He shouldered his way through the circle of courtiers, who barred the road to the presence, and in part hid her from observation. He pushed past the table at which Charles and the Comte de Rochefoucauld had been playing primero, and at which the latter still sat, trifling idly with the cards. Three more paces, and he reached the King, who stood in the ruelle with Rambouillet and the Italian Marshal. It was the latter who, a moment before, had summoned his Majesty from his game. Mademoiselle, watching him go, saw so much; so much, and the King’s roving eyes and haggard face, and the four figures, posed apart in the fuller light of the upper half of the Chamber. Then the circle of courtiers came together before her, and she sat back on her stool. A fluttering, long-drawn sigh escaped her. Now, if she could slip out and make her escape! Now—she looked round. She was not far from the door; to withdraw seemed easy. But a staring, whispering knot of gentlemen and pages blocked the way; and the girl, ignorant of the etiquette of the Court, and with no more than a week’s experience of Paris, had not the courage to rise and pass alone through the group. She had come to the Louvre this Saturday evening under the wing of Madame d’Yverne, her fiancé’s cousin. By ill-hap Madame had been summoned to the Princess Dowager’s closet, and perforce had left her. Still, Mademoiselle had her betrothed, and in his charge had sat herself down to wait, nothing loth, in the great gallery, where all was bustle and gaiety and entertainment. For this, the seventh day of the fêtes, held to celebrate the marriage of the King of Navarre and Charles’s sister—a marriage which was to reconcile the two factions of the Huguenots and the Catholics, so long at war—saw the Louvre as gay, as full, and as lively as the first of the fête days had found it; and in the humours of the throng, in the ceaseless passage of masks and maids of honour, guards and bishops, Swiss in the black, white, and green of Anjou, and Huguenot nobles in more sombre habits, the country-bred girl had found recreation and to spare. Until gradually the evening had worn away and she had begun to feel nervous; and M. de Tignonville, her betrothed, placing her in the embrasure of a window, had gone to seek Madame. She had waited for a time without much misgiving; expecting each moment to see him return. He would be back before she could count a hundred; he would be back before she could number the leagues that separated her from her beloved province, and the home by the Biscay Sea, to which even in that brilliant scene her thoughts turned fondly. But the minutes had passed, and passed, and he had not returned. Worse, in his place Tavannes—not the Marshal, but his brother, Count Hannibal—had found her; he, whose odious court, at once a menace and an insult, had subtly enveloped her for a week past. He had sat down beside her, he had taken possession of her, and, profiting by her inexperience, had played on her fears and smiled at her dislike. Finally, whether she would or no, he had swept her with him into the Chamber. The rest had been an obsession, a nightmare, from which only the King’s voice summoning Tavannes to his side had relieved her.