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Bardelys the Magnificent

2. The King's Wishes
It was daybreak ere the last of them had left me, for a dozen or so had lingered
to play lansquenet after the others had departed. With those that remained my
wager had soon faded into insignificance, as their minds became engrossed in
the fluctuations of their own fortunes.
I did not play myself; I was not in the mood, and for one night, at least, of
sufficient weight already I thought the game upon which I was launched.
I was out on the balcony as the first lines of dawn were scoring the east, and in a
moody, thoughtful condition I had riveted my eyes upon the palace of the
Luxembourg, which loomed a black pile against the lightening sky, when
Mironsac came out to join me. A gentle, lovable lad was Mironsac, not twenty
years of age, and with the face and manners of a woman. That he was attached
to me I knew.
"Monsieur le Marquis," said he softly, "I am desolated at this wager into which
they have forced you."
"Forced me?" I echoed. "No, no; they did not force me. And yet," I reflected, with
a sigh, "perhaps they did."
"I have been thinking, monsieur, that if the King were to hear of it the evil might
be mended."
"But the King must not hear of it, Armand," I answered quickly. "Even if he did,
matters would be no better - much worse, possibly."
"But, monsieur, this thing done in the heat of wine--"
"Is none the less done, Armand," I concluded. "And I for one do not wish it
undone."
"But have you no thought for the lady?" he cried.
I laughed at him. "Were I still eighteen, boy, the thought might trouble me. Had I
my illusions, I might imagine that my wife must be some woman of whom I
should be enamoured. As it is, I have grown to the age of twenty-eight unwed.
Marriage becomes desirable. I must think of an heir to all the wealth of Bardelys.
And so I go to Languedoc. If the lady be but half the saint that fool Chatellerault
has painted her, so much the better for my children; if not, so much the worse.
 
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