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Title: Old Court Life in France, Volume II (of 2)
Author: Elliot, Frances Minto Dickinson
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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      *      *      *      *      *      *

_By Frances Elliot_

Old Court Life in France

_2 vols. 8°._

Old Court Life in Spain

_2 vols. 8°._

      *      *      *      *      *      *


OLD COURT LIFE IN FRANCE


[Illustration: Interview between Henry III. and the Duke of Guise.

From the painting by P. C. Comte.

(With permission of Levy et Fils, Paris.)]

[Illustration: [++] Title Page.]


OLD COURT LIFE IN FRANCE

by

FRANCES ELLIOT

Author of "Diary of an Idle Woman in Italy"
"Picture of Old Rome," etc.

[Illustration: [++] Colophon.]

Illustrated

VOLUME II.



G. P. Putnam's Sons
New York and London
The Knickerbocker Press

Copyright, 1893, by
G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS
Entered at Stationers' Hall, London
BY G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS

Made in the United States of America

The Knickerbocker Press, New York



Made in the United States of America

The Knickerbocker Press, New York



CONTENTS

  CHAPTER                                                          PAGE

        I—TEMPTED                                                     1

       II—THE KEEPER OF THE ROYAL CONSCIENCE                         13

      III—A NOBLE RESOLVE                                            20

       IV—THE SACRIFICE                                              27

        V—MONSIEUR LE GRAND                                          32

       VI—DEATH ON THE SCAFFOLD                                      45

      VII—THE END OF THE CARDINAL                                    54

     VIII—THE QUEEN-REGENT                                           59

       IX—THE DUC DE BEAUFORT                                        70

        X—MIDNIGHT VISITORS                                          84

       XI—THE TWO DUCHESSES                                          91

      XII—"PUT NOT THY TRUST IN PRINCES"                            102

     XIII—CHARLES STUART                                            112

      XIV—THE LADIES' WAR                                           122

       XV—MAZARIN PLAYED OUT                                        128

      XVI—LOUISE DE LA VALLIÈRE                                     139

     XVII—THE CONVENT OF CHAILLOT                                   156

    XVIII—FOUQUET, SUPERINTENDENT OF FINANCE                        167

      XIX—DEATH AND POISON                                          179

       XX—AT VERSAILLES                                             192

      XXI—MADAME DE MONTESPAN                                       200

     XXII—BROKEN-HEARTED                                            208

    XXIII—M. DE LAUZUN AND "MADEMOISELLE"                           220

     XXIV—A FAIR SUITOR                                             230

      XXV—UNDER A COUCH                                             242

     XXVI—SIGNING THE MARRIAGE CONTRACT                             252

    XXVII—PLOT AND COUNTERPLOT                                      258

   XXVIII—THE ROYAL GOVERNESS                                       268

     XXIX—CONNUBIAL BLISS                                           283

      XXX—FALL OF DE MONTESPAN                                      293

     XXXI—QUEEN MAINTENON                                           302

    XXXII—AT MARLY                                                  311

   XXXIII—"THE END"                                                 317



ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                                   PAGE

  INTERVIEW BETWEEN HENRY III. AND THE DUKE OF GUISE     _Frontispiece_
      From the painting by P. C. Comte.
      (With permission of Levy et Fils, Paris.)

  THE OLD LOUVRE                                                      2
      From an old print.

  THE PALAIS ROYAL, PARIS                                             5

  SALON OF LOUIS XIII. AT FONTAINEBLEAU                              20

  LOUISE DE LAFAYETTE                                                26
      From Monmerqué's "Tallemant des Réaux."

  MARQUIS DE CINQ-MARS                                               37
      From a painting by Lenain.

  VICOMTE DE TURENNE                                                 62

  PRINCE DE CONDÉ                                                    69

  CARDINAL MAZARIN AS AN ART COLLECTOR                               70
      From a painting by H. J. Vetter.
      (By permission of Neurdein Frères, Paris.)

  VINCENNES                                                          84

  CARDINAL DE RETZ                                                   87

  ANNE OF AUSTRIA                                                    90

  DUCHESSE DE CHEVREUSE                                             110

  DUCHESSE DE LONGUEVILLE                                           123

  MADEMOISELLE DE LA VALLIÈRE                                       158
      From a steel engraving.

  FOUQUET                                                           168

  COLBERT                                                           176

  MARIA THERESA                                                     181

  GALLERY OF HENRY II. AT FONTAINEBLEAU                             191

  VERSAILLES FROM THE PIÈCE D'EAU DES SUISSES                       193
      From an engraving by Rigaud.

  MADAME DE MONTESPAN                                               211

  VIEW OF THE LUXEMBOURG (LATER CALLED THE PALAIS, D'ORLÉANS)
      IN THE 17TH CENTURY                                           242
        From an old print.

  LOUVOIS                                                           258

  BEDCHAMBER OF LOUIS XIV. AT VERSAILLES                            259

  LOUIS XIV.                                                        266

  MADAME DE SÉVIGNÉ                                                 270
      From an old engraving.

  MADAME DE MAINTENON                                               286

  DUC D'ORLÉANS                                                     310



OLD COURT LIFE IN FRANCE.



CHAPTER I.

TEMPTED.


News came from the army announcing brilliant success. The valour of
the King was specially extolled; he was no longer a bashful, feeble
prince, victimised by feminine cabals, tyrannised over by Richelieu. He
had suddenly become a warrior, foremost in danger, leading his troops
in person into the hottest of the fray. Each day his absence lasted,
and every fresh intelligence that arrived, added to the excitement
of Louise de Lafayette. The danger to which he was exposed made her
tremble.

She eagerly desired his return, not for the mere pleasure of seeing and
conversing with him (though that was very dear to her), but because
she was sure that the time had come when he would himself hold the
reins of government, and display all that nobleness of character with
which her romantic fancy had invested him. Such, at least, was the
conviction, however delusive, of the pretty maid of honour, who, lost
in contemplation of the King's virtues, failed to perceive the state of
her own heart.

At length the campaign terminated. Louis had re-taken all the places
conquered by the Spaniards. They were in full retreat. The King
returned to Paris, which, not having been considered out of danger
from the attacks of the enemy, received him with transports of joy.
Mademoiselle de Lafayette, a witness of the universal enthusiasm, saw
in Louis the worthy successor of Henry the Great, and the inheritor
of all his glory. Intoxicated by these dreams, she imagined that even
her advice would be in future needless—that the King of his own accord
would suppress the arrogance of Richelieu, and from henceforth exercise
the royal authority alone.

The following day, the Court being at the Louvre, Louis visited the
Queen at her lever. As he returned into the anteroom, he approached
Louise de Lafayette. She was too much agitated even to welcome him.
That Louis was also greatly moved was evident. The pallor that always
overspread his face when excited, was almost death-like, and every
feature worked convulsively. For some moments they stood opposite to
each other, without saying a word. Then, overmastering his agitation,
Louis spoke to her in a low voice:—"I know not, mademoiselle, when we
shall be able to resume those conversations which were so infinitely
delightful—I am overwhelmed with business." Then, after glancing round,
and seeing that every one had retired, he seized her hand and kissed it
tenderly.

"Ah! so much the better," said Louise, beaming with smiles. "May you,
Sire, ever be thus occupied."

[Illustration: THE OLD LOUVRE.

FROM AN OLD PRINT.]

"Do you want to banish me, then, just as I am returned?" said he,
retaining her hand in both of his.

"No, Sire; but I want to see you reign."

"You have heard me blamed for my indolence? I am sure you have. All I
ask is, that you will wait and judge for yourself. The Court is filled
with my enemies." He spoke with animation.

"Sire, I need not wait," replied the maid of honour eagerly, her liquid
eyes, full of faith and affection, turned upon him, "I have long ago
decided in your favour."

"May you never change!" ejaculated Louis fervently. "It would console
me for a world of injustice. I must now leave you," and he pressed her
hand again and raised it to his lips.

The eagerness with which Louis applied himself to state affairs after
his return, evoked much mirth and ridicule among the ladies of the
Court. Louise de Lafayette was pained. When Madame de Sennécy declared
that his Majesty's industry could not possibly last, she was offended
in the highest degree. The Cardinal, too, was openly abused for the
military appointments he had made during the war by these fair critics,
whereupon Louise, who dared not openly defend the King, endeavoured to
justify him by exonerating the Cardinal. One morning, when both King
and minister had been bitterly attacked in the anteroom, before the
Queen had left her apartments, Louise remarked to those around her
that the Cardinal, though unpopular, was undeniably great; that he had
founded the Académie Française, rebuilt the Sorbonne, established the
Royal Printing Press, founded the Jardin des Plantes, and that, as a
minister, he was brave, daring, and wise.

These sentiments caused great surprise, for Mademoiselle de Lafayette
had hitherto by no means spared Richelieu. The Duchesse de Sennécy
openly rebuked her for what she styled her "hypocrisy," and sent her in
tears to her room. Her words, however, were immediately reported to the
Cardinal by Chavigny, a gentleman of the bedchamber, who was present,
one of the many salaried Court spies in his pay. Chavigny particularly
dwelt upon the earnestness of the maid of honour, and assured the
Cardinal that she could only have so expressed herself in order to gain
his favour.

No sooner had Chavigny left the Palais Royal than the Comte de la
Meilleraye, a distant relation of Richelieu, requested an audience. La
Meilleraye was also in attendance on the King. He had come, as he said,
to ask a great favour of his all-powerful cousin. Would the Cardinal
assist him to a most advantageous marriage with a lady to whom he
was devoted—Mademoiselle de Lafayette? From the first moment he had
seen her, he said, her beauty, her elegance, her modest bearing and
simplicity—qualities so rare in the Court circle—had enchanted him.
Thus spoke the Comte de la Meilleraye. Richelieu listened graciously.
He liked by all legitimate means to advance his family, and if the maid
of honour was his partisan, as Chavigny had reported, nothing could be
more expedient than such a marriage. He promised therefore to consult
the King at once, and to endeavour to obtain his permission, warning
La Meilleraye to do nothing in the matter until he had heard again from
him.

[Illustration: THE PALAIS ROYAL, PARIS.]

The morning Council of State over, Richelieu accompanied the King into
his writing closet, to discuss in private some important matters.

As the Queen's coterie had predicted, Louis soon wearied of business;
everything was now replaced, as before, in the hands of the minister.

Louis leant back in his chair. He scarcely heard the Cardinal's remarks.

From time to time, when specially appealed to, he bowed his head in
acquiescence. Then turning away his eyes abstractedly towards the
windows, which faced the inner court, he anxiously watched the driving
clouds that scudded across the sky. He had fixed a hunting-party at
Rambouillet, and longed to start as soon as the weather cleared, and
Richelieu had left him.

The mellow voice of the Cardinal, who, however imperative in action,
never startled his feeble master by any outward display of vehemence,
had continued speaking for some time, in a monotonous tone, when the
King, seeing the sunshine appear, suddenly rose.

"Your eminence has, I imagine, done with me for to-day," said he,
looking eagerly towards the door.

"Yes, Sire; but there is still a trifling matter upon which I would ask
your decision."

"Pray mention it," replied Louis, tapping his boots with a riding-whip
he had taken off a table.

"My relative, the Comte de la Meilleraye, begs your permission to
marry."

"Willingly," replied Louis; "who is the fair lady, Cardinal?"

"It is Mademoiselle Louise de Lafayette, Sire, maid of honour to the
Queen."

If a thunderbolt had fallen at his feet, Louis could not have been
more overcome. He turned perfectly livid, took a long breath, tottered
backwards and sat down again. The all-seeing eyes of the Cardinal were
fixed upon him; he did not speak, but watched his master. Louis for
some moments did not raise his head; then he heaved a deep sigh, and
with much effort, in a strangely different voice, asked faintly—

"Does Mademoiselle de Lafayette herself desire this marriage?"

Richelieu had turned away, and affecting to be busied with some books
and papers lying on the table, replied in an indifferent manner—

"As yet, Sire, we are unacquainted with the lady's sentiments; but, as
I am informed she has no other attachment, I cannot but believe such an
alliance as that of my cousin will be acceptable to her."

The nervous spasm with which it was evident the King had awaited this
reply instantly relaxed. The colour returned to his cheeks, his eyes
brightened, and he stood up—

"Before I can decide anything," said he, "I must know Mademoiselle de
Lafayette's feelings; acquaint me with them speedily."

He spoke in a firm, decided way, very unusual with him.

The Cardinal drew his own conclusions.

       *       *       *       *       *

By-and-by Chavigny informed Richelieu that Mademoiselle de Lafayette
had at once, and unhesitatingly, refused the hand of the Count.
Richelieu only smiled. "I knew it. The King, my good Chavigny, is in
love with her himself. She returns it. They understand each other.
Chavigny, I must see this foolish girl, who ventures to mix herself up
with his Majesty. I must personally acquaint myself with her feelings."

"Your Eminence will find it most difficult to speak with her in
private. The Duchesse de Sennécy proposes giving a masked ball, at
which her Majesty and the Court will be present; would that suit your
plans?"

"Not at all," replied Richelieu. "When I speak there must be no mask.
I must study her countenance. She is young and disingenuous. I shall
read her inmost thoughts. She has not been long enough at Court to have
learnt dissimulation. I must see her before the King leaves Paris. We
can meet at my niece's, the Duchesse de Combalet."

"Mademoiselle de Lafayette could only feel honoured by such a summons
from your Eminence," replied Chavigny.

"Yes, I fancy she will accept the offers I shall make her, unless she
is an absolute idiot."

Mademoiselle de Lafayette was duly invited to a _déjeûner_ at the
Palais Cardinal by the Duchesse de Combalet, who received her alone.
During breakfast her hostess said everything that could flatter and
please her. She praised her dress and her appearance. She was so
simple, so unselfish, so different from the other maids of honour, the
Duchess said. Then she went on to inform her that she knew the Cardinal
had the highest opinion of her; that he had often expressed his
admiration of her character and her person to herself, the Duchess.
"It is very unusual with him, Mademoiselle, to speak to me about the
Queen's ladies; he is too much engrossed with state affairs, too
serious to notice them. But you are an exception; you have made a deep
impression on my uncle."

Louise bowed, grew red and white by turns, and listened in wondering
silence.

Suddenly the door opened, and Cardinal Richelieu appeared, followed
by two favourite cats. Smiling benignly, he received the maid of
honour with great condescension. Mademoiselle de Lafayette rose at his
entrance, and was about to withdraw, when he took her hand and insisted
on her reseating herself.

The Duchesse de Combalet spoke with him on general subjects, and
constantly appealed to Louise for her opinion. She gave it with her
usual modest frankness. Everything she said was applauded by the
Cardinal. He put forth all his powers to please her.

In about half an hour a servant entered and whispered to the Duchess.
She affected great annoyance at the interruption, and begged the
Cardinal and her guest to excuse her for a quarter of an hour, while
she gave some directions. "Besides," said she, and she turned with a
meaning look to the maid of honour, "I know that his Eminence wants
to have a little private conversation with you about our cousin De
la Meilleraye, whom you have so cruelly refused. Poor man! he is in
despair. I shall return in a few minutes." Saying which she kissed
Mademoiselle de Lafayette on both cheeks, and withdrew.

Richelieu and the maid of honour were now alone. The Cardinal was no
longer the dissolute prelate of other days, the adorer of two queens
of France, the slave of Madame de Chevreuse, the lover of Marion de
l'Orme. The life of labour he led would have long ago killed any but
a man of his iron will and calm temperament. He never slept more
than three hours at a time, and literally worked day and night. At
eight o'clock in the morning he was astir, ready to receive spies,
generals, and ministers, suppliants, and princes, who were already
waiting in the anteroom. He was as active as a Roman senator, with a
hundred clients assembled in his portico. His cheeks were pinched and
sunken; his face sallow; his thin lips colourless; his brow, a network
of those fine wrinkles that come of excessive thought. Even his eyes
were dull, and half concealed by his eyelids, though on occasions they
would still shoot forth sparks of fire. The straight hair that lay upon
his forehead, under his red _calotte_, was scanty and almost white.
Altogether, his appearance was that of a man physically worn-out, and
indicative of his painful illness and somewhat premature death. But the
spirit of the man was strong within him, and a consciousness of latent
power disclosed itself in every feature.

As he leant back in a spacious arm-chair, the two cats nestled on his
knees, he bent his half-closed eyes upon Louise with almost feline
cunning. Those half-closed eyes alone betrayed his nature; otherwise,
his countenance expressed nothing but tranquil enjoyment.

"Mademoiselle de Lafayette," he said in a soft, musical voice that
struck pleasantly upon the ear, "I have both to reproach you and to
thank you." Louise looked at him with surprise. "Yes, I thank you for
the favour with which I hear you speak of me; and I reproach you for
having hitherto concealed from me your good opinion. I am desirous to
see you become a member of my family. I hope you will marry my cousin.
But, believe me, the ties of gratitude are stronger with me than those
of blood. Mademoiselle, I wish to be your friend." Louise bowed her
head with great respect, but felt bewildered.

Richelieu piqued himself on being a great physiognomist. He had
made a special study of the human countenance. He saw that the face
of Mademoiselle de Lafayette was totally untroubled. Her perfect
self-possession astonished him. The phrase he had uttered—"I wish to
be your friend," solemn words, indeed, from the mouth of Richelieu—had
caused in her no change of expression! Her composed demeanour was, in
the eyes of the Cardinal, an additional reason for securing her as a
partisan. He had before much desired to gain her to himself, but he now
came to attach an immense importance to success.

"I am very grateful for your Eminence's kind expressions," said Louise
at last, with great modesty, but with equal firmness; "but I do not
wish to marry. If the offer of your friendship involves any sacrifice
of my freedom, I must, with sorrow, decline it. I seek nothing, your
Eminence. I need no protection." There was a quiet dignity in her words
and manner that took the Cardinal aback. He said nothing; but his
eyes, now fully open and glistening, rested on the maid of honour with
surprise and displeasure.

Yet the real loftiness of soul she displayed, the indifference with
which she ignored his offers, appeared to him so unaccountable that
he could only imagine she wished to extract from him some terms more
definite and decided. This idea gave him courage to recommence the
attack.

"Let us be frank," said he, smiling. "I know all."

"What do you mean, monseigneur?"

"The King loves you. The purity of his heart and his high principles
may allow you to confess it. He loves you. And his interest, as well as
your own, requires that we should be friends."

Mademoiselle de Lafayette grew very pale; she trembled, but did not for
a moment lose her presence of mind. "To what sort of friendship does
your Eminence allude?"

"An entire confidence on your part, and an active acknowledgment on
mine."

The Cardinal was on the point of promising her titles, estates, and
pensions; but Mademoiselle de Lafayette, who, with downcast eyes,
listened to him in silence, all at once looked up fixedly into his
face. This look stopped him short.

"Your Eminence," said she, "can only wish me to give my personal
confidence. In honour I could promise no other. But I _have_ no
secrets, no concealments. I am without ambition, I desire no favour.
Besides, I am sure that your Eminence will at once understand me when
I say—that, if ever it were the pleasure of his Majesty to repose
confidence in me—_there is no temptation, no power on earth_, that
would induce me to betray it." As she spoke, she looked straight at the
Cardinal. The colour returned to her cheeks, and she sat erect—gentle,
yet infinitely bold.

Richelieu reddened, but he suppressed his rising indignation. "The
confidence of a great King," replied he solemnly, a dark fire darting
from his eyes, "can only be properly accepted when the person to
whom it is addressed is capable of offering real assistance to the
sovereign. I propose, Mademoiselle de Lafayette, to render you capable
of imparting such assistance. Whatever may be your natural sense and
penetration, this is an occasion in which experience alone is valuable."

"But does not your Eminence think that rectitude of purpose——"

"It is evident that you are little versed in the intrigues of courts,
mademoiselle," answered he loftily, eying her with haughty disdain.
"Perhaps some day you will discover that the offer I have made you of
my esteem and assistance is not to be despised."

"No one can attach a higher value than I do to the good opinion of
your Eminence," interposed Mademoiselle de Lafayette with warmth; "but
I do not think you have at all proved it in what you have just said.
Although I think I deserve it," she added timidly.

The Cardinal contemplated her attentively for some moments. His face
was set, his eyes flashed, and his hands which were clenched rested
on his knees. "I have only one word more to add," said he in an angry
voice. "Any idea of favour with the King without my support is a
delusion." He was rapidly losing self-restraint. This girl had lashed
him into a fury. She saw it, but felt no fear.

"Your Eminence, I think only of my duty," she replied with firmness. "I
fear no threats. I can make no promise."

At these words the Cardinal rose. His face was swollen with passion; a
wicked fire gleamed in his eyes; her coolness transported him beyond
endurance. "Once more, Mademoiselle de Lafayette, remember what I say.
My resolutions are unalterable; I trample down everything. Without my
assistance, beware! Think of the future. Recall the past. My enemies
are rotting in their graves—my friends rule France." Then, speaking
more calmly, he added, "You are too great a fool to understand what you
are doing. I can pardon your presumption, however, because I know how
to cure it. Mademoiselle de Lafayette, you may withdraw."



CHAPTER II.

THE KEEPER OF THE ROYAL CONSCIENCE.


Richelieu, thoroughly exasperated, determined to crush the girl who
had dared to brave him. He called to his aid his creature Chavigny.
Chavigny was intriguing, acute, and superficial; an admirable tool—for
he originated nothing. Years ago he had sold himself to Richelieu, but
as he always went out of his way to abuse him, the connection was not
suspected. Under the direction of the Cardinal, he had entirely gained
the King's confidence. His easy good-nature encouraged the shy Louis to
tell him all his secrets, and to consult him in all his difficulties.

Chavigny, who up to this time had attached little importance to the
King's inclination for the new maid of honour, looking upon it simply
as a passing admiration for an attractive girl, too inexperienced
to take advantage of his favour, upon being questioned, informed
Richelieu that the King wrote to her daily, and that she replied as
often. Richelieu at once resolved on his course of action. He would in
future see the correspondence himself. Each letter was to be skilfully
unsealed by his secretary, Desmaret, and read, before it was delivered.

It was not possible for even the hard, stern Richelieu to peruse these
letters unmoved. He had been once young and passionate himself. He
could not but appreciate the delicacy and eloquence with which the King
veiled his passion, and softened intense love into the semblance of
friendship. Nor could he avoid feeling some admiration for the sweet
and simple nature that breathed in every line written by the maid of
honour. Both were evidently ignorant of the ardour of their mutual
attachment. What was to be done? He must consult the King's confessor.

Father Caussin, a Jesuit, had been only nine months confessor to the
King. He was learned, conscientious, and guileless. Richelieu had
selected him for this important post in the belief that he would
assume no political influence over his royal penitent. The General of
the order had objected to his appointment on the same grounds. In
person Caussin was tall and spare. His long black cassock hung about
his thin figure in heavy folds. His face was pale and emaciated. Yet
a kindly smile played about his mouth, and his black eyes beamed with
benevolence. Such was the ecclesiastic who seated himself opposite to
Richelieu.

"My father," said the Cardinal, saluting him stiffly, and leaning
forward and laying his hands on some papers placed beside him on a
table, as though they related to what he was about to say.—"I have
summoned you on a very grave matter." Nothing could be more solemn
than the Cardinal's voice and manner. The pleasant smile faded at once
out of the confessor's face. He became as grave, if not as stern as
the Cardinal, leant his head upon his bony hand, and turned his eyes
intently upon him. "Circumstances have come to my knowledge," continued
Richelieu, "which, in my opinion, justify me in asking you a very
searching question." Caussin moved uneasily, and in a somewhat troubled
manner interrupted him.

"Your Eminence will not, I trust, desire to trench upon the privacy of
my office,—for in that case I could not satisfy you."

Richelieu waved his hand impatiently, placed one knee over the other
with great deliberation, and leant back in his chair. "My father, I am
surprised at your insinuation. We are both Churchmen, and, I presume,
understand our respective duties. The question that I would ask is one
to which you may freely reply. Does it appear to you that his Majesty
has of late shown indifference in his spiritual duties?" Caussin drew
a long breath, and, though relieved, was evidently unwilling to answer.

"Pardon me, my father," again spoke the Cardinal, a slight tone of
asperity perceptible in his mellow voice, "I ask you this question
entirely in the interest of the holy order to which you belong.
Many benefices have fallen vacant lately, and it is possible,—it is
_possible_, I repeat, that I may advise his Majesty to fill up some
of them from the ranks of the Company of Jesus." His half-closed eyes
rested significantly on Father Caussin as he said these words.

Caussin listened unmoved. "There are, doubtless," said he, "many
members of our order who would do honor to your selection, Cardinal.
For myself, I should want no preferment;—indeed, I should decline it."
He spoke with the frankness of perfect sincerity.

Richelieu looked down, and worked the points of his fingers impatiently
on the table. His hands were singularly white and shapely, with taper
fingers. As a young man he had loved to display them; the habit had
remained with him when he was thoughtful or annoyed. "Well, my father,"
said he, "your answer?"

Caussin eyed the Cardinal suspiciously,—"I am happy to reassure your
Eminence; his Majesty is, as usual, in the most pious sentiments."

"Hum!—that is strange, very strange; I fear that the benevolence of
your nature, my father—" Caussin drew himself up, and a look as much
approaching defiance as it was possible for him to assume passed into
his pleasant face. Richelieu did not finish the offensive sentence.
"It is strange," he went on to say, "for I have reason to _know_—I ask
you for no information, reverend father—that his Majesty's feelings
are engaged in a mundane passion which, if encouraged, may lead him
from those precepts and exercises in which he has hitherto lived in
obedience to the Church."

"To what passion do you allude?" asked Caussin cautiously.

"To the infatuation his Majesty evinces for the new maid of honour,
Louise de Lafayette. The lady is self-willed and romantic. She may lead
him into deadly sin."

Caussin started. "I apprehend nothing of the kind," replied he drily.

"True, my father, but that is a matter of opinion. I think differently.
Absolution, after repentance," continued the Cardinal pompously,
"may wash out even crime, but it is for us,—you, his Majesty's
confessor, and I, his minister, both faithful servants of the Holy
Father,"—Caussin looked hard at the Cardinal, who was by no means
considered orthodox at Rome,—"it is for us to guard him from even the
semblance of evil. I have sent for you, my father, to assist me in
placing Louise de Lafayette in a convent. It will be at least a measure
of precaution. I shall require all your help, my father; will you
give it me?" Richelieu, as he asked this important question, narrowly
observed Caussin from under his drooping eyelids. The confessor was
evidently embarrassed. His kindly countenance was troubled; and he was
some time in answering.

"To dedicate a young and pure soul to God," he replied, at length,
with evident hesitation, "is truly an acceptable work; but has your
Eminence considered that the lady in question is of the most blameless
life, and that by her example and influence his Majesty may be kept
in that path of obedience and faith which some other attachment might
not insure?" As he asked this question Caussin leaned forwards towards
Richelieu, speaking earnestly.

"Father Caussin," said the Cardinal, in his hardest manner, and
motioning with his hand as though commanding special attention, "we
must look in this matter beyond his Majesty's feelings. I have good
reason for alarm. A crisis is impending," and he turned again to
the papers lying on the table with a significant air. "If Louise
de Lafayette has any vocation, let her be advised to encourage it.
Consider in what manner you can best bend the King's will to comply.
You tell me the lady is a good Catholic; I rejoice to hear it. She
comes of a family of heretics. She may be sincere, though I much
doubt it. At all events, she must be removed; simply as a matter of
precaution, my father, I repeat, she must be removed. Let me beg you
to consult the General of your order upon this matter immediately.
Understand me, I am advising this simply as a matter of precaution,
nothing more." All this time Caussin had listened intently to the
Cardinal. The troubled look on his face had deepened into one of
infinite sadness. His brow was knit, but there were doubt and
hesitation in his manner.

"I can only consent to assist your Eminence," he replied, in a low
voice, after some moments of deep thought, "on the condition that the
lady herself freely consents. I can permit no violence to be done to
her inclinations, nor to the will of his Majesty. If the lady is ready
to offer up herself to the Church through my means, it will doubtless
redound to the credit of our order; but she shall not be forced."

"Certainly not, certainly not," interposed Richelieu, in a much more
affable tone. "I do not know why your reverence should start such a
supposition."

"I will consult our General, Cardinal," continued Caussin; "but I am
bound to say that the influence the lady has hitherto exercised has
been most legitimate, most orthodox, altogether in favour of our order,
to which she is devoted, and of the Church. She is a most pious lady."

"All the more fit for the privilege I propose to bestow upon her,"
answered Richelieu, with unction; "she will be safe from temptation
within the bosom of the Church, a blessing we, my father," and
Richelieu affected to heave a deep sigh, and cast up his eyes to
heaven, "we, who live in the world, cannot attain. We act then in
concert, my father," he added quickly, in his usual manner, "we act for
the good of his Majesty's soul?"

Caussin bowed acquiescence, but mistrust and perplexity were written
upon every line of his honest face, as he observed the evident
satisfaction evinced by the Cardinal at his compliance.

Richelieu rose: "We will force no one's inclination, my father," he
said blandly, "but all possibility of scandal must be removed. You
must at once prepare his Majesty. It will be a good work, and will
greatly recommend you to your order." Caussin, with a look of the
deepest concern, bowed profoundly and withdrew. When he was alone, the
Cardinal re-seated himself and fell into a deep muse. "Now," said he,
at length, speaking to himself, "her fate is sealed. I will take care
that her vocation shall be perfect. This presumptuous girl shall soon
come to rejoice, ay, rejoice, that she is permitted to take refuge in a
convent. As for Caussin, he is a fool. I must remove him immediately."

Richelieu, as he said of himself, never halted in his resolves. Caussin
was shortly sent off by a _lettre de cachet_ to Rennes, narrowly
escaping an intimation from the Cardinal to his Superior that it would
be well to exercise his devotion to the order as a missionary in Canada.

[Illustration: SALON OF LOUIS XIII. AT FONTAINEBLEAU.]



CHAPTER III.

A NOBLE RESOLVE.


The Court had removed from the Louvre to Saint-Germain, always the
favourite abode of the melancholy monarch.

Louis suffered tortures from the galling restraints his position
entailed upon him in his intercourse with Mademoiselle de Lafayette.
He rarely saw her alone. When he addressed her, he was conscious that
every eye was fixed upon them. Their correspondence, carried on by
means of Chavigny, was, he felt, full of danger. His only comforter
in his manifold troubles was this same treacherous Chavigny. Prompted
by the Cardinal, Chavigny urged the King, on every possible occasion,
to make some arrangement with Mademoiselle de Lafayette to meet in
private. "If she loves you," said this unworthy tool, "if you really
possess her heart, she will long to meet your Majesty with greater
freedom as much as you can do. It is for you to make some such proposal
to her. Do it, Sire; do it without delay, or I assure you the lady
will think you careless and indifferent." Thus spoke Chavigny. Louis
listened, meditated on what he said, and was convinced. He gave himself
up to the most entrancing day-dreams.

The season was summer. The weather was hot, and the tall windows of
the great saloon were thrown open. The Court had gathered round the
Queen, who was engaged in a lively conversation with Mademoiselle de
Montpensier, the young daughter of the Duc d'Orléans. Seeing that her
services were not required, Louise de Lafayette, pensive and silent,
stole away to the balcony outside the windows. She stood alone, lost in
her own thoughts. With noiseless steps Louis approached her. He lent
by her side over the balustrade, bending his eyes on the broad plains
towards Paris.

"You are thoughtful, Sire," said Louise timidly. "Will you tell me your
thoughts?"

"If I do," replied Louis, casting a fond glance upon her, "will you
trust me with yours?"

A delicious tremor passed through her whole frame. She cast down her
large grey eyes, and smiled. "Indeed I trust you, Sire," she murmured
softly; "you know I do."

"But trust me more,—let our communion be more intimate. A brother's
love is not more pure than mine," whispered the King; "but," and
he hesitated and blushed, "I have never enjoyed the privilege of a
brother." Louise raised her eyes inquiringly.

The King was greatly confused. "A brother—" and he stopped. Then,
seeing her earnest look of curiosity—"A brother," he repeated, "salutes
his sister: I have never enjoyed that privilege, Louise." He was
scarcely audible. "Let my self-denial, at least, secure me all your
confidence."

"Oh, Sire, you have it, entire and unreserved; you know it. I might
distrust myself, but you, Sire, never, never!"

"How happy you make me!" returned the King, and a sickly smile
overspread his haggard face. "I understand—I appreciate your attachment
to me; but oh, mademoiselle, how can my feeble words express mine to
you?—how can I describe that which is without bounds—without limit? You
can live without me. You can find solace in your own perfection, in
the admiration of those around you—but I, I am nothing without you. I
am a mere blank—a blot upon a luxurious Court—an offence to my superb
wife. No one cares for my happiness—not even for my existence, but
you. When I cannot approach you, I am overcome by despair. Oh, Louise,
give yourself up to me, in pity—without fear, without restraint. Let
me see you every day,—let me be encouraged by your words, led by your
counsels, soothed by your pity, blessed by your sight. You say you do
not doubt me. What then do you fear?"

The maid of honour looked at him with tearful eyes. His earnestness,
his desolation, his entreaties, melted her heart. His unconscious love
made her pulses beat as quickly as his own.

"You know that I am devoted to you,—what more can I say?" she whispered
softly.

"I have a favour to ask you," said Louis anxiously,—"a favour so great
I hesitate to name it." He was greatly agitated. At this moment the
passionate love he felt animated him with new life, and lent a charm to
his countenance it had never borne before.

"A favour, Sire?—it is granted before you speak. How is it that you
have concealed it from me?"

"Then I am satisfied,"—the King heaved a sigh of relief,—"what I ask
depends entirely on you. You will grant it."

"Am I to promise?"

"Well, only give me your word; that is enough."

"Sire, I give you my word; from the bottom of my heart, I give you my
word. Tell me what it is you desire." And she raised her face towards
the King, who contemplated her with silent rapture.

"Not now,—not now," murmured he, in a faltering voice; "I dare not;
it would require too long an explanation,—we might be interrupted,"
and he turned and glanced at the scene behind him,—at Anne of Austria,
blazing with diamonds, radiant with regal beauty, her silvery laugh
surmounting the hum of conversation. He saw the brilliant crowd
that thronged around her where she sat. Great princes, illustrious
ministers, historic nobles, chivalric soldiers, grave diplomatists,
stately matrons, ministers of state, her ladies in waiting, and the
five other maids of honour, in the glory of golden youth. He saw the
dazzling lights, the fluttering feathers, the gorgeous robes, the
sparkling jewels, standing out from the painted walls,—all the glamour
of a luxurious Court. Then he gazed at the sweet face of the lonely
girl whose loving eyes were bent upon him awaiting his reply,—his soul
sank within him.

"Would to God I were not King of France," he exclaimed abruptly,
following the tenor of his thoughts. Then, seeing her wonder at his
sudden outburst, he added, "The favour I ask of you shall be made known
to you in writing. This evening you shall receive a letter from me;
but,"—and he drew closer to her and spoke almost fiercely,—"remember
you have pledged yourself to me—you cannot, you dare not withdraw your
word. If you do,"—and an agonised look came into his face,—"you will
drive me to madness." Saying these words, he suddenly disappeared. She
was again left standing alone on the balcony.

Louise de Lafayette was startled, but not alarmed. The notion that the
King was capable of making any indecorous proposition to her never
for a moment occurred to her; at the same time she felt the utmost
curiosity to know what this secret might be. She formed a thousand
different conjectures, each further than the other from the truth.
On entering her room at night, she found a letter from the King. She
hastily tore it open and read as follows:—

     "I have long adored you, and you only. During the whole time you
     have been at Court, I have been able but twice to address you
     alone, and to chance only did I even then owe that inexpressible
     privilege. It is impossible for me to endure this restraint any
     longer. If you feel as I do, you will not desire it. I have
     therefore commanded that my hunting-lodge at Versailles should be
     arranged as much as possible in accordance with your taste. There
     is a garden laid out, filled with the flowers you love; there are
     secluded lawns; there is the boundless forest. Above all, there
     is freedom. Come then, my Louise, and share with me this rural
     retreat—come where we can meet, unrestrained by the formalities
     of my Court. Bring with you any friend you please. At Versailles
     I hope to spend part of every week in your company. My happiness
     will be perfect; you will find me the most grateful of men. You
     will have nothing to fear. Do you dream calumny? Who would dare to
     attack a lady as pure as yourself? May I not claim your consent
     when I rely on your promise to grant whatever I ask? I feel that
     you cannot deny me, for you have repeated a thousand times that
     you trust my principles. You cannot doubt my honour. To refuse me
     would only be to insult me. Surely Louise, you would not do that!
     It would wound me to the very soul. It would destroy every hope of
     my future life.

                                        "(Signed) LOUIS."

When Mademoiselle de Lafayette read this artful letter, which had been
composed by Chavigny under the direction of Richelieu, and copied out
by the King, she was utterly confounded. The fatal veil which had so
long concealed the truth fell from her eyes. Even to a girl pure and
simple as herself, all further delusion was impossible. This letter and
the feelings that dictated it were not to be misunderstood.

"Merciful heavens!" cried she, clasping her hands, "with what a tone
of authority, with what assurance, he proposes to dishonour me! This,
then, is the attachment I believed to be so pure! What! does he, the
husband of the Queen of France, suppose that I would encourage a guilty
passion! Wretch that I am! Instead of helping him, I have led him into
sin! I had no right to engross his thoughts. He is already estranged
from his wife, and I have severed them still further! O God! what will
the Queen think of me? How can I atone for this horrible sin? I must—I
will—reconcile them. Then God may forgive my involuntary crime!"

Again and again, with tears streaming down her cheeks, she read and
re-read the letter. She pressed the paper to her lips. The next moment
she dashed it on the floor in an agony of remorse.

"Oh, how can I reply?" sobbed she. "What can I say to temper the
blow which must sever us? He will be in despair—he will die. But my
reputation, my honour—his own—his duty to the Queen! No, I will never
consent to such degradation—my soul revolts at the thought! How gladly
would I sacrifice my life for him, but I cannot commit a sin. I must
leave the palace, I must go—Whither?"

[Illustration: MLLE. DE LAFAYETTE.

FROM MONMERQUÉ'S "TALLEMANT DES RÉAUX."]

As she listened to the echo of her own words, an unformed thought
suddenly darted into her mind. Go—yes, she would go where none could
follow. Youth, beauty, wealth, the sacrifice should be complete. She
would prove, even in separation, how great had been her love. "_There
is no other way_," she said, speaking aloud, and an angelic smile lit
up her face. She cast herself upon her knees, and prayed in peace.
Her prayer finished, she took up her pen and replied thus to the King:—

     "Your Majesty desires that we should no longer meet in the
     presence of witnesses. Before knowing what was required of me, I
     promised to comply. I will not withdraw my word; but I entreat
     of your Majesty the liberty of myself selecting the place where
     these private interviews are to be held. When I have received
     your Majesty's assent, I will inform you where this place is to
     be. In eight days' time I shall be prepared to receive you. Your
     Majesty can then judge of the extent of my confidence, and of the
     unbounded devotion I feel towards you.

                                        "LOUISE DE LAFAYETTE."



CHAPTER IV.

THE SACRIFICE.


Next morning, as soon as it was light, Louise sent for the King's
confessor. She showed him the King's letter, and confided to him her
resolution. Caussin listened in silence; but the kindly old man,
priest though he was, could not restrain his tears—so touching was her
innocence, so heartfelt her sorrow. He understood the simple goodness
of her heart; he trembled at the sacrifice she was imposing on herself;
but he could not combat her arguments. He promised, therefore, to
assist in making the needful arrangements, and he pledged himself to
support the King in the trial awaiting him.

The coach was in waiting which was to bear her to her future home. All
at once she recollected she had still one final sacrifice to make. The
letters of the King, which she always carried about her, were still
intact within the silken cover in which she preserved them. She drew
these letters from her bosom and gazed on them in silent agony. Her
eyes were blinded by tears. She dared not read them again, for she
knew they would but increase her grief. As she held them in her hand,
remorse at what she had done preponderated over every feeling. Thus to
have enthralled a husband belonging to another—her sovereign and her
mistress—came suddenly before her in its true light. She felt she had
forgotten her duty. Once more she kissed the crumpled leaves over which
her fingers had so often passed; she deluged them with her tears. Then
she lit a taper and set fire to the whole.

She sat immovable before the burning fragments; her eyes fixed, her
hands clasped. As the flame rose, glistened, and then melted away into
light particles of dust that the morning air, blowing in from the open
window, bore away fluttering in the breeze, she seemed to look upon
the death of her love. "Alas!" cried she, "now all is over." Vows
of eternal constancy, entreaties that would melt a heart of stone,
confidence beyond all limit, affection that enshrouded her in folds of
unutterable tenderness—gone,—vanished into air! Such was the image of
her life: a life bright in promise, gay and dazzling, to smoulder down
into ashes, too fragile even to claim a resting-place.

Louise de Lafayette wrote a few lines to the Duchesse de Sennécy,
praying her to convey her dutiful salutations to her Majesty, and to
request her dismissal from the post of maid of honour, which, she said,
"she felt she had fulfilled so ill." Then she addressed the following
note to the King:—"I request your Majesty to meet me this day week, at
noon, in the parlour of the Convent of the Daughters of Mary, in the
Faubourg Saint-Antoine."

When the King read these lines his heart sank within him. The austerity
of the place, a rendezvous in a convent of peculiar sanctity, where he
knew Mademoiselle de Lafayette always resorted at the solemn season of
Lent and Passion Week, where he could only converse with her between
double bars, was not the place of meeting of which he had fondly
dreamed! Yet his natural delicacy made him fully appreciate the modesty
of Louise and the gentle rebuke she administered to him for his too
pressing solicitation in naming a place of meeting. At the convent,
although they would certainly be alone, no scandal could possibly
attach to the interview. More than this he never for an instant
imagined. The habits of piety in which Mademoiselle de Lafayette
lived, and her frequent retreats for religious purposes, raised in his
mind no suspicion. He should see her, and see her alone, undisturbed,
unwatched. On that thought he dwelt with rapture; time would, he hoped,
do the rest.

Punctually, at noon, the King arrived at the Convent of the Daughters
of Mary. He was received by the Abbess in person, and conducted into
the parlour. Here she left him. A moment more, a curtain was withdrawn,
and, behind double bars of iron, Louise de Lafayette stood before him.
She wore the dark brown robes and corded girdle of the order, the long
white veil of the noviciate falling round her lovely face. The King
stood transfixed, his eyes riveted upon her.

"Forgive me, Sire," said she, in a voice full of sweetness, "forgive me
for having dared to dispose of myself without your leave. But, Sire,
a too fervent attachment had led us both into danger. I had forgotten
my duty in the love I felt for you,—your Majesty forgot you were a
husband. That letter, in which you proposed meeting me at Versailles,
opened my eyes to the truth. God be thanked, there was yet time for
repentance. This morning I have taken the white veil, and in a year I
shall pronounce the final vows. My life will still be passed with you,
Sire; but it will be a life of prayer." As she spoke she smiled sadly,
and awaited his reply.

"Great God!" exclaimed Louis at length, when he could find words. "Is
this a vision? Are you an angel already glorified?" He sank upon his
knees before her.

"Rise, Sire," said she solemnly; "such a posture befits neither the
dignity of your station nor the sacredness of mine. I am no angel, but
still your tender friend; a friend who watches over you, who only lives
to remind you of your duties. You will share my heart with the holy
virgins among whom I live, the saints in heaven, and my God. Let not
even the tomb divide us—live, Sire, such a life that we may be reunited
among the spirits of the just."

"Oh, Louise!" exclaimed Louis, in a voice choked with emotion; "Louise,
who alone fills my despairing, my solitary heart! at your feet I
abjure all profane, all unholy thoughts. Speak—command me! my spirit
follows you. But, alas!" and he rose to his feet and wrung his hands
in bitterest anguish, "what is to become of me in the midst of my
detestable Court? Suffer me to follow your example; let me too, within
the walls of a cloister, seek that resignation and courage which make
you so sublime."

"Good heavens, Sire!" exclaimed Louise de Lafayette, "what do I
hear? You, a sovereign, a husband, bury yourself in a cloister! Our
situations are utterly unlike. I, a solitary girl, have but withdrawn
from a world to which you were my only tie. Your glory, the glory
of France, your own welfare, and the welfare of the Queen, are to
you sacred duties. And now, Sire, listen to me," and she approached
close to the bars which divided them, and a look of the old melting
tenderness passed for a moment over her beautiful face, "Sire, if ever
I have been dear to you, listen. The sin for which I feel most poignant
sorrow—the sin which years, nay, a life of expiation cannot wipe
out—is—that I have by my selfish, my miserable attachment, alienated
you from the Queen." Louis was about to interrupt her, but she signed
to him to be silent. "I know, Sire, what you would say," she broke in
hastily,—"that our attachment has in no way altered your relations
towards her Majesty. True, it is so; but my influence over you ought
to have been devoted to unite you. It ought to have been my privilege
to render both your Majesties happy as man and wife, to give heirs to
France, to strengthen the Government. Alas, alas! I have sinned almost
beyond forgiveness!" and for awhile she broke into passionate sobs,
which all her self-command could not restrain. "Her Majesty, Sire, is
a most noble lady, beautiful, generous, loyal, courageous. For twenty
years she, the greatest queen in Europe, has been neglected, almost
scorned by you her husband. Under these trials her lofty spirit has
not flinched—she has been true to you and to herself. Temptation,
provocation, nay, insults have not shaken her virtue. Believe nothing
against her, Sire—her soul is as lovely as her body. Sire, the Queen
is childless, devote your whole life to her and to France; tend her,
protect her, love her. Then, and then only, shall I be reconciled to
God." As she spoke her sweet grey eyes turned towards heaven, her
countenance was transfigured as in an ecstasy; no saint standing within
a sculptured shrine could be more pure, more holy.

The King gazed at her awestruck. "Dispose of me as you will," murmured
he; "command my life—but, remember that now I have lost you, happiness
is gone from me for ever!"

"Adieu, Sire," said Mademoiselle de Lafayette. "The hour-glass warns me
that our interview is over. Return in six months and tell that I have
been obeyed."

She drew the dark curtain across the bars, and the Abbess entered.
Louis returned hastily to Saint-Germain.



CHAPTER V.

MONSIEUR LE GRAND.


In the broad valley of the Loire, between Tours and Saumur, the train
stops at the small station of Cinq-Mars. This station lies beside
the Loire, which glides by in a current so broad and majestic, as
to suggest a series of huge lakes, with banks bordered by sand and
scrub, rather than a river. On either side of the Loire run ranges
of low hills, their glassy surface gashed and scored by many a rent
revealing the chalky soil beneath, their summits fringed with scanty
underwood, and dotted with groups of gnarled and knotted oaks and
ragged fir-trees, the rough roots clasping cairns of rock and blocks
of limestone. In the dimples of these low hills lie snugly sheltered
villas, each within its own garden and policy. These villas thicken
as the small township of Cinq-Mars is approached,—a nest of bright
little houses, gay streets, and tall chimneys telling of provincial
commerce, all clustered beneath chalky cliffs which rise abruptly
behind, rent by many a dark fissure and blackened watercourse. Aloft,
on a grassy marge, where many an old tree bends its scathed trunk to
the prevailing wind, among bushes and piled-up heaps of stones, rise
the ruins of a feudal castle. Two gate towers support an arch, through
which the blue sky peeps, and some low, broken walls, without form and
void, skirt the summit of the cliff. This ruin, absolutely pathetic in
its desolate loneliness, is all that remains of the ancestral castle
of the Cöiffiers de Cinq-Mars, Marquis d'Effiat. From this hearth and
from these shattered walls, now raised "_to the height of infamy_,"
sprung that handsome, shallow, ambitious coxcomb, known as the Marquis
de Cinq-Mars, who succeeded Mademoiselle de Lafayette in the favour of
Louis XIII.

Deprived of Louise de Lafayette, the King's spirits languished. In
spite of his partial reconciliation with Anne of Austria, and the
birth of a son, he was sullen and gloomy, spoke to no one, and desired
no one to speak to him. When etiquette required his presence in the
Queen's apartments, he seated himself in a corner, yawned, and fell
asleep. The internal malady of which he died had already undermined his
always feeble frame. His condition was altogether so critical, that the
Cardinal looked round for a companion to solace his weariness. Henri
de Cinq-Mars had lately come up to Paris from Touraine. In years he
was a boy, under twenty. He was gentle, adroit, and amusing, but weak,
and the Cardinal believed he had found in him the facile instrument he
sought.

Cinq-Mars was presented to the King. Louis was at once prepossessed by
his handsome person and distinguished manners. Cinq-Mars, accustomed
from infancy to field sports and country life, angling in the deep
currents of the Loire and the Indre, hunting wild boars and deer in
the dense forests of Azay and of Chanteloup, or flying his gear-falcon
from the summits of his native downs, struck a sympathetic chord in
the sad King's heart. One honour after the other was heaped upon him;
finally he was made Grand Seneschal of France and Master of the Horse.
From this time he dropped the patronymic of "Cinq-Mars," and was known
at Court as "Monsieur le Grand," one of the greatest personages in
France. For a time all went smoothly. King and minister smiled upon
the petulant stripling, whose witty sallies and boyish audacity were
tempered by the highest breeding. He was always present when the
Cardinal conferred with the King, and from the first gave his opinion
with much more freedom than altogether pleased the minister, who simply
intended him for a puppet, not for an adviser. When the Cardinal
remonstrated, Cinq-Mars shook his scented curls, pulled his lace
ruffles, talked of loyalty and gratitude to the King, and of personal
independence, in a manner the Cardinal deemed highly unbecoming and
inconvenient. Monsieur le Grand cared little for what the Cardinal
thought, and did not take the trouble to hide this opinion. He cared
neither for the terrible minister nor for the eccentric Louis, whom he
often treated, even in public, with contempt. It was the old story.
Confident in favour, arrogant in power, he made enemies every day.

Monsieur le Grand, however, passed his time with tolerable ease when
relieved of the King's company, specially in the house of Marion de
l'Orme, Rue des Tournelles. He was presented to her by Saint-Evrémond,
and fell at once a victim to her wiles. Marion was the Aspasia of the
day, and the charm of her _entourage_ was delightful to him after
the restraints of a dull and formal Court. Here he met D'Ablancourt,
La Chambre, and Calprenéde, the popular writers of the age. The Abbé
de Gondi and Scarron came also, and even the prudish Mademoiselle de
Scudéri did not disdain to be present at these _Noctes Ambrosianæ_.
Marion de l'Orme, then only thirty, was in the zenith of her beauty.
Her languishing dark eyes exercised an absolute fascination over
Cinq-Mars from the first instant they met. Her affected reserve, the
refinement of her manners, the _entrain_ of her society, free without
license, captivated him. He believed her to be virtuous, and desired
to make her his wife. Marion de l'Orme was to become _Madame le Grande_!

This was precisely what that astute lady had angled for. Hence her
reserve, her downcast eyes, her affected indifference. She saw that she
was dealing with a vain, ignorant boy, who, in her hands, was helpless
as an infant. Truly, he was madly in love with her, but he was a minor,
and under the guardianship of the Dowager Marquise de Cinq-Mars, his
mother, who might possibly not view an alliance with Mademoiselle
Marion de l'Orme as an honour to the ancestral tree of the Effiats de
Cinq-Mars. The marriage must be secret. Early one morning they started
from the Rue de Tournelles in a coach and never stopped until they had
reached the old castle among the hills of Touraine, above the feudatory
village of Cinq-Mars. In the chapel of that now ruined pile their faith
was plighted. Marion promised love, Cinq-Mars constancy. They were
incapable of either. For eight days the old castle rang with the sounds
of revelry. Cinq-Mars and Marion were as in a fairy palace; life was
but a long enchantment. But at the end of that time Nemesis appeared in
the shape of the Dowager Marchioness, to whose ears the report of these
merry-makings came at Paris. Cinq-Mars replied to his mother that it
was all a _passetemps_, and that Mademoiselle de l'Orme—well—was still
Mademoiselle de l'Orme; that he loved the Principessa Maria di Gonzaga
(to whom the handsome profligate had, indeed, paid his addresses before
leaving Paris, the better to throw dust in the eyes of the world), and
that he should shortly return to Paris and his duty with his Majesty.

The mediæval chatelaine, however, was not to be deceived. She knew
of the secret marriage, and nothing could exceed her rage. That
Marion de l'Orme should sit on the feudal dais upon the seigneurial
throne—that she should wear her jewelled coronet, should eat out of
her silver dish, and inhabit her apartments—the thing was atrocious,
scandalous, impossible. She flew to the Cardinal, with whom she had
some friendship, and informed him of what had occurred. The Cardinal,
who had formerly favoured Marion de l'Orme with more than his regard,
was as much incensed as herself. That his _protégé_, Cinq-Mars,
should supplant him, made him, old as he was, furiously jealous. That
Cinq-Mars should dare to abandon the splendid position he himself
had assigned him, leave the morbid Louis a prey to any adventurous
scoundrel whose adroit flattery or affected sympathy might in a few
hours render him arbiter of the Court and master of the kingdom, was,
to Richelieu's thinking, an unpardonable crime. The artful prelate
immediately took his measures. A royal ordinance was speedily framed,
making all marriages contracted by persons under age, and without the
consent of guardians, null and void!

[Illustration: CINQ-MARS.

FROM A PAINTING BY LENAIN.]

Cinq-Mars returned to Court indignant, insolent, defiant; swearing
vengeance against the meddling Cardinal, and ready to enter into any
scheme for his destruction. Mademoiselle Marion de l'Orme re-opened her
salon in the Rue des Tournelles.

