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Louise de la Valliere by Alexandre Dumas, Pere

Part 5 out of 12

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between M. de Guiche and M. de Wardes?"

"Oh, madame! I heard of it yesterday," said La Valliere, clasping her
hands together.

"And did you not foresee this quarrel?"

"Why should I, madame?"

"Because two men never fight without a motive, and because you must be
aware of the motive which awakened the animosity of the two in question."

"I am perfectly ignorant of it, madame."

"A persevering denial is a very commonplace mode of defense, and you, who
have great pretensions to be witty and clever, ought to avoid
commonplaces. What else have you to say?"

"Oh! madame, your majesty terrifies me with your cold severity of manner;
but I do not understand how I can have incurred your displeasure, or in
what respect people concern themselves about me."

"Then I will tell you. M. de Guiche has been obliged to undertake your

"My defense?"

"Yes. He is a gallant knight, and beautiful adventuresses like to see
brave knights couch lances in their honor. But, for my part, I hate
fields of battle, and above all I hate adventures, and - take my remark
as you please."

La Valliere sank at the queen's feet, who turned her back upon her. She
stretched out her hands towards Madame, who laughed in her face. A
feeling of pride made her rise to her feet.

"I have begged your majesty to tell me what is the crime I am accused of
- I can claim this at your hands; and I see I am condemned before I am
even permitted to justify myself."

"Eh! indeed," cried Anne of Austria, "listen to her beautiful phrases,
Madame, and to her fine sentiments; she is an inexhaustible well of
tenderness and heroic expressions. One can easily see, young lady, that
you have cultivated your mind in the society of crowned heads."

La Valliere felt struck to the heart; she became, not whiter, but as
white as a lily, and all her strength forsook her.

"I wished to inform you," interrupted the queen, disdainfully, "that if
you continue to nourish such feelings, you will humiliate us to such a
degree that we shall be ashamed of appearing before you. Be simple in
your manners. By the by, I am informed that you are affianced; is it the

La Valliere pressed her hand over her heart, which was wrung with a fresh

"Answer when you are spoken to!"

"Yes, madame."

"To a gentleman?"

"Yes, madame."

"His name?"

"The Vicomte de Bragelonne."

"Are you aware that it is an exceedingly fortunate circumstance for you,
mademoiselle, that such is the case, and without fortune or position, as
you are, or without any very great personal advantages, you ought to
bless Heaven for having procured you such a future as seems to be in
store for you?"

La Valliere did not reply. "Where is the Vicomte de Bragelonne?" pursued
the queen.

"In England," said Madame, "where the report of this young lady's success
will not fail to reach him."

"Oh, Heaven!" murmured La Valliere in despair.

"Very well, mademoiselle!" said Anne of Austria, "we will get this young
gentleman to return, and send you away somewhere with him. If you are of
a different opinion - for girls have strange views and fancies at times -
trust to me, I will put you in a proper path again. I have done as much
for girls who are not as good as you are, probably."

La Valliere ceased to hear the queen, who pitilessly added: "I will send
you somewhere, by yourself, where you will be able to indulge in a little
serious reflection. Reflection calms the ardor of the blood, and
swallows up the illusions of youth. I suppose you understand what I have
been saying?"


"Not a word?"

"I am innocent of everything your majesty supposes. Oh, madame! you are
a witness of my despair. I love, I respect your majesty so much."

"It would be far better not to respect me at all," said the queen, with a
chilling irony of manner. "It would be far better if you were not
innocent. Do you presume to suppose that I should be satisfied simply to
leave you unpunished if you had committed the fault?"

"Oh, madame! you are killing me."

"No acting, if you please, or I will precipitate the _denouement_ of this
_play_; leave the room; return to your own apartment, and I trust my
lesson may be of service to you."

"Madame!" said La Valliere to the Duchess d'Orleans, whose hands she
seized in her own, "do you, who are so good, intercede for me?"

"I!" replied the latter, with an insulting joy, "I - good! - Ah,
mademoiselle, you think nothing of the kind;" and with a rude, hasty
gesture she repulsed the young girl's grasp.

La Valliere, instead of giving way, as from her extreme pallor and her
tears the two princesses possibly expected, suddenly resumed her calm and
dignified air; she bowed profoundly, and left the room.

"Well!" said Anne of Austria to Madame, "do you think she will begin

"I always suspect those gentle, patient characters," replied Madame.
"Nothing is more full of courage than a patient heart, nothing more self-
reliant than a gentle spirit."

"I feel I may almost venture to assure you she will think twice before
she looks at the god Mars again."

"So long as she does not obtain the protection of his buckler I do not
care," retorted Madame.

A proud, defiant look of the queen-mother was the reply to this
objection, which was by no means deficient in finesse; and both of them,
almost sure of their victory, went to look for Maria Theresa, who had
been waiting for them with impatience.

It was about half-past six in the evening, and the king had just partaken
of refreshment. He lost no time; but the repast finished, and business
matters settled, he took Saint-Aignan by the arm, and desired him to lead
the way to La Valliere's apartments. The courtier uttered an exclamation.

"Well, what is that for? It is a habit you will have to adopt, and in
order to adopt a habit, one must make a beginning."

"Oh, sire!" said Saint-Aignan, "it is hardly possible: for every one can
be seen entering or leaving those apartments. If, however, some pretext
or other were made use of - if your majesty, for instance, would wait
until Madame were in her own apartments - "

"No pretext; no delays. I have had enough of these impediments and
mysteries; I cannot perceive in what respect the king of France dishonors
himself by conversing with an amiable and clever girl. Evil be to him
who evil thinks."

"Will your majesty forgive an excess of zeal on my part?"

"Speak freely."

"How about the queen?"

"True, true; I always wish the most entire respect to be shown to her
majesty. Well, then, this evening only will I pay Mademoiselle de la
Valliere a visit, and after to-day I will make use of any pretext you
like. To-morrow we will devise all sorts of means; to-night I have no

Saint-Aignan made no reply; he descended the steps, preceding the king,
and crossed the different courtyards with a feeling of shame, which the
distinguished honor of accompanying the king did not remove. The reason
was that Saint-Aignan wished to stand well with Madame, as well as with
the queens, and also, that he did not, on the other hand, want to
displease Mademoiselle de la Valliere: and in order to carry out so many
promising affairs, it was difficult to avoid jostling against some
obstacle or other. Besides, the windows of the young queen's rooms,
those of the queen-mother's, and of Madame herself, looked out upon the
courtyard of the maids of honor. To be seen, therefore, accompanying the
king, would be effectually to quarrel with three great and influential
princesses - whose authority was unbounded - for the purpose of
supporting the ephemeral credit of a mistress. The unhappy Saint-Aignan,
who had not displayed a very great amount of courage in taking La
Valliere's part in the park of Fontainebleau, did not feel any braver in
the broad day-light, and found a thousand defects in the poor girl which
he was most eager to communicate to the king. But his trial soon
finished, - the courtyards were crossed; not a curtain was drawn aside,
nor a window opened. The king walked hastily, because of his impatience,
and the long legs of Saint-Aignan, who preceded him. At the door,
however, Saint-Aignan wished to retire, but the king desired him to
remain; a delicate consideration, on the king's part, which the courtier
could very well have dispensed with. He had to follow Louis into La
Valliere's apartment. As soon as the king arrived the young girl dried
her tears, but so precipitately that the king perceived it. He
questioned her most anxiously and tenderly, and pressed her to tell him
the cause of her emotion.

"Nothing is the matter, sire," she said.

"And yet you were weeping?"

"Oh, no, indeed, sire."

"Look, Saint-Aignan, and tell me if I am mistaken."

Saint-Aignan ought to have answered, but he was too much embarrassed.

"At all events your eyes are red, mademoiselle," said the king.

"The dust of the road merely, sire."

"No, no; you no longer possess the air of supreme contentment which
renders you so beautiful and so attractive. You do not look at me. Why
avoid my gaze?" he said, as she turned aside her head. "In Heaven's
name, what is the matter?" he inquired, beginning to lose command over

"Nothing at all, sire; and I am perfectly ready to assure your majesty
that my mind is as free form anxiety as you could possibly wish."

"Your mind at ease, when I see you are embarrassed at the slightest
thing. Has any one annoyed you?"

"No, no, sire."

"I insist upon knowing if such really be the case," said the prince, his
eyes sparkling.

"No one, sire, no one has in any way offended me."

"In that case, pray resume your gentle air of gayety, or that sweet
melancholy look which I so loved in you this morning; for pity's sake, do

"Yes, sire, yes."

The king tapped the floor impatiently with his foot, saying, "Such a
change is positively inexplicable." And he looked at Saint-Aignan, who
had also remarked La Valliere's peculiar lethargy, as well as the king's

It was futile for the king to entreat, and as useless for him to try to
overcome her depression: the poor girl was completely overwhelmed, - the
appearance of an angel would hardly have awakened her from her torpor.

The king saw in her repeated negative replies a mystery full of
unkindness; he began to look round the apartment with a suspicious air.
There happened to be in La Valliere's room a miniature of Athos. The
king remarked that this portrait bore a strong resemblance to Bragelonne,
for it had been taken when the count was quite a young man. He looked at
it with a threatening air. La Valliere, in her misery far indeed from
thinking of this portrait, could not conjecture the cause of the king's
preoccupation. And yet the king's mind was occupied with a terrible
remembrance, which had more than once taken possession of his mind, but
which he had always driven away. He recalled the intimacy existing
between the two young people from their birth, their engagement, and that
Athos himself had come to solicit La Valliere's hand for Raoul. He
therefore could not but suppose that on her return to Paris, La Valliere
had found news from London awaiting her, and that this news had
counterbalanced the influence he had been enabled to exert over her. He
immediately felt himself stung, as it were, by feelings of the wildest
jealousy; and again questioned her, with increased bitterness. La
Valliere could not reply, unless she were to acknowledge everything,
which would be to accuse the queen, and Madame also; and the consequence
would be, that she would have to enter into an open warfare with these
two great and powerful princesses. She thought within herself that as
she made no attempt to conceal from the king what was passing in her own
mind, the king ought to be able to read in her heart, in spite of her
silence; and that, had he really loved her, he would have understood and
guessed everything. What was sympathy, then, if not that divine flame
which possesses the property of enlightening the heart, and of saving
lovers the necessity of an expression of their thoughts and feelings?
She maintained her silence, therefore, sighing, and concealing her face
in her hands. These sighs and tears, which had at first distressed, then
terrified Louis XIV., now irritated him. He could not bear opposition, -
the opposition which tears and sighs exhibited, any more than opposition
of any other kind. His remarks, therefore, became bitter, urgent, and
openly aggressive in their nature. This was a fresh cause of distress
for the poor girl. From that very circumstance, therefore, which she
regarded as an injustice on her lover's part, she drew sufficient courage
to bear, not only her other troubles, but this one also.

