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Ten Years Later

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Chapter XXXIV. The Advisers.


The king left Madame in a state of agitation it would have been difficult even for himself to have explained. It is impossible, in fact, to depict the secret play of those strange sympathies which, suddenly and apparently without any cause, are excited, after many years passed in the greatest calmness and indifference, by two hearts destined to love each other. Why had Louis formerly disdained, almost hated, Madame? Why did he now find the same woman so beautiful, so captivating? And why, not only were his thoughts occupied about her, but still more, why were they so continuously occupied about her? Why, in fact, had Madame, whose eyes and mind were sought for in another direction, shown during the last week towards the king a semblance of favor which encouraged the belief of still greater regard. It must not be supposed that Louis proposed to himself any plan of seduction; the tie which united Madame to his brother was, or at least, seemed to him, an insuperable barrier; he was even too far removed from that barrier to perceive its existence. But on the downward path of those passions in which the heart rejoices, towards which youth impels us, no one can decide where to stop, not even the man who has in advance calculated all the chances of his own success or another’s submission. As far as Madame was concerned, her regard for the king may easily be explained: she was young, a coquette, and ardently fond of admiration. Hers was one of those buoyant, impetuous natures, which upon a theatre would leap over the greatest obstacles to obtain an acknowledgement of applause from the spectators. It was not surprising, then, that, after having been adored by Buckingham, by De Guiche, who was superior to Buckingham, even if it were only from that negative merit, so much appreciated by women, that is to say, novelty—it was not surprising, we say, that the princess should raise her ambition to being admired by the king, who not only was the first person in the kingdom, but was one of the handsomest and cleverest men in Europe. As for the sudden passion with which Louis was inspired for his sister-in-law, physiology would perhaps supply an explanation by some hackneyed commonplace reasons, and nature by means of her mysterious affinity of characters. Madame had the most beautiful black eyes in the world; Louis, eyes as beautiful, but blue. Madame was laughter-loving and unreserved in her manners; Louis, melancholy and diffident. Summoned to meet each other for the first time upon the grounds of interest and common curiosity, these two opposite natures were mutually influenced by the mingling of their reciprocal contradictions of character. Louis, when he returned to his own rooms, acknowledged to himself that Madame was the most attractive woman of his court. Madame, left alone, delightedly thought that she had made a great impression on the king. This feeling with her must remain passive, whilst the king could not but act with all the natural vehemence of the heated fancies of a young man, and of a young man who has but to express a wish to see his wish fulfilled.

The first thing the king did was to announce to Monsieur that everything was quietly arranged; that Madame had the greatest respect, the sincerest affection for him; but that she was of a proud, impetuous character, and that her susceptibilities were so acute as to require very careful management.

Monsieur replied in the reticent tone of voice he generally adopted with his brother, that he could not very well understand the susceptibilities of a woman whose conduct might, in his opinion, expose her to censorious remarks, and that if any one had a right to feel wounded, it was he, Monsieur himself. To this the king replied in a quick tone of voice, which showed the interest he took in his sister-in-law, “Thank Heaven, Madame is above censure.”

“The censure of others, certainly, I admit,” said Monsieur; “but not above mine, I presume.”

“Well,” said the king, “all I have to say, Philip, is that Madame’s conduct does not deserve your censure. She certainly is heedless and singular, but professes the best feelings. The English character is not always well understood in France, and the liberty of English manners sometimes surprises those who do not know the extent to which this liberty is enriched by innocence.”

“Ah!” said Monsieur, more and more piqued, “from the very moment that your majesty absolves my wife, whom I accuse, my wife is not guilty, and I have nothing more to say.”

“Philip,” replied the king hastily, for he felt the voice of conscience murmuring softly in his heart, that Monsieur was not altogether wrong, “what I have done, and what I have said, has been only for your happiness. I was told that you complained of a want of confidence and attention on Madame’s part, and I did not wish your uneasiness to be prolonged. It is part of my duty to watch over your household, as over that of the humblest of my subjects. I have satisfied myself, therefore, with the sincerest pleasure, that your apprehensions have no foundation.”

“And,” continued Monsieur, in an interrogative tone of voice, and fixing his eyes upon his brother, “what your majesty has discovered for Madame —and I bow myself to your superior judgment—have you verified for those who have been the cause of the scandal of which I complain?”

“You are right, Philip,” said the king; “I will reserve that point for future consideration.”

These words comprised an order as well as a consolation; the prince felt it to be so, and withdrew.

As for Louis, he went to seek his mother, for he felt that he had need of a more complete absolution than that he had just received from his brother. Anne of Austria did not entertain for M. de Guiche the same reasons for indulgence she had had for Buckingham. She perceived, at the very first words he pronounced, that Louis was not disposed to be severe.

