Part 11 out of 13
Happy as a Prince.
At the very moment he was about entering the chateau, Bragelonne met De
Guiche. But before having been met by Raoul, De Guiche had met Manicamp,
who had met Malicorne. How was it that Malicorne had met Manicamp?
Nothing more simple, for he had awaited his return from mass, where he
had accompanied M. de Saint-Aignan. When they met, they congratulated
each other upon their good fortune, and Manicamp availed himself of the
circumstance to ask his friend if he had not a few crowns still remaining
at the bottom of his pocket. The latter, without expressing any surprise
at the question, which he perhaps expected, answered that every pocket
which is always being drawn upon without anything ever being put in it,
resembles those wells which supply water during the winter, but which
gardeners render useless by exhausting during the summer; that his,
Malicorne's, pocket certainly was deep, and that there would be a
pleasure in drawing on it in times of plenty, but that, unhappily, abuse
had produced barrenness. To this remark, Manicamp, deep in thought, had
replied, "Quite true!"
"The question, then, is how to fill it?" Malicorne added.
"Of course; but in what way?"
"Nothing easier, my dear Monsieur Manicamp."
"So much the better. How?"
"A post in Monsieur's household, and the pocket is full again."
"You have the post?"
"That is, I have the promise of being nominated."
"Yes; but the promise of nomination, without the post itself, is like a
purse with no money in it."
"Quite true," Manicamp replied a second time.
"Let us try for the post, then," the candidate had persisted.
"My dear fellow," sighed Manicamp, "an appointment in his royal
highness's household is one of the gravest difficulties of our position."
"There is no question that, at the present moment, we cannot ask Monsieur
"Because we are not on good terms with him."
"A great absurdity, too," said Malicorne, promptly.
"Bah! and if we were to show Madame any attention," said Manicamp,
"frankly speaking, do you think we should please Monsieur?"
"Precisely; if we show Madame any attention, and do it adroitly, Monsieur
ought to adore us."
"Either that or we are great fools. Make haste, therefore, M. Manicamp,
you who are so able a politician, and make M. de Guiche and his royal
highness friendly again."
"Tell me, what did M. de Saint-Aignan tell you, Malicorne?"
"Tell me? nothing; he asked me several questions, and that was all."
"Well, was he less discreet, then, with me."
"What did he tell you?"
"That the king is passionately in love with Mademoiselle de la Valliere."
"We knew that already," replied Malicorne, ironically; "and everybody
talks about it loud enough for all to know it; but in the meantime, do
what I advise you; speak to M. de Guiche, and endeavor to get him to make
advances to Monsieur. Deuce take it! he owes his royal highness that, at
"But we must see De Guiche, then?"
"There does not seem to be any great difficulty in that; try to see him
in the same way I tried to see you; wait for him; you know that he is
naturally very fond of walking."
"Yes; but whereabouts does he walk?"
"What a question to ask! Do you not know that he is in love with Madame?"
"So it is said."
"Very well; you will find him walking about on the side of the chateau
where her apartments are."
"Stay, my dear Malicorne, you were not mistaken, for here he is coming."
"Why should I be mistaken? Have you ever noticed that I am in the habit
of making a mistake? Come, we only need to understand each other. Are
you in want of money?"
"Ah!" exclaimed Manicamp, mournfully.
"Well, I want my appointment. Let Malicorne have the appointment, and
Manicamp shall have the money. There is no greater difficulty in the way
"Very well; in that case make yourself easy. I will do my best."
De Guiche approached, Malicorne stepped aside, and Manicamp caught hold
of De Guiche, who was thoughtful and melancholy. "Tell me, my dear
comte, what rhyme you were trying to find," said Manicamp. "I have an
excellent one to match yours, particularly if yours ends in _ame_."
De Guiche shook his head, and recognizing a friend, he took him by the
arm. "My dear Manicamp," he said, "I am in search of something very
different from a rhyme."
"What is it you are looking for?"
"You will help me to find what I am in search of," continued the comte:
"you who are such an idle fellow, in other words, a man with a mind full
of ingenious devices."
"I am getting my ingenuity ready, then, my dear comte."
"This is the state of the case, then: I wish to approach a particular
house, where I have some business."
"You must get near the house, then," said Manicamp.
"Very good; but in this house dwells a husband who happens to be jealous."
"Is he more jealous than the dog Cerberus?"
"Not more, but quite as much so."
"Has he three mouths, as that obdurate guardian of the infernal regions
had? Do not shrug your shoulders, my dear comte: I put the question to
you with an excellent reason, since poets pretend that, in order to
soften Monsieur Cerberus, the visitor must take something enticing with
him - a cake, for instance. Therefore, I, who view the matter in a
prosaic light, that is to say in the light of reality, I say: one cake is
very little for three mouths. If your jealous husband has three mouths,
comte, get three cakes."
"Manicamp, I can get such advice as that from M. de Beautru."
"In order to get better advice," said Manicamp, with a comical
seriousness of expression, "you will be obliged to adopt a more precise
formula than you have used towards me."
"If Raoul were here," said De Guiche, "he would be sure to understand me."
"So I think, particularly if you said to him: 'I should very much like to
see Madame a little nearer, but I fear Monsieur, because he is jealous.'"
"Manicamp!" cried the comte, angrily, and endeavoring to overwhelm his
tormentor by a look, who did not, however, appear to be in the slightest
degree disturbed by it.
"What is the matter now, my dear comte?" inquired Manicamp.
"What! is it thus you blaspheme the most sacred of names?"
"Monsieur! Madame! the highest names in the kingdom."
"You are very strangely mistaken, my dear comte. I never mentioned the
highest names in the kingdom. I merely answered you in reference to the
subject of a jealous husband, whose name you did not tell me, and who, as
a matter of course, has a wife. I therefore replied to you, in order to
see Madame, you must get a little more intimate with Monsieur."
"Double-dealer that you are," said the comte, smiling; "was that what you
"Very good; what then?"
"Now," added Manicamp, "let the question be regarding the Duchess - or
the Duke -; very well, I shall say: Let us get into the house in some way
or other, for that is a tactic which cannot in any case be unfavorable to
your love affair."
"Ah! Manicamp, if you could but find me a pretext, a good pretext."
"A pretext; I can find you a hundred, nay, a thousand. If Malicorne were
here, he would have already hit upon a thousand excellent pretexts."
"Who is Malicorne?" replied De Guiche, half-shutting his eyes, like a
person reflecting, "I seem to know the name."
"Know him! I should think so: you owe his father thirty thousand crowns."
"Ah, indeed! so it's that worthy fellow from Orleans."
"Whom you promised an appointment in Monsieur's household; not the
jealous husband, but the other."
"Well, then, since your friend Malicorne is such an inventive genius, let
him find me a means of being adored by Monsieur, and a pretext to make my
peace with him."
"Very good: I'll talk to him about it."
"But who is that coming?"
"The Vicomte de Bragelonne."
"Raoul! yes, it is he," said De Guiche, as he hastened forward to meet
him. "You here, Raoul?" said De Guiche.
"Yes: I was looking for you to say farewell," replied Raoul, warmly,
pressing the comte's hand. "How do you do, Monsieur Manicamp?"
"How is this, vicomte, you are leaving us?"
"Yes, a mission from the king."
"Where are you going?"
"To London. On leaving you, I am going to Madame; she has a letter to
give me for his majesty, Charles II."
"You will find her alone, for Monsieur has gone out; gone to bathe, in
"In that case, you, who are one of Monsieur's gentlemen in waiting, will
undertake to make my excuses to him. I would have waited in order to
receive any directions he might have to give me, if the desire for my
immediate departure had not been intimated to me by M. Fouquet on behalf
of his majesty."
Manicamp touched De Guiche's elbow, saying, "There's a pretext for you."
"M. de Bragelonne's excuses."
"A weak pretext," said De Guiche.
"An excellent one, if Monsieur is not angry with you; but a paltry one if
he bears you ill-will."
"You are right, Manicamp; a pretext, however poor it may be, is all I
require. And so, a pleasant journey to you, Raoul!" And the two friends
took a warm leave of each other.
Five minutes afterwards Raoul entered Madame's apartments, as
Mademoiselle de Montalais had begged him to do. Madame was still seated
at the table where she had written her letter. Before her was still
burning the rose-colored taper she had used to seal it. Only in her deep
reflection, for Madame seemed to be buried in thought, she had forgotten
to extinguish the light. Bragelonne was a very model of elegance in
every way; it was impossible to see him once without always remembering
him; and not only had Madame seen him once, but it will not be forgotten
he was one of the very first who had gone to meet her, and had
accompanied her from Le Havre to Paris. Madame preserved therefore an
excellent recollection of him.
"Ah! M. de Bragelonne," she said to him, "you are going to see my
brother, who will be delighted to pay to the son a portion of the debt of
gratitude he contracted with the father."
"The Comte de la Fere, Madame, has been abundantly recompensed for the
little service he had the happiness to render the king, by the kindness
manifested towards him, and it is I who will have to convey to his
majesty the assurance of the respect, devotion, and gratitude of both
father and son."
"Do you know my brother?"
"No, your highness; I shall have the honor of seeing his majesty for the
"You require no recommendation to him. At all events, however, if you
have any doubt about your personal merit, take me unhesitatingly for your
"Your royal highness overwhelms me with kindness."
"No! M. de Bragelonne, I well remember that we were fellow-travelers
once, and that I remarked your extreme prudence in the midst of the
extravagant absurdities committed, on both sides, by two of the greatest
simpletons in the world, - M. de Guiche and the Duke of Buckingham. Let
us not speak of them, however; but of yourself. Are you going to England
to remain there permanently? Forgive my inquiry: it is not curiosity,
but a desire to be of service to you in anything I can."
"No, Madame; I am going to England to fulfil a mission which his majesty
has been kind enough to confide to me - nothing more."
"And you propose to return to France?"
"As soon as I have accomplished my mission; unless, indeed, his majesty,
King Charles II., should have other orders for me."
