Part 4 out of 13
She came down from the platform reserved to the various members of
the royal family, and mingled with the gay groups below, addressing
here and there a greeting to her friends, or stopping to receive
their heartfelt homage. Side by side came the duchess and her lady
of the bedchamber; the latter all unconscious of her beauty,
enjoying the scene with the zest of youth, unmindful of the fact
that at every step she took, her admirers increased, until the
cortege was as long as the trail of a comet.
But one face she sees--the noble countenance of Prince Eugene--who,
as she approaches the window near which he stands, looks as though
the morning sun had shone upon his heart, driving away all darkness
and all night. She sees that joyous look, and with a wild bound her
heart leaps to meet his. Her brow crimsons with shame, and she
presses close to the duchess, as if to seek protection from her own
Elizabeth-Charlotte misunderstood the movement, or she may have
guessed the longing that was struggling with decorum in the heart of
her young attendant. She advanced toward the prince, and signed for
him to approach.
Eugene started forward and stood directly in front of them. "How is
the Princess de Carignan?" asked the duchess, kindly, "and why is
she not here to-night? I hope she is not indisposed!"
"Your highness," returned Eugene, with a smile, "she is ill with a
malady that has attacked every member of our family."
"What malady, prince?"
"The malady of royal disfavor, your highness."
"That is indeed a fearful malady, prince, for it rarely attacks the
"Pardon me, your highness," returned Eugene, calmly, "since the
death of Cardinal Mazarin 'tis a heritage in our family, and--"
"Madame," said a voice behind the duchess, "be so good as to take my
arm. The queen desires your attendance."
Eugene looked up, and saw a small, effeminate personage,
magnificently attired, and wearing the broad, blue band of the order
of St. Louis. He recognized the king's brother, the Duke of Orleans.
The duchess, with a sigh, laid her arm within that of her husband;
but, disregarding his frowns, she remained to say a parting word to
the victim of kingly displeasure.
"Give my regards to the princess, your grandmother, and tell her
that if her indisposition lasts, I will go in person to express my
sympathy with you both."
"Madame," said the duke, angrily, while, with little regard to
courtesy, he almost dragged her along with him, "you will do no such
thing. I cannot understand your audacity; still less will I
countenance it. The Prince of Savoy has been so pointedly slighted
by his majesty, that no one dares be seen conversing with him; it
seems to me that you set a shameful example to the court by noticing
one whom your king has been pleased to reprove."
"It seems to me that my example would be worse, were I to ignore my
acquaintances because they happen to be momentarily out of favor at
court," replied Elizabeth-Charlotte. "Such miserable servility may
beseem a courtier, but it ill becomes our princely station. And if
the king speaks to me on the subject, I shall say as much to him,
for his majesty has a noble heart and will approve my independence."
While their royal highnesses were thus interchanging opinions on the
subject of court ethics, a scene was being enacted behind them,
which, had he witnessed it, would have called forth the indignation
of the duke.
The Marchioness Bonaletta, as a matter of course, had followed her
mistress; but during his short colloquy with the latter, Eugene had
received so sweet a smile from her attendant, that he followed at a
distance; resolved, since he could do no more, to gaze at her until
the ball was over. In spite of the throng which closed as fast as
the ducal pair went by, Eugene saw that the marchioness had dropped
her fan. It became entangled in the train of another lady, and
finally was dragged to the floor.
Eugene rescued it from destruction, and hastened with it to its
owner, who appeared just to have discovered her loss.
"You are looking for your fan?" said he, with a beaming smile.
"Yes, prince," replied she, giving him in return a look that almost
maddened him with joy--it was so kind, so gentle, so sympathizing.
"I have been so fortunate as to find it," replied he, in a voice
whose music thrilled the heart of her to whom he spoke. "And to be
permitted to return it to you, confers upon me the first pleasurable
sensation I have felt since I entered this unfriendly palace to-
"I am happy to have been the means," she began. But just then the
Duke of Orleans turned around, and his indignation may be imagined
when he saw the Prince of Savoy in conversation with a lady of the
"Call your lady of the bedchamber hither," said he, imperiously.
"That little abbe has the assurance to follow us, as though to defy
his majesty, and prove to the court that, if nobody else esteems
him, he has friends in the household of the Duchess of Orleans. Send
that young lady on some errand."
The duchess walked a few steps farther, then turning around she
beckoned to Laura. "Come, Marchioness de Bonaletta, I must present
you to the queen."
"Ah!" thought Eugene, as he took up his position in the window
again, "if I may not follow her, at least I know her name!
Marchioness Bonaletta--what a pretty name it is! I have never heard
it before, nor have I ever seen any thing that reminded me of her
lovely person. 'Tis plain that she is a stranger at this corrupt
court. Those limpid eyes, that brow of innocence, those heavenly
smiles--O my God! what sudden thrill of joy is this which pervades
my being? What flood of ecstasy is this which drowns my soul in
bliss! Oh, angel of beauty--"
But his raptures were suddenly brought to a close by the sight of
Louvois, who with his son joined the party of the Duchess of
Orleans. He did not like to see him so near his angel; but his
uneasiness increased to positive pain when he saw her extend her
hand, and greet him with one of her sweetest smiles.
"So," thought Eugene, "she is like the rest! Louvois is the favorite
of the king, and of De Maintenon, and therefore she greets him as
though he were a near and dear friend. But what is it to me? I came
here to show his majesty that I shall maintain my rights in the face
of his displeasure, and here I shall remain, though she and every
other woman here do homage to my foes. What is the Marchioness
Bonaletta to me?"
But, in spite of himself, his eyes would wander to the spot where
she stood, and his heart seemed ready to burst when he beheld
Barbesieur approach her. He spoke to her and she answered him; but
Eugene could see that she was displeased. Could he have heard the
words she addressed to Barbesieur, he would have hated himself for
his unworthy suspicions, and would have acknowledged that she was
not like the rest.
"So my lovely sister has refused to dance with the Marquis de
Strozzi?" said Barbesieur.
"Yes," was the curt reply.
"And may one venture to inquire why?"
She darted a glance of contempt at him. "Because he is your friend."
Barbesieur laughed. "I really believe that you are in earnest, my
candid sister. It is enough for a man to be my friend to earn your
"You are right," said she, deliberately.
"But you will hardly go so far as to say that it suffices for a man
to be my foe, to be your friend," said he with an ugly frown.
"What if it were so?" said she.
"If it were so, I would advise my sister not to provoke me too far.
I would advise her not to make any more demonstrations of regard to
the little abbe of Savoy, and to remember that she is my sister."
"When I heard of all that took place this morning at the Pre aux
Clercs," said Laura, "I remembered it to my shame and sorrow."
Barbesieur grew pale with rage and hissed into his sister's ear--
"Have a care, girl, how you rouse me to retaliation! I can crush you
like a worm under my heel; and as for yonder princely beggar, be
assured that I shall remember him to his cost."
"Which means that you will bring suit against him, and obtain
damages," replied she, contemptuously; "for you know that the Prince
of Savoy will not condescend to fight a duel with Barbesieur de
"I would not make myself ridiculous by fighting with such an apology
for a man; but I will crush him as I would any other reptile that
attempts to injure me. There shall not be a day of his life that
does not bring him some pang which he shall owe to the hate of
Barbesieur de Louvois. And I counsel YOU not to imitate his
"Why, you scarcely expect me to bestow a horsewhipping upon you?"
laughed Laura. "But I am not afraid of you, Barbesieur; it is not in
your power to injure me."
"If you are not afraid of me, so much the worse for you; I should
have thought that you had learned from your mother, how Barbesieur
de Louvois nurses his hate, and how it blossoms into misery for
those on whom he bestows it."
Laura's eyes filled with tears, and her voice faltered. "I did learn
it from her martyrdom; but she was not like me. She submitted where
I would resist."
"Resistance will only increase the bitterness of your punishment,
and once more I warn you not to make friends of my enemies, and not
to offer slights to my friends. The Marquis de Strozzi wishes to
marry you; your father is anxious for the match--SO AM _I_, and you
shall marry the marquis, of that be assured. He has asked you to
dance, to-night, and you shall dance with him, too. This plea of an
engagement is a falsehood. Where is your partner?"
"I will remind him of our engagement, now that I am prepared to
fulfil mine," answered Laura, And, yielding to an impulse of
aversion to Barbesieur, resolved to give him then and there proof
unquestionable of her contempt; impelled, too, by an enthusiastic
longing to sympathize with one whom all had united to slight, and
forgetful of the social restraints which it is always unwise for a
woman to overleap, Laura pressed through the crowds that were
assembling for the dance, and stepped so proudly by, that all
wondered at the solemn earnestness of her mien, more resembling that
of a priestess than of a young maiden at her first ball.
If all other eyes were gazing upon her, those of Eugene were riveted
upon her advancing figure with mingled rapture and wonder. He had
long since forgotten the rudeness of the king and the contumely of
his courtiers. Laura's image filled his heart, and left no space
therein for painful emotions. He had watched her countenance while
Barbesieur had been speaking to her, and had guessed that their
colloquy was anything but friendly. He had seen her turn suddenly
away, and now she came nearer and nearer, until her dazzled
worshipper lost all sense of time and place, and his enfranchised
soul went out to meet hers.
But at last she came so near, that he wakened from his ecstasy, and
remembered that he had nothing in common with that high-born girl;
for, shame had fallen upon his house, and royalty had turned its
back upon him.
But he had scarcely time to pass from heaven to earth before she
stood directly before him, her starry eyes uplifted to meet his, her
sweet voice drowning his senses in melody.
"Prince," said she, in clear, self-possessed tones that attracted
the attention of those immediately around, "it appears that you have
forgotten the engagement you made to dance with me this evening.
Pardon me if I recall it to you."