To appear in a contradictory humor was one of the stratagems of the good queen, in order to succeed in ascertaining the truth. But Louis was no longer in his apprenticeship; already for more than a year past he had been king, and during that year he had learned how to dissemble. Listening to Anne of Austria, in order to permit her to disclose her own thoughts, testifying his approval only by look and gesture, he became convinced, from certain piercing glances, and from certain skillful insinuations, that the queen, so clear-sighted in matters of gallantry, had, if not guessed, at least suspected, his weakness for Madame. Of all his auxiliaries, Anne of Austria would be the most important to secure; of all his enemies, Anne of Austria would prove most dangerous. Louis, therefore, changed his maneuvers. He complained of Madame, absolved Monsieur, listened to what his mother had to say of De Guiche, as he had previously listened to what she had to say of Buckingham, and then, when he saw that she thought she had gained a complete victory over him, he left her.

The whole of the court, that is to say, all the favorites and more intimate associates, and they were numerous, since there were already five masters, were assembled in the evening for the repetition of the ballet. This interval had been occupied by poor De Guiche in receiving visits; among the number was one which he hoped and feared nearly to an equal extent. It was that of the Chevalier de Lorraine. About three o’clock in the afternoon the chevalier entered De Guiche’s rooms. His looks were of the most reassuring character. “Monsieur,” said he to De Guiche, “was in an excellent humor, and no none could say that the slightest cloud had passed across the conjugal sky. Besides, Monsieur was not one to bear ill-feeling.”

For a long time past, during his residence at the court, the Chevalier de Lorraine had decided, that of Louis XIII.‘s two sons, Monsieur was the one who had inherited the father’s character—an uncertain, irresolute character; impulsively good, indifferently disposed at bottom; but certainly a cipher for his friends. He especially cheered De Guiche, by pointing out to him that Madame would, before long, succeed in governing her husband, and that, consequently, that man would govern Monsieur who should succeed in influencing Madame.

To this, De Guiche full of mistrust and presence of mind, replied, “Yes, chevalier; but I believe Madame to be a very dangerous person.”

“In what respect?”

“She has perceived that Monsieur is not very passionately inclined towards women.”

“Quite true,” said the Chevalier de Lorraine, laughing.

“In that case, Madame will choose the first one who approaches, in order to make him the object of her preference, and to bring back her husband by jealousy.”

“Deep! deep!” exclaimed the chevalier.

“But true,” replied De Guiche.

Neither the one nor the other expressed his real thought. De Guiche, at the very moment he thus attacked Madame’s character, mentally asked her forgiveness from the bottom of his heart. The chevalier, while admiring De Guiche’s penetration, was leading him, blindfolded, to the brink of the precipice. De Guiche then questioned him more directly upon the effect produced by the scene of the morning, and upon the still more serious effect produced by the scene at dinner.

“But I have already told you they are all laughing at it,” replied the Chevalier de Lorraine, “and Monsieur himself at the head of them.”

“Yet,” hazarded De Guiche, “I have heard that the king paid Madame a visit.”

“Yes, precisely so. Madame was the only one who did not laugh, and the king went to her in order to make her laugh, too.”

“So that—”

“So that nothing is altered in the arrangements of the day,” said the chevalier.

“And is there a repetition of the ballet this evening?”

“Certainly.”

“Are you sure?”

“Quite,” returned the chevalier.

At this moment of the conversation between the two young men, Raoul entered, looking full of anxiety. As soon as the chevalier, who had a secret dislike for him, as for every other noble character, perceived him enter, he rose from his seat.

“What do you advise me to do, then?” inquired De Guiche of the chevalier.

“I advise you to go to sleep in perfect tranquillity, my dear count.”

“And my advice, De Guiche,” said Raoul, “is the very opposite.”

“What is that?”

“To mount your horse and set off at once for one of your estates; on your arrival, follow the chevalier’s advice, if you like; and, what is more, you can sleep there as long and as tranquilly as you please.”

“What! set off!” exclaimed the chevalier, feigning surprise; “why should De Guiche set off?”

“Because, and you cannot be ignorant of it—you particularly so— because every one is talking about the scene which has passed between Monsieur and De Guiche.”

De Guiche turned pale.

“Not at all,” replied the chevalier, “not at all; and you have been wrongly informed, M. de Bragelonne.”

“I have been perfectly well informed, on the contrary, monsieur,” replied Raoul, “and the advice I give De Guiche is that of a friend.”

During this discussion, De Guiche, somewhat shaken, looked alternately first at one and then at the other of his advisers. He inwardly felt that a game, important in all its consequences for the rest of his life, was being played at that moment.