The king next began to accuse her in direct terms. La Valliere did not
even attempt to defend herself; she endured all his accusations without
according any other reply than that of shaking her head; without any
other remark than that which escapes the heart in deep distress - a
prayerful appeal to Heaven for help. But this ejaculation, instead of
calming the king's displeasure, rather increased it. He, moreover, saw
himself seconded by Saint-Aignan, for Saint-Aignan, as we have observed,
having seen the storm increasing, and not knowing the extent of the
regard of which Louis XIV. was capable, felt, by anticipation, all the
collected wrath of the three princesses, and the near approach of poor La
Valliere's downfall, and he was not true knight enough to resist the fear
that he himself might be dragged down in the impending ruin. Saint-
Aignan did not reply to the king's questions except by short, dry
remarks, pronounced half-aloud; and by abrupt gestures, whose object was
to make things worse, and bring about a misunderstanding, the result of
which would be to free him from the annoyance of having to cross the
courtyards in open day, in order to follow his illustrious companion to
La Valliere's apartments. In the meantime the king's anger momentarily
increased; he made two or three steps towards the door as if to leave the
room, but returned. The young girl did not, however, raise her head,
although the sound of his footsteps might have warned her that her lover
was leaving her. He drew himself up, for a moment, before her, with his
arms crossed.

"For the last time, mademoiselle," he said, "will you speak? Will you
assign a reason for this change, this fickleness, for this caprice?"

"What can I say?" murmured La Valliere. "Do you not see, sire, that I am
completely overwhelmed at this moment; that I have no power of will, or
thought, or speech?"

"Is it so difficult, then, to speak the truth? You could have told me
the whole truth in fewer words than those in which you have expressed

"But the truth about what, sire?"

"About everything."

La Valliere was just on the point of revealing the truth to the king, her
arms made a sudden movement as if they were about to open, but her lips
remained silent, and her hands again fell listlessly by her side. The
poor girl had not yet endured sufficient unhappiness to risk the
necessary revelation. "I know nothing," she stammered out.

"Oh!" exclaimed the king, "this is no longer mere coquetry, or caprice,
it is treason."

And this time nothing could restrain him. The impulse of his heart was
not sufficient to induce him to turn back, and he darted out of the room
with a gesture full of despair. Saint-Aignan followed him, wishing for
nothing better than to quit the place.

Louis XIV. did not pause until he reached the staircase, and grasping the
balustrade, said: "You see how shamefully I have been duped."

"How, sire?" inquired the favorite.

"De Guiche fought on the Vicomte de Bragelonne's account, and this
Bragelonne oh! Saint-Aignan, she still loves him. I vow to you, Saint-
Aignan, that if, in three days from now, there were to remain but an atom
of affection for her in my heart, I should die from very shame." And the
king resumed his way to his own apartments.

"I told your majesty how it would be," murmured Saint-Aignan, continuing
to follow the king, and timidly glancing up at the different windows.

Unfortunately their return was not, like their arrival, unobserved. A
curtain was suddenly drawn aside; Madame was behind it. She had seen the
king leave the apartments of the maids of honor, and as soon as she
observed that his majesty had passed, she left her own apartments with
hurried steps, and ran up the staircase that led to the room the king had
just left.

Chapter XXV:

As soon as the king was gone La Valliere raised herself from the ground,
and stretched out her arms, as if to follow and detain him, but when,
having violently closed the door, the sound of his retreating footsteps
could be heard in the distance, she had hardly sufficient strength left
to totter towards and fall at the foot of her crucifix. There she
remained, broken-hearted, absorbed, and overwhelmed by her grief,
forgetful and indifferent to everything but her profound sorrow; - a
grief she only vaguely realized - as though by instinct. In the midst of
this wild tumult of thoughts, La Valliere heard her door open again; she
started, and turned round, thinking it was the king who had returned.
She was deceived, however, for it was Madame who appeared at the door.
What did she now care for Madame! Again she sank down, her head
supported by her _prie-Dieu_ chair. It was Madame, agitated, angry, and
threatening. But what was that to her? "Mademoiselle," said the
princess, standing before La Valliere, "this is very fine, I admit, to
kneel and pray, and make a pretense of being religious; but however
submissive you may be in your address to Heaven, it is desirable that you
should pay some little attention to the wishes of those who reign and
rule here below."

La Valliere raised her head painfully in token of respect.

"Not long since," continued Madame, "a certain recommendation was
addressed to you, I believe."

La Valliere's fixed and wild gaze showed how complete her forgetfulness
or ignorance was.

"The queen recommended you," continued Madame, "to conduct yourself in
such a manner that no one could be justified in spreading any reports
about you."

La Valliere darted an inquiring look towards her.

"I will not," continued Madame, "allow my household, which is that of the
first princess of the blood, to set an evil example to the court; you
would be the cause of such an example. I beg you to understand,
therefore, in the absence of any witness of your shame - for I do not
wish to humiliate you - that you are from this moment at perfect liberty
to leave, and that you can return to your mother at Blois."

La Valliere could not sink lower, nor could she suffer more than she had
already suffered. Her countenance did not even change, but she remained
kneeling with her hands clasped, like the figure of the Magdalen.

"Did you hear me?" said Madame.

A shiver, which passed through her whole frame, was La Valliere's only
reply. And as the victim gave no other signs of life, Madame left the
room. And then, her very respiration suspended, and her blood almost
congealed, as it were, in her veins, La Valliere by degrees felt that the
pulsation of her wrists, her neck, and temples, began to throb more and
more painfully. These pulsations, as they gradually increased, soon
changed into a species of brain fever, and in her temporary delirium she
saw the figures of her friends contending with her enemies, floating
before her vision. She heard, too, mingled together in her deafened
ears, words of menace and words of fond affection; she seemed raised out
of her existence as though it were upon the wings of a mighty tempest,
and in the dim horizon of the path along which her delirium hurried her,
she saw the stone which covered her tomb upraised, and the grim,
appalling texture of eternal night revealed to her distracted gaze. But
the horror of the dream which possessed her senses faded away, and she
was again restored to the habitual resignation of her character. A ray
of hope penetrated her heart, as a ray of sunlight streams into the
dungeon of some unhappy captive. Her mind reverted to the journey from
Fontainebleau, she saw the king riding beside her carriage, telling her
that he loved her, asking for her love in return, requiring her to swear,
and himself to swear too, that never should an evening pass by, if ever a
misunderstanding were to arise between them, without a visit, a letter, a
sign of some kind, being sent, to replace the troubled anxiety of the
evening with the calm repose of the night. It was the king who had
suggested that, who had imposed a promise on her, and who had sworn to it
himself. It was impossible, therefore, she reasoned, that the king
should fail in keeping the promise which he had himself exacted from her,
unless, indeed, Louis was a despot who enforced love as he enforced
obedience; unless, too, the king were so indifferent that the first
obstacle in his way was sufficient to arrest his further progress. The
king, that kind protector, who by a word, a single word, could relieve
her distress of mind, the king even joined her persecutors. Oh! his
anger could not possibly last. Now that he was alone, he would be
suffering all that she herself was a prey to. But he was not tied hand
and foot as she was; he could act, could move about, could come to her,
while she could do nothing but wait. And the poor girl waited and
waited, with breathless anxiety - for she could not believe it possible
that the king would not come.

It was now about half-past ten. He would either come to her, or write to
her, or send some kind word by M. de Saint-Aignan. If he were to come,
oh! how she would fly to meet him; how she would thrust aside that excess
of delicacy which she now discovered was misunderstood; how eagerly she
would explain: "It is not I who do not love you - it is the fault of
others who will not allow me to love you." And then it must be confessed
that she reflected upon it, and also the more she reflected, Louis
appeared to her to be less guilty. In fact, he was ignorant of
everything. What must he have thought of the obstinacy with which she
remained silent? Impatient and irritable as the king was known to be, it
was extraordinary that he had been able to preserve his temper so long.
And yet, had it been her own case, she undoubtedly would not have acted
in such a manner; she would have understood - have guessed everything.
Yes, but she was nothing but a poor simple-minded girl, and not a great
and powerful monarch. Oh! if he would but come, if he would but come! -
how eagerly she would forgive him for all he had just made her suffer!
how much more tenderly she would love him because she had so cruelly
suffered! And so she sat, with her head bent forward in eager
expectation towards the door, her lips slightly parted, as if - and
Heaven forgive her for the mental exclamation! - they were awaiting the
kiss which the king's lips had in the morning so sweetly indicated, when
he pronounced the word _love!_ If the king did not come, at least he
would write; it was a second chance; a chance less delightful certainly
than the other, but which would show an affection just as strong, only
more timid in its nature. Oh! how she would devour his letter, how eager
she would be to answer it! and when the messenger who had brought it had
left her, how she would kiss it, read it over and over again, press to
her heart the lucky paper which would have brought her ease of mind,
tranquillity, and perfect happiness. At all events, if the king did not
come, if the king did not write, he could not do otherwise than send
Saint-Aignan, or Saint-Aignan could not do otherwise than come of his own
accord. Even if it were a third person, how openly she would speak to
him; the royal presence would not be there to freeze her words upon her
tongue, and then no suspicious feeling would remain a moment longer in
the king's heart.

