{tocify}

Louise de la Valliere

Chapter

Book

first_page
play_arrow
last_page
00:00
00:00
volume_down_alt volume_up


Chapter XXV. Despair.


As soon as the king was gone La Valliere raised herself from the ground, and stretched out her arms, as if to follow and detain him, but when, having violently closed the door, the sound of his retreating footsteps could be heard in the distance, she had hardly sufficient strength left to totter towards and fall at the foot of her crucifix. There she remained, broken-hearted, absorbed, and overwhelmed by her grief, forgetful and indifferent to everything but her profound sorrow;—a grief she only vaguely realized—as though by instinct. In the midst of this wild tumult of thoughts, La Valliere heard her door open again; she started, and turned round, thinking it was the king who had returned. She was deceived, however, for it was Madame who appeared at the door. What did she now care for Madame! Again she sank down, her head supported by her prie-Dieu chair. It was Madame, agitated, angry, and threatening. But what was that to her? “Mademoiselle,” said the princess, standing before La Valliere, “this is very fine, I admit, to kneel and pray, and make a pretense of being religious; but however submissive you may be in your address to Heaven, it is desirable that you should pay some little attention to the wishes of those who reign and rule here below.”

La Valliere raised her head painfully in token of respect.

“Not long since,” continued Madame, “a certain recommendation was addressed to you, I believe.”

La Valliere’s fixed and wild gaze showed how complete her forgetfulness or ignorance was.

“The queen recommended you,” continued Madame, “to conduct yourself in such a manner that no one could be justified in spreading any reports about you.”

La Valliere darted an inquiring look towards her.

“I will not,” continued Madame, “allow my household, which is that of the first princess of the blood, to set an evil example to the court; you would be the cause of such an example. I beg you to understand, therefore, in the absence of any witness of your shame—for I do not wish to humiliate you—that you are from this moment at perfect liberty to leave, and that you can return to your mother at Blois.”

La Valliere could not sink lower, nor could she suffer more than she had already suffered. Her countenance did not even change, but she remained kneeling with her hands clasped, like the figure of the Magdalen.

“Did you hear me?” said Madame.

A shiver, which passed through her whole frame, was La Valliere’s only reply. And as the victim gave no other signs of life, Madame left the room. And then, her very respiration suspended, and her blood almost congealed, as it were, in her veins, La Valliere by degrees felt that the pulsation of her wrists, her neck, and temples, began to throb more and more painfully. These pulsations, as they gradually increased, soon changed into a species of brain fever, and in her temporary delirium she saw the figures of her friends contending with her enemies, floating before her vision. She heard, too, mingled together in her deafened ears, words of menace and words of fond affection; she seemed raised out of her existence as though it were upon the wings of a mighty tempest, and in the dim horizon of the path along which her delirium hurried her, she saw the stone which covered her tomb upraised, and the grim, appalling texture of eternal night revealed to her distracted gaze. But the horror of the dream which possessed her senses faded away, and she was again restored to the habitual resignation of her character. A ray of hope penetrated her heart, as a ray of sunlight streams into the dungeon of some unhappy captive. Her mind reverted to the journey from Fontainebleau, she saw the king riding beside her carriage, telling her that he loved her, asking for her love in return, requiring her to swear, and himself to swear too, that never should an evening pass by, if ever a misunderstanding were to arise between them, without a visit, a letter, a sign of some kind, being sent, to replace the troubled anxiety of the evening with the calm repose of the night. It was the king who had suggested that, who had imposed a promise on her, and who had sworn to it himself. It was impossible, therefore, she reasoned, that the king should fail in keeping the promise which he had himself exacted from her, unless, indeed, Louis was a despot who enforced love as he enforced obedience; unless, too, the king were so indifferent that the first obstacle in his way was sufficient to arrest his further progress. The king, that kind protector, who by a word, a single word, could relieve her distress of mind, the king even joined her persecutors. Oh! his anger could not possibly last. Now that he was alone, he would be suffering all that she herself was a prey to. But he was not tied hand and foot as she was; he could act, could move about, could come to her, while she could do nothing but wait. And the poor girl waited and waited, with breathless anxiety—for she could not believe it possible that the king would not come.

