Chapter 57: Rival Lovers

  1. 56: Rival Politics
  2. Louise de la Valliere
  3. 58: King and Nobility

De Saint-Aignan had quitted Louis XIV hardly two hours before; but in the first effervescence of his affection, whenever Louis XIV did not see La Valliere he was obliged to talk of her. Now, the only person with whom he could speak about her at his ease was De Saint-Aignan, and that person had therefore become indispensable to him.

“Ah! is that you, Count?” the King exclaimed, as soon as he perceived him,- doubly delighted, not only to see him again, but also to get rid of Colbert, whose scowling face always put him out of humor,- “so much the better. I am very glad to see you; you will make one of the travelling-party, I suppose?”

“Of what travelling-party are you speaking, Sire?” inquired De Saint-Aignan.

“The one we are making up to go to the fête the superintendent is about to give at Vaux. Ah! De Saint-Aignan, you will at last see a fête, a royal fête, by the side of which all our amusements at Fontainebleau are petty, contemptible affairs.”

“At Vaux?- the superintendent going to give a fête in your Majesty’s honor? Nothing more than that!”

“‘Nothing more than that!’ do you say? It is very diverting to find you treating it with so much disdain. Are you, who express such indifference on the subject, aware that as soon as it is known that M. Fouquet is going to receive me at Vaux next Sunday week, people will be striving their very utmost to get invited to the fête? I repeat, De Saint-Aignan, you shall be one of the invited guests.”

“Very well, Sire; unless I shall in the mean time have undertaken a longer and less agreeable journey.”

“What journey?”

“The one across the Styx, Sire.”

“Bah!” said Louis XIV, laughing.

“No, seriously, Sire,” replied De Saint-Aignan, “I am invited there; and in such a way, in truth, that I hardly know what to say or how to act in order to refuse it.”

“I do not understand you. I know that you are in a poetical vein; but try not to sink from Apollo to Phoebus.”

“Very well; if your Majesty will deign to listen to me, I will not keep you in suspense any longer.”


“Your Majesty knows the Baron du Vallon?”

“Yes, indeed,- a good servant to my father, the late King, and an admirable companion at table; for I think you are referring to him who dined with us at Fontainebleau?”

“Precisely; but you have omitted to add to his other qualifications, Sire, that he is a most charming killer of people.”

“What! does M. du Vallon wish to kill you?”

“Or to get me killed,- which is the same thing.”

“Bless my heart!”

“Do not laugh, Sire, for I am not saying a word that is not the exact truth.”

“And you say he wishes to get you killed?”

“That is that excellent person’s present idea.”

“Be easy; I will defend you, if he be in the wrong.”

“Ah! there is an ‘if’.”

“Of course! Answer me as candidly as if it were some one else’s affair instead of your own, my poor De Saint-Aignan: is he right or wrong?”

“Your Majesty shall be the judge.”

“What have you done to him?”

“To him, personally, nothing at all; but it seems I have to one of his friends.”

“It is all the same. Is his friend one of the celebrated ‘four’?”

“No! It is only the son of one of the celebrated ‘four.’”

“What have you done to the son? Come, tell me.”

“Why, I have helped some one to take his mistress from him.”

“You confess it, then?

“I cannot help confessing it, for it is true.”

“In that case you are wrong.”

“Ah! I am wrong?”

“Yes; and my faith, if he kills you-”


“Well, he will do what is right.”

“Ah! that is your Majesty’s way of reasoning, then?”

“Do you think it a bad way?”

“It is a very expeditious way.”

“‘Good justice is prompt’; so my grandfather Henry IV used to say.”

“In that case your Majesty will immediately sign my adversary’s pardon, for he is now waiting for me at the Minimes to kill me.”

“His name, and a parchment!”

“There is a parchment upon your Majesty’s table; and as for his name-”

“Well, what is it?”

“The Vicomte de Bragelonne, Sire.”

“The Vicomte de Bragelonne!” exclaimed the King, changing from a fit of laughter to the most profound stupor; and then after a moment’s silence, while he wiped his forehead, which was bedewed with perspiration, he again murmured, “Bragelonne!”

“No other than he, Sire.”

“Bragelonne, who was affianced to-”

“Yes, Sire.”