Everything with La Valliere, heart and look, body and mind, was
concentrated in eager expectation. She said to herself that there was an
hour left in which to indulge hope; that until midnight struck, the king
might come, or write or send; that at midnight only would every
expectation vanish, every hope be lost. Whenever she heard any stir in
the palace, the poor girl fancied she was the cause of it; whenever she
heard any one pass in the courtyard below she imagined they were
messengers of the king coming to her. Eleven o'clock struck, then a
quarter-past eleven; then half-past. The minutes dragged slowly on in
this anxiety, and yet they seemed to pass too quickly. And now, it
struck a quarter to twelve. Midnight - midnight was near, the last, the
final hope that remained. With the last stroke of the clock, the last
ray of light seemed to fade away; and with the last ray faded her final
hope. And so, the king himself had deceived her; it was he who had been
the first to fail in keeping the oath which he had sworn that very day;
twelve hours only between his oath and his perjured vow; it as not long,
alas! to have preserved the illusion. And so, not only did the king not
love her, but he despised her whom every one ill-treated, he despised her
to the extent even of abandoning her to the shame of an expulsion which
was equivalent to having an ignominious sentence passed on her; and yet,
it was he, the king himself, who was the first cause of this ignominy. A
bitter smile, the only symptom of anger which during this long conflict
had passed across the angelic face, appeared upon her lips. What, in
fact, now remained on earth for her, after the king was lost to her?
Nothing. But Heaven still remained, and her thoughts flew thither. She
prayed that the proper course for her to follow might be suggested. "It
is from Heaven," she thought, "that I expect everything; it is from
Heaven I ought to expect everything." And she looked at her crucifix
with a devotion full of tender love. "There," she said, "hangs before me
a Master who never forgets and never abandons those who neither forget
nor abandon Him; it is to Him alone that we must sacrifice ourselves."
And, thereupon, could any one have gazed into the recesses of that
chamber, they would have seen the poor despairing girl adopt a final
resolution, and determine upon one last plan in her mind. Then, as her
knees were no longer able to support her, she gradually sank down upon
the _prie-Dieu_, and with her head pressed against the wooden cross, her
eyes fixed, and her respiration short and quick, she watched for the
earliest rays of approaching daylight. At two o'clock in the morning she
was still in the same bewilderment of mind, or rather the same ecstasy of
feeling. Her thoughts had almost ceased to hold communion with things of
the world. And when she saw the pale violet tints of early dawn visible
over the roofs of the palace, and vaguely revealing the outlines of the
ivory crucifix which she held embraced, she rose from the ground with a
new-born strength, kissed the feet of the divine martyr, descended the
staircase leading from the room, and wrapped herself from head to foot in
a mantle as she went along. She reached the wicket at the very moment
the guard of the musketeers opened the gate to admit the first relief-
guard belonging to one of the Swiss regiments. And then, gliding behind
the soldiers, she reached the street before the officer in command of the
patrol had even thought of asking who the young girl was who was making
her escape from the palace at so early an hour.

Chapter XXVI:
The Flight.

La Valliere followed the patrol as it left the courtyard. The patrol
bent its steps towards the right, by the Rue St. Honore, and mechanically
La Valliere turned to the left. Her resolution was taken - her
determination fixed; she wished to betake herself to the convent of the
Carmelites at Chaillot, the superior of which enjoyed a reputation for
severity which made the worldly-minded people of the court tremble. La
Valliere had never seen Paris, she had never gone out on foot, and so
would have been unable to find her way even had she been in a calmer
frame of mind than was then the case; and this may explain why she
ascended, instead of descending, the Rue St. Honore. Her only thought
was to get away from the Palais Royal, and this she was doing; she had
heard it said that Chaillot looked out upon the Seine, and she
accordingly directed her steps towards the Seine. She took the Rue de
Coq, and not being able to cross the Louvre, bore towards the church of
Saint Germain l'Auxerrois, proceeding along the site of the colonnade
which was subsequently built there by Perrault. In a very short time she
reached the quays. Her steps were rapid and agitated; she scarcely felt
the weakness which reminded her of having sprained her foot when very
young, and which obliged her to limp slightly. At any other hour in the
day her countenance would have awakened the suspicions of the least clear-
sighted, attracted the attention of the most indifferent. But at half-
past two in the morning, the streets of Paris are almost, if not quite,
deserted, and scarcely is any one to be seen but the hard-working artisan
on his way to earn his daily bread or the roistering idlers of the
streets, who are returning to their homes after a night of riot and
debauchery; for the former the day was beginning, and for the latter it
was just closing. La Valliere was afraid of both faces, in which her
ignorance of Parisian types did not permit her to distinguish the type of
probity from that of dishonesty. The appearance of misery alarmed her,
and all she met seemed either vile or miserable. Her dress, which was
the same she had worn during the previous evening, was elegant even in
its careless disorder; for it was the one in which she had presented
herself to the queen-mother; and, moreover, when she drew aside the
mantle which covered her face, in order to enable her to see the way she
was going, her pallor and her beautiful eyes spoke an unknown language to
the men she met, and, unconsciously, the poor fugitive seemed to invite
the brutal remarks of the one class, or to appeal to the compassion of
the other. La Valliere still walked on in the same way, breathless and
hurried, until she reached the top of the Place de Greve. She stopped
from time to time, placed her hand upon her heart, leaned against a wall
until she could breathe freely again, and then continued on her course
more rapidly than before. On reaching the Place de Greve La Valliere
suddenly came upon a group of three drunken men, reeling and staggering
along, who were just leaving a boat which they had made fast to the quay;
the boat was freighted with wines, and it was apparent that they had done
ample justice to the merchandise. They were celebrating their convivial
exploits in three different keys, when suddenly, as they reached the end
of the railing leading down to the quay, they found an obstacle in their
path, in the shape of this young girl. La Valliere stopped; while they,
on their part, at the appearance of the young girl dressed in court
costume, also halted, and seizing each other by the hand, they surrounded
La Valliere, singing, -

"Oh! all ye weary wights, who mope alone,
Come drink, and sing and laugh, round Venus' throne."

La Valliere at once understood that the men were insulting her, and
wished to prevent her passing; she tried to do so several times, but her
efforts were useless. Her limbs failed her; she felt she was on the
point of falling, and uttered a cry of terror. At the same moment the
circle which surrounded her was suddenly broken through in a most
violent manner. One of her insulters was knocked to the left, another
fell rolling over and over to the right, close to the water's edge, while
the third could hardly keep his feet. An officer of the musketeers stood
face to face with the young girl, with threatening brow and hand raised
to carry out his threat. The drunken fellows, at sight of the uniform,
made their escape with what speed their staggering limbs could lend them,
all the more eagerly for the proof of strength which the wearer of the
uniform had just afforded them.

"Is it possible," exclaimed the musketeer, "that it can be Mademoiselle
de la Valliere?"

La Valliere, bewildered by what had just happened, and confounded by
hearing her name pronounced, looked up and recognized D'Artagnan. "Oh,
M. d'Artagnan! it is indeed I;" and at the same moment she seized his
arm. "You will protect me, will you not?" she added, in a tone of

"Most certainly I will protect you; but, in Heaven's name, where are you
going at this hour?"

"I am going to Chaillot."

"You are going to Chaillot by way of La Rapee! why, mademoiselle, you are
turning your back upon it."

"In that case, monsieur, be kind enough to put me in the right way, and
to go with me a short distance."

"Most willingly."

"But how does it happen that I have found you here? By what merciful
intervention were you sent to my assistance? I almost seem to be
dreaming, or to be losing my senses."

"I happened to be here, mademoiselle, because I have a house in the Place
de Greve, at the sign of the Notre-Dame, the rent of which I went to
receive yesterday, and where I, in fact, passed the night. And I also
wished to be at the palace early, for the purposes of inspecting my

"Thank you," said La Valliere.

"That is what _I_ was doing," said D'Artagnan to himself; "but what is
_she_ doing, and why is she going to Chaillot at such an hour?" And he
offered her his arm, which she took, and began to walk with increased
precipitation, which ill-concealed, however, her weakness. D'Artagnan
perceived it, and proposed to La Valliere that she should take a little
rest, which she refused.

"You are ignorant, perhaps, where Chaillot is?" inquired D'Artagnan.

"Quite so."

"It is a great distance."

"That matters very little."

"It is at least a league."

"I can walk it."

D'Artagnan did not reply; he could tell, merely by the tone of a voice,
when a resolution was real or not. He rather bore along rather than
accompanied La Valliere, until they perceived the elevated ground of

"What house are you going to, mademoiselle?" inquired D'Artagnan.

"To the Carmelites, monsieur."

"To the Carmelites?" repeated D'Artagnan, in amazement.

"Yes; and since Heaven has directed you towards me to give me your
support on my road, accept both my thanks and my adieux."

"To the Carmelites! Your adieux! Are you going to become a nun?"
exclaimed D'Artagnan.

"Yes, monsieur."

"What, you!!!" There was in this "you," which we have marked by three
notes of exclamation in order to render it as expressive as possible, -
there was, we repeat, in this "you" a complete poem; it recalled to La
Valliere her old recollections of Blois, and her new recollections of
Fontainebleau; it said to her, "_You_, who might be happy with Raoul;
_you_, who might be powerful with Louis; _you_ about to become a nun!"

"Yes, monsieur," she said, "I am going to devote myself to the service of
Heaven; and to renounce the world entirely."

"But are you not mistaken with regard to your vocation, - are you not
mistaken in supposing it to be the will of Heaven?"

"No, since Heaven has been pleased to throw you in my way. Had it not
been for you, I should certainly have sunk from fatigue on the road, and
since Heaven, I repeat, has thrown you in my way, it is because it has
willed that I should carry out my intention."

"Oh!" said D'Artagnan, doubtingly, "that is a rather subtle distinction,
I think."

"Whatever it may be," returned the young girl, "I have acquainted you
with the steps I have taken, and with my fixed resolution. And, now, I
have one last favor to ask of you, even while I return you my thanks.
The king is entirely ignorant of my flight from the Palais Royal, and is
ignorant also of what I am about to do."