It was now about half-past ten. He would either come to her, or write to her, or send some kind word by M. de Saint-Aignan. If he were to come, oh! how she would fly to meet him; how she would thrust aside that excess of delicacy which she now discovered was misunderstood; how eagerly she would explain: “It is not I who do not love you—it is the fault of others who will not allow me to love you.” And then it must be confessed that she reflected upon it, and also the more she reflected, Louis appeared to her to be less guilty. In fact, he was ignorant of everything. What must he have thought of the obstinacy with which she remained silent? Impatient and irritable as the king was known to be, it was extraordinary that he had been able to preserve his temper so long. And yet, had it been her own case, she undoubtedly would not have acted in such a manner; she would have understood—have guessed everything. Yes, but she was nothing but a poor simple-minded girl, and not a great and powerful monarch. Oh! if he would but come, if he would but come!—how eagerly she would forgive him for all he had just made her suffer! how much more tenderly she would love him because she had so cruelly suffered! And so she sat, with her head bent forward in eager expectation towards the door, her lips slightly parted, as if—and Heaven forgive her for the mental exclamation!—they were awaiting the kiss which the king’s lips had in the morning so sweetly indicated, when he pronounced the word love! If the king did not come, at least he would write; it was a second chance; a chance less delightful certainly than the other, but which would show an affection just as strong, only more timid in its nature. Oh! how she would devour his letter, how eager she would be to answer it! and when the messenger who had brought it had left her, how she would kiss it, read it over and over again, press to her heart the lucky paper which would have brought her ease of mind, tranquillity, and perfect happiness. At all events, if the king did not come, if the king did not write, he could not do otherwise than send Saint-Aignan, or Saint-Aignan could not do otherwise than come of his own accord. Even if it were a third person, how openly she would speak to him; the royal presence would not be there to freeze her words upon her tongue, and then no suspicious feeling would remain a moment longer in the king’s heart.

Everything with La Valliere, heart and look, body and mind, was concentrated in eager expectation. She said to herself that there was an hour left in which to indulge hope; that until midnight struck, the king might come, or write or send; that at midnight only would every expectation vanish, every hope be lost. Whenever she heard any stir in the palace, the poor girl fancied she was the cause of it; whenever she heard any one pass in the courtyard below she imagined they were messengers of the king coming to her. Eleven o’clock struck, then a quarter-past eleven; then half-past. The minutes dragged slowly on in this anxiety, and yet they seemed to pass too quickly. And now, it struck a quarter to twelve. Midnight—midnight was near, the last, the final hope that remained. With the last stroke of the clock, the last ray of light seemed to fade away; and with the last ray faded her final hope. And so, the king himself had deceived her; it was he who had been the first to fail in keeping the oath which he had sworn that very day; twelve hours only between his oath and his perjured vow; it was not long, alas! to have preserved the illusion. And so, not only did the king not love her, but he despised her whom every one ill-treated, he despised her to the extent even of abandoning her to the shame of an expulsion which was equivalent to having an ignominious sentence passed on her; and yet, it was he, the king himself, who was the first cause of this ignominy. A bitter smile, the only symptom of anger which during this long conflict had passed across the angelic face, appeared upon her lips. What, in fact, now remained on earth for her, after the king was lost to her? Nothing. But Heaven still remained, and her thoughts flew thither. She prayed that the proper course for her to follow might be suggested. “It is from Heaven,” she thought, “that I expect everything; it is from Heaven I ought to expect everything.” And she looked at her crucifix with a devotion full of tender love. “There,” she said, “hangs before me a Master who never forgets and never abandons those who neither forget nor abandon Him; it is to Him alone that we must sacrifice ourselves.” And, thereupon, could any one have gazed into the recesses of that chamber, they would have seen the poor despairing girl adopt a final resolution, and determine upon one last plan in her mind. Then, as her knees were no longer able to support her, she gradually sank down upon the prie-Dieu, and with her head pressed against the wooden cross, her eyes fixed, and her respiration short and quick, she watched for the earliest rays of approaching daylight. At two o’clock in the morning she was still in the same bewilderment of mind, or rather the same ecstasy of feeling. Her thoughts had almost ceased to hold communion with things of the world. And when she saw the pale violet tints of early dawn visible over the roofs of the palace, and vaguely revealing the outlines of the ivory crucifix which she held embraced, she rose from the ground with a new-born strength, kissed the feet of the divine martyr, descended the staircase leading from the room, and wrapped herself from head to foot in a mantle as she went along. She reached the wicket at the very moment the guard of the musketeers opened the gate to admit the first relief-guard belonging to one of the Swiss regiments. And then, gliding behind the soldiers, she reached the street before the officer in command of the patrol had even thought of asking who the young girl was who was making her escape from the palace at so early an hour.






