List Of Contents | Contents of Louise de la Valliere, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

beside him.  "Was it you who spoke, madame?" he asked, in a weak voice,
"or is there another person in beside you in the room?"

"Yes," replied the figure, in an almost unintelligible voice, as she bent
down her head.

"Well," said the wounded man, with a great effort, "I thank you.  Tell
Madame that I no longer regret to die, since she has remembered me."

At the words "to die," pronounced by one whose life seemed to hang on a
thread, the masked lady could not restrain her tears, which flowed under
the mask, and appeared upon her cheeks just where the mask left her face
bare.  If De Guiche had been in fuller possession of his senses, he would
have seen her tears roll like glistening pearls, and fall upon his bed.
The lady, forgetting that she wore her mask, raised her hand as though to
wipe her eyes, and meeting the rough velvet, she tore away her mask in
anger, and threw it on the floor.  At the unexpected apparition before
him, which seemed to issue from a cloud, De Guiche uttered a cry and
stretched his arms towards her; but every word perished on his lips, and
his strength seemed utterly abandoning him.  His right hand, which had
followed his first impulse, without calculating the amount of strength he
had left, fell back again upon the bed, and immediately afterwards the
white linen was stained with a larger spot than before.  In the meantime,
the young man's eyes became dim, and closed, as if he were already
struggling with the messenger of death; and then, after a few involuntary
movements, his head fell back motionless on his pillow; his face grew
livid.  The lady was frightened; but on this occasion, contrary to what
is usually the case, fear attracted.  She leaned over the young man,
gazed earnestly, fixedly at his pale, cold face, which she almost
touched, then imprinted a rapid kiss upon De Guiche's left hand, who,
trembling as if an electric shock had passed through him, awoke a second
time, opened his large eyes, incapable of recognition, and again fell
into a state of complete insensibility.  "Come," she said to her
companion, "we must not remain here any longer; I shall be committing
some folly or other."

"Madame, Madame, your highness is forgetting your mask!" said her
vigilant companion.

"Pick it up," replied her mistress, as she tottered almost senseless
towards the staircase, and as the outer door had been left only half-
closed, the two women, light as birds, passed through it, and with
hurried steps returned to the palace.  One of the ascended towards
Madame's apartments, where she disappeared; the other entered the rooms
belonging to the maids of honor, namely, on the _entresol_, and having
reached her own room, she sat down before a table, and without giving
herself time even to breathe, wrote the following letter:

"This evening Madame has been to see M. de Guiche.  Everything is going
well on this side.  See that your news is equally exemplary, and do not
forget to burn this paper."

She folded the letter, and leaving her room with every possible
precaution, crossed a corridor which led to the apartments appropriated
to the gentlemen attached to Monsieur's service.  She stopped before a
door, under which, having previously knocked twice in a short, quick
manner, she thrust the paper, and fled.  Then, returning to her own room,
she removed every trace of her having gone out, and also of having
written the letter.  Amid the investigations she was so diligently
pursuing she perceived on the table the mask which belonged to Madame,
and which, according to her mistress's directions, she had brought back
but had forgotten to restore to her.  "Oh, oh!" she said, "I must not
forget to do to-morrow what I have forgotten to-day."

And she took hold of the velvet mask by that part which covered the
cheeks, and feeling that her thumb was wet, looked at it.  It was not
only wet, but reddened.  The mask had fallen upon one of the spots of
blood which, we have already said, stained the floor, and from that black
velvet outside which had accidentally come into contact with it, the
blood had passed through to the inside, and stained the white cambric
lining.  "Oh, oh!" said Montalais, for doubtless our readers have already
recognized her by these various maneuvers, "I shall not give back this
mask; it is far too precious now."

And rising from her seat, she ran towards a box made of maple wood, which
inclosed different articles of toilette and perfumery.  "No, not here,"
she said, "such a treasure must not be abandoned to the slightest chance
of detection."

Then, after a moment's silence, and with a smile that was peculiarly her
own, she added: - "Beautiful mask, stained with the blood of that brave
knight, you shall go and join that collection of wonders, La Valliere's
and Raoul's letters, that loving collection, indeed, which will some day
or other form part of the history of France, of European royalty.  You
shall be placed under M. Malicorne's care," said the laughing girl, as
she began to undress herself, "under the protection of that worthy M.
Malicorne," she said, blowing out the taper, "who thinks he was born only
to become the chief usher of Monsieur's apartments, and whom I will make
keeper of the records and historiographer of the house of Bourbon, and of
the first houses in the kingdom.  Let him grumble now, that discontented
Malicorne," she added, as she drew the curtains and fell asleep.