"The king ignorant, you say!" exclaimed D'Artagnan. "Take care,
mademoiselle; you are not aware of what you are doing. No one ought to
do anything with which the king is unacquainted, especially those who
belong to the court."

"I no longer belong to the court, monsieur."

D'Artagnan looked at the young girl with increasing astonishment.

"Do not be uneasy, monsieur," she continued: "I have well calculated
everything; and were it not so, it would now be too late to reconsider my
resolution, - all is decided."

"Well, mademoiselle, what do you wish me to do?"

"In the name of that sympathy which misfortune inspires, by your generous
feeling, and by your honor as a gentleman, I entreat you to promise me
one thing."

"Name it."

"Swear to me, Monsieur d'Artagnan, that you will not tell the king that
you have seen me, and that I am at the Carmelites."

"I will not swear that," said D'Artagnan, shaking his head.


"Because I know the king, I know you, I know myself even, nay, the whole
human race, too well; no, no, I will not swear that!"

"In that case," cried La Valliere, with an energy of which one would
hardly have thought her capable, "instead of the blessing which I should
have implored for you until my dying day, I will invoke a curse, for you
are rendering me the most miserable creature that ever lived."

We have already observed that D'Artagnan could easily recognize the
accents of truth and sincerity, and he could not resist this last
appeal. He saw by her face how bitterly she suffered from a feeling of
degradation, he remarked her trembling limbs, how her whole slight and
delicate frame was violently agitated by some internal struggle, and
clearly perceived that resistance might be fatal. "I will do as you
wish, then," he said. "Be satisfied, mademoiselle, I will say nothing to
the king."

"Oh! thanks, thanks," exclaimed La Valliere, "you are the most generous
man breathing."

And in her extreme delight she seized hold of D'Artagnan's hands and
pressed them between her own. D'Artagnan, who felt himself quite
overcome, said: "This is touching, upon my word; she begins where others
leave off."

And La Valliere, who, in the bitterness of her distress, had sunk upon
the ground, rose and walked towards the convent of the Carmelites, which
could now, in the dawning light, be perceived just before them.
D'Artagnan followed her at a distance. The entrance-door was half-open;
she glided in like a shadow, and thanking D'Artagnan by a parting
gesture, disappeared from his sight. When D'Artagnan found himself quite
alone, he reflected very profoundly upon what had just taken place.
"Upon my word," he said, "this looks very much like what is called a
false position. To keep such a secret as that, is to keep a burning coal
in one's breeches-pocket, and trust that it may not burn the stuff. And
yet, not to keep it when I have sworn to do so is dishonorable. It
generally happens that some bright idea or other occurs to me as I am
going along; but I am very much mistaken if I shall not, now, have to go
a long way in order to find the solution of this affair. Yes, but which
way to go? Oh! towards Paris, of course; that is the best way, after
all. Only one must make haste, and in order to make haste four legs are
better than two, and I, unhappily, only have two. 'A horse, a horse,' as
I heard them say at the theatre in London, 'my kingdom for a horse!' And
now I think of it, it need not cost me so much as that, for at the
Barriere de la Conference there is a guard of musketeers, and instead of
the one horse I need, I shall find ten there."

So, in pursuance of this resolution, which he adopted with his usual
rapidity, D'Artagnan immediately turned his back upon the heights of
Chaillot, reached the guard-house, took the fastest horse he could find
there, and was at the palace in less than ten minutes. It was striking
five as he reached the Palais Royal. The king, he was told, had gone to
bed at his usual hour, having been long engaged with M. Colbert, and, in
all probability, was still sound asleep. "Come," said D'Artagnan, "she
spoke the truth; the king is ignorant of everything; if he only knew one-
half of what has happened, the Palais Royal by this time would be turned
upside down." (5)

Chapter XXVII:
Showing How Louis, on His Part, Had Passed the Time from Ten to Half-Past
Twelve at Night.

When the king left the apartments of the maids of honor, he found Colbert
awaiting him to take directions for the next day's ceremony, as the king
was then to receive the Dutch and Spanish ambassadors. Louis XIV. had
serious causes of dissatisfaction with the Dutch; the States had already
been guilty of many mean shifts and evasions with France, and without
perceiving or without caring about the chances of a rupture, they again
abandoned the alliance with his Most Christian Majesty, for the purpose
of entering into all kinds of plots with Spain. Louis XIV. at his
accession, that is to say, at the death of Cardinal Mazarin, had found
this political question roughly sketched out; the solution was difficult
for a young man, but as, at that time, the king represented the whole
nation, anything that the head resolved upon, the body would be found
ready to carry out. Any sudden impulse of anger, the reaction of young
hot blood upon the brain, would be quite sufficient to change an old form
of policy and create another system altogether. The part that
diplomatists had to play in those days was that of arranging among
themselves the different _coups-d'etat_ which their sovereign masters
might wish to effect. Louis was not in that calm frame of mind which was
necessary to enable him to determine on a wise course of policy. Still
much agitated from the quarrel he had just had with La Valliere, he
walked hastily into his cabinet, dimly desirous of finding an opportunity
of producing an explosion after he had controlled himself for so long a
time. Colbert, as he saw the king enter, knew the position of affairs at
a glance, understood the king's intentions, and resolved therefore to
maneuver a little. When Louis requested to be informed what it would be
necessary to say on the morrow, Colbert began by expressing his surprise
that his majesty had not been properly informed by M. Fouquet. "M.
Fouquet," he said, "is perfectly acquainted with the whole of this Dutch
affair - he received the dispatches himself direct."

The king, who was accustomed to hear M. Colbert speak in not over-
scrupulous terms of M. Fouquet, allowed this remark to pass unanswered,
and merely listened. Colbert noticed the effect it had produced, and
hastened to back out, saying that M. Fouquet was not on all occasions as
blamable as at the first glance might seem to be the case, inasmuch as at
that moment he was greatly occupied. The king looked up. "What do you
allude to?" he said.

"Sire, men are but men, and M. Fouquet has his defects as well as his
great qualities."

"Ah! defects, who is without them, M. Colbert?"

"Your majesty, hardly," said Colbert, boldly; for he knew how to convey a
good deal of flattery in a light amount of blame, like the arrow which
cleaves the air notwithstanding its weight, thanks to the light feathers
which bear it up.

The king smiled. "What defect has M. Fouquet, then?" he said.

"Still the same, sire; it is said he is in love."

"In love! with whom?"

"I am not quite sure, sire; I have very little to do with matters of

"At all events you know, since you speak of it."

"I have heard a name mentioned."


"I cannot now remember whose, but I think it is one of Madame's maids of

The king started. "You know more than you like to say, M. Colbert," he

"I assure you, no, sire."

"At all events, Madame's maids of honor are all known, and in mentioning
their names to you, you will perhaps recollect the one you allude to."

"No, sire."

"At least, try."

"It would be useless, sire. Whenever the name of any lady who runs the
risk of being compromised is concerned, my memory is like a coffer of
bronze, the key of which I have lost."

A dark cloud seemed to pass over the mind as well as across the face of
the king; then, wishing to appear as if he were perfect master of himself
and his feelings, he said, "And now for the affair concerning Holland."

"In the first place, sire, at what hour will your majesty receive the

"Early in the morning."

"Eleven o'clock?"

"That is too late - say nine o'clock."

"That will be too early, sire."

"For friends, that would be a matter of no importance; one does what one
likes with one's friends; but for one's enemies, in that case nothing
could be better than if they _were_ to feel hurt. I should not be sorry,
I confess, to have to finish altogether with these marsh-birds, who annoy
me with their cries."

"It shall be precisely as your majesty desires. At nine o'clock,
therefore - I will give the necessary orders. Is it to be a formal

"No. I wish to have an explanation with them, and not to embitter
matters, as is always the case when many persons are present, but, at the
same time, I wish to clear up everything with them, in order not to have
to begin over again."

"Your majesty will inform me of the persons whom you wish to be present
at the reception."

"I will draw out a list. Let us speak of the ambassadors; what do they

"Allies with Spain, they gain nothing; allies with France, they lose

"How is that?"

"Allied with Spain, they see themselves bounded and protected by the
possessions of their allies; they cannot touch them, however anxious they
may be to do so. From Antwerp to Rotterdam is but a step, and that by
the way of the Scheldt and the Meuse. If they wish to make a bite at the
Spanish cake, you, sire, the son-in-law of the king of Spain, could with
your cavalry sweep the earth from your dominions to Brussels in a couple
of days. Their design is, therefore, only to quarrel so far with you,
and only to make you suspect Spain so far, as will be sufficient to
induce you not to interfere with their own affairs."

"It would be far more simple, I should imagine," replied the king, "to
form a solid alliance with me, by means of which I should gain something,
while they would gain everything."

"Not so; for if, by chance, they were to have you, or France rather, as a
boundary, your majesty is not an agreeable neighbor. Young, ardent,
warlike, the king of France might inflict some serious mischief on
Holland, especially if he were to get near her."

"I perfectly understand, M. Colbert, and you have explained it very
clearly; but be good enough to tell me the conclusion you have arrived

"Your majesty's own decisions are never deficient in wisdom."

"What will these ambassadors say to me?"

"They will tell your majesty that they are ardently desirous of forming
an alliance with you, which will be a falsehood: they will tell Spain
that the three powers ought to unite so as to check the prosperity of
England, and that will equally be a falsehood; for at present, the
natural ally of your majesty is England, who has ships while we have
none; England, who can counteract Dutch influence in India; England, in
fact, a monarchical country, to which your majesty is attached by ties of

"Good; but how would you answer?"

"I should answer, sire, with the greatest possible moderation of tone,
that the disposition of Holland does not seem friendly towards the Court
of France; that the symptoms of public feeling among the Dutch are
alarming as regards your majesty; that certain medals have been struck
with insulting devices."

"Towards me?" exclaimed the young king, excitedly.

"Oh, no! sire, no; insulting is not the word; I was mistaken, I ought to
have said immeasurably flattering to the Dutch."

