Louise de la Valliere
Showing How Louis, on His Part, Had Passed the Time from Ten to Half-Past
Twelve at Night.
When the king left the apartments of the maids of honor, he found Colbert
awaiting him to take directions for the next day's ceremony, as the king was then
to receive the Dutch and Spanish ambassadors. Louis XIV. had serious causes
of dissatisfaction with the Dutch; the States had already been guilty of many
mean shifts and evasions with France, and without perceiving or without caring
about the chances of a rupture, they again abandoned the alliance with his Most
Christian Majesty, for the purpose of entering into all kinds of plots with Spain.
Louis XIV. at his accession, that is to say, at the death of Cardinal Mazarin, had
found this political question roughly sketched out; the solution was difficult for a
young man, but as, at that time, the king represented the whole nation, anything
that the head resolved upon, the body would be found ready to carry out. Any
sudden impulse of anger, the reaction of young hot blood upon the brain, would
be quite sufficient to change an old form of policy and create another system
altogether. The part that diplomatists had to play in those days was that of
arranging among themselves the different coups-d'etat which their sovereign
masters might wish to effect. Louis was not in that calm frame of mind which was
necessary to enable him to determine on a wise course of policy. Still much
agitated from the quarrel he had just had with La Valliere, he walked hastily into
his cabinet, dimly desirous of finding an opportunity of producing an explosion
after he had controlled himself for so long a time. Colbert, as he saw the king
enter, knew the position of affairs at a glance, understood the king's intentions,
and resolved therefore to maneuver a little. When Louis requested to be informed
what it would be necessary to say on the morrow, Colbert began by expressing
his surprise that his majesty had not been properly informed by M. Fouquet. "M.
Fouquet," he said, "is perfectly acquainted with the whole of this Dutch affair - he
received the dispatches himself direct."
The king, who was accustomed to hear M. Colbert speak in not over- scrupulous
terms of M. Fouquet, allowed this remark to pass unanswered, and merely
listened. Colbert noticed the effect it had produced, and hastened to back out,
saying that M. Fouquet was not on all occasions as blamable as at the first
glance might seem to be the case, inasmuch as at that moment he was greatly
occupied. The king looked up. "What do you allude to?" he said.
"Sire, men are but men, and M. Fouquet has his defects as well as his great
"Ah! defects, who is without them, M. Colbert?"
"Your majesty, hardly," said Colbert, boldly; for he knew how to convey a good
deal of flattery in a light amount of blame, like the arrow which cleaves the air
notwithstanding its weight, thanks to the light feathers which bear it up.
The king smiled. "What defect has M. Fouquet, then?" he said.
"Still the same, sire; it is said he is in love."
"In love! with whom?"