"What fun!" says Kennaston; "we are at Vaux-le-Vicomte, where Fouquet is enteraining young Louis Quatorze. Yonder is La Valliere--the thin tow-headed girl, with the big mouth. People are just begining to whisper scandal about her. And that tall jade i s Athenais de Tonnay-Charente--the woman who is going to be Madame de Montespan and control everything in the kingdom later on, you remember. The King is not yet aware of her existence, nor has Monsieur de Montespan been introduced....

"The Troupe of Monsieur is about to present an open-air comedy. It is called Les Facheux--The Bores. It is rumored to take off very cleverly the trivial tedious fashion in which perfectly well-meaning people chatter their way through life. But t hat more fittingly would be the theme of a tragedy, Ettarre. Men are condemned eternally to bore one another. Two hundred years and more from to-day--perhaps forever--man will lack means, or courage, to voice his actual thoughts adequately. He must sti ll talk of weather probilities and of having seen So-and-so and of such trifles, that mean absolutely nothing to him--and must babble of these things even to the persons who are most dear and familiar to him. Yes, every reputable man must desperately mak e small-talk, and echo and re-echo senseless phrases, until the crack of doom. He will always be afraid to bare his actual thoughts and interests to his fellows' possible disapproval: or perhaps it is just a pitiable mania with the race. At all events, one should not laugh at this ageless aspersion and burlesque of man's intelligence as performed by man himself....

"The comedy is quite new. A marquis, with wonderful canions and a scented wig like an edifice, told me it is by an upholsterer named Coquelin, a barnstormer who ran away from home and has been knocking about the provinces unsuccessfully for nearly twenty years: and my little marquis wondered what in the world we are coming to, when Monsieur le Surintendent takes up with that class of people. Is not my little surintendent droll?--for he ment Poquelin, soon to be Poquelin de Moliere, of course. Moliere, also, is a name which is not yet famous as yet. But in a month or so it will be famous for all time; and Monsieur le Surintendent will be in jail and forgotten....

"You smile, Ettarre? Ah, yes, I understand. Moliere too adores you. All poets have had fitful glimpses of you, Ettarre, and of that perfect beauty which is full of troubling reticences, and so, is touched with something sinister. I have written as to the price they pay, these hapless poets, in a little book I am inditing through that fat pudgy body I wear in the flesh.... Do not frown: I know it is forbidden to talk with you concerning my life in the flesh....

"Ah, the King comes--evidently in no very amiable frame of mind--and all rise, like a flurry of great butterflies. It is the begining of the play. See, a woman is coming out of the big shell in the fountain....

"I wish my old dear friend Jonas d'Artagnan were here. It is a real pity he is only a character in fiction--just as I once thought you to be, Ettarre. Eh, what a fool I was to imagine I had created you! and that I controlled your speech and doings! I know much better now....

"Ettarre, your unattainable beauty tears my heart. Is that black-browed Moliere your lover too? What favors have you granted him? You perceive I am jealous. How can I be otherwise when there is nothing, nothing in me that does not cry out for love of you? And I am forbidden ever to win quite to you, ever to touch you, ever to see you even save in my dreams!"

Chapter Thirty-Three