"Oh! if that be so, the pride of the Dutch is a matter of indifference to
me," said the king, sighing.

"Your majesty is right, a thousand times right. However, it is never a
mistake in politics, your majesty knows better than myself, to exaggerate
a little in order to obtain a concession in your own favor. If your
majesty were to complain as if your susceptibility were offended, you
would stand in a far higher position with them."

"What are these medals you speak of?" inquired Louis; "for if I allude to
them, I ought to know what to say."

"Upon my word, sire, I cannot very well tell you - some overweeningly
conceited device - that is the sense of it; the words have little to do
with the thing itself."

"Very good! I will mention the word 'medal,' and they can understand it
if they like."

"Oh! they will understand without any difficulty. Your majesty can also
slip in a few words about certain pamphlets which are being circulated."

"Never! Pamphlets befoul those who write them much more than those
against whom they are written. M. Colbert, I thank you. You can leave
now. Do not forget the hour I have fixed, and be there yourself."

"Sire, I await your majesty's list."

"True," returned the king; and he began to meditate; he had not thought
of the list in the least. The clock struck half-past eleven. The king's
face revealed a violent conflict between pride and love. The political
conversation had dispelled a good deal of the irritation which Louis had
felt, and La Valliere's pale, worn features, in his imagination, spoke a
very different language from that of the Dutch medals, or the Batavian
pamphlets. He sat for ten minutes debating within himself whether he
should or should not return to La Valliere; but Colbert having with some
urgency respectfully requested that the list might be furnished him, the
king was ashamed to be thinking of mere matters of affection where
important state affairs required his attention. He therefore dictated:
the queen-mother, the queen, Madame, Madame de Motteville, Madame de
Chatillon, Madame de Navailles; and, for the men, M. le Prince, M. de
Gramont, M. de Manicamp, M. de Saint-Aignan, and the officers on duty.

"The ministers?" asked Colbert.

"As a matter of course, and the secretaries also."

"Sire, I will leave at once in order to get everything prepared; the
orders will be at the different residences to-morrow."

"Say rather to-day," replied Louis mournfully, as the clock struck
twelve. It was the very hour when poor La Valliere was almost dying from
anguish and bitter suffering. The king's attendants entered, it being
the hour of his retirement to his chamber; the queen, indeed, had been
waiting for more than an hour. Louis accordingly retreated to his
bedroom with a sigh; but, as he sighed, he congratulated himself on his
courage, and applauded himself for having been as firm in love as in
affairs of state.

Chapter XXVIII:
The Ambassadors.

D'Artagnan had, with very few exceptions, learned almost all of the
particulars of what we have just been relating; for among his friends he
reckoned all the useful, serviceable people in the royal household, -
officious attendants who were proud of being recognized by the captain of
the musketeers, for the captain's influence was very great; and then, in
addition to any ambitious vies they may have imagined he could promote,
they were proud of being regarded as worth being spoken to by a man as
brave as D'Artagnan. In this manner D'Artagnan learned every morning
what he had not been able either to see or to ascertain the night before,
from the simple fact of his not being ubiquitous; so that, with the
information he had been able by his own means to pick up during the day,
and with what he had gathered from others, he succeeded in making up a
bundle of weapons, which he was in the prudent habit of using only when
occasion required. In this way, D'Artagnan's two eyes rendered him the
same service as the hundred eyes of Argus. Political secrets, bedside
revelations, hints or scraps of conversation dropped by the courtiers on
the threshold of the royal ante-chamber, in this way D'Artagnan managed
to ascertain, and to store away everything in the vast and impenetrable
mausoleum of his memory, by the side of those royal secrets so dearly
bought and faithfully preserved. He therefore knew of the king's
interview with Colbert, and of the appointment made for the ambassadors
in the morning, and, consequently, that the question of the medals would
be brought up for debate; and, while he was arranging and constructing
the conversation upon a few chance words which had reached his ears, he
returned to his post in the royal apartments, so as to be there at the
very moment the king awoke. It happened that the king rose very early, -
proving thereby that he, too, on his side, had slept but indifferently.
Towards seven o'clock, he half-opened his door very gently. D'Artagnan
was at his post. His majesty was pale, and seemed wearied; he had not,
moreover, quite finished dressing.

"Send for M. de Saint-Aignan," he said.

Saint-Aignan was probably awaiting a summons, for the messenger, when he
reached his apartment, found him already dressed. Saint-Aignan hastened
to the king in obedience to the summons. A moment afterwards the king
and Saint-Aignan passed by together - the king walking first. D'Artagnan
went to the window which looked out upon the courtyard; he had no need to
put himself to the trouble of watching in what direction the king went,
for he had no difficulty in guessing beforehand where his majesty was
going. The king, in fact, bent his steps towards the apartments of the
maids of honor, - a circumstance which in no way astonished D'Artagnan,
for he more than suspected, although La Valliere had not breathed a
syllable on the subject, that the king had some kind of reparation to
make. Saint-Aignan followed him as he had done the previous evening,
rather less uneasy in his mind, though still slightly agitated, for he
fervently trusted that at seven o'clock in the morning there might be
only himself and the king awake amongst the august guests at the palace.
D'Artagnan stood at the window, careless and perfectly calm in his
manner. One could almost have sworn that he noticed nothing, and was
utterly ignorant who were these two hunters after adventures, passing
like shadows across the courtyard, wrapped up in their cloaks. And yet,
all the while that D'Artagnan appeared not to be looking at them at all,
he did not for one moment lose sight of them, and while he whistled that
old march of the musketeers, which he rarely recalled except under great
emergencies, he conjectured and prophesied how terrible would be the
storm which would be raised on the king's return. In fact, when the king
entered La Valliere's apartment and found the room empty and the bed
untouched, he began to be alarmed, and called out to Montalais, who
immediately answered the summons; but her astonishment was equal to the
king's. All that she could tell his majesty was, that she had fancied
she had heard La Valliere's weeping during a portion of the night, but,
knowing that his majesty had paid her a visit, she had not dared to
inquire what was the matter.

"But," inquired the king, "where do you suppose she is gone?"

"Sire," replied Montalais, "Louise is of a very sentimental disposition,
and as I have often seen her rise at daybreak in order to go out into the
garden, she may, perhaps, be there now."

This appeared probable, and the king immediately ran down the staircase
in search of the fugitive. D'Artagnan saw him grow very pale, and
talking in an excited manner with his companion, as he went towards the
gardens; Saint-Aignan following him, out of breath. D'Artagnan did not
stir from the window, but went on whistling, looking as if he saw
nothing, yet seeing everything. "Come, come," he murmured, when the king
disappeared, "his majesty's passion is stronger than I thought; he is now
doing, I think, what he never did for Mademoiselle de Mancini." (6)

In a quarter of an hour the king again appeared: he had looked
everywhere, was completely out of breath, and, as a matter of course, had
not discovered anything. Saint-Aignan, who still followed him, was
fanning himself with his hat, and in a gasping voice, asking for
information about La Valliere from such of the servants as were about, in
fact from every one he met. Among others he came across Manicamp, who
had arrived from Fontainebleau by easy stages; for whilst others had
performed the journey in six hours, he had taken four and twenty.

"Have you seen Mademoiselle de la Valliere?" Saint-Aignan asked him.

Whereupon Manicamp, dreamy and absent as usual, answered, thinking that
some one was asking him about De Guiche, "Thank you, the comte is a
little better."

And he continued on his way until he reached the ante-chamber where
D'Artagnan was, whom he asked to explain how it was that the king looked,
as he thought, so bewildered; to which D'Artagnan replied that he was
quite mistaken, that the king, on the contrary, was as lively and merry
as he could possibly be.

In the midst of all this, eight o'clock struck. It was usual for the
king to take his breakfast at this hour, for the code of etiquette
prescribed that the king should always be hungry at eight o'clock. His
breakfast was laid upon a small table in his bedroom, and he ate very
fast. Saint-Aignan, of whom he would not lose sight, waited on the
king. He then disposed of several military audiences, during which he
dispatched Saint-Aignan to see what he could find out. Then, still
occupied, full of anxiety, still watching Saint-Aignan's return, who had
sent out the servants in every direction, to make inquires, and who had
also gone himself, the hour of nine struck, and the king forthwith passed
into his large cabinet.

As the clock was striking nine the ambassadors entered, and as it
finished, the two queens and Madame made their appearance. There were
three ambassadors from Holland, and two from Spain. The king glanced at
them, and then bowed; and, at the same moment, Saint-Aignan entered, - an
entrance which the king regarded as far more important, in a different
sense, however, than that of ambassadors, however numerous they might be,
and from whatever country they came; and so, setting everything aside,
the king made a sign of interrogation to Saint-Aignan, which the latter
answered by a most decisive negative. The king almost entirely lost his
courage; but as the queens, the members of the nobility who were present,
and the ambassadors, had their eyes fixed upon him, he overcame his
emotion by a violent effort, and invited the latter to speak. Whereupon
one of the Spanish deputies made a long oration, in which he boasted the
advantages which the Spanish alliance would offer.

The king interrupted him, saying, "Monsieur, I trust that whatever is
best for France must be exceedingly advantageous for Spain."

This remark, and particularly the peremptory tone in which it was
pronounced, made the ambassadors pale, and brought the color into the
cheeks of the two queens, who, being Spanish, felt wounded in their pride
of relationship and nationality by this reply.

The Dutch ambassador then began to address himself to the king, and
complained of the injurious suspicions which the king exhibited against
the government of his country.

The king interrupted him, saying, "It is very singular, monsieur, that
you should come with any complaint, when it is I rather who have reason
to be dissatisfied; and yet, you see, I do not complain."

"Complain, sire, and in what respect?"

The king smiled bitterly. "Will you blame me, monsieur," he said, "if I
should happen to entertain suspicions against a government which
authorizes and protects international impertinence?"


"I tell you," resumed the king, exciting himself by a recollection of his
own personal annoyance, rather than from political grounds, "that Holland
is a land of refuge for all who hate me, and especially for all who
malign me."

