April. Tender petals of cherry trees in Renard’s Garden tremble in the drizzling cold and daffodils droop their rain-heavy heads, tipsy with the sharp scent of awakening earth.
“Dull weather doesn’t make me sad,” the Princess, snuggled up in La Rochefoucauld’s arms, sighs. “You are my sunshine! You are my blue skies! You are all in all to me!”
What she says is, without a doubt, banal. True love doesn’t improve one’s wit. If La Rochefoucauld loved her, he wouldn’t mind. He holds Anne tighter to hide a yawn. Her vapid chatter irritates him. ′ Almighty God! How can this brainless wench excite admiration?′ This mordacious interior monologue distorts La Rochefoucauld’s mouth, spoiling his nearly perfect profile. He has still a thing or two to learn, above all how to be sarcastic without losing his looks.
At this very moment, the first raindrops start falling through the thick foliage of the blossoming chestnut tree. ‘What an ideal occasion to put an end to this debilitating tête-à-tête!’ cries out La Rochefoucauld, using the same interior monologue, and gets up to offer his despondent mistress his arm.
“Come, dearest! Let’s take shelter inside. The bliss of being with you must not let me forget the frailty of your health.”
A candid smile on her lips, her eyes lit with tender wooing, the Princess is led to the coach hitched up to two white horses. They shake their magnificent manes, impatient to get moving. The Duke holds his mistress’ hand and helps her to mount the carriage. Eager to get in and be held in her lover’s embrace, Anne slips on the third step failing to make La Rochefoucauld fall. Irritated by her clumsiness, he stifles a groan and his face brightens with satisfaction at having been able to hide his true feelings. To persevere in his deceit, he clasps Anne to his breast settling in the intimacy of the coach. After a while, which seems an eternity to La Rochefoucauld, to Anne a split second, the Duke considers the time ripe for the execution of his scheming. In a feeble voice, interrupted by heavy sighs, he relates to his mistress the unforgivable offence of the Queen: who dared refuse his wife her right to be seated in her presence, like all the other ladies-in-waiting do. Affected by such insolence, he hopes that his beloved mistress will take the necessary steps. Is she not a Princess of Royal Blood? The beloved sister of the Great Condé? Armand de Conti’s femme fatale?
He incites the Duchess to assemble all her family opposing the Queen Anne d’ Austria. Let it be clear: despising him, “the Austrian” mocks the cream of the French nobility! Is Anne de Longueville not one of them?
After his indictment against the impertinence of “the Austrian”, the outraged lover leans over his mistress’ face to watch her closely. He is assured that she will do as told. The coach has arrived in front of the Hôtel de Rambouillet. With feigned devotion, La Rochefoucauld helps the Princess out, offers her his arm, accompanies her to the salon where he mixes with the courtiers. Settling in a remote corner, he takes notes about the weakness of the human nature. The time is ripe to start writing the “Maxims”, his moral code.