Chapter XXVI. The Flight.


La Valliere followed the patrol as it left the courtyard. The patrol bent its steps towards the right, by the Rue St. Honore, and mechanically La Valliere turned to the left. Her resolution was taken—her determination fixed; she wished to betake herself to the convent of the Carmelites at Chaillot, the superior of which enjoyed a reputation for severity which made the worldly-minded people of the court tremble. La Valliere had never seen Paris, she had never gone out on foot, and so would have been unable to find her way even had she been in a calmer frame of mind than was then the case; and this may explain why she ascended, instead of descending, the Rue St. Honore. Her only thought was to get away from the Palais Royal, and this she was doing; she had heard it said that Chaillot looked out upon the Seine, and she accordingly directed her steps towards the Seine. She took the Rue de Coq, and not being able to cross the Louvre, bore towards the church of Saint Germain l’Auxerrois, proceeding along the site of the colonnade which was subsequently built there by Perrault. In a very short time she reached the quays. Her steps were rapid and agitated; she scarcely felt the weakness which reminded her of having sprained her foot when very young, and which obliged her to limp slightly. At any other hour in the day her countenance would have awakened the suspicions of the least clear-sighted, attracted the attention of the most indifferent. But at half-past two in the morning, the streets of Paris are almost, if not quite, deserted, and scarcely is any one to be seen but the hard-working artisan on his way to earn his daily bread or the roistering idlers of the streets, who are returning to their homes after a night of riot and debauchery; for the former the day was beginning, and for the latter it was just closing. La Valliere was afraid of both faces, in which her ignorance of Parisian types did not permit her to distinguish the type of probity from that of dishonesty. The appearance of misery alarmed her, and all she met seemed either vile or miserable. Her dress, which was the same she had worn during the previous evening, was elegant even in its careless disorder; for it was the one in which she had presented herself to the queen-mother; and, moreover, when she drew aside the mantle which covered her face, in order to enable her to see the way she was going, her pallor and her beautiful eyes spoke an unknown language to the men she met, and, unconsciously, the poor fugitive seemed to invite the brutal remarks of the one class, or to appeal to the compassion of the other. La Valliere still walked on in the same way, breathless and hurried, until she reached the top of the Place de Greve. She stopped from time to time, placed her hand upon her heart, leaned against a wall until she could breathe freely again, and then continued on her course more rapidly than before. On reaching the Place de Greve La Valliere suddenly came upon a group of three drunken men, reeling and staggering along, who were just leaving a boat which they had made fast to the quay; the boat was freighted with wines, and it was apparent that they had done ample justice to the merchandise. They were celebrating their convivial exploits in three different keys, when suddenly, as they reached the end of the railing leading down to the quay, they found an obstacle in their path, in the shape of this young girl. La Valliere stopped; while they, on their part, at the appearance of the young girl dressed in court costume, also halted, and seizing each other by the hand, they surrounded La Valliere, singing,—

“Oh! all ye weary wights, who mope alone, Come drink, and sing and laugh, round Venus’ throne.”

La Valliere at once understood that the men were insulting her, and wished to prevent her passing; she tried to do so several times, but her efforts were useless. Her limbs failed her; she felt she was on the point of falling, and uttered a cry of terror. At the same moment the circle which surrounded her was suddenly broken through in a most violent manner. One of her insulters was knocked to the left, another fell rolling over and over to the right, close to the water’s edge, while the third could hardly keep his feet. An officer of the musketeers stood face to face with the young girl, with threatening brow and hand raised to carry out his threat. The drunken fellows, at sight of the uniform, made their escape with what speed their staggering limbs could lend them, all the more eagerly for the proof of strength which the wearer of the uniform had just afforded them.

“Is it possible,” exclaimed the musketeer, “that it can be Mademoiselle de la Valliere?”

La Valliere, bewildered by what had just happened, and confounded by hearing her name pronounced, looked up and recognized D’Artagnan. “Oh, M. d’Artagnan! it is indeed I;” and at the same moment she seized his arm. “You will protect me, will you not?” she added, in a tone of entreaty.

“Most certainly I will protect you; but, in Heaven’s name, where are you going at this hour?”

“I am going to Chaillot.”

“You are going to Chaillot by way of La Rapee! why, mademoiselle, you are turning your back upon it.”

“In that case, monsieur, be kind enough to put me in the right way, and to go with me a short distance.”

“Most willingly.”

“But how does it happen that I have found you here? By what merciful intervention were you sent to my assistance? I almost seem to be dreaming, or to be losing my senses.”

“I happened to be here, mademoiselle, because I have a house in the Place de Greve, at the sign of the Notre-Dame, the rent of which I went to receive yesterday, and where I, in fact, passed the night. And I also wished to be at the palace early, for the purposes of inspecting my posts.”

“Thank you,” said La Valliere.

“That is what I was doing,” said D’Artagnan to himself; “but what is she doing, and why is she going to Chaillot at such an hour?” And he offered her his arm, which she took, and began to walk with increased precipitation, which ill-concealed, however, her weakness. D’Artagnan perceived it, and proposed to La Valliere that she should take a little rest, which she refused.

“You are ignorant, perhaps, where Chaillot is?” inquired D’Artagnan.

“Quite so.”

“It is a great distance.”

“That matters very little.”

“It is at least a league.”

“I can walk it.”

D’Artagnan did not reply; he could tell, merely by the tone of a voice, when a resolution was real or not. He rather bore along rather than accompanied La Valliere, until they perceived the elevated ground of Chaillot.

“What house are you going to, mademoiselle?” inquired D’Artagnan.

“To the Carmelites, monsieur.”

“To the Carmelites?” repeated D’Artagnan, in amazement.

“Yes; and since Heaven has directed you towards me to give me your support on my road, accept both my thanks and my adieux.”

“To the Carmelites! Your adieux! Are you going to become a nun?” exclaimed D’Artagnan.

“Yes, monsieur.”

“What, you!!!” There was in this “you,” which we have marked by three notes of exclamation in order to render it as expressive as possible,—there was, we repeat, in this “you” a complete poem; it recalled to La Valliere her old recollections of Blois, and her new recollections of Fontainebleau; it said to her, “You, who might be happy with Raoul; you, who might be powerful with Louis; you about to become a nun!”

“Yes, monsieur,” she said, “I am going to devote myself to the service of Heaven; and to renounce the world entirely.”

“But are you not mistaken with regard to your vocation,—are you not mistaken in supposing it to be the will of Heaven?”

“No, since Heaven has been pleased to throw you in my way. Had it not been for you, I should certainly have sunk from fatigue on the road, and since Heaven, I repeat, has thrown you in my way, it is because it has willed that I should carry out my intention.”

“Oh!” said D’Artagnan, doubtingly, “that is a rather subtle distinction, I think.”

“Whatever it may be,” returned the young girl, “I have acquainted you with the steps I have taken, and with my fixed resolution. And, now, I have one last favor to ask of you, even while I return you my thanks. The king is entirely ignorant of my flight from the Palais Royal, and is ignorant also of what I am about to do.”

“The king ignorant, you say!” exclaimed D’Artagnan. “Take care, mademoiselle; you are not aware of what you are doing. No one ought to do anything with which the king is unacquainted, especially those who belong to the court.”

“I no longer belong to the court, monsieur.”