"Oh, sire!"

"You wish for proofs, perhaps? Very good; they can be had easily
enough. Whence proceed all those vile and insolent pamphlets which
represent me as a monarch without glory and without authority? your
printing-presses groan under their number. If my secretaries were here,
I would mention the titles of the works as well as the names of the

"Sire," replied the ambassador, "a pamphlet can hardly be regarded as the
work of a whole nation. Is it just, is it reasonable, that a great and
powerful monarch like your majesty should render a whole nation
responsible for the crime of a few madmen, who are, perhaps, only
scribbling in a garret for a few sous to buy bread for their family?"

"That may be the case, I admit. But when the mint itself, at Amsterdam,
strikes off medals which reflect disgrace upon me, is that also the crime
of a few madmen?"

"Medals!" stammered out the ambassador.

"Medals," repeated the king, looking at Colbert.

"Your majesty," the ambassador ventured, "should be quite sure - "

The king still looked at Colbert; but Colbert appeared not to understand
him, and maintained an unbroken silence, notwithstanding the king's
repeated hints. D'Artagnan then approached the king, and taking a piece
of money out of his pocket, he placed it in the king's hands, saying,
"_This_ is the medal your majesty alludes to."

The king looked at it, and with a look which, ever since he had become
his own master, was ever piercing as the eagle's, observed an insulting
device representing Holland arresting the progress of the sun, with this
inscription: "_In conspectu meo stetit sol_."

"In my presence the sun stands still," exclaimed the king, furiously.
"Ah! you will hardly deny it now, I suppose."

"And the sun," said D'Artagnan, "is this," as he pointed to the panels of
the cabinet, where the sun was brilliantly represented in every direction,
with this motto, "_Nec pluribus impar_." (7)

Louis's anger, increased by the bitterness of his own personal
sufferings, hardly required this additional circumstance to foment it.
Every one saw, from the kindling passion in the king's eyes, that an
explosion was imminent. A look from Colbert kept postponed the bursting
of the storm. The ambassador ventured to frame excuses by saying that
the vanity of nations was a matter of little consequence; that Holland
was proud that, with such limited resources, she had maintained her rank
as a great nation, even against powerful monarchs, and that if a little
smoke had intoxicated his countrymen, the king would be kindly disposed,
and would even excuse this intoxication. The king seemed as if he would
be glad of some suggestion; he looked at Colbert, who remained
impassible; then at D'Artagnan, who simply shrugged his shoulders, a
movement which was like the opening of the flood-gates, whereby the
king's anger, which he had restrained for so long a period, now burst
forth. As no one knew what direction his anger might take, all preserved
a dead silence. The second ambassador took advantage of it to begin his
excuses also. While he was speaking, and while the king, who had again
gradually returned to his own personal reflections, was automatically
listening to the voice, full of nervous anxiety, with the air of an
absent man listening to the murmuring of a cascade, D'Artagnan, on whose
left hand Saint-Aignan was standing, approached the latter, and, in a
voice which was loud enough to reach the king's ears, said: "Have you
heard the news?"

"What news?" said Saint-Aignan.

"About La Valliere."

The king started, and advanced his head.

"What has happened to La Valliere?" inquired Saint-Aignan, in a tone
which can easily be imagined.

"Ah! poor girl! she is going to take the veil."

"The veil!" exclaimed Saint-Aignan.

"The veil!" cried the king, in the midst of the ambassador's discourse;
but then, mindful of the rules of etiquette, he mastered himself, still
listening, however, with rapt attention.

"What order?" inquired Saint-Aignan.

"The Carmelites of Chaillot."

"Who the deuce told you that?"

"She did herself."

"You have seen her, then?"

"Nay, I even went with her to the Carmelites."

The king did not lose a syllable of this conversation; and again he could
hardly control his feelings.

"But what was the cause of her flight?" inquired Saint-Aignan.

"Because the poor girl was driven away from the court yesterday," replied

He had no sooner said this, than the king, with an authoritative gesture,
said to the ambassador, "Enough, monsieur, enough." Then, advancing
towards the captain, he exclaimed:

"Who says Mademoiselle de la Valliere is going to take the religious

"M. d'Artagnan," answered the favorite.

"Is it true what you say?" said the king, turning towards the musketeer.

"As true as truth itself."

The king clenched his hands, and turned pale.

"You have something further to add, M. d'Artagnan?" he said.

"I know nothing more, sire."

"You added that Mademoiselle de la Valliere had been driven away from the

"Yes, sire."

"Is that true, also?"

"Ascertain for yourself, sire."

"And from whom?"

"Ah!" sighed D'Artagnan, like a man who is declining to say anything

The king almost bounded from his seat, regardless of ambassadors,
ministers, courtiers, queens, and politics. The queen-mother rose; she
had heard everything, or, if she had not heard everything, she had
guessed it. Madame, almost fainting from anger and fear, endeavored to
rise as the queen-mother had done; but she sank down again upon her
chair, which by an instinctive movement she made roll back a few paces.

"Gentlemen," said the king, "the audience is over; I will communicate my
answer, or rather my will, to Spain and to Holland;" and with a proud,
imperious gesture, he dismissed the ambassadors.

"Take care, my son," said the queen-mother, indignantly, "you are hardly
master of yourself, I think."

"Ah! madame," returned the young lion, with a terrible gesture, "if I am
not mater of myself, I will be, I promise you, of those who do me a
deadly injury; come with me, M. d'Artagnan, come." And he quitted the
room in the midst of general stupefaction and dismay. The king hastily
descended the staircase, and was about to cross the courtyard.

"Sire," said D'Artagnan, "your majesty mistakes the way."

"No; I am going to the stables."

"That is useless, sire, for I have horses ready for your majesty."

The king's only answer was a look, but this look promised more than the
ambition of three D'Artagnans could have dared to hope.

Chapter XXIX:

Although they had not been summoned, Manicamp and Malicorne had followed
the king and D'Artagnan. They were both exceedingly intelligent men;
except that Malicorne was too precipitate, owing to ambition, while
Manicamp was frequently too tardy, owing to indolence. On this occasion,
however, they arrived at precisely the proper moment. Five horses were
in readiness. Two were seized upon by the king and D'Artagnan, two
others by Manicamp and Malicorne, while a groom belonging to the stables
mounted the fifth. The cavalcade set off at a gallop. D'Artagnan had
been very careful in his selection of the horses; they were the very
animals for distressed lovers - horses which did not simply run, but
flew. Within ten minutes after their departure, the cavalcade, amidst a
cloud of dust, arrived at Chaillot. The king literally threw himself off
his horse; but notwithstanding the rapidity with which he accomplished
this maneuver, he found D'Artagnan already holding his stirrup. With a
sign of acknowledgement to the musketeer, he threw the bridle to the
groom, and darted into the vestibule, violently pushed open the door, and
entered the reception-room. Manicamp, Malicorne, and the groom remained
outside, D'Artagnan alone following him. When he entered the reception-
room, the first object which met his gaze was Louise herself, not simply
on her knees, but lying at the foot of a large stone crucifix. The young
girl was stretched upon the damp flag-stones, scarcely visible in the
gloom of the apartment, which was lighted only by means of a narrow
window, protected by bars and completely shaded by creeping plants. When
the king saw her in this state, he thought she was dead, and uttered a
loud cry, which made D'Artagnan hurry into the room. The king had
already passed one of his arms round her body, and D'Artagnan assisted
him in raising the poor girl, whom the torpor of death seemed already to
have taken possession of. D'Artagnan seized hold of the alarm-bell and
rang with all his might. The Carmelite sisters immediately hastened at
the summons, and uttered loud exclamations of alarm and indignation at
the sight of the two men holding a woman in their arms. The superior
also hurried to the scene of action, but far more a creature of the world
than any of the female members of the court, notwithstanding her
austerity of manners, she recognized the king at the first glance, by the
respect which those present exhibited for him, as well as by the
imperious and authoritative way in which he had thrown the whole
establishment into confusion. As soon as she saw the king, she retired
to her own apartments, in order to avoid compromising her dignity. But
by one of the nuns she sent various cordials, Hungary water, etc., etc.,
and ordered that all the doors should immediately be closed, a command
which was just in time, for the king's distress was fast becoming of a
most clamorous and despairing character. He had almost decided to send
for his own physician, when La Valliere exhibited signs of returning
animation. The first object which met her gaze, as she opened her eyes,
was the king at her feet; in all probability she did not recognize him,
for she uttered a deep sigh full of anguish and distress. Louis fixed
his eyes devouringly upon her face; and when, in the course of a few
moments, she recognized Louis, she endeavored to tear herself from his

"Oh, heavens!" she murmured, "is not the sacrifice yet made?"

"No, no!" exclaimed the king, "and it shall _not_ be made, I swear."

Notwithstanding her weakness and utter despair, she rose from the ground,
saying, "It must be made, however; it must be; so do not stay me in my

"I leave you to sacrifice yourself! I! never, never!" exclaimed the king.

"Well," murmured D'Artagnan, "I may as well go now. As soon as they
begin to speak, we may as well prevent there being any listeners." And
he quitted the room, leaving the lovers alone.

"Sire," continued La Valliere, "not another word, I implore you. Do not
destroy the only future I can hope for - my salvation; do not destroy the
glory and brightness of your own future for a mere caprice."

"A caprice?" cried the king.

"Oh, sire! it is now, only, that I can see clearly into your heart."

"You, Louise, what mean you?"

"An inexplicable impulse, foolish and unreasonable in its nature, may
ephemerally appear to offer a sufficient excuse for your conduct; but
there are duties imposed upon you which are incompatible with your regard
for a poor girl such as I am. So, forget me."

"I forget you!"

"You have already done so, once."

"Rather would I die."

"You cannot love one whose peace of mind you hold so lightly, and whom
you so cruelly abandoned, last night, to the bitterness of death."

"What can you mean? Explain yourself, Louise."

"What did you ask me yesterday morning? To love you. What did you
promise me in return? Never to let midnight pass without offering me an
opportunity of reconciliation, if, by any chance, your anger should be
roused against me."

