Bonacieux's Household

When the cardinal mentioned the diamond studs, Louis XIII was struck with his insistence, and began to fancy that this recommendation concealed some mystery.

He went, then, to the queen, and, according to his custom, approached her with new threats against those who surrounded her. Anne of Austria hung down her head, allowed the torrent to flow on without replying, and hoped that it would finally cease of itself. But this was not what Louis XIII wanted. Louis XIII wanted a discussion, from which some light or other might break, convinced as he was that the cardinal was practising some dissimulation, and was preparing for him one of those terrible surprises which his Eminence was so skilful in getting up. He arrived at this end by his persistence in accusation.

“But,” cried Anne of Austria, tired of these vague attacks—“but, sire, you do not tell me all that you have in your heart. What have I done, then? Let me know what crime I have committed.”

The king, attacked in so direct a manner, did not know what to answer. He thought that this was the moment to express the desire which he was to make only on the eve of the ball.

“Madame,” said he, with dignity, “there will shortly be a ball at the City Hall. I wish that, in honour to our worthy provosts, you should appear at it in state dress, and particularly ornamented with the diamond studs which I gave you on your birthday. That is my answer.”

It was a terrible answer. She became excessively pale, leaned her beautiful hand upon a stand, a hand which then appeared like one of wax, and looking at the king, with terror in her eyes, she was unable to reply by a single syllable.

“You hear, madame,” said the king, who enjoyed this embarrassment to its full extent, but without guessing the cause—“you hear, madame?”

“Yes, sire, I hear,” stammered the queen.

“Very well,” said the king, retiring—“very well; I count on it.”

The queen made a curtsy, less from etiquette than because her knees were sinking under her.

“I am lost,” murmured the queen, “lost! for the cardinal knows all, and it is he who urges on the king, who as yet knows nothing, but will soon know everything. I am lost! My God, my God!”

She knelt upon a cushion and prayed, with her head buried between her palpitating arms.

Thus, while contemplating the misfortune which threatened her and the abandonment in which she was left, she broke out into sobs and tears.

“Can I be of no service to your Majesty?” said all at once a voice full of sweetness and pity.

The queen turned quickly round, for there could be no mistake in the tone of that voice. It was a friend who spoke thus.

In fact, at one of the doors which opened into the queen’s apartment appeared the pretty Madame Bonacieux. She had been engaged in arranging the dresses and linen in a closet when the king entered. She could not get out, and had heard all.

The queen uttered a piercing cry at finding herself discovered, for in her trouble she did not at first recognize the young woman who had been given to her by La Porte.

“Oh, fear nothing, madame!” said the young woman, clasping her hands, and weeping herself at the queen’s sorrow; “I am your Majesty’s, body and soul, and however far I may be from you, however inferior may be my position, I believe I have discovered a means of extricating your Majesty from your trouble.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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