“Is it not fact,” said the chevalier, putting the question to the count himself, “is it not fact, De Guiche, that the scene was not so tempestuous as the Vicomte de Bragelonne seems to think, and who, moreover, was not himself there?”

“Whether tempestuous or not,” persisted Raoul, “it is not precisely of the scene itself that I am speaking, but of the consequences that may ensue. I know that Monsieur has threatened, I know that Madame has been in tears.”

“Madame in tears!” exclaimed De Guiche, imprudently clasping his hands.

“Ah!” said the chevalier, laughing, “this is indeed a circumstance I was not acquainted with. You are decidedly better informed than I am, Monsieur de Bragelonne.”

“And it is because I am better informed than yourself, chevalier, that I insist upon De Guiche leaving.”

“No, no; I regret to differ from you, vicomte; but his departure is unnecessary. Why, indeed, should he leave? tell us why.”

“The king!”

“The king!” exclaimed De Guiche.

“Yes; I tell you the king has taken up the affair.”

“Bah!” said the chevalier, “the king likes De Guiche, and particularly his father; reflect, that, if the count were to leave, it would be an admission that he had done something which merited rebuke.”

“Why so?”

“No doubt of it; when one runs away, it is either from guilt or fear.”

“Sometimes, because a man is offended; often because he is wrongfully accused,” said Bragelonne. “We will assign as a reason for his departure, that he feels hurt and injured—nothing will be easier; we will say that we both did our utmost to keep him, and you, at least, will not be speaking otherwise than the truth. Come, De Guiche, you are innocent, and, being so, the scene of to-day must have wounded you. So set off.”

“No, De Guiche, remain where you are,” said the chevalier; “precisely as M. de Bragelonne has put it, because you are innocent. Once more, forgive me, vicomte; but my opinion is the very opposite to your own.”

“And you are at perfect liberty to maintain it, monsieur; but be assured that the exile which De Guiche will voluntarily impose upon himself will be of short duration. He can terminate it whenever he pleases, and returning from his voluntary exile, he will meet with smiles from all lips; while, on the contrary, the anger of the king may now draw down a storm upon his head, the end of which no one can foresee.”

The chevalier smiled, and muttered to himself, “That is the very thing I wish.” And at the same time he shrugged his shoulders, a movement which did not escape the count, who dreaded, if he quitted the court, to seem to yield to a feeling of fear.

“No, no; I have decided, Bragelonne; I stay.”

“I prophesy, then,” said Raoul, sadly, “that misfortune will befall you, De Guiche.”

“I, too, am a prophet, but not a prophet of evil; on the contrary, count, I say to you, ‘remain.’”

“Are you sure,” inquired De Guiche, “that the repetition of the ballet still takes place?”

“Quite sure.”

“Well, you see, Raoul,” continued De Guiche, endeavoring to smile, “you see, the court is not so very sorrowful, or so readily disposed for internal dissensions, when dancing is carried on with such assiduity. Come, acknowledge that,” said the count to Raoul, who shook his head, saying, “I have nothing to add.”

“But,” inquired the chevalier, curious to learn whence Raoul had obtained his information, the exactitude of which he was inwardly forced to admit, “since you say you are well informed, vicomte, how can you be better informed than myself, who am one of the prince’s most intimate companions?”

“To such a declaration I submit. You certainly ought to be perfectly well informed, I admit; and, as a man of honor is incapable of saying anything but what he knows to be true, or of speaking otherwise than what he thinks, I will say no more, but confess myself defeated, and leave you in possession of the field of battle.”

Whereupon Raoul, who now seemed only to care to be left quiet, threw himself upon a couch, whilst the count summoned his servants to aid him in dressing. The chevalier, finding that time was passing away, wished to leave; but he feared, too, that Raoul, left alone with De Guiche, might yet influence him to change his mind. He therefore made use of his last resource.

“Madame,” he said, “will be brilliant; she appears to-day in her costume of Pomona.”

“Yes, that is so,” exclaimed the count.

“And she has just given directions in consequence,” continued the chevalier. “You know, Monsieur de Bragelonne, that the king is to appear as Spring.”

“It will be admirable,” said De Guiche; “and that is a better reason for me to remain than any you have yet given, because I am to appear as Autumn, and shall have to dance with Madame. I cannot absent myself without the king’s orders, since my departure would interrupt the ballet.”

“I,” said the chevalier, “am to be only a simple egypan; true, it is, I am a bad dancer, and my legs are not well made. Gentlemen, adieu. Do not forget the basket of fruit, which you are to offer to Pomona, count.”

“Rest assured,” said De Guiche, delightedly, “I shall forget nothing.”

