The Tennis Balls

by Stanley J. Weyman (1855-1928)

From The Memoirs Of A Minister Of France (1895)
Sequel to "A Gentleman of France".


  A few weeks before the death of the Duchess of Beaufort, on Easter Eve, 1599, made so great a change in the relations of all at Court that "Sourdis mourning" came to be a phrase for grief, genuine because interested, an affair that might have had a serious issue began, imperceptibly at the time, in the veriest trifle.

  One day, while the King was still absent from Paris, I had a mind to play tennis, and for that purpose summoned La Trape, who had the charge of my balls, and sometimes, in the absence of better company, played with me. Of late the balls he bought had given me small satisfaction, and I bade him bring me the bag, that I might choose the best. He did so, and I had not handled half a dozen before I found one, and later three others, so much more neatly sewn than the rest, and in all points so superior, that even an untrained eye could not fail to detect the difference.

  "Look, man!" I said, holding out one of these for his inspection. "These are balls; the rest are rubbish. Cannot you see the difference? Where did you buy these? At Constant's?"

  He muttered, "No, my lord," and looked confused.

  This roused my curiosity. "Where, then?" I said sharply.

  "Of a man who was at the gate yesterday."

  "Oh!" I said. "Selling tennis balls?"

  "Yes, my lord."

  "Some rogue of a market," I exclaimed, "from whom you bought filched goods! Who was it, man?"

  "I don't know his name," La Trape answered. "He was a Spaniard."


  "Who wanted to have an audience of your excellency."

  "Ho!" I said drily. "Now I understand. Bring me your book. Or, tell me, what have you charged me for these balls?"

  "Two francs," he muttered reluctantly.

  "And never gave a sou, I'll swear!" I retorted. "You took the poor devil's balls, and left him at the gate! Ay, it is rogues like you get me a bad name!" I continued, affecting more anger than I felt — for, in truth, I was rather pleased with my quickness in discovering the cheat. "You steal and I bear the blame, and pay to boot! Off with you and find the fellow, and bring him to me, or it will be the worse for you!"

  Glad to escape so easily, La Trape ran to the gate; but he failed to find his friend, and two or three days elapsed before I thought again of the matter, such petty rogueries being ingrained in a great man's valetaille, and being no more to be removed than the hairs from a man's arm. At the end of that time La Trape came to me, bringing the Spaniard, who had appeared again at the gate. The stranger proved to be a small, slight man, pale and yet brown, with quick-glancing eyes. His dress was decent, but very poor, with more than one rent neatly darned. He made me a profound reverence, and stood waiting, with his cap in his hand, to be addressed; but, with all his humility, I did not fail to detect an easiness of deportment and a propriety that did not seem absolutely strange since he was a Spaniard, but which struck me, nevertheless, as requiring some explanation. I asked him, civilly, who he was. He answered that his name was Diego.

  "You speak French?"

  "I am of Guipuzcoa, my lord," he answered, "where we sometimes speak three tongues."

  "That is true," I said. "And it is your trade to make tennis balls?"

  "No, my lord; to use them," he answered with a certain dignity.

  "You are a player, then?"

  "If it please your excellency."

  "Where have you played?"

  "At Madrid, where I was the keeper of the Duke of Segovia's court; and at Toledo, where I frequently had the honour of playing against M. de Montserrat."

  "You are a good player?"

  "If your excellency," he answered impulsively, "will give me an opportunity ——"

  "Softly, softly," I said, somewhat taken aback by his earnestness. "Granted that you are a player, you seem to have played to small purpose. Why are you here, my friend, and not in Madrid?"

  He drew up his sleeves, and showed me that his wrists were deeply scarred.

  I shrugged my shoulders. "You have been in the hands of the Holy Brotherhood?" I said.

  "No, my lord," he answered bitterly. "Of the Holy Inquisition."

  "You are a Protestant?"

  He bowed.

