THE KING’S SWEETHEART (VI)

“Is it true, my lord, the you have a hungry and relentless creditor?” said he.

“Yes, yes,” replied the other, “it concerns the mistress of the king. Don’t breathe a syllable; but this evening, in consideration of 20,000 crowns and my domain of Brie, I shall take her measure.”

Upon this the advocate blanched, and the courtier perceived he touched a tender point. As he had only lately returned from the wars, he did not know that the lovely woman adored by the king had a husband.
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“You appear ill,” he said.

“I have a fever,” replied the knave. “But is it to her that you give the contract and the money?”

“Yes.”

“Who then manages the bargain? Is it she also?”

“No,” said the noble; “her little arrangements are concluded through a servant of hers, the cleverest little ladies’ maid that ever was. She’s sharper than mustard, and these nights stolen from the king have lined her pockets well.”

“I know a Lombard who would accommodate you. But nothing can be done; of the 12,000 crowns you shall not have a brass farthing if this same ladies’ maid does not come here to take the price of the article that is so great an alchemist that turns blood into gold, by Heaven!”

“It will be a good trick to make her sign the receipt,” replied the lord, laughing.

The servant came faithfully to the rendezvous with the advocate, who had begged the lord to bring her. The ducats looked bright and beautiful. There they lay all in a row, like nuns going to vespers. Spread out upon the table they would have made a donkey smile, even if he were being gutted alive; so lovely, so splendid, were those brave noble young piles. The good advocate, however, had prepared this view for no ass, for the little handmaiden look longingly at the golden heap, and muttered a prayer at the sight of them. Seeing which, the husband whispered in her ear his golden words, “These are for you.”

“Ah!” said she; “I have never been so well paid.”

by: Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850)

The following story is reprinted from Droll Stories. Honoré de Balzac. London: John Camden Hotten, 1874.

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