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IT was the evening following the one the incidents of which occupied the preceding chapter.
    Beneath a sofa in the Ball Room of Buckingham Palace, Henry Holford lay concealed.
    It would be a mere repetition of statements made in former portions of this work, were we to describe the means by which the young man obtained access to the most private parts of the royal dwelling. We may, however, observe that he had paid frequent visits to the palace since the occasion when we first saw him enter those sacred precincts at the commencement of January, 1839; and that he was as familiar with the interior of the sovereign's abode, even to its most retired chambers, as any of its numerous inmates.
    He had run many risks of discovery; but a species of good fortune seemed to attend upon him in these strange and romantic ventures; and those frequent alarms had never as yet terminated in his detection. Thus he became emboldened in his intrusions; and he now lay beneath the sofa in the Ball Room, with no more apprehension than he would have entertained if some authority in the palace had actually connived at his presence there.
    It was nine o'clock in the evening; and the Ball Room was brilliantly illuminated.
    But as yet the low-born pot-boy was its sole occupant.
    Not long, however, was he doomed to that solitude. By a strange coincidence, the two noble ladles whose conversation had so much interested him on the occasion of his first visit to the palace, entered the room shortly after nine o'clock. He recognised their voices immediately; and he was delighted at their arrival, for their former dialogues had awakened the most lively sentiments of curiosity in his mind. But since his intrusion in January, 1839, he had never seen nor heard them in his subsequent visits to the royal dwelling, until the present occasion; and now, as they advanced through the room together, he held his breath to catch the words that fell from them.
    "The dinner-party was tiresome to-day, my dear countess," observed the duchess: "her Majesty did not appear to be in good spirits."
    "Alas!" exclaimed the lady thus addressed, "our gracious sovereign's melancholy fits occur at less distant intervals as she grows older."
    "And yet her Majesty has every earthly reason to be happy,' said the duchess. "The Prince appears to be devotedly attached to her; and the Princess Royal is a sweet babe."
    "Worldly prosperity will not always ensure felicity," returned the countess; "and this your grace must have perceived amongst the circle of your acquaintance. Her Majesty is a prey to frequent fits of despondency, which are distressing to the faithful subjects who have the honour to be near the royal person. She will sit for an hour at a time, in moody contemplation of that sweet babe; and her countenance then wears an expression of such profound  such plaintive  such touching melancholy, that I have frequently wept to behold her thus."
    "What can be the cause of this intermittent despondency?" inquired the duchess.
    "It is constitutional," answered the countess. "The fit comes upon her Majesty at moments when she is surrounded by all the elements of pleasure, happiness, and joy. It is a dark spirit against which no mind, however powerful, can wrestle. The only method of mitigating the violence of its attacks is the bustle of travelling:  then novelty, change of scene, exercise, and the demonstrations of popular devotion seem to relieve our beloved sovereign from the influence of that morbid, moody melancholy."
    "I believe that when we conversed upon this topic on a former occasion,  it must be at least two years ago,  your ladyship hinted at the existence of hereditary idiosyncrasies in the Royal Family?" observed the duchess, inquiringly. "Indeed," added her grace, hastily, "I well remember that you alluded to the unfortunate attachment of George the Third for a certain Quakeress  "
    "Yes  Hannah Lightfoot, to whom the monarch, when a prince, was privately united," answered the countess. "His baffled love  the necessity which compelled him to renounce one to whom he was devotedly attached  and the constant dread which he entertained lest the secret of this marriage should transpire, acted upon his mind in a manner that subsequently produced those dread results which are matters of history."
    "You allude to his madness," said the duchess, with a shudder.
    "Yes, your grace  that madness which is, alas! hereditary," replied the countess solemnly. "But George the Third had many  many domestic afflictions. Oh! if you knew all, you would not be surprised that he had lost his reason! The profligacy of some of his children  most of them  was alone sufficient to turn his brain. Many of those instances of profligacy have transpired; and although the public have not been able to arrive at any positive proofs respecting the matters, I can nevertheless assure your grace that such proofs are in existence  and in my possession!"
    "Your ladyship once before hinted as munch to me; and I must confess that without having any morbid inclination for vulgar scandal, I feel some curiosity in respect to these matters."
