Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Louise de la Valliere
Author: Dumas, Alexandre
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Louise de la Valliere" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



LOUISE DE LA VALLIERE

by Alexandre Dumas, Pere


Transcriber’s Notes:

writings of both the Alexandre Dumases for some time now, and since we
get a few questions about the order in which the books should be read,
and in which they were published, these following comments should
hopefully help most of our readers.

***

The Vicomte de Bragelonne is the final volume of D’Artagnan Romances:
it is usually split into three or four parts, and the final portion
is entitled The Man in the Iron Mask. The Man in the Iron Mask we’re
familiar with today is the last volume of the four-volume edition.
[Not all the editions split them in the same manner, hence some of the
confusion...but wait...there’s yet more reason for confusion.]

We intend to do ALL of The Vicomte de Bragelonne, split into four
etexts entitled The Vicomte de Bragelonne, Ten Years Later, Louise de la
Valliere, and The Man in the Iron Mask; you WILL be getting The Man in
the Iron Mask.

One thing that may be causing confusion is that the etext we have now,
entitled Ten Years Later, says it’s the sequel to The Three Musketeers.
While this is technically true, there’s another book, Twenty Years
After, that comes between. The confusion is generated by the two facts
that we published Ten Years Later BEFORE we published Twenty Years
After, and that many people see those titles as meaning Ten and Twenty
Years “After” the original story...however, this is why the different
words “After” and “Later”...the Ten Years “After” is ten years after
the Twenty Years later.. .as per history. Also, the third book of the
D’Artagnan Romances, while entitled The Vicomte de Bragelonne, has the
subtitle Ten Years Later. These two titles are also given to different
volumes: The Vicomte de Bragelonne can refer to the whole book, or the
first volume of the three or four-volume editions. Ten Years Later
can, similarly, refer to the whole book, or the second volume of the
four-volume edition. To add to the confusion, in the case of our etexts,
it refers to the first 104 chapters of the whole book, covering material
in the first and second etexts in the new series. Here is a guide to the
series which may prove helpful:

The Three Musketeers: Etext 1257--First book of the D’Artagnan Romances.
Covers the years 1625-1628.

Twenty Years After: Etext 1259--Second book of the D’Artagnan Romances.
Covers the years 1648-1649. [Third in the order that we published, but
second in time sequence!!!]

Ten Years Later: Etext 1258--First 104 chapters of the third book of the
D’Artagnan Romances. Covers the years 1660-1661.

The Vicomte de Bragelonne: Etext 2609 (first in the new series)--First
75 chapters of the third book of the D’Artagnan Romances. Covers the
year 1660.

Ten Years Later: Etext 2681 (second in the new series)--Chapters
76-140 of that third book of the D’Artagnan Romances. Covers the years
1660-1661. [In this particular editing of it]

the third book of the D’Artagnan Romances. Covers the year 1661.

The Man in the Iron Mask: forthcoming (our next text)--Chapters
209-269 of the third book of the D’Artagnan Romances. Covers the years
1661-1673.

If we’ve calculated correctly, that fourth text SHOULD correspond to
the modern editions of The Man in the Iron Mask, which is still
widely circulated, and comprises about the last 1/4 of The Vicomte de
Bragelonne.

Here is a list of the other Dumas Etexts we have published so far:

Sep 1999 La Tulipe Noire, by Alexandre
Dumas[Pere#6/French][tlpnrxxx.xxx]1910 This is an abridged edition in
French, also see our full length English Etext Jul 1997 The Black Tulip,
by Alexandre Dumas[Pere][Dumas#1][tbtlpxxx.xxx] 965 Jan 1998 The Count
of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas[Pere][crstoxxx.xxx]1184


Many thanks to Dr. David Coward, whose editions of the D’Artagnan
Romances have proved an invaluable source of information.

Introduction: In the months of March-July in 1844, in the magazine Le
Siecle, the first portion of a story appeared, penned by the celebrated
playwright Alexandre Dumas. It was based, he claimed, on some
manuscripts he had found a year earlier in the Bibliotheque Nationale
while researching a history he planned to write on Louis XIV. They
chronicled the adventures of a young man named D’Artagnan who, upon
entering Paris, became almost immediately embroiled in court intrigues,
international politics, and ill-fated affairs between royal lovers. Over
the next six years, readers would enjoy the adventures of this youth and
his three famous friends, Porthos, Athos, and Aramis, as their exploits
unraveled behind the scenes of some of the most momentous events in
French and even English history.

Eventually these serialized adventures were published in novel form,
and became the three D’Artagnan Romances known today. Here is a brief
summary of the first two novels:

The Three Musketeers (serialized March--July, 1844): The year is 1625.
The young D’Artagnan arrives in Paris at the tender age of 18, and
almost immediately offends three musketeers, Porthos, Aramis, and Athos.
Instead of dueling, the four are attacked by five of the Cardinal’s
guards, and the courage of the youth is made apparent during the battle.
The four become fast friends, and, when asked by D’Artagnan’s landlord
to find his missing wife, embark upon an adventure that takes them
across both France and England in order to thwart the plans of the
Cardinal Richelieu. Along the way, they encounter a beautiful young spy,
named simply Milady, who will stop at nothing to disgrace Queen Anne of
Austria before her husband, Louis XIII, and take her revenge upon the
four friends.