So saying, she extended her little hand to Eugene, who, bewildered
with joy, was almost afraid to touch the delicate embroidered glove
that lay so temptingly near his. He was afraid that he had gone mad.
But Laura smiled, and came a step nearer; whereupon he gave himself
up to the intoxicating dream, and led her away to the dance.
They took their place among the others, but the dancers looked upon
them with glances of uneasiness and displeasure. How were they to
know that they might not be compromised by their vicinity to an
ostracized man, and how did they know that the king was not
observing them, to see how they would receive this bold intruder?
They might have spared themselves all anxiety; for, in the first
place, the king was in another room, at the card-table, and, in the
second place, their sensitive loyalty was soon relieved from its
As a matter of course, Laura's generous indiscretion had been
witnessed by Barbesieur; not only by him, however, but by her father
and the Duchess of Orleans. Barbesieur, enraged, would have
followed, and torn her violently away, but Louvois' hand was laid
upon his shoulder, and Louvois' voice (imperious even in a whisper)
bade him remain.
"No eclat, my son: we are the guests of his majesty."
"But I cannot brook her insolence," muttered Barbesieur, in return.
"She is my sister, and before she shall dance with a man that has
insulted me, I will fell him to the earth, were the king at my side
to witness it."
"Be quiet, I command you, or you shall sleep to-night within the
walls of the Bastile," was the reply. "God knows that you ought to
avoid notoriety; for, your affair with Prince Eugene has not covered
you with glory. Retire, then, if you cannot control yourself, and I
will find means to put an end to this foolish demonstration of your
The means were at hand; they were concentrated in the person of his
royal highness the Duke of Orleans. He had been about to join the
dance, when he, too, witnessed the terrible sight of Laura de
Bonaletta standing at the side of the little abbe of Savoy!
With a hasty apology to his partner, the Duchess de Chevreuse, he
strode away and joined madame. Elizabeth-Charlotte saw him coming
and heaved a sigh. "Now for a tempest in a teapot!" thought she. "To
be sure, the anger of my lord is not much like that of a thundering
Jove; yet I don't know but what it is better to be struck dead by
lightning, than to live forever within sound of the scolding tongue
of a fishwife! I must try, however, to be conciliatory in my tones,
or poor Laura will get into trouble."
So she smiled as graciously as she could, but her affability was
lost upon the duke. He was in a towering passion.
"Madame," said he, in a low, but snappish voice, "do you know that
your lady of the bedchamber is dancing with the Prince of Savoy?"
The duchess turned around, as if to see whether Laura were not at
her post. "True enough," replied she, "she is not here. I was so
absorbed in my conversation with the queen that I had not missed
her. I suppose she thought I could spare her for a while, and so
allowed herself to be persuaded to dance."
"But when I tell you that she is dancing with Prince Eugene!--with
the son of the Countess de Soissons!" cried the duke, impatiently.
"I understand your highness. The prince is in disgrace, and has the
plague. But you must pardon my little marchioness, for she is new to
court customs, and does not know how contagious is her partner's
malady. She will learn prudence, all in good time, and, perchance,
become as obse--I mean as discreet--as the rest of us."
"You will be so good as to begin her education at once, by reproving
her sharply for her indecorous behavior here to-night," said the
duke, beginning to stammer.
"When he stammers," thought his wife, "he is in a rage. I had better
try the effect of soft words. What would your highness have me say?"
added she aloud.
"I would have you send a peremptory message to the marchioness to
quit the dance immediately; and, if she does not obey, I would have
you go yourself and--"
"My dear lord," whispered madame, laying the weight of her hand upon
monsieur's arm, "do you forget that she is the daughter of Louvois,
and that we dare not affront her lightly? And have you forgotten
that her father has promised to obtain for you, from his majesty,
the woods of St. Germain. In accordance with your desire and that of
her father, who is powerful enough to command everybody at this
court, I have taken this young girl into my service since this
morning. Would you undo what I have done for your advantage?"
"But it is an outrage," murmured the duke, somewhat pacified. "It is
an outrage against his majesty."
"I will put an end to the outrage then, but I will do so by gentle
means.--My Lord Marquis de Valmy, I am suffering terribly with a
migraine, and am compelled to retire. Will you bear my apology to
the Marchioness de Bonaletta, and say that I regret to be obliged to
interrupt her pleasures, but must request her attendance."
The marquis hastened away with his message, and just as Prince
Eugene had so far recovered himself as to be able to address a few
murmured words of thanks to his beautiful partner, just as she was
looking bashfully into his face, and had seen that his large black
eyes were moistened with tears, she heard a voice at her side:
"Madame is suddenly indisposed, and regrets to say that she requires
the attendance of the Marchioness de Bonaletta. Her highness is
sorry to be obliged to interrupt you, mademoiselle."
"I will have the honor of conducting mademoiselle to her highness,"
replied Eugene, regaining in a moment all his self-possession.
Laura had just laid her arm within his, when monsieur approached
with most undignified haste.
"Give me your arm, mademoiselle," said he. "Her highness has
requested me to accompany you to her seat."
And without a word or look significative of his knowledge that
Eugene was nigh, the duke placed Laura's other arm within his own,
and stalked away.
The prince left the dancers, and retired again to his window-seat.
He was pale with the shock of his sudden disappointment, but was
callous to the fresh insult offered him by the king's brother. Still
less was he conscious of the titter that was going around at his
expense, or of the scornful looks directed to him from the eyes of
many who until that day had called themselves his friends. He had
neither eyes, ears, nor understanding, for any creature but the one
who had braved the ridicule of the court, and the displeasure of its
sovereign, to show her sympathy with a man in adversity. He must--he
WOULD see her again! He must thank her for her magnanimity, let the
consequences be what they would!
He darted forward toward the door through which the Duke and Duchess
of Orleans were passing, with their suite. On the stairway he caught
a glimpse of Laura's white satin dress, and one look at her
beautiful face. He made a desperate effort to follow, but before he
could put his foot on the top step, the Duke of Orleans and his
suite, returning to the ballroom, stopped the way.
"Too late! too late!" groaned Eugene. "But I will see her again, if
it costs me my life!"
The carriage of madame, meanwhile, was rolling homeward. She and her
attendant were seated opposite each other, both keeping a profound
silence. At length Laura could bear it no longer. Gliding from her
seat, and kneeling at the feet of the duchess, she took her hand and
pressed it to her lips.
"Dear lady," sobbed she, passionately, "have I done wrong? If I
have, reprove me; but speak. Your silence is harder to bear than
The duchess, no longer able to keep up her affected displeasure, put
her arms around the young girl, and kissed her forehead. "I
certainly ought to reprove you," said she, "for your conduct has
been almost unmaidenly, but I have not the heart to chide you for
indiscretion that springs from the overflowing of a generous nature.
You have violated every rule of etiquette and decorum; but what
would you? I am the least conventional of beings myself; and,
instead of condemning you, I positively admire your impropriety. You
have raised a tempest about your ears, child; but I will do my best
to defend you against the king, monsieur, and the censorious world.
Against your father and your brother you can defend yourself."
"They may think of me whatever they please," cried Laura, joyfully.
"I shall not defend myself against anybody, for you are not
displeased, and HE!--oh, I believe that I conferred upon him one
moment of happiness!"
"He! Who? Of whom do you speak?"
"Of Prince Eugene," murmured Laura, blushing.
"Prince Eugene!" echoed the duchess.
"Yes," exclaimed she, passionately, "of him, the noble, brave
knight, who, like another St. George, sets his foot upon the dragon
of this world's wickedness, and towers above its miserable
worshippers, like an archangel!"
"Great Heavens! what has possessed the girl?" exclaimed the duchess.
"She speaks of that little abbe as if he were an impersonation of
"And so he is! His eyes are aflame with the light of a noble soul,
and his face is as that of a demi-god!"
"A demi-god!" cried madame, clasping her hands. "I do believe she
has fallen in love with him!"
Laura buried her face in the folds of the duchess's dress. "Pray for
me, dear lady," sobbed she; "pray for me. Never would my father
consent to bestow my hand upon the son of the Countess de Soissons,
and I!--oh, if I should love him, I would forsake the whole world
for his sake. Alas! alas! I believe that he is lord and sovereign of
my heart, for it bounds to meet his, as though it felt that he was
master of its destiny!"
Four days had elapsed since the ball, and its events, triumphs, and
contrarieties were already forgotten. Nobody bestowed a thought upon
Prince Eugene, who, concealed from view by the thick cloud of the
king's dislike, had fallen into complete oblivion.
Nobody said a word about the ignominious punishment administered to
Barbesieur de Louvois, for the king had treated him with
consideration; and his majesty's countenance had healed his stripes,
and cured his wounded honor. So that Barbesieur de Louvois was
greeted with the courtesy due to a noble knight, and Eugene of Savoy
was spurned as a base-born churl.
Was it for this that he was so pale, so silent, and so shy? Was it
for this that he sat alone in his room for hours, murmuring words of
passionate tenderness, and extending his arms to heaven, as if he
expected some seraph to visit him in his desolate home? Was it for
this that by night he paced the length of a garden-wall, and stood
with folded arms before its trellised gates? Had sorrow and slight
unsettled his reason?
If they had, there was "method in his madness," for his steps were
ever directed toward the same place, the hotel of the Duke of
On this fourth day after the ball, at dusk, Eugene left the Hotel de
Soissons, and took the way, as usual, toward the Palais Royal. Its
long facade was dimly lighted, and every thing within seemed hushed.
"I am fortunate," thought he; "the duchess has dismissed her
attendants, and SHE has retired to the pavilion."
He continued his way along the side-wing of the palace, until he
arrived at the garden which occupied the space now contained between
the Rue Vivienne and the Bourse. This magnificent garden was
refreshed by plashing fountains, and decorated by noble trees and
gay parterres; but it was encompassed by a high stone wall, of which
the summit was defended by short iron spikes whose uplifted points
gave warning to all passers-by that intrusion into this paradise was
attended with danger.
But what cares love for "stony limits," or when did danger ever
intimidate a stout heart?
Eugene was now at the extreme end of the garden. The deep, unbroken
stillness of solitude reigned around. At times, and at a distance,
was heard the faint rumbling of a coach; but otherwise nothing
interrupted the loneliness of the place and the hour. For, although
nine o'clock had just sounded from the tower of St. Jacques, all
Paris was at rest, save the few aristocrats who were on their way to
balls and banquets, or the houseless wretches who, with their dark
lanterns, were searching the gutters for a lost penny.
So that Eugene was unobserved, and had full opportunity to draw from
his cloak a package which proved to be a rope-ladder of silk; to
unroll, and fling it over the garden wall. It caught in the prongs,
and in a few moments he was within the enchanted walls of the palace
where Laura de Bonaletta dwelt.
She was alone in her pavilion, in the room which led into the
garden, and its glass doors now stood wide open. She had thrown
aside her court-dress, and was now attired in a white peignior edged
with delicate lace. Her feet were encased in slippers of blue satin
embroidered with silver, and her hair, stripped of all ornament, was
twisted into a coronal around her graceful head.
She had dismissed her attendants, and sat beside a table of white
marble, holding in her hand a book which she seemed to read--yet not
to read. She turned its pages, and her eyes were fixed upon them,
but little saw Laura of their contents, she was looking into another
book, the book of her own heart; and mysterious were the pages
thereof, half painful, half pleasant, to peruse.
Around her all was silent. From time to time the night wind sighed
through the branches of the trees without, and a few sorrowing
leaves fell rustling to the ground, while she, her book now laid
aside, and her pretty hands folded in her lap, gazed and gazed at
sky and earth, at moonlit paths, and darkly looming trees, but saw
nothing of them all. Something broke the perfect stillness. It was
neither summer breeze, nor rustling leaf; 'twas the crackling gravel
that was being displaced by approaching footsteps. The sound was all
unheeded by Laura, who heard nothing but the voice of her heart as
it sang its first anthem of love.
The moon emerged from a silver cloud, and Eugene's figure darkened
the threshold. For one moment he contemplated the beautiful picture
before him, then with noiseless steps he approached and knelt at her
"Kill me for my presumption," whispered he, "for I deserve death.
But I would rather die at your feet than live another hour out of
Laura spoke not a word in return, but neither did she cry out in
terror or surprise. She merely gazed at Eugene with distended eyes,
whose mysterious expressions he dreaded to interpret.
A feeling of anguish inexpressible pervaded his being. "I thought
so," murmured he, bitterly. "I thought so; and yet I could not have
done otherwise. Had I known that I was to be racked for my temerity,
I must have sought you, alone and unattended--sought you as I would
my Maker, when no curious eye was upon me to see my tears, no
mocking tongue to echo my sighs; hut when, unfettered by the bonds
of a conventional world, I was free to pour out the oceans of love
that are drowning me in their sweetness; and then!--to live or die,
as you should determine. I love you! Do you hear? I love you! And
with such strength of love, that if I am unworthy; if, poor, ill-
favored, unfortunate, the Prince of Savoy may not aspire to your
hand, then call your people, and drive me hence; for whether you
welcome or whether you spurn, you still must hear me, while my
yearning heart cries out for judgment. Speak, beloved! I await my
sentence--is it life or death?"
He raised his pleading eyes to hers, and as they met, her beautiful
head drooped lower and lower, until it almost touched his own. He
felt the soft touch of her hands upon his shoulders, and heard the
thrilling accents of her trembling voice, as, in tones so inaudible
that none but a lover's ear could have guessed their sweet import,
she whispered these words:
"I was waiting for thee."
With a wild cry of rapture, Eugene caught her to his heart, and
imprinted one long, loving lass upon her lips. Then he gazed upon
her with an expression of passionate tenderness, which transfigured
his homely features and lent them beauty.
"Say that thou lovest me," cried he, "oh, say it again--again--
"I love thee," repeated Laura, "I love thee, Eugene. When first our
eyes met, I knew that my heart had found its sovereign. Oh, sweet
vassalage, that never again will seek enfranchisement! Oh, happy
bondage, than liberty more precious! Bondage that makes me thine,
and thou mine forever!"
"Ay, forever!" echoed Eugene, while tears streamed from his eyes at
sound of her delicious avowal. "We love each other! Oh, my Laura,
what magic in those blessed words! We love each other! I could weary
echo with repetition of the sound: WE! 'Tis the first time in my
life that my name has ever been joined with that of a fellow-being.
My brothers, who enjoyed the privileges of their birth and rank,
looked down with contempt upon one who was condemned to the
obscurity of the priesthood; my young sisters feared me, and I was
too shy to ask for their love; in my proud and beautiful mother's
heart there was no room for the son, to whom fate had allotted no
share of her loveliness and grace. Alone in the midst of a family
circle, alone in society, alone in the world, I thrust back into my
sorrowing soul the hopes, the loves, the aspirations of youth, and
refused to listen to their pleadings. But in the depths of the
night, when no mortal was by, and I stood alone in the presence of
God. I called them up, and bade them weep with me that life and
light were denied them. I mourned, and prayed for deliverance, but
no friendly voice ever bade me be comforted. And so I lived, shunned
and despised by my fellows."
"No, no, my Eugene, not shunned and despised," exclaimed Laura,
while her gentle hands wiped away the tears that were streaming down
her lover's cheeks. "You belie yourself and the world. It may not
love you, but it has divined your worth."
Eugene answered with a faint smile. "My worth is small, beloved; but
no human being has ever divined the secrets of my ambitious heart.
But ah! how changed is life to me to-night! I went to that ball to
throw down the gauntlet of my hate before Louvois and his son. I was
rebuked by the king, slighted by his nobles; but I had no eyes to
see, no pride to resent their insults. When I saw thee. the sun
shone upon my heart, and there was light and love within. But oh!
when thou earnest so near that I felt the perfume of thy breath upon
my cheek, and the touch of thy hand within my hand, then I was born
again to a life of hope and happiness. My soul's better half was
found, and nevermore shall it wander from my side. I am here at thy
feet to ask thee for my wife. I have neither wealth nor repute to
offer thee: I am a poor appanagist, a prince without fortune or
distinction. But, dearest, if thou wilt be mine, I swear by all the
imprisoned aspirations which thy coming has liberated, that the wife
of Eugene of Savoy shall have pride in her husband! Be mine, be
mine, and I will make thy name illustrious!"
"I am thine," said Laura, fervently, "for time and for eternity. I
care not whether thy name be obscure or thy fortunes adverse; I love
thee as thou art." And so saying, she extended her hand.
He grasped it in his own and covered it with rapturous kisses. "From
this blissful hour, then, thou art my betrothed; and to-morrow I
shall ask the consent of madame to our marriage. Or hast thou
relatives whom I must know and propitiate?"
At this innocent question, Laura's youth and animal spirits got the
better of her sentiment. She laughed heartily. "What!" cried she,
"you do not know who I am?"
"No, sweetest; I know not, I care not who thou art. What have I to
do with thy surroundings? I love thee--only thee. If thou hast
father and mother, I will throw myself at their feet, and beg their
blessing for us both."
Laura's hilarity had all vanished. As Eugene had spoken of her
father and mother, her cheeks had blanched, and the smile had died
from the rosy lips. "Alas!" cried she, clasping her hands, "he knows
not who I am!"
"I know thou art an angel, and that is enough to make me the
happiest of men."
"True, true," murmured Laura. "When my grandmother retired from
court, he was but a boy."
"And had I been a man, what to me are the comings and goings of the
ladies of the court?" said Eugene, simply. "But why art thou
troubled, my beloved?"
"Alas! alas!" murmured Laura, her eyes filling with tears. "May God
grant that you spoke the truth, Eugene de Carignan, when you said
that you cared not who was my father or my mother!"
"So help me Heaven, I do not care!" was the fervent response, while
he gazed passionately upon his new-found treasure.
She bent her head, and lowered her voice to a whisper. "Eugene,"
said she, almost gasping for breath, "I bear my mother's name; but I
am the daughter of your bitterest enemy, Louvois."
Eugene started back in horror. "Louvois! Louvois!" echoed he,
mournfully. "And Barbesieur, her brother!"
"Not my own brother," cried Laura, terrified at the effect of her
revelation. "Before I had seen you, I approved your act, and bade
God bless the son that had avenged his mother's wrongs upon her
traducer. Ah, Eugene! my affianced, say that you do not hate me! I
knew that you were the son of the Countess de Soissons, and yet I
loved YOU!--perhaps the more, that Barbesieur was your enemy."
"And I love you, my own one, despite your parentage. I love you so
far beyond all feelings of pride or enmity, that I am ready to
humble myself before my mother's enemy, and be to him a son."
"He will never receive you as such," cried she, bitterly. "Woe is
me, if he should learn what has transpired to-night between us! He
would part us by force."
"Part us he shall not!" exclaimed Eugene, passionately, while he
flung his arm around the maiden's slender waist, and pressed her
wildly to his heart. "Thou art Louvois' daughter, but my betrothed."
"I am Barbesieur's sister, but thou art my affianced!"
"Neither daughter nor sister of any man, my Laura; thou art thyself-
-and being thyself--mine."
"Thine for life and death," was her reply, "and from this hour I
know no will of mine."
"Then, ere thy father suspects our love, it must be sanctified
before the altar of God. Our faith once plighted there, no hand of
mortal can wrest thee from my side. Art ready to speak the
irrevocable words that bind us together as man and wife?"