"He well beg you, at the very least, I am sure, to remain near him as
long as possible."
"In that case, as I shall not know how to refuse, I will now beforehand
entreat your royal highness to have the goodness to remind the king of
France that one of his devoted servants is far away from him."
"Take care that when you _are_ recalled, you do not consider his command
an abuse of power."
"I do not understand you, Madame."
"The court of France is not easily matched, I am aware, but yet we have
some pretty women at the court of England also."
"Oh!" said Madame, "yours is a smile which portends no good to my
countrywomen. It is as though you were telling them, Monsieur de
Bragelonne: 'I visit you, but I leave my heart on the other side of the
Channel.' Did not your smile indicate that?"
"Your highness is gifted with the power of reading the inmost depths of
the soul, and you will understand, therefore, why, at present, any
prolonged residence at the court of England would be a matter of the
"And I need not inquire if so gallant a knight is recompensed in return?"
"I have been brought up, Madame, with her whom I love, and I believe our
affection is mutual."
"In that case, do not delay your departure, Monsieur de Bragelonne, and
delay not your return, for on your return we shall see two persons happy;
for I hope no obstacle exists to your felicity."
"There is a great obstacle, Madame."
"Indeed! what is it?"
"The king's wishes on the subject."
"The king opposes your marriage?"
"He postpones it, at least. I solicited his majesty's consent through
the Comte de la Fere, and, without absolutely refusing it, he positively
said it must be deferred."
"Is the young lady whom you love unworthy of you, then?"
"She is worthy of a king's affection, Madame."
"I mean, she is not, perhaps, of birth equal to your own."
"Her family is excellent."
"Is she young, beautiful?"
"She is seventeen, and, in my opinion, exceedingly beautiful."
"Is she in the country, or at Paris?"
"She is here at Fontainebleau, Madame."
"At the court?"
"Do I know her?"
"She has the honor to form one of your highness's household."
"Her name?" inquired the princess, anxiously; "if indeed," she added,
hastily, "her name is not a secret."
"No, Madame, my affection is too pure for me to make a secret of it to
any one, and with still greater reason to your royal highness, whose
kindness towards me has been so extreme. It is Mademoiselle Louise de la
Madame could not restrain an exclamation, in which a feeling stronger
than surprise might have been detected. "Ah!" she said, "La Valliere -
she who yesterday - " she paused, and then continued, "she who was taken
ill, I believe."
"Yes, Madame; it was only this morning that I heard of the accident that
had befallen her."
"Did you see her before you came to me?"
"I had the honor of taking leave of her."
"And you say," resumed Madame, making a powerful effort over herself,
"that the king has - deferred your marriage with this young girl."
"Yes, Madame, deferred it."
"Did he assign any reason for this postponement?"
"How long is it since the Comte de la Fere preferred his request to the
"More than a month, Madame."
"It is very singular," said the princess, as something like a film
clouded her eyes.
"A month?" she repeated.
"About a month."
"You are right, vicomte" said the princess, with a smile, in which De
Bragelonne might have remarked a kind of restraint; "my brother must not
keep you too long in England; set off at once, and in the first letter I
write to England, I will claim you in the king's name." And Madame rose
to place her letter in Bragelonne's hands. Raoul understood that his
audience was at an end; he took the letter, bowed lowly to the princess,
and left the room.
"A month!" murmured the princess; "could I have been blind, then, to so
great an extent, and could he have loved her for this last month?" And
as Madame had nothing to do, she sat down to begin a letter to her
brother, the postscript of which was a summons for Bragelonne to return.
The Comte de Guiche, as we have seen, had yielded to the pressing
persuasions of Manicamp, and allowed himself to be led to the stables,
where they desired their horses to be got ready for them; then, by one of
the side paths, a description of which has already been given, they
advanced to meet Monsieur, who, having just finished bathing, was
returning towards the chateau, wearing a woman's veil to protect his face
from getting burnt by the sun, which was shining very brightly. Monsieur
was in one of those fits of good humor to which the admiration of his own
good looks sometimes gave occasion. As he was bathing he had been able
to compare the whiteness of his body with that of the courtiers, and,
thanks to the care which his royal highness took of himself, no one, not
even the Chevalier de Lorraine, was able to stand the comparison.
Monsieur, moreover, had been tolerably successful in swimming, and his
muscles having been exercised by the healthy immersion in the cool water,
he was in a light and cheerful state of mind and body. So that, at the
sight of Guiche, who advanced to meet him at a hand gallop, mounted upon
a magnificent white horse, the prince could not restrain an exclamation
"I think matters look well," said Manicamp, who fancied he could read
this friendly disposition upon his royal highness's countenance.
"Good day, De Guiche, good day," exclaimed the prince.
"Long life to your royal highness!" replied De Guiche, encouraged by the
tone of Philip's voice; "health, joy, happiness, and prosperity to your
"Welcome, De Guiche, come on my right side, but keep your horse in hand,
for I wish to return at a walking pace under the cool shade of these
"As you please, monseigneur," said De Guiche, taking his place on the
prince's right as he had been invited to do.
"Now, my dear De Guiche," said the prince, "give me a little news of that
De Guiche whom I used to know formerly, and who used to pay attentions to
Guiche blushed to the very whites of his eyes, while Monsieur burst out
laughing, as though he had made the wittiest remark in the world. The
few privileged courtiers who surrounded Monsieur thought it their duty to
follow his example, although they had not heard the remark, and a noisy
burst of laughter immediately followed, beginning with the first
courtier, passing on through the whole company, and only terminating with
the last. De Guiche, although blushing scarlet, put a good countenance
on the matter; Manicamp looked at him.
"Ah! monseigneur," replied De Guiche, "show a little charity towards such
a miserable fellow as I am: do not hold me up to the ridicule of the
Chevalier de Lorraine."
"How do you mean?"
"If he hears you ridicule me, he will go beyond your highness, and will
show no pity."
"About your passion and the princess, do you mean?"
"For mercy's sake, monseigneur."
"Come, come, De Guiche, confess that you _did_ get a little sweet upon
"I will never confess such a thing, monseigneur."
"Out of respect for me, I suppose; but I release you from your respect,
De Guiche. Confess, as if it were simply a question about Mademoiselle
de Chalais or Mademoiselle de la Valliere."
Then breaking off, he said, beginning to laugh again, "Comte, that wasn't
at all bad! - a remark like a sword, which cuts two ways at once. I hit
you and my brother at the same time, Chalais and La Valliere, your
affianced bride and his future lady love."
"Really, monseigneur" said the comte, "you are in a most brilliant humor
"The fact is, I feel well, and then I am pleased to see you again. But
you were angry with me, were you not?"
"I, monseigneur? Why should I have been so?"
"Because I interfered with your sarabands and your other Spanish
amusements. Nay, do not deny it. On that day you left the princess's
apartments with your eyes full of fury; that brought you ill-luck, for
you danced in the ballet yesterday in a most wretched manner. Now don't
get sulky, De Guiche, for it does you no good, but makes you look like a
tame bear. If the princess did not look at you attentively yesterday, I
am quite sure of one thing."
"What is that, monseigneur? Your highness alarms me."
"She has quite forsworn you now," said the prince, with a burst of loud
"Decidedly," thought Manicamp, "rank has nothing to do with it, and all
men are alike."
The prince continued: "At all events, you have now returned, and it is to
be hoped that the chevalier will become amiable again."
"How so, monseigneur: and by what miracle can I exercise such an
influence over M. de Lorraine?"
"The matter is very simple, he is jealous of you."
"Bah! it is not possible."
"It is the case, though."
"He does me too much honor."
"The fact is, that when you are here, he is full of kindness and
attention, but when you are gone he makes me suffer a perfect martyrdom.
I am like a see-saw. Besides, you do not know the idea that has struck
"I do not even suspect it."
"Well, then; when you were in exile - for you really were exiled, my poor
De Guiche - "
"I should think so, indeed; but whose fault was it?" said De Guiche,
pretending to speak in an angry tone.
"Not mine, certainly, my dear comte," replied his royal highness, "upon
my honor, I did not ask for the king to exile you - "
"No, not you, monseigneur, I am well aware; but - "
"But Madame; well, as far as that goes, I do not say it was not the
case. Why, what the deuce did you do or say to Madame?"
"Really, monseigneur - "
"Women, I know, have their grudges, and my wife is not free from caprices
of that nature. But if she were the cause of your being exiled I bear
you no ill-will."
"In that case, monseigneur," said De Guiche. "I am not altogether
Manicamp, who was following closely behind De Guiche and who did not lose
a word of what the prince was saying, bent down to his very shoulders
over his horse's neck, in order to conceal the laughter he could not
"Besides, your exile started a project in my head."
"When the chevalier - finding you were no longer here, and sure of
reigning undisturbed - began to bully me, I, observing that my wife, in
the most perfect contrast to him, was most kind and amiable towards me
who had neglected her so much, the idea occurred to me of becoming a
model husband - a rarity, a curiosity, at the court; and I had an idea of
getting very fond of my wife."
De Guiche looked at the prince with a stupefied expression of
countenance, which was not assumed.
"Oh! monseigneur," De Guiche stammered out; "surely, that never seriously
occurred to you."
"Indeed it did. I have some property that my brother gave me on my
marriage; she has some money of her own, and not a little either, for she
gets money from her brother and brother-in-law of England and France at
the same time. Well! we should have left the court. I should have
retired to my chateau at Villers-Cotterets, situated in the middle of a
forest, in which we should have led a most sentimental life in the very
same spot where my grandfather, Henry IV., sojourned with La Belle
Gabrielle. What do you think of that idea, De Guiche?"
"Why, it is enough to make one shiver, monseigneur," replied De Guiche,
who shuddered in reality.
"Ah! I see you would never be able to endure being exiled a second time."
"I will not carry you off with us, as I had first intended."
"What, with you, monseigneur?"
