Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 12 GEORGE VILLIERS, DUKE OF BUCKINGHAM

  • Mme. Bonacieux and the duke entered the Louvre without difficulty. Mme.
  • Bonacieux was known to belong to the queen; the duke wore the uniform of th_usketeers of M. de Treville, who, as we have said, were that evening o_uard. Besides, Germain was in the interests of the queen; and if anythin_hould happen, Mme. Bonacieux would be accused of having introduced her love_nto the Louvre, that was all. She took the risk upon herself. Her reputatio_ould be lost, it is true; but of what value in the world was the reputatio_f the little wife of a mercer?
  • Once within the interior of the court, the duke and the young woman followe_he wall for the space of about twenty-five steps. This space passed, Mme.
  • Bonacieux pushed a little servants' door, open by day but generally closed a_ight. The door yielded. Both entered, and found themselves in darkness; bu_me. Bonacieux was acquainted with all the turnings and windings of this par_f the Louvre, appropriated for the people of the household. She closed th_oor after her, took the duke by the hand, and after a few experimental steps, grasped a balustrade, put her foot upon the bottom step, and began to ascen_he staircase. The duke counted two stories. She then turned to the right, followed the course of a long corridor, descended a flight, went a few step_arther, introduced a key into a lock, opened a door, and pushed the duke int_n apartment lighted only by a lamp, saying, "Remain here, my Lord Duke; someone will come." She then went out by the same door, which she locked, s_hat the duke found himself literally a prisoner.
  • Nevertheless, isolated as he was, we must say that the Duke of Buckingham di_ot experience an instant of fear. One of the salient points of his characte_as the search for adventures and a love of romance. Brave, rash, an_nterprising, this was not the first time he had risked his life in suc_ttempts. He had learned that the pretended message from Anne of Austria, upo_he faith of which he had come to Paris, was a snare; but instead of regainin_ngland, he had, abusing the position in which he had been placed, declared t_he queen that he would not depart without seeing her. The queen had at firs_ositively refused; but at length became afraid that the duke, if exasperated, would commit some folly. She had already decided upon seeing him and urgin_is immediate departure, when, on the very evening of coming to this decision, Mme. Bonacieux, who was charged with going to fetch the duke and conductin_im to the Louvre, was abducted. For two days no one knew what had become o_er, and everything remained in suspense; but once free, and placed i_ommunication with Laporte, matters resumed their course, and she accomplishe_he perilous enterprise which, but for her arrest, would have been execute_hree days earlier.
  • Buckingham, left alone, walked toward a mirror. His Musketeer's uniform becam_im marvelously.
  • At thirty-five, which was then his age, he passed, with just title, for th_andsomest gentleman and the most elegant cavalier of France or England.
  • The favorite of two kings, immensely rich, all-powerful in a kingdom which h_isordered at his fancy and calmed again at his caprice, George Villiers, Duk_f Buckingham, had lived one of those fabulous existences which survive, i_he course of centuries, to astonish posterity.
  • Sure of himself, convinced of his own power, certain that the laws which rul_ther men could not reach him, he went straight to the object he aimed at, even were this object were so elevated and so dazzling that it would have bee_adness for any other even to have contemplated it. It was thus he ha_ucceeded in approaching several times the beautiful and proud Anne o_ustria, and in making himself loved by dazzling her.
  • George Villiers placed himself before the glass, as we have said, restored th_ndulations to his beautiful hair, which the weight of his hat had disordered, twisted his mustache, and, his heart swelling with joy, happy and proud a_eing near the moment he had so long sighed for, he smiled upon himself wit_ride and hope.
  • At this moment a door concealed in the tapestry opened, and a woman appeared.
  • Buckingham saw this apparition in the glass; he uttered a cry. It was th_ueen!
  • Anne of Austria was then twenty-six or twenty-seven years of age; that is t_ay, she was in the full splendor of her beauty.
  • Her carriage was that of a queen or a goddess; her eyes, which cast th_rilliancy of emeralds, were perfectly beautiful, and yet were at the sam_ime full of sweetness and majesty.
  • Her mouth was small and rosy; and although her underlip, like that of al_rinces of the House of Austria, protruded slightly beyond the other, it wa_minently lovely in its smile, but as profoundly disdainful in its contempt.
  • Her skin was admired for its velvety softness; her hands and arms were o_urpassing beauty, all the poets of the time singing them as incomparable.
  • Lastly, her hair, which, from being light in her youth, had become chestnut, and which she wore curled very plainly, and with much powder, admirably se_ff her face, in which the most rigid critic could only have desired a littl_ess rouge, and the most fastidious sculptor a little more fineness in th_ose.
  • Buckingham remained for a moment dazzled. Never had Anne of Austria appeare_o him so beautiful, amid balls, fetes, or carousals, as she appeared to hi_t this moment, dressed in a simple robe of white satin, and accompanied b_onna Estafania—the only one of her Spanish women who had not been driven fro_er by the jealousy of the king or by the persecutions of Richelieu.
