Ten Years Later



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Chapter LV. Happy as a Prince.

At the very moment he was about entering the chateau, Bragelonne met De Guiche. But before having been met by Raoul, De Guiche had met Manicamp, who had met Malicorne. How was it that Malicorne had met Manicamp? Nothing more simple, for he had awaited his return from mass, where he had accompanied M. de Saint-Aignan. When they met, they congratulated each other upon their good fortune, and Manicamp availed himself of the circumstance to ask his friend if he had not a few crowns still remaining at the bottom of his pocket. The latter, without expressing any surprise at the question, which he perhaps expected, answered that every pocket which is always being drawn upon without anything ever being put in it, resembles those wells which supply water during the winter, but which gardeners render useless by exhausting during the summer; that his, Malicorne’s, pocket certainly was deep, and that there would be a pleasure in drawing on it in times of plenty, but that, unhappily, abuse had produced barrenness. To this remark, Manicamp, deep in thought, had replied, “Quite true!”

“The question, then, is how to fill it?” Malicorne added.

“Of course; but in what way?”

“Nothing easier, my dear Monsieur Manicamp.”

“So much the better. How?”

“A post in Monsieur’s household, and the pocket is full again.”

“You have the post?”

“That is, I have the promise of being nominated.”


“Yes; but the promise of nomination, without the post itself, is like a purse with no money in it.”

“Quite true,” Manicamp replied a second time.

“Let us try for the post, then,” the candidate had persisted.

“My dear fellow,” sighed Manicamp, “an appointment in his royal highness’s household is one of the gravest difficulties of our position.”

“Oh! oh!”

“There is no question that, at the present moment, we cannot ask Monsieur for anything.”

“Why so?” “Because we are not on good terms with him.”

“A great absurdity, too,” said Malicorne, promptly.

“Bah! and if we were to show Madame any attention,” said Manicamp, “frankly speaking, do you think we should please Monsieur?”

“Precisely; if we show Madame any attention, and do it adroitly, Monsieur ought to adore us.”


“Either that or we are great fools. Make haste, therefore, M. Manicamp, you who are so able a politician, and make M. de Guiche and his royal highness friendly again.”

“Tell me, what did M. de Saint-Aignan tell you, Malicorne?”

“Tell me? nothing; he asked me several questions, and that was all.”

“Well, was he less discreet, then, with me.”

“What did he tell you?”

“That the king is passionately in love with Mademoiselle de la Valliere.”

“We knew that already,” replied Malicorne, ironically; “and everybody talks about it loud enough for all to know it; but in the meantime, do what I advise you; speak to M. de Guiche, and endeavor to get him to make advances to Monsieur. Deuce take it! he owes his royal highness that, at least.”

“But we must see De Guiche, then?”

“There does not seem to be any great difficulty in that; try to see him in the same way I tried to see you; wait for him; you know that he is naturally very fond of walking.”

“Yes; but whereabouts does he walk?”

“What a question to ask! Do you not know that he is in love with Madame?”

“So it is said.”

“Very well; you will find him walking about on the side of the chateau where her apartments are.”

“Stay, my dear Malicorne, you were not mistaken, for here he is coming.”

“Why should I be mistaken? Have you ever noticed that I am in the habit of making a mistake? Come, we only need to understand each other. Are you in want of money?”

“Ah!” exclaimed Manicamp, mournfully.

“Well, I want my appointment. Let Malicorne have the appointment, and Manicamp shall have the money. There is no greater difficulty in the way than that.”

“Very well; in that case make yourself easy. I will do my best.”


De Guiche approached, Malicorne stepped aside, and Manicamp caught hold of De Guiche, who was thoughtful and melancholy. “Tell me, my dear comte, what rhyme you were trying to find,” said Manicamp. “I have an excellent one to match yours, particularly if yours ends in ame.”

De Guiche shook his head, and recognizing a friend, he took him by the arm. “My dear Manicamp,” he said, “I am in search of something very different from a rhyme.”

“What is it you are looking for?”

“You will help me to find what I am in search of,” continued the comte: “you who are such an idle fellow, in other words, a man with a mind full of ingenious devices.”

“I am getting my ingenuity ready, then, my dear comte.”

“This is the state of the case, then: I wish to approach a particular house, where I have some business.”

“You must get near the house, then,” said Manicamp.

“Very good; but in this house dwells a husband who happens to be jealous.”

“Is he more jealous than the dog Cerberus?”

“Not more, but quite as much so.”

“Has he three mouths, as that obdurate guardian of the infernal regions had? Do not shrug your shoulders, my dear comte: I put the question to you with an excellent reason, since poets pretend that, in order to soften Monsieur Cerberus, the visitor must take something enticing with him—a cake, for instance. Therefore, I, who view the matter in a prosaic light, that is to say in the light of reality, I say: one cake is very little for three mouths. If your jealous husband has three mouths, comte, get three cakes.”

“Manicamp, I can get such advice as that from M. de Beautru.”

“In order to get better advice,” said Manicamp, with a comical seriousness of expression, “you will be obliged to adopt a more precise formula than you have used towards me.”

“If Raoul were here,” said De Guiche, “he would be sure to understand me.”

“So I think, particularly if you said to him: ‘I should very much like to see Madame a little nearer, but I fear Monsieur, because he is jealous.’”

“Manicamp!” cried the comte, angrily, and endeavoring to overwhelm his tormentor by a look, who did not, however, appear to be in the slightest degree disturbed by it.

“What is the matter now, my dear comte?” inquired Manicamp.

“What! is it thus you blaspheme the most sacred of names?”

“What names?”

“Monsieur! Madame! the highest names in the kingdom.”

“You are very strangely mistaken, my dear comte. I never mentioned the highest names in the kingdom. I merely answered you in reference to the subject of a jealous husband, whose name you did not tell me, and who, as a matter of course, has a wife. I therefore replied to you, in order to see Madame, you must get a little more intimate with Monsieur.”

“Double-dealer that you are,” said the comte, smiling; “was that what you said?”

“Nothing else.”

“Very good; what then?”

“Now,” added Manicamp, “let the question be regarding the Duchess—or the Duke—; very well, I shall say: Let us get into the house in some way or other, for that is a tactic which cannot in any case be unfavorable to your love affair.”

“Ah! Manicamp, if you could but find me a pretext, a good pretext.”

“A pretext; I can find you a hundred, nay, a thousand. If Malicorne were here, he would have already hit upon a thousand excellent pretexts.”

“Who is Malicorne?” replied De Guiche, half-shutting his eyes, like a person reflecting, “I seem to know the name.”

“Know him! I should think so: you owe his father thirty thousand crowns.”

“Ah, indeed! so it’s that worthy fellow from Orleans.”

“Whom you promised an appointment in Monsieur’s household; not the jealous husband, but the other.”

“Well, then, since your friend Malicorne is such an inventive genius, let him find me a means of being adored by Monsieur, and a pretext to make my peace with him.”

“Very good: I’ll talk to him about it.”

“But who is that coming?”

“The Vicomte de Bragelonne.”

“Raoul! yes, it is he,” said De Guiche, as he hastened forward to meet him. “You here, Raoul?” said De Guiche.

“Yes: I was looking for you to say farewell,” replied Raoul, warmly, pressing the comte’s hand. “How do you do, Monsieur Manicamp?”

“How is this, vicomte, you are leaving us?”

“Yes, a mission from the king.”

“Where are you going?”

“To London. On leaving you, I am going to Madame; she has a letter to give me for his majesty, Charles II.”

“You will find her alone, for Monsieur has gone out; gone to bathe, in fact.”

“In that case, you, who are one of Monsieur’s gentlemen in waiting, will undertake to make my excuses to him. I would have waited in order to receive any directions he might have to give me, if the desire for my immediate departure had not been intimated to me by M. Fouquet on behalf of his majesty.”

Manicamp touched De Guiche’s elbow, saying, “There’s a pretext for you.”


“M. de Bragelonne’s excuses.”

“A weak pretext,” said De Guiche.

“An excellent one, if Monsieur is not angry with you; but a paltry one if he bears you ill-will.”

“You are right, Manicamp; a pretext, however poor it may be, is all I require. And so, a pleasant journey to you, Raoul!” And the two friends took a warm leave of each other.

Five minutes afterwards Raoul entered Madame’s apartments, as Mademoiselle de Montalais had begged him to do. Madame was still seated at the table where she had written her letter. Before her was still burning the rose-colored taper she had used to seal it. Only in her deep reflection, for Madame seemed to be buried in thought, she had forgotten to extinguish the light. Bragelonne was a very model of elegance in every way; it was impossible to see him once without always remembering him; and not only had Madame seen him once, but it will not be forgotten he was one of the very first who had gone to meet her, and had accompanied her from Le Havre to Paris. Madame preserved therefore an excellent recollection of him.

