philippe to tell her only if it is good news, which it is. The war with Germany is bound to end in a month. Cécile is happy for Madame, knowing that she probably already knows. But, more news is to come. Philippe tells Cécile that the princess Marie-Adélaïde and the king will hold a grand Christmas ball to celebrate the peace. The whole court will attend. Cécile comments on Philippe's good ears, and Philippe says they are like a rabbit. He also adds, "I also have good eyes. I can see you're the prettiest girl at court." Cécile feels awkward and blushes, since no one has ever called her pretty. Her father praised her spelling, curiosity, and reading, but never mentioned her beauty. She turns to leave and hits the edge of the door. She blushes again with embarrassment. Philippe uses this as an opportunity to ask if she will be at the ball. She replies with a shrug, says, "Maybe," and quickly slips into the room. Stabdille comes up to her and licks her, as if asking what is wrong with her.

Chapter 13: Royal Sled Race

The palace is abuzz with talk of the ball. Cécile overhears comments on how money is scarce, but Marie-Adélaïde continues with plans anyway. King Louis XIV decrees that everyone, including the servants, will be given new clothes for the ball. Madame tells the seamstress measuring Cécile to make it a soft powder blue, simple, but enough to make Cécile smile. She privately acknowledges that though Madame has tried often, Cécile has barely smiled in the past month. The talk of the Christmas ball starts annoying Cécile, and she is glad when the gossip changes to the sled races. A few days prior to Christmas, the ice is declared safe for skating and racing by the king. Cécile takes Stabdille down to the canal to see Bretagne race. Anjou, Bretagne's little brother, sits on his lap in the wooden sled. Bretagne's governess, Madame de Ventadour, says that Anjou must get out soon since the race will begin presently. Cécile could not have dreamed of such sleds, gilded and carved like seashells, angels, a woman's head, and Bretagne's - a turtle with blue velvet seats. All of the racers were of the royal family. The crowd quiets, and Marie-Adélaïde announces, "The race will mark the beginning of the court's Christmas festivities!" The racers are lined at a ribbon on the snow, and a soldier stands at one side. Cécile looks for Philippe. She admits that though he has become her favorite page, she would never tell him that. Bretagne shouts to Cécile and Stabdille that he will win the race, for he is the king's great-grandson. Nothing will stop him from winning. However, his governess leans over to Cécile to comment privately, "Except excessive pride, perhaps." Cécile smiles. Madame de Ventadour steps forth and eventually persuades Anjou to disembark the sled. Cécile wonders about Princess Marie-Adélaïde and her modesty and wonders if her mother is anything like her. Cécile feels like a centaur - half horse, half man. She feels caught - half peasant, half nobility, or neither of the two. Her train of thoughts is interrupted by the gunshot. The ponies jerk forward, and Cécile cheers for Bretagne. She has come to know him well and truly enjoys his presence. At this moment, she realizes how dependent royalty is on the servants. Cécile keeps cheering, half hoping Bretagne will win, and half wishing she could race down the canal herself. In Rileaux, Cécile was free to run, skate, and skid on the ice, and throw snowballs. She misses her freedom immensely. The ponies reach the end of the canal, and the sleds turn to race back. Trumpets blow, but Cécile is oblivious. She is grieving for her lost freedom. "I was grateful for the foods and shelter I had, yet I felt myself growing more invisible with every day, more distant from my true self." A collective moan rises from the crowd, and Cécile looks up to see Bretagne face down in the snow and the sled overturned. She runs after Madame de Ventadour and is few steps behind when his governess picks him up, asking if he is alright. Bretagne asks to be put down, commenting how fun it was. Cécile approaches him, but a hand on her shoulder stops her. The hand belongs to a soldier, who yanks her roughly away from the sled. He says she is not a servant to the Bourgogne family, and though Cécile protests that she is a friend who wanted to make sure he was unhurt, the man doubts her intentions. Cécile pleads with the man to ask the princess for proof, but the solider remembers her from the incident at the fountain and asks Cécile to follow him.