  • Anne of Austria took two steps forward. Buckingham threw himself at her feet, and before the queen could prevent him, kissed the hem of her robe.
  • "Duke, you already know that it is not I who caused you to be written to."
  • "Yes, yes, madame! Yes, your Majesty!" cried the duke. "I know that I mus_ave been mad, senseless, to believe that snow would become animated or marbl_arm; but what then! They who love believe easily in love. Besides, I hav_ost nothing by this journey because I see you."
  • "Yes," replied Anne, "but you know why and how I see you; because, insensibl_o all my sufferings, you persist in remaining in a city where, by remaining, you run the risk of your life, and make me run the risk of my honor. I see yo_o tell you that everything separates us—the depths of the sea, the enmity o_ingdoms, the sanctity of vows. It is sacrilege to struggle against so man_hings, my Lord. In short, I see you to tell you that we must never see eac_ther again."
  • "Speak on, madame, speak on, Queen," said Buckingham; "the sweetness of you_oice covers the harshness of your words. You talk of sacrilege! Why, th_acrilege is the separation of two hearts formed by God for each other."
  • "My Lord," cried the queen, "you forget that I have never said that I lov_ou."
  • "But you have never told me that you did not love me; and truly, to speak suc_ords to me would be, on the part of your Majesty, too great an ingratitude.
  • For tell me, where can you find a love like mine—a love which neither time, nor absence, nor despair can extinguish, a love which contents itself with _ost ribbon, a stray look, or a chance word? It is now three years, madame, since I saw you for the first time, and during those three years I have love_ou thus. Shall I tell you each ornament of your toilet? Mark! I see you now.
  • You were seated upon cushions in the Spanish fashion; you wore a robe of gree_atin embroidered with gold and silver, hanging sleeves knotted upon you_eautiful arms—those lovely arms—with large diamonds. You wore a close ruff, _mall cap upon your head of the same color as your robe, and in that cap _eron's feather. Hold! Hold! I shut my eyes, and I can see you as you the_ere; I open them again, and I see what you are now—a hundred times mor_eautiful!"
  • "What folly," murmured Anne of Austria, who had not the courage to find faul_ith the duke for having so well preserved her portrait in his heart, "wha_olly to feed a useless passion with such remembrances!"
  • "And upon what then must I live? I have nothing but memory. It is m_appiness, my treasure, my hope. Every time I see you is a fresh diamond whic_ enclose in the casket of my heart. This is the fourth which you have le_all and I have picked up; for in three years, madame, I have only seen yo_our times—the first, which I have described to you; the second, at th_ansion of Madame de Chevreuse; the third, in the gardens of Amiens."
  • "Duke," said the queen, blushing, "never speak of that evening."
  • "Oh, let us speak of it; on the contrary, let us speak of it! That is the mos_appy and brilliant evening of my life! You remember what a beautiful night i_as? How soft and perfumed was the air; how lovely the blue heavens and star- enameled sky! Ah, then, madame, I was able for one instant to be alone wit_ou. Then you were about to tell me all—the isolation of your life, the grief_f your heart. You leaned upon my arm—upon this, madame! I felt, in bending m_ead toward you, your beautiful hair touch my cheek; and every time that i_ouched me I trembled from head to foot. Oh, Queen! Queen! You do not kno_hat felicity from heaven, what joys from paradise, are comprised in a momen_ike that. Take my wealth, my fortune, my glory, all the days I have to live, for such an instant, for a night like that. For that night, madame, that nigh_ou loved me, I will swear it."
  • "My Lord, yes; it is possible that the influence of the place, the charm o_he beautiful evening, the fascination of your look—the thousan_ircumstances, in short, which sometimes unite to destroy a woman—were groupe_round me on that fatal evening; but, my Lord, you saw the queen come to th_id of the woman who faltered. At the first word you dared to utter, at th_irst freedom to which I had to reply, I called for help."
  • "Yes, yes, that is true. And any other love but mine would have sunk beneat_his ordeal; but my love came out from it more ardent and more eternal. Yo_elieved that you would fly from me by returning to Paris; you believed that _ould not dare to quit the treasure over which my master had charged me t_atch. What to me were all the treasures in the world, or all the kings of th_arth! Eight days after, I was back again, madame. That time you had nothin_o say to me; I had risked my life and favor to see you but for a second. _id not even touch your hand, and you pardoned me on seeing me so submissiv_nd so repentant."
  • "Yes, but calumny seized upon all those follies in which I took no part, a_ou well know, my Lord. The king, excited by the cardinal, made a terribl_lamor. Madame de Vernet was driven from me, Putange was exiled, Madame d_hevreuse fell into disgrace, and when you wished to come back as ambassado_o France, the king himself—remember, my lord—the king himself opposed to it."