“I am now quite certain that he will remain,” murmured the Chevalier de Lorraine to himself.

Raoul, when the chevalier had left, did not even attempt to dissuade his friend, for he felt that it would be trouble thrown away; he merely observed to the comte, in his melancholy and melodious voice, “You are embarking in a most dangerous enterprise. I know you well; you go to extremes in everything, and the lady you love does so, too. Admitting for an instant that she should at last love you—”

“Oh, never!” exclaimed De Guiche.

“Why do you say never?”

“Because it would be a great misfortune for both of us.”

“In that case, instead of regarding you simply imprudent, I cannot but consider you absolutely mad.”

“Why?”

“Are you perfectly sure—mind, answer me frankly—that you do not wish her whom you love to make any sacrifice for you?”

“Yes, yes; quite sure.”

“Love her, then, at a distance.”

“What! at a distance?”

“Certainly; what matters being present or absent, since you expect nothing from her? Love her portrait, a memento.”

“Raoul!”

“Love is a shadow, an illusion, a chimera; be devoted to the affection itself, in giving a name to your ideality.”

“Ah!”

“You turn away; your servants approach. I will say no more. In good or bad fortune, De Guiche, depend on me.”

“Indeed I shall do so.”

“Very well; that is all I had to say to you. Spare no pains in your person, De Guiche, and look your very best. Adieu.”

“You will not be present, then, at the ballet, vicomte?”

“No; I shall have a visit to pay in town. Farewell, De Guiche.”

The reception was to take place in the king’s apartments. In the first place, there were the queens, then Madame, and a few ladies of the court, who had been carefully selected. A great number of courtiers, also selected, occupied the time, before the dancing commenced, in conversing, as people knew how to converse in those times. None of the ladies who had received invitations appeared in the costumes of the fete, as the Chevalier de Lorraine had predicted, but many conversations took place about the rich and ingenious toilettes designed by different painters for the ballet of “The Demi-Gods,” for thus were termed the kings and queens of which Fontainebleau was about to become the Pantheon. Monsieur arrived, holding in his hand a drawing representing his character; he looked somewhat anxious; he bowed courteously to the young queen and his mother, but saluted Madame almost cavalierly. His notice of her and his coldness of manner were observed by all. M. de Guiche indemnified the princess by a look of passionate devotion, and it must be admitted that Madame, as she raised her eyes, returned it to him with interest. It is unquestionable that De Guiche had never looked so handsome, for Madame’s glance had its customary effect of lighting up the features of the son of the Marshal de Gramont. The king’s sister-in-law felt a storm mustering above her head; she felt, too, that during the whole of the day, so fruitful in future events, she had acted unjustly, if not treasonably, towards one who loved her with such a depth of devotion. In her eyes the moment seemed to have arrived for an acknowledgement to the poor victim of the injustice of the morning. Her heart spoke, and murmured the name of De Guiche; the count was sincerely pitied and accordingly gained the victory over all others. Neither Monsieur, nor the king, nor the Duke of Buckingham, was any longer thought of; De Guiche at that moment reigned without a rival. But although Monsieur also looked very handsome, still he could not be compared to the count. It is well known—indeed all women say so—that a wide difference invariably exists between the good looks of a lover and those of a husband. Besides, in the present case, after Monsieur had left, and after the courteous and affectionate recognition of the young queen and of the queen-mother, and the careless and indifferent notice of Madame, which all the courtiers had remarked; all these motives gave the lover the advantage over the husband. Monsieur was too great a personage to notice these details. Nothing is so certain as a well settled idea of superiority to prove the inferiority of the man who has that opinion of himself. The king arrived. Every one looked for what might possibly happen in the glance, which began to bestir the world, like the brow of Jupiter Tonans. Louis had none of his brother’s gloominess, but was perfectly radiant. Having examined the greater part of the drawings which were displayed for his inspection on every side, he gave his opinion or made his remarks upon them, and in this manner rendered some happy and others wretched by a single word. Suddenly his glance, which was smilingly directed towards Madame, detected the slight correspondence established between the princess and the count. He bit his lips, but when he opened them again to utter a few commonplace remarks, he said, advancing towards the queens:—

“I have just been informed that everything is now prepared at Fontainebleau, in accordance with my directions.” A murmur of satisfaction arose from the different groups, and the king perceived on every face the greatest anxiety to receive an invitation for the fetes. “I shall leave to-morrow,” he added. Whereupon the profoundest silence immediately ensued. “And I invite,” said the king, finishing, “all those who are now present to get ready to accompany me.”

Smiling faces were now everywhere visible, with the exception of Monsieur, who seemed to retain his ill-humor. The different noblemen and ladies of the court thereupon defiled before the king, one after the other, in order to thank his majesty for the great honor which had been conferred upon them by the invitation. When it came to De Guiche’s turn, the king said, “Ah! M. de Guiche, I did not see you.”

The comte bowed, and Madame turned pale. De Guiche was about to open his lips to express his thanks, when the king said, “Comte, this is the season for farming purposes in the country; I am sure your tenants in Normandy will be glad to see you.”

The king, after this pitiless attack, turned his back on the poor comte, whose turn it was now to become pale; he advanced a few steps towards the king, forgetting that the king is never spoken to except in reply to questions addressed.

“I have perhaps misunderstood your majesty,” he stammered out.

The king turned his head slightly, and with a cold and stern glance, which plunged like a sword relentlessly into the hearts of those under disgrace, repeated, “I said retire to your estates,” allowing every syllable to fall slowly one by one.

A cold perspiration bedewed the comte’s face, his hands convulsively opened, and his hat, which he held between his trembling fingers, fell to the ground. Louis sought his mother’s glance, as though to show her that he was master; he sought his brother’s triumphant look, as if to ask him if he were satisfied with the vengeance taken; and lastly, his eyes fell upon Madame; but the princess was laughing and smiling with Madame de Noailles. She heard nothing, or rather had pretended not to hear at all. The Chevalier de Lorraine looked on also, with one of those looks of fixed hostility that seemed to give to a man’s glance the power of a lever when it raises an obstacle, wrests it away, and casts it to a distance. M. de Guiche was left alone in the king’s cabinet, the whole of the company having departed. Shadows seemed to dance before his eyes. He suddenly broke through the settled despair that overwhelmed him, and flew to hide himself in his own room, where Raoul awaited him, immovable in his own sad presentiments.

“Well?” he murmured, seeing his friend enter, bareheaded, with a wild gaze and tottering gait.

“Yes, yes, it is true,” said De Guiche, unable to utter more, and falling exhausted upon the couch.

“And she?” inquired Raoul.

“She,” exclaimed his unhappy friend, as he raised his hand clenched in anger, towards Heaven. “She!—”

“What did she say and do?”

“She said that her dress suited her admirably, and then she laughed.”

A fit of hysteric laughter seemed to shatter his nerves, for he fell backwards, completely overcome.






Chapter XXXV. Fontainebleau.


For four days, every kind of enchantment brought together in the magnificent gardens of Fontainebleau had converted this spot into a place of the most perfect enjoyment. M. Colbert seemed gifted with ubiquity. In the morning there were the accounts of the previous night’s expenses to settle; during the day, programmes, essays, enrolments, payments. M. Colbert had amassed four millions of francs, and dispersed them with sleepless economy. He was horrified at the expenses which mythology involved; not a wood nymph, nor a dryad, that cost less than a hundred francs a day! The dress alone amounted to three hundred francs. The expense of powder and sulphur for fireworks amounted, every night, to a hundred thousand francs. In addition to these, the illuminations on the borders of the sheet of water cost thirty thousand francs every evening. The fetes had been magnificent; and Colbert could not restrain his delight. From time to time, he noticed Madame and the king setting forth on hunting expeditions, or preparing for the reception of different fantastic personages, solemn ceremonials, which had been extemporized a fortnight before, and in which Madame’s sparkling wit and the king’s magnificence were equally well displayed.

