The Moon and the Sun

The Moon and the Sun by Vonda N. McIntyre Read Free Book Online

Book: The Moon and the Sun by Vonda N. McIntyre Read Free Book Online
Authors: Vonda N. McIntyre
Tags: Fiction, General, Science-Fiction, Romance, Historical, Fantasy
for position near the shadow of Marie-Josèphe’s brother. Yves was the moon to His Majesty’s sun, and the other courtiers hoped to capture some of the reflected light.
    “It reeks of foul humours.”
    Marie-Josèphe peeked over the edge of Count Lucien’s cloak. Monsieur covered his nose with his handkerchief. Marie-Josèphe could hardly blame anyone not used to dissections, for wishing he had brought along his pomander.
    “Stay out of sight, Mlle de la Croix,” Count Lucien said, with strained patience. He would prefer, of course, to be in his proper place beside the King. Louis, ever the gentleman, overlooked his absence.
    Marie-Josèphe shrank back behind the concealing cloak, where she could see only the shadows of her brother, the King, and the courtiers.
    “The preserving spirits do have a strong odor, Monsieur,” Yves said.
    “I confess — if my confessor will excuse a moment’s infidelity to him —”
    The shadow of Louis nodded toward Father de la Chaise, his confessor, and his voice bore only the faintest hint of mockery. Father de la Chaise bowed low.
    “I confess that I doubted your claims, Father de la Croix,” the King said. “And yet you found the creatures, in the wild sea of the new world. Your predictions were correct.”
    “All the evidence pointed to a single place and a single time of their gathering,”
    Yves said modestly. “I was merely the first to collect the reports. The monsters converge in the shelter of Exuma Island, where the midsummer sun crosses over a great ocean trench. There they mate, in animal depravity.”
    An expectant silence fell.
    “We need hear no more of that,” the Marquise de Maintenon said severely.
    “Every subject’s fit for a natural philosopher to study!” The duke de Chartres broke in with the obsessive enthusiasm that earned him annoyance from the court and suspicion from the lower classes. “How else will we ever understand the truth of the world?”
    “What is fit for a natural philosopher may trouble the minds of others,” His Majesty said. “Or lead us astray.”
    “But the truth —”
    “Be quiet , boy!” Madame’s tone was soft but urgent.
    Marie-Josèphe felt sorry for Chartres. His position warred with his desire for knowledge. He would be happier if he was, like Marie-Josèphe, no one.
    Happier, Marie-Josèphe thought — but he would not have all the best scientific instruments.
    “Since the time of St. Louis,” His Majesty said, “no one has brought a live sea monster to France. I commend you, Father de la Croix.”
    His Majesty’s deft change of subject eased the tension.
    “Your Majesty’s encouragement guaranteed my success,” Yves said.
    “I shall commend you to my holy cousin Pope Innocent.”
    “Thank you, Your Majesty.”
    “And I shall observe your study of the dead monster.”
    “I — I —”
    Marie-Josèphe silently begged Yves to reply with adequate grace and appreciation.
    “Your Majesty’s interest honors my work beyond imagination,” Yves said.
    His Majesty turned to Count Lucien. They conferred for a moment; the King nodded.
    “Tomorrow. You may begin your study after Mass.”
    “Tomorrow, Your Majesty? But it’s essential — the carcass already decomposes.”
    “Tomorrow,” His Majesty said calmly, as if Yves had not spoken. “After Mass.”
    Marie-Josèphe wanted to appear from behind Count Lucien’s cloak and add her pleas to her brother’s, so His Majesty would understand that Yves must waste no time.
    But she could not add to her breach of etiquette. She could not show herself to the King; she should not even speak to him unless he spoke first.
    Yves’ shadow bowed low against the silken tent wall.
    “I beg Your Majesty’s pardon for my excess of enthusiasm. Thank you, Sire.
    Tomorrow.”
    The shadows moved and melded and separated into pairs.
    “I remember,” Louis said, “when I was young like Father de la Croix, I too could see in the dark.”
    His Majesty’s courtiers laughed

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