“Ah! M. de Bragelonne,” she said to him, “you are going to see my brother, who will be delighted to pay to the son a portion of the debt of gratitude he contracted with the father.”

“The Comte de la Fere, Madame, has been abundantly recompensed for the little service he had the happiness to render the king, by the kindness manifested towards him, and it is I who will have to convey to his majesty the assurance of the respect, devotion, and gratitude of both father and son.”

“Do you know my brother?”

“No, your highness; I shall have the honor of seeing his majesty for the first time.”

“You require no recommendation to him. At all events, however, if you have any doubt about your personal merit, take me unhesitatingly for your surety.”

“Your royal highness overwhelms me with kindness.”

“No! M. de Bragelonne, I well remember that we were fellow-travelers once, and that I remarked your extreme prudence in the midst of the extravagant absurdities committed, on both sides, by two of the greatest simpletons in the world,—M. de Guiche and the Duke of Buckingham. Let us not speak of them, however; but of yourself. Are you going to England to remain there permanently? Forgive my inquiry: it is not curiosity, but a desire to be of service to you in anything I can.”

“No, Madame; I am going to England to fulfil a mission which his majesty has been kind enough to confide to me—nothing more.”

“And you propose to return to France?”

“As soon as I have accomplished my mission; unless, indeed, his majesty, King Charles II., should have other orders for me.”

“He well beg you, at the very least, I am sure, to remain near him as long as possible.”

“In that case, as I shall not know how to refuse, I will now beforehand entreat your royal highness to have the goodness to remind the king of France that one of his devoted servants is far away from him.”

“Take care that when you are recalled, you do not consider his command an abuse of power.”

“I do not understand you, Madame.”

“The court of France is not easily matched, I am aware, but yet we have some pretty women at the court of England also.”

Raoul smiled.

“Oh!” said Madame, “yours is a smile which portends no good to my countrywomen. It is as though you were telling them, Monsieur de Bragelonne: ‘I visit you, but I leave my heart on the other side of the Channel.’ Did not your smile indicate that?”

“Your highness is gifted with the power of reading the inmost depths of the soul, and you will understand, therefore, why, at present, any prolonged residence at the court of England would be a matter of the deepest regret.”

“And I need not inquire if so gallant a knight is recompensed in return?”

“I have been brought up, Madame, with her whom I love, and I believe our affection is mutual.”

“In that case, do not delay your departure, Monsieur de Bragelonne, and delay not your return, for on your return we shall see two persons happy; for I hope no obstacle exists to your felicity.”

“There is a great obstacle, Madame.”

“Indeed! what is it?”

“The king’s wishes on the subject.”

“The king opposes your marriage?”

“He postpones it, at least. I solicited his majesty’s consent through the Comte de la Fere, and, without absolutely refusing it, he positively said it must be deferred.”

“Is the young lady whom you love unworthy of you, then?”

“She is worthy of a king’s affection, Madame.”

“I mean, she is not, perhaps, of birth equal to your own.”

“Her family is excellent.”

“Is she young, beautiful?”

“She is seventeen, and, in my opinion, exceedingly beautiful.”

“Is she in the country, or at Paris?”

“She is here at Fontainebleau, Madame.”

“At the court?”


“Do I know her?”

“She has the honor to form one of your highness’s household.”

“Her name?” inquired the princess, anxiously; “if indeed,” she added, hastily, “her name is not a secret.”

“No, Madame, my affection is too pure for me to make a secret of it to any one, and with still greater reason to your royal highness, whose kindness towards me has been so extreme. It is Mademoiselle Louise de la Valliere.”

Madame could not restrain an exclamation, in which a feeling stronger than surprise might have been detected. “Ah!” she said, “La Valliere—she who yesterday—” she paused, and then continued, “she who was taken ill, I believe.”

“Yes, Madame; it was only this morning that I heard of the accident that had befallen her.”

“Did you see her before you came to me?”

“I had the honor of taking leave of her.”

“And you say,” resumed Madame, making a powerful effort over herself, “that the king has—deferred your marriage with this young girl.”

“Yes, Madame, deferred it.”

“Did he assign any reason for this postponement?”


“How long is it since the Comte de la Fere preferred his request to the king?”

“More than a month, Madame.”

“It is very singular,” said the princess, as something like a film clouded her eyes.

“A month?” she repeated.

“About a month.”

“You are right, vicomte,” said the princess, with a smile, in which De Bragelonne might have remarked a kind of restraint; “my brother must not keep you too long in England; set off at once, and in the first letter I write to England, I will claim you in the king’s name.” And Madame rose to place her letter in Bragelonne’s hands. Raoul understood that his audience was at an end; he took the letter, bowed lowly to the princess, and left the room.

“A month!” murmured the princess; “could I have been blind, then, to so great an extent, and could he have loved her for this last month?” And as Madame had nothing to do, she sat down to begin a letter to her brother, the postscript of which was a summons for Bragelonne to return.

The Comte de Guiche, as we have seen, had yielded to the pressing persuasions of Manicamp, and allowed himself to be led to the stables, where they desired their horses to be got ready for them; then, by one of the side paths, a description of which has already been given, they advanced to meet Monsieur, who, having just finished bathing, was returning towards the chateau, wearing a woman’s veil to protect his face from getting burnt by the sun, which was shining very brightly. Monsieur was in one of those fits of good humor to which the admiration of his own good looks sometimes gave occasion. As he was bathing he had been able to compare the whiteness of his body with that of the courtiers, and, thanks to the care which his royal highness took of himself, no one, not even the Chevalier de Lorraine, was able to stand the comparison. Monsieur, moreover, had been tolerably successful in swimming, and his muscles having been exercised by the healthy immersion in the cool water, he was in a light and cheerful state of mind and body. So that, at the sight of Guiche, who advanced to meet him at a hand gallop, mounted upon a magnificent white horse, the prince could not restrain an exclamation of delight.

“I think matters look well,” said Manicamp, who fancied he could read this friendly disposition upon his royal highness’s countenance.

“Good day, De Guiche, good day,” exclaimed the prince.

“Long life to your royal highness!” replied De Guiche, encouraged by the tone of Philip’s voice; “health, joy, happiness, and prosperity to your highness.”

“Welcome, De Guiche, come on my right side, but keep your horse in hand, for I wish to return at a walking pace under the cool shade of these trees.”

“As you please, monseigneur,” said De Guiche, taking his place on the prince’s right as he had been invited to do.

“Now, my dear De Guiche,” said the prince, “give me a little news of that De Guiche whom I used to know formerly, and who used to pay attentions to my wife.”

Guiche blushed to the very whites of his eyes, while Monsieur burst out laughing, as though he had made the wittiest remark in the world. The few privileged courtiers who surrounded Monsieur thought it their duty to follow his example, although they had not heard the remark, and a noisy burst of laughter immediately followed, beginning with the first courtier, passing on through the whole company, and only terminating with the last. De Guiche, although blushing scarlet, put a good countenance on the matter; Manicamp looked at him.

“Ah! monseigneur,” replied De Guiche, “show a little charity towards such a miserable fellow as I am: do not hold me up to the ridicule of the Chevalier de Lorraine.”

“How do you mean?”

“If he hears you ridicule me, he will go beyond your highness, and will show no pity.”

“About your passion and the princess, do you mean?”

“For mercy’s sake, monseigneur.”

“Come, come, De Guiche, confess that you did get a little sweet upon Madame.”

“I will never confess such a thing, monseigneur.”

“Out of respect for me, I suppose; but I release you from your respect, De Guiche. Confess, as if it were simply a question about Mademoiselle de Chalais or Mademoiselle de la Valliere.”

Then breaking off, he said, beginning to laugh again, “Comte, that wasn’t at all bad!—a remark like a sword, which cuts two ways at once. I hit you and my brother at the same time, Chalais and La Valliere, your affianced bride and his future lady love.”

“Really, monseigneur,” said the comte, “you are in a most brilliant humor to-day.”

“The fact is, I feel well, and then I am pleased to see you again. But you were angry with me, were you not?”

“I, monseigneur? Why should I have been so?”

“Because I interfered with your sarabands and your other Spanish amusements. Nay, do not deny it. On that day you left the princess’s apartments with your eyes full of fury; that brought you ill-luck, for you danced in the ballet yesterday in a most wretched manner. Now don’t get sulky, De Guiche, for it does you no good, but makes you look like a tame bear. If the princess did not look at you attentively yesterday, I am quite sure of one thing.”