For Madame, the heroine of the fete, replied to the addresses of the deputations from unknown races—Garamanths, Scythians, Hyperboreans, Caucasians, and Patagonians, who seemed to issue from the ground for the purpose of approaching her with their congratulations; and upon every representative of these races the king bestowed a diamond, or some other article of value. Then the deputies, in verses more or less amusing, compared the king to the sun, Madame to Phoebe, the sun’s sister, and the queen and Monsieur were no more spoken of than if the king had married Henrietta of England, and not Maria Theresa of Austria. The happy pair, hand in hand, imperceptibly pressing each other’s fingers, drank in deep draughts the sweet beverage of adulation, by which the attractions of youth, beauty, power and love are enhanced. Every one at Fontainebleau was amazed at the extent of the influence which Madame had so rapidly acquired over the king, and whispered among themselves that Madame was, in point of fact, the true queen; and in effect, the king himself proclaimed its truth by his every thought, word, and look. He formed his wishes, he drew his inspirations from Madame’s eyes, and his delight was unbounded when Madame deigned to smile upon him. And was Madame, on her side, intoxicated with the power she wielded, as she beheld every one at her feet? This was a question she herself could hardly answer; but what she did know was, that she could frame no wish, and that she felt herself to be perfectly happy. The result of all these changes, the source of which emanated from the royal will, was that Monsieur, instead of being the second person in the kingdom, had, in reality, become the third. And it was now far worse than in the time when De Guiche’s guitars were heard in Madame’s apartments; for, then, at least, Monsieur had the satisfaction of frightening those who annoyed him. Since the departure, however, of the enemy, who had been driven away by means of his alliance with the king, Monsieur had to submit to a burden, heavier, but in a very different sense, to his former one. Every evening Madame returned home quite exhausted. Horse-riding, bathing in the Seine, spectacles, dinners under the leafy covert of the trees, balls on the banks of the grand canal, concerts, etc., etc.; all this would have been sufficient to have killed, not a slight and delicate woman, but the strongest porter in the chateau. It is perfectly true that, with regard to dancing, concerts, and promenades, and such matters, a woman is far stronger than the most robust of porters. But, however great a woman’s strength may be, there is a limit to it, and she cannot hold out long under such a system. As for Monsieur, he had not even the satisfaction of witnessing Madame’s abdication of her royalty in the evening, for she lived in the royal pavilion with the young queen and the queen-mother. As a matter of course, the Chevalier de Lorraine did not quit Monsieur, and did not fail to distil drops of gall into every wound the latter received. The result was, that Monsieur—who had at first been in the highest spirits, and completely restored since Guiche’s departure—subsided into his melancholy state three days after the court was installed at Fontainebleau.

It happened, however, that, one day, about two o’clock in the afternoon, Monsieur, who had risen late, and had bestowed upon his toilet more than his usual attention,—it happened, we repeat, that Monsieur, who had not heard of any plans having been arranged for the day, formed the project of collecting his own court, and of carrying Madame off with him to Moret, where he possessed a charming country house. He accordingly went to the queen’s pavilion, and was astonished, on entering, to find none of the royal servants in attendance. Quite alone, therefore, he entered the rooms, a door on the left opening to Madame’s apartment, the one on the right to the young queen’s. In his wife’s apartment, Monsieur was informed, by a sempstress who was working there, that every one had left at eleven o’clock, for the purpose of bathing in the Seine, that a grand fete was to be made of the expedition, that all the carriages had been placed at the park gates, and that they had all set out more than an hour ago.

“Very good,” said Monsieur, “the idea is a good one; the heat is very oppressive, and I have no objection to bathe, too.”

He summoned his servants, but no one came. He summoned those in attendance on Madame, but everybody had gone out. He went to the stables, where he was informed by a groom that there were no carriages of any description. He desired that a couple of horses should be saddled, one for himself and the other for his valet. The groom told him that all the horses had been sent away. Monsieur, pale with anger, again descended towards the queen’s apartments, and penetrated as far as Anne of Austria’s oratory, where he perceived, through the half-opened tapestry-hangings, his young and beautiful sister on her knees before the queen-mother, who appeared weeping bitterly. He had not been either seen or heard. He cautiously approached the opening, and listened, the sight of so much grief having aroused his curiosity. Not only was the young queen weeping, but she was complaining also. “Yes,” she said, “the king neglects me, the king devotes himself to pleasures and amusements only, in which I have no share.”

“Patience, patience, my daughter,” said Anne of Austria, in Spanish; and then, also in Spanish, added some words of advice, which Monsieur did not understand. The queen replied by accusations, mingled with sighs and sobs, among which Monsieur often distinguished the word banos, which Maria Theresa accentuated with spiteful anger.

“The baths,” said Monsieur to himself; “it seems it is the baths that have put her out.” And he endeavored to put together the disconnected phrases which he had been able to understand. It was easy to guess that the queen was complaining bitterly, and that, if Anne of Austria did not console her, she at least endeavored to do so. Monsieur was afraid to be detected listening at the door and he therefore made up his mind to cough; the two queens turned round at the sound and Monsieur entered. At sight of the prince, the young queen rose precipitately, and dried her tears. Monsieur, however, knew the people he had to deal with too well, and was naturally too polite to remain silent, and he accordingly saluted them. The queen-mother smiled pleasantly at him, saying, “What do you want, Philip?”

“I?—nothing,” stammered Monsieur. “I was looking for—”

“Whom?”

“I was looking for Madame.”

“Madame is at the baths.”

“And the king?” said Monsieur, in a tone which made the queen tremble.

“The king also, the whole court as well,” replied Anne of Austria.

“Except you, madame,” said Monsieur.

“Oh! I,” said the young queen, “I seem to terrify all those who amuse themselves.”

“And so do I,—judging from appearances,” rejoined Monsieur.

Anne of Austria made a sigh to her daughter-in-law, who withdrew, weeping.

Monsieur’s brows contracted, as he remarked aloud, “What a cheerless house. What do you think of it, mother?”

