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Page:Harris Dickson--The black wolf's breed.djvu/173

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"I have no talents, Madame; a plain blunt man of the camp."

"Ah! a soldier; so interesting in these stupid times, when men are little but women differently dressed. Ah, it has been too truly said that 'when men were created, some of the mud which remained served to fashion the souls of princes and lackeys.' But surely you could give us a story?" and so she talked on, not discourteous, but heedless of my protests. I was really alarmed, lest she seriously call upon me before that stately company.

The tiny clock upon her table chimed the third quarter, and she volunteered that at eleven she expected other callers. Acting upon this hint Jerome proceeded at once to tell her why we came, yet I noted in all his confidences he ever kept something to himself for safety's sake. The maid's reappearance interrupted us. She announced, "M. de Valence."

A gleam of anger swept across Madame's face.

"Bid him wait my pleasure in the ante-room. He is ten minutes early. No, the sooner he comes the sooner it is over; wait; bid him come in. M. le Captain, de Greville, will you gentlemen please to retire in that small room for a short space? I will speedily be free again."

And so it came about we overheard matters which opened my mind to the way affairs of state are managed, and I grew to learn upon what slender threads of love, of malice, of jealousy and of hate the destinies of nations must often hang. From our situation we could not help but hear all that passed between Madame and her