Part 4 out of 12
"Oh! the rendezvous of the hunt."
"The very spot, sire."
"Good; give me all the details you are acquainted with, respecting this
unhappy affair, Monsieur de Manicamp."
"Perhaps your majesty has already been informed of them, and I fear to
fatigue you with useless repetition."
"No, do not be afraid of that."
Manicamp looked round him; he saw only D'Artagnan leaning with his back
against the wainscot - D'Artagnan, calm, kind, and good-natured as usual
- and Saint-Aignan whom he had accompanied, and who still leaned over the
king's armchair with an expression of countenance equally full of good
feeling. He determined, therefore, to speak out. "Your majesty is
perfectly aware," he said, "that accidents are very frequent in hunting."
"In hunting, do you say?"
"I mean, sire, when an animal is brought to bay."
"Ah, ah!" said the king, "it was when the animal was brought to bay,
then, that the accident happened?"
"Alas! sire, unhappily it was."
The king paused for a moment before he said: "What animal was being
"A wild boar, sire."
"And what could possibly have possessed De Guiche to go to a wild boar-
hunt by himself; that is but a clownish idea of sport, only fit for that
class of people who, unlike the Marechal de Gramont, have no dogs and
huntsmen, to hunt as gentlemen should do."
Manicamp shrugged his shoulders. "Youth is very rash," he said,
"Well, go on," said the king.
"At all events," continued Manicamp, not venturing to be too precipitate
and hasty, and letting his words fall very slowly one by one, "at all
events, sire, poor De Guiche went hunting - all alone."
"Quite alone? indeed? - What a sportsman! And is not M. de Guiche aware
that the wild boar always stands at bay?"
"That is the very thing that really happened, sire."
"He had some idea, then, of the beast being there?"
"Yes, sire, some peasants had seen it among their potatoes." (2)
"And what kind of animal was it?"
"A short, thick beast."
"You may as well tell me, monsieur, that De Guiche had some idea of
committing suicide; for I have seen him hunt, and he is an active and
vigorous hunter. Whenever he fires at an animal brought to bay and held
in check by the dogs, he takes every possible precaution, and yet he
fires with a carbine, and on this occasion he seems to have faced the
boar with pistols only."
"A costly pair of pistols, excellent weapons to fight a duel with a man
and not a wild boar. What an absurdity!"
"There are some things, sire, which are difficult of explanation."
"You are quite right, and the event which we are now discussing is
certainly one of them. Go on."
During the recital, Saint-Aignan, who probably would have made a sign to
Manicamp to be careful what he was about, found that the king's glance
was constantly fixed upon himself, so that it was utterly impossible to
communicate with Manicamp in any way. As for D'Artagnan, the statue of
Silence at Athens was far more noisy and far more expressive than he.
Manicamp, therefore, was obliged to continue in the same way he had
begun, and so contrived to get more and more entangled in his
explanation. "Sire," he said, "this is probably how the affair
happened. Guiche was waiting to receive the boar as it rushed towards
"On foot or on horseback?" inquired the king.
"On horseback. He fired upon the brute and missed his aim, and then it
dashed upon him."
"And the horse was killed."
"Ah! your majesty knows that, then."
"I have been told that a horse has been found lying dead in the cross-
roads of the Bois-Rochin, and I presume it was De Guiche's horse."
"Perfectly true, sire, it was his."
"Well, so much for the horse, and now for De Guiche?"
"De Guiche, once down, was attacked and worried by the wild boar, and
wounded in the hand and in the chest."
"It is a horrible accident, but it must be admitted it was De Guiche's
own fault. How could he possibly have gone to hunt such an animal merely
armed with pistols; he must have forgotten the fable of Adonis?"
Manicamp rubbed his ear in seeming perplexity. "Very true," he said, "it
was very imprudent."
"Can you explain it, Monsieur Manicamp?"
"Sire, what is written is written!"
"Ah! you are a fatalist."
Manicamp looked very uncomfortable and ill at ease.
"I am angry with you, Monsieur Manicamp," continued the king.
"With me, sire?"
"Yes. How was it that you, who are De Guiche's intimate friend, and who
know that he is subject to such acts of folly, did not stop him in time?"
Manicamp no longer knew what to do; the tone in which the king spoke was
anything but that of a credulous man. On the other hand, it did not
indicate any particular severity, nor did he seem to care very much about
the cross-examination. There was more of raillery in it than menace.
"And you say, then," continued the king, "that it was positively De
Guiche's horse that was found dead?"
"Quite positive, sire."
"Did that astonish you?"
"No, sire; for your majesty will remember that, at the last hunt, M. de
Saint-Maure had a horse killed under him, and in the same way."
"Yes, but that one was ripped open."
"Of course, sire."
"Had Guiche's horse been ripped open like M. de Saint-Maure's horse, I
should not have been astonished."
Manicamp opened his eyes very wide.
"Am I mistaken," resumed the king, "was it not in the frontal bone that
De Guiche's horse was struck? You must admit, Monsieur de Manicamp, that
that is a very singular place for a wild boar to attack."
"You are aware, sire, that the horse is a very intelligent animal, and he
doubtless endeavoured to defend himself."
"But a horse defends himself with his heels and not with his head."
"In that case, the terrified horse may have slipped or fallen down," said
Manicamp, "and the boar, you understand sire, the boar - "
"Oh! I understand that perfectly, as far as the horse is concerned; but
how about his rider?"
"Well! that, too, is simple enough; the boar left the horse and attacked
the rider; and, as I have already had the honor of informing your
majesty, shattered De Guiche's hand at the very moment he was about to
discharge his second pistol at him, and then, with a gouge of his tusk,
made that terrible hole in his chest."
"Nothing is more likely; really, Monsieur de Manicamp, you are wrong in
placing so little confidence in your own eloquence, and you can tell a
story most admirably."
"Your majesty is exceedingly kind," said Manicamp, saluting him in the
most embarrassed manner.
"From this day henceforth, I will prohibit any gentleman attached to my
court going out to a similar encounter. Really, one might just as well
Manicamp started, and moved as if he were about to withdraw. "Is your
"Delighted; but do not withdraw yet, Monsieur de Manicamp," said Louis,
"I have something to say to you."
"Well, well!" thought D'Artagnan, "there is another who is not up to the
mark;" and he uttered a sigh which might signify, "Oh! the men of _our_
stamp, where are they _now?_"
At this moment an usher lifted up the curtain before the door, and
announced the king's physician.
"Ah!" exclaimed Louis, "here comes Monsieur Valot, who has just been to
see M. de Guiche. We shall now hear news of the man maltreated by the
Manicamp felt more uncomfortable than ever.
"In this way, at least," added the king, "our conscience will be quite
clear." And he looked at D'Artagnan, who did not seem in the slightest
M. Valot entered. The position of the different persons present was
precisely the same: the king was seated, Saint-Aignan leaning over the
back of his armchair, D'Artagnan with his back against the wall, and
Manicamp still standing.
"Well, M. Valot," said the king, "did you obey my directions?"
"With the greatest alacrity, sire."
"You went to the doctor's house in Fontainebleau?"
"And you found M. de Guiche there?"
"I did, sire."
"What state was he in? - speak unreservedly."
"In a very sad state indeed, sire."
"The wild boar did not quite devour him, however?"
"What wild boar?"
"The boar that wounded him."
"M. de Guiche wounded by a boar?"
"So it is said, at least."
"By a poacher, rather, or by a jealous husband, or an ill-used lover,
who, in order to be revenged, fired upon him."
"What is it that you say, Monsieur Valot? Were not M. de Guiche's wounds
produced by defending himself against a wild boar?"
"M. de Guiche's wounds are the result of a pistol-bullet that broke his
ring-finger and the little finger of the right hand, and afterwards
buried itself in the intercostal muscles of the chest."
"A bullet! Are you sure Monsieur de Guiche was wounded by a _bullet?_"
exclaimed the king, pretending to look much surprised.
"Indeed, I am, sire; so sure, in fact, that here it is." And he
presented to the king a half-flattened bullet, which the king looked at,
but did not touch.
"Did he have that in his chest, poor fellow?" he asked.
"Not precisely. The ball did not penetrate, but was flattened, as you
see, either upon the trigger of the pistol or upon the right side of the
"Good heavens!" said the king, seriously, "you said nothing to me about
this, Monsieur de Manicamp."
"Sire - "
"What does all this mean, then, this invention about hunting a wild boar
at nightfall? Come, speak, monsieur."
"Sire - "
"It seems, then, that you are right," said the king, turning round
towards his captain of musketeers, "and that a duel actually took place."
The king possessed, to a greater extent than any one else, the faculty
enjoyed by the great in power or position, of compromising and dividing
those beneath him. Manicamp darted a look full of reproaches at the
musketeer. D'Artagnan understood the look at once, and not wishing to
remain beneath the weight of such an accusation, advanced a step forward,
and said: "Sire, your majesty commanded me to go and explore the place
where the cross-roads meet in the Bois-Rochin, and to report to you,
according to my own ideas, what had taken place there. I submitted my
observations to you, but without denouncing any one. It was your majesty
yourself who was the first to name the Comte de Guiche."