    "Some day I will place in your hand papers of a fearful import, in connexion with the Royal Family," returned the countess. "Your grace will then perceive that profligacy the most abandoned  crimes the most heinous-vices the most depraved, characterised nearly all the children of George the Third. There is one remarkable fact relative to that prince's marriage with Hannah Lightfoot. The Royal Marriage Act was not passed until thirteen years after this union, and could not therefore set it aside; and yet Hannah Lightfoot was still living when the prince espoused Charlotte Sophia Princess of Mecklenburgh Strelitz in 1761."
    "Is this possible?" exclaimed the duchess, profoundly surprised.
    "It is possible  it is true!" said the countess emphatically. "In 1772 the Royal Marriage Act* [* This Act was denounced at the time as "one calculated only to encourage fornication and adultery in the descendants of George the Second."] was passed, and provided that no member of the Royal Family should contract a marriage without the sovereign's consent. This measure was enacted for several reasons; but principally because the King's two brothers had formed private matrimonial con-[-193-]

nexions,  the Duke of Cumberland with Mrs Horton, a widow-and the Duke of Gloucester with the widow of the Earl of Waldegrave."
    "The act certainly appears to me most cruel and oppressive," said the duchess; "inasmuch as it interferes with the tenderest affections and most charming of human sympathies-feelings which royalty has in common with all the rest of mankind."
    "I cordially agree with your grace," observed the countess. "The law is barbarous  monstrous-revolting; and its evil effects were evidenced by almost every member of the family of George the Third. In the first place, the Prince of Wales (afterwards George the Fourth) was privately united to Mrs. Fitzherbert, at the house of that lady's uncle, Lord Sefton. Fox, Sheridan, and Burke were present at the ceremony, in addition to my mother and several relations of the bride. Mr. Fox handed her into the marriage; and the happy pair proceeded to Richmond, where they passed a week or ten days. Queen Charlotte was made acquainted with the marriage: she sent for her son, and demanded an explanation. The prince avowed the truth. Your grace has, of course, read the discussion which took place in connexion with this subject, in the House of Commons, in 1787. Mr. Rolle, the member for Devonshire, mysteriously alluded to the union: Mr. Fox rose up, and denied it; but from that day forth Mrs. Fitzherbert never spoke to Fox again. Sheridan let the truth escape him:  he said, 'A lady who has been alluded to, is without reproach, and is entitled to the truest and most general respect.' How would Mrs. Fitzherbert have been without reproach, or entitled to respect, if she were not married to the prince? But I have proofs  convincing proofs  that such an union did actually take place, although it was certainly null and void in consequence of the Marriage Act."
    "It nevertheless subsisted according to the feelings and inclinations of the parties interested," said the duchess; "and it was based on honour, if on no legal principle."
    "Alas!" whispered the countess, casting a rapid glance around; "the word honour must not be mentioned in connexion with the name of George the Fourth. It pains me to speak ill of the ancestors of [-194-] our lovely queen; but  if we converse on the subject at all  truth must influence our observations. The entire life of George the Fourth was one of profligacy and crime. Often have I marvelled how one possessing a soul so refined as Georgiana, the beautiful Duchess of Devonshire, could have resigned herself to such a degraded voluptuary  such a low debauchee. Yet she was his Quen [-sic-] of Love, surrounded by her graces, who, however, bore the modern names of Craven, Windham, and Jersey."
    "Carlton House has, indeed, beheld strange and varied scenes," said the duchess; "low orgies and voluptuous revels-music floating here  dice rattling there  the refinements of existence in one room, and the most degraded dissipation in another."
    "Such was the case," observed the countess. "But let us return to the consequences of the Royal Marriage Act. Rumour has told much in connexion with the coupled names of the Duke of York and Mrs. Clarke  the late King William and Mrs. Jordan; and so well known are these facts that I need not dwell upon them. The matrimonial connexions of the Duke of Sussex  first with Lady Augusta Murray, and afterwards with Lady Cecilia Underwood,*[-*Now Duchess of Inverness-] are all matters resting upon something more solid than mere conjecture."
    "And the Duke of Cumberland  the present King of Hanover?" said the duchess Inquiringly.
    "It is dangerous to speak of him," whispered the countess; "because it is impossible to utter a word in his favour."
    "You surely cannot believe all the tales that have been circulated against him?" exclaimed the duchess, earnestly watching the countenance of her companion, as if to anticipate her reply.
