Page images
[ocr errors]

which the plan was formed, it was also leaf. “Oh, sire! did you but knowcarried into execution.

my God! - oh, how lost a creature All was quiet in the chateau ; and am I!” those who had neither hopes nor wishes The king stopped at the door. “Am to keep them awake, were already in the I to take with me the conviction that arms of sleep. The gentle La Vallière, you are averse to me?” however, as had been her custom of late, “ Sire,” she replied, sitting back in sat up thinking of her lover. Half un- her chair, "you wrong a heart that does dressed, she lay reclining in an arm not deserve to be wronged, at least, by chair, wrapt in visionary dreams.

She you." heard something move without, but took She hid her face. Louis went up to no notice of it. The door was gently her, and seizing her right hand with opened,—she looked up, and the next both his hands, pressed it to his burning moment Louis was at her feet. A loud lips. shriek escaped the terrified girl.

“ Thou unspeakably beloved ! if you “ For God's sake, be still, or we both believe in my love, why not believe in are lost!”

my honour ? Why am I king? why “Oh, sire ! leave me," cried La Val- can I not share with you the whole lière, with a sunken and timorous voice, gains of my life? May the sceptre fall at the same time trying to disengage from the hands of him who could steal herself from Louis, who held her knees a jewel which love did not grant him! firmly clasped.

Since that happy night, when I over“ I leave you not, my dearest girl.” heard you in the grove

“ Oh, God! sire_at such a time-I Scarcely had he uttered these words, must call.”

than the poor girl, starting up, looked “Well, then, call : precipitate your- at him as if petrified, whilst the tears self with me into the gulph, that I rolled slowly down her cheeks. perish.”

“ Alas !" cried she, again hiding her Sire, can you wish my shame ? face, “ what a miserable creature am I!Were any one to divine that you were Louis, with his hand resting on the here! should any one have seen you small table beside them, bent down to her. enter !”

“My dearest !” do you, then, deem it “ If that is all, calm yourself, my dear a disgrace to love me?” girl. No human eye hath seen

She neither answered nor looked up; enter; no one can divine it.” Curiosity Louis continued-now became the mantle in which modesty “ Will you not accord me the joy veiled itself. La Vallière was inqui. which lightens the weight of the crown, sitive as to how the king had contrived of knowing that there is one pure spirit to gain an entrance, without being seen, that can look on me, without regarding Louis openly acknowledged his obliga- the star that conceals my heart ? or was tions to Artigny; and was thereby the it merely the feeling of a moment, that gainer, inasmuch as the broken accents gave me some little worth in your eyes ? of embarrassment soon passed into a Is there nothing left of that charming connected debate.

fervour with which you uttered those Artigny!” exclaimed La Vallière, memorable words in the grove ? half aloud. “ Oh, the traitoress! (she Nothing ? ' added more softly), she shall suffer for She rose from her chair.

A conthis."

strained composure was visible in her Louis smiled. “ But then you will features, which were working with the allow me to reward the sufferer, will disquietude of passion, you not?” And in truth, he afterwards « Those words, sire, I confess, bore a granted her a considerable pension. two-fold interpretation; or rather, they

Suddenly the countenance of the fair expressed what I thought, and only charmer assumed a different aspect. what, under the circumstances, they

" True, sire! you are king. It is for could express. For in truth, sire, you you to will,- not for me. You have dance better than any of the lords at the right to stay.”

court. You dance so beautifully!” Louis steadfastly regarded her for a The king was silent. The eyes of the moment. “ So, thus a king is told to poor girl wandered about in the greatest begone!” He cast his eyes once more confusion, whilst the blood mounted to on the fair one, and turning round, went her cheek, After a few moments, towards the door.

Louis, still retaining her hand, proThe poor girl trembled like an aspen- ceeded,


[ocr errors]

“So, 't is only my dancing that can " Try what?” exclaimed Louis implease you, not myself?_not my heart ? patiently. Does a girl of your feeling see in men La Vallière was silent. “ Dear girl,” nothing better than whether they dance he continued, “your silence proves that well or not? And perhaps even now even you can devise no other means for you do not see what I must be to you if my seeing you so safe and so free from I am to be happy ?

interruption. So, my love, I will re. He first pressed her hand to his heart; turn, eh? or do you again distrust my and then, without waiting for an an- honour?swer, falling down before her chair, “ As if I could do that!” drew her, unconsciously forgetting to Louis, taking hold of both her hands, offer resistance, towards him, whilst his suddenly exclaimed, “A new life now lips imprinted burning kisses on her rises within me, with the sun which the cheek.

morning dawn yonder announces !” “ Here !” exclaimed Louis, still At that moment there was a gentle clasping her in his arms, “here I am tapping at the door; and, with many happy! From this spot not even armies excuses on her lips, the cautious Artigny should drive me!”