“Why, no; everybody here is pleasure-hunting.”

“Yes, indeed, that is the very thing that makes those dull who do not care for pleasure.”

“In what a tone you say that, Philip.”

“Upon my word, madame, I speak as I think.”

“Explain yourself; what is the matter?”

“Ask my sister-in-law, rather, who, just now, was detailing all her grievances to you.”

“Her grievances, what—”

“Yes, I was listening; accidentally, I confess, but still I listened—so that I heard only too well my sister complain of those famous baths of Madame—”

“Ah! folly!”

“No, no, no; people are not always foolish when they weep. The queen said banos, which means baths.”

“I repeat, Philip,” said Anne of Austria, “that your sister is childishly jealous.”

“In that case, madame,” replied the prince, “I, too, must with great humility accuse myself of possessing the same defect.”

“You also, Philip?”

“Certainly.”

“Are you really jealous of these baths?”

“And why not, madame, when the king goes to the baths with my wife, and does not take the queen? Why not, when Madame goes to the baths with the king, and does not do me the honor to even invite me? And you enjoin my sister-in-law to be satisfied, and require me to be satisfied, too.”

“You are raving, my dear Philip,” said Anne of Austria; “you have driven the Duke of Buckingham away; you have been the cause of M. de Guiche’s exile; do you now wish to send the king away from Fontainebleau?”

“I do not pretend to anything of the kind, madame,” said Monsieur, bitterly; “but, at least, I can withdraw, and I shall do so.”

“Jealous of the king—jealous of your brother?”

“Yes, madame, I am jealous of the king—of my own brother, and remarkably jealous, too.”

“Really, Monsieur,” exclaimed Anne of Austria, affecting to be indignant, “I begin to believe you are mad, and a sworn enemy to my repose. I therefore abandon the place to you, for I have no means of defending myself against such monomanias.”

She arose and left Monsieur a prey to the most extravagant transport of passion. He remained for a moment completely bewildered; then, recovering himself, again went to the stables, found the groom, once more asked him for a carriage or a horse, and upon his reply that there was neither the one or the other, Monsieur snatched a long whip from the hand of a stable-boy, and began to pursue the poor devil of a groom all round the servants’ courtyard, whipping him the while, in spite of his cries and excuses; then, quite out of breath, covered with perspiration, and trembling in every limb, he returned to his own apartments, broke in pieces some beautiful specimens of porcelain, and then got into bed, booted and spurred as he was, crying out for some one to come to him. 4






Chapter XXXVI. The Bath.


At Vulaines, beneath the impenetrable shade of flowering osiers and willows, which, as they bent down their green heads, dipped the extremities of their branches in the blue waters, a long and flat-bottomed boat, with ladders covered with long blue curtains, served as a refuge for the bathing Dianas, who, as they left the water, were watched by twenty plumed Acteons, who, eagerly, and full of admiration, galloped up and down the flowery banks of the river. But Diana herself, even the chaste Diana, clothed in her long chlamys, was less beautiful—less impenetrable, than Madame, as young and beautiful as that goddess herself. For, notwithstanding the fine tunic of the huntress, her round and delicate knee can be seen; and notwithstanding the sonorous quiver, her brown shoulders can be detected; whereas, in Madame’s case, a long white veil enveloped her, wrapping her round and round a hundred times, as she resigned herself into the hands of her female attendants, and thus was rendered inaccessible to the most indiscreet, as well as to the most penetrating gaze. When she ascended the ladder, the poets were present—and all were poets when Madame was the subject of discussion—the twenty poets who were galloping about, stopped, and with one voice, exclaimed that pearls, and not drops of water, were falling from her person, to be lost again in the happy river. The king, the center of these effusions, and of this respectful homage, imposed silence upon those expatiators, for whom it seemed impossible to exhaust their raptures, and he rode away, for fear of offending, even through the silken curtains, the modesty of the woman and the dignity of the princess. A great blank thereupon ensued in the scene, and perfect silence in the boat. From the movements on board—from the flutterings and agitations of the curtains—the goings to and fro of the female attendants engaged in their duties, could be guessed.

The king smilingly listened to the conversation of the courtiers around him, but it could easily be perceived that he gave but little, if any, attention to their remarks. In fact, hardly had the sound of the rings drawn along the curtain-rods announced that Madame was dressed, and that the goddess was about to make her reappearance, than the king, returning to his former post immediately, and running quite close to the river-bank, gave the signal for all those to approach whose duty or pleasure summoned them to Madame’s side. The pages hurried forward, conducting the led horses; the carriages, which had remained sheltered under the trees, advanced towards the tent, followed by a crowd of servants, bearers, and female attendants, who, while their masters had been bathing, had mutually exchanged their own observations, critical remarks, and the discussion of matters personal—the fugitive journal of that period, of which no one now remembers anything, not even by the waves, the witnesses of what went on that day—themselves now sublimed into immensity, as the actors have vanished into eternity.