Twenty Years After (serialized January--August, 1845): The year is now
1648, twenty years since the close of the last story. Louis XIII has
died, as has Cardinal Richelieu, and while the crown of France may sit
upon the head of Anne of Austria as Regent for the young Louis XIV,
the real power resides with the Cardinal Mazarin, her secret husband.
D’Artagnan is now a lieutenant of musketeers, and his three friends have
retired to private life. Athos turned out to be a nobleman, the Comte de
la Fere, and has retired to his home with his son, Raoul de Bragelonne.
Aramis, whose real name is D’Herblay, has followed his intention of
shedding the musketeer’s cassock for the priest’s robes, and Porthos has
married a wealthy woman, who left him her fortune upon her death. But
trouble is stirring in both France and England. Cromwell menaces the
institution of royalty itself while marching against Charles I, and at
home the Fronde is threatening to tear France apart. D’Artagnan brings
his friends out of retirement to save the threatened English monarch,
but Mordaunt, the son of Milady, who seeks to avenge his mother’s death
at the musketeers’ hands, thwarts their valiant efforts. Undaunted, our
heroes return to France just in time to help save the young Louis XIV,
quiet the Fronde, and tweak the nose of Cardinal Mazarin.

The third novel, The Vicomte de Bragelonne (serialized October,
1847--January, 1850), has enjoyed a strange history in its English
translation. It has been split into three, four, or five volumes at
various points in its history. The five-volume edition generally does
not give titles to the smaller portions, but the others do. In the
three-volume edition, the novels are entitled The Vicomte de Bragelonne,
Louise de la Valliere, and The Man in the Iron Mask. For the purposes of
this etext, I have chosen to split the novel as the four-volume edition
does, with these titles: The Vicomte de Bragelonne, Ten Years Later,
Louise de la Valliere, and The Man in the Iron Mask. In the first two
etexts:

The Vicomte de Bragelonne (Etext 2609): It is the year 1660, and
D’Artagnan, after thirty-five years of loyal service, has become
disgusted with serving King Louis XIV while the real power resides with
the Cardinal Mazarin, and has tendered his resignation. He embarks on
his own project, that of restoring Charles II to the throne of England,
and, with the help of Athos, succeeds, earning himself quite a fortune
in the process. D’Artagnan returns to Paris to live the life of a rich
citizen, and Athos, after negotiating the marriage of Philip, the king’s
brother, to Princess Henrietta of England, likewise retires to his own
estate, La Fere. Meanwhile, Mazarin has finally died, and left Louis to
assume the reigns of power, with the assistance of M. Colbert, formerly
Mazarin’s trusted clerk. Colbert has an intense hatred for M. Fouquet,
the king’s superintendent of finances, and has resolved to use any
means necessary to bring about his fall. With the new rank of intendant
bestowed on him by Louis, Colbert succeeds in having two of Fouquet’s
loyal friends tried and executed. He then brings to the king’s attention
that Fouquet is fortifying the island of Belle-Ile-en-Mer, and could
possibly be planning to use it as a base for some military operation
against the king. Louis calls D’Artagnan out of retirement and sends
him to investigate the island, promising him a tremendous salary and his
long-promised promotion to captain of the musketeers upon his return. At
Belle-Isle, D’Artagnan discovers that the engineer of the fortifications
is, in fact, Porthos, now the Baron du Vallon, and that’s not all.
The blueprints for the island, although in Porthos’s handwriting,
show evidence of another script that has been erased, that of Aramis.
D’Artagnan later discovers that Aramis has become the bishop of Vannes,
which is, coincidentally, a parish belonging to M. Fouquet. Suspecting
that D’Artagnan has arrived on the king’s behalf to investigate, Aramis
tricks D’Artagnan into wandering around Vannes in search of Porthos,
and sends Porthos on an heroic ride back to Paris to warn Fouquet of
the danger. Fouquet rushes to the king, and gives him Belle-Isle as a
present, thus allaying any suspicion, and at the same time humiliating
Colbert, just minutes before the usher announces someone else seeking an
audience with the king.

Ten Years Later (Etext 2681): As 1661 approaches, Princess Henrietta of
England arrives for her marriage, and throws the court of France into
complete disorder. The jealousy of the Duke of Buckingham, who is
in love with her, nearly occasions a war on the streets of Le Havre,
thankfully prevented by Raoul’s timely and tactful intervention. After
the marriage, though, Monsieur Philip becomes horribly jealous of
Buckingham, and has him exiled. Before leaving, however, the duke
fights a duel with M. de Wardes at Calais. De Wardes is a malicious and
spiteful man, the sworn enemy of D’Artagnan, and, by the same token,
that of Athos, Aramis, Porthos, and Raoul as well. Both men are
seriously wounded, and the duke is taken back to England to recover.
Raoul’s friend, the Comte de Guiche, is the next to succumb to
Henrietta’s charms, and Monsieur obtains his exile as well, though De
Guiche soon effects a reconciliation. But then the king’s eye falls on
Madame Henrietta during the comte’s absence, and this time Monsieur’s
jealousy has no recourse. Anne of Austria intervenes, and the king and
his sister-in-law decide to pick a young lady with whom the king
can pretend to be in love, the better to mask their own affair. They
unfortunately select Louise de la Valliere, Raoul’s fiancee. While the
court is in residence at Fontainebleau, the king unwitting overhears
Louise confessing her love for him while chatting with her friends
beneath the royal oak, and the king promptly forgets his affection for
Madame. That same night, Henrietta overhears, at the same oak, De
Guiche confessing his love for her to Raoul. The two embark on their
own affair. A few days later, during a rainstorm, Louis and Louise
are trapped alone together, and the whole court begins to talk of the
scandal while their love affair blossoms. Aware of Louise’s attachment,
the king arranges for Raoul to be sent to England for an indefinite
period.

