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THE BLACK WOLF'S BREED

and more sombre room, that of de Maintenon. The character and dress of those present reflected with a chameleon's fidelity the change in His Majesty's habits. Madame sat near the King, working upon a piece of tapestry which, when she was interested in what went on, lay idle in her lap. Behind her chair stood the sour-visaged Jesuit confessor, Letellier.

Death, which spared not even the Bourbon, had taken away the Dauphin and his son; leaving as the King's successor an infant yet in his cradle. This embittered every thought of the King's declining years, made him gloomy, petulant and querulous. And yet there were many men still about him capable of upholding the dignity of the throne. I heard announced, one after the other, Grand Marshal Villars, lately placed in command of all the armies of France; the Duke of Savoy, a famous soldier, but a deserter from the English; the brothers de Noailles, one bearing a Marshal's baton, the other, cold, cynical, austere, robed in churchly garments, Archbishop of Paris. There were Villeroi, de Tourville, the admiral; and Marshal Tallard—he who lost the bloody field of Blenheim to the Englishman Churchill.

I confess I was abashed at the sound of so many great names, and advanced in hesitating fashion across the floor, to kneel before the King.

"Tut, tut, Captain de Mouret," he said, kindly, "Rise, we would hear somewhat from you touching matters in our Province of Louisiana, and particularly of their safety in case of war—say, with Spain."