  On that I fell to considering him with more attention, but at the same time with some distrust; reflecting that he was a Spaniard, and recalling the numberless plots against his Majesty of which that nation had been guilty. Still, if his tale were true he deserved support; with a view therefore to testing this I questioned him farther, and learned that he had for a long time disguised his opinions, until, opening them in an easy moment to a fellow servant, he found himself upon the first occasion of quarrel betrayed to the Fathers. After suffering much, and giving himself up for lost in their dungeons, he made his escape in a manner sufficiently remarkable, if I might believe his story. In the prison with him lay a Moor, for whose exchange against a Christian taken by the Sallee pirates an order came down. It arrived in the evening; the Moor was to be removed in the morning. An hour after the arrival of the news, however, and when the two had just been locked up for the night, the Moor, overcome with excess of joy, suddenly expired. At first the Spaniard was for giving the alarm; but, being an ingenious fellow, in a few minutes he summoned all his wits together and made a plan. Contriving to blacken his face and hands with charcoal he changed clothes with the corpse, and muffling himself up after the fashion of the Moors in a cold climate he succeeded in the early morning in passing out in his place. Those who had charge of him had no reason to expect an escape, and once on the road he had little difficulty in getting away, and eventually reached France after a succession of narrow chances.

  All this the man told me so simply that I knew not which to admire more, the daring of his device — since for a white man to pass for a brown is beyond the common scope of such disguises — or his present modesty in relating it. However, neither of these things seemed to my mind a good reason for disbelief. As to the one, I considered that an impostor would have put forward something more simple; and as to the other, I have all my life long observed that those who have had strange experiences tell them in a very ordinary way. Besides, I had fresh in my mind the diverting escape of the Duke of Nemours from Lyons, which I have elsewhere related. On the other hand, and despite all these things, the story might be false; so with a view to testing one part of it, at least, I bade him come and play with me that afternoon.

  "My lord," he said bluntly, "I had rather not. For if I defeat your excellency, I may defeat also your good intentions. And if I permit you to win, I shall seem to be an impostor."

  Somewhat surprised by his forethought, I reassured him on this point; and his game, which proved to be one of remarkable strength and finesse, and fairly on an equality, as it seemed to me, with that of the best French players, persuaded me that at any rate the first part of his tale was true. Accordingly I made him a present, and, in addition, bade Maignan pay him a small allowance for a while. For this he showed his gratitude by attaching himself to my household; and as it was the fashion at that time to keep tennis-masters of this class, I found it occasionally amusing to pit him against other well-known players. In the course of a few weeks he gained me great credit; and though I am not so foolish as to attach importance to such trifles, but, on the contrary, think an old soldier who stood fast at Coutras, or even a clerk who has served the King honestly — if such a prodigy there be — more deserving than these professors, still I do not err on the other side; but count him a fool who, because he has solid cause to value himself, disdains the eclat which the attachment of such persons gives him in the public eye.

  The man went by the name of Diego the Spaniard, and his story, which gradually became known, together with the excellence of his play, made him so much the fashion that more than one tried to detach him from my service. The King heard of him, and would have played with him, but the sudden death of Madame de Beaufort, which occurred soon afterwards, threw the Court into mourning; and for a while, in pursuing the negotiations for the King's divorce, and in conducting a correspondence of the most delicate character with the Queen, I lost sight of my player — insomuch, that I scarcely knew whether he still formed part of my suite or not.

  My attention was presently recalled to him, however, in a rather remarkable manner. One morning Don Antonio d'Evora, Secretary to the Spanish Embassy, and a brother of that d'Evora who commanded the Spanish Foot at Paris in '94, called on me at the Arsenal, to which I had just removed, and desired to see me. I bade them admit him; but as my secretaries were at the time at work with me, I left them and received him in the garden — supposing that he wished to speak to me about the affairs of Saluces, and preferring, like the King my master, to talk of matters of State in the open air.

  However, I was mistaken. Don Antonio said nothing about Savoy, but after the usual preliminaries, which a Spaniard never omits, plunged into a long harangue upon the comity which, now that peace reigned, should exist between the two nations. For some time I waited patiently to learn what he would be at; but he seemed to be lost in his own eloquence, and at last I took him up.

  "All this is very well, M. d'Evora," I said. "I quite agree with you that the times are changed, that amity is not the same thing as war, and that a grain of sand in the eye is unpleasant," for he had said all of these things. "But I fail, being a plain man and no diplomatist, to see what you want me to do."

  "It is the smallest matter," he said, waving his hand gracefully.

  "And yet," I retorted, "you seem to find a difficulty in coming at it."

