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List Of Contents | Contents of Louise de la Valliere, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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"What am I to say, then?"

"And so you have nothing very particular to tell me?"

"No!" said Louise, in astonishment.

"Very good; and so all you have to ask me is my advice respecting M.
Raoul?"

"Nothing else."

"It is a very delicate subject," replied Montalais.

"No, it is nothing of the kind.  Ought I to marry him in order to keep
the promise I made, or ought I continue to listen to the king?"

"You have really placed me in a very difficult position," said Montalais,
smiling; "you ask me if you ought to marry Raoul, whose friend I am, and
whom I shall mortally offend in giving my opinion against him; and then,
you ask me if you should cease to listen to the king, whose subject I am,
and whom I should offend if I were to advise you in a particular way.
Ah, Louise, you seem to hold a difficult position at a very cheap rate."

"You have not understood me, Aure," said La Valliere, wounded by the
slightly mocking tone of her companion; "if I were to marry M. de
Bragelonne, I should be far from bestowing on him the happiness he
deserves; but, for the same reason, if I listen to the king he would
become the possessor of one indifferent in very many aspects, I admit,
but one whom his affection confers an appearance of value.  What I ask
you, then, is to tell me some means of disengaging myself honorably
either from the one or from the other; or rather, I ask you, from which
side you think I can free myself most honorably."

"My dear Louise," replied Montalais, after a pause, "I am not one of the
seven wise men of Greece, and I have no perfectly invariable rules of
conduct to govern me; but, on the other hand, I have a little experience,
and I can assure you that no woman ever asks for advice of the nature
which you have just asked me, without being in a terrible state of
embarrassment.  Besides, you have made a solemn promise, which every
principle of honor requires you to fulfil; if, therefore, you are
embarrassed, in consequence of having undertaken such an engagement, it
is not a stranger's advice (every one is a stranger to a heart full of
love), it is not my advice, I repeat, that can extricate you from your
embarrassment.  I shall not give it you, therefore; and for a greater
reason still - because, were I in your place, I should feel much more
embarrassed after the advice than before it.  All I can do is, to repeat
what I have already told you; shall I assist you?"

"Yes, yes."

"Very well; that is all.  Tell me in what way you wish me to help you;
tell me for and against whom, - in this way we shall not make any
blunders."

"But first of all," said La Valliere, pressing her companion's hand, "for
whom or against whom do you decide?"

"For you, if you are really and truly my friend."

"Are you not Madame's confidant?"

"A greater reason for being of service to you; if I were not to know what
is going on in that direction I should not be of any service at all, and
consequently you would not obtain any advantage from my acquaintance.
Friendships live and thrive upon a system of reciprocal benefits."

"The result is, then, that you will remain at the same time Madame's
friend also?"

"Evidently.  Do you complain of that?"

"I hardly know," sighed La Valliere, thoughtfully, for this cynical
frankness appeared to her an offense both to the woman and the friend.

"All well and good, then," said Montalais, "for if you did, you would be
very foolish."

"You wish to serve me, then?"

"Devotedly - if you will serve me in return."

"One would almost say that you do not know my heart," said La Valliere,
looking at Montalais with her eyes wide open.

"Why, the fact is, that since we have belonged to the court, my dear
Louise, we are very much changed."

"In what way?"

"It is very simple.  Were you the second queen of France yonder, at
Blois?"

La Valliere hung down her head, and began to weep.  Montalais looked at
her in an indefinable manner, and murmured "Poor girl!" and then, adding,
"Poor king!" she kissed Louise on the forehead, and returned to her
apartment, where Malicorne was waiting for her.


Chapter XXXVI:
The Portrait.

In that malady which is termed love the paroxysms succeed each other at
intervals, ever accelerating from the moment the disease declares
itself.  By and by, the paroxysms are less frequent, in proportion as the
cure approaches.  This being laid down as a general axiom, and as the
leading article of a particular chapter, we will now proceed with our
recital.  The next day, the day fixed by the king for the first
conversation in Saint-Aignan's room, La Valliere, on opening one of the
folds of the screen, found upon the floor a letter in the king's
handwriting.  The letter had been passed, through a slit in the floor,
from the lower apartment to her own.  No indiscreet hand or curious gaze
could have brought or did bring this single paper.  This, too, was one of
Malicorne's ideas.  Having seen how very serviceable Saint-Aignan would
become to the king on account of his apartment, he did not wish that the
courtier should become still more indispensable as a messenger, and so he
had, on his own private account, reserved this last post for himself.  La
Valliere most eagerly read the letter, which fixed two o'clock that same
afternoon for the rendezvous, and which indicated the way of raising the
trap-door which was constructed out of the flooring.  "Make yourself look
as beautiful as you can," added the postscript of the letter, words which
astonished the young girl, but at the same time reassured her.

