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Chapter 34

Chapter XXXIV:
The Advisers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"In what respect?"

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

"Quite true," said the Chevalier de Lorraine, laughing.

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

"Deep! deep!" exclaimed the chevalier.

"But true," replied De Guiche.

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

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

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

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

"So that - "

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

"And is there a repetition of the ballet this evening?"

"Certainly."

"Are you sure?"

"Quite," returned the chevalier.

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

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

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

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

"What is that?"

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

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

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

De Guiche turned pale.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"The king!"

"The king!" exclaimed De Guiche.

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

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

"Why so?"

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

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

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

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

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

"No, no; I have decided, Bragelonne; I stay."

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

"I, too, am a prophet, but not a prophet of evil; on the contrary, count,
I say to you, 'remain.'"

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

"Quite sure."

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

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

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

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

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

"Yes, that is so," exclaimed the count.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Oh, never!" exclaimed De Guiche.

"Why do you say never?"

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

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

"Why?"

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

"Yes, yes; quite sure."

"Love her, then, at a distance."

"What! at a distance?"

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

"Raoul!"

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

"Ah!"

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

"Indeed I shall do so."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I have perhaps misunderstood your majesty," he stammered out.

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

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

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

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

"And she?" inquired Raoul.

"She," exclaimed his unhappy friend, as he raised his hand clenched in
anger, towards Heaven. "She! - "

"What did she say and do?"

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

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

Alexandre Dumas pere