obstacle or other. Besides, the windows of the young queen's rooms, those of the queen-mother's, and of Madame herself, looked out upon the courtyard of the maids of honor. To be seen, therefore, accompanying the king, would be effectually to quarrel with three great and influential princesses - whose authority was unbounded - for the purpose of supporting the ephemeral credit of a mistress. The unhappy Saint-Aignan, who had not displayed a very great amount of courage in taking La Valliere's part in the park of Fontainebleau, did not feel any braver in the broad day-light, and found a thousand defects in the poor girl which he was most eager to communicate to the king. But his trial soon finished, - the courtyards were crossed; not a curtain was drawn aside, nor a window opened. The king walked hastily, because of his impatience, and the long legs of Saint-Aignan, who preceded him. At the door, however, Saint-Aignan wished to retire, but the king desired him to remain; a delicate consideration, on the king's part, which the courtier could very well have dispensed with. He had to follow Louis into La Valliere's apartment. As soon as the king arrived the young girl dried her tears, but so precipitately that the king perceived it. He questioned her most anxiously and tenderly, and pressed her to tell him the cause of her emotion. "Nothing is the matter, sire," she said. "And yet you were weeping?" "Oh, no, indeed, sire." "Look, Saint-Aignan, and tell me if I am mistaken." Saint-Aignan ought to have answered, but he was too much embarrassed. "At all events your eyes are red, mademoiselle," said the king. "The dust of the road merely, sire." "No, no; you no longer possess the air of supreme contentment which renders you so beautiful and so attractive. You do not look at me. Why avoid my gaze?" he said, as she turned aside her head. "In Heaven's name, what is the matter?" he inquired, beginning to lose command over himself. "Nothing at all, sire; and I am perfectly ready to assure your majesty that my mind is as free form anxiety as you could possibly wish." "Your mind at ease, when I see you are embarrassed at the slightest thing. Has any one annoyed you?" "No, no, sire." "I insist upon knowing if such really be the case," said the prince, his eyes sparkling. "No one, sire, no one has in any way offended me." "In that case, pray resume your gentle air of gayety, or that sweet melancholy look which I so loved in you this morning; for pity's sake, do so." "Yes, sire, yes." The king tapped the floor impatiently with his foot, saying, "Such a change is positively inexplicable." And he looked at Saint-Aignan, who had also remarked La Valliere's peculiar lethargy, as well as the king's impatience. It was futile for the king to entreat, and as useless for him to try to overcome her depression: the poor girl was completely overwhelmed, - the appearance of an angel would hardly have awakened her from her torpor. The king saw in her repeated negative replies a mystery full of unkindness; he began to look round the apartment with a suspicious air. There happened to be in La Valliere's room a miniature of Athos. The king remarked that this portrait bore a strong resemblance to Bragelonne, for it had been taken when the count was quite a young man. He looked at it with a threatening air. La Valliere, in her misery far indeed from thinking of this portrait, could not conjecture the cause of the king's preoccupation. And yet the king's mind was occupied with a terrible remembrance, which had more than once taken possession of his mind, but which he had always driven away. He recalled the intimacy existing between the two young people from their birth, their engagement, and that Athos himself had come to solicit La Valliere's hand for Raoul. He therefore could not but suppose that on her return to Paris, La Valliere had found news from London awaiting her, and that this news had counterbalanced the influence he had been enabled to exert over her. He immediately felt himself stung, as it were, by feelings of the wildest jealousy; and again questioned her, with increased bitterness. La Valliere could not reply, unless she were to acknowledge everything, which would be to accuse the queen, and Madame also; and the consequence would be, that she would have to enter into an open warfare with these two great and powerful princesses. She thought within herself that as she made no attempt to conceal from the king what was passing in her own mind, the king ought to be able to read in her heart, in spite of her silence; and that, had he really loved her, he would have understood and guessed everything. What was sympathy, then, if not that divine flame which possesses the property of enlightening the heart, and of saving lovers the necessity of an expression of their thoughts and feelings? She maintained her silence, therefore, sighing, and concealing her face in her hands. These sighs and tears, which had at first distressed, then terrified Louis XIV., now