The hours passed away very slowly, but the time fixed, however, arrived
at last.  As punctual as the priestess Hero, Louise lifted up the trap-
door at the last stroke of the hour of two, and found the king on the
steps, waiting for her with the greatest respect, in order to give her
his hand to descend.  The delicacy and deference shown in this attention
affected her very powerfully.  At the foot of the staircase the two
lovers found the comte, who, with a smile and a low reverence
distinguished by the best taste, expressed his thanks to La Valliere for
the honor she conferred upon him.  Then turning towards the king, he said:

"Sire, our man is here."  La Valliere looked at the king with some
uneasiness.

"Mademoiselle," said the king, "if I have begged you to do me the honor
of coming down here, it was from an interested motive.  I have procured a
most admirable portrait painter, who is celebrated for the fidelity of
his likenesses, and I wish you to be kind enough to authorize him to
paint yours.  Besides, if you positively wish it, the portrait shall
remain in your own possession."  La Valliere blushed.  "You see," said
the king to her, "we shall not be three as you wished, but four instead.
And, so long as we are not alone, there can be as many present as you
please."  La Valliere gently pressed her royal lover's hand.

"Shall we pass into the next room, sire?" said Saint-Aignan, opening the
door to let his guests precede him.  The king walked behind La Valliere,
and fixed his eyes lingeringly and passionately upon that neck as white
as snow, upon which her long fair ringlets fell in heavy masses.  La
Valliere was dressed in a thick silk robe of pearl gray color, with a
tinge of rose, with jet ornaments, which displayed to greater effect the
dazzling purity of her skin, holding in her slender and transparent hands
a bouquet of heartsease, Bengal roses, and clematis, surrounded with
leaves of the tenderest green, above which uprose, like a tiny goblet
spilling magic influence a Haarlem tulip of gray and violet tints of a
pure and beautiful species, which had cost the gardener five years' toil
of combinations, and the king five thousand francs.  Louis had placed
this bouquet in La Valliere's hand as he saluted her.  In the room, the
door of which Saint-Aignan had just opened, a young man was standing,
dressed in a purple velvet jacket, with beautiful black eyes and long
brown hair.  It was the painter; his canvas was quite ready, and his
palette prepared for use.

He bowed to La Valliere with the grave curiosity of an artist who is
studying his model, saluted the king discreetly, as if he did not
recognize him, and as he would, consequently, have saluted any other
gentleman.  Then, leading Mademoiselle de la Valliere to the seat he had
arranged for her, he begged her to sit down.

The young girl assumed an attitude graceful and unrestrained, her hands
occupied and her limbs reclining on cushions; and in order that her gaze
might not assume a vague or affected expression, the painter begged her
to choose some kind of occupation, so as to engage her attention;
whereupon Louis XIV., smiling, sat down on the cushions at La Valliere's
feet; so that she, in the reclining posture she had assumed, leaning back
in the armchair, holding her flowers in her hand, and he, with his eyes
raised towards her and fixed devouringly on her face - they, both
together, formed so charming a group, that the artist contemplated
painting it with professional delight, while on his side, Saint-Aignan
regarded them with feelings of envy.  The painter sketched rapidly; and
very soon, beneath the earliest touches of the brush, there started into
life, out of the gray background, the gentle, poetry-breathing face, with
its soft calm eyes and delicately tinted cheeks, enframed in the masses
of hair which fell about her neck.  The lovers, however, spoke but
little, and looked at each other a great deal; sometimes their eyes
became so languishing in their gaze, that the painter was obliged to
interrupt his work in order to avoid representing an Erycina instead of
La Valliere.  It was on such occasions that Saint-Aignan came to the
rescue, and recited verses, or repeated one of those little tales such as
Patru related, and Tallemant des Reaux wrote so cleverly.  Or, it might
be that La Valliere was fatigued, and the sitting was, therefore,
suspended for awhile; and, immediately, a tray of precious porcelain
laden with the most beautiful fruits which could be obtained, and rich

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