very great importance to what you heard, knowing how much your attention was taken up by Mademoiselle de la Valliere; and then, Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente left me precipitately, to return to Mademoiselle de la Valliere." "Let us hope, then, that I shall be as fortunate as yourself. Come, Saint-Aignan." "Your majesty is ambitions, I perceive, and does not wish to allow any conquest to escape you. Well, I assure you that I will conscientiously set about my inquiries; and, moreover, from one or the other of those Three Graces we shall learn the names of the rest, and by the names their secrets." "I, too," said the king, "only require to hear her voice to know it again. Come, let us say no more about it, but show me where poor La Valliere is." "Well," thought Saint-Aignan, "the king's regard is beginning to display itself, and for that girl too. It is extraordinary; I should never have believed it." And with this thought passing through his mind, he showed the king the room to which La Valliere had been carried; the king entered, followed by Saint-Aignan. In a low chamber, near a large window looking out upon the gardens, La Valliere, reclining in a large armchair, was inhaling deep draughts of the perfumed evening breeze. From the loosened body of her dress, the lace fell in tumbled folds, mingling with the tresses of her beautiful fair hair, which lay scattered upon her shoulders. Her languishing eyes were filled with tears; she seemed as lifeless as those beautiful visions of our dreams, that pass before the mental eye of the sleeper, half-opening their wings without moving them, unclosing their lips without a sound escaping them. The pearl-like pallor of La Valliere possessed a charm it would be impossible to describe. Mental and bodily suffering had produced upon her features a soft and noble expression of grief; from the perfect passiveness of her arms and bust, she more resembled one whose soul had passed away, than a living being; she seemed not to hear either of the whisperings which arose from the court. She seemed to be communing within herself; and her beautiful, delicate hands trembled from time to time as though at the contact of some invisible touch. She was so completely absorbed in her reverie, that the king entered without her perceiving him. At a distance he gazed upon her lovely face, upon which the moon shed its pure silvery light. "Good Heavens!" he exclaimed, with a terror he could not control, "she is dead." "No, sire," said Montalais, in a low voice; "on the contrary, she is better. Are you not better, Louise?" But Louise did not answer. "Louise," continued Montalais, "the king has deigned to express his uneasiness on your account." "The king!" exclaimed Louise, starting up abruptly, as if a stream of fire had started through her frame to her heart; "the king uneasy about me?" "Yes," said Montalais. "The king is here, then?" said La Valliere, not venturing to look round her. "That voice! that voice!" whispered Louis, eagerly, to Saint-Aignan. "Yes, it is so," replied Saint-Aignan; "your majesty is right; it is she who declared her love for the sun." "Hush!" said the king. And then approaching La Valliere, he said, "You are not well, Mademoiselle de la Valliere? Just now, indeed, in the park, I saw that you had fainted. How were you attacked?" "Sire," stammered out the poor child, pale and trembling, "I really do not know." "You have been walking too far," said the king; "and fatigue, perhaps - " "No, sire," said Montalais, eagerly, answering for her friend, "it could not be from fatigue, for we passed most of the evening seated beneath the royal oak." "Under the royal oak?" returned the king, starting. "I was not deceived; it is as I thought." And he directed a look of intelligence at the comte. "Yes," said Saint-Aignan, "under the royal oak, with Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente." "How do you know that?" inquired Montalais. "In a very simple way. Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente told me so." "In that case, she probably told you the cause of Mademoiselle de la Valliere's fainting?" "Why, yes; she told me something about a wolf or a robber. I forget precisely which." La Valliere listened, her eyes fixed, her bosom heaving, as if, gifted with an acuteness of perception, she foresaw a portion of the truth. Louis imagined this attitude and agitation to be the consequence of a terror only partially reassured. "Nay, fear nothing," he said, with a rising emotion which he could not conceal; "the wolf which terrified you so much was simply a wolf with two legs." "It was a man, then!" said Louise; "it was a man who was listening?" "Suppose it was so, mademoiselle, what great harm was there in his having listened? Is it likely that, even in your own opinion, you would have said anything which could not have been listened to?" La Valliere wrung her hands, and hid her face in them, as if to hide her blushes. "In Heaven's name," she said, "who was concealed there? Who was listening?" The king advanced towards her, to take hold of one of her hands. "It was I," he said, bowing with marked respect. "Is it likely I could have frightened you?" La Valliere uttered a loud cry; for the second time her strength forsook her; and moaning in utter despair, she again fell lifeless in her chair. The king had just time to hold out his arm; so that she was partially supported by him. Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente and Montalais, who stood a few paces from the king and La Valliere, motionless and almost petrified at the recollection of their conversation with La Valliere, did not even think of offering their assistance, feeling restrained by the presence of the king, who, with one knee on the ground, held La Valliere round the waist with his arm. "You heard, sire!" murmured Athenais. But the king did not reply; he remained with his eyes fixed upon La Valliere's half-closed eyes, and held her quiescent hand in his own. "Of course," replied Saint-Aignan, who, on his side, hoping that Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente, too, would faint, advancing towards her, holding his arms extended, - "of course; we did not even lose a single word." But the haughty Athenais was not a woman to faint easily; she darted a terrible look at Saint-Aignan, and fled. Montalais, with more courage, advanced hurriedly towards Louise, and received her from the king's hands, who was already fast losing his presence of mind, as he felt his face covered by the perfumed tresses of the seemingly dying girl. "Excellent," whispered Saint-Aignan. "This is indeed an adventure; and it will be my own fault if I am not the first to relate it." The king approached him, and, with a trembling voice and a passionate gesture, said, "Not a syllable, comte." The poor king forgot that, only an hour before, he had given him a similar recommendation, but with the very opposite intention; namely, that the comte should be indiscreet. It followed, as a matter of course, that he latter recommendation was quite as unnecessary as the former. Half an hour afterwards, everybody in Fontainebleau knew that Mademoiselle de la Valliere had had a conversation under the royal oak with Montalais and Tonnay-Charente, and that in this conversation she had confessed her affection for the king. It was known, also, that the king, after having manifested the uneasiness with which Mademoiselle de la Valliere's health had inspired him, had turned pale, and trembled very much as he received the beautiful girl fainting into his arms; so that it was quite agreed among the courtiers, that the greatest event of the period had just been revealed; that his majesty loved Mademoiselle de la Valliere, and that, consequently, Monsieur could now sleep in perfect tranquillity. It was this, even, that the queen-mother, as surprised as the others by the sudden change, hastened to tell the young queen and Philip d'Orleans. Only she set to work in a different manner, by attacking them in the following way: - To her daughter-in-law she said, "See, now, Therese, how very wrong you were to accuse the king; now it is said he is devoted to some other person; why should there be any greater truth in the report of to-day than in that of yesterday, or in that of yesterday than in that of to-day?" To Monsieur, in relating to him the adventure of the royal oak, she said, "Are you not very absurd in your jealousies, my dear Philip? It is asserted that the king is madly in love with that little La Valliere. Say nothing of it to your wife; for the queen will know all about it very soon." This latter confidential communication had an immediate result. Monsieur, who had regained his composure, went triumphantly to look after his wife, and it was not yet midnight and the _fete_ was to continue until two in the morning, he offered her his hand for a promenade. At the end of a few paces, however, the first thing he did was to disobey his mother's injunctions. "Do not tell any one, the queen least of all," he said mysteriously, "what people say about the king." "What do they say about him?" inquired Madame. "That my brother has suddenly fallen in love." "With whom?" "With Mademoiselle de la Valliere." As it was dark, Madame could smile at her ease. "Ah!" she said, "and how long is it since this has been the case?" "For some days, it seems. But that was nothing but nonsense; it is only this evening that he has revealed his passion." "The king shows his good taste," said Madame; "in my opinion she is a very charming girl." "I verily believe you are jesting." "I! in what way?" "In any case this passion will make some one very happy, even if it be only La Valliere herself." "Really," continued the princess, "you speak as if you had read into the inmost recesses of La Valliere's heart. Who has told you that she agrees to return the king's affection?" "And who has told you that she will not return it?" "She loves the Vicomte de Bragelonne." "You think so?" "She is even affianced to him."
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