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List Of Contents | Contents of Ten Years Later, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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listeners as sweet as honey.'"

The king, at these words, which the assembly was unable to hear without
laughing, could not restrain a flash of anger darting from his eyes.  As
for Saint-Aignan, he let his head fall upon his breast, and concealed,
under a silly laugh, the extreme annoyance he felt.

"Oh," said the king, drawing himself up to his full height, "upon my
word, that is a most amusing jest, certainly; but, really and truly, are
you sure you quite understood the language of the Naiads?"

"The comte, sire, pretends to have perfectly understood that of the
Dryads," retorted Madame, icily.

"No doubt," said the king; "but you know the comte has the weakness to
aspire to become a member of the Academy, so that, with this object in
view, he has learnt all sorts of things of which very happily you are
ignorant; and it might possibly happen that the language of the Nymph of
the Waters might be among the number of things you have not studied."

"Of course, sire," replied Madame, "for facts of that nature one does not
altogether rely upon one's self alone; a woman's ear is not infallible,
so says Saint Augustine; and I, therefore, wished to satisfy myself by
other opinions beside my own, and as my Naiad, who, in her character of a
goddess, is polyglot, - is not that the expression, M. de Saint-Aignan?"

"I believe so," said the latter, quite out of countenance.

"Well," continued the princess, "as my Naiad, who, in her character of a
goddess, had, at first spoken to me in English, I feared, as you suggest,
that I might have misunderstood her, and I requested Mesdemoiselles de
Montalais, de Tonnay-Charente, and de la Valliere, to come to me, begging
my Naiad to repeat to me in the French language, the recital she had
already communicated to me in English."

"And did she do so?" inquired the king.

"Oh, she is the most polite divinity it is possible to imagine!  Yes,
sire, she did so; so that no doubt whatever remains on the subject.  Is
it not so, young ladies?" said the princess, turning towards the left of
her army; "did not the Naiad say precisely what I have related, and have
I, in any one particular, exceeded the truth, Phyllis?  I beg your
pardon, I mean Mademoiselle Aure de Montalais?"

"Precisely as you have stated, Madame," articulated Mademoiselle de
Montalais, very distinctly.

"Is it true, Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente?"

"The perfect truth," replied Athenais, in a voice quite as firm, but not
yet so distinct.

"And you, La Valliere?" asked Madame.

The poor girl felt the king's ardent look fixed upon her, - she dared not
deny - she dared not tell a falsehood; she merely bowed her head; and
everybody took it for a token of assent.  Her head, however, was not
raised again, chilled as she was by a coldness more bitter than that of
death.  This triple testimony overwhelmed the king.  As for Saint-Aignan,
he did not even attempt to dissemble his despair, and, hardly knowing
what he said, he stammered out, "An excellent jest! admirably played!"

"A just punishment for curiosity," said the king, in a hoarse voice.
"Oh! who would think, after the chastisement that Tyrcis and Amyntas had
suffered, of endeavoring to surprise what is passing in the heart of
shepherdesses?  Assuredly I shall not, for one; and, you, gentlemen?"

"Nor I! nor I!" repeated, in a chorus, the group of courtiers.

Madame was filled with triumph at the king's annoyance; and was full of
delight, thinking that her story had been, or was to be, the termination
of the whole affair.  As for Monsieur, who had laughed at the two stories
without comprehending anything about them, he turned towards De Guiche,
and said to him, "Well, comte, you say nothing; can you not find
something to say?  Do you pity M. Tyrcis and M. Amyntas, for instance?"

"I pity them with all my soul," replied De Guiche; "for, in very truth,
love is so sweet a fancy, that to lose it, fancy though it may be, is to
lose more than life itself.  If, therefore, these two shepherds thought
themselves beloved, - if they were happy in that idea, and if, instead of
that happiness, they meet not only that empty void which resembles death,
but jeers and jests at love itself, which is worse than a thousand
deaths, - in that case, I say that Tyrcis and Amyntas are the two most
unhappy men I know."

"And you are right, too, Monsieur de Guiche," said the king; "for, in
fact, the injury in question is a very hard return for a little harmless
curiosity."

"That is as much to say, then, that the story of my Naiad has displeased
the king?" asked Madame, innocently.

"Nay, Madame, undeceive yourself," said Louis, taking the princess by the
hand; "your Naiad, on the contrary, has pleased me, and the more so,
because she was so truthful, and because her tale, I ought to add, is
confirmed by the testimony of unimpeachable witnesses."