"Yes; if the idea should occur to me again of taking a dislike to the
"Oh! do not let that make any difference, monseigneur; I would follow
your highness to the end of the world."
"Clumsy fellow that you are!" said Manicamp, grumblingly, pushing his
horse towards De Guiche, so as almost to unseat him, and then, as he
passed close to him, as if he had lost command over the horse, he
whispered, "For goodness' sake, think what you are saying."
"Well, it is agreed, then," said the prince; "since you are so devoted to
me, I shall take you with me."
"Anywhere, monseigneur," replied De Guiche in a joyous tone, "whenever
you like, and at once, too. Are you ready?"
And De Guiche, laughingly, gave his horse the rein, and galloped forward
a few yards.
"One moment," said the prince. "Let us go to the chateau first."
"Why, to take my wife, of course."
"What for?" asked De Guiche.
"Why, since I tell you that it is a project of conjugal affection, it is
necessary I should take my wife with me."
"In that case, monseigneur," replied the comte, "I am greatly concerned,
but no De Guiche for you."
"Yes. - Why do you take Madame with you?"
"Because I begin to fancy I love her," said the prince.
De Guiche turned slightly pale, but endeavored to preserve his seeming
"If you love Madame, monseigneur," he said, "that ought to be quite
enough for you, and you have no further need of your friends."
"Not bad, not bad," murmured Manicamp.
"There, your fear of Madame has begun again," replied the prince.
"Why, monseigneur, I have experienced that to my cost; a woman who was
the cause of my being exiled!"
"What a revengeful disposition you have, De Guiche, how virulently you
"I should like the case to be your own, monseigneur."
"Decidedly, then, that was the reason why you danced so badly yesterday;
you wished to revenge yourself, I suppose, by trying to make Madame make
a mistake in her dancing; ah! that is very paltry, De Guiche, and I will
tell Madame of it."
"You may tell her whatever you please, monseigneur, for her highness
cannot hate me more than she does."
"Nonsense, you are exaggerating; and this because merely of the
fortnight's sojourn in the country she imposed on you."
"Monseigneur, a fortnight is a fortnight; and when the time is passed in
getting sick and tired of everything, a fortnight is an eternity."
"So that you will not forgive her?"
"Come, come, De Guiche, be a better disposed fellow than that. I wish to
make your peace with her; you will find, in conversing with her, that she
has no malice or unkindness in her nature, and that she is very talented."
"Monseigneur - "
"You will see that she can receive her friends like a princess, and laugh
like a citizen's wife; you will see that, when she pleases, she can make
the pleasant hours pass like minutes. Come, De Guiche, you must really
make up your differences with my wife."
"Upon my word," said Manicamp to himself, "the prince is a husband whose
wife's name will bring him ill-luck, and King Candaules, of old, was a
tiger beside his royal highness."
"At all events," added the prince, "I am sure you will make it up with my
wife: I guarantee you will do so. Only, I must show you the way now.
There is nothing commonplace about her: it is not every one who takes her
"Monseigneur - "
"No resistance, De Guiche, or I shall get out of temper," replied the
"Well, since he will have it so," murmured Manicamp, in Guiche's ear, "do
as he wants you to do."
"Well, monseigneur," said the comte, "I obey."
"And to begin," resumed the prince, "there will be cards, this evening,
in Madame's apartment; you will dine with me, and I will take you there
"Oh! as for that, monseigneur," objected De Guiche, "you will allow me to
"What, again! this is positive rebellion."
"Madame received me too indifferently, yesterday, before the whole court."
"Really!" said the prince, laughing.
"Nay, so much so, indeed, that she did not even answer me when I
addressed her; it may be a good thing to have no self-respect at all, but
to have too little is not enough, as the saying is."
"Comte! after dinner, you will go to your own apartments and dress
yourself, and then you will come to fetch me. I shall wait for you."
"Since your highness absolutely commands it."
"He will not lose his hold," said Manicamp; "these are the things to
which husbands cling most obstinately. Ah! what a pity M. Moliere could
not have heard this man; he would have turned him into verse if he had."
The prince and his court, chatting in this manner, returned to the
coolest apartments of the chateau.
"By the by," said De Guiche, as they were standing by the door, "I had a
commission for your royal highness."
"Execute it, then."
"M. de Bragelonne has, by the king's order, set off for London, and he
charged me with his respects for you; monseigneur."
"A pleasant journey to the vicomte, whom I like very much. Go and dress
yourself, De Guiche, and come back for me. If you don't come back - "
"What will happen, monseigneur?"
"I will have you sent to the Bastile."
"Well," said De Guiche, laughing, "his royal highness, monseigneur, is
decidedly the counterpart of her royal highness, Madame. Madame gets me
sent into exile, because she does not care for me sufficiently; and
monseigneur gets me imprisoned, because he cares for me too much. I
thank monseigneur, and I thank Madame."
"Come, come," said the prince, "you are a delightful companion, and you
know I cannot do without you. Return as soon as you can."
"Very well; but I am in the humor to prove myself difficult to be
pleased, in _my_ turn, monseigneur."
"So, I will not return to your royal highness, except upon one condition."
"I want to oblige the friend of one of my friends."
"What's his name?"
"An ugly name."
"But very well borne, monseigneur."
"That may be. Well?"
"Well, I owe M. Malicorne a place in your household, monseigneur."
"What kind of a place?"
"Any kind of a place; a supervision of some sort or another, for
"That happens very fortunately, for yesterday I dismissed my chief usher
of the apartments."
"That will do admirably. What are his duties?"
"Nothing, except to look about and make his report."
"A sort of interior police?"
"Ah, how excellently that will suit Malicorne," Manicamp ventured to say.
"You know the person we are speaking of, M. Manicamp?" inquired the
"Intimately, monseigneur. He is a friend of mine."
"And your opinion is?"
"That your highness could never get a better usher of the apartments than
he will make."
"How much does the appointment bring in?" inquired the comte of the
"I don't know at all, only I have always been told that he could make as
much as he pleased when he was thoroughly in earnest."
"What do you call being thoroughly in earnest, prince?"
"It means, of course, when the functionary in question is a man who has
his wits about him."
"In that case I think your highness will be content, for Malicorne is as
sharp as the devil himself."
"Good! the appointment will be an expensive one for me, in that case,"
replied the prince, laughing. "You are making me a positive present,
"I believe so, monseigneur."
"Well, go and announce to your M. Melicorne - "
"I shall never get hold of that name."
"You say Manicamp very well, monseigneur."
"Oh, I ought to say Malicorne very well, too. The alliteration will help
"Say what you like, monseigneur, I can promise you your inspector of
apartments will not be annoyed; he has the very happiest disposition that
can be met with."
"Well, then, my dear De Guiche, inform him of his nomination. But, stay
"What is it, monseigneur?"
"I wish to see him beforehand; if he be as ugly as his name, I retract
every word I have said."
"Your highness knows him, for you have already seen him at the Palais
Royal; nay, indeed, it was I who presented him to you."
"Ah, I remember now - not a bad-looking fellow."
"I know you must have noticed him, monseigneur."
"Yes, yes, yes. You see, De Guiche, I do not wish that either my wife or
myself should have ugly faces before our eyes. My wife will have all her
maids of honor pretty; I, all the gentlemen about me good-looking. In
this way, De Guiche, you see, that any children we may have will run a
good chance of being pretty, if my wife and myself have handsome models
"Most magnificently argued, monseigneur," said Manicamp, showing his
approval by look and voice at the same time.
As for De Guiche, he very probably did not find the argument so
convincing, for he merely signified his opinion by a gesture, which,
moreover, exhibited in a marked manner some indecision of mind on the
subject. Manicamp went off to inform Malicorne of the good news he had
just learned. De Guiche seemed very unwilling to take his departure for
the purpose of dressing himself. Monsieur, singing, laughing, and
admiring himself, passed away the time until the dinner-hour, in a frame
of mind that justified the proverb of "Happy as a prince."
Story of a Dryad and a Naiad.
Every one had partaken of the banquet at the chateau, and afterwards
assumed their full court dresses. The usual hour for the repast was five
o'clock. If we say, then, that the repast occupied an hour, and the
toilette two hours, everybody was ready about eight o'clock in the
evening. Towards eight o'clock, then, the guests began to arrive at
Madame's, for we have already intimated that it was Madame who "received"
that evening. And at Madame's _soirees_ no one failed to be present; for
the evenings passed in her apartments always had that perfect charm about
them which the queen, that pious and excellent princess, had not been
able to confer upon her _reunions_. For, unfortunately, one of the
advantages of goodness of disposition is that it is far less amusing than
wit of an ill-natured character. And yet, let us hasten to add, that
such a style of wit could not be assigned to Madame, for her disposition
of mind, naturally of the very highest order, comprised too much true
generosity, too many noble impulses and high-souled thoughts, to warrant
her being termed ill-natured. But Madame was endowed with a spirit of
resistance - a gift frequently fatal to its possessor, for it breaks
where another disposition would have bent; the result was that blows did
not become deadened upon her as upon what might be termed the cotton-
wadded feelings of Maria Theresa. Her heart rebounded at each attack,
and therefore, whenever she was attacked, even in a manner that almost
stunned her, she returned blow for blow to any one imprudent enough to
tilt against her.