Meanwhile, the struggle for power continues between Fouquet and Colbert.
Although the Belle-Isle plot backfired, Colbert prompts the king to ask
Fouquet for more and more money, and without his two friends to raise it
for him, Fouquet is sorely pressed. The situation gets so bad that his
new mistress, Madame de Belliere, must resort to selling all her jewels
and her gold and silver plate. Aramis, while this is going on, has grown
friendly with the governor of the Bastile, M. de Baisemeaux, a fact that
Baisemeaux unwittingly reveals to D’Artagnan while inquiring of him
as to Aramis’s whereabouts. This further arouses the suspicions of the
musketeer, who was made to look ridiculous by Aramis. He had ridden
overnight at an insane pace, but arrived a few minutes after Fouquet
had already presented Belle-Isle to the king. Aramis learns from the
governor the location of a mysterious prisoner, who bears a remarkable
resemblance to Louis XIV--in fact, the two are identical. He uses
the existence of this secret to persuade a dying Franciscan monk, the
general of the society of the Jesuits, to name him, Aramis, the new
general of the order. On Aramis’s advice, hoping to use Louise’s
influence with the king to counteract Colbert’s influence, Fouquet also
writes a love letter to La Valliere, unfortunately undated. It never
reaches its destination, however, as the servant ordered to deliver it
turns out to be an agent of Colbert’s.

Porthos, in the meantime, has been recovering from his midnight ride
from Belle-Isle at Fouquet’s residence at Saint-Mande. Athos has
retired, once again to La Fere. D’Artagnan, little amused by the court’s
activities at Fontainebleau, and finding himself with nothing to do, has
returned to Paris, and we find him again in Planchet’s grocery shop.

And so, the story continues in this, the third etext of The Vicomte de
Bragelonne. Enjoy!

John Bursey



Chapter I. Malaga.

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.”

“But, my dear Monsieur d’Artagnan,” said the king, gravely, “people
dance without balancing-poles.”

“Ah! indeed,” said the musketeer, continuing his imperceptible tone of
irony, “I had no idea such a thing was possible.”

“You have not seen me dance, then?” inquired the king.

“Yes; but I always thought dancers went from easy to difficult acrobatic
feats. I was mistaken; all the more greater reason, therefore, that I
should leave for a time. Sire, I repeat, you have no present occasion
for my services; besides, if your majesty should have any need of me,
you would know where to find me.”

“Very well,” said the king, and he granted him leave of absence.

We shall not look for D’Artagnan, therefore, at Fontainebleau, for to do
so would be useless; but, with the permission of our readers, follow him
to the Rue des Lombards, where he was located at the sign of the Pilon
d’Or, in the house of our old friend Planchet. It was about eight
o’clock in the evening, and the weather was exceedingly warm; there
was only one window open, and that one belonging to a room on the
_entresol_. A perfume of spices, mingled with another perfume less
exotic, but more penetrating, namely, that which arose from the street,
ascended to salute the nostrils of the musketeer. D’Artagnan, reclining
in an immense straight-backed chair, with his legs not stretched out,
but simply placed upon a stool, formed an angle of the most obtuse form
that could possibly be seen. Both his arms were crossed over his head,
his head reclining upon his left shoulder, like Alexander the Great.
His eyes, usually so quick and intelligent in their expression, were
now half-closed, and seemed fastened, as it were, upon a small corner of
blue sky that was visible behind the opening of the chimneys; there was
just enough blue, and no more, to fill one of the sacks of lentils, or
haricots, which formed the principal furniture of the shop on the
ground floor. Thus extended at his ease, and sheltered in his place of
observation behind the window, D’Artagnan seemed as if he had ceased
to be a soldier, as if he were no longer an officer belonging to the
palace, but was, on the contrary, a quiet, easy-going citizen in a state
of stagnation between his dinner and supper, or between his supper and
his bed; one of those strong, ossified brains, which have no more room
for a single idea, so fiercely does animal matter keep watch at the
doors of intelligence, narrowly inspecting the contraband trade which
might result from the introduction into the brain of a symptom of
thought. We have already said night was closing in, the shops were being
lighted, while the windows of the upper apartments were being closed,
and the rhythmic steps of a patrol of soldiers forming the night watch
could be heard retreating. D’Artagnan continued, however, to think
of nothing, except the blue corner of the sky. A few paces from him,
completely in the shade, lying on his stomach, upon a sack of Indian
corn, was Planchet, with both his arms under his chin, and his eyes
fixed on D’Artagnan, who was either thinking, dreaming, or sleeping,
with his eyes open. Planchet had been watching him for a tolerably long
time, and, by way of interruption, he began by exclaiming, “Hum! hum!”
 But D’Artagnan did not stir. Planchet then saw that it was necessary
to have recourse to more effectual means still: after a prolonged
reflection on the subject, the most ingenious means that suggested
itself to him under the present circumstances, was to let himself roll
off the sack on to the floor, murmuring, at the same time, against
himself, the word “stupid.” But, notwithstanding the noise produced
by Planchet’s fall, D’Artagnan, who had in the course of his existence
heard many other, and very different falls, did not appear to pay the
least attention to the present one. Besides, an enormous cart, laden
with stones, passing from the Rue Saint-Mederic, absorbed, in the noise
of its wheels, the noise of Planchet’s tumble. And yet Planchet fancied
that, in token of tacit approval, he saw him imperceptibly smile at the
word “stupid.” This emboldened him to say, “Are you asleep, Monsieur
d’Artagnan?”