entered to inform the king that it was “ Monarch !” said La Vallière, laying now time to return to his own aparther left hand on his shoulder, “why ment. speak of armies ?-what need of them? From this time forward Louis lived Shew your enemies your heart !and moved in the very fulness of love. A pause of a few minutes succeeded. The path over the leaden gutter con

Rise, sire, I pray you,” exclaimed ducted him night after night to his beLa Vallière, her left hand at the same loved. Night after night was thus passed time gliding from the king's shoulder into away in mutual endearment, and both her lap, to the right, which Louis held. parties separated as innocent as they had

La Vallière made a motion to get up; met. thereby raising Louis as of his own But the report soon spread abroad accord from the ground. Louis, taking that a well-dressed man was seen frem a chair, seated himself beside her; and quently at night walking along the leaden now the sweet emotions of refusal and gutters of the roof; and it at length consent, doubts and assurances, were came to the ears of the Lady Maréchale, renewed in every form. No attempte the Duchess de Navailles. The duchess liberty disturbed the serenity of that immediately applied for worldly advice happy night. The morning began to on the subject to her husband, and for dawn.

spiritual advice to her confessor. Both La Vallière looked through the win- confessor and husband recommended the dow. " It is time, sire."

discipline of the cloister. All at once an “ It is yet early, my dearest, especially iron railing was seen before the windows here in the château, where love awakens of Artigny and La Vallière. The two few before the time, Let me see those girls exclaimed loudly against this pubeyes by the morning twilight. This lic injury to their character, and as their day must participate in the innocent complaints were considered well-groundjoys of the past night. A moment ed, in order to remedy them, a rail. longer, my dear girl !”

ing was placed before the windows of “ Sire, if the day were to betray the every lady of the court. night! See! with every stroke of the “ So, they wish to tyrannize over me?" pendulum the hand of the clock becomes exclaimed Louis, as soon as this last cir, brighter. It seems as if the day would cumstance came to his knowledge ; $ooutstrip itself.”

vereign in my own kingdom, and not so The king rose, and La Vallière with much as master im my own house? Who him ;.-she leaning against the window, ordered the windows to be barred ?” and he with his right arm round her The looks of the courtiers were waist. A smile played round her lips, chained to the ground. The pride, as whilst her eyes besought him to leave well as the magnanimity of the king, was her.

well known. No one dared to betray a “ Go, sire, I pray you..

lady standing in such universal respect Louis' countenance brightened up. as the Duchess de Navailles. “ But to return another time?

“ I, sire, gave the orders ;" the duchess She cast her eyes on the ground. herself confessed, whilst standing before “ Alas! at court even the night is not to the king. be trusted. Trust it no more than “Who instructed you to that effect ?" Try rather

“My duty!"

[ocr errors]


“ Does your duty consist in disobe- entirely lost her credit, and therefore dience to my wishes?.

hated the poor girl with no common “ You had given no commands on the hatred, was fortunate enough to find the subject, sire!"

means of revenge. Despairing of her " But you knew that you were doing own attraetions, she determined to conthat which would be displeasing to me. tent herself with the pitiful pleasure of

“ I knew that I was doing your Ma- robbing La Vallière of that which she jesty a service.”

had no chance of obtaining. Perhaps Louis was about to speak; but, fearful her intrigues were laid with a deeper of entering into a dispute with an elderly design. Perhaps the interest, with which matron on the duties of the married she inspired the king for her young state, became confused, and was silent. friend, was intended for the invisible The duchess continued

cord that was again to draw Louis to “Sire, I have deserved your thanks, herself. However that may be, it is sufnot your ill-will. If you wish to punish ficient that she contrived to inspire Louis me for doing what I considered my duty, with interest for a lady of the name of it is easily in your power; but could'Í De la Mothe-Houdancourt. But how fear punishment from a monarch of your severe was the chastisement she received soul? I wished, sire, to bring you for her short-lived pleasure! The image peace, and content within yourself.” of his La Vallière was engraven too

“Who told you, that I was not con- deeply in the heart of the monarch to be tent within myself?”

effaced by a mere passing attachment. “ No one, sire, but my own heart.- Louis, seeing the net that was spread for Has your Majesty any further com- him, turned his back on De la Mothemands?

