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Chapter 32


Chapter XXXII:
Monsieur is Jealous of Guiche.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Give me your opinion," exclaimed the prince.

"Upon what?"

"Upon what is taking place here."

"Oh, monseigneur, it is a very serious matter."

"It is abominable! I cannot live in this manner."

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

"And this is worse."

"I do not say that, monseigneur."

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

"What do you mean?"

"To conceal oneself for the purposes of dancing, and to feign
indisposition in order to dine _tete-a-tete_."

"No, no, monseigneur."

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

"Oh, monseigneur, an exposure - "

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

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

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

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

"I wish to speak of Madame."

"Your wife?"

"Yes, madame."

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Of whom, in Heaven's name?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Far from it; you are my son, I owe you a mother's indulgence."

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

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

"But facts, mother, facts!"

"Well, I am listening."

"This morning at ten o'clock they were playing music in Madame's
apartments."

"No harm in that, surely."

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

"If they were doing any harm they would hide themselves."

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

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

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

"Yes, I said so."

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

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

"Nothing."

"And Guiche?"

"As much - oh, no! he muttered some impertinent remark or another."

"Well, what is your opinion, Philip?"

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

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

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

"Unless what?"

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

"I will not do it, Philip."

"What, madame?"

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

"He has displeased me."

"That is your own affair."

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

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

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

"Do so," she said.

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

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

"I will go to the king."

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

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

"Why, madame?"

"Because Spanish women are worth more than English women at least."

"Explain yourself."

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

"Certainly not."

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

"Well?"

"He is now finding fault with Madame a second time."

"What, Buckingham still?"

"No, another."

"Who?"

"Guiche."

"Really? Madame is a coquette, then?"

"I fear so."

"My poor brother," said the king, laughing.

"You don't object to coquettes, it seems?"

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

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

"What does he want?"

"He wants to drown Guiche."

"That is a violent measure to resort to."

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

"To save Guiche - certainly."

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

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

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

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

"How will you set about it?"

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

"But Madame?"

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

"There is no time to be lost."

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

"You will read her a lecture while you are dancing?"

"Yes, madame."

"You promise to convert her?"

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

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

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

"What about?"

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

"Would that not seem a somewhat serious step to take?"

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

"I believe so."

"What is my statement of grievances to consist of?"

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

"And the proofs?"

"There _are_ none."

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

"Fire and water cannot be more opposite."

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

"May you be successful, sire, as the family peacemaker."

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

Alexandre Dumas pere