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Chapter 38

Chapter XXXVIII:
What Was Caught after the Butterflies.

The two young people remained for a moment with their heads bent down,
bowed, as it were, beneath the double thought of the love which was
springing up in their hearts, and which gives birth to so many happy
fancies in the imaginations of twenty years of age. Henrietta gave a
side glance, from time to time, at the king. Hers was one of those
finely-organized natures capable of looking inwardly at itself, as well
as at others at the same moment. She perceived Love lying at the bottom
of Louis's heart, as a skillful diver sees a pearl at the bottom of the
sea. She knew Louis was hesitating, if not in doubt, and that his
indolent or timid heart required aid and encouragement. "And so?" she
said, interrogatively, breaking the silence.

"What do you mean?" inquired Louis, after a moment's pause.

"I mean, that I shall be obliged to return to the resolution I had
formed."

"To what resolution?"

"To that which I have already submitted to your majesty."

"When?"

"On the very day we had a certain explanation about Monsieur's
jealousies."

"What did you say to me then?" inquired Louis, with some anxiety.

"Do you not remember, sire?"

"Alas! if it be another cause of unhappiness, I shall recollect it soon
enough."

"A cause of unhappiness for myself alone, sire," replied Madame
Henrietta; "but as it is necessary, I must submit to it."

"At least, tell me what it is," said the king.

"Absence."

"Still that unkind resolve?"

"Believe me, sire, I have not found it without a violent struggle with
myself; it is absolutely necessary I should return to England."

"Never, never will I permit you to leave France," exclaimed the king.

"And yet, sire," said Madame, affecting a gentle yet sorrowful
determination, "nothing is more urgently necessary; nay, more than that,
I am persuaded it is your mother's desire I should do so."

"Desire!" exclaimed the king; "that is a very strange expression to use
to me."

"Still," replied Madame Henrietta, smilingly, "are you not happy in
submitting to the wishes of so good a mother?"

"Enough, I implore you; you rend my very soul."

"I?"

"Yes; for you speak of your departure with tranquillity."

"I was not born for happiness, sire," replied the princess, dejectedly;
"and I acquired, in very early life, the habit of seeing my dearest
wishes disappointed."

"Do you speak truly?" said the king. "Would your departure gainsay any
one of your cherished thoughts?"

"If I were to say 'yes,' would you begin to take your misfortune
patiently?"

"How cruel you are!"

"Take care, sire; some one is coming."

The king looked all round him, and said, "No, there is no one," and then
continued: "Come, Henrietta, instead of trying to contend against
Monsieur's jealousy by a departure which would kill me - "

Henrietta slightly shrugged her shoulders like a woman unconvinced.
"Yes," repeated Louis, "which would kill me, I say. Instead of fixing
your mind on this departure, does not your imagination - or rather does
not your heart - suggest some expedient?"

"What is it you wish my heart to suggest?"

"Tell me, how can one prove to another that it is wrong to be jealous?"

"In the first place, sire, by giving no motive for jealousy; in other
words, in loving no one but the person in question."

"Oh! I expected more than that."

"What did you expect?"

"That you would simply tell me that jealous people are pacified by
concealing the affection which is entertained for the object of jealousy."

"Dissimulation is difficult, sire."

"Yet it is only be means of conquering difficulties that any happiness is
attained. As far as I am concerned, I swear I will give the lie to those
who are jealous of me by pretending to treat you like any other woman."

"A bad, as well as unsafe, means," said the young princess, shaking her
pretty head.

"You seem to think everything bad, dear Henrietta," said Louis,
discontentedly. "You negative everything I propose. Suggest, at least,
something else in its stead. Come, try and think. I trust implicitly to
a woman's invention. Do you invent in your turn?"

"Well, sire, I have hit upon something. Will you listen to it?"

"Can you ask me? You speak of a matter of life or death to me, and then
ask if I will listen."

"Well, I judge of it by my own case. If my husband intended to put me on
the wrong scent with regard to another woman, one thing would reassure me
more than anything else."

"What would that be?"

"In the first place to see that he never took any notice of the woman in
question."

"Exactly. That is precisely what I said just now."

"Very well; but in order to be perfectly reassured on the subject, I
should like to see him occupy himself with some one else."

