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Ten Years Later

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Chapter XXXI. M. de Lorraine’s Jealousy.


The Duc d’Orleans uttered a cry of delight on perceiving the Chevalier de Lorraine. “This is fortunate, indeed,” he said; “by what happy chance do I see you? Had you indeed disappeared, as every one assured me?”

“Yes, monseigneur.”

“A caprice?”

“I to venture upon caprices with your highness! The respect—”

“Put respect out of the way, for you fail in it every day. I absolve you; but why did you leave me?”

“Because I felt that I was of no further use to you.”

“Explain yourself.”

“Your highness has people about you who are far more amusing that I can ever be. I felt I was not strong enough to enter into contest with them, and I therefore withdrew.”

“This extreme diffidence shows a want of common sense. Who are those with whom you cannot contend? De Guiche?”

“I name no one.”

“This is absurd. Does De Guiche annoy you?”

“I do not say he does; do not force me to speak, however; you know very well that De Guiche is one of our best friends.”

“Who is it, then?”

“Excuse me, monseigneur, let us say no more about it.” The chevalier knew perfectly well that curiosity is excited in the same way as thirst —by removing that which quenches it; or in other words, by denying an explanation.

“No, no,” said the prince; “I wish to know why you went away.”

“In that case, monseigneur, I will tell you; but do not get angry. I remarked that my presence was disagreeable.”

“To whom?”

“To Madame.”

“What do you mean?” said the duke in astonishment.

“It is simple enough; Madame is very probably jealous of the regard you are good enough to testify for me.”

“Has she shown it to you?”

“Madame never addresses a syllable to me, particularly since a certain time.”

“Since what time?”

“Since the time when, M. de Guiche having made himself more agreeable to her than I could, she receives him at every and any hour.”

The duke colored. “At any hour, chevalier; what do you mean by that?”

“You see, your highness, I have already displeased you; I was quite sure I should.”

“I am not displeased; but what you say is rather startling. In what respect does Madame prefer De Guiche to you?”

“I shall say no more,” said the chevalier, saluting the prince ceremoniously.

“On the contrary, I require you to speak. If you withdraw on that account, you must indeed be very jealous.”

“One cannot help being jealous, monseigneur, when one loves. Is not your royal highness jealous of Madame? Would you not, if you saw some one always near Madame, and always treated with great favor, take umbrage at it? One’s friends are as one’s lovers. Your highness has sometimes conferred the distinguished honor upon me of calling me your friend.”

“Yes, yes,; but you used a phrase which has a very equivocal significance; you are unfortunate in your phrases.”

“What phrase, monseigneur?”

“You said, ‘treated with great favor.’ What do you mean by favor?”

“Nothing can be more simple,” said the chevalier, with an expression of great frankness; “for instance, whenever a husband remarks that his wife summons such and such a man near her; whenever this man is always to be found by her side, or in attendance at the door of her carriage; whenever the bouquet of the one is always the same color as the ribbons of the other; when music and supper parties are held in private apartments; whenever a dead silence takes place immediately the husband makes his appearance in his wife’s rooms; and when the husband suddenly finds that he has, as a companion, the most devoted and the kindest of men, who, a week before, was with him as little as possible; why, then—”

“Well, finish.”

“Why, then, I say, monseigneur, one possibly may get jealous. But all these details hardly apply; for our conversation had nothing to do with them.”

The duke was evidently very much agitated, and seemed to struggle with himself a good deal. “You have not told me,” he then remarked, “why you absented yourself. A little while ago you said it was from a fear of intruding; you added, even, that you had observed a disposition on Madame’s part to encourage De Guiche.”

“Pardon me, monseigneur, I did not say that.”

“You did, indeed.”

“Well, if I did say so, I observed nothing but what was very inoffensive.”

“At all events, you remarked something.”

“You embarrass me, monseigneur.”

“What does that matter? Answer me. If you speak the truth, why should you feel embarrassed?”

“I always speak the truth, monseigneur; but I also always hesitate when it is a question of repeating what others say.”

“Ah! repeat? It appears that it is talked about, then?”

“I acknowledge that others have spoken to me on the subject.”

“Who?” said the prince.

The chevalier assumed almost an angry air, as he replied, “Monseigneur, you are subjecting me to cross-examination; you treat me as a criminal at the bar; the rumors which idly pass by a gentleman’s ears do not remain there. Your highness wishes me to magnify rumors until it attains the importance of an event.”

“However,” said the duke, in great displeasure, “the fact remains that you withdrew on account of this report.”

“To speak the truth, others have talked to me of the attentions of M. de Guiche to Madame, nothing more; perfectly harmless, I repeat, and more than that, allowable. But do not be unjust, monseigneur, and do not attach any undue importance to it. It does not concern you.”

“M. de Guiche’s attentions to Madame do not concern me?”