Houdancourt, and never spoke another “ You may depart."

word to the countess. Louis had been now attacked in his In the meantime, La Vallière was fast most tender part, and that, in a two-fold consuming herself with grief in her remanner. His pride, which was equally tirement. The envy of the court; the susceptible of a right as of a wrong di- chilly tarrying of those who waited to rection, had been both mortified and flat- see whether the love of the king would tered by the Duchess de Navailles. He not yet return; and the contemptuous was as yet undetermined whether vanity language of others, whom she had deemor duty should bear away the victory; ed altoge fallen, wounded her heart the former had a powerful ally in love, not so deep as the accounts she received but the queen-mother, at the instigation of the levity of the man, on whom her of the duchess, procured the triumph of whole being now depended. Had she the latter. She addressed her son, so been capable of revenge, many a favoursusceptible of every tender impression, in able opportunity presented itself. But such a friendly and maternal manner; this was beneath her nature. painted to him the delights of connubial However little Louis was faithful, to peace in such bright colours; and con- his wife, he nevertheless did every thing versed with him so eloquently on the in his power to preserve her from mortifievils of bad example, that the monarch, cation. During the time that his actions who had in truth been forcibly deprived were the subject of general conversation of what he held most dear, consented to at court, not one syllable reached the go to confession.

ears of the queen. La Vallière remained Let us compassionate rather than ridi- one of the ladies of the bed-chamber; cule the weakness of this well meaning and, as propriety would not admit of his prince. That very evening he met the entrance into their apartment, he saw Duchess de Navailles, and extending his himself subjected to this restraint. But hand, said, “ My dear duchess, let us be when the object of our wishes is attainfriends !"

able, of what avail is all self-denial and If the elderly ladies at court had reason restraint beyond a certain period ? to rejoice at this conversion of the king, The sacrifice, which duty wrung from the young ones had much greater reason. love, Louis had made. His deluded Louis's attachment to La Vallière had conscience seemed now appeased, and disturbed all their calculations ; they love resumed all its former sway. could now each again enter the lists for The king and his La Vallière were victory. The king, however, remained again together before people were aware insensible to their attacks; they had all of it. But how ? He dared not enter the pleasure of hope, but nothing further. her room through the door, and the Only one, the Countess de Soissons, who former entrance through the window at since Louis's love to La Vallière, had the roof had been blocked up. Here


love had again recourse to one of its own to interpret it, that she, incapable of romantic ways.

coquetry, since the day that his love for Like Pyramus and Thisbe of old, our her had been openly acknowledged, had happy pair rejoiced at the discovery of a become more reserved in their tête-a-tête chink in the wooden partition of one of than formerly; that she sought to evade the apartments of the château. Now, his warmed embraces; and that when he that to embrace and look at each other entered to her in the triumphant feeling was denied them, whispering was the of happy love, she always seemed lost in only consolation that remained. What

Questions were of no avail ; it was that they whispered to each other, protestations of his love, of equally as curiosity never learned; but again their little. With the most ardent expressions unlucky star did not long suffer them to of passion she avowed herself his, and enjoy even this means of communication. tears answered for her vows.' Louis was The old disturber of their happiness, the confounded. Duchess de Navailles, doubly observant Going one morning as usual to visit of every step of the king, since her former his mistress, he found the door of her exploit had gained her such a name for room locked. " Where is she?” exvirtue, discovered, God knows how, the claimed the impetuous monarch. At secret communication. Without hinting first the attendants hesitated to answer, a word, she ordered the carpenter to but were at length compelled to confess, come; and when the lovers appeared as that she had that morning taken réfuge usual at the place of meeting, the chink in the convent of Chaillot. was no longer there.

Without regarding the Spanish am. But this stroke, which was too much bassador, who had just announced himfor the king, was also the last. Equally self for an audience, Louis hastened into unprepared for, as mortified by the con- the stables, and saddling a horse with duct of the duchess, he gave orders for it his own hands, mounted, and fled to the to be intimated to her and her husband, convent of Chaillot. that they were forbidden the court ; but The rules of the convent did not admit the queen-mother hearing what had hap- of his seeing his beloved. He insisted. pened, and fearing what might happen, They entreated him to yield to the reguagain interceded between them. Were, lations prescribed by the order ; but to the exile of the Lady Maréchale, she no purpose. Terrible were his threats ; represented to him, to come to the ears for the idea crossed his mind that La of the queen, the cause of it could not Vallière had been forcibly taken away. long remain secret; and in her present All were now compelled to bow down to state, as she was pregnant, the discovery the will of the monarch. He saw his love; might be attended with serious conse- fell at her feet, and before she could quences. This had the effect; and the recover herself, led her in triumph away. king revoked the exile of the duchess and “My son !” said the queen-mother, her husband, but enjoined them in the "you are no longer master of yourself!" most positive manner, not again to inter- “ Well then,” replied the king, “I meddle with his affairs.