"Ah! I understand you," replied Louis, smiling. "But confess, dear
Henrietta, if the means is at least ingenious, it is hardly charitable."

"Why so?"

"In curing the dread of a wound in a jealous person's mind, you inflict
one upon the heart. His fear ceases, it is true; but the evil still
exists; and that seems to me to be far worse."

"Agreed; but he does not detect, he does not suspect the real enemy; he
does no prejudice to love itself; he concentrates all his strength on the
side where his strength will do no injury to anything or any one. In a
word, sire, my plan, which I confess I am surprised to find you dispute,
is mischievous to jealous people, it is true; but to lovers it is full of
advantage. Besides, let me ask, sire, who, except yourself, has ever
thought of pitying jealous people? Are they not a melancholy crew of
grumblers always equally unhappy, whether with or without a cause? You
may remove that cause, but you never can remove their sufferings. It is
a disease which lies in the imagination, and, like all imaginary
disorders, it is incurable. By the by, I remember an aphorism upon this
subject, of poor Dr. Dawley, a clever and amusing man, who, had it not
been for my brother, who could not do without him, I should have with me
now. He used to say, 'Whenever you are likely to suffer from two
affections, choose that which will give you the least trouble, and I will
allow you to retain it; for it is positive,' he said, 'that that very
ailment is of the greatest service to me, in order to enable me to get
rid of the other.'"

"Well and judiciously remarked, Henrietta," replied the king, smiling.

"Oh! we have some clever people in London, sire."

"And those clever people produce adorable pupils. I will grant this
Daley, Darley, Dawley, or whatever you call him, a pension for his
aphorism; but I entreat you, Henrietta, to begin by choosing the least of
your evils. You do not answer - you smile. I guess that the least of
your bugbears is your stay in France. I will allow you to retain this
information; and, in order to begin with the cure of the other, I will
this very day begin to look out for a subject which shall divert the
attention of the jealous members of either sex who persecute us both."

"Hush! this time some one is really coming," said Madame; and she stooped
to gather a flower from the thick grass at her feet. Some one, in fact,
was approaching; for, suddenly, a bevy of young girls ran down from the
top of the hillock, following the cavaliers - the cause of this
interruption being a magnificent hawk-moth, with wings like rose-leaves.
The prey in question had fallen into the net of Mademoiselle de Tonnay-
Charente, who displayed it with some pride to her less successful
rivals. The queen of the chase had seated herself some twenty paces from
the bank on which Louis and Madame Henrietta were reclining; and leaned
her back against a magnificent oak-tree entwined with ivy, and stuck the
butterfly on the long cane she carried in her hand. Mademoiselle de
Tonnay-Charente was very beautiful, and the gentlemen, accordingly,
deserted her companions, and under the pretext of complimenting her upon
her success, pressed in a circle around her. The king and princess
looked gloomily at this scene, as spectators of maturer age look on at
the games of little children. "They seem to be amusing themselves
there," said the king.

"Greatly, sire; I have always found that people are amused wherever youth
and beauty are to be found."

"What do you think of Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente, Henrietta?"
inquired the king.

"I think she has rather too much flax-yellow and lily-whiteness in her
complexion," replied Madame, fixing in a moment upon the only fault it
was possible to find in the almost perfect beauty of the future Madame de
Montespan."

"Rather too fair, yes; but beautiful, I think, in spite of that."

"Is that your opinion, sire?"

"Yes, really."

"Very well; and it is mine, too."

"And she seems to be much sought after."

"On, that is a matter of course. Lovers flutter from one to another. If
we had hunted for lovers instead of butterflies, you can see, from those
who surround her, what successful sport we should have had."

"Tell me, Henrietta, what would be said if the king were to make himself
one of those lovers, and let his glance fall in that direction? Would
some one else be jealous, in such a case?"

"Oh! sire, Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente is a very efficacious remedy,"
said Madame, with a sigh. "She would cure a jealous man, certainly; but
she might possibly make a woman jealous, too."

"Henrietta," exclaimed Louis, "you fill my heart with joy. Yes, yes;
Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente is far too beautiful to serve as a cloak."

"A king's cloak," said Madame Henrietta, smiling, "ought to be beautiful."