“No, monseigneur; and what I say to you I would say to De Guiche himself, so little do I think of the attentions he pays Madame. Nay, I would say it even to Madame herself. Only you understand what I am afraid of—I am afraid of being thought jealous of the favor shown, when I am only jealous as far as friendship is concerned. I know your disposition; I know that when you bestow your affections you become exclusively attached. You love Madame—and who, indeed, would not love her? Follow me attentively as I proceed:—Madame has noticed among your friends the handsomest and most fascinating of them all; she will begin to influence you on his behalf in such a way that you will neglect the others. Your indifference would kill me; it is already bad enough to have to support Madame’s indifference. I have, therefore, made up my mind to give way to the favorite whose happiness I envy, even while I acknowledge my sincere friendship and sincere admiration for him. Well, monseigneur, do you see anything to object to in this reasoning? Is it not that of a man of honor? Is my conduct that of a sincere friend? Answer me, at least, after having so closely questioned me.”

The duke had seated himself, with his head buried in his hands. After a silence long enough to enable the chevalier to judge the effect of this oratorical display, the duke arose, saying, “Come, be candid.”

“As I always am.”

“Very well. You know that we already observed something respecting that mad fellow, Buckingham.”

“Do not say anything against Madame, monseigneur, or I shall take my leave. It is impossible you can be suspicious of Madame?”

“No, no, chevalier; I do not suspect Madame; but in fact, I observe—I compare—”

“Buckingham was a madman, monseigneur.”

“A madman about whom, however, you opened my eyes thoroughly.”

“No, no,” said the chevalier, quickly; “it was not I who opened your eyes, it was De Guiche. Do not confound us, I beg.” And he began to laugh in so harsh a manner that it sounded like the hiss of a serpent.

“Yes, yes; I remember. You said a few words, but De Guiche showed the most jealousy.”

“I should think so,” continued the chevalier, in the same tone. “He was fighting for home and altar.”

“What did you say?” said the duke, haughtily, thoroughly roused by this insidious jest.

“Am I not right? for does not M. de Guiche hold the chief post of honor in your household?”

“Well,” replied the duke, somewhat calmed, “had this passion of Buckingham been remarked?”

“Certainly.”

“Very well. Do people say that M. de Guiche’s is remarked as much?”

“Pardon me, monseigneur; you are again mistaken; no one says that M. de Guiche entertains anything of the sort.”

“Very good.”

“You see, monseigneur, that it would have been better, a hundred times better, to have left me in my retirement, than to have allowed you to conjure up, by aid of any scruples I may have had, suspicions which Madame will regard as crimes, and she would be in the right, too.”

“What would you do?”

“Act reasonably.”

“In what way?”

“I should not pay the slightest attention to the society of these new Epicurean philosophers; and, in that way, the rumors will cease.”

“Well, I will see; I will think it over.”

“Oh, you have time enough; the danger is not great; and then, besides, it is not a question of danger or of passion. It all arose from a fear I had to see your friendship for me decrease. From the very moment you restore it, with so kind an assurance of its existence, I have no longer any other idea in my head.”

The duke shook his head as if he meant to say: “If you have no more ideas, I have, though.” It being now the dinner hour, the prince sent to inform Madame of it; but she returned a message to the effect that she could not be present, but would dine in her own apartment.

“That is not my fault,” said the duke. “This morning, having taken them by surprise in the midst of a musical party, I got jealous; and so they are in the sulks with me.”

“We will dine alone,” said the chevalier, with a sigh; “I regret De Guiche is not here.”

“Oh! De Guiche will not remain long in the sulks; he is a very good-natured fellow.”

“Monseigneur,” said the chevalier, suddenly, “an excellent idea has struck me, in our conversation just now. I may have exasperated your highness, and caused you some dissatisfaction. It is but fitting that I should be the mediator. I will go and look for the count, and bring him back with me.”

“Ah! chevalier, you are really a very good-natured fellow.”

“You say that as if you were surprised.”

“Well, you are not so tender-hearted every day.”

“That may be; but confess that I know how to repair a wrong I may have done.”

“I confess that.”

“Will your highness do me the favor to wait here a few minutes?”

“Willingly; be off, and I will try on my Fontainebleau costume.”

The chevalier left the room, called his different attendant with the greatest care, as if he were giving them different orders. All went off in various directions; but he retained his valet de chambre. “Ascertain, and immediately, too, of M. de Guiche is not in Madame’s apartments. How can one learn it?”

“Very easily, monsieur. I will ask Malicorne, who will find out from Mlle. de Montalais. I may as well tell you, however, that the inquiry will be useless; for all M. de Guiche’s attendants are gone, and he must have left with them.”

“Ascertain, nevertheless.”

Ten minutes had hardly passed, when the valet returned. He beckoned his master mysteriously towards the servants’ staircase, and showed him into a small room with a window looking out upon the garden. “What is the matter?” said the chevalier; “why so many precautions?”

“Look, monsieur,” said the valet, “look yonder, under the walnut-tree.”

“Ah?” said the chevalier. “I see Manicamp there. What is he waiting for?”

“You will see in a moment, monsieur, if you wait patiently. There, do you see now?”

“I see one, two, four musicians with their instruments, and behind them, urging them on, De Guiche himself. What is he doing there, though?”

“He is waiting until the little door of the staircase, belonging to the ladies of honor, is opened; by that staircase he will ascend to Madame’s apartments, where some new pieces of music are going to be performed during dinner.”

