“But she waited for the king in the passage?”
“And wrung from him a promise that he would see her to-day?”
“I would not have you tell me that which it may seem to you a breach of your duty to tell. But I am fighting now against a terrible foe, and for a great stake. Do you understand me?”
De Catinat bowed.
“Then what do I mean?”
“I presume that what madame means is that she is fighting for the king’s favour with the lady you mentioned.”
“As heaven is my judge, I have no thought of myself. I am fighting with the devil for the king’s soul.”
“’Tis the same thing, madame.”
The lady smiled. “If the king’s body were in peril, I could call on the aid of his faithful guards, and not less so now, surely, when so much more is at stake. Tell me, then, at what hour was the king to meet the marquise in her room?”
“At four, madame.”
“I thank you. You have done me a service, and I shall not forget it.”
“The king comes, madame,” said Mademoiselle Nanon, again protruding her head.
“Then you must go, captain. Pass through the other room, and so into the outer passage. And take this. It is Bossuet’s statement of the Catholic faith. It has softened the hearts of others, and may yours. Now, adieu!”
De Catinat passed out through another door, and as he did so he glanced back. The lady had her back to him, and her hand was raised to the mantel-piece. At the instant that he looked she moved her neck, and he could see what she was doing. She was pushing back the long hand of the clock.
LE ROI S’AMUSE.
Captain de Catinat had hardly vanished through the one door before the other was thrown open by Mademoiselle Nanon, and the king entered the room. Madame de Maintenon rose with a pleasant smile and curtsied deeply, but there was no answering light upon her visitor’s face, and he threw himself down upon the vacant arm-chair with a pouting lip and a frown upon his forehead.
“Nay, now this is a very bad compliment,” she cried, with the gaiety which she could assume whenever it was necessary to draw the king from his blacker humours. “My poor little dark room has already cast a shadow over you.”
“Nay; it is Father la Chaise and the Bishop of Meaux who have been after me all day like two hounds on a stag, with talk of my duty and my position and my sins, with judgment and hell-fire ever at the end of their exhortations.”
“And what would they have your Majesty do?”
“Break the promise which I made when I came upon the throne, and which my grandfather made before me. They wish me to recall the Edict of Nantes, and drive the Huguenots from the kingdom.”
“Oh, but your Majesty must not trouble your mind about such matters.”