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List Of Contents | Contents of Louise de la Valliere, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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begin to remove the day after to-morrow, in the evening."


Chapter XXXIV:
The Promenade by Torchlight.

Saint-Aignan, delighted with what he had just heard, and rejoiced at what
the future foreshadowed for him, bent his steps towards De Guiche's two
rooms.  He who, a quarter of an hour previously, would hardly yield up
his own rooms for a million francs, was now ready to expend a million, if
it were necessary, upon the acquisition of the two happy rooms he coveted
so eagerly.  But he did not meet with so many obstacles.  M. de Guiche
did not yet know where he was to lodge, and, besides, was still too far
ill to trouble himself about his lodgings; and so Saint-Aignan obtained
De Guiche's two rooms without difficulty.  As for M. Dangeau, he was so
immeasurably delighted, that he did not even give himself the trouble to
think whether Saint-Aignan had any particular reason for removing.
Within an hour after Saint-Aignan's new resolution, he was in possession
of the two rooms; and ten minutes later Malicorne entered, followed by
the upholsterers.  During this time, the king asked for Saint-Aignan; the
valet ran to his late apartments and found M. Dangeau there; Dangeau sent
him on to De Guiche's, and Saint-Aignan was found there; but a little
delay had of course taken place, and the king had already exhibited once
or twice evident signs of impatience, when Saint-Aignan entered his royal
master's presence, quite out of breath.

"You, too, abandon me, then," said Louis XIV., in a similar tone of
lamentation to that with which Caesar, eighteen hundred years previously,
had pronounced the _Et tu quoque_.

"Sire, I am far from abandoning you, for, on the contrary, I am busily
occupied in changing my lodgings."

"What do you mean?  I thought you had finished moving three days ago."

"Yes, sire.  But I don't find myself comfortable where I am, so I am
going to change to the opposite side of the building."

"Was I not right when I said you were abandoning me?" exclaimed the
king.  "Oh! this exceeds all endurance.  But so it is: there was only one
woman for whom my heart cared at all, and all my family is leagued
together to tear her from me; and my friend, to whom I confided my
distress, and who helped me to bear up under it, has become wearied of my
complaints and is going to leave me without even asking my permission."

Saint-Aignan began to laugh.  The king at once guessed there must be some
mystery in this want of respect.  "What is it?" cried the king, full of
hope.

"This, sire, that the friend whom the king calumniates is going to try if
he cannot restore to his sovereign the happiness he has lost."

"Are you going to let me see La Valliere?" said Louis XIV.

"I cannot say so, positively, but I hope so."

"How - how? - tell me that, Saint-Aignan.  I wish to know what your
project is, and to help you with all my power."

"Sire," replied Saint-Aignan, "I cannot, even myself, tell very well how
I must set about attaining success; but I have every reason to believe
that from to-morrow - "

"To-morrow, do you say!  What happiness!  But why are you changing your
rooms?"

"In order to serve your majesty to better advantage."

"How can your moving serve me?"

"Do you happen to know where the two rooms destined for De Guiche are
situated?"

"Yes."

"Well, your majesty now knows where I am going."

"Very likely; but that does not help me."

"What! is it possible that you do not understand, sire, that above De
Guiche's lodgings are two rooms, one of which is Mademoiselle
Montalais's, and the other - "

"La Valliere's, is it not so, Saint-Aignan?  Oh! yes, yes.  It is a
brilliant idea, Saint-Aignan, a true friend's idea, a poet's idea.  By
bringing me nearer her from whom the world seems to unite to separate me
- you are far more than Pylades was for Orestes, or Patroclus for
Achilles."

"Sire," said Aignan, with a smile, "I question whether, if your majesty
were to know my projects in their full extent, you would continue to
pronounce such a pompous eulogium upon me.  Ah! sire, I know how very
different are the epithets which certain Puritans of the court will not
fail to apply to me when they learn of what I intend to do for your
majesty."

"Saint-Aignan, I am dying with impatience; I am in a perfect fever; I
shall never be able to wait until to-morrow - to-morrow! why, to-morrow
is an eternity!"

"And yet, sire, I shall require you, if you please, to go out presently
and divert your impatience by a good walk."

"With you - agreed; we will talk about your projects, we will talk of
her."

"Nay, sire; I remain here."

"Whom shall I go out with, then?"

"With the queen and all the ladies of the court."

"Nothing shall induce me to do that, Saint-Aignan."

"And yet, sire, you must."