“What is that, monseigneur? Your highness alarms me.”

“She has quite forsworn you now,” said the prince, with a burst of loud laughter.

“Decidedly,” thought Manicamp, “rank has nothing to do with it, and all men are alike.”

The prince continued: “At all events, you have now returned, and it is to be hoped that the chevalier will become amiable again.”

“How so, monseigneur: and by what miracle can I exercise such an influence over M. de Lorraine?”

“The matter is very simple, he is jealous of you.”

“Bah! it is not possible.”

“It is the case, though.”

“He does me too much honor.”

“The fact is, that when you are here, he is full of kindness and attention, but when you are gone he makes me suffer a perfect martyrdom. I am like a see-saw. Besides, you do not know the idea that has struck me?”

“I do not even suspect it.”

“Well, then; when you were in exile—for you really were exiled, my poor De Guiche—”

“I should think so, indeed; but whose fault was it?” said De Guiche, pretending to speak in an angry tone.

“Not mine, certainly, my dear comte,” replied his royal highness, “upon my honor, I did not ask for the king to exile you—”

“No, not you, monseigneur, I am well aware; but—”

“But Madame; well, as far as that goes, I do not say it was not the case. Why, what the deuce did you do or say to Madame?”

“Really, monseigneur—”

“Women, I know, have their grudges, and my wife is not free from caprices of that nature. But if she were the cause of your being exiled I bear you no ill-will.”

“In that case, monseigneur,” said De Guiche. “I am not altogether unhappy.”

Manicamp, who was following closely behind De Guiche and who did not lose a word of what the prince was saying, bent down to his very shoulders over his horse’s neck, in order to conceal the laughter he could not repress.

“Besides, your exile started a project in my head.”


“When the chevalier—finding you were no longer here, and sure of reigning undisturbed—began to bully me, I, observing that my wife, in the most perfect contrast to him, was most kind and amiable towards me who had neglected her so much, the idea occurred to me of becoming a model husband—a rarity, a curiosity, at the court; and I had an idea of getting very fond of my wife.”

De Guiche looked at the prince with a stupefied expression of countenance, which was not assumed.

“Oh! monseigneur,” De Guiche stammered out; “surely, that never seriously occurred to you.”

“Indeed it did. I have some property that my brother gave me on my marriage; she has some money of her own, and not a little either, for she gets money from her brother and brother-in-law of England and France at the same time. Well! we should have left the court. I should have retired to my chateau at Villers-Cotterets, situated in the middle of a forest, in which we should have led a most sentimental life in the very same spot where my grandfather, Henry IV., sojourned with La Belle Gabrielle. What do you think of that idea, De Guiche?”

“Why, it is enough to make one shiver, monseigneur,” replied De Guiche, who shuddered in reality.

“Ah! I see you would never be able to endure being exiled a second time.”

“I, monseigneur?”

“I will not carry you off with us, as I had first intended.”

“What, with you, monseigneur?”

“Yes; if the idea should occur to me again of taking a dislike to the court.”

“Oh! do not let that make any difference, monseigneur; I would follow your highness to the end of the world.”

“Clumsy fellow that you are!” said Manicamp, grumblingly, pushing his horse towards De Guiche, so as almost to unseat him, and then, as he passed close to him, as if he had lost command over the horse, he whispered, “For goodness’ sake, think what you are saying.”

“Well, it is agreed, then,” said the prince; “since you are so devoted to me, I shall take you with me.”

“Anywhere, monseigneur,” replied De Guiche in a joyous tone, “whenever you like, and at once, too. Are you ready?”

And De Guiche, laughingly, gave his horse the rein, and galloped forward a few yards.

“One moment,” said the prince. “Let us go to the chateau first.”

“What for?”

“Why, to take my wife, of course.”

“What for?” asked De Guiche.

“Why, since I tell you that it is a project of conjugal affection, it is necessary I should take my wife with me.”

“In that case, monseigneur,” replied the comte, “I am greatly concerned, but no De Guiche for you.”


“Yes.—Why do you take Madame with you?”

“Because I begin to fancy I love her,” said the prince.

De Guiche turned slightly pale, but endeavored to preserve his seeming cheerfulness.

“If you love Madame, monseigneur,” he said, “that ought to be quite enough for you, and you have no further need of your friends.”

“Not bad, not bad,” murmured Manicamp.

“There, your fear of Madame has begun again,” replied the prince.

“Why, monseigneur, I have experienced that to my cost; a woman who was the cause of my being exiled!”

“What a revengeful disposition you have, De Guiche, how virulently you bear malice.”

“I should like the case to be your own, monseigneur.”

“Decidedly, then, that was the reason why you danced so badly yesterday; you wished to revenge yourself, I suppose, by trying to make Madame make a mistake in her dancing; ah! that is very paltry, De Guiche, and I will tell Madame of it.”

“You may tell her whatever you please, monseigneur, for her highness cannot hate me more than she does.”

“Nonsense, you are exaggerating; and this because merely of the fortnight’s sojourn in the country she imposed on you.”

“Monseigneur, a fortnight is a fortnight; and when the time is passed in getting sick and tired of everything, a fortnight is an eternity.”

“So that you will not forgive her?”


“Come, come, De Guiche, be a better disposed fellow than that. I wish to make your peace with her; you will find, in conversing with her, that she has no malice or unkindness in her nature, and that she is very talented.”


“You will see that she can receive her friends like a princess, and laugh like a citizen’s wife; you will see that, when she pleases, she can make the pleasant hours pass like minutes. Come, De Guiche, you must really make up your differences with my wife.”

“Upon my word,” said Manicamp to himself, “the prince is a husband whose wife’s name will bring him ill-luck, and King Candaules, of old, was a tiger beside his royal highness.”

“At all events,” added the prince, “I am sure you will make it up with my wife: I guarantee you will do so. Only, I must show you the way now. There is nothing commonplace about her: it is not every one who takes her fancy.”


“No resistance, De Guiche, or I shall get out of temper,” replied the prince.

“Well, since he will have it so,” murmured Manicamp, in Guiche’s ear, “do as he wants you to do.”

“Well, monseigneur,” said the comte, “I obey.”

“And to begin,” resumed the prince, “there will be cards, this evening, in Madame’s apartment; you will dine with me, and I will take you there with me.”

“Oh! as for that, monseigneur,” objected De Guiche, “you will allow me to object.”

“What, again! this is positive rebellion.”

“Madame received me too indifferently, yesterday, before the whole court.”

“Really!” said the prince, laughing.

“Nay, so much so, indeed, that she did not even answer me when I addressed her; it may be a good thing to have no self-respect at all, but to have too little is not enough, as the saying is.”

“Comte! after dinner, you will go to your own apartments and dress yourself, and then you will come to fetch me. I shall wait for you.”

“Since your highness absolutely commands it.”


“He will not lose his hold,” said Manicamp; “these are the things to which husbands cling most obstinately. Ah! what a pity M. Moliere could not have heard this man; he would have turned him into verse if he had.”

The prince and his court, chatting in this manner, returned to the coolest apartments of the chateau.

“By the by,” said De Guiche, as they were standing by the door, “I had a commission for your royal highness.”

“Execute it, then.”

“M. de Bragelonne has, by the king’s order, set off for London, and he charged me with his respects for you; monseigneur.”

“A pleasant journey to the vicomte, whom I like very much. Go and dress yourself, De Guiche, and come back for me. If you don’t come back—”

“What will happen, monseigneur?”

“I will have you sent to the Bastile.”

“Well,” said De Guiche, laughing, “his royal highness, monseigneur, is decidedly the counterpart of her royal highness, Madame. Madame gets me sent into exile, because she does not care for me sufficiently; and monseigneur gets me imprisoned, because he cares for me too much. I thank monseigneur, and I thank Madame.”

“Come, come,” said the prince, “you are a delightful companion, and you know I cannot do without you. Return as soon as you can.”

“Very well; but I am in the humor to prove myself difficult to be pleased, in my turn, monseigneur.”


“So, I will not return to your royal highness, except upon one condition.”

“Name it.”

“I want to oblige the friend of one of my friends.”

“What’s his name?”


“An ugly name.”

“But very well borne, monseigneur.”

“That may be. Well?”

“Well, I owe M. Malicorne a place in your household, monseigneur.”

“What kind of a place?”

“Any kind of a place; a supervision of some sort or another, for instance.”

“That happens very fortunately, for yesterday I dismissed my chief usher of the apartments.”

“That will do admirably. What are his duties?”