"Well, monsieur, well," said the king, haughtily; "you have done your
duty, and I am satisfied with you. But you, Monsieur de Manicamp, have
failed in yours, for you have told me a falsehood."
"A falsehood, sire. The expression is a hard one."
"Find a more accurate, then."
"Sire, I will not attempt to do so. I have already been unfortunate
enough to displease your majesty, and it will, in every respect, be far
better for me to accept most humbly any reproaches you may think proper
to address to me."
"You are right, monsieur, whoever conceals the truth from me, risks my
"Sometimes, sire, one is ignorant of the truth."
"No further falsehood, monsieur, or I double the punishment."
Manicamp bowed and turned pale. D'Artagnan again made another step
forward, determined to interfere, if the still increasing anger of the
king attained certain limits.
"You see, monsieur," continued the king, "that it is useless to deny the
thing any longer. M. de Guiche has fought a duel."
"I do not deny it, sire, and it would have been truly generous on your
majesty's part not to have forced me to tell a falsehood."
"Forced? Who forced you?"
"Sire, M. de Guiche is my friend. Your majesty has forbidden duels under
pain of death. A falsehood might save my friend's life, and I told it."
"Good!" murmured D'Artagnan, "an excellent fellow, upon my word."
"Instead of telling a falsehood, monsieur, you should have prevented him
from fighting," said the king.
"Oh! sire, your majesty, who is the most accomplished gentleman in
France, knows quite as well as any of us other gentlemen that we have
never considered M. de Bouteville dishonored for having suffered death on
the Place de Greve. That which does in truth dishonor a man is to avoid
meeting his enemy - not to avoid meeting his executioner!"
"Well, monsieur, that may be so," said Louis XIV.; "I am desirous of
suggesting a means of your repairing all."
"If it be a means of which a gentleman may avail himself, I shall most
eagerly seize the opportunity."
"The name of M. de Guiche's adversary?"
"Oh, oh!" murmured D'Artagnan, "are we going to take Louis XIII. as a
"Sire!" said Manicamp, with an accent of reproach.
"You will not name him, then?" said the king.
"Sire, I do not know him."
"Bravo!" murmured D'Artagnan.
"Monsieur de Manicamp, hand your sword to the captain."
Manicamp bowed very gracefully, unbuckled his sword, smiling as he did
so, and handed it for the musketeer to take. But Saint-Aignan advanced
hurriedly between him and D'Artagnan. "Sire," he said, "will your
majesty permit me to say a word?"
"Do so," said the king, delighted, perhaps, at the bottom of his heart,
for some one to step between him and the wrath he felt he had carried him
"Manicamp, you are a brave man, and the king will appreciate your
conduct; but to wish to serve your friends too well, is to destroy them.
Manicamp, you know the name the king asks you for?"
"It is perfectly true - I do know it."
"You will give it up then?"
"If I felt I ought to have mentioned it, I should have already done so."
"Then I will tell it, for I am not so extremely sensitive on such points
of honor as you are."
"You are at liberty to do so, but it seems to me, however - "
"Oh! a truce to magnanimity; I will not permit you to go to the Bastile
in that way. Do you speak; or I will."
Manicamp was keen-witted enough, and perfectly understood that he had
done quite sufficient to produce a good opinion of his conduct; it was
now only a question of persevering in such a manner as to regain the good
graces of the king. "Speak, monsieur," he said to Saint-Aignan; "I have
on my own behalf done all that my conscience told me to do; and it must
have been very importunate," he added, turning towards the king, "since
its mandates led me to disobey your majesty's commands; but your majesty
will forgive me, I hope, when you learn that I was anxious to preserve
the honor of a lady."
"Of a lady?" said the king, with some uneasiness.
"A lady was the cause of this duel?"
"If the position of the lady in question warrants it," he said, "I shall
not complain of your having acted with so much circumspection; on the
"Sire, everything which concerns your majesty's household, or the
household of your majesty's brother, is of importance in my eyes."
"In my brother's household," repeated Louis XIV., with a slight
hesitation. "The cause of the duel was a lady belonging to my brother's
household, do you say?"
"Or to Madame's."
"Ah! to Madame's?"
"Well - and this lady?"
"Is one of the maids of honor of her royal highness Madame la Duchesse
"For whom M. de Guiche fought - do you say?"
"Yes, sire, and, this time, I tell no falsehood."
Louis seemed restless and anxious. "Gentlemen," he said, turning towards
the spectators of this scene, "will you have the goodness to retire for a
moment. I wish to be alone with M. de Manicamp; I know he has some
important communication to make for his own justification, and which he
will not venture before witnesses.... Put up your sword, M. de Manicamp."
Manicamp returned his sword to his belt.
"The fellow decidedly has his wits about him," murmured the musketeer,
taking Saint-Aignan by the arm, and withdrawing with him.
"He will get out of it," said the latter in D'Artagnan's ear.
"And with honor, too, comte."
Manicamp cast a glance of recognition at Saint-Aignan and the captain,
which luckily passed unnoticed by the king.
"Come, come," said D'Artagnan, as he left the room, "I had an indifferent
opinion of the new generation. Well, I was mistaken after all. There is
some good in them, I perceive."
Valot preceded the favorite and the captain, leaving the king and
Manicamp alone in the cabinet.
Wherein D'Artagnan Perceives that It Was He Who Was Mistaken, and
Manicamp Who Was Right.
The king, determined to be satisfied that no one was listening, went
himself to the door, and then returned precipitately and placed himself
"And now we are alone, Monsieur de Manicamp, explain yourself."
"With the greatest frankness, sire," replied the young man.
"And in the first place, pray understand," added the king, "that there is
nothing to which I personally attach a greater importance than the honor
of _any_ lady."
"That is the very reason, sire, why I endeavored to study your delicacy
of sentiment and feeling."
"Yes, I understand it all now. You say that it was one of the maids of
honor of my sister-in-law who was the subject of dispute, and that the
person in question, De Guiche's adversary, the man, in point of fact,
whom you will not name - "
"But whom M. de Saint-Aignan will name, monsieur."
"Yes, you say, however, that this man insulted some one belonging to the
household of Madame."
"Yes, sire. Mademoiselle de la Valliere."
"Ah!" said the king, as if he had expected the name, and yet as if its
announcement had caused him a sudden pang; "ah! it was Mademoiselle de la
Valliere who was insulted."
"I do not say precisely that she was insulted, sire."
"But at all events - "
"I merely say that she was spoken of in terms far enough from respectful."
"A man dares to speak in disrespectful terms of Mademoiselle de la
Valliere, and yet you refuse to tell me the name of the insulter?"
"Sire, I thought it was quite understood that your majesty had abandoned
the idea of making me denounce him."
"Perfectly true, monsieur," returned the king, controlling his anger;
"besides, I shall know in good time the name of this man whom I shall
feel it my duty to punish."
Manicamp perceived that they had returned to the question again. As for
the king, he saw he had allowed himself to be hurried away a little too
far, and therefore continued: - "And I will punish him - not because
there is any question of Mademoiselle de la Valliere, although I esteem
her very highly - but because a lady was the object of the quarrel. And
I intend that ladies shall be respected at my court, and that quarrels
shall be put a stop to altogether."
"And now, Monsieur de Manicamp," continued the king, "what was said about
Mademoiselle de la Valliere?"
"Cannot your majesty guess?"
"Your majesty can imagine the character of the jest in which young men
permit themselves to indulge."
"They very probably said that she was in love with some one?" the king
ventured to remark.
"But Mademoiselle de la Valliere has a perfect right to love any one she
pleases," said the king.
"That is the very point De Guiche maintained."
"And on account of which he fought, do you mean?"
"Yes, sire, the sole and only cause."
The king colored. "And you do not know anything more, then?"
"In what respect, sire?"
"In the very interesting respect which you are now referring to."
"What does your majesty wish to know?"
"Why, the name of the man with whom La Valliere is in love, and whom De
Guiche's adversary disputed her right to love."
"Sire, I know nothing - I have heard nothing - and have learnt nothing,
even accidentally; but De Guiche is a noble-hearted fellow, and if,
momentarily, he substituted himself in the place or stead of La
Valliere's protector, it was because that protector was himself of too
exalted a position to undertake her defense."
These words were more than transparent; they made the king blush, but
this time with pleasure. He struck Manicamp gently on the shoulder.
"Well, well, Monsieur de Manicamp, you are not only a ready, witty
fellow, but a brave gentleman besides, and your friend De Guiche is a
paladin quite after my own heart; you will express that to him from me."
"Your majesty forgives me, then?"
"And I am free?"
The king smiled and held out his hand to Manicamp, which he took and
kissed respectfully. "And then," added the king, "you relate stories so
"You told me in the most admirable manner the particulars of the accident
which happened to Guiche. I can see the wild boar rushing out of the
wood - I can see the horse fall down fighting with his head, and the boar
rush from the horse to the rider. You do not simply relate a story well:
you positively paint its incidents."