Was this really maliciousness of disposition or simply waywardness of
character? We regard those rich and powerful natures as like the tree of
knowledge, producing good and evil at the same time; a double branch,
always blooming and fruitful, of which those who wish to eat know how to
detect the good fruit, and from which the worthless and frivolous die who
have eaten of it - a circumstance which is by no means to be regarded as
a great misfortune. Madame, therefore, who had a well-disguised plan in
her mind of constituting herself the second, if not even the principal,
queen of the court, rendered her receptions delightful to all, from the
conversation, the opportunities of meeting, and the perfect liberty she
allowed every one of making any remark he pleased, on the condition,
however, that the remark was amusing or sensible. And it will hardly be
believed, that, by that means, there was less talking among the society
Madame assembled together than elsewhere. Madame hated people who talked
much, and took a remarkably cruel revenge upon them, for she allowed them
to talk. She disliked pretension, too, and never overlooked that defect,
even in the king himself. It was more than a weakness of Monsieur, and
the princess had undertaken the amazing task of curing him of it. As
for the rest, poets, wits, beautiful women, all were received by her with
the air of a mistress superior to her slaves. Sufficiently meditative in
her liveliest humors to make even poets meditate; sufficiently pretty to
dazzle by her attractions, even among the prettiest; sufficiently witty
for the most distinguished persons who were present, to be listened to
with pleasure - it will easily be believed that the _reunions_ held in
Madame's apartments must naturally have proved very attractive. All who
were young flocked there, and when the king himself happens to be young,
everybody at court is so too. And so, the older ladies of the court, the
strong-minded women of the regency, or of the last reign, pouted and
sulked at their ease; but others only laughed at the fits of sulkiness in
which these venerable individuals indulged, who had carried the love of
authority so far as even to take command of bodies of soldiers in the
wars of the Fronde, in order, as Madame asserted, not to lose their
influence over men altogether. As eight o'clock struck her royal
highness entered the great drawing-room accompanied by her ladies in
attendance, and found several gentlemen belonging to the court already
there, having been waiting for some minutes. Among those who had arrived
before the hour fixed for the reception she looked round for one who, she
thought, ought to have been first in attendance, but he was not there.
However, almost at the very moment she completed her investigation,
Monsieur was announced. Monsieur looked splendid. All the precious
stones and jewels of Cardinal Mazarin, which of course that minister
could not do otherwise than leave; all the queen-mother's jewels as well
as a few belonging to his wife - Monsieur wore them all, and he was as
dazzling as the rising sun. Behind him followed De Guiche, with
hesitating steps and an air of contrition admirably assumed; De Guiche
wore a costume of French-gray velvet, embroidered with silver, and
trimmed with blue ribbons: he wore also Mechlin lace as rare and
beautiful in its own way as the jewels of Monsieur in theirs. The plume
in his hat was red. Madame, too, wore several colors, and preferred red
for embroidery, gray for dress, and blue for flowers. M. de Guiche,
dressed as we have described, looked so handsome that he excited every
one's observation. An interesting pallor of complexion, a languid
expression of the eyes, his white hands seen through the masses of lace
that covered them, the melancholy expression of his mouth - it was only
necessary, indeed, to see M. de Guiche to admit that few men at the court
of France could hope to equal him. The consequence was that Monsieur,
who was pretentious enough to fancy he could eclipse a star even, if a
star had adorned itself in a similar manner to himself, was, on the
contrary, completely eclipsed in all imaginations, which are silent
judges certainly, but very positive and firm in their convictions.
Madame looked at De Guiche lightly, but light as her look had been, it
brought a delightful color to his face. In fact, Madame found De Guiche
so handsome and so admirably dressed, that she almost ceased regretting
the royal conquest she felt she was on the point of escaping her. Her
heart, therefore, sent the blood to her face. Monsieur approached her.
He had not noticed the princess's blush, or if he had seen it, he was far
from attributing it to its true cause.
"Madame," he said, kissing his wife's hand, "there is some one present
here, who has fallen into disgrace, an unhappy exile whom I venture to
recommend to your kindness. Do not forget, I beg, that he is one of my
best friends, and that a gentle reception of him will please me greatly."
"What exile? what disgraced person are you speaking of?" inquired Madame,
looking all round, and not permitting her glance to rest more on the
count than on the others.
This was the moment to present De Guiche, and the prince drew aside and
let De Guiche pass him, who, with a tolerably well-assumed awkwardness of
manner, approached Madame and made his reverence to her.
"What!" exclaimed Madame, as if she were greatly surprised, "is M. de
Guiche the disgraced individual you speak of, the exile in question?"
"Yes, certainly," returned the duke.
"Indeed," said Madame, "he seems almost the only person here!"
"You are unjust, Madame," said the prince.
"Certainly. Come, forgive the poor fellow."
"Forgive him what? What have I to forgive M. de Guiche?"
"Come, explain yourself, De Guiche. What do you wish to be forgiven?"
inquired the prince.
"Alas! her royal highness knows very well what it is," replied the
latter, in a hypocritical tone.
"Come, come, give him your hand, Madame," said Philip.
"If it will give you any pleasure, Monsieur," and, with a movement of her
eyes and shoulders, which it would be impossible to describe, Madame
extended towards the young man her beautiful and perfumed hand, upon
which he pressed his lips. It was evident that he did so for some little
time, and that Madame did not withdraw her hand too quickly, for the duke
"De Guiche is not wickedly disposed, Madame; so do not be afraid, he will
not bite you."
A pretext was given in the gallery by the duke's remark, which was not,
perhaps, very laughable, for every one to laugh excessively. The
situation was odd enough, and some kindly disposed persons had observed
it. Monsieur was still enjoying the effect of his remark, when the king
was announced. The appearance of the room at that moment was as follows:
- in the center, before the fireplace, which was filled with flowers,
Madame was standing up, with her maids of honor formed in two wings, on
either side of her; around whom the butterflies of the court were
fluttering. Several other groups were formed in the recesses of the
windows, like soldiers stationed in their different towers who belong to
the same garrison. From their respective places they could pick up the
remarks which fell from the principal group. From one of these groups,
the nearest to the fireplace, Malicorne, who had been at once raised to
the dignity, through Manicamp and De Guiche, of the post of master of the
apartments, and whose official costume had been ready for the last two
months, was brilliant with gold lace, and shone upon Montalais, standing
on Madame's extreme left, with all the fire of his eyes and splendor of
his velvet. Madame was conversing with Mademoiselle de Chatillon and
Mademoiselle de Crequy, who were next to her, and addressed a few words
to Monsieur, who drew aside as soon as the king was announced.
Mademoiselle de la Valliere, like Montalais, was on Madame's left hand,
and the last but one on the line, Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente being
on her right. She was stationed as certain bodies of troops are, whose
weakness is suspected, and who are placed between two experienced
regiments. Guarded in this manner by the companions who had shared her
adventure, La Valliere, whether from regret at Raoul's departure, or
still suffering from the emotion caused by recent events, which had begun
to render her name familiar on the lips of the courtiers, La Valliere, we
repeat, hid her eyes, red with weeping, behind her fan, and seemed to
give the greatest attention to the remarks which Montalais and Athenais,
alternately, whispered to her from time to time. As soon as the king's
name was announced a general movement took place in the apartment.
Madame, in her character as hostess, rose to receive the royal visitor;
but as she rose, notwithstanding her preoccupation of mind, she glanced
hastily towards her right; her glance, which the presumptuous De Guiche
regarded as intended for himself, rested, as it swept over the whole
circle, upon La Valliere, whose warm blush and restless emotion it
The king advanced to the middle of the group, which had now become a
general one, by a movement which took place from the circumference to the
center. Every head bowed low before his majesty, the ladies bending like
frail, magnificent lilies before King Aquilo. There was nothing very
severe, we will even say, nothing very royal that evening about the king,
except youth and good looks. He wore an air of animated joyousness and
good-humor which set all imaginations at work, and, thereupon, all
present promised themselves a delightful evening, for no other reason
than from having remarked the desire his majesty had to amuse himself in
Madame's apartments. If there was any one in particular whose high
spirits and good-humor equalled the king's, it was M. de Saint-Aignan,
who was dressed in a rose-colored costume, with face and ribbons of the
same color, and, in addition, particularly rose-colored in his ideas, for
that evening M. de Saint-Aignan was prolific in jests. The circumstance
which had given a new expansion to the numerous ideas germinating in his
fertile brain was, that he had just perceived that Mademoiselle de Tonnay-
Charente was, like himself, dressed in rose-color. We would not wish to
say, however, that the wily courtier had not know beforehand that the
beautiful Athenais was to wear that particular color; for he very well
knew the art of unlocking the lips of a dress-maker or a lady's maid as
to her mistress's intentions. He cast as many killing glances at
Mademoiselle Athenais as he had bows of ribbons on his stockings and
doublet; in other words he discharged a prodigious number. The king
having paid Madame the customary compliments, and Madame having requested
him to be seated, the circle was immediately formed. Louis inquired of
Monsieur the particulars of the day's bathing; and stated, looking at the
ladies present while he spoke, that certain poets were engaged turning
into verse the enchanting diversion of the baths of Vulaines, and that
one of them particularly, M. Loret, seemed to have been intrusted with
the confidence of some water-nymph, as he had in his verses recounted
many circumstances that were actually true - at which remark more than
one lady present felt herself bound to blush. The king at this moment
took the opportunity of looking round him at more leisure; Montalais was
the only one who did not blush sufficiently to prevent her looking at the
king, and she saw him fix his eyes devouringly on Mademoiselle de la
Valliere. This undaunted maid of honor, Mademoiselle de Montalais, be it
understood, forced the king to lower his gaze, and so saved Louise de la
Valliere from a sympathetic warmth of feeling this gaze might possibly
have conveyed. Louis was appropriated by Madame, who overwhelmed him
with inquiries, and no one in the world knew how to ask questions better
than she did. He tried, however, to render the conversation general,
and, with the view of effecting this, he redoubled his attention and
devotion to her. Madame coveted complimentary remarks, and, determined
to procure them at any cost, she addressed herself to the king, saying:
"Sire, your majesty, who is aware of everything which occurs in your
kingdom, ought to know beforehand the verses confided to M. Loret by this
nymph; will your majesty kindly communicate them to us?"
