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List Of Contents | Contents of Ten Years Later, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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king from a heart that had never been occupied before, in which he seemed
disposed to take refuge?  Was there any necessity, then, for Madame to
attach so great an importance to La Valliere, if she did not fear her?
Yet Madame did not fear La Valliere in that direction in which an
historian, who knows everything, sees into the future, or rather, the
past.  Madame was neither a prophetess nor a sibyl; nor could she, any
more than another, read what was written in that terrible and fatal book
of the future, which records in its most secret pages the most serious
events.  No, Madame desired simply to punish the king for having availed
himself of secret means altogether feminine in their nature; she wished
to prove to him that if he made use of offensive weapons of that nature,
she, a woman of ready wit and high descent, would assuredly discover in
the arsenal of her imagination defensive weapons proof even against the
thrusts of a monarch.  Moreover, she wished him to learn that, in a war
of that description, kings are held of no account, or, at all events,
that kings who fight on their own behalf, like ordinary individuals, may
witness the fall of their crown in the first encounter; and that, in
fact, if he had expected to be adored by all the ladies of the court from
the very first, from a confident reliance on his mere appearance, it was
a pretension which was most preposterous and insulting even, for certain
persons who filled a higher position than others, and that a lesson
taught in season to this royal personage, who assumed too high and
haughty a carriage, would be rendering him a great service.  Such,
indeed, were Madame's reflections with respect to the king.  The sequel
itself was not thought of.  And in this manner, it will be seen that she
had exercised all her influence over the minds of her maids of honor, and
with all its accompanying details, had arranged the comedy which had just
been acted.  The king was completely bewildered by it; for the first time
since he had escaped from the trammels of M. de Mazarin, he found himself
treated as a man.  Similar severity from any of his subjects would have
been at once resisted by him.  Strength comes with battle.  But to match
one's self with women, to be attacked by them, to have been imposed upon
by mere girls from the country, who had come from Blois expressly for
that purpose; it was the depth of dishonor for a young sovereign full of
the pride his personal advantages and royal power inspired him with.
There was nothing he could do - neither reproaches, nor exile - nor could
he even show the annoyance he felt.  To manifest vexation would have been
to admit that he had been touched, like Hamlet, by a sword from which the
button had been removed - the sword of ridicule.  To show animosity
against women - humiliation! especially when the women in question have
laughter on their side, as a means of vengeance.  If, instead of leaving
all the responsibility of the affair to these women, one of the courtiers
had had anything to do with the intrigue, how delightedly would Louis
have seized the opportunity of turning the Bastile to personal account.
But there, again, the king's anger paused, checked by reason.  To be the
master of armies, of prisons, of an almost divine authority, and to exert
such majesty and might in the service of a petty grudge, would be
unworthy not only of a monarch, but even of a man.  It was necessary,
therefore, simply to swallow the affront in silence, and to wear his
usual gentleness and graciousness of expression.  It was essential to
treat Madame as a friend.  As a friend! - Well, and why not?  Either
Madame had been the instigator of the affair, or the affair itself had
found her passive.  If she had been the instigator of it, it certainly
was a bold measure on her part, but, at all events, it was but natural in
her.  Who was it that had sought her in the earliest moments of her
married life to whisper words of love in her ear?  Who was it that had
dared to calculate the possibility of committing a crime against the
marriage vow - a crime, too, still more deplorable on account of the
relationship between them?  Who was it that, shielded behind his royal
authority, had said to this young creature: be not afraid, love but the
king of France, who is above all, and a movement of whose sceptered hand
will protect you against all attacks, even from your own remorse?  And
she had listened to and obeyed the royal voice, had been influenced by
his ensnaring tones; and when, morally speaking, she had sacrificed her
honor in listening to him, she saw herself repaid for her sacrifice by an
infidelity the more humiliating, since it was occasioned by a woman far
beneath her in the world.