“He was in London, however.”

“Yes; but I can assure you, Sire, he is there no longer.”

“Is he in Paris?”

“He is at the Minimes, Sire, where he is waiting for me, as I have already had the honor of telling you.”

“Does he know all?”

“Yes; and many things besides. Perhaps your Majesty would like to look at the letter I have received from him”; and De Saint Aignan drew from his pocket the note with which we are already acquainted. “When your Majesty has read the letter, I will tell you how it reached me.”

The King read it in great agitation, and immediately said, “Well?”

“Well, Sire; your Majesty knows a certain carved lock, closing a certain door of ebony-wood, which separates a certain apartment from a certain blue and white sanctuary?”

“Of course! Louise’s boudoir.”

“Yes, Sire. Well, it was in the keyhole of that lock that I found that note. Who placed it there? Either M. de Bragelonne, or the devil himself; but inasmuch as the note smells of amber and not of sulphur, I conclude that it must be, not the devil, but M. de Bragelonne.”

Louis bent down his head, and seemed absorbed in sad and melancholy reflections. Perhaps something like remorse was at that moment passing through his heart. “Oh!” he said, “that secret discovered!”

“Sire, I shall do my utmost that the secret dies in the breast of the man who possesses it,” said De Saint-Aignan, in a tone of bravado, as he moved towards the door; but a gesture of the King made him pause.

“Where are you going?” he inquired.

“Where I am waited for, Sire.”

“What for?”

“To fight, in all probability.”

“You fight!” exclaimed the King. “One moment, if you please, Monsieur the Count!”

De Saint-Aignan shook his head, as a rebellious child does whenever any one interferes to prevent him from throwing himself into a well or playing with a knife.

“But yet, Sire-” he said.

“In the first place,” continued the King, “I require to be enlightened a little.”

“Upon that point, if your Majesty will be pleased to interrogate me,” replied De Saint-Aignan, “I will throw what light I can.”

“Who told you that M. de Bragelonne had penetrated into that room?”

“The letter which I found in the keyhole told me so.”

“Who told you that it was De Bragelonne who put it there?”

“Who but himself would have dared to undertake such a mission?”

“You are right. How was he able to get into your rooms?”

“Ah! that is very serious, inasmuch as all the doors were closed, and my lackey, Basque, had the keys in his pocket.”

“Your lackey must have been bribed.”

“Impossible, Sire; for if he had been bribed, those who did so would not have sacrificed the poor fellow, whom it is not unlikely they might want to turn to further use by and by, in showing so clearly that it was he of whom they had made use.”

“Quite true. And now there remains but one conjecture.”

“Let us see, Sire, if it is the same that has presented itself to my mind.”

“That he effected an entrance by means of the staircase.”

“Alas! Sire, that seems to me more than probable.”

“There is no doubt that some one sold the secret of the trap-door.”

“Either sold it or gave it.”

“Why do you make that distinction?”

“Because there are certain persons, Sire, who being above the price of a treason give, and do not sell.”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, Sire, your Majesty’s mind is too clear-sighted not to guess what I mean, and you will save me the embarrassment of naming any one.”

“You are right: you mean Madame!”

“Ah!” said De Saint-Aignan.

“Madame, whose suspicions were aroused by your changing your lodgings.”

“Madame, who has keys of the apartments of her maids of honor, and is powerful enough to discover what no one but yourself or she would be able to discover.”

“And you suppose, then, that my sister has entered into an alliance with Bragelonne?”

“Eh! eh! Sire-”

“So far as to inform him of all the details of the affair?”

“Perhaps even further still.”

“Further? What do you mean?”

“Perhaps to the point of going with him.”

“Which way,- through your own apartments?”

“You think it impossible, Sire? Well, listen to me! Your Majesty knows that Madame is very fond of perfumes?”

“Yes, she acquired that taste from my mother.”

“Vervain particularly.”

“Yes, it is the scent she prefers to all others.”

“Very good, Sire! my apartments smell very strongly of vervain.”

