Make your own free website on Tripod.com

List Of Contents | Contents of Louise de la Valliere, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >


"I assure you, Madame," said the comte, respectfully, "that if any one
heard you speak in this manner, if any one were to see how red your eyes
are, and, Heaven forgive me, to see, too, that tear trembling on your
eyelids, it would be said that your royal highness was jealous."

"Jealous!" said the princess, haughtily, "jealous of La Valliere!"

She expected to see De Guiche yield beneath her scornful gesture and her
proud tone; but he simply and boldly replied, "Jealous of La Valliere;
yes, Madame."

"Am I to suppose, monsieur," she stammered out, "that your object is to
insult me?"

"It is not possible, Madame," replied the comte, slightly agitated, but
resolved to master that fiery nature.

"Leave the room!" said the princess, thoroughly exasperated, De Guiche's
coolness and silent respect having made her completely lose her temper.

De Guiche fell back a step, bowed slowly, but with great respect, drew
himself up, looking as white as his lace cuffs, and, in a voice slightly
trembling, said, "It was hardly worth while to have hurried here to be
subjected to this unmerited disgrace."  And he turned away with hasty
steps.

He had scarcely gone half a dozen paces when Madame darted like a tigress
after him, seized him by the cuff, and making him turn round again, said,
trembling with passion as she did so, "The respect you pretend to have is
more insulting than the insult itself.  Insult me, if you please, but at
least speak."

"Madame," said the comte, gently, as he drew his sword, "thrust this
blade into my heart, rather than kill me by degrees."

At the look he fixed upon her, - a look full of love, resolution, and
despair, even, - she knew how readily the comte, so outwardly calm in
appearance, would pass his sword through his own breast if she added
another word.  She tore the blade from his hands, and, pressing his arm
with a  feverish impatience, which might pass for tenderness, said, "Do
not be too hard upon me, comte.  You see how I am suffering, and yet you
have no pity for me."

Tears, the cries of this strange attack, stifled her voice.  As soon as
De Guiche saw her weep, he took her in his arms and carried her to an
armchair; in another moment she would have been suffocated.

"Oh, why," he murmured, as he knelt by her side, "why do you conceal your
troubles from me?  Do you love any one - tell me?  It would kill me, I
know, but not until I should have comforted, consoled, and served you
even."

"And do you love me to that extent?" she replied, completely conquered.

"I do indeed love you to that extent, Madame."

She placed both her hands in his.  "My heart is indeed another's," she
murmured in so low a tone that her voice could hardly be heard; but he
heard it, and said, "Is it the king you love?"

She gently shook her head, and her smile was like a clear bright streak
in the clouds, through which after the tempest has passed one almost
fancies Paradise is opening.  "But," she added, "there are other passions
in a high-born heart.  Love is poetry; but the real life of the heart is
pride.  Comte, I was born on a throne, I am proud and jealous of my
rank.  Why does the king gather such unworthy objects round him?"

"Once more, I repeat," said the comte, "you are acting unjustly towards
that poor girl, who will one day be my friend's wife."

"Are you simple enough to believe that, comte?"

"If I did not believe it," he said, turning very pale, "Bragelonne should
be informed of it to-morrow; indeed he should, if I thought that poor La
Valliere had forgotten the vows she had exchanged with Raoul.  But no, it
would be cowardly to betray a woman's secret; it would be criminal to
disturb a friend's peace of mind."

"You think, then," said the princess, with a wild burst of laughter,
"that ignorance is happiness?"

"I believe it," he replied.

"Prove it to me, then," she said, hurriedly.

"It is easily done, Madame.  It is reported through the whole court that
the king loves you, and that you return his affection."

"Well?" she said, breathing with difficulty.

"Well; admit for a moment that Raoul, my friend, had come and said to me,
'Yes, the king loves Madame, and has made an impression upon her heart,'
I possibly should have slain Raoul."

"It would have been necessary," said the princess, with the obstinacy of
a woman who feels herself not easily overcome, "for M. de Bragelonne to
have had proofs before he ventured to speak to you in that manner."

"Such, however, is the case," replied De Guiche, with a deep sigh, "that,
not having been warned, I have never examined into the matter seriously;
and I now find that my ignorance has saved my life."

"So, then, you drive selfishness and coldness to that extent," said
Madame, "that you would let this unhappy young man continue to love La
Valliere?"

"I would, until La Valliere's guilt were revealed."

"But the bracelets?"

"Well, Madame, since you yourself expected to receive them from the king,
what can I possibly say?"