"Sire, I think your majesty condescends to laugh at my expense," said
"On the contrary," said Louis, seriously, "I have so little intention of
laughing, Monsieur de Manicamp, that I wish you to relate this adventure
to every one."
"The adventure of the hunt?"
"Yes; in the same manner you told it to me, without changing a single
word - _you understand?_"
"And you will relate it, then?"
"Without losing a minute."
"Very well! and now summon M. d'Artagnan; I hope you are no longer afraid
"Oh, sire, from the very moment I am sure of your majesty's kind
disposition, I no longer fear anything!"
"Call him, then," said the king.
Manicamp opened the door, and said, "Gentlemen, the king wishes you to
D'Artagnan, Saint-Aignan, and Valot entered.
"Gentlemen," said the king, "I summoned you for the purposes of saying
that Monsieur de Manicamp's explanation has entirely satisfied me."
D'Artagnan glanced at Valot and Saint-Aignan, as much as to say, "Well!
did I not tell you so?"
The king led Manicamp to the door, and then in a low tone of voice said:
"See that M. de Guiche takes good care of himself, and particularly that
he recovers as soon as possible; I am very desirous of thanking him in
the name of every lady, but let him take special care that he does not
"Were he to die a hundred times, sire, he would begin again if your
majesty's honor were in any way called in question."
This remark was direct enough. But we have already said that the incense
of flattery was very pleasing to the king, and, provided he received it,
he was not very particular as to its quality.
"Very well, very well," he said, as he dismissed Manicamp, "I will see De
Guiche myself, and make him listen to reason." And as Manicamp left the
apartment, the king turned round towards the three spectators of this
scene, and said, "Tell me, Monsieur d'Artagnan, how does it happen that
your sight is so imperfect? - you, whose eyes are generally so very good."
"My sight bad, sire?"
"It must be the case since your majesty says so; but in what respect, may
"Why, with regard to what occurred in the Bois-Rochin."
"Certainly. You pretended to have seen the tracks of two horses, to have
detected the footprints of two men; and have described the particulars of
an engagement, which you assert took place. Nothing of the sort
occurred; pure illusion on your part."
"Ah! ah!" said D'Artagnan.
"Exactly the same thing with the galloping to and fro of the horses, and
the other indications of a struggle. It was the struggle of De Guiche
against the wild boar, and absolutely nothing else; only the struggle was
a long and a terrible one, it seems."
"Ah! ah!" continued D'Artagnan.
"And when I think that I almost believed it for a moment - but, then, you
told it with such confidence."
"I admit, sire, that I must have been very short-sighted," said
D'Artagnan, with a readiness of humor which delighted the king.
"You do admit it, then?"
"Admit it, sire, most assuredly I do."
"So now that you see the thing - "
"In quite a different light from that in which I saw it half an hour ago."
"And to what, then, do you attribute this difference in your opinion?"
"Oh! a very simple thing, sire; half an hour ago I returned from Bois-
Rochin, where I had nothing to light me but a stupid stable lantern - "
"While now I have all the wax-lights of your cabinet, and more than that,
your majesty's own eyes, which illuminate everything, like the blazing
sun at noonday."
The king began to laugh; and Saint-Aignan broke out into convulsions of
"It is precisely like M. Valot," said D'Artagnan, resuming the
conversation where the king had left off; "he has been imagining all
along, that not only was M. de Guiche wounded by a bullet, but still
more, that he extracted it, even, from his chest."
"Upon my word," said Valot, "I assure you - "
"Now, did you not believe that?" continued D'Artagnan.
"Yes," said Valot; "not only did I believe it, but, at this very moment,
I would swear it."
"Well, my dear doctor, you have dreamt it."
"I have dreamt it!"
"M. de Guiche's wound - a mere dream; the bullet, a dream. So, take my
advice, and prate no more about it."
"Well said," returned the king, "M. d'Artagnan's advice is sound. Do not
speak of your dream to any one, Monsieur Valot, and, upon the word of a
gentleman, you will have no occasion to repent it. Good evening,
gentlemen; a very sad affair, indeed, is a wild boar-hunt!"
"A very serious thing, indeed," repeated D'Artagnan, in a loud voice, "is
a wild boar-hunt!" and he repeated it in every room through which he
passed; and left the chateau, taking Valot with him.
"And now we are alone," said the king to Saint-Aignan, "what is the name
of De Guiche's adversary?"
Saint-Aignan looked at the king.
"Oh! do not hesitate," said the king; "you know that I am bound
beforehand to forgive."
"De Wardes," said Saint-Aignan.
"Very good," said Louis XIV.; and then, retiring to his own room, added
to himself, "To forgive is not to forget."
Showing the Advantage of Having Two Strings to One's Bow.
Manicamp quitted the king's apartment, delighted at having succeeded so
well, when, just as he reached the bottom of the staircase and was
passing a doorway, he felt that some one suddenly pulled him by the
sleeve. He turned round and recognized Montalais, who was waiting for
him in the passage, and who, in a very mysterious manner, with her body
bent forward, and in a low tone of voice, said to him, "Follow me,
monsieur, and without any delay, if you please."
"Where to, mademoiselle?" inquired Manicamp.
"In the first place, a true knight would not have asked such a question,
but would have followed me without requiring any explanation."
"Well, mademoiselle, I am quite ready to conduct myself as a true knight."
"No; it is too late, and you cannot take the credit of it. We are going
to Madame's apartment, so come at once."
"Ah, ah!" said Manicamp. "Lead on, then."
And he followed Montalais, who ran before him as light as Galatea.
"This time," said Manicamp, as he followed his guide, "I do not think
that stories about hunting expeditions would be acceptable. We will try,
however, and if need be - well, if there should be any occasion for it,
we must try something else."
Montalais still ran on.
"How fatiguing it is," thought Manicamp, "to have need of one's head and
legs at the same time."
At last, however, they arrived. Madame had just finished undressing, and
was in a most elegant _deshabille_, but it must be understood that she
had changed her dress before she had any idea of being subjected to the
emotions now agitating her. She was waiting with the most restless
impatience; and Montalais and Manicamp found her standing near the door.
At the sound of their approaching footsteps, Madame came forward to meet
"Ah!" she said, "at last!"
"Here is M. Manicamp," replied Montalais.
Manicamp bowed with the greatest respect; Madame signed to Montalais to
withdraw, and she immediately obeyed. Madame followed her with her eyes,
in silence, until the door closed behind her, and then, turning towards
Manicamp, said, "What is the matter? - and is it true, as I am told,
Monsieur de Manicamp, that some one is lying wounded in the chateau?"
"Yes, Madame, unfortunately so - Monsieur de Guiche."
"Yes, Monsieur de Guiche," repeated the princess. "I had, in fact, heard
it rumored, but not confirmed. And so, in truth, it is Monsieur de
Guiche who has been thus unfortunate?"
"M. de Guiche himself, Madame."
"Are you aware, M. de Manicamp," said the princes, hastily, "that the
king has the strongest antipathy to duels?"
"Perfectly so, Madame; but a duel with a wild beast is not answerable."
"Oh, you will not insult me by supposing that I credit the absurd fable,
with what object I cannot tell, respecting M. de Guiche having been
wounded by a wild boar. No, no, monsieur; the real truth is known, and,
in addition to the inconvenience of his wound, M. de Guiche runs the risk
of losing his liberty if not his life."
"Alas! Madame, I am well aware of that, but what is to be done?"
"You have seen the king?"
"What did you say to him?"
"I told him how M. de Guiche went to the chase, and how a wild boar
rushed forth out of the Bois-Rochin; how M. de Guiche fired at it, and
how, in fact, the furious brute dashed at De Guiche, killed his horse,
and grievously wounded himself."
"And the king believed that?"
"Oh, you surprise me, Monsieur de Manicamp; you surprise me very much."
And Madame walked up and down the room, casting a searching look from
time to time at Manicamp, who remained motionless and impassible in the
same place. At last she stopped.
"And yet," she said, "every one here seems unanimous in giving another
cause for this wound."
"What cause, Madame?" said Manicamp; "may I be permitted, without
indiscretion, to ask your highness?"
"You ask such a question! You, M. de Guiche's intimate friend, his
"Oh, Madame! his intimate friend - yes; confidant - no. De Guiche is a
man who can keep his own secrets, who has some of his own certainly, but
who never breathes a syllable about them. De Guiche is discretion
"Very well, then; those secrets which M. de Guiche keeps so scrupulously,
I shall have the pleasure of informing you of," said the princess, almost
spitefully; "for the king may possibly question you a second time, and
if, on the second occasion, you were to repeat the same story to him, he
possibly might not be very well satisfied with it."
"But, Madame, I think your highness is mistaken with regard to the king.
His majesty was perfectly satisfied with me, I assure you."
"In that case, permit me to assure you, Monsieur de Manicamp, it only
proves one thing, which is, that his majesty is very easily satisfied."
"I think your highness is mistaken in arriving at such an opinion; his
majesty is well known not to be contented except with very good reason."
"And do you suppose that he will thank you for your officious falsehood,
when he will learn to-morrow that M. de Guiche had, on behalf of his
friend M. de Bragelonne, a quarrel which ended in a hostile meeting?"