"I am ready," replied she, clasping her hands, and looking solemnly
up to heaven. "If, in my eager acquiescence, I seem unmaidenly,
forgive me; but I dare not be coy, Eugene; we have no time for
conventional reserve, and I must act as becomes a brave and trusting
woman, for every moment is fraught with danger. I am surrounded by
spies, even of my own household, and, until I hear the blessing of
the priest, I shall disbelieve my own happiness."
"Then hear me, dearest. I know how crafty are the spies of Louvois,
and I tremble lest the whispering breeze betray our secret. Yes, we
must be diligent, so diligent that Fate shall stand between our love
and all contingency. For two days I shall part from thee--long days
that will steep my soul in darkness! But day after to-morrow, at
this same hour of the evening, I shall be here with the chaplain of
the Princess de Carignan, an old and dear friend, who will bless our
bridal. As witnesses, I will be accompanied by my kinsmen, the
Princes de Conti, two of the worthiest nobles of France. Be in
readiness, my best beloved, that not a word need be spoken until we
are married. Then away with me to the Hotel de Soissons, where those
who love, may seek thee in thy husband's home."
"So soon?" murmured Laura, blushing. "Shall I leave my dear mistress
without a word? Is she not to share our secret?"
"Assuredly not; for it would burden her with a painful
responsibility. It would be her duty to betray you, artless child."
"Oh, I will not speak!" exclaimed Laura, eagerly. "I will be silent;
and when--when we are married, we will beg so humbly for forgiveness
that she will have to grant it."
"You must leave a note declaring everything; for with our marriage
ends all secrecy. I will neither see you nor write until the
appointed time. Dismiss your household as early as possible, and, if
all is propitious, place a light in yonder window. If I see it, I
will enter with the priest, and, lest there should be interruption,
he will begin the ceremony at once."
"Alas, Eugene!" said Laura, looking anxiously around, "some evil
spirit is about. It whispers me that this shall never be! Speak to
me--in mercy speak! Let me hear thy voice, for even now its sinister
threatenings are freezing the blood in my veins!"
"Nay, sweet one, fear nothing! My love shall compass thee with a
charm that shall keep away all evil spirits, and make thy life a
waking dream of bliss."
"How can I ever prove to thee how much I love thee?"
"Thou wilt prove it to me when, day after to-morrow, thou forsakest
father and brother, to cleave to me alone; for never will my
mother's son take the hand of Barbesieur Louvois."
"Nor my mother's daughter," cried Laura, vehemently,
"for she, too, has a debt of hatred to pay to the man who broke that
mother's heart. And believe me, our marriage will avenge us both;
for it will end his contemptible intrigues to sell my hand to
whomsoever chinks most gold in his. And now, dear Eugene, good-
"Must I be exiled so soon, Laura? What have I done to be thus driven
"Nothing--nothing," stammered she. "But my mother's name has made me
fear that--that I am wrong to hold such long parley with you in
secret and at night. Methinks I see that mother's pleading eyes
before me, and oh, Eugene! whenever they rest upon me thus, 'tis
because danger threatens! Go, beloved, and God be with you!"
"I go," sighed he. "I would not stay one moment to wound your sweet
scruples, my madonna. One more kiss, and then--good-night!"
They walked side by side until they stood upon the threshold. Eugene
put his arm around her waist, and kissed her fair brow.
"Look," said she, "at yonder star that is just emerging from a
fleecy cloud. It soars joyously upward now, and shall be to us an
omen of hope and happiness. Farewell."
"Farewell!" was the sad response, and Eugene went slowly down the
dark avenue, until he was lost in the gloom of night. Laura lingered
for a while, listening to his footsteps, then resumed her seat at
A half hour went by, and Laura sought her chamber. To her surprise
she found her waiting-woman stretched at full length on the carpet,
in a deep sleep, so deep that her mistress had much trouble to waken
her. When, at last, she had been made to rise, she seemed scarcely
to know where she was, or to whom she was speaking.
"I beg your ladyship's pardon," said she drowsily, "I was dreaming.
I thought I heard robbers in the house, and when your ladyship
spoke, I was struggling."
"God be thanked, there are no robbers here!" returned Laura, kindly.
"Perhaps you heard the sentry's step in the park, and you ought to
know that the Palais Royal is strictly guarded. But why are you not
in bed with the rest? I dismissed you all."
"I have no right to retire before my mistress," returned the girl,
obsequiously. "Therefore, I sat in your ladyship's room. to await
you, but sleep overcame me, and I humbly crave your pardon. Shall I
close the door that leads to the garden?"
"What! still afraid of robbers, Louise?" laughed Laura. "Well--close
the door, if you will--good-night."
"Can I do nothing for your ladyship?"
"Thank you--yes. Open the door of Madame Dupont's room, and let me
feel that I am within hearing of my dear old Cerberus. That is all."
The waiting-woman did as she was bidden, and then retired to her
room, but not to sleep. She seated herself before a table, drew out
her portfolio, and began to write. Now and then she paused and
looked up, when the sinister light that shone in her eyes streamed
through the room like the phosphorescent glow of the lichen that
moulds in the churchyard.
She wrote the whole night long, and day dawned before she rose from
"Ah," sighed she, "for such a service surely he will return to me! I
have repeated their conversation, word for word, not a sigh or a
kiss have I forgotten. Who but his poor Louise would have served him
so faithfully! 'Tis a vile trade, that of a spy; nor would I have
accepted such a mission for all the gold in the king's treasury;
but, for love of Barbesieur Louvois, I would sell my own sister to
infamy--why not his?"
While thus soliloquizing, she had left her own room and crossed the
corridor that led to the men's apartments. She opened the door of
one of the rooms without knocking, and going directly up to a bed
she touched the sleeper, and having wakened him, whispered:
"George, awake--awake!--rouse up quickly!"
"What is it?" mumbled George, stretching himself.
"Hist!--It is I, Louise. Dress yourself as speedily as you can, and
away with this packet to your master. Give it to no messenger, but
place it in his own hands, and he will reward you magnificently, for
you will have done him a great service."
She glided away and returned to her own room, leaving the door open.
In less than fifteen minutes George stood before her, equipped for
secret service. "Mademoiselle Louise," whispered he, "I shall be
with Monsieur de Louvois in ten minutes; for I have the key of the
postern, and can slip out and back again without anybody being the
wiser for my little excursion."
"So much the better. Away with you, and the sooner the better!"
George went on his way, and Louise stood in her doorway until she
heard him softly open and close the outer door below; then she threw
herself upon her bed to sleep. Her last words were these:
"Oh, faithless but loved--now can I dream that thine arms are around
me once more!"
The sun was high in the heavens when Laura awoke, and rang for her
waiting-woman. Mademoiselle Louise, fresh, smiling, and officious,
came at once from the anteroom, and began the toilet of her
mistress. She seemed to take more pleasure than usual in gathering
her magnificent dark coils into a net of gold and pearls, and to
linger more admiringly than ever over the last little touches given
to the lace that bordered Laura's neglige of spotless white mull.
She certainly was one of the loveliest of created beings, and so
thought good Madame Dupont, as her ex-pupil came into the dining-
room, and imprinted two hearty kisses on her withered old cheeks.
They sat down together to breakfast, and George, looking as innocent
as if he had just awaked from the sleep of the righteous, came in
with their morning chocolate. All went on as usual, except with the
young marchioness, who, instead of laughing and chatting of Italy,
and Bonaletta, as she was accustomed to do with her "dear Dupont,"
sipped her chocolate in silent abstraction. Breakfast had long been
over, and still she sat in her arm-chair, looking dreamily into the
garden, her head leaning on her hand, her lips sometimes rippling
with a smile, sometimes opening with a gentle sigh.
She had been plunged in her blissful reverie for almost an hour,
when the door was opened, and George appeared before her.
"Your ladyship," said he, "a man without desires speech with you."
"Who is he, George?" asked Laura, reluctantly returning to the world
and its exigencies.
"He will not say, my lady. He wears no livery, but says that your
ladyship knows whence he comes and why. He has a bouquet which was
forgotten yesterday evening."
Laura darted from her chair; then, blushing deeply, she stopped, and
recalled her wandering senses.
"Admit him," said she, trying to speak carelessly. "I will inquire
what this means."
"Oh, 'tis a greeting from him," thought she; but before she had time
to surmise any further, the door reopened, and a young man entered
the room, holding in his hand a superb bouquet of rare and exquisite
"Who sent you hither?" asked Laura, with wildly-beating heart.
"A cavalier whose name I do not know," replied the young man,
looking timidly up at the dazzling vision of beauty that stood
before him. "I am first clerk in the largest establishment of the
Marche aux Fleurs, and the gentleman who bespoke the bouquet ordered
the handsomest flowers in our collection. Your ladyship sees that we
have filled the order with the greatest care; for this bouquet
contains specimens of our rarest and most expensive flowers. To be
sure, the gentleman paid an enormous price for it, saying that
nothing we could furnish was too costly for the occasion."
Laura had listened with wonderful patience to all this idle babble.
"Give me the flowers," she said. "They are indeed most beautiful,
and I am grateful for them, both to you and the amiable unknown who
"He is very small; of sallow complexion, but with large black eyes,"
replied the clerk, while, with an awkward scrape and bow, he
presented the bouquet to Laura. "He was so pleased with our
selection, that he kissed one of the flowers."
Before she had time to control her tongue, Laura had exclaimed,
"The blue one, your ladyship, called Comelina coelestis."
Laura looked down at the Comelina coelestis, and fain would she have
robbed it of its kiss, but she consoled herself with the thought
that she would rifle it of its sweets as soon as the messenger left.
He came closer. "Your ladyship," said he, in a very low voice, "I
bear a message, as well as a nosegay. Is there any one about, to
"No one," replied Laura, breathless and eager.
"Search the bouquet, and under the Comelina your ladyship will find
Laura's rosy fingers were buried in the flowers, and she drew from
its fragrant hiding-place a small slip of paper.