Chapter XXII:
The Journey.

The next day being agreed upon for the departure, the king, at eleven
o'clock precisely, descended the grand staircase with the two queens and
Madame, in order to enter his carriage drawn by six horses, that were
pawing the ground in impatience at the foot of the staircase.  The whole
court awaited the royal appearance in the _Fer-a-cheval_ crescent, in
their travelling costumes; the large number of saddled horses and
carriages of ladies and gentlemen of the court, surrounded by their
attendants, servants, and pages, formed a spectacle whose brilliancy
could scarcely be equalled.  The king entered his carriage with the two
queens; Madame was in the same one with Monsieur.  The maids of honor
followed their example, and took their seats, two by two, in the
carriages destined for them.  The weather was exceedingly warm; a light
breeze, which, early in the morning, all had thought would have proved
sufficient to cool the air, soon became fiercely heated by the rays of
the sun, although it was hidden behind the clouds, and filtered through
the heated vapor which rose from the ground like a scorching wind,
bearing particles of fine dust against the faces of the travelers.
Madame was the first to complain of the heat.  Monsieur's only reply was
to throw himself back in the carriage as though about to faint, and to
inundate himself with scents and perfumes, uttering the deepest sighs all
the while; whereupon Madame said to him, with her most amiable
expression: - "Really, Monsieur, I fancied that you would have been
polite enough, on account of the terrible heart, to have left me my
carriage to myself, and to have performed the journey yourself on

"Ride on horseback!" cried the prince, with an accent of dismay which
showed how little idea he had of adopting this unnatural advice; "you
cannot suppose such a thing, Madame!  My skin would peel off if I were to
expose myself to such a burning breeze as this."

Madame began to laugh.

"You can take my parasol," she said.

"But the trouble of holding it!" replied Monsieur, with the greatest
coolness; "besides, I have no horse."

"What, no horse?" replied the princess, who, if she did not secure the
solitude she required, at least obtained the amusement of teasing.  "No
horse!  You are mistaken, Monsieur; for I see your favorite bay out

"My bay horse!" exclaimed the prince, attempting to lean forward to look
out of the door; but the movement he was obliged to make cost him so much
trouble that he soon hastened to resume his immobility.

"Yes," said Madame; "your horse, led by M. de Malicorne."

"Poor beast," replied the prince; "how warm it must be!"

And with these words he closed his eyes, like a man on the point of
death.  Madame, on her side, reclined indolently in the other corner of
the carriage, and closed her eyes also, not, however, to sleep, but to
think more at her ease.  In the meantime the king, seated in the front
seat of his carriage, the back of which he had yielded up to the two
queens, was a prey to that feverish contrariety experienced by anxious
lovers, who, without being able to quench their ardent thirst, are
ceaselessly desirous of seeing the loved object, and then go away
partially satisfied, without perceiving they have acquired a more
insatiable thirst than ever.  The king, whose carriage headed the
procession, could not from the place he occupied perceive the carriages
of the ladies and maids of honor, which followed in a line behind it.
Besides, he was obliged to answer the eternal questions of the young
queen, who, happy to have with her "_her dear husband_," as she called
him in utter forgetfulness of royal etiquette, invested him with all her
affection, stifled him with her attentions, afraid that some one might
come to take him from her, or that he himself might suddenly take a fancy
to quit her society.  Anne of Austria, whom nothing at that moment
occupied except the occasional cruel throbbings in her bosom, looked
pleased and delighted, and although she perfectly realized the king's
impatience, tantalizingly prolonged his sufferings by unexpectedly
resuming the conversation at the very moment the king, absorbed in his
own reflections, began to muse over his secret attachment.  Everything
seemed to combine - not alone the little teasing attentions of the queen,
but also the queen-mother's interruptions - to make the king's position
almost insupportable; for he knew not how to control the restless
longings of his heart.  At first, he complained of the heat - a complaint
merely preliminary to others, but with sufficient tact to prevent Maria
Theresa guessing his real object.  Understanding the king's remark

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: