“Catharine!” he said to himself. “Catharine! Catharine!”
“Pardon, Monsieur,” said a voice at his elbow. “Surely I have seen you before this?”
Law turned. Joncaire, the ambassador of peace, stood by, smiling and extending his hand.
“Naturally, I could never forget you,” said Law.
“Monsieur looks at the shipping,” said Joncaire, smiling. “Surely he would not be leaving New France, after so luckily escaping the worst of her dangers?”
“Life might be the same for me over there as here,” replied Law. “As for my luck, I must declare myself the most unfortunate man on earth.”
“Your wife, perhaps, is ill?”
“Pardon, I have none.”
“Pardon, in turn, Monsieur—but, you see—the child?”
“It is the child of a savage woman,” said Law.
Joncaire pulled aside the infant’s hood. He gave no sign, and a nice indifference sat in his query: “Une belle sauvage?”
THE GRAND MONARQUE
On a great bed of state, satin draped, flanked with ancient tapestries, piled sickeningly soft with heaps of pillows, there lay a thin, withered little man—old, old and very feeble. His face was shrunken and drawn with pain; his eyes, once bright, were dulled; his brow, formerly imperious, had lost its arrogance. Under the coverings which, in the unrest of illness, he now pulled high about his face, now tossed restlessly aside, his figure lay, an elongated, shapeless blot, scarce showing beneath the silks. One limb, twitched and drawn up convulsively, told of a definite seat of pain. The hands, thin and wasted, lay out upon the coverlets; and the thumbs were creeping, creeping ever more insistently, under the cover of the fingers, telling that the battle for life was lost, that the surrender had been made.
It was a death-bed, this great bed of state; a death-bed situated in the heart of the greatest temple of desire ever built in all the world. He who had been master there, who had set in order those miles of stately columns, those seas of glittering gilt and crystal, he who had been magician, builder, creator, perverter, debaser—he, Louis of France, the Grand Monarque, now lay suffering like any ordinary human being, like any common man.
Last night the four and twenty violins, under the king’s command, had shrilled their chorus, as had been their wont for years while the master dined. This morning the cordon of drums and hautboys had pealed their high and martial music. Useless. The one or the other music fell upon ears too dull to hear. The formal tribute to the central soul for a time continued of its own inertia; for a time royalty had still its worship; yet the custom was but a lagging one. The musicians grimaced and made what discord