    "Does your grace particularly allude to the death of Sellis?" asked the countess, turning her head so as to meet the glance of her friend. "Because," continued she, without waiting for a reply, "I should be sorry  nay, nothing should induce me-to state in plain terms my impression relative to that event. I may, however, allude to a few material points. Sir Everard Home, the medical attendant of the Duke of Cumberland, frequently observed, 'that too much pains were taken to involve that affair in mystery;' and another eminent physician, since dead, declared that 'the head of Sellis was nearly severed from his body, and that no man could inflict upon himself a wound of such a depth.' The Duke of Cumberland stated that his valet, Sellis, entered his bed-chamber and attacked him with a sword; and that having failed in his murderous purposes, he retired to his own room and committed suicide. Sir Everard Home distinctly proved, on the inquest, that the corpse was found lying on its side on the bed; and yet 'he had cut his own throat so effectually that he could not have changed his position after inflicting the wound.' I will not, however, make any observations upon that fact and this statement which seem so conflicting: the subject is almost too awful to deal with. There is still one remarkable point to which the attention of those who discuss the dark affair should be directed:  the hand-basin in Sellis's room was half full of blood-stained water, and it is very clear that the miserable wretch himself could not have risen to wash his hands after the wound was inflicted in his throat. But let us not dwell on this horrible event: the mere mention of it makes me shudder."
    "The King of Hanover has been, at least, unfortunate in many circumstances of his life, if not guilty," observed the duchess; "because his enemies have insisted strongly upon the suspicious nature of the incident of which we have been speaking."
    "The more so, because it was known that the Duke of Cumberland had intrigued with the wife of Sellis," returned the countess. "As your grace declares, that exalted personage has been indeed unfortunate  if nothing more. In 1830 Lord Graves committed suicide; and the improper connexion existing between the Duke of Cumberland and Lady Graves was notorious."
    "I well remember," said the duchess, "that the conduct of the Duke and Lady Graves was far from prudent, to say the least of it, after that melancholy event. Scarcely were the remains of the self-slain nobleman cold in the tomb, ere his widow and her illustrious lover were seen driving about together in the neighbourhood of Hampton Court, where Lady Graves had apartments."
    "True," exclaimed the duchess. "But we have travelled a long way from our first topic  the Royal Marriage Act. We were speaking of its pernicious effects in respect to the family of George the Third. And that was a fine family, too! My deceased mother often expatiated  and her secret papers dwell at length  upon the charms of the princesses. Alas! how sorrowfully were they situated! In the bloom of youth  in the glow of health  with warm temperaments and ardent imaginations, which received encouragement from the voluptuous indolence of their lives  they were denied the privileges of the meanest peasant girl in the realm:  they were unable to form matrimonial connexions where their inclinations prompted them. The consequences were those which might have been anticipated: the honour of the princesses became sacrificed to illicit passion  passion which was still natural, although illicit! Those amours were productive of issue; but the offspring of none has created any sensation in the world, save in the instance of Captain Garth, the son of the Princess Sophia. Relative to the mysterious birth of that individual, the secret papers left by my mother  and the existence of which is even unknown to my husband-contain some strange, some startling facts. Conceive the embarrassment  the perilous nature of the situation in which the princess was suddenly involved  when, during a journey from London to some fashionable watering-place, she found herself overtaken with the pangs of premature maternity  she, who up to that moment had managed to conceal her condition even from the attendants upon her person! Then imagine this princess  a daughter of the sovereign of the realm  compelled to put up at a miserable road-side inn  forced to make a confidant of her lady in attendance, and obliged also to entrust her secret to the surgeon of the village where her child was born! But you shall read the narrative, with all its details, in my private papers."
    "What opinion has your ladyship formed relative to the circumstances which led to the Bill of Pains and Penalties instituted against Queen Caroline, the spouse of George the Fourth?" inquired the duchess.
