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List Of Contents | Contents of Ten Years Later, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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"Do you not know that in speaking as you have done, you change my esteem
for you into the profoundest admiration?"

"Sire, you assume my words to be contrary to the truth; you suppose me to
be better than I really am, and attach a greater merit to me than God
ever intended should be the case.  Spare me, sire; for, did I not know
that your majesty was the most generous man in your kingdom, I should
believe you were jesting."

"You do not, I know, fear such a thing; I am quite sure of that,"
exclaimed Louis.

"I shall be obliged to believe it, if your majesty continues to hold such
language towards me."

"I am most unhappy, then," said the king, in a tone of regret which was
not assumed; "I am the unhappiest prince in the Christian world, since I
am powerless to induce belief in my words, in one whom I love the best in
the wide world, and who almost breaks my heart by refusing to credit my
regard for her."

"Oh, sire!" said La Valliere, gently putting the king aside, who had
approached nearer to her, "I think the storm has passed away now, and the
rain has ceased."  At the very moment, however, as the poor girl, fleeing
as it were from her own heart, which doubtless throbbed but too well in
unison with the king's, uttered these words, the storm undertook to
contradict her.  A dead-white flash of lightning illumined the forest
with a weird glare, and a peal of thunder, like a discharge of artillery,
burst over their heads, as if the height of the oak that sheltered them
had attracted the storm.  The young girl could not repress a cry of
terror.  The king with one hand drew her towards his heart, and stretched
the other above her head, as though to shield her from the lightning.  A
moment's silence ensued, as the group, delightful as everything young and
loving is delightful, remained motionless, while Fouquet and Aramis
contemplated it in attitudes as motionless as La Valliere and the king.
"Oh, sire!" murmured La Valliere, "do you hear?" and her head fell upon
his shoulder.

"Yes," said the king.  "You see, the storm has not passed away."

"_It is a warning, sire_."  The king smiled.  "Sire, it is the voice of
Heaven in anger."

"Be it so," said the king.  "I agree to accept that peal of thunder as a
warning, and even as a menace, if, in five minutes from the present
moment, it is renewed with equal violence; but if not, permit me to think
that the storm is a storm simply, and nothing more."  And the king, at
the same moment, raised his head, as if to interrogate the heavens.  But,
as if the remark had been heard and accepted, during the five minutes
which elapsed after the burst of thunder which had alarmed them, no
renewed peal was heard; and, when the thunder was again heard, it was
passing as plainly as if, during those same five minutes, the storm, put
to flight, had traversed the heavens with the wings of the wind.  "Well,
Louise," said the king, in a low tone of voice, "do you still threaten me
with the anger of Heaven? and, since you wished to regard the storm as a
warning, do you still believe it bodes misfortune?"

The young girl looked up, and saw that while they had been talking, the
rain had penetrated the foliage above them, and was trickling down the
king's face.  "Oh, sire, sire!" she exclaimed, in accents of eager
apprehensions, which greatly agitated the king.  "Is it for me," she
murmured, "that the king remains thus uncovered, and exposed to the
rain?  What am I, then?"

"You are, you perceive," said the king, "the divinity who dissipates the
storm, and brings back fine weather."  In fact, even as the king spoke, a
ray of sunlight streamed through the forest, and caused the rain-drops
which rested upon the leaves, or fell vertically among the openings in
the branches of the trees, to glisten like diamonds.

"Sire," said La Valliere, almost overcome, but making a powerful effort
over herself, "think of the anxieties your majesty will have to submit to
on my account.  At this very moment, they are seeking you in every
direction.  The queen must be full of uneasiness; and Madame - oh,
Madame!" the young girl exclaimed, with an expression almost resembling
terror.

This name had a certain effect upon the king.  He started, and
disengaged himself from La Valliere, whom he had, till that moment, held
pressed against his heart.  He then advanced towards the path, in order
to look round, and returned, somewhat thoughtfully, to La Valliere.
"Madame, did you say?" he remarked.

"Yes, Madame; she, too, is jealous," said La Valliere, with a marked tone
of voice; and her eyes, so timorous in their expression, and so modestly
fugitive in their glance, for a moment, ventured to look inquiringly into
the king's.

"Still," returned Louis, making an effort over himself, "it seems to me
that Madame has no reason, no right to be jealous of me."

"Alas!" murmured La Valliere.

"Are you, too," said the king, almost in a tone of reproach, "are you
among those who think the sister has a right to be jealous of the
brother?"

