The action was so deliberate that I could not doubt he meant to slight me; and I paused where I was, divided between grief and indignation, a mark for all those glances and whispered gibes in which courtiers indulge on such occasions. The slight was not rendered less serious by the fact that the King was walking with my two colleagues; so that I alone seemed to be out of his confidence, as one soon to be out of his councils also.
I perceived all this, and was not blind to the sneering smiles which were exchanged behind my back; but I affected to see nothing, and to be absorbed in sudden thought. In a minute or two the King turned and came back towards me; and again, as if he could not restrain his curiosity, looked up so that our eyes met. This time I thought that he would beckon me to him, satisfied with the lengths to which he had already carried his displeasure. But he turned again, with a light laugh.
At this a courtier, one of Sillery's creatures, who had presumed on the occasion so far as to come to my elbow, thought that he might safely amuse himself with me. "I am afraid that the King grows older, M. de Rosny," he said, smirking at his companions. "His sight seems to be failing."
"It should not be neglected then," I said grimly. "I will tell him presently what you say."
He fell back, looking foolish at that, at the very moment that Henry, having taken another turn, dismissed Villeroy, who, wiser than the puppy at my elbow, greeted me with particular civility as he passed. Freed from him, Henry stood a moment hesitating. He told me afterwards that he had not turned from me a yard before his heart smote him; and that but for a mischievous curiosity to see how I should take it, he would not have carried the matter so far. Be that as it may--and I do not doubt this, any more than I ever doubted the reality of the affection in which he held me--on a sudden he raised his hand and beckoned to me.
I went down to him gravely, and not hurriedly. He looked at me with some signs of confusion in his face. "You are late this morning," he said.
"I have been on your Majesty's business," I answered.
"I do not doubt that," he replied querulously, his eyes wandering. "I am not--I am troubled this morning." And after a fashion he had when he was not at his ease, he ground his heel into the soil and looked down at the mark. "The queen is not well. Sillery has seen her, and will tell you so."
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