List Of Contents | Contents of Louise de la Valliere, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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thought, "this day will pass away without my learning anything.  Guiche
showed too much consideration for my feelings; he had no doubt come to an
understanding with Madame, and both of them, by a friendly plot, agreed
to postpone the solution of the problem.  Why have I not a determined,
inveterate enemy - that serpent, De Wardes, for instance; that he would
bite, is very likely; but I should not hesitate any more.  To hesitate,
to doubt - better, far, to die."

The next moment Raoul was in Madame's presence.  Henrietta, more charming
than ever, was half lying, half reclining in her armchair, her small feet
upon an embroidered velvet cushion; she was playing with a kitten with
long silky fur, which was biting her fingers and hanging by the lace of
her collar.

Madame seemed plunged in deep thought, so deep, indeed, that it required
both Montalais and Raoul's voice to disturb her from her reverie.

"Your highness sent for me?" repeated Raoul.

Madame shook her head as if she were just awakening, and then said, "Good
morning, Monsieur de Bragelonne; yes, I sent for you; so you have
returned from England?"

"Yes, Madame, and am at your royal highness's commands."

"Thank you; leave us, Montalais," and the latter immediately left the

"You have a few minutes to give me, Monsieur de Bragelonne, have you not?"

"My life is at your royal highness's disposal," Raoul returned with
respect, guessing that there was something serious in these unusual
courtesies; nor was he displeased, indeed, to observe the seriousness of
her manner, feeling persuaded that there was some sort of affinity
between Madame's sentiments and his own.  In fact, every one at court, of
any perception at all, knew perfectly well the capricious fancy and
absurd despotism of the princess's singular character.  Madame had been
flattered beyond all bounds by the king's attention; she had made herself
talked about; she had inspired the queen with that mortal jealousy which
is the stinging scorpion at the heel of every woman's happiness; Madame,
in a word, in her attempts to cure a wounded pride, found that her heart
had become deeply and passionately attached.  We know what Madame had
done to recall Raoul, who had been sent out of the way by Louis XIV.
Raoul did not know of her letter to Charles II., although D'Artagnan had
guessed its contents.  Who will undertake to account for that seemingly
inexplicable mixture of love and vanity, that passionate tenderness of
feeling, that prodigious duplicity of conduct?  No one can, indeed; not
even the bad angel who kindles the love of coquetry in the heart of a
woman.  "Monsieur de Bragelonne," said the princess, after a moment's
pause, "have you returned satisfied?"

Bragelonne looked at Madame Henrietta, and seeing how pale she was, not
alone from what she was keeping back, but also from what she was burning
to say, said: "Satisfied! what is there for me to be satisfied or
dissatisfied about, Madame?"

"But what are those things with which a man of your age, and of your
appearance, is usually either satisfied or dissatisfied?"

"How eager she is," thought Raoul, almost terrified; "what venom is it
she is going to distil into my heart?" and then, frightened at what she
might possibly be going to tell him, and wishing to put off the
opportunity of having everything explained, which he had hitherto so
ardently wished for, yet had dreaded so much, he replied: "I left,
Madame, a dear friend in good health, and on my return I find him very

"You refer to M. de Guiche," replied Madame Henrietta, with imperturbable
self-possession; "I _have_ heard he is a very dear friend of yours."

"He is, indeed, Madame."

"Well, it is quite true he has been wounded; but he is better now.  Oh!
M. de Guiche is not to be pitied," she said hurriedly; and then,
recovering herself, added, "But has he anything to complain of?  Has he
complained of anything?  Is there any cause of grief or sorrow that we
are not acquainted with?"

"I allude only to his wound, Madame."

"So much the better, then, for, in other respects, M. de Guiche seems to
be very happy; he is always in very high spirits.  I am sure that you,
Monsieur de Bragelonne, would far prefer to be, like him, wounded only in
the body... for what, in deed, is such a wound, after all!"

Raoul started.  "Alas!" he said to himself, "she is returning to it."

"What did you say?" she inquired.

"I did not say anything Madame."

"You did not say anything; you disapprove of my observation, then? you
are perfectly satisfied, I suppose?"

Raoul approached closer to her.  "Madame," he said, "your royal highness
wishes to say something to me, and your instinctive kindness and
generosity of disposition induce you to be careful and considerate as to
your manner of conveying it.  Will your royal highness throw this kind
forbearance aside?  I am able to bear everything; and I am listening."

"Ah!" replied Henrietta, "what do you understand, then?"

