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List Of Contents | Contents of Louise de la Valliere, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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accents of truth and sincerity, and he could not resist this last
appeal.  He saw by her face how bitterly she suffered from a feeling of
degradation, he remarked her trembling limbs, how her whole slight and
delicate frame was violently agitated by some internal struggle, and
clearly perceived that resistance might be fatal.  "I will do as you
wish, then," he said.  "Be satisfied, mademoiselle, I will say nothing to
the king."

"Oh! thanks, thanks," exclaimed La Valliere, "you are the most generous
man breathing."

And in her extreme delight she seized hold of D'Artagnan's hands and
pressed them between her own.  D'Artagnan, who felt himself quite
overcome, said: "This is touching, upon my word; she begins where others
leave off."

And La Valliere, who, in the bitterness of her distress, had sunk upon
the ground, rose and walked towards the convent of the Carmelites, which
could now, in the dawning light, be perceived just before them.
D'Artagnan followed her at a distance.  The entrance-door was half-open;
she glided in like a shadow, and thanking D'Artagnan by a parting
gesture, disappeared from his sight.  When D'Artagnan found himself quite
alone, he reflected very profoundly upon what had just taken place.
"Upon my word," he said, "this looks very much like what is called a
false position.  To keep such a secret as that, is to keep a burning coal
in one's breeches-pocket, and trust that it may not burn the stuff.  And
yet, not to keep it when I have sworn to do so is dishonorable.  It
generally happens that some bright idea or other occurs to me as I am
going along; but I am very much mistaken if I shall not, now, have to go
a long way in order to find the solution of this affair.  Yes, but which
way to go?  Oh! towards Paris, of course; that is the best way, after
all.  Only one must make haste, and in order to make haste four legs are
better than two, and I, unhappily, only have two.  'A horse, a horse,' as
I heard them say at the theatre in London, 'my kingdom for a horse!'  And
now I think of it, it need not cost me so much as that, for at the
Barriere de la Conference there is a guard of musketeers, and instead of
the one horse I need, I shall find ten there."

So, in pursuance of this resolution, which he adopted with his usual
rapidity, D'Artagnan immediately turned his back upon the heights of
Chaillot, reached the guard-house, took the fastest horse he could find
there, and was at the palace in less than ten minutes.  It was striking
five as he reached the Palais Royal.  The king, he was told, had gone to
bed at his usual hour, having been long engaged with M. Colbert, and, in
all probability, was still sound asleep.  "Come," said D'Artagnan, "she
spoke the truth; the king is ignorant of everything; if he only knew one-
half of what has happened, the Palais Royal by this time would be turned
upside down." (5)


Chapter XXVII:
Showing How Louis, on His Part, Had Passed the Time from Ten to Half-Past
Twelve at Night.

When the king left the apartments of the maids of honor, he found Colbert
awaiting him to take directions for the next day's ceremony, as the king
was then to receive the Dutch and Spanish ambassadors.  Louis XIV. had
serious causes of dissatisfaction with the Dutch; the States had already
been guilty of many mean shifts and evasions with France, and without
perceiving or without caring about the chances of a rupture, they again
abandoned the alliance with his Most Christian Majesty, for the purpose
of entering into all kinds of plots with Spain.  Louis XIV. at his
accession, that is to say, at the death of Cardinal Mazarin, had found
this political question roughly sketched out; the solution was difficult
for a young man, but as, at that time, the king represented the whole
nation, anything that the head resolved upon, the body would be found
ready to carry out.  Any sudden impulse of anger, the reaction of young
hot blood upon the brain, would be quite sufficient to change an old form
of policy and create another system altogether.  The part that
diplomatists had to play in those days was that of arranging among
themselves the different _coups-d'etat_ which their sovereign masters
might wish to effect.  Louis was not in that calm frame of mind which was
necessary to enable him to determine on a wise course of policy.  Still
much agitated from the quarrel he had just had with La Valliere, he
walked hastily into his cabinet, dimly desirous of finding an opportunity
of producing an explosion after he had controlled himself for so long a
time.  Colbert, as he saw the king enter, knew the position of affairs at
a glance, understood the king's intentions, and resolved therefore to
maneuver a little.  When Louis requested to be informed what it would be
necessary to say on the morrow, Colbert began by expressing his surprise
that his majesty had not been properly informed by M. Fouquet.  "M.
Fouquet," he said, "is perfectly acquainted with the whole of this Dutch
affair - he received the dispatches himself direct."