"A quarrel on M. de Bragelonne's account," said Manicamp, with the most
innocent expression in the world; "what does your royal highness do me
the honor to tell me?"
"What is there astonishing in that? M. de Guiche is susceptible,
irritable, and easily loses his temper."
"On the contrary, Madame, I know M. de Guiche to be very patient, and
never susceptible or irritable except upon very good grounds."
"But is not friendship a just ground?" said the princess.
"Oh, certainly, Madame; and particularly for a heart like his."
"Very good; you will not deny, I suppose, that M. de Bragelonne is M. de
Guiche's good friend?"
"A great friend."
"Well, then, M. de Guiche has taken M. de Bragelonne's part; and as M. de
Bragelonne was absent and could not fight, he fought for him."
Manicamp began to smile, and moved his head and shoulders very slightly,
as much as to say, "Oh, if you will positively have it so - "
"But speak, at all events," said the princess, out of patience; "speak!"
"Of course; it is quite clear you are not of my opinion, and that you
have something to say."
"I have only one thing to say, Madame."
"That I do not understand a single word of what you have just been
"What! - you do not understand a single word about M. de Guiche's quarrel
with M. de Wardes," exclaimed the princess, almost out of temper.
Manicamp remained silent.
"A quarrel," she continued, "which arose out of a conversation scandalous
in its tone and purport, and more or less well founded, respecting the
virtue of a certain lady."
"Ah! of a certain lady, - this is quite another thing," said Manicamp.
"You begin to understand, do you not?"
"Your highness will excuse me, but I dare not - "
"You dare not," said Madame, exasperated; "very well, then, wait one
moment, I will dare."
"Madame, Madame!" exclaimed Manicamp, as if in great dismay, "be careful
of what you are going to say."
"It would seem, monsieur, that, if I happened to be a man, you would
challenge me, notwithstanding his majesty's edicts, as Monsieur de Guiche
challenged M. de Wardes; and that, too, on account of the virtue of
Mademoiselle de la Valliere."
"Of Mademoiselle de la Valliere!" exclaimed Manicamp, starting backwards,
as if that was the very last name he expected to hear pronounced.
"What makes you start in that manner, Monsieur de Manicamp?" said Madame,
ironically; "do you mean to say you would be impertinent enough to
suspect that young lady's honor?"
"Madame, in the whole course of this affair there has not been the
slightest question of Mademoiselle de la Valliere's honor."
"What! when two men have almost blown each other's brains out on a
woman's behalf, do you mean to say she has had nothing to do with the
affair, and that her name has not been called in question at all? I did
not think you so good a courtier, Monsieur de Manicamp."
"Pray forgive me, Madame," said the young man, "but we are very far from
understanding one another. You do me the honor to speak one language
while I am speaking altogether another."
"I beg your pardon, but I do not understand your meaning."
"Forgive me, then; but I fancied I understood your highness to remark
that De Guiche and De Wardes had fought on Mademoiselle de la Valliere's
"On account of Mademoiselle de la Valliere, I think you said?" repeated
"I do not say that M. de Guiche personally took an interest in
Mademoiselle de la Valliere, but I say that he did so as representing or
acting on behalf of another."
"On behalf of another?"
"Come, do not always assume such a bewildered look. Does not every one
here know that M. de Bragelonne is affianced to Mademoiselle de la
Valliere, and that before he went on the mission with which the king
intrusted him, he charged his friend M. de Guiche to watch over that
interesting young lady?"
"There is nothing more for me to say, then. Your highness is well-
"Of everything. I beg you to understand that clearly."
Manicamp began to laugh, which almost exasperated the princess, who was
not, as we know, of a very patient disposition.
"Madame," resumed the discreet Manicamp, saluting the princess, "let us
bury this affair altogether in forgetfulness, for it will probably never
be quite cleared up."
"Oh, as far as that goes there is nothing more to do, and the information
is complete. The king will learn that M. de Guiche has taken up the
cause of this little adventuress, who gives herself all the airs of a
grand lady; he will learn that Monsieur de Bragelonne, having nominated
his friend M. de Guiche his guardian-in-ordinary, the latter immediately
fastened, as he was required to do, upon the Marquis de Wardes, who
ventured to trench upon his privileges. Moreover, you cannot pretend to
deny, Monsieur Manicamp - you who know everything so well - that the king
on his side casts a longing eye upon this famous treasure, and that he
will bear no slight grudge against M. de Guiche for constituting himself
its defender. Are you sufficiently well informed now, or do you require
anything further? If so, speak, monsieur."
"No, Madame, there is nothing more I wish to know."
"Learn, however - for you ought to know it, Monsieur de Manicamp - learn
that his majesty's indignation will be followed by terrible
consequences. In princes of a similar temperament to that of his
majesty, the passion which jealousy causes sweeps down like a whirlwind."
"Which you will temper, Madame."
"I!" exclaimed the princess, with a gesture of indescribable irony; "I!
and by what title, may I ask?"
"Because you detest injustice, Madame."
"And according to your account, then, it would be an injustice to prevent
the king arranging his love affairs as he pleases."
"You will intercede, however, in M. de Guiche's favor?"
"You are mad, monsieur," said the princess, in a haughty tone of voice.
"On the contrary, I am in the most perfect possession of my senses; and I
repeat, you will defend M. de Guiche before the king."
"Why should I?"
"Because the cause of M. de Guiche is your own, Madame," said Manicamp,
with ardor kindling in his eyes.
"What do you mean by that?"
"I mean, Madame, that, with respect to the defense which Monsieur de
Guiche undertook in M. de Bragelonne's absence, I am surprised that your
highness has not detected a pretext in La Valliere's name having been
"A pretext? But a pretext for what?" repeated the princess,
hesitatingly, for Manicamp's steady look had just revealed something of
the truth to her.
"I trust, Madame," said the young man, "I have said sufficient to induce
your highness not to overwhelm before his majesty my poor friend, De
Guiche, against whom all the malevolence of a party bitterly opposed to
your own will now be directed."
"You mean, on the contrary, I suppose, that all those who have no great
affection for Mademoiselle de la Valliere, and even, perhaps, a few of
those who have some regard for her, will be angry with the comte?"
"Oh, Madame! why will you push your obstinacy to such an extent, and
refuse to open your ears and listen to the counsel of one whose devotion
to you is unbounded? Must I expose myself to the risk of your
displeasure, - am I really to be called upon to name, contrary to my own
wish, the person who was the real cause of this quarrel?"
"The person?" said Madame, blushing.
"Must I," continued Manicamp, "tell you how poor De Guiche became
irritated, furious, exasperated beyond all control, at the different
rumors now being circulated about this person? Must I, if you persist in
this willful blindness, and if respect should continue to prevent me
naming her, - must I, I repeat, recall to your recollection the various
scenes which Monsieur had with the Duke of Buckingham, and the
insinuations which were reported respecting the duke's exile? Must I
remind you of the anxious care the comte always took in his efforts to
please, to watch, to protect that person for whom alone he lives, - for
whom alone he breathes? Well! I will do so; and when I shall have made
you recall all the particulars I refer to, you will perhaps understand
how it happened that the comte, having lost all control over himself, and
having been for some time past almost harassed to death by De Wardes,
became, at the first disrespectful expression which the latter pronounced
respecting the person in question, inflamed with passion, and panted only
for an opportunity of avenging the affront."
The princess concealed her face with her hands. "Monsieur, monsieur!"
she exclaimed; "do you know what you are saying, and to whom you are
"And so, Madame," pursued Manicamp, as if he had not heard the
exclamations of the princess, "nothing will astonish you any longer, -
neither the comte's ardor in seeking the quarrel, nor his wonderful
address in transferring it to an quarter foreign to your own personal
interests. That latter circumstance was, indeed, a marvelous instance of
tact and perfect coolness, and if the person in whose behalf the comte so
fought and shed his blood does, in reality, owe some gratitude to the
poor wounded sufferer, it is not on account of the blood he has shed, or
the agony he has suffered, but for the steps he has taken to preserve
from comment or reflection an honor which is more precious to him than
"Oh!" cried Madame, as if she had been alone, "is it possible the quarrel
was on my account!"
Manicamp felt he could now breathe for a moment - and gallantly had he
won the right to do so. Madame, on her side, remained for some time
plunged in a painful reverie. Her agitation could be seen by her quick
respiration, by her drooping eyelids, by the frequency with which she
pressed her hand upon her heart. But, in her, coquetry was not so much a
passive quality, as, on the contrary, a fire which sought for fuel to
maintain itself, finding anywhere and everywhere what it required.
"If it be as you assert," she said, "the comte will have obliged two
persons at the same time; for Monsieur de Bragelonne also owes a deep
debt of gratitude to M. de Guiche - and with far greater reason, indeed,
because everywhere, and on every occasion, Mademoiselle de la Valliere
will be regarded as having been defended by this generous champion."