“Nothing, except to look about and make his report.”

“A sort of interior police?”


“Ah, how excellently that will suit Malicorne,” Manicamp ventured to say.

“You know the person we are speaking of, M. Manicamp?” inquired the prince.

“Intimately, monseigneur. He is a friend of mine.”

“And your opinion is?”

“That your highness could never get a better usher of the apartments than he will make.”

“How much does the appointment bring in?” inquired the comte of the prince.

“I don’t know at all, only I have always been told that he could make as much as he pleased when he was thoroughly in earnest.”

“What do you call being thoroughly in earnest, prince?”

“It means, of course, when the functionary in question is a man who has his wits about him.”

“In that case I think your highness will be content, for Malicorne is as sharp as the devil himself.”

“Good! the appointment will be an expensive one for me, in that case,” replied the prince, laughing. “You are making me a positive present, comte.”

“I believe so, monseigneur.”

“Well, go and announce to your M. Melicorne—”

“Malicorne, monseigneur.”

“I shall never get hold of that name.”

“You say Manicamp very well, monseigneur.”

“Oh, I ought to say Malicorne very well, too. The alliteration will help me.”

“Say what you like, monseigneur, I can promise you your inspector of apartments will not be annoyed; he has the very happiest disposition that can be met with.”

“Well, then, my dear De Guiche, inform him of his nomination. But, stay—”

“What is it, monseigneur?”

“I wish to see him beforehand; if he be as ugly as his name, I retract every word I have said.”

“Your highness knows him, for you have already seen him at the Palais Royal; nay, indeed, it was I who presented him to you.”

“Ah, I remember now—not a bad-looking fellow.”

“I know you must have noticed him, monseigneur.”

“Yes, yes, yes. You see, De Guiche, I do not wish that either my wife or myself should have ugly faces before our eyes. My wife will have all her maids of honor pretty; I, all the gentlemen about me good-looking. In this way, De Guiche, you see, that any children we may have will run a good chance of being pretty, if my wife and myself have handsome models before us.”

“Most magnificently argued, monseigneur,” said Manicamp, showing his approval by look and voice at the same time.

As for De Guiche, he very probably did not find the argument so convincing, for he merely signified his opinion by a gesture, which, moreover, exhibited in a marked manner some indecision of mind on the subject. Manicamp went off to inform Malicorne of the good news he had just learned. De Guiche seemed very unwilling to take his departure for the purpose of dressing himself. Monsieur, singing, laughing, and admiring himself, passed away the time until the dinner-hour, in a frame of mind that justified the proverb of “Happy as a prince.”

Chapter LVI. Story of a Dryad and a Naiad.

Every one had partaken of the banquet at the chateau, and afterwards assumed their full court dresses. The usual hour for the repast was five o’clock. If we say, then, that the repast occupied an hour, and the toilette two hours, everybody was ready about eight o’clock in the evening. Towards eight o’clock, then, the guests began to arrive at Madame’s, for we have already intimated that it was Madame who “received” that evening. And at Madame’s soirees no one failed to be present; for the evenings passed in her apartments always had that perfect charm about them which the queen, that pious and excellent princess, had not been able to confer upon her reunions. For, unfortunately, one of the advantages of goodness of disposition is that it is far less amusing than wit of an ill-natured character. And yet, let us hasten to add, that such a style of wit could not be assigned to Madame, for her disposition of mind, naturally of the very highest order, comprised too much true generosity, too many noble impulses and high-souled thoughts, to warrant her being termed ill-natured. But Madame was endowed with a spirit of resistance—a gift frequently fatal to its possessor, for it breaks where another disposition would have bent; the result was that blows did not become deadened upon her as upon what might be termed the cotton-wadded feelings of Maria Theresa. Her heart rebounded at each attack, and therefore, whenever she was attacked, even in a manner that almost stunned her, she returned blow for blow to any one imprudent enough to tilt against her.

Was this really maliciousness of disposition or simply waywardness of character? We regard those rich and powerful natures as like the tree of knowledge, producing good and evil at the same time; a double branch, always blooming and fruitful, of which those who wish to eat know how to detect the good fruit, and from which the worthless and frivolous die who have eaten of it—a circumstance which is by no means to be regarded as a great misfortune. Madame, therefore, who had a well-disguised plan in her mind of constituting herself the second, if not even the principal, queen of the court, rendered her receptions delightful to all, from the conversation, the opportunities of meeting, and the perfect liberty she allowed every one of making any remark he pleased, on the condition, however, that the remark was amusing or sensible. And it will hardly be believed, that, by that means, there was less talking among the society Madame assembled together than elsewhere. Madame hated people who talked much, and took a remarkably cruel revenge upon them, for she allowed them to talk. She disliked pretension, too, and never overlooked that defect, even in the king himself. It was more than a weakness of Monsieur, and the princess had undertaken the amazing task of curing him of it. As for the rest, poets, wits, beautiful women, all were received by her with the air of a mistress superior to her slaves. Sufficiently meditative in her liveliest humors to make even poets meditate; sufficiently pretty to dazzle by her attractions, even among the prettiest; sufficiently witty for the most distinguished persons who were present, to be listened to with pleasure—it will easily be believed that the reunions held in Madame’s apartments must naturally have proved very attractive. All who were young flocked there, and when the king himself happens to be young, everybody at court is so too. And so, the older ladies of the court, the strong-minded women of the regency, or of the last reign, pouted and sulked at their ease; but others only laughed at the fits of sulkiness in which these venerable individuals indulged, who had carried the love of authority so far as even to take command of bodies of soldiers in the wars of the Fronde, in order, as Madame asserted, not to lose their influence over men altogether. As eight o’clock struck her royal highness entered the great drawing-room accompanied by her ladies in attendance, and found several gentlemen belonging to the court already there, having been waiting for some minutes. Among those who had arrived before the hour fixed for the reception she looked round for one who, she thought, ought to have been first in attendance, but he was not there. However, almost at the very moment she completed her investigation, Monsieur was announced. Monsieur looked splendid. All the precious stones and jewels of Cardinal Mazarin, which of course that minister could not do otherwise than leave; all the queen-mother’s jewels as well as a few belonging to his wife—Monsieur wore them all, and he was as dazzling as the rising sun. Behind him followed De Guiche, with hesitating steps and an air of contrition admirably assumed; De Guiche wore a costume of French-gray velvet, embroidered with silver, and trimmed with blue ribbons: he wore also Mechlin lace as rare and beautiful in its own way as the jewels of Monsieur in theirs. The plume in his hat was red. Madame, too, wore several colors, and preferred red for embroidery, gray for dress, and blue for flowers. M. de Guiche, dressed as we have described, looked so handsome that he excited every one’s observation. An interesting pallor of complexion, a languid expression of the eyes, his white hands seen through the masses of lace that covered them, the melancholy expression of his mouth—it was only necessary, indeed, to see M. de Guiche to admit that few men at the court of France could hope to equal him. The consequence was that Monsieur, who was pretentious enough to fancy he could eclipse a star even, if a star had adorned itself in a similar manner to himself, was, on the contrary, completely eclipsed in all imaginations, which are silent judges certainly, but very positive and firm in their convictions. Madame looked at De Guiche lightly, but light as her look had been, it brought a delightful color to his face. In fact, Madame found De Guiche so handsome and so admirably dressed, that she almost ceased regretting the royal conquest she felt she was on the point of escaping her. Her heart, therefore, sent the blood to her face. Monsieur approached her. He had not noticed the princess’s blush, or if he had seen it, he was far from attributing it to its true cause.

“Madame,” he said, kissing his wife’s hand, “there is some one present here, who has fallen into disgrace, an unhappy exile whom I venture to recommend to your kindness. Do not forget, I beg, that he is one of my best friends, and that a gentle reception of him will please me greatly.”

“What exile? what disgraced person are you speaking of?” inquired Madame, looking all round, and not permitting her glance to rest more on the count than on the others.

This was the moment to present De Guiche, and the prince drew aside and let De Guiche pass him, who, with a tolerably well-assumed awkwardness of manner, approached Madame and made his reverence to her.

“What!” exclaimed Madame, as if she were greatly surprised, “is M. de Guiche the disgraced individual you speak of, the exile in question?”

“Yes, certainly,” returned the duke.

“Indeed,” said Madame, “he seems almost the only person here!”

“You are unjust, Madame,” said the prince.


“Certainly. Come, forgive the poor fellow.”

“Forgive him what? What have I to forgive M. de Guiche?”

“Come, explain yourself, De Guiche. What do you wish to be forgiven?” inquired the prince.