As for Louis, from whom the knowledge of this little escapade had
been carefully concealed, he received back the truant with greater
favour than ever. Cinq-Mars, confident in the King's attachment, and
looking on him as too feeble to combat his own audacious projects,
spoke words which Louis had not heard since the beloved voice of
Louise de Lafayette had uttered them. "He ought to rid himself of the
Cardinal, and rule for himself," said Monsieur le Grand; "if not by
fair, then by foul means." "_Let Richelieu die_," cried Cinq-Mars,
"as he has made others die—the best blood in France: Montmorenci,
Chalais, Saint-Preuil, Marillac, and so many others." It is certain
that the King listened to these proposals favourably. He actually
consented to conspire against himself and the State which he governed.
Louis was too stupid to realise the absurdity of his position. He
permitted Cinq-Mars to coquet with the Spanish Government, in order to
insure the support of Spanish troops to be sent from the Netherlands
to defend Sedan against the Cardinal and his own army in case of
failure. But Richelieu, now fully alive to the dangerous ascendancy
of Cinq-Mars,—for he had spies everywhere, specially the soft-spoken
Chavigny, who was always about the King,—openly taxed his Sovereign
with treachery in a message borne to him by the Marquis de Mortémart.
Louis was dumbfounded and terrified. He wrote a letter that very same
day, addressed to the Chancellor Séguier, apologising for his seeming
infidelity to his minister. "He did not deny," said he, "that Monsieur
le Grand desired to compass the Cardinal's death," but, with incredible
meanness, he added, "that he had never listened to him." Monsieur le
Grand, whose weak head was by this time completely turned, fully
believing himself invincible, openly discussed what he should do when
he was himself prime minister. Suspecting Louis of being too weak to
be his only supporter, he turned to Gaston, Duc d'Orléans. Monsieur,
whose life, like that of his brother's, singularly repeats itself,
bethinking himself of early times and of a certain moonlight meeting
on the terrace of Saint-Germain, at once addressed himself to the
Queen. But she had already suffered too much to allow herself again to
be drawn into danger. When Monsieur detailed the plot, and asked her
significantly, "What news she had lately had from her brother, the King
of Spain?" she answered that she had had no news, and instantly changed
the conversation. This did not at all cool Monsieur's ardour, such
as it was. Three times he had been banished from France for treason,
and three times he had returned, as ready as ever, with or without
the Queen, to conspire, to betray, and to be again banished. So the
traitor-prince and the vainglorious favourite, both intensely hating
Richelieu, laid their heads together to destroy him by means of Spain.
To them was joined the Marquis de Thou, one of the _jeunesse dorée_ of
the Court, along with Fontrailles, secretary to Monsieur. The great
Cardinal, sitting in the Palais Royal like a huge spider in his web,
ready to pounce upon his prey as soon as it had reached the precise
spot where he intended to seize it, was familiar with every detail.
Monsieur was to receive four hundred thousand crowns in order to raise
levies in France; he was also to declare war against France in concert
with Spain.

The Cardinal was to be assassinated or imprisoned for life; Gaston was
to be proclaimed regent for his nephew Louis XIV. It was the old story,
only, now an heir was born to the throne, Monsieur did not dare to
claim the first place. Fontrailles, a creature of his own, he allowed
to be sent into Spain. The treaty was signed at Madrid by Fontrailles,
on the part of Monsieur and Cinq-Mars, and by the King of Spain on his
own part. This done, Fontrailles flew back to France, with the precious
document stitched in his clothes. Scarcely was the ink dry, before
Richelieu was provided with a copy.

The Court was at Narbonne, on the Mediterranean, whither Cinq-Mars
had led the King, in order to be near the Spanish frontier. Richelieu
was at this time greatly indisposed, and in partial disgrace. He hung
about the Rhone, sometimes at Tarascon, near Avignon, sometimes at
Valence, conveniently near to be informed by Chavigny of everything
that happened. Chavigny, deep in Louis's confidence, pendulated between
the King and the minister. At the fitting moment, Chavigny requested a
formal audience. It was the afternoon of the same day that Fontrailles
had returned to Narbonne, the treaty with Spain still stitched in his
clothes. Contrary to custom, when Chavigny knocked at the King's door,
Louis requested Monsieur le Grand to retire. This alone ought to have
aroused his suspicions. While Chavigny talked with the King, Cinq-Mars,
ashamed of letting the Court see his exclusion from the room, lolled in
the anteroom reading a story. Fontrailles found him there.

"How now, Monsieur le Grand," said he, "do you allow his most
Christian Majesty to give an audience at which you are not present? You
are getting him into bad habits."

"It is only Chavigny," replied Cinq-Mars, not taking his eyes off his
book; "he can have nothing particular to say, for he is here every day.
I am weary of the King's company. I have been with him all day, and
I want to finish this story, which is much more interesting than his
stupid talk." And Cinq-Mars threw himself back in his easy-chair, and
resumed his reading.

"Ah, Monsieur le Grand," said Fontrailles, smiling at him curiously,
"fortune favours you. You are a beautiful man. Look at me, with my
hump" (Fontrailles was deformed); "I use my eyes; I am going to-night
to meet Monsieur, before I leave Narbonne. I have brought him that
little present from Madrid you know of. I have it safe here in my
pocket," and Fontrailles tapped his side and grinned. "Come with me,
Monsieur le Grand," said he, coaxingly, and he tried to take his hand,
but Cinq-Mars repulsed him. "Come with me; believe me, the air of
Narbonne is heavy at this time of year. I am not sure that it is not
deadly, very deadly, indeed—especially for you, Monsieur le Marquis. A
little change will do your health good. I am going. Come with me where
we can breathe"; and Fontrailles laughed a short dry laugh, and looked
out of the window upon the blue expanse of ocean, whose waves beat
against the yellow shores of the Mediterranean.

"I pray you, Fontrailles, do not trouble me," said Cinq-Mars, looking
up over his book and yawning. "I really must have some time to myself,
or I shall die. Besides, I want to see his Majesty when Chavigny goes;
he is staying longer than usual, I think."

"Yes, Monsieur le Grand, too long for a man coming from the Cardinal,
methinks."

Fontrailles still stood watching Cinq-Mars. His deep-set eyes were
fixed upon him intently, as Cinq-Mars, with perfect indifference, went
on reading his story. Fontrailles passed his hand thoughtfully over
his brow two or three times. A look of pity came into his face as he
contemplated Cinq-Mars, still reading. He was so young, so fresh, so
magnificent; his golden locks long and abundant; his pleasant face
faultless in feature; his delicate hands; his perfumed clothes,—all so
perfect! Should he try to save him? A tear gathered in the eye of the
hardened conspirator.

"Monsieur le Grand," said he softly, stepping up nearer to Cinq-Mars
and placing his hand on his red and silver shoulder-knot—"Monsieur le
Grand, I say——"

"What, Fontrailles, are you not gone yet? _Ma foi!_ I thought you were
far on your road to Monsieur——"

"No, Monsieur le Grand; no, I am not gone yet."

Cinq-Mars put down his book, sat upright, and looked at him.

"What the devil do you want with me, Fontrailles? I will meet you and
Monsieur le Duc to-morrow. For to-night, peace."

"Have you no suspicion of what Chavigny is saying to the King all this
time, Marquis?" asked Fontrailles with an ominous grin.

"None, my friend; but I shall hear it all before his _coucher_.
His most gracious Majesty is incapable of lying down to rest before
telling me every syllable," and Cinq-Mars snapped his finger and thumb
contemptuously towards the door of the room within which Louis was
closeted with Chavigny.

"Are you quite sure of the King, Monsieur le Grand?" asked Fontrailles
significantly, still leaning over Cinq-Mars and pressing his hand upon
his shoulder-knot. "It is needful for you to be quite sure of him. His
Majesty is apt to be weak and treacherous."

Cinq-Mars nodded his head; then, as if something had suddenly struck
him, he rose, and in his turn began to gaze curiously at Fontrailles,
whose manner and countenance were strangely expressive of some unspoken
fear.

"You are very tall, Monsieur le Grand," said Fontrailles abruptly,
speaking low, with his hand placed over his eyes, the better to
contemplate Cinq-Mars, now drawn up to his full height, and staring at
him with wonder; "you are very tall," he repeated, "and I am such a
little man. You are very handsome, too—the handsomest gentleman in all
France—and very gracious to me also—very kind and gracious."

Fontrailles spoke thoughtfully, as a man who turned some important
matter over in his mind.

"Have you come here only to tell me this, Fontrailles?" answered
Cinq-Mars, laughing, and again he yawned, passed his jewelled fingers
through his clustering locks, and again took up the book which he had
laid down on a table beside him, and reseated himself. Fontrailles,
however, had never taken his eyes off him. His gaze had deepened into
an expression of deep sorrow, although he spoke jestingly. Whatever
train of thought occupied him, it had not been broken by what Cinq-Mars
had just said.

"You are very tall," he again repeated, as if speaking to himself, in a
peculiar voice; "so tall, indeed, that you could do without your head,
Monsieur le Grand, and yet be taller than I am. Perhaps this makes
you careless. I am short, and I could not afford to lose my head—so—I
am going to leave Narbonne instantly. The air here is as deadly to my
constitution as it is to yours. Marquis, pray do believe me. Will you
come with me—the tall man with the little one?—both needing a change.
Will you come?"

Cinq-Mars did not heed him a whit. Fontrailles laid his hand heavily on
the thick shock of Monsieur le Grand's golden curls.

"No, _mille diables_, no!" roared Cinq-Mars in a rage, shaking him off;
"I will not go. Why should I go? For God's sake leave me. I am just
at the catastrophe of my story, and you keep on tormenting me like a
gadfly."

"Excuse me, Monsieur le Grand," replied Fontrailles submissively, "I
did but advise you for your good. I desire your company for the sake
of that comely head of yours; but, as I said, you are tall, and I am
short, which makes a great difference. It is a long journey across
the mountains of France into the Low Countries," added he, sighing.
"That will be my road—a long and weary road. It might fatigue your
excellency. I am going, Monsieur le Marquis. I am gone—Adieu!"

Cinq-Mars did not look up, and Fontrailles, turning upon him a last
look full of pity, disappeared.



CHAPTER VI.

DEATH ON THE SCAFFOLD.


When Chavigny left the King, Cinq-Mars entered the royal chamber. Louis
was silent, absorbed, and melancholy—would answer no questions, and
abruptly dismissed the favourite on the plea that he was fatigued and
needed rest.

Monsieur le Grand was naturally surprised at the change. The
significant words of Fontrailles recurred to him; too late he repented
his careless indifference to the friendly warning. But after all, if
the King failed him, there was Monsieur and there was the treaty.
What had he, Cinq-Mars, to fear when the King's brother had so deeply
compromised himself? The Cardinal, too, was ill—very ill; he might die.
Still, as he turned to his own suite of apartments his mind misgave
him. The King had not told him one word of his interview with Chavigny;
and although Chavigny would have denied it upon oath on the consecrated
wafer, Cinq-Mars knew he was the Cardinal's creature and his go-between
with the King.

When Cinq-Mars reached his rooms he found a letter from his friend,
De Thou. "Fly," said this letter—"fly instantly. I have certain
intelligence that the Cardinal is acquainted with every particular of
the treaty signed at Madrid. For myself I have nothing to fear; but
you have incurred the deadly hatred of Richelieu."

Thereupon Cinq-Mars, hurriedly disguised himself in a Spanish cloak,
with a sombrero hat slouched over his face, stole out of the prefecture
where the King was staying, and made his way as fast as he could run to
the city gates. They were closed. Then, fully aroused to the urgency
of his position, the strange words of Fontrailles ringing in his ears,
he sought out the abode of an humble friend, whom he had recommended
to serve the Court with mules for the journeying to the south from
Paris—a man of Touraine, whom he had known from his boyhood. He roused
him from sleep—for the night had now closed in—and acquainted him with
his danger. The faithful muleteer did his best. He hid him under some
loose hay with the mules in the stable. It was in vain. Cinq-Mars had
been seen and tracked from the prefecture to the muleteer's house, and
the scented exquisite—whose word a few hours before ruled the destiny
of France—was dragged out headlong from the hay, his fine clothes torn
and soiled, his face scratched and bleeding, amid the hooting of the
populace and the jeers of his enemies.

De Thou, his friend, was arrested on the same day, not as guilty of
conspiring, but simply as being cognisant of the existence of the
treaty of Madrid, which Fontrailles had carefully carried off into
the Netherlands stitched in his clothes, a copy of which lay with the
Cardinal.

Monsieur Duc d'Orléans was also, for the fourth time, arrested and
imprisoned.

The effect of that copy of the treaty which Chavigny had shown to the
King, while Cinq-Mars read his story, was instantaneous. Louis became
greatly alarmed. He understood that Richelieu knew all, and therefore
must be fully aware that he had himself encouraged and approved a plot
to kill him. The same day that Cinq-Mars was conducted a prisoner
to the Castle of Montpellier, Louis insisted upon going himself to
Tarascon, to make a personal apology to Richelieu. He was already so
weakened by the disease of which he died, that he was forced to be
carried in a chair into the Cardinal's lodgings. They were together
many hours. What passed no one knew, but it is certain that the
"_amiable criminal_," as Cinq-Mars is called by contemporary authors,
was the scapegoat sacrificed to the offended dignity of the Cardinal;
that Monsieur, the King's only brother, was to be tried for treason;
and that Richelieu should be restored to the King's confidence. In his
eagerness to propitiate his offended minister, Louis actually proposed
to take his two sons from the custody of the Queen and place them with
the Cardinal, in order to guarantee his personal safety. This abject
proposition was declined by Richelieu, who was unwilling to provoke the
Queen's active hostility at so critical a moment.

Richelieu had conquered, but he was dying. Though his body was broken
by disease, his mind was vigorous as ever; in revenge and hatred, in
courage and fortitude, his spirit was still lusty. In his enormous
thirst of blood, none had ever excited him like the airy Marquis de
Cinq-Mars,—a creature of his own, whom he had raised to the dizzy
height of supreme power, to become his rival in love and power. The
great minister felt he had made a mistake: it angered him. He had not
patience to think that he should have been taken in by a butterfly,
whose painted wings he had decorated with his own hands. He, the
all-potent Cardinal, the ruler of France, circumvented by a boy! He
swore a big oath that not only should Cinq-Mars die, but that death
should be made doubly bitter to him.

Richelieu was now at Valence on the Rhone. How was he to reach Lyons,
where the trial was to take place? The distance is considerable. His
limbs were cramped and useless, his body racked by horrible pain. But
go he would; if he died upon the road he would go. So he ordered a room
of wooden planks to be constructed, gilt and painted like a coach, and
lined with crimson damask. This room contained a bed, a table, and a
chair. Within reclined the Cardinal. Too ill to bear the motion of a
carriage, he was borne on the heads of twenty of his body-guard by
land. Houses, walls, and gate-ways, were knocked down to make way for
him. By water he was conveyed in a towing boat pulled up the Rhone
against the current by horses to Lyons. Attached to this boat was
another, in which the prisoners Cinq-Mars and De Thou were carried.
So Richelieu passed onwards, with all the pomp of a Roman pro-consul
conducting barbarian princes first to adorn his triumph, then to
die! As for Monsieur, he had already made his peace with his brother
and Richelieu. He turned King's evidence, and betrayed everybody.
Fontrailles, who alone could have convicted him, was safe across the
frontier. "Talk not to me of my brother," even the besotted Louis
exclaimed, when he heard that Monsieur was again at liberty; "Gaston
ever was, and ever will be, a traitor."

The only crime which even the ingenuity of Richelieu could prove
against Cinq-Mars was that he had joined with Monsieur in a treaty
with Spain. Now the original transcript of this treaty was lost,
Fontrailles having carried it with him into the Netherlands, stitched
in his pocket. If Monsieur the Duc d'Orléans, therefore, had declined
to speak, Cinq-Mars and his friend De Thou must have been acquitted.
But Monsieur, on the contrary, loudly demanded to be interrogated on
his own complicity and on the complicity of Cinq-Mars. The Cardinal
had already showed what was in his mind, by giving orders, as soon as
he was lifted out of his portable chamber, on arriving at Lyons, and
before the trial had begun, "for the executioner to hold himself in
readiness."

The trial was on the 12th of September, 1642. It began at seven o'clock
in the morning, at the Hôtel de Ville. The Chancellor Séguier, a
personal enemy of Monsieur le Grand, who had affronted him in the days
of his greatness, was the president, and Monsieur Duc d'Orléans the
principal witness. Monsieur's evidence was given with touching candour.
He was so careful to tell all the truth, so skilful in bringing out
all those facts which were calculated to place Cinq-Mars in the most
odious light, that the charges were easily proved to the satisfaction
of the judges. The trial was over in a few hours. Then the two young
men were summoned before the judges in the council-chamber to hear
their sentence. It was read out to them by Monsieur de Palleruc, a
member of the criminal court of Lyons. According to this sentence they
were both to be beheaded; Cinq-Mars was to be tortured. He listened
with calmness, De Thou with resignation. They both shook hands with
their judges. "I am prepared to die," said Cinq-Mars to Séguier,
the Chancellor, "but I must say the idea of torture is horrible and
degrading. It is a most extraordinary sentence for a man of my rank and
of my age. I thought the laws did not permit it. Indeed, I do not fear
death, gentlemen," continued the poor lad, turning to the judges, "but
I confess my weakness,—I dread torture. At least, I beseech you, let me
have a confessor."

His request was complied with, and Father Malavette, a Jesuit, was
brought into the council-chamber. As soon as he saw him Cinq-Mars ran
forward and embraced him. "My father, they are going to torture me," he
cried; "I can scarcely bring myself to bear it! What is your opinion?"

"That you must submit to the hand of God, Monseigneur. Nothing happens
but by his permission."

Cinq-Mars bowed his handsome head, covered with the sunny curls,
and was silent. From the council-chamber he was led by Monsieur de
Lanbardemont, an officer of the Court, to the torture-room. Here he
remained about half an hour, and suffered torture, both ordinary
and extraordinary. His supple limbs and delicate skin were horribly
lacerated. He was unable to walk when he came out, and was supported
by the officials. "Let me now think of my soul," he said faintly;
"send my confessor to me, and permit me to be alone with him." This
wish was granted, and an hour passed, during which he confessed and
received absolution. Then he said to Father Malavette, "I have not
eaten for twenty-four hours, my father, and I am very weak. I fear if I
do not take something I may swoon upon the scaffold, though indeed, I
assure you, I do not fear to die." A little wine and bread were brought
to him, of which he partook. "Ah! my father," said the poor boy of
twenty-two, "what a world it is! Everybody I know has forsaken me. How
strange it is! I thought I had many friends, but I see no one cares for
me now but poor De Thou, whom I alone have brought to this pass."

"Alas! my son, you are young, or you would not wonder at this,"
answered Father Malavette sorrowfully; "'put not your faith in
princes.' What says Ovid too, who, like you, enjoyed the favour of
Augustus, and was then cruelly punished?

    "'Donec eris felix, multos numerabis amicos.'"

"But, my father, when I was the favourite of his Majesty, I tried to
serve my friends in every way I possibly could, yet now I am alone."

"No matter," said the priest, shaking his head, "your service to them
only made them your enemies."

"Alack, I fear it is so," replied Cinq-Mars, sighing deeply. Then he
asked for paper, and wrote to his mother. He prayed her to pay all his
debts, and again expressed his utter astonishment at the conduct of his
friends. At three o'clock in the afternoon both he and De Thou were
carried in a hired coach into the Place des Terraux, lying over against
the banks of the river Soane, in the outskirts of the city. Here the
scaffold was erected. Every house in the Place was covered by temporary
balustrades and balconies; the roofs also were crowded with spectators.
Thousands had come together to see the favourite die.

Cinq-Mars with difficulty mounted the ladder leading to the scaffold,
with the help of Father Malavette. Then, still holding him by the
hand to steady his wounded limbs, he raised his plumed hat from off
his head, and, with a graceful air, saluted the multitude. He turned
to every side, and passed around to each face of the platform, so
that all might see him and receive his salutation. He wore a court
suit of fine Holland broadcloth, trimmed with gold lace; his black
hat ornamented with red feathers was turned back in the Spanish
style. He had high-heeled shoes with diamond buckles, and green silk
stockings, and he carried a large scarlet mantle, to cover his body
after decapitation, neatly folded on one arm. His fair young face was
perfectly serene, and his clustering curls, slightly powdered, were
scented and tended as carefully as heretofore. Having bowed to the
crowd, he replaced his hat on his head, and, with his hand resting on
his right side, he turned round to look about him. Behind were two
blocks, covered with red cloth. Beside them stood the executioner. He
was only a city porter—the regular official being ill—a coarse and
brutal fellow, with bloated face, wearing the dress of a labourer. When
he came up to Cinq-Mars with scissors to cut off his hair, M. le Grand
put him away with a motion of disgust. He begged Father Malavette to do
him this office, and to keep his hair for his mother. While the long
ringlets which fell over his shoulders were being cut off, Cinq-Mars
turned towards the executioner, who had not yet taken the axe out of a
dirty bag which lay beside him, and asked him haughtily, "What he was
about?" and "Why he did not begin?" The rude fellow making a wry face
in reply, Cinq-Mars frowned, and addressed himself to Father Malavette.
"My father," said he, "assist me in my prayers, then I shall be ready."

After he had prayed very devoutly, and kissed the crucifix repeatedly,
he rose from his knees, and again in a firm voice repeated, "I am
ready, begin!" Then he added, "May God have mercy upon me, and forgive
my sins." He threw away his hat, unloosed the lace ruff about his
throat, put back his hair from his face, and laid his head on the
block. Several blows descended ere his head was severed from the body;
the executioner being unready and new to his office. When the head
fell it gave a bound, turned itself a little on one side, and the lips
palpitated visibly, the eyes being wide open. The body was covered with
the scarlet mantle borne by Cinq-Mars on his arm for that purpose, and
carried away to be buried.

The King, informed by the Cardinal of the precise day and hour when
Cinq-Mars would suffer death,—for every detail had been virtually
arranged before Richelieu left Valence in his wooden chamber,—took out
his watch at the appointed time, and, with the most perfect unconcern,
remarked to Chavigny, "At this moment Monsieur le Grand is making an
ugly face at Lyons."

Then Richelieu ordered that the feudal castle of Cinq-Mars, in the
valley of the Loire, should be blown up, and the towers razed "_to the
height of infamy_."



CHAPTER VII.

THE END OF THE CARDINAL.


When the Louvre was a walled and turreted stronghold, with moat and
drawbridge, bastion and tower, lying on grassy banks beside the river
Seine, then unbordered by quays and untraversed by stone bridges, an
ancient castle, strongly fortified, stood in the open country, hard
by, without the city walls. In the time of Charles VI., the mad king,
husband of the notorious Isabeau de Bavière, this castle belonged to
Bernard Comte d'Armagnac, Constable of France, the ally of the English
against his own sovereign, and a leader in those terrible civil wars
that desolated France throughout the space of two reigns. Hither the
English and the Burgundians often repaired, to meditate some murderous
_coup de main_ upon the capital, to mass their bloodthirsty troops
for secret expeditions, or to seek a safe retreat when the fortune
of war was adverse. As time went by this castle grew grey with age;
the rebel nobles to whom it belonged were laid in their graves; no
one cared to inhabit a gloomy fortress, torn and battered by war and
sacked by marauders. The wind howled through the desolate chambers,
owls hooted from the rents in its turrets, and noisome reptiles
crawled in the rank weeds which choked up its courts. It came to be
a gruesome place, lying among barren fields, where the ruffians and
desperadoes of the city resorted to plan a murder or to hide from
justice. This God-forgotten ruin and the foot-trodden fields about it
were purchased at last by wealthy nobles, who loved the fresh country
breezes beyond the new streets which now arose on this side of the
river. The materials of the old castle served to furnish walls for
the palaces of the Rambouillets and the Mercœurs, historic names in
every age of the national annals. Here they kept their state, until
Cardinal Richelieu, either by fair means or foul, it mattered little
to him, bought and destroyed their spacious mansions, pulled down all
that remained of the castle walls, filled up the ditches, levelled the
earth, and, on the ill-omened spot, raised the sumptuous pile known
as the Palais Cardinal, near, yet removed from, the residence of the
sovereign at the Louvre. The principal buildings ran round an immense
central square, or courtyard, planted symmetrically with trees and
adorned with fountains and statues. From this central square four other
smaller courts opened out towards each point of the compass. There was
a chapel splendidly decorated, and, to balance that, two theatres, one
sufficiently spacious to hold three thousand spectators, painted on
panel by Philippe de Champagne. There were ballrooms furnished with
a luxury unknown before; boudoirs—or rather bowers—miracles of taste
and elegance; galleries filled with pictures and works of art, and
countless suites of rooms, in which every decoration and adornment
then practised were displayed. Over the grand entrance in the Rue
Saint-Honoré appeared, carved in marble, the arms of Richelieu,
surmounted by a cardinal's hat and the inscription "Palais Cardinal."
Spacious gardens extended at the rear.

Still the Cardinal, like Wolsey at Hampton Court, added wall to wall of
the already overgrown palace, and bought up street after street within
the city to extend the gardens, until even the subservient Louis showed
some tokens of displeasure. Then, and not till then, did the Cardinal
cease building. At his death he presented his palace to the sovereign;
and from that day to this the Palais Cardinal, now Palais Royal, has
become an appanage of the State.

Before us stands the Palais Cardinal—solitary, in the midst of lonely
gardens, sheltered by waving groves. The greensward is divided by
straight walks, bordered by clipped lime-trees, rounded at intervals
into niches for statues and trophies; balustraded terraces border deep
canals, and fountains bubble up under formal groups of yew or cypress.
The palace casts deep shadows on the grass. It is very still. High
walls encircle the enclosure. The very birds are mute. Not the bay
of a hound is heard. Moss gathers on the paths and among the tangled
shrubberies, and no flowers catch the radiance of the sunshine.
Within is the great, the terrible Cardinal. The ground is sacred to
the despot of France, the ruler of the monarch, the glance of whose
eye is death or fortune. Journeying direct from Lyons in his chamber
on wheels—after the execution of Cinq-Mars—to Fontainebleau, where
he rested, he is come here to die. Yonder he lies on a bed of state,
hung with embroidered velvet in a painted chamber, the walls covered
with rare pictures and choicest tapestry, the windows looking towards
the garden. The moment approaches when he will have to answer for his
merciless exercise of absolute power over king and people, to that
Heavenly Master whose priest and servant he professes to be. How will
he justify his bitter hatred, his arrogant oppression of the great
princes and nobles of France? How will he meet the avenging ghosts of
the chivalrous Montmorenci, the poetic Chalais, the gallant Cinq-Mars,
the witty Saint-Preuil, the enthusiastic Urbain Grandier, in the
unknown country whither he is fast hastening? Who tried to seduce,
then to ruin, the Queen, Anne of Austria, and send her back, divorced
and disgraced, into Spain? Who turned the feeble Louis into a servile
agent of his ambition, and exercised over his weak mind a tyranny as
shameful to himself as degrading to the sovereign? True, Richelieu may
plead reasons of State, a rebellious nobility, traitorous princes, and
an imbecile king; but the isolation of the throne, begun under his
rule, was both barbarous and impolitic, as after ages showed. True, he
possessed rare genius, and his life was industriously devoted to what
he called "_the glory of France_"; but it was a mean and selfish glory,
to attain which he had waded through the noblest blood of the land.

Look at him now—he has just received extreme unction. A hypocrite to
the last, he folds his hands on his breast and exclaims—"This is my
God; as in his visible presence, I declare I have sacrificed myself to
France." When he is asked by the officiating priest—"If he forgives his
enemies?"—he replies, "I have no enemies but those of the State." Now
the hand of death is visibly upon him. In a loose robe of purple silk,
he lies supported by pillows of fine lace. He is hardly recognisable,
so great have been his sufferings, so complete is his weakness; his
bloodless lips pant for breath, his hollow eyes wander on vacancy,
his thin fingers work convulsively on the sheets, as though striving
against the approach of invisible foes.

But, before he departs, a signal honour is reserved for him. Behold,
the rich velvet curtains, heavy with golden embroideries, are held
aside by pages who carry plumed hats in their hands, and Louis XIII.
enters hastily. He is bareheaded, and is accompanied by the princes
of the blood and the great ministers of State. Louis is so shrunken
and attenuated, so white and large-eyed, that in any other presence
he might have been deemed a dying man himself. As he advances to the
_ruelle_ that encloses the bed, he composes his thin lips and pinched
face into a decent expression of condolence. How can he but _affect_ to
deplore the death of a minister whose fierce passions overshadowed his
whole life like a moral upas-tree? Nevertheless the fitting phrases are
spoken, and he embraces the ghastly form stretched out before him with
a semblance of affection. The expiring Cardinal presses the hand of
his master, and makes a sign that he would speak. Louis bows down his
head to catch the feeble voice, which says—"Sire, I thank you for this
honour; I have spent my whole life in your service. I leave you able
ministers; trust them, Sire; but,"—and he stops and struggles fearfully
for breath,—"but, beware of your Court. It is your _petit coucher_ who
are dangerous. Your favourites have troubled me more than all your
enemies." Then the Cardinal sinks back, fainting on his pillows.

Louis withdraws with affected concern; but, ere he reaches the spacious
anteroom, lined with the Cardinal's retainers in magnificent liveries,
he bursts into an inhuman laugh—"There goes a great politician to his
death," he says to Chavigny, who is beside him, and he points with his
thumb towards the Cardinal's chamber; "a wonderful genius. Now he is
gone I shall be free—I shall reign." He chuckles with delight at the
idea of being at last rid of the Cardinal; and a grim smile spreads
itself over his ashen face.

It is a ghastly joke, as cruel as it is selfish. As if Louis's life
were bound up in the existence of his great minister—he is himself a
corpse within a year!



CHAPTER VIII.

THE QUEEN REGENT.


Louis XIV. was four years and a half old when his father died at
Saint-Germain, aged forty-two. Tardy in everything, Louis XIII. was six
weeks in dying. The state christening of his son was celebrated during
his illness. When asked his name, the little lad replied, "I am Louis
XIV."

"Not yet, my son, not yet," murmured the dying King, "but shortly, if
so it please God."

Anne of Austria, named Regent by her husband's will, rules in her
son's name. A splendid Court assembles round her, at the Louvre, at
Saint-Germain, and at Fontainebleau. Her exiled favourites are there
to do her homage. The Duchesse de Chevreuse, after a long sojourn in
Spain, England, and Flanders,—for she loves travel and the adventures
of the road, either masked, or disguised as a page, a priest, or a
cavalier,—is reinstated in her Majesty's favour. In Spain the Duchess's
vanity was gratified by enslaving a royal lover—the King of Spain,
brother of Anne of Austria; in England she diverted herself with
fomenting personal quarrels between Charles I. and Henrietta Maria; in
Flanders—a dull country—she found little to amuse her.

Mademoiselle de Hautefort (soon to become Duchesse and Maréchale de
Schomberg) returns in obedience to the Queen's command, who wrote to
her even when the King was alive, "Come, dearest friend, come quickly.
I am all impatience to embrace you!"

The Duchesse de Sennécy arrives from the provinces, and the Chevalier
de Jars from England. The latter had been imprisoned in the Bastille,
and threatened with torture by Richelieu, to force him to betray the
Queen's correspondence with Spain at the time of the Val de Grâce
conspiracy. He had been liberated, however, but while the Cardinal
lived had remained in England.

These, among many other faithful attendants, resume their places at the
_petit coucher_, in the _grand cercle_, and at the morning _lever_.

Then there are the princes and princesses of the blood-royal:—Monsieur
the Duc d'Orléans—no longer breathing vows of love in the moonlight,
but a veteran intriguer—living on the road to Spain, which always meant
rebellion, together with his daughter, _La Grande Mademoiselle_, a
comely girl, the greatest heiress in Europe; Cæsar, Duc de Vendôme, son
of Gabrielle and Henry IV., with his Duchess and his sons, the Ducs de
Mercœur and De Beaufort; Condé, the uncrowned head of the great house
of Bourbon—more ill-favoured and avaricious than ever—his jealous
temper now excited against the bastards of the house of Vendôme, with
his wife, Charlotte de Montmorenci, sobered down into a dignified
matron, devoted to her eldest son, the Duc d'Enghien, and to her
daughter, the Duchesse de Longueville, the brightest ornament of the
Court; the Duc de Rochefoucauld and his son, the Prince de Marsillac,
the author of _Les Maximes_, to become a shadow on the path of the
last-named Duchess, who is to die in a convent; the great House of
La Tour d'Auvergne, Viscomtes de Turenne and Ducs de Bouillon, from
which springs Henri de Turenne, the rival of young Condé; Séguier,
Duc de Villemer, generously forgiven for the part he took against the
Queen as Chancellor, at the Val de Grâce; and, last of all, Henry, Duc
de Guise—by-and-by to astonish all Europe by his daring escapade at
Naples, where, but for Masaniello, he might have been crowned King,
with the Queen's beautiful maid of honour, Mademoiselle de Pons, at his
side.

There is also about the Court a young man named Giulio Mazarin, born
in Rome of a Sicilian family, late secretary to Cardinal Richelieu.
He has passed many years in Spain, and can converse fluently in that
language with her Majesty whenever she deigns to address him. He
has a pale, inexpressive face, with large black eyes, _à fleur de
tête_, generally bent on the ground. His manners are modest, though
insinuating; his address is gentle, his voice musical. Like all
Italians, he is artistic; a _conoscente_ in music, a collector of
pictures, china, and antiquities. So unobtrusive and accomplished a
gentleman cannot fail to please, especially as he is only a deacon,
and, with a dispense, free to marry. The Queen, who often converses
with him in her native tongue, appreciates his merits. Her minister,
the Bishop of Beauvais, leaves the Court. He finds that his presence
is useless, as the Queen acts entirely under the advice of this young
Italian, whom she also selects as guardian to the young King, who, poor
simple boy, looks on Mazarin as a father.

[Illustration: VICOMTE DE TURENNE.]

The Regency begins auspiciously. Fifteen days after the death of Louis
XIII. the decisive victory of Rocroy was gained over the Spaniards
by the Duc d'Enghien, a youthful general of twenty-two. Paris was
exultant. The roads were strewed with wreaths and flowers; tapestry and
banners hung from every window, fountains of choicest wines flowed at
the corners of the streets, and amid the booming of cannon, the blare
of trumpets, the crash of warlike instruments, and the frantic shouts
of an entire population, the Queen, and her little four-year old son,
ride in a gold coach to hear a _Te Deum_ at Notre-Dame.

Her Majesty's authority is much increased by this victory. Mazarin,
under favour of the Queen, gradually acquires more and more power.
He presides at the council; he administers the finances—for which he
came to be called "_the plunderer_"; he tramples on the parliament and
bullies the young King. The princes of the blood and all the young
nobles are excluded from offices of state or places in the household.
Every one begins to tremble before the once modest young Italian, and
to recall with dismay the eighteen years of Richelieu's autocracy.

But Mazarin has a rival in Henri de Gondi, afterwards Cardinal de
Retz, now coadjutor to his uncle, the Archbishop of Paris. No greater
contrast can be conceived than between the subtle, shuffling Italian,
patient as he is false, and Gondi, bold, liberal, independent, generous
even to his enemies, incapable of envy or deceit, grasping each turn of
fortune with the ready adaptiveness of genius, and swaying the passions
of men by his fiery eloquence; a daring statesmen, a resolute reformer,
one of whom Cromwell had said—"that he, De Retz, was the only man in
Europe who despised him."

Gondi considered himself sacrificed to the Church—for which he had no
vocation—and did his utmost, by the libertinism of his early life,
to render his ordination impossible; but in vain. Although he had
abducted his own cousin, and been the hero of numberless scandals,
the Archbishopric of Paris was considered a sinecure in the family
of Gondi, and Archbishop and Cardinal he must be in spite of his
inclination and of his excesses. In politics he was a republican,
formed on the pattern of Cato and of Brutus, whose lives he had studied
at the Sorbonne. He loved to be compared to Cicero and to Cataline,
and to believe himself called on to revolutionize France after the
fashion of a factious conspirator of old Rome. He longed to be anything
belligerent, agitative—tribune, general, or demagogue. "Ancient Rome,"
he said, "honoured crime, therefore crime was to be honoured." "Rather
let me be the leader of a great party than an emperor!" exclaimed he,
in the climax of one of his thrilling perorations. The mild precepts
of the gospel were clearly little to his taste. He had mistaken not
only his vocation but his century. He should have lived in the Middle
Ages; and as an ecclesiastical prince-militant led armies into battle,
conquered territories, and made laws to subject peoples. Yet underlying
the wild enthusiasm of his language, and the reckless energy of his
actions, there was a kindly, almost gentle temper that imparted to his
character a certain incompleteness which accounts for the falling off
of his later years. Grand, noble as was De Retz, Mazarin ultimately
beat him and remained master of the situation.

Under the guidance of Gondi (De Retz) the parliament, paralysed
for a time, soon learns its power, and gives unmistakable tokens
of insubordination by opposing every edict and tax proposed by
the Government. Some of the most fractious of "these impertinent
bourgeois," as Condé called them, were arrested and exhibited in chains
like captives in a Roman triumph—at Notre-Dame on the occasion of a
second _Te Deum_ sung for a second great victory gained by young Condé.
Mazarin, by this act, over-taxed the endurance of the citizens. In
one night two hundred barricades rise in the streets of Paris. The
Queen-Regent can see them from her windows. This ebullition of popular
fury appears to Gondi as the realisation of his youthful dreams. The
moment has come to make him a tribune of the people. He has loyally
warned the Regent of the impending peril. The Queen considered his
words mere bravado, and treated him personally with suspicion and
contempt. Gondi was warned that Mazarin had decided on his exile. His
generous nature was outraged: "To-morrow," he said, "before noon,
I will be master of Paris." Noon did see him master of Paris; but,
loose as was his estimate of the sacredness of his office, he was
still Archbishop-Coadjutor; he could not personally lead the rabble,
or publicly instigate the citizens to rebellion. A man of straw must
represent him, and do what he dared not—harangue at the crosses and
corners of the streets, head the popular assemblies, and generally
excite the passions of the turbulent Parisians to fever heat. This man
of straw was found in the Duc de Beaufort, grandson of Henri Quatre,
through Gabrielle d'Estrées,—a dandy, a swaggerer, but a warrior.

Now the Duc de Beaufort, hot-headed and giddy, without either judgment
or principles, cares little for either Cardinal, Coadjutor, or
Queen,—is utterly indifferent as to who may rule or who may serve,
provided always his own claims, as prince of the blood, to the most
lucrative posts are admitted. But he does care very much for an affront
offered to the Duchesse de Montbazon, of whom he is desperately
enamoured.

The Duchesse de Montbazon, stepmother of the Duchesse de Chevreuse,
and lady in waiting to the Queen, finds late one evening, on returning
to her hotel, two love-letters dropped on the floor of her private
closet. One is from a gentleman, the other is from a lady; both are
unsigned. She of course at once decides that the handwriting of the
one is that of the lady she most hates, that of the other, the lover
of that same lady, whom she hates even more, if possible, than the
lady herself. Now the lady whom she hates most is the Duchesse de
Longueville, younger, more attractive, and more powerful than herself.
The gentleman she selects is the Count de Coligni, who had deserted her
for the sake of the Duchess. The next morning, at the Queen's lever,
Madame de Montbazon shows these two love-letters to every one, and
being the mistress of a caustic tongue, makes some diverting remarks on
their contents. Her words are repeated to the Duchesse de Longueville;
she denies the fact altogether. Her mother, the Princesse de Condé,
Charlotte de Montmorenci, broadly hints to Anne of Austria that the
Prince de Condé, the greatest general France had ever possessed
since the days of the Constable de Bourbon, will join the malcontent
parliament, nay, may even lead Spain into France, if her Majesty does
not instantly cause the Duchesse de Montbazon to retract all she has
said of his sister. Such is patriotism under the Regency! The Queen,
overwhelmed by the clamour of the two duchesses, invokes the help of
Cardinal Mazarin. The Cardinal, in his Italian-French, soothes and
persuades both, muttering many classic oaths of _Cospetto_ and _Corpo
di Bacco_ under his breath. He goes to and fro between the ladies,
flatters both, and proposes terms of apology. Every suggestion is
objected to; an hour is spent over each word. Such a negotiation is
far more difficult than the government of France. All conclusion seems
impossible, the Queen at last speaks with authority. She says that
"if Madame de Montbazon will not retract, she shall lose her place at
Court."

So Spain is not at this time to invade France under the command of
Condé, and the Duchesse de Longueville is to receive an apology.

The apology is to be made at the Hôtel de Condé. The Duchesse de
Longueville—a superb blonde, with melting blue eyes, golden-brown hair,
transparent complexion, and a dazzling neck and shoulders, a coronet
of orient pearls and a red feather on her head, a chaplet of the same
jewels clasping her throat, wearing a robe of blue tissue, bordered
and worked with pearls—stands in the great saloon of her father's
ancestral palace. Her feet rest on a dais of cloth of gold and silver;
the dais is covered by a canopy spangled with stars. The walls of the
saloon are covered with bright frescoes of birds, fruit, and flowers,
panelled into golden frames. Four great chandeliers of crystal and
silver are placed on pedestals at each corner of the room, lighting up
a glittering crowd of princes and princesses of the blood who stand
beside the Duchess on the estrade. The greatest nobles of France are
present. The doors are flung open, and the Duchesse de Montbazon, a
dainty brunette, brilliant, audacious, enticing, who, although forty,
is still in the zenith of her charms, flashes into the room in full
court costume, her sacque (or train) of amber satin brocaded with gold
reaching many yards behind her. The colour on her cheeks is heightened
either by rouge or passion; her eyes glitter, and her whole bearing is
of one who would say, "I _must_ do this, but I defy you." She knows
that all the gentlemen take part with her, if the ladies side with
her enemy. She walks straight up to the dais on which the Duchesse de
Longueville, _née_ Princesse de Condé, stands, stops, looks her full
in the face, then leisurely and with the utmost unconcern casts her
eyes round on the company, smiles sweetly to the Duc de Beaufort, and
bows to those princes and nobles who are her champions, particularly to
the Ducs d'Orléans and de Guise. Then she unfolds her painted fan, and
with insolent unconcern reads what follows from a slip of pink paper
attached to one of the jewelled sticks:

"Madame, I come here to assure your highness that I am quite innocent
of any intention of injuring you. Had it not been so I would humbly beg
your pardon, and willingly submit to any punishment her Majesty might
see fit to impose on me. I entreat you, therefore, to believe that I
have never failed in the esteem which your virtues command, nor in the
respect due to your high rank."

The Duchesse de Longueville's soft blue eyes, usually incapable of
any other expression but tenderness or supplication, look absolutely
wicked, so defiant is the bearing of Madame de Montbazon. She advances
to the edge of the estrade, draws herself up with an imperious air, and
casting a haughty glance at her rival, who, crimson in the face, is
fanning herself violently and ogling the Duc de Beaufort, reading
also from her fan, pronounces the following words, dictated by Cardinal
Mazarin:

"Madame, I am willing to believe that you took no part in the calumny
which has been circulated to my prejudice. I make this acknowledgment
in deference to the commands of the Queen."

Thus ends the quarrel; but not the consequences. The whole Court and
city is in an uproar. The citizens are deeply interested, and to a man
take part with the _chère amie_ of Beaufort against the Duchesse de
Longueville, and against Condé and Mazarin.

[Illustration: THE GRAND CONDÉ.]

Condé is not sure if he will not after all lead the Spaniards against
France. The Duchesse de Montbazon feeds the flame for her private ends.
She lays all the blame of her humiliation on Cardinal Mazarin, which
exasperates Beaufort to madness. She incites Henri, Duc de Guise,
another of her adorers—the wildest, bravest, and most dissolute of
princes—to challenge the Comte de Coligni, whom she had designated as
the writer of one of the love-letters. A duel is fought in the Place
Royale. The Duchesse de Montbazon watches the while out of a window
of the palace of the Duc de Rohan, her cousin. Coligni is killed. He
falls, it is said, into the arms of the Duchesse de Longueville, who is
present on the Place, disguised as a page.

The Duc de Beaufort, whose turbulent folly foreshadows the _grand
seigneur_ of later reigns and almost excuses the great Revolution,
refuses to receive a royal herald, sent to him by the Queen, turns his
back upon her Majesty at her lever, and threatens the life of the
Cardinal. The Duchesse de Montbazon is banished.

[Illustration: Cardinal Mazarin as an Art Collector.

From the painting by H. J. Vetter.

(With permission of Neurdein Frères, Paris.)]



CHAPTER IX.

THE DUC DE BEAUFORT.


The Duc de Beaufort is summoned to a private audience at the Louvre. On
his way up the grand staircase entering from the inner quadrangle he
meets his mother, the Duchesse de Vendôme, and his sister, the Duchesse
de Nemours, who, their attendance on the Queen over, are descending.

"Good God! Francis," cries his mother, raising her hands with a gesture
of horror, "I thought you were safe at Rambouillet. _You_ within the
Louvre at this moment? You must be mad!" And she throws herself upon
him and tries to bar his further passage.

"Oh, my brother!" exclaims his sister Nemours, in the same breath,
throwing her arms around his neck; "in the name of the Holy Virgin, do
not tempt your fate. Fly, dear Francis—fly, while you can—our coach is
waiting below—come with us instantly." And Madame de Nemours takes him
by the arm, and tries to draw him downwards.

Beaufort plants himself firmly on the stair. His first impulse is to
push them both forcibly aside, and to proceed; his next to curse their
folly in the spicy _argot_ of the _halles_. He does neither; but stands
open-mouthed, his fierce eyes demanding an explanation he does not
condescend to ask. The explanation is soon forthcoming.

"My son," cries his mother, bursting into tears, and seizing on his
hand to detain him, as he makes a motion as if to evade them, "listen
to me, I implore you. Your sister and I have been in waiting on the
Queen many hours to-day. She is terribly incensed against you. People
have been coming all day with tales to her here, at the Louvre. Crowds
have filled her audience chamber."

"_Mille Diables!_ What do you mean, mother?" bursts out Beaufort,
shaking himself free from both ladies. "You call me mad, if any one
be mad it is yourselves. I am here, summoned by the Queen herself, to
a private audience. _Ventre de ma vie!_"—Beaufort much affects some
of the favourite oaths of his grandfather, Henri Quatre—"what are her
Majesty's humours to me?"

"Oh, Francis," sobs the Duchesse de Nemours, "what have you done? You
have threatened the life of Cardinal Mazarin. The Queen knows it. She
has sent for you to secure your person. She can have no other motive.
Nothing can exceed her indignation. She said, in my hearing, that you
had personally insulted her; that your party, the _Importants_, were
the curse of her reign; and that the Duchesse de Montbazon corrupted
the princes of the blood by her intrigues. In the name of Heaven, do
not venture near her Majesty if you value your liberty, or even your
life!"

The Duchesse de Vendôme wrings her hands while her daughter is speaking.

"For my sake, quit Paris, my dear son. If you remain, not even Gondi
can save you. Come with us instantly, and cross the frontier while you
can."

Her words are broken; she trembles at her son's manifest danger;
Beaufort looks at her, shakes his head, and bursts into a loud laugh.

"You are a couple of lunatics, both of you"—and again he laughs—"I
shall not leave Paris; I will not even hide myself. Calm yourself,
mother,"—and he kisses her on the cheek—"her Majesty has summoned me to
a private audience. I shall obey her. She is no traitress. I have been
guilty of rudeness towards her. I go to wipe out the remembrance of it.
I am rough, but not brutal, especially to the Queen. Besides, _they
dare not arrest me_."[1]

[1] These words, spoken by the Duc de Beaufort, are the same as those
of the Balafré, at Blois, before his assassination by Henry III.

Saying which, he pushes his mother and sister, who still endeavour to
stop him, on one side, and bounds up the stairs.

It is evening. Anne of Austria is alone in a spacious withdrawing-room,
from which her private writing-closet opens. Four lofty windows turn
towards the river—one is open. She sits beside it, gazing at the
dazzling tints of the summer sunset that lace the western heavens
with bars of fire. In front rise the double towers of Notre-Dame. The
fretted spire of the Sainte-Chapelle glistens against a bank of heavy
clouds that are rapidly welling up from the south. These clouds deepen
with the twilight. The lustre of a stormy sunset soon fades out. The
sun disappears, and darker and denser clouds gather and thicken, and
obscure the light. Low thunder rumbles in the distance, and a few heavy
raindrops descend. Long shadows fall across the floor, the corners of
the room grow dark, and only a few bright gleams, lingering low on
the horizon, rest on the Queen's face and figure.

Anne of Austria has now passed into middle life; her form is full,
her movements heavy. The glorious eyes are still lustrous, but no
longer flash with the fire of youth. Her hair, though still abundant,
has lost its glossy brightness. Her dress is rich, her bearing cold
and stately. She affects a distant, almost a haughty manner, and is
severe in exacting the most rigid etiquette from all who approach her,
save alone the Cardinal. He comes and goes as he lists, smiling and
obsequious, but no longer humble or subservient as of yore. Indeed, at
times he treats her Majesty with absolute familiarity, to the utter
dismay of the Duchesse de Chevreuse and Mademoiselle de Hautefort. When
not engaged with Mazarin in state affairs, or in giving audiences, the
Queen passes her time in her oratory. Not only is she devout herself,
but exacts at all events the same outward show of piety from her ladies.

Twilight has deepened into gloom, ere the Duc de Beaufort enters.
He stands in shadow, and as he glances at the Queen, he inwardly
apostrophises his mother and sister as a couple of fools and gossips,
for imagining him to be in any danger of her displeasure. His
boisterous bearing—for he affects the manners of the lowest of the
populace, the better to sway them, and by so doing to embarrass the
minister—is visibly softened. He remembers with pain the insults of
which he has been guilty in turning his back on the Queen, when they
last met, and in refusing to receive her herald. He is both repentant
and flattered at her summons. His obeisance to her is unusually low,
and some tokens of emotion betray themselves on his dissipated, though
handsome countenance.

"Good evening, cousin," says Anne of Austria, as he enters, a gracious
smile upon her face, and with that queenly grace natural to her, she
presents her still beautiful hand to him, which he kisses kneeling.
"Where have you been these four days past? You are a stranger at the
Louvre."

Her voice is sweet, her look is gentle. It is impossible that what
Beaufort has heard can be true.

"Madame," he answers, bowing, "had I not been absent from Paris, I
should not have failed to present my duty to your Majesty. But I am
only just returned from a hunting-party at Rambouillet, whither I went
with my brother-in-law, Nemours. Until I came back I did not know that
you had asked for me. What can I do for your Majesty's service? I am
always at your command."

"Ah, cousin, you are always at my command, I know," answers the Queen,
repeating his words, and she gives a little laugh. Beaufort winces at
the covert rebuke. He feels that her meaning must be ironical, yet she
speaks caressingly, and the same gracious smile still plays about her
mouth.

"You once called me the most honourable man in France, Madame; I am
proud to remember it." Beaufort speaks roughly, and in a loud voice;
the momentary polish is passing away with the momentary emotion. "I
am what I ever was. I do not change. I wish I could say the same of
your Majesty. Madame, you have greatly altered," and he looks at her
straight in the face. Anne of Austria shifts her position, so as to sit
in shadow, then she replies:—

"I have no _special_ purpose in summoning you, cousin, save for the
satisfaction your presence here gives me." Again Beaufort feels the
covert stab, and observes that she studiously avoids noticing his
remarks on her altered conduct towards him.

"You and I," adds the Queen, in a voice strangely monotonous, "are
indeed old friends and comrades as well as cousins."

"You have not a truer friend in whole France than I am," answers the
Duke vehemently, and he advances a step or two towards the window, near
which the Queen sits, raises his hand to emphasise his words, and lets
it fall so heavily on a table near as to make the whole room echo. The
Queen still smiles graciously.

"Yes, Madame, I am no courtier; I hate courts; but before you made
that Italian _facchino_ your favourite you relied on Beaufort." As he
pronounced the Cardinal's name his face hardens and his hands clench
themselves; an almost imperceptible shudder passes over the Queen. Then
he continues:—

"Was it not to Beaufort that you entrusted the sacred person of his
Majesty and your own safety after the death of your husband, before the
Regency was settled?"

Anne of Austria bows her head in silence. She is evidently determined
not to take offence. If any one else had dared to mention the Cardinal
to her in such language she would have ordered him to the Bastille.

Had the Duke been less giddy this knowledge ought to have curbed him,
especially after the warning he had received; but his thoughts are now
passing into a different channel, and he heeds it not.

"Yes, cousin, I have known you long, and closely," is the Queen's
cautious rejoinder. "You have been at Rambouillet, Prince," she
continues; "have you had good sport? The canals there are, I am told,
full of fat carp. Do you love fishing?"

The Duke stares at her without replying. The Queen, who appears to
desire to continue the conversation, yet to avoid all discussion, still
speaks—

"My son will grow up to be a keen sportsman, I hope. The royal forests
must be better guarded. Did you and the Duc de Nemours find any deer at
Rambouillet?"

Spite of the Queen's unusual loquacity, there is something in her
manner which irritates the excitable Duke. He cannot altogether
convince himself that she is not mocking him. He had come certainly
repentant, but his fiery temper now overmasters him at the bare
suspicion.

"Did your Majesty send for me to put such questions as these?" cries he
roughly. "If so, I would rather have stayed at Rambouillet."

"Truly, Duke," replies the Queen evasively, colouring at his bluntness,
"it is difficult to content you. I have already said that I summoned
you for no special purpose, save that we might converse together"—and
she stops suddenly, and hesitates—"as cousins, and _as friends_."

This last word is spoken slowly and with manifest effort. Her voice,
which has a strange ring in it, is drowned by a clap of thunder,
still distant, and a flash of lightning illuminates the room for an
instant, and rests upon the long, fair hair and frowning countenance
of Beaufort. Her words are bland, but her bearing is distant and
constrained. Even the unobservant Beaufort is struck by this anomaly;
but he attributes it to some vestige of displeasure at his late conduct.

"I trust, Madame, you will always treat me with the confidence proper
to both these titles," he replies stiffly.

Her words appease, but do not satisfy him. Even while speaking, the
Queen has turned her head towards the door of her writing closet, and
listens. The wind roars without, and the waters of the Seine dash
themselves against the low walls that border the Quay, but no sound
within is audible. Anne of Austria resumes the conversation as though
talking against time. But Beaufort, naturally unobservant, is now too
much excited to notice this. He has forgotten all that his mother and
sister had said. Not the slightest suspicion crosses his mind.

