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List Of Contents | Contents of Louise de la Valliere, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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"Be most careful to do nothing of the kind; do not speak of signatures
with M. Fouquet, nor of deeds, nor even ask him to pass his word.
Understand this: otherwise you will lose everything.  All you have to do
is to get M. Fouquet to give you his hand on the matter.  Go, go."


Chapter XLIII:
An Interview with the Queen-Mother.

The queen-mother was in the bedroom at the Palais Royal, with Madame de
Motteville and Senora Molina.  King Louis, who had been impatiently
expected the whole day, had not made his appearance; and the queen, who
was growing impatient, had often sent to inquire about him.  The moral
atmosphere of the court seemed to indicate an approaching storm; the
courtiers and the ladies of the court avoided meeting in the ante-
chambers and the corridors in order not to converse on compromising
subjects.  Monsieur had joined the king early in the morning for a
hunting-party; Madame remained in her own apartment, cool and distant to
every one; and the queen-mother, after she had said her prayers in Latin,
talked of domestic matters with her two friends in pure Castilian.
Madame de Motteville, who understood the language perfectly, answered her
in French.  When the three ladies had exhausted every form of
dissimulation and of politeness, as a circuitous mode of expressing that
the king's conduct was making the queen and the queen-mother pine away
through sheer grief and vexation, and when, in the most guarded and
polished phrases, they had fulminated every variety of imprecation
against Mademoiselle de la Valliere, the queen-mother terminated her
attack by an exclamation indicative of her own reflections and
character.  "_Estos hijos!_" said she to Molina - which means, "These
children!" words full of meaning on a mother's lips - words full of
terrible significance in the mouth of a queen who, like Anne of Austria,
hid many curious secrets in her soul.

"Yes," said Molina, "children, children! for whom every mother becomes a
sacrifice."

"Yes," replied the queen; "a mother sacrifices everything, certainly."
She did not finish her phrase; for she fancied, when she raised her eyes
towards the full-length portrait of the pale Louis XIII., that light once
more flashed from her husband's dull eyes, and his nostrils grew livid
with wrath.  The portrait seemed animated by a living expression - speak
it did not, but it seemed to threaten.  A profound silence succeeded the
queen's last remark.  La Molina began to turn over ribbons and laces on a
large work-table.  Madame de Motteville, surprised at the look of mutual
intelligence which had been exchanged between the confidant and her
mistress, cast down her eyes like a discreet woman, and pretending to be
observant of nothing that was passing, listened with the utmost attention
to every word.  She heard nothing, however, but a very insignificant
"hum" on the part of the Spanish duenna, who was the incarnation of
caution - and a profound sigh on that of the queen.  She looked up
immediately.

"You are suffering?" she said.

"No, Motteville, no; why do you say that?"

"Your majesty almost groaned just now."

"You are right; I did sigh, in truth."

"Monsieur Valot is not far off; I believe he is in Madame's apartment."

"Why is he with Madame?"

"Madame is troubled with nervous attacks."

"A very fine disorder, indeed!  There is little good in M. Valot being
there, when a very different physician would quickly cure Madame."

Madame de Motteville looked up with an air of great surprise, as she
replied, "Another doctor instead of M. Valot? - whom do you mean?"

"Occupation, Motteville, occupation.  If any one is really ill, it is my
poor daughter."

"And your majesty, too."

"Less so this evening, though."

"Do not believe that too confidently, madame," said De Motteville.  And,
as if to justify her caution, a sharp, acute pain seized the queen, who
turned deadly pale, and threw herself back in the chair, with every
symptom of a sudden fainting fit.  Molina ran to a richly gilded tortoise-
shell cabinet, from which she took a large rock-crystal bottle of scented
salts, and held it to the queen's nostrils, who inhaled it wildly for a
few minutes, and murmured:

"It is hastening my death - but Heaven's will be done!"

"Your majesty's death is not so near at hand," added Molina, replacing
the smelling-bottle in the cabinet.

"Does your majesty feel better now?" inquired Madame de Motteville.

"Much better," returned the queen, placing her finger on her lips, to
impose silence on her favorite.

"It is very strange," remarked Madame de Motteville, after a pause.

"What is strange?" said the queen.

"Does your majesty remember the day when this pain attacked you for the
first time?"

"I remember only that it was a grievously sad day for me, Motteville."

"But your majesty did not always regard that day as a sad one."

"Why?"

"Because three and twenty years ago, on that very day, his present
majesty, your own glorious son, was born at the very same hour."