D’Artagnan looked at the young girl with increasing astonishment.

“Do not be uneasy, monsieur,” she continued: “I have well calculated everything; and were it not so, it would now be too late to reconsider my resolution,—all is decided.”

“Well, mademoiselle, what do you wish me to do?”

“In the name of that sympathy which misfortune inspires, by your generous feeling, and by your honor as a gentleman, I entreat you to promise me one thing.”

“Name it.”

“Swear to me, Monsieur d’Artagnan, that you will not tell the king that you have seen me, and that I am at the Carmelites.”

“I will not swear that,” said D’Artagnan, shaking his head.

“Why?”

“Because I know the king, I know you, I know myself even, nay, the whole human race, too well; no, no, I will not swear that!”

“In that case,” cried La Valliere, with an energy of which one would hardly have thought her capable, “instead of the blessing which I should have implored for you until my dying day, I will invoke a curse, for you are rendering me the most miserable creature that ever lived.”

We have already observed that D’Artagnan could easily recognize the accents of truth and sincerity, and he could not resist this last appeal. He saw by her face how bitterly she suffered from a feeling of degradation, he remarked her trembling limbs, how her whole slight and delicate frame was violently agitated by some internal struggle, and clearly perceived that resistance might be fatal. “I will do as you wish, then,” he said. “Be satisfied, mademoiselle, I will say nothing to the king.”

“Oh! thanks, thanks,” exclaimed La Valliere, “you are the most generous man breathing.”

And in her extreme delight she seized hold of D’Artagnan’s hands and pressed them between her own. D’Artagnan, who felt himself quite overcome, said: “This is touching, upon my word; she begins where others leave off.”

And La Valliere, who, in the bitterness of her distress, had sunk upon the ground, rose and walked towards the convent of the Carmelites, which could now, in the dawning light, be perceived just before them. D’Artagnan followed her at a distance. The entrance-door was half-open; she glided in like a shadow, and thanking D’Artagnan by a parting gesture, disappeared from his sight. When D’Artagnan found himself quite alone, he reflected very profoundly upon what had just taken place. “Upon my word,” he said, “this looks very much like what is called a false position. To keep such a secret as that, is to keep a burning coal in one’s breeches-pocket, and trust that it may not burn the stuff. And yet, not to keep it when I have sworn to do so is dishonorable. It generally happens that some bright idea or other occurs to me as I am going along; but I am very much mistaken if I shall not, now, have to go a long way in order to find the solution of this affair. Yes, but which way to go? Oh! towards Paris, of course; that is the best way, after all. Only one must make haste, and in order to make haste four legs are better than two, and I, unhappily, only have two. ‘A horse, a horse,’ as I heard them say at the theatre in London, ‘my kingdom for a horse!’ And now I think of it, it need not cost me so much as that, for at the Barriere de la Conference there is a guard of musketeers, and instead of the one horse I need, I shall find ten there.”

So, in pursuance of this resolution, which he adopted with his usual rapidity, D’Artagnan immediately turned his back upon the heights of Chaillot, reached the guard-house, took the fastest horse he could find there, and was at the palace in less than ten minutes. It was striking five as he reached the Palais Royal. The king, he was told, had gone to bed at his usual hour, having been long engaged with M. Colbert, and, in all probability, was still sound asleep. “Come,” said D’Artagnan, “she spoke the truth; the king is ignorant of everything; if he only knew one-half of what has happened, the Palais Royal by this time would be turned upside down.” 5






Chapter XXVII. Showing How Louis, on His Part, Had Passed the Time from Ten to Half-Past Twelve at Night.