"It is a boisterous evening," continues the Queen, looking out of
the window—a faint flash of lightning plays round her darkly robed
figure—"but the storm is still distant. By-the-bye, my cousin, am I
to congratulate you on being appointed beadle of Saint-Nicholas des
Champs?" asks the Queen, still smiling. "The bourgeoisie must be
greatly flattered by your condescension."

"That is a matter of opinion," answers Beaufort. "I glory in belonging
to the people. I would rather be called _Roi des Halles_ than King of
France."

The Queen says no more, again she listens. She seems more and more
embarrassed, and the conversation languishes. The Duke begins to be
conscious that something is amiss. He even goes the length of secretly
wishing that the interview were over. A heaviness oppresses him; it is
stiflingly hot, and the thunder sounds nearer. The image of his mother
weeping bitterly rises up, unbidden, before him. Can there be any truth
in her warning?

"Yes," continues Beaufort, after an awkward pause, "yes, I may be too
much of a _Frondeur_ to please you, Madame, and for my own safety
also." Again the Queen turns her head, and listens anxiously. "A
_Frondeur_ against a government headed by an alien—not a _Frondeur_
against you, my cousin—never against _you_. To _you_ I am ever loyal.
You know this." His voice grew thick. He is much moved. "You, my
cousin, can never forget my long exile, after the death of Cinq-Mars at
Lyons, for your sake. Surely you cannot forget?"

Anne moves uneasily; she taps her small foot on the floor impatiently.
Her eyes are bent outwards upon the approaching storm, which draws each
instant nearer. The heavens are now like a wall of blackness, save
where the lightning glitters for a moment. Yet she neither calls for
lights, nor closes the window.

"Next to the Duchesse de Chevreuse," Beaufort continues, "Richelieu
hated me, because I was devoted soul and body to you, and he knew it.
Ah, my cousin, had the Duchess and I, your two friends, spoken, where
would you have been now? Not on the throne, certainly. I carried your
secret safely into England with me—I would have carried it to the
grave—and you are Regent of France."

Whatever the Queen may feel, she carefully conceals it. A stony
expression spreads itself over her face, and the smile on her lip
becomes almost a grimace, her mouth is so tightly set.

"If I am grown rough and coarse," he continues, "like the rabble among
whom I live—if I offend you by my frankness, remember Beaufort was
faithful to you in adversity—most true and faithful."

The tears come into his eyes as he speaks; he brushes them off with his
sleeve. The Queen is not at all moved by this appeal. A third time she
turns her head as if listening for some expected sound—then, hearing
nothing, her eyelids drop, and she plays with her fan.

"These are difficult times, my cousin," she says at last, speaking
slowly. "Much depends on the princes of the blood. I reckon on you,
Duke, as a firm pillar of the State," and she touches him with her fan.

Beaufort starts. "Would I were such a pillar!" he exclaims with warmth.
"Take Gondi as your minister, my cousin. Send Mazarin back to the Roman
gutter from whence he sprung. You would have no more trouble with the
parliament. I warrant you they would obey you like lambs, my cousin.
Banish Mazarin, and I will lead you and the young King in triumph
throughout France. Not a _Frondeur_ would be left in the land. If there
were, I would shoot him with my own hand. Answer me, Madame; will you
try?"

Beaufort stretches out his hand as he speaks, to clasp that of the
Queen. Anne neither stirs, neither looks up, nor touches his hand.
To speak is evidently difficult to her. Surely she must be expecting
some one, for she again turns her head towards the writing-closet and
listens. A sharp clap of thunder rattles through the room; when it is
past her eyes rest upon the Duke, who is eagerly awaiting her reply.
The set smile is still on her lips; she is about to answer him, when a
distinct sound of footsteps is heard within in her writing-closet. A
page enters, and announces Cardinal Mazarin's arrival to consult her
Majesty on urgent state business. Beaufort's face darkens. Ere the
page has ceased speaking, the long-gathering storm bursts forth with
fury. A tremendous peal of thunder shakes the palace, and big drops of
rain are driven through the window. The Queen rises hastily and signs
to the page to close the sash. She is evidently greatly relieved. "I
regret this interruption, Prince," she says, speaking rapidly, "but
it is unavoidable. I must not keep the Cardinal waiting. I cannot,
however, consider your audience as over. Will your highness favour
me by remaining in the apartments of the ladies of honour until I am
free?" and, not waiting for his reply, she hastily passes into her
closet. Deluges of rain fall, flash after flash lights up the heavens,
and peals of thunder rapidly succeed each other.

The Duc de Beaufort finds the Duchesse de Chevreuse and Mademoiselle
de Hautefort sitting together in one of the apartments of the suite
allotted to the ladies in waiting. As he enters they both rise
hurriedly, and contemplate him in mute astonishment.

"Why, Duke," cries the Duchess, "is it possible? You here? You in the
Louvre?"

"And why not, madame? What do these chattering women mean?" he mutters
to himself. "One would think I were a monster."

"What! have you not heard, that you are accused of a plot to
assassinate the Cardinal?"

"The Queen knows the particulars," broke in Mademoiselle de Hautefort.
"She told me so at her lever this morning."

"Perhaps you will kindly inform me what these particulars are, madame?"
replies Beaufort savagely.

"Why, Duke, you must be out of your senses!"

"Not that I know of, madame; pray let me hear of what I am accused."

"Why, that in order to take the Cardinal's life you had stationed
soldiers in ambush along the road to Longchamps, to fire on him, as he
passed in his coach on his way to dine with the President Maison."

"The simple-hearted Cardinal! Imagine, your highness," cries the
Duchess, "Signor Giulio, after having said his prayers, trotting along
demurely in his red coach, a perfect angel—wanting only wings to fly
away from a wicked world, innocent of so much as an evil thought! We
know you are a _Frondeur_, Duke, but you are also a barbarian to desire
the life of such a saint," and the Duchess laughs her merry laugh.

"Perhaps, madame," says Beaufort, turning towards Mademoiselle de
Hautefort, "you will have the goodness to proceed in the relation of my
supposed crime?"

"I have neither the wit nor the high spirits of her Grace of Lorraine,"
replies she, "to jest. I assure you, Duke, it is a very grave matter.
You are in the utmost danger. The Cardinal has made her Majesty believe
that his life was only saved by the accidental arrival of the Duc
d'Orléans—who was going to dine at the same party—on horseback, and
who, as a violent shower of rain came on, dismounted and got into the
Cardinal's coach. His presence saved the Cardinal, the guard could not
fire upon his Royal Highness. You may imagine the agitation of her
Majesty."

"Capital, capital!" exclaims the Duchess, clapping her hands, and still
laughing; "admirably done. I never gave your highness credit for so
much invention. What a pity the Duc d'Orléans did not start a little
sooner," adds she, in a lower voice, "or that it rained! Signor Giulio
would have been in heaven by this time."

The Duc de Beaufort sees that Mademoiselle de Hautefort looks both
concerned and vexed at this levity. He had left his mother and sister
as he entered, in tears. Was it possible all this might be true?

"I beseech you, Duke, to leave the Louvre while you can," says
Mademoiselle de Hautefort, very earnestly.

"But I am waiting here, madame, at the express command of her Majesty,
until Mazarin, with whom she is now engaged in the council-chamber,
retires."

"Are they alone?" asks the Duchess.

"Yes, madame."

"Then, Duke, I do advise you at once to escape while you can. If her
Majesty told you to remain, and she is now closeted with Mazarin, the
sooner you pass the gates of Paris the better; unless your highness
particularly desire to air the best set of rooms in the Bastille; and
even they are dull," she adds, with that invincible desire to laugh and
make others laugh, at once her charm and her defect.

Careless as is the Duc de Beaufort, his confidence is shaken. He had
taken up his velvet cap to depart, when a knock is heard at the door.

"Come in," cries the Duchess.

It was Guitaut, Captain of the Queen's Guards. He walks up to the Duke,
and lays his hand on his shoulder: "I command your highness to follow
me, in the name of the King and of the Queen-Regent."

Even the Duchess becomes serious.

Beaufort eyes Guitaut for some time in silence. "This is very strange,
Guitaut. There must be some mistake. I am here by her Majesty's
commands, awaiting a further audience."

"I know nothing of that, your highness. My instructions are precise.
You are under arrest."

Beaufort unbuckles his sword. He presents it to Guitaut. Then he turns
to the Duchess and Mademoiselle de Hautefort, whose countenances
express the concern they both feel. "You are witness, ladies, that I,
a prince of the blood, am arrested when, in obedience to her Majesty's
commands, I am awaiting the honour of a further audience. _Pardieu_,
that sneaking varlet, Mazarin, shall pay for this. The Coadjutor will
revenge me. Lead on, Guitaut. Where is it to be? The Bastille?"

"I have orders to conduct your highness to the Castle of Vincennes,"
replies Guitaut, bowing.

"To Vincennes! And by the Queen's order! _Ventre de ma vie!_ she is a
traitress after all!"

[Illustration: Prosp. du Chasteau de Vincennes.

VINCENNES—OLD PRINT.]



CHAPTER X.

MIDNIGHT VISITORS.


The Queen could no longer appear in the streets without insult. The mob
laughed in her face, and called her _Madame Anne_. They saluted Mazarin
with howls, as her _bon ami_; some said _amant_. The words sound much
alike when shouted by a mob, and are not indeed always different in
point of fact. Gondi, in the parliament, uttered thrilling words about
_la belle France_ going to perdition between a Spanish regent and an
Italian minister. No president was found to rebuke him. Indeed when he
demanded that the law respecting aliens holding office of state, passed
against Concini (Maréchal d'Ancre) in the regency of Marie de' Medici,
should be amended to suit the present crisis, his words were received
with such a fury of applause that the roof was very nearly brought down
about his head. Yet if any single member of that noisy parliament had
been asked what national misfortune he dreaded, what unpunished crime,
what neglect, or what personal hardship he desired to redress, he would
have found it difficult to answer. It was the fashion for every one
to be discontented and to rebel. If citizens, to call themselves
_Frondeurs_; if nobles, _Importants_. To object to everything; to
harass the Government, refuse to pay taxes and subsidies; and to
threaten to call in Spain on the most trivial pretences. And this
because two duchesses had quarrelled, and certain hungry princes had
lost the sinecures they craved for. Thus began the civil war of the
Fronde, which lasted during the whole of the minority of Louis XIV.

Mazarin, when he heard that the parliament, lashed on by Gondi, the
Coadjutor, seriously proposed to revive an obsolete law, which would
connect his name with that of Concini, who had been shot down like
a dog within the precincts of the Louvre, was alarmed. Not being
a soldier like Richelieu, nor a patriot like De Retz, but only a
soft-spoken Italian, with a slight frame,—no unnecessary bones or
muscles,—long thin hands, and a sallow, womanish face, he applied to
the all-powerful Condé for help. Condé effected a compromise with
Gondi. So no more was heard of the obnoxious law at that particular
time. But the parliament had, like a young lion, tasted blood in
the way of power, liked it, and was not to be appeased. Spite of
Condé, seditious edicts and offensive measures, all suggested by the
Coadjutor, continued to be passed; and Mazarin shut himself up within
four walls, fearing for his very life.

It is night and very dark; only a few ill-trimmed lamps placed on
pulleys across the street, and under the signs of the various shops,
at long distances from each other, cast a dim and flickering light.
The unpaved streets are muddy and full of holes; a mob is collecting
in the darkness between the Louvre, the Church of Saint-Germain
l'Auxerrois, and the garden of the Palais Royal. It thickens every
moment; group after group of men and some women emerge from the gloom.
They pour down from Saint-Jacques and from Saint-Antoine, from the
quays and the heart of the old Roman city about Notre-Dame and the
Hôtel Dieu. They gather from all quarters. Before an hour has passed, a
dense multitude, many thousands in number, are packed together. Those
who stand under the dim lamps have a dogged, resolute look. All eyes
are directed towards the Palais Royal, separated by a high wall from
the street. The huge building rises up a gaunt mass before them. Not a
light is to be seen at any of the windows; not a sentinel is visible,
they are withdrawn within the postern. Threats and oaths and ribald
jests pass from mouth to mouth loudly and without fear; savage cries
and shouts of laughter ring along the silent streets. Anne of Austria,
with her two sons, is within the palace. She is quite aware what is
passing without. From an upper window, in a darkened room, she watches
the citizens pressing closer and closer to the gates. From amid the
tumult, groans and imprecations are now audible; the words reach her
ears. "Where is the little King?" cries one. "We will see him!" shrieks
another. "You fool! he is not here," answers a third, a smith, as black
as his forge, from the slums of Saint-Antoine. "Why not? where should
he be but at home?" another voice asks. "We will force the gates, and
find him!" roars a stumpy man, with stentorian voice, shaking his fist,
and struggling to the front. "Find him! where will you find him? he
is in Spain," shouts one at his elbow. "Curses on the Italian priest!"
howl many voices in horrible chorus. This cry excites the entire
multitude to frenzy; it is taken up from all parts, and a volley of
groans and curses for a time drowns all else. The crowd surges to and
fro, like breakers on a rocky shore. Each moment it approaches nearer
the palace. A tall spare man, an emissary of De Retz, who all along
has taken an active part in inciting the people, seizes on the moment
as propitious, and calls out in a loud voice, "Death to Mazarin!"
Thousands re-echo, "Death to Mazarin!" With hideous gesticulations
they throw their arms aloft; caps fly into the air; innumerable hands
are clapped in savage applause. "Death to Mazarin!" passes down the
lines of the long streets. It is heard at the crossways, and at every
side alley and opening, dying away in the far distance into indistinct
murmurs.

[Illustration: CARDINAL DE RETZ.]

The Queen hears this death-cry standing at the darkened window, and
trembles. Again the maddened people shout, "Death to Mazarin!" and
again, "Death!" is echoed from afar. "He has spirited away our little
Louis into Spain to kill him!" "He has murdered the Regent!" yells out
the tall, spare man, forcing his way hither and thither. "Death to
the traitor!" "To the gallows with all foreigners!" is the murderous
response of the mob.

Fresh cries now arise, led by the tall, spare man with the powerful
voice. "_Vive_ Gondi, our noble bishop! We will have Gondi! the Queen
shall choose Gondi, our Coadjutor!" "Come forth and answer to us, Dame
Anne!" shrieks a woman's shrill voice, very near the palace, during a
momentary lull. "Come forth, or we will break in and shoot you! Where
is our _Roi des Halles_? Where is Beaufort? Come out to us, and speak
like an honest woman! Let Beaufort free!—Give up your lover, Mazarin!"
bellows a fat beldame from the Halles. "Give up the _bon ami_, and
we will roast him at the Grève, and dance round the bonfire!" and
hideous peals of laughter, yells, hisses, and imprecations rise out of
the night. Then, growing impatient, the whole mass, with one accord,
vociferate, "We will see the King! where is the King? Show us the
little King, or we will set fire to the palace. The King! the King!"

A tremendous rush is made from behind; those in front fall down,
screaming that they are killed; others trample upon their bodies. The
gates are forced; the foremost find themselves within the court. Pushed
on by the press from behind, they now stand under the colonnade, then
beneath the portico, on past the Queen's Guards, who, commanded only
to defend, not to attack, stand back, drawn swords in their hands,
darkly eying the rioters. The lofty portals of the Palais Royal are
wide open; there are lights within the ample hall. Beyond is the grand
staircase, with gilded banisters. Finding no obstacle, the rioters
mount the stairs. On the first landing a woman stands, immovable. It
is the Queen. She is alone. She is pale, but betrays no fear. The rude
intruders draw back, amazed at the vision of majesty and loveliness
before them. Anne of Austria beckons to them to advance. She places
her finger on her lip, commanding silence. The rabble, before so
noisy, are instantly hushed as by a charm. Signing to the foremost to
follow her, she leads the way, through sumptuous chambers and vaulted
galleries, to the King's sleeping-room. She approaches his little bed
of gilt lattice-work, and gently drawing aside the lace curtains,
displays Louis XIV. in the sound and tranquil sleep of childhood. The
citizen _Frondeurs_ are satisfied. The mothers bless his baby face and
rich auburn curls. The men contemplate the Queen with awe. She stands
beside the bed, surveying them with royal unconcern. When they have
stared their full at the little King and at her, those who have already
entered turn back. No others dare approach. Ashamed and silent, they
retreat across the halls and through sculptured galleries in a very
different spirit to that in which they came.

       *       *       *       *       *

Anne of Austria grows more and more devout. She spends long hours in
her oratory, prostrate before an image of the Magdalene. She often
retires to the Val de Grâce, where she has built a splendid church, as
a thank-offering for the birth of her sons. For days together she wears
closely fitting serge dresses, buttoned up to the throat, like a lay
nun. She fasts, and chastises herself with a severity proper alike to a
sinner or a saint.

Yet there are whispers, and confidences, and anecdotes touching her
intimacy with Cardinal Mazarin, not quite in accordance with such
excessive austerity.

It is a _liaison_ too public for intrigue, uneasy enough for marriage!

The constant reproaches she addresses to her ladies in waiting for
their lack of devotion, tends rather to enrage than to edify these
pretty sinners. Mademoiselle de Pons, with a smile and a toss of the
head, draws Mademoiselle de la Mothe into a corner, and repeats some
hard words the Queen has spoken to her. Mademoiselle de Hautefort, of a
quick, impulsive temperament, is continually either in a passion or in
tears. The Duchesse de Chevreuse is usually grave, and more silent than
she ever was before. The Duchesse de Noailles, lady of the bedchamber,
her attendance at the Palais Royal over, orders her coach, and, in
company with the Duchesse de Sennécy, returns home to her _hôtel_ in
the Place Royale, in a very bad humour. Here a party of ladies, "her
nineteen bosom friends," are awaiting her arrival. They are all eager
for gossip, and all pledged to a vow of eternal secrecy, a promise they
will keep as long as the retailer of the scandal is speaking. Coffee
has been handed round in delicate cups of Oriental porcelain. Bonbons
and cakes, served on trays of gold _repoussé_, have been discussed; the
ladies lean back in their chairs, to listen with greater ease. Then
the Duchesse de Noailles, addressing herself particularly to Madame de
Sennécy and a certain Comtesse de Lude, remarkable for a thin pinched
face and a very red nose, begins.

[Illustration: ANNE OF AUSTRIA.]



CHAPTER XI.

THE TWO DUCHESSES.


"Mesdames, you have asked me to give you some details of what is
passing in the palace. I will do so; but do not imagine, for Heaven's
sake, that I wish to spread evil reports or to act _la scandaleuse_.
Far from it; as long as I remain in the Queen's service, whatever
her conduct may be towards me, I shall bear it. I shall not dream of
revenge."

"Oh, dear, no, not in the least," the ladies murmur; "nothing can be
more proper."

"But, really, when I see such an affectation of devotion, that serge
gown, and no ornaments except on state receptions; such severity, too,
towards every one who dresses like the rest of the world—she told me
the other day my dress was too _décolleté_—can you conceive?—it is more
than human nature can bear. It sets me remembering certain stories well
known to everybody within the palace, when her Majesty wore low dresses
too, and was not _quite_ such a _dévote_ as she pretends to be now."

The assembled ladies assent silently. The Duchesse de Noailles, who
is excited and has spoken quickly, having stopped to take breath, the
Duchesse de Sennécy seizes the moment to break in—

"You may do as you please, dear Duchess, but for my part I am indignant
with her Majesty. She has no gratitude. I might have ruined her years
ago, when my cousin, Louise de Lafayette, could turn the late King
Louis XIII. round her finger; one word from her, and the Queen would
have been exiled! I am indignant, I repeat—I am actually not allowed
to choose my own confessor! Her Majesty insists that I should select a
Jesuit—a _protégé_ of Mazarin—a man, as I believe, not to be trusted.
And the reason she gives is, 'that it is for the good of my soul!' I
can take care of my own soul, I suppose. I always confess twice a year.
What is it to her Majesty if I do not confess at all!"

All the ladies murmur acquiescence, and the red-nosed Countess, Madame
de Lude, says, "It is an impertinence."

"Every one must see," continues Madame de Sennécy, speaking rapidly,
for she observes that Madame de Noailles is eager to proceed, "the
power Mazarin exercises over her. In her youth Richelieu loved her: now
it is Mazarin. She is born to ensnare the Sacred College—perhaps his
Holiness himself, if he crossed the Apennines——"

"Oh, Duchess," exclaim several voices, "how shocking!" and some ladies
hold up their fans before their faces.

"Gently, madame," says Madame de Noailles, interrupting; "I detest
calumny. I only speak of the past—that cannot hurt her Majesty."

"I speak of the present," cries Madame de Sennécy with irritation.
"There is quite enough to talk about in the present, without recalling
the past. The partiality of the Queen positively injures Mazarin.
I believe that this is the principal reason of the great animosity
against him among the citizens of Paris, who call themselves
_Frondeurs_."

"But, my _très chère_," answers Madame de Noailles,—the Mrs. Candour
of that day, who, although quite as spiteful as her friend, had more
discretion, and dreaded the mischief that might arise by-and-by if
the tongues of all the assembled ladies were let loose,—"but, my
_très chère_, it is believed that her Majesty is privately married to
Mazarin; the Cardinal has never taken priest's orders; the Queen is a
widow. Madame de Motteville is of this opinion; _enfin_, I believe it
myself: else that sneaking, honey-mouthed Italian, whom we all knew as
'Signor Giulio,' secretary to the great Richelieu, would never dare to
be so unkind to the King and the little Duke, or so arrogant to her
Majesty."

"_Ciel!_ how contemptuously Mazarin answers the Queen sometimes—how
meekly she bears it!" exclaims Madame de Sennécy. "Beringhen tells me
that he will not allow the King and his brother proper body-linen, and
that the sheets of their beds are in holes."

"_Ah, Dieu!_ what a shame," cry the ladies—"the King of France!"—and
the red-nosed Countess declares, "That the parliament ought to know it."

This idea alarms Madame de Noailles extremely. She does not want to
lose her place at Court, yet it is sweet to her to hear the Queen
abused, who had so sternly forbade her to appear again before her in
such low dresses.

"Well, Mazarin is bad enough, mesdames," cries Madame de Sennécy (not
to be quelled by the frowns and signs of her senior); "he is bad
enough—the blood-sucker—as that dear handsome Duc de Beaufort calls
him; but, for my part, I can tolerate him much better than those
nieces of his, who come up one by one from Rome—Mancini and Martinozzi,
or whatever he calls them—with their bold Italian looks and big eyes,
devouring every man they see. How intolerable they are!"

"They are quite improper," puts in the red-nosed Countess, "and very
ugly."

Some of the ladies say they do not think so. Others declare that
they are sallow, bony, and ill shaped. Madame de Sennécy ends the
discussion by declaring that one is deformed, and that the other limps;
a statement utterly untrue, but which is received as gospel. Madame
de Noailles declares that she is sure the Queen would never allow
such creatures to be about the Court if she could help it. It is most
dangerous for his Sacred Majesty to be educated with them. He might
become attached to Olympia, for instance, the eldest unmarried one.

A shudder passes through the assembled ladies at such a monstrous
supposition. The red-nosed Countess opines that the princes of the
blood should have such hussies imprisoned in the Bastille, and fed on
bread and water.

"Ah, ladies," cries Madame de Noailles, in her shrill voice, "how
little you know of the intrigues of a Court! Mazarin fully intends to
marry his saucy niece, Olympia, to the King. The Queen cannot help it;
she is in his power; she is his wife."

"It is to be hoped so," mutters Madame de Sennécy; and the red-nosed
Countess shakes her head, and by this significant gesture endorses her
doubt of the fact.

"I wish you would listen to me," says the Duchesse de Noailles
peevishly. "I was alluding to some curious old stories connected with
the Queen; but perhaps, ladies, you know them already," and she looks
inquiringly around.

"Very imperfectly," lisps a thin demoiselle of uncertain age, who had
been disappointed of the situation of maid of honour. And the red-nosed
Countess settles herself in her chair, drinks another cup of coffee,
and begs Madame de Noailles to proceed. Madame de Sennécy also joins
in the same request. Another lady, a hanger-on of the Duchesse de
Noailles, who had not yet spoken, says, "It is well known that Madame
la Duchesse relates everything in such a _piquante_ manner." Thus
encouraged, the Duchess begins:—

"I desire to speak of the past. The past cannot injure her Majesty. I
am without prejudice, and incapable of malice." The Duchesse de Sennécy
laughs behind her fan. "I have listened to all Madame de Sennécy has
said with deep concern;" and she crosses her hands, and looks up at
the ceiling with mock solemnity. "I am lady of the bedchamber to the
Queen—a position involving certain duties, certain reserves. God forbid
I should forget them!" Madame de Sennécy stares at her with amazement,
wondering what is coming next. "Her Majesty was so cautious formerly—so
cautious, I say—nothing more—it is not likely she would commit herself
now. I do not therefore agree with Madame de Sennécy in her opinion
that she is privately married to Mazarin."

"Then she ought to be," the red-nosed Countess says sententiously.

"Remember she had Madame de Chevreuse to help her formerly," thrusts
in Madame de Sennécy sharply.

"With your permission, ladies, I will begin my narrative. But if you
interrupt me, I cannot do so." and Madame de Noailles draws herself up
with an offended air. "A thousand pardons!" every one exclaims. Not a
sound is heard. The Duchess, somewhat pacified, surveys her audience.
"I presume, ladies, we all adore the miracle wrought in the person
of his present Majesty for the continuance of the royal line; I say,
in the person of our present Majesty, Louis XIV., a miracle which
was brought about by the intercession of that saint, your cousin,
Mademoiselle Louise de Lafayette;" she turns towards Madame de Sennécy,
who bows. "It was Mademoiselle de Lafayette who persuaded the King to
visit the Queen at the Louvre. A miracle—eh, my dear friends?" and a
malicious smile plays about her mouth, and she casts up her eyes and
pauses; "a wonderful miracle after twenty-two years of sterility, and
the King, too, almost in his grave!"

"Quite so," replies the Duchesse de Sennécy; "incredible!" All the
ladies laugh. The red-nosed Countess declares she never had believed
it; which was exactly what Madame de Noailles intended, though she
would not have said so for the world!

"Well, after this truly miraculous event, and when their Majesties
were as much alienated as ever—for the Queen never forgave the insult
the King put upon her at the Val de Grâce, in summoning her before the
council, and making the Chancellor search her papers—their Majesties
being, I repeat, as much alienated as ever, the Beau Buckingham
came to Court.[2] But, mesdames, this is a long story; you will be
fatigued."

[2] George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, favourite of James I., and of
his son, Charles I., assassinated by Felton, 1628.

"No, no—not in the least," answer all the ladies, speaking at once. "Go
on, Duchess, pray go on; tell us about the Beau Buckingham. Did he not
let pearls fall from his dress, and when they were picked up refuse to
take them back?" asks the Duchesse de Sennécy.

"Exactly," replies Madame de Noailles. "Buckingham was a grand
seigneur."

"Pray go on, madame."

"Well, mesdames, an embassy came from Charles I. of England—poor
man, he had his head cut off afterward—how perfidious those English
are!—to ask the hand of our Princess Henrietta Maria—daughter of
Marie de' Medici and Henry IV.—in marriage. The Beau Buckingham was
the ambassador chosen, and such a one was never seen before; so
magnificent, so handsome, so liberal. His dress, his manners, his
_cortége_, all were perfect. He seemed like a prince out of a fairy
tale, just arrived from the moon, who spoke nothing but diamonds and
rubies, and at whose feet flowers sprung up. All the ladies lost their
hearts to him, the husbands shut themselves up in a rage, and the
lovers hanged themselves in sheer despair!

"He soon saw how matters stood with the poor Queen. She dared scarcely
open her mouth, and looked so terrified in the presence of her husband
and Cardinal Richelieu, that what with her beauty and her evident
sufferings, she might have touched a heart of stone. Now the Beau
Buckingham was far from having a heart of stone where the ladies were
concerned. So, _le voilà amoureux_, the Beau Buckingham! Indeed, from
the first moment he came to Court he saw only the Queen. To her all
his looks, all his attentions, were directed,—and such looks, such
devotion! _Bon Dieu_, how well I remember him in a justaucorps of white
satin embroidered with gold, leaning against a pillar gazing at the
Queen, who evidently was aware of his glances. His long beautiful hair
streamed over his shoulders in rich chestnut curls, his noble face
beamed with expression; in one hand was a cavalier's hat covered with
snowy plumes, the other was placed on his heart.

"The Queen was sensible to his homage. Poor Queen! she really was very
ill used; it must have been delightful to be loved at last. Indeed,
it was quite evident to me, as well as to the whole Court, that
Buckingham's feeling was returned. Sometimes she gazed also, nor did
her looks want fire. But, mesdames, I hope you do not misunderstand
me," and the Duchess glanced deprecatingly round the circle; "I assure
you I am not censorious; I am only relating facts, undoubted facts,
which happened long ago—in order to convince you all that Madame de
Sennécy is mistaken, and that even when young her Majesty was eminently
cautious. She is so still. Believe me, she is not married to Mazarin."

"Pray proceed, dear Duchess," cries Madame de Sennécy; "never mind
Mazarin; your story is most interesting."

"We want to hear the _dénouement_," say all the ladies, and the
red-nosed Countess opines that "it is easy to understand what that will
be."

"Her Majesty used to delight in dancing. Now she often danced with
Buckingham. This was only etiquette, as he represented Charles I. of
England at the Court of France. Her Majesty was always very cautious,
I assure you, very cautious. Buckingham did all he could to retard the
negotiation of marriage, and Richelieu, who knew the Queen well and
had watched her closely, having, I suppose, discovered her secret, did
everything, on the contrary, to hasten his departure.

"There was a story about some diamonds—an aigrette, I believe. I never
quite understood it, ladies, but of course Madame de Chevreuse did—some
diamonds that the King had given to the Queen, and which she gave to
Buckingham, who was imprudent enough to wear them in public. This
nearly caused her ruin, for she was surrounded by enemies and spies.
The Cardinal got wind of it, and informed the King, and his Majesty
called on the Queen to wear these diamonds on a certain day, and but
for the exertions of certain musketeers of the Queen's Guard, by name
Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, who journeyed night and day to fetch them
from England—at least, so goes the tale—Anne of Austria would have been
imprisoned, or perhaps beheaded, _à la mode Anglaise_, particularly
as the Cardinal preferred that mode of execution. You remember that
charming Monsieur le Grand, who had his head cut off?" says Madame de
Noailles, appealing to the red-nosed Countess.

"Ah! I should think so, the husband of Marion de l'Orme, the Marquis de
Cinq-Mars, a sad profligate and coxcomb, who richly deserved his fate."

"At last Buckingham was to go," continues the Duchess; "he could spin
out his time no longer. All the Court accompanied him to Amiens. Madame
de Chevreuse was with the Queen, who did all she could to conceal her
grief, for, believe me, she is very cautious. Ah! her Majesty knows
what it is to be in love though, spite of caution and serge gown, and
her _petit air dévot_. She ought to be more charitable, and let her
ladies do as they please, eh, mesdames?" and the Duchess looks round,
and sees every eye fixed eagerly upon her; the red-nosed Countess, with
a visible sneer on her face, and Madame de Sennécy, full of gratified
spite, smiling sarcastically. "Madame de Chevreuse did, ladies, hint
to me, that the long evening spent at Amiens was not passed—hum!—well,
not passed _all_ in public. For a single moment her Majesty did,
extraordinary to say, forget her usual caution, and you know, ladies, a
moment may do much."

All the ladies laugh behind their fans, and the red-nosed Countess
gives it as her decided opinion "that the Queen is not married to
Mazarin," for which the Duchesse de Sennécy warmly applauds her
excellent judgment, and adds, "she had always said so."

"There was a fête at Amiens," continues Madame de Noailles, her eyes
sparkling with malice, "a shady garden, and a moon not too bright—a
lover's moon, we will say—revealing much, not all. It is certain that
by the management of Madame de Chevreuse, the Queen and Buckingham had
a charming little _àpart_ during the fête, in a grove at the end of the
gardens, near the city walls. There was a cry, and Putange, who was in
waiting, but—instructed by Madame de Chevreuse—standing apart, though
within call, hearing the Queen's voice, rushed forward and found her
nearly fainting, and Buckingham on his knees before her."

"_Bagatelle!_" breaks in Madame de Sennécy, "what a romantic story!"

"Certain it is, Buckingham sailed from France that same night. Madame
de Chevreuse had too much on her own hands (_en fait d'amour_) to know
more than what Putange told her. Buckingham sailed, the Queen returned
ill to Paris, and was nursed by the Duchesse de Chevreuse. Some say
that Buckingham returned again privately. At all events, the Queen,
as long as Richelieu and Louis XIII. lived, led a miserable life.
Mesdames," and the Duchesse de Noailles gives a triumphant glance
round the circle, "I have proved, I think, that her Majesty is seldom
incautious," and the Duchess smiles a bitter smile, and again looks
around for approval and acquiescence.

Just as the ladies had all risen with great animation to give their
various opinions and to thank the Duchess, the rattle of a heavy coach
is heard below. In a few moments the door is flung open, and Madame la
Duchesse de Chevreuse is announced.



CHAPTER XII.

"PUT NOT THY TRUST IN PRINCES."


Madame de Noailles rises to receive the Duchesse de Chevreuse, and
kisses her with effusion, but is startled at the sight of her blanched
face and despondent air. She is plainly dressed in a dark travelling
costume, bows to the Duchesse de Sennécy and to the other ladies, and
sinks down on a couch.

"Good heavens! what is the matter?" asks Madame de Noailles, with
intense curiosity, taking her by the hand; "you are strangely altered
since I left the palace a few hours since."

The Duchesse de Chevreuse glances at the circle of ladies, the
"nineteen bosom friends," whose eyes are riveted upon her as if to read
her thoughts. The red-nosed Countess in particular has advanced close
to her, in order not to lose a syllable; her mouth is wide open, to
assist her ears in listening.

"I have come on private business of some importance to myself, dear
Duchess," says Madame de Chevreuse, speaking under her breath. "I did
not know that you received this evening. It is unfortunate."

Madame de Noailles, who is dying to hear what she has to say, looks at
her guests with an unmistakable expression. The Duchesse de Sennécy
rises at once.

"Allow me to wish you good evening, my dear friend," says she, and
departs. The red-nosed Countess is forced to rise and follow her
example, how much against her will it is plain to see; the other
ladies retire with her.

Madame de Noailles and the Duchesse de Chevreuse are now alone. Madame
de Chevreuse heaves a profound sigh; a tear rolls down her cheek,
out of which the dimples are faded. Her thin lips are white, and she
shivers.

"Tell me, Duchess, what misfortune has happened?" asks Madame de
Noailles, taking her hand.

"A misfortune, yes, for I love her—I love her dearly. I have devoted my
life to serve her; without me she would not now be Regent of France."

Madame de Chevreuse speaks in broken sentences; her looks are wild; her
mind seems to wander; her large prominent eyes are fixed on vacancy.

"Duchess, for God's sake rouse yourself. What has happened? Is it the
Queen?" And Madame de Noailles wrings the hand of her friend to rouse
her.

"Yes—it is the Queen," replies Madame de Chevreuse slowly, becoming
more conscious, and gazing at her. "Her Majesty has dismissed me. I am
on my way to Tours—exiled."

"Gracious heaven!" exclaims Madame de Noailles; "what ingratitude!"

"Duchess, I thank you for your sympathy; but, I beseech you, say not
one word against my beloved mistress. When I entered this room it
seemed to me that sorrow had made me mad—my brain was on fire. I am
better now, and calmer. My royal mistress may live to want me, as she
has so often done before. She may recall me. At Court—in exile—absent
or present, I am her humble and devoted slave."

"She will want no one as long as she has Mazarin," says the Duchess,
with a sneer.

"So I fear," returns Madame de Chevreuse.

"But what has happened since I left the palace?" again eagerly asks
Madame de Noailles.

"I will tell you. I have never been the same to her Majesty since the
old days, when I was banished, after the Val de Grâce, by Richelieu.
She received me well after I returned, when she was Regent; but I
have loved her too devotedly not to feel the difference. While, on my
side, the long years that I had spent flying over Europe to escape the
machinations of the Cardinal, had only made me more devoted to her, the
Queen—who formerly trusted me with every thought—had grown serious,
reserved, and ascetic. I am pious enough myself,"—and a gleam of fun
passes into her weary face, and causes her eyes to sparkle,—"I never
eat meat in Lent, and always confess at Easter. But her Majesty has
become a bigot. She was always reproving me, too, for those little
_agaceries_ (vanities she called them) which no one lives without.
'My age,' she said, 'forbade them.' Now I only own to forty, Duchess;
that is not an age to go into a convent, and to think of nothing but
my soul. Why should I not enjoy myself a little yet?" And her large
eyes find their way to a mirror opposite, and dwell on it with evident
complacency.

"But the Queen reproaches everybody," returns Madame de Noailles.
"Conceive—she reprimanded me for wearing a dress too _décolleté_."

Madame de Chevreuse smiles faintly; for it was indeed true that the
older Madame de Noailles grew, the lower her dresses were cut.

"People who hated me made the Queen believe," continues Madame de
Chevreuse, "that I wanted to govern her—to use her patronage. If it
were so, I should have done it long ago. It was the Princesse de
Condé who told the Queen so; she hates me. When I assured her Majesty
that it was false, she seemed to believe me. Then came the affair of
Madame de Montbazon and the letters found in her room, one of which
she said was written by the Duchesse de Longueville, the daughter of
my enemy, the Princesse de Condé. How could I help what my stepmother
said?—she is a spoilt beauty, and very injudicious—but her Majesty
blamed me, nevertheless. I implored her to forgive my stepmother;
and for this purpose, I offered her Majesty yesterday a collation in
those fine gardens, kept by Regnard, beyond the chestnut avenue of the
Tuileries—you know these gardens, Duchess?"

"I do," replies Madame de Noailles.

"Her Majesty had often wished to go there. I asked my stepmother to be
present, in the full belief that the Queen's kind heart would relent
when she saw her, and that she would restore her to favour. Alas! I
was mistaken. I do not know the Queen now, she is so changed. She came
accompanied by the Princesse de Condé. No sooner had she set eyes on
Madame de Montbazon, who was conversing with me, than the Queen gave me
a furious glance, called the Princesse de Condé to her side, and bid
her command the attendance of her pages; then, without another word,
her Majesty turned her back on me, entered her coach, and departed."

"Heavens!" exclaims Madame de Noailles, turning up her eyes, "no one
is safe, unless they are allies of Cardinal Mazarin."

"An hour afterwards,"—and the Duchesse de Chevreuse raises her
handkerchief to her eyes,—"I received an order to quit Paris for Tours.
Alas, I have not deserved it!"

"It is the Cardinal," cries Madame de Noailles. "He will drive out all
her old friends; they are inconvenient——"

While she speaks the door opens, and Mademoiselle de Hautefort enters
the saloon, unannounced. She is bathed in tears; her eyes are swollen
with excessive weeping; she cannot repress her sobs. The two ladies
rise, and endeavour to sooth her; but her passionate sorrow is not to
be appeased. For some time she cannot utter a word. Madame de Chevreuse
hung over her affectionately.

"Dearest friend," she says, kissing her, "I guess what has happened.
You are exiled; so am I. Come with me into Touraine; let us comfort
each other until better days."

"Oh, speak not to me of better days," sobs Mademoiselle de Hautefort.
"They can never come to me. My dear, dear mistress, you have broken my
heart!" and she bursts into a fresh passion of tears.

The Duchesse de Chevreuse sits down beside her and chafes her hand.
Madame de Noailles, who sees in the departure of these two ladies a
chance of greater promotion and increased confidence for herself, forms
her countenance into an expression of concern she does not in the least
feel.

"My dear friend," says Madame de Chevreuse, endeavouring to calm
the agony of grief which shook the whole frame of Mademoiselle de
Hautefort, "let us share our sorrow."

"The Queen must think herself rich in friends, to cast away such
devoted servants," observes Madame de Noailles sententiously,
contemplating the group through her eye-glass. "Do speak, Mademoiselle
de Hautefort."

She had gradually become more collected, and her violent sobs had
ceased; but now and then her bosom heaves, as bitter recollections of
the past float through her mind.

"Speak," whispers the Duchesse de Chevreuse in her softest voice, "it
will relieve you. In what manner did our royal mistress dismiss you?"

"Late last evening," answers Mademoiselle de Hautefort, in a tremulous
voice, stopping every now and then to sigh, and to wipe the tears
that streamed from her eyes. "Mademoiselle de Motteville and I
were assisting the Queen at her _coucher_. As is our habit we were
conversing familiarly with her. The Queen was undressed, and just
preparing to get into bed. She had only her last prayer to say, for
she lives on prayer, like a true saint." Madame de Noailles draws down
the corners of her mouth and scarcely endeavours to hide her derision.
Even the Duchesse de Chevreuse smiles. "Mademoiselle de Motteville and
her sister the Comtesse de Jars, and Mademoiselle de Beaumont, had
just left the anteroom from whence they had been speaking with the
Queen. I was on my knees before her taking off her shoes. All at once
I remembered that a gentleman, who attends upon the ladies in waiting,
called Nédo, a Breton—you know him, Duchess?"—Madame de Chevreuse
answered that she did,—"had asked me to obtain a better appointment for
him." Mademoiselle de Hautefort pauses. The scene seems to rise before
her, and a fresh fit of violent sobbing prevents her from speaking.
"Alas!" she exclaims at last, "why—why did I presume to trouble her
Majesty for such a trifle? A stranger to me, too! I have lost what was
dearer to me than life—herself. She refused me," continues Mademoiselle
de Hautefort, "I was nettled. Oh, Duchess," says she, turning to Madame
de Chevreuse, "how often have you borne my hasty temper! How I reproach
myself now! That temper has ruined—undone me!"

"What would Monsieur le Maréchal de Schomberg say if he heard you?"
asks Madame de Noailles slily.

"Do not name him to me," cries Mademoiselle de Hautefort impatiently.
"Schomberg is nothing to me in comparison with the Queen. Had I
remained with her, I could never, never have married!"

"Well, you will now," and the Duchess laughs. "But what happened? Do go
on."

"Alas! I lost my temper. I was irritated at her Majesty refusing me
so small a favour. I told her she had forgotten the claims of her old
friends, who had suffered so much in her service."

"That was wrong, ungenerous," interposes Madame de Chevreuse. "A favour
ceases to be a favour, if it be made a subject of reproach; besides——"

"Ah! I know it too well!" and Mademoiselle de Hautefort almost
groans with anguish; "and it is that which breaks my heart; it is my
own fault. The Queen, in one moment, became more excited than I had
ever seen her. Her face turned crimson, she threw herself on her bed,
commanded me to close the curtains, and to retire. I disobeyed her.
I could not help it. I cast myself on the ground within the _ruelle_
of her bed. I clasped my hands. I told her I called God to witness of
my love, my devotion to her. I implored her to recall the past, to
remember his Majesty Louis XIII."

"Ah! you were very wrong," exclaims Madame de Chevreuse; "most
impolitic, most undutiful. You have a good heart, mademoiselle, but you
are too impulsive."

"It is true," answers Mademoiselle de Hautefort, humbly. "Her Majesty
grew more and more displeased, she said that she must have me know she
would allow no one about her who did not love and respect her; then she
went on to say that I had made observations upon her valued servant,
Cardinal Mazarin, which were very displeasing to her. I replied too
hastily that it was my care for her honour that had made me do so; that
reports were circulating injurious to her, and that I longed to see the
departure of a minister whose presence compromised her."

"What imprudence!" cries Madame de Chevreuse, lifting up her hands.
"How could you dare to say this?"

"It is quite true, however," rejoins Madame de Noailles, "and it was
the part of a true friend to tell her."

"Would to God I had been silent!" continues Mademoiselle de Hautefort;
"no sooner were the words out of my mouth than the Queen sternly
ordered me to extinguish the lights and to withdraw. I rose from my
knees more dead than alive and departed. When I awoke this morning I
received an order commanding me not to approach within forty miles of
the Court. Oh, it is dreadful!"

"Come with me into Touraine, my carriage waits below. We will stop
at your lodgings in order to give your people time to pack. Come,
dear friend, we have lived side by side among the splendours of the
court, we have suffered persecution for the same mistress, we love her
devotedly, spite of all injuries. Let us now comfort each other in
exile."

Mademoiselle de Hautefort casts herself into the arms of the Duchess.

"You will not keep her long," observes Madame de Noailles, with a
smile, "we shall soon see her back at Court, as Madame la Marèchale de
Schomberg, more blooming than ever."

"No, no," sobs Mademoiselle de Hautefort. "Never!"

"Adieu, Madame," says the Duchesse de Chevreuse, saluting Madame de
Noailles, and taking Mademoiselle de Hautefort by the hand. "Excuse our
abrupt departure, but the sooner we quit Paris the better. My friend
and I would desire in all things to obey her Majesty's pleasure. Let
us hope to meet in happier days. _Ma chère_," adds she more gaily,
addressing the maid of honour, "we shall not die of _ennui_ at my
château."

[Illustration: DUCHESSE DE CHEVREUSE.]

Mademoiselle de Hautefort only replies with sobs. The idea of departing
overcame her.

"Some gentlemen of our acquaintance will attend us."

"How like the Duchess! She cannot exist without lovers," mutters Madame
de Noailles, to herself. Meanwhile she attended the two ladies to the
head of the staircase, with great apparent affection, kissing them on
both cheeks. She watched their departure from a window and waved her
hand to them, affecting to weep.

"What a relief they are gone!" she exclaims, taking out her watch. "_Ma
foi_, how long they have stayed! It is time for me to dress for the
Queen's circle. Now they are gone, there is no one in my way at Court.
I am sure of favour—perhaps of confidence. Her Majesty must unbosom
herself to some one; why not to me? In half an hour I must be at the
palace," and she rang and ordered her coach.

The Duchesse de Chevreuse was never again called to the side of Anne of
Austria. Her hatred of Cardinal Mazarin forbade it. She became one of
the principal leaders of that "Ladies' Battle," the Fronde.

Nor was Mademoiselle de Hautefort ever forgiven her bluntness on the
Queen's very equivocal behaviour. As Marèchale de Schomberg, however,
she reappeared at Court, but found Anne of Austria lost to her for ever.

The Duchesse de Noailles wore dresses cut in accordance with her
Majesty's taste. Although she never became the Queen's confidante, for
many years she held a high station at Court.



CHAPTER XIII.

CHARLES STUART.


Louise de Montpensier—only daughter of Gaston, Duc d'Orléans, second
son of Henry IV. and of Marie de Bourbon-Montpensier—was, as has been
said, the greatest heiress in Europe. Her girlhood was passed with Anne
of Austria. When Louis XIV. was born the Queen called her _ma fille_.
When Mademoiselle romped with the boy-king, she addressed him as _mon
mari_.

In spite of the long nose of the Bourbons, _la Grande Mademoiselle_,
as she was called, was fairly good looking. She was tall and shapely,
with regular features, a good skin, finely cut blue eyes, pencilled
eyebrows, a large, though well-formed mouth, and good teeth. Flowing
ringlets of light hair framed her face and fell over her rounded
shoulders. She had, moreover, an unmistakable air of command.

Her character may be best described in negatives. She was not a
heroine, although circumstances made her appear one. She understood
politics, but had little capacity for a ruler. She had no fortitude,
although possessing a certain elevation of character that lifted her
above commonplace. She was selfish and cold-hearted, yet capable of
warm attachments. She was ostentatious in the use of her great wealth,
but not charitable. She was blinded by conceit, yet was not wanting in
shrewdness and judgment. She was haughty, yet loved to condescend to
the populace. She was excessively ridiculous, yet affected extreme
dignity. Whatever advantages she possessed were but too well known to
herself. Of her faults—and they were many—she was entirely ignorant.
Placed between two parties, the Queen and the Fronde, she was courted
by both, and grew headstrong and ambitious in consequence. Although
she ardently desired to marry her cousin Louis XIV., she went out of
her way to offend, nay, even to outrage him. Yet unconscious of all
her follies, to the day of her death she firmly believed she was by
wealth, position, and genius raised upon a pedestal which all Europe
contemplated with admiring curiosity. Every crowned bachelor within the
civilised world, according to her, sought her hand in marriage.

After the defeat at Worcester, Charles Stuart escaped to the Continent.
His mother had already fled to France. Poor Henrietta Maria (wrinkled,
and prematurely old, with tear-furrowed cheeks, and dull, hollow eyes,
her fragrant curls, so often painted by Vandyke, grown grey, her
royal carriage bowed by the weight of adversity) lived with her young
daughter Henriette, afterwards Duchesse d'Orléans, sister-in-law of
Louis XIV., at the Louvre, in right of her birth as _Fille de France_.
For a time this Queen of Shadows, the relict of a defunct monarchy,
bore the splendour of her former state. But one by one her ladies in
waiting, grooms of the chamber, maids of honour, footmen, chamberlains,
and pages disappeared. At last she grew too poor even to procure
sufficient fuel to keep out the winter cold. Though living in a palace,
she was glad, with the young princess her daughter, to lie in bed for
the sake of warmth.

Mademoiselle patronised this afflicted relative, and frequently visited
her. But she does not appear to have ministered to her necessities.
Henrietta was resigned, even humble to the exalted princess, her niece;
and dwelt often on the personal charms of her eldest son, Charles
Stuart.

She painted him with a brush dipped in the roseate colours of a
mother's fancy. He was, she said, brave, gallant, handsome, witty,
accomplished. He had splendid black hair, a rich complexion, as of
one much exposed to battles and an adventurous life, and the bearing
of a Paladin. He would be certain to crush his enemies, and sit upon
his father's throne, she told her niece. But the wily heiress, while
she listened to the eager gossip of the broken-hearted Queen, was
preoccupied by a matrimonial intrigue carried on by a certain Abbé de
la Rivière, to make her Empress of Germany.

"I perfectly understood my aunt's drift," she says; "but I liked the
Emperor better."

When Charles Stuart, having escaped almost by a miracle from England,
arrived at Fontainebleau, where the Court was staying, he was presented
to Mademoiselle by his mother. Charles saluted her as a cousin and
a friend, saluted her in dumb show, however, for he could speak no
French. The exiled Queen, therefore (already grasping in anticipation
the revenues of the principalities, dukedoms, forests, and castles of
her wealthy niece), set herself to act interpreter.

Charles Stuart had a melting eye and a manly presence. He dallied with
his cousin, sat beside her when she played, led her to her coach, held
the flambeau while she adjusted her dress, was again found at her
door—having run on in front—to assist her to descend, and generally
ogled, languished, gazed, and sighed, to the very utmost of his power.
But a dumb lover is dull, and love-making by proxy never answers. _La
Grande Mademoiselle_, already in imagination invested with the diadem
of an Empress, did not fancy a prince who was only an exile, and who
could not even plead his own cause. She looked on him as a bore—indeed,
worse than a bore, an object of pity.

The Queen of England tried hard to melt her heart. She even coaxed
her; with her own hands she decked her soft hair with jewels for
her Majesty's ballet. She flattered her into a belief that she was
as beautiful as Venus. She declared that Charles Stuart's heart was
breaking, that his health suffered, that he would die. No mother ever
served a son better than did this poor distracted lady. But there was
her son, with his swarthy, hard face, as strong and hale as an oak
sapling, his wanton black eye wandering over the belles of the French
Court,—a living contradiction to all she said! At last, Charles Stuart,
who cared less for the well-filled purse and boundless dominions of his
cousin than his mother, who knew what it was to be pinched with cold
and hunger, grew impatient, and insisted on an answer. He sent Lord St.
Germains to Mademoiselle to say that he was so passionately in love
with her, he could no longer bear suspense. Mademoiselle replied with
the discretion of a maiden, and the judgment of an heiress, conscious
that she was dealing with a royal fortune-hunter—

"The Prince of Wales did her great honour, but as she understood that
he required much pecuniary assistance to recover the Crown of England,
his birthright, she feared she might find herself overwhelmed with
expenses incompatible with the wants of a person of her exalted rank.
That she must, in consequence, make sacrifices and adopt resolutions
difficult to contemplate. That she might risk the loss of her entire
possessions on the chance of Charles's re-conquering his kingdom;
and that, having been educated in splendour as one of the greatest
princesses in the world, the prospect alarmed her."

Yet there must have been some charm about the hard-featured, stalwart
youth that attracted her; she would not say, "No." In order to throw
down a bait, she hinted that she desired him to change his religion.

"Impossible, madame," was the reply of Lord St. Germains. "A king of
England cannot change his religion. He would exclude himself for ever
from the throne!"

Again, however, Charles was permitted to approach her, and to make a
last attempt. She relished a little mild flirtation with an exiled
King, although she vastly preferred marriage with an Emperor.
Nevertheless, she curled her hair in honour of the occasion, a thing
not usual with her.

"Ah, look at her!" said the Queen-Regent, when she appeared in the
evening: "it is easy to see she is expecting a lover. See!—how she is
decked out!"

Mademoiselle blushed, but was too discreet to commit herself by a
single word.

When Charles Stuart entered the Queen's saloon he looked provokingly
well. His mother, nervously alive to every trifle, felt this. A
man with such a constitution was not adapted to play the part of a
despairing lover. When questioned by the Queen about his affairs in
England, he replied that he knew nothing. Mademoiselle instantly formed
a bad opinion of him. She turned to her lady in waiting, Madame de
Fiesque, and whispered—

"He is too much of a Bourbon for me. Quite engrossed by trifles" (_the
race has not changed_). "He can talk about dogs and horses and the
chase to her Majesty, but he has nothing to say about the revolution in
England."

Later in the evening, at the royal table, Mademoiselle was shocked at
Charles's coarse appetite. He despised ortolans and Italian pastry,
and threw himself upon a joint of beef. Not satisfied with that, he
ended by a shoulder of mutton. "A despairing lover ought not to have
such a monstrous appetite, or he should satisfy the cravings of hunger
beforehand," thought Mademoiselle. He stared fixedly at her, with his
big black eyes shaded by heavy eyebrows, while he was shovelling huge
pieces of meat down his throat, but he never spoke. Truly this was not
a fashion of pushing his suit with a fastidious princess who desired to
be an empress!

Mademoiselle yawned, looked at him under her eyelids, shrugged her
shapely shoulders, and called her lady in waiting to her side to
amuse her. Thus passed the precious moments which were to decide the
momentous question—would she, or would she not?

At length, having gorged in a prodigious manner, Charles Stuart rose.
He made Mademoiselle a formal bow, and opened his mouth to speak for
the first time. "I hope," he said, in very bad French, "my Lord St.
Germains has explained to your highness the sentiments with which you
have inspired me. I am, madame, your very humble servant."

Mademoiselle rose to her feet, made him a formal curtsey, and replied,
"Sir, I am your very humble servant."

So ended this wooing; but poor Henrietta Maria, figuratively rending
her clothes and sprinkling ashes on her head at such a conclusion,
could not let Mademoiselle off without one Parthian shot. "I see,"
said she, "my son is too poor and too unfortunate for you, my niece.
It is quite possible, however, that a king of eighteen may be better
worth having than an elderly emperor with four children." This little
ebullition of spite is pardonable in an unfortunate Queen whose heart
was broken. Let it not lie heavy on her memory!

Meanwhile, the struggle between the Queen-Regent and her ministers
on one side, and the parliament and Gondi on the other, had become
more and more envenomed. At length the Queen-Regent, under advice of
Mazarin, resolved by a _coup d'état_ to restore the royal authority.

It is Twelfth-night. Anne of Austria is spending the evening in her
closet, watching the King and his brother, the Duc d'Anjou—both dressed
in character—struggle on the floor over the remains of the cake from
which they had dug the "bean" and the "ring." Louis XIV. is a handsome
boy, docile yet spirited; Philip of Anjou is puny, peevish, and
cowardly.

Anne of Austria leans against the back of a chair, and watches the two
boys. Her ladies watch her. There is a strange rumour that her Majesty
is to leave Paris that very night. To look into her placid face, such
an idea seems absurd. By-and-by, Mazarin and some of the princes of the
blood come in to ask her pleasure for the morrow. They do not remain,
as there is a supper at the Maréchal de Grammont's in honour of the
day. When they are gone, the Queen turns to Madame de la Trémouille.

"I shall go to-morrow to the Val de Grâce. Give orders that everything
may be ready for me. Call Beringhen; it is time for his Majesty and the
Duke to go to bed."

The King at once comes forward to bid his mother good night. The Duke
begins to cry.

"What is it, my son?" says the Queen.

"I want, Madame, to go with you to the Val de Grâce to-morrow—do let
me!" and he kneels and kisses her hand.

"If I go, my son, I promise to take you. Now, good night, Philip," and
she raises him in her arms, and kisses him; "do not keep his Majesty
waiting."

She retires early. Those ladies who do not sleep at the Palais Royal
leave, and the gates are closed.

At three o'clock in the morning, Mademoiselle de Montpensier, at the
Palace of the Luxembourg, is awakened by a violent knocking. She rouses
her women, and orders them to see who is there. It is a messenger from
the Queen.

"Let him enter," says Mademoiselle, speaking from her bed. It is well
to say that Mademoiselle was entirely concealed by heavy curtains, and
that the bed stood in a deep alcove.

"The Captain of the Queen's Guard awaits your highness's pleasure,"
calls out Monsieur de Comminges, from the door.

"What has brought you here at this time of night, Comminges?" asks
Mademoiselle from her bed.

"Your Highness, the Court is leaving Paris secretly. Her Majesty
commands your attendance. Here is a letter which will explain the
Queen's wishes.

"Monsieur de Comminges," replies Mademoiselle,—who at that time
had not conceived the possibility of being one of the _à la mode_
leaders of the Fronde, and pointing the guns of the Bastille against
her cousin, the King—putting the letter under her pillow, "the
commands of her Majesty are sufficient for me. I need no letter to
enforce them. Retire, Monsieur le Capitaine, into the anteroom. I
will rise instantly, and accompany you. But tell me, Monsieur de
Comminges,"—calling after him—"where are we to go to?"

"To Saint-Germain en Laye, your highness."

In a short time Mademoiselle is ready. Without waiting for her women,
or what she calls her "equipage" (which she desired to have sent after
her), she goes out into the night accompanied by Monsieur de Comminges,
whose coach waits without. It was pitch dark, but with the help of a
flambeau they traverse the unpaved and ill-lit streets, and reach the
garden entrance of the Palais Royal without accident. There they find
another coach drawn up under some trees. Within sits Anne of Austria;
the two princes are each in a corner—Louis XIV. very sleepy and cross,
the Duc d'Anjou crying. Mademoiselle is instantly transferred into the
royal coach.

"Are you frightened, my cousin?" asks the Queen, speaking out of the
darkness to Mademoiselle.

"Not in the least, Madame," is her reply. "I will follow your Majesty
anywhere," and she takes her place opposite to her in the coach.

It is a long and weary drive to Saint-Germain. When they arrive it
is breakfast time. But the Queen commands every creature, including
her children, into the chapel to hear mass. As soon as they had time
to look round, they find the palace (a dreary, gaunt edifice at all
times) cold and wretched beyond description in a dark January morning.
The rooms are entirely empty—Mazarin having made no provision for the
Queen's arrival, out of fear, perhaps, that her flight might become
known. There are neither beds, furniture, nor linen. There is not a
servant or attendant of any kind but such as have accompanied them.
When it is night the Queen lies down to rest on a little camp bedstead.
The King and his brother fare no better. Mademoiselle is accommodated
with a straw mattress in a magnificent saloon on the third floor. There
were plenty of mirrors and much gilding, and the windows were lofty,
and commanded an extensive view, but there is not a single pane of
glass in one of them! No one has a change of linen. What was worn by
night was washed by day. The Queen laughs at everything. She says—"It
is an escapade which will at most last three days; when the citizens
find that the Court has left the Palais Royal they will speedily come
to their senses."



CHAPTER XIV.

THE LADIES' WAR.


When the citizens of Paris find that the Court had left the Palais
Royal, instead of coming to their senses, they were furious. The
Coadjutor, who had broken with the Regent, ruled supreme. He skilfully
availed himself of the crisis, and caused the parliament to pass the
act against aliens. This measure outlawed Mazarin as an enemy of
the King and of the State, a conspirator, a perjurer, and a thief;
confiscated his possessions, and enjoined all faithful subjects to
shoot him without trial.

Civil war breaks out. The troops of the Queen-Regent were but feebly
attacked. It was the _hearts_ of her generals that were vigorously
assailed by the lady commandants of the Fronde, whose artillery was
blandishments and enticements.

Every soul in Paris armed himself, and took the field in whatever
costume he usually wore. The nobles led the way in feathered hats,
satin doublets, silk stockings, and high-heeled boots. No one knew
what they were fighting for. The cry was, "_Vive la Fronde!_" "_Mort à
Mazarin!_"

The Duchesse de Longueville, supported by her brother, the great Condé,
took possession of the executive government at the Hôtel de Ville. She
was quickly joined by the Duchesses de Chevreuse and de Montbazon.
The Duc de Beaufort was set at liberty. But as it was quite a "Ladies'
War," he acted only as subordinate. The Duchesses distributed all the
military posts and honours among themselves—they created themselves
generals, lieutenants, and colonels, like so many Bellonas. War was
waged on quite new principles: Maréchal d'Hocquincourt, defending
Peronne for the Queen-Regent, assured the Duchesse de Montbazon, who
invested it for the Fronde, "That Peronne was at the service of the
fairest of the fair."

[Illustration: DUCHESSE DE LONGUEVILLE.]

Not so _la Grande Mademoiselle_. She ranged herself on the popular side
against the Court, and commanded at the Bastille. She fought in good
earnest, and pointed the well-loaded guns of that fortress against her
King and cousin, who, with his army, lay encamped without the walls of
Paris. Louis retreated precipitately to Saint-Denis.

We are in the Hôtel de Ville, within the apartment of one of the very
prettiest aides-de-camp attached to the Duchesse de Longueville. This
fair lady, Mademoiselle de Rosny, has just finished a most elaborate
toilette, and having arranged the innumerable little curls (then so
much in vogue) round her face, and fastened the proper quantity of
ribbon in her dark locks, takes a last fond look in the glass, and then
seats herself in the happiest possible state of expectation. Now there
is a certain all-conquering beau—Monsieur d'Aumale by name—who has
more than half achieved the conquest of her heart; and she has a kind
of presentiment that the morning will not pass without a visit from
this pearl of cavaliers. Nor is she mistaken: a soft knock at her door
announces the approach of some one. How her heart beats! It must be M.
d'Aumale! So she says "_Entrez!_" in a trembling voice, and D'Aumale
stands before her.

"Mademoiselle de Rosny," he exclaims, "I am in the utmost haste, I am
come to beg you to be present at the most singular spectacle you ever
beheld!"

"What may it be?" replies she, rather chagrined that instead of a
tender love-scene, such as she anticipated, M. d'Aumale seems so
preoccupied.

"It is but a review, mademoiselle, ordered by the council; but, ha! ha!
such a review! _Morbleu_, you will never guess of whom—the oddest idea!
It is no other than a review of priests, monks, and seminarists, all
sword in hand, and ready to charge the enemy. It is the strangest idea
of defence that ever was conceived; but as we have lady-generals, and
the _Grande Mademoiselle_ for commander-in-chief, we are now to have an
army of priests for them to lead to battle. Those tonsured recruits are
actually now all assembling on the bridge near Notre-Dame. You must be
quick."

"Was ever anything so ridiculous!" and Mademoiselle de Rosny laughs.
"But I shall be terrified at their awkwardness; they will be sure to
fire too low and hit us."

"Oh, but you must come. I will be your guard; I pledge myself that you
shall return uninjured," and D'Aumale gives the lady a tender glance.
"Besides, to reassure you, I believe that these monk-warriors are not
even to be trusted with matches; the arquebuses and cannon are as empty
and as innocent as when in the arsenal; so there is nothing to fear.
If you will come, I will conduct you in my new coach—the very model of
elegance—I will answer for it there is not such another in all Paris."

"That will be delightful!" cries the lady. "I do admire those new
coaches so much, if it were not for this abominable war, I suppose they
would become universal. Well, Monsieur d'Aumale, I am ready! let us see
these monks; it will be a good story with which to entertain Madame la
Duchesse de Longueville this evening at her reception. How the Duc de
Beaufort will laugh!"

In high glee Mademoiselle de Rosny departed, accompanied by her
admirer, her pleasure not a little heightened by the idea of appearing
in a coach, then by no means common in Paris, and reserved generally
for royalty, or for grand occasions, or state processions—heavy
lumbering vehicles, such as figure in the old prints of that period,
with a sloping roof like a house, and drawn by Flemish horses of huge
dimensions. On arriving near the bridge, they stop under the shadow
of the Cathedral, and there behold the most extraordinary spectacle.
All the young monks in Paris are crowded near Notre-Dame, with the
exception of the Benedictines and some other orders, who refused to
take any part in this mummery. At least fifteen hundred ecclesiastics,
drawn up in excellent order, are executing the various manœuvres of
march, halt, right-about face, etc., with tolerable precision. The
greater number have fastened up their black robes, and invested their
lower limbs with most uncanonical garments. The reverend fathers, with
their hoods hanging over their shoulders, are booted and spurred,
many wear helmets and cuirasses, and all carry such halberts, lances,
swords, and bucklers as they had been able to lay hands on. Others
grasp a crucifix in one hand, and in the other a pistol, a scythe, an
old dagger or a knife, with which each intends to perform prodigies of
valour against the enemies of the Fronde. As they advance and retreat
on the dusty soil in lines and columns, they present the appearance of
an immense flight of crows hovering over a field of newly cut wheat.

To this martial array is added the clamour of drums, trumpets,
and warlike instruments, accompanied with no end of benedictions,
_Oremus_, and chanted psalms. At the head of the troops is a bishop,
metamorphosed into a commander. He moves very slowly, by reason of
his corpulence, and the weight of the armour he wears, and looks like
a dilapidated St. George, minus the dragon. Then come Carthusians,
Begging Friars, Capuchins, and Seminarists, each different order led
by their abbot or prior. They all advance gravely with the orthodox
goose-step. Cries of "Down with the Regent!" "Death to Mazarin!" "_A
bas_ the Italian beggar!" "Long live the Union!" "_Vive la Duchesse!_"
"_Vive la Fronde!_" add to the clamour of the martial music and
the psalms. Mademoiselle de Rosny is fain to hold both her ears,
notwithstanding all the sweet things her companion is whispering. The
mob of Paris _en masse_ is assembled to witness this extraordinary
review, and to rejoice in the unexpected aid contributed by the Church
in the general emergency. Nor is M. d'Aumale's the only coach on the
Quai Notre-Dame that day; many other possessors of such vehicles have
been attracted by the scene. The Legate is among the number. The crowd
is immense, the applause enthusiastic.

"_Ciel!_" calls out Mademoiselle de Rosny, on a sudden. "Look—Oh, look!
Monsieur d'Aumale, you have deceived me, I am sure. They are going to
fire!"

"No, no," replies D'Aumale, "believe me, you are mistaken. 'Give the
monk his rosary, the soldier his sword,' says the motto. _Messieurs les
moines_ will not venture to burn their hands in attempting to handle
firearms."

"But I tell you," cries the lady, "they are going to fire! Good
heavens, the guns are all turned this way! Oh, D'Aumale, we shall be
murdered. Help! help! I implore you!" And she catches hold of him, and
begins to scream after the most approved fashion preparatory to a fit
of hysterics.

D'Aumale looks out of the window. "In the name of Heaven,
beware—beware!" he shouts to the priests. But in the confusion his
voice is inaudible. The ecclesiastical artillerymen, awkward and
inexperienced, have already lighted the matches, and the cannon, which
were loaded, explode right and left in the crowd. A fearful cry arises
from the Legate's coach.

"Thank Heaven, D'Aumale, we have escaped,—this time at least," gasps
Mademoiselle de Rosny in a low voice, for she is now calmed by
excessive fear.

"Yes, but I fancy some one else has been seriously wounded. I will
alight and see," says D'Aumale, unfastening the door.

A dense crowd surrounds the coach belonging to the Legate. The
secretary of his eminence had been shot dead by a bullet through the
chest, the Legate's confessor is wounded in the head, and his two
valets also much injured. Never was there such confusion. M. d'Aumale
hastens back to secure the safe retreat of the fair De Rosny. They are
soon disengaged from the crowd, and rolling back over the muddy ground
to the Hôtel de Ville. Here we must bid them farewell, assuming that
mademoiselle soon secured the possession of the much-admired coach by a
speedy marriage with its handsome owner.



CHAPTER XV.

MAZARIN PLAYED OUT.


The marriage bells peal merrily for the august espousals of Louis XIV.
with the Infanta Maria Theresa, daughter of the King of Spain. The
troubles of the Fronde are over. Gondi, the Coadjutor, now Cardinal
de Retz, is imprisoned. Cardinal Mazarin has cemented a peace between
France and Spain. He has triumphed.

Mazarin left Paris with a great retinue of coaches, litters, and mules,
attended by bishops, secretaries, lawyers, and priests, to meet the
Spanish ambassador, Don Luis Da Haro, on the frontier, there to arrange
the preliminaries of the treaty and the marriage. Don Luis had already
arrived, attended with equal splendour. A whole month was lost in
the all-important question of precedence. Should Mazarin call on Da
Haro, or Da Haro "drop in" on Mazarin? This momentous point was never
settled. Mazarin, the wily Italian—_Il Signor Faquino_, as the Prince
de Condé calls him—took to his bed, hoping that the anxiety felt for
his health by Da Haro would induce him to pocket his Castilian dignity
and make the first advance. But Da Haro was not to be caught, and
obstinately shut himself up, ate, drank, and made merry with the most
dogged patience, and the most entire want of sympathy. So it ended in
this wise—no visit was made at all. The great plenipotentiaries met,
quite unofficially, on the Island of Pheasants, in the middle of the
River Bidassoa, dividing France and Spain. There the real business was
very soon despatched. In process of time, the King and the Infanta were
married.

The Infanta was very small, fair, and plump. There was an utter absence
of expression in her freshly complexioned face; her eyes were large and
gentle, but said absolutely nothing of any soul within. Her mouth was
large, her teeth were irregular. Her dress horrified the French ladies.
It was unanimously voted tawdry, ill-made, and unbecoming. As for the
ladies in attendance on her, it was not possible to find words to paint
their grotesqueness. They were black-skinned, scraggy, and awkward.
They had hideous lace, and wore enormous farthingales. One of them, the
"governess of the Infanta," is gibbeted in the pages of history as "a
monster." She unhappily wore what are designated as "_barrels_" under
her dress. Such was the first effect of _crinoline_ on the ladies of
the French nation.

The Duchesse de Noailles was appointed lady of the bedchamber to the
new Queen. She was recommended to this office by the Queen-dowager,
Anne of Austria, her aunt.

Cardinal Mazarin has now reached the summit of power. He has imprisoned
his rival, Cardinal de Retz, and has tranquillised a great nation. He
has even received the solemn thanks of the once turbulent parliament.
He has equalled, if not exceeded, the renown of Richelieu. After the
sounding of those marriage bells he returns to Paris, to repose upon
his laurels. See him! the artistic egotist, who all his life has fed
on the choicest grapes from his neighbour's vine, and sipped the most
fragrant honey from flowers not his own. See him within his magnificent
palace, the outward and visible evidence of the enormous wealth which
he no longer fears to display. Louis XIV. looks on him as a father.
Anne of Austria trembles when he frowns. All France is subservient
to his rule. The walls of his chamber are lined with artistic
plunder:—pictures set in gorgeous frames of Florentine carving;
statues, mirrors, and glittering chandeliers; tables and consoles
bearing ornaments of inestimable value, in marble, bronze, porcelain,
pottery, enamel, and gems. Richest hangings of tapestry, and brocaded
satin and velvet, more costly than the gold which surrounds them, shade
the intrusive sunshine, and tone all down to that delicious half light
so dear to the artistic sense. Everything has been arranged by the
hand of a master; and there he sits, this master, dying. The seeds of
disease, sown on the frontier where he was detained by Da Haro, have
developed into a mortal malady.

He has just risen from his bed. He reposes in a chair on wheels, in
which he is rolled from frescoed gallery to marble vestibule; from
corridors of pictures to precious libraries; from dainty retiring-rooms
to painted pavilions, from guard-room saloon—those superb saloons where
he received the Court.

He even penetrates to the stables, and surveys his priceless stud; he
ventures into the magnificent gardens which surround his palace, to
feast his eyes on all his vast possessions. Returning again, greatly
fatigued, to the picture-gallery, he bids his attendants pause. He
rests, absorbed in thought, under a Holy Family, by Raphael, a work
beyond price, now in the Louvre. Here he desires his attendants to
leave him. His secretary, who is never beyond call, he commands to wait
his pleasure in the anteroom, behind the thick silken hangings that
veil the door. Inadvertently this door is left ajar, and the secretary,
curious to know what his master is doing, looks through a chink in
the curtain, and watches him. The Cardinal, when he has glanced round
carefully—to be sure he is alone—lays hold of a crutch placed ready to
his hand, and with the utmost difficulty struggles to his feet, for
they are swollen, and almost useless from gout. After many efforts
he disengages himself from the chair, and reaches the ground, then,
balancing himself upon the crutch and any object near at hand, he moves
a few steps, stopping for lack of breath. (The secretary doubts if he
should not rush in before he falls, so uncertain and tottering are
Mazarin's movements, but he forbears, fearful of angering the Cardinal,
whom suffering has made irritable.)

Mazarin sighs deeply as he limps on from picture to picture, and
surveys his favourite works.

"I feel better," he says, speaking aloud. "If I could only get my
breath, I should recover. _Diamine!_ I shall—I will recover. I
cannot leave my pictures—such a collection,"—and he turns round with
difficulty, and surveys the galleries—"not yet complete—to pass into
other hands. No, no—it cannot be; I feel stronger already. I—alone in
my gallery—without those spies always about me to see my weakness—I
can breathe." And he draws a long breath. The long breath ends in a
groan. "That divine Raffaello!" and again he sighs, and turns to the
gem of his collection, a Nativity. "Raffaello is my religion. _Credo
in Raffaello!_ What _anima_! That exquisite Virgin! and the Christ
nestling in her arms! I wonder who sat for that virgin? She must have
been a perfect creature! I salute her _di cuore_. That picture came to
me from the King of Spain—a bribe. Who cares? I never refuse a present.
The King knows my taste. He sent me word there were many more to come
if I concluded a peace. I did conclude a peace; I took that picture
and others; but _Sangue di Dio_, I was faithful to France. Ah, ha!
I was too sharp for him—a dull king! That _torso_ there, dug up at
Portici—what stalwart limbs! what grand proportions! How finely the
shadows fall upon the thigh from that passing cloud. Aha! my foot!"
(and he shakes on his crutches so violently the secretary's head and
shoulders are inside the room, only the Cardinal does not see him).
"I am better now," falters Mazarin, "much better"; then, taking a few
steps onwards, he pauses before a Titian. "Venus, my Goddess!—_Laus
Veneri_. Oh, the warmth of the flesh tints, the turn of that head and
neck—divine! I gave a great price for that picture; but, _Cospetto!_ it
was not my own money," and he laughs feebly. "It will sell for double!
That Paolo Veronese and that Tintoretto yonder came from the sale of
Charles I. of England, after his execution—those English ruffians!
What supple forms, what classic features!—like my native Romans in
the Imperial city, where the very beggars think themselves equal to
kings; and so they are, _per Dio_. Glorious Italy! _Ah, cielo!_" and
he creeps on to a favourite landscape by Caracci, lit, as it were, by
the living sunshine of the south. "Ah, that sun—I feel it—wonderful!
wonderful!—a gem of the eclectic school of Bologna, given to me by
the Archbishop. Poor man, he was not, like me, satisfied with art—ha,
ha!"—his laugh ends in a severe fit of coughing. "He liked nature. He
could not stand inquiry.—I helped him. Oh, my foot!" (And he totters so
helplessly, that the secretary, watching him with curious eyes, again
nearly rushes in; for if Mazarin dies his salary ceases.) Recovering,
however, he steadies himself against the pedestal of a marble group
just arrived from Rome, "Leda and the Swan." He drags himself with
difficulty into the recess where it was placed, shifting his position,
in order to catch the precise light in which to view the rounded limbs
of the figure. "What grace, what _abandon_, in that female form!—a
trifle _leste_ for the gallery of a prelate—presented, too, by a lady—a
woman of taste, above prejudices. No one has seen it. I must invite the
Court—the Queen-mother will be scandalised. Ha, ha! the Queen-mother!"
and he feebly winks and laughs; his laugh brings on another fit of
convulsive coughing. (The secretary is on the threshold.) "I must not
die before I have disposed of my pictures," Mazarin mutters, breathing
again; "I cannot bear to die!—now, too, that I have triumphed over all
my enemies." The Cardinal sighs heavily, shakes his head, and casts a
longing glance round the painted walls. He tries to move onwards; but
his strength fails him, suddenly his hands are cramped, the crutch
falls on the floor, he groans, sinks into a chair, and faintly calls
for assistance.

The secretary is with him in an instant, and summons the attendants.
Weary, and utterly exhausted, they lay him on his bed, where he weeps
and groans, as much from anguish of mind as from bodily pain. He feels
that nothing can amuse or delight him more, neither singing men nor
singing women, the wonders of art, or the flattery of Courts. From
henceforth to him the world must evermore be mute; the flowers in the
gardens he has created shall no longer fling their scented blossoms at
his feet; to him the birds are dumb in the groves he has planted, the
fruits cease to be luscious, and the sun is already darkened by the
shadow of death. His face turns of an ashy hue, and he feebly calls for
his physician.

One of the many attendants that hover about his bed (each one hoping to
be remembered in that will of his, of which all Paris has heard), flies
to fetch him. He appears in the person of Guénaud, the Court doctor of
that day.

Mazarin has revived a little. He is propped up on pillows, to relieve
his breathing, which, by reason of the oppression on his chest, is
laboured and difficult. At the sight of Guénaud he trembles; his teeth
chatter. He has summoned the leech, and now he dares not hear what he
has to say. Mazarin, with his sensuous Italian temperament, clings
wildly to life. He shrinks from the dark horrors of the grave—he, who
adores sunshine, warmth, open air, and beauty.

"Well, Guénaud, well. You are in haste to come to me."

"Your eminence sent for me," replied the physician gravely, bowing to
the ground; then he contemplates the Cardinal with that all-seeing eye
for obvious symptoms and for remote details, that makes the glance of a
doctor so awful to the sick.

"I—I am better, Guénaud—much better, _now_; I had fatigued myself among
my pictures. But I did much, Guénaud—I did _too_ much. I even crawled
to my stables—to my garden; I am gaining strength. To-morrow——"

Mazarin stops; a severe fit of coughing almost suffocates him. Again
the ashy hue—grey as the shadows of departing day when the sun
has set—overcasts his features. Guénaud does not reply, but still
contemplates his patient attentively. The Cardinal looks up; a hectic
colour flushes his cheeks.

"Come," says he, "speak; be honest with me. I am better?" Guénaud bows.

"I trust so," replies he.

"_Sangue di Dio!_"—and the Cardinal grows crimson, and clenches his
thin fingers with nervous agony—"speak. Your silence agitates me. What
have you to tell me? How long have I to live? Shall I recover?"

Guénaud shakes his head. Mazarin's face again becomes of a sudden
deadly pale. He leans back on his pillows, and sniffs a strong essence
in a filigree bottle lying by his side. "Guénaud," says he, "I dread
death, but I am no coward. I am prepared for the worst."

"I rejoice to hear it," answers the physician solemnly, feeling his
pulse. "You will have need of all your fortitude."

"Is it so? Well, then, let me hear my fate!"

"Your eminence cannot live long. Nothing can save you."

A strange look of determination comes into the Cardinal's eyes as
Guénaud speaks. Mazarin was, as he said, no coward; but the flesh was
weaker than the spirit, and shrank from suffering and disease. Now that
he has heard the truth, he bears it better than would appear possible
in one so slight, nervous, and attenuated.

"I cannot flatter your eminence," continues Guénaud, "your disease is
incurable; but I admit that remedies may prolong your life, though they
cannot preserve it. Remedies, ably administered, can do much, even in
fatal cases."

"I respect your frankness, doctor," says the Cardinal calmly. "Speak
out, how long can I last?"

"Your eminence may hope to live for two months, perhaps, by following
the rules I shall prescribe."

"Well, well—two months! Ah, it is a short time,"—and a nervous spasm
passes over his face, and his hands twitch with a convulsive spasm. "I
do not die of old age; I have sacrificed my life to France and to the
King. I never got over that negotiation at the Pyrenees. Well, well—so
be it. At least, I know my fate. This interval must be consecrated to
the care of my soul. Two months! I shall do my best. All my brother
prelates will assist me——"

"To live, your eminence?"

"No, no, Guénaud,"—and the shadow of a smile passes over his thin
white lips,—"no, no, not to live, but to die; to die for the sake of
the abbeys, bishoprics, and canonries my death will leave vacant. In
two months one may have a world of indulgences; that is something. The
Holy Father will rejoice at having my patronage; he is sure to give
me a helping hand; and plenty of indulgences. I stand well with the
Pope, Guénaud. But—but my pictures, my statues—a collection I have been
making all my life, at such a vast expense. Who knows, Guénaud? you may
be mistaken," he added, brightening up, his mercurial nature rushing
back into its accustomed channel at the recollection of what had been
the passion of his life. "Who knows, I may get better!" and his eye
turns sharply upon the physician, with a sparkle of its accustomed
fire; "eh, Guénaud—who knows?" Guénaud bows, but is silent. "You may be
mistaken. _Non importa_, I must think of my soul. It is indeed a great
trial—a sore trial—a man of my age, too, with so many years to live!
and such a collection! You know my collection, Guénaud?"

"Yes, your eminence," answers he, bowing.

"The finest in Europe," sighs Mazarin, "and not yet finished; fresh
works coming in daily. A great trial—but I must think of my soul. Go
now, Guénaud; come again to-morrow. Perhaps—who knows?—you may see
some change, some improvement—who knows?"

Guénaud shakes his head silently, and withdraws.

Meanwhile the Queen-mother, Anne of Austria, informed of Mazarin's
desperate condition, hastens to visit him. She is attended by her
gossiping ladies, eager to catch every word, and with nods and winks,
and sighs of affected sympathy—to comment on her sorrowful expression.

Her Majesty is pale and sad; tears gather in her eyes as she advances
towards the bed on which Mazarin lies, and she asks with a timid yet
tender voice after his health. He replies that he is very ill, and
repeats to her what Guénaud had told him. If I were to add that he
displayed to the Queen and her ladies one of his bare legs, to afford
ocular demonstration of his reduced condition, I fear I should be
accused of imitating the _mauvaise langue_ of Madame de Noailles.
But he really did so, to the great grief of Anne of Austria, and to
the utter discomfiture and horror of her less sympathising ladies
in waiting, who rapidly retreat into the recesses of the windows,
or behind the draperies of the apartment, to escape so unpleasant a
spectacle.

"Look!" exclaims Mazarin, thrusting forward his leg—"look, Madame, at
the deplorable condition to which I am reduced by my incessant anxiety
for the welfare of France! And to leave my pictures too,—my statues.
Ah, Madame, it is a bitter trial!"

Soon after this extraordinary interview, and when all the world
believed Mazarin to be dead or dying, the cunning Italian, determined
once more to dupe the whole Court, and deceitful in his death as he
had been in his life, gave orders that his convalescence should be
announced. He caused himself to be painted white and red, dressed in
his Cardinal's purple robes, and placed in a sedan chair with all the
glasses down. Thus he was wheeled along the broad terraces of his
garden, taking care to be well observed by the vast crowd collected
by the news of his recovery. For a moment he presented the appearance
of health and vigour. But the effort he had forced himself to make,
in order to enact this ghastly comedy, was too much for his remaining
strength. He swooned in his sedan chair, and was brought back and
placed on his bed, never to rise again. Thus died as he had lived,
Cardinal Mazarin, a dissembler and a hypocrite; but a great minister.
Not cruel or bloodthirsty, like Richelieu, though equally unscrupulous,
Mazarin gained the end he had in view by patience, cunning, and
intrigue. At his death he left France, already exhausted by the wars
of the Fronde, completely subdued; and in such a state of abject
submission to the throne, as paved the way to the extravagance and
oppression of Louis XIV's reign.



CHAPTER XVI.

LOUISE DE LA VALLIÈRE.


The young King Louis XIV. was active, vigorous, and graceful. He
excelled in outward accomplishments, in riding, dancing, and fencing;
but intellectually he was both idle and ignorant. His education had
been purposely neglected by Cardinal Mazarin; and he was so fully aware
of it, that he carefully avoided displaying his ignorance by a too
facile or rapid address. Even in youth he was grave and ceremonious;
in later years he became pompous and overbearing. On the other hand,
the refinement of his mother's nature was reproduced in the son of her
love. He was brought up by her side in a circle as elegant and refined
as the Hôtel de Rambouillet in its palmiest days. He never forgot the
lesson he then learnt, that the outward proprieties of life must be
studiously observed, whatever freedoms may be permitted in private. He
desired all his life to be considered pious, just, and moral. He failed
in each, for his passions were strong and his temper was imperious. The
vicissitudes of his early life during the civil wars of the Fronde,
when he was often obliged to fly at a moment's notice from place to
place, gave him, however, a power of assuming calmness and dignity
under all circumstances, which he could never have acquired in less
eventful times.

Above all sovereigns Louis understood the art of reigning, of appearing
to be a great king when he was really but a shallow, vain, irresolute
man, extraordinarily accessible to flattery. Yet that a son of Louis
XIII. should say with truth, "_L'état c'est moi_," and dare to drive
out the national Parliament solemnly assembled in the legislative
chamber, _whip in hand_, is one of the most striking anomalies in
history.

In person Louis resembled his father. He was dark, broad shouldered,
and rather short, with regular features and a prominent nose. But
he had all the fire of his mother's Spanish eyes, and withal the
grandest manners and the most royal presence ever seen. From a boy
he was an ardent admirer of the fair. All his life he continued to
be secretly ruled by female influence. Indeed, his long reign may be
divided into three periods, corresponding with the characteristics of
the three women who successively possessed all the love he could spare
from himself. He was gentle, humane, and domestic with La Vallière;
arrogant, heartless, and warlike with De Montespan; selfish, bigoted,
and cruel, with De Maintenon.

His boyish philandering with the handsome nieces of Cardinal Mazarin
has been already noticed. What subtle plans developed themselves in
the brain of that unscrupulous schemer never can be known; but he
could not have arranged matters better to place one of his nieces on
the throne of France. Nor to his Italian notions would this have been
extraordinary. Mazarin would have argued that a Mancini was as well
born as a Medici, whose arms were a pill, and that Martinozzi was as
ancient a name as Bourbon.

Anne of Austria looked on with displeasure. Mazarin wore an
imperturbable front, a sphinx-look, ready to answer either way, as
circumstances might prompt. By the time that Maria Mancini came from
Rome, Louis's passions were thoroughly roused. The young lion had
tasted blood, and found it pleasant to his palate. Maria was far less
beautiful than her sisters,—indeed, that bitter-tongued chronicler,
Bussy Rabutin, calls her "ugly, fat, and short, with the air of a
_soubrette_"; but she had the temper of an angel, and seemed to the
boyish Louis a soft, plaintive, clinging creature, who appealed to his
pity. In reality she had a force of character ten times greater than
his own, and the courage of a heroine.

In Maria Mancini, Mazarin made his great move in the matrimonial game.
Louis gave signs of a serious attachment. Anne of Austria set a watch
upon him. It was needful. Louis had a temperament of fire, Maria was
born under an Italian sky. Notwithstanding the watch set Louis found
opportunity to promise marriage to Maria. He repeated this promise with
protestations and oaths, but, cautious even in his youth, he did not,
like his grandfather Henry IV., commit it to writing.

Mazarin, informed by his niece of what had passed, opined that the time
to speak had come. He ventured to sound the Queen-mother. He spoke of
the charms of genuine attachment, the happiness of domestic life on
a throne; he hinted at the Queen's own unhappy career, sacrificed as
she had been to a political alliance. He enlarged on the antiquity of
the Latin races, specially those of Rome and Sicily, "all of them," he
said, "once reigning houses, and poverty," he added, "did not make blue
blood red."

The Queen, however subservient to the Cardinal on all other matters,
flared out—"If ever my son condescends to marry your niece," cried
she, "I will disown him. I will place myself, with his brother, Philip
of Orleans, at the head of the nation, and fight against him and you,
Cardinal Mazarin."

The Cardinal had many consolations; he was fain to yield. Maria was
sent to a convent. Poor Maria—to go to Brouage instead of sitting on
a throne! It was very hard. Louis was in despair. When they met to say
adieu, he wept.

"What, Sire!" she exclaimed; "you love me—you weep—and we part?" and
she turned her liquid eyes upon him with a look of passionate entreaty.

Perhaps the tears in the King's eyes blinded him, or he did not hear
her; at all events, he heeded neither her look nor her innuendo, and
she went.

Then those marriage bells sounded from over the frontier of which we
have spoken. The King espoused the Infanta of Spain, and Maria Mancini
became La Principessa Colonna, and lived at Naples.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Court is at Saint-Germain. Louis XIV. was born there, and until
Versailles and Marly were built, he made it his principal residence.
In one of the principal saloons, on the first floor, lying midway
between the turreted angles of the façade, looking over the plains
towards Paris, Louis XIII. had ended his miserable existence, his
private band playing a "De Profundis," of his own composition, during
his death throes. His morbid nature—reproduced in his descendant Louis
XV., who said he loved "the scent of newly made graves"—made him await
the approach of death with a sort of grim curiosity. As he lay on his
bed, opposite the windows, his dim eyes resting on the wide expanse
outstretched below, he called Laporte to him. He was so near his end
that he articulated with difficulty. "Remember, my good Laporte," he
gasped, "that place, below there, where the road turns under that
rise,"—and he raised his shrunken finger, and pointed to a particular
spot, on the road to Saint-Denis, along which his funeral procession
must pass to reach the tombs of his ancestors—"that place there. It has
been newly gravelled, Laporte. It is rough, and will shake me. Let the
driver go gently over the loose stones. Be sure to tell him I said so."

This was not like his son, Louis XIV., who came to detest Saint-Germain
because this very Cathedral of Saint-Denis, where he must be buried,
was visible on the horizon line. Such an object did not suit a monarch
who desired to be thought immortal.

The Court is at Saint-Germain. It is a cool, delicious evening, after
a day of unusual heat. The summer evenings are always charming at
Saint-Germain, by reason of the bowery freshness of the adjacent
forest, from which cool breezes come rippling through the air, and
fan the heated atmosphere. The sombre château is now a mass of deep
shadow, save where the setting sun lights up some detail of its
outline—an arched window, a rich cornice, a pillared portico, or a
pointed tower, which stand out against the western sky with fugitive
brightness. The parterre blazes with summer flowers, the perfume of
which creeps upwards in the rising dews of evening. The formal gravel
walks are bordered by statues and orange-trees; the splashing of many
fountains stirs the air. A flock of peacocks strut on the greensward,
their long tails catching the last rays of the sunset. The summer birds
make delicate music among the shrubberies; and the giant elms, in the
outer park, divided from the garden by an open iron railing, bow their
rounded heads to the breeze.

When the sun has set, a merry party, consisting of four of the maids
of honour, leave the château by a side door. They run swiftly along
the terrace,—frightening the peacocks, who drop their tails and fly
screeching into the trees,—and ensconce themselves in a trellised
arbour, garlanded with honeysuckles and roses, hid in a thicket of
flowering shrubs skirting one side of the parterre. Once there, their
tongues are let loose like so many cherry-clappers.

It was so nearly dark that the maids of honour did not notice the King
as they scudded along the garden, who, attended by the mischief-loving
Comte de Lauzun, had also stolen out to enjoy the evening. Louis
watched them as they ran, and then, hearing their voices in such eager
talk, was seized with an intense desire to know who they were, and
what they were saying. He dare not speak, for they would hear him, and
perhaps recognise his voice. Signing to his confidant Lauzun to follow
him, he softly approached the arbour in which the four girls are hid.

He finds that they are all talking about a fancy ball given the night
before by Madame Henriette, Duchesse d'Orléans, his brother's wife; and
particularly about a ballet in which he himself had danced. The King
and Lauzun, favoured by the increasing darkness of the night, and well
entrenched behind the shrubs, lose not a syllable.

The question is, which dancer was the handsomest and the most graceful?
Each pretty lady has, of course, her own predilection. One declares for
the Marquis d'Alençon, another will not hear of any comparison with M.
de Vardes, a third stoutly maintains that the Comte de Guiche was by
far the handsomest man there and everywhere else (an opinion which,
_par parenthèse_, Madame herself takes every opportunity of showing
she endorses, displaying, moreover, this opinion somewhat too openly,
notwithstanding her designs on the heart of the King himself, whom she
fancies, and others declare, is, or has been, her admirer). The fourth
damsel is silent. Called upon to give her opinion, she speaks. In the
sweetest and gentlest of voices she thus expresses herself:—

"I cannot imagine how any one could have been even noticed when the
King was present. He is quite fascinating."

"Ah, then, mademoiselle, you declare for the King. What will Madame say
to you?"

"No, it is not the King nor the crown he wears that I declare for; it
is not his rank that makes him so charming: on the contrary, to me it
is rather a defect. If he were not the King I should positively dread
him. His position is my best safeguard. However——" And La Vallière
drops her head on her bosom and falls into a deep reverie.

On hearing these words the King is strangely affected, he whispers to
Lauzun not to mention their adventure; they retire silently as they
came, and re-enter the château. The King is in a dilemma. If he could
only discover who this fair damsel is who prefers him to all others
with such naïveté—who admires him for himself alone, and not for his
rank—a preference as flattering as it is rarely the lot of a monarch to
discover! All he knows is that it must be one of the maids of honour
attached to the service of Madame Henriette, his sister-in-law, and he
cannot sleep all night, he is so haunted with the melting tones of her
voice, and so anxious to discover to whom it belongs.

In the morning, as soon as etiquette allowed of his appearing, Louis
hurries off to the toilette of Madame, whom he finds seated before a
mirror of the rarest Dresden china, looped up with lace and ribbons,
her face and shoulders covered with her long brown hair.

"Your Majesty honours me with an early visit," says she, colouring
with pleasure as he enters. "What plans have you arranged for the hunt
to-day? When are we to start?"

Louis, with his usual politeness—shown, be it recorded to his credit,
towards any woman, whatever might be her degree—gallantly replies
that it is for her to command and for him to obey. But there the
conversation drops, and the Duchess observes that he is absent and
preoccupied. This both chagrines and disappoints her. Piqued at
his want of _empressement_, she turns from him abruptly and begins
conversing with the Comte de Guiche, who with ill-disguised uneasiness
had stood aloof watching her warm reception of his Majesty.

Henriette, the royal daughter of the Stuarts and the Bourbons, without
being positively handsome, has the air of a great princess. The
freshness of her complexion is, however, all that is English about
her. Her forehead, high and broad, but too much developed for beauty,
gives a certain grandeur to her expression; her eyes are sparkling, but
placed too near together. Still her face is intelligent and lively. She
is tall, slim, and very graceful. Around her long neck, on which her
small head is admirably set, is bound a single string of fine orient
pearls, and a mantle and train of turquoise _faille_ fall back from a
flounced petticoat of yellow satin.

While Madame Henriette talks with the Comte de Guiche, Louis is at
liberty to use his eyes as he chooses, and he hastily surveys the group
of lovely girls that stand behind the Princess's chair. One placed a
little apart from the rest rivets his attention. Her pale and somewhat
melancholy countenance imparts an indescribable air of languor to
her appearance, and the graceful _tournure_ of her head and neck are
admirable.

"Can this be she?" he asks himself. He hopes—he fears (he was young
then, Louis, and not the _blasé débauché_ he afterwards became)—he
actually trembles with emotion, suspense, and impatience. But
determined to ascertain the truth, and regardless of the furious
glances cast at him by Madame,—who evidently neither likes nor
understands his wandering looks, directed evidently to her ladies, and
his total want of _empressement_ towards herself,—he approaches the
fair group and begins conversing with them, certain that if that same
soft voice is heard that had never ceased to echo in his ears, he shall
at once recognise it. He speaks to Mademoiselle de Saint-Aignan, but
his eyes are fixed on the pale face of La Vallière, for she it was whom
he so much admired. La Vallière casts down her eyes and blushes.

The King advances towards her and addresses her. He awaits her reply
with indescribable anxiety. She trembles, grows still more pale,
then blushes crimson, and finally answers in a voice tremulous with
timidity; but it was _the_ voice! He has found her. This, then, is the
unknown, and she loves him; her own lips confessed it. Delightful! He
leaves the apartments of Madame abruptly in speechless ecstasy.

From that day he sees, he lives only for La Vallière. Ever in the
apartments of his sister-in-law, it was evident even to her that he did
not come to seek her, and her rage knew no bounds. She had hitherto
had ample reason to believe that the attachment the King felt for her
somewhat exceeded that of a brother. With the spiteful penetration of
a jealous woman, she now discovers how often the eyes of Louis are
fixed with admiration on the timid, downcast La Vallière. She is not,
therefore, long in guessing the object of his preference, and the cause
of his frequent visits to her apartments. From this moment she hates
poor Louise, and determines, if possible, to ruin her.

The King on his part, unconscious of the storm he was raising about La
Vallière, is enchanted not only with herself, but with all he hears of
her character. She is beloved by every one; her goodness, sweetness,
and sincerity are universally acknowledged, and the account of her
various good qualities tend to enhance her merit.

When the Court returns to Saint-Germain (now, can one fancy romance
within those dingy walls?—but so it was), Louis is desperately, head
and ears over, in love. A party of pleasure is arranged to take place
in the forest under a tent formed of boughs, tapestry, and flowers.
The ladies invited to this sylvan retreat are habited as shepherdesses
and peasants. They form charming groups, like Sèvres china. On their
arrival the most delicious music is heard from the recesses of the
leafy woods, which as it plays at intervals, now here, now there, among
the trees, is the signal for the appearance of various groups of
satyrs, fauns, and dryads, who after dancing grotesque figure-dances,
and singing verses in honour of the King, disappear, to be quickly
replaced by another _troupe_. These present flowers, and also sing and
dance as no dryads or fauns had ever dreamed of in classic bowers, but
in a style quite peculiar to the age and taste of _le Grand Monarque_,
who liked even nature itself to appear as artificial and formal as he
was himself. This agreeable fête has lasted all day, and the company
is about to return, when, conceive the alarm—a violent storm comes
on, thunder rolls, the sky is suddenly overcast, and a heavy rain,
enough to drench the whole Court to the skin, descends with remorseless
violence. How every one scuds hither and thither! The thickest trees
are eagerly seized on as a slight protection against the storm.
Others hide themselves in the bushes, some penetrate deeper into the
cover of the copse wood. Spite of the rain, and the destruction of
the dresses, the ladies come to vote it rather an agreeable incident
on the whole, when they find their favourite cavaliers beside them,
placed, perchance, somewhat nearer than would have been _comme il faut_
in the Court circle. For although the ladies might really at first
have been a little terrified, the gentlemen are certainly not likely
to be troubled with any nervousness on account of a thunderstorm,
and preserve sufficient _sang-froid_ each to select his lady-love in
order to protect her from the weather. Thus it chanced that Madame
Henriette finds herself under the care of the Comte de Guiche; the fair
Mancini, once beloved by the King, now Comtesse de Soissons, is under
the protection of her dear De Vardes; and Mademoiselle d'Orléans—_la
Grande Mademoiselle_—is completely happy, and forgets the thunder,
rain, and, more wonderful still, her own dignity, at finding herself
escorted by Lauzun!

The King, nowise behind his courtiers in gallantry, at once offers
his escort and his arm to support La Vallière, who, naturally timid,
is really frightened, and clings to him with a helplessness that
enchants him. All the world knows she is a little lame, a defect which
was said in her to be almost a grace. Now she does not perhaps regret
that this infirmity prevents her running as quickly as the rest, and
thus prolonging the precious moments passed alone with the King. Louis
places her under a tree, where they are both protected from the rain
and are shrouded by the thick boughs which hang low and fringe the
grass.

The King seizes on this happy opportunity to declare his passion, and
to whisper to La Vallière the love she has inspired ever since that
evening, when he had overheard her. Poor Louise! She had never dared
to imagine that her love was returned, and she well-nigh faints as the
King proceeds. Her heart beats so violently it is almost audible. She
is actually on the point of rushing from under the tree, when the King
lays hold of her hand, and retains her.

"What!" cries he, "do you fear me more than the storm? What have I done
to frighten you? you whom I love, whom I adore! Why do you hate me?
Speak, I implore you, Louise."

"Oh, Sire! do not say hate. I revere you—I love you—as my King, but——"

"Sweet girl, I breathe again. But why only love me as your Sovereign—I,
who cherish your every look, who seek only to be your servant—your
slave?"

Saying this, Louis falls on his knees upon the grass; he seizes her
hands, which he covers with kisses; he swears he will never rise until
she has promised to love him, and to pardon the terror his declaration
has caused her.

Mademoiselle de la Vallière cannot control her emotion. She implores
him to rise.

"You are my King," she says, "the husband of the Queen. My royal
master, I am your faithful subject. Can I say more?"

"Yes, dearest, promise me your love. Give me your heart; that is the
possession I desire," murmurs Louis.

Pressed by the King to grant him some mark of her favour, La Vallière
becomes so confused she cannot reply. Louis grows more and more
pressing, interpreting her emotion as favourable to his suit. In the
midst of the tenderest entreaties the thunder again bursts forth, and
poor Louise, overcome at once by fear, love, and remorse, swoons away.
The King naturally receives the precious burden in his arms. He seeks
hastily to rejoin the other fugitives and his attendants, in order
to obtain assistance. Ever and anon he stops in the openings of the
forest to gaze at her, as she lies calm and lovely in repose, her long
eye-lashes sweeping her delicate cheeks, her half-closed lips revealing
the prettiest and whitest teeth. I leave my readers to imagine if
Louis did not imprint a few kisses on the fainting beauty he bears so
carefully in his arms, and if now and then he did not press her closer
to his breast. If in this he _did_ take advantage of the situation
chance had afforded him, he must be forgiven; he was young, and he was
deeply in love.

Words cannot describe the surprise felt by La Vallière on recovering
to find herself alone, borne along in the King's arms, in the midst of
a lonely forest. History does not, however, record that she died of
terror, or that she even screamed. The respectful behaviour of the King
doubtless reassured her.

The moment she opens her sweet blue eyes he stops, places her on the
ground, and supports her. He assures her that being then near the
edge of the forest, and not far distant from the château, they are
sure to meet some of his attendants. Louise blushes, then grows pale,
then blushes again, as the recollection of all the King had said to
her while under the shade of the greenwood gradually returns to her
remembrance. She reads the confirmation of it in his eyes. Those eyes
are fixed on her with passionate ardour. Disengaging herself from his
arms, she thanks him, in a faltering voice, for his care a thousand
times—for his condescension. She is so sorry. It was so foolish to
faint; but the thunder—his Majesty's goodness to her—— Here she pauses
abruptly; her conscience tells her she ought at once to reject his
suit; her lips cannot form the words.

While she is speaking, a group of horsemen are visible in the distance,
at the end of one of those long woodland glades which divide the
forest. On hearing the voice of the King, who calls to them, they
gallop rapidly towards him. The King and La Vallière reach the château
shortly after the other ladies, none of whom, as it appeared, had been
in haste to return.

From this moment La Vallière's fate is sealed. Long she had loved and
admired the King in secret; but until she learnt how warmly he returned
this feeling she was scarcely aware how completely he had enthralled
her. The ecstasy this certainty gave her first fully revealed to her
the real danger of her situation. Poor Louise! Is it wonderful that,
as the scene of this first and passionate declaration, she should
love the old Château of Saint-Germain more than any other spot in the
world?—that when suffering, the air restored her? when unhappy (and
she lived to be so unhappy), the sight of the forest, of the terrace,
revived her by tender reminiscences of the past?

When the secret of Louis's attachment to La Vallière transpired (which,
after the scene in the forest was very speedily), nothing could exceed
the indignation of the whole circle, who each conceived that they had
some especial cause of complaint.

Louis's old love, the Comtesse de Soissons (Mancini), with the thirst
for practical revenge bred in her hot Italian blood, held council with
De Vardes and De Guiche, how to crush her, whom she styled "the common
enemy." A letter was planned and written by the Countess in Spanish,
addressed to the Queen, purporting to come from the King of Spain. This
letter detailed every particular of her husband's _liaison_ with La
Vallière. The bad spelling and foreign idioms, however, betrayed it to
be a forgery.

The letter was placed on the Queen's bed by the Comtesse de Soissons
herself. Instead of falling into the Queen's hands, as was intended,
it was found by De Molena, Maria Theresa's Spanish nurse. She carried
it straight to the King. He traced it to Madame de Soissons. She was
banished.

Madame Henriette d'Orléans was more noisy and abusive than any one.
Her vanity was hurt. Her feelings were outraged at the notion that the
King, heretofore her admirer, should forsake her openly for one of her
own women! It was too insulting.

"What!" cried she in her rage, "prefer an ugly, limping _fillette_ to
_me_, the daughter of a king? I am as superior in beauty to that little
minx as I am in birth! _Dieu! qu'il manque de goût et de délicatesse!_"
Without even taking leave of Louis she shut herself up at Saint-Cloud,
where she made the very walls ring with her complaints.

The poor, quiet little Queen, the only really injured person, wept
and mourned in private. She was far too much afraid of that living
Jupiter Tonans, her husband, to venture on any personal reproaches. She
consoled herself by soundly abusing La Vallière in epithets much more
expressive than polite.

In this abuse she was joined by Anne of Austria, who, in her present
austere frame of mind, was the last person in France to spare La
Vallière.

An explanation was decidedly needful.



CHAPTER XVII.

THE CONVENT OF CHAILLOT.


Mademoiselle de la Vallière is summoned to the presence of the
Queen-mother. She is sitting in the Grey Chamber, next to her oratory.
Louise is aware that Anne of Austria never gives audiences in the Grey
Chamber except on the most serious occasions. The Queen-mother wears a
dark dress, in cut and shape like the robe of a nun; her grey hair is
gathered into a head-dress of white lace, and she carries a rosary at
her side. She looks old and sad; her stately form is bent, her face is
thin, her features are drawn, and wrinkles obscure her once brilliant
eyes.

The Duchesse d'Orléans is seated by her side. Louise enters. She dares
not advance beyond the door. Standing there she makes deep obeisances
to the Queen-mother and to Madame Henriette. She blushes scarlet, then
turns pale. Her head drops on her bosom; as she stands before them she
feels more dead than alive.

"I see you are there, Mademoiselle de la Vallière," says the Queen,
frowning. "I wish to speak to you in the presence of your late
mistress, Madame Henriette de France, my daughter-in-law. You are aware
why we have sent for you?"

"No, Madame," answers the maid of honour, faintly, "but I humbly await
your orders."

"What affected humility!" exclaims Madame Henriette with a sneer. "You
act uncommonly well, _petite_."

"All the better if she be humble, my daughter," rejoins the
Queen-mother, speaking of La Vallière as if she were not present—"all
the better. It is some step towards repentance that she is conscious of
her crime. It will save us the trouble of insisting on it. Pray to God,
mademoiselle, to pardon you; you have no hope but in heaven." And she
casts a stern glance at her.

The tears gather in La Vallière's soft blue eyes. They course each
other down her pallid cheeks, and fall, spotting her pale blue dress.
Her head, covered with a profusion of short fair curls, is still bent
down. She looks like a delicate flower bowed before a cruel tempest.

"What are you going to do with those fine diamond bracelets the King
presented to you the other day out of the Queen's lottery?" asks Madame
Henriette tauntingly, interrupting the Queen.