“Alas! her royal highness knows very well what it is,” replied the latter, in a hypocritical tone.

“Come, come, give him your hand, Madame,” said Philip.

“If it will give you any pleasure, Monsieur,” and, with a movement of her eyes and shoulders, which it would be impossible to describe, Madame extended towards the young man her beautiful and perfumed hand, upon which he pressed his lips. It was evident that he did so for some little time, and that Madame did not withdraw her hand too quickly, for the duke added:

“De Guiche is not wickedly disposed, Madame; so do not be afraid, he will not bite you.”

A pretext was given in the gallery by the duke’s remark, which was not, perhaps, very laughable, for every one to laugh excessively. The situation was odd enough, and some kindly disposed persons had observed it. Monsieur was still enjoying the effect of his remark, when the king was announced. The appearance of the room at that moment was as follows:—in the center, before the fireplace, which was filled with flowers, Madame was standing up, with her maids of honor formed in two wings, on either side of her; around whom the butterflies of the court were fluttering. Several other groups were formed in the recesses of the windows, like soldiers stationed in their different towers who belong to the same garrison. From their respective places they could pick up the remarks which fell from the principal group. From one of these groups, the nearest to the fireplace, Malicorne, who had been at once raised to the dignity, through Manicamp and De Guiche, of the post of master of the apartments, and whose official costume had been ready for the last two months, was brilliant with gold lace, and shone upon Montalais, standing on Madame’s extreme left, with all the fire of his eyes and splendor of his velvet. Madame was conversing with Mademoiselle de Chatillon and Mademoiselle de Crequy, who were next to her, and addressed a few words to Monsieur, who drew aside as soon as the king was announced. Mademoiselle de la Valliere, like Montalais, was on Madame’s left hand, and the last but one on the line, Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente being on her right. She was stationed as certain bodies of troops are, whose weakness is suspected, and who are placed between two experienced regiments. Guarded in this manner by the companions who had shared her adventure, La Valliere, whether from regret at Raoul’s departure, or still suffering from the emotion caused by recent events, which had begun to render her name familiar on the lips of the courtiers, La Valliere, we repeat, hid her eyes, red with weeping, behind her fan, and seemed to give the greatest attention to the remarks which Montalais and Athenais, alternately, whispered to her from time to time. As soon as the king’s name was announced a general movement took place in the apartment. Madame, in her character as hostess, rose to receive the royal visitor; but as she rose, notwithstanding her preoccupation of mind, she glanced hastily towards her right; her glance, which the presumptuous De Guiche regarded as intended for himself, rested, as it swept over the whole circle, upon La Valliere, whose warm blush and restless emotion it instantly perceived.

The king advanced to the middle of the group, which had now become a general one, by a movement which took place from the circumference to the center. Every head bowed low before his majesty, the ladies bending like frail, magnificent lilies before King Aquilo. There was nothing very severe, we will even say, nothing very royal that evening about the king, except youth and good looks. He wore an air of animated joyousness and good-humor which set all imaginations at work, and, thereupon, all present promised themselves a delightful evening, for no other reason than from having remarked the desire his majesty had to amuse himself in Madame’s apartments. If there was any one in particular whose high spirits and good-humor equalled the king’s, it was M. de Saint-Aignan, who was dressed in a rose-colored costume, with face and ribbons of the same color, and, in addition, particularly rose-colored in his ideas, for that evening M. de Saint-Aignan was prolific in jests. The circumstance which had given a new expansion to the numerous ideas germinating in his fertile brain was, that he had just perceived that Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente was, like himself, dressed in rose-color. We would not wish to say, however, that the wily courtier had not know beforehand that the beautiful Athenais was to wear that particular color; for he very well knew the art of unlocking the lips of a dress-maker or a lady’s maid as to her mistress’s intentions. He cast as many killing glances at Mademoiselle Athenais as he had bows of ribbons on his stockings and doublet; in other words he discharged a prodigious number. The king having paid Madame the customary compliments, and Madame having requested him to be seated, the circle was immediately formed. Louis inquired of Monsieur the particulars of the day’s bathing; and stated, looking at the ladies present while he spoke, that certain poets were engaged turning into verse the enchanting diversion of the baths of Vulaines, and that one of them particularly, M. Loret, seemed to have been intrusted with the confidence of some water-nymph, as he had in his verses recounted many circumstances that were actually true—at which remark more than one lady present felt herself bound to blush. The king at this moment took the opportunity of looking round him at more leisure; Montalais was the only one who did not blush sufficiently to prevent her looking at the king, and she saw him fix his eyes devouringly on Mademoiselle de la Valliere. This undaunted maid of honor, Mademoiselle de Montalais, be it understood, forced the king to lower his gaze, and so saved Louise de la Valliere from a sympathetic warmth of feeling this gaze might possibly have conveyed. Louis was appropriated by Madame, who overwhelmed him with inquiries, and no one in the world knew how to ask questions better than she did. He tried, however, to render the conversation general, and, with the view of effecting this, he redoubled his attention and devotion to her. Madame coveted complimentary remarks, and, determined to procure them at any cost, she addressed herself to the king, saying:

“Sire, your majesty, who is aware of everything which occurs in your kingdom, ought to know beforehand the verses confided to M. Loret by this nymph; will your majesty kindly communicate them to us?”

“Madame,” replied the king, with perfect grace of manner, “I dare not—you, personally, might be in no little degree confused at having to listen to certain details—but Saint-Aignan tells a story well, and has a perfect recollection of the verses. If he does not remember them, he will invent. I can certify he is almost a poet himself.” Saint-Aignan, thus brought prominently forward, was compelled to introduce himself as advantageously as possible. Unfortunately, however, for Madame, he thought of his own personal affairs only; in other words, instead of paying Madame the compliments she so much desired and relished, his mind was fixed upon making as much display as possible of his own good fortune. Again glancing, therefore, for the hundredth time at the beautiful Athenais, who carried into practice her previous evening’s theory of not even deigning to look at her adorer, he said:—

“Your majesty will perhaps pardon me for having too indifferently remembered the verses which the nymph dictated to Loret; but if the king has not retained any recollection of them, how could I possibly remember?”

Madame did not receive this shortcoming of the courtier very favorably.

“Ah! madame,” added Saint-Aignan, “at present it is no longer a question what the water-nymphs have to say; and one would almost be tempted to believe that nothing of any interest now occurs in those liquid realms. It is upon earth, madame, important events happen. Ah! Madame, upon the earth, how many tales are there full of—”

“Well,” said Madame, “and what is taking place upon the earth?”

“That question must be asked of the Dryads,” replied the comte; “the Dryads inhabit the forest, as your royal highness is aware.”

“I am aware also, that they are naturally very talkative, Monsieur de Saint-Aignan.”

“Such is the case, Madame; but when they say such delightful things, it would be ungracious to accuse them of being too talkative.”

“Do they talk so delightfully, then?” inquired the princess, indifferently. “Really, Monsieur de Saint-Aignan, you excite my curiosity; and, if I were the king, I would require you immediately to tell us what the delightful things are these Dryads have been saying, since you alone seem to understand their language.”

“I am at his majesty’s orders, Madame, in that respect,” replied the comte, quickly.

“What a fortunate fellow this Saint-Aignan is to understand the language of the Dryads,” said Monsieur.

“I understand it perfectly, monseigneur, as I do my own language.”

“Tell us all about them, then,” said Madame.

The king felt embarrassed, for his confidant was, in all probability, about to embark in a difficult matter. He felt that it would be so, from the general attention excited by Saint-Aignan’s preamble, and aroused too by Madame’s peculiar manner. The most reserved of those who were present seemed ready to devour every syllable the comte was about to pronounce. They coughed, drew closer together, looked curiously at some of the maids of honor, who, in order to support with greater propriety, or with more steadiness, the fixity of the inquisitorial looks bent upon them, adjusted their fans accordingly, and assumed the bearing of a duelist about to be exposed to his adversary’s fire. At this epoch, the fashion of ingeniously constructed conversations, and hazardously dangerous recitals, so prevailed, that, where, in modern times, a whole company assembled in a drawing-room would begin to suspect some scandal, or disclosure, or tragic event, and would hurry away in dismay, Madame’s guests quietly settled themselves in their places, in order not to lose a word or gesture of the comedy composed by Monsieur de Saint-Aignan for their benefit, and the termination of which, whatever the style and the plot might be, must, as a matter of course, be marked by the most perfect propriety. The comte as known as a man of extreme refinement, and an admirable narrator. He courageously began, then, amidst a profound silence, which would have been formidable to any one but himself:—“Madame, by the king’s permission, I address myself, in the first place, to your royal highness, since you admit yourself to be the person present possessing the greatest curiosity. I have the honor, therefore, to inform your royal highness that the Dryad more particularly inhabits the hollows of oaks; and, as Dryads are mythological creatures of great beauty, they inhabit the most beautiful trees, in other words, the largest to be found.”