When the king left the apartments of the maids of honor, he found Colbert awaiting him to take directions for the next day’s ceremony, as the king was then to receive the Dutch and Spanish ambassadors. Louis XIV. had serious causes of dissatisfaction with the Dutch; the States had already been guilty of many mean shifts and evasions with France, and without perceiving or without caring about the chances of a rupture, they again abandoned the alliance with his Most Christian Majesty, for the purpose of entering into all kinds of plots with Spain. Louis XIV. at his accession, that is to say, at the death of Cardinal Mazarin, had found this political question roughly sketched out; the solution was difficult for a young man, but as, at that time, the king represented the whole nation, anything that the head resolved upon, the body would be found ready to carry out. Any sudden impulse of anger, the reaction of young hot blood upon the brain, would be quite sufficient to change an old form of policy and create another system altogether. The part that diplomatists had to play in those days was that of arranging among themselves the different coups-d’etat which their sovereign masters might wish to effect. Louis was not in that calm frame of mind which was necessary to enable him to determine on a wise course of policy. Still much agitated from the quarrel he had just had with La Valliere, he walked hastily into his cabinet, dimly desirous of finding an opportunity of producing an explosion after he had controlled himself for so long a time. Colbert, as he saw the king enter, knew the position of affairs at a glance, understood the king’s intentions, and resolved therefore to maneuver a little. When Louis requested to be informed what it would be necessary to say on the morrow, Colbert began by expressing his surprise that his majesty had not been properly informed by M. Fouquet. “M. Fouquet,” he said, “is perfectly acquainted with the whole of this Dutch affair—he received the dispatches himself direct.”

The king, who was accustomed to hear M. Colbert speak in not over-scrupulous terms of M. Fouquet, allowed this remark to pass unanswered, and merely listened. Colbert noticed the effect it had produced, and hastened to back out, saying that M. Fouquet was not on all occasions as blamable as at the first glance might seem to be the case, inasmuch as at that moment he was greatly occupied. The king looked up. “What do you allude to?” he said.

“Sire, men are but men, and M. Fouquet has his defects as well as his great qualities.”

“Ah! defects, who is without them, M. Colbert?”

“Your majesty, hardly,” said Colbert, boldly; for he knew how to convey a good deal of flattery in a light amount of blame, like the arrow which cleaves the air notwithstanding its weight, thanks to the light feathers which bear it up.

The king smiled. “What defect has M. Fouquet, then?” he said.

“Still the same, sire; it is said he is in love.”

“In love! with whom?”

“I am not quite sure, sire; I have very little to do with matters of gallantry.”

“At all events you know, since you speak of it.”

“I have heard a name mentioned.”

“Whose?”

“I cannot now remember whose, but I think it is one of Madame’s maids of honor.”

The king started. “You know more than you like to say, M. Colbert,” he murmured.

“I assure you, no, sire.”

“At all events, Madame’s maids of honor are all known, and in mentioning their names to you, you will perhaps recollect the one you allude to.”

“No, sire.”

“At least, try.”

“It would be useless, sire. Whenever the name of any lady who runs the risk of being compromised is concerned, my memory is like a coffer of bronze, the key of which I have lost.”

A dark cloud seemed to pass over the mind as well as across the face of the king; then, wishing to appear as if he were perfect master of himself and his feelings, he said, “And now for the affair concerning Holland.”

“In the first place, sire, at what hour will your majesty receive the ambassadors?”

“Early in the morning.”

“Eleven o’clock?”

“That is too late—say nine o’clock.”

“That will be too early, sire.”

“For friends, that would be a matter of no importance; one does what one likes with one’s friends; but for one’s enemies, in that case nothing could be better than if they were to feel hurt. I should not be sorry, I confess, to have to finish altogether with these marsh-birds, who annoy me with their cries.”

“It shall be precisely as your majesty desires. At nine o’clock, therefore—I will give the necessary orders. Is it to be a formal audience?”

“No. I wish to have an explanation with them, and not to embitter matters, as is always the case when many persons are present, but, at the same time, I wish to clear up everything with them, in order not to have to begin over again.”

“Your majesty will inform me of the persons whom you wish to be present at the reception.”

“I will draw out a list. Let us speak of the ambassadors; what do they want?”

“Allies with Spain, they gain nothing; allies with France, they lose much.”

“How is that?”

“Allied with Spain, they see themselves bounded and protected by the possessions of their allies; they cannot touch them, however anxious they may be to do so. From Antwerp to Rotterdam is but a step, and that by the way of the Scheldt and the Meuse. If they wish to make a bite at the Spanish cake, you, sire, the son-in-law of the king of Spain, could with your cavalry sweep the earth from your dominions to Brussels in a couple of days. Their design is, therefore, only to quarrel so far with you, and only to make you suspect Spain so far, as will be sufficient to induce you not to interfere with their own affairs.”