Anne of Austria makes a sign to her to be silent. Poor Louise for an
instant turns her eyes imploringly upon her. Madame grows pale with
spite as she remembers those superb diamond bracelets that the King
drew as a prize from the lottery,—which she had fully expected he would
present to herself,—were given by him to La Vallière. She is so wroth
she cannot leave Louise alone; again she attacks her. "Your vanity is
insufferable, mademoiselle. Do you imagine, _petite sotte_, that any
one cares for _you_? Mademoiselle de Pons is the belle of the Court.
His Majesty says so."

At this malicious stab Louise shudders.

"My daughter," interposes the Queen-mother, "do not agitate yourself.
I understand your annoyance at having introduced such a person as
Mademoiselle de la Vallière at Court. Let _me_ address her. She is
unworthy of your notice. You understand, of course, mademoiselle,
that you are dismissed," she says, turning towards her and speaking
imperiously.

"But, your Majesty—" and La Vallière's streaming eyes are again lifted
upwards for an instant—"what, oh, what have I done?"

"Ask yourself, mademoiselle. Unless there are to be two queens of
France, you must go. You cannot wish me, the mother of his Majesty, to
enter into details on a subject so painful to my feelings."

"No, I should think not," breaks in Madame Henriette, "unless you have
no sense of decency. A little unworthy chit like you to dare to trouble
royal princesses; you are as impertinent as you are disreputable."

[Illustration: MADEMOISELLE DE LA VALLIÈRE.

FROM A STEEL ENGRAVING.]

At these cruel words La Vallière staggers backwards, and almost falls.
Then she again turns her swollen eyes towards the royal ladies with
absolute terror.

Ah, heaven! she thinks, if the King did but know her agony, her
sufferings! Ah, if he were but here to speak for her! But not a word
passes her lips.

Madame Henriette's eyes fix themselves on her with a look of triumph.
She becomes absolutely radiant at the sight of the humiliation of her
whom she calls "her rival."

"You know our pleasure, mademoiselle," says Anne of Austria, rising
from her arm-chair. "You will return from whence you came—Touraine, I
believe. You will be conducted by Madame de Choisy; but, indeed, you
need no escort; you have nothing to fear _now_," and the Queen-mother
casts a look of withering contempt on the wretched girl, more offensive
even than her bitter words.

Louise shrinks backwards. She would fain escape.

"Do not forget, mademoiselle, before you go, to thank Madame Henriette
de France for all her goodness to you," says the Queen, arresting her
with a motion—"goodness, indeed, you have so ill requited."

"No, no!" cries Madame; "I want no thanks. I only want to be rid of
her. Let her go, my mother; I ask no more."

The two Princesses rise together. They both deliberately turn their
backs upon La Vallière, and leave the room. For some moments she stands
as if turned into stone. Then she gives a wild scream, raises her small
hands, clutches the delicate curls that hang about her face, and rushes
from "the Grey Chamber."

"Dishonoured—banished! Ah, God! what will become of me?" she cries
distractedly when she has locked herself in her own room. "Ah! what
will my mother say when she knows all? Holy Virgin, I am lost!"

She paces up and down the floor—she sobs, she moans. Everything about
her reminds her of the King. She handles the presents he has given her;
she takes out his letters; she kisses them; she presses them to her
bosom. She tries to collect her thoughts, but the murmur of the night
wind, sweeping over the trees in the adjacent forest and whistling
round the angles of the palace, catches her ear. To her excited
imagination it wails lamentations over her. As she listens she seems to
hear her mother's voice reproaching her. Now as the blast rises higher
and higher it is her father, who curses her in the tempest that sweeps
by. Trembling in every limb she rises and dashes the glittering baubles
she still holds in her hands to the ground. Her head reels, her reason
totters. Fresh sobs and fresh torrents of tears come to her relief.
Suddenly the same idea, in the same place, rushes into her mind as had
struck Louise de Lafayette, yet under widely different circumstances.
Louise de Lafayette, a creature so pure, so angelic as to start back
dismayed from the faintest whisper of a too ardent love—she, Louise
de la Vallière, held up to public contumely, dismissed the Court! She
must fly; she must never be heard of more. She can never return home.
A convent must hide her. "God alone and the blessed saints are left to
me!" she cries; "wretch that I am, let me seek them where they may be
found."

As soon as the grey morning comes creeping into her room, lighting
up her white face and crushed figure, as she leans back in the chair
where she has sat immovable all the live-long night, she rises, and
puts together a little bundle of necessaries. She covers herself with
a cloak, and softly opening the door, makes her way down the nearest
flight of stairs. No one sees her, for the day is only dawning. She
glides swiftly out of the palace, passes the gate, where the sentinel
is sleeping at his post, and finds herself in the street of the little
town of Saint-Germain. Her heart beats so quickly, and her steps are
so rapid, that she is soon obliged to stop for want of breath. Not
knowing where to go, she leans against the corner of a house. She
strains her eyes up and down the street in every direction, but sees no
one of whom she can ask her way. At last, at the bottom of the _grande
rue_, a country woman appears, carrying a basket on her arm. She is on
her way to market. Louise flies towards her. The woman stares at her.
La Vallière's lips move, but she has no breath to speak.

"God speed you, pretty lady. Where are you going so early?" asks the
peasant.

"_Ma bonne_," at last answers La Vallière, when she has recovered her
breath, "can you tell me the way to Chaillot? I want to go to the
convent."

Now, Chaillot was a convent founded by Henrietta Maria, Queen of
England, situated between Saint-Germain and Paris, no vestige of which
now remains.

"Surely, _belle dame_, I can tell you. Come with me, I am going that
way," and the woman stares at her again. "Why are you out so early? Are
you from the palace?"

"No, no!" gasps La Vallière, terrified to death lest the woman's
suspicions should be aroused, and that she would refuse to let her
follow her. "I am not from the palace. Ask me nothing. I can only tell
you that a great misfortune has happened to me, and that I am going to
consult the Superior of Sainte-Marie, at Chaillot, who is my friend."

The peasant asks no more questions, and La Vallière, who clings to her
side, arrives in due time under the walls of Chaillot.

"There, mademoiselle, is the Church of the Sisters of Sainte-Marie. God
speed you."

Louise rings the bell, and asks the portress to be permitted to speak
with the Superior.

"She is in retreat, madame, and cannot be disturbed," the portress
replies.

"In the name of God, my sister, tell her that a person in great
affliction craves her help."

The portress does not immediately answer, but leads her into a hall
within, at one end of which is the latticed _grille_ which divides the
professed nuns from the lay sisters.

An hour passes, and no one appears. La Vallière, fatigued by the
unaccustomed exercise, almost distracted, gazes wistfully at the
bare walls that surround her. This then is to be the living tomb of
her youth, her love. This grim refuge or the grave. She turns to the
strong door, bound with iron bars, by which she entered, and shudders.
She watches the handle; no one comes, not a sound breaks the silence.
It seems to her that God and man have alike forsaken her—a creature
so vile, so unworthy. Her repentance has come too late. Heaven's
mercy-gates are closed! A wild, unreasoning terror seizes her—her brain
beats as with iron hammers—she grows cold and faint—a mist gathers
before her eyes—a deadly sickness creeps over her—she falls senseless
on the stone floor.

When she opens her eyes, she is lying upon a clean bed, shaded by snowy
curtains, in a little white-washed cell; two dark-robed Carmelite
sisters are bending over her.

It was not long before the King heard that La Vallière had fled. Not
daring to make too public inquiries, he sent for the superintendent of
police, La Regnie.

"Find Mademoiselle de la Vallière," he says, "dead or alive; find her
instantly—instantly, I say, or I dismiss you from my service."

This was not difficult; the trembling steps of the fugitive were
soon traced. La Regnie returns, and informs his royal master that La
Vallière is within the Convent of Chaillot. Louis does not lose a
moment in following her. He appears at the convent gate, accompanied
by his confidant, Lauzun. He demands admittance. Some of the older
nuns, scandalised at the idea of a man entering the cloister, refuse
to unlock the gate; but the Mother-Superior, wiser in her generation,
herself descends, and key in hand undoes the fastenings, and welcomes
his Majesty with the utmost deference.

Meanwhile, La Vallière, somewhat recovered from her swoon, sits alone
beside a narrow window which overlooks the convent garden. She feels
dull and oppressed; her eyes are dazed; her head is heavy.

The perfect silence around her, the homely little cell looking into a
peaceful garden, full of herbs and vegetables for the service of the
convent, in one corner a grove of cypress-trees, which overtops the
high walls that encircle it, is all new and strange to her. She seems
to have passed into another world. She remembers but indistinctly all
that has happened; she has almost forgotten how she came there. A
pensive melancholy paralyses her senses. She is very weak and helpless;
her brain is still confused. It is all very strange. She cannot
collect her thoughts, but over all the mists of memory, plain and
distinct, rise a face and form dear to her beyond life.

Suddenly a sound of approaching footsteps awakens the echoes of the
long corridor leading to the cell. As well as steps there is a confused
hum of many persons talking. At first she listens vaguely; then, as the
sounds grow nearer, she springs to her feet. A sound has struck upon
her ear—a sound sweeter than music. It is the King's voice! The door is
flung open, and Louis—his handsome face flushed with excitement, his
eyes beaming with tenderness—stands before her.

"Come," he says softly, whispering into her ear, and pressing her cold
hand within both his own, "come, my beloved, you have nothing in common
with this dreary place. I am here to carry you away. Fear no one; I
will protect you—I will glory in protecting you. Rise, my Louise, and
follow me."

The Carmelite sisters stand peeping in at the door. The Superior alone
has followed his Majesty into the cell. Some moments pass before Louise
commands her voice to speak; at last, in a scarcely audible whisper,
and trembling all over, she says—

"Sire,——" then, not daring to meet the King's impassioned glance, she
pauses; "Sire," she repeats, "I did not come here of my own accord.
I was obliged to leave. My remaining at Saint-Germain offended her
Majesty and other great personages—" she stops again, overcome
by the recollection of the scene with the Queen and the Duchesse
d'Orléans—"personages, Sire, whom I dare not—I _could_ not offend."
Her soft face is suffused with a blush of anguish; she hangs down her
head. "I was sent away, Sire; it was not my wish to go—indeed it was
not my wish!" she adds, in a voice so low and tremulous that Louis
could not have heard what she said had he not bent down his ear close
to her white lips.

"Then you shall return, dearest, for mine. I am master, and my wish is
law. I care nothing for 'august personages'; they shall learn to obey
me—the sooner the better."

"But, Sire, I cannot be the cause of strife. The Queen-mother and
Madame have dismissed me; and they were right," she added in a very
faint voice. "I dare not offend them by my presence, after——" She
stops, and can say no more.

"Think of the future, Louise, not of the past; it is gone," and Louis
takes her trembling hands in his. "A future lies before you full of
joy. Leave the Queen-mother to me, Louise. Come—come with me," and with
gentle violence he tries to raise her from her chair. "Follow me, and
fear nothing."

"Oh, Sire," whispers Louise, the colour again leaving her cheeks, "do
not tempt me from my vocation."

"Do not talk to me of your vocation," returns Louis roughly; "what is
your vocation to me? Can you part from me so lightly?" he adds, more
gently.

"Alas, Sire, I dare not return to Court; every look would condemn me!"

"Condemn you! Believe me, I will place you so high that no one shall
dare to condemn you. Am I not the master?"

"Oh, suffer me to lay my sins upon the altar! Do not seek to prevent
it," sighs La Vallière, clasping her hands. "But remember, Sire, oh,
remember, that in my heart you can have no rival but heaven." She
speaks with passion, but she dares not look up at him; had she done so,
she would have quailed before the expression of his eyes;—they devour
her.

All this is said very low, in order not to be overheard by the
Superior, who, although she has retired as far as the doorway, is still
present.

"Louise, you do not love me. You have never loved me," whispers Louis,
and he turns away. He is deeply offended; her resistance to his
commands enrages him.

"Ah, heaven!" La Vallière sighs, and turns her blue eyes, swimming with
tears, towards him, "would to God it were so!" She speaks in so subdued
a tone—she is so crushed, so fragile—that the King's compassion is
suddenly excited; he looks steadfastly into her face; he trembles lest
she may die under this trial. Again he takes her hand, raises her from
her chair, and draws her towards the door.

"If you love me, Louise, follow me. I cannot live without you!" he
adds almost fiercely. "Fear nothing. Her Majesty shall receive you.
The Queen-mother and Madame"—at their names La Vallière quivers all
over—"shall offend you no more. Leave this horrible cell, my Louise.
Come, and let me enshrine you in a temple worthy of your beauty, your
goodness, and of my love," he adds, in a fervid whisper, which makes
her heart throb with rapture. "Come!"

Louise returns to Saint-Germain. She is created Duchesse de la
Vallière, and is appointed Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Maria
Theresa.



CHAPTER XVIII.

FOUQUET, SUPERINTENDENT OF FINANCE.


Nicholas Fouquet, Marquis de Belle-Isle and Vicomte de Mélun et
Vaux,[3] held the post of Superintendent of Finance under the Regency
of Anne of Austria. He was continued in this important office after
the accession of Louis XIV. Fouquet was insinuating, specious,
hypocritical, and sensual; a munificent patron to those about him, and
an adorer of the beautiful in art and nature. He was, moreover, one of
those courtly financiers so constantly met with before the Revolution,
who, however the country starved, always found funds "for the service
of his Majesty."

[3] Vaux-Praslin, near Mélun, is still a superb château. It was sold by
the son of the Superintendent to the Maréchal de Villars who, in his
turn, sold it to the Duc de Praslin.

In course of time, Louis grew alarmed at Fouquet's reckless
expenditure; his personal magnificence was boundless, but there was not
a _sous_ of state money in reserve. Colbert was consulted by the King.
Colbert was jealous of Fouquet's position; he examined his accounts,
and found them incorrect. The King courteously pointed out the errors
to Fouquet, who persisted in the perfect accuracy of his figures.
Louis, convinced of the Superintendent's dishonesty, resolved to
dismiss him on the first opportunity.

[Illustration: FOUQUET.]

But this falsification of accounts was his least cause of offence to
his Sovereign. Fouquet had presumed to imitate the Olympian tastes
of the _Grand Monarque_. If Louis was a god, his Superintendent was
at least a demi-god, and claimed a demi-god's privilege of "loving
the daughters of men." Unfortunately, too, he dared to raise his
eyes to those particular idols worshipped by the King. His disgrace
was therefore certain. Some indistinct rumours of the danger that
threatened him reached his ears. He was moved, but not alarmed.
He racked his fertile brain how best to recover favour, and he
determined to give so magnificent a fête in honour of the King at
his country-seat, Vaux, near Mélun, as should remove all suspicion
of his loyalty. Such were the customs of the age. Having for years
systematically robbed the State, Fouquet was to reinstate himself in
favour by a still more public theft!

Before Versailles arose on the sand-hills lying between Saint-Cyr
and the wooded uplands of Saint-Cloud, Vaux was the most splendid
palace in France. The architect was Le Vau, celebrated by Boileau.
The _corps de logis_ was surmounted by a dome supported by sixteen
marble arches, resting on pillars; two immense pavilions formed the
wings. The gardens, designed by Le Nôtre, were decorated with statues,
and ballustraded terraces bordering canals, and water-works, in the
Italian fashion—"surprises," as they were called. All was formal and
symmetrical; the very plants and shrubs were only permitted to grow
to order. Nature was banished to the distant woods, which spread in
verdant folds about the rising ground behind the château, and decked
the greensward of the park, ere it reached the waters of the Seine
flowing below.

The fête was fixed for the 17th of August. It was a splendid day; the
sky was unclouded, and the golden sunshine lighted up the deepest
recesses of the forest, when Louis started in the morning from
Fontainebleau, where the Court was then staying. He was escorted by
D'Artagnan and a regiment of musketeers.

There was a goodly company; the King drove La Vallière and the Comtesse
de Guiche in his _calèche_; the Queen-mother came in her coach; other
ladies were in litters. The Queen, who was in an interesting state of
health, stayed at home. Fouquet stood ready, at the grand entrance
of his palace. He received the King kneeling, and presented to him
the golden keys of Vaux. Louis touched them with his fingers, raised
Fouquet from the ground, and in a few gracious words assured him of his
favour and protection; with what truth we shall see. The same ceremony
was repeated by Madame Fouquet to the Queen mother, with a like result.

On entering the vestibule, even the Gallic Jupiter was amazed at
the magnificence of all he saw. The suite of rooms were arranged in
allegorical order, each named after a god or goddess; the ceilings and
walls painted to represent their attributes and the events of their
lives. The sun and moon, the planets and fixed stars, also formed
an important feature in the decorations. The seasons added their
attributes, and together with the winds lent themselves gracefully to
the necessities of the general arrangements. His Majesty was invited
to repose in the billiard-room, dedicated to Hercules, who by a happy
invention prefigured himself. From the billiard-room he entered the
grand saloon, where the sun, in gorgeous colours of saffron, crimson,
and scarlet, covered the entire ceiling. Louis smiled a smile of
gratification; the sun was his acknowledged emblem. Was it possible, he
thought, that Fouquet might be forgiven? The Superintendent advanced.
He bowed to the ground, and asked leave to explain the legend.

"The sun—the centre of the universe, the creator of light, heat, and
life—is your Majesty. Deprived of your gracious presence, we sink into
darkness and death. That star beside the sun is myself, Sire, receiving
light from your Majesty's benignant rays."

Louis frowned, and bit his lip. It seemed to him that the star was
dangerously near the sun; it displeased him. He changed his mind, and
now decided that that too assertative star must be extinguished.

From the saloon, Louis passed into a retiring-room, dedicated to the
Muses and the Virtues, all with open mouths, grouped round a figure of
Fidelity, whose praises they sang.

"Who is represented by fidelity?" asked Louis, turning to the Duc de
Saint-Aignan, in attendance on him.

"I have just been told that Fidelity represents Fouquet himself, your
Majesty."

"What on earth can Fidelity have to do with a Superintendent of
Finance?" muttered Louis, shrugging his shoulders. "And that female
figure conducting Fidelity—who is that?"

"Prudence, I am told," replied Saint-Aignan. "Prudence; and the one on
the other side is Reason."

"Prudence, Reason, and Fidelity guiding Fouquet. _Ma foi_, it is not
bad," and an ironical smile passed over the monarch's face. "But we
have not done with the paintings yet. Who are the others?"

"That figure, Sire, in a golden-coloured robe, is Clio, I am told, the
Muse of History. With one hand she assists Fidelity into heaven, with
the other she records the annals of his life."

"The annals of _his_ life," muttered the King (for Fouquet stood near
at hand, to be summoned by his Sovereign when wanted). "It will be well
for him if history does not record his signal disgrace. He may prove
another Phaeton, this M. Fouquet, and fall from the stars into eternal
darkness. Jupiter still grasps his thunders. Let us leave this room—it
stifles me," said Louis aloud. "What is the meaning of the device of
the serpents I see everywhere?" again inquired Louis of the Duke.

"The serpents represent Colbert, the rival of Fouquet, Sire. Fidelity,
Reason, and Discretion crush these serpents as you see."

"Really, these allegories are charming, M. Fouquet," said Louis, with a
covert sneer, turning towards his host, and speaking in a loud voice,
"but allegories are not always truthful." Fouquet bowed to the ground,
and turned very pale.

After having examined the interior of the château, and partaken of a
sumptuous refection, the King was invited to pass into the garden to
see the illuminations.

There the whole horizon was aglow. On three broad terraces, of the
purest white marble, which extended along the entire façade of the
building, rows of golden candelabra bore myriads of wax lights. Rows of
gigantic orange-trees, in full blossom, shone with orbs of variegated
light, that glittered on the dark surface of the polished leaves.
Below, in a vast square, fashioned into a sunken parterre of flowers,
arranged in various patterns, cunningly concealed lamps of every hue
were hidden among the leaves, their innumerable flamelets forming a
carpet of living fire. Jets of flame leaped from tree to tree. Beyond
the parterre, the broad canal banks blazed and palpitated with fiery
heat. The waters, of a ruddy hue, now reflecting the gorgeous scene,
now riven into _jets d'eau_ and fountains which blaze upwards for an
instant, throwing up clouds of rockets that sport like comets among
the stars, to fall back in cascades of golden sparks. Beyond, in the
woods, each noble forest-tree, in minutest detail of every branch and
twig, stood out in relief against what appeared a vault of fire. Long
vistas led far away among stalwart oaks and feathery limes, growing out
of a sea of flames. All around there was nothing but fire—dazzling,
overwhelming fire. Now it turned to green, then by some magic touch it
changed to blue, then flashed into crimson; while _feux de joie_ and
cannon roared from concealed batteries, and shook the very air. Behind,
the architectural lines of the château were marked by clusters of
golden lamps. Every room shone brighter than at noon, and the central
dome, with its graceful colonnade, blazed like a volcano. On the
terrace, in front of the château, military bands clashed with joyous
symphonies. When these ceased, soft music sounded from out the fiery
woods, from violins and flutes, swelling in the cadences of some tender
melody. The crowd below, changing with the metamorphose of the lights,
formed a fitting fore-ground to this burning perspective. It was a
scene of artificial life after Lancret, backed by a conflagration.
Brocaded trains swept along the fine gravel of the walks. Wreaths of
diamonds sparkled on voluminous wigs, which fell in heavy curls over
neck and shoulders. Long white feathers, and finest Brussels lace,
fringed and decked turned-up hats of velvet. Glittering officers
were side by side with comely pages, brighter than butterflies.
Gold embroideries shone on delicately coloured velvets, satins, and
watered-silks; priceless jewels glittered on knee and shoe, on neck
and arm, on waist and drapery; torsades on hats, and sword-hilts
flashed and multiplied the fiery marvels of the night. Even _le Grand
Monarque_, as he paused upon the terrace to observe the scene, deigned
to express his admiration and surprise. But his praise was scant, his
words cold, he spoke morosely, and his brows were knit.

The more he investigated the magnificence of Vaux, the more he believed
the accusations of Colbert. Fouquet heard the praise; he did not
observe the frown. He was radiant. Louis looked round, anxious to
escape from the glare and the crowd. He longed to retire into some
shady grove with La Vallière. She was very beautiful that evening.
Louis reproached himself for ever having caused her pain. She wore a
dress of white stuff, worked with golden leaves; a blue ribbon, tied in
a knot in front, encircled her small waist. Her light hair, untouched
by powder, and sown with flowers and pearls, fell over her shoulders;
two enormous emeralds hung in her ears. Her arms were uncovered, but
to conceal their thinness, she wore above the elbow a broad circlet of
gold set with opals. Her gloves were of fine Brussels lace, showing the
rosy skin beneath. Her graceful yet dignified manners, her tender blue
eyes, breathing nothing but love and gentleness, her look of patient
goodness, were never more charming than when seen among the painted
and powdered belles of that intriguing Court. It was impossible for
Louis to have a word with her in private. Every feminine eye was bent
upon him. All the ladies—young, old, fair and dark—pressed round him
as he moved among the alleys and terraces of the illuminated garden.
He was the rose that attracted alike the butterflies and the grubs—the
sunshine and the shadow. Like royalty of all ages, Louis soon grew
weary of this espionage, and called for the Duc de Saint-Aignan. He was
nowhere to be found. At last, after having walked up and down the three
terraces, admired the great cascade and the grotto, afterwards to be
repeated at Saint-Cloud, he sought out the Queen-mother. She was seated
on the terrace, surveying the illumination at a distance. Louis leaned
over the marble balustrade near her.

"This is magnificent, my mother," said he; "so magnificent that I
believe every word Colbert has told me. Colbert showed me peculations
on paper; I see them here with my own eyes. Think of the millions
he must have spent! Look at my palace of Saint-Germain—dilapidated,
dismal; Fontainebleau still unfinished. It is shameful! Fouquet is a
mushroom, who has nourished himself out of my revenues. I can crush
him—I _will_ crush him—destroy him!" and the King stamped his foot
savagely on a pavement of coloured marbles.

"My son, do not speak so loudly," replied the Queen.

At this moment Saint-Aignan appeared ascending the steps from below.

"Where have you been, Duke?" asked Louis sharply.

"A thousand pardons, your Majesty. They searched for me in the wrong
place. You will not, however, have reason to regret my absence," and he
gave the King a look full of meaning, and signed to him to move farther
off from all possibility of listeners. "Sire," continued he, "I have
made a discovery."

"A discovery! Where? What have you found?" and Louis drew closer to him.

"Sire, I fear you have a rival," and Saint-Aignan glanced significantly
at the Duchesse de la Vallière, who sat on a settee behind, not far
from the Queen-mother.

"A rival! Ridiculous! You have been asleep and dreaming, Duke."

"No, Sire; on the faith of a peer of France, no. Your Majesty has a
rival, I repeat."

"What do I care for rivals! I have her heart," and Louis glanced
tenderly at La Vallière.

"But is your Majesty so certain?"

"Certain? Ask me if I live!" exclaimed Louis with warmth. "But tell
me what you mean. Speak, Duke, and speak quickly, for we may be
interrupted."

"Well, Sire, some fairy, who I suppose watches over your interests,
told me to wander over the château and examine the more private
chambers. No one was by. Every one was in the garden with your
Majesty to see the illuminations. At the end of a long gallery, in a
distant part of the house, I came upon a boudoir—such a bijou of a
room!—evidently belonging to Fouquet. On the walls hung the portraits
of some of the fairest ladies of the Court. It is a hall of beauty,
Sire."

"Go on," said Louis impatiently; "I understand."

"Among these beauties, Sire, was—well—there was the lady you honour
with your special attentions—Madame la Duchesse—" and Saint-Aignan
stopped, and again indicated La Vallière, who, unconscious of what was
going on, sat near, her delicate cheek resting on her hand.

"You need mention no names, Saint-Aignan. I tell you, I understand,"
replied the King with evident irritation. "And pray what does it matter
if you did find the portrait of that lady there? I see nothing in it
at all remarkable. No hall of beauty would be complete without her
likeness. Who were the other portraits?"

[Illustration: COLBERT.]

"Ah, Sire, that is precisely the point I am coming to. They were all
portraits of ladies who are or have been the acknowledged mistresses
of Fouquet. If Madame la Duchesse de——"

"I beg you again not to mention any names, Duke," broke in the King
haughtily, a storm gathering on his brow.

"If that lady, Sire, had not resembled the others, why should she have
been there?"

To this somewhat daring question Louis did not vouchsafe a reply.
His countenance darkened into an expression of silent rage. His
eyes glittered as he passed his hand over them. When he spoke there
was doubt, anxiety, as well as anger in his voice and manner. "I am
astonished, I confess," said he, speaking very deliberately. "I am
quite at a loss to explain it. Her portrait is there, you say. It
may be, Saint-Aignan. I cannot doubt your word, but—it is impossible
that——" He paused, and his eyes rested on her guileless face.

"Sire, it is not for me to differ from your Majesty," rejoined
Saint-Aignan, fearful lest he had injured himself in the King's opinion
by his over-frankness; "your superior intellect and far-seeing judgment
will unfold to you mysteries impervious to my grosser comprehension;
but I repeat, in the boudoir of M. Fouquet I saw the portrait of Madame
La Duchesse—I beg your Majesty's pardon—placed among those of ladies
whose relations with him are more than equivocal."

"I will speak to the lady myself. She is ignorant of this, I venture
my life," said Louis, his eyes again fixing themselves wistfully
upon La Vallière. "In the meantime, Duke, I thank you for your zeal
in my service. Now, remember, until our return to Fontainebleau
_silence_—absolute silence—or I shall never forgive you." Louis
placed his finger on his lip—Saint-Aignan, glad to end so perilous
an interview, bowed, and immediately fell back among the crowd of
courtiers who hovered about the King.

Louis's blood boiled within him. He had controlled himself in the
presence of Saint-Aignan, but it was with the greatest difficulty he
could any longer restrain his passion. He longed then and there to call
in the musketeers, and arrest Fouquet on the spot. D'Artagnan and his
followers were at hand; it would have been the work of an instant. At a
loss what to do, and feeling the necessity for some expression of the
violent rage he felt, he approached his mother, Anne of Austria, who
was leaning back in her chair, absorbed in a deep reverie. She was only
present at that dazzling fête in body—her mind was far away. To her the
pomps and vanities of the world were become a mockery and a toil; she
longed for the seclusion of the cloister.

"It is all over," whispered the King, and his voice grated huskily in
her ear; "Fouquet will be arrested to-night."

"What has he done?" asked Anne of Austria.

"I have excellent reasons, my mother; besides, Fouquet may escape to
Belle Isle—here I have him, I hold him!" and Louis, in his seat, shook
his fist in his mother's face.

"You are strangely moved, Louis. I do not know your reasons, but I
advise you, for the sake of your own dignity, to choose a more suitable
moment than during a fête at which you are present in his own house."

"Every time is good to catch a traitor."

"Yes; but, my son, there is such a thing as decorum. The Superintendent
has given you a superb fête, which you have accepted. You are under his
roof; you cannot arrest him while you are his guest. It is out of the
question."

"But, my mother, I have reasons of state."

"Then they must wait. What would the Court—what would France—say to
such an act? Take care, my son, that those who may never know your
justification do not condemn your act. Even _you_ are not above public
opinion."

Louis did not reply, but the Queen-mother perceived that her words had
convinced him.

The Court returned to Fontainebleau in the same order as it came.

A _lettre de cachet_, dated the day after the fête, consigned Fouquet
to the fortress of Pignerol. Louise de la Vallière was enabled to
soothe his Majesty's suspicions, with regard to the portrait, by
assuring him that if his indignation had been aroused, her feelings had
been much more grossly outraged.



CHAPTER XIX.

DEATH AND POISON.


"Anne, daughter of Philip III., King of Spain, and Margaret of Austria,
his wife, married to Louis XIII., King of France, surnamed the Just,
mother of Louis XIV., surnamed Dieudonné, and of Philip of France, Duc
d'Orléans, born September, 1601, died January, 1666."

These words stood at the head of a will which was signed "_approved_,
Louis." Anne of Austria has stood before us from her fifteenth year
until now; first, the golden-haired girl, next the prosecuted wife,
then the stately regent, finally the devoted and conscientious mother.
And now her time has come; she is dying at the Louvre. Her malady
is a cancer in the breast, long concealed, now aggravated by the
ignorance of quacks. Latterly it has become an open wound, the seat
of intense suffering. Her daintily nurtured body and sensitive skin,
which could not bear the touch of any but the finest and softest linen,
the delicate habits of her daily life, her extreme refinement of mind
and person (not common in those days even among princes), have come
to this: "God punishes me in that body which I have too carefully
tended," she said. But the Queen's mind had long been weaned from
the world, her once lofty spirit schooled to the uses of adversity,
and she bears her protracted sufferings with admirable meekness and
resignation. Her face shrunken, drawn, and ashen, her frame bowed with
intense pain rather than the weight of years, have lost all trace of
their singular beauty; but the hands and arms are still white, plump,
and shapely. To the last, her son Louis XIV. reverently kisses those
taper fingers that had fondly entwined themselves among his clustering
curls from boy to man. As long as that silvery voice could make itself
heard, it was as a peacemaker and as a friend. When Maria Theresa, her
niece, complained to her of the King's too apparent _liaison_ with La
Vallière, the dying Queen stroked her cheek, and comforted her, praying
her to pardon the fire of youthful blood, and to remember that
Louis, if erring, both loved and respected her. She reminded her, "that
she [Maria Theresa] had at least a much happier lot than her own."
Overcome by suffering during the long watches of the night, when she
could not sleep, she weeps; as the tears roll down her wrinkled cheeks,
Mademoiselle de Beauvais wipes them away with her handkerchief.

[Illustration: Maria Theresa.

From a painting by Velasquez in the Louvre.]

"I do not really weep, _ma bonne_," said the dying Queen; "these tears
that I shed are forced from me by intense anguish; you know I never
cry." The Archbishop d'Auch, seeing her condition, told her plainly
that the doctor despaired of her life.

"I thank God," she answered. "Do not lament," added she, turning to her
ladies, whose sobs caught her ear; "we must all die. I am still among
you; when I am gone, then grieve for me, not yet."

Her son, Philippe d'Orléans, sat constantly beside her bed. While he
was present she never allowed herself to utter a complaint, but when
he left her, she turned to Madame de Motteville and said, "I suffer
horribly. There is no single part of my whole body that is not rent
with pain." Then raising her eyes to heaven she exclaimed, "Praised be
God, it is His will, His will be done—I submit to it with all my heart;
yes, with all my heart." Yet in this condition she took the liveliest
interest in all that concerned her sons and the King of Spain, and
caused every letter to be read aloud to her coming from Madrid. Two
nights before her death she bade good-night to her children with a
haste unusual to her. It was because she did not wish them to witness
sufferings she could no longer conceal. As soon as they were gone she
desired that the litany of the Passion should be chanted throughout
the weary hours of the night. Now and then her groans interrupted the
solemn office. When her women strove to mitigate her agony, she pushed
them away, saying,

"My vile body is given up to the justice of God. I care not what
becomes of it."

In the morning the King, of whom she was ever devotedly fond, and who
warmly returned her love, remained many hours with her. That afternoon
she grew worse. During the night her son Monsieur hid himself in the
curtains of her bed, not to leave her, as she had earnestly desired
he would do. The next morning, it was deemed advisable to administer
extreme unction. The King and Queen, Monsieur d'Orléans, Madame his
wife, and Mademoiselle de Montpensier were present. They went out to
meet the Lord's body and to bear it to her. After she had communicated,
a heavenly expression spread over her countenance, her eyes shone with
unnatural brilliancy, and the colour returned to her cheeks.

"Observe my dear mother," whispered the King, who was standing at the
foot of her bed, to Mademoiselle de Beauvais, "I never saw her look
more beautiful." Then she called her children round her, and solemnly
blessed them. These four, her two sons and their wives, knelt by her
bedside. They kissed her hands and shed tears of a common grief. The
curtains were then closed, that the Queen might take a little rest.
When they were undrawn, the film of death had gathered on her eyes.

       *       *       *       *       *

Beautiful Saint-Cloud, enfolded in softly undulating hills, its
sheeny lawns and majestic avenues descending to the Seine, whose clear
waters dance and ripple below in the soft spring light;—Saint-Cloud,
with its dimpling uplands and lofty summits, on whose topmost verge
stands what was once a Roman watch-tower, looking towards Lutetia, the
ancient Paris, now a Grecian temple called the Lanterne de Diogène;
Saint-Cloud, dense, leafy, forest-like; yonder a deep glen, in which
the morning shadows lie; above, grassy meads of finest greensward,
where the primrose and the cowslip, the anemone and the foxglove
blossom under scattered groups of noble trees, gay with every shade of
green, oaks yellow with new leaves; delicate beech and the soft foliage
of the tufted elm; all rising out of a sea of paler tinted copsewood.
Midway on the hill-side, the ground suddenly falls; and the woods melt
into sculptured terraces, on which the spray of many fountains catch
and reflect the morning sun. These terraces are again broken by a
magnificent cascade, which dashes downwards, to be presently engulfed
by the overhanging trees, before it falls into the river.

It is early summer. The air is full of perfume. The scent of new-made
hay and the odour of dew-laden flowers are wafted from the terraces
towards the palace, lying in the lowest lap of the hills, shut in by
hanging gardens, its pillared portico basking in the sunshine.

From the days of Gondi, the Italian banker, the friend of Zametti,
who was more than suspected of poisoning _la belle_ Gabrielle—for
both Gondi and Zametti had country houses there—Saint-Cloud was a
fair and pleasant place. Hither came Catherine de' Medici to give
great fêtes and banquets, and to visit such of her countrymen as lived
near the palace, all of them skilful Italian Jews, dealing largely
in money, with which they were ready to supply the royal coffers,—on
exorbitant interest, be it well understood—who received her with
Oriental magnificence, and dressed out height, the terrace, and garden
with silken flags and embroidered banners, in the Italian style, to
do her honour. Within the palace of Saint-Cloud was struck down Henry
III., the last of Catherine's sons, the last prince of the royal house
of Valois, by the hand of Jacques Clément, the Dominican. Here Henri
Quatre was proclaimed king, and here, in due process of time, came to
live the Duc d'Orléans, brother of Louis XIV. Philippe d'Orléans, once
a peevish child, is now a soft, effeminate gentleman. In person he is
the _replica_ of the King, only in fainter colours; a water-colour
sketch of an original design in oils. He lives among his favourites,
whom the world stigmatises as gamblers and scoundrels, especially the
Chevalier de Lorraine, who governs Monsieur despotically.

All the world (except her husband) adores the brilliant Henriette,
Duchesse d'Orléans, his wife and cousin-german, who, with her mother,
Henrietta Maria, suffered so much at the Louvre from poverty, that
they lay in bed for warmth. Now, her brother, Charles II., sits on the
throne of England, and she loves not to have the days of her adversity
recalled. Henriette d'Orléans is not an absolute beauty. Like her
mother, her features are irregular, and her mouth large, but her fresh
English colouring tells well among the olive-complexioned ladies of
the Court. She is tall, and eminently graceful. Her sunny smile, her
ready wit, her joyous manners, win every heart she cares to gain. But,
as we have seen, she can be both haughty and cruel. Once she had hoped
to marry her elder cousin, the King; but the Mancini girls stepped in,
and she was forced to content herself with his younger brother, Philip,
whom she despises and dislikes.

Now matters have grown worse than ever between the spouses, for the
Duke of Monmouth—illegitimate son of Charles II. by Lucy Waters—has
come to Court, and does not conceal his admiration for his English
relative, nor observe those precise rules of etiquette needful at the
French Court. What makes matters worse is, that Madame, exasperated
by her husband, is defiant, and publicly encourages his attentions.
Monsieur, weak-headed and irritable, complains to everybody. He says he
shall leave the Court, unless Madame conducts herself better. Madame
rejoins that he only persecutes her because she happens to be aunt to
the Duke of Monmouth. To spite Monsieur, she uses her influence with
the King, and Monsieur's favourite, the Chevalier de Lorraine,—who
whispers these tales about her into her husband's ear,—is packed off;
exiled to the sea-girt fortress of the Château d'If, near Marseilles.
This aggravates Monsieur, who treats Madame worse than ever. They have
fresh quarrels every day, during one of which Monsieur calls Madame
a "_vaurienne_." Even when they ride together in the King's coach,
Monsieur must insult and taunt his wife. "He believes in astrology," he
says, "and as his horoscope foretells he shall be the husband of many
wives, and Madame looks ill, he hopes he shall soon have a change." At
this rude speech Madame weeps, but says nothing. All this is very bad,
and creates such a scandal that Louis interferes; he expostulates with
his brother.

The King, to give Madame a little respite, appointed her at this time
his ambassadress into England, to treat with her brother, Charles
II. In her suite she carried the beautiful Bretonne, Louise de la
Querouaille, who became afterwards so well known in this country as the
Duchess of Portsmouth.

After a time Madame returns from England, blooming in health and joyous
in spirits. She cannot bring herself even to affect common concern for
the death of her mother,—poor broken-down Henrietta Maria,—who has
just died from taking an overdose of opium. Monsieur refuses to meet
his wife at Amiens, a public slight which nettled her exceedingly,
especially as the Chevalier de Lorraine has returned from banishment,
and is again at Saint-Cloud.

Madame is now twenty-six, and as strong and healthy as any young woman
can be. Very early on a certain morning, in the first days of June, a
page rides out of the park gates of Saint-Cloud in furious haste. He
bears a message of life and death to the King, who is at Saint-Germain.
He spurs his steed along the paved roads which lead from palace to
palace, along the heights. The word he carries is—_that Madame is
dying_. Never did messenger of evil cause such consternation. The King
flies to Saint-Cloud; he loved the sweet princess. He is followed by
the Queen, accompanied by _la Grande Mademoiselle_. When the royal
coach draws up under the grand portico, Valtot, the Court doctor, is
there to receive them. He says the illness of Madame is nothing but a
violent attack of colic, and is of no consequence whatever. But this
attack of colic had seized Madame so suddenly she could not bear to
be carried to her own bed, but lay on a little couch in a recess of
one of the reception-rooms. A very serious attack of colic, truly.
When Maria Theresa enters, she finds Madame in convulsions; her long
hair streaming over her face and pillow, her limbs cramped, her body
contorted, her nightgown unfastened to relieve her breathing, her arms
bare and hanging out of the sleeves, her face bearing every appearance
of approaching death.

"You see what a state I am in," she whispers to the Queen between the
paroxysms. "Save me, oh, save me—my sufferings are horrible!"

The Queen kisses her hand. Every one was affected. The King leans over
her with the utmost affection.

"Surely," cries the King to Valtot, "you will not let her die without
help?"

Except the royal party no one seems to care about her. Monsieur is
quite indifferent. He laughs and talks in the very room where she is
lying.

The end came soon. In a few hours, Madame died in horrible agony. Her
corpse immediately turned black.

       *       *       *       *       *

Louis XIV. is in his private closet at Saint-Germain. He is in his
_robe de chambre_, and he has been weeping; three extraordinary events
for the King, not to hold his usual levee, to wear his _robe de
chambre_, and to weep.

A dreadful rumour has just reached him—the words _poison_ and _murder_
have passed from mouth to mouth about the Court. At last he has heard
them. What!—his beloved sister-in-law, she who but two days before
had danced with him in a ballet, dressed as Aurora; she—the pride of
his Court, the cynosure of all eyes—poisoned! Oh, horrible! By whom
was this poison given? By his brother? Impossible. By one of his
disgraceful favourites whom Madame hated? The Chevalier de Lorraine,
perhaps? Was he the murderer? The King cannot brook suspense or delay.
He sends privately for Morel, the _maître d'hôtel_ of his brother.
Morel comes trembling; he guesses the reason of the summons.

"Morel," says the King in an unsteady voice, "I have sent for you
to tell me the truth. Now, on pain of instant death, answer me. Who
murdered my sister-in-law? Presume not to equivocate or to deceive me.
Did the Duchess die by poison?"

"She did, your Majesty."

Louis shudders. "By whose order was it administered?"

"By the order of the Chevalier de Lorraine," answers Morel. "Poison was
put into a cup of chicorée-water, the Duchess's usual beverage, by the
hands of the Marquis d'Effiat. Before God, your Majesty, I am innocent
of all save the knowledge of this crime."

Louis, seeing that Morel is about to cast himself on his knees before
him, by a stern gesture forbade it. He then motions him to proceed.

"The Duchess, Sire, complained of thirst; soon after a cup of
chicorée-water—the cup of porcelain, which her Highness always used—was
presented; she drank its contents to the last drop. Soon after she was
seized with convulsions. Your Majesty knows the rest."

There is a pause. "Tell me," asks Louis, speaking with a great effort,
"tell me, had my brother—had the Duc d'Orléans any part in this crime?"

"I believe not, Sire," answers Morel, shaking from head to foot, for
the King's looks are not reassuring. "They dared not trust him; he
would have betrayed them. But it was believed that the death of Madame
would not be——"

"Answer as I desire you, sir. Answer the questions I address to you,
nothing more," interrupts the King, scowling at him, at the same time
greatly relieved by hearing that his brother was not an accomplice. "I
have heard what I want to know. I am satisfied. I will spare your life,
wretched man," and he turns from Morel with disgust, "because you have
spoken the truth; but you must leave France for ever. Remember, the
honour of princes is in your hand, and that wherever you fly, their
vengeance can pursue you. Therefore, be silent, if you value your life."

The King dared investigate no further; too foul a picture of his
brother's life would have been revealed to public curiosity. The death
of this charming, though frivolous princess, remained unavenged, her
murderers unpunished, and she was soon forgotten in the dissipation
of a Court where the Sovereign set an example of the most heartless
egotism.

As for Monsieur, nothing daunted by the suspicions attached to his
name, and although believed by many to have been a direct accomplice
in Henriette's death, he determined to bring home a fresh wife to
Saint-Cloud and the Palais Royal. This he did in the person of a German
princess (ever the refuge of unfortunate royalty in search of wives),
a formidable she-dragon rather, by name Charlotte de Bavière, a lady
certainly well able to defend herself in case of need. What a contrast
to the feminine, fascinating Henriette! Charlotte's autobiography
remains to us, a lasting evidence of her coarseness of mind and of
body. This is the opening page:—

"I am naturally rather melancholy. When anything annoys me, I have
always an inflammation in my left side, as if I had a dropsy. Lying in
bed is not at all my habit. As soon as I wake I must get up. I seldom
take breakfast. If I do, I only eat bread and butter. I neither like
chocolate, coffee, nor tea. Foreign drugs are my horror. I am entirely
German in my habits, and relish nothing in the way of food but the
_cuisine_ of my own country. I can only eat soup made with milk, beer,
or wine. As to _bouillon_, I detest it. If I eat any dish that contains
it, I am ill directly, my body swells, and I am fearfully sick. Nothing
but sausages and ham restore the tone of my stomach. I always wanted to
be a boy," this extraordinary "Princess" continues, "and having heard
that Marie Germain became one by continually jumping, I used to take
such fearful leaps, that it is a miracle I did not break my neck a
thousand times."

This was the mother of the Regent Orléans.

[Illustration: GALLERY OF HENRY II. AT FONTAINEBLEAU.]

Charlotte de Bavière was walking one evening alone in the dusk through
the almost interminable suite of rooms which encircled the four garden
fronts of the Palais Royal. Many of these rooms had been constantly
inhabited by her predecessor, Madame Henriette. It was stormy weather,
and the gathering clouds were rapidly darkening what little daylight
was left. The wind moaned among the branches of the trees without; it
whistled through the rooms within, swaying the rich curtains to and
fro. The shutters were not yet closed. The Duchess wandered on from
room to room until she reached a remote apartment on the ground-floor,
which had been much frequented by Madame Henriette—a garden pavilion
opening by large windows and a flight of steps to a parterre. At this
window Charlotte stood watching the clouds passing over the moon which
had just risen, as they were drifted rapidly onwards, driven by the
wind. How long she remained there she could never tell. All at once a
slight sound behind her, like the rustling of drapery along the floor,
caught her ear. She turned, and saw advancing from the door towards
the spot where she stood a white figure, wearing the form of the late
Duchess, her predecessor, Henriette of England. She knew her instantly
from her portraits. What passed between these two—the dead and the
living wife—never was told. Charlotte, all her life long, insisted on
the perfect truth of this story, but would say nothing more. In time
it came to be understood that some awful secret connected with the
Orléans family, only to be known to the head of the house, was revealed
by the phantom.



CHAPTER XX.

AT VERSAILLES.


The Duchesse Louise de la Vallière, after her return from Chaillot,
lived much at the Hôtel Biron, a residence at Versailles presented
to her by the King. Her two children, the Comte de Vermandois and
Mademoiselle de Blois, were with her. The Hôtel Biron, a sumptuous
abode, situated between "court and garden," lay in a hollow close
to the yet unfinished Palace of Versailles, on the same side as the
reservoir. Adjoining were the royal gardens, already planned and
partially completed by Le Nôtre. These gardens, with the formal groves
and symmetrical thickets which enclose them, sloped downwards from
the grand terrace of the southern front, and overshadowed the hôtel,
giving it a sequestered, not to say melancholy aspect. On the other
side a wooded park stretched away in the direction of what was in time
to become the site of the two Trianons. The new Palace of Versailles
was as yet covered with scaffolding; innumerable workmen laboured
night and day on the north and south wings. The _corps de logis_, of
brick and stone, was alone completed, and though greatly enlarged and
beautified, still retained those suites of small rooms—_les petits
apartements_—portions of the original hunting-lodge, which was so
often visited by Louis XIII. in his hunting expeditions.

[Illustration: VERSAILLES FROM THE PIÈCE D'EAU DES SUISSES.

From an engraving by Rigaud.]

La Vallière lived a life of extreme retirement. She rarely appeared at
Court, except upon occasions of state, and received only such visits as
etiquette rendered necessary. Save the King, her confessor, and a few
intimate friends, she avoided every one. The splendour of the retreat
assigned her by the King pained and humiliated her. She was but too
conscious that in permitting herself to be dowered and ennobled by him,
she was exposing herself to the charge of ambition, arrogance, and
avarice—she, who only loved the man, and who shrank abashed from the
sovereign!

The very letters-patent by which Louis created her Duchesse de la
Vallière infinitely wounded her. It was intolerable to her to be
publicly addressed as "his singularly and entirely beloved Louise
Françoise de la Vallière, possessed of his Majesty's special and
particular affection." Vainly had she endeavoured to combat his
resolution thus to distinguish her; vainly had she entreated him to
allow her to sink into oblivion, forgotten by all save himself. Louis
had declared, and with truth, that after her flight to Chaillot and
her return to Saint-Germain, all mystery was impossible. He could
not bear, he told her, to see her continually suffering affronts
and mortifications in his own Court, to which her sensitive nature
specially exposed her, and from which even he could not screen her.

Vainly did he invoke all his authority as a sovereign, all his devotion
as a man, to raise the object of his love beyond the reach of calumny.
Vainly did he surround her with all that the luxury of kings, the
treasures of the state, and the refinements of love could devise to
reconcile her to her position. He could not stifle her conscience.
Louise could not bring herself to leave him, but she sank under the
consciousness of her sin.

When, by a formal declaration of the parliament, her children were
legitimatised and created princes of the blood royal, she was in
absolute despair. Again she conjured the King never more to let her
name be heard. But, selfish even to her, Louis commanded that she
should appear in the Queen's circle, and receive the congratulations of
the Court. A prey to anxiety and remorse, silent, yearning, solitary,
her health gave way. Her lovely figure lost its roundness, her violet
eyes their lustre. She grew dull, oppressed, and tearful, and her
lameness increased.

The Comtesse du Roule, formerly maid of honour to Madame Henriette
d'Orléans at the same time as La Vallière, was one of the few friends
she still received.

They had not met for some time when Madame du Roule called on her.
Madame du Roule found Louise seated alone in a pavilion overlooking
the palace of Versailles. She was so lost in thought she did not hear
her friend's footsteps. When she rose to receive her she looked more
delicate and dejected than usual.

"Dear Louise," said the Comtesse after having saluted her, "how I
grieve to see you so unhappy. Can nothing be done to console you?
Remember you are ruining your looks. Do you imagine that his Majesty
will care for you when you have made yourself wrinkled and ugly?"

"Alas, Celestine, I cannot help it! I ought not to be here", and
Louise kissed her tenderly, and placed her on a seat beside her. "This
magnificent hotel, those royal servants, my luxurious life—daily remind
me of my degradation. While I was unknown and poor, lost among the
crowd of a great Court, I was my own mistress. My heart was my own to
bestow. Now," and she placed her hand on her heart as if she suffered
"a price seems put upon me. I cannot bear it! Ah, why did I leave
Chaillot?" and her head, covered with light baby curls, sank upon her
bosom; and she heaved a deep sigh.

"But, Louise, if you love the King," said the Comtesse, laying her
hand gently on that of La Vallière, "you must accept the inevitable
position, else some one less scrupulous and more mercenary than
yourself will certainly take it."

"Ah, Celestine, that fear is ever present to me. It is agony to me;
it keeps me here. Do not imagine that I misunderstand my position. I
suffer because it is too painfully evident. Yet I love the King too
much to resign him. Love! ah, more—I worship him!" and she raised
her head, and an inner light shone from her soft grey eyes, that
made them glow with passion. "Is he not my master—my sovereign!" she
continued; "am I not bound to obey him? Could I exist without him?
Who else but Louis could have brought me back from Chaillot? Who else
could have torn me from the altar to which my heart still clings?
Celestine, I know I shall return to that convent."—The Comtesse smiled
incredulously.—"But," continued La Vallière, "when I see my faded face
in the glass, and I know I am faded and changed,"—Madame du Roule shook
her head deprecatingly—"I tremble—oh, I tremble lest I should lose him!
I know I ought to rejoice at his loss," added she in a broken voice;
"yet I cannot—I cannot!" and the tears streamed from her eyes, and she
covered her face with her hands.

"Have you perceived any difference in the behaviour of his Majesty of
late?" asked Madame du Roule, when La Vallière became more composed.

"Oh, what a question, Celestine! Such an idea never crossed my
mind—changed now, at this time—could it be possible? When I spoke of
losing him, I meant in the course of years—long, long years. Surely he
would not change now?" An agonised expression came into her face as she
spoke, and she turned appealingly towards her friend for reassurance
against what presented itself to her as some horrible dream.

"I only ask you this question for your good, dear Louise," answered
the Comtesse soothingly, imprinting a kiss on her pallid cheek. La
Vallière threw her arms around her neck, and made no reply. "I see you
are incapable of judging for yourself. If I ask a painful question, it
is to spare you, not to wound you. Answer me honestly, Louise—is his
Majesty changed?"

A shudder passed over the slender frame of La Vallière. For a time she
could not bring herself to reply; then hesitatingly she answered: "I
have fancied—but, oh heavens! may it be only a fancy—that his Majesty
finds his visits to me more dull than formerly. I am so depressed
myself, that must be the reason," and she bent her eyes upon her
friend, hoping that she would assent; but Madame du Roule only listened
with grave attention. "He has sat," continued Louise, evidently forcing
herself to a painful confession, "he has sat for half an hour at a
time quite silent, a thing unusual with him. He has remarked, too,
repeatedly, on my altered looks; he has often regretted my low spirits.
He is most considerate, most tender; but"—and she faltered more than
ever—"I fear that I depress him; and I have tried—" here her voice
dropped, and her eyes fixed themselves upon a medallion portrait of
Louis that hung round her neck by a chain of gold. She contemplated it
earnestly.

"That is just what I feared, Louise," and the Comtesse laid her hand
softly on her shoulder to rouse her from the deep reverie into which
she had fallen; "that is precisely what I feared. If you cease to amuse
the King, others will; he will leave you."

"Holy Virgin!" cried Louise, starting from her chair and clasping her
hands; "do not say so; such an idea is death to me!"