“This is admirable news you tell me.”

“Is it not, monsieur?”

“Was it M. de Malicorne who told you this?”

“Yes, monsieur.”

“He likes you, then?”

“No, monsieur, it is Monsieur that he likes.”

“Why?”

“Because he wishes to belong to his household.”

“And most certainly he shall. How much did he give you for that?”

“The secret which I now dispose of to you, monsieur.”

“And which I buy for a hundred pistoles. Take them.”

“Thank you, monsieur. Look, look, the little door opens; a woman admits the musicians.”

“It is Montalais.”

“Hush, monseigneur; do not call out her name; whoever says Montalais says Malicorne. If you quarrel with the one, you will be on bad terms with the other.”

“Very well; I have seen nothing.”

“And I,” said the valet, pocketing the purse, “have received nothing.”

The chevalier, being now certain that Guiche had entered, returned to the prince, whom he found splendidly dressed and radiant with joy, as with good looks. “I am told,” he exclaimed, “that the king has taken the sun as his device; really, monseigneur, it is you whom this device would best suit.”

“Where is De Guiche?”

“He cannot be found. He has fled—has evaporated entirely. Your scolding of this morning terrified him. He could not be found in his apartments.”

“Bah! the hair-brained fellow is capable of setting off post-haste to his own estates. Poor man! we will recall him. Come, let us dine now.”

“Monseigneur, to-day is a very festival of ideas; I have another.”

“What is it?”

“Madame is angry with you, and she has reason to be so. You owe her revenge; go and dine with her.”

“Oh! that would be acting like a weak and whimsical husband.”

“It is the duty of a good husband to do so. The princess is no doubt wearied enough; she will be weeping in her plate, and here eyes will get quite red. A husband who is the cause of his wife’s eyes getting red is an odious creature. Come, monseigneur, come.”

“I cannot; for I have directed dinner to be served here.”

“Yet see, monseigneur, how dull we shall be; I shall be low-spirited because I know that Madame will be alone; you, hard and savage as you wish to appear, will be sighing all the while. Take me with you to Madame’s dinner, and that will be a delightful surprise. I am sure we shall be very merry; you were in the wrong this morning.”

“Well, perhaps I was.”

“There is no perhaps at all, for it is a fact you were so.”

“Chevalier, chevalier, your advice is not good.”

“Nay, my advice is good; all the advantages are on your own side. Your violet-colored suit, embroidered with gold, becomes you admirably. Madame will be as much vanquished by the man as by the action. Come, monseigneur.”

“You decide me; let us go.”

The duke left his room, accompanied by the chevalier and went towards Madame’s apartments. The chevalier hastily whispered to the valet, “Be sure there are some people before that little door, so that no one can escape in that direction. Run, run!” And he followed the duke towards the ante-chambers of Madame’s suite of apartments, and when the ushers were about to announce them, the chevalier said, laughing, “His highness wishes to surprise Madame.”






Chapter XXXII. Monsieur is Jealous of Guiche.


Monsieur entered the room abruptly, as persons do who mean well and think they confer pleasure, or as those who hope to surprise some secret, the terrible reward of jealous people. Madame, almost out of her senses with joy at the first bars of music, was dancing in the most unrestrained manner, leaving the dinner, which had been already begun, unfinished. Her partner was M. de Guiche, who, with his arms raised, and his eyes half closed, was kneeling on one knee, like the Spanish dancers, with looks full of passion, and gestures of the most caressing character. The princess was dancing round him with a responsive smile, and the same air of alluring seductiveness. Montalais stood by admiringly; La Valliere, seated in a corner of the room, looked on thoughtfully. It is impossible to describe the effect which the presence of the prince produced upon this gleeful company, and it would be equally impossible to describe the effect which the sight of their happiness produced upon Philip. The Comte de Guiche had no power to move; Madame remained in the middle of one of the figures and of an attitude, unable to utter a word. The Chevalier de Lorraine, leaning his back against the doorway, smiled like a man in the very height of the frankest admiration. The pallor of the prince, and the convulsive twitching of his hands and limbs, were the first symptoms that struck those present. A dead silence succeeded the merry music of the dance. The Chevalier de Lorraine took advantage of this interval to salute Madame and De Guiche most respectfully, affecting to join them together in his reverences as though they were the master and mistress of the house. Monsieur then approached them, saying, in a hoarse tone of voice, “I am delighted; I came here expecting to find you ill and low-spirited, and I find you abandoning yourself to new amusements; really, it is most fortunate. My house is the pleasantest in the kingdom.” Then turning towards De Guiche, “Comte,” he said, “I did not know you were so good a dancer.” And, again addressing his wife, he said, “Show a little more consideration for me, Madame; whenever you intend to amuse yourselves here, invite me. I am a prince, unfortunately, very much neglected.”

Guiche had now recovered his self-possession, and with the spirited boldness which was natural to him, and sat so well upon him, he said, “Your highness knows very well that my very life is at your service, and whenever there is a question of its being needed, I am ready; but to-day, as it is only a question of dancing to music, I dance.”

“And you are perfectly right,” said the prince, coldly. “But, Madame,” he continued, “you do not remark that your ladies deprive me of my friends; M. de Guiche does not belong to you, Madame, but to me. If you wish to dine without me you have your ladies. When I dine alone I have my gentlemen; do not strip me of everything.”

Madame felt the reproach and the lesson, and the color rushed to her face. “Monsieur,” she replied, “I was not aware, when I came to the court of France, that princesses of my rank were to be regarded as the women in Turkey are. I was not aware that we were not allowed to be seen; but, since such is your desire, I will conform myself to it; pray do not hesitate, if you should wish it, to have my windows barred, even.”

This repartee, which made Montalais and De Guiche smile, rekindled the prince’s anger, no inconsiderable portion of which had already evaporated in words.

“Very well,” he said, in a concentrated tone of voice, “this is the way in which I am respected in my own house.”

“Monseigneur, monseigneur,” murmured the chevalier in the duke’s ear, in such a manner that every one could observe he was endeavoring to calm him.

“Come,” replied the prince, as his only answer to the remark, hurrying him away, and turning round with so hasty a movement that he almost ran against Madame. The chevalier followed him to his own apartment, where the prince had no sooner seated himself than he gave free vent to his fury. The chevalier raised his eyes towards the ceiling, joined his hands together, and said not a word.

“Give me your opinion,” exclaimed the prince.

“Upon what?”

“Upon what is taking place here.”

“Oh, monseigneur, it is a very serious matter.”

“It is abominable! I cannot live in this manner.”

“How miserable all this is,” said the chevalier. “We hoped to enjoy tranquillity after that madman Buckingham had left.”

“And this is worse.”

“I do not say that, monseigneur.”

“Yes, but I say it; for Buckingham would never have ventured upon a fourth part of what we have just now seen.”

“What do you mean?”

“To conceal oneself for the purposes of dancing, and to feign indisposition in order to dine tete-a-tete.”

“No, no, monseigneur.”

“Yes, yes,” exclaimed the prince, exciting himself like a self-willed child; “but I will not endure it any longer, I must learn what is really going on.”

“Oh, monseigneur, an exposure—”

“By Heaven, monsieur, shall I put myself out of the way, when people show so little consideration for me? Wait for me here, chevalier, wait for me here.” The prince disappeared in the neighboring apartment and inquired of the gentleman in attendance if the queen-mother had returned from chapel.

Anne of Austria felt that her happiness was now complete; peace restored to her family, a nation delighted with the presence of a young monarch who had shown an aptitude for affairs of great importance; the revenues of the state increased; external peace assured; everything seemed to promise a tranquil future. Her thoughts recurred, now and then, to the poor young nobleman whom she had received as a mother, and had driven away as a hard-hearted step-mother, and she sighed as she thought of him.

Suddenly the Duc d’Orleans entered her room. “Dear mother,” he exclaimed hurriedly, closing the door, “things cannot go on as they are now.”

Anne of Austria raised her beautiful eyes towards him, and with an unmoved suavity of manner, said, “What do you allude to?”

“I wish to speak of Madame.”

“Your wife?”

“Yes, madame.”

“I suppose that silly fellow Buckingham has been writing a farewell letter to her.”

“Oh! yes, madame; of course, it is a question of Buckingham.”

“Of whom else could it be, then? for that poor fellow was, wrongly enough, the object of your jealousy, and I thought—”

“My wife, madame, has already replaced the Duke of Buckingham.”

“Philip, what are you saying? You are speaking very heedlessly.”

“No, no. Madame has so managed matters, that I am still jealous.”

“Of whom, in Heaven’s name?”

“Is it possible you have not remarked it? Have you not noticed that M. de Guiche is always in her apartments—always with her?”

The queen clapped her hands together, and began to laugh. “Philip,” she said, “your jealousy is not merely a defect, it is a disease.”

“Whether a defect or a disease, madame, I am the sufferer from it.”

“And do you imagine that a complaint which exists only in your own imagination can be cured? You wish it to be said you are right in being jealous, when there is no ground whatever for your jealousy.”

“Of course, you will begin to say for this gentleman what you already said on the behalf of the other.”

“Because, Philip,” said the queen dryly, “what you did for the other, you are going to do for this one.”

The prince bowed, slightly annoyed. “If I give you facts,” he said, “will you believe me?”

“If it regarded anything else but jealousy, I would believe you without your bringing facts forward; but as jealousy is the case, I promise nothing.”

“It is just the same as if your majesty were to desire me to hold my tongue, and sent me away unheard.”

“Far from it; you are my son, I owe you a mother’s indulgence.”

“Oh, say what you think; you owe me as much indulgence as a madman deserves.”

“Do not exaggerate, Philip, and take care how you represent your wife to me as a woman of depraved mind—”

“But facts, mother, facts!”

“Well, I am listening.”

“This morning at ten o’clock they were playing music in Madame’s apartments.”

“No harm in that, surely.”

“M. de Guiche was talking with her alone—Ah! I forgot to tell you, that, during the last ten days, he has never left her side.”

“If they were doing any harm they would hide themselves.”