"Oh! forgive me, Louise, forgive me! I was mad from jealousy."

"Jealousy is a sentiment unworthy of a king - a man. You may become
jealous again, and will end by killing me. Be merciful, then, and leave
me now to die."

"Another word, mademoiselle, in that strain, and you will see me expire
at your feet."

"No, no, sire, I am better acquainted with my own demerits; and believe
me, that to sacrifice yourself for one whom all despise, would be

"Give me the names of those you have cause to complain of."

"I have no complaints, sire, to prefer against any one; no one but myself
to accuse. Farewell, sire; you are compromising yourself in speaking to
me in such a manner."

"Oh! be careful, Louise, in what you say; for you are reducing me to the
darkness of despair."

"Oh! sire, sire, leave me at least the protection of Heaven, I implore

"No, no; Heaven itself shall not tear you from me."

"Save me, then," cried the poor girl, "from those determined and pitiless
enemies who are thirsting to annihilate my life and honor too. If you
have courage enough to love me, show at least that you have power enough
to defend me. But no; she whom you say you love, others insult and mock,
and drive shamelessly away." And the gentle-hearted girl, forced, by her
own bitter distress to accuse others, wrung her hands in an
uncontrollable agony of tears.

"You have been driven away!" exclaimed the king. "This is the second
time I have heard that said."

"I have been driven away with shame and ignominy, sire. You see, then,
that I have no other protector but Heaven, no consolation but prayer, and
this cloister is my only refuge."

"My palace, my whole court, shall be your park of peace. Oh! fear
nothing further now, Louise; those - be they men or women - who yesterday
drove you away, shall to-morrow tremble before you - to-morrow, do I say?
nay, this very day I have already shown my displeasure - have already
threatened. It is in my power, even now, to hurl the thunderbolt I have
hitherto withheld. Louise, Louise, you shall be bitterly revenged; tears
of blood shall repay you for the tears you have shed. Give me only the
names of your enemies."

"Never, never."

"How can I show any anger, then?"

"Sire, those upon whom your anger would be prepared to fall, would force
you to draw back your hand upraised to punish."

"Oh! you do not know me," cried the king, exasperated. "Rather than draw
back, I would sacrifice my kingdom, and would abjure my family. Yes, I
would strike until this arm had utterly destroyed all those who had
ventured to make themselves the enemies of the gentlest and best of
creatures." And, as he said these words, Louis struck his fist violently
against the oaken wainscoting with a force which alarmed La Valliere; for
his anger, owing to his unbounded power, had something imposing and
threatening in it, like the lightning, which may at any time prove
deadly. She, who thought that her own sufferings could not be surpassed,
was overwhelmed by a suffering which revealed itself by menace and by

"Sire," she said, "for the last time I implore you to leave me; already
do I feel strengthened by the calm seclusion of this asylum; and the
protection of Heaven has reassured me; for all the pretty human meanness
of this world are forgotten beneath the Divine protection. Once more,
then, sire, and for the last time, I again implore you to leave me."

"Confess, rather," cried Louis, "that you have never loved me; admit that
my humility and my repentance are flattering to your pride, but that my
distress affects you not; that the king of this wide realm is no longer
regarded as a lover whose tenderness of devotion is capable of working
out your happiness, but as a despot whose caprice has crushed your very
heart beneath his iron heel. Do not say you are seeking Heaven, say
rather you are fleeing from the king."

Louise's heart was wrung within her, as she listened to his passionate
utterance, which made the fever of hope course once more through her
every vein.

"But did you not hear me say that I have been driven away, scorned,

"I will make you the most respected, and most adored, and the most envied
of my whole court."

"Prove to me that you have not ceased to love me."

"In what way?"

"By leaving me."

"I will prove it to you by never leaving you again."

"But do you imagine, sire, that I shall allow that; do you imagine that I
will let you come to an open rupture with every member of your family; do
you imagine that, for my sake, you could abandon mother, wife and sister?"

"Ah! you have named them, then, at last; it is they, then, who have
wrought this grievous injury? By the heaven above us, then, upon them
shall my anger fall."

"That is the reason why the future terrifies me, why I refuse everything,
why I do not wish you to revenge me. Tears enough have already been
shed, sufficient sorrow and affliction have already been occasioned. I,
at least, will never be the cause of sorrow, or affliction, or distress
to whomsoever it may be, for I have mourned and suffered, and wept too
much myself."

"And do you count _my_ sufferings, _my_ tears, as nothing?"

"In Heaven's name, sire, do not speak to me in that manner. I need all
my courage to enable me to accomplish the sacrifice."

"Louise, Louise, I implore you! whatever you desire, whatever you
command, whether vengeance or forgiveness, your slightest wish shall be
obeyed, but do not abandon me."

"Alas! sire, we must part."

"You do not love me, then!"

"Heaven knows I do!"

"It is false, Louise; it is false."

"Oh! sire, if I did not love you, I should let you do what you please; I
should let you revenge me, in return for the insult which has been
inflicted on me; I should accept the brilliant triumph to my pride which
you propose; and yet, you cannot deny that I reject even the sweet
compensation which your affection affords, that affection which for me is
life itself, for I wished to die when I thought that you loved me no

"Yes, yes; I now know, I now perceive it; you are the sweetest, best, and
purest of women. There is no one so worthy as yourself, not alone of my
respect and devotion, but also of the respect and devotion of all who
surround me; and therefore no one shall be loved like yourself; no one
shall ever possess the influence over me that you wield. You wish me to
be calm, to forgive? - be it so, you shall find me perfectly unmoved.
You wish to reign by gentleness and clemency? - I will be clement and
gentle. Dictate for me the conduct you wish me to adopt, and I will obey

"In Heaven's name, no, sire; what am I, a poor girl, to dictate to so
great a monarch as yourself?"

"You are my life, the very spirit and principle of my being. Is it not
the spirit that rules the body?"

"You love me, then, sire?"

"On my knees, yes; with my hands upraised to you, yes; with all the
strength and power of my being, yes; I love you so deeply, that I would
lay down my life for you, gladly, at your merest wish."

"Oh! sire, now I know you love me, I have nothing to wish for in the
world. Give me your hand, sire; and then, farewell! I have enjoyed in
this life all the happiness I was ever meant for."

"Oh! no, no! your happiness is not a happiness of yesterday, it is of to-
day, of to-morrow, ever enduring. The future is yours, everything which
is mine is yours, too. Away with these ideas of separation, away with
these gloomy, despairing thoughts. You will live for me, as I will live
for you, Louise." And he threw himself at her feet, embracing her knees
with the wildest transports of joy and gratitude.

"Oh! sire, sire! all that is but a wild dream."

"Why, a wild dream?"

"Because I cannot return to the court. Exiled, how can I see you again?
Would it not be far better to bury myself in a cloister for the rest of
my life, with the rich consolation that your affection gives me, with the
pulses of your heart beating for me, and your latest confession of
attachment still ringing in my ears?"

"Exiled, you!" exclaimed Louis XIV., "and who dares to exile, let me ask,
when I recall?"

"Oh! sire, something which is greater than and superior to the kings even
- the world and public opinion. Reflect for a moment; you cannot love a
woman who has been ignominiously driven away - love one whom your mother
has stained with suspicions; one whom your sister has threatened with
disgrace; such a woman, indeed, would be unworthy of you."

"Unworthy! one who belongs to me?"

"Yes, sire, precisely on that account; from the very moment she belongs
to you, the character of your mistress renders her unworthy."

"You are right, Louise; every shade of delicacy of feeling is yours.
Very well, you shall not be exiled."

"Ah! from the tone in which you speak, you have not heard Madame, that is
very clear."

"I will appeal from her to my mother."

"Again, sire, you have not seen your mother."

"She, too! - my poor Louise! every one's hand, then, is against you."

"Yes, yes, poor Louise, who was already bending beneath the fury of the
storm, when you arrived and crushed her beneath the weight of your

"Oh! forgive me."

"You will not, I know, be able to make either of them yield; believe me,
the evil cannot be repaired, for I will not allow you to use violence, or
to exercise your authority."

"Very well, Louise, to prove to you how fondly I love you, I will do one
thing, I will see Madame; I will make her revoke her sentence, I will
compel her to do so."

"Compel? Oh! no, no!"

"True; you are right. I will bend her."

Louise shook her head.

"I will entreat her, if it be necessary," said Louis. "Will you believe
in my affection after that?"

Louise drew herself up. "Oh, never, never shall you humiliate yourself
on my account; sooner, a thousand times, would I die."

Louis reflected; his features assumed a dark expression. "I will love
you as much as you have loved; I will suffer as keenly as you have
suffered; this shall be my expiation in your eyes. Come, mademoiselle,
put aside these paltry considerations; let us show ourselves as great as
our sufferings, as strong as our affection for each other." And, as he
said this, he took her in his arms, and encircled her waist with both his
hands, saying, "My own love! my own dearest and best beloved, follow me."

She made a final effort, in which she concentrated, no longer all of her
firmness of will, for that had long since been overcome, but all her
physical strength. "No!" she replied, weakly, "no! no! I should die
from shame."

"No! you shall return like a queen. No one knows of your having left
except, indeed, D'Artagnan."

"He has betrayed me, then?"

"In what way?"

"He promised faithfully - "

"I promised not to say anything to the king," said D'Artagnan, putting
his head through the half-opened door, "and I kept my word; I was
speaking to M. de Saint-Aignan, and it was not my fault if the king
overheard me; was it, sire?"

"It is quite true," said the king; "forgive him."

La Valliere smiled, and held out her small white hand to the musketeer.

"Monsieur d'Artagnan," said the king, "be good enough to see if you can
find a carriage for Mademoiselle de la Valliere."

"Sire," said the captain, "the carriage is waiting at the gate."

"You are a magic mould of forethought," exclaimed the king.

"You have taken a long time to find it out," muttered D'Artagnan,
notwithstanding he was flattered by the praise bestowed upon him.

