“Go now? At once?”
“Yes, without loss of an instant.”
She cast a light mantle about her shoulders.
“I follow your advice,” she said. “I believe that you are wiser than I. But, oh, if he should take me at my word!”
“He will not take you at your word.”
“It is a terrible risk.”
“But such an end as this cannot be gained without risks. Go, my child, and may heaven’s blessing go with you!”
THE KING HAS IDEAS.
The king had remained alone in his cabinet, wrapped in somewhat gloomy thoughts, and pondering over the means by which he might carry out his purpose and yet smooth away the opposition which seemed to be so strenuous and so universal. Suddenly there came a gentle tap at the door, and there was the woman who was in his thoughts, standing in the twilight before him. He sprang to his feet and held out his hands with a smile which would have reassured her had she doubted his constancy.
“Francoise! You here! Then I have at last a welcome visitor, and it is the first one to-day.”
“Sire, I fear that you have been troubled.”
“I have indeed, Francoise.”
“But I have a remedy for it.”
“And what is that?”
“I shall leave the court, sire, and you shall think no more of what has passed between us. I have brought discord where I meant to bring peace. Let me retire to St. Cyr, or to the Abbey of Fontevrault, and you will no longer be called upon to make such sacrifices for my sake.”
The king turned deathly pale, and clutched at her shawl with a trembling hand, as though he feared that she was about to put her resolution into effect that very instant. For years his mind had accustomed itself to lean upon hers. He had turned to her whenever he needed support, and even when, as in the last week, he had broken away from her for a time, it was still all-important to him to know that she was there, the faithful friend, ever forgiving, ever soothing, waiting for him with her ready counsel and sympathy. But that she should leave him now, leave him altogether, such a thought had never occurred to him, and it struck him with a chill of surprised alarm.
“You cannot mean it, Francoise,” he cried, in a trembling voice. “No, no, it is impossible that you are in earnest.”
“It would break my heart to leave you, sire, but it breaks it also to think that for my sake you are estranged from your own family and ministers.”
“Tut! Am I not the king? Shall I not take my own course without heed to them? No, no, Francoise, you must not leave me! You must stay with me and be my wife.” He could hardly speak for agitation, and he still grasped at her dress to detain her. She had been precious to him before, but was far more so now that there seemed to be a possibility of his losing her. She felt the strength of her position, and used it to the utmost.