“Very good,” exclaimed the duke, “I expected you to say that. Pray remember with precision the words you have just uttered. This morning I took them by surprise, and showed my dissatisfaction in a very marked manner.”

“Rely upon it, that is quite sufficient; it was, perhaps, even a little too much. These young women easily take offense. To reproach them for an error they have not committed is, sometimes, almost equivalent to telling them they might be guilty of even worse.”

“Very good, very good; but wait a minute. Do not forget what you have just this moment said, that this morning’s lesson ought to have been sufficient, and that if they had been doing what was wrong, they would have hidden themselves.”

“Yes, I said so.”

“Well, just now, repenting of my hastiness of the morning, and imagining that Guiche was sulking in his own apartments, I went to pay Madame a visit. Can you guess what, or whom, I found there? Another set of musicians; more dancing, and Guiche himself—he was concealed there.”

Anne of Austria frowned. “It was imprudent,” she said. “What did Madame say?”

“Nothing.”

“And Guiche?”

“As much—oh, no! he muttered some impertinent remark or another.”

“Well, what is your opinion, Philip?”

“That I have been made a fool of; that Buckingham was only a pretext, and that Guiche is the one who is really to blame in the matter.”

Anne shrugged her shoulders. “Well,” she said, “what else?”

“I wish De Guiche to be dismissed from my household, as Buckingham was, and I shall ask the king, unless—”

“Unless what?”

“Unless you, my dear mother, who are so clever and so kind, will execute the commission yourself.”

“I will not do it, Philip.”

“What, madame?”

“Listen, Philip; I am not disposed to pay people ill compliments every day; I have some influence over young people, but I cannot take advantage of it without running the chances of losing it altogether. Besides, there is nothing to prove that M. de Guiche is guilty.”

“He has displeased me.”

“That is your own affair.”

“Very well, I know what I shall do,” said the prince, impetuously.

Anne looked at him with some uneasiness. “What do you intend to do?” she said.

“I will have him drowned in my fish-pond the very next time I find him in my apartments again.” Having launched this terrible threat, the prince expected his mother would be frightened out of her senses; but the queen was unmoved.

“Do so,” she said.

Philip was as weak as a woman, and began to cry out, “Every one betrays me,—no one cares for me; my mother, even, joins my enemies.”

“Your mother, Philip, sees further in the matter than you do, and does not care about advising you, since you will not listen to her.”

“I will go to the king.”

“I was about to propose that to you. I am now expecting his majesty; it is the hour he usually pays me a visit; explain the matter to him yourself.”

She had hardly finished when Philip heard the door of the ante-room open with some noise. He began to feel nervous. At the sound of the king’s footsteps, which could be heard upon the carpet, the duke hurriedly made his escape. Anne of Austria could not resist laughing, and was laughing still when the king entered. He came very affectionately to inquire after the even now uncertain health of the queen-mother, and to announce to her that the preparations for the journey to Fontainebleau were complete. Seeing her laugh, his uneasiness on her account diminished, and he addressed her in a vivacious tone himself. Anne of Austria took him by the hand, and, in a voice full of playfulness, said, “Do you know, sire that I am proud of being a Spanish woman?”

“Why, madame?”

“Because Spanish women are worth more than English women at least.”

“Explain yourself.”

“Since your marriage you have not, I believe, had a single reproach to make against the queen.”

“Certainly not.”

“And you, too, have been married some time. Your brother, on the contrary, has been married but a fortnight.”

“Well?”

“He is now finding fault with Madame a second time.”

“What, Buckingham still?”

“No, another.”

“Who?”

“Guiche.”

“Really? Madame is a coquette, then?”

“I fear so.”

“My poor brother,” said the king, laughing.

“You don’t object to coquettes, it seems?”

“In Madame, certainly I do; but Madame is not a coquette at heart.”

“That may be, but your brother is excessively angry about it.”

“What does he want?”

“He wants to drown Guiche.”

“That is a violent measure to resort to.”

“Do not laugh; he is extremely irritated. Think of what can be done.”

“To save Guiche—certainly.”

“Of, if your brother heard you, he would conspire against you as your uncle did against your father.”

“No; Philip has too much affection for me for that, and I, on my side, have too great a regard for him; we shall live together on very good terms. But what is the substance of his request?”

“That you will prevent Madame from being a coquette and Guiche from being amiable.”

“Is that all? My brother has an exalted idea of sovereign power. To reform a man, not to speak about reforming a woman!”

“How will you set about it?”

“With a word to Guiche, who is a clever fellow, I will undertake to convince him.”

“But Madame?”

“That is more difficult; a word will not be enough. I will compose a homily and read it to her.”

“There is no time to be lost.”

“Oh, I will use the utmost diligence. There is a repetition of the ballet this afternoon.”

“You will read her a lecture while you are dancing?”

“Yes, madame.”

“You promise to convert her?”

“I will root out the heresy altogether, either by convincing her, or by extreme measures.”

“That is all right, then. Do not mix me up in the affair; Madame would never forgive me all her life, and as a mother-in-law, I ought to desire to live on good terms with my new-found daughter.”

“The king, madame, will take all upon himself. But let me reflect.”

“What about?”

