By eight o'clock in the evening, every one had assembled in the queen-
mother's apartments. Anne of Austria, in full dress, beautiful still,
from former loveliness, and from all the resources coquetry can command
at the hands of clever assistants, concealed, or rather pretended to
conceal, from the crowd of courtiers who surrounded her, and who still
admired her, thanks to the combination of circumstances which we have
indicated in the preceding chapter, the ravages, which were already
visible, of the acute suffering to which she finally yielded a few years
later. Madame, almost as great a coquette as Anne of Austria, and the
queen, simple and natural as usual, were seated beside her, each
contending for her good graces. The ladies of honor, united in a body,
in order to resist with greater effect, and consequently with more
success, the witty and lively conversations which the young men held
about them, were enabled, like a battalion formed in a square, to offer
each other the means of attack and defense which were thus at their
command. Montalais, learned in that species of warfare which consists of
sustained skirmishing, protected the whole line by a sort of rolling fire
she directed against the enemy. Saint-Aignan, in utter despair at the
rigor, which became almost insulting from the very fact of her persisting
in it, Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente displayed, tried to turn his back
upon her; but, overcome by the irresistible brilliancy of her eyes, he,
every moment, returned to consecrate his defeat by new submissions, to
which Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente did not fail to reply by fresh acts
of impertinence. Saint-Aignan did not know which way to turn. La
Valliere had about her, not exactly a court, but sprinklings of
courtiers. Saint-Aignan, hoping by this maneuver to attract Athenais's
attention towards him, approached the young girl, and saluted her with a
respect that induced some to believe that he wished to balance Athenais
by Louise. But these were persons who had neither been witnesses of the
scene during the shower, nor had heard it spoken of. As the majority was
already informed, and well informed, too, on the matter, the acknowledged
favor with which she was regarded had attracted to her side some of the
most astute, as well as the least sensible, members of the court. The
former, because they said with Montaigne, "How do I know?" and the
latter, who said with Rabelais, "Perhaps." The greatest number had
followed in the wake of the latter, just as in hunting five or six of the
best hounds alone follow the scent of the animal hunted, whilst the
remainder of the pack follow only the scent of the hounds. The two
queens and Madame examined with particular attention the toilettes of
their ladies and maids of honor; and they condescended to forget they
were queens in recollecting that they were women. In other words, they
pitilessly picked to pieces every person present who wore a petticoat.
The looks of both princesses simultaneously fell upon La Valliere, who,
as we have just said, was completely surrounded at that moment. Madame
knew not what pity was, and said to the queen-mother, as she turned
towards her, "If Fortune were just, she would favor that poor La
"That is not possible," said the queen-mother, smiling.
"There are only two hundred tickets, so that it was not possible to
inscribe every one's name on the list."
"And hers is not there, then?"
"What a pity! she might have won them, and then sold them."
"Sold them!" exclaimed the queen.
"Yes; it would have been a dowry for her, and she would not have been
obliged to marry without her _trousseau_, as will probably be the case."
"Really," answered the queen-mother, "poor little thing: has she no
And she pronounced these words like a woman who has never been able to
understand the inconveniences of a slenderly filled purse.
"Stay, look at her. Heaven forgive me, if she is not wearing the very
same petticoat this evening that she had on this morning during the
promenade, and which she managed to keep clean, thanks to the care the
king took of her, in sheltering her from the rain."
At the very moment Madame uttered these words the king entered the room.
The two queens would not perhaps have observed his arrival, so completely
were they occupied in their ill-natured remarks, had not Madame noticed
that, all at once, La Valliere, who was standing up facing the gallery,
exhibited certain signs of confusion, and then said a few words to the
courtiers who surrounded her, who immediately dispersed. This movement
induced Madame to look towards the door, and at that moment, the captain
of the guards announced the king. At this moment La Valliere, who had
hitherto kept her eyes fixed upon the gallery, suddenly cast them down as
the king entered. His majesty was dressed magnificently and in the most
perfect taste; he was conversing with Monsieur and the Duc de Roquelaure,
Monsieur on his right, and the Duc de Roquelaure on his left. The king
advanced, in the first place, towards the queens, to whom he bowed with
an air full of graceful respect. He took his mother's hand and kissed
it, addressed a few compliments to Madame upon the beauty of her
toilette, and then began to make the round of the assembly. La Valliere
was saluted in the same manner as the others, but with neither more nor
less attention. His majesty then returned to his mother and his wife.
When the courtiers noticed that the king had only addressed some ordinary
remark to the young girl who had been so particularly noticed in the
morning, they immediately drew their own conclusion to account for this
coldness of manner; this conclusion being, that although the king may
have taken a sudden fancy to her, that fancy had already disappeared.
