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."
M. de Sillery, whose constant opposition to me at the council- board I have elsewhere described, began to affirm it. I let him go on for a little time, and then interrupted him brusquely. "I think it was you," I said, "who nominated Ferret to be one of the King's clerks."
"Ferret?" he exclaimed, reddening at my tone, while the King, who knew me well, pricked up his ears.
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