"Madame," replied the king, with perfect grace of manner, "I dare not -
you, personally, might be in no little degree confused at having to
listen to certain details - but Saint-Aignan tells a story well, and has
a perfect recollection of the verses. If he does not remember them, he
will invent. I can certify he is almost a poet himself." Saint-Aignan,
thus brought prominently forward, was compelled to introduce himself as
advantageously as possible. Unfortunately, however, for Madame, he
thought of his own personal affairs only; in other words, instead of
paying Madame the compliments she so much desired and relished, his mind
was fixed upon making as much display as possible of his own good
fortune. Again glancing, therefore, for the hundredth time at the
beautiful Athenais, who carried into practice her previous evening's
theory of not even deigning to look at her adorer, he said: -
"Your majesty will perhaps pardon me for having too indifferently
remembered the verses which the nymph dictated to Loret; but if the king
has not retained any recollection of them, how could I possibly remember?"
Madame did not receive this shortcoming of the courtier very favorably.
"Ah! madame," added Saint-Aignan, "at present it is no longer a question
what the water-nymphs have to say; and one would almost be tempted to
believe that nothing of any interest now occurs in those liquid realms.
It is upon earth, madame, important events happen. Ah! Madame, upon the
earth, how many tales are there full of - "
"Well," said Madame, "and what is taking place upon the earth?"
"That question must be asked of the Dryads," replied the comte; "the
Dryads inhabit the forest, as your royal highness is aware."
"I am aware also, that they are naturally very talkative, Monsieur de
"Such is the case, Madame; but when they say such delightful things, it
would be ungracious to accuse them of being too talkative."
"Do they talk so delightfully, then?" inquired the princess,
indifferently. "Really, Monsieur de Saint-Aignan, you excite my
curiosity; and, if I were the king, I would require you immediately to
tell us what the delightful things are these Dryads have been saying,
since you alone seem to understand their language."
"I am at his majesty's orders, Madame, in that respect," replied the
"What a fortunate fellow this Saint-Aignan is to understand the language
of the Dryads," said Monsieur.
"I understand it perfectly, monseigneur, as I do my own language."
"Tell us all about them, then," said Madame.
The king felt embarrassed, for his confidant was, in all probability,
about to embark in a difficult matter. He felt that it would be so, from
the general attention excited by Saint-Aignan's preamble, and aroused too
by Madame's peculiar manner. The most reserved of those who were present
seemed ready to devour every syllable the comte was about to pronounce.
They coughed, drew closer together, looked curiously at some of the maids
of honor, who, in order to support with greater propriety, or with more
steadiness, the fixity of the inquisitorial looks bent upon them,
adjusted their fans accordingly, and assumed the bearing of a duelist
about to be exposed to his adversary's fire. At this epoch, the fashion
of ingeniously constructed conversations, and hazardously dangerous
recitals, so prevailed, that, where, in modern times, a whole company
assembled in a drawing-room would begin to suspect some scandal, or
disclosure, or tragic event, and would hurry away in dismay, Madame's
guests quietly settled themselves in their places, in order not to lose a
word or gesture of the comedy composed by Monsieur de Saint-Aignan for
their benefit, and the termination of which, whatever the style and the
plot might be, must, as a matter of course, be marked by the most perfect
propriety. The comte as known as a man of extreme refinement, and an
admirable narrator. He courageously began, then, amidst a profound
silence, which would have been formidable to any one but himself: -
"Madame, by the king's permission, I address myself, in the first place,
to your royal highness, since you admit yourself to be the person present
possessing the greatest curiosity. I have the honor, therefore, to
inform your royal highness that the Dryad more particularly inhabits the
hollows of oaks; and, as Dryads are mythological creatures of great
beauty, they inhabit the most beautiful trees, in other words, the
largest to be found."
At this exordium, which recalled, under a transparent veil, the
celebrated story of the royal oak, which had played so important a part
in the last evening, so many hearts began to beat, both from joy and
uneasiness, that, if Saint-Aignan had not had a good and sonorous voice,
their throbbings might have been heard above the sound of his voice.
"There must surely be Dryads at Fontainebleau, then," said Madame, in a
perfectly calm voice; "for I have never, in all my life, seen finer oaks
than in the royal park." And as she spoke, she directed towards De
Guiche a look of which he had no reason to complain, as he had of the one
that preceded it; which, as we have already mentioned, had reserved a
certain amount of indefiniteness most painful for so loving a heart as
"Precisely, Madame, it is of Fontainebleau I was about to speak to your
royal highness," said Saint-Aignan; "for the Dryad whose story is
engaging our attention, lives in the park belonging to the chateau of his
The affair was fairly embarked on; the action was begun, and it was no
longer possible for auditory or narrator to draw back.
"It will be worth listening to," said Madame; "for the story not only
appears to me to have all the interest of a national incident, but still
more, seems to be a circumstance of very recent occurrence."
"I ought to begin at the beginning," said the comte. "In the first
place, then, there lived at Fontainebleau, in a cottage of modest and
unassuming appearance, two shepherds. The one was the shepherd Tyrcis,
the owner of extensive domains transmitted to him from his parents, by
right of inheritance. Tyrcis was young and handsome, and, from his many
qualifications, he might be pronounced to be the first and foremost among
the shepherds in the whole country; one might even boldly say he was the
king of shepherds." A subdued murmur of approbation encouraged the
narrator, who continued: - "His strength equals his courage; no one
displays greater address in hunting wild beasts, nor greater wisdom in
matters where judgment is required. Whenever he mounts and exercises his
horse in the beautiful plains of his inheritance, or whenever he joins
with the shepherds who owe him allegiance, in different games of skill
and strength, one might say that it is the god Mars hurling his lance on
the plains of Thrace, or, even better, that it was Apollo himself, the
god of day, radiant upon earth, bearing his flaming darts in his hand."
Every one understood that this allegorical portrait of the king was not
the worst exordium the narrator could have chosen; and consequently it
did not fail to produce its effect, either upon those who, from duty or
inclination, applauded it to the very echo, or on the king himself, to
whom flattery was very agreeable when delicately conveyed, and whom,
indeed, it did not always displease, even when it was a little too
broad. Saint-Aignan then continued: - "It is not in games of glory only,
ladies, that the shepherd Tyrcis had acquired that reputation by which he
was regarded as the king of the shepherds."
"Of the shepherds of Fontainebleau," said the king, smilingly, to Madame.
"Oh!" exclaimed Madame, "Fontainebleau is selected arbitrarily by the
poet; but I should say, of the shepherds of the whole world." The king
forgot his part of a passive auditor, and bowed.
"It is," paused Saint-Aignan, amidst a flattering murmur of applause, "it
is with ladies fair especially that the qualities of this king of the
shepherds are most prominently displayed. He is a shepherd with a mind
as refined as his heart is pure; he can pay a compliment with a charm of
manner whose fascination it is impossible to resist; and in his
attachments he is so discreet, that beautiful and happy conquests may
regard their lot as more than enviable. Never a syllable of disclosure,
never a moment's forgetfulness. Whoever has seen and heard Tyrcis must
love him; whoever loves and is beloved by him, has indeed found
happiness." Saint-Aignan here paused; he was enjoying the pleasure of
all these compliments; and the portrait he had drawn, however grotesquely
inflated it might be, had found favor in certain ears, in which the
perfections of the shepherd did not seem to have been exaggerated.
Madame begged the orator to continue. "Tyrcis," said the comte, "had a
faithful companion, or rather a devoted servant, whose name was -
"Ah!" said Madame, archly, "now for the portrait of Amyntas; you are such
an excellent painter, Monsieur de Saint-Aignan."
"Madame - "
"Oh! comte, do not, I entreat you, sacrifice poor Amyntas; I should never
"Madame, Amyntas is of too humble a position, particularly beside Tyrcis,
for his person to be honored by a parallel. There are certain friends
who resemble those followers of ancient times, who caused themselves to
be buried alive at their masters' feet. Amyntas's place, too, is at the
feet of Tyrcis; he cares for no other; and if, sometimes, the illustrious
hero - "
"Illustrious shepherd, you mean?" said Madame, pretending to correct M.
"Your royal highness is right; I was mistaken," returned the courtier;
"if, I say, the shepherd Tyrcis deigns occasionally to call Amyntas his
friend, and to open his heart to him, it is an unparalleled favor, which
the latter regards as the most unbounded felicity."
"All that you say," interrupted Madame, "establishes the extreme devotion
of Amyntas to Tyrcis, but does not furnish us with the portrait of
Amyntas. Comte, do not flatter him, if you like; but describe him to
us. I will have Amyntas's portrait." Saint-Aignan obeyed, after having
bowed profoundly to his majesty's sister-in-law.
"Amyntas," he said, "is somewhat older than Tyrcis; he is not an ill-
favored shepherd; it is even said that the muses condescended to smile
upon him at his birth, even as Hebe smiled upon youth. He is not
ambitious of display, but he is ambitious of being loved; and he might
not, perhaps, he found unworthy of it, if he were only sufficiently well-
This latter paragraph, strengthened by a killing glance, was directed
straight to Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente, who received them both
unmoved. But the modesty and tact of the allusion had produced a good
effect; Amyntas reaped the benefit of it in the applause bestowed upon
him: Tyrcis's head even gave the signal for it by a consenting bow, full
of good feeling.
"One evening," continued Saint-Aignan, "Tyrcis and Amyntas were walking
together in the forest, talking of their love disappointments. Do not
forget, ladies, that the story of the Dryad is now beginning, otherwise
it would be easy to tell you what Tyrcis and Amyntas, the two most
discreet shepherds of the whole earth, were talking about. They reached
the thickest part of the forest, for the purpose of being quite alone,
and of confiding their troubles more freely to each other, when suddenly
the sound of voices struck upon their ears."
"Ah, ah!" said those who surrounded the narrator. "Nothing can be more
At this point, Madame, like a vigilant general inspecting his army,
glanced at Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente, who could not help wincing as
they drew themselves up.
"These harmonious voices," resumed Saint-Aignan, "were those of certain
shepherdesses, who had been likewise desirous of enjoying the coolness of
the shade, and who, knowing the isolated and almost unapproachable
situation of the place, had betaken themselves there to interchange their
ideas upon - " A loud burst of laughter occasioned by this remark of
Saint-Aignan, and an imperceptible smile of the king, as he looked at
Tonnay-Charente, followed this sally.