The argument was a telling one, and the princess was overwhelmed by it,
and from that moment her defeat was assured.  But as her heart and mind
were instinct with noble and generous feelings, she understood De
Guiche's extreme delicacy.  She saw that in his heart he really suspected
that the king was in love with La Valliere, and that he did not wish to
resort to the common expedient of ruining a rival in the mind of a woman,
by giving the latter the assurance and certainty that this rival's
affections were transferred to another woman.  She guessed that his
suspicions of La Valliere were aroused, and that, in order to leave
himself time for his convictions to undergo a change, so as not to ruin
Louise utterly, he was determined to pursue a certain straightforward
line of conduct.  She could read so much real greatness of character, and
such true generosity of disposition in her lover, that her heart really
warmed with affection towards him, whose passion for her was so pure and
delicate.  Despite his fear of incurring her displeasure, De Guiche, by
retaining his position as a man of proud independence of feeling and deep
devotion, became almost a hero in her estimation, and reduced her to the
state of a jealous and little-minded woman.  She loved him for this so
tenderly, that she could not refuse to give him a proof of her affection.

"See how many words we have wasted," she said, taking his hand,
"suspicions, anxieties, mistrust, sufferings - I think we have enumerated
all those words."

"Alas!  Madame, yes."

"Efface them from your heart as I drive them from mine.  Whether La
Valliere does or does not love the king, and whether the king does or
does not love La Valliere - from this moment you and I will draw a
distinction in the two characters I have to perform.  You open your eyes
so wide that I am sure you hardly understand me."

"You are so impetuous, Madame, that I always tremble at the fear of
displeasing you."

"And see how he trembles now, poor fellow," she said, with the most
charming playfulness of manner.  "Yes, monsieur, I have two characters to
perform.  I am the sister of the king, the sister-in-law of the king's
wife.  In this character ought I not to take an interest in these
domestic intrigues?  Come, tell me what you think?"

"As little as possible, Madame."

"Agreed, monsieur; but it is a question of dignity; and then, you know, I
am the wife of the king's brother."  De Guiche sighed.  "A circumstance,"
she added, with an expression of great tenderness, "which will remind you
that I am always to be treated with the profoundest respect."  De Guiche
fell at her feet, which he kissed, with the religious fervor of a
worshipper.  "And I begin to think that, really and truly, I have another
character to perform.  I was almost forgetting it."

"Name it, oh! name it," said De Guiche.

"I am a woman," she said, in a voice lower than ever, "and I love."  He
rose, she opened her arms, and their lips met.  A footstep was heard
behind the tapestry, and Mademoiselle de Montalais appeared.

"What do you want?" said Madame.

"M. de Guiche is wanted," replied Montalais, who was just in time to see
the agitation of the actors of these four characters; for De Guiche had
consistently carried out his part with heroism.


Chapter XI:
Montalais and Malicorne.

Montalais was right.  M. de Guiche, thus summoned in every direction, was
very much exposed, from such a multiplication of business, to the risk of
not attending to any.  It so happened that, considering the awkwardness
of the interruption, Madame, notwithstanding her wounded pride, and
secret anger, could not, for the moment at least, reproach Montalais for
having violated, in so bold a manner, the semi-royal order with which she
had been dismissed on De Guiche's entrance.  De Guiche, also, lost his
presence of mind, or, it would be more correct to say, had already lost
it, before Montalais's arrival, for, scarcely had he heard the young
girl's voice, than, without taking leave of Madame, as the most ordinary
politeness required, even between persons equal in rank and station, he
fled from her presence, his heart tumultuously throbbing, and his brain
on fire, leaving the princess with one hand raised, as though to bid him
adieu.  Montalais was at no loss, therefore, to perceive the agitation of
the two lovers - the one who fled was agitated, and the one who remained
was equally so.

"Well," murmured the young girl, as she glanced inquisitively round her,
"this time, at least, I think I know as much as the most curious woman
could possibly wish to know."  Madame felt so embarrassed by this
inquisitorial look, that, as if she heard Montalais's muttered side
remark, she did not speak a word to her maid of honor, but, casting down
her eyes, retired at once to her bedroom.  Montalais, observing this,
stood listening for a moment, and then heard Madame lock and bolt her
door.  By this she knew that the rest of the evening was at her own
disposal; and making, behind the door which had just been closed, a
gesture which indicated but little real respect for the princess, she

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >



Other sites:

db3nf.com screen-capture.net floresca.net simonova.net flora-source.com flora-source.com sourcecentral.com sourcecentral.com geocities.com