  • "Yes, and France is about to pay for her king's refusal with a war. I am no_llowed to see you, madame, but you shall every day hear of me. What object, think you, have this expedition to Re and this league with the Protestants o_a Rochelle which I am projecting? The pleasure of seeing you. I have no hop_f penetrating, sword in hand, to Paris, I know that well. But this war ma_ring round a peace; this peace will require a negotiator; that negotiato_ill be me. They will not dare to refuse me then; and I will return to Paris, and will see you again, and will be happy for an instant. Thousands of men, i_s true, will have to pay for my happiness with their lives; but what is tha_o me, provided I see you again! All this is perhaps folly—perhaps insanity; but tell me what woman has a lover more truly in love; what queen a servan_ore ardent?"
  • "My Lord, my Lord, you invoke in your defense things which accuse you mor_trongly. All these proofs of love which you would give me are almost crimes."
  • "Because you do not love me, madame! If you loved me, you would view all thi_therwise. If you loved me, oh, if you loved me, that would be too grea_appiness, and I should run mad. Ah, Madame de Chevreuse was less cruel tha_ou. Holland loved her, and she responded to his love."
  • "Madame de Chevreuse was not queen," murmured Anne of Austria, overcome, i_pite of herself, by the expression of so profound a passion.
  • "You would love me, then, if you were not queen! Madame, say that you woul_ove me then! I can believe that it is the dignity of your rank alone whic_akes you cruel to me; I can believe that you had been Madame de Chevreuse, poor Buckingham might have hoped. Thanks for those sweet words! Oh, m_eautiful sovereign, a hundred times, thanks!"
  • "Oh, my Lord! You have ill understood, wrongly interpreted; I did not mean t_ay—"
  • "Silence, silence!" cried the duke. "If I am happy in an error, do not hav_he cruelty to lift me from it. You have told me yourself, madame, that I hav_een drawn into a snare; I, perhaps, may leave my life in it—for, although i_ay be strange, I have for some time had a presentiment that I should shortl_ie." And the duke smiled, with a smile at once sad and charming.
  • "Oh, my God!" cried Anne of Austria, with an accent of terror which proved ho_uch greater an interest she took in the duke than she ventured to tell.
  • "I do not tell you this, madame, to terrify you; no, it is even ridiculous fo_e to name it to you, and, believe me, I take no heed of such dreams. But th_ords you have just spoken, the hope you have almost given me, will hav_ichly paid all—were it my life."
  • "Oh, but I," said Anne, "I also, duke, have had presentiments; I also have ha_reams. I dreamed that I saw you lying bleeding, wounded."
  • "In the left side, was it not, and with a knife?" interrupted Buckingham.
  • "Yes, it was so, my Lord, it was so—in the left side, and with a knife. Wh_an possibly have told you I had had that dream? I have imparted it to no on_ut my God, and that in my prayers."
  • "I ask for no more. You love me, madame; it is enough."
  • "I love you, I?"
  • "Yes, yes. Would God send the same dreams to you as to me if you did not lov_e? Should we have the same presentiments if our existences did not touch a_he heart? You love me, my beautiful queen, and you will weep for me?"
  • "Oh, my God, my God!" cried Anne of Austria, "this is more than I can bear. I_he name of heaven, Duke, leave me, go! I do not know whether I love you o_ove you not; but what I know is that I will not be perjured. Take pity on me, then, and go! Oh, if you are struck in France, if you die in France, if _ould imagine that your love for me was the cause of your death, I could no_onsole myself; I should run mad. Depart then, depart, I implore you!"
  • "Oh, how beautiful you are thus! Oh, how I love you!" said Buckingham.
  • "Go, go, I implore you, and return hereafter! Come back as ambassador, com_ack as minister, come back surrounded with guards who will defend you, wit_ervants who will watch over you, and then I shall no longer fear for you_ays, and I shall be happy in seeing you."
  • "Oh, is this true what you say?"
  • "Yes."
  • "Oh, then, some pledge of your indulgence, some object which came from you, and may remind me that I have not been dreaming; something you have worn, an_hat I may wear in my turn—a ring, a necklace, a chain."
  • "Will you depart—will you depart, if I give you that you demand?"
  • "Yes."
  • "This very instant?"
  • "Yes."
  • "You will leave France, you will return to England?"
  • "I will, I swear to you."
  • "Wait, then, wait."
  • Anne of Austria re-entered her apartment, and came out again almos_mmediately, holding a rosewood casket in her hand, with her cipher encruste_ith gold.
  • "Here, my Lord, here," said she, "keep this in memory of me."
  • Buckingham took the casket, and fell a second time on his knees.
  • "You have promised me to go," said the queen.
  • "And I keep my word. Your hand, madame, your hand, and I depart!"
  • Anne of Austria stretched forth her hand, closing her eyes, and leaning wit_he other upon Estafania, for she felt that her strength was about to fai_er.
  • Buckingham pressed his lips passionately to that beautiful hand, and the_ising, said, "Within six months, if I am not dead, I shall have seen yo_gain, madame—even if I have to overturn the world." And faithful to th_romise he had made, he rushed out of the apartment.
  • In the corridor he met Mme. Bonacieux, who waited for him, and who, with th_ame precautions and the same good luck, conducted him out of the Louvre.