Louise de la Valliere
The First Quarrel.
La Valliere entered the queen-mother's apartments without in the least
suspecting that a serious plot was being concerted against her. She thought it
was for something connected with her duties, and never had the queen-mother
been unkind to her when such was the case. Besides, not being immediately
under the control or direction of Anne of Austria, she could only have an official
connection with her, to which her own gentleness of disposition, and the rank of
the august princess, made her yield on every occasion with the best possible
grace. She therefore advanced towards the queen-mother with that soft and
gentle smile which constituted her principal charm, and as she did not approach
sufficiently close, Anne of Austria signed to her to come nearer. Madame then
entered the room, and with a perfectly calm air took her seat beside her mother-
in-law, and continued the work which Maria Theresa had begun. When La
Valliere, instead of the direction which she expected to receive immediately on
entering the room, perceived these preparations, she looked with curiosity, if not
with uneasiness, at the two princesses. Anne seemed full of thought, while
Madame maintained an affectation of indifference that would have alarmed a less
timid person even than Louise.
"Mademoiselle," said the queen-mother suddenly, without attempting to
moderate or disguise her Spanish accent, which she never failed to do except
when she was angry, "come closer; we were talking of you, as every one else
seems to be doing."
"Of me!" exclaimed La Valliere, turning pale.
"Do you pretend to be ignorant of it; are you not aware of the duel between M. de
Guiche and M. de Wardes?"
"Oh, madame! I heard of it yesterday," said La Valliere, clasping her hands
"And did you not foresee this quarrel?"
"Why should I, madame?"
"Because two men never fight without a motive, and because you must be aware
of the motive which awakened the animosity of the two in question."
"I am perfectly ignorant of it, madame."
"A persevering denial is a very commonplace mode of defense, and you, who
have great pretensions to be witty and clever, ought to avoid commonplaces.
What else have you to say?"
"Oh! madame, your majesty terrifies me with your cold severity of manner; but I
do not understand how I can have incurred your displeasure, or in what respect
people concern themselves about me."
"Then I will tell you. M. de Guiche has been obliged to undertake your defense."
"Yes. He is a gallant knight, and beautiful adventuresses like to see brave knights
couch lances in their honor. But, for my part, I hate fields of battle, and above all I
hate adventures, and - take my remark as you please."