At this exordium, which recalled, under a transparent veil, the celebrated story of the royal oak, which had played so important a part in the last evening, so many hearts began to beat, both from joy and uneasiness, that, if Saint-Aignan had not had a good and sonorous voice, their throbbings might have been heard above the sound of his voice.

“There must surely be Dryads at Fontainebleau, then,” said Madame, in a perfectly calm voice; “for I have never, in all my life, seen finer oaks than in the royal park.” And as she spoke, she directed towards De Guiche a look of which he had no reason to complain, as he had of the one that preceded it; which, as we have already mentioned, had reserved a certain amount of indefiniteness most painful for so loving a heart as his.

“Precisely, Madame, it is of Fontainebleau I was about to speak to your royal highness,” said Saint-Aignan; “for the Dryad whose story is engaging our attention, lives in the park belonging to the chateau of his majesty.”

The affair was fairly embarked on; the action was begun, and it was no longer possible for auditory or narrator to draw back.

“It will be worth listening to,” said Madame; “for the story not only appears to me to have all the interest of a national incident, but still more, seems to be a circumstance of very recent occurrence.”

“I ought to begin at the beginning,” said the comte. “In the first place, then, there lived at Fontainebleau, in a cottage of modest and unassuming appearance, two shepherds. The one was the shepherd Tyrcis, the owner of extensive domains transmitted to him from his parents, by right of inheritance. Tyrcis was young and handsome, and, from his many qualifications, he might be pronounced to be the first and foremost among the shepherds in the whole country; one might even boldly say he was the king of shepherds.” A subdued murmur of approbation encouraged the narrator, who continued:—“His strength equals his courage; no one displays greater address in hunting wild beasts, nor greater wisdom in matters where judgment is required. Whenever he mounts and exercises his horse in the beautiful plains of his inheritance, or whenever he joins with the shepherds who owe him allegiance, in different games of skill and strength, one might say that it is the god Mars hurling his lance on the plains of Thrace, or, even better, that it was Apollo himself, the god of day, radiant upon earth, bearing his flaming darts in his hand.” Every one understood that this allegorical portrait of the king was not the worst exordium the narrator could have chosen; and consequently it did not fail to produce its effect, either upon those who, from duty or inclination, applauded it to the very echo, or on the king himself, to whom flattery was very agreeable when delicately conveyed, and whom, indeed, it did not always displease, even when it was a little too broad. Saint-Aignan then continued:—“It is not in games of glory only, ladies, that the shepherd Tyrcis had acquired that reputation by which he was regarded as the king of the shepherds.”

“Of the shepherds of Fontainebleau,” said the king, smilingly, to Madame.

“Oh!” exclaimed Madame, “Fontainebleau is selected arbitrarily by the poet; but I should say, of the shepherds of the whole world.” The king forgot his part of a passive auditor, and bowed.

“It is,” paused Saint-Aignan, amidst a flattering murmur of applause, “it is with ladies fair especially that the qualities of this king of the shepherds are most prominently displayed. He is a shepherd with a mind as refined as his heart is pure; he can pay a compliment with a charm of manner whose fascination it is impossible to resist; and in his attachments he is so discreet, that beautiful and happy conquests may regard their lot as more than enviable. Never a syllable of disclosure, never a moment’s forgetfulness. Whoever has seen and heard Tyrcis must love him; whoever loves and is beloved by him, has indeed found happiness.” Saint-Aignan here paused; he was enjoying the pleasure of all these compliments; and the portrait he had drawn, however grotesquely inflated it might be, had found favor in certain ears, in which the perfections of the shepherd did not seem to have been exaggerated. Madame begged the orator to continue. “Tyrcis,” said the comte, “had a faithful companion, or rather a devoted servant, whose name was—Amyntas.”

“Ah!” said Madame, archly, “now for the portrait of Amyntas; you are such an excellent painter, Monsieur de Saint-Aignan.”


“Oh! comte, do not, I entreat you, sacrifice poor Amyntas; I should never forgive you.”

“Madame, Amyntas is of too humble a position, particularly beside Tyrcis, for his person to be honored by a parallel. There are certain friends who resemble those followers of ancient times, who caused themselves to be buried alive at their masters’ feet. Amyntas’s place, too, is at the feet of Tyrcis; he cares for no other; and if, sometimes, the illustrious hero—”

“Illustrious shepherd, you mean?” said Madame, pretending to correct M. de Saint-Aignan.

“Your royal highness is right; I was mistaken,” returned the courtier; “if, I say, the shepherd Tyrcis deigns occasionally to call Amyntas his friend, and to open his heart to him, it is an unparalleled favor, which the latter regards as the most unbounded felicity.”

“All that you say,” interrupted Madame, “establishes the extreme devotion of Amyntas to Tyrcis, but does not furnish us with the portrait of Amyntas. Comte, do not flatter him, if you like; but describe him to us. I will have Amyntas’s portrait.” Saint-Aignan obeyed, after having bowed profoundly to his majesty’s sister-in-law.

“Amyntas,” he said, “is somewhat older than Tyrcis; he is not an ill-favored shepherd; it is even said that the muses condescended to smile upon him at his birth, even as Hebe smiled upon youth. He is not ambitious of display, but he is ambitious of being loved; and he might not, perhaps, be found unworthy of it, if he were only sufficiently well-known.”

This latter paragraph, strengthened by a killing glance, was directed straight to Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente, who received them both unmoved. But the modesty and tact of the allusion had produced a good effect; Amyntas reaped the benefit of it in the applause bestowed upon him: Tyrcis’s head even gave the signal for it by a consenting bow, full of good feeling.

“One evening,” continued Saint-Aignan, “Tyrcis and Amyntas were walking together in the forest, talking of their love disappointments. Do not forget, ladies, that the story of the Dryad is now beginning, otherwise it would be easy to tell you what Tyrcis and Amyntas, the two most discreet shepherds of the whole earth, were talking about. They reached the thickest part of the forest, for the purpose of being quite alone, and of confiding their troubles more freely to each other, when suddenly the sound of voices struck upon their ears.”

“Ah, ah!” said those who surrounded the narrator. “Nothing can be more interesting.”

At this point, Madame, like a vigilant general inspecting his army, glanced at Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente, who could not help wincing as they drew themselves up.

“These harmonious voices,” resumed Saint-Aignan, “were those of certain shepherdesses, who had been likewise desirous of enjoying the coolness of the shade, and who, knowing the isolated and almost unapproachable situation of the place, had betaken themselves there to interchange their ideas upon—” A loud burst of laughter occasioned by this remark of Saint-Aignan, and an imperceptible smile of the king, as he looked at Tonnay-Charente, followed this sally.

“The Dryad affirms positively,” continued Saint-Aignan, “that the shepherdesses were three in number, and that all three were young and beautiful.”

“What were their names?” said Madame, quickly.

“Their names?” said Saint-Aignan, who hesitated from fear of committing an indiscretion.

“Of course; you call your shepherds Tyrcis and Amyntas; give your shepherdesses names in a similar manner.”

“Oh! Madame, I am not an inventor; I relate simply what took place as the Dryad related it to me.”

“What did your Dryad, then, call these shepherdesses? You have a very treacherous memory, I fear. This Dryad must have fallen out with the goddess Mnemosyne.”

“These shepherdesses, Madame? Pray remember that it is a crime to betray a woman’s name.”

“From which a woman absolves you, comte, on the condition that you will reveal the names of the shepherdesses.”

“Their names were Phyllis, Amaryllis, and Galatea.”

“Exceedingly well!—they have not lost by the delay,” said Madame, “and now we have three charming names. But now for their portraits.”

Saint-Aignan again made a slight movement.

“Nay, comte, let us proceed in due order,” returned Madame. “Ought we not, sire, to have the portraits of the shepherdesses?”

The king, who expected this determined perseverance, and who began to feel some uneasiness, did not think it safe to provoke so dangerous an interrogator. He thought, too, that Saint-Aignan, in drawing the portraits, would find a means of insinuating some flattering allusions which would be agreeable to the ears of one his majesty was interested in pleasing. It was with this hope and with this fear that Louis authorized Saint-Aignan to sketch the portraits of the shepherdesses, Phyllis, Amaryllis, and Galatea.

“Very well, then; be it so,” said Saint-Aignan, like a man who has made up his mind, and he began.