"The Dryad affirms positively," continued Saint-Aignan, "that the
shepherdesses were three in number, and that all three were young and
"What were their names?" said Madame, quickly.
"Their names?" said Saint-Aignan, who hesitated from fear of committing
"Of course; you call your shepherds Tyrcis and Amyntas; give your
shepherdesses names in a similar manner."
"Oh! Madame, I am not an inventor; I relate simply what took place as
the Dryad related it to me."
"What did your Dryad, then, call these shepherdesses? You have a very
treacherous memory, I fear. This Dryad must have fallen out with the
"These shepherdesses, Madame? Pray remember that it is a crime to betray
a woman's name."
"From which a woman absolves you, comte, on the condition that you will
reveal the names of the shepherdesses."
"Their names were Phyllis, Amaryllis, and Galatea."
"Exceedingly well! - they have not lost by the delay," said Madame, "and
now we have three charming names. But now for their portraits."
Saint-Aignan again made a slight movement.
"Nay, comte, let us proceed in due order," returned Madame. "Ought we
not, sire, to have the portraits of the shepherdesses?"
The king, who expected this determined perseverance, and who began to
feel some uneasiness, did not think it safe to provoke so dangerous an
interrogator. He thought, too, that Saint-Aignan, in drawing the
portraits, would find a means of insinuating some flattering allusions
which would be agreeable to the ears of one his majesty was interested in
pleasing. It was with this hope and with this fear that Louis authorized
Saint-Aignan to sketch the portraits of the shepherdesses, Phyllis,
Amaryllis, and Galatea.
"Very well, then; be it so," said Saint-Aignan, like a man who has made
up his mind, and he began.
Conclusion of the Story of a Naiad and of a Dryad.
"Phyllis," said Saint-Aignan, with a glance of defiance at Montalais,
such as a fencing-master would give who invites an antagonist worthy of
him to place himself on guard, "Phyllis is neither fair nor dark, neither
tall nor short, neither too grave nor too gay; though but a shepherdess,
she is as witty as a princess, and as coquettish as the most finished
flirt that ever lived. Nothing can equal her excellent vision. Her
heart yearns for everything her gaze embraces. She is like a bird,
which, always warbling, at one moment skims the ground, at the next rises
fluttering in pursuit of a butterfly, then rests itself upon the topmost
branch of a tree, where it defies the bird-catchers either to come and
seize it or to entrap it in their nets." The portrait bore such a strong
resemblance to Montalais, that all eyes were directed towards her; she,
however, with her head raised, and with a steady, unmoved look, listened
to Saint-Aignan, as if he were speaking of an utter stranger.
"Is that all, Monsieur de Saint-Aignan?" inquired the princess.
"Oh! your royal highness, the portrait is but a mere sketch, and many
more additions could be made, but I fear to weary your patience, or
offend the modesty of the shepherdess, and I shall therefore pass on to
her companion, Amaryllis."
"Very well," said Madame, "pass on to Amaryllis, Monsieur de Saint-
Aignan, we are all attention."
"Amaryllis is the eldest of the three, and yet," Saint-Aignan hastened to
add, "this advanced age does not reach twenty years."
Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente, who had slightly knitted her brows at
the commencement of the description, unbent them with a smile.
"She is tall, with an astonishing abundance of beautiful hair, which she
fastens in the manner of the Grecian statues; her walk is full of
majesty, her attitude haughty; she has the air, therefore, rather of a
goddess than a mere mortal, and among the goddesses, she most resembles
Diana the huntress; with this sole difference, however, that the cruel
shepherdess, having stolen the quiver of young love, while poor Cupid was
sleeping in a thicket of roses, instead of directing her arrows against
the inhabitants of the forest, discharges them pitilessly against all
poor shepherds who pass within reach of her bow and of her eyes."
"Oh! what a wicked shepherdess!" said Madame. "She may some day wound
herself with one of those arrows she discharges, as you say, so
mercilessly on all sides."
"It is the hope of shepherds, one and all!" said Saint-Aignan.
"And that of the shepherd Amyntas in particular, I suppose?" said Madame.
"The shepherd Amyntas is so timid," said Saint-Aignan, with the most
modest air he could assume, "that if he cherishes such a hope as that, no
one has ever known anything about it, for he conceals it in the very
depths of his heart." A flattering murmur of applause greeted this
profession of faith on behalf of the shepherd.
"And Galatea?" inquired Madame. "I am impatient to see a hand so
skillful as yours continue the portrait where Virgil left it, and finish
it before our eyes."
"Madame," said Saint-Aignan, "I am indeed a poor dumb post beside the
mighty Virgil. Still, encouraged by your desire, I will do my best."
Saint-Aignan extended his foot and hand, and thus began: - "White as
milk, she casts upon the breeze the perfume of her fair hair tinged with
golden hues, as are the ears of corn. One is tempted to inquire if she
is not the beautiful Europa, who inspired Jupiter with a tender passion
as she played with her companions in the flower-spangled meadows. From
her exquisite eyes, blue as azure heaven on the clearest summer day,
emanates a tender light, which reverie nurtures, and love dispenses.
When she frowns, or bends her looks towards the ground, the sun is veiled
in token of mourning. When she smiles, on the contrary, nature resumes
her jollity, and the birds, for a brief moment silenced, recommence their
songs amid the leafy covert of the trees. Galatea," said Saint-Aignan,
in conclusion, "is worthy of the admiration of the whole world; and if
she should ever bestow her heart upon another, happy will that man be to
whom she consecrates her first affections."
Madame, who had attentively listened to the portrait Saint-Aignan had
drawn, as, indeed, had all the others, contented herself with
accentuating her approbation of the most poetic passage by occasional
inclinations of her head; but it was impossible to say if these marks of
assent were accorded to the ability of the narrator of the resemblance of
the portrait. The consequence, therefore, was, that as Madame did not
openly exhibit any approbation, no one felt authorized to applaud, not
even Monsieur, who secretly thought that Saint-Aignan dwelt too much upon
the portraits of the shepherdesses, and had somewhat slightingly passed
over the portraits of the shepherds. The whole assembly seemed suddenly
chilled. Saint-Aignan, who had exhausted his rhetorical skill and his
palette of artistic tints in sketching the portrait of Galatea, and who,
after the favor with which his other descriptions had been received,
already imagined he could hear the loudest applause allotted to this last
one, was himself more disappointed than the king and the rest of the
company. A moment's silence followed, which was at last broken by Madame.
"Well, sir," she inquired, "What is your majesty's opinion of these
The king, who wished to relieve Saint-Aignan's embarrassment without
compromising himself, replied, "Why, Amaryllis, in my opinion, is
"For my part," said Monsieur, "I prefer Phyllis; she is a capital girl,
or rather a good-sort-of-fellow of a nymph."
A gentle laugh followed, and this time the looks were so direct, that
Montalais felt herself blushing almost scarlet.
"Well," resumed Madame, "what were those shepherdesses saying to each
Saint-Aignan, however, whose vanity had been wounded, did not feel
himself in a position to sustain an attack of new and refreshed troops,
and merely said, "Madame, the shepherdesses were confiding to one another
their little preferences."
"Nay, nay! Monsieur de Saint-Aignan, you are a perfect stream of
pastoral poesy," said Madame, with an amiable smile, which somewhat
comforted the narrator.
"They confessed that love is a mighty peril, but that the absence of love
is the heart's sentence of death."
"What was the conclusion they came to?" inquired Madame.
"They came to the conclusion that love was necessary."
"Very good! Did they lay down any conditions?"
"That of choice, simply," said Saint-Aignan. "I ought even to add, -
remember it is the Dryad who is speaking, - that one of the
shepherdesses, Amaryllis, I believe, was completely opposed to the
necessity of loving, and yet she did not positively deny that she had
allowed the image of a certain shepherd to take refuge in her heart."
"Was it Amyntas or Tyrcis?"
"Amyntas, Madame," said Saint-Aignan, modestly. "But Galatea, the gentle
and soft-eyed Galatea, immediately replied, that neither Amyntas, nor
Alphesiboeus, nor Tityrus, nor indeed any of the handsomest shepherds of
the country, were to be compared to Tyrcis; that Tyrcis was as superior
to all other men, as the oak to all other trees, as the lily in its
majesty to all other flowers. She drew even such a portrait of Tyrcis
that Tyrcis himself, who was listening, must have felt truly flattered at
it, notwithstanding his rank as a shepherd. Thus Tyrcis and Amyntas had
been distinguished by Phyllis and Galatea; and thus had the secrets of
two hearts revealed beneath the shades of evening, and amid the recesses
of the woods. Such, Madame, is what the Dryad related to me; she who
knows all that takes place in the hollows of oaks and grassy dells; she
who knows the loves of the birds, and all they wish to convey by their
songs; she who understands, in fact, the language of the wind among the
branches, the humming of the insect with its gold and emerald wings in
the corolla of the wild-flowers; it was she who related the particulars
to me, and I have repeated them."
"And now you have finished, Monsieur de Saint-Aignan, have you not?" said
Madame, with a smile that made the king tremble.
"Quite finished," replied Saint-Aignan, "and but too happy if I have been
able to amuse your royal highness for a few moments."
"Moments which have been too brief," replied the princess; "for you have
related most admirably all you know; but, my dear Monsieur de Saint-
Aignan, you have been unfortunate enough to obtain your information from
one Dryad only, I believe?"
"Yes, Madame, only from one, I confess."
"The fact was, that you passed by a little Naiad, who pretended to know
nothing at all, and yet knew a great deal more than your Dryad, my dear
"A Naiad!" repeated several voices, who began to suspect that the story
had a continuation.
"Of course close beside the oak you are speaking of, which, if I am not
mistaken, is called the royal oak - is it not so, Monsieur de Saint-
Saint-Aignan and the king exchanged glances.
"Yes, Madame," the former replied.