  "As you do at the grain of sand in the eye," he answered wittily. "After all, however, in what you say, M. de Rosny, there is some truth. I feel that I am on delicate ground; but I am sure that you will pardon me. You have in your suite a certain Diego."

  "It may be so," I said, masking my surprise, and affecting indifference.

  "A tennis-player."

  I shrugged my shoulders. "The man is known," I said.

  "A Protestant?"

  "It is not impossible."

  "And a subject of the King, my master. A man," Don Antonio continued, with increasing stiffness, "in fine, M. de Rosny, who, after committing various offences, murdered his comrade in prison, and, escaping in his clothes, took refuge in this country."

  I shrugged my shoulders again.

  "I have no knowledge of that," I said coldly.

  "No, or I am sure that you would not harbour the fellow," the secretary answered. "Now that you do know it, however, I take it for granted that you will dismiss him? If you held any but the great place you do hold, M. de Rosny, it would be different; but all the world see who follow you, and this man's presence stains you, and is an offence to my master."

  "Softly, softly, M. d'Evora," I said, with a little warmth. "You go too fast. Let me tell you first, that, for my honour, I take care of it myself; and, secondly, for your master, I do not allow even my own to meddle with my household."

  "But, my lord," he said pompously, "the King of Spain ——"

  "Is the King of Spain," I answered, cutting him short without much ceremony. "But in the Arsenal of Paris, which, for the present, is my house, I am king. And I brook no usurpers, M. d'Evora."

  He assented to that with a constrained smile.

  "Then I can say no more," he answered. "I have warned you that the man is a rogue. If you will still entertain him, I wash my hands of it. But I fear the consequences, M. de Rosny, and, frankly, it lessens my opinion of your sagacity."

  Thereat I bowed in my turn, and after the exchange of some civilities he took his leave. Considering his application after he was gone, I confess that I found nothing surprising in it; and had it come from a man whom I held in greater respect I might have complied with it in an indirect fashion. But though it might have led me under some circumstances to discard Diego, naturally, since it confirmed his story in some points, and proved besides that he was not a persona grata at the Spanish Embassy, it did not lead me to value him less. And as within the week he was so fortunate as to defeat La Varenne's champion in a great match at the Louvre, and won also a match at M. de Montpensier's which put fifty crowns into my pocket, I thought less and less of d'Evora's remonstrance; until the King's return put it quite out of my head. The entanglement with Mademoiselle d'Entragues, which was destined to be the most fatal of all Henry's attachments, was then in the forming; and the King plunged into every kind of amusement with fresh zest. The very day after his return he matched his marker, a rogue, but an excellent player, against my man; and laid me twenty crowns on the event, the match to be played on the following Saturday after a dinner which M. de Lude was giving in honour of the lady.

  On the Thursday, however, who should come in to me, while I was sitting alone after supper, but Maignan: who, closing the door and dismissing the page who waited there, told me with a very long face and an air of vast importance that he had discovered something.

  "Something?" I said, being inclined at the moment to be merry. "What? A plot to reduce your perquisites, you rascal?"

  "No, my lord," he answered stoutly. "But to tap your excellency's secrets."

  "Indeed," I said pleasantly, not believing a word of it. "And who is to hang?"

  "The Spaniard," he answered in a low voice.

  That sobered me, by putting the matter in a new light; and I sat a moment looking at him and reviewing Diego's story, which assumed on the instant an aspect so uncommon and almost incredible that I wondered how I had ever allowed it to pass. But when I proceeded from this to the substance of Maignan's charge I found an impasse in this direction also, and I smiled.

  "So it is Diego, is it?" I said. "You think that he is a spy?"

  Maignan nodded.

  "Then, tell me," I asked, "what opportunity has he of learning more than all the world knows? He has not been in my apartments since I engaged him. He has seen none of my papers. The youngest foot-boy could tell all he has learned."

  "True, my lord," Maignan answered slowly; "but ——"


  "I saw him this evening, talking with a priest in the Rue Petits Pois; and he calls himself a Protestant."

I saw him this evening in the Rue Petits Pois.
"I saw him this evening in the Rue Petits Pois."

  "Ah! You are sure that the man was a priest?"

  "I know him."

  "For whom?"

  "One of the chaplains at the Spanish Embassy."