"Your ladyship is requested, if you consent, to return, as an
answer, the four first words of the note."
Laura unrolled the paper, and read: "NOT TO-MORROW, BUT TO-DAY.
Danger threatens, and we must anticipate.--E."
Her face flushed, and her eager eyes were fixed upon that little
scroll which, to her and her lover, was of such great import. What
could it mean? She read it again and again, until the words danced
before her reeling senses.
The clerk came closer yet. "Your ladyship," whispered he, "I must
take back my answer. Somebody might come in."
"The answer?" gasped she, scarcely knowing what he said. "True,
true, there must be an answer." She stood for a moment irresolute,
then a shudder thrilled through her frame, and she felt as if some
evil spirit had again come nigh. She raised her eyes to the face of
the messenger, as though she would have looked into the penetralia
of his thoughts.
"I am to write four words?" asked she, plaintively. "You know, then,
where he lives?"
The clerk replied without the least embarrassment: "Pardon me, I
told your ladyship that I was unacquainted with the cavalier. He
awaits my return in the flower-market, and lest I should be too long
absent, he hired a fiacre to bring me forth and back."
"He awaits my answer," thought Laura. "Oh, it must be so! He shall
not be left in suspense!"
She went hurriedly to a table, and wrote, "Not to-morrow, but to-
"Here," said she, "is my answer, and before you go, I beg you to
accept this for your trouble."
She was about to hand him a purse of gold, when he retreated, and
raised his hand in token of refusal.
"I thank your ladyship, I have already been paid, and have no right
to a reward from you. May I be permitted to take my leave?"
"Yes; hasten, I implore you," returned Laura, wondering at his
Scarcely had the commissionnaire taken his leave, when the door of
the antechamber was opened, and a lackey announced:
"Madame, her royal highness the Duchess of Orleans!"
Laura hastily thrust the paper in her bosom, and, coming forward,
kissed the hand of her friend. But as she did so, she felt the blood
rush to her temples, and bent low her head to hide her confusion.
"I could not stay away any longer," began the unsuspecting duchess.
"For three days monsieur has been confined to his room with some
trifling ailment, for which peevishness seems to be his only
palliative. He is one of those who, when, he sneezes, imagines that
the earth is shaken, to her foundations; and when he snuffles, that
all the angels in heaven drop on their knees to pray for him. With
some trouble, I prevailed upon him to give me one hour wherein to
make some change in my dress. I have accomplished the change in
fifteen minutes, and the remainder of the hour I come to spend with
"Thank you, dear friend," replied Laura, who had now recovered her
self-possession, and was sincerely glad to see the duchess. Then
leading her to a divan, the graceful young hostess dropped down on a
cushion at the feet of her royal guest, and continued: "I have been
wondering why I did not see my gracious mistress; I thought she had
"How could you do her such injustice?" replied Elizabeth-Charlotte,
affectionately. "I have been longing for the sound of your carolling
voice, and the sight of your beaming face. Let me look at you,"
continued she, taking Laura's head between her two hands, and gazing
upon her with fondest admiration.
Poor Laura could ill bear the test of such loving scrutiny. She
blushed scarlet, and her long black eyelashes fell at once under the
searching look of the duchess's round blue eyes.
"Laura!" exclaimed she, anxiously, "something ails you, my darling;
what have you on your heart that you are hiding from me?"
"Dear, dear duchess," stammered Laura, "I have nothing to--"
"Nay, child, do not stoop to untruth--"
"I cannot--I will not," cried Laura, bursting into tears. "I have a-
-secret--but you shall know it--soon."
"Gracious Heaven!" cried the duchess, turning very pale, "what has
happened? What evil tidings am I to hear?"
"No evil tidings, my dearest mistress, no evil tidings! Nothing but
joy--joy unspeakable. Do you remember what I told you on that happy
morning of the ball, that if I ever loved I would leave even your
dear self to follow the man of my choice? Well!" cried she, her face
breaking out into bright smiles, while glistening tears lay like
dew-drops upon her rose-tinted cheeks, "he is here! He came down
from the moon on yesternight, and brought two great stars in his
head instead of eyes; stars that I had no sooner looked upon, than I
fell madly in love. Oh! he was sent hither by the good God, and it
is His will that I love him, and forsake all others, to follow
whithersoever he leads!"
"Is she mad?" cried the duchess, in alarm. "Yesternight?--came from
the moon?--WHO came, Laura?"
"God and my mother know his name, and both have blessed us; but I
dare not tell it yet--not even to you. Pray ask me no more--for I
may not say another word."
"Not say another word?" said the duchess, shaking her head, and
looking reproachfully at her favorite. "Then there is something
wrong in this headlong love, and it is no message to your heart from
above. Afraid to say more to your best friend--to her who replaces
your mother?--When saw you this preterhuman being? Who?--Great God!"
cried she, suddenly, putting her hands to her heart, "can it be!
Yes--it must be Prince Eugene!"
Laura clapped her hands, and then threw herself in the duchess's
arms. "Yes--you have guessed--it is he whom I shall love to-day, to-
morrow, and forever. But not another word, my own dear mistress. To-
morrow you shall know all, and be assured that there is no wrong
either done or to be done--I can say but this to-day, that he
certainly came down from the moon, and is the only luminary whose
rays shall ever shine upon my heart!"
While Laura was pouring out her childish half-confidences, her
disinterested friend, the commissionnaire, was similarly engaged in
the anteroom with Master George.
This latter worthy, after a few whispered words from the former,
excused himself to the lackeys of her royal highness, who were in
waiting there, and retreated to the corridor with the clerk.
"Now, George," whispered he, "mark what I tell you. Your master says
that the coachman must be ready with the travelling-carriage of the
marchioness at ten o'clock to-night; that Mademoiselle Louise must
secretly pack up some of her lady's effects and her own, and have
them conveyed to the chariot throughout the day; and that all must
be done so that her ladyship shall suspect nothing."
"It shall be done. And so her ladyship is to go on a journey at ten
o'clock to-night? What an hour to set out!"
"Yes, at ten o'clock precisely, and the blessing of God go with
All was bustle and confusion in the Hotel de Soissons. A crowd of
workmen filled its halls; some on ladders, regilding walls and
ceilings; some on their knees waxing the inlaid floors: and others
occupied in removing the coverings, and dusting the satin cushions
of the rich furniture of the state apartments. The first
upholsterers in Paris had been summoned to the work of preparation,
and the general-in-chief of the gilders stood in their midst, giving
orders to his staff, and sending off detachments for special
service. He held in his hand a roll of paper resembling a marshal's
baton, with which he assigned their posts to his men. Some of his
subalterns approached, to ask in what style the walls of the
reception-rooms were to be decorated.
"I must see the Prince of Savoy about that," said he, with a
flourish. And he took his way for the prince's cabinet. "Announce me
to his highness," said he as he entered the antechamber.
"His highness is at home to nobody to-day, sir," replied Conrad.
"He will be at home for me," said the decorator, complacently. "Say
to the prince that I desire an interview on business of great
moment, connected with the embellishment of the hotel; and without a
conference with himself we cannot proceed. I am Monsieur Louis, the
master of the masters of decoration."
Conrad, quite awed by the stateliness of Monsieur Louis, went at
once to announce him, and returned with a summons for him to enter
Eugene met him with a bright smile of welcome, and asked what he
could do to assist Monsieur Louis.
"Your highness," replied monsieur, "my workmen have gilded, waxed,
and dusted the apartments, and the important task of decorating them
is about to commence. I am here to inquire of your highness what is
to be the character of the decorations. Are they to have a
significance that betokens Honor, Friendship, Art, or Love?"
Eugene could not repress a smile as he asked whether, for the
expression of these various sentiments, there were different styles
"Most assuredly," was the pompous reply. "It depends entirely upon
the nature of the guest or guests to be entertained. If your
highness is to receive a personage of distinction (a king, for
example), your decorations must be emblematic of respect. They must
consist of laurels, lilies, and banners. If a friend or one of your
own noble kinsmen, the decorations have no special significance; we
mingle flowers, festoons, and pictures that are not allegorical. If
you invite a company of artists, poets, musicians, and the like, the
principal decorations surmount the seat of the Maecenas who
entertains, and the rest of the apartment is left in simplicity."
"But you spoke of a fourth style," said Eugene, blushing.
"Indeed I did, your highness; and on that style we lavish our best
efforts. If the guest is to be a bride, then our walls and ceilings
must be ornamented with rich designs emblematic of love. We must
have cupids, billing doves, and wreaths of roses, mingled with
orange-flowers. Added to this, the decorations must begin in the
vestibule, and be carried out in character, through the entire
"Well," said Eugene, his large eyes glowing with delight, "let your
decorations be appropriate to a bridal."
"Impossible, your highness! This style requires great originality of
conception, and time to carry out the designs. It would require a
hundred workmen, and then I doubt--"
"Employ more than a hundred," returned Eugene, "and it can be done
in a day. Indeed it must be done, and--I ask of you as a favor not
to mention to any one in what style you are decorating the Hotel de
"Your highness, I will answer for myself, but I cannot answer for
the discretion of a hundred workmen, who, precisely because they are
asked to be silent, would prefer to be communicative."
"Well--do your best, but remember that your work must be done to-
"It shall be done, your highness, and when you see it, you will
confess that I am the first decorateur of the age."
So saying, Monsieur Louis made his bow and strutted off.
Eugene looked after him with a smile. "He is proud and happy," said
the prince, "and yet he merely embellishes the palace wherein love's
festival is to be held. But for me--oh, happiest of mortals! is the
festival prepared. Laura, adored Laura. I must speak thy name to the
walls, or my heart will burst with the fullness of its joy! How
shall I kill the weary hours of this day of expectation? How cool
the hot blood that rushes wildly through my veins, and threatens me
with loss of reason from excess of bliss! I am no longer a solitary,
slighted abbe; I am a hero, a giant, for _I_ AM BELOVED!"
