Louise de la Valliere
As soon as the king was gone La Valliere raised herself from the ground, and
stretched out her arms, as if to follow and detain him, but when, having violently
closed the door, the sound of his retreating footsteps could be heard in the
distance, she had hardly sufficient strength left to totter towards and fall at the
foot of her crucifix. There she remained, broken-hearted, absorbed, and
overwhelmed by her grief, forgetful and indifferent to everything but her profound
sorrow; - a grief she only vaguely realized - as though by instinct. In the midst of
this wild tumult of thoughts, La Valliere heard her door open again; she started,
and turned round, thinking it was the king who had returned. She was deceived,
however, for it was Madame who appeared at the door. What did she now care
for Madame! Again she sank down, her head supported by her prie-Dieu chair. It
was Madame, agitated, angry, and threatening. But what was that to her?
"Mademoiselle," said the princess, standing before La Valliere, "this is very fine, I
admit, to kneel and pray, and make a pretense of being religious; but however
submissive you may be in your address to Heaven, it is desirable that you should
pay some little attention to the wishes of those who reign and rule here below."
La Valliere raised her head painfully in token of respect.
"Not long since," continued Madame, "a certain recommendation was addressed
to you, I believe."
La Valliere's fixed and wild gaze showed how complete her forgetfulness or
"The queen recommended you," continued Madame, "to conduct yourself in such
a manner that no one could be justified in spreading any reports about you."
La Valliere darted an inquiring look towards her.
"I will not," continued Madame, "allow my household, which is that of the first
princess of the blood, to set an evil example to the court; you would be the cause
of such an example. I beg you to understand, therefore, in the absence of any
witness of your shame - for I do not wish to humiliate you - that you are from this
moment at perfect liberty to leave, and that you can return to your mother at
La Valliere could not sink lower, nor could she suffer more than she had already
suffered. Her countenance did not even change, but she remained kneeling with
her hands clasped, like the figure of the Magdalen.
"Did you hear me?" said Madame.
A shiver, which passed through her whole frame, was La Valliere's only reply.
And as the victim gave no other signs of life, Madame left the room. And then,
her very respiration suspended, and her blood almost congealed, as it were, in
her veins, La Valliere by degrees felt that the pulsation of her wrists, her neck,
and temples, began to throb more and more painfully. These pulsations, as they
gradually increased, soon changed into a species of brain fever, and in her
temporary delirium she saw the figures of her friends contending with her
enemies, floating before her vision. She heard, too, mingled together in her