These words fell upon La Valliere, accompanied by a look that on one,
from Socrates to Montaigne, could have exactly defined.  The look and the
king's remark succeeded in overpowering the unhappy girl, who, with her
head upon Montalais's shoulder, seemed to have fainted away.  The king
rose, without remarking this circumstance, of which no one, moreover,
took any notice, and, contrary to his usual custom, for generally he
remained late in Madame's apartments, he took his leave, and retired to
his own side of the palace.  Saint-Aignan followed him, leaving the rooms
in as much despair as he had entered them with delight.  Mademoiselle de
Tonnay-Charente, less sensitive than La Valliere, was not much
frightened, and did not faint.  However, it may be that the last look of
Saint-Aignan had hardly been so majestic as the king's.


Chapter LVIII:
Royal Psychology.

The king returned to his apartments with hurried steps.  The reason he
walked as fast as he did was probably to avoid tottering in his gait.  He
seemed to leave behind him as he went along a trace of a mysterious
sorrow.  That gayety of manner, which every one had remarked in him on
his arrival, and which they had been delighted to perceive, had not
perhaps been understood in its true sense: but his stormy departure, his
disordered countenance, all knew, or at least thought they could tell the
reason of.  Madame's levity of manner, her somewhat bitter jests, -
bitter for persons of a sensitive disposition, and particularly for one
of the king's character; the great resemblance which naturally existed
between the king and an ordinary mortal, were among the reasons assigned
for the precipitate and unexpected departure of his majesty.  Madame,
keen-sighted enough in other respects, did not, however, at first see
anything extraordinary in it.  It was quite sufficient for her to have
inflicted some slight wound upon the vanity or self-esteem of one who, so
soon forgetting the engagements he had contracted, seemed to have
undertaken to disdain, without cause, the noblest and highest prize in
France.  It was not an unimportant matter for Madame, in the present
position of affairs, to let the king perceive the difference which
existed between the bestowal of his affections on one in a high station,
and the running after each passing fancy, like a youth fresh from the
provinces.  With regard to those higher placed affections, recognizing
their dignity and their illimitable influence, acknowledging in them a
certain etiquette and display - a monarch not only did not act in a
manner derogatory to his high position, but found even repose, security,
mystery, and general respect therein.  On the contrary, in the debasement
of a common or humble attachment, he would encounter, even among his
meanest subjects, carping and sarcastic remarks; he would forfeit his
character of infallibility and inviolability.  Having descended to the
region of petty human miseries, he would be subjected to paltry
contentions.  In one word, to convert the royal divinity into a mere
mortal by striking at his heart, or rather even at his face, like the
meanest of his subjects, was to inflict a terrible blow upon the pride of
that generous nature.  Louis was more easily captivated by vanity than
affection.  Madame had wisely calculated her vengeance, and it has been
seen, also, in what manner she carried it out.  Let it not be supposed,
however, that Madame possessed such terrible passions as the heroines of
the middle ages, or that she regarded things from a pessimistic point of
view; on the contrary, Madame, young, amiable, of cultivated intellect,
coquettish, loving in her nature, but rather from fancy, or imagination,
or ambition, than from her heart - Madame, we say, on the contrary,
inaugurated that epoch of light and fleeting amusements, which
distinguished the hundred and twenty years that intervened between the
middle of the seventeenth century, and the last quarter of the
eighteenth.  Madame saw, therefore, or rather fancied she saw, things
under their true aspect; she knew that the king, her august brother-in-
law, had been the first to ridicule the humble La Valliere, and that, in
accordance with his usual custom, it was hardly probable he would ever
love the person who had excited his laughter, even had it been only for a
moment.  Moreover, was not her vanity ever present, that evil influence
which plays so important a part in that comedy of dramatic incidents
called the life of a woman?  Did not her vanity tell her, aloud, in a
subdued voice, in a whisper, in every variety of tone, that she could
not, in reality, she a princess, young, beautiful, and rich, be compared
to the poor La Valliere, as youthful as herself it is true, but far less
pretty, certainly, and utterly without money, protectors, or position?
And surprise need not be excited with respect to Madame; for it is known
that the greatest characters are those who flatter themselves the most in
the comparisons they draw between themselves and others, between others
and themselves.  It may perhaps be asked what was Madame's motive for an
attack so skillfully conceived and executed.  Why was there such a
display of forces, if it were not seriously her intention to dislodge the

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