At that moment the door was hastily opened, and Conrad made his
"Your highness," said he, "a messenger is here from her royal
highness, madame, and begs for an audience."
Eugene started, and his brow clouded with anxiety. "A messenger from
madame," murmured he. "What can--how should the duchess?--But--
Conrad, admit him."
"Speak," cried Eugene, as soon as the messenger entered the room.
"What are her royal highness's commands?"
"Her royal highness the Duchess of Orleans requests his highness
Prince Eugene of Savoy to visit her immediately. And that no delay
may occur, her royal highness's equipage is at the door, waiting for
Eugene answered not a word. With an imperious wave of the hand,
which was justly interpreted into a command to clear the passage, he
strode on and on through the corridors of the Hotel de Soissons,
crushing with his foot Monsieur Louis's choicest garlands, that lay
on the floor ready to wreathe the walls and mirrors of the rooms of
Monsieur Louis was shocked at such desecration; but still more
shocked was he to observe what a change had come over the face of
the prince since their interview scarce half an hour ago. Reckless
of the ruined garlands that followed his track, pale and silent, he
went on and on, down the marble staircase, and through the
vestibule, until he flung himself into the coach, and cried:
"On, for your life! urge your horses to their topmost speed!"
The coachman obeyed, and went thundering down the streets, little
heeding whether the equipage that bore the royal arms trod down half
a dozen boors on its way or not.
It drew up with a sudden jerk before the Palais Royal; and the
messenger, who had followed on horseback, asked if his highness
would follow him. He had madame's orders to introduce her visitor
without further ceremony, by a private staircase, leading to her own
Doubtless the duchess had heard the carriage as it stopped, for,
when Eugene entered the anteroom, she was standing in the door of
her cabinet, visibly impatient for his arrival. She beckoned him to
approach, and closed the door with her own hand.
She gave him no time for ceremonious greeting. "God be thanked, you
are here!" exclaimed she. "Put down the portiere, that no one may
hear what I have to say." Eugene obeyed mechanically, and loosening
its heavy tassels, the crimson satin curtain fell heavily to the
"And now," cried the duchess, indignantly, "now, Prince Eugene of
Savoy, I command you to tell me the truth, and the whole truth! What
have you done with her? How could you be so unknightly as to take
advantage of her innocent and affectionate nature, to wrong one of
the purest and most perfect of God's creatures! My heart is like to
break with its weight of sorrow and disgrace; and, had it not been
for Laura's sake, I would have laid my complaint before his majesty.
But I must not expose her to the world's contumely, and therefore I
endure your presence here. Tell me at once what have you done with
Eugene could scarcely reply to this passionate appeal. His senses
reeled--his heart seemed to freeze within him. He thought he
comprehended; and yet--
"Who? Who is gone? Oh, duchess, be merciful; what mean these words
The duchess eyed him scornfully. "Base seducer, dare you question
me? Do you strive to delude me into believing that you do not know
of whom I speak? I demand of you at once the person of the
Marchioness de Bonaletta!"
"Laura!" cried Eugene, in a tone of deepest despair. "Laura gone!
And you say that I enticed her away!"
"Tell me the truth, tell me the truth," cried madame.
"The truth!" groaned Eugene, while the duchess started from her
seat, and grasped both his hands in hers.
"Have mercy," stammered he, trembling as if an ague had suddenly
seized him. "Is she no longer--here?"
"She is no longer here," echoed the duchess, staring in astonishment
at the writhing features of the unhappy prince.
"You know not where she is?" gasped he, faintly.
"No," cried she, "no! You look as though you were yourself
astounded, Prince Eugene; but you will no longer deny your guilt
when I tell you that my poor innocent child has told me all."
"What--all?" asked Eugene.
"She told me that you were lovers. And now, prevaricate no longer;
it is useless and renders you still more infamous."
"What more did she say?" asked Eugene, unconscious that his tone was
as imperative as that of an emperor.
"Nothing more. She merely told me that in two days I should learn
all. Alas! I have learned it to my cost, and to her ruin!"
"And you accuse me of enticing her! Great God! if my heart were not
breaking with anguish, it would break that such baseness could be
attributed to me. Would that I could answer you, duchess, but God in
heaven knows that I was ignorant of her departure, until I learned
it from yourself!"
"Was ever a man so bold in falsehood!" cried the duchess, losing all
command of her temper. "I have in your own handwriting the proof of
your wickedness. Now mark me! This morning, the second woman in
waiting of the marchioness came frightened to my apartments to tell
me that her mistress, her woman Louise, and George, had disappeared
from the pavilion, no one could surmise when. I was so overcome with
terror that I hurried to the pavilion, and alas! found that it was
indeed so. Neither her own bed, nor that of the servant who
accompanied her, had been occupied. I looked everywhere for some
clew to the mystery, when, on the floor near her morning-dress,
which hung on a chair, I found this scrap of paper, which, as it is
signed with your initials, you will not deny, I presume."
With eyes that flashed fire, she almost dashed the paper in his
face. Eugene took it, and, having given it one glance, he turned
pale as death, and it fluttered from his palsied hands to the floor.
"Heavens, what can ail him!" cried the duchess, sympathizing, in
spite of herself, with his sudden sorrow. He was ghastly as a
spectre, and his whole frame shook like the leaf of an aspen.
"I did not write it," gasped he, but almost inaudibly; for his teeth
chattered so that he could scarcely articulate a sound.
"What!" exclaimed the duchess, now thoroughly convinced of his
innocence, and feeling her terror increase with the conviction,
"what! you did not write these words?"
He shook his head, but no sound came from his blanched lips. He laid
his hands upon his heart as if to stifle its anguish; then, raising
them to his head, he pressed them to his temples, and so paced the
room for a while. Then he came and stood before the duchess, whose
compassionate eyes filled with tears as they met his look of
anguish. Finally, he heaved a long sigh, and spoke.
"My name has been used to deceive her," said he. "She has never seen
my writing, and thus she fell into the snare."
"But I cannot comprehend who it is that possessed such influence
over her as to frighten her into silent acquiescence of the fraud.
Laura is young, but she is prudent and resolute, These words had
some meaning which could be referred to you, or she would not have
"Ay," returned Eugene, solemnly, "they were chosen with satanic
shrewdness. They referred to our plans of to-day, and signified that
I had anticipated the time for our marriage. Ah! well I know what
happened; and well I know why Laura made no resistance! At ten
o'clock she extinguished all the lights in her parlor save one; and
as soon as this signal had been given, four men, whose faces were
concealed, entered the house. One of them was a priest, two were
witnesses, and the fourth--O God! that fourth one! Who was he I know
not; but I shall learn--alas! too soon. Without a word (for such had
been our agreement) he took her hand, and the priest read the
marriage ceremony. When the names had been signed, he raised my
Laura in his arms, bore her through the postern to a carriage, and,
O God! O God! tore her from me forever!"
"But how come you to know these particulars, who knew not even of
"Duchess, it was to have taken place to-night, and I was to have
been that bridegroom. We were overheard, and those accursed words,
'not to-morrow, but to-night,' were sent in my name. She thought to
give me her dear hand, while I--I--"
He could not proceed. He gave one loud sob, and burst into tears.
Those tears, bitter though they were, saved his reason.
The duchess, too, wept profusely. "Poor prince!" said she, "well may
you mourn, for you have lost an angel of goodness and--"
"No!" interrupted Eugene, fiercely. "Say not that she is lost to me!
I must find her, for she is mine,--and I must find her ravisher.
Great God of heaven!" cried he, raising his clasped hands, "where
shall I find the robber that has so cruelly despoiled us both?"
"Stay!" cried the duchess. "I know of a man that was her suitor, and
whose suit was countenanced by her father and her brother. She told
me of it herself, and to avoid their persecutions, took refuge with
"His name, his name, I implore you, his name!"
"The Venetian ambassador, the Marquis de Strozzi."
"I thank your highness," replied Eugene, approaching the door.
"Whither do you go?"
"To seek the Venetian ambassador."
"And compromise Laura? You do not know that things transpired as you
imagine. She may merely have been removed by her father, to part her
from yourself. And suppose the marquis was no party to her flight?
You would make her ridiculous--nay, more; you would sully her name,
so that every gossip in Paris would fall upon your Laura's
reputation, and leave not a shred of it wherewith to protect her
from the world's contempt."
Eugene wiped off the great drops of sweat that beaded his pallid
brow. "You are right," said he. "She must not be compromised--no,
not even if I died of grief for her loss: there are other means--I
will go to her father."
Elizabeth nodded her head approvingly. "Yes--that you can do. You
may confide her secret to her father. Take the same carriage that
brought you hither, and, to make sure of obtaining speedy admission
to Louvois' presence, announce yourself as my envoy."
"I thank your highness," replied Eugene, and, inclining his head, he
moved toward the door. The duchess followed him, and, taking his
hand affectionately, pressed it within her own.
"I see that you love my darling as she deserves to be loved, and you
would have made her happy. Forgive my injustice and my hard words. I
was so wretched that I knew not the import of my accusations."
"I do not remember them," returned Eugene, sadly. "But one thing
fills my heart--the thought of my Laura's loss. Farewell, dear lady.
Now, to question Louvois!"
Great was the astonishment of the household of Louvois, when,
hastening to do honor to the liveries of the royal house of Orleans,
they saw emerging from the coach Prince Eugene of Savoy.
"Announce me to Monsieur Louvois," said he.
The message passed from vestibule to corridor, from corridor to
staircase, and finally reached the antechamber of the minister's
private cabinet. In a short while, the answer was forthcoming.
"His excellency begged to decline the visit of his highness the
Prince of Savoy. He was particularly engaged."
"He is at home," replied the prince; "then I shall certainly alight,
for I must and will see him."