  It was natural that after this I should take a more serious view of the matter; and I did so. But my former difficulty still remained, for, assuming this to be a cunning plot, and d'Evora's application to me a ruse to throw me off my guard, I could not see where their advantage lay; since the Spaniard's occupation was not of a nature to give him the entry to my confidence or the chance of ransacking my papers. I questioned Maignan further, therefore, but without result. He had seen the two together in a secret kind of way, viewing them himself from the window of a house where he had an assignation. He had not been near enough to hear what they said, but he was sure that no quarrel took place between them, and equally certain that it was no chance meeting that brought them together.

  Infected by his assurance, I could still see no issue; and no object in such an intrigue. And in the end I contented myself with bidding him watch the Spaniard closely, and report to me the following evening; adding that he might confide the matter to La Trape, who was a supple fellow, and of the two the easier companion.

  Accordingly, next evening Maignan again appeared, this time with a face even longer; so that at first I supposed him to have discovered a plot worse than Chastel's; but it turned out that he had discovered nothing. The Spaniard had spent the morning in lounging and the afternoon in practice at the Louvre, and from first to last had conducted himself in the most innocent manner possible. On this I rallied Maignan on his mare's nest, and was inclined to dismiss the matter as such; still, before doing so, I thought I would see La Trape, and dismissing Maignan I sent for him.

  When he was come, "Well," I said, "have you anything to say?"

  "One little thing only, your excellency," he answered slily, "and of no importance."

  "But you did not tell it to Maignan?"

  "No, my lord," he replied, his face relaxing in a cunning smile.


  "Once to-day I saw Diego where he should not have been."


  "In the King's dressing-room at the tennis-court."

  "You saw him there?"

  "I saw him coming out," he answered.

  It may be imagined how I felt on hearing this; for although I might have thought nothing of the matter before my suspicions were aroused — since any man might visit such a place out of curiosity — now, my mind being disturbed, I was quick to conceive the worst, and saw with horror my beloved master already destroyed through my carelessness. I questioned La Trape in a fury, but could learn nothing more. He had seen the man slip out, and that was all.

  "But did you not go in yourself?" I said, restraining my impatience with difficulty.

  "Afterwards? Yes, my lord."

  "And made no discovery?"

  He shook his head.

  "Was anything prepared for his Majesty?"

  "There was sherbet; and some water."

  "You tried them?"

  La Trape grinned. "No, my lord," he said. "But I gave some to Maignan."

  "Not explaining?"

  "No, my lord."

  "You sacrilegious rascal!" I cried, amused in spite of my anxiety. "And he was none the worse?"

  "No, my lord"

  Not satisfied yet, I continued to press him, but with so little success that I still found myself unable to decide whether the Spaniard had wandered in innocently or to explore his ground. In the end, therefore, I made up my mind to see things for myself; and early next morning, at an hour when I was not likely to be observed, I went out by a back door, and with my face muffled and no other attendance than Maignan and La Trape, went to the tennis-court and examined the dressing-room.

  This was a small closet on the first floor, of a size to hold two or three persons, and with a casement through which the King, if he wished to be private, might watch the game. Its sole furniture consisted of a little table with a mirror, a seat for his Majesty, and a couple of stools, so that it offered small scope for investigation. True, the stale sherbet and the water were still there, the carafes standing on the table beside an empty comfit box, and a few toilet necessaries; and it will be believed that I lost no time in examining them. But I made no discovery, and when I had passed my eye over everything else that the room contained, and noticed nothing that seemed in the slightest degree suspicious, I found myself completely at loss. I went to the window, and for a moment looked idly into the court.

  But neither did any light come thence, and I had turned again and was about to leave, when my eye alighted on a certain thing and I stopped.

  "What is that?" I said. It was a thin case, book-shaped, of Genoa velvet, somewhat worn.

  "Plaister," Maignan, who was waiting at the door, answered. "His Majesty's hand is not well yet, and as your excellency knows, he ——"

  "Silence, fool!" I cried. And I stood rooted to the spot, overwhelmed by the conviction that I held the clue to the mystery, and so shaken by the horror which that conviction naturally brought with it that I could not move a finger. A design so fiendish and monstrous as that which I suspected might rouse the dullest sensibilities, in a case where it threatened the meanest; but being aimed in this at the King, my master, from who I had received so many benefits, and on whose life the well-being of all depended, it goaded me to the warmest resentment. I looked round the tennis-court — which, empty, shadowy, and silent, seemed a fit place for such horrors — with rage and repulsion; apprehending in a moment of a sad presage all the accursed strokes of an enemy whom nothing could propitiate, and who, sooner or later, must set all my care at nought, and take from France her greatest benefactor.