Manicamp perceived that there still remained some lingering doubt in the
princess's heart. "A truly admirable service, indeed," he said, "is the
one he has rendered to Mademoiselle de la Valliere! A truly admirable
service to M. de Bragelonne! The duel has created a sensation which, in
some respects, casts a dishonorable suspicion upon that young girl; a
sensation, indeed, which will embroil her with the vicomte. The
consequence is that De Wardes's pistol-bullet has had three results
instead of one; it destroys at the same time the honor of a woman, the
happiness of a man, and, perhaps, it has wounded to death one of the best
gentlemen in France. Oh, Madame! your logic is cold - even calculating;
it always condemns - it never absolves."
Manicamp's concluding words scattered to the winds the last doubt which
lingered, not in Madame's heart, but in her mind. She was no longer a
princess full of scruples, nor a woman with her ever-returning
suspicions, but one whose heart has just felt the mortal chill of a
wound. "Wounded to death!" she murmured, in a faltering voice, "oh,
Monsieur de Manicamp! did you not say, wounded to death?"
Manicamp returned no other answer than a deep sigh.
"And so you said that the comte is dangerously wounded?" continued the
"Yes, Madame; one of his hands is shattered, and he has a bullet lodged
in his breast."
"Gracious heavens!" resumed the princess, with a feverish excitement,
"this is horrible! Monsieur de Manicamp! a hand shattered, do you say,
and a bullet in his breast? And that coward! that wretch! that assassin,
De Wardes, did it!"
Manicamp seemed overcome by a violent emotion. He had, in fact,
displayed no little energy in the latter part of his speech. As for
Madame, she entirely threw aside all regard for the formal observances of
propriety society imposes; for when, with her, passion spoke in accents
either of anger or sympathy, nothing could restrain her impulses. Madame
approached Manicamp, who had subsided in a chair, as if his grief were a
sufficiently powerful excuse for his infraction of the laws of
etiquette. "Monsieur," she said, seizing him by the hand, "be frank with
Manicamp looked up.
"Is M. de Guiche in danger of death?"
"Doubly so, Madame," he replied; "in the first place on account of the
hemorrhage which has taken place, an artery having been injured in the
hand; and next, in consequence of the wound in his breast, which may, the
doctor is afraid, at least, have injured some vital part."
"He may die, then?"
"Die, yes, Madame; and without even having had the consolation of knowing
that you have been told of his devotion."
"You will tell him."
"Yes; are you not his friend?"
"I? oh, no, Madame; I will only tell M. de Guiche - if, indeed, he is
still in a condition to hear me - I will only tell him what I have seen;
that is, your cruelty to him."
"Oh, monsieur, you will not be guilty of such barbarity!"
"Indeed, Madame, I shall speak the truth, for nature is very energetic in
a man of his age. The physicians are clever men, and if, by chance, the
poor comte should survive his wound, I should not wish him to die of a
wound of the heart, after surviving one of the body." Manicamp rose, and
with an expression of profoundest respect, seemed to be desirous of
"At least, monsieur," said Madame, stopping him with almost a suppliant
air, "you will be kind enough to tell me in what state your wounded
friend is, and who is the physician who attends him?"
"As regards the state he is in, Madame, he is seriously ill; his
physician is M. Valot, his majesty's private medical attendant. M. Valot
is moreover assisted by a professional friend, to whose house M. de
Guiche has been carried."
"What! he is not in the chateau?" said Madame.
"Alas, Madame! the poor fellow was so ill, that he could not even be
"Give me the address, monsieur," said the princess, hurriedly; "I will
send to inquire after him."
"Rue du Feurre; a brick-built house, with white outside blinds. The
doctor's name is on the door."
"You are returning to your wounded friend, Monsieur de Manicamp?"
"You will be able, then, to do me a service."
"I am at your highness's orders."
"Do what you intended to do; return to M. de Guiche, send away all those
whom you may find there, and have the kindness yourself to go away too."
"Madame - "
"Let us waste no time in useless explanations. Accept the fact as I
present it to you; see nothing in it beyond what is really there, and ask
nothing further than what I tell you. I am going to send one of my
ladies, perhaps two, because it is now getting late; I do not wish them
to see you, or rather I do not wish you to see them. These are scruples
you can understand - you particularly, Monsieur de Manicamp, who seem
capable of divining so much."
"Oh, Madame, perfectly; I can even do better still, - I will precede, or
rather walk, in advance of your attendants; it will, at the same time, be
the means of showing them the way more accurately, and of protecting
them, if occasion arises, though there is no probability of their needing
"And, by this means, then, they would be sure of entering without
difficulty, would they not?"
"Certainly, Madame; for as I should be the first to pass, I thus remove
any difficulties that might chance to be in the way."
"Very well. Go, go, Monsieur de Manicamp, and wait at the bottom of the
"I go at once, Madame."
"When you hear the footsteps of two women descending the stairs, go out,
and, without once turning round, take the road which leads to where the
poor count is lying."
"But if, by any mischance, two other persons were to descend, and I were
to be mistaken?"
"You will hear one of the two clap her hands together softly. Go."
Manicamp turned round, bowed once more, and left the room, his heart
overflowing with joy. In fact, he knew very well that the presence of
Madame herself would be the best balm to apply to his friend's wounds. A
quarter of an hour had hardly elapsed when he heard the sound of a door
opened softly, and closed with like precaution. He listened to the light
footfalls gliding down the staircase, and then hard the signal agreed
upon. He immediately went out, and, faithful to his promise, bent his
way, without once turning his head, through the streets of Fontainebleau,
towards the doctor's dwelling.
M. Malicorne the Keeper of the Records of France.
Two women, their figures completely concealed by their mantles, and whose
masks effectually hid the upper portion of their faces, timidly followed
Manicamp's steps. On the first floor, behind curtains of red damask, the
soft light of a lamp placed upon a low table faintly illumined the room,
at the other extremity of which, on a large bedstead supported by spiral
columns, around which curtains of the same color as those which deadened
the rays of the lamp had been closely drawn, lay De Guiche, his head
supported by pillows, his eyes looking as if the mists of death were
gathering; his long black hair, scattered over the pillow, set off the
young man's hollow temples. It was easy to see that fever was the chief
tenant of the chamber. De Guiche was dreaming. His wandering mind was
pursuing, through gloom and mystery, one of those wild creations delirium
engenders. Two or three drops of blood, still liquid, stained the
floor. Manicamp hurriedly ran up the stairs, but paused at the threshold
of the door, looked into the room, and seeing that everything was
perfectly quiet, he advanced towards the foot of the large leathern
armchair, a specimen of furniture of the reign of Henry IV., and seeing
that the nurse, as a matter of course, had dropped off to sleep, he awoke
her, and begged her to pass into the adjoining room.
Then, standing by the side of the bed, he remained for a moment
deliberating whether it would be better to awaken Guiche, in order to
acquaint him with the good news. But, as he began to hear behind the
door the rustling of silk dresses and the hurried breathing of his two
companions, and as he already saw that the curtain screening the doorway
seemed on the point of being impatiently drawn aside, he passed round the
bed and followed the nurse into the next room. As soon as he had
disappeared the curtain was raised, and his two female companions entered
the room he had just left. The one who entered first made a gesture to
her companion, which riveted her to the spot where she stood, close to
the door, and then resolutely advanced towards the bed, drew back the
curtains along the iron rod, and threw them in thick folds behind the
head of the bed. She gazed upon the comte's pallid face; remarked his
right hand enveloped in linen whose dazzling whiteness was emphasized by
the counterpane patterned with dark leaves thrown across the couch. She
shuddered as she saw a stain of blood growing larger and larger upon the
bandages. The young man's breast was uncovered, as though for the cool
night air to assist his respiration. A narrow bandage fastened the
dressings of the wound, around which a purplish circle of extravasated
blood was gradually increasing in size. A deep sigh broke from her
lips. She leaned against one of the columns of the bed, and gazed,
through the apertures in her mask, upon the harrowing spectacle before
her. A hoarse harsh groan passed like a death-rattle through the comte's
clenched teeth. The masked lady seized his left hand, which scorched
like burning coals. But at the very moment she placed her icy hand upon
it, the action of the cold was such that De Guiche opened his eyes, and
by a look in which revived intelligence was dawning, seemed as though
struggling back again into existence. The first thing upon which he
fixed his gaze was this phantom standing erect by his bedside. At that
sight, his eyes became dilated, but without any appearance of
consciousness in them. The lady thereupon made a sign to her companion,
who had remained at the door; and in all probability the latter had
already received her lesson, for in a clear tone of voice, and without
any hesitation whatever, she pronounced these words: - "Monsieur le
comte, her royal highness Madame is desirous of knowing how you are able
to bear your wound, and to express to you, by my lips, her great regret
at seeing you suffer."
As she pronounced the word Madame, Guiche started; he had not as yet
remarked the person to whom the voice belonged, and he naturally turned
towards the direction whence it preceded. But, as he felt the cold hand
still resting on his own, he again turned towards the motionless figure
beside him. "Was it you who spoke, madame?" he asked, in a weak voice,
"or is there another person in beside you in the room?"
"Yes," replied the figure, in an almost unintelligible voice, as she bent
down her head.
"Well," said the wounded man, with a great effort, "I thank you. Tell
Madame that I no longer regret to die, since she has remembered me."