"Well, close beside the oak there is a pretty little spring, which runs
murmuringly over the pebbles, between banks of forget-me-nots and
"I believe you are correct," said the king, with some uneasiness, and
listening with some anxiety to his sister-in-law's narrative.
"Oh! there is one, I can assure you," said Madame; "and the proof of it
is, that the Naiad who resides in that little stream stopped me as I was
about to come."
"Ah?" said Saint-Aignan.
"Yes, indeed," continued the princess, "and she did so in order to
communicate to me many particulars Monsieur de Saint-Aignan has omitted
in his recital."
"Pray relate them yourself, then," said Monsieur, "you can relate stories
in such a charming manner." The princess bowed at the conjugal
compliment paid her.
"I do not possess the poetical powers of the comte, nor his ability to
bring to light the smallest details."
"You will not be listened to with less interest on that account," said
the king, who already perceived that something hostile was intended in
his sister-in-law's story.
"I speak, too," continued Madame, "in the name of that poor little Naiad,
who is indeed the most charming creature I ever met. Moreover, she
laughed so heartily while she was telling me her story, that, in
pursuance of that medical axiom that laughter is the finest physic in the
world, I ask permission to laugh a little myself when I recollect her
The king and Saint-Aignan, who noticed spreading over many of the faces
present a distant and prophetic ripple of the laughter Madame announced,
finished by looking at each other, as if asking themselves whether there
was not some little conspiracy concealed beneath these words. But Madame
was determined to turn the knife in the wound over and over again; she
therefore resumed with the air of the most perfect candor, in other
words, with the most dangerous of all her airs: "Well, then, I passed
that way," she said, "and as I found beneath my steps many fresh flowers
newly blown, no doubt Phyllis, Amaryllis, Galatea, and all your
shepherdesses had passed the same way before me."
The king bit his lips, for the recital was becoming more and more
threatening. "My little Naiad," continued Madame, "was cooing over her
quaint song in the bed of the rivulet; as I perceived that she accosted
me by touching the hem of my dress, I could not think of receiving her
advances ungraciously, and more particularly so, since, after all, a
divinity, even though she be of a second grade, is always of greater
importance than a mortal, though a princess. I thereupon accosted the
Naiad, and bursting into laughter, this is what she said to me:
"'Fancy, princess...' You understand, sire, it is the Naiad who is
The king bowed assentingly; and Madame continued: - "'Fancy, princess,
the banks of my little stream have just witnessed a most amusing scene.
Two shepherds, full of curiosity, even indiscreetly so, have allowed
themselves to be mystified in a most amusing manner by three nymphs, or
three shepherdesses,' - I beg your pardon, but I do not now remember if
it was nymphs or shepherdesses she said; but it does not much matter, so
we will continue."
The king, at this opening, colored visibly, and Saint-Aignan, completely
losing countenance, began to open his eyes in the greatest possible
"'The two shepherds,' pursued my nymph, still laughing, 'followed in the
wake of the three young ladies,' - no, I mean, of the three nymphs;
forgive me, I ought to say, of the three shepherdesses. It is not always
wise to do that, for it may be awkward for those who are followed. I
appeal to all the ladies present, and not one of them, I am sure, will
The king, who was much disturbed by what he suspected was about to
follow, signified his assent by a gesture.
"'But,' continued the Naiad, 'the shepherdesses had noticed Tyrcis and
Amyntas gliding into the wood, and, by the light of the moon, they had
recognized them through the grove of the trees.' Ah, you laugh!"
interrupted Madame; "wait, wait, you are not yet at the end."
The king turned pale; Saint-Aignan wiped his forehead, now dewed with
perspiration. Among the groups of ladies present could be heard
smothered laughter and stealthy whispers.
"'The shepherdesses, I was saying, noticing how indiscreet the two
shepherds were, proceeded to sit down at the foot of the royal oak; and,
when they perceived that their over-curious listeners were sufficiently
near, so that not a syllable of what they might say could be lost, they
addressed towards them very innocently, in the most artless manner in the
world indeed, a passionate declaration, which from the vanity natural to
all men, and even to the most sentimental of shepherds, seemed to the two
listeners as sweet as honey.'"
The king, at these words, which the assembly was unable to hear without
laughing, could not restrain a flash of anger darting from his eyes. As
for Saint-Aignan, he let his head fall upon his breast, and concealed,
under a silly laugh, the extreme annoyance he felt.
"Oh," said the king, drawing himself up to his full height, "upon my
word, that is a most amusing jest, certainly; but, really and truly, are
you sure you quite understood the language of the Naiads?"
"The comte, sire, pretends to have perfectly understood that of the
Dryads," retorted Madame, icily.
"No doubt," said the king; "but you know the comte has the weakness to
aspire to become a member of the Academy, so that, with this object in
view, he has learnt all sorts of things of which very happily you are
ignorant; and it might possibly happen that the language of the Nymph of
the Waters might be among the number of things you have not studied."
"Of course, sire," replied Madame, "for facts of that nature one does not
altogether rely upon one's self alone; a woman's ear is not infallible,
so says Saint Augustine; and I, therefore, wished to satisfy myself by
other opinions beside my own, and as my Naiad, who, in her character of a
goddess, is polyglot, - is not that the expression, M. de Saint-Aignan?"
"I believe so," said the latter, quite out of countenance.
"Well," continued the princess, "as my Naiad, who, in her character of a
goddess, had, at first spoken to me in English, I feared, as you suggest,
that I might have misunderstood her, and I requested Mesdemoiselles de
Montalais, de Tonnay-Charente, and de la Valliere, to come to me, begging
my Naiad to repeat to me in the French language, the recital she had
already communicated to me in English."
"And did she do so?" inquired the king.
"Oh, she is the most polite divinity it is possible to imagine! Yes,
sire, she did so; so that no doubt whatever remains on the subject. Is
it not so, young ladies?" said the princess, turning towards the left of
her army; "did not the Naiad say precisely what I have related, and have
I, in any one particular, exceeded the truth, Phyllis? I beg your
pardon, I mean Mademoiselle Aure de Montalais?"
"Precisely as you have stated, Madame," articulated Mademoiselle de
Montalais, very distinctly.
"Is it true, Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente?"
"The perfect truth," replied Athenais, in a voice quite as firm, but not
yet so distinct.
"And you, La Valliere?" asked Madame.
The poor girl felt the king's ardent look fixed upon her, - she dared not
deny - she dared not tell a falsehood; she merely bowed her head; and
everybody took it for a token of assent. Her head, however, was not
raised again, chilled as she was by a coldness more bitter than that of
death. This triple testimony overwhelmed the king. As for Saint-Aignan,
he did not even attempt to dissemble his despair, and, hardly knowing
what he said, he stammered out, "An excellent jest! admirably played!"
"A just punishment for curiosity," said the king, in a hoarse voice.
"Oh! who would think, after the chastisement that Tyrcis and Amyntas had
suffered, of endeavoring to surprise what is passing in the heart of
shepherdesses? Assuredly I shall not, for one; and, you, gentlemen?"
"Nor I! nor I!" repeated, in a chorus, the group of courtiers.
Madame was filled with triumph at the king's annoyance; and was full of
delight, thinking that her story had been, or was to be, the termination
of the whole affair. As for Monsieur, who had laughed at the two stories
without comprehending anything about them, he turned towards De Guiche,
and said to him, "Well, comte, you say nothing; can you not find
something to say? Do you pity M. Tyrcis and M. Amyntas, for instance?"
"I pity them with all my soul," replied De Guiche; "for, in very truth,
love is so sweet a fancy, that to lose it, fancy though it may be, is to
lose more than life itself. If, therefore, these two shepherds thought
themselves beloved, - if they were happy in that idea, and if, instead of
that happiness, they meet not only that empty void which resembles death,
but jeers and jests at love itself, which is worse than a thousand
deaths, - in that case, I say that Tyrcis and Amyntas are the two most
unhappy men I know."
"And you are right, too, Monsieur de Guiche," said the king; "for, in
fact, the injury in question is a very hard return for a little harmless
"That is as much to say, then, that the story of my Naiad has displeased
the king?" asked Madame, innocently.
"Nay, Madame, undeceive yourself," said Louis, taking the princess by the
hand; "your Naiad, on the contrary, has pleased me, and the more so,
because she was so truthful, and because her tale, I ought to add, is
confirmed by the testimony of unimpeachable witnesses."
These words fell upon La Valliere, accompanied by a look that on one,
from Socrates to Montaigne, could have exactly defined. The look and the
king's remark succeeded in overpowering the unhappy girl, who, with her
head upon Montalais's shoulder, seemed to have fainted away. The king
rose, without remarking this circumstance, of which no one, moreover,
took any notice, and, contrary to his usual custom, for generally he
remained late in Madame's apartments, he took his leave, and retired to
his own side of the palace. Saint-Aignan followed him, leaving the rooms
in as much despair as he had entered them with delight. Mademoiselle de
Tonnay-Charente, less sensitive than La Valliere, was not much
frightened, and did not faint. However, it may be that the last look of
Saint-Aignan had hardly been so majestic as the king's.
