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39
THE DECADENCE OF VERSAILLES

Monarch's breast, could hear nothing but the grating of his cane against the gravel. Yet I was not ashamed, for a brave soldier can proudly fear his God, his conscience and his King.

"Thy name," he sharply demanded, "dost hear?"

"Placide de Mouret, Captain of Bienville's Guards, Province of Louisiana, may it please you, sire," I stammered out.

"Attend me at the morning hour to-morrow," and he strutted away from the giggling crowd.

I too would have turned off, had not my late antagonist proven himself a man at heart. He quickly moved toward me holding out his hand in reconciliation.

"I ask thy pardon, comrade; I too am a soldier, though but an indifferent one in these peaceful times. We mistook thee, and I humbly ask thy pardon."

Of course I could bear no malice against the fellow, and he seeming sincere, I suffered him to present me to his friends. First among these, de Brienne presented me to His Royal Highness, the Duke of Orleans, "First Prince of the Blood, and the coming Regent of France."

This latter speech was given with decided emphasis, and a malicious glance toward a pale, studious looking man, a cripple, who, the center of a more sedate group, was well within hearing. The deformed Duke of Maine, I thought, rival of Orleans for the Regency. The ladies I would have willingly escaped, but they would not hear of it, and soon I was surrounded by a chattering group, asking a thousand questions about the fabled land of gold and glory beyond the seas. Right