At the words "to die," pronounced by one whose life seemed to hang on a
thread, the masked lady could not restrain her tears, which flowed under
the mask, and appeared upon her cheeks just where the mask left her face
bare. If De Guiche had been in fuller possession of his senses, he would
have seen her tears roll like glistening pearls, and fall upon his bed.
The lady, forgetting that she wore her mask, raised her hand as though to
wipe her eyes, and meeting the rough velvet, she tore away her mask in
anger, and threw it on the floor. At the unexpected apparition before
him, which seemed to issue from a cloud, De Guiche uttered a cry and
stretched his arms towards her; but every word perished on his lips, and
his strength seemed utterly abandoning him. His right hand, which had
followed his first impulse, without calculating the amount of strength he
had left, fell back again upon the bed, and immediately afterwards the
white linen was stained with a larger spot than before. In the meantime,
the young man's eyes became dim, and closed, as if he were already
struggling with the messenger of death; and then, after a few involuntary
movements, his head fell back motionless on his pillow; his face grew
livid. The lady was frightened; but on this occasion, contrary to what
is usually the case, fear attracted. She leaned over the young man,
gazed earnestly, fixedly at his pale, cold face, which she almost
touched, then imprinted a rapid kiss upon De Guiche's left hand, who,
trembling as if an electric shock had passed through him, awoke a second
time, opened his large eyes, incapable of recognition, and again fell
into a state of complete insensibility. "Come," she said to her
companion, "we must not remain here any longer; I shall be committing
some folly or other."
"Madame, Madame, your highness is forgetting your mask!" said her
"Pick it up," replied her mistress, as she tottered almost senseless
towards the staircase, and as the outer door had been left only half-
closed, the two women, light as birds, passed through it, and with
hurried steps returned to the palace. One of the ascended towards
Madame's apartments, where she disappeared; the other entered the rooms
belonging to the maids of honor, namely, on the _entresol_, and having
reached her own room, she sat down before a table, and without giving
herself time even to breathe, wrote the following letter:
"This evening Madame has been to see M. de Guiche. Everything is going
well on this side. See that your news is equally exemplary, and do not
forget to burn this paper."
She folded the letter, and leaving her room with every possible
precaution, crossed a corridor which led to the apartments appropriated
to the gentlemen attached to Monsieur's service. She stopped before a
door, under which, having previously knocked twice in a short, quick
manner, she thrust the paper, and fled. Then, returning to her own room,
she removed every trace of her having gone out, and also of having
written the letter. Amid the investigations she was so diligently
pursuing she perceived on the table the mask which belonged to Madame,
and which, according to her mistress's directions, she had brought back
but had forgotten to restore to her. "Oh, oh!" she said, "I must not
forget to do to-morrow what I have forgotten to-day."
And she took hold of the velvet mask by that part which covered the
cheeks, and feeling that her thumb was wet, looked at it. It was not
only wet, but reddened. The mask had fallen upon one of the spots of
blood which, we have already said, stained the floor, and from that black
velvet outside which had accidentally come into contact with it, the
blood had passed through to the inside, and stained the white cambric
lining. "Oh, oh!" said Montalais, for doubtless our readers have already
recognized her by these various maneuvers, "I shall not give back this
mask; it is far too precious now."
And rising from her seat, she ran towards a box made of maple wood, which
inclosed different articles of toilette and perfumery. "No, not here,"
she said, "such a treasure must not be abandoned to the slightest chance
Then, after a moment's silence, and with a smile that was peculiarly her
own, she added: - "Beautiful mask, stained with the blood of that brave
knight, you shall go and join that collection of wonders, La Valliere's
and Raoul's letters, that loving collection, indeed, which will some day
or other form part of the history of France, of European royalty. You
shall be placed under M. Malicorne's care," said the laughing girl, as
she began to undress herself, "under the protection of that worthy M.
Malicorne," she said, blowing out the taper, "who thinks he was born only
to become the chief usher of Monsieur's apartments, and whom I will make
keeper of the records and historiographer of the house of Bourbon, and of
the first houses in the kingdom. Let him grumble now, that discontented
Malicorne," she added, as she drew the curtains and fell asleep.
The next day being agreed upon for the departure, the king, at eleven
o'clock precisely, descended the grand staircase with the two queens and
Madame, in order to enter his carriage drawn by six horses, that were
pawing the ground in impatience at the foot of the staircase. The whole
court awaited the royal appearance in the _Fer-a-cheval_ crescent, in
their travelling costumes; the large number of saddled horses and
carriages of ladies and gentlemen of the court, surrounded by their
attendants, servants, and pages, formed a spectacle whose brilliancy
could scarcely be equalled. The king entered his carriage with the two
queens; Madame was in the same one with Monsieur. The maids of honor
followed their example, and took their seats, two by two, in the
carriages destined for them. The weather was exceedingly warm; a light
breeze, which, early in the morning, all had thought would have proved
sufficient to cool the air, soon became fiercely heated by the rays of
the sun, although it was hidden behind the clouds, and filtered through
the heated vapor which rose from the ground like a scorching wind,
bearing particles of fine dust against the faces of the travelers.
Madame was the first to complain of the heat. Monsieur's only reply was
to throw himself back in the carriage as though about to faint, and to
inundate himself with scents and perfumes, uttering the deepest sighs all
the while; whereupon Madame said to him, with her most amiable
expression: - "Really, Monsieur, I fancied that you would have been
polite enough, on account of the terrible heart, to have left me my
carriage to myself, and to have performed the journey yourself on
"Ride on horseback!" cried the prince, with an accent of dismay which
showed how little idea he had of adopting this unnatural advice; "you
cannot suppose such a thing, Madame! My skin would peel off if I were to
expose myself to such a burning breeze as this."
Madame began to laugh.
"You can take my parasol," she said.
"But the trouble of holding it!" replied Monsieur, with the greatest
coolness; "besides, I have no horse."
"What, no horse?" replied the princess, who, if she did not secure the
solitude she required, at least obtained the amusement of teasing. "No
horse! You are mistaken, Monsieur; for I see your favorite bay out
"My bay horse!" exclaimed the prince, attempting to lean forward to look
out of the door; but the movement he was obliged to make cost him so much
trouble that he soon hastened to resume his immobility.
"Yes," said Madame; "your horse, led by M. de Malicorne."
"Poor beast," replied the prince; "how warm it must be!"
And with these words he closed his eyes, like a man on the point of
death. Madame, on her side, reclined indolently in the other corner of
the carriage, and closed her eyes also, not, however, to sleep, but to
think more at her ease. In the meantime the king, seated in the front
seat of his carriage, the back of which he had yielded up to the two
queens, was a prey to that feverish contrariety experienced by anxious
lovers, who, without being able to quench their ardent thirst, are
ceaselessly desirous of seeing the loved object, and then go away
partially satisfied, without perceiving they have acquired a more
insatiable thirst than ever. The king, whose carriage headed the
procession, could not from the place he occupied perceive the carriages
of the ladies and maids of honor, which followed in a line behind it.
Besides, he was obliged to answer the eternal questions of the young
queen, who, happy to have with her "_her dear husband_," as she called
him in utter forgetfulness of royal etiquette, invested him with all her
affection, stifled him with her attentions, afraid that some one might
come to take him from her, or that he himself might suddenly take a fancy
to quit her society. Anne of Austria, whom nothing at that moment
occupied except the occasional cruel throbbings in her bosom, looked
pleased and delighted, and although she perfectly realized the king's
impatience, tantalizingly prolonged his sufferings by unexpectedly
resuming the conversation at the very moment the king, absorbed in his
own reflections, began to muse over his secret attachment. Everything
seemed to combine - not alone the little teasing attentions of the queen,
but also the queen-mother's interruptions - to make the king's position
almost insupportable; for he knew not how to control the restless
longings of his heart. At first, he complained of the heat - a complaint
merely preliminary to others, but with sufficient tact to prevent Maria
Theresa guessing his real object. Understanding the king's remark
literally, she began to fan him with her ostrich plumes. But the heat
passed away, and the king then complained of cramps and stiffness in his
legs, and as the carriages at that moment stopped to change horses, the
queen said: - "Shall I get out with you? I too feel tired of sitting.
We can walk on a little distance; the carriage will overtake us, and we
can resume our places presently."
The king frowned; it is a hard trial a jealous woman makes her husband
submit to whose fidelity she suspects, when, although herself a prey to
jealousy, she watches herself so narrowly that she avoids giving any
pretext for an angry feeling. The king, therefore, in the present case,
could not refuse; he accepted the offer, alighted from the carriage, gave
his arm to the queen, and walked up and down with her while the horses
were being changed. As he walked along, he cast an envious glance upon
the courtiers, who were fortunate enough to be on horseback. The queen
soon found out that the promenade she had suggested afforded the king as
little pleasure as he had experienced from driving. She accordingly
expressed a wish to return to her carriage, and the king conducted her to
the door, but did not get in with her. He stepped back a few paces, and
looked along the file of carriages for the purpose of recognizing the one
in which he took so strong an interest. At the door of the sixth
carriage he saw La Valliere's fair countenance. As the king thus stood
motionless, wrapt in thought, without perceiving that everything was
ready, and that he alone was causing the delay, he heard a voice close
beside him, addressing him in the most respectful manner. It was M.