Chapter LVII. Conclusion of the Story of a Naiad and of a Dryad.

“Phyllis,” said Saint-Aignan, with a glance of defiance at Montalais, such as a fencing-master would give who invites an antagonist worthy of him to place himself on guard, “Phyllis is neither fair nor dark, neither tall nor short, neither too grave nor too gay; though but a shepherdess, she is as witty as a princess, and as coquettish as the most finished flirt that ever lived. Nothing can equal her excellent vision. Her heart yearns for everything her gaze embraces. She is like a bird, which, always warbling, at one moment skims the ground, at the next rises fluttering in pursuit of a butterfly, then rests itself upon the topmost branch of a tree, where it defies the bird-catchers either to come and seize it or to entrap it in their nets.” The portrait bore such a strong resemblance to Montalais, that all eyes were directed towards her; she, however, with her head raised, and with a steady, unmoved look, listened to Saint-Aignan, as if he were speaking of an utter stranger.

“Is that all, Monsieur de Saint-Aignan?” inquired the princess.

“Oh! your royal highness, the portrait is but a mere sketch, and many more additions could be made, but I fear to weary your patience, or offend the modesty of the shepherdess, and I shall therefore pass on to her companion, Amaryllis.”

“Very well,” said Madame, “pass on to Amaryllis, Monsieur de Saint-Aignan, we are all attention.”

“Amaryllis is the eldest of the three, and yet,” Saint-Aignan hastened to add, “this advanced age does not reach twenty years.”

Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente, who had slightly knitted her brows at the commencement of the description, unbent them with a smile.

“She is tall, with an astonishing abundance of beautiful hair, which she fastens in the manner of the Grecian statues; her walk is full of majesty, her attitude haughty; she has the air, therefore, rather of a goddess than a mere mortal, and among the goddesses, she most resembles Diana the huntress; with this sole difference, however, that the cruel shepherdess, having stolen the quiver of young love, while poor Cupid was sleeping in a thicket of roses, instead of directing her arrows against the inhabitants of the forest, discharges them pitilessly against all poor shepherds who pass within reach of her bow and of her eyes.”

“Oh! what a wicked shepherdess!” said Madame. “She may some day wound herself with one of those arrows she discharges, as you say, so mercilessly on all sides.”

“It is the hope of shepherds, one and all!” said Saint-Aignan.

“And that of the shepherd Amyntas in particular, I suppose?” said Madame.

“The shepherd Amyntas is so timid,” said Saint-Aignan, with the most modest air he could assume, “that if he cherishes such a hope as that, no one has ever known anything about it, for he conceals it in the very depths of his heart.” A flattering murmur of applause greeted this profession of faith on behalf of the shepherd.

“And Galatea?” inquired Madame. “I am impatient to see a hand so skillful as yours continue the portrait where Virgil left it, and finish it before our eyes.”

“Madame,” said Saint-Aignan, “I am indeed a poor dumb post beside the mighty Virgil. Still, encouraged by your desire, I will do my best.”

Saint-Aignan extended his foot and hand, and thus began:—“White as milk, she casts upon the breeze the perfume of her fair hair tinged with golden hues, as are the ears of corn. One is tempted to inquire if she is not the beautiful Europa, who inspired Jupiter with a tender passion as she played with her companions in the flower-spangled meadows. From her exquisite eyes, blue as azure heaven on the clearest summer day, emanates a tender light, which reverie nurtures, and love dispenses. When she frowns, or bends her looks towards the ground, the sun is veiled in token of mourning. When she smiles, on the contrary, nature resumes her jollity, and the birds, for a brief moment silenced, recommence their songs amid the leafy covert of the trees. Galatea,” said Saint-Aignan, in conclusion, “is worthy of the admiration of the whole world; and if she should ever bestow her heart upon another, happy will that man be to whom she consecrates her first affections.”

Madame, who had attentively listened to the portrait Saint-Aignan had drawn, as, indeed, had all the others, contented herself with accentuating her approbation of the most poetic passage by occasional inclinations of her head; but it was impossible to say if these marks of assent were accorded to the ability of the narrator of the resemblance of the portrait. The consequence, therefore, was, that as Madame did not openly exhibit any approbation, no one felt authorized to applaud, not even Monsieur, who secretly thought that Saint-Aignan dwelt too much upon the portraits of the shepherdesses, and had somewhat slightingly passed over the portraits of the shepherds. The whole assembly seemed suddenly chilled. Saint-Aignan, who had exhausted his rhetorical skill and his palette of artistic tints in sketching the portrait of Galatea, and who, after the favor with which his other descriptions had been received, already imagined he could hear the loudest applause allotted to this last one, was himself more disappointed than the king and the rest of the company. A moment’s silence followed, which was at last broken by Madame.

“Well, sir,” she inquired, “What is your majesty’s opinion of these three portraits?”

The king, who wished to relieve Saint-Aignan’s embarrassment without compromising himself, replied, “Why, Amaryllis, in my opinion, is beautiful.”

“For my part,” said Monsieur, “I prefer Phyllis; she is a capital girl, or rather a good-sort-of-fellow of a nymph.”

A gentle laugh followed, and this time the looks were so direct, that Montalais felt herself blushing almost scarlet.

“Well,” resumed Madame, “what were those shepherdesses saying to each other?”

Saint-Aignan, however, whose vanity had been wounded, did not feel himself in a position to sustain an attack of new and refreshed troops, and merely said, “Madame, the shepherdesses were confiding to one another their little preferences.”

“Nay, nay! Monsieur de Saint-Aignan, you are a perfect stream of pastoral poesy,” said Madame, with an amiable smile, which somewhat comforted the narrator.

“They confessed that love is a mighty peril, but that the absence of love is the heart’s sentence of death.”

“What was the conclusion they came to?” inquired Madame.

“They came to the conclusion that love was necessary.”

“Very good! Did they lay down any conditions?”

“That of choice, simply,” said Saint-Aignan. “I ought even to add,—remember it is the Dryad who is speaking,—that one of the shepherdesses, Amaryllis, I believe, was completely opposed to the necessity of loving, and yet she did not positively deny that she had allowed the image of a certain shepherd to take refuge in her heart.”

“Was it Amyntas or Tyrcis?”

“Amyntas, Madame,” said Saint-Aignan, modestly. “But Galatea, the gentle and soft-eyed Galatea, immediately replied, that neither Amyntas, nor Alphesiboeus, nor Tityrus, nor indeed any of the handsomest shepherds of the country, were to be compared to Tyrcis; that Tyrcis was as superior to all other men, as the oak to all other trees, as the lily in its majesty to all other flowers. She drew even such a portrait of Tyrcis that Tyrcis himself, who was listening, must have felt truly flattered at it, notwithstanding his rank as a shepherd. Thus Tyrcis and Amyntas had been distinguished by Phyllis and Galatea; and thus had the secrets of two hearts revealed beneath the shades of evening, and amid the recesses of the woods. Such, Madame, is what the Dryad related to me; she who knows all that takes place in the hollows of oaks and grassy dells; she who knows the loves of the birds, and all they wish to convey by their songs; she who understands, in fact, the language of the wind among the branches, the humming of the insect with its gold and emerald wings in the corolla of the wild-flowers; it was she who related the particulars to me, and I have repeated them.”

“And now you have finished, Monsieur de Saint-Aignan, have you not?” said Madame, with a smile that made the king tremble.

“Quite finished,” replied Saint-Aignan, “and but too happy if I have been able to amuse your royal highness for a few moments.”

“Moments which have been too brief,” replied the princess; “for you have related most admirably all you know; but, my dear Monsieur de Saint-Aignan, you have been unfortunate enough to obtain your information from one Dryad only, I believe?”

“Yes, Madame, only from one, I confess.”

“The fact was, that you passed by a little Naiad, who pretended to know nothing at all, and yet knew a great deal more than your Dryad, my dear comte.”

“A Naiad!” repeated several voices, who began to suspect that the story had a continuation.

“Of course close beside the oak you are speaking of, which, if I am not mistaken, is called the royal oak—is it not so, Monsieur de Saint-Aignan?”

Saint-Aignan and the king exchanged glances.

“Yes, Madame,” the former replied.

“Well, close beside the oak there is a pretty little spring, which runs murmuringly over the pebbles, between banks of forget-me-nots and daffodils.”

“I believe you are correct,” said the king, with some uneasiness, and listening with some anxiety to his sister-in-law’s narrative.

“Oh! there is one, I can assure you,” said Madame; “and the proof of it is, that the Naiad who resides in that little stream stopped me as I was about to come.”