So he entered the house, and traversed the vestibule. The lackeys
made no effort to stop him, for he looked dangerous; but they were
certainly astounded at his boldness, who forced himself into the
presence of the minister, when he had declined the proffered visit.
Eugene, disregarding their amazed looks, asked the way to the
cabinet, and no one ventured to refuse. So he was passed from lackey
to lackey, until he reached the antechamber. "Here," said the
servant that had accompanied him, "here your highness will find a
person to announce you."
Eugene bowed his head, and entered. The "person" was certainly
within; but in lieu of announcing the prince, he stared at him in
Eugene paid no attention to him, but moved toward the door leading
to the prime minister's cabinet. When the valet saw this, he flew
across the room to stop the intruder, and, placing himself directly
in his way, he bowed and said, "Pardon me, your highness. You must
have been misinformed. His excellency regrets that he cannot receive
your highness's visit to-day. He is particularly engaged."
"I have no visit to make to his excellency," replied the prince
without embarrassment. "I am the envoy of her royal highness the
Duchess of Orleans. Announce me as such."
The valet soon returned, and, holding up the portiere so as to admit
Eugene, he said, "His excellency will receive the envoy of her royal
highness the Duchess of Orleans."
Louvois was standing near a writing-table, from which he appeared at
that moment to have risen. His right hand rested on a book, and he
stood stiff and erect, awaiting an inclination from Eugene, to bend
his head in return. But the prince advanced so proudly that Louvois
involuntarily made a step toward him, and then recollecting himself,
stood still and frowned visibly.
"You came under false colors to claim an audience from me, prince,"
said he. "As you found (indeed, you should have known) that I would
not receive you in your own name, you borrowed that of her royal
highness; taking advantage of the respect due madame, to force
yourself into my presence. What is your business?"
"In supposing that I have used her royal highness's name to force
myself upon you, you are mistaken," replied Eugene, calmly. "If you
will take the trouble to look out of yonder window, you will see
that I came hither in her highness's own coach."
Louvois stepped to the window, looked out, and, affecting
astonishment, exclaimed, "True enough; there are the royal liveries,
and you have told the truth. You really must excuse me."
"I do excuse you; for I do not consider that one bearing the name of
Louvois is in a position to affront me by doubting my word."
"Lucky for you," returned Louvois, with his sinister laugh; "for
there is not likely to be much harmony between the two families. And
now to business. What message do you bear from madame?"
"Her royal highness informs Monsieur de Louvois that on yesterday
night, the Marchioness de Bonaletta disappeared from her pavilion in
the Palais Royal. As Monsieur de Louvois is well posted in all that
takes place in or about Paris, her royal highness is convinced that
he is no stranger to this occurrence, and she requires that her lady
of the bedchamber be returned to her, or she be directed where to
"Is that all?" asked Louvois, after a pause.
"That is all that I have to say for the Duchess of Orleans."
"You are so very emphatic that I infer you have something else to
say, after all. Am I right?"
"Well, you may speak. But first, allow me to ask how you happen to
be her highness's messenger? Was it by way of sympathizing with the
Marchioness de Bonaletta, that you took service with her mistress?"
"My lord prime minister," returned Eugene, proudly, "I serve myself
and the requirements of my honor only."
"Ah, indeed! And does this respectable lady pay you well?"
"She bestows upon me wherewith to pay those who venture to attack
"Ha! ha! Then you must have heavy payments to make, not for yourself
only, but for your mother."
Eugene clinched his fist, and made a motion toward his cruel enemy,
but Louvois calmly raised his hand.
"Peace, young man," said he; "the hour for reckoning has not
arrived. I respect, in you, the representative of madame, and you
shall depart from my house uninjured, today. Take advantage, then,
of your opportunity; say all that you have to say, and spare
yourself the trouble of sending me your petitions by writing."
"I have no petitions to make to you, oral or written. I came hither
to claim for her royal mistress the Marchioness de Bonaletta, your
"And I repeat my question. How came you to be the chosen ambassador
of her royal highness, on this strictly private affair between
herself and me?"
"I was chosen," replied Eugene, breathing hard and growing pale,
"because I love the marchioness."
Louvois laughed aloud. "You love my daughter, do you? I admire the
sagacity which directs your love toward the daughter of the prime
minister of France, and the richest heiress within its boundaries. I
congratulate you upon your choice."
"Yes," repeated Eugene, "I love her, although she is your daughter.
And so dearly do I love her that, for her dear sake, I submit to be
affronted by my mother's traducer, because that traducer is the
father of my Laura. As regards your absurd insinuations respecting
her wealth, they pass by me as the 'idle wind which I respect not.'
And now, that I have satisfied your curiosity, be so good as to
answer me. The Duchess of Orleans wishes to know where is her lady
of the bedchamber: Eugene of Savoy demands his bride."
"Demands his bride? This is too presuming! But I must be patient
with the representative of madame. Know, then, ambitious manikin,
that, with a father's right to save his misguided child from your
artifices and from the ridicule of the world, I rescued her from
ruin last night, and, to secure her honor, gave her in marriage to
an honorable man."
Eugene was as overwhelmed with this intelligence as though he had
not foreseen it from the first. His wail was so piteous that Louvois
himself felt its terrible significance, and started.
"You forced--forced her to give her hand to another?" gasped he.
"Forced! I perceived no reluctance on my daughter's side, to her
marriage. She spoke a willing and distinct assent to the priest's
interrogatory. I ought to know, who myself was one of her
"That merely proves that she was deceived by the lying note that you
forged in my name. How, in the sight of God, can a father so betray
his own child!"
"It was sent with my approbation, but written by Barbesieur, as a
slight token of acknowledgment for your cowardly attack on him at
the Pre aux Clercs. Your mother was right, it appears, when a few
weeks ago she told me that no sympathy could exist between her race
and mine; and that every attempt at love between us was sure to end
in hate. Quite right she was, quite right. And now, Prince of Savoy,
your mission is fulfilled. Tell the Duchess of Orleans that her lady
of the bedchamber is secure, but cannot return to her service: she
is under the protection of her husband."
"I will tell her," replied Eugene. "I will tell her that all honor,
all humanity, all justice, forgetting, a father has cruelly betrayed
his own daughter, and has cursed her life forever. Your wicked
action has broken the hearts of two of God's creatures, and has
consigned them to a misery that can only end with death. I say not,
'May God forgive you.' No! may God avenge my Laura's wrongs, and may
he choose Eugene of Savoy as the instrument of His wrath! for every
pang that rends the heart of my beloved, and for every throe that
racks my own, you shall answer to me, proud minister of France: and,
as there lives a God in heaven, you shall regret one day that you
rejected me for your son-in-law."
Without another word or look toward Louvois, he left the room, and
returned to his carriage. When he re-entered the cabinet of madame,
his ghastly face, the very incarnation of woe, told its own story.
"You bring me evil tidings," said she, mournfully. "My darling is
lost to us both!"
"Alas, my prophetic heart! She is married!" was his cry of despair.
"Poor Laura! poor Eugene!" sobbed the duchess, unable to restrain
"If you weep, what shall I do?" asked Eugene. "Why do you take it so
much to heart?"
"Why?" exclaimed she. "Because I am no longer young, and I have lost
my last hope of happiness. You, at least, have life and the world
"And I," said he, languidly--"I am young, and have a lifetime
wherein to suffer. The world is before me! Yes; but it is a waste,
without tree or flower. With scorched eyes and blistered feet, I
must tread its burning sands alone. Forgive me, dear lady, if I ask
permission to go. If I stay much longer, my aching head will burst."
"You are wan as a spectre, my poor Eugene," returned the duchess,
laying her hand upon his arm. and looking him compassionately in the
"And, in truth, I am but the corpse of the living man of yesterday,"
sighed he. "Let me go home, that I may bury myself and my dead hopes
The duchess rang for her gentleman in waiting, and requested him to
accompany the prince to his carriage, and thence to the Hotel de
Soissons; but Eugene gently refused the proffered escort, and begged
to be allowed to depart alone. He turned away, and as the duchess
watched his receding figure, she saw him reel from side to side,
like a man intoxicated.
At last he was at home. He had strength left to alight, to ascend
the long marble staircase, whose balustrade was now hidden by a
thicket of climbing jessamines, and to enter the antechamber leading
to the apartments of state.
Monsieur Louis, with the elite of his workmen, was decorating its
walls with hangings of white satin, looped with garlands suspended
from the bills of cooing doves. When he beheld the prince, he came
"See. your highness, this is but the vestibule of the temple! When
you will have seen its interior, you will confess that it is worthy
the abode of the loveliest bride that ever graced its princely
Eugene neither interrupted nor answered him. He raised his large,
mournful eyes to the festooned roses, the gilded doves, the snowy,
shimmering satin, and to his fading senses they seemed gradually to
darken into cypress-wreaths and funereal palls. He pressed his hand
upon his bursting heart, and fell insensible to the floor.
Eight weeks had passed away since the disappearance of the
Marchioness de Bonaletta--eight weeks of suffering and delirium for
Eugene of Savoy. A nervous fever had ensued, which, if it had well-
nigh proved mortal, had proved, in one sense, beneficent; for it had
stricken him with unconsciousness of woe. Blissful dreams of love
hovered about his couch, and lit up with feverish brilliancy his
pallid countenance. At such times SHE seemed to sit beside him; for
he smiled, held out his hand, and addressed her in words of burning
love and ecstasy. Perhaps these joyful phantasms gave him strength
to recuperate from his terrible prostration, for he recovered; and,
after four weeks of struggle between life and death, was declared
convalescent. His grandmother and his sisters had nursed him
tenderly throughout, and they had the satisfaction of hearing from
his physician, that to their loving care he owed his restoration to
health. The poor sufferer himself could not find it in his heart to
be grateful for the boon. With returning reason came awakening
anguish, sharp as the first keen stroke that had laid low the
beautiful fabric of his ephemeral happiness.