“It would be better, perhaps, if I were to go and see Madame in her own apartment.”

“Would that not seem a somewhat serious step to take?”

“Yes; but seriousness is not unbecoming in preachers, and the music of the ballet would drown half my arguments. Besides, the object is to prevent any violent measures on my brother’s part, so that a little precipitation may be advisable. Is Madame in her own apartment?”

“I believe so.”

“What is my statement of grievances to consist of?”

“In a few words, of the following: music uninterruptedly; Guiche’s assiduity; suspicions of treasonable plots and practices.”

“And the proofs?”

“There are none.”

“Very well; I will go at once to see Madame.” The king turned to look in the mirrors at his costume, which was very rich, and his face, which was radiant as the morning. “I suppose my brother is kept a little at a distance,” said the king.

“Fire and water cannot be more opposite.”

“That will do. Permit me, madame, to kiss your hands, the most beautiful hands in France.”

“May you be successful, sire, as the family peacemaker.”

“I do not employ an ambassador,” said Louis, “which is as much as to say that I shall succeed.” He laughed as he left the room, and carelessly adjusted his ruffles as he went along.






Chapter XXXIII. The Mediator.


When the king made his appearance in Madame’s apartments, the courtiers, whom the news of a conjugal misunderstanding had dispersed through the various apartments, began to entertain the most serious apprehensions. A storm was brewing in that direction, the elements of which the Chevalier de Lorraine, in the midst of the different groups, was analyzing with delight, contributing to the weaker, and acting, according to his own wicked designs, in such a manner with regard to the stronger, as to produce the most disastrous consequences possible. As Anne of Austria had herself said, the presence of the king gave a solemn and serious character to the event. Indeed, in the year 1662, the dissatisfaction of Monsieur with Madame, and the king’s intervention in the private affairs of Monsieur, was a matter of no inconsiderable moment. 3

The boldest, even, who had been the associates of the Comte de Guiche, had, from the first moment, held aloof from him, with a sort of nervous apprehension; and the comte himself, infected by the general panic, retired to his own room. The king entered Madame’s private apartments, acknowledging and returning the salutations, as he was always in the habit of doing. The ladies of honor were ranged in a line on his passage along the gallery. Although his majesty was very much preoccupied, he gave the glance of a master at the two rows of young and beautiful girls, who modestly cast down their eyes, blushing as they felt the king’s gaze fall upon them. One only of the number, whose long hair fell in silken masses upon the most beautiful skin imaginable, was pale, and could hardly sustain herself, notwithstanding the knocks which her companion gave her with her elbow. It was La Valliere whom Montalais supported in that manner by whispering some of that courage to her with which she herself was so abundantly provided. The king could not resist turning round to look at them again. Their faces, which had already been raised, were again lowered, but the only fair head among them remained motionless, as if all the strength and intelligence she had left had abandoned her. When he entered Madame’s room, Louis found his sister-in-law reclining upon the cushions of her cabinet. She rose and made a profound reverence, murmuring some words of thanks for the honor she was receiving. She then resumed her seat, overcome by a sudden weakness, which was no doubt assumed, for a delightful color animated her cheeks, and her eyes, still red from the tears she had recently shed, never had more fire in them. When the king was seated, as soon as he had remarked, with that accuracy of observation which characterized him, the disorder of the apartment, and the no less great disorder of Madame’s countenance, he assumed a playful manner, saying, “My dear sister, at what hour to-day would you wish the repetition of the ballet to take place?”

Madame, shaking her charming head, slowly and languishingly said: “Ah! sire, will you graciously excuse my appearance at the repetition? I was about to send to inform you that I could not attend to-day.”

“Indeed,” said the king, in apparent surprise; “are you not well?”

“No, sire.”

“I will summon your medical attendants, then.”

“No, for they can do nothing for my indisposition.”

“You alarm me.”

“Sire, I wish to ask your majesty’s permission to return to England.”

The king started. “Return to England,” he said; “do you really say what you mean?”

“I say it reluctantly, sire,” replied the grand-daughter of Henry IV., firmly, her beautiful black eyes flashing. “I regret to have to confide such matters to your majesty, but I feel myself too unhappy at your majesty’s court; and I wish to return to my own family.”

“Madame, madame,” exclaimed the king, as he approached her.

“Listen to me, sire,” continued the young woman, acquiring by degrees that ascendency over her interrogator which her beauty and her nervous nature conferred; “young as I am, I have already suffered humiliation, and have endured disdain here. Oh! do not contradict me, sire,” she said, with a smile. The king colored.

“Then,” she continued, “I had reasoned myself into the belief that Heaven called me into existence with that object—I, the daughter of a powerful monarch; that since my father had been deprived of life, Heaven could well smite my pride. I have suffered greatly; I have been the cause, too, of my mother suffering much; but I vowed that if Providence ever placed me in a position of independence, even were it that of a workman of the lower classes, who gains her bread by her labor, I would never suffer humiliation again. That day has now arrived; I have been restored to the fortune due to my rank and to my birth; I have even ascended again the steps of a throne, and I thought that, in allying myself with a French prince, I should find in him a relation, a friend, an equal; but I perceive I have found only a master, and I rebel. My mother shall know nothing of it; you whom I respect, and whom I—love—”

The king started; never had any voice so gratified his ear.