    "I firmly believe that most unfortunate and most persecuted princess to have been completely innocent," answered the countess, with solemn emphasis. "From the first she was hateful to her husband. [-195-] When the Earl of Malmesbury, who was sent to Germany to escort the Princess to England, arrived with her in London, the Prince of Wales repaired instantly to pay his respects to his intended bride. But scarcely had he set eyes on her when he conceived a feeling of ineffable dislike; and, turning towards the Earl, he said, 'Harris,* [* 'The family name of the Earl of Malmesbury.] a glass of brandy  I am ill!" Your grace has heard of love at first sight: here was hatred at first sight. Every thing attending that marriage was inauspicious: for if the Princess had the misfortune to make an unfavourable impression on the Prince, his Royal Highness wantonly wounded her feelings by grossly manifesting his dislike towards her on all occasions. On the bridal night he drank so deeply that he fell on a sofa in the nuptial chamber, and there slept with his clothes on. But to pass over many years, let us come to the circumstances which led to the memorable trial of Queen Caroline. During her continental travels, Baron Bergami was presented to her. He was a man of honourable character, good family, but ruined fortunes. His condition excited the compassion of the generous-hearted Caroline; and she gave him a situation in her household. His conversation was fascinating; and he was frequently her companion inside the travelling chariot. Perhaps an English lady would have acted with more prudence; but your grace will remember that there is a wide distinction between our manners and customs and those of the Continent. We see improprieties in actions which foreigners view as harmless courtesies or innocent proofs of friendly interest. We also seem ready to meet suspicions of evil half-way: foreigners, with more generous frankness and candour, say, 'Evil be to him who evil thinks.' But the marriage was hateful to King George the Fourth; and he was determined to dissolve it. He was resolved to sacrifice his wife to his aversions. She was to be made a victim. Then commenced that atrocious subornation of perjured witnesses which gave a colour to the proceedings against the unfortunate Queen. Her slightest levities were tortured into proofs of guilt: her generosity towards Bergami was branded as an illicit passion. The witnesses made statements which proved how well they had been tutored: they over-acted their parts; and, in their zeal to serve a master who paid them for their perjury, they deposed to more than they could possibly have known, even if the main accusation had been true. The nation was indignant  for the people, your grace, are possessed of much chivalry and noble generosity of character. Then, too, rose the portentous voices of Denman and Brougham, calling upon the hidden accuser to come forth and confront his victim. Oh! it was a vile proceeding; and I, as a woman  as a wife, feel my blood boiling in my veins when I think of all the foul wrongs which were heaped upon the most injured of my sex!"
    "That trial," said the duchess, who was naturally of a more cautious disposition than her companion,  "that trial was certainly a dark blot on time page which records the annals of George the Fourth's reign."
    "Say rather, your grace," exclaimed the countess, "the blackest of the innumerable black deeds which characterised his existence. Before the accusation in respect to Bergami was ever thought of, a charge was concocted against that injured lady, and commissioners were appointed to investigate it. Thus, your grace perceives, her bad husband was determined to ruin her. That charge accused her of having been delivered of a male child at her abode at Blackheath; and the affair certainly appeared suspicious at first. But how triumphantly was it met? how readily was it refuted? how easily was it explained! The injured lady had taken a fancy to the infant of poor but respectable people named Archer, living in that neighbourhood; and she had undertaken to adopt and provide for the boy. The unfortunate Princess felt the necessity of loving something  since her own child was taken from her. Thus was her goodness towards William Archer converted into a weapon wherewithal to assail her in the most tender point. Her husband's agents circulated the most odious calumnies concerning her, and even improperly coupled her name with that of Sir Sydney Smith, the hero of Acre. But the Archer story fell to the ground; and the Bergami scandal was subsequently propagated with a zeal which evinced the determination of George the Fourth to ruin Caroline of Brunswick."*[* We had the honour of enjoying the friendship of Sir Sydney Smith in Paris during the years 1834  7; and the misfortunes of Queen Caroline frequently became the topic of discourse between us. Sir Sydney Smith assured us, on several occasions and in the most solemn manner, that the reports which had been circulated relative to himself and that injured lady, during her residence at Blackheath, were vile calumnies. "Queen Caroline had certainly much levity of manner, and was very thoughtless and inexperienced," he would observe; "but her virtue was never for a moment suspected by me." The following passage occurs in a letter which Queen Caroline wrote to the Countess de C  , shortly before the commencement of the Trial, and which autograph letter (together with numerous important papers concerning George the Third and his family) is in our possession:  "This letter will be delivered to you by an individual who is persecuted because he has served me faithfully. I recommend him to your kindness. The Baron Bergami is of high birth. He has been unfortunate: I perceived the excellence of the qualities he possesses  I have ameliorated his condition in a pecuniary point of view  and thus have I secured him as my friend. The fury of my adversaries pursues him  I tremble for his very existence  my royal husband is capable of any crime to ensure the gratification of his revenge. I therefore crave your protection for Bergami, and hope that by your influence you will so arrange matters that he shall not be molested in Paris. I do not ask you to admit him into your society, unless agreeable to yourself; at the same time, my dear Countess, you must be aware that pride is folly. We must judge mankind by the scale of merit, and not by the grandeur of titles. This is the course I have adopted through life, and am well pleased with my line of conduct Recollect this precept you will perceive its wisdom when you grow old."]
