"No, sire," I said. "My man has cut his hand a little, but it is nothing."
"Can he play?" Henry asked with his accustomed good-nature.
"Oh, yes, sire," I answered. "I have bound it up with a strip of plaister from the case in your Majesty's closet."
And he had not. But it was small wonder that the King asked; small wonder, for the man's face had changed in the last ten seconds to a strange leaden colour; a terror like that of a wild beast that sees itself trapped had leapt into his eyes. He shot a furtive glance round him, and I saw him slide his hand behind him. But I was prepared for that, and as the King moved off a space I slipped to the man's side, as if to give him some directions about his game.
"Listen," I said, in a voice heard only by him; "take the dressing off your hand, and I have you broken on the wheel. You understand? Now play."
Assuring myself that he did understand, and that Maignan and La Trape were at hand if he should attempt anything, I went back to my place, and sitting down by De Vic began to watch that strange game; while Mademoiselle's laughter and Madame de Lude's gibes floated across the court, and mingled with the eager applause and more dexterous criticisms of the courtiers. The light was beginning to sink, and for this reason, perhaps, no one perceived the Spaniard's pallor; but De Vic, after a rally or two, remarked that he was not playing his full strength.
"Yes," I said. "Who plays well against kings plays ill."
De Vic laughed. "How he sweats!" he said, "and he never turned a hair when he played Colet. I suppose he is nervous."
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