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List Of Contents | Contents of Louise de la Valliere, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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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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