“No, Planchet, I am not _even_ asleep,” replied the musketeer.

“I am in despair,” said Planchet, “to hear such a word as _even_.”

“Well, and why not; is it not a grammatical word, Monsieur Planchet?”

“Of course, Monsieur d’Artagnan.”

“Well!”

“Well, then, the word distresses me beyond measure.”

“Tell me why you are distressed, Planchet,” said D’Artagnan.

“If you say that you are not _even_ asleep, it is as much as to say that
you have not even the consolation of being able to sleep; or, better
still, it is precisely the same as telling me that you are getting bored
to death.”

“Planchet, you know that I am never bored.”

“Except to-day, and the day before yesterday.”

“Bah!”

“Monsieur d’Artagnan, it is a week since you returned here from
Fontainebleau; in other words, you have no longer your orders to issue,
or your men to review and maneuver. You need the sound of guns, drums,
and all that din and confusion; I, who have myself carried a musket, can
easily believe that.”

“Planchet,” replied D’Artagnan, “I assure you I am not bored in the
least in the world.”

“In that case, what are you doing, lying there, as if you were dead?”

“My dear Planchet, there was, once upon a time, at the siege of La
Rochelle, when I was there, when you were there, when we both were
there, a certain Arab, who was celebrated for the manner in which he
adjusted culverins. He was a clever fellow, although of a very odd
complexion, which was the same color as your olives. Well, this Arab,
whenever he had done eating or working, used to sit down to rest
himself, as I am resting myself now, and smoked I cannot tell you
what sort of magical leaves, in a large amber-mouthed tube; and if any
officers, happening to pass, reproached him for being always asleep, he
used quietly to reply: ‘Better to sit down than to stand up, to lie
down than to sit down, to be dead than to lie down.’ He was an acutely
melancholy Arab, and I remember him perfectly well, form the color of
his skin, and the style of his conversation. He used to cut off the
heads of Protestants with the most singular gusto!”

“Precisely; and then used to embalm them, when they were worth the
trouble; and when he was thus engaged with his herbs and plants about
him, he looked like a basket-maker making baskets.”

“You are quite right, Planchet, he did.”

“Oh! I can remember things very well, at times!”

“I have no doubt of it; but what do you think of his mode of reasoning?”

“I think it good in one sense, but very stupid in another.”

“Expound your meaning, M. Planchet.”

“Well, monsieur, in point of fact, then, ‘better to sit down than to
stand up,’ is plain enough, especially when one may be fatigued,” and
Planchet smiled in a roguish way; “as for ‘better to be lying down,’
let that pass, but as for the last proposition, that it is ‘better to
be dead than alive,’ it is, in my opinion, very absurd, my own undoubted
preference being for my bed; and if you are not of my opinion, it is
simply, as I have already had the honor of telling you, because you are
boring yourself to death.”

“Planchet, do you know M. La Fontaine?”

“The chemist at the corner of the Rue Saint-Mederic?”

“No, the writer of fables.”

“Oh! _Maitre Corbeau!_”

“Exactly; well, then, I am like his hare.”

“He has got a hare also, then?”

“He has all sorts of animals.”

“Well, what does his hare do, then?”

“M. La Fontaine’s hare thinks.”

“Ah, ah!”

“Planchet, I am like that hare--I am thinking.”

“You are thinking, you say?” said Planchet, uneasily.

“Yes; your house is dull enough to drive people to think; you will admit
that, I hope.”

“And yet, monsieur, you have a look-out upon the street.”

“Yes; and wonderfully interesting that is, of course.”

“But it is no less true, monsieur, that, if you were living at the back
of the house, you would bore yourself--I mean, you would think--more
than ever.”

“Upon my word, Planchet, I hardly know that.”

“Still,” said the grocer, “if your reflections are at all like those
which led you to restore King Charles II.--” and Planchet finished by a
little laugh which was not without its meaning.

“Ah! Planchet, my friend,” returned D’Artagnan, “you are getting
ambitious.”

“Is there no other king to be restored, M. d’Artagnan--no second Monk to
be packed up, like a salted hog, in a deal box?”

“No, my dear Planchet; all the kings are seated on their respective
thrones; less comfortably so, perhaps, than I am upon this chair; but,
at all events, there they are.” And D’Artagnan sighed deeply.

“Monsieur d’Artagnan,” said Planchet, “you are making me very uneasy.”

“You are very good, Planchet.”

“I begin to suspect something.”

“What is it?”

“Monsieur d’Artagnan, you are getting thin.”

“Oh!” said D’Artagnan, striking his chest which sounded like an empty
cuirass, “it is impossible, Planchet.”

“Ah!” said Planchet, slightly overcome; “if you were to get thin in my
house--”

“Well?”

“I should do something rash.”

“What would you do? Tell me.”

“I should look out for the man who was the cause of all your anxieties.”

“Ah! according to your account, I am anxious now.”

“Yes, you are anxious; and you are getting thin, visibly getting thin.
_Malaga!_ if you go on getting thin, in this way, I will take my sword
in my hand, and go straight to M. d’Herblay, and have it out with him.”

“What!” said M. d’Artagnan, starting in his chair; “what’s that you say?
And what has M. d’Herblay’s name to do with your groceries?”

“Just as you please. Get angry if you like, or call me names, if you
prefer it; but, the deuce is in it. _I know what I know_.”

D’Artagnan had, during this second outburst of Planchet’s, so placed
himself as not to lose a single look of his face; that is, he sat with
both his hands resting on both his knees, and his head stretched out
towards the grocer. “Come, explain yourself,” he said, “and tell me
how you could possibly utter such a blasphemy. M. d’Herblay, your old
master, my friend, an ecclesiastic, a musketeer turned bishop--do you
mean to say you would raise your sword against him, Planchet?”

“I could raise my sword against my own father, when I see you in such a
state as you are now.”

“M. d’Herblay, a gentleman!”

“It’s all the same to me whether he’s a gentleman or not. He gives you
the blue devils, that is all I know. And the blue devils make people
get thin. _Malaga!_ I have no notion of M. d’Artagnan leaving my house
thinner than when he entered it.”

“How does he give me the blue devils, as you call it? Come, explain,
explain.”

“You have had the nightmare during the last three nights.”

“I?”

“Yes, you; and in your nightmare you called out, several times, ‘Aramis,
deceitful Aramis!’”

“Ah! I said that, did I?” murmured D’Artagnan, uneasily.

“Yes, those very words, upon my honor.”

“Well, what else? You know the saying, Planchet, ‘dreams go by
contraries.’”

“Not so; for every time, during the last three days, when you went out,
you have not once failed to ask me, on your return, ‘Have you seen
M. d’Herblay?’ or else ‘Have you received any letters for me from M.
d’Herblay?’”

“Well, it is very natural I should take an interest in my old friend,”
 said D’Artagnan.

“Of course; but not to such an extent as to get thin on that account.”

“Planchet, I’ll get fatter; I give you my word of honor I will.”

“Very well, monsieur, I accept it; for I know that when you give your
word of honor, it is sacred.”

“I will not dream of Aramis any more; and I will never ask you again
if there are any letters from M. d’Herblay; but on condition that you
explain one thing to me.”

“Tell me what it is, monsieur?”

“I am a great observer; and just now you made use of a very singular
oath, which is unusual for you.”

“You mean _Malaga!_ I suppose?”

“Precisely.”

“It is the oath I have used ever since I have been a grocer.”

“Very proper, too; it is the name of a dried grape, or raisin, I
believe?”

“It is my most ferocious oath; when I have once said _Malaga!_ I am a
man no longer.”

“Still, I never knew you use that oath before.”

“Very likely not, monsieur. I had a present made me of it,” said
Planchet; and, as he pronounced these words, he winked his eye with a
cunning expression, which thoroughly awakened D’Artagnan’s attention.

“Come, come, M. Planchet.”

“Why, I am not like you, monsieur,” said Planchet. “I don’t pass my life
in thinking.”

“You do wrong, then.”

“I mean in boring myself to death. We have but a very short time to
live--why not make the best of it?”

“You are an Epicurean philosopher, I begin to think, Planchet.”

“Why not? My hand is still as steady as ever; I can write, and can weigh
out my sugar and spices; my foot is firm; I can dance and walk about; my
stomach has its teeth still, for I eat and digest very well; my heart is
not quite hardened. Well, monsieur?”

“Well, what, Planchet?”

“Why, you see--” said the grocer, rubbing his hands together.

D’Artagnan crossed one leg over the other, and said, “Planchet, my
friend, I am unnerved with extreme surprise; for you are revealing
yourself to me under a perfectly new light.”

Planchet, flattered in the highest degree by this remark, continued to
rub his hands very hard together. “Ah, ah,” he said, “because I happen
to be only slow, you think me, perhaps, a positive fool.”

“Very good, Planchet; very well reasoned.”

“Follow my idea, monsieur, if you please. I said to myself,” continued
Planchet, “that, without enjoyment, there is no happiness on this
earth.”

“Quite true, what you say, Planchet,” interrupted D’Artagnan.

“At all events, if we cannot obtain pleasure--for pleasure is not so
common a thing, after all--let us, at least, get consolations of some
kind or another.”

“And so you console yourself?”

“Exactly so.”

“Tell me how you console yourself.”

“I put on a buckler for the purpose of confronting _ennui_. I place my
time at the direction of patience; and on the very eve of feeling I am
going to get bored, I amuse myself.”

“And you don’t find any difficulty in that?”

“None.”

“And you found it out quite by yourself?”

“Quite so.”

“It is miraculous.”

“What do you say?”

“I say, that your philosophy is not to be matched in the Christian or
pagan world, in modern days or in antiquity!”

“You think so?--follow my example, then.”

“It is a very tempting one.”

“Do as I do.”

“I could not wish for anything better; but all minds are not of the same
stamp; and it might possibly happen that if I were required to amuse
myself in the manner you do, I should bore myself horribly.”

“Bah! at least try first.”

“Well, tell me what you do.”

“Have you observed that I leave home occasionally?”