"Louise, be calm; reseat yourself, and listen to me. You rarely go to
Court; but you well know that his Majesty is surrounded from morning
till night with crowds of most fascinating, most unscrupulous women.
They follow him like his shadow; he cannot shake them off—even if he
would. The poor Queen, who is as stupid as an owl, sits in a corner,
sighs, and sulks, or plays at cards, and loses thousands to pass away
the time. But she says nothing, and has no influence whatever over her
husband. By-the-way, she is very jealous of you, Louise, and calls you
'the lady with the diamond ear-rings.'"

La Vallière blushed, then sighed; and again her dreamy eyes sought the
medallion portrait of the King, which she still held within the palm of
her hand.

"Rouse yourself, Louise; believe me there is need," urged the Comtesse.
"When the King visits you next, throw off these gloomy vapours; or,
if you cannot, invite some friend to be present and assist you in
entertaining him."

The tears gathered in La Vallière's eyes, and slowly coursed each other
down her cheeks.

"Alas! has it come to this, then? Do you indeed, Celestine, counsel me
to call on another to do that which was once my privilege? How he once
loved my company! how he praised my gentleness and my timidity, which
charmed him inexpressibly, he said, after the boldness of the ladies of
the Court."

"All this is folly," said Madame du Roule impatiently. "The King is
robust, happy, and fond of pleasure. He delights in the society of
women. You must, Louise, either return to Chaillot, as you say you
desire to do (excuse my frankness, dear, it is for your good), or you
must change. His Majesty is neither a penitent, nor ill, nor sad. Do
you know any one you can invite here when he comes?"

"No," replied La Vallière with a look of infinite distress upon her
plaintive face. "No one I could trust. Besides, the King might resent
it as a liberty. It is a matter needing the nicest judgment."

"The person, whoever she is," said Madame du Roule, "must be sincerely
attached to you, polished, agreeable, and sympathetic. She must be
good-looking, and not too old, either; for the King loves youth and
beauty. There is the new lady-in-waiting, the Marquise de Montespan.
You have seen her. She is a mere girl, just come to Court, and
belongs to no clique. She is as witty as a Mortémart ought to be, and
gloriously handsome. Such eyes, dear Louise, such colour! and there
is plenty of fun, not to say malice, about her. I would not have her
for an enemy! When she was presented to the Queen, there was the most
extraordinary sensation at Court—people stood on chairs to look at her."

"But, dear Celestine, what a hag I shall look beside this fresh young
beauty?" cried La Vallière in alarm.

"You need have no fear of that. The King is perhaps the only man in
the whole circle who does not admire her. You would be quite safe to
invite her. She is full of badinage, positively a child in her love of
amusement; her lively sallies will help to pass the time. She desires,
too, greatly to be presented to you, and has already conceived a
romantic friendship for you."

"Ah, Celestine, are you sure that this girl, this Mortémart—they are
a dangerous family—seeks me for myself alone? Are you sure that she
has no deeper motive for all these professions? I confess I have my
misgivings."

"You are quite mistaken, Louise. She is a naïve creature, clever
indeed, but guileless. You could not make a better choice. Take my
advice, ask his Majesty's permission to invite the Marquise next time
he comes. Believe me, he is perfectly indifferent to her. He will be
grateful to you for the attention; he will be amused. You will find him
return to his first ardour, he will be as devoted as at first. You will
recover your spirits; you will return to Court" (La Vallière shook her
head sadly), "and all will be well!"



CHAPTER XXI.

MADAME DE MONTESPAN.


Athanaise de Mortémart, Marquise de Montespan, the most beautiful woman
of her age, was, at this time, twenty-two years old. She was fair, but
not so fair as La Vallière. Her features were faultless, and there was
an aureole of youth and freshness about her that made her irresistible.
She affected to be careless, impulsive, even infantine; but she
was in reality profoundly false, and could be insolent, cruel, and
domineering; a syren or a fury, as suited her humour or her purpose.
There was no mercy in those voluptuous eyes that entranced while they
deceived; no truth in those coral lips that smiled only to betray.

No sooner was she informed that the Duchesse de la Vallière would
receive her, than she flew to the Hôtel Biron. Louise was astounded at
her extraordinary beauty.

"How much I thank you, Marquise, for your goodness in sparing a few
hours from the gaieties of the Court to visit a poor recluse like me."

"On the contrary, Madame la Duchesse, it is I who am grateful"; and the
Marquise kissed her on both cheeks. "Ever since I came to Court, I have
longed to become acquainted with you. No words can express the love and
respect I entertain for you."

"Alas! madame, I fear that you cannot know me. I deserve no respect,"
replied La Vallière sadly. "If you can love me, I shall be satisfied."

"Love you, dear Duchess! I will devote my life to you, if you will
permit me such an honour," cried Madame de Montespan, her eyes flashing
with eagerness. "Will you allow me to look on you as an old friend?"

"I shall consider it a privilege," replied La Vallière.

"I have so often talked about you with the Comtesse du Roule, that I
feel already as though we were long acquainted," continued Madame de
Montespan; and she seized La Vallière's small hand and pressed it. La
Vallière returned her caress more quietly. "Dear Duchess," exclaimed De
Montespan impulsively, "I am so young, so inexperienced."

"And so beautiful," added La Vallière, smiling.

"Well, I am told so, madame. Your counsel will be invaluable to me. I
am yet but a novice at Court."

"I will be a mother to you," replied Louise meekly. But, in her inmost
heart, she asked herself, "Am I indeed so old, so changed, that she can
accept this offer from me? It seems but yesterday I was as young and as
light-hearted as herself!"

"I know little of the Court now," replied La Vallière, speaking in a
very subdued voice. "What I do know, can be of little service to you.
Heaven guard you from my experiences!" and a deep sigh escaped her.

"Oh, Madame la Duchesse, wherever you are, _there_ is the Court. Your
modesty only adds to your merit. We all know _you_ are the dispenser of
all favour, all power—that your word is law." This was spoken rapidly
by the Marquise, who all the while kept her eyes on the Duchess to
study the effect of her flattery.

"God forbid," replied La Vallière coldly; and a look of displeasure
contracted her brow for an instant. "I possess no power of that kind,
madame. I would never permit myself to exercise any such influence over
his Majesty, I assure you."

The crafty Marquise saw she had made a mistake, and instantly set about
repairing it. She sighed, affected an air of deep concern, and cast
down her magnificent eyes. Then she timidly stretched out her hand to
clasp that of La Vallière.

"Will you teach me your patience, your resignation? Will you teach me
to bear sorrow?"

"Gracious heavens! what can a creature so young and brilliant know of
sorrow?"

"Much. Alas! too much!" The beautiful Marquise raised her handkerchief
to her eyes. "Monsieur de Montespan never loved me. It was a marriage
arranged by my sister, Madame de Thiange. She sacrificed me to family
arrangements; he to his love of play—he is a desperate gambler. Worse
still, he is a libertine." She paused, and tried to blush. "Can I,
dare I hope, Madame la Duchesse, to find a friend in you? Nay more—a
protectress? May I be permitted to ask your counsel?"

"Reckon on me," cried La Vallière, who was deeply interested in this
artful appeal. Madame de Montespan cared no more for her husband than
he did for her. "Come to me whenever you need advice, whenever you
want sympathy or protection. Come to me freely—at all hours, at all
times—this house is yours."

"But, Madame la Duchesse, his Majesty may perhaps object to my presence
here. I do not think he likes me. He has scarcely once addressed me
during the few times I have been at Court."

"Ah, I will arrange that," answered La Vallière, her face all aglow
with excitement. "I will manage that you shall be here when he comes.
To see you, dear Marquise, as I do now, must be to esteem and respect
you. His Majesty's heart is so excellent, all his ideas so great, so
noble! You shall help me to entertain him; you have such charming
spirits, such a sunny smile."

Madame de Montespan gave a little start. She could with difficulty
conceal the delight this speech gave her, La Vallière had so completely
fallen into the trap she had laid. Again she kissed her thin white
hand, and pressed the long delicate fingers laid confidingly in her own.

"What an honour!" she exclaimed. "How happy I shall be to serve you in
the smallest way, in return for all your goodness!"

"To serve _me_!" repeated La Vallière, gazing at her vacantly. "Not
to serve me—that is impossible. Ah, no one can serve _me_. My life
is a long remorse. I love—with my whole soul I love. That love is a
crime. I can neither leave the King nor can I bear to remain. God's
image rises up within me to shut out his dear form from my eyes. Alas,
alas!—I prefer him to God." La Vallière melted into tears. She sank
back on her chair, lost to all else but the agony of her own feelings.

Madame de Montespan observed her with a look of sarcastic scrutiny. No
shade of pity tempered her bold stare. Her eyes were hard as steel, her
full lips were compressed.

"How I admire your devotion to his Majesty," she said, in the most
insinuating voice. "It is extraordinary." Her kind words singularly
belied her cruel expression, but Louise, blinded by her tears, did
not observe this. "What astonishes me is that, feeling as you do,
you can endure to remain here—so close to the palace, almost living
in the Court, so long. In such magnificence too,"—and she gave a
spiteful glance round the superbly decorated saloon. "You must have
extraordinary self-command," she added artfully, "immense self-denial.
I suppose you see his Majesty often, Madame la Duchesse?" she asked
this question with well-affected indifference, fixing her eyes steadily
on poor La Vallière, who still lay back in her chair, weeping. "He is
always at Versailles. It must be a great trial, and with your religious
convictions too." As she spoke she carefully noted the effect each word
produced upon La Vallière.

"Alas!" replied her victim, her cheeks now suffused with a burning
blush, "I see him almost daily. Those hours are all that render life
endurable."

"Do you really mean this, dear Duchess?" returned Madame de Montespan,
feigning extreme surprise. "I should have imagined that the refinement
of your nature would have rendered the indulgence of a guilty passion
impossible."

"Ah! I see you despise me," groaned poor La Vallière, overcome by
shame. "I cannot wonder. Young and pure as you are, I must be to you an
object of horror."

"Oh, Madame la Duchesse, what a word! On the contrary, I admire the
sacrifice you make."

"Alas!" interrupted La Vallière, "it is no sacrifice. I cannot tear
myself from him because—because—" she stopped for a moment, then added
hastily, "I fear to give him pain. It seems to me I ought to bear
anything rather than hurt one whose love has raised me so near himself.
I have not the courage to wound him—perhaps to embitter his whole life.
No, although conscience, duty, religion command it, I have not the
courage." La Vallière turned aside and hid her face.

Madame de Montespan fell into a deep muse. Again an expression of
cruel determination passed over her fair young face, and she gave La
Vallière a glance in which malice, anger, and contempt were mingled. La
Vallière, absorbed in her own sorrow, did not perceive it.

"How I grieve for you, dear friend," Madame de Montespan continued,
speaking in her sweetest voice. "How I respect your scruples. Are you
sure," added she, carefully noting the effect of her words, "that the
King would _really_ suffer from your absence as keenly as you imagine!"

"I have never dared broach the subject," answered La Vallière, looking
up. "My remorse I cannot hide. He knows I suffer, he sees I am ill. But
I would not for worlds openly acknowledge that I wish to forsake him."

"Yet, dear Duchess, this struggle will kill you. What a balm to your
sensitive feelings the solitude of a convent would be! Among those holy
sisters, in a life of prayer, you would find new life."

"I know it—I know!" cried La Vallière, passionately; "but how to leave
him—how to go?"

"Perhaps, Duchess, I may assist you," and Madame de Montespan bent,
with well simulated interest, over the slight form beside her,
and gazed inquiringly into the trusting eyes that were turned so
imploringly upon her. "I might be able to place this dilemma before
his Majesty as your friend, dear Duchess. A third party is often able
to assist in a matter so delicate. If his Majesty would indeed suffer
as poignantly as you imagine, your departure is out of the question. I
could at least learn this from himself in your interest."

Louise sprang to her feet, she threw her soft arms round Madame de
Montespan, and nestled her pale face on her bosom.

"At last I have found a real friend," she cried; "at last I have found
one who understands me. But," and she looked up quickly into the
other's face, with a confidence that was most touching, "you will say
nothing to his Majesty. Not a word. Be here when he next comes. (I will
ask his permission.) You will then be able to judge for yourself—to
counsel me. I would rather suffer torture, I would rather die, than
give him a moment's pain, remember that," and La Vallière put out her
little hand and pressed that of Madame de Montespan, whose face was
wreathed with smiles.

"Do you think his Majesty will consent to my presence here?" asked
Madame de Montespan, carefully concealing her feelings of exultation,
for she foresaw what the reply must be.

"I will make him," cried La Vallière. "I will teach you exactly how to
please him—what to say—never to contradict him—to watch the turn of his
eye, as I do. The ice once broken, your tact, your winning manners,
will make all easy."

Madame de Montespan acquiesced. She strove to appear careless, but she
knew that her fate was on the balance. If she met the King there, she
was resolved her rival should not long trouble her.

"Then you will tell me what I ought to do," continued La Vallière. "I
shall be for ever grateful to you—you will reconcile me to myself!"

       *       *       *       *       *

When next the King visited La Vallière, Madame de Montespan was
present. She was as plainly dressed as was consistent with etiquette.
At first she said little, sat apart, and only spoke when the King
addressed her. But afterwards, gradually feeling her way, she threw
in the most adroit flattery, agreed with all he said, yet appeared
to defer in everything to La Vallière. Sometimes she amused him by
her follies, and brought with her a team of mice she had tamed and
harnessed to a little car of filigree, to run upon a table; sometimes
she astonished both La Vallière and the King by her acute observation,
her daring remarks, and pungent satire. The King's visits to the
Hôtel Biron became longer and more frequent. If Madame de Montespan
was not there he asked for her, and expressed regret at her absence.
The Comtesse du Roule inquired anxiously of La Vallière if Madame de
Montespan was useful to her. Reports had reached her which made her
uneasy. It was said that this beautiful young friend, whom she had so
unwittingly introduced to La Vallière, had designs of her own upon the
King; and that she openly boasted that she would speedily supplant the
Duchess.

Madame du Roule had also heard that Monsieur de Montespan had appeared
at the Queen's circle dressed entirely in black, and that on being
asked by the King for what relative he wore such deep mourning, had
replied—

"For my wife, Sire."

La Vallière laughed at this story, and would not listen to a syllable
against her new friend.



CHAPTER XXII.

BROKEN-HEARTED.


It was evening. The day had been intensely hot. Now, stormy clouds scud
across the western skies, and the sun sets in a yellow haze, which
lights up the surrounding woods. Groups of stately elms that tuft the
park cast deep shadows upon the grass; their huge branches sway to and
fro in the rising wind, which moans among the thickets of laurels and
lilacs separating the grounds of the Hôtel Biron from the royal gardens
of Versailles.

Louise la Vallière sat alone in a gorgeous boudoir lined with mirrors
and gilding. She was engaged on some embroidery. As she stooped over
the frame on which her work was strained, her countenance bore that
resigned and plaintive expression habitual to it. She was still
graceful and pretty, and her simple attire gave her the appearance of a
girl.

As the failing light warned her that night was approaching, she put
aside her work, seated herself beside an alcoved window which opened
upon a terrace, and listened to the wind, each moment growing more
boisterous among the neighbouring forests that topped the hills towards
Saint-Cloud.

Suddenly the door opened, and Madame de Montespan appeared. After
saluting La Vallière, she seated herself in an easy-chair opposite
to her. Her bearing was greatly changed. No longer subservient and
flattering, she was now confident, familiar, and domineering. Her eyes
wandered round the room with a defiant expression. The very tone of her
voice showed how much she assumed upon the consciousness of favour. She
was more beautiful than ever; many jewels adorned her neck and hair
which she had never worn before.

"Louise," said she, with an air which, if intended to be gracious, was
only patronising, "I can only stay for an instant. How dismal you look!
what is the matter?"

Louise shook her head despondingly. "Nothing more than usual."

"The Queen is just arrived from Saint-Germain; I am in attendance. I
escaped for a few minutes, accompanied by the Comte de Lauzun. We came
through the gardens and the thicket by the private alley. You must
not ask me to stay; her Majesty may inquire for me. Lauzun is waiting
outside on the terrace by the new fountain."

"Will he not come in?" asked La Vallière.

"No, he is in attendance on his Majesty, who is engaged at this moment
with the architect. He may call for him at any moment."

"Do you think I shall see his Majesty this evening?" asked La Vallière
timidly, looking up and meeting the haughty stare of the Marquise.

"I imagine not. It is late, and his Majesty has said nothing of such an
intention."

"Yet he is so near," murmured Louise sadly.

"Monsieur de Lauzun tells me that the flotilla of boats is ordered for
this evening. There is to be a water party on the canal; the shores are
to be illuminated. I trust it will not rain."

"How I envy you—not the water party, but that you will see the King,"
and La Vallière's eyes glistened.

"Adieu, adieu, _ma belle_! I can't keep Lauzun waiting," and Madame de
Montespan rose and left the boudoir as hastily as she had entered it.

Louise had also risen to attend her to the door. She did not reseat
herself, but stood gazing wistfully after her. She anxiously bent her
ear to catch every sound. Louis was close at hand; he might still come.
A thrill of joy shot through her at the thought. Once the sound of
footsteps was audible, and a flush of delight overspread her face.
The sound died away, and again the night wind, sighing without, alone
broke the silence. Her heart sank within her. She rebuked herself, but
in vain; spite of remorse, spite of self-conflicts, Louis was dearer to
her than life.

[Illustration: MADAME DE MONTESPAN.]

It was rapidly growing dusk; only a little light still lingered in
the room. A feeling of utter loneliness, a foreboding of coming
misfortune, suddenly overcame her. The shadows of approaching night
seemed to strike into her very soul. She started at her own footstep
as she crossed the parquet floor towards a taper which stood upon a
marble table, covered with costly trifles given to her by the King. She
stretched out her hand to light it. When she had done so, something
sparkled on the floor close to the chair on which Madame de Montespan
had been seated. Louise stooped down to see what it was. She at once
recognised some golden tablets which she had often noticed in the hands
of Madame de Montespan. The diamonds, set in the rich gold chasing,
and the initials, had caught the light. The snap was open. It was so
dark that La Vallière held it close to the taper in order to close the
spring. In doing so the tablets fell open—her eyes fixed themselves on
the pages. An expression of horror came into them as she gazed. Could
it be, or was she dreaming? All the blood in her body rushed to her
heart. She put down the light which she had held, and, with the tablets
in her hand, sat down to collect her senses, for her head was dizzy.
Could it be? Yes; it was the handwriting of the King. How well she knew
it—each stroke, every little turn of the pen, how she had studied it!
As she passed page after page through her quivering fingers, each bore
the same well-known characters. She tried to read; a film gathered
over her eyes. Yet she must read on. She pressed her hand upon her
brow; her brain seemed on fire. At length a desperate resolution gave
her power—she read. There were verses of passionate fondness, signed
"Louis." The first dated three months back; the last only yesterday.

She would have wept, but the tears froze ere they reached her eyes.
With a great effort she collected her scattered senses and began to
think. Madame de Montespan must have dropped these tablets on purpose.
She saw it all. They fell from her hand upon the floor. Lying there she
gazed at them in silence. Then she glanced round the room. It was now
quite dark; the burning taper only served to deepen the gloom—Louise
knew she was alone in the world; the King loved another.

With the composure of despair she took up a pen to address him before
she fled, for fly she intuitively felt she must. She was not capable of
reflection, but it came to her quite naturally as the only thing that
remained for her to do, to fly; and where could she go but to Chaillot,
to the dear sisterhood?

"You have ceased to love me," she wrote; "the proofs are in my hand,
written by yourself. The last time we met you told me how dear I was to
you; let me never hear your beloved voice speak another language. I do
not reproach you; you have treated me as I deserved. But I still love
you as when we first met among the woods of Fontainebleau. If ever you
waste a thought upon me, remember that death alone can quench that
love."

Alas for the weakness of human nature! La Vallière, once within the
walls of Chaillot, shut herself into the same cell she had before
occupied, and repented that she had come. "I ought to have seen the
King, and to have questioned him myself. Madame de Montespan may have
purposely deceived me. That she must be false I know too well. Who can
tell if it is not all a device to rob me of Louis? I may myself be but
a tool in her hands. If I had seen him, all might have been explained.
He is my master; I had no right to leave him. Oh! I wish I had not
come!"

Thus she reasoned. Her soul was not yet wholly given to God. Further
trials await her. Breathlessly she waited for what might happen; the
creak of a door made her heart beat; every footstep made her tremble.

At the end of some hours the door opened and the Prince de Condé was
announced.

"What, alone! Once he would have come himself," she murmured.

Composing herself as best she could, she rose to meet him. The Prince
placed in her hands a letter from the King; he desired her to return
immediately to Versailles with the bearer.

La Vallière meekly bowed her head and obeyed.

No sooner had La Vallière returned to the Hôtel Biron than the King
arrived. He was ruddy with health; his eyes flashed with the vigour
of manhood. His bearing was proud, yet dignified. On his head was a
hat trimmed with point lace and jewels, from which hung a fringe of
white ostrich feathers, which mixing with the dark curls of his peruke,
covered his shoulders.

"Let us live our old life again," said he, uncovering, and taking
her hands in his. "I hate explanations. Believe me, your presence
here, _under all circumstances_," and he accentuated these words, "is
necessary to my happiness."

"But, Sire, Madame de Montespan?"

Louis became crimson; a momentary frown knit his dark eyebrows.

"I desire you to receive her as heretofore," he replied hurriedly.
"Louise, it is a sacrifice you must make for my sake. You will not
refuse. It will endear you to me more than ever."

As he spoke he looked at her tenderly.

"Sire, I cannot," she replied firmly, casting her eyes on the ground.

"How! You dare to refuse me? Louise, I command you." The King drew
himself up; he laid his hand heavily on her shoulder. Then, seeing how
wasted and frail she was, and how her slight form quivered under his
touch, he added in a softened tone, "Louise, I entreat you."

A deep blush suffused her cheeks. Some moments passed before she could
command her voice. "Sire," she replied at last, and her white lips
trembled, "Sire, I can never again live the old life,—but I will obey
you."

The King was about to rush forward to embrace her. She stopped him by a
gesture gentle yet determined. He fell back.

"Sire, you love another. Hitherto I have quieted my conscience by the
conviction that I was needful to you. Now I know it is not so. Take
back these tablets, Sire. Can you deny these verses, written by your
own hand but a few days since?"

Louis stood before her, silenced, confounded. Her composure astonished
him. Before him was La Vallière—hitherto his slave, now so determined!
Her hand rested on a table for support. She was deadly pale, and
carefully avoided his gaze. He was deeply moved.

"Do I not offer you enough?" said he.

"No, Louis, it is not enough. I will obey you; I will receive Madame
de——" Her voice dropped, and the hated name was inaudible. "Nay, I will
do more; I will again appear at Court if you command it, but all hope,
all joy, is dead within me."

She uttered these words deliberately. It was despair that gave her
courage.

Then she raised her eyes, and rested them for the first time on him,
with an agonised expression. "I must have your undivided love as
heretofore, or——" and she paused. "I know that my words are sinful,"
she added. "I have fled from you; now I am returned for a little space."

Louis looked perplexed. "But, Louise, believe me, that you are still
inexpressibly dear to me; my heart has wandered, it is true, but you
yet possess my affection, my esteem."

"It is not enough," repeated La Vallière in a low voice, "it is not
enough. You are turned from me, you have joined in deceiving me; I am
supplanted."

The tears sprang involuntarily into the King's eyes as he stood with
folded arms contemplating her. He did not dare approach her. How
strange it seemed that one so meek and gentle could be so firm. Never
before had her lips uttered anything to him but words of tenderness.

Once more she spoke.

"As long as you desire it, Sire, I will remain. It is a penance I
shall offer up to God, to remain and to see you love another." She
turned her large grey eyes up to heaven as she spoke. "When you give me
permission, I shall become a Carmelite."

"I will never permit it!" cried Louis, stamping his foot upon the
floor. A scowl passed over his face; he was angry, offended, at her
obstinacy; his imperious will could not brook contradiction. "You have
never loved me!" he exclaimed.

"Sire!" cried La Vallière. "Not loved you!"

"No; you have always preferred your religious scruples to me. You have
tormented me with your remorse. You know nothing of the intoxication
of passion. _You_ ought to have gloried in my love, as others do," he
muttered, in a low voice, turning from her.

"Sire," cried La Vallière, stung to the quick by his injustice, "I am
at this moment forcing my conscience to obey you and to remain."

"You are too weak, too feeble, for a great passion," continued the King
hurriedly. "Others can feel it, however."

"I have never sold myself for ambition, Sire, as others do. I have
never desired anything of you but yourself, and I have lost you."

Louis, crimson with passion, did not reply. He strode up and down the
room in moody silence. La Vallière for a time was also silent. Her eyes
followed him. His face was hard, and no glance told her that he even
pitied her. It was too much. The strain upon her gentle nature gave
way. The pent-up tears rushed to her eyes, she burst into heart-rending
sobs and sank upon a seat. The King watched her, but he spoke not a
word. His look was stern and set. For a while her tears flowed fast,
and her bosom heaved wildly. Then she rose to her feet, and approached
him. "All is over!" she said, in a voice almost inarticulate with
sobs. "Never—never—will I trouble your Majesty more. Your will shall
be now as ever my law. Eternal silence shall cover my justly merited
sufferings. I have nothing more to say. Permit me to retire." She
turned and left the room; her heart was broken.

Bossuet was her director. To him she applied for counsel. She told him
that her very soul yearned for a convent. Bossuet questioned her,—her
passionate remorse, her penitence, her courage, her resignation touched
him deeply. She seemed to be purified from all earthly stain. Bossuet
advised her to take six months to consider her vocation, during which
time she was to speak to no one of her project. La Vallière bowed
her head and obeyed. At the termination of the time, she publicly
declared her intention of becoming a Carmelite. The King received
this announcement with some show of feeling. He sent Lauzun to her,
and offered to make her abbess of the richest convent in France. He
entreated her not to expose her feeble health to the austerities of
so severe an order. La Vallière replied that her resolution was
unalterable. Before leaving the Hôtel Biron she asked for a private
audience of the Queen. It was granted. With a veil over her face, and
dressed in the dark robes of the order which she was about to enter,
a hempen cord around her waist, to which hung a rosary and cross, she
entered the Queen's private apartments at Versailles. Maria Theresa was
alone. La Vallière raised her veil, her face was moist with tears, she
tottered forward with difficulty and sank upon her knees.

"My royal mistress," said she, in a faint voice, "I come to crave your
pardon. Oh, Madame, do not, I implore you, repulse me. Alas! if I have
sinned I have suffered. Suffered—oh, so bitterly, so long! In a few
hours I shall be forgotten within a convent."

The Queen, a woman of the most kindly and womanly feelings, was deeply
affected.

"Ah, Madame la Duchesse," said she, "I have learnt to know how much I
owe you. My life was much happier when you were at Court. I beg you to
believe I shall be glad to have you again about my person."

"Your Majesty honours me beyond expression," answered La Vallière,
curtseying to the earth.

"Does the King know of your departure, Madame la Duchesse?"

"He will know it after I have acquainted your Majesty."

"Surely he will not consent?" asked the Queen.

La Vallière shook her head—"My mind is made up, Madame. If I live for
one year, I shall be a professed Carmelite."

"I am sorry," replied Maria Theresa simply, "very sorry. If my good
wishes can serve you, Madame la Duchesse, you have them most sincerely.
Should you, however, carry out your intention, allow me to present you
with the black veil. It is a public mark of respect I would willingly
pay you."

La Vallière was so overcome she could not at once reply, then kissing
the Queen's hand which she held out to her, she said: "Your Majesty's
goodness makes me hope that, as you have deigned to pardon me, I may
still, by a life of penitence, reconcile myself with God. I most humbly
thank you."

This interview over, she returned to Versailles. She distributed her
possessions as though she were already dead. She assembled her servants
in her oratory, and earnestly craved their forgiveness for all that
she had said or done amiss. She exhorted them to be devout, to keep
the fasts of the Church, and to serve God. She was thus occupied until
past midnight. Towards morning she called her coach, and bid her people
drive her quickly towards Chaillot. As she passed along she gazed
eagerly on the blooming country for the last time. It was the month of
June. The orchards were laden with the promise of coming fruit; the
newly mown grass, sparkling with morning dew, made the meadows glisten,
the birds carolled in the hedge-rows, and the hills, embowered in
forest, rose green against the azure sky. Louise was still young; it
was her last look on that world which had once been so pleasant to her.

At six o'clock in the morning she arrived at the convent. The Superior,
accompanied by all the nuns, apprised of her arrival, was in waiting to
receive her.

"My mother," said La Vallière, kneeling at her feet, "I have used my
liberty so ill, that I am come to give it up into your hands."

Her long and beautiful hair was cut off before she entered the convent
as a novice. A year afterwards she made her profession. The Queen and
the whole Court were present—all save the King and Madame de Montespan.
Bossuet preached his celebrated sermon. Then the Queen Maria Theresa
descended from the tribune, where she had been seated in company with
_La Grande Mademoiselle_, and invested her with the black veil. She
kissed her tenderly on the forehead as she did so.

La Vallière, now Sister Louise de la Miséricorde, made an exemplary
nun. She wore horse-hair next her skin, walked barefoot along the stone
pavement of the convent, and fasted rigorously. She died at sixty-six,
wasted to a skeleton by her austerities. Her end was peace.



CHAPTER XXIII.

M. DE LAUZUN AND "MADEMOISELLE."


On the line of rail to Orleans, two and a half leagues from Paris, is
the station and village of Choisy le Roi. Of the enchanting abode once
erected here, on the verge of grassy lawns bordering the Seine, nothing
has been left by the revolution but a fragment of wall, built into a
porcelain manufactory.

_Choisy Mademoiselle_, afterwards to be called by Louis XV. _Choisy le
Roi_, was built by Mademoiselle de Montpensier, daughter of Gaston,
Duc d'Orléans, under the advice of Le Nôtre. It was to serve as a
summer retreat from the gloomy splendours of the Luxembourg; a _folie_
where she might spend the summer heats, try her English horses, train
her hounds, row on the river, tend her aviaries, and watch her flowers.
Here, freed from all scrutiny, she could be imperious or devout,
childish or solemn, vain or humble, as suited her fickle humour; here
she could set traps to catch obstinate emperors who refused to wed,
fast upon the most delicate morsels, _bouder_ the Court when neglected
by her Jupiter-cousin the King, and cultivate such remains of beauty as
still lingered on her oval face and almond-shaped blue eyes.

At Choisy all was formal, to suit the taste of its mistress. The _corps
de logis_, a pavilion in one story, a mass of lofty windows, was
flanked on either side by conservatories and orangeries which masked
the offices. Within, the entire south front was occupied by a gallery,
with frescoed ceiling and cornice; the walls covered with crimson
satin, on which hung the family portraits of _La Grande Mademoiselle_.
Each name was written under each portrait, so that all persons looking
on them might read the lofty lineage of this granddaughter of Henry
the Great. At one extremity of the gallery was a chapel, at the
other a writing-cabinet. Here, the victories and conquests of Louis
XIV., painted in miniature, by Van der Meulen, were arranged. These
miniatures also were inscribed with names and dates. A likeness of
his Majesty on horseback, when a youth, hung over the chimney-piece.
Beyond the writing-cabinet was a billiard-room, as well as a suite of
private apartments devoted to the use of the Princess herself. Without,
broad terraces were balanced by flights of steps, statues, vases,
and trophies; _jets d'eau_ rose out of marble basins, and precisely
arranged flowers and orange-trees adorned the walks. There was a park
of a hundred acres, with woods on either hand, trimmed to an exact
resemblance of each other. Choisy, like its mistress, was in perpetual
_costume de Cour_; nothing but the river, towards which the gardens
sloped, was as nature had made it. Not even _La Grande Mademoiselle_
could prevent the soft summer breezes from rippling its silvery
current, the sun from playing vagrant pranks upon its wavelets, or the
water-lilies from growing in wild profusion under the shadow of its
tree-shrouded bays.

Besides Choisy, Mademoiselle possessed the Palace of the Luxembourg,
before-mentioned, the Castles of Eu, D'Aumale, De Thiers, Dombes,
Chatellerault, and Saint-Fargeau, each surrounded by such vast estates,
that no one except the well-known _Marquis de Carrabas_ ever had the
like.

Mademoiselle, although firmly convinced that the world was, in great
measure, created for her particular enjoyment, was wonderfully
exercised in her mind at the difficulty she experienced in securing
that much-coveted game (for which she had hunted all her life), an
emperor, or even a king. She, however, appeased her wounded vanity
by the conviction that she must be considered too masculine in
understanding to consort with any living sovereign. Whatever happened,
this royal lady never by any possibility could blame herself.

About this time, a Gascon gentleman of the Caumont family, whose name
has been already casually mentioned, began to make much noise at Court.
He was Captain of the Royal Guards, whose service was the special care
of his Majesty's person, and Field-Marshal, also Governor of Berry.
Loaded with honours, he had dropped the undistinguished patronymic of
Peguillem altogether, and was known as the Comte de Lauzun. The King,
whose understanding was, as a matter of course, superior to every
one, had said when he was first presented to him at the Comtesse de
Soissons's, that "Lauzun possessed more wit and penetration than any
man in France." This opinion was accepted as law. That Lauzun was, by
reason of his Gascon blood, cunning, heartless, and mercenary, as well
as audacious, insinuating, and brave, is only saying that he was what
all Gascons (going up to Court to make their fortunes) were. But that
he was above the ordinary hungry adventurer, the sequel will show.
Holding Court trumps in his hand, he knew how to play them well. He was
a little man, slight and well formed, with a dull, fair complexion,
reddish hair, keen penetrating grey eyes, and a most insolent bearing.
No one could call him handsome, no one could deny that he could be
morose, vindictive, and cruel. He spoke sharp, hard words, affected a
certain soldierly swagger, and was capable of being alike cringing and
impertinent.

Mademoiselle was no longer young. The unsuccessful chase after an
emperor had occupied a large portion of her life. She lived at Court,
and was necessarily thrown much into the company of Lauzun, who
affected an indifference towards her, a rough and ready manner that
piqued her vanity. So she came gradually (no crowned head appearing
in the matrimonial horizon, only relays of dukes and insignificant
princes) to find Lauzun fascinating and original. The pleasures of
Court palled upon her; she became pensive, even sentimental, and often
retired to bowery Choisy to meditate on the chances and changes of life.

Finally she came to the conclusion that marriage alone would restore
her spirits. But marriage without an emperor? It was a great come-down,
certainly. Yet there are no laws but the laws of passion in the kingdom
of love. Mademoiselle reasoned that her sublimity was so exalted she
could raise any man to her own level. In a word, she discovered that
all earthly bliss depended on her marriage with Monsieur de Lauzun.

Now Mademoiselle was, as we have seen, a very determined, even
masculine, lady. She had pointed the guns of the Bastille against her
cousin the King; she had all but led an army into the battlefield.
Having come to a determination, she proceeded incontinently to carry
it out. But she encountered uncontemplated difficulties. The crafty
Lauzun, who read her like a book, became suddenly respectful and
silent. As she approached, he receded. Mademoiselle was extremely
embarrassed, and more violently in love than ever. This was precisely
what Lauzun intended.

We are in the Queen's apartments at the Louvre, within a stately
retiring-room. The walls are covered with white brocade, on which is
a gold pattern. They are panelled by gilt scroll-work. On the carved
ceiling, which is supported by pilasters, is painted Apollo ushering
in the day. The furniture is of green damask; colossal chandeliers of
crystal and gilt bronze are reflected in mirrors placed at either end.
Over the mantelpiece, which is carved and richly gilt, hangs a portrait
of the King.

Mademoiselle, attended by her lady of honour, enters about the time
of the Queen's lever. She finds Lauzun in a corner talking with the
Comtesse de Guiche. He takes no notice of her, though she gives a
slight cough to attract his attention. She does not like it. Besides
not saluting her, which he ought to have done, he seems quite to have
thrown off his usual _insouciance_, and to find the conversation of the
Comtesse de Guiche much too interesting. Mademoiselle retires into the
recess of a window, and watches him.

Lauzun continues talking with unaccustomed eagerness. He still takes
no notice whatever of Mademoiselle; her royal highness has therefore
to wait—yes, actually to wait; a thing she has never done in her life
before to an inferior—until he has done talking.

But when he does approach her, he advances with such a noble air, he
is in her eyes so handsome, that "To me," she says in her memoirs,
"he seemed the very master of the world." Not only does she forgive
him, but her whole heart goes out to meet him, and her pulses throb
violently—so violently, indeed, she is obliged to wait for a moment ere
she can address him.

Lauzun makes her a ceremonious bow, places his hand on his embroidered
waistcoat and point-lace _jabot_, at the place where, if he had one,
his heart would have been, casts down his eyes, and awaits her pleasure.

Now, it must be specially borne in mind that Mademoiselle, much against
her will, may be now called "_an old maid_," which condition may
reasonably excuse her ardour.

"I flatter myself, Count," she says—blushing at her own backwardness,
yet infinitely gratified at the same time by Lauzun's attitude of
respectful attention—"I flatter myself you take some interest in me."
She looks up, expecting some outburst of protestation at the studied
humility of her language. Lauzun, his hand still resting somewhere
in the region of where his heart ought to be, bows again, but does
not reply. "You are a faithful friend, I know, Monsieur de Lauzun,"
continues Mademoiselle, confused at his perfect composure, and evolving
in her own mind the impossibility of saying all that she desires if he
continues silent. "You are, too, a man of the world—" she hesitates.
Still Lauzun is mute. "Even his Majesty has the highest respect for
your judgment." Again she pauses, flushes crimson, not only on her
cheeks, but over her well-formed neck and snowy shoulders. Lauzun
makes a slight inclination, but otherwise maintains the same attitude.
Mademoiselle's voice, ordinarily rather shrill and loud, is low and
persuasive. She looks at him inquiringly, and stretches out both her
hands as if to claim his special attention to what she is about to
say. Lauzun appears not to observe her anxiety, and fixes his eyes on
the ground. "Will you favour me with your advice, Monsieur de Lauzun?
I shall esteem it a great kindness." Her tone is almost one of
supplication.

"I am deeply sensible of the honour your highness does me," replies
Lauzun, disengaging his hand from his waistcoat, and again bowing, this
time very stiffly. "On what subject may I venture to advise your royal
highness?"

Mademoiselle is conscious she has something very extraordinary to say.
She hoped that, seeing her evident perplexity, Lauzun would have helped
her. Not a bit. She must trust entirely to herself. Her pride comes
to her help. She remembers who she is, draws herself up, steadies her
voice, and takes a few steps nearer to where he is standing.

"It is a very delicate subject, Monsieur de Lauzun; nothing but my
confidence in your honour and your discretion would otherwise induce me
to broach it. But——" and she falters.

Lauzun does not stir, only with the slightest perceptible motion he
raises his eyebrows, which Mademoiselle perceives, and, fearing that he
is impatient, speaks quickly.

"Do you know—can you tell me——" here she pauses; then observing that
he makes a hasty gesture, she forces herself to proceed—"you, Monsieur
de Lauzun, who are the confidant of the King, can you tell me whom he
purposes me to marry?"

Having said thus much she is so overcome she would like to sink into a
chair. There is none at hand; besides, she dare not leave Lauzun, so
eager is she for his reply.

He raises his head and fixes his deep-set eyes upon her with a bold,
cold gaze.

"I assure you, madame, I am absolutely ignorant of his Majesty's
pleasure in this matter. I am persuaded, however, from what I know of
the elevation of his sentiments on all subjects, that he would desire
you solely to follow your own inclination." A malicious twinkle comes
into his eye, and he smiles almost as it seems in mockery.

Mademoiselle becomes more and more discomposed. Never had an interview
been so difficult to manage. "Surely," she thinks, "Lauzun is not
laughing at me!" Yet she is too much in love to drop a conversation
which she is determined shall lead to an explanation of his feelings
towards herself. All this Lauzun is aware of; he rejoices in
intensifying her perplexity.

"Monsieur de Lauzun," she says timidly, playing with one of the soft
curls that falls upon her neck, "I hoped you could have told me. I
earnestly desire your acquiescence in the choice I am about to make.
You must necessarily be interested in it."

An appealing look comes into her face; but she tries in vain to catch
Lauzun's eye. "At my age," and she sighs profoundly, "persons rarely
marry contrary to their inclinations. Every crowned head in Europe
has solicited my hand. Until lately, however, my heart was free." She
sighs again, and gazes imploringly at him. He must understand her, she
tells herself, but as his looks are bent on the ground she cannot tell.
Lauzun inclines his head, and seems to await her further communications.

"I have seen no one to please me until lately," she goes on to say;
"I love my country, Monsieur de Lauzun; I think I could only be happy
with a countryman—one"—(something rises in her throat, and stops
her utterance; she clears her voice)—"one whom I know well—whom I
esteem—whose person and manners are agreeable to me; one with a high
place at Court, and who possesses the esteem of my cousin, the King."
All this is spoken significantly and with marked emphasis.

A delicious glow runs through her frame. Breathlessly she awaits his
reply.

"Your highness speaks with admirable sense," answers Lauzun with great
deliberation. "How many illustrious persons about the Court would be
honoured by knowing your gracious sentiments. Permit me, madame, to
make them public."

"Not for the world, Monsieur de Lauzun," exclaims Mademoiselle
hurriedly. "I am speaking to you strictly in confidence." Her
countenance has fallen, and she has turned very white. Lauzun watches
her under his eyelids, and enjoys her sufferings.

"Why should one so happy as your highness marry at all?" he adds,
seeing that she does not speak.

"I am happy, certainly, if riches and royal birth can confer
happiness," she replies thoughtfully; "but there are drawbacks,
Monsieur de Lauzun. I wish to confer my wealth upon a worthy
individual."

("Myself, for instance," says Lauzun to himself; "I shall be delighted
to spend it; indeed, I intend to do so.")

"Many people," continues Mademoiselle, "at this very moment wish me
dead in order to inherit it," and a sigh escapes her. "I am very
lonely, Monsieur de Lauzun, very lonely." Her face assumes a melting
expression, such as he had never seen on it before. What could she
say to make him understand her? Thinking of this she sighs again very
audibly. Lauzun knits his brows and affects to be lost in thought.

"That is a most serious consideration, your highness. I admit it had
not before occurred to me. Permit me time to consider of it before I
tender any further advice."

A thousand hopes rush into Mademoiselle's mind. "He understands me,"
she tells herself, "but my exalted position alarms him. He will propose
to me when next we meet."

At this moment the Queen entered the withdrawing-room.



CHAPTER XXIV.

A FAIR SUITOR.


The following evening at her Majesty's circle Lauzun approaches
Mademoiselle. A smile is on his face, and his manner is less formal.
Mademoiselle seats herself apart in a recess, and signs to him to place
himself beside her. "Now, now, he will speak," she repeats to herself.

"Are you prepared, M. de Lauzun, to give me your opinion on my
approaching marriage?" The tone of her voice is low and sweet; her hand
falls near his; he draws a little back.

"Believe me, madame, each word you have uttered is graven on my heart.
I have founded many _châteaux d'Espagne_ on them."

Mademoiselle is enchanted. "This is the moment," thinks she. She grows
hot and cold by turns, and with difficulty conceals her delight.

"Pray speak to me with frankness, Count. I want to discuss with you the
most important event of my life—my marriage."

"I am deeply gratified at being appointed president of your council,
madame." Lauzun's manner suddenly changes. He is all at once
disagreeable, stiff, and supercilious. He settles his ruffles over his
hands, and pulls at his moustache. "Allow me to say, however, that
no one in the world could enter into this delicate matter with more
profound respect for you than myself."

Mademoiselle is strangely baffled; spite of herself the conversation is
drifting away, she knows not whither. She cannot decide if Lauzun is
gratified or offended at her advances—a strange dilemma for a love-sick
princess worth many millions!

"Pray, Count, let us resume our discussion of your own opinion on the
matter in question. Do you advise me to marry?"

"Your merit, madame, is so great, I know no one worthy of you." He
speaks with the utmost indifference. "Why resign your present brilliant
position?" he adds.

"Is he mocking me?" she thinks, "or is he bashful?" As this doubt
presents itself, Mademoiselle's heart sinks within her. "What can I say
to make him understand me?" she murmurs. When she next speaks a slight
asperity is apparent in her tone. She is not used to be trifled with;
she cannot brook it even from Lauzun. She rises impatiently.

"I beg you will remember, Monsieur de Lauzun, that I consider no
sacrifice too great to ensure me the husband I have described to you."

Lauzun feels that he may go too far; he instantly assumes a look of
intense humility.

"Such a man as you describe, madame, ought to esteem himself supremely
blest. He should love you more than life!" He speaks with enthusiasm.
Mademoiselle thrills with rapture; her cheeks mantle with blushes. "At
last the moment is come," she thinks. She reseats herself and turns,
with breathless impatience, towards Lauzun, who meets her ardent gaze.
Lauzun instantly checks himself; the cold look is again on his face.

"Where will you find such a man?" he says. "Will your highness permit
me to search for one?"

"Monsieur de Lauzun, if you are in earnest you need not search long,"
she replies significantly. Could she then have caught his eye, all
would have been told.

"Pray inform me on whom your choice has fallen, madame? We may both
have fixed on the same person."

Had she dared she would have openly named himself, but he is suddenly
grown so cold and distant, she is utterly discomfited. Lauzun crosses
his arms on his breast and falls into a muse.

"Have you ever, madame, contemplated the advantages of being a nun?" he
asks abruptly. "Devotion is often the refuge of single women."

Mademoiselle is aghast. Her hands drop helplessly to her side, her head
sinks on her bosom.

"Good heavens!" she thinks, "what evil fortune pursues me? Will no man
ever understand I love him?"

"Upon the whole, madame, I advise you to remain as you are." Lauzun's
voice is harsh, his sallow face is flushed. He is conscious of the
difficulty of his position, with an ardent princess beside him, whose
passion must be irritated to the utmost in order to induce her to
overleap all obstacles. "It is too soon to yield," he thinks.

"I have the honour to tell you, Monsieur de Lauzun, I have selected
marriage," rejoins Mademoiselle haughtily. She is fast losing her
temper. Lauzun instantly assumes a deeply penitent air.

"For myself," he says meekly, "my only pleasure is in the service of
his Majesty. I am fit for nothing else." As he speaks his dejected
look sends a pang to her heart. "If I leave his Majesty, it will be——"
he stops, Mademoiselle listens breathlessly—"it will be to enter a
monastery. Nothing but my attachment to my royal master restrains me."

"Blessed Virgin!" ejaculates Mademoiselle, clasping her hands. "Who
could have believed it?"

"I shall never marry," continues Lauzun. He hangs down his head,
apparently overcome with despondency.

"How?—Why?" demands Mademoiselle eagerly. "For what reason?"

"Marriage has often been proposed to me, your highness, but there are
insurmountable difficulties."

"Name them, I entreat you," she cries imperiously.

"My wife, madame, must be a paragon of virtue, or I should murder her.
I dread the morals of the Court. Not the wealth of the Indies would
tempt me to marry and to doubt. I would not unite myself to a princess
of the blood, under such conditions."

"Noble heart!" exclaims Mademoiselle aside. "You can very easily find
the virtuous lady you seek," she adds aloud, in a voice tremulous with
suppressed passion. She turns towards Lauzun, and for a moment touches
his hand which lies close to her own. "My choice is made," she adds
resolutely. "I shall announce it to his Majesty to-morrow."

"For heaven's sake, forbear!" exclaims Lauzun, with real earnestness,
starting to his feet; "you make me tremble. You must say nothing. It
concerns my honour, madame," and he smote upon his breast. Mademoiselle
turns her glowing eyes upon him. "My honour as your adviser, madame, I
mean," adds Lauzun, correcting himself and speaking in an altered tone.
But all his self-command could not wholly conceal the triumph he felt
at having so successfully acted his part. "As your adviser, madame,
I forbid you to speak to the King. The time is not yet come. (I hold
her," he says to himself, "she is mine!")

At this moment a page enters and desires him to join his Majesty,
who is walking up and down in the quadrangle with some gentlemen.
Mademoiselle is as much at a loss as ever to make Lauzun understand
her. Just as a crisis approaches, they are always interrupted. She
longs to ask him why she should not tell the King? Once or twice she
tried to do so, but Lauzun invariably turned the conversation into
such a channel as effectually silenced Mademoiselle, who spite of her
pride was easily abashed.

At last she hits upon an expedient.

"I have the name of my intended written on this slip of paper, Monsieur
de Lauzun," she says, and she offers him a sealed note at their next
meeting.

Lauzun draws back, stares at her, and frowns. "I do not wish to take
the note, madame. I feel that it forebodes me misfortune, my heart
beats so violently." Still he stretches out his hand and takes the
paper which she offers.

This takes place in the morning, at the Queen's lever. Maria Theresa is
on her way to mass, accompanied by Mademoiselle, who is in a state of
indescribable perturbation. She had seen Lauzun open the note, and read
the paper, on which is written the magic words, "_It is you._"

This great princess, arrived at a mature age, and as proud as Lucifer,
trembles like a leaf during mass, and requires all the restraints of
etiquette to hide the tumult of her feelings. After mass the Queen goes
to visit the Dauphin, who is ailing. Mademoiselle awaits her return in
a gallery outside. Lauzun is there. He leans against the chimney-piece,
lost in thought. A bright fire of logs is burning on the hearth.
His countenance betrays nothing. He neither seeks nor avoids her.
Mademoiselle rubs her hands, advances to the fire and shivers.

"I am paralysed with cold," she says, in a soft voice. She bends over
the fire. Lauzun bows and retires some steps to make room for her.

"I am more paralysed than your highness," he says stiffly, looking
round to see that no one is near. His face is inscrutable. "I have read
the note you did me the honour to place in my hands. I am not, however,
so foolish as to fall into such a snare; your highness is amusing
yourself at my expense. You conceal the real name of your intended
husband and substitute mine. You do this to mortify me. You are very
cruel." He gives her a stealthy look. Mademoiselle staggers backward;
she supports herself against a chair. She does not know whether to
laugh or cry. Then feeling that the moment so longed for is come, she
collects herself and speaks with dignity.

"I assure you, Monsieur de Lauzun, the name you have read on that
paper, is the name of the man I mean to marry."

Lauzun shakes his head incredulously.

"Not only so, Monsieur de Lauzun, but I intend immediately informing
the King of my intention, unless," adds she, in a tender voice, "you
forbid me." She would have liked to have gathered into one glance all
the love she felt for him. To have told him her passionate admiration
for his person, her respect for his magnanimity in rejecting the
splendid position she offered him. She would have liked to do this;
but, in the face of such exalted independence, her womanly delicacy
takes alarm. She can neither look at him nor utter a single word.

"Madame," says Lauzun at length, addressing her with the utmost
solemnity, "you have ill recompensed the zeal I have shown for you.
Henceforth, I can approach you no more. Great as is my respect for your
highness, I cannot permit myself to be exposed to ridicule. You are,
madame, making me the butt of the whole Court."

Mademoiselle starts violently, then she places her hand upon his arm.
"Lauzun," she says, and her voice sinks into a tone of the humblest
entreaty, "I beseech you to understand me. My resolution may seem
hasty, but your great qualities excuse it. I have made up my mind. I
shall ask his Majesty's permission to marry you."

At last she has spoken! The woman has overcome the princess. Lauzun
stands before her with downcast eyes—a victim, as it seems, to his own
perfection. The time was now come that he must coquet no more. Placing
his hand on his heart, he made her a deep obeisance.

"But, madame, I am only a Gascon gentleman. None but a sovereign is a
fit consort for your highness."

"I will make you a prince, Count," rejoins she, with a tender look. "I
will create you Duc de Montpensier. I have wealth and dignities; both
are yours."

Her eyes sparkle, her cheeks burn. An air of mingled power, pride,
love, and exultation overspreads her face. Her tall figure is raised
to its full height: she clasps the hand of Lauzun; he raises it to his
lips.

"Your highness overwhelms me," he whispers, with genuine feeling. For
an instant, Lauzun—the cold, heartless Lauzun—felt her influence. Could
he really love this exalted lady, who had thus honoured him? He looks
fixedly into her face, now transfigured by the deep passions that
stirred her inmost soul. Could he love her? He, a penniless cadet, of
an insignificant name? Etiquette set at defiance, a princess at his
feet, enormous wealth, a royal dukedom in his grasp! Could he love
her?—For a moment a rush of wild thoughts whirl through his brain. She
worships him. He could make her life a long enchantment. He was about
to kneel to her, to thank her, even to press her in his arms. But he
stops and steadies himself. No—she is too old; wrinkles gather about
her mouth, her fair hair is partly grey, the bloom has long faded from
her cheeks, the fire of youth from her eye. What is she but an old
maid, inflamed by a furious passion for a man greatly younger than
herself? Should he, the brilliant Lauzun, burn incense on the altar
of such an idol? Impossible. He would be the laughing-stock of the
Court! His lively imagination grasps the whole situation in an instant.
Lauzun's baser nature conquered. The momentary warmth fades out of his
heart for ever. He heaves a sigh of relief.

"Monsieur de Lauzun," says Mademoiselle, far too much occupied with her
own raptures to heed or to understand what was passing in his mind,
"you sigh. Fear nothing; I will obtain his Majesty's permission for our
speedy marriage."

Would Louis XIV. consent to the marriage of his cousin-german with
a simple gentleman? Would Madame de Montespan, with whom Lauzun
had intrigued, fall into this arrangement, or would she use her
all-powerful influence against it? These are awful questions.
Lauzun's blood ran cold when he thought of it. Madame de Montespan is
treacherous, and as vindictive and clever as himself. Louvois, too,
the minister, is his enemy.

Mademoiselle, however, ignorant of these dangers, acted without a
moment's hesitation. She wrote a long letter to the King, announcing
her choice, and asking for his consent. Lauzun saw and approved the
letter. It was then confided to Bontemps, who carried it to his Majesty.

Louis did not vouchsafe an immediate answer. He sent word to his cousin
that she had better reflect well upon what she was about to do. But the
countenance of the royal Jupiter beamed upon his favourite Lauzun with
undiminished warmth, and he was most affectionate to his cousin. Both
naturally drew favourable augeries. Mademoiselle was now steeped in the
sweets of an acknowledged passion. Lauzun condescended to be gracious,
spite of some little eccentricities such as not always approaching
her, or even replying to her when she addressed him—eccentricities
attributed by her to his great modesty and discretion. Still, the King
had not given his consent.