will be of those who drive me to exThe interviews with La Vallière, which tremities !” Louis had hitherto taken such trouble to The queen mother again sought refuge keep secret, he himself now publicly in that, which, often before in critical acknowledged. He gave himself up cases, had been of happy effect ; namely, entirely to the impulses of his heart ; and in religion. Father Annat, the royal no longer fearing any witnesses, the only confessor, was called upon to represent restraint he put upon himself was in the to his mighty penitent, the sinfulness of presence of his consort, who, whatever his actions. After a long sermon remight be her suspicions, was as yet in- specting the duties of a prince, the formed of nothing with certainty. Only father ended with these words: “ And on the queen's account was La Vallière if you follow not my counsel, sire, I obliged, at the fêtes which were given in leave your court !” her own honour, to lose herself now, as The king turned round without deignformerly, amongst the crowd of courtiers ing to answer, and within the next hour present.

the father had his dismissal. Louis, who publicly visited his be- Proceedings like these, of course put loved, and was persuaded that her attach- an end to all further remonstrance. ment to him was deeper than his to her, Louis saw his La Vallière undisturbed, began to think that he might now in- and saw her often ; the proofs of which crease his demands. But how was he soon became visible.

During the whole period of her preg- heart to a rival of unbridled licentiousnancy, the poor girl was obliged to in- ness, a witty but unfeeling coquette. habit a room, through which the queen Athenais de Montemar, Marchioness de passed daily to hear mass. On this Montespan, was a beautiful figure, well account, whatever reports might have formed, striking in her actions, and acbeen spread, the queen always contra- complished. Her abilities, both acquired, dicted them.

and those with which nature had so richly La Vallière was delivered of a son. endowed her, she knew how to turn to It was midnight. The king was present advantage with wonderful facility. No with the physicians in the adjoining sooner had she perceived the increasing room; and, taking the new-born child coldness of the king towards La Vallière, into his arms, gave himself up wholly than with a whole host of rivals, she to a father's joy; and when the queen entered boldly and artfully into the lists passed through on the following day, La against her. Vallière was indisposed, but nothing fur- True, Louis' heart belonged no ther. In order not to leave the slightest longer so utterly to his La Vallière as ground for suspicion, tuberoses, and formerly, but still sufficiently to dispute various strongly fragrant flowers were the victory with any one, bearing any placed in the room; and what no other resemblance to her. But between La woman in her situation could have borne, Vallière and Montespan there was not was borne by La Vallière.

even the shadow of resemblance to be Numberless intrigues, which were now found. Hence alone is it conceivable entered into with the view of crushing how Louis, seduced by novelty, became the favourite, only ended in the ruin of entangled in the net which he saw their projectors. The king granted her openly spread out before him. a beautifully furnished house to reside As yet, however, he had not found in; but, although surrounded with every the courage to tear himself violently kind of splendour and amusement, she away from the heart which was so dewas indifferent to every thing that was votedly attached to him. Love asserts not Louis. She never used her power its rights a long time ere they become to intermeddle in the affairs of the state, the prey of lust; but fetters which or to revenge herself on one of her nu- oppress are no longer the fetters of love. merous enemies.

Only by the love, In remaining faithful to La Vallière, which she universally inspired, did she Louis did violence to his feelings, and render others unhappy. A young lieu- thereby became daily the less faithful. tenant in the guards, who had sighed He entertained her with the humours of after her previously to her acquaintance Montespan, and to which she, poor with the king, and sent her a number of girl, was patient and gentle enough to letters, without reeeiving any answer, listen. She even permitted her witty happened at this time to return from the rival the entrance into her own circle; army, and hearing how matters were but from that hour she was lost. The situated, put an end to his existence with result of the comparison which the king his own sword.

daily instituted between a silent enthuModest and retired, notwithstanding siást, whose feelings of morality were so her good fortune; ever apprehensive of great; and a Phoyne at court, who apnot being able sufficiently to reward the peared both able and willing to grant tenderness of her lover ; ever delicate in the man to whom she attached herself, the proofs of her love; La Vallière lived all that he could desire, was that he soon several years as the acknowledged fa- wished to be relieved of the comparison. vourite of the king, and wept over a title In La Vallière, Louis saw now only the which envy unwillingly accorded her.

troublesome spy.

He visited Mon. Oh, thou ! who knowest the order of tespan alone. the world, and the ways of the human As soon as La Vallière heard of the heart, why cannot love alone secure a open faithlessness of her lover, she was return of love? Why does the tenderest bathed in tears. Montespan, not conheart in time oppress with its very tender- tent with having driven her rival from ness? Why does the softness of feeling the field, wished to annihilate her; and lose its charm ?-La Vallière, faithful to denied herself the enjoyment of that, her lover until death, after a few years which she thought she could not as yet became an object of comparative indif- maintain in security. ference to him. She, who never dreamt Her caution was but well-founded. of hazarding her influence by a denial of More than once Louis wavered back to her favours, by these very means lost his La Vallière; and she, the ever gentle,

« PreviousContinue »