“Yes.”

“In any particular way?”

“Periodically.”

“That’s the very thing. You have noticed it, then?”

“My dear Planchet, you must understand that when people see each other
every day, and one of the two absents himself, the other misses him. Do
you not feel the want of my society when I am in the country?”

“Prodigiously; that is to say, I feel like a body without a soul.”

“That being understood then, proceed.”

“What are the periods when I absent myself?”

“On the fifteenth and thirtieth of every month.”

“And I remain away?”

“Sometimes two, sometimes three, and sometimes four days at a time.”

“Have you ever given it a thought, why I was absent?”

“To look after your debts, I suppose.”

“And when I returned, how did you think I looked, as far as my face was
concerned?”

“Exceedingly self-satisfied.”

“You admit, you say, that I always look satisfied. And what have you
attributed my satisfaction to?”

“That your business was going on very well; that your purchases of rice,
prunes, raw sugar, dried apples, pears, and treacle were advantageous.
You were always very picturesque in your notions and ideas, Planchet;
and I was not in the slightest degree surprised to find you had selected
grocery as an occupation, which is of all trades the most varied, and
the very pleasantest, as far as the character is concerned; inasmuch as
one handles so many natural and perfumed productions.”

“Perfectly true, monsieur; but you are very greatly mistaken.”

“In what way?”

“In thinking that I leave here every fortnight, to collect my money or
to make purchases. Ho, ho! how could you possibly have thought such
a thing? Ho, ho, ho!” And Planchet began to laugh in a manner that
inspired D’Artagnan with very serious misgivings as to his sanity.

“I confess,” said the musketeer, “that I do not precisely catch your
meaning.”

“Very true, monsieur.”

“What do you mean by ‘very true’?”

“It must be true, since you say it; but pray, be assured that it in no
way lessens my opinion of you.”

“Ah, that is lucky.”

“No; you are a man of genius; and whenever the question happens to be
of war, tactics, surprises, or good honest blows to be dealt with, why,
kings are marionettes, compared to you. But for the consolations of the
mind, the proper care of the body, the agreeable things of like, if one
may say so--ah! monsieur, don’t talk to me about men of genius; they are
nothing short of executioners.”

“Good,” said D’Artagnan, really fidgety with curiosity, “upon my word
you interest me in the highest degree.”

“You feel already less bored than you did just now, do you not?”

“I was not bored; yet since you have been talking to me, I feel more
animated.”

“Very good, then; that is not a bad beginning. I will cure you, rely
upon that.”

“There is nothing I should like better.”

“Will you let me try, then?”

“Immediately, if you like.”

“Very well. Have you any horses here?”

“Yes; ten, twenty, thirty.”

“Oh, there is no occasion for so many as that, two will be quite
sufficient.”

“They are quite at your disposal, Planchet.”

“Very good; then I shall carry you off with me.”

“When?”

“To-morrow.”

“Where?”

“Ah, you are asking too much.”

“You will admit, however, that it is important I should know where I am
going.”

“Do you like the country?”

“Only moderately, Planchet.”

“In that case you like town better?”

“That is as may be.”

“Very well; I am going to take you to a place, half town and half
country.”

“Good.”

“To a place where I am sure you will amuse yourself.”

“Is it possible?”

“Yes; and more wonderful still, to a place from which you have just
returned for the purpose only, it would seem, of getting bored here.”

“It is to Fontainebleau you are going, then?”

“Exactly; to Fontainebleau.”

“And, in Heaven’s name, what are you going to do at Fontainebleau?”

Planchet answered D’Artagnan by a wink full of sly humor.

“You have some property there, you rascal.”

“Oh, a very paltry affair; a little bit of a house--nothing more.”

“I understand you.”

“But it is tolerable enough, after all.”

“I am going to Planchet’s country-seat!” exclaimed D’Artagnan.

“Whenever you like.”

“Did we not fix to-morrow?”

“Let us say to-morrow, if you like; and then, besides, to-morrow is the
14th, that is to say, the day before the one when I am afraid of getting
bored; so we will look upon it as an understood thing.”

“Agreed, by all means.”

“You will lend me one of your horses?”

“The best I have.”

“No; I prefer the gentlest of all; I never was a very good rider, as
you know, and in my grocery business I have got more awkward than ever;
besides--”

“Besides what?”

“Why,” added Planchet, “I do not wish to fatigue myself.”

“Why so?” D’Artagnan ventured to ask.

“Because I should lose half the pleasure I expect to enjoy,” replied
Planchet. And thereupon he rose from his sack of Indian corn, stretching
himself, and making all his bones crack, one after the other, with a
sort of harmony.

“Planchet! Planchet!” exclaimed D’Artagnan, “I do declare that there is
no sybarite upon the face of the globe who can for a moment be compared
to you. Oh, Planchet, it is very clear that we have never yet eaten a
ton of salt together.”

“Why so, monsieur?”

“Because, even now I can scarcely say I know you,” said D’Artagnan, “and
because, in point of fact, I return to the opinion which, for a moment,
I had formed of you that day at Boulogne, when you strangled, or did so
as nearly as possible, M. de Wardes’s valet, Lubin; in plain language,
Planchet, that you are a man of great resources.”

Planchet began to laugh with a laugh full of self-conceit; bade the
musketeer good-night, and went down to his back shop, which he used as
a bedroom. D’Artagnan resumed his original position upon his chair, and
his brow, which had been unruffled for a moment, became more pensive
than ever. He had already forgotten the whims and dreams of Planchet.
“Yes,” said he, taking up again the thread of his thoughts, which
had been broken by the whimsical conversation in which we have just
permitted our readers to participate. “Yes, yes, those three points
include everything: First, to ascertain what Baisemeaux wanted with
Aramis; secondly, to learn why Aramis does not let me hear from him; and
thirdly, to ascertain where Porthos is. The whole mystery lies in these
three points. Since, therefore,” continued D’Artagnan, “our friends tell
us nothing, we must have recourse to our own poor intelligence. I must
do what I can, _mordioux_, or rather _Malaga_, as Planchet would say.”



Chapter II. A Letter from M. Baisemeaux.

D’Artagnan, faithful to his plan, went the very next morning to pay
a visit to M. de Baisemeaux. It was cleaning up or tidying day at the
Bastile; the cannons were furbished up, the staircases scraped and
cleaned; and the jailers seemed to be carefully engaged in polishing
the very keys. As for the soldiers belonging to the garrison, they were
walking about in different courtyards, under the pretense that they were
clean enough. The governor, Baisemeaux, received D’Artagnan with more
than ordinary politeness, but he behaved towards him with so marked a
reserve of manner, that all D’Artagnan’s tact and cleverness could not
get a syllable out of him. The more he kept himself within bounds,
the more D’Artagnan’s suspicion increased. The latter even fancied he
remarked that the governor was acting under the influence of a recent
recommendation. Baisemeaux had not been at the Palais Royal with
D’Artagnan the same cold and impenetrable man which the latter now found
in the Baisemeaux of the Bastile. When D’Artagnan wished to make him
talk about the urgent money matters which had brought Baisemeaux in
search of D’Artagnan, and had rendered him expansive, notwithstanding
what had passed on that evening, Baisemeaux pretended that he had some
orders to give in the prison, and left D’Artagnan so long alone waiting
for him, that our musketeer, feeling sure that he should not get another
syllable out of him, left the Bastile without waiting until Baisemeaux
returned from his inspection. But D’Artagnan’s suspicions were aroused,
and when once that was the case, D’Artagnan could not sleep or remain
quiet for a moment. He was among men what the cat is among quadrupeds,
the emblem of anxiety and impatience, at the same moment. A restless cat
can no more remain the same place than a silk thread wafted idly to and
fro with every breath of air. A cat on the watch is as motionless as
death stationed at its place of observation, and neither hunger nor
thirst can draw it from its meditations. D’Artagnan, who was burning
with impatience, suddenly threw aside the feeling, like a cloak which
he felt too heavy on his shoulders, and said to himself that that which
they were concealing from him was the very thing it was important he
should know; and, consequently, he reasoned that Baisemeaux would not
fail to put Aramis on his guard, if Aramis had given him any particular
recommendation, and this was, in fact, the very thing that happened.

Baisemeaux had hardly had time to return from the donjon, than
D’Artagnan placed himself in ambuscade close to the Rue de Petit-Musc,
so as to see every one who might leave the gates of the Bastile. After
he had spent an hour on the look-out from the “Golden Portcullis,” under
the pent-house of which he could keep himself a little in the shade,
D’Artagnan observed a soldier leave the Bastile. This was, indeed, the
surest indication he could possibly have wished for, as every jailer
or warder has certain days, and even certain hours, for leaving the
Bastile, since all are alike prohibited from having either wives or
lodgings in the castle, and can accordingly leave without exciting any
curiosity; but a soldier once in barracks is kept there for four and
twenty hours when on duty,--and no one knew this better than D’Artagnan.
The guardsman in question, therefore, was not likely to leave his
regimentals, except on an express and urgent order. The soldier, we
were saying, left the Bastile at a slow and lounging pace, like a happy
mortal, in fact, who, instead of mounting sentry before a wearisome
guard-house, or upon a bastion no less wearisome, has the good luck
to get a little liberty, in addition to a walk--both pleasures being
luckily reckoned as part of his time on duty. He bent his steps towards
the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, enjoying the fresh air and the warmth of the
sun, and looking at all the pretty faces he passed. D’Artagnan followed
him at a distance; he had not yet arranged his ideas as what was to be
done. “I must, first of all,” he thought, “see the fellow’s face. A man
seen is a man judged.” D’Artagnan increased his pace, and, which was not
very difficult, by the by, soon got in advance of the soldier. Not only
did he observe that his face showed a tolerable amount of intelligence
and resolution, but he noticed also that his nose was a little red. “He
has a weakness for brandy, I see,” said D’Artagnan to himself. At the
same moment that he remarked his red nose, he saw that the soldier had a
white paper in his belt.

