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THE SECRETARY AND THE DUKE

were, was being played for my own benefit, and gave closer study to the Duke of Maine who hurried in.

The weak, irresolute face bore no trace of the dignity and power which made his royal father at times truly great; it showed, too, but little inheritance from the proud beauty of de Montespan. Vastly inferior to both, and to his ambitious wife whose schemes he adopted when they succeeded and disowned when they failed, the Duke trembled now upon the verge of a mighty intrigue which perchance would make him master of an empire, perchance consign him to the Bastille or to the block. Well he knew that the abandoned Philip of Orleans, though he sometimes forgot his friends, never spared an enemy. With these thoughts haunting him, his timid mind shrank from putting his fortunes to a decisive test, and he looked forward, dreading to see the increasing feebleness of the King hasten that day when a quick stroke must win or lose.

He approached Madame at the table with a semblance of that swagger affected by the weakling in presence of women, yet permitting the wandering eye and uncertain gestures to betray his uneasiness. Something had evidently gone wrong with my lord.

"Have you heard, Celeste, of Yvard?" he inquired, dropping into a seat.

My ears quickened at the familiar name.

"Well, what of him?"

"He has lost the Louisiana dispatches, and I know not what they contained."