“It would be far more simple, I should imagine,” replied the king, “to form a solid alliance with me, by means of which I should gain something, while they would gain everything.”

“Not so; for if, by chance, they were to have you, or France rather, as a boundary, your majesty is not an agreeable neighbor. Young, ardent, warlike, the king of France might inflict some serious mischief on Holland, especially if he were to get near her.”

“I perfectly understand, M. Colbert, and you have explained it very clearly; but be good enough to tell me the conclusion you have arrived at.”

“Your majesty’s own decisions are never deficient in wisdom.”

“What will these ambassadors say to me?”

“They will tell your majesty that they are ardently desirous of forming an alliance with you, which will be a falsehood: they will tell Spain that the three powers ought to unite so as to check the prosperity of England, and that will equally be a falsehood; for at present, the natural ally of your majesty is England, who has ships while we have none; England, who can counteract Dutch influence in India; England, in fact, a monarchical country, to which your majesty is attached by ties of relationship.”

“Good; but how would you answer?”

“I should answer, sire, with the greatest possible moderation of tone, that the disposition of Holland does not seem friendly towards the Court of France; that the symptoms of public feeling among the Dutch are alarming as regards your majesty; that certain medals have been struck with insulting devices.”

“Towards me?” exclaimed the young king, excitedly.

“Oh, no! sire, no; insulting is not the word; I was mistaken, I ought to have said immeasurably flattering to the Dutch.”

“Oh! if that be so, the pride of the Dutch is a matter of indifference to me,” said the king, sighing.

“Your majesty is right, a thousand times right. However, it is never a mistake in politics, your majesty knows better than myself, to exaggerate a little in order to obtain a concession in your own favor. If your majesty were to complain as if your susceptibility were offended, you would stand in a far higher position with them.”

“What are these medals you speak of?” inquired Louis; “for if I allude to them, I ought to know what to say.”

“Upon my word, sire, I cannot very well tell you—some overweeningly conceited device—that is the sense of it; the words have little to do with the thing itself.”

“Very good! I will mention the word ‘medal,’ and they can understand it if they like.”

“Oh! they will understand without any difficulty. Your majesty can also slip in a few words about certain pamphlets which are being circulated.”

“Never! Pamphlets befoul those who write them much more than those against whom they are written. M. Colbert, I thank you. You can leave now. Do not forget the hour I have fixed, and be there yourself.”

“Sire, I await your majesty’s list.”

“True,” returned the king; and he began to meditate; he had not thought of the list in the least. The clock struck half-past eleven. The king’s face revealed a violent conflict between pride and love. The political conversation had dispelled a good deal of the irritation which Louis had felt, and La Valliere’s pale, worn features, in his imagination, spoke a very different language from that of the Dutch medals, or the Batavian pamphlets. He sat for ten minutes debating within himself whether he should or should not return to La Valliere; but Colbert having with some urgency respectfully requested that the list might be furnished him, the king was ashamed to be thinking of mere matters of affection where important state affairs required his attention. He therefore dictated: the queen-mother, the queen, Madame, Madame de Motteville, Madame de Chatillon, Madame de Navailles; and, for the men, M. le Prince, M. de Gramont, M. de Manicamp, M. de Saint-Aignan, and the officers on duty.

“The ministers?” asked Colbert.

“As a matter of course, and the secretaries also.”

“Sire, I will leave at once in order to get everything prepared; the orders will be at the different residences to-morrow.”

“Say rather to-day,” replied Louis mournfully, as the clock struck twelve. It was the very hour when poor La Valliere was almost dying from anguish and bitter suffering. The king’s attendants entered, it being the hour of his retirement to his chamber; the queen, indeed, had been waiting for more than an hour. Louis accordingly retreated to his bedroom with a sigh; but, as he sighed, he congratulated himself on his courage, and applauded himself for having been as firm in love as in affairs of state.