"_Must?_ - no, no - a thousand times no!  I will never again expose
myself to the horrible torture of being close to her, of seeing her, of
touching her dress as I pass by her, and yet not be able to say a word to
her.  No, I renounce a torture which you suppose will bring me happiness,
but which consumes and eats away my very life; to see her in the presence
of strangers, and not to tell her that I love her, when my whole being
reveals my affection and betrays me to every one; no!  I have sworn never
to do it again, and I will keep my oath."

"Yet, sire, pray listen to me for a moment."

"I will listen to nothing, Saint-Aignan."

"In that case, I will continue; it is most urgent, sire - pray understand
me, it is of the greatest importance - that Madame and her maids of honor
should be absent for two hours from the palace."

"I cannot understand your meaning at all, Saint-Aignan."

"It is hard for me to give my sovereign directions what to do; but under
the circumstances I do give you directions, sire; and either a hunting or
a promenade party must be got up."

"But if I were to do what you wish, it would be a caprice, a mere whim.
In displaying such an impatient humor I show my whole court that I have
no control over my own feelings.  Do not people already say that I am
dreaming of the conquest of the world, but that I ought previously to
begin by achieving a conquest over myself?"

"Those who say so, sire, are as insolent as they would like to be thought
facetious; but whomever they may be, if your majesty prefers to listen to
them, I have nothing further to say.  In such a case, that which we have
fixed to take place to-morrow must be postponed indefinitely."

"Nay, Saint-Aignan, I will go out this evening - I will go by torchlight
to Saint-Germain: I will breakfast there to-morrow, and will return to
Paris by three o'clock.  Will that do?"

"Admirably."

"In that case I will set out this evening at eight o'clock."

"Your majesty has fixed upon the exact minute."

"And you positively will tell me nothing more?"

"It is because I have nothing more to tell you.  Industry counts for
something in this world, sire; but still, chance plays so important a
part in it that I have been accustomed to leave her the sidewalk,
confident that she will manage so as to always take the street."

"Well, I abandon myself entirely to you."

"And you are quite right."

Comforted in this manner, the king went immediately to Madame, to whom he
announced the intended expedition.  Madame fancied at the first moment
that she saw in this unexpectedly arranged party a plot of the king's to
converse with La Valliere, either on the road under cover of the
darkness, or in some other way, but she took especial care not to show
any of her fancies to her brother-in-law, and accepted the invitation
with a smile upon her lips.  She gave directions aloud that her maids of
honor should accompany her, secretly intending in the evening to take the
most effectual steps to interfere with his majesty's attachment.  Then,
when she was alone, and at the very moment the poor lover, who had issued
orders for the departure, was reveling in the idea that Mademoiselle de
la Valliere would form one of the party, - luxuriating in the sad
happiness persecuted lovers enjoy of realizing through the sense of sight
alone all the transports of possession, - Madame, who was surrounded by
her maids of honor, was saying: - "Two ladies will be enough for me this
evening, Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente and Mademoiselle de Montalais."

La Valliere had anticipated her own omission, and was prepared for it:
but persecution had rendered her courageous, and she did not give Madame
the pleasure of seeing on her face the impression of the shock her heart
received.  On the contrary, smiling with that ineffable gentleness which
gave an angelic expression to her features - "In that case, Madame, I
shall be at liberty this evening, I suppose?" she said.

"Of course."

"I shall be able to employ it, then, in progressing with that piece of
tapestry which your highness has been good enough to notice, and which I
have already had the honor of offering to you."

And having made a respectful obeisance she withdrew to her own apartment;
Mesdemoiselles de Tonnay-Charente and de Montalais did the same.  The
rumor of the intended promenade soon spread all over the palace; ten
minutes afterwards Malicorne learned Madame's resolution, and slipped
under Montalais's door a note, in the following terms:

"L. V. must positively pass the night the night with Madame."

Montalais, in pursuance of the compact she had entered into, began by
burning the letter, and then sat down to reflect.  Montalais was a girl
full of expedients, and so she very soon arranged her plan.  Towards five
o'clock, which was the hour for her to repair to Madame's apartment, she
was running across the courtyard, and had reached within a dozen paces of
a group of officers, when she uttered a cry, fell gracefully on one knee,
rose again, with difficulty, and walked on limpingly.  The gentlemen ran
forward to her assistance; Montalais had sprained her foot.  Faithful to
the discharge of her duty, she insisted, however, notwithstanding her
accident, upon going to Madame's apartments.


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