The next day being agreed upon for the departure, the king, at eleven
o'clock precisely, descended the grand staircase with the two queens and
Madame, in order to enter his carriage drawn by six horses, that were
pawing the ground in impatience at the foot of the staircase. The whole
court awaited the royal appearance in the _Fer-a-cheval_ crescent, in
their travelling costumes; the large number of saddled horses and
carriages of ladies and gentlemen of the court, surrounded by their
attendants, servants, and pages, formed a spectacle whose brilliancy
could scarcely be equalled. The king entered his carriage with the two
queens; Madame was in the same one with Monsieur. The maids of honor
followed their example, and took their seats, two by two, in the
carriages destined for them. The weather was exceedingly warm; a light
breeze, which, early in the morning, all had thought would have proved
sufficient to cool the air, soon became fiercely heated by the rays of
the sun, although it was hidden behind the clouds, and filtered through
the heated vapor which rose from the ground like a scorching wind,
bearing particles of fine dust against the faces of the travelers.
Madame was the first to complain of the heat. Monsieur's only reply was
to throw himself back in the carriage as though about to faint, and to
inundate himself with scents and perfumes, uttering the deepest sighs all
the while; whereupon Madame said to him, with her most amiable
expression: - "Really, Monsieur, I fancied that you would have been
polite enough, on account of the terrible heart, to have left me my
carriage to myself, and to have performed the journey yourself on
"Ride on horseback!" cried the prince, with an accent of dismay which
showed how little idea he had of adopting this unnatural advice; "you
cannot suppose such a thing, Madame! My skin would peel off if I were to
expose myself to such a burning breeze as this."
Madame began to laugh.
"You can take my parasol," she said.
"But the trouble of holding it!" replied Monsieur, with the greatest
coolness; "besides, I have no horse."
"What, no horse?" replied the princess, who, if she did not secure the
solitude she required, at least obtained the amusement of teasing. "No
horse! You are mistaken, Monsieur; for I see your favorite bay out
"My bay horse!" exclaimed the prince, attempting to lean forward to look
out of the door; but the movement he was obliged to make cost him so much
trouble that he soon hastened to resume his immobility.
"Yes," said Madame; "your horse, led by M. de Malicorne."
"Poor beast," replied the prince; "how warm it must be!"
And with these words he closed his eyes, like a man on the point of
death. Madame, on her side, reclined indolently in the other corner of
the carriage, and closed her eyes also, not, however, to sleep, but to
think more at her ease. In the meantime the king, seated in the front
seat of his carriage, the back of which he had yielded up to the two
queens, was a prey to that feverish contrariety experienced by anxious
lovers, who, without being able to quench their ardent thirst, are
ceaselessly desirous of seeing the loved object, and then go away
partially satisfied, without perceiving they have acquired a more
insatiable thirst than ever. The king, whose carriage headed the
procession, could not from the place he occupied perceive the carriages
of the ladies and maids of honor, which followed in a line behind it.
Besides, he was obliged to answer the eternal questions of the young
queen, who, happy to have with her "_her dear husband_," as she called
him in utter forgetfulness of royal etiquette, invested him with all her
affection, stifled him with her attentions, afraid that some one might
come to take him from her, or that he himself might suddenly take a fancy
to quit her society. Anne of Austria, whom nothing at that moment
occupied except the occasional cruel throbbings in her bosom, looked
pleased and delighted, and although she perfectly realized the king's
impatience, tantalizingly prolonged his sufferings by unexpectedly
resuming the conversation at the very moment the king, absorbed in his
own reflections, began to muse over his secret attachment. Everything
seemed to combine - not alone the little teasing attentions of the queen,
but also the queen-mother's interruptions - to make the king's position
almost insupportable; for he knew not how to control the restless
longings of his heart. At first, he complained of the heat - a complaint
merely preliminary to others, but with sufficient tact to prevent Maria
Theresa guessing his real object. Understanding the king's remark
literally, she began to fan him with her ostrich plumes. But the heat
passed away, and the king then complained of cramps and stiffness in his
legs, and as the carriages at that moment stopped to change horses, the
queen said: - "Shall I get out with you? I too feel tired of sitting.
We can walk on a little distance; the carriage will overtake us, and we
can resume our places presently."
The king frowned; it is a hard trial a jealous woman makes her husband
submit to whose fidelity she suspects, when, although herself a prey to
jealousy, she watches herself so narrowly that she avoids giving any
pretext for an angry feeling. The king, therefore, in the present case,
could not refuse; he accepted the offer, alighted from the carriage, gave
his arm to the queen, and walked up and down with her while the horses
were being changed. As he walked along, he cast an envious glance upon
the courtiers, who were fortunate enough to be on horseback. The queen
soon found out that the promenade she had suggested afforded the king as
little pleasure as he had experienced from driving. She accordingly
expressed a wish to return to her carriage, and the king conducted her to
the door, but did not get in with her. He stepped back a few paces, and
looked along the file of carriages for the purpose of recognizing the one
in which he took so strong an interest. At the door of the sixth
carriage he saw La Valliere's fair countenance. As the king thus stood
motionless, wrapt in thought, without perceiving that everything was
ready, and that he alone was causing the delay, he heard a voice close
beside him, addressing him in the most respectful manner. It was M.
Malicorne, in a complete costume of an equerry, holding over his left arm
the bridles of a couple of horses.
"Your majesty asked for a horse, I believe," he said.
"A horse? Have you one of my horses here?" inquired the king, trying to
remember the person who addressed him, and whose face was not as yet
familiar to him.
"Sire," replied Malicorne, "at all events I have a horse here which is at
your majesty's service."
And Malicorne pointed at Monsieur's bay horse, which Madame had
observed. It was a beautiful creature royally caparisoned.
"This is not one of my horses, monsieur," said the king.
"Sire, it is a horse out of his royal highness's stables; but he does not
ride when the weather is as hot as it is now."
Louis did not reply, but approached the horse, which stood pawing the
ground with its foot. Malicorne hastened to hold the stirrup for him,
but the king was already in the saddle. Restored to good-humor by this
lucky accident, the king hastened towards the queen's carriage, where he
was anxiously expected; and notwithstanding Maria Theresa's thoughtful
and preoccupied air, he said: "I have been fortunate enough to find this
horse, and I intend to avail myself of it. I felt stifled in the
carriage. Adieu, ladies."
Then bending gracefully over the arched neck of his beautiful steed, he
disappeared in a second. Anne of Austria leaned forward, in order to
look after him as he rode away; he did not get very far, for when he
reached the sixth carriage, he reined in his horse suddenly and took off
his hat. He saluted La Valliere, who uttered a cry of surprise as she
saw him, blushing at the same time with pleasure. Montalais, who
occupied the other seat in the carriage, made the king a most respectful
bow. And then, with all the tact of a woman, she pretended to be
exceedingly interested in the landscape, and withdrew herself into the
left-hand corner. The conversation between the king and La Valliere
began, as all lovers' conversations generally do, namely, by eloquent
looks and by a few words utterly devoid of common sense. The king
explained how warm he had felt in his carriage, so much so indeed that he
could almost regard the horse he then rode as a blessing thrown in his
way. "And," he added, "my benefactor is an exceedingly intelligent man,
for he seemed to guess my thoughts intuitively. I have now only one
wish, that of learning the name of the gentleman who so cleverly assisted
his king out of his dilemma, and extricated him from his cruel position."
Montalais, during this colloquy, the first words of which had awakened
her attention, had slightly altered her position, and contrived so as to
meet the king's look as he finished his remark. It followed very
naturally that the king looked inquiringly as much at her as at La
Valliere; she had every reason to suppose that it was herself who was
appealed to, and consequently might be permitted to answer. She
therefore said: "Sire, the horse which your majesty is riding belongs to
Monsieur, and was being led by one of his royal highness's gentlemen."
"And what is that gentleman's name, may I ask, mademoiselle?"
"M. de Malicorne, sire."
The name produced its usual effect, for the king repeated it smilingly.
"Yes, sire," replied Aure. "Stay, it is the gentleman who is galloping
on my left hand;" and she pointed out Malicorne, who, with a very
sanctified expression, was galloping by the side of the carriage, knowing
perfectly well that they were talking of him at that very moment, but
sitting in his saddle as if he were deaf and dumb.
"Yes," said the king, "that is the gentleman; I remember his face, and
will not forget his name;" and the king looked tenderly at La Valliere.