"That which your royal highness wishes me to understand," said Raoul,
trembling, notwithstanding his command over himself, as he pronounced
these words.

"In point of fact," murmured the princess… "it seems cruel, but since I
have begun - "

"Yes, Madame, once your highness has deigned to begin, will you
condescend to finish - "

Henrietta rose hurriedly and walked a few paces up and down her room.
"What did M. de Guiche tell you?" she said, suddenly.

"Nothing, Madame."

"Nothing!  Did he say nothing?  Ah! how well I recognize him in that."

"No doubt he wished to spare me."

"And that is what friends call friendship.  But surely, M. d'Artagnan,
whom you have just left, must have told you."

"No more than De Guiche, Madame."

Henrietta made a gesture full of impatience, as she said, "At least, you
know all the court knows."

"I know nothing at all, Madame."

"Not the scene in the storm?"

"No, Madame."

"Not the _tete-a-tete_ in the forest?"

"No, Madame."

"Nor the flight to Chaillot?"

Raoul, whose head dropped like a blossom cut down by the reaper, made an
almost superhuman effort to smile, as he replied with the greatest
gentleness: "I have had the honor of telling your royal highness that I
am absolutely ignorant of everything, that I am a poor unremembered
outcast, who has this moment arrived from England.  There have rolled so
many stormy waves between myself and those I left behind me here, that
the rumor of none of the circumstances your highness refers to, has been
able to reach me."

Henrietta was affected by his extreme pallor, his gentleness, and his
great courage.  The principal feeling in her heart at that moment was an
eager desire to hear the nature of the remembrance which the poor lover
retained of the woman who had made him suffer so much.  "Monsieur de
Bragelonne," she said, "that which your friends have refused to do, I
will do for you, whom I like and esteem very much.  I will be your friend
on this occasion.  You hold your head high, as a man of honor should; and
I deeply regret that you may have to bow before ridicule, and in a few
days, it might be, contempt."

"Ah!" exclaimed Raoul, perfectly livid.  "It is as bad as that, then?"

"If you do not know," said the princess, "I see that you guess; you were
affianced, I believe, to Mademoiselle de la Valliere?"

"Yes, Madame."

"By that right, you deserve to be warned about her, as some day or
another I shall be obliged to dismiss Mademoiselle de la Valliere from my
service - "

"Dismiss La Valliere!" cried Bragelonne.

"Of course.  Do you suppose I shall always be amenable to the tears and
protestations of the king?  No, no! my house shall no longer be made a
convenience for such practices; but you tremble, you cannot stand - "

"No, Madame, no," said Bragelonne, making an effort over himself; "I
thought I should have died just now, that was all.  Your royal highness
did me the honor to say that the king wept and implored you - "

"Yes, but in vain," returned the princess; who then related to Raoul the
scene that took place at Chaillot, and the king's despair on his return;
she told him of his indulgence to herself and the terrible word with
which the outraged princess, the humiliated coquette, had quashed the
royal anger.

Raoul stood with his head bent down.

"What do you think of it all?" she said.

"The king loves her," he replied.

"But you seem to think she does not love him!"

"Alas, Madame, I was thinking of the time when she loved _me_."

Henrietta was for a moment struck with admiration at this sublime
disbelief: and then, shrugging her shoulders, she said, "You do not
believe me, I see.  How deeply you must love her.  And you doubt if she
loves the king?"

"I do, until I have a proof of it.  Forgive me, Madame, but she has given
me her word; and her mind and heart are too upright to tell a falsehood."

"You require a proof!  Be it so.  Come with me, then."

Chapter LIII:
A Domiciliary Visit.

The princess, preceding Raoul, led him through the courtyard towards that
part of the building La Valliere inhabited, and, ascending the same
staircase which Raoul himself had ascended that very morning, she paused
at the door of the room in which the young man had been so strangely
received by Montalais.  The opportunity was remarkably well chosen to
carry out the project Madame Henrietta had conceived, for the chateau was
empty.  The king, the courtiers, and the ladies of the court, had set off
for Saint-Germain; Madame Henrietta was the only one who knew of
Bragelonne's return, and thinking over the advantages which might be
drawn from this return, she had feigned indisposition in order to remain
behind.  Madame was therefore confident of finding La Valliere's room and
Saint-Aignan's apartment perfectly empty.  She took a pass-key from her
pocket and opened the door of her maid of honor's apartment.
Bragelonne's gaze was immediately fixed upon the interior of the room,
which he recognized at once; and the impression which the sight of it
produced upon him was torture.  The princess looked at him, and her

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