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Court of the Wicked Queen

By Marion Shaler

DAME YOLANDE was unhappy because Lord Raoul de Trentanaye, her son, was showing symptoms of the old restlessness of the young. She held his tutor in conference in the hedged gardens of the chateau.

"Why is he not as he used to be, Monsieur duVal?"

"Madame and my liege, he is nineteen." But to Dame Yolande that was no reason why he should be changed—sad and then satiric and always restless, restless. "You do not press him too much at his work?"

"Madame, no. And up till now he needed no pressing. He was eager and avid for learning. Now—it seems all indifferent to him."

"Have you not noticed—does he not sometimes—lack in respect for sacred things?"

"He asked—pardon, madame—if I supposed God were in love with the Virgin Mary, and where Joseph would come in in Heaven in that case."

Dame Yolande betrayed no emotion except in the slight movement of her eyebrows as she said, "Lord Raoul loves his jest."

"No, madame, I do not think he was jesting. He is intensely awake to humanity, and even in sacred things it is only the human aspect that interests him."

How much justice Dame Yolande saw in the explanation was not easy to perceive, but she was not to be contradicted.

"Lord Raoul loves his jest," she repeated. "Yes, madame," said Monsieur du Val, learning his lesson.

His submission softened his lady. "Monsieur du Val, I cannot endure it to see Raoul sitting silent, abstracted, looking off at nothing, and thinking—of something. What does he think of?"

"Madame, how can I tell? Unless it is of adventure or—"

"Yes, M. du Val?"

"Or love—"

Dame Yolande frowned. "Is he not satisfied with the Lady Fleur, who will make him an excellent wife?"

"Perhaps it is of her he thinks—"

But the lady's response was unhesitant. "No, oh, no."

"Oh, if madame says it is not." The subtle M. du Val!

Dame Yolande's pride was yielding before her bitter distress. "M. du Val, you do not think that his thoughts go in the direction of Amaria?"

"What! The Court of Amaris! The Court of the Wicked Queen!"

Dame Yolande sighed and looked away, blushing at the necessity that made her talk of Amaris, here in the company of a man not even of her family. And then she saw the myrtle bushes begin to wave violently and unnaturally within a certain restricted radius, and a long figure rise as though conjured up by a word.

"Raoul!"

"My lady—mother—"

"Raoul, you should not lie on the ground at this season of the year."

"But I like to, my lady-mother. Besides, it is merely a superstition of our ancestors that one should not lie on the ground before mid-summer. And it gives me pleasure to disprove their prognostications. Mother, will you not accord me the same privilege as M. du Val? I would talk with you—"

Du Val bowed and withdrew. But now Raoul flung himself on the benc...

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