Ten Years Later HTML version

Chapter 22
The King's Card-Table.
Fouquet was present, as D'Artagnan had said, at the king's card-table. It seemed as if
Buckingham's departure had shed a balm on the lacerated hearts of the previous
evening. Monsieur, radiant with delight, made a thousand affectionate signs to his
mother. The Count de Guiche could not separate himself from Buckingham, and while
playing, conversed with him upon the circumstance of his projected voyage.
Buckingham, thoughtful, and kind in his manner, like a man who has adopted a
resolution, listened to the count, and from time to time cast a look full of regret and
hopeless affection at Madame. The princess, in the midst of her elation of spirits,
divided her attention between the king, who was playing with her, Monsieur, who quietly
joked her about her enormous winnings, and De Guiche, who exhibited an extravagant
delight. Of Buckingham she took but little notice; for her, this fugitive, this exile, was now
simply a remembrance, no longer a man. Light hearts are thus constituted; while they
themselves continue untouched, they roughly break off with every one who may
possibly interfere with their little calculations of self comfort. Madame had received
Buckingham's smiles and attentions and sighs while he was present; but what was the
good of sighing, smiling, and kneeling at a distance? Can one tell in what direction the
winds in the Channel, which toss mighty vessels to and fro, carry such sighs as these?
The duke could not fail to mark this change, and his heart was cruelly hurt. Of a
sensitive character, proud and susceptible of deep attachment, he cursed the day on
which such a passion had entered his heart. The looks he cast, from time to time at
Madame, became colder by degrees at the chilling complexion of his thoughts. He could
hardly yet despair, but he was strong enough to impose silence upon the tumultuous
outcries of his heart. In exact proportion, however, as Madame suspected this change
of feeling, she redoubled her activity to regain the ray of light she was about to lose; her
timid and indecisive mind was displayed in brilliant flashes of wit and humor. At any cost
she felt that she must be remarked above everything and every one, even above the
king himself. And she was so, for the queens, notwithstanding their dignity, and the
king, despite the respect which etiquette required, were all eclipsed by her. The queens,
stately and ceremonious, were softened and could not restrain their laughter. Madame
Henriette, the queen-mother, was dazzled by the brilliancy which cast distinction upon
her family, thanks to the wit of the grand-daughter of Henry IV. The king, jealous, as a
young man and as a monarch, of the superiority of those who surrounded him, could not
resist admitting himself vanquished by a petulance so thoroughly French in its nature,
whose energy more than ever increased by English humor. Like a child, he was
captivated by her radiant beauty, which her wit made still more dazzling. Madame's
eyes flashed like lightning. Wit and humor escaped from her scarlet lips like persuasion
from the lips of Nestor of old. The whole court, subdued by her enchanting grace,
noticed for the first time that laughter could be indulged in before the greatest monarch
in the world, like people who merited their appellation of the wittiest and most polished
people in Europe.