One evening his Majesty played late at _écarté_, so late indeed that
it was two o'clock, and he was still at the table. Mademoiselle sat
nodding on a brocaded fauteuil beside the Queen. She was determined to
see every one out, and to speak to her royal cousin.

She longed so much to salute her lover Duc de Montpensier; to behold
him raised to the Olympian circle that surrounded the family god. She
longed for many things; life had of late become a delightful mystery to
her. Each day unfolded some link in that delicious chain that bound
her for ever to her adored Lauzun!

At last the Queen rose. As she passed by she whispered to
Mademoiselle—"You must have some very important business with the King
to remain so late. I can sit up no longer."

"Madame," she replied, rising, "it is a matter of life and death to me.
If I succeed it will be announced at the council to-morrow morning."

"Well, my cousin," said the poor Queen, who never understood anything
that was going on, and was not intended to do so, "I wish you all
success. Good night."

By-and-by Louis left off playing. He rose, and walked up to
Mademoiselle. "What, cousin, you are still here? You did not accompany
her Majesty? Do you know the time? It is two o'clock."

"Sire, I wish to speak a few words to you."

The King yawned, gave a glance towards the door, then leant wearily
against the wall. "Excuse me for to-night, cousin," said he; "I am
tired."

"I shall not be long," urged Mademoiselle; "but do be seated, or I feel
I cannot address you properly."

"No, I am very well thus. Speak, my cousin. I am all attention."

This was an awful moment. Mademoiselle's heart thumped audibly against
her side. Her throat became so parched no words would come.

"Sire," she began, and her voice failed her. The King watched her; he
had seen a good deal of women by this time, and understood their ways.
He knew she was about to speak to him of Lauzun, and smiled.

"Take time, my cousin," said he graciously; "you are agitated; take
time."

"Sire," again began poor Mademoiselle—fortunately her voice now came to
her, and she continued—"I want to tell you that the resolution I had
the honour of submitting to your Majesty respecting the Comte de Lauzun
is unshaken. I shall never be happy unless I am his wife."

"Yet, my cousin, you have hitherto been most severe on those princesses
who have married beneath their rank—your step-sister, Madame de Guise,
for example. Lauzun is certainly the most complete grand seigneur of
my Court; but I still advise you to reflect well upon the step you are
taking. I do not wish to constrain you."

Mademoiselle clasped her hands; her face beamed.

"I love and esteem you beyond measure, my cousin," added Louis, taking
her hands in his. "I shall rejoice to have you always about my person.
But be careful; Lauzun has many enemies. I do not forbid you; but
remember, a sovereign is often forced to act against his will. This
intended marriage is now little known; do not give time for all the
world to discuss it. Let me warn you and Lauzun to be cautious; above
all, lose no time, my cousin. Take my advice, lose no time."

"Oh, Sire!" exclaimed Mademoiselle in an ecstasy, "if you are with us,
who can be against us?"

Louis embraced her, and they parted.

Any one less infatuated than Mademoiselle, less arrogant than Lauzun,
would have understood the King's friendly caution, "_to lose no time_."
But they were both too intoxicated with their different feelings to
heed the advice of the really well-meaning Louis. Lauzun lost his head
completely. He accepted, day after day, the magnificent presents sent
him by Mademoiselle. He ordered fresh equipages, horses, jewels, and
plate. He was created Duc de Montpensier. He shrank from the amorous
ardour of the doting Princess, but he gloried in her munificence. Still
unmarried, he revelled in it without a drawback! He was a mean, selfish
fellow, Monsieur de Lauzun, like all men who marry heiresses they do
not care for. The words of warning came again, and this time to his
ear. "_Marry while you can_," was said to him. Mademoiselle, still
enacting the masculine part, urged an early day, but she urged in vain.

[Illustration: VIEW OF THE LUXEMBOURG (LATER CALLED THE PALAIS
D'ORLÉANS) IN THE 17TH CENTURY.

FROM AN OLD PRINT.]



CHAPTER XXV.

UNDER A COUCH.


About this time Lauzun, soon to become cousin-german to the King,
solicited the distinguished post of Grand Master of the Artillery.
Already he commanded the Dragoons, and was captain of the hundred
gentlemen pensioners who guarded the person of the Sovereign; but
this was not enough. The King readily promised him the appointment;
but time went on, and no warrant came. Lauzun grew uneasy—specially
as each time he recalled the subject the King evidently evaded it.
What did this mean? Who was his enemy? He spoke to the favourite,
Madame de Montespan, although he was well aware he had given her good
cause for hating him. Madame de Montespan, with the most winning
smiles, promised him her assistance. Still no warrant came. Again
Lauzun ventured to recall his promise to the King at his lever, while
handing him his feathered hat and cane. Louis turned away his head,
addressed the Duc de Roquelaure, and affected not to hear him. There
was treachery somewhere! Lauzun shrewdly suspected Madame de Montespan.
He would know for certain that very day, and if it were so he would
unmask her. He offered a heavy bribe to one of her confidential
attendants, well known to him in the days of their _liaison_, and
prevailed on her to introduce him into the saloon, where the King would
visit Madame de Montespan before supper, that very afternoon. Louis,
who told his mistress everything, and consulted her about all important
appointments, would be sure to mention Lauzun's renewed application
of that morning. At all events Lauzun would chance it. He knew the
lady was from home, having seen her start, in company with the Queen
and Mademoiselle de Montpensier, for a drive to Saint-Cloud. He had
handed his betrothed into the royal coach. No sooner had they started
than Lauzun was admitted into Madame de Montespan's apartments by her
friendly attendant. She assisted him in his arrangements, and finally
concealed him under a large couch covered with fine tapestry, on which
Madame de Montespan usually sat. It was an undignified proceeding.
He had to divest himself of his periwig and plumed hat, take off his
richly embroidered satin coat, tuck up his shirt sleeves, and crouch
upon his hands and knees upon the dusty floor. But these are trifles to
a man bent upon revenge!

Shortly before the hour of supper, which their Majesties eat in public,
Lauzun recognised Madame de Montespan's voice within her boudoir. Then
he heard steps approaching. He could swear to the King's solemn tread
and the sound of his cane tapping on the floor.

Almost before he could settle himself in the best position for
listening the King was announced. At the same moment Madame de
Montespan entered from her boudoir on the other side of the saloon.
He heard her advance to the door and receive the King. She kissed his
hand; Louis saluted her on both cheeks, and led her to the couch under
which Lauzun lay concealed.

"Your Majesty looks vexed this afternoon," said Madame de Montespan in
a softly modulated voice. "What has happened?"

"I am exceedingly annoyed about that affair of Lauzun," replied Louis,
seating himself in an arm-chair. "He has again applied to me about the
Artillery this morning."

Madame de Montespan leant back indolently among the cushions, little
dreaming who was crouching beneath so near her, and placed her feet
upon an embroidered stool. A feather fan hung at her side, and as the
weather was warm she took it up and moved it languidly to and fro,
gazing absently at the King, who awaited her reply.

"Did you hear what I said, Athanaise? I am annoyed about Lauzun."

"I heard, Sire; but what can I say? You already know my opinion on that
subject. Need I repeat it?"

This was said in a careless manner, as she sank back deeper among the
cushions.

(Lauzun was all ears. "She has given her opinion then," he said to
himself. "I think I can guess what it was.")

"I promised Lauzun the place, remember," continued the King. "He
certainly merits it; but your friend Louvois will not hear of his
appointment. He torments me every time I see him to give the Artillery
to the Comte de Lude."

"I certainly advise you," returned the lady, glancing at herself in an
opposite mirror and arranging the fringe of small curls that lay on her
forehead, "to be guided by the advice of so experienced a minister as
Louvois, rather than listen to such an empty-headed coxcomb as Lauzun."

("Ah, that is the opinion you have of me, is it?" muttered Lauzun. "Now
I know you, you traitress!")

"But remember, Athanaise," said the King, taking out his snuff-box and
applying the powder to his nose with great deliberation—"remember his
attachment to me, his courage."

"His attachment to you, Sire!" and Madame de Montespan smiled
ironically. "Do you believe in it?"

"Certainly. Then my word——"

"Bah! your word—that is nothing. Withdraw it."

("Ah! fiend," exclaimed Lauzun in a low voice, clenching his fists as
well as his position allowed him; "this is the way you plead my cause,
is it? Curses on you!")

"You need not fear for Lauzun," continued the lady blandly.
"Mademoiselle will take care of his interests—the old fool!"

Madame de Montespan, in imitation of _La Grande Mademoiselle_,
bridled, simpered, craned her neck, rounded her elbows, and stared
superciliously under her eyelids. Louis laughed.

"Spare my poor cousin, Marquise. She is eminently ridiculous; but I
love her sincerely. Her genuine affection for Lauzun touches me."

"For my part, Sire, I cannot understand how any woman can care for him.
He is such a _petit maître_—ill-made, short, with a complexion like a
lemon—altogether detestable. Not a man to my taste, certainly," added
she contemptuously, at the same time casting a flattering glance at the
King, as much as to say, in his presence no other man could possibly
be thought of. The King understood the glance and the compliment, and
smiled upon her.

"The ladies are not on your side, however," returned he. "They all
adore Lauzun. But about this command of Artillery—to whom am I to give
it?"

("Now I shall know all the depths of your treachery, Athanaise de
Montespan!" said Lauzun half aloud to himself from under the couch.)

"Did any one speak?" asked the King quickly. "I thought I heard a
voice."

(Lauzun bit his lips with vexation.)

"It must be my parrot, Sire," answered Madame de Montespan. "In giving
away so important a post you ought certainly to consult the welfare of
France. All personal considerations should be sacrificed." De Montespan
spoke pompously.

("_Sacré Dieu!_" murmured Lauzun. "She is a female Judas!")

"What can the welfare of France have to do with this appointment?"
asked the King, smiling.

("That is what I want to know too," whispered Lauzun. "Speak, serpent!")

"No man in France is better adapted to fill this post than Lauzun,"
added Louis gravely.

"How?" cried Madame de Montespan, sitting upright, and speaking in a
shrill voice and with much animation, as the King seemed to vacillate.
"How, Sire? Can you forget that dissensions between Louvois offended,
and Lauzun imperious, (and you know, Sire, his overbearing temper, and
how audacious he can be) must be exceedingly prejudicial to the State?"

"Spoken like an oracle!" exclaimed the King, looking admiringly at her.
"What a head you have for business, madame! You are as beautiful as
Venus, and as wise as Minerva!"

"Your Majesty flatters me," replied the lady, casting an enamoured
glance at him. "I only observe what is perfectly plain. I am sure your
Majesty's penetration must have arrived at this conclusion already.
Remember, Louvois may resign, if you affront him," continued she,
fixing her bright eyes on Louis.

"Now, all the fates prevent it!" cried Louis with alarm. "I should be
lost without Louvois."

"Then you must at once refuse Lauzun!" cried De Montespan with decision.

("By heaven, I will be revenged!" muttered Lauzun, stung with sudden
rage at her perfidy, in a louder voice than he was aware of.)

"Now I am certain I heard some one speak!" exclaimed the King,
frowning, and turning his ear towards the spot from which the sound
came. He paused to listen. "Athanaise," said he, rising, and looking
suspiciously at Madame de Montespan, "this is very strange. I demand an
explanation." His Olympian brow was knit.

"Your Majesty is mistaken, you only heard my parrot in the anteroom.
Surely you do not doubt me, Sire!" added she in a tearful voice,
putting her handkerchief to her eyes. "Such an insult would kill me."
Her bosom heaved. "Oh, Louis, you cannot love me if you entertain such
unworthy suspicions." Sobs, real or false, here stifled her voice.

Meanwhile Louis rose hastily, and looked into the corners and behind
all the cabinets, as if determined to make a thorough investigation of
the whole room. This would have rendered Lauzun's position desperate.
He positively shook with terror. Madame de Montespan still sobbed, her
handkerchief pressed to her eyes.

The King took a few turns up and down the saloon, brandished his cane,
and moved some chairs. The noise he made roused the parrot in the next
room into a fury. It screeched so loud that for a time nothing else
could be heard.

Finding no one, Louis, rather embarrassed, placed himself at a window.
He looked back at the beautiful woman still weeping on the settee.
"Come, no more tears, Athanaise," he said tenderly, approaching her
with a penitent look and taking the handkerchief from her face. "Let
this kiss seal my pardon. But the voice was really so distinct.
I thought for a moment——" Madame de Montespan fixed her eyes
reproachfully on him. "Well, no matter. Then you advise me to refuse
Lauzun the post he desires?"

"Certainly," returned the lady with decision. She was now quite calm
and alive to business.

A knock was heard at the door. Several gentlemen in waiting, attended
by pages, entered and announced that supper was served and the Queen
already at table.

"I must leave you, my angel," said the King, in a low voice, rising.
"It is time you should prepare for the performance of Molière's play in
the theatre arranged for to-night. Adieu, my adored Marquise. Forgive
my want of courtesy," he whispered in her ear. "But the parrot's voice
was so natural.—I will wipe off my fault in any manner you please."

"I ask for nothing, Sire," replied she, in the same low tone, "but that
you should refuse this place to Lauzun. Do this, and you are forgiven,"
and her eyes beamed on the King, who, after placing his hat, covered
with a plume of snowy ostrich feathers, on his head, raised it, bowed
to her, and kissed her hand. Then replacing his hat before he left
the room with his attendants, he passed the outer entrance, where the
_gardes du corps_, who never left him, presented arms.

Madame de Montespan passed into her closet.

When the saloon was empty, Lauzun, crimson in the face, foaming with
rage and much rumpled in appearance, emerged from his hiding-place.
He hastily replaced his wig,—so hastily, indeed, that he put it on
awry,—and dragged on his coat with such violence that he tore off the
priceless Malines lace ruffles. Oath after oath fell from his lips
as he dressed himself. "You shall pay for this, devil of a Marquise!
_Morbleu_, I will make you wince!" he muttered—for he dared not speak
louder until he had left the room. This he did, closing the doors with
the utmost precaution behind him.

The suite of rooms assigned to Madame de Montespan led by a corridor
to the landing of the grand marble staircase of the south wing. On the
other side and across this landing were the state apartments, situated
in the centre of the palace. To reach them Madame de Montespan must
pass this corridor. Lauzun placed himself behind the outer door, and
awaited her. After a long time she appeared. Her hair, just touched
with powder, was sown with diamonds. A necklace of large single
brilliants, linked together with pearls, lay upon her neck. Her dress
was of pink satin, woven with gold; the low body fitting tightly,
displayed to the utmost advantage her exquisite form. Her train of
violet velvet, bordered by pearls and _passementerie_ of gold, swept
the ground. She was a miracle of loveliness. Lauzun made her a profound
obeisance. Taking the tips of her fingers within his hand, he kissed
them, and begged permission to be allowed the honour of escorting her
across the landing to the state apartments. Madame de Montespan smiled;
his delicate attention flattered her vanity. Her anger was appeased.
The gay _sabreur_ was returning to his allegiance. Lauzun was now, too,
a personage, as the betrothed of Mademoiselle, and cousin-to-be of the
King. She almost repented she had urged the King so strongly to refuse
him the post of Grand Master of the Artillery.

Lauzun, speaking in the softest and most insinuating voice, now asked
her if she had condescended, during her recent interview with the
King, to remember his humble suit to his Majesty, for which he had
recommended himself to her all-powerful influence?

"This very afternoon I have done so," replied she with the utmost
effrontery. "Indeed, I have urged your claims so strongly upon both his
Majesty and Louvois that I believe you will receive the appointment
to-morrow."

"How kind you are!" answered Lauzun, affecting to smile.

"Yes," returned the lady, "after all my eloquence, Monsieur le Comte,
you must be successful," and she gave him one of those glances out of
her serpent eyes, whose power she knew so well.

"Delightful!" rejoined Lauzun aloud. "I am quite satisfied." Then,
placing his mouth close to her ear, while a Satanic look passed over
his face, he hissed out, "Yes, I am satisfied, for now I have fairly
unmasked you. You are the greatest liar in his Majesty's dominions!"

As he spoke her arm still lay confidingly on his. In a moment he had
seized and crushed it violently. Madame de Montespan gave a piercing
scream.

"Yes," yelled Lauzun, planting himself before her—"yes, I can prove
what I say. I have heard every word you said of me to the King. I was
present—concealed."

"Ah!" shrieked Madame de Montespan, agonised with pain. She stopped,
and leant against the wall for support. A look of real terror came into
her face. She turned appealingly toward Lauzun, who stood before her
glaring with passion, then, overcome by pain and fright, she staggered,
and fainting, or affecting to faint, fell heavily upon the pavement.
There Lauzun left her. Without calling for help, he strode rapidly down
the grand staircase, and disappeared.



CHAPTER XXVI.

SIGNING THE MARRIAGE CONTRACT.


A day is at length fixed. The contract between Mademoiselle and Lauzun
is to be signed at the Luxembourg Palace. Mademoiselle arrays herself
in the white robe of an affianced bride. Lauzun is beside her. He is
ostentatiously humble; indeed, he had never been thoroughly civil to
her before.

As he enters the boudoir in her private suite of apartments, he salutes
her with his grandest air, and kisses her hand. Mademoiselle cannot
take her eyes off him. Her senile transports are ridiculous; Lauzun
feels that they are.

A table is placed in the centre of the room; at this table sits
Boucherat, notary to her royal highness. He is dressed in the quaint
clerical robe, white bands, and short wig that still distinguished
his profession in France. The marriage contract, of portentous size,
lies open on the table before him. Boucherat, a tall spare man, with a
singularly doleful expression of countenance, looks discomposed, coughs
several times, then, finding that no one attends to him, looks up.
Mademoiselle is talking eagerly with Lauzun.

"Your royal highness—" begins Boucherat, hesitating. "Will you
permit me to address you, madame?" he adds in a louder tone, finding
Mademoiselle pays no attention to him.

"What is it, my good Boucherat?" asks Mademoiselle, turning round at
last towards him.

Boucherat rises to his feet. He bows, standing on the tips of his
toes, then folds his arms. He is purple in the face, and appears to be
suffering acutely, especially as, suddenly unfolding his arms, he rubs
them violently together.

Lauzun laughs. Mademoiselle cannot altogether command her countenance.

"I have known your royal highness from a child," says Boucherat
hurriedly, as though speaking between spasms of pain. "I have had the
honour of serving your illustrious father, Gaston, Duc d'Orléans, as
notary before your birth—exalted lady." Here Boucherat stops, gasps
as if going into a fit, wipes his forehead with his handkerchief, and
adjusts his wig.

Lauzun roars with laughter, and Mademoiselle contemplates the notary
with silent amazement.

"I have the honour to say,—great lady," continues Boucherat
spasmodically, "that I have known you from a child. I have always
obeyed you, blindly, as was my duty and my pleasure. I have obeyed you
now, madame," and he utters a sound between a snort and a groan. "I
have at your command drawn up these deeds, as you bade me. But," and he
again stops, blows his nose violently, and makes a hideous grimace, "I
cannot allow your highness to sign these deeds and contracts without
presuming to ask you if you have fully considered their import." Here
such a succession of twitches and spasmodic contortions passes over his
countenance, that he is scarcely human.

"I have well considered what I am doing, Boucherat," replies
Mademoiselle loftily, advancing to the table and taking a pen in her
hand.

Lauzun, no longer laughing, stands contemplating Boucherat, with a
savage expression.

"Your highness—permit me," pursues the notary, not seeing him. "Is it
to be an _entire_ donation of the princedom of Dombes, the county of
Eu, the dukedom of——"

"Yes, yes, Boucherat, an entire donation," replies Mademoiselle,
interrupting him.

She dips the pen into the ink and prepares to sign.

"An _entire_ donation, madame?" gasps Boucherat, rising noisily to his
feet, then re-seating himself, and repeating this several times in
his excitement. "Let me caution your highness——" Another snort and a
succession of loud coughs silence him.

"This good man will certainly have a fit," says Mademoiselle half
aloud. "What can I do with him? Do not agitate yourself, Boucherat,"
and she turns towards him. She well knows his great fidelity and
attachment to herself. "Have no fear. I know what I am about. I shall
never be more mistress of my fortune than when I give it to this
gentleman."

She turns round and glances fondly at Lauzun, who is standing behind
her. She starts back at the furious expression on his face. He looks
diabolical. His eyes are fixed on Boucherat. The pen drops from her
hand.

"Believe me, madame, I—I have reason for my caution"; and again all
human expression passes from the face of the notary in a succession of
the most violent winks.

"How, villain! what do you mean?" cries Lauzun, advancing. "I shall
break my cane on your back presently."

Boucherat rises, looks for a moment at Lauzun, then at Mademoiselle,
shakes his head, readjusts his wig, and reseats himself.

Mademoiselle had taken the pen—which Lauzun presents to her this
time—again in her hand.

"Ah, your highness," groans Boucherat, "I have done my duty. God help
and guard you!"

"Are these deeds as I commanded them, Boucherat?"

"Yes, madame; they are a donation, an _entire_ donation, of the
princedom of Dombes, the——"

"Be silent, scoundrel!" roars Lauzun, "or by heaven I will split your
head open."

Boucherat shudders; his eyes seem to turn in his head; a look of horror
is on his face.

Mademoiselle draws the parchment towards her.

"I sign here," she says, and she traces her name in a bold, firm hand,
"Louise de Montpensier."

While she writes, Boucherat digs his hands into his wig, which, pushed
to one side, discloses his bald head. Then with a piteous glance at his
mistress, he flings his arms wildly into the air.

"Alas, alas! would I had died before this! the princedom of Dombes
gone—the county of Eu gone! Oh, madame!"

"Be silent, madman!" roars Lauzun, "or, _pardieu_, I will throttle you."

       *       *       *       *       *

The folding-doors leading into the state apartments are now thrown
open. Mademoiselle appears, led by the Comte de Lauzun. These state
apartments had been decorated by her grandmother, Marie de' Medici,
who had lived in this palace. The walls are ornamented with delicate
arabesques, panelled with golden borders, and painted above in
compartments. The vaulted ceilings are divided into various designs,
executed by Rubens, illustrating the life of his royal mistress. Around
hang the effigies of the Medici and the Bourbons, the common ancestors
of Marie de' Medici and her granddaughter.

Mademoiselle passes round the brilliant circle which forms itself about
her, still holding Lauzun by the hand.

"Permit me," says she, in her stateliest manner, taking her position
at the top of the throne-room under a canopy—"Permit me to present to
you my future husband, the Duc de Montpensier. Let me beg all of you in
future to address him by that title _only_."

The royal princes present and the great personages of the Court bow
their acquiescence. The Maréchal de Bellefonds advances and salutes
Mademoiselle.

"Permit me, madame," says he, addressing her, "to congratulate you in
the name of your highness's devoted friends. I desire to thank you
especially in the name of the nobility of France, whom I represent, for
the honour you are conferring on our order by choosing from amongst us
a consort to share your dignity. We esteem Monsieur de Lauzun one of
the brightest ornaments of the Court; he is worthy of the proud station
for which you have selected him."

"I thank you, Maréchal de Bellefonds, and I thank the nobility of
France whom you so worthily represent. I thank you from my heart," and
Mademoiselle curtseys with royal grace. "No one is so well acquainted
as myself with the merit of Monsieur de Lauzun," and she glances
proudly at her future husband. "I accept with pleasure the sympathy of
his friends."

Lauzun bends, and kisses the hand of his affianced wife.

Then the Maréchal de Charost steps forth from a glittering crowd of
officers. Charost is a captain in the royal body-guard.

"I must also thank your highness for the honour you confer on the army
of France. My post is now without price; for what would a soldier not
give, what sacrifices would he not make, to become the brother-in-arms
of the husband of your highness?"

A laugh follows this hearty outburst of enthusiasm. It is scarcely
audible, but Mademoiselle instantly suppresses it with a frown. Lauzun
is a sacred object in her eyes, and she permits no jests, however
flattering, to mix with his name. Turning towards the Maréchal de
Charost, she replies with haughty courtesy—

"I thank you, Maréchal, and, in your person I thank the brave army of
his Majesty, my cousin."

Before this august company separates it is announced that the marriage
contract is to be at once submitted to the King, Queen, the Dauphin,
the Duc d'Orléans, and the princes of the blood-royal.

The marriage is to take place next day at Charenton, at the villa of
the Marquise de Créqui. The Archbishop of Rheims is to officiate.



CHAPTER XXVII.

PLOT AND COUNTERPLOT.


Meanwhile, Madame de Montespan expatiated to all the Court on the
impossibility of an alliance between Mademoiselle and the Comte de
Lauzun. That Lauzun should be received as a prince of the blood would,
according to her, for ever lessen that dignity so dear to the heart of
the monarch.

[Illustration: LOUVOIS.]

Louvois, her creature—some said her lover—spoke more strongly. Not
only France, he said, would be eternally disgraced, but his Majesty
would be personally censured in every Court in Europe, for permitting
one of his nearest relatives thus to demean herself. Monsieur, father
of Mademoiselle, declared that such an alliance would be an affront
to the memory of his daughter's illustrious grandfather, Henry the
Great. Nobles and ministers, incited by Louvois, threw themselves at
the King's feet. They implored him not to cloud his glorious reign
by consenting to such a _mésalliance_. The poor weak Queen, worked upon
by the artifices of the malicious De Montespan, who, as superintendent
of her household, was constantly about her person, complained loudly
of the insult about to be put upon her circle—she a royal daughter
of Spain! All the princesses of the blood joined with her. The cabal
was adroitly managed. It attacked the King's weak side. No man was
ever such a slave to public opinion, or so scrupulously regardful of
appearances, as Louis XIV. To him the _vox populi_ was indeed "the
voice of God."

About eight o'clock that evening, Mademoiselle was summoned to the
Louvre from the Luxembourg. "Was the King still at cards?" she asked
the messenger.

"No; his Majesty was in the apartments of Madame de Montespan, but he
desired to see her highness the instant she arrived."

As Mademoiselle drove into the quadrangle, a gentleman in waiting
approached her coach, and begged her to enter by another door, leading
directly into the private apartments. This mystery seemed to her
excited imagination full of evil import. When she reached the King's
cabinet, some one ran out by another door. It was Madame de Montespan.
The King was sitting over the fire. His head rested on his hand.
Mademoiselle stood before him trembling all over.

[Illustration: BEDCHAMBER OF LOUIS XIV. AT VERSAILLES.]

"My cousin," said the King at length, rising and offering her a seat
beside his own, "what I have to tell you makes me wretched."

"Good God! Sire, what is it?" asked Mademoiselle in a hoarse voice. She
had turned as white as the dress (that of an affianced bride) she wore.
Her eyes were fixed upon the King in a wild stare.

"Calm yourself, my cousin," said Louis solemnly. "It is said by my
ministers that I am sacrificing you, my relative, to the interests of
my favourite Lauzun. I am also informed that Lauzun declares he does
not love you—that it was you who offered yourself to him in marriage!"

Mademoiselle clasped her hands, then pressed them on her forehead. "Not
love me?" she cried. "What a base lie! Lauzun tells me he adores me."

"Nevertheless, my cousin, such reports must have some foundation,"
resumed the King, speaking with great gravity. "They compromise me in
my royal person; they tarnish the glory of the Crown of France, which
I wear." His look and manner from grave had become overbearing and
pompous. It was quite evident that whatever touched his own position
he would ruthlessly sacrifice. "My cousin, I have to announce to you
that I cannot permit this marriage." He spoke in a loud, grating voice,
raised his eyes to the ceiling, stroked his chin with his hand, and
seemed to swell with self-consciousness.

A ringing scream was heard from Mademoiselle. She lay back on her
arm-chair motionless.

Having asserted his dignity, and conveyed in proper terms to his cousin
that neither her entreaties nor her sufferings could for an instant be
considered when they encroached upon his royal state, Louis relaxed his
rigid attitude, condescended to turn his eyes downwards upon poor
Mademoiselle, and in a voice kind, spite of his sublimity, added—

"I am very sorry for you, my cousin, very sorry. You have good cause
to complain of me; but my duty as King of France is supreme. I cannot
permit you to espouse the Comte de Lauzun."

"Ah, sire—" groaned Mademoiselle, in a voice so choked by agitation
it sounded strange in the King's ears, and made him shudder; (for his
selfish nature instinctively caused him to shrink from every species
of suffering). She held out her hands supplicatingly towards him, and
vainly essayed several times to speak. "Ah, Sire," she said at last in
a voice scarcely audible, "you cannot withdraw your word—the word of
a King. Consider," and she stopped and burst into an agony of tears.
"Consider, my cousin, no one can have anything to do with my marriage
but myself."

No sooner had she uttered these words than Louis drew himself up;
the long curls of the full-bottomed wig which covered his shoulders
vibrated, and the diamond star he wore on his coat of peach-coloured
satin glistened, so sudden had been his action. At the same time, such
a stony look came into his hard face, as gave him the aspect of a
statue.

"Excuse me, my cousin, my royal dignity, the splendour of my Court,
the esteem of every crowned head in Europe are implicated. You seem
to forget that you are born a _daughter of France_. But, madame, I
remember it, and I shall shield my royal name from dishonour!"

Overcome as was Mademoiselle, she perceived the mistake she had made.
Her brain reeled, her limbs quivered convulsively, but she staggered to
her feet.

"Oh, sire, hear me!" she cried. "Let me implore you," and she threw
herself before him and clasped his knees, "do not, do not forbid me to
marry my beloved Lauzun? No ordinary rule applies to him. Lauzun is
good, great, heroic! Oh! who would become a royal position like Lauzun?"

Louis did not reply. Having sufficiently asserted his dignity, he no
longer restrained his kindlier feelings. He put his arms round his
cousin, and tried to raise her from the ground.

"No, no; let me kneel," cried she passionately, clinging to him, "until
you have recalled those dreadful words. Sire, I have ever respected and
loved you. I have lived beside you as a sister. Do not—oh! do not make
my life desolate. For God's sake, let me spend it with the only man I
ever loved! A man so made to love. Kill me! kill me! my cousin," and
she wrung her hands convulsively; "but, if I am to live, let me live
with Lauzun. I cannot—I will not give him up!"

Louis rose from the arm-chair on which he was seated. He knelt on the
floor by her side. He again took her in his arms, and laying her head
upon his breast, he soothed her like a child. Big tears rolled down his
cheeks. He called her by every endearing name to comfort her. He did
all, save consent to her marriage.

Mademoiselle was drowned in tears. Vainly did she, turning her swollen
eyes upon the King, who soothed her so fondly, strain her ears to hear
that one little word which was to dry them. She listened in vain; that
word was never to be spoken. At last, faint with emotion, she signed
to the King to raise her up, which he did, placing her on a chair. He
kissed her burning forehead, and pressed her dry hands in his.

"My cousin," he said, "do not blame me. Rather blame yourself. Why did
you not take my advice? I told you to lose no time. To marry at once.
You should have done so. Why did you give me time to reflect—time for
others to reflect? You ought to have obeyed me."

Mademoiselle dared not confess that it was Lauzun's fault she had not
done so, but at this recollection a fresh burst of grief choked her
utterance.

"Alas, Sire," she moaned at last, "when did you ever break your word
before? Could I believe you would begin with me? To break your word,
too, in such a manner!"

As Louis listened to her, he knit his brows, and looked gloomy and
embarrassed.

"I am not my own master," he replied coldly, "in affairs touching my
house and the honour of my race."

"Sire, if I do not marry Lauzun," groaned Mademoiselle, almost
inaudibly, "I shall die. I never loved any other man. I ask my life of
you, cousin. Do not take my life. You are sacrificing me to a court
intrigue," she added faintly, catching at his hand, for she was fast
losing heart; "but believe me, and let others know, that much as I love
and respect your Majesty, and desire to obey you, I will never, never
marry another man." Holding the King's hand, she kissed it, and gazed
imploringly at him.

"Dear cousin, do not be so unhappy," he replied, at a loss what answer
to make to such a home-thrust, which he knew to be so true. "Believe
me, your obedience in this matter of Lauzun will make you doubly dear
to me. You can command me in all other ways."

"Nothing—nothing can give life a value without Lauzun!" broke in
Mademoiselle vehemently.

"My cousin," answered the King gravely, "I cannot permit you to be
sacrificed. You are made a tool of. I cannot permit it. Now," he
continued, rising,—and with difficulty suppressing a yawn—"you can have
nothing more to say to me. I shall not alter my determination."

Mademoiselle wrung her hands, the King drew her to him and kissed her
on the forehead. As he did so, a tear dropped upon her cheek.

"Oh, Sire!" cried Mademoiselle, "you pity me, and you have the heart to
refuse me! You are the master of my fate. Have mercy on me! Do not give
heed to others. Ah, Sire, you are destroying me!"

"Come to me to-morrow, my cousin," said Louis soothingly, much
affected, but unshaken by her prayers. "Come and tell me you have
forgiven me. Now, good night," and again he tenderly embraced her. Then
he summoned his attendants to conduct her to her coach.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Lauzun had played deep for a great prize, and he had lost the game. He
broke out into savage abuse and called the King opprobrious names.
Absolutely maddened by rage, he rushed to the palace. He was refused
admittance. Yet he swore and cursed at the attendants until he forced
them to let him pass. Then he strode up-stairs to the apartments of
Madame de Montespan. Here he found the King seated by her side."

Louis rose, placed himself in front of the Marquise, and faced him with
a look of the gravest displeasure.

"Sire," cried Lauzun, his face swollen with passion, "I am come to ask
you what I have done that you should dishonour me?"

"Come, come, Lauzun," replied Louis, still standing before Madame de
Montespan; "calm yourself."

Lauzun was too deep in the royal secrets to make an open breach with
him either advisable or safe.

"No, Sire," roared Lauzun, emboldened by the King's calmness; "permit
me to say I will _not_ calm myself. I will not permit this humiliation.
There is my sword," and he drew it from its scabbard; "your Majesty has
made me unworthy to wear it. Take it—take my life also."

Lauzun presented his sword. The King put it from him with an imperious
gesture.

"Comte de Lauzun," said he with dignity, "I refuse to accept your
sword. Let it still be drawn in my service. There is much to wound
you in what has passed. I feel deeply for you. But my duty as King of
France compels me to act as I have done."

This was a bold assertion in the presence of Madame de Montespan, who
sat motionless behind the King, her cheeks blanched at the thought of
what revelations Lauzun might make in his rage.

"I will make what recompense I can to you," continued the King. "You
shall be raised, Comte de Lauzun, so high that you will cease to
remember this marriage you now so much desire."

"Sire, I will accept no gifts, no honours, from a monarch who has
forfeited his word. Ay, Sire, I repeat it deliberately," seeing the
King's glance of fury at his insolence, "forfeited his word. Here do
I surrender this sword, which your Majesty conferred on me. Here do I
break it, Sire, in your face as you have broken your word."

As he spoke, he bent his knee, snapped the blade in two, and violently
dashed the fragments on the ground at the King's feet.

"And you, perfidious woman," he continued, addressing Madame de
Montespan, "of whom I could reveal so much, whose treachery I have
proved—you who sit there unmoved—behold your handiwork! Do I not know
that it is you, who, for your own wicked purposes, have influenced my
royal master against me!"

Lauzun spoke so rapidly that all this had been said before Louis could
stop him.

[Illustration: LOUIS XIV. IN 1661.

From an illustration, based on an old print, in Philippson's _Das
Zeitalter Ludwigs XIV_.]

"Comte de Lauzun," broke forth the King in a voice unsteady with
passion, "leave me—leave the palace, I command you. Presume not to
insult Madame de Montespan in my presence, or"—and he put out his hand,
grasped the gold-headed cane which lay beside him, and strode up to
where Lauzun stood, crimson in the face—"or I shall chastise you as
you deserve!" and Louis brandished the stick in the air.

Then, as if thinking better of it, his uplifted arm dropped to his
side, he drew back some steps, flung away the cane to the farthest
corner of the room, and, with a great effort, collected himself.

"Leave me!" he exclaimed, in a voice he strove with difficulty to
render calm. "Leave me instantly, while I can still command myself.
Go," and he extended his hand with authority, "go, until you learn how
to address your Sovereign."

Notwithstanding these altercations, Mademoiselle de Montpensier did not
leave the Court. She was gracious to all who approached. She looked
happy, even radiant. Lauzun, also, after a short absence, resumed his
service about the King's person. He was sleek, prosperous, and more
haughty than ever. All this was very strange. That vindictive beauty,
Madame de Montespan, could not understand it. Her vengeance after all
had failed. The matter must be looked into. Spies were immediately set.
Every means of inquiry the State could command was brought to bear on
Lauzun and the Princess. Their secret was soon discovered. _They were
married!_

Madame de Montespan rushed to the King, and announced the tremendous
fact. Lauzun was instantly arrested, and imprisoned at Pignerol.
Mademoiselle, plunged in the depths of despair, left the Court for her
Château of Eu, on the coast of Normandy.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

THE ROYAL GOVERNESS.


It was the King's habit, when at Saint-Germain, to hear early mass
in the chapel. On his return, he passed through the great gallery in
which the Court was assembled, to make their morning salutations to
him. There he also received the petitions of all who had sufficient
interest to gain admittance. A woman, tall, finely formed, and of ample
proportions, with a stealthy glance out of magnificent black eyes, a
well-curved mouth, and a composed and dignified bearing,—quite a style
to suit the royal taste,—with a black silk scarf edged with lace thrown
over her head, and wearing a dress of common materials, but skilfully
designed to set off her rounded figure to the best advantage, presented
herself before him. In her hand she held a petition, at the top of
which, in large letters, was written: "The Widow Scarron most humbly
prays his Majesty to grant——"

Louis read no more; his eye was gratified by the petitioner, not
by the petition, which he put into his pocket and forgot. But the
lady appeared so often, standing in the same place in the gallery of
Saint-Germain, that his Majesty grew weary of her sight. At length he
turned his back upon her.

Françoise d'Aubigné, of the Protestant family of that name, had married
in her youth the poet Scarron—a dwarf, deformed and bedridden, a lover
of loose company, and a writer of looser songs—for her bread. Scarron
drew up the marriage contract without the assistance of a notary. The
dower of Françoise was as follows. Four pounds a year, two large black
eyes, a fine bust, well-shaped hands, and a great deal of _esprit_.
Scarron covenanted to contribute the hump upon his back, plenty of
brains, and a pension granted to him by the Queen-Regent, Anne of
Austria, as _le malade de le Reine_. He regretted he could not offer
either hands or feet, both being paralysed. But he can assure his
_fiancée_ of a dower which she will gladly accept—_Immortality_: a
prediction made in derision, which was strangely justified by events.

In the house of her husband, this enticing daughter of the D'Aubignés
learned early "to be all things to all men." She copied her husband's
ribald songs for him, she entertained his promiscuous circle of
friends—the gross Villarceaux, Ninon de l'Enclos, Mademoiselle de
Scudéri, a lady of the highest virtue, but who affected Bohemian
society, and many others.

In process of time, Madame Scarron's youth, beauty, and talents
opened to her the salon of the Maréchal d'Albert, where she made the
acquaintance of Madame de Sévigné, and Madame de Chalais, to become the
Princesse des Ursins. She also made a much more important acquaintance
in Madame de Montespan. When Scarron died, she found herself without a
resource in the world. The King had disregarded her petition. By her
friends' interest she obtained a place in the household of the Princess
de Nemours, affianced to the King of Portugal. Before quitting France,
she called on all she knew. Among others, she visited Madame de
Montespan. To her she related her ill-success at Saint-Germain.

"Why did you not come to me?" asked the favourite. "I would have
protected you. I will even now take charge of your petition. I will see
that his Majesty reads it."

"What!" cried Louis, when he saw the well-known name, "the Widow
Scarron again? Why, I am deluged with her petitions. She is become a
Court proverb, 'as importunate as the Widow Scarron.' What do you know
of the Widow Scarron, Athanaise?"

The petition for the pension was nevertheless granted, and _la Vueve
Scarron_, notwithstanding many scandalous reports of the past, was
appointed governess to the illegitimate children born to the King and
Madame de Montespan. Her devotion to her charges was extraordinary.
The King, an attached father, was favourably impressed. He showed
his approbation by a liberal allowance, out of which was purchased
the château and estate of Maintenon, lying in a picturesque valley
beside a river, sheltered by hills, in a woodland district between
Versailles and Chartres. From this time the Widow Scarron was known as
the Marquise de Maintenon, and became a devout Catholic. She had her
own apartments at Court, and cut all her disreputable friends. She was
constantly present when the King visited Madame de Montespan.

[Illustration: MADAME DE SÉVIGNÉ.

From an old engraving.]

In the meantime, Mademoiselle de Montpensier returned to Court.
Louis XIV. could not tolerate the absence of any of the princes and
princesses of the blood-royal, stars of the first magnitude in that
heaven where he blazed forth the centre of life and light. Louis had
sent a message to her. Mademoiselle therefore dried her eyes, and
appeared in her usual place in the circle. Surely, she thinks, the
King will appreciate the sacrifice she is making in being present at
festivities which, by recalling so vividly the image of Lauzun, drive
her to despair!

A ballet is to take place at Versailles; the King is to dance.
Mademoiselle forces herself to be present. She looks old, sad,
and ill. She is preoccupied. Her thoughts are with Lauzun, in the
mountain-bound fortress of Pignerol. There is but one person present
in that vast company she cares about. With him she yearns to speak. It
is D'Artagnan, Captain of the Musketeers, who accompanied Lauzun to
Pignerol.

D'Artagnan, a Gascon, is a countryman of Lauzun. He perfectly
understands the part he has to play with Mademoiselle; a part, indeed
he had carefully rehearsed with Lauzun while they were together. All
the time the ballet lasts, D'Artagnan, in immediate attendance on the
King, keeps his eyes fixed on Mademoiselle with a sorrowful expression.
This agitates her extremely; she has the greatest difficulty in keeping
her seat beside the Queen.

Supper is served in the Queen's apartment, Louis and Maria Theresa
sit under a canopy of cloth of gold. Hundreds of wax lights blaze in
gilded stands, and the King's twenty-four violins play. The Dauphin,
Mademoiselle, and all the princes and princesses of the blood present
are seated at the table. The ushers and attendants admit the public
to gaze at their Majesties. Every well-dressed person can enjoy this
privilege, and the staircases and passages are filled with crowds
ascending and descending.

When the tedious ceremony is over, Mademoiselle places herself near the
door, and signs to D'Artagnan to approach.

"Ah, Captain d'Artagnan, I saw you looking at me all the time of the
ballet," she says, with a sigh.

D'Artagnan, a bluff, soldierly fellow, but crafty withal, and shrewd, a
good friend and a bitter hater, salutes her respectfully.

"D'Artagnan," continues Mademoiselle, moving closer beside him, and
dropping her voice into a whisper, "you have something to tell me. I
see it in your face. You accompanied Monsieur de Lauzun to Pignerol.
Tell me everything you can remember." Her manner is quick and hurried,
her breath comes fast.

"Your highness, I left the Comte de Lauzun in good health."

"Thank God!" ejaculated Mademoiselle, clasping her hands.

She feels so faint she is obliged to ask the Queen's permission to open
the window.

"Was he indisposed on his long journey?"

"No, Madame; he was perfectly well. I never left him. Even at night I
slept in the same chamber. Such were my instructions."

"Did he speak to you of me?" asked Mademoiselle in a faltering voice,
blushing deeply.

"Constantly, your highness. He spoke of you with the utmost devotion.
Next to the grief Monsieur de Lauzun felt at parting from your royal
highness, I am persuaded he suffered most from the displeasure of his
Majesty."

"Proceed, I entreat you," breaks in Mademoiselle eagerly. "Every word
you say is inexpressibly precious to me. When did Lauzun first speak to
you of me, and what did he say?"

"I must tell you," continues the artful D'Artagnan, watching her
as a cat does a mouse—"I must tell your highness that before these
unfortunate events I had avoided the Comte de Lauzun. I imagined he
despised every one."

Mademoiselle shakes her head.

"Proper pride—a conscious superiority," she murmurs.

"Well, madame, when he was arrested on St. Catherine's day, at
Saint-Germain, the Comte de Rochefort brought him into the guard-room,
and consigned him to me. I started at once with him on his journey to
Pignerol. From time to time he gazed at me, but did not utter a single
word. When we passed your villa at Petit Bourg, he groaned, and tears
gathered in his eyes."

"Poor Lauzun!" says Mademoiselle softly, lifting up her eyes.

"'That villa,' said the Count to me, 'belongs to Mademoiselle. Words
cannot tell what I owe her. She is as good as she is great.'"

"Did Lauzun really say this?" asks Mademoiselle, with melting eyes.

"He did, madame," rejoins D'Artagnan with secret exultation at seeing
how the bait is swallowed. "'I am unhappy, Captain d'Artagnan', he went
on to say, 'unhappy, but not guilty. I have served my King faithfully.
I have worshipped Mademoiselle—not for her wealth, but for herself.'"

Mademoiselle puts her handkerchief to her eyes. She is convulsed with
suppressed sobs.

"Yes, madame; this and much more was said to me by the Count. Indeed,
his words were so touching that, soldier as I am, I wept, your
highness—I actually wept."

"Excellent man," mutters Mademoiselle, stretching out her hand towards
him. "I shall not forget your appreciation of so noble a gentleman."

D'Artagnan makes a profound obeisance.

("My promotion is now assured," he says to himself, "as well as poor
Lauzun's pardon. Mademoiselle has great interest with his Majesty.")

D'Artagnan passes his hand across his eyes, as if to brush away tears,
which he does not shed.

"I have seen much since I served his Majesty,"—he continues in
broken sentences, simulating deep grief. "I am an observer of human
nature;—but never—never did I know a man of such elevation of mind,
with feelings so warm, so genuine, as Monsieur de Lauzun. The charms
of his person, the dignity of his manners, his fortitude and patience
in adversity, are more honourable to him than the splendour of his
position as the first nobleman in France."

Mademoiselle, unable to contain her feelings, lays her hand upon
D'Artagnan's hand, and presses it.

"Your penetration does you honour, Monsieur d'Artagnan. Yet so mean, so
base is the envy of a Court, that it is whispered about, loud enough
even for me in my exalted position to hear, that Lauzun cares only for
my revenues—not for myself."

"Good God, what a slander!" cried D'Artagnan, with a face of
well-simulated horror.

"Yes; but I do not believe it," hastily adds Mademoiselle.

"I can pledge my honour as a soldier, your highness, it is a lie,"
breaks in D'Artagnan, anxious for his friend's prospects.

"I know it—I know it," answers Mademoiselle with triumph.

"Ah, madame," continues D'Artagnan, shaking with suppressed laughter,
"did I not fear to offend your delicacy, I could say more."

"Ah! did Lauzun speak often of me?" she asks, and a fire comes into her
sunken eyes. "Tell me."

"He spoke of nothing else. Day and night your name was on his lips. My
honour as a Gascon upon it."

"Repeat this to me," cries Mademoiselle with ecstasy.

"You little know, your highness, what tortures he suffers at being
separated from you."

"Alas! Monsieur d'Artagnan, he cannot suffer more than I!" and
Mademoiselle's sigh is almost a groan.

"Your highness has great influence over his Majesty. Is it possible
that his imprisonment may be shortened?"

"Can you doubt that my whole life, my influence, my wealth, all I have,
will be devoted to this object?" exclaims Mademoiselle.

("Good," thinks D'Artagnan, "I have served my poor friend, and I hope
myself, well. What an imbecile she is!")

At this moment there is a general move. The Queen, who has been playing
cards, rises, and Mademoiselle is forced to accompany her.

Years pass; Lauzun still remains a prisoner at Pignerol.

Mademoiselle is at the Luxembourg. She is sitting in her closet
writing, when a page enters, and announces Madame de Maintenon. This
lady is now the recognised governess of the legitimatised children
of the King, the bosom friend of their mother, the Marquise de
Montespan. Already she is scheming to supplant her in the King's
affections. Madame de Maintenon is singularly handsome. Her face is
pale; her complexion marble-like; her eyes are large and lustrous,
though somewhat fixed and stern. Her glossy dark hair is raised high
on her head, and a mantilla of lace is thrown over it. Her dress is
of a sombre colour, but of the richest material. It rustles along the
ground, as, with measured steps, she advances towards Mademoiselle. The
latter is conscious of the stately bearing of the governess, who dares
not, however, presume first to address her. Mademoiselle does not rise,
but bends her head in acknowledgment of her salutation. She signs to
Madame de Maintenon to be seated.

"You are come alone, Madame," says the Princess. "I should have
rejoiced to see your little charges—those dear children of whom I am so
fond. Are they well?"

"I am happy to inform your highness they are in perfect health. The
Duc de Maine looked lovely this morning when he went with me to mass
in the royal chapel. I have come to bring you a little letter he has
written to your highness," and the Marquise presents a note addressed
in a schoolboy's hand. "Ever since he has corresponded with you, during
his stay at Holland and at Barège, he finds such pleasure in writing to
you, I do not like to forbid it."

"The dear child! I love him greatly," replies Mademoiselle, secretly
wondering on what errand Madame de Maintenon had come.

"I have the honour to inform your royal highness," says the Marquise
after a pause, fixing her black eyes keenly upon her, "my visit to you
is official. I come from the King."

Mademoiselle falls back in her chair; a mist gathers before her eyes.
"It must be about Lauzun she has come!" is her first thought.

"But before I proceed to the subject of my mission," continues
Madame de Maintenon, speaking in a clear metallic voice, all the
while contemplating Mademoiselle as if she were an object of minute
study—"but before I proceed, allow me to offer to your highness the
compliments of Madame de Montespan, who is hunting at Clagny with
the King. She bids me pray you to think of everything to please his
Majesty, in order that he may be inclined to grant what you have so
much at heart."

Mademoiselle colours, and presses her hand to her heart, so violently
does it throb.

"Madame de Montespan," continues the Marquise, "has the highest
admiration for the constancy and the fortitude you have shown on a
certain subject, madame. May I add my tribute of sympathy also?"

Mademoiselle smiles, and bows graciously. She is not ignorant of the
growing power of the governess, and her high favour with the King.

"We who live at Court," adds the Marquise loftily, "know too well how
often great princes forget those whom they once loved. Your highness is
an illustrious exception. May I, madame, be permitted to address you on
this delicate subject? It is the purpose of my visit."

"I entreat you to speak," cries Mademoiselle, greatly excited. "Tell
me at once. I cannot bear suspense. Tell me, is his Majesty about to
liberate Monsieur de Lauzun after so many years of imprisonment?"

"Well," replies Madame de Maintenon, with an air of immense importance,
"you shall judge, Princess. His Majesty thinks that it is possible,
under certain conditions——"

"Will he acknowledge Lauzun as my husband?"

"He will never sanction the marriage, your highness," answers the
Marquise decidedly, avoiding Mademoiselle's eager gaze.

Here is a blow! Mademoiselle is absolutely stunned. Madame de Maintenon
proceeds in the same monotonous tone:—

"His Majesty has considered the possibility of liberating Monsieur de
Lauzun, but there are difficulties, not perhaps insurmountable, but
which at present render his gracious intention impossible."

"Name them," cries Mademoiselle almost fiercely, suddenly sitting
upright in her chair—"name them instantly." She has turned ashy pale;
her hands, which she extends towards the other lady in her agitation,
tremble. She is a pitiable object.

"Why, the fact is," and the wily governess hems once or twice, gives
a slight cough, then clears her voice, "his Majesty does not choose
that the principality of Dombes and the Château and estates of Eu, with
which he is informed you have invested Monsieur de Lauzun, should go
out of the royal family. This is the difficulty which at present weighs
with the King. Madame de Montespan uses all her eloquence in your
favour, madame."

"I am obliged to her," answers Mademoiselle drily. "It was rumoured
that she was the person who caused his Majesty to withdraw his consent
to my marriage."

This is dangerous ground, and Madame de Maintenon hastens to change the
subject; she well knows how true are Mademoiselle's suspicions.

"I have nothing to do with the King's reasons," is her cautious
rejoinder. "Doubtless they are excellent." Then she glances towards
the door as if about to go. "Even with your royal highness I must be
excused canvassing what these reasons are. I came simply to deliver a
message with which I was entrusted, and to carry back to his Majesty
your answer."

This speech, delivered with the most freezing coldness, almost
frightens Mademoiselle into a fit. She is quite unable to argue
with Madame de Maintenon, greatly her superior in intellect and in
craft, specially now, when her excited feelings barely permit her to
understand what is passing. She has sense, however, to make a sign to
the Marquise, intimating her pleasure that she should not depart, which
she is preparing to do.

"His Majesty observed," continues that lady, looking steadfastly out
of the window, "that it seems strange these royal appanages should pass
away into an undistinguished family, while those who are near and most
dear to his Majesty are at this time absolutely portionless—the Duc de
Maine, for instance."

"What!" exclaims Mademoiselle, "is it only by enriching the Duc de
Maine that the Comte de Lauzun can be liberated?" As she puts this
question her eyes flash, and her brow darkens. Then, seeing the stony
gaze of the imperturbable Marquise fixed upon her, she composes
herself, and awaits her reply with more calmness.

"I must again entreat your highness to remember," answers Madame de
Maintenon, rising from her chair, and dropping her eyes on the ground
with affected humility, "that I am here only as an ambassadress. I beg
your highness to excuse aught I may have said to offend you. But, as I
perceived a way of accommodation open, I ventured to approach you as an
ambassadress—simply as an ambassadress." These last words are spoken
with a kind of unctious hypocrisy peculiar to herself. "Now, madame, if
you permit, I will take my leave. My duties call me back to my beloved
charges. I have been absent too long already."