One thing, however, must be remarked, that close beside La Valliere,
among the number of the courtiers, M. Fouquet was to be seen; and his
respectfully attentive manner served to sustain the young girl in the
midst of the varied emotions that visibly agitated her.
M. Fouquet was just on the point, moreover, of speaking in a more
friendly manner with Mademoiselle de la Valliere, when M. Colbert
approached, and after having bowed to Fouquet with all the formality of
respectful politeness, he seemed to take up a post beside La Valliere,
for the purpose of entering into conversation with her. Fouquet
immediately quitted his place. These proceedings were eagerly devoured
by the eyes of Montalais and Malicorne, who mutually exchanged their
observations on the subject. De Guiche, standing within the embrasure of
one of the windows, saw no one but Madame. But as Madame, on her side,
frequently glanced at La Valliere, De Guiche's eyes, following Madame's,
were from time to time cast upon the young girl. La Valliere
instinctively felt herself sinking beneath the weight of all these
different looks, inspired, some by interest, others by envy. She had
nothing to compensate her for her sufferings, not a kind word from her
companions, nor a look of affection from the king. No one could possibly
express the misery the poor girl was suffering. The queen-mother next
directed the small table to be brought forward, on which the lottery-
tickets were placed, two hundred in number, and begged Madame de
Motteville to read the list of the names. It was a matter of course that
this list had been drawn out in strict accordance with the laws of
etiquette. The king's name was first on the list, next the queen-mother,
then the queen, Monsieur, Madame, and so on. All hearts throbbed
anxiously as the list was read out; more than three hundred persons had
been invited, and each of them was anxious to learn whether his or her
name was to be found in the number of privileged names. The king
listened with as much attention as the others, and when the last name had
been pronounced, he noticed that La Valliere had been omitted from the
list. Every one, of course, remarked this omission. The king flushed as
if much annoyed; but La Valliere, gentle and resigned, as usual,
exhibited nothing of the sort. While the list was being read, the king
had not taken his eyes off the young girl, who seemed to expand, as it
were, beneath the happy influence she felt was shed around her, and who
was delighted and too pure in spirit for any other thought than that of
love to find an entrance either to her mind or her heart. Acknowledging
this touching self-denial by the fixity of his attention, the king showed
La Valliere how much he appreciated its delicacy. When the list was
finished, the different faces of those who had been omitted or forgotten
fully expressed their disappointment. Malicorne was also left out from
amongst the men; and the grimace he made plainly said to Montalais, who
was also forgotten, "Cannot we contrive to arrange matters with Fortune
in such a manner that she shall not forget us?" to which a smile full of
intelligence from Mademoiselle Aure, replied: "Certainly we can."
The tickets were distributed to each according to the number listed. The
king received his first, next the queen-mother, then Monsieur, then the
queen and Madame, and so on. After this, Anne of Austria opened a small
Spanish leather bag, containing two hundred numbers engraved upon small
balls of mother-of-pearl, and presented the open sack to the youngest of
her maids of honor, for the purpose of taking one of the balls out of
it. The eager expectation of the throng, amidst all the tediously slow
preparations, was rather that of cupidity than curiosity. Saint-Aignan
bent towards Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente to whisper to her, "Since we
have each a number, let us unite our two chances. The bracelet shall be
yours if I win, and if you are successful, deign to give me but one look
of your beautiful eyes."
"No," said Athenais, "if you win the bracelet, keep it, every one for
"You are without any pity," said Saint-Aignan, "and I will punish you by
a quatrain: -
"Beautiful Iris, to my vows
You are too opposed - "
"Silence," said Athenais, "you will prevent me hearing the winning
"Number one," said the young girl who had drawn the mother-of-pearl from
the Spanish leather bag.
"The king!" exclaimed the queen-mother.
"The king has won," repeated the queen, delightedly.
"Oh! the king! your dream!" said Madame, joyously, in the ear of Anne of
The king was the only one who did not exhibit any satisfaction. He
merely thanked Fortune for what she had done for him, in addressing a
slight salutation to the young girl who had been chosen as her proxy.
Then receiving from the hands of Anne of Austria, amid the eager desire
of the whole assembly, the casket inclosing the bracelets, he said, "Are
these bracelets really beautiful, then?"
"Look at them," said Anne of Austria, "and judge for yourself."
The king looked at them, and said, "Yes, indeed, an admirable medallion.
What perfect finish!"
Queen Maria Theresa easily saw, and that, too at the very first glance,
that the king would not offer the bracelets to her; but, as he did not
seem the least degree in the world disposed to offer them to Madame, she
felt almost satisfied, or nearly so. The king sat down. The most
intimate among the courtiers approached, one by one, for the purpose of
admiring more closely the beautiful piece of workmanship, which soon,
with the king's permission, was handed about from person to person.