“You, sire, who know all, since you have come here; you will, perhaps, understand me. If you had not come, I should have gone to you. I wish for permission to go away. I leave it to your delicacy of feeling to exculpate and to protect me.”

“My dear sister,” murmured the king, overpowered by this bold attack, “have you reflected upon the enormous difficulty of the project you have conceived?”

“Sire, I do not reflect, I feel. Attacked, I instinctively repel the attack, nothing more.”

“Come, tell me, what have they done to you?” said the king.

The princess, it will have been seen, by this peculiarly feminine maneuver, had escaped every reproach, and advanced on her side a far more serious one; from the accused she became the accuser. It is an infallible sign of guilt; but notwithstanding that, all women, even the least clever of the sex, invariably know how to derive some such means of turning the tables. The king had forgotten that he was paying her a visit in order to say to her, “What have you done to my brother?” and he was reduced to weakly asking her, “What have they done to you?”

“What have they done to me?” replied Madame. “One must be a woman to understand it, sire—they have made me shed tears;” and, with one of her fingers, whose slenderness and perfect whiteness were unequaled, she pointed to her brilliant eyes swimming with unshed drops, and again began to weep.

“I implore you, my dear sister!” said the king, advancing to take her warm and throbbing hand, which she abandoned to him.

“In the first place, sire, I was deprived of the presence of my brother’s friend. The Duke of Buckingham was an agreeable, cheerful visitor; my own countryman, who knew my habits; I will say almost a companion, so accustomed had we been to pass our days together, with our other friends, upon the beautiful piece of water at St. James’s.”

“But Villiers was in love with you.”

“A pretext! What does it matter,” she said, seriously, “whether the duke was in love with me or not? Is a man in love so very dangerous for me? Ah! sire, it is not sufficient for a man to love a woman.” And she smiled so tenderly, and with so much archness, that the king felt his heart swell and throb in his breast.

“At all events, if my brother were jealous?” interrupted the king.

“Very well, I admit that is a reason; and the duke was sent away accordingly.”

“No, not sent away.”

“Driven away, dismissed, expelled, then, if you prefer it, sire. One of the first gentlemen of Europe obliged to leave the court of the King of France, of Louis XIV., like a beggar, on account of a glance or a bouquet. It was little worthy of a most gallant court; but forgive me, sire; I forgot, that, in speaking thus, I am attacking your sovereign power.”

“I assure you, my dear sister, it was not I who dismissed the Duke of Buckingham; I was charmed with him.”

“It was not you?” said Madame; “ah! so much the better;” and she emphasized the “so much the better,” as if she had instead said, “so much the worse.”

A few minutes’ silence ensued. She then resumed: “The Duke of Buckingham having left—I now know why and by whose means—I thought I should have recovered my tranquillity; but not at all, for all at once Monsieur found another pretext; all at once—”

“All at once,” said the king, playfully, “some one else presents himself. It is but natural; you are beautiful, and will always meet with men who will madly love you.”

“In that case,” exclaimed the princess, “I will create a solitude around me, which indeed seems to be what is wished, and what is being prepared for me. But no, I prefer to return to London. There I am known and appreciated. I shall have friends, without fearing they may be regarded as my lovers. Shame! it is a disgraceful suspicion, and unworthy a gentleman. Monsieur has lost everything in my estimation, since he has shown me he can be a tyrant to a woman.”

“Nay, nay, my brother’s only fault is that of loving you.”

“Love me! Monsieur love me! Ah! sire,” and she burst out laughing. “Monsieur will never love any woman,” she said; “Monsieur loves himself too much; no, unhappily for me, Monsieur’s jealousy is of the worst kind—he is jealous without love.”

“Confess, however,” said the king, who began to be excited by this varied and animated conversation; “confess that Guiche loves you.”

“Ah! sire, I know nothing about that.”

“You must have perceived it. A man who loves readily betrays himself.”

“M. de Guiche has not betrayed himself.”

“My dear sister, you are defending M. de Guiche.”

“I, indeed! Ah, sire, I only needed a suspicion from yourself to crown my wretchedness.”

“No, madame, no,” returned the king, hurriedly; “do not distress yourself. Nay, you are weeping. I implore you to calm yourself.”

She wept, however, and large tears fell upon her hands; the king took one of her hands in his, and kissed the tears away. She looked at him so sadly and with so much tenderness that he felt his heart giving way under her gaze.

“You have no kind of feeling, then, for Guiche?” he said, more disturbed than became his character of mediator.

“None—absolutely none.”

“Then I can reassure my brother in that respect?”

“Nothing will satisfy him, sire. Do not believe he is jealous. Monsieur has been badly advised by some one, and he is of nervous disposition.”

“He may well be so when you are concerned,” said the king.

Madame cast down her eyes, and was silent; the king did so likewise, still holding her hand all the while. Their momentary silence seemed to last an age. Madame gently withdrew her hand, and from that moment, she felt her triumph was certain, and that the field of battle was her own.