Forthwith, every device was used to force Mademoiselle into compliance.
The little Duc de Maine was represented as being fonder of her than
of any other creature breathing—one of those singular attachments,
in fact, that are sometimes observed in children, and are quite
unaccountable. To favour this assertion, the worthy pupil of Madame
de Maintenon was educated in a system of deceit. Every morning he
addressed a billet-doux to Mademoiselle, represented as the genuine
effusion of a young and innocent heart, the same billet-doux having
been indited by his governess overnight and copied by himself.
Bouquets, presents, kisses, and caresses were lavished in the same
manner. The child played his part so well that Mademoiselle believed
at last in this simulated attachment. Madame de Montespan failed not,
also, to pay the utmost court to Mademoiselle, and represented to her
how earnestly she used her influence in order to induce the King to
liberate Lauzun. After these manœuvres had been continued for some
time, and the two _intrigantes_ deemed that the mind of Mademoiselle
was sufficiently prepared, Madame de Maintenon again set forth to pay
another visit at the Luxembourg Palace.

This time she at once announced that the King had determined to
liberate Lauzun. Mademoiselle in transports of joy at the intelligence,
so far forgot her dignity as to embrace the cunning messenger, and to
load her with thanks.

After this ebullition had a little subsided, Madame de Maintenon
gravely begged Mademoiselle not to thank _her_. She again acted merely
as an ambassadress, she said. "But," she adds, "there is one person who
does deserve her thanks; for nothing can exceed the earnestness with
which he has urged her highness's petition. Nay, he has not feared to
encounter the King's anger, so constant, so energetic have been his
prayers. It is to him her gratitude is due."

"Who can have been this friend—this benefactor?" cried the Princess.
"Tell me, I implore you, that I may load him with my gratitude."

"I can quite understand your feelings," returned Madame de Maintenon;
"your wish to be informed of the name of this unknown benefactor is
most natural; but to gratify you, I must break a promise—a most solemn
promise—I have made _never_ to reveal his name. He did not desire to be
known he wished to serve you in secret."

"Don't talk to me of secrecy, madame, in such a moment. Tell me at once
to whom I am so deeply indebted."

"If I must speak," replied the inimitable De Maintenon (rejoicing at
the success of her manœuvres), "it is the _Duc de Maine_, who prevailed
on his father to grant the petition he knew would so delight his
beloved friend and protectress. The affection he feels towards you is
indeed something——"

"The darling child!" exclaimed Mademoiselle, "how I love him! Is it
possible he has done this for me! How can I reward him?—what can I do
to show him how grateful I am?"

This was precisely the point to which Madame de Maintenon had been
labouring to bring the Princess. She now artfully observed that there
was only one way of rewarding the _disinterested_ attachment of the Duc
de Maine in a manner worthy of Mademoiselle. "I feel bound, however,"
she continued, "to warn your highness that, after all that has been
said, and the personal interest his Majesty feels in the success of
these negotiations, he will be so incensed at any withdrawal on your
part now, that your personal liberty—yes, madame," she repeated,
seeing the Princess's look of terror, "your personal liberty will be in
danger. You may be sent to the Bastille!"

The mention of such a possibility alarmed Mademoiselle beyond measure,
and she anxiously inquired of Madame de Maintenon if she thought there
was any chance of such a misfortune.

"Not if by your generosity you bind his Majesty, as it were, to fulfil
the pledge he has now given," was the discreet reply.

Thus did Madame de Maintenon unfold her tactics and work on the weak
mind of the love-sick Princess. She saw that the point was already
gained, and, fearing to destroy the favourable impression she had made,
left Mademoiselle to ruminate on the approaching return of Lauzun, and
all the happiness in store for her. Hastening back to Versailles, she
communicated her success to the King and to Madame de Montespan, who
were equally delighted at the triumph of their unworthy artifices.



CHAPTER XXIX.

CONNUBIAL BLISS.


The Duc de Maine was invested with the principality of Dombes and the
county of Eu. The deeds were signed in Madame de Montespan's apartments
at Versailles.

The sacrifice once made nothing could exceed the ecstasy of
Mademoiselle. After a separation of many years, Lauzun would be
restored to her arms! He was free—he would be with her in a few days!
The exquisite certainty of bliss intoxicated her senses.

On her return to the Luxembourg she flew to her room, and took a hand
mirror from her toilette. She gazed at herself in it attentively; she
asked herself, as she had already done a hundred times before, "Can
he still love me? Are my eyes bright? Are my cheeks rosy? Is my hair
abundant as in the old days when Lauzun praised it?"

The examination satisfied her. Joy had effaced the wrinkles, and
brought a passing bloom back to her face. She overlooked her grey
locks, those she could powder. Her lips parted into a smile. While she
was still looking at herself, and turning her head in various positions
in order to catch the light, a page entered, and announced, "Monsieur
de Baraille" (he was a friend of Lauzun). Baraille's sudden entrance
startled her. She turned round abruptly, stumbled against a chair, and
the mirror, an oval of rock crystal set in a gold frame, dropped from
her hand.

"Ah! Monsieur de Baraille," she cried, looking at the fragments which
strewed the floor, "why did you come in so suddenly? This is a dreadful
omen."

       *       *       *       *       *

Mademoiselle de Montpensier is at Choisy. The agitation of her mind is
indescribable. She has the gravest reasons for displeasure. Lauzun is
in France, but shows no desire to see her.

At last he makes his appearance. He is dressed in an old uniform,
which he had worn before his imprisonment; it was now too short, and
too small for him, and shabby and torn. His hair, of a reddish shade,
has fallen off during his long imprisonment, and he wears a black wig
with flowing curls, which covers his shoulders. He enters her cabinet,
by the gallery, hung with the portraits of her ancestors. At sight of
him Mademoiselle springs to her feet, and opens her arms to embrace
him. Lauzun throws himself on the ground before her. She raises him,
covers him with kisses, murmuring words of fond endearment into his ear.

For a few moments each, overcome by widely different feelings, remains
speechless. Lauzun examines her curiously. This inspection does
not seem satisfactory. He knits his brow, and slightly shrugs his
shoulders. Altogether his manner is far from reassuring. He does not
care to conceal his surprise at the change he sees in the royal lady
beside him. She is now sixty, her face is pinched and lined by age; her
form bent and attenuated. She has put powder on her grey hair, which is
decked with ribbons, and rouge upon her shrivelled cheeks, in a vain
effort to appear young. But even her blind infatuation can no longer
deceive her. She is old and she knows it.

"I must ask your pardon," says Lauzun at last, breaking an awkward
pause, "for having been so long on the road to Paris to join you. My
health is very delicate, it is weakened by long confinement. I was ill
at Amboise." (The truth being that he had been engaged in a violent
flirtation with the wife of the governor, the Marquise d'Alluye.
Mademoiselle had been informed of this.)

As Lauzun speaks, Mademoiselle raises her eyes, and looks him in the
face. It was the same deep harmonious voice, full of subtle melody,
that had once charmed her ear, like a cadence of sweet music. There
were the same clear eyes, whose glance ruled her destiny. Those eyes
that had haunted her day and night for so many years, through the mists
of time and absence. There were the features whose every turn she
had studied with unutterable tenderness; those lips which had parted
to utter words on which hung her very life. There before her was her
Lauzun,—the object of such longing desire, such torturing suspense;
of such eager strivings, of such willing self-sacrifice. But oh, how
changed!

Now the scales had fallen from her eyes. For the first time she saw
him as he was. He was her Lauzun no longer. She felt that she was
repugnant to him. An agony of grief welled up within her; she could
have screamed for very bitterness of soul in the wild impulse of her
despair. But at this supreme moment her pride came to her support.
Should she let him mock the strivings of her tortured spirit? gauge
the abyss of her misery with his cold steely eye? No; mortal as were
the wounds his cruelty had inflicted, they should still be sacred. She
would say nothing. As she looks at him (and, looking at him, gazes also
through the long vista of years that his presence recalls) she composes
her countenance to an unnatural calmness, and she replies to him, in a
voice almost as careless as his own—

"It gives me infinite pain to hear that you have been ill, but I
rejoice to see you so perfectly restored. I never saw you looking
better in my life."

[Illustration: MADAME DE MAINTENON.]

A glare of anger passed into Lauzun's eyes, and he frowned. Again there
was a long and awkward pause.

"You have laid out a great deal of money here at Choisy," he says with
a sneer, his eyes wandering round. "I think you have been ill-advised
to purchase this place. It is a mere _guinguette_, lying in a hole.
What a useless building it is—so ill designed too!" and he casts his
eyes contemptuously down the suite of rooms, the doors of which are
open.

"Some people think it is not good enough for me," answers Mademoiselle,
with forced calmness, although her lips tremble in spite of herself.

"Have you paid for it, madame?" asks Lauzun, with the utmost
impertinence.

"I have paid for it," replies the Princess.

Lauzun now rises, and strides up and down the cabinet. He strolls into
the adjoining gallery, eying the precious ornaments with which the
tables are covered. He takes the most valuable articles in his hands
and carefully examines them, holding them up against the light. Then
he returns, stands opposite Mademoiselle, and examines her features
with a stare of cynical scrutiny. She grows crimson under this insolent
inspection, but says nothing.

"You would have done much better to have given me the money you have
squandered here. I have suffered great misery."

"I have given you too much already, Monsieur de Lauzun," replies
Mademoiselle, in an unsteady voice, for his heartless greed smote her
to the very soul.

"I fear you are horribly cheated," adds Lauzun, not noticing her reply.
Again he walks up and down the room. "I could manage matters much
better for you. Will you make me your treasurer?"

He speaks eagerly, and there is a hungry gleam in his eye that bodes
ill for Mademoiselle's revenues.

"No, I will not," answers Mademoiselle, firmly. "If you want to know,
I have paid for this place forty thousand livres. I sold my string of
pearls to purchase it."

"Oh! you have sold your string of pearls without consulting me?"
interrupts Lauzun with an offended air. "What waste! What folly!"

He stops in his pacing up and down the room, and fixes his eyes upon
her in another silent scrutiny.

"I see you still wear coloured ribbons in your hair. Surely, at your
age, this is ridiculous."

"The Queen does the same."

"Are you not older than the Queen?"

"I am old, Monsieur de Lauzun," replies Mademoiselle, stung to the
quick, yet speaking with dignity; "but persons of my rank dress
according to established etiquette. Have you nothing more to say to me,
Lauzun?" she says, in a low voice.

She can bear no more; her pride and her fortitude are rapidly forsaking
her. She feels she is breaking down, spite of herself. She longs
inexpressibly to fold Lauzun in her arms, to tell him all her love; to
beseech him to return it, even ever so little a return, for that vast
treasure she offers. But she is withheld by absolute shame.

"I have made great sacrifices to restore you to liberty, Lauzun," she
continues, timidly, her voice almost failing her, and not daring to
look up at him for fear of encountering his chilling gaze. "I have
made many sacrifices. I understood that you approved of them." Lauzun
does not answer. Mademoiselle speaks humbly now, for what is money,
contempt, insult to her, so that he would love her, only a little? "I
have also made arrangements with Colbert to pay your debts."

"I am obliged to you," replies Lauzun, with a sneer. "Let me tell you,
however," and he advances close to where she is sitting and fixes his
eyes fiercely upon her—"Let me tell you I would rather command the
Royal Dragoons and be back again at Court in attendance on the King,
than have all the money you have, or ever can give me."

Mademoiselle turns very faint, and clasps her hands. Her eyes close, as
if she is going to swoon. Lauzun contemplates her unmoved. He does not
offer her the smallest assistance.

"Good God!" she exclaims after a while, "how much I am to be pitied! I
have despoiled myself and you are ungrateful."

"Louise," says Lauzun, feeling he has gone too far, stooping and trying
to kiss her hand, "spare me hysterics. Let us talk business."

"We have talked nothing else," cries Mademoiselle, her indignation
rising at his heartless indifference. "Not a word of affection has
come from your lips," her voice grows thick and tears rush into her
eyes. Spite of herself, she is rapidly giving way. It was the old fight
between heart and no heart, man who feels nothing, woman who feels
everything.

"I want my place at Court," says Lauzun, abruptly. "Will you use your
influence to reinstate me? Else, I would rather have remained in prison
at Pignerol." He speaks in a tone of the bitterest reproach.

"I will do what I can," Mademoiselle answers in a husky voice.

"Do what you can!" retorts Lauzun, turning upon her savagely, "do what
you can! _Morbleu_, if you answer me like that, I will tell you the
truth. You have ruined me—you have destroyed my reputation—lost me my
position. Louise d'Orléans, I wish I had never seen you!"

"It is false," returns Mademoiselle, in a loud voice, her passion
rising at his injustice; "it is false. I have not injured you—the King
will tell you so himself." Lauzun is growing more and more defiant,
almost threatening. His hand rests on the hilt of his sword. This
is too much even for her to bear. "If you have nothing more to say,
Monsieur de Lauzun, leave me." She speaks with the habit of command
long years have given her.

"I will not go," cries he; "you have no right to order me. _Am I
not your husband?_" Lauzun hisses out these last words, more like a
venomous serpent than a man. He grasps the arm of Mademoiselle, who
shrinks away from him. His whole bearing is wild and menacing. "You
leave me without money, you who have lost me all I value in the world;
you, who are old enough to be my mother!" Mademoiselle covers her
face with her hands, she cowers before him. "Can you deny it? Instead
of providing me with a proper residence and equipage when I came out
of prison, I have not even a carriage of my own. I am in miserable
lodgings with Rollinde, one of your people, while _you_—you live in a
palace. I have no money to pay my debts."

"It is false," she replies, rising and facing him boldly. "I _have_
paid your debts. If you have fresh ones they are gambling debts. Those
I refuse to pay."

"But you shall!" roars Lauzun, stamping his foot and raising his hand
as if to strike her. "I am your husband. I have a right to all you
have."

"I will pay no more," shrieks Mademoiselle, now excited beyond fear.
"Go to your friends, those ladies you love so well, Madame de Montespan
and the others." She clenches her fist as the bitter pangs of jealousy
shoot through her soul. "I will not pay such debts," she repeats; then
she draws herself up, and faces him with a courage he has never seen in
her before. It calms him instantly.

"Look at these diamond buttons you sent me. They are vile. You have
such splendid jewels!" He lifts up his lace ruffles and displays a pair
of solitaire diamonds of great beauty, which fasten his wristbands. He
is as fawning and eager as a beggar.

"I will give you other diamonds," answers Mademoiselle with composure.
"But what I do for you in future depends on your own conduct, Monsieur
de Lauzun, or rather Duc de Montpensier, for such I have created you."

There was a depth of irony in thus addressing him by his title at this
particular moment.

"Well, madame, as you please," answers Lauzun, contemptuously scanning
her all over. "If I am not satisfied I shall go abroad and command
foreign armies. I will go _anywhere_ to rid myself of you. I hope never
to see you again," and a look of undisguised hatred flashes from his
eyes.

"You need not go far to rid yourself of me," cries Mademoiselle,
incensed beyond bounds. "Leave me instantly, ungrateful man! You have
sufficiently outraged me. In the presence too of my great ancestors,"
she adds, and with a stately action she extends her hand towards
the portraits which hang around; "those ancestors, one of whose
time-honoured titles I have given you. You might, I think, have chosen
a more suitable spot for your insults," and she measures him from head
to foot. Then with an imperious gesture she points to the door.

Still they met, Mademoiselle still clung to Lauzun. In the month of
September they are together at Choisy for a few days. Lauzun has
enormous gambling debts and wants money, therefore he is come. On
returning one evening from hunting he sees Mademoiselle seated under
the shade of one of the fine old elms in the park, her favourite tree.
She is in tears. It is nine o'clock at night, she has long awaited his
return; now it is nearly dark. Lauzun gallops up to where she sits.
He dismounts, gives his horse into the hands of a servant, and casts
himself on the grass besides her. By so doing he splashes her dress
with mud, but he offers no apology. He unfastens the heavy hunting
boots he wears, and endeavours to draw them off, but he does not
succeed. Then he turns suddenly round and thrusts them into her face.

"Here, Louise d'Orléans," he says, "make yourself useful; take off my
boots." Mademoiselle betrays no emotion, she only rises and returns to
the house.

They never met again. A brief record remained of her existence,
graven on the tomb, where she lay, among "the daughters of France,"
unloved—unmourned; a sad example, that riches to a woman are too often
a curse. The brief record is as follows:—

"Anne Marie Louise d'Orléans, eldest daughter of Gaston de France:
Souveraine Princesse de Dombes, Princesse Dauphine d'Auvergne, Comtesse
d'Eu, Duchesse de Montpensier; died 1693, aged sixty-six."



CHAPTER XXX.

FALL OF DE MONTESPAN.


About this time Madame de Maintenon announced to the King that she had
received a mission from Heaven to convert him from the error of his
ways. "I was brought to Court miraculously for this purpose; God willed
it," she writes to her daughter. Singularly enough, this conviction of
her mission coincided with the absence of Madame de Montespan at the
baths of Bourbon.

Louis had come to view these temporary absences as a relief. He had
grown somewhat weary of the once-adored Marquise. He inclined to think
the society of Madame de Maintenon preferable. In her company the
charms of friendship exceeded the delights of love. She was leading him
up to Heaven by an easy path strewn with flowers. Conscious as he was
of his past sins, he yet liked the process of repentance.

The apartments of Madame de Maintenon at Versailles, on the same floor
as his own, were well placed for constant intercourse. They no longer
exist, but the situation is identified as having been near the south
wing, contiguous to his own suite, which was separated from that of the
Queen by the Salle de l'Œil de Bœuf, a corridor, and some smaller rooms.

The affection of her pupil, the Duc de Maine, and the esteem and
approval of the Queen, strengthened Madame de Maintenon's position.
Maria Theresa quite venerated the _ci-devant_ Veuve Scarron.

Maria Theresa, who refused to doubt La Vallière's purity, and who long
defended the virtue of Madame de Montespan, was born to be a dupe. Her
unsuspicious nature fell an easy prey to the duplicity of Madame de
Maintenon, who would have imposed on a stronger-minded person than the
guileless Queen. The King carefully intensified these good impressions.
He confided to his consort the conviction of Madame de Maintenon that
he would infallibly be "damned" if he did not cleave to herself alone,
and live with her in love and unity. Such words from the lips of her
august husband, whom she had all her life worshipped too entirely to
have dared to appropriate to herself, won the Queen's whole heart.
Never had she been so blessed. Her Olympian spouse spent hours beside
her; his conduct was exemplary. Maria Theresa, overcome by the weight
of her obligations to the wily _gouvernante_, treated her with the
utmost distinction. She joined with the King in appointing her lady in
waiting to the new Dauphine.

By-and-by Madame de Montespan, having finished her course of drinking
and bathing at Bourbon, returned. That the waters had agreed with her
was evident. Her eyes were more voluptuous, her aspect more enticing
than ever. For a time the King's conviction of Madame de Maintenon's
mission wavered; he forgot his salvation.

Madame de Maintenon, invested with the authority of a Christian
prophetess, denounced his apostacy. Madame de Montespan was furious;
quarrels ensued between herself and Madame de Maintenon, in which the
choleric, frank-spoken sinner was over-ruled by the crafty saint. The
King, called in as umpire, decided always in favour of the latter;
she could clothe her wrongs in such eloquent language, she was so
specious, so plausible, she continued to identify herself so entirely
with his salvation, that he again became repentant. His coldness
towards herself increased. This rival, the governess of her children,
insulted Madame la Marquise de Montespan. Her fury knew no bounds. She
felt that her fall was approaching; that the ground on which she stood
was undermined. She denounced her treacherous governess to the King;
she declared that the Veuve Scarron had not been immaculate. She even
caused a pamphlet to be printed in which names, places, dates, and
details were given. She showed it to the King; Louis shook his head,
and replied that she had herself defended her _protégée_ so ably that
he was unalterably convinced of her virtue. The Marquise de Montespan
was bowed out of Versailles.

       *       *       *       *       *

The influence of Madame de Maintenon changed the atmosphere of the
Court. A holy calm succeeded to strife and agitation. Gallantry,
gambling, intrigues, and women no longer formed the staple of general
conversation. Religious discussions, theological disputes, and
ecclesiastical gossip became the fashion. Anecdotes of the various
Court confessors were discussed in the Œil de Bœuf with extraordinary
eagerness. The priest of Versailles was a more important personage
than a royal duke; Bossuet had more influence than Louvois; Père la
Chaise overtopped the great Louis himself. The Court ladies became
decided prudes, rolled their eyes sanctimoniously, wore lace kerchiefs,
renounced rouge, and rarely smiled. No whisper of scandal profaned
the royal circle. His Majesty was subdued and serene, assiduous in
the affairs of religion, and constant in his attendance on his comely
directress.

On the 30th July, 1683, the Queen died. She expired in the arms of
Madame de Maintenon. On her death-bed she gave her the nuptial ring
which she had received from his Majesty. This gift was significant.

The concealed ambition of Madame de Maintenon, her greed of dominion,
the insolence of the inferior about to revenge the wrongs suffered
in her obscurity, a sense, too, of her own power, now roused her to
grasp that exalted position which, even while the Queen lived, had
tempted her imagination. Now began a system of coquetry, so refined,
as to claim the distinction of a fine art. The lady is forty-five, and
looks young and fresh for her age; her hair is still black and glossy;
her forehead smooth, her skin exquisitely white; her figure lissom
and upright, if ample. There is a hidden fire in her stealthy eyes; a
grandeur in her bearing, that charms while it imposes. Not all the
vicissitudes of her chequered career can wash out the blood of the
D'Aubignés which flows in her veins. The old King is desperately in
love with her. It is the first time in his life he has encountered any
opposition to his will. There is a novelty in the sensation wonderfully
enthralling. The conquest of a lady who can thus balk him acquires an
enormous importance in his eyes. He has run the fortune of war both
at home and abroad; he has carried fortresses by storm, assailed the
walls of great cities; he has conquered in the open plain; but here
is a female citadel that is impregnable. His attack and her defence
are conducted in daily interviews, lasting six, and even ten hours.
If he can win her, he feels too that his salvation is insured. A life
of repentance passed with such an angel, is a foretaste of celestial
bliss. There is something sublime in the woman who can reconcile earth
with heaven, and satisfy his longings in time and eternity.

       *       *       *       *       *

Suddenly Madame de Maintenon announces her intention of leaving the
Court for ever.

The King who occupies his usual place in her saloon, sitting in an
arm-chair placed between the door leading into the antechamber and the
chimney-piece, listens with speechless dismay.

Madame de Maintenon, who sits opposite to him, on the other side of the
chimney-piece, in a recess hung with red damask, a little table before
her, stitches calmly at the tapestry she holds in her hand. She affects
not to observe him, and continues speaking in a full firm voice. "My
mission is accomplished, Sire. I have been permitted to be the humble
instrument of leading your Majesty to higher and holier thoughts. Your
peace with Heaven is now made. I desire to retire, leaving my glorious
work complete."

"What, madame! Do I hear aright? You propose to leave me?—me, a
solitary man, to whom your society is indispensable?" There is a deep
longing in the King's eye as it rests upon her, a tremulous solicitude
in his manner that she observes with secret joy.

"Sire, I implore you to allow me to depart. I yearn for repose. I have
remained at Court greatly against my will, solely for your advantage."

"Remain always," murmurs the King, contemplating her fondly; "my
life—my happiness—my very being is bound up in you. Deprived of you, I
may again fall into deadly sin. Do not forsake me."

These last words are spoken in a whisper, full of tenderness. He rises
from his arm-chair and approaches her. Madame de Maintenon looks at him
sharply; then moves her chair backwards. Louis stops midway and gazes
at her timidly. He returns to his arm-chair, and sighs profoundly.

"Impossible, your Majesty," replies the Marquise stiffly, arranging the
folds of her dress. "I repeat, my task is done. The Court is reformed,
your salvation secure. But, while benefiting others, I have exposed
myself to calumny. Sire, I am called your mistress. I am branded as the
successor of Madame de Montespan."

"What villain has dared to assail your immaculate virtue? Tell me
who he is, and there is no punishment he shall not suffer," and the
King's face flushes scarlet. There is the old look of command upon his
brow—the old decision in his manner.

"Sire," answers Madame de Maintenon quietly, "such passion is
unnecessary. I am not worthy of it. I have already done all that is
needful, let me go. I can serve you no longer."

"You are worthy, madame, of all that a man—that a monarch can lay at
your feet," cries Louis with enthusiasm. A cynical smile plays upon her
full-lipped mouth while the King speaks.

"I am at least worthy of respect, Sire. The suspicion of impurity is
intolerable. I cannot bear it; I must go."

"You are too hurried, dearest madame," returns the King; "too
impressionable. Whatever observations may be aroused by our intimacy,
and my well-known attachment to you, they should not annoy you. Your
character is an all-sufficient defence."

"Ah, Sire, this is not sufficient. I must fly from even the semblance
of suspicion. You are a single man, I am a widow. I must leave
Versailles. Your Majesty cannot wish me to remain, to become an object
of contempt."

"Contempt? Impossible!" exclaims Louis abruptly. "No woman whom I, the
King of France, have loved, has ever suffered contempt."

No sooner were these words out of his mouth, than the King had reason
to repent having uttered them. The outraged prude burst into a flood of
tears. After all, was her crafty scheming to be in vain? Would Louis
not understand that as a wife—and a wife only—she would remain?

"Ah, Sire," sobs she with genuine sorrow, "is this the return you make
for my too great devotion to your Majesty's salvation? I, who have led
you step by step towards that Deity, whose wrath your transgressions
had so justly incensed? Is it for this I have rescued you from the
flames of Purgatory—the fire of everlasting Hell?"

Louis turns ghastly pale; a nervous tremor seizes him. He dare not look
Madame de Maintenon in the face, for her piercing black eyes glare upon
him, and seem to scan his inmost soul. He dare not interrupt her; he
must listen to all she has to say, so great is her empire over him.

She continues:—

"Am I sunk so low in your esteem that you mention me in the same breath
with a Montespan, a Fontanges? Alas, I have soiled my good name to
serve you, and is _this_ then my recompense?"

As she speaks, in a hard resolute voice, her reproachful eyes rivet
themselves upon Louis.

"Do you forget, Sire, that I am the woman whom your sainted Queen
specially esteemed? On whose bosom she expired? To whom, as she drew
her dying breath, she gave this ring?"

She takes from her finger the nuptial ring which Maria Theresa had
given her. It was a single diamond of remarkable brilliancy. After
contemplating it for an instant she drops it on the floor, midway
between herself and Louis, then, with a stately gesture, she rises to
depart.

The impress of many passions is visible on the countenance of the
aged monarch. Love and pride are written there. Pride is on his
broad forehead—in the carriage of his head—in his arched and bushy
eyebrows—in his still erect form—in the action of his hands and arms,
as they grasp the chair on which he sits upright. Pride, intense,
inflexible pride. But his dark eyes glow with passion. Those eyes
devour Madame de Maintenon, as she stands erect before him, her eyes
turned towards heaven, the ring at her feet. His mouth, around which
deep wrinkles gather, works—as did his father's—with a nervous spasm;
but the parted lips seem to pant for the beloved object before him.
At length he raises himself slowly from his chair—stoops—picks up the
nuptial ring of his first wife—kisses it, and places it on the finger
of Madame de Maintenon.

"_Mon amie_," he says, with solemnity, "do not leave me. As your
husband I will defend you."

Even in the reign of Louis XIV. public opinion made itself heard.
Placards appeared upon the walls of Paris to this effect:—

     "LOST—The Royal Sceptre. The finder will be well rewarded."

The next day was announced, in the same place:

     "The Sceptre found—Discovered on the toilette of a hypocrite.

     "The Scales of Justice, also lost, found hidden in the sleeve of a
     Jesuit."

Other placards followed; they ran as follows:

     GRAND SPECTACLE.

     HIS MAJESTY .... MARIONETTES.

     _In the Chapel of Versailles._

     GRATIS!

     On a day to be hereafter announced.

     Louis XIV. will fill the part of Gargantua; Madame de Maintenon,
     Madame Gigogne; the Abbé Gobélin, Pierrot; Père la Chaise, Satan
     (the lover of Madame Gigogne).



CHAPTER XXXI.

QUEEN MAINTENON.


It is the winter of 1685. The night is dark and starless. Fast falling
snow makes the air thick and covers the ground as with a white mantle.
An icy blast is blowing, chilling alike to man and beast. As eleven
o'clock strikes, the Archbishop of Paris leaves his palace, spite of
the inclement weather. He is alone in his coach. Midnight is past
when he draws up outside the great gates of Versailles. These open
silently. He drives onward, traversing the vast courtyard, passing the
equestrian statue of Louis XIV., until he reaches the Cour de Marbre,
between the two pavilions of the central portion of the château. Here
the outer portal at the foot of the grand staircase is ajar. Bontemps,
Governor of the Palace of Versailles, valet, confidant, and purveyor
generally to the wants of his Majesty, stands behind it awaiting the
Archbishop. He holds a light, which he carefully shades with his hand.
Monseigneur de Harlay, Archbishop, descends from his coach shivering
all over. His teeth chatter in his head, not only from the cold which
is excessive, but from apprehension of what he is about to engage in.
Bontemps precedes him up the stairs, holding the light in his hand.
They traverse whole suites of rooms, a spacious hall, a long gallery,
and many corridors. No word is spoken, every soul is asleep, and it is
urgent they should remain so. Once within the King's apartments all is
light, warmth, and luxury. The well-nigh frozen dignitary revives.
Before him is the King, dignified, composed, and cheerful. With him
are the Marquis de Montchevreuil and the Chevalier de Forbin, as
witnesses; Père la Chaise is also there to assist the Archbishop. An
altar is dressed in the centre of the room. As soon as his Majesty has
saluted Monseigneur de Harlay, Bontemps is despatched to fetch Madame
de Maintenon. She loses no time in appearing. The marriage rites are
performed by Père la Chaise, confessor to the King; the benediction is
given by the Archbishop.

The marriage is to be secret; but Louis XIV. henceforth addresses her
as "_Madame_." He receives his Ministers in her saloon; the Marquis
de Maintenon the while sitting upon a fauteuil in his presence. These
are royal honours. Monseigneur le Dauphin and the princes of the
blood never forgive the marriage. The contempt and hatred they feel
towards Madame de Maintenon cannot be concealed. As favourite they
had tolerated her; as wife they rebel against her. Yet her will is
law. The Duc de Maine and the Duc and Duchesse de Bourgogne, son and
daughter-in-law to Monseigneur, are the only exceptions.

       *       *       *       *       *

We are again at Choisy. Every window is a blaze of light, the terraced
garden flashes with millions of coloured lamps. The Dauphin and his
consort, the princes and princesses, courtiers, singers, actors, and
poets, fill the foreground. Brocade and satin sweep the terraces;
cocked hats and feathers, ribbons, lace, plumes, jewels, orders, wave
and glitter. There is the sound of laughter and mad jest—joyous music
and voluptuous feasting, _petit soupers_ and masked balls, theatricals
and concerts.

Long flights of marble stairs descend through bosky groves, sweet with
the scent of lilac and honeysuckles, to the Seine, on whose grassy
banks, illuminated by torches and bonfires, a flotilla of boats are
moored under the overhanging woods. If the essence of all the fêtes
given in France was concentrated, the result would be Choisy before
the Revolution. In the hands of Monseigneur it is a miniature court,
rivalling what Versailles was; a court where youth, joy, and beauty
reign supreme. Louis, now old, desires that all the world should be old
likewise—fast, pray, confess, and hear sermons like himself. Choisy
is a scandal to him. The Dauphin receives orders to quit, and take up
his abode at Meudon. Monseigneur, a short, stout, thick-set man, with
a fair complexion, and what would have been handsome features had his
nose not been broken, appears before Madame de Maintenon, the real
ruler of France. She is seated in her apartments, working as usual at
her tapestry. She does not rise at his entrance, and her aspect is
severe and repellant.

"Madame," says the Dauphin, seating himself at a gesture she makes,
"can you explain to me what motive has induced his Majesty to banish me
from my favourite residence at Choisy?"

Madame de Maintenon does not raise her eyes from her work. "Banishment
you call it, Monseigneur; you mistake the term. Not banishment, simply
a change of abode designed for your good, by his Majesty, your august
father."

"For my good? surely I am of an age to judge for myself! If I cannot
live where I please, I am under arrest. I am not aware in what I have
merited the royal displeasure."

"Observe, Monseigneur le Dauphin," answers the Marquise, fixing her
black eyes upon him, "the King feels no displeasure; on the contrary,
he desires your more constant presence at his Court, near his person."
The Marquise spoke these words with special emphasis.

"Madame, I am most grateful for the amiable manner in which you express
his Majesty's flattering wish, but might not some plan be found to
unite my presence at Court with my residence at Choisy?"

"Impossible, your highness. In a monarchy there can be but one
sovereign. The Court must surround that sovereign. Now, permit me to
observe, there are two courts, and something like two sovereigns."

"I am not conscious, madame," replies the Dauphin, with dignity, "what
action of my life justifies such an accusation. If his Majesty desires
to reprimand me, as a father, I ask the favour of hearing it from his
own lips."

"Monseigneur," replies Madame de Maintenon, with affected humility, "it
is his Majesty who speaks by my voice. I am less than nothing other
than through him. If you desire to know what causes his displeasure, it
is that in the magnificent fêtes you give at Choisy he observes that
one most important element of society is omitted—an element his Majesty
considers essential."

"What element, madame?"

"That of the Church, your Highness."

The Dauphin is suddenly convulsed with a fit of violent laughter. He
takes a hasty leave.

"The Church at Choisy, _ma foi_!" he says aloud when he has safely
passed the anteroom and is well beyond hearing. "My old master Bossuet,
and Bourdaloue, and the Versailles Jesuits assisting at midnight fêtes
at Choisy—what a notion! I must tell this to Mademoiselle Choin. How
she will laugh!"

Charlotte de Bavière, second wife of Philippe d'Orléans, brother of
the King, hated the "old woman," as she called Madame de Maintenon.
She saw through her and despised her. Madame de Maintenon returned
her animosity with interest, but she dared not provoke her. There was
something about this frank, downright German princess that was not
to be trifled with. Whatever her eccentricities might be, they were
respected; she was left in peace to drink as much beer and to eat as
many _saucissons_ as the peculiarity of her constitution required.

In person she was actually repulsive; her pride was a by-word and a
jest; but she was a faithful friend and a true wife, and continued to
live with her heartless and effeminate husband, Monsieur, in peace.

On her son, the Duc de Chartres, afterwards the Regent Orléans, she
doted. In her eyes he was perfect. She was either blind or indifferent
to his vices. But even he was not exempt from the violence of her
temper. When she was told that he had consented to a marriage with
Mademoiselle de Blois, daughter of Madame de Montespan, she struck
him in the face. Then she flew to the King. The doors of the royal
bedchamber are closed by the attendant Swiss, but the angry voices of
Charlotte (Madame) and Louis in angry altercation, penetrate into the
gallery of the Œil de Bœuf, where the Court awaits the moment of the
royal lever.

"Sire," Madame is heard to say in her guttural German-French accent, "I
am come to forbid the marriage of my son with Mademoiselle de Blois."

"How, my sister?" replies the full, deep voice of the King, that voice
which usually created so profound an impression on the nerves of those
whom he addressed.

"Yes, to forbid it. Had your Majesty desired an alliance between my son
and a daughter of your consort, Maria Theresa, I should have considered
it my duty to submit."

"Oh!" exclaims the King in a loud voice, and quick steps are heard
pacing up and down the room, "you would have condescended to accept a
princess-royal for your daughter-in-law."

"Certainly, Sire; but because I committed a _mésalliance_ myself in
marrying your brother, Philippe de Orléans——"

"_Pardieu!_ Madame," breaks in the King. "Do you talk of a
_mésalliance_ with a grandson of Henry the Great?"

"Certainly I do, your Majesty. What was Henry the Great, but an obscure
Prince of Béarn, a beggarly little State among the valleys of the
Pyrenees? Does your Majesty think that the hundred quarterings of my
escutcheon will gain lustre by the arms of Bourbon?"

Louis is heard to stamp on the floor. "Madame," he cries, so loud that
his words echo into every corner of the Œil de Bœuf, "Madame, you
forget yourself. How dare you come here to insult me?"

"Sire, I come here to tell you the truth. My son, the Duc de Chartres,
has forgotten himself by listening for one instant to your proposal.
With my own hand I have chastised him as he deserves. I do not forget
myself, whatever others may do. Philippe is too good for any princess
in Europe. The blood in his veins is that of my ancestors—the Princes
Palatine of the Rhine. We laugh at your modern houses—we laugh!
Philippe is the best man in your Court. He knows everything—painting,
music, poetry, science. None of you can understand him. You are too
ignorant."

"Madame," the King is heard to say, "have a care—you are going too far!"

"No, my brother, I have not gone far enough," rejoins Madame. "You have
forgotten the siege of Mons, where he fought under your own eyes—also
Steinkerque and Nerwinde. It is your fault that Philippe does not
command your armies. He is equal to it. Who would not have such a
husband? Sire, my son, the Duc de Chartres, shall never wed with your
bastard!"

Again Louis is heard to stamp upon the floor. Then, in a voice hoarse
with rage, he replies, "Madame, I shall hold my brother responsible for
your insolence."

"Why have you provoked it, then?" is the reply in a calmer tone.
Charlotte de Bavière has evidently relieved her own violence by
exciting that of the King. "I have a right to resist such a
disgraceful proposal. Withdraw your marriage, and I am again your good
sister and friend as heretofore."

"We shall see, Madame, we shall see!" shouts the King, whose usual
courtesy towards women is not proof against such an attack.

"Yes, Sire, we shall see. No person on earth shall make me sanction a
blot on my name. My opposition shall not be only in words. The Duc de
Chartres is my only son. I will stop the marriage in your presence. I
will stop it at the altar of the chapel-royal."

"Madame, your pride has turned your head. But your husband, my brother,
shall obey me."

"Your brother, Sire, will, I know, in this, as in all else, be advised
by me. I can defend the honour of his house much better than he can
himself, and he knows it. Your brother will do his duty, I shall do
mine. I wish your Majesty good-day."

The sound of the King's cane is audible, striking heavily on the floor
as he strides up and down the room. The door of his bedchamber opens;
Charlotte de Bavière, crimson in the face, appears. She calls her
people together, and hastily departs, followed by the wondering glances
of the courtiers, standing in groups about the Œil de Bœuf.

The King, fearing that there was no chance of overcoming the opposition
of Madame, either by persuasions or by threats, consulted Madam de
Maintenon. With characteristic duplicity, she advised that what could
not be done openly, must be brought about by stratagem. She sent for
the Abbé Dubois, the _âme damnée_ of the young Duke, his tutor and
his companion, and by promises of money and speedy preferment she
completely made him her own. Dubois promised to hurry on the marriage
with or without the consent of Madame. The Duke, who loved his mother,
and respected her scruples, only yielded when Dubois artfully presented
to him the certain loss of all influence, as well as the personal
animosity of the King, if he refused.

Philippe d'Orléans met Mademoiselle de Blois in the apartment of Madame
de Maintenon. The marriage took place at Versailles.

[Illustration: GASTON, DUKE OF ORLEANS.

FROM A STEEL ENGRAVING.]

Madame was furious at what she termed her "dishonour." She wept,
abused, menaced, and scolded by turns. But finding that there was no
redress, that the marriage was legal, and that further opposition
might arouse the vengeance of the King, she gradually cooled down and
received her new daughter-in-law with tolerable civility; particularly
as the marriage with Mademoiselle de Blois continued the possession of
the Palais Royal, with all its pictures, sculptures, and valuables, in
the Orléans family, a gift which somewhat served to gild the bitter
pill she was called on to swallow.

This marriage did not improve the Duke's conduct or character. He was
galled by what he had been forced to do; his temper was soured; his
excesses increased. Nor was the Duchess of a disposition to endear
herself to any husband. Imperious, luxurious, and bitter-tongued,
she always forgot that her mother, Madame de Montespan, was not the
wife of her father, and treated the Duke as her inferior. He bore her
extravagant pride, and listened to her harangues, reproaches, and
taunts (expressed with real eloquence) in silence. Sometimes he
called her _Madame Lucifer_.

With such parents their children grew up in habits of licentiousness,
only equalled by the imperial ladies of Old Rome.

The Duchesse de Berry—the eldest of the Regent's daughters—kept her
Court at the Luxembourg with regal pomp. She received embassadors
seated on a throne, surmounted by a canopy sprinkled by the lilies of
France. But she did not think it beneath her dignity to do the honours
of certain _petits soupers_ at the Palais Royal—too well known to need
further mention here.

Her sister, Mademoiselle de Valois, was as remarkable for her beauty as
for her lack of virtue.

Mademoiselle d'Orléans—third daughter of the Regent—was, if possible,
more wanton than her sisters. To the eternal disgrace of the Church she
was elected Abbess of Chelles. "_Tel père, tel fils_," says the proverb.



CHAPTER XXXII.

AT MARLY.


There is a lane on the heights over Paris, embowered by wooded
hedge-rows, or skirted by open vineyards; this lane leads from
Saint-Germain to Marly.

Below the village, deep in a narrow gorge, is the site of the once
famous palace built by Louis XIV. Trees now wave and cattle browse on
turf where once clustered twelve pavilions, linked together by arches
and colonnades, in the Italian or villa style, to suit the royal fancy
of a summer retreat.

Not a stone has been left by the Revolution; what were once gardens
and a park, is now a secluded meadow. Blue-bells, thyme, and primroses
carpet the mossy earth; and the thrush, the cuckoo, and the early
swallow carol among pale sprays of beech and hazel. There are deep
ditches and swampy pools, once carp-ponds and lakes, part of a
plaisance, arranged in the solemn taste of that day, when nature itself
was cut and trimmed _à la Louis Quatorze_.

When Louis fixed upon Marly as a residence he was tired of Versailles.
He was old, he said, and needed relaxation. He wanted a _folie_, a
hermitage—_un rien enfin_—where he could retire from the crowd and the
restraints of his Court, sleep three nights in each week, and enjoy the
society of his especial favourites.

Either the King altered his plan, or his architect (Le Nôtre)
disregarded the royal instructions. Millions were squandered on a
residence, "which was to cost nothing." A forest of full-grown trees
was brought from Compiègne. The expense of draining the marshy soil,
and elevating the waters of the Seine into the _Machine de Marly_, was
never acknowledged.

What a stiff, solemn tyrant Louis is become! Selfish, exacting,
pedantic, intolerant, dreaded by his children and grand-children, and
exercising over them the most absolute control. Unhappy royal family,
how one pities them! Marly was a dreadful infliction. Ill or well,
they must go. The Duchess de Bourgogne might plead her interesting
situation, and the positive prohibition of Fagon: no matter, her name
is on the list—she must go. The Duchesse de Berry—that profligate
daughter of the Duc d'Orléans—is in her bed seriously ill: her mother,
the Duchesse d'Orléans, pleaded for her—in vain; if she could not walk
she must be carried—to Marly she must go. She was dragged thither in a
boat.

Madame de Maintenon herself dared to confess to no ache or pain
that availed to rescue her from standing in the cold winds on
frosty mornings—for the King loved the open air, and did not fear
weather—beside him while he fed the fat carp in marble basins, decided
upon a fresh alley to be cut through the woods, or upon a new cascade
that was to pierce the hills, or a larger pavilion to be added to those
already built.

Nothing could be a greater proof of favour than to be included in the
"list" to Marly. It was an honour more craved for than a ribbon or a
place at Court. The names of the distinguished few were written down
in the King's own hand (a very bad specimen of calligraphy), after due
consultation with Madame de Maintenon. She was fond of Marly, hence
its favour as a residence. She had herself superintended the building,
seated in her gilt sedan chair, the King, hat in hand, standing by her
side. At Marly she could better isolate him than at Versailles. His
loneliness threw him more under her influence and under that of the Duc
de Maine. These two, pupil and governess, perfectly understand each
other. There is to be a codicil to the royal will, virtually passing
over the Duc d'Orléans, his nephew, to invest Maine with all the powers
of a Regent. Madame de Maintenon represents this hypocritical son of
De Montespan as a simple-hearted, unostentatious man, wholly occupied
by his attendance on his Majesty and with his classical studies. The
King, whose personal activity is diminished, and whose powers of mind
are impaired, believes it. Louis, once renowned as the finest horseman,
sportsman, runner, dancer, shot, and charioteer, driving four horses
with ease and grace, in France, is now stiff and somewhat infirm. Too
indolent to move about and inquire for himself, he sees and hears only
through Madame de Maintenon. To others he is an unbending autocrat.

If Louis is feared as a parent he is hated as a Sovereign. The
denunciations of his _ci-devant_ Protestant wife in the interests
of his salvation lash him into inexpressible terror of perdition.
She suggests that he can best expiate the excesses of his youth by a
holocaust to the Almighty of all the heretics within his realm. The
Jesuits press him solely. Terrified by the threats of awful judgments
upon impenitent sovereigns, Louis signs the Revocation of the Edict of
Nantes. He expels the Jansenists, destroys their pleasant refuge on a
wooded hill near Maintenon, accepts the Bull _Unigenitus_, exiles the
Cardinal de Noailles, and fills the state prisons with recusant bishops.

The whole of France is in indescribable confusion. The south, where
the reformed faith prevails, is deluged with blood. Many thousands of
industrious and orderly citizens doom themselves to perpetual exile
rather than abjure the Protestant faith.

_Le Grand Monarque_ is now a lonely, melancholy old man. Defeat has
dogged his armies; the elevation of his grandchild, Philip, to the
throne of Spain has well-nigh brought France to destruction. Death has
been busy with his family: the Dauphin is dead; his son, the Duc de
Bourgogne, is dead; Adelaide de Savoie, his wife, most justly dear to
Louis, is also dead; and now there only remains one little life, their
son, the infant Duc d'Anjou between himself and the extinction of his
direct line. The Court at Marly is as lugubrious and austere as Madame
de Maintenon and the Jesuits can make it.

Yet a shadow of the pomp and etiquette of Versailles is still kept up.
On certain days after dinner, which takes place at noon, his Majesty
receives the royal family. The folding doors of the royal suite are
thrown open, and Louis appears. His hat with overtopping feathers
is on his head, one hand is placed upon the breast of his coat, the
other rests upon an ormolu table. He wears a diamond star; and a blue
ribbon is passed across his breast. His coat is of black velvet, his
waistcoat of red satin richly wrought with gold; he wears diamonds
in his shoe-buckles and in his garters. On his head is a ponderous
black wig, raised high on the forehead. This black wig gives his thin,
hatchet-shaped face, seamed with wrinkles, a ghastly look. Louis
changes his wigs many times each day to suit various occasions. He has
wigs for all emergencies. In figure he is much shrunk, and is slightly
bent. As he stands, his hand resting on the table for support, every
movement is studied to impose silence and awe. To the day of his death
he is majestic, and has the grandest manners in the world.

The royal family, conducted through galleries and colonnades lined with
exotics and orange-trees (for Louis loves orange-flowers, all other
scents and essences, however, are forbidden), pass before him. They
wear mantles or mantelets according to their rank. To the obeisances
of those who enjoy the honour of the _fauteuil_ his Majesty returns
a decided bow. Others who occupy _tabourets_ only, receive but a
qualified acknowledgment. People who sit on _pliants_ are not received
at Marly at all.

After the reception come the visits. Those who by their rank are
entitled to receive as well as to pay visits, flutter backwards and
forwards, with painful activity. Madame la Duchesse or Madame la
Princesse rushes out of one door and in at another, shouldering her
train, to salute a royal personage and return before more company
arrive to visit herself. Sometimes a call of ceremony is arranged to
Saint-Germain, situated about two miles from Marly, where the unhappy
James II. and his Queen, Mary of Modena, reside, as annuitants on the
royal bounty. Here the question as to who should wear mantles and who
mantelets, who should have _fauteuils_ and who _tabourets_, complicates
itself to such an extent (the etiquette of the English Court having
also to be duly considered) that even his Majesty grows embarrassed.
He cuts the Gordian knot by not sitting down at all. He exchanges a
few casual phrases with the exiled Stuarts _standing_, and forthwith
returns to the _rural retreat_ of Marly.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

"THE END."


On St. Louis day, 25th of August, 1715, the King, then seventy-seven
years old, felt seriously indisposed. The disease from which he
suffered was at first called sciatica. On the 15th he dined in his
bedroom at one o'clock. Later he was able to rise and was carried into
the saloon of Madame de Maintenon, where he met his ministers. Next
day he presided at the council of state held in a room adjoining his
bedroom. On the 25th he was sensibly worse. On the 28th, in consequence
of fatal symptoms, his surgeon Maréchal proposed to amputate his leg.
The aged King scanned the surgeon's face attentively.

"How long should I last then?" he asked.

Maréchal's hand was on Louis's wrist. His pulse did not vary while he
waited for an answer.

"In that case," returned Maréchal, "your Majesty might hope to survive
some days, perhaps some weeks longer."

"Then it is not worth while," was the reply in a steady voice. "How
long can I live _now_, Maréchal? Tell me the truth."

"Till Wednesday most probably, your Majesty."

"Ah! my death is to be on Wednesday. It is well. It is not so hard to
die as I had thought."

He said no more at that time. Madame de Maintenon sat beside him. Père
Letellier, his confessor, and a Jesuit, hovered about his bed. In his
hand was a paper concerning the Bull _Unigenitus_, which he urged the
King to sign. So merciless was his persistence, that the attendants
drove him from the room. The Duc de Maine, and his brother, the Comte
de Toulouse, watched. The royal will and codicil, sealed with seven
seals, making Maine virtually Regent, was walled up until the King's
death. The parliament was known to be in favour of the Duc d'Orléans.
It was needful to be first in the field. Maine never took his eyes off
his father. There lay that father, his prominent features sharpened by
approaching death, upon his bed, such as we see it now, for no other
monarch has lain in it since; the tester and framework of dark wood,
from which gloomy satin curtains hang, carved and gilt, and guarded by
a _ruelle_ or balustrade of gilded pillars, which none dare pass. Upon
his feet lay a counterpane, worked by the pupils of Saint-Cyr. On the
walls, near enough for his eye to rest upon, hung the portrait of his
mother, Anne of Austria, and two other pictures—St. John, by Raphael,
and David, by Domenichino. These pictures never left him, even on his
shortest journeys. On the mantelpiece, near the bed, was a bust of his
dead favourite, Adelaide de Savoie.

At the King's desire, Madame de Ventadour brought in the five-year
old Duc d'Anjou, son of the Duc de Bourgogne, his great-grandson and
successor. "Allow me to kiss him, madame," said Louis, courteous to the
last. The child was laid upon the bed, and burst out crying. Madame de
Ventadour took him in her arms to comfort him. "My child," said Louis,
bending his dim eyes upon the rosy-cheeked boy, "you will soon be King
over a great people. Give thanks to God for all you possess. Keep peace
with your neighbours. I have loved war too much. Do all that I have
left undone." Again and again he kissed the frightened child, ere he
would let him go.

Then he desired to speak with such nobles and courtiers as waited
without. "I die," he said, "in the Catholic faith. I am myself ignorant
of the merits of the various schisms which divide it. I have followed
such advice as was given me. If I have erred, my advisers alone are
responsible, not I. I call God to witness that what I say is true.
Gentlemen, I bid you all good-bye. Forget my bad example. Pray for me."

Then the dying monarch turned his face towards Madame de Maintenon, who
was seated within the _ruelle_ of the bed. "Madame," he said in a low
voice, "I regret no one but you. I have not made you happy." His voice
hitherto firm, now faltered. "But I have one consolation in leaving
you," he added, "we shall soon meet again." He tried to look at her,
but Madame de Maintenon turned from him with disgust. She shuddered.

"What a rendezvous!" she muttered half aloud. "He cares for no one
but himself." Bolduc, the King's apothecary, was near, and heard her
say so. That very day she left him while he dozed, and drove away to
Saint-Cyr.

On Sunday, the 1st of September, Louis died. His confessor, the Jesuit
Letellier, never returned. Madame de Maintenon remained at Saint-Cyr.
Save the Cardinal de Rohan, and the parish priest of Versailles, all
had forsaken him. No sooner had he breathed his last, than precautions
were necessary to guard his body from insult.

While the first lord in waiting, standing at the central window within
the royal bedchamber which overlooks the Cour de Marbre, the town of
Versailles, and the forest, broke his bâton of office, shouting in a
loud voice, "The King is dead! Long live the King!" blasphemous songs
and brutal jests passed from group to group of low women gathered along
the streets.

When the funeral procession left Versailles, almost secretly in the
twilight, reaching the Bois de Boulogne and the plain of Saint-Denis
by tracks and country roads, crowds followed it, bellowing horrible
imprecations. Along the causeway, outside the barriers of Versailles,
temporary tents were pitched, where peasants stood, glass in hand,
to toast the corpse with curses. These peasants and the townsmen of
Versailles had heard of millions squandered on royal mistresses,
while the people starved; of war abroad and persecutions at home; of
intolerance which spared no one; of ruin, exile, imprisonment, and
torture. The country people and the populace did not acknowledge the
dead as Louis the Great. The citizens hated him. These men neither knew
nor cared that he had a sonorous voice, a measured and solemn delivery
that gave weight to his smallest utterances, that leading a life of
vice he observed outward decorum, that he had a majestic presence and
a stately manner. These men weighed him—manners against acts, life
against words—and found him wanting. Posterity readjusted the scales
and pronounced them just. The great Revolution declared the balance.
Louis XVI. expiated the crimes of his ancestors on the scaffold.



      *      *      *      *      *      *



 ┌───────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────┐
 │ Transcriber's note:                                               │
 │                                                                   │
 │ Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note.      │
 │                                                                   │
 │ Punctuation and spelling were made consistent when a predominant  │
 │ form was found in this book; otherwise they were not changed.     │
 │                                                                   │
 │ Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained. Word        │
 │ combinations that appeared with and without hyphens were changed  │
 │ to the predominant form if it could be determined.                │
 │                                                                   │
 │ Other corrections:                                                │
 │ Page 98: violà --> voilà. (So, _le voilà amoureux_.)              │
 │ Page 120: Captaine --> Capitaine. (Retire, Monsieur le Capitaine.)│
 │ Page 134: Marazin --> Mazarin. (Mazarin mutters.)                 │
 │ Page 270: Vueve --> Veuve. (La Veuve Scarron.)                    │
 └───────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────┘





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