    There was a pause in the conversation.
    The duchess, who was possessed of a strong inclination for the mysterious or scandalous narratives connected with the family of George the Third, was so impressed by the vehemence and confident emphasis with which her companion had denounced the profligacy of George the Fourth, that a species of awe  an undefined alarm came over her:  it suddenly appeared as if it were a sacrilege thus to canvass the character of that deceased monarch within the very palace where he himself had dwelt;  and she hesitated to make any remark or ask any question that might load to a continuation of the same topic.
    On her side, the countess-who was much older than the duchess, and more deeply initiated in the [-196-] mysteries of Courts  had become plunged into a deep reverie; for she possessed a generous mind, and never could ponder upon the wrongs of the murdered Queen Caroline without experiencing the most profound indignation and sorrow.*[* The last and fatal illness of Queen Caroline was caused by a stoppage in the bowel. Doctors Maton and Warren (the king's physicians) attended upon the illustrious lady; and various remedies were prescribed by them  but in vain. One morning, a bottle of crotan oil was sent to an individual of Her Majesty's household, accompanied by the following letter:  "Sir,  I am aware that nothing but the great  the very great  danger Her Majesty is in, would excuse this unauthorised intrusion. Having, however, learnt from the papers the nature of Her Majesty's complaint, I have taken the liberty to forward to you, with a view of having it handed to Dr. Maton or Dr. Warren, a medicine of strong aperient properties, called crotan oil  one drop of which is a dose. It is most probably known to some of Her Majesty's advisers; but it has only been recently brought into this country. it may be proper to observe that Doctor Pemberton has himself taken it; and I have administered it to more than one person. Its operation is quick and certain. Two drops, when made into pills with bread, usually produce saving effects in half or three quarters of an hour. It has struck me that this medicine might be successfully administered to Her Majesty. At all events I can have done no harm in taking the liberty to suggest it; but, unwilling to appear anxious to make myself obtrusive, or to seem influenced by any other than the most disinterested motives, I have declined giving my name.
    "Yours respectfully,
    "A CHEMIST."
    This letter, and the medicine, were forwarded to Dr. Pemberton, of Great George Street, Hanover Square. who had at one time been Her Majesty's principal medical attendant. Dr. Pemberton's answer was this:  "I have myself taken two drops of the crotan oil, on several occasions; and the Queen may safely take one." The royal physicians obtained an interview with George the Fourth, and the result was a declaration on their part, "that they did not consider themselves justified in administering the medicine to Her Majesty." Comment is unnecessary. ]
    The reader may probably deem it somewhat extraordinary that ladies attached to the Court should thus freely discuss the most private affairs, and canvass the characters of deceased members of the Royal Family. But we can positively assert that nowhere are scandal and tittle-tattle more extensively indulged in, than amongst the members of that circle of courtiers and female sycophants. who crowd about the sovereign.* [* But, ah! while of Victoria's court I'm singing, / What solemn music echoes from the lyre!/ And wherefore does a passing bell seem ringing,/ And melancholy thoughts my soul inspire?/ See where the raven now his flight is winging-/ Hark to the anthem of the funeral choir  / List to the curfew's note of death-like gloom  / And drop a tear o'er Flora Hastings' tomb! - Sequel to Don Juan. ]
    The conversation of the duchess and countess was not renewed on the present occasion; for while they were yet plunged each in the depths of her own particular meditations, the regal train entered the Ball Room.
    And all this while Henry Holford remained concealed beneath the sofa!
    Victoria leant upon the arm of her consort; and the illustrious party was preceded by the Lord Chamberlain and the Lord Steward. The Queen and the Prince proceeded to the reserved seats which were slightly elevated in a recess, and were covered with white satin embroidered in silver.