The King remained silent and thoughtful for a few moments, and then resumed: “But why should Madame take Bragelonne’s part against me?” De Saint-Aignan could very easily have replied: “A woman’s jealousy!” In his question the King had probed his friend to the bottom of his heart to ascertain if he had learned the secret of his flirtation with his sister-in-law. But De Saint-Aignan was not an ordinary courtier; he did not lightly run the risk of finding out family secrets; and he was too good a friend of the Muses not to think very frequently of poor Ovidius Naso, whose eyes shed so many tears in expiation of his crime for having once beheld something, one hardly knows what, in the palace of Augustus. He therefore passed by Madame’s secret very skilfully. But since he had exhibited his sagacity in proving Madame’s presence in his rooms with Bragelonne, it was now necessary for him to pay interest on that self-conceit, and reply clearly to the question, “Why has Madame taken Bragelonne’s part against me?”

“Why?” replied De Saint-Aignan. “Your Majesty forgets, I presume, that the Comte de Guiche is the intimate friend of the Vicomte de Bragelonne?”

“I do not see the connection, however,” said the King.

“Ah! I beg your pardon then, Sire; but I thought the Comte de Guiche was a very great friend of Madame.”

“Quite true,” the King returned. “There is no occasion to search any further; the blow came from that direction.”

“And is not your Majesty of the opinion that in order to ward it off it will be necessary to deal another blow?”

“Yes; but not one of the kind given in the Bois de Vincennes,” replied the King.

“You forget, Sire,” said De Saint-Aignan, “that I am a gentleman, and that I have been challenged.”

“The challenge neither concerns nor was it intended for you.”

“But it is I who have been expected at the Minimes, Sire, during the last hour and more; and I shall be dishonored if I do not go there.”

“The first honor and duty of a gentleman is obedience to his sovereign.”


“I order you to remain.”


“Obey, Monsieur!”

“As your Majesty pleases.”

“Besides, I wish to have the whole of this affair explained; I wish to know how it is that I have been so insolently trifled with as to have the sanctuary of my affection pried into. It is not you, De Saint-Aignan, who ought to punish those who have acted in this manner; for it is not your honor they have attacked, but my own.”

“I implore your Majesty not to overwhelm M. de Bragelonne with your wrath; for although in the whole of this affair he may have shown himself deficient in prudence, he has not been so in his feelings of loyalty.”

“Enough! I shall know how to decide between the just and the unjust, even in the height of my anger. But take care that not a word of this is breathed to Madame!”

“But what am I to do with regard to M. de Bragelonne? He will be seeking me in every direction, and-”

“I shall either have spoken to him, or taken care that he has been spoken to before the evening is over.”

“Let me once more entreat your Majesty to be indulgent towards him.”

“I have been indulgent long enough, Count,” said Louis XIV, frowning; “it is time to show certain persons that I am master in my own palace.”

The King had hardly pronounced these words, which betokened that a fresh feeling of dissatisfaction was mingled with the remembrance of an old one, when the usher appeared at the door of the cabinet. “What is the matter,” inquired the King, “and why do you presume to come when I have not summoned you?”

“Sire,” said the usher, “your Majesty desired me to permit M. le Comte de la Fere to pass freely at any time when he might wish to speak to your Majesty.”


“M. le Comte de la Fere is now waiting to see your Majesty.”

The King and De Saint-Aignan at this reply exchanged a look which betrayed more uneasiness than surprise. Louis hesitated for a moment, but almost immediately forming a resolution, he said: “Go, De Saint-Aignan, and find Louise; inform her of the plot against us. Do not let her be ignorant that Madame is beginning again her persecutions, and that she has set to work those who would have done better had they remained neutral.”


“If Louise gets nervous and frightened, reassure her; tell her that the King’s love is an impenetrable shield over her. If, as I suspect is the case, she already knows everything, or if she has already been herself subjected to an attack, tell her, be sure to tell her, De Saint-Aignan,” added the King, trembling with passion,- “tell her, I say, that this time, instead of defending her, I will avenge her, and that too so terribly that no one will in future even dare to raise his eyes towards her.”

“Is that all, Sire?”

“Yes; all. Go quickly, and remain faithful,- you who live in the midst of this hell without having, like myself, the hope of paradise.”

De Saint-Aignan almost exhausted himself in protestations of devotion, took the King’s hand, kissed it, and left the room radiant with delight.

  1. 56: Rival Politics
  2. Louise de la Valliere
  3. 58: King and Nobility