The king, who was accustomed to hear M. Colbert speak in not over-
scrupulous terms of M. Fouquet, allowed this remark to pass unanswered,
and merely listened.  Colbert noticed the effect it had produced, and
hastened to back out, saying that M. Fouquet was not on all occasions as
blamable as at the first glance might seem to be the case, inasmuch as at
that moment he was greatly occupied.  The king looked up.  "What do you
allude to?" he said.

"Sire, men are but men, and M. Fouquet has his defects as well as his
great qualities."

"Ah! defects, who is without them, M. Colbert?"

"Your majesty, hardly," said Colbert, boldly; for he knew how to convey a
good deal of flattery in a light amount of blame, like the arrow which
cleaves the air notwithstanding its weight, thanks to the light feathers
which bear it up.

The king smiled.  "What defect has M. Fouquet, then?" he said.

"Still the same, sire; it is said he is in love."

"In love! with whom?"

"I am not quite sure, sire; I have very little to do with matters of
gallantry."

"At all events you know, since you speak of it."

"I have heard a name mentioned."

"Whose?"

"I cannot now remember whose, but I think it is one of Madame's maids of
honor."

The king started.  "You know more than you like to say, M. Colbert," he
murmured.

"I assure you, no, sire."

"At all events, Madame's maids of honor are all known, and in mentioning
their names to you, you will perhaps recollect the one you allude to."

"No, sire."

"At least, try."

"It would be useless, sire.  Whenever the name of any lady who runs the
risk of being compromised is concerned, my memory is like a coffer of
bronze, the key of which I have lost."

A dark cloud seemed to pass over the mind as well as across the face of
the king; then, wishing to appear as if he were perfect master of himself
and his feelings, he said, "And now for the affair concerning Holland."

"In the first place, sire, at what hour will your majesty receive the
ambassadors?"

"Early in the morning."

"Eleven o'clock?"

"That is too late - say nine o'clock."

"That will be too early, sire."

"For friends, that would be a matter of no importance; one does what one
likes with one's friends; but for one's enemies, in that case nothing
could be better than if they _were_ to feel hurt.  I should not be sorry,
I confess, to have to finish altogether with these marsh-birds, who annoy
me with their cries."

"It shall be precisely as your majesty desires.  At nine o'clock,
therefore - I will give the necessary orders.  Is it to be a formal
audience?"

"No.  I wish to have an explanation with them, and not to embitter
matters, as is always the case when many persons are present, but, at the
same time, I wish to clear  up everything with them, in order not to have
to begin over again."

"Your majesty will inform me of the persons whom you wish to be present
at the reception."

"I will draw out a list.  Let us speak of the ambassadors; what do they
want?"

"Allies with Spain, they gain nothing; allies with France, they lose
much."

"How is that?"

"Allied with Spain, they see themselves bounded and protected by the
possessions of their allies; they cannot touch them, however anxious they
may be to do so.  From Antwerp to Rotterdam is but a step, and that by
the way of the Scheldt and the Meuse.  If they wish to make a bite at the
Spanish cake, you, sire, the son-in-law of the king of Spain, could with
your cavalry sweep the earth from your dominions to Brussels in a couple
of days.  Their design is, therefore, only to quarrel so far with you,
and only to make you suspect Spain so far, as will be sufficient to
induce you not to interfere with their own affairs."

"It would be far more simple, I should imagine," replied the king, "to
form a solid alliance with me, by means of which I should gain something,
while they would gain everything."

"Not so; for if, by chance, they were to have you, or France rather, as a
boundary, your majesty is not an agreeable neighbor.  Young, ardent,
warlike, the king of France might inflict some serious mischief on
Holland, especially if he were to get near her."

"I perfectly understand, M. Colbert, and you have explained it very
clearly; but be good enough to tell me the conclusion you have arrived
at."

"Your majesty's own decisions are never deficient in wisdom."

"What will these ambassadors say to me?"

"They will tell your majesty that they are ardently desirous of forming
an alliance with you, which will be a falsehood: they will tell Spain
that the three powers ought to unite so as to check the prosperity of
England, and that will equally be a falsehood; for at present, the
natural ally of your majesty is England, who has ships while we have
none; England, who can counteract Dutch influence in India; England, in
fact, a monarchical country, to which your majesty is attached by ties of
relationship."

"Good; but how would you answer?"

"I should answer, sire, with the greatest possible moderation of tone,

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