Had Madame, therefore, been the instigator of the revenge, she would have
been right.  If, on the contrary, she had remained passive in the whole
affair, what grounds had the king to be angry with her on that account?
Was it for her to restrain, or rather could she restrain, the chattering
of a few country girls? and was it for her, by an excess of zeal that
might have been misinterpreted, to check, at the risk of increasing it,
the impertinence of their conduct?  All these various reasonings were
like so many actual stings to the king's pride; but when he had
carefully, in his own mind, gone over all the various causes of
complaint, Louis was surprised, upon due reflection - in other words,
after the wound has been dressed - to find that there were other causes
of suffering, secret, unendurable, and unrevealed.  There was one
circumstance he dared not confess, even to himself; namely, that the
acute pain from which he was suffering had its seat in his heart.  The
fact is, he had permitted his heart to be gratified by La Valliere's
innocent confusion.  He had dreamed of a pure affection - of an affection
for Louis the man, and not the sovereign - of an affection free from all
self-interest; and his heart, simpler and more youthful than he had
imagined it to be, had to meet that other heart that had revealed itself
to him by its aspirations.  The commonest thing in the complicated
history of love, is the double inoculation of love to which any two
hearts are subjected; the one loves nearly always before the other, in
the same way that the latter finishes nearly always by loving after the
other.  In this way, the electric current is established, in proportion
to the intensity of the passion which is first kindled.  The more
Mademoiselle de la Valliere showed her affection, the more the king's
affection had increased.  And it was precisely that which had annoyed his
majesty.  For it was now fairly demonstrated to him, that no sympathetic
current had been the means of hurrying his heart away in its course,
because there had been no confession of love in the case - because the
confession was, in fact, an insult towards the man and towards the
sovereign; and finally, because - and the word, too, burnt like a hot
iron - because, in fact, it was nothing but a mystification after all.
This girl, therefore, who, in strictness, could not lay claim to beauty,
or birth, or great intelligence - who had been selected by Madame
herself, on account of her unpretending position, had not only aroused
the king's regard, but had, moreover, treated him with disdain - he, the
king, a man who, like an eastern potentate, had but to bestow a glance,
to indicate with his finger, to throw his handkerchief.  And, since the
previous evening, his mind had been so absorbed with this girl that he
could think and dream of nothing else.  Since the previous evening his
imagination had been occupied by clothing her image with charms to which
she could not lay claim.  In very truth, he whom such vast interests
summoned, and whom so many women smiled upon invitingly, had, since the
previous evening, consecrated every moment of his time, every throb of
his heart, to this sole dream.  It was, indeed, either too much, or not
sufficient.  The indignation of the king, making him forget everything,
and, among others, that Saint-Aignan was present, was poured out in the
most violent imprecations.  True it is, that Saint-Aignan had taken
refuge in a corner of the room; and from his corner, regarded the tempest
passing over.  His own personal disappointment seemed contemptible, in
comparison with the anger of the king.  He compared with his own petty
vanity the prodigious pride of offended majesty; and, being well read in
the hearts of kings in general, and in those of powerful kings in
particular, he began to ask himself if this weight of anger, as yet held
in suspense, would not soon terminate by falling upon his own head, for
the very reason that others were guilty, and he innocent.  In point of
fact, the king, all at once, did arrest his hurried pace; and, fixing a
look full of anger upon Saint-Aignan, suddenly cried out: "And you, Saint-
Aignan?"

Saint-Aignan made a sign which was intended to signify, "Well, sire?"

"Yes; you have been as silly as myself, I think."

"Sire," stammered out Saint-Aignan.

"You permitted us to be deceived by this shameless trick."

"Sire," said Saint-Aignan, whose agitation was such as to make him
tremble in every limb, "let me entreat your majesty not to exasperate
yourself.  Women, you know, are characters full of imperfections, created
for the misfortune of mankind: to expect anything good from them is to
require them to perform impossibilities."

The king, who had the greatest consideration for himself, and who had
begun to acquire over his emotions that command which he preserved over
them all his life, perceived that he was doing an outrage to his own
dignity in displaying so much animosity about so trifling an object.
"No," he said, hastily; "you are mistaken, Saint-Aignan; I am not angry;
I can only wonder that we should have been turned into ridicule so
cleverly and with such audacity by these young girls.  I am particularly
surprised that, although we might have informed ourselves accurately on
the subject, we were silly enough to leave the matter for our own hearts

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