“Ah?” said Saint-Aignan.

“Yes, indeed,” continued the princess, “and she did so in order to communicate to me many particulars Monsieur de Saint-Aignan has omitted in his recital.”

“Pray relate them yourself, then,” said Monsieur, “you can relate stories in such a charming manner.” The princess bowed at the conjugal compliment paid her.

“I do not possess the poetical powers of the comte, nor his ability to bring to light the smallest details.”

“You will not be listened to with less interest on that account,” said the king, who already perceived that something hostile was intended in his sister-in-law’s story.

“I speak, too,” continued Madame, “in the name of that poor little Naiad, who is indeed the most charming creature I ever met. Moreover, she laughed so heartily while she was telling me her story, that, in pursuance of that medical axiom that laughter is the finest physic in the world, I ask permission to laugh a little myself when I recollect her words.”

The king and Saint-Aignan, who noticed spreading over many of the faces present a distant and prophetic ripple of the laughter Madame announced, finished by looking at each other, as if asking themselves whether there was not some little conspiracy concealed beneath these words. But Madame was determined to turn the knife in the wound over and over again; she therefore resumed with the air of the most perfect candor, in other words, with the most dangerous of all her airs: “Well, then, I passed that way,” she said, “and as I found beneath my steps many fresh flowers newly blown, no doubt Phyllis, Amaryllis, Galatea, and all your shepherdesses had passed the same way before me.”

The king bit his lips, for the recital was becoming more and more threatening. “My little Naiad,” continued Madame, “was cooing over her quaint song in the bed of the rivulet; as I perceived that she accosted me by touching the hem of my dress, I could not think of receiving her advances ungraciously, and more particularly so, since, after all, a divinity, even though she be of a second grade, is always of greater importance than a mortal, though a princess. I thereupon accosted the Naiad, and bursting into laughter, this is what she said to me:

“‘Fancy, princess...’ You understand, sire, it is the Naiad who is speaking?”

The king bowed assentingly; and Madame continued:—“‘Fancy, princess, the banks of my little stream have just witnessed a most amusing scene. Two shepherds, full of curiosity, even indiscreetly so, have allowed themselves to be mystified in a most amusing manner by three nymphs, or three shepherdesses,’—I beg your pardon, but I do not now remember if it was nymphs or shepherdesses she said; but it does not much matter, so we will continue.”

The king, at this opening, colored visibly, and Saint-Aignan, completely losing countenance, began to open his eyes in the greatest possible anxiety.

“‘The two shepherds,’ pursued my nymph, still laughing, ‘followed in the wake of the three young ladies,’—no, I mean, of the three nymphs; forgive me, I ought to say, of the three shepherdesses. It is not always wise to do that, for it may be awkward for those who are followed. I appeal to all the ladies present, and not one of them, I am sure, will contradict me.”

The king, who was much disturbed by what he suspected was about to follow, signified his assent by a gesture.

“‘But,’ continued the Naiad, ‘the shepherdesses had noticed Tyrcis and Amyntas gliding into the wood, and, by the light of the moon, they had recognized them through the grove of the trees.’ Ah, you laugh!” interrupted Madame; “wait, wait, you are not yet at the end.”

The king turned pale; Saint-Aignan wiped his forehead, now dewed with perspiration. Among the groups of ladies present could be heard smothered laughter and stealthy whispers.

“‘The shepherdesses, I was saying, noticing how indiscreet the two shepherds were, proceeded to sit down at the foot of the royal oak; and, when they perceived that their over-curious listeners were sufficiently near, so that not a syllable of what they might say could be lost, they addressed towards them very innocently, in the most artless manner in the world indeed, a passionate declaration, which from the vanity natural to all men, and even to the most sentimental of shepherds, seemed to the two listeners as sweet as honey.’”

The king, at these words, which the assembly was unable to hear without laughing, could not restrain a flash of anger darting from his eyes. As for Saint-Aignan, he let his head fall upon his breast, and concealed, under a silly laugh, the extreme annoyance he felt.

“Oh,” said the king, drawing himself up to his full height, “upon my word, that is a most amusing jest, certainly; but, really and truly, are you sure you quite understood the language of the Naiads?”

“The comte, sire, pretends to have perfectly understood that of the Dryads,” retorted Madame, icily.

“No doubt,” said the king; “but you know the comte has the weakness to aspire to become a member of the Academy, so that, with this object in view, he has learnt all sorts of things of which very happily you are ignorant; and it might possibly happen that the language of the Nymph of the Waters might be among the number of things you have not studied.”

“Of course, sire,” replied Madame, “for facts of that nature one does not altogether rely upon one’s self alone; a woman’s ear is not infallible, so says Saint Augustine; and I, therefore, wished to satisfy myself by other opinions beside my own, and as my Naiad, who, in her character of a goddess, is polyglot,—is not that the expression, M. de Saint-Aignan?”

“I believe so,” said the latter, quite out of countenance.

“Well,” continued the princess, “as my Naiad, who, in her character of a goddess, had, at first spoken to me in English, I feared, as you suggest, that I might have misunderstood her, and I requested Mesdemoiselles de Montalais, de Tonnay-Charente, and de la Valliere, to come to me, begging my Naiad to repeat to me in the French language, the recital she had already communicated to me in English.”

“And did she do so?” inquired the king.

“Oh, she is the most polite divinity it is possible to imagine! Yes, sire, she did so; so that no doubt whatever remains on the subject. Is it not so, young ladies?” said the princess, turning towards the left of her army; “did not the Naiad say precisely what I have related, and have I, in any one particular, exceeded the truth, Phyllis? I beg your pardon, I mean Mademoiselle Aure de Montalais?”

“Precisely as you have stated, Madame,” articulated Mademoiselle de Montalais, very distinctly.

“Is it true, Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente?”

“The perfect truth,” replied Athenais, in a voice quite as firm, but not yet so distinct.

“And you, La Valliere?” asked Madame.

The poor girl felt the king’s ardent look fixed upon her,—she dared not deny—she dared not tell a falsehood; she merely bowed her head; and everybody took it for a token of assent. Her head, however, was not raised again, chilled as she was by a coldness more bitter than that of death. This triple testimony overwhelmed the king. As for Saint-Aignan, he did not even attempt to dissemble his despair, and, hardly knowing what he said, he stammered out, “An excellent jest! admirably played!”

“A just punishment for curiosity,” said the king, in a hoarse voice. “Oh! who would think, after the chastisement that Tyrcis and Amyntas had suffered, of endeavoring to surprise what is passing in the heart of shepherdesses? Assuredly I shall not, for one; and, you, gentlemen?”

“Nor I! nor I!” repeated, in a chorus, the group of courtiers.

Madame was filled with triumph at the king’s annoyance; and was full of delight, thinking that her story had been, or was to be, the termination of the whole affair. As for Monsieur, who had laughed at the two stories without comprehending anything about them, he turned towards De Guiche, and said to him, “Well, comte, you say nothing; can you not find something to say? Do you pity M. Tyrcis and M. Amyntas, for instance?”

“I pity them with all my soul,” replied De Guiche; “for, in very truth, love is so sweet a fancy, that to lose it, fancy though it may be, is to lose more than life itself. If, therefore, these two shepherds thought themselves beloved,—if they were happy in that idea, and if, instead of that happiness, they meet not only that empty void which resembles death, but jeers and jests at love itself, which is worse than a thousand deaths,—in that case, I say that Tyrcis and Amyntas are the two most unhappy men I know.”

“And you are right, too, Monsieur de Guiche,” said the king; “for, in fact, the injury in question is a very hard return for a little harmless curiosity.”

“That is as much to say, then, that the story of my Naiad has displeased the king?” asked Madame, innocently.

“Nay, Madame, undeceive yourself,” said Louis, taking the princess by the hand; “your Naiad, on the contrary, has pleased me, and the more so, because she was so truthful, and because her tale, I ought to add, is confirmed by the testimony of unimpeachable witnesses.”

These words fell upon La Valliere, accompanied by a look that on one, from Socrates to Montaigne, could have exactly defined. The look and the king’s remark succeeded in overpowering the unhappy girl, who, with her head upon Montalais’s shoulder, seemed to have fainted away. The king rose, without remarking this circumstance, of which no one, moreover, took any notice, and, contrary to his usual custom, for generally he remained late in Madame’s apartments, he took his leave, and retired to his own side of the palace. Saint-Aignan followed him, leaving the rooms in as much despair as he had entered them with delight. Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente, less sensitive than La Valliere, was not much frightened, and did not faint. However, it may be that the last look of Saint-Aignan had hardly been so majestic as the king’s.