A crowd of people swarming upon the banks of the river, without reckoning the groups of peasants drawn together by their anxiety to see the king and the princess, was, for many minutes, the most disorderly, but the most agreeable, mob imaginable. The king dismounted from his horse, a movement which was imitated by all the courtiers, and offered his hat to Madame, whose rich riding-habit displayed her fine figure, which was set off to great advantage by that garment, made of fine woolen cloth embroidered with silver. Her hair, still damp and blacker than jet, hung in heavy masses upon her white and delicate neck. Joy and health sparkled in her beautiful eyes; composed, yet full of energy, she inhaled the air in deep draughts, under a lace parasol, which was borne by one of her pages. Nothing could be more charming, more graceful, more poetical, than these two figures buried under the rose-colored shade of the parasol, the king, whose white teeth were displayed in continual smiles, and Madame, whose black eyes sparkled like carbuncles in the glittering reflection of the changing hues of the silk. When Madame approached her horse, a magnificent animal of Andalusian breed, of spotless white, somewhat heavy, perhaps, but with a spirited and splendid head, in which the mixture, happily combined, of Arabian and Spanish blood could be readily traced, and whose long tail swept the ground; and as the princess affected difficulty in mounting, the king took her in his arms in such a manner that Madame’s arm was clasped like a circlet of alabaster around the king’s neck. Louis, as he withdrew, involuntarily touched with his lips the arm, which was not withheld, and the princess having thanked her royal equerry, every one sprang to his saddle at the same moment. The king and Madame drew aside to allow the carriages, the outriders, and runners, to pass by. A fair proportion of the cavaliers, released from the restraint etiquette had imposed upon them, gave the rein to their horses, and darted after the carriages which bore the maids of honor, as blooming as so many virgin huntresses around Diana, and the human whirlwind, laughing, chattering, and noisy, passed onward.

The king and Madame, however, kept their horses in hand at a foot-pace. Behind his majesty and his sister-in-law, certain of the courtiers —those, at least, who were seriously disposed or were anxious to be within reach, or under the eyes, of the king—followed at a respectful distance, restraining their impatient horses, regulating their pace by that of the king and Madame, and abandoned themselves to all the delight and gratification which is to be found in the conversation of clever people, who can, with perfect courtesy, make a thousand atrocious, but laughable remarks about their neighbors. In their stifled laughter, and in the little reticences of their sardonic humor, Monsieur, the poor absentee, was not spared. But they pitied, and bewailed greatly, the fate of De Guiche, and it must be confessed that their compassion, as far as he was concerned, was not misplaced. The king and Madame having breathed the horses, and repeated a hundred times over such remarks as the courtiers, who supplied them with talk, suggested to them, set off at a hand gallop, and the leafy coverts of the forest resounded to the footfalls of the mounted party. To the conversations beneath the shade of the trees,—to remarks made in the shape of confidential communications, and observations, mysteriously exchanged, succeeded the noisiest bursts of laughter;—from the very outriders to royalty itself, merriment seemed to spread. Every one began to laugh and to cry out. The magpies and the jays fluttered away uttering their guttural cries, beneath the waving avenues of oaks; the cuckoo staid his monotonous cry in the recesses of the forest; the chaffinch and tomtit flew away in clouds; while the terrified deer bounded riverwards from the midst of the thickets. This crowd, spreading joy, confusion, and light wherever it passed, was heralded, it may be said, to the chateau by its own clamor. As the king and Madame entered the village, they were received by the acclamations of the crowd. Madame hastened to look for Monsieur, for she instinctively understood that he had been far too long kept from sharing in this joy. The king went to rejoin the queens; he knew he owed them—one especially—a compensation for his long absence. But Madame was not admitted to Monsieur’s apartments, and she was informed that Monsieur was asleep. The king, instead of being met by Maria Theresa smiling, as was usual with her, found Anne of Austria in the gallery watching for his return, who advanced to meet him, and taking him by the hand, led him to her own apartment. No one ever knew what was the nature of the conversation which took place between them, or rather what it was that the queen-mother said to Louis XIV.; but the general tenor of the interview might certainly be guessed from the annoyed expression of the king’s face as he left her.

But we, whose mission it is to interpret all things, as it is also to communicate our interpretations to our readers,—we should fail in our duty, if we were to leave them in ignorance of the result of this interview. It will be found sufficiently detailed, at least we hope so, in the following chapter.