Immediately, every one, connoisseurs or not, uttered various exclamations
of surprise, and overwhelmed the king with congratulations. There was,
in fact, something for everybody to admire - the brilliance for some, and
the cutting for others. The ladies present visibly displayed their
impatience to see such a treasure monopolized by the gentlemen.
"Gentlemen, gentlemen," said the king, whom nothing escaped, "one would
almost think that you wore bracelets as the Sabines used to do; hand them
round for a while for the inspection of the ladies, who seem to have, and
with far greater right, an excuse for understanding such matters!"
These words appeared to Madame the commencement of a decision she
expected. She gathered, besides, this happy belief from the glances of
the queen-mother. The courtier who held them at the moment the king made
this remark, amidst the general agitation, hastened to place the
bracelets in the hands of the queen, Maria Theresa, who, knowing too
well, poor woman, that they were not designed for her, hardly looked at
them, and almost immediately passed them on to Madame. The latter, and
even more minutely, Monsieur, gave the bracelets a long look of anxious
and almost covetous desire. She then handed the jewels to those ladies
who were near her, pronouncing this single word, but with an accent which
was worth a long phrase, "Magnificent!"
The ladies who had received the bracelets from Madame's hands looked at
them as long as they chose to examine them, and then made them circulate
by passing them on towards the right. During this time the king was
tranquilly conversing with De Guiche and Fouquet, rather passively
letting them talk than himself listening. Accustomed to the set form of
ordinary phrases, his ear, like that of all men who exercise an
incontestable superiority over others, merely selected from the
conversations held in various directions the indispensable word which
requires reply. His attention, however, was now elsewhere, for it
wandered as his eyes did.
Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente was the last of the ladies inscribed for
tickets; and, as if she had ranked according to her name upon the list,
she had only Montalais and La Valliere near her. When the bracelets
reached these two latter, no one appeared to take any further notice of
them. The humble hands which for a moment touched these jewels, deprived
them, for the time, of their importance - a circumstance which did not,
however, prevent Montalais from starting with joy, envy, and covetous
desire, at the sight of the beautiful stones still more than at their
magnificent workmanship. It is evident that if she were compelled to
decide between the pecuniary value and the artistic beauty, Montalais
would unhesitatingly have preferred diamonds to cameos, and her
disinclination, therefore, to pass them on to her companion, La Valliere,
was very great. La Valliere fixed a look almost of indifference upon the
"Oh, how beautiful, how magnificent these bracelets are!" exclaimed
Montalais; "and yet you do not go into ecstasies about them, Louise! You
are no true woman, I am sure."
"Yes, I am, indeed," replied the young girl, with an accent of the most
charming melancholy; "but why desire that which can never, by any
possibility, be ours?"
The king, his head bent forward, was listening to what Louise was
saying. Hardly had the vibration of her voice reached his ear than he
rose, radiant with delight, and passing across the whole assembly, from
the place where he stood, to La Valliere, "You are mistaken,
mademoiselle," he said, "you are a woman, and every woman has a right to
wear jewels, which are a woman's appurtenance."
"Oh, sire!" said La Valliere, "your majesty will not absolutely believe
in my modesty?"
"I believe you possess every virtue, mademoiselle; frankness as well as
every other; I entreat you, therefore, to say frankly what you think of
"That they are beautiful, sire, and cannot be offered to any other than a
"I am delighted that such is your opinion, mademoiselle; the bracelets
are yours, and the king begs your acceptance of them."
And as, with a movement almost resembling terror, La Valliere eagerly
held out the casket to the king, the king gently pushed back her
A silence of astonishment, more profound than that of death, reigned in
And yet, from the side where the queens were, no one had heard what he
had said, nor understood what he had done. A charitable friend, however,
took upon herself to spread the news; it was Tonnay-Charente, to whom
Madame had made a sign to approach.
"Good heavens!" explained Tonnay-Charente, "how happy that La Valliere
is! the king has just given her the bracelets."
Madame bit her lips to such a degree that the blood appeared upon the
surface of the skin. The young queen looked first at La Valliere and
then at Madame, and began to laugh. Anne of Austria rested her chin upon
her beautiful white hand, and remained for a long time absorbed by a
presentiment that disturbed her mind, and by a terrible pang which stung
her heart. De Guiche, observing Madame turn pale, and guessing the cause
of her change of color, abruptly quitted the assembly and disappeared.
Malicorne was then able to approach Montalais very quietly, and under
cover of the general din of conversation, said to her:
"Aure, your fortune and our future are standing at your elbow."
"Yes," was her reply, as she tenderly embraced La Valliere, whom,
inwardly, she was tempted to strangle.
End of Ten Years Later. The next text in the series is Louise de la
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