Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 30

Chapter XXX:
Threefold Love.

As soon as Buckingham departed, Guiche imagined the coast would be
perfectly clear for him without any interference. Monsieur, who no
longer retained the slightest feeling of jealousy, and who, besides,
permitted himself to be monopolized by the Chevalier de Lorraine, allowed
as much liberty and freedom in his house as the most exacting could
desire. The king, on his side, who had conceived a strong predilection
for his sister-in-law's society, invented a variety of amusements, in
quick succession to each other, in order to render her residence in Paris
as cheerful as possible, so that in fact, not a day passed without a ball
at the Palais Royal, or a reception in Monsieur's apartments. The king
had directed that Fontainebleau should be prepared for the reception of
the court, and every one was using his utmost interest to get invited.
Madame led a life of incessant occupation; neither her voice nor her pen
were idle for a moment. The conversations with De Guiche were gradually
assuming a tone of interest which might unmistakably be recognized as the
prelude of a deep-seated attachment. When eyes look languishingly while
the subject under discussion happens to be colors of materials for
dresses; when a whole hour is occupied in analyzing the merits and the
perfume of a _sachet_ or a flower; - there are words in this style of
conversation which every one might listen to, but there are gestures and
sighs that every one cannot perceive. After Madame had talked for some
time with De Guiche, she conversed with the king, who paid her a visit
regularly every day. They played, wrote verses, or selected mottoes or
emblematical devices; this spring was not only the Maytide of nature, it
was the youth of an entire people, of which those at court were the
head. The king was handsome, young, and of unequaled gallantry. All
women were passionately loved by him, even the queen, his wife. This
mighty monarch was, however, more timid and more reserved than any other
person in the kingdom, to such a degree, indeed, that he did not confess
his sentiments even to himself. This timidity of bearing restrained him
within the limits of ordinary politeness, and no woman could boast of
having any preference shown her beyond that shown to others. It might be
foretold that the day when his real character would be displayed would be
the dawn of a new sovereignty; but as yet he had not declared himself.
M. de Guiche took advantage of this, and constituted himself the
sovereign prince of the whole laughter-loving court. It had been
reported that he was on the best of terms with Mademoiselle de Montalais;
that he had been assiduously attentive to Mademoiselle de Chatillon; but
now he was not even barely civil to any of the court beauties. He had
eyes and ears for one person alone. In this manner, and, as it were,
without design, he devoted himself to Monsieur, who had a great regard
for him, and kept him as much as possible in his own apartments.
Unsociable from natural disposition, he had estranged himself too much
previous to the arrival of Madame, but, after her arrival, he did not
estrange himself sufficiently. This conduct, which every one had
observed, had been particularly remarked by the evil genius of the house,
the Chevalier de Lorraine, for whom Monsieur exhibited the warmest
attachment because he was of a very cheerful disposition, even in his
remarks most full of malice, and because he was never at a loss how to
wile the time away. The Chevalier de Lorraine, therefore, having noticed
that he was threatened with being supplanted by De Guiche, resorted to
strong measures. He disappeared from the court, leaving Monsieur much
embarrassed. The first day of his absence, Monsieur hardly inquired
about him, for he had De Guiche with him, and, except that the time given
to conversation with Madame, his days and nights were rigorously devoted
to the prince. On the second day, however, Monsieur, finding no one near
him, inquired where the chevalier was. He was told that no one knew.

De Guiche, after having spent the morning in selecting embroideries and
fringes with Madame, went to console the prince. But after dinner, as
there were some amethysts to be looked at, De Guiche returned to Madame's
cabinet. Monsieur was left quite to himself during the time devoted to
dressing and decorating himself; he felt that he was the most miserable
of men, and again inquired whether there was any news of the chevalier,
in reply to which he was told that no one could tell where the chevalier
was to be found. Monsieur, hardly knowing in what direction to inflict
his weariness, went to Madame's apartments dressed in his morning-gown.
He found a large assemblage of people there, laughing and whispering in
every part of the room; at one end, a group of women around one of the
courtiers, talking together, amid smothered bursts of laughter; at the
other end, Manicamp and Malicorne were being pillaged at cards by
Montalais and Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente, while two others were
standing by, laughing. In another part were Madame, seated upon some
cushions on the floor, and De Guiche, on his knees beside her, spreading
out a handful of pearls and precious stones, while the princess, with her
white and slender fingers pointed out such among them as pleased her the
most. Again, in another corner of the room, a guitar player was playing
some of the Spanish seguedillas, to which Madame had taken the greatest
fancy ever since she had heard them sung by the young queen with a
melancholy expression of voice. But the songs which the Spanish princess
had sung with tears in her eyes, the young Englishwoman was humming with
a smile that well displayed her beautiful teeth. The cabinet presented,
in fact, the most perfect representation of unrestrained pleasure and
amusement. As he entered, Monsieur was struck at beholding so many
persons enjoying themselves without him. He was so jealous at the sight
that he could not resist exclaiming, like a child, "What! you are amusing
yourselves here, while I am sick and tired of being alone!"

The sound of his voice was like a clap of thunder coming to interrupt the
warbling of birds under the leafy covert of the trees; a dead silence
ensued. De Guiche was on his feet in a moment. Malicorne tried to hide
himself behind Montalais. Manicamp stood bolt upright, and assumed a
very ceremonious demeanor. The guitar player thrust his instrument under
a table, covering it with a piece of carpet to conceal it from the
prince's observation. Madame was the only one who did not move, and
smiling at her husband, said, "Is not this the hour you usually devote to
your toilette?"

"An hour which others select, it seems, for amusing themselves," replied
the prince, grumblingly.

This untoward remark was the signal for a general rout; the women fled
like a flock of terrified starlings; the guitar player vanished like a
shadow; Malicorne, still protected by Montalais, who purposely widened
out her dress, glided behind the hanging tapestry. As for Manicamp, he
went to the assistance of De Guiche, who naturally remained near Madame,
and both of them, with the princess herself, courageously sustained the
attack. The count was too happy to bear malice against the husband; but
Monsieur bore a grudge against his wife. Nothing was wanting but a
quarrel; he sought it, and the hurried departure of the crowd, which had
been so joyous before he arrived, and was so disturbed by his entrance,
furnished him with a pretext.

"Why do they run away at the very sight of me?" he inquired, in a
supercilious tone; to which remark Madame replied, that, "whenever the
master of the house made his appearance, the family kept aloof out of
respect." As she said this, she made so funny and so pretty a grimace,
that De Guiche and Manicamp could not control themselves; they burst into
a peal of laugher; Madame followed their example, and even Monsieur
himself could not resist it, and he was obliged to sit down, as, for
laughing, he could scarcely keep his equilibrium. However, he very soon
left off, but his anger had increased. He was still more furious because
he had permitted himself to laugh, than from having seen others laugh.
He looked at Manicamp steadily, not venturing to show his anger towards
De Guiche; but, at a sign which displayed no little amount of annoyance,
Manicamp and De Guiche left the room, so that Madame, left alone, began
sadly to pick up her pearls and amethysts, no longer smiling, and
speaking still less.

"I am very happy," said the duke, "to find myself treated as a stranger
here, Madame," and he left the room in a passion. On his way out, he met
Montalais, who was in attendance in the ante-room. "It is very agreeable
to pay you a visit here, but outside the door."

Montalais made a very low obeisance. "I do not quite understand what
your royal highness does me the honor to say."

"I say that when you are all laughing together in Madame's apartment, he
is an unwelcome visitor who does not remain outside."

"Your royal highness does not think, and does not speak so, of yourself?"

"On the contrary, it is on my own account that I do speak and think. I
have no reason, certainly, to flatter myself about the reception I meet
with here at any time. How is it that, on the very day there is music
and a little society in Madame's apartments - in my own apartments,
indeed, for they are mine - on the very day that I wish to amuse myself a
little in my turn, every one runs away? Are they afraid to see me, that
they all take wing as soon as I appear? Is there anything wrong, then,
going on in my absence?"

"Yet nothing has been done to-day, monseigneur, which is not done every
day."

"What! do they laugh like that every day?"

"Why, yes, monseigneur."

"The same group of people simpering and the same singing and strumming
going on every day?"

"The guitar, monseigneur, was introduced to-day; but when we have no
guitars, we have violins and flutes; ladies soon weary without music."

"The deuce! - and the men?"

"What men, monseigneur?"

"M. de Guiche, M. de Manicamp, and the rest of them?"

"They all belong to your highness's household."

"Yes, yes, you are right," said the prince, as he returned to his own
apartments, full of thought. He threw himself into the largest of his
arm-chairs, without looking at himself in the glass. "Where can the
chevalier be?" said he. One of the prince's attendants happened to be
near him, overheard his remark, and replied, -

"No one knows, your highness."

"Still the same answer. The first one who answers me again, 'I do not
know,' I will discharge." Every one at this remark hurried out of his
apartments, in the same manner as the others had fled from Madame's
apartments. The prince then flew into the wildest rage. He kicked over
a chiffonier, which tumbled on the carpet, broken into pieces. He next
went into the galleries, and with the greatest coolness threw down, one
after another, an enameled vase, a porphyry ewer, and a bronze
candelabrum. The noise summoned every one to the various doors.

"What is your highness's pleasure?" said the captain of the guards,
timidly.

"I am treating myself to some music," replied the prince, gnashing his
teeth.

The captain of the guards desired his royal highness's physician to be
sent for. But before he came, Malicorne arrived, saying to the prince,
"Monseigneur, the Chevalier de Lorraine is here."

The duke looked at Malicorne, and smiled graciously at him, just as the
chevalier entered.

Alexandre Dumas pere