“It is impossible.”
“But I know his heart, and I say it is possible.”
“You certainly know his heart, father, if any can. But such a thought had never entered my head.”
“Then let it enter and remain there. If she will serve the Church, the Church will serve her. But the king beckons, and I must go.”
The thin dark figure hastened off through the throng of courtiers, and the great Bishop of Meaux remained standing with his chin upon his breast, sunk in reflection.
By this time all the court was assembled in the Grand Salon, and the huge room was gay from end to end with the silks, the velvets, and the brocades of the ladies, the glitter of jewels, the flirt of painted fans, and the sweep of plume or aigrette. The grays, blacks, and browns of the men’s coats toned down the mass of colour, for all must be dark when the king was dark, and only the blues of the officers’ uniforms, and the pearl and gray of the musketeers of the guard, remained to call back those early days of the reign when the men had vied with the women in the costliness and brilliancy of their wardrobes. And if dresses had changed, manners had done so even more. The old levity and the old passions lay doubtless very near the surface, but grave faces and serious talk were the fashion of the hour. It was no longer the lucky coup at the lansquenet table, the last comedy of Moliere, or the new opera of Lully about which they gossiped, but it was on the evils of Jansenism, on the expulsion of Arnauld from the Sorbonne, on the insolence of Pascal, or on the comparative merits of two such popular preachers as Bourdaloue and Massilon. So, under a radiant ceiling and over a many-coloured floor, surrounded by immortal paintings, set thickly in gold and ornament, there moved these nobles and ladies of France, all moulding themselves upon the one little dark figure in their midst, who was himself so far from being his own master that he hung balanced even now between two rival women, who were playing a game in which the future of France and his own destiny were the stakes.
CHILDREN OF BELIAL.
The elderly Huguenot had stood silent after his repulse by the king, with his eyes cast moodily downwards, and a face in which doubt, sorrow, and anger contended for the mastery. He was a very large, gaunt man, raw-boned and haggard, with a wide forehead, a large, fleshy nose, and a powerful chin. He wore neither wig nor powder, but Nature had put her own silvering upon his thick grizzled locks, and the thousand puckers which clustered round the edges of his eyes, or drew at the corners of his mouth, gave a set gravity to his face which needed no device of the barber to increase it. Yet in spite of his mature years, the swift anger with which he had sprung up when the king refused his plaint, and the keen fiery glance which he had