The queen uttered a loud cry, buried her face in her hands, and seemed
utterly prostrated for some minutes; but whether from recollections which
arose in her mind, or from reflection, or even with sheer pain, was
doubtful.  La Molina darted a look at Madame de Motteville, so full of
bitter reproach, that the poor woman, perfectly ignorant of its meaning,
was in her own exculpation on the point of asking an explanation, when,
suddenly, Anne of Austria arose and said, "Yes, the 5th of September; my
sorrow began on the 5th of September.  The greatest joy, one day; the
deepest sorrow the next; - the sorrow," she added, "the bitter expiation
of a too excessive joy."

And, from that moment, Anne of Austria, whose memory and reason seemed to
be suspended for the time, remained impenetrable, with vacant look, mind
almost wandering, and hands hanging heavily down, as if life had almost
departed.

"We must put her to bed," said La Molina.

"Presently, Molina."

"Let us leave the queen alone," added the Spanish attendant.

Madame de Motteville rose; large tears were rolling down the queen's
pallid face; and Molina, having observed this sign of weakness, fixed her
black vigilant eyes upon her.

"Yes, yes," replied the queen.  "Leave us, Motteville; go."

The word "us" produced a disagreeable effect upon the ears of the French
favorite; for it signified that an interchange of secrets, or of
revelations of the past, was about to be made, and that one person was
_de trop_ in the conversation which seemed likely to take place.

"Will Molina, alone, be sufficient for your majesty to-night?" inquired
the French woman.

"Yes," replied the queen.  Madame de Motteville bowed in submission, and
was about to withdraw, when suddenly an old female attendant, dressed as
if she had belonged to the Spanish court of the year 1620, opened the
door, and surprised the queen in her tears.  "The remedy!" she cried,
delightedly, to the queen, as she unceremoniously approached the group.

"What remedy?" said Anne of Austria.

"For your majesty's sufferings," the former replied.

"Who brings it?" asked Madame de Motteville, eagerly; "Monsieur Valot?"

"No; a lady from Flanders."

"From Flanders?  Is she Spanish?" inquired the queen.

"I don't know."

"Who sent her?"

"M. Colbert."

"Her name?"

"She did not mention it."

"Her position in life?"

"She will answer that herself."

"Who is she?"

"She is masked."

"Go, Molina; go and see!" cried the queen.

"It is needless," suddenly replied a voice, at once firm and gentle in
its tone, which proceeded from the other side of the tapestry hangings; a
voice which made the attendants start, and the queen tremble
excessively.  At the same moment, a masked female appeared through the
hangings, and, before the queen could speak a syllable she added, "I am
connected with the order of the Beguines of Bruges, and do, indeed, bring
with me the remedy which is certain to effect a cure of your majesty's
complaint."  No one uttered a sound, and the Beguine did not move a step.

"Speak," said the queen.

"I will, when we are alone," was the answer.

Anne of Austria looked at her attendants, who immediately withdrew.  The
Beguine, thereupon, advanced a few steps towards the queen, and bowed
reverently before her.  The queen gazed with increasing mistrust at this
woman, who, in her turn, fixed a pair of brilliant eyes upon her, through
her mask.

"The queen of France must, indeed, be very ill," said Anne of Austria,
"if it is known at the Beguinage of Bruges that she stands in need of
being cured."

"Your majesty is not irremediably ill."

"But tell me how you happen to know I am suffering?"

"Your majesty has friends in Flanders."

"Since these friends, then, sent you, mention their names."

"Impossible, madame, since your majesty's memory has not been awakened by
your heart."

Anne of Austria looked up, endeavoring to discover through the mysterious
mask, and this ambiguous language, the name of her companion, who
expressed herself with such familiarity and freedom; then, suddenly,
wearied by a curiosity which wounded every feeling of pride in her
nature, she said, "You are ignorant, perhaps, that royal personages are
never spoken to with the face masked."

"Deign to excuse me, madame," replied the Beguine, humbly.

"I cannot excuse you.  I may, possibly, forgive you, if you throw your
mask aside."

"I have made a vow, madame, to attend and aid all afflicted and suffering
persons, without ever permitting them to behold my face.  I might have
been able to administer some relief to your body and to your mind, too;
but since your majesty forbids me, I will take my leave.  Adieu, madame,
adieu!"

These words were uttered with a harmony of tone and respect of manner
that disarmed the queen of all anger and suspicion, but did not remove
her feeling of curiosity.  "You are right, "she said; "it ill-becomes
those who are suffering to reject the means of relief Heaven sends them.
Speak, then; and may you, indeed, be able, as you assert, to administer

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