"Do you advise me to do it, then?" inquired Louis.

"I! what should I say, sire, except that to give such an advice would be
to supply arms against myself? It would be folly or pride to advise you
to take, for the heroine of an assumed affection, a woman more beautiful
than the one for whom you pretend to feel real regard."

The king tried to take Madame's hand in his own; his eyes sought hers;
and then he murmured a few words so full of tenderness, but pronounced in
so low a tone, that the historian, who ought to hear everything, could
not hear them. Then, speaking aloud, he said, "Do you yourself choose
for me the one who is to cure our jealous friend. To her, then, all my
devotion, all my attention, all the time that I can spare from my
occupations, shall be devoted. For her shall be the flower that I may
pluck for you, the fond thoughts with which you have inspired me.
Towards her I will direct the glance I dare not bestow upon you, and
which ought to be able to rouse you from your indifference. But, be
careful in your selection, lest, in offering her the rose which I may
have plucked, I find myself conquered by you; and my looks, my hand, my
lips, turn immediately towards you, even were the whole world to guess my
secret."

While these words escaped from the king's lips, in a stream of wild
affection, Madame blushed, breathless, happy, proud, almost intoxicated
with delight. She could find nothing to say in reply; her pride and her
thirst for homage were satisfied. "I shall fail," she said, raising her
beautiful black eyes, "but not as you beg me, for all this incense which
you wish to burn on the altar of another divinity. Ah! sire, I too shall
be jealous of it, and want restored to me; and would not that a particle
of it should be lost in the way. Therefore, sire, with your royal
permission, I will choose one who shall appear to me the least likely to
distract your attention, and who will leave my image intact and
unshadowed in your heart."

"Happily for me," said the king, "your heart is not hard and unfeeling.
If it were so, I should be alarmed at the threat you hold out.
Precautions were taken on this point, and around you, as around myself,
it would be difficult to meet with a disagreeable-looking face."

Whilst the king was speaking, Madame had risen from her seat, looked
around the greensward, and after a careful and silent examination, she
called the king to her side, and said, "See yonder, sire, upon the
declivity of that little hill, near that group of Guelder roses, that
beautiful girl walking alone, her head down, her arms hanging by her
side, with her eyes fixed upon the flowers, which she crushes beneath her
feet, like one who is lost in thought."

"Mademoiselle de Valliere, do you mean?" remarked the king.

"Yes."

"Oh!"

"Will she not suit you, sire?"

"Why, look how thin the poor child is. She has hardly any flesh upon her
bones."

"Nay: am I stout then?"

"She is so melancholy."

"The greater contrast to myself, who am accused of being too lively."

"She is lame."

"Do you really think so?"

"No doubt of it. Look; she has allowed every one to pass by her, through
fear of her defect being remarked."

"Well, she will not run so fast as Daphne, and will not be as able to
escape Apollo."

"Henrietta," said the king, out of temper; "of all your maids of honor,
you have really selected for me the one most full of defects."

"Still she is one of my maids of honor."

"Of course; but what do you mean?"

"I mean that, in order to visit this new divinity, you will not be able
to do so without paying a visit to my apartments, and that, as propriety
will forbid your conversing with her in private, you will be compelled to
see her in my circle, to speak, as it were, at me, while speaking to
her. I mean, in fact, that those who may be jealous, will be wrong if
they suppose you come to my apartments for my sake, since you will go
there for Mademoiselle de la Valliere."

"Who happens to be lame."

"Hardly that."

"Who never opens her lips."

"But who, when she does open them, displays a beautiful set of teeth."

"Who may serve as a model for an osteologist."

"Your favor will change her appearance."

"Henrietta!"

"At all events you allowed me to choose."

"Alas! yes."

"Well, my choice is made: I impose her upon you, and you must submit."

"Oh! I would accept one of the furies, if you were to insist upon it."

"La Valliere is as gentle as a lamb: do not fear she will ever contradict
you when you tell her you love her," said Madame, laughing.

"You are not afraid, are you, that I shall say too much to her?"

"It would be for my sake."

"The treaty is agreed to, then?"

"Not only so, but signed. You will continue to show me the friendship of
a brother, the attention of a brother, the gallantry of a monarch, will
you not?"