Malicorne, in a complete costume of an equerry, holding over his left arm
the bridles of a couple of horses.
"Your majesty asked for a horse, I believe," he said.
"A horse? Have you one of my horses here?" inquired the king, trying to
remember the person who addressed him, and whose face was not as yet
familiar to him.
"Sire," replied Malicorne, "at all events I have a horse here which is at
your majesty's service."
And Malicorne pointed at Monsieur's bay horse, which Madame had
observed. It was a beautiful creature royally caparisoned.
"This is not one of my horses, monsieur," said the king.
"Sire, it is a horse out of his royal highness's stables; but he does not
ride when the weather is as hot as it is now."
Louis did not reply, but approached the horse, which stood pawing the
ground with its foot. Malicorne hastened to hold the stirrup for him,
but the king was already in the saddle. Restored to good-humor by this
lucky accident, the king hastened towards the queen's carriage, where he
was anxiously expected; and notwithstanding Maria Theresa's thoughtful
and preoccupied air, he said: "I have been fortunate enough to find this
horse, and I intend to avail myself of it. I felt stifled in the
carriage. Adieu, ladies."
Then bending gracefully over the arched neck of his beautiful steed, he
disappeared in a second. Anne of Austria leaned forward, in order to
look after him as he rode away; he did not get very far, for when he
reached the sixth carriage, he reined in his horse suddenly and took off
his hat. He saluted La Valliere, who uttered a cry of surprise as she
saw him, blushing at the same time with pleasure. Montalais, who
occupied the other seat in the carriage, made the king a most respectful
bow. And then, with all the tact of a woman, she pretended to be
exceedingly interested in the landscape, and withdrew herself into the
left-hand corner. The conversation between the king and La Valliere
began, as all lovers' conversations generally do, namely, by eloquent
looks and by a few words utterly devoid of common sense. The king
explained how warm he had felt in his carriage, so much so indeed that he
could almost regard the horse he then rode as a blessing thrown in his
way. "And," he added, "my benefactor is an exceedingly intelligent man,
for he seemed to guess my thoughts intuitively. I have now only one
wish, that of learning the name of the gentleman who so cleverly assisted
his king out of his dilemma, and extricated him from his cruel position."
Montalais, during this colloquy, the first words of which had awakened
her attention, had slightly altered her position, and contrived so as to
meet the king's look as he finished his remark. It followed very
naturally that the king looked inquiringly as much at her as at La
Valliere; she had every reason to suppose that it was herself who was
appealed to, and consequently might be permitted to answer. She
therefore said: "Sire, the horse which your majesty is riding belongs to
Monsieur, and was being led by one of his royal highness's gentlemen."
"And what is that gentleman's name, may I ask, mademoiselle?"
"M. de Malicorne, sire."
The name produced its usual effect, for the king repeated it smilingly.
"Yes, sire," replied Aure. "Stay, it is the gentleman who is galloping
on my left hand;" and she pointed out Malicorne, who, with a very
sanctified expression, was galloping by the side of the carriage, knowing
perfectly well that they were talking of him at that very moment, but
sitting in his saddle as if he were deaf and dumb.
"Yes," said the king, "that is the gentleman; I remember his face, and
will not forget his name;" and the king looked tenderly at La Valliere.
Aure had now nothing further to do; she had let Malicorne's name fall;
the soil was good; all that was now left to be done was to let the name
take root, and the event would bear fruit in due season. She
consequently threw herself back in her corner, feeling perfectly
justified in making as many agreeable signs of recognition as she liked
to Malicorne, since the latter had had the happiness of pleasing the
king. As will readily be believed, Montalais was not mistaken; and
Malicorne, with his quick ear and his sly look, seemed to interpret her
remark as "All goes on well," the whole being accompanied by a pantomimic
action, which he fancied conveyed something resembling a kiss.
"Alas! mademoiselle," said the king, after a moment's pause, "the liberty
and freedom of the country is soon about to cease; your attendance on
Madame will be more strictly enforced, and we shall see each other no
"Your majesty is too much attached to Madame," replied Louise, "not to
come and see her very frequently; and whenever your majesty may chance to
pass across the apartments - "
"Ah!" said the king, in a tender voice, which was gradually lowered in
its tone, "to perceive is not to see, and yet it seems that it would be
quite sufficient for you."
Louise did not answer a syllable; a sigh filled her heart almost to
bursting, but she stifled it.
"You exercise a great control over yourself," said the king to Louise,
who smiled upon him with a melancholy expression. "Exert the strength
you have in loving fondly," he continued, "and I will bless Heaven for
having bestowed it on you."
La Valliere still remained silent, but raised her eyes, brimful of
affection, toward the king. Louis, as if overcome by this burning
glance, passed his hand across his forehead, and pressing the sides of
his horse with his knees, made him bound several paces forward. La
Valliere, leaning back in her carriage, with her eyes half closed, gazed
fixedly upon the king, whose plumes were floating in the air; she could
not but admire his graceful carriage, his delicate and nervous limbs
which pressed his horse's sides, and the regular outline of his features,
which his beautiful curling hair set off to great advantage, revealing
occasionally his small and well-formed ear. In fact the poor girl was in
love, and she reveled in her innocent affection. In a few moments the
king was again by her side.
"Do you not perceive," he said, "how terribly your silence affects me?
Oh! mademoiselle, how pitilessly inexorable you would become if you were
ever to resolve to break off all acquaintance with any one; and then,
too, I think you changeable; in fact - in fact, I dread this deep
affection which fills my whole being."
"Oh! sire, you are mistaken," said La Valliere; "if ever I love, it will
be for all my life."
"If you love, you say," exclaimed the king; "you do _not_ love now, then?"
She hid her face in her hands.
"You see," said the king, "that I am right in accusing you; you must
admit you are changeable, capricious, a coquette, perhaps."
"Oh, no! sire, be perfectly satisfied as to that. No, I say again; no,
"Promise me, then, that to me you will always be the same."
"Oh! always, sire."
"That you will never show any of that severity which would break my
heart, none of that fickleness of manner which would be worse than death
"Oh! no, no."
"Very well, then! but listen. I like promises, I like to place under the
guarantee of an oath, under the protection of Heaven, in fact, everything
which interests my heart and my affections. Promise me, or rather swear
to me, that if in the life we are about to commence, a life which will be
full of sacrifice, mystery, anxiety, disappointment, and
misunderstanding; swear to me that if we should in any way deceive, or
misunderstand each other, or should judge each other unjustly, for that
indeed would be criminal in love such as ours; swear to me, Louise - "
She trembled with agitation to the very depths of her heart; it was the
first time she had heard her name pronounced in that manner by her royal
lover. As for the king, taking off his glove, and placing his hand
within the carriage, he continued: - "Swear, that never in all our
quarrels will we allow one night even to pass by, if any misunderstanding
should arise between us, without a visit, or at least a message, from
either, in order to convey consolation and repose to the other."
La Valliere took her lover's burning hand between her own cool palms, and
pressed it softly, until a movement of the horse, frightened by the
proximity of the wheels, obliged her to abandon her happiness. She had
vowed as he desired.
"Return, sire," she said, "return to the queen. I foresee a storm
yonder, which threatens my peace of mind and yours."
Louis obeyed, saluted Mademoiselle de Montalais, and set off at a gallop
to rejoin the queen. As he passed Monsieur's carriage, he observed that
he was fast asleep, although Madame, on her part, was wide awake. As the
king passed her she said, "What a beautiful horse, sire! Is it not
Monsieur's bay horse?"
The young queen kindly asked, "Are you better now, sire?" (3)
On the king's arrival in Paris, he sat at the council which had been
summoned, and worked for a certain portion of the day. The queen
remained with the queen-mother, and burst into tears as soon as she had
taken leave of the king. "Ah, madame!" she said, "the king no longer
loves me! What will become of me?"
"A husband always loves his wife when she is like you," replied Anne of
"A time may come when he will love another woman instead of me."
"What do you call loving?"
"Always thinking of a person - always seeking her society."
"Do you happen to have remarked," said Anne of Austria, "that the king
has ever done anything of the sort?"
"No, madame," said the young queen, hesitatingly.
"What is there to complain of, then, Marie?"
"You will admit that the king leaves me?"
"The king, my daughter, belongs to his people."
"And that is the very reason why he no longer belongs to me; and that is
the reason, too, why I shall find myself, as so many queens before me,
forsaken and forgotten, whilst glory and honors will be reserved for
others. Oh, my mother! the king is so handsome! how often will others
tell him that they love him, and how much, indeed, they must do so!"
"It is very seldom, indeed, that women love the man in loving the king.
But if such a thing happened, which I doubt, you would do better to wish,
Marie, that such women should really love your husband. In the first
place, the devoted love of a mistress is a rapid element of the
dissolution of a lover's affection; and then, by dint of loving, the
mistress loses all influence over her lover, whose power of wealth she
does not covet, caring only for his affection. Wish, therefore, that the
king should love but lightly, and that his mistress should love with all
"Oh, my mother, what power may not a deep affection exercise over him!"