Chapter 14: The Grand Ball

Madame is summoned to explain Cécile's behavior to a senior officer and Cécile returns to the apartment with the dogs, deeply ashamed. Her punishment is that she cannot go to the Grand Ball. She sits on a cushion and starts to brush Stabdille. Madame stops playing her card game and states that she understands the rules are difficult to follow, especially when you have not grown up with them, but you have to watch your every move. Madame de Maintenon went up to Madame and told her that the day Cécile arrived, she asked to have the guards watch her because of her background and because she is in Madame's service. Madame comments, "So much for our coming Grand Peace with Germany." Cécile promises she will try, and that she does not wish to cause trouble for Madame. Madame says not to worry about her but to watch herself. Cécile greatly fears losing her position, as she is an orphan. She remembers the poverty of the women, pleading for bread, and fears starvation. Cécile glances at the blue dress she was going to wear to the Grand Ball, since it was delivered while she "was being treated like a criminal." Cécile tries to pretend she does not care and holds herself back from calling Madame de Maintenon names and following Madame's behavior. Cécile tries not to keep looking at the dress for the rest of the day, but she finds it extremely hard. She does not want to care about anything at court, but she does. She wants to wear the dress and see Philippe. The evening mass is exceptionally long, for the Grand Ball follows right after. The crowd is very restless, and when mass finishes, Cécile walks back to the apartment, trying not to gaze out the windows and the fireworks, in case she gets caught. Looking around, she huffs out loud but is not consoled. Cécile sits on her bed, dressed in her powder blue dress, and looks at Stabdille. "Stabdille, if I could, I would turn you into a prince, and we'd dance together...just like Cendrillon (Cinderella)." She pretends to wave a wand, and picks up Stabdille and starts dancing with him. However, she is interrupted by a scratch at the door - Philippe's scratch. She greets him, and he returns her greetings and bows very low. He says that Bretagne requests her presence and wants to dance with her. Cécile laughs, scarcely believing her luck. She asks how this happened, and Philippe tells her the king overruled her punishment. "Besides, this evening I think the king would grant any milkmaid's request. Even Madame de Maintenon is smiling." Cécile wryly comments on this miracle. She leashes the dog and follows Philippe. He comments on how lovely her dress is but adds that she is lovelier still. Through her blush, Cécile teases him, saying he has been here too long and is acting like a courtier. Philippe says the one exception is that he may be the only honest one at the palace. Philippe leads her to the king and royal family, and Anjou cries Cécile's nickname "Cee-Cee!" and races towards her. She curtsies to Anjou, and Bretagne asks Cécile to dance. Madame comes up, saying Cécile cannot dance without the right accessories, handing her pearl bracelets and necklaces and her white ostrich feather fan. Cécile breathlessly thanks her, and Madame says it is only for the dance. Philippe holds the dogs for Cécile, and though Cécile is twice his size, she dances with Bretagne. After the dance, Marie-Adélaïde signals for Cécile to approach. Cécile curtsies and listens to the princess. "My sons adore you. They have a host of nursemaids and their governess, yet they both asked to see you this evening. Such a compliment." Cécile thanks the princess, and is shocked when her face twists with pain and grabs her jaw. Cécile asks whether she should grab a doctor, but Bourgogne says she is fine and admires her selflessness by cooking the entire dinner for the king. Cécile inwardly laughs, thinking she has cooked many a dinner without the help of servants. Cécile thanks her once more and is dismissed. Cécile walks back to the apartment with a very happy Philippe. Cécile thinks of her future, how she has had so much sadness in her past, and yet somehow she continues forward. She promises to do her best in everything and be strong, spirited, and dutiful when it comes to her duties. Cécile's heart soars. The war with Germany is ending. She has found favor with Madame, Philippe, and even the royal family. "Like arriving at a lovely and unexpected bend in the river, I could have drifted in that moment forever."

Chapter 15: Marly

Cécile is asked to deliver a snuffbox to the princess Marie-Adélaïde, and she does. However, the princess becomes ill later that night, and Cécile wonders if the snuffbox had anything to do with it. She thinks it is her jaw pain, but when she finds the snuff box missing, she worries.

Chapter 16: Nightfall at Versailles

The princess dies from measles. Her husband is sent away, so he will not catch it. Her death is public, and her room is crowded. Madame writes in one of her letters that the doctor's bleeding caused her death.