irritated him. He could not bear opposition, - the opposition which tears and sighs exhibited, any more than opposition of any other kind. His remarks, therefore, became bitter, urgent, and openly aggressive in their nature. This was a fresh cause of distress for the poor girl. From that very circumstance, therefore, which she regarded as an injustice on her lover's part, she drew sufficient courage to bear, not only her other troubles, but this one also. The king next began to accuse her in direct terms. La Valliere did not even attempt to defend herself; she endured all his accusations without according any other reply than that of shaking her head; without any other remark than that which escapes the heart in deep distress - a prayerful appeal to Heaven for help. But this ejaculation, instead of calming the king's displeasure, rather increased it. He, moreover, saw himself seconded by Saint-Aignan, for Saint-Aignan, as we have observed, having seen the storm increasing, and not knowing the extent of the regard of which Louis XIV. was capable, felt, by anticipation, all the collected wrath of the three princesses, and the near approach of poor La Valliere's downfall, and he was not true knight enough to resist the fear that he himself might be dragged down in the impending ruin. Saint- Aignan did not reply to the king's questions except by short, dry remarks, pronounced half-aloud; and by abrupt gestures, whose object was to make things worse, and bring about a misunderstanding, the result of which would be to free him from the annoyance of having to cross the courtyards in open day, in order to follow his illustrious companion to La Valliere's apartments. In the meantime the king's anger momentarily increased; he made two or three steps towards the door as if to leave the room, but returned. The young girl did not, however, raise her head, although the sound of his footsteps might have warned her that her lover was leaving her. He drew himself up, for a moment, before her, with his arms crossed. "For the last time, mademoiselle," he said, "will you speak? Will you assign a reason for this change, this fickleness, for this caprice?" "What can I say?" murmured La Valliere. "Do you not see, sire, that I am completely overwhelmed at this moment; that I have no power of will, or thought, or speech?" "Is it so difficult, then, to speak the truth? You could have told me the whole truth in fewer words than those in which you have expressed yourself." "But the truth about what, sire?" "About everything." La Valliere was just on the point of revealing the truth to the king, her arms made a sudden movement as if they were about to open, but her lips remained silent, and her hands again fell listlessly by her side. The poor girl had not yet endured sufficient unhappiness to risk the necessary revelation. "I know nothing," she stammered out. "Oh!" exclaimed the king, "this is no longer mere coquetry, or caprice, it is treason." And this time nothing could restrain him. The impulse of his heart was not sufficient to induce him to turn back, and he darted out of the room with a gesture full of despair. Saint-Aignan followed him, wishing for nothing better than to quit the place. Louis XIV. did not pause until he reached the staircase, and grasping the balustrade, said: "You see how shamefully I have been duped." "How, sire?" inquired the favorite. "De Guiche fought on the Vicomte de Bragelonne's account, and this Bragelonne… oh! Saint-Aignan, she still loves him. I vow to you, Saint- Aignan, that if, in three days from now, there were to remain but an atom of affection for her in my heart, I should die from very shame." And the king resumed his way to his own apartments. "I told your majesty how it would be," murmured Saint-Aignan, continuing to follow the king, and timidly glancing up at the different windows. Unfortunately their return was not, like their arrival, unobserved. A curtain was suddenly drawn aside; Madame was behind it. She had seen the king leave the apartments of the maids of honor, and as soon as she observed that his majesty had passed, she left her own apartments with hurried steps, and ran up the staircase that led to the room the king had just left. Chapter XXV: Despair. As soon as the king was gone La Valliere raised herself from the ground, and stretched out her arms, as if to follow and detain him, but when, having violently closed the door, the sound of his retreating footsteps could be heard in the distance, she had hardly sufficient strength left to totter towards and fall at the foot of her crucifix. There she remained, broken-hearted, absorbed, and overwhelmed by her grief, forgetful and indifferent to everything but her profound sorrow; - a grief she only vaguely realized - as though by instinct. In the midst of this wild tumult of thoughts, La Valliere heard her door open again; she started, and turned round, thinking it was the king who had returned.
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