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Louise de la Valliere is the middle section of The Vicomte de Bragelonne or, Ten Years After. Against a tender love story, Dumas continues the suspense which began with The Vicomte de Bragelonne and will end with The Man in the Iron Mask. It is early summer, 1661, and the royal court of France is in turmoil. Can it be true that the King is in love with the Duchess D’Orleans? Or has his eye been caught by the sweet and gentle Louise de la Valliere? No one is more anxious to know the answer than Raoul, son of Athos, who loves Louise more than life itself. Behind the scenes, dark intrigues are afoot. Louis XIV is intent on making himself absolute master of France. Imminent crisis shakes the now ageing Musketeers and d’Artagnan out of their complacent retirement, but is the cause just?
During all these long and noisy debates between the opposite ambitions of politics and love, one of our characters, perhaps the one least deserving of neglect, was, however, very much neglected, very much forgotten, and exceedingly unhappy. In fact, D’Artagnan—D’Artagnan, we say, for we must call him by his name, to remind our readers of his existence—D’Artagnan, we repeat, had absolutely nothing whatever to do, amidst these brilliant butterflies of fashion. After following the king during two whole days at Fontainebleau, and critically observing the various pastoral fancies and heroi–comic transformations of his sovereign, the musketeer felt that he needed something more than this to satisfy the cravings of his nature. At every moment assailed by people asking him, “How do you think this costume suits me, Monsieur d’Artagnan?” he would reply to them in quiet, sarcastic tones, “Why, I think you are quite as well–dressed as the best–dressed monkey to be found in the fair at Saint–Laurent.” It was just such a compliment D’Artagnan would choose where he did not feel disposed to pay any other: and, whether agreeable or not, the inquirer was obliged to be satisfied with it. Whenever any one asked him, “How do you intend to dress yourself this evening?” he replied, “I shall undress myself;” at which the ladies all laughed, and a few of them blushed. But after a couple of days passed in this manner, the musketeer, perceiving that nothing serious was likely to arise which would concern him, and that the king had completely, or, at least, appeared to have completely forgotten Paris, Saint–Mande, and Belle–Isle—that M. Colbert’s mind was occupied with illuminations and fireworks—that for the next month, at least, the ladies had plenty of glances to bestow, and also to receive in exchange—D’Artagnan asked the king for leave of absence for a matter of private business. At the moment D’Artagnan made his request, his majesty was on the point of going to bed, quite exhausted from dancing.
“You wish to leave me, Monsieur d’Artagnan?” inquired the king, with an air of astonishment; for Louis XIV. could never understand why any one who had the distinguished honor of being near him could wish to leave him.
“Sire,” said D’Artagnan, “I leave you simply because I am not of the slightest service to you in anything. Ah! if I could only hold the balancing–pole while you were dancing, it would be a very different affair.”