Aure had now nothing further to do; she had let Malicorne's name fall;
the soil was good; all that was now left to be done was to let the name
take root, and the event would bear fruit in due season. She
consequently threw herself back in her corner, feeling perfectly
justified in making as many agreeable signs of recognition as she liked
to Malicorne, since the latter had had the happiness of pleasing the
king. As will readily be believed, Montalais was not mistaken; and
Malicorne, with his quick ear and his sly look, seemed to interpret her
remark as "All goes on well," the whole being accompanied by a pantomimic
action, which he fancied conveyed something resembling a kiss.
"Alas! mademoiselle," said the king, after a moment's pause, "the liberty
and freedom of the country is soon about to cease; your attendance on
Madame will be more strictly enforced, and we shall see each other no
"Your majesty is too much attached to Madame," replied Louise, "not to
come and see her very frequently; and whenever your majesty may chance to
pass across the apartments - "
"Ah!" said the king, in a tender voice, which was gradually lowered in
its tone, "to perceive is not to see, and yet it seems that it would be
quite sufficient for you."
Louise did not answer a syllable; a sigh filled her heart almost to
bursting, but she stifled it.
"You exercise a great control over yourself," said the king to Louise,
who smiled upon him with a melancholy expression. "Exert the strength
you have in loving fondly," he continued, "and I will bless Heaven for
having bestowed it on you."
La Valliere still remained silent, but raised her eyes, brimful of
affection, toward the king. Louis, as if overcome by this burning
glance, passed his hand across his forehead, and pressing the sides of
his horse with his knees, made him bound several paces forward. La
Valliere, leaning back in her carriage, with her eyes half closed, gazed
fixedly upon the king, whose plumes were floating in the air; she could
not but admire his graceful carriage, his delicate and nervous limbs
which pressed his horse's sides, and the regular outline of his features,
which his beautiful curling hair set off to great advantage, revealing
occasionally his small and well-formed ear. In fact the poor girl was in
love, and she reveled in her innocent affection. In a few moments the
king was again by her side.
"Do you not perceive," he said, "how terribly your silence affects me?
Oh! mademoiselle, how pitilessly inexorable you would become if you were
ever to resolve to break off all acquaintance with any one; and then,
too, I think you changeable; in fact - in fact, I dread this deep
affection which fills my whole being."
"Oh! sire, you are mistaken," said La Valliere; "if ever I love, it will
be for all my life."
"If you love, you say," exclaimed the king; "you do _not_ love now, then?"
She hid her face in her hands.
"You see," said the king, "that I am right in accusing you; you must
admit you are changeable, capricious, a coquette, perhaps."
"Oh, no! sire, be perfectly satisfied as to that. No, I say again; no,
"Promise me, then, that to me you will always be the same."
"Oh! always, sire."
"That you will never show any of that severity which would break my
heart, none of that fickleness of manner which would be worse than death
"Oh! no, no."
"Very well, then! but listen. I like promises, I like to place under the
guarantee of an oath, under the protection of Heaven, in fact, everything
which interests my heart and my affections. Promise me, or rather swear
to me, that if in the life we are about to commence, a life which will be
full of sacrifice, mystery, anxiety, disappointment, and
misunderstanding; swear to me that if we should in any way deceive, or
misunderstand each other, or should judge each other unjustly, for that
indeed would be criminal in love such as ours; swear to me, Louise - "
She trembled with agitation to the very depths of her heart; it was the
first time she had heard her name pronounced in that manner by her royal
lover. As for the king, taking off his glove, and placing his hand
within the carriage, he continued: - "Swear, that never in all our
quarrels will we allow one night even to pass by, if any misunderstanding
should arise between us, without a visit, or at least a message, from
either, in order to convey consolation and repose to the other."
La Valliere took her lover's burning hand between her own cool palms, and
pressed it softly, until a movement of the horse, frightened by the
proximity of the wheels, obliged her to abandon her happiness. She had
vowed as he desired.
"Return, sire," she said, "return to the queen. I foresee a storm
yonder, which threatens my peace of mind and yours."
Louis obeyed, saluted Mademoiselle de Montalais, and set off at a gallop
to rejoin the queen. As he passed Monsieur's carriage, he observed that
he was fast asleep, although Madame, on her part, was wide awake. As the
king passed her she said, "What a beautiful horse, sire! Is it not
Monsieur's bay horse?"
The young queen kindly asked, "Are you better now, sire?"
Sorry, no summary available yet.