“Then I am not to go? You would not have the heart to send me away, would you?”
“No, no; but you must not annoy me, Francoise.”
“I had rather die than cause you an instant of grief. Oh, sire, I have seen so little of you lately! And I love you so! It has maddened me. And then that dreadful woman—”
“Oh, I must not speak against her. I will be civil for your sake even to her, the widow of old Scarron.”
“Yes, yes, you must be civil. I cannot have any unpleasantness.”
“But you will stay with me, sire?” Her supple arms coiled themselves round his neck. Then she held him for an instant at arm’s length to feast her eyes upon his face, and then drew him once more towards her. “You will not leave me, dear sire. It is so long since you have been here.”
The sweet face, the pink glow in the room, the hush of the evening, all seemed to join in their sensuous influence. Louis sank down upon the settee.
“I will stay,” said he.
“And that carriage, dear sire, at the east door?”
“I have been very harsh with you, Francoise. You will forgive me. Have you paper and pencil, that I may countermand the order?”
“They are here, sire, upon the side table. I have also a note which, if I may leave you for an instant, I will write in the anteroom.”
She swept out with triumph in her eyes. It had been a terrible fight, but all the greater the credit of her victory. She took a little pink slip of paper from an inlaid desk, and dashed off a few words upon it. They were: “Should Madame de Maintenon have any message for his Majesty, he will be for the next few hours in the room of Madame de Montespan.” This she addressed to her rival, and it was sent on the spot, together with the king’s order, by the hands of the little black page.
THE SUN REAPPEARS.
For nearly a week the king was constant to his new humour. The routine of his life remained unchanged, save that it was the room of the frail beauty, rather than of Madame de Maintenon, which attracted him in the afternoon. And in sympathy with this sudden relapse into his old life, his coats lost something of their sombre hue, and fawn-colour, buff-colour, and lilac began to replace the blacks and the blues. A little gold lace budded out upon his hats also and at the trimmings of his pockets, while for three days on end his prie-dieu at the royal chapel had been unoccupied. His walk was brisker, and he gave a youthful flourish to his cane as a defiance to those who had seen in his reformation the first symptoms of age. Madame had known her man well when she threw out that artful insinuation.