  But, it will be said, I had no proof, only a conjecture; and this is true, but of it hereafter. Suffice it that, as soon as I had swallowed my indignation, I took all the precautions affection could suggest or duty enjoin, omitting nothing; and then, confiding the matter to no one — the two men who were with me excepted — I prepared to observe the issue with gloomy satisfaction.

  The match was to take place at three in the afternoon. A little after that hour, I arrived at the tennis-court, attended by La Font and other gentlemen, and M. l'Huillier, the councillor, who had dined with me. L'Huillier's business had detained me somewhat, and the men had begun; but as I had anticipated this, I had begged my good friend De Vic to have an eye to my interests. The King, who was in the gallery, had with him M. de Montpensier, the Comte de Lude, Vitry, Varennes, and the Florentine Ambassador, with Sancy and some others. Mademoiselle d'Entragues and two ladies had taken possession of his closet, and from the casement were pouring forth a perpetual fire of badinage and bons mots. The tennis-court, in a word, presented as different an aspect as possible from that which it had worn in the morning. The sharp crack of the ball, as it bounded from side to side, was almost lost in the crisp laughter and babel of voices; which as I entered rose into a perfect uproar, Mademoiselle having just flung a whole lapful of roses across the court in return for some witticism. These falling short of the gallery had lighted on the head of the astonished Diego, causing a temporary cessation of play, during which I took my seat.

  Madame de Ludes's saucy eye picked me out in a moment. "Oh, the grave man!" she cried. "Crown him, too, with roses."

'Oh, the grave man!' she cried.
"Oh, the grave man!" she cried.

  "As they crowned the skull at the feast, madame?" I answered, saluting her gallantly.

  "No, but as the man whom the King delighteth to honour," she answered, making a face at me. "Ha! Ha! I am not afraid! I am not afraid! I am not afraid!"

  There was a good deal of laughter at this. "What shall I do to her, M. de Rosny?" Mademoiselle cried out, coming to my rescue.

  "If you will have the goodness to kiss her, Mademoiselle," I answered, "I will consider it an advance, and as one of the council for the King's finances, my credit should be good for the re——"

  "Thank you!" the King cried, nimbly cutting me short. "But as my finances seem to be the security, faith, I will see to the repayment myself! Let them start again; but I am afraid that my twenty crowns are yours, Grand Master; your man is in fine play."

  I looked into the court. Diego, lithe and sinewy, with his cropped black hair, high colour, and quick shallow eyes, bounded here and there, swift and active as a panther. Seeing him thus, with his heart in his returns, I could not but doubt; more, as the game proceeded, amid the laughter and jests and witty sallies of the courtiers, I felt the doubt grow; the riddle became each minute more abstruse, the man more mysterious. But that was of no moment now.

  A little after four o'clock the match ended in my favour; on which the King, tired of inaction, sprang up, and declaring that he would try Diego's strength himself, entered the court. I followed, with Vitry and others, and several strokes which had been made were tested and discussed. Presently, the King going to talk with Mademoiselle at her window I remarked the Spaniard and Maignan, with the King's marker and one or two others, waiting at the further door. Almost at the same moment I observed a sudden movement among them, and voices raised higher than was decent, and I called out sharply to know what it was.

  "An accident, my lord," one of the men answered respectfully.

  "It is nothing," another muttered. "Maignan was playing tricks, your excellency, and cut Diego's hand a little; that is all."

  "Cut his hand now!" I exclaimed angrily. "And the King about to play with him. Let me see it!"

  Diego sulkily held up his hand, and I saw a cut, ugly but of no importance.

  "Pooh!" I said; "it is nothing. Get some plaister. Here, you," I continued wrathfully, turning to Maignan, "since you have done the mischief, booby, you must repair it. Get some plaister, do you hear? He cannot play in that state."