“Monsieur complains,” said the king, “that you prefer the society of private individuals to his own conversation and society.”

“But Monsieur passes his life in looking at his face in the glass, and in plotting all sorts of spiteful things against women with the Chevalier de Lorraine.”

“Oh, you are going somewhat too far.”

“I only tell you what is true. Do you observe for yourself, sire, and you will see that I am right.”

“I will observe; but, in the meantime, what satisfaction can I give my brother?”

“My departure.”

“You repeat that word,” exclaimed the king, imprudently, as if, during the last ten minutes, such a change had been produced that Madame would have had all her ideas on the subject thoroughly changed.

“Sire, I cannot be happy here any longer,” she said. “M. de Guiche annoys Monsieur. Will he be sent away, too?”

“If it be necessary, why not?” replied the king, smiling.

“Well; and after M. de Guiche—whom, by the by, I shall regret—I warn you, sire.”

“Ah, you will regret him?”

“Certainly; he is amiable, he has a great friendship for me, and he amuses me.”

“If Monsieur were only to hear you,” said the king, slightly annoyed, “do you know I would not undertake to make it up again between you; nay, I would not even attempt it.”

“Sire, can you, even now, prevent Monsieur from being jealous of the first person who may approach? I know very well that M. de Guiche is not the first.”

“Again I warn you that as a good brother I shall take a dislike to De Guiche.”

“Ah, sire, do not, I entreat you, adopt either the sympathies or the dislikes of Monsieur. Remain king; better for yourself and for every one else.”

“You jest charmingly, madame; and I can well understand how the people you attack must adore you.”

“And is that the reason why you, sire, whom I had regarded as my defender, are about to join these who persecute me?” said Madame.

“I your persecutor! Heaven forbid!”

“Then,” she continued, languishingly, “grant me a favor.”

“Whatever you wish.”

“Let me return to England.”

“Never, never!” exclaimed Louis XIV.

“I am a prisoner, then?”

“In France—if France is a prison—yes.”

“What must I do, then?”

“I will tell you. Instead of devoting yourself to friendships which are somewhat unstable, instead of alarming us by your retirement, remain always in our society, do not leave us, let us live as a united family. M. de Guiche is certainly very amiable; but if, at least, we do not possess his wit—”

“Ah, sire, you know very well you are pretending to be modest.”

“No, I swear to you. One may be a king, and yet feel that he possesses fewer chances of pleasing than many other gentlemen.”

“I am sure, sire, that you do not believe a single word you are saying.”

The king looked at Madame tenderly, and said, “Will you promise me one thing?”

“What is it?”

“That you will no longer waste upon strangers, in your own apartments, the time which you owe us. Shall we make an offensive and defensive alliance against the common enemy?”

“An alliance with you, sire?”

“Why not? Are you not a sovereign power?”

“But are you, sire, a reliable ally?”

“You shall see, madame.”

“And when shall this alliance commence?”

“This very day.”

“I will draw up the treaty, and you shall sign it.”

“Blindly.”

“Then, sire, I promise you wonders; you are the star of the court, and when you make your appearance, everything will be resplendent.”

“Oh, madame, madame,” said Louis XIV., “you know well that there is no brilliancy that does not proceed from yourself, and that if I assume the sun as my device, it is only an emblem.”

“Sire, you flatter your ally, and you wish to deceive her,” said Madame, threatening the king with her finger menacingly raised.

“What! you believe I am deceiving you, when I assure you of my affection?”

“Yes.”

“What makes you so suspicious?”

“One thing.”

“What is it? I shall indeed be unhappy if I do not overcome it.”

“That one thing in question, sire, is not in your power, not even in the power of Heaven.”

“Tell me what it is.”

“The past.”

“I do not understand, madame,” said the king, precisely because he had understood her but too well.

The princess took his hand in hers. “Sire,” she said, “I have had the misfortune to displease you for so long a period, that I have almost the right to ask myself to-day why you were able to accept me as a sister-in-law.”

“Displease me! You have displeased me?”

“Nay, do not deny it, for I remember it well.”

“Our alliance shall date from to-day,” exclaimed the king, with a warmth that was not assumed. “You will not think any more of the past, will you? I myself am resolved that I will not. I shall always remember the present; I have it before my eyes; look.” And he led the princess before a mirror, in which she saw herself reflected, blushing and beautiful enough to overcome a saint.

“It is all the same,” she murmured; “it will not be a very worthy alliance.”

“Must I swear?” inquired the king, intoxicated by the voluptuous turn the whole conversation had taken.

“Oh, I will not refuse to witness a resounding oath,” said Madame; “it has always the semblance of security.”

The king knelt upon a footstool and took Madame’s hand. She, with a smile that no painter could ever succeed in depicting, and which a poet might only imagine, gave him both her hands, in which he hid his burning face. Neither of them could utter a syllable. The king felt Madame withdraw her hands, caressing his face while she did so. He rose immediately and left the apartment. The courtiers remarked his heightened color, and concluded that the scene had been a stormy one. The Chevalier de Lorraine, however, hastened to say, “Nay, be comforted, gentlemen, his majesty is always pale when he is angry.”