But he was resolved to face his sorrow--not to fly from it. "It
shall kill me or make a man of me, whom no shaft of adversity can
ever wound again," thought he. He confided his troubles to no one,
little dreaming that his secret was known not only to his
grandmother and his sisters, but to the Princes de Conti, who,
throughout their long watches by his bedside, had heard the history
of his love, its return by the beloved one, and its disastrous end.
But each and all respected the secret, and tacitly agreed to cover
it with a veil of profound silence.
So Eugene suffered and struggled alone, until the tempest of his
grief had passed, and light once more dawned upon his soul. His
dreamy eyes, in whose depths one visionary object had been mirrored,
now rested upon things with quick and apprehensive intelligence; his
ears, that had been pained with one monotonous dirge of woe, now
opened to the sounds of the outer world around; and his thoughts,
which hitherto had kept unceasing plaint for their buried love, now
shook off repining, and hearkened to the trumpet-call of ambition.
One morning he called Conrad, who (accustomed of late to see his
master reclining languidly on a sofa, seemingly interested in
nothing) was quite surprised to find him in the arsenal, busily
engaged in examining and cleaning his arms.
Conrad could not repress a smile, and a glance of mingled
astonishment and delight. Eugene saw it, and replied at once.
"You see," said he, gently, "that I am better, Conrad. I was very
slow to recover from my severe illness, but I believe that I am
quite sound again. I thank you for all your self-sacrificing
devotion to me, during that season of suffering; and never while my
heart beats will I forget it. Let me press your friendly hand within
my own, for well I know that your highest reward is to be found in
my esteem and affection."
Conrad grasped the hand that was so kindly proffered, and tears of
joy fell upon its pale, attenuated fingers.
"My dear lord," sobbed he, "how you have suffered! and oh, how
gladly I would have suffered for you!"
"I believe it, good, true heart; but let us try to forget the past,
and make ready for the future. First--tell me whether the letter you
took for me yesterday is likely to reach the cabinet of his
"Yes, your highness," replied Conrad, with a happy smile. "My cousin
Lolo washes the plate at the Louvre, and is engaged to be married to
the king's second valet. I gave it to her, and charged her, as she
valued her salvation, to see that Leblond remitted it."
"So far, so well, then. Order my state-carriage, livery, and
outriders; and then return to assist me in dressing. I must go to
court in half an hour."
While Eugene was preparing to visit the king, his majesty with his
prime minister was in his cabinet, writing; while, not too far to be
out of reach of his majesty's admiring eyes, sat the demure De
Maintenon, profoundly engaged in tapestry-work. The conference over,
Louis signed to Louvois to gather up the papers to which the royal
signature had been attached, and to take his leave. Louvois hastened
to obey; put his portfolio under his arm, and was about to retire,
when the king bade him remain.
"Apropos," said he, "I was about to forget a trifle that may as well
be attended to. I have received a letter from Prince Eugene of
Savoy. There is a vacancy in the dragoons, and the little prince
asks for it. Methinks it can be granted."
Louvois smiled. "What, your majesty! Give a captaincy of dragoons to
that poor little weakling? Why, he would not survive one single
campaign." As he uttered these careless words, he glanced at the
marquise, who understood him at once.
"In truth," observed she, in her soft, musical voice, whose melody
was as bewitching as that of the sea-maids of Sicily "in truth, poor
Prince Eugene seems as unsuited to the career of a soldier as to
that of an ecclesiastic. The dissipated and debauched life which, in
imitation of his mother, he has led since his boyhood, has exhausted
his energies. He is prematurely old--older far than your majesty."
A complacent smile flitted over the features of the vain monarch.
"He certainly looked more dead than alive the last time we saw him,
and since then he has been very ill, has he not?"
"Yes," replied Louvois, carelessly, "and for a long time his
recovery was considered doubtful."
"Madame told me of it," resumed the king. "She seems very much
interested in the little prince."
"Madame is the impersonation of goodness," observed De Maintenon,
"and by her very innocence is unfitted to judge of character. The
old Princess de Carignan imposed upon her credulity with some story
of an unhappy attachment, while veritably his illness is nothing
more than the natural consequence of his excesses."
Louvois thanked his coadjutor with a second glance, and the marquise
acknowledged the compliment by a slight inclination of her head,
imperceptible to the king.
"Be all this as it may," replied the latter, "I cannot refuse so
paltry a favor to the nephew of Cardinal Mazarin. If we do no more,
we ought at least to throw him a bone to gnaw." [Footnote: Louis'
own words.--"Memoires do Jeanne d'Albret de Luynes," vol. i., p.
"Sire," said Louvois, hastily, "you do not know Prince Eugene. He is
a dangerous man, though a weakly one, for he is possessed of
insatiable ambition. He desires renown at any price."
"At any price!" repeated Louis, with a shrug. "Such a poor devil as
that covet renown at any price!"
"Sire!" exclaimed Louvois, earnestly, "he is an offshoot of the
ambitious house of Savoy, and a stranger besides. Strangers always
bring us ill-luck."
"You are right," interposed the marquise, with a sigh. "Strangers
never bring us any but ill-luck."
Louis turned and fixed his eyes upon her. Their glances met, and
there was such unequivocal love expressed in that of the pious
marquise, that her royal disciple blushed with gratification. He
went up to her and extended both his hands.
She took them passionately within her own, and covered them with
kisses. Then raising her eyes pleadingly to his, she whispered,
"Sire, he is the son of his mother; and if your majesty show him
favor, I shall think that you have not ceased to love the Countess
de Soissons, and my heart will break."
Louis was so touched by the charming jealousy unconsciously betrayed
by these words, that he whispered in return:
"I will prove, then, that I love nobody but yourself."
"Be so good," added he aloud to Louvois, "as to say to the usher
that the Prince of Savoy will have an audience."
This being equivalent to a dismission, Louvois backed out of his
master's presence, and retired. As he was passing through the
antechamber, congratulating himself upon having effectually muzzled
his adversary, the minister saw his pale, serious face at the door.
Eugene was in the act of desiring the usher to announce him.
"His majesty awaits the Prince of Savoy," said Louvois, and he
stepped aside to allow him entrance.
Eugene came in, and the door was closed. The two enemies were alone,
face to face; and they surveyed each other as two lions might do on
the eve of a deathly contest.
"It has pleased you to make an attempt to beg a commission in the
army, and to address yourself directly to the king," said Louvois,
after a pause. "And you presumed to do so without the intervention
of his majesty's minister of war."
"I have no business with the servants of his majesty," replied
Eugene, tranquilly. "If I have a request to make, I address it to
the king my kinsman, and require no influence of his subordinates."
"Sir!" exclaimed Louvois, angrily, "I counsel you--"
"I desire no counsel from a man whom I despise," interrupted Eugene.
"You shall give me satisfaction for this word," returned Louvois,
laying his hand on his sword. "You are a nobleman, and therefore--"
"And therefore," interrupted Eugene again, "you shall have no
satisfaction from me, for you are not a nobleman, and I shall not
measure swords with you. Peace, monsieur," continued he, as Louvois
was about to insult him, "we are in the antechamber of the king, and
a servant may not resent his grievances within earshot of his
master. Take care that you become not too obstreperous, lest I
publish to the world the story of your crimes toward your unhappy
daughter. And now let me pass: the king awaits me."
With these words Eugene crossed the antechamber, and stood near the
door that led to the king's cabinet. There he stopped, and,
addressing the indignant minister--
"Now, sir," said he, imperatively, "you can go out to the vestibule
and send the usher to announce me to his majesty."
Louvois made a rush at the prince, and almost shrieked with rage.
"Sir, this insolence--"
But at that moment the door of the king's cabinet opened, and the
voice of Louis asked, "Who presumes to speak so loud?" His angry
glances were launched first at one and then at the other offender,
and, as neither made any reply, his majesty resumed:
"Ah, you are there, little abbe? You asked for an audience: it is
He returned to his cabinet, Eugene following. The marquise was
assiduously occupied with her tapestry, but her large eyes were
raised for one glance; then, as quickly casting them down, she
appeared to be absorbed in her embroidery.
The king threw himself carelessly back in an arm-chair, and signed
to Eugene to advance.
"You would like to command a company of dragoons?" said Louis,
"Such is my desire, your majesty. I wish to become a soldier; I
hope--a brave one."
Louis surveyed him with scorn. "I cannot grant your request," said
he. "You are too sickly to enter my service."
He then rose from his chair and turned his back. This of course
signified that the audience was at an end; but, to his unspeakable
astonishment, he felt the touch of a hand upon his arm, and, turning
round, beheld Eugene!
"Is that all your majesty has to say to me?" said the prince.
"That is all," cried Louis, imperiously. "The audience is at an end-
"Not yet," replied Eugene, "not yet."
Madame de Maintenon uttered a cry of horror, and her tapestry fell
from her hands.
"Do you know that you are a traitor?" exclaimed the king.
"No, sire. I am but a man who, driven to despair, can no longer
withhold the cry of a heart wrung by every species of contumely and
injustice. Were I tamely to submit to all that you have done to
wound me, I were a hound unfit to bear the name of nobleman. By the
memory of Cardinal Mazarin, your benefactor, nay, more, the spouse
of your mother, I claim the right to remonstrate with your majesty,
and to ask you to reverse your decision."
"You have summoned to your aid a name which I have ever cherished
and honored," replied Louis. "For his sake I grant you fifteen
minutes' audience. Be quick, then, and say what you will at once."
"Then, sire, may I ask if you remember the solemn promise you made
to the cardinal on his death-bed?"
"To the man who, during your minority, transformed a distracted
country into a powerful and peaceful empire, you promised friendship
and protection for his kindred. But how has this promise been