  Diego muttered something, and Maignan that he had not got any; but before I could answer that he must get some, La Trape thrust his way to the front, and producing a small piece from his pocket, proceeded with a droll air of extreme carefulness to treat the hand. The other knaves fell into the joke, and the Spaniard had no option but to submit; though his scowling face showed that he bore Maignan no good-will, and that but for my presence he might not have been so complaisant. La Trape was bringing his surgery to an end by demanding a fee, in the most comical manner possible, when the King returned to our part of the court. "What is it?" he said. "Is anything the matter?"

  "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."

  "He has not lost blood?"

  "No, sire."

  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.

  "Wise man!" he added.

  "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."

  "Probably," I said.

  And so they chattered and laughed — chattered and laughed, seeing an ordinary game between the King and a marker; while I, for whom the court had grown sombre as a dungeon, saw a villain struggling in his own toils, livid with the fear of death, and tortured by horrible apprehensions. Use and habit were still so powerful with the man that he played on mechanically with his hands, but his eyes every now and then sought mine with the look of the trapped beast; and on these occasions I could see his lips move in prayer or cursing. The sweat poured down his face as he moved to and fro, and I fancied that his features were beginning to twitch. Presently — I have said that the light was failing, so that it was not in my imagination only that the court was sombre — the King held his ball. "My friend your man is not well," he said, turning to me.

  "It is nothing, sire; the honour you do him makes him nervous"," I answered. "Play up, sirrah," I continued; "you make too good a courtier."

  Mademoiselle d'Entragues clapped her hands and laughed at the hit; and I saw Diego glare at her with an indescribable look, in which hatred and despair and a horror of reproach were so nicely mingled with something as exceptional as his position, that the whole baffled words. Doubtless the gibes and laughter he heard, the trifling that went on round him, the very game in which he was engaged, and from which he dared not draw back, seemed in his eyes the most appalling mockery; but, ignorant who were in the secret, unable to guess how his diabolical plot had been discovered, uncertain even whether the whole were not a concerted piece, he went on playing his part mechanically; with starting eyes and labouring chest, and lips that, twitching and working, lost colour each minute. At length he missed a stroke, and staggering leaned against the wall, his face livid and ghastly. The King took the alarm at that, and cried out that something was wrong. Those who were sitting rose. I nodded to Maignan to go to the man.

At length he missed a stroke.
At length he missed a stroke.

  "It is a fit," I said. "He is subject to them, and doubtless the excitement — but I am sorry that it has spoiled your Majesty's game."

  "It has not," Henry answered kindly. "The light is gone. But have him looked to, will you, my friend? If La Riviθre were here he might do something for him."

  While he spoke, the servants had gathered round the man, but with the timidity which characterises that class in such emergencies, they would not touch him. As I crossed the court, and they made way for me, the Spaniard, who was still standing, though in a strange and distorted fashion, turned his bloodshot eyes on me.

  "A priest!" he muttered, framing the words with difficulty, "a priest!"

  I directed Maignan to fetch one. "And do you," I continued to the other servants, "take him into a room somewhere."

  They obeyed reluctantly. As they carried him out, the King, content with my statement, was giving his hand to Mademoiselle to descend the stairs; and neither he nor any, save the two men in my confidence, had the slightest suspicion that aught was the matter beyond a natural illness. But I shuddered when I considered how narrow had been the King's escape, how trifling the circumstance which had led to suspicion, how fortuitous the inspiration by which I had chanced on discovery. The delay of a single day, the occurrence of the slightest mishap, might have been fatal not to him only but to the best interests of France; which his death at a time when he was still childless must have plunged into the most melancholy of wars.

  Of the wretched Spaniard I need say little more. Caught in his own snare, he was no sooner withdrawn from the court than he fell into violent convulsions, which held him until midnight; when he died with symptoms and under circumstances so nearly resembling those which had attended the death of Madame de Beaufort at Easter, that I have several times dwelt on the strange coincidence, and striven to find the connecting link. But I never hit on it; and the King's death, and that unexplained tendency to imitate great crimes under which the vulgar labour, prevailed with me to keep the matter secret. Nay, as I believed that d'Evora had played the part of an unconscious tool, and as a hint pressed home sufficed to procure the withdrawal of the chaplain whom Maignan had named, I did not think it necessary to disclose the matter even to the King my master.

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