Chapter 17: Rumors of Poison

Cécile is summoned and interrogated. She is blamed for the death of the princess, but Madame is infuriated and stands for Cécile. One doctor, Dr. Maréchal, settles everyone down, and later, Cécile is declared innocent.

Chapter 18: No Safe Place

Philippe kisses Cécile when he sees her. Cécile is to bring Stabdille to Anjou and Bretagne. The boys are shy and try not to play, but Cécile and Philippe start making a bird's nest in the corner of the room, and the two boys are drawn in. Cécile notes that Bretagne's forehead is hot. He has contracted measles, and the doctors are notified.

Chapter 19: When Sparrows Fall

The doctors bleed Bretagne. The nursemaids start putting Anjou down, who also has measles, but Cécile and the other nursemaids devise a plan. When the doctors leave, they lock themselves in the room. From the other room, the doctors announce Bretagne has died. The doctors come to treat Anjou, but the door is firm. The nurses care for him, and his fever worsens.

Chapter 20: Sleeping Child

Anjou's fever breaks, and he recovers. The funeral for his mother, father, and brother is held.

Chapter 21: Beyond Gilded Gates

Great sadness reigns over France, but life continues. Anjou is too young to understand the deaths of his mother, father, and brother, and says he wants to go to heaven, too. But Cécile says that he needs to stay here with her. Every day, Stabdille and Cécile visit him. Cécile waits to see when she will be punished, and a month later, two guards arrive in the early hours of the morning. Cécile opens the door and finds that she is being summoned. Madame reads a letter that the guard hands her and trembles. Cécile has prepared herself for the summons, and the guards take her upper arm, and starts leading her into the hallway. Cécile asks where they will take her. Madame says she has no idea, but that she will find out and snaps at the guard, asking for Cécile to dress and say goodbye to her. Cécile hugs Madame tightly, and Madame whispers to Cécile, "When you fall from a horse, always remember to get back on again--no matter how hard the fall." Cécile nods, unable to speak. She slips on her green dress, and Madame promises to write and find out where she is going. Cécile thanks Madame and kisses each dog good-bye. She picks up Stabdille and thanks him for his companionship and how he brought her to know the princess and Bretagne. "Be good," she whispers to him. Cécile steps into the hall and is led away by the soldiers. They take her out of the palace, and when Cécile asks where they are taking her, she gets no response. Her legs feel stiff, but she keeps walking. She does not want to leave Madame or the dogs, but remembers when her father was forced to the Bastille with a similar situation and holds her head high. Cécile braces herself for a harsh future if she is turned out as the guards approach the gates; instead, she is placed into a coach. She initially fears the Bastille but is surprised when she sees Madame de Maintenon. The two greet each other, and Madame de Maintenon explains that Cécile is banished, never again to pass through the gates of Versailles. However, Madame relates to Cécile, as she was once a poor girl with few options. Madame thanks Cécile for saving Anjou, even though she still believes the doctors. Cécile is stunned, and Madame gives her an option. Cécile may attend St. Cyr, the first school for girls in all of France. Apparently, Madame de Maintenon started the school. Cécile is shocked, as she had previously thought Madame de Maintenon had not a charitable bone in her body. Cécile accepts the offer with great relief, gratefulness, and joy. The coach moves forward, and Cécile looks out the window. She is ever grateful to Madame de Maintenon, and promises to write to Madame, Philippe, and little Anjou. "My life was a tiny boat swept along by a swift current, taking me where it would, and guiding me, I hoped, to safe harbor. Our coach rolled onto dirt streets, and I glanced back at the palace one last time. The sun's early rays shone on everything below--peasant and king, pigeons and horses--and lit up the damp cobblestone, turning ordinary dewdrops into diamonds."

Then and Now: France

Discusses a girl's life in 1711 France. Topics include:

  • The sun king, Louis XlV, and where he lived.
  • What King Louis XlV would have worn.
  • Activities the royal court took part in.
  • What a court member would have worn.
  • What peasants wore and how they lived.
  • Schooling for peasants by the Church.
  • Life in France today.

Glossary of French Words

In the back of the book, there are several pages that serve as a glossary of French words used throughout the book. The words are listed with the proper pronunciations and the definitions.

Items Associated with Cécile: Gates of Gold

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