"And yet you say you are resigned?"
"Quite true, quite true; I speak absurdly. There is a feeling of
anguish, however, which I can never control."
"And that is?"
"The king may make a happy choice - may find a home, with all the tender
influences of home, not far from that we can offer him, - a home with
children round him, the children of another woman. Oh, madame! I should
die if I were but to see the king's children."
"Marie, Marie," replied the queen-mother with a smile, and she took the
young queen's hand in her own, "remember what I am going to say, and let
it always be a consolation to you: the king cannot have a Dauphin without
With this remark the queen-mother quitted her daughter-in-law, in order
to meet Madame, whose arrival in the grand cabinet had just been
announced by one of the pages. Madame had scarcely taken time to change
her dress. Her face revealed her agitation, which betrayed a plan, the
execution of which occupied, while the result disturbed, her mind.
"I came to ascertain," she said, "if your majesties are suffering any
fatigue from our journey."
"None at all," said the queen-mother.
"A little," replied Maria Theresa.
"I have suffered from annoyance more than anything else," said Madame.
"How was that?" inquired Anne of Austria.
"The fatigue the king undergoes in riding about on horseback."
"That does the king good."
"And it was I who advised him," said Maria Theresa, turning pale.
Madame said not a word in reply; but one of those smiles which were
peculiarly her own flitted for a moment across her lips, without passing
over the rest of her face; then, immediately changing the conversation,
she continued, "We shall find Paris precisely the Paris we quitted; the
same intrigues, plots, and flirtations going on."
"Intrigues! What intrigues do you allude to?" inquired the queen-mother.
"People are talking a good deal about M. Fouquet and Madame Plessis-
"Who makes up the number to about ten thousand," replied the queen-
mother. "But what are the plots you speak of?"
"We have, it seems, certain misunderstandings with Holland to settle."
"Monsieur has been telling me the story of the medals."
"Oh!" exclaimed the young queen, "you mean those medals struck in
Holland, on which a cloud is seen passing across the sun, which is the
king's device. You are wrong in calling that a plot - it is an insult."
"But so contemptible that the king can well despise it," replied the
queen-mother. "Well, what are the flirtations which are alluded to? Do
you mean that of Madame d'Olonne?"
"No, no; nearer ourselves than that."
"_Casa de usted_," murmured the queen-mother, and without moving her
lips, in her daughter-in-law's ear, without being overheard by Madame,
who thus continued: - "You know the terrible news?" (4)
"Oh, yes; M. de Guiche's wound."
"And you attribute it, I suppose, as every one else does, to an accident
which happened to him while hunting?"
"Yes, of course," said both the queens together, their interest awakened.
Madame drew closer to them, as she said, in a low tone of voice, "It was
"Ah!" said Anne of Austria, in a severe tone; for, in her ears, the word
"duel," which had been forbidden in France all the time she reigned over
it, had a strange sound.
"A most deplorable duel, which has nearly cost Monsieur two of his best
friends, and the king two of his best servants."
"What was the cause of the duel?" inquired the young queen, animated by a
"Flirtation," repeated Madame, triumphantly. "The gentlemen in question
were conversing about the virtue of a particular lady belonging to the
court. One of them thought that Pallas was a very second-rate person
compared to her; the other pretended that the lady in question was an
imitation of Venus alluring Mars; and thereupon the two gentlemen fought
as fiercely as Hector and Achilles."
"Venus alluring Mars?" said the young queen in a low tone of voice
without venturing to examine into the allegory very deeply.
"Who is the lady?" inquired Anne of Austria abruptly. "You said, I
believe, she was one of the ladies of honor?"
"Did I say so?" replied Madame.
"Yes; at least I thought I heard you mention it."
"Are you not aware that such a woman is of ill-omen to a royal house?"
"Is it not Mademoiselle de la Valliere?" said the queen-mother.
"Yes, indeed, that plain-looking creature."
"I thought she was affianced to a gentleman who certainly is not, at
least so I have heard, either M. de Guiche or M. de Wardes?"
"Very possibly, madame."
The young queen took up a piece of tapestry, and began to broider with an
affectation of tranquillity her trembling fingers contradicted.
"What were you saying about Venus and Mars?" pursued the queen-mother.
"Is there a Mars also?"
"She boasts of that being the case."
"Did you say she boasts of it?"
"That was the cause of the duel."
"And M. de Guiche upheld the cause of Mars?"
"Yes, certainly; like the devoted servant he is."
"The devoted servant of whom?" exclaimed the young queen, forgetting her
reserve in allowing her jealous feeling to escape.
"Mars, not to be defended except at the expense of Venus," replied
Madame. "M. de Guiche maintained the perfect innocence of Mars, and no
doubt affirmed that it was all a mere boast."
"And M. de Wardes," said Anne of Austria, quietly, "spread the report
that Venus was within her rights, I suppose?"
"Oh, De Wardes," thought Madame, "you shall pay dearly for the wound you
have given that noblest - best of men!" And she began to attack De
Wardes with the greatest bitterness; thus discharging her own and De
Guiche's debt, with the assurance that she was working the future ruin of
her enemy. She said so much, in fact, that had Manicamp been there, he
would have regretted he had shown such firm regard for his friend,
inasmuch as it resulted in the ruin of his unfortunate foe.
"I see nothing in the whole affair but _one_ cause of mischief, and that
is La Valliere herself," said the queen-mother.
The young queen resumed her work with perfect indifference of manner,
while Madame listened eagerly.
"I do not yet quite understand what you said just now about the danger of
coquetry," resumed Anne of Austria.
"It is quite true," Madame hastened to say, "that if the girl had not
been a coquette, Mars would not have thought at all about her."
The repetition of this word Mars brought a passing color to the queen's
face; but she still continued her work.
"I will not permit that, in my court, gentlemen should be set against
each other in this manner," said Anne of Austria, calmly. "Such manners
were useful enough, perhaps, in days when the divided nobility had no
other rallying-point than mere gallantry. At that time women, whose sway
was absolute and undivided, were privileged to encourage men's valor by
frequent trials of their courage. But now, thank Heaven, there is but
one master in France, and to him every instinct of the mind, every pulse
of the body are due. I will not allow my son to be deprived of any
single one of his servants." And she turned towards the young queen,
saying, "What is to be done with this La Valliere?"
"La Valliere?" said the queen, apparently surprised, "I do not even know
the name;" and she accompanied this remark by one of those cold, fixed
smiles only to be observed on royal lips.
Madame was herself a princess great in every respect, great in
intelligence, great by birth, by pride; the queen's reply, however,
completely astonished her, and she was obliged to pause for a moment
in order to recover herself. "She is one of my maids of honor," she
replied, with a bow.
"In that case," retorted Maria Theresa, in the same tone, "it is your
affair, my sister, and not ours."
"I beg your pardon," resumed Anne of Austria, "it is my affair. And I
perfectly well understand," she pursued, addressing a look full of
intelligence at Madame, "Madame's motive for saying what she has just
"Everything which emanates from you, madame," said the English princess,
"proceeds from the lips of Wisdom."
"If we send this girl back to her own family," said Maria Theresa,
gently, "we must bestow a pension upon her."
"Which I will provide for out of my income," exclaimed Madame.
"No, no," interrupted Anne of Austria, "no disturbance, I beg. The king
dislikes that the slightest disrespectful remark should be made of any
lady. Let everything be done quietly. Will you have the kindness,
Madame, to send for this girl here; and you, my daughter, will have the
goodness to retire to your own room."
The dowager queen's entreaties were commands, and as Maria Theresa rose
to return to her apartments, Madame rose in order to send a page to
summon La Valliere.
The First Quarrel.
La Valliere entered the queen-mother's apartments without in the least
suspecting that a serious plot was being concerted against her. She
thought it was for something connected with her duties, and never had the
queen-mother been unkind to her when such was the case. Besides, not
being immediately under the control or direction of Anne of Austria, she
could only have an official connection with her, to which her own
gentleness of disposition, and the rank of the august princess, made her
yield on every occasion with the best possible grace. She therefore
advanced towards the queen-mother with that soft and gentle smile which
constituted her principal charm, and as she did not approach sufficiently
close, Anne of Austria signed to her to come nearer. Madame then entered
the room, and with a perfectly calm air took her seat beside her mother-
in-law, and continued the work which Maria Theresa had begun. When La
Valliere, instead of the direction which she expected to receive
immediately on entering the room, perceived these preparations, she
looked with curiosity, if not with uneasiness, at the two princesses.
Anne seemed full of thought, while Madame maintained an affectation of
indifference that would have alarmed a less timid person even than Louise.
"Mademoiselle," said the queen-mother suddenly, without attempting to
moderate or disguise her Spanish accent, which she never failed to do
except when she was angry, "come closer; we were talking of you, as every
one else seems to be doing."
"Of me!" exclaimed La Valliere, turning pale.
"Do you pretend to be ignorant of it; are you not aware of the duel