"It is not for me, sire, to seek to penetrate your majesty's secrets."

"You _do_ believe it, then?" exclaimed the king.

"I believe Madame is jealous, sire," La Valliere replied, firmly.

"Is it possible," said the king with some anxiety, "that you have
perceived it, then, from her conduct towards you?  Have her manners in
any way been such towards you that you can attribute them to the jealousy
you speak of?"

"Not at all, sire; I am of so little importance."

"Oh! if it were really the case - " exclaimed Louis, violently.

"Sire," interrupted the young girl, "it has ceased raining; some one is
coming, I think."  And, forgetful of all etiquette, she had seized the
king by the arm.

"Well," replied the king, "let them come.  Who is there who would venture
to think I had done wrong in remaining alone with Mademoiselle de la
Valliere?"

"For pity's sake, sire! they will think it strange to see you wet
through, in this manner, and that you should have run such risk for me."

"I have simply done my duty as a gentleman," said Louis; "and woe to him
who may fail in his, in criticising his sovereign's conduct."  In fact,
at this moment a few eager and curious faces were seen in the walk, as if
engaged in a search.  Catching glimpses at last of the king and La
Valliere, they seemed to have found what they were seeking.  They were
some of the courtiers who had been sent by the queen and Madame, and
uncovered themselves, in token of having perceived his majesty.  But
Louis, notwithstanding La Valliere's confusion, did not quit his
respectful and tender attitude.  Then, when all the courtiers were
assembled in the walk - when every one had been able to perceive the
extraordinary mark of deference with which he had treated the young girl,
by remaining standing and bare-headed during the storm - he offered her
his arm, led her towards the group who were waiting, recognized by an
inclination of the head the respectful salutations which were paid him on
all sides; and, still holding his hat in his hand, he conducted her to
her carriage.  And, as a few sparse drops of rain continued to fall - a
last adieu of the vanishing storm - the other ladies, whom respect had
prevented from getting into their carriages before the king, remained
altogether unprotected by hood or cloak, exposed to the rain from which
the king was protecting, as well as he was able, the humblest among
them.  The queen and Madame must, like the others, have witnessed this
exaggerated courtesy of the king.  Madame was so disconcerted at it, that
she touched the queen with her elbow, saying at the same time, "Look
there, look there."

The queen closed her eyes as if she had been suddenly seized with a
fainting-spell.  She lifted her hands to her face and entered her
carriage, Madame following her.  The king again mounted his horse, and
without showing a preference for any particular carriage door, he
returned to Fontainebleau, the reins hanging over his horse's neck,
absorbed in thought.  As soon as the crowd had disappeared, and the sound
of the horses and carriages grew fainter in the distance, and when they
were certain, in fact, that no one could see them, Aramis and Fouquet
came out of their grotto, and both of them in silence passed slowly on
towards the walk.  Aramis looked most narrowly not only at the whole
extent of the open space stretching out before and behind him, but even
into the very depth of the wood.

"Monsieur Fouquet," he said, when he had quite satisfied himself that
they were alone, "we must get back, at any cost, that letter you wrote to
La Valliere."

"That will be easy enough," said Fouquet, "if my servant has not given it
to her."

"In any case it must be had, do you understand?"

"Yes.  The king is in love with the girl, you mean?"

"Deeply, and what is worse is, that on her side, the girl is passionately
attached to him."

"As much as to say that we must change our tactics, I suppose?"

"Not a doubt of it; you have no time to lose.  You must see La Valliere,
and, without thinking any more of becoming her lover, which is out of the
question, must declare yourself her most devoted friend and her most
humble servant."

"I will do so," replied Fouquet, "and without the slightest feeling of
disinclination, for she seems a good-hearted girl."

"Or a very clever one," said Aramis; "but in that case, all the greater
reason."  Then he added, after a moment's pause, "If I am not mistaken,
that girl will become the strongest passion of the king's life.  Let us
return to our carriage, and, as fast as possible, to the chateau."


Chapter LXIII:
Toby.

Two hours after the superintendent's carriage had set off by Aramis's
directions, conveying them both towards Fontainebleau with the fleetness
of the clouds the last breath of the tempest was hurrying across the face
of heaven, La Valliere was closeted in her own apartment, with a simple
muslin wrapper round her, having just finished a slight repast, which was
placed upon a marble table.  Suddenly the door was opened, and a servant

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