This was so like her that it did not astonish me, and I baffled her malice by leaning against the wall. "This is no ordinary honour--from M. de Rosny!" she said, flouting me with her eyes.
"I come on no ordinary mission, madame," I said as gravely as I could.
"Mercy!" she exclaimed in a mocking tone. "I should have put on new ribbons, I suppose!"
"From the King, madame," I continued, not allowing myself to he moved, "to inquire how you obtained possession of his cipher."
She laughed loudly. "Good, simple King," she said, "to ask what he knows already!"
"He does not know, madame," I answered severely.
"What?" she cried, in affected surprise. "When he gave it to me himself!"
"He did, sir!" she retorted, firing up. "Or if he did not, prove it--prove it! And, by the way," she continued, lowering her voice again, and reverting to her former tone of spiteful badinage, "how is the dear queen? I heard that she was indisposed yesterday, and kept the King in attendance all day. So unfortunate, you know, just at this time." And her eyes twinkled with malicious amusement.
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