When he joined Léon in the Œil de Bœuf he found him almost asleep, but making valiant efforts to keep himself awake. He followed the Duke downstairs, and was sent to retrieve Avon’s cloak and cane. By the time he had succeeded in obtaining these articles the black-and-gold coach was at the door.
Avon swung the cloak over his shoulders and sauntered out. He and Léon entered the luxurious vehicle and with a sigh of content Léon nestled back against the soft cushions.
“It is all very wonderful,” he remarked, “but very bewildering. Do you mind if I fall asleep, Monseigneur?”
“Not at all,” said his Grace politely. “I trust you were satisﬁed with the King’s appearance?”
“Oh yes, he is just like the coins!” said Léon drowsily. “Do you suppose he likes to live in such a great palace, Monseigneur?”
“I have never asked him,” replied the Duke. “Versailles does not please
“It is so very large,” explained the page. “I feared I had lost you.”
“What an alarming thought!” remarked his Grace.
“Yes, but you came after all.” The deep little voice was getting sleepier and sleepier. “It was all glass and candles, and ladies, and—Bonne nuit, Monseigneur,” he sighed.” I am sorry, but everything is muddled, and I am so very tired. I do not think I snore when I sleep, but if I do, then of course you must wake me. And I might slip, but I hope I shall not. I am right in the corner, so perhaps I shall remain here. But if I slip on to the ﬂoor—”
“Then I suppose I am to pick you up?” said Avon sweetly.
“Yes,” agreed Léon, already on the borderland of sleep. “I won’t talk any more now. Monseigneur does not mind?”
“Pray do not consider me in the slightest,” answered Avon. “I am here merely to accommodate you. If I disturb you I beg you will not hesitate to mention it. I will then ride on the box.”
A very sleepy chuckle greeted this sally, and a small hand tucked itself into the Duke’s.
“I wanted to hold your coat because I thought I should lose you,” murmured Léon.
“I presume that is why you are holding my hand now?” inquired his Grace. “You are perhaps afraid lest I should hide myself under the seat?”
“That is silly,” replied Léon. “Very silly. Bonne nuit, Monseigneur.”
“Bonne nuit, mon enfant. You will not lose me—or I you—very easily, I think.”
There was no answer, but Léon’s head sank against his Grace’s shoulder, and remained there.
“I am undoubtedly a fool,” remarked the Duke. He pushed a cushion under Léon’s relaxed arm. “But if I wake him he will begin to talk again. What a pity Hugh is not here to see! … I beg your pardon, my infant?”
But Léon had muttered only in his sleep. “If you are going to converse in your sleep I shall be compelled to take strong measures of prevention,” said his Grace. He leaned his head back against the padded seat, and, smiling, closed his eyes.
from These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer, ch. V — His Grace of Avon Visits Versailles