La Valliere was overcome: after a little further hesitation, she allowed
herself to be led away, half fainting, by her royal lover. But, as she
was on the point of leaving the room, she tore herself from the king's
grasp, and returned to the stone crucifix, which she kissed, saying, "Oh,
Heaven! it was thou who drewest me hither! thou, who has rejected me; but
thy grace is infinite. Whenever I shall again return, forget that I have
ever separated myself from thee, for, when I return it will be - never to
leave thee again."

The king could not restrain his emotion, and D'Artagnan, even, was
overcome. Louis led the young girl away, lifted her into the carriage,
and directed D'Artagnan to seat himself beside her, while he, mounting
his horse, spurred violently towards the Palais Royal, where, immediately
on his arrival, he sent to request an audience of Madame.

Chapter XXX:

From the manner in which the king had dismissed the ambassadors, even the
least clear-sighted persons belonging to the court imagined war would
ensue. The ambassadors themselves, but slightly acquainted with the
king's domestic disturbances, had interpreted as directed against
themselves the celebrated sentence: "If I be not master of myself, I, at
least, will be so of those who insult me." Happily for the destinies of
France and Holland, Colbert had followed them out of the king's presence
for the purpose of explaining matters to them; but the two queens and
Madame, who were perfectly aware of every particular that had taken place
in their several households, having heard the king's remark, so full of
dark meaning, retired to their own apartments in no little fear and
chagrin. Madame, especially, felt that the royal anger might fall upon
her, and, as she was brave and exceedingly proud, instead of seeking
support and encouragement from the queen-mother, she had returned to her
own apartments, if not without some uneasiness, at least without any
intention of avoiding an encounter. Anne of Austria, from time to time
at frequent intervals, sent messages to learn if the king had returned.
The silence which the whole palace preserved upon the matter, and upon
Louise's disappearance, was indicative of a long train of misfortunes to
all those who knew the haughty and irritable humor of the king. But
Madame, unmoved in spite of all the flying rumors, shut herself up in her
apartments, sent for Montalais, and, with a voice as calm as she could
possibly command, desired her to relate all she knew about the event
itself. At the moment that the eloquent Montalais was concluding, with
all kinds of oratorical precautions, and was recommending, if not in
actual language, at least in spirit, that she should show forbearance
towards La Valliere, M. Malicorne made his appearance to beg an audience
of Madame, on behalf of the king. Montalais's worthy friend bore upon
his countenance all the signs of the very liveliest emotion. It was
impossible to be mistaken; the interview which the king requested would
be one of the most interesting chapters in the history of the hearts of
kings and of men. Madame was disturbed by her brother-in-law's arrival;
she did not expect it so soon, nor had she, indeed, expected any direct
step on Louis's part. Besides, all women who wage war successfully by
indirect means, are invariably neither very skillful nor very strong when
it becomes a question of accepting a pitched battle. Madame, however,
was not one who ever drew back; she had the very opposite defect or
qualification, in whichever light it may be considered; she took an
exaggerated view of what constituted real courage; and therefore the
king's message, of which Malicorne had been the bearer, was regarded by
her as the bugle-note proclaiming the commencement of hostilities. She,
therefore, boldly accepted the gage of battle. Five minutes afterwards
the king ascended the staircase. His color was heightened from having
ridden hard. His dusty and disordered clothes formed a singular contrast
with the fresh and perfectly arranged toilette of Madame, who,
notwithstanding the rouge on her cheeks, turned pale as Louis entered the
room. Louis lost no time in approaching the object of his visit; he sat
down, and Montalais disappeared.

"My dear sister," said the king, "you are aware that Mademoiselle de la
Valliere fled from her own room this morning, and that she has retired to
a cloister, overwhelmed by grief and despair." As he pronounced these
words, the king's voice was singularly moved.

"Your majesty is the first to inform me of it," replied Madame.

"I should have thought that you might have learned it this morning,
during the reception of the ambassadors," said the king.

"From your emotion, sire, I imagined that something extraordinary had
happened, but without knowing what."

The king, with his usual frankness, went straight to the point. "Why did
you send Mademoiselle de la Valliere away?"

"Because I had reason to be dissatisfied with her conduct," she replied,

The king became crimson, and his eyes kindled with a fire which it
required all Madame's courage to support. He mastered his anger,
however, and continued: "A stronger reason than that is surely requisite,
for one so good and kind as you are, to turn away and dishonor, not only
the young girl herself, but every member of her family as well. You know
that the whole city has its eyes fixed upon the conduct of the female
portion of the court. To dismiss a maid of honor is to attribute a crime
to her - at the very least a fault. What crime, what fault has
Mademoiselle de la Valliere been guilty of?"

"Since you constitute yourself the protector of Mademoiselle de la
Valliere," replied Madame, coldly, "I will give you those explanations
which I should have a perfect right to withhold from every one."

"Even from the king!" exclaimed Louis, as, with a sudden gesture, he
covered his head with his hat.

"You have called me your sister," said Madame, "and I am in my own

"It matters not," said the youthful monarch, ashamed at having been
hurried away by his anger; "neither you, nor any one else in this
kingdom, can assert a right to withhold an explanation in my presence."

"Since that is the way you regard it," said Madame, in a hoarse, angry
tone of voice, "all that remains for me to do is bow submission to your
majesty, and to be silent."

"Not so. Let there be no equivocation between us."

"The protection with which you surround Mademoiselle de la Valliere does
not impose any respect."

"No equivocation, I repeat; you are perfectly aware that, as the head of
the nobility in France, I am accountable to all for the honor of every
family. You dismiss Mademoiselle de la Valliere, or whoever else it may
be - " Madame shrugged her shoulders. "Or whoever else it may be, I
repeat," continued the king; "and as, acting in that manner, you cast a
dishonorable reflection upon that person, I ask you for an explanation,
in order that I may confirm or annul the sentence."

"Annul my sentence!" exclaimed Madame, haughtily. "What! when I have
discharged one of my attendants, do you order me to take her back
again?" The king remained silent.

"This would be a sheer abuse of power, sire; it would be indecorous and


"As a woman, I should revolt against an abuse so insulting to me; I
should no longer be able to regard myself as a princess of your blood, a
daughter of a monarch; I should be the meanest of creatures, more humbled
and disgraced than the servant I had sent away."

The king rose from his seat with anger. "It cannot be a heart," he
cried, "you have beating in your bosom; if you act in such a way with me,
I may have reason to act with corresponding severity."

It sometimes happens that in a battle a chance ball may reach its mark.
The observation which the king had made without any particular intention,
struck Madame home, and staggered her for a moment; some day or other she
might indeed have reason to dread reprisals. "At all events, sire," she
said, "explain what you require."

"I ask, madame, what has Mademoiselle de la Valliere done to warrant your
conduct toward her?"

"She is the most cunning fomenter of intrigues I know; she was the
occasion of two personal friends engaging in mortal combat; and has made
people talk of her in such shameless terms that the whole court is
indignant at the mere sound of her name."

"She! she!" cried the king.

"Under her soft and hypocritical manner," continued Madame, "she hides a
disposition full of foul and dark conceit."


"You may possibly be deceived, sire, but I know her right well; she is
capable of creating dispute and misunderstanding between the most
affectionate relatives and the most intimate friends. You see that she
has already sown discord betwixt us two."

"I do assure you - " said the king.

"Sire, look well into the case as it stands; we were living on the most
friendly understanding, and by the artfulness of her tales and
complaints, she has set your majesty against me."

"I swear to you," said the king, "that on no occasion has a bitter word
ever passed her lips; I swear that, even in my wildest bursts of passion,
she would not allow me to menace any one; and I swear, too, that you do
not possess a more devoted and respectful friend than she is."

"Friend!" said Madame, with an expression of supreme disdain.

"Take care, Madame!" said the king; "you forget that you now understand
me, and that from this moment everything is equalized. Mademoiselle de
la Valliere will be whatever I may choose her to become; and to-morrow,
if I were determined to do so, I could seat her on a throne."

"She was not born to a throne, at least, and whatever you may do can
affect the future alone, but cannot affect the past."

"Madame, towards you I have shown every kind consideration, and every
eager desire to please you; do not remind me that I am master."

"It is the second time, sire, that you have made that remark, and I have
already informed you I am ready to submit."

"In that case, then, you will confer upon me the favor of receiving
Mademoiselle de la Valliere back again."

"For what purpose, sire, since you have a throne to bestow upon her? I
am too insignificant to protect so exalted a personage."

"Nay, a truce to this bitter and disdainful spirit. Grant me her


"You drive me, then, to open warfare in my own family."

"I, too, have a family with whom I can find refuge."

"Do you mean that as a threat, and could you forget yourself so far? Do
you believe that, if you push the affront to that extent, your family
would encourage you?"

"I hope, sire, that you will not force me to take any step which would be
unworthy of my rank."

"I hoped that you would remember our recent friendship, and that you
would treat me as a brother."

Madame paused for a moment. "I do not disown you for a brother," she
said, "in refusing you majesty an injustice."

"An injustice!"

"Oh, sire! if I informed others of La Valliere's conduct; if the queen
knew - "

"Come, come, Henrietta, let your heart speak; remember that, for however
brief a time, you once loved me; remember, too, that human hearts should
be as merciful as the heart of a sovereign Master. Do not be inflexible
with others; forgive La Valliere."

"I cannot; she has offended me."

"But for my sake."

"Sire, it is for your sake I would do anything in the world, except that."

"You will drive me to despair - you compel me to turn to the last
resource of weak people, and seek counsel of my angry and wrathful

"I advise you to be reasonable."

"Reasonable! - I can be so no longer."

"Nay, sire! I pray you - "

"For pity's sake, Henrietta; it is the first time I entreated any one,
and I have no hope in any one but in you."

"Oh, sire! you are weeping."

"From rage, from humiliation. That I, the king, should have been obliged
to descend to entreaty. I shall hate this moment during my whole life.
You have made me suffer in one moment more distress and more degradation
than I could have anticipated in the greatest extremity in life." And
the king rose and gave free vent to his tears, which, in fact, were tears
of anger and shame.

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