    Then the magnificent Ball-Room presented a truly fairy spectacle. Plumes were waving, diamonds were sparkling, bright eyes were glancing and music floated on the air. The spacious apartment was crowded with nobles and gentlemen in gorgeous uniforms or court-dresses; and with ladies in the most elegant attire that French fashions could suggest or French milliners achieve. All those striking or attractive figures, and all the splendours of their appearance, were multiplied by the brilliant mirrors to an illimitable extent.
    The orchestra extended across one end of the Ball Room; and the musicians had entered by a side-door almost at the same moment that the royal procession made its appearance.
    In the rooms adjoining, the Corps of Gentlemen-at-arms and the Yeomen of the Guard were on duty, and in the hall the band of the Royal Regiment of Horse Guards was in attendance.
    The Queen and the Prince danced in the first quadrille; and afterwards they indulged in their favourite waltz  the Frohsinn mein Ziel. At the termination of each dance the royal party passed into the Picture Gallery, where they promenaded amidst a wilderness of flowers and aromatic shrubs. Then indeed the odour-breathing exotics  the whispering leaves  the light of the pendent lamps, mellowed so as to give full effect to the portraits of those who were once famous or once beautiful  the ribboned or gartered nobles  the blaze of female loveliness  the streams of melody  the presence of all possible elements of splendour, harmony, and pleasure, combined to render the whole scene one of enchantment, and seemed to realize the most glowing and brilliant visions which oriental writes a ever shadowed forth!
    The dancing was renewed in the Ball-Room and as the beauteous ladies of the court swam and turned in graceful mazes, it appeared as if the art had become elevated into the harmony of motion. Dancing there was something more than mechanical: it was a true, a worthy, and a legitimate sister of poetry and music.
    At twelve o'clock the doors of the supper-room were thrown open; and in that gorgeous banqueting-hall the crimson draperies, the service of gold and the massive table ornaments were lighted up by Chinese lanterns and silver candelabra of exquisite workmanship. A splendid row of gold cups was laid on each side of the table. On the sight of each plate stood a decanter of water, a finger glass half filled with tepid water, a champagne glass, a tumbler, and three wine-glasses. Numerous servants in magnificent liveries were in attendance. No one asked for any thing: the servants offered the various dishes, of which the guests partook or which they rejected according to their taste No healths were drunk during the Queen's presence, nor was the ceremony of taking wine with each other observed  not even on the part of the gentleman with the lady whom he had handed into the room. The domestics whose especial duty it was to serve the wine, never filled a glass until it was quite empty; nor did any guest ask for wine, but when the servant approached him, merely stated the kind of wine he chose.
    After sitting for about an hour, the Queen rose, and was conducted to the Yellow Drawing-Room by [-197-] Prince Albert, the guests all rising as the royal couple retired.
    Then the servants filled the glasses, and the Lord Steward said, "The Queen!" The health was drunk standing, in silence, and with a gentle inclination of the head. In a few minutes afterwards the gentlemen conducted the ladies into the Yellow Drawing-Room, where coffee and liqueurs were served.
    The harp, piano, and songs by some of the ladies, occupied another hour; at the expiration of which the guests took their departure.
    Holford had now been concealed nearly five hours beneath the sofa in the ball-room; and he was cramped, stiff, and wearied. During that interval he had experienced a variety of emotions  wonder at the strange revelations which he had heard from the lips of the countess,  ineffable delight in contemplating the person of his sovereign,  envy at the exalted prosperity of Prince Albert,  thrilling excitement at the fairy-like aspect of the enchanting dance,  sensations of unknown rapture occasioned by the soft strains of the music,  and boundless disgust for his own humble, obscure, and almost serf-like condition.
    During those intervals when the royal party and the guests were promenading in the Picture Gallery or were engaged in the supper-apartment and the drawing-room, Holford longed to escape from his hiding-place and retreat to the lumber-closet where he was in the habit of concealing himself on the occasion of his visits to the palace; but there were too many persons about to render such a step safe.
    It was not, therefore, until a very late hour,  or rather an early one in the morning,  that he was able to enter the supper-room and help himself to some of the dainties left upon the board; having done which, he retreated to his nook in the most retired part of the palace.

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