The king returned to his apartments with hurried steps. The reason he
walked as fast as he did was probably to avoid tottering in his gait. He
seemed to leave behind him as he went along a trace of a mysterious
sorrow. That gayety of manner, which every one had remarked in him on
his arrival, and which they had been delighted to perceive, had not
perhaps been understood in its true sense: but his stormy departure, his
disordered countenance, all knew, or at least thought they could tell the
reason of. Madame's levity of manner, her somewhat bitter jests, -
bitter for persons of a sensitive disposition, and particularly for one
of the king's character; the great resemblance which naturally existed
between the king and an ordinary mortal, were among the reasons assigned
for the precipitate and unexpected departure of his majesty. Madame,
keen-sighted enough in other respects, did not, however, at first see
anything extraordinary in it. It was quite sufficient for her to have
inflicted some slight wound upon the vanity or self-esteem of one who, so
soon forgetting the engagements he had contracted, seemed to have
undertaken to disdain, without cause, the noblest and highest prize in
France. It was not an unimportant matter for Madame, in the present
position of affairs, to let the king perceive the difference which
existed between the bestowal of his affections on one in a high station,
and the running after each passing fancy, like a youth fresh from the
provinces. With regard to those higher placed affections, recognizing
their dignity and their illimitable influence, acknowledging in them a
certain etiquette and display - a monarch not only did not act in a
manner derogatory to his high position, but found even repose, security,
mystery, and general respect therein. On the contrary, in the debasement
of a common or humble attachment, he would encounter, even among his
meanest subjects, carping and sarcastic remarks; he would forfeit his
character of infallibility and inviolability. Having descended to the
region of petty human miseries, he would be subjected to paltry
contentions. In one word, to convert the royal divinity into a mere
mortal by striking at his heart, or rather even at his face, like the
meanest of his subjects, was to inflict a terrible blow upon the pride of
that generous nature. Louis was more easily captivated by vanity than
affection. Madame had wisely calculated her vengeance, and it has been
seen, also, in what manner she carried it out. Let it not be supposed,
however, that Madame possessed such terrible passions as the heroines of
the middle ages, or that she regarded things from a pessimistic point of
view; on the contrary, Madame, young, amiable, of cultivated intellect,
coquettish, loving in her nature, but rather from fancy, or imagination,
or ambition, than from her heart - Madame, we say, on the contrary,
inaugurated that epoch of light and fleeting amusements, which
distinguished the hundred and twenty years that intervened between the
middle of the seventeenth century, and the last quarter of the
eighteenth. Madame saw, therefore, or rather fancied she saw, things
under their true aspect; she knew that the king, her august brother-in-
law, had been the first to ridicule the humble La Valliere, and that, in
accordance with his usual custom, it was hardly probable he would ever
love the person who had excited his laughter, even had it been only for a
moment. Moreover, was not her vanity ever present, that evil influence
which plays so important a part in that comedy of dramatic incidents
called the life of a woman? Did not her vanity tell her, aloud, in a
subdued voice, in a whisper, in every variety of tone, that she could
not, in reality, she a princess, young, beautiful, and rich, be compared
to the poor La Valliere, as youthful as herself it is true, but far less
pretty, certainly, and utterly without money, protectors, or position?
And surprise need not be excited with respect to Madame; for it is known
that the greatest characters are those who flatter themselves the most in
the comparisons they draw between themselves and others, between others
and themselves. It may perhaps be asked what was Madame's motive for an
attack so skillfully conceived and executed. Why was there such a
display of forces, if it were not seriously her intention to dislodge the
king from a heart that had never been occupied before, in which he seemed
disposed to take refuge? Was there any necessity, then, for Madame to
attach so great an importance to La Valliere, if she did not fear her?
Yet Madame did not fear La Valliere in that direction in which an
historian, who knows everything, sees into the future, or rather, the
past. Madame was neither a prophetess nor a sibyl; nor could she, any
more than another, read what was written in that terrible and fatal book
of the future, which records in its most secret pages the most serious
events. No, Madame desired simply to punish the king for having availed
himself of secret means altogether feminine in their nature; she wished
to prove to him that if he made use of offensive weapons of that nature,
she, a woman of ready wit and high descent, would assuredly discover in
the arsenal of her imagination defensive weapons proof even against the
thrusts of a monarch. Moreover, she wished him to learn that, in a war
of that description, kings are held of no account, or, at all events,
that kings who fight on their own behalf, like ordinary individuals, may
witness the fall of their crown in the first encounter; and that, in
fact, if he had expected to be adored by all the ladies of the court from
the very first, from a confident reliance on his mere appearance, it was
a pretension which was most preposterous and insulting even, for certain
persons who filled a higher position than others, and that a lesson
taught in season to this royal personage, who assumed too high and
haughty a carriage, would be rendering him a great service. Such,
indeed, were Madame's reflections with respect to the king. The sequel
itself was not thought of. And in this manner, it will be seen that she
had exercised all her influence over the minds of her maids of honor, and
with all its accompanying details, had arranged the comedy which had just
been acted. The king was completely bewildered by it; for the first time
since he had escaped from the trammels of M. de Mazarin, he found himself
treated as a man. Similar severity from any of his subjects would have
been at once resisted by him. Strength comes with battle. But to match
one's self with women, to be attacked by them, to have been imposed upon
by mere girls from the country, who had come from Blois expressly for
that purpose; it was the depth of dishonor for a young sovereign full of
the pride his personal advantages and royal power inspired him with.
There was nothing he could do - neither reproaches, nor exile - nor could
he even show the annoyance he felt. To manifest vexation would have been
to admit that he had been touched, like Hamlet, by a sword from which the
button had been removed - the sword of ridicule. To show animosity
against women - humiliation! especially when the women in question have
laughter on their side, as a means of vengeance. If, instead of leaving
all the responsibility of the affair to these women, one of the courtiers
had had anything to do with the intrigue, how delightedly would Louis
have seized the opportunity of turning the Bastile to personal account.
But there, again, the king's anger paused, checked by reason. To be the
master of armies, of prisons, of an almost divine authority, and to exert
such majesty and might in the service of a petty grudge, would be
unworthy not only of a monarch, but even of a man. It was necessary,
therefore, simply to swallow the affront in silence, and to wear his
usual gentleness and graciousness of expression. It was essential to
treat Madame as a friend. As a friend! - Well, and why not? Either
Madame had been the instigator of the affair, or the affair itself had
found her passive. If she had been the instigator of it, it certainly
was a bold measure on her part, but, at all events, it was but natural in
her. Who was it that had sought her in the earliest moments of her
married life to whisper words of love in her ear? Who was it that had
dared to calculate the possibility of committing a crime against the
marriage vow - a crime, too, still more deplorable on account of the
relationship between them? Who was it that, shielded behind his royal
authority, had said to this young creature: be not afraid, love but the
king of France, who is above all, and a movement of whose sceptered hand
will protect you against all attacks, even from your own remorse? And
she had listened to and obeyed the royal voice, had been influenced by
his ensnaring tones; and when, morally speaking, she had sacrificed her
honor in listening to him, she saw herself repaid for her sacrifice by an
infidelity the more humiliating, since it was occasioned by a woman far
beneath her in the world.
Had Madame, therefore, been the instigator of the revenge, she would have
been right. If, on the contrary, she had remained passive in the whole
affair, what grounds had the king to be angry with her on that account?
Was it for her to restrain, or rather could she restrain, the chattering
of a few country girls? and was it for her, by an excess of zeal that
might have been misinterpreted, to check, at the risk of increasing it,
the impertinence of their conduct? All these various reasonings were
like so many actual stings to the king's pride; but when he had
carefully, in his own mind, gone over all the various causes of
complaint, Louis was surprised, upon due reflection - in other words,
after the wound has been dressed - to find that there were other causes
of suffering, secret, unendurable, and unrevealed. There was one
circumstance he dared not confess, even to himself; namely, that the
acute pain from which he was suffering had its seat in his heart. The
fact is, he had permitted his heart to be gratified by La Valliere's
innocent confusion. He had dreamed of a pure affection - of an affection
for Louis the man, and not the sovereign - of an affection free from all
self-interest; and his heart, simpler and more youthful than he had
imagined it to be, had to meet that other heart that had revealed itself
to him by its aspirations. The commonest thing in the complicated
history of love, is the double inoculation of love to which any two
hearts are subjected; the one loves nearly always before the other, in
the same way that the latter finishes nearly always by loving after the
other. In this way, the electric current is established, in proportion
to the intensity of the passion which is first kindled. The more
Mademoiselle de la Valliere showed her affection, the more the king's
affection had increased. And it was precisely that which had annoyed his
majesty. For it was now fairly demonstrated to him, that no sympathetic
current had been the means of hurrying his heart away in its course,
because there had been no confession of love in the case - because the
confession was, in fact, an insult towards the man and towards the
sovereign; and finally, because - and the word, too, burnt like a hot
iron - because, in fact, it was nothing but a mystification after all.
This girl, therefore, who, in strictness, could not lay claim to beauty,
or birth, or great intelligence - who had been selected by Madame
herself, on account of her unpretending position, had not only aroused
the king's regard, but had, moreover, treated him with disdain - he, the
king, a man who, like an eastern potentate, had but to bestow a glance,
to indicate with his finger, to throw his handkerchief. And, since the
previous evening, his mind had been so absorbed with this girl that he
could think and dream of nothing else. Since the previous evening his
imagination had been occupied by clothing her image with charms to which
she could not lay claim. In very truth, he whom such vast interests
summoned, and whom so many women smiled upon invitingly, had, since the
previous evening, consecrated every moment of his time, every throb of
his heart, to this sole dream. It was, indeed, either too much, or not
sufficient. The indignation of the king, making him forget everything,
and, among others, that Saint-Aignan was present, was poured out in the
most violent imprecations. True it is, that Saint-Aignan had taken
refuge in a corner of the room; and from his corner, regarded the tempest
passing over. His own personal disappointment seemed contemptible, in
comparison with the anger of the king. He compared with his own petty
vanity the prodigious pride of offended majesty; and, being well read in
the hearts of kings in general, and in those of powerful kings in
particular, he began to ask himself if this weight of anger, as yet held
in suspense, would not soon terminate by falling upon his own head, for
the very reason that others were guilty, and he innocent. In point of
fact, the king, all at once, did arrest his hurried pace; and, fixing a
look full of anger upon Saint-Aignan, suddenly cried out: "And you, Saint-
Saint-Aignan made a sign which was intended to signify, "Well, sire?"
"Yes; you have been as silly as myself, I think."
"Sire," stammered out Saint-Aignan.
"You permitted us to be deceived by this shameless trick."
"Sire," said Saint-Aignan, whose agitation was such as to make him
tremble in every limb, "let me entreat your majesty not to exasperate
yourself. Women, you know, are characters full of imperfections, created
for the misfortune of mankind: to expect anything good from them is to