These words produced a strange effect upon the king. Instead of heightening his passion, they cooled it. He stopped, and said hastily, —
“What is to be said, mademoiselle? Everything has failed.”
“Except your will, I trust, my dear sire?”
“Alas!” said the king, coloring, “have I a will?”
“Oh!” said Mademoiselle de Mancini mournfully, wounded by that expression.
“The king has no will but that which policy dictates, but that which reasons of state impose upon him.”
“Oh! it is because you have no love,” cried Mary; “if you loved, sire, you would have a will.”
On pronouncing these words, Mary raised her eyes to her lover, whom she saw more pale and more cast down than an exile who is about to quit his native land forever. “Accuse me,” murmured the king, “but do not say I do not love you.”
A long silence followed these words, which the young king had pronounced with a perfectly true and profound feeling. “I am unable to think that to-morrow, and after to-morrow, I shall see you no more; I cannot think that I am going to end my sad days at a distance from Paris; that the lips of an old man, of an unknown, should touch that hand which you hold within yours; no, in truth, I cannot think of all that, my dear sire, without having my poor heart burst with despair.”
And Marie de Mancini did shed floods of tears. On his part, the king, much affected, carried his handkerchief to his mouth, and stifled a sob.
“See,” said she, “the carriages have stopped, my sister waits for me, the time is come; what you are about to decide upon will be decided for life. Oh, sire! you are willing, then, that I should lose you? You are willing, then, Louis, that she to whom you have said ‘I love you,’ should belong to another than to her king, to her master, to her lover? Oh! courage, Louis! courage! One word, a single word! Say ‘I will!’ and all my life is enchained to yours, and all my heart is yours forever.”
The king made no reply. Mary then looked at him as Dido looked at Aeneas in the Elysian fields, fierce and disdainful.
“Farewell, then,” said she; “farewell life! love! heaven!”
And she took a step away. The king detained her, seizing her hand, which he pressed to his lips, and despair prevailing over the resolution he appeared to have inwardly formed, he let fall upon that beautiful hand a burning tear of regret, which made Mary start, so really had that tear burnt her. She saw the humid eyes of the king, his pale brow, his convulsed lips, and cried, with an accent that cannot be described, —
“Oh, sire! you are a king, you weep, and yet I depart!”
As his sole reply, the king hid his face in his handkerchief. The officer uttered something so like a roar that it frightened the horses. Mademoiselle de Mancini, quite indignant, quitted the king’s arm, hastily entered the carriage, crying to the coachman, “Go on, go on, and quick!”