"I will preserve for you intact a heart that has already become
accustomed to beat only at your command."

"Very well, do you not see that we have guaranteed the future by this
means?"

"I hope so."

"Will your mother cease to regard me as an enemy?"

"Yes."

"Will Maria Theresa leave off speaking in Spanish before Monsieur, who
has a horror of conversation held in foreign languages, because he always
thinks he is being ill spoken of? and lastly," continued the princess,
"will people persist in attributing a wrongful affection to the king when
the truth is, we can offer nothing to each other, except absolute
sympathy, free from mental reservation?"

"Yes, yes," said the king, hesitatingly. "But other things may still be
said of us."

"What can be said, sire? shall we never be left in tranquillity?"

"People will say I am deficient in taste; but what is my self-respect in
comparison with your tranquillity?"

"In comparison with my honor, sire, and that of our family, you mean.
Besides, I beg you to attend, do not be so hastily prejudiced against La
Valliere. She is slightly lame, it is true, but she is not deficient in
good sense. Moreover, all that the king touches is converted into gold."

"Well, Madame, rest assured of one thing, namely, that I am still
grateful to you: you might even yet make me pay dearer for your stay in
France."

"Sire, some one approaches."

"Well!"

"One last word."

"Say it."

"You are prudent and judicious, sire; but in the present instance you
will be obliged to summon to your aid all your prudence, and all your
judgment."

"Oh!" exclaimed Louis, laughing, "from this very day I shall begin to act
my part, and you shall see whether I am not quite fit to represent the
character of a tender swain. After luncheon, there will be a promenade
in the forest, and then there is supper and the ballet at ten o'clock."

"I know it."

"The ardor of my passion shall blaze more brilliantly than the fireworks,
shall shine more steadily than our friend Colbert's lamps; it shall shine
so dazzlingly that the queens and Monsieur will be almost blinded by it."

"Take care, sire, take care."

"In Heaven's name, what have I done, then?"

"I shall begin to recall the compliments I paid you just now. You
prudent! you wise! did I say? Why, you begin by the most reckless
inconsistencies! Can a passion be kindled in this manner, like a torch,
in a moment? Can a monarch, such as you are, without any preparation,
fall at the feet of a girl like La Valliere?"

"Ah! Henrietta, now I understand you. We have not yet begun the
campaign, and you are plundering me already."

"No, I am only recalling you to common-sense ideas. Let your passion be
kindled gradually, instead of allowing it to burst forth so suddenly.
Jove's thunders and lightnings are heard and seen before the palace is
set on fire. Everything has its commencements. If you are so easily
excited, no one will believe you are really captivated, and every one
will think you out of your senses - if even, indeed, the truth itself
not be guessed. The public is not so fatuous as they seem."

The king was obliged to admit that Madame was an angel for sense, and the
very reverse for cleverness. He bowed, and said: "Agreed, Madame, I will
think over my plan of attack: great military men - my cousin De Conde for
instance - grow pale in meditation upon their strategical plans, before
they move one of the pawns, which people call armies; I therefore wish to
draw up a complete plan of campaign; for you know that the tender passion
is subdivided in a variety of ways. Well, then, I shall stop at the
village of Little Attentions, at the hamlet of Love-Letters, before I
follow the road of Visible Affection; the way is clear enough, you know,
and poor Madame de Scudery would never forgive me for passing though a
halting-place without stopping."

"Oh! now we have returned to our proper senses, shall we say adieu,
sire?"

"Alas! it must be so, for see, we are interrupted."

"Yes, indeed," said Henrietta, "they are bringing Mademoiselle de Tonnay-
Charente and her sphinx butterfly in grand procession this way."

"It is perfectly well understood, that this evening, during the
promenade, I am to make my escape into the forest, and find La Valliere
without you."

"I will take care to send her away."

"Very well! I will speak to her when she is with her companions, and I
will then discharge my first arrow at her."

"Be skillful," said Madame, laughing, "and do not miss the heart."

Then the princess took leave of the king, and went forward to meet the
merry troop, which was advancing with much ceremony, and a great many
pretended flourishes of trumpets, imitated with their mouths.

Alexandre Dumas pere