“Good, he has a letter,” added D’Artagnan. The only difficulty was to
get hold of the letter. But a common soldier would, of course, be only
too delighted at having been selected by M. de Baisemeaux as a special
messenger, and would not be likely to sell his message. As D’Artagnan
was biting his nails, the soldier continued to advance more and more
into the Faubourg Saint-Antoine. “He is certainly going to Saint-Mande,”
 he said to himself, “and I shall not be able to learn what the letter
contains.” It was enough to drive him wild. “If I were in uniform,” said
D’Artagnan to himself, “I would have this fellow seized, and his letter
with him. I could easily get assistance at the very first guard-house;
but the devil take me if I mention my name in an affair of this kind.
If I were to treat him to something to drink, his suspicions would be
roused; and besides, he might drink me drunk. _Mordioux!_ my wits
seem to have left me,” said D’Artagnan; “it is all over with me. Yet,
supposing I were to attack this poor devil, make him draw his sword
and kill him for the sake of his letter? No harm in that, if it were
a question of a letter from a queen to a nobleman, or a letter from a
cardinal to a queen; but what miserable intrigues are those of Messieurs
Aramis and Fouquet with M. Colbert. A man’s life for that? No, no,
indeed; not even ten crowns.” As he philosophized in this manner, biting
first his nails, and then his mustaches, he perceived a group of archers
and a commissary of the police engaged in carrying away a man of very
gentlemanly exterior, who was struggling with all his might against
them. The archers had torn his clothes, and were dragging him roughly
away. He begged they would lead him along more respectfully, asserting
that he was a gentleman and a soldier. And observing our soldier walking
in the street, he called out, “Help, comrade.”

The soldier walked on with the same step towards the man who had
called out to him, followed by the crowd. An idea suddenly occurred to
D’Artagnan; it was his first one, and we shall find it was not a bad one
either. During the time the gentleman was relating to the soldier that
he had just been seized in a house as a thief, when the truth was he
was only there as a lover; and while the soldier was pitying him, and
offering him consolation and advice with that gravity which a French
soldier has always ready whenever his vanity or his _esprit de corps_ is
concerned, D’Artagnan glided behind the soldier, who was closely hemmed
in by the crowd, and with a rapid sweep, like a sabre slash, snatched
the letter from his belt. As at this moment the gentleman with the torn
clothes was pulling about the soldier, to show how the commissary of
police had pulled him about, D’Artagnan effected his pillage of the
letter without the slightest interference. He stationed himself about
ten paces distant, behind the pillar of an adjoining house, and read
on the address, “To Monsieur du Vallon, at Monsieur Fouquet’s,
Saint-Mande.”

“Good!” he said, and then he unsealed, without tearing the letter,
drew out the paper, which was folded in four, from the inside; which
contained only these words:

“DEAR MONSIEUR DU VALLON,--Will you be good enough to tell Monsieur
d’Herblay that _he_ has been to the Bastile, and has been making
inquiries.

“Your devoted

“DE BAISEMEAUX.”


“Very good! all right!” exclaimed D’Artagnan; “it is clear enough now.
Porthos is engaged in it.” Being now satisfied of what he wished to
know: “_Mordioux!_” thought the musketeer, “what is to be done with that
poor devil of a soldier? That hot-headed, cunning fellow, De Baisemeaux,
will make him pay dearly for my trick,--if he returns without the
letter, what will they do to him? Besides, I don’t want the letter;
when the egg has been sucked, what is the good of the shell?” D’Artagnan
perceived that the commissary and the archers had succeeded in
convincing the soldier, and went on their way with the prisoner,
the latter being still surrounded by the crowd, and continuing his
complaints. D’Artagnan advanced into the very middle of the crowd, let
the letter fall, without any one having observed him, and then retreated
rapidly. The soldier resumed his route towards Saint-Mande, his mind
occupied with the gentleman who had implored his protection. Suddenly
he thought of his letter, and, looking at his belt, saw that it was no
longer there. D’Artagnan derived no little satisfaction from his sudden,
terrified cry. The poor soldier in the greatest anguish of mind looked
round him on every side, and at last, about twenty paces behind him,
he perceived the lucky envelope. He pounced on it like a falcon on its
prey. The envelope was certainly a little dirty, and rather crumpled,
but at all events the letter itself was found. D’Artagnan observed that
the broken seal attracted the soldier’s attention a good deal, but he
finished apparently by consoling himself, and returned the letter to his
belt. “Go on,” said D’Artagnan, “I have plenty of time before me, so you
may precede me. It appears that Aramis is not in Paris, since Baisemeaux
writes to Porthos. Dear Porthos, how delighted I shall be to see him
again, and to have some conversation with him!” said the Gascon. And,
regulating his pace according to that of the soldier, he promised
himself to arrive a quarter of an hour after him at M. Fouquet’s.



Chapter III. In Which the Reader will be Delighted to Find that Porthos
Has Lost Nothing of His Muscularity.

D’Artagnan had, according to his usual style, calculated that every hour
is worth sixty minutes, and every minute worth sixty seconds. Thanks to
this perfectly exact calculation of minutes and seconds, he reached the
superintendent’s door at the very moment the soldier was leaving it with
his belt empty. D’Artagnan presented himself at the door, which a porter
with a profusely embroidered livery held half opened for him. D’Artagnan
would very much have liked to enter without giving his name, but this
was impossible, and so he gave it. Notwithstanding this concession,
which ought to have removed every difficulty in the way, at least
D’Artagnan thought so, the _concierge_ hesitated; however, at the second
repetition of the title, captain of the king’s guards, the _concierge_,
without quite leaving the passage clear for him, ceased to bar it
completely. D’Artagnan understood that orders of the most positive
character had been given. He decided, therefore, to tell a falsehood,--a
circumstance, moreover, which did not seriously affect his peace of
mind, when he saw that beyond the falsehood the safety of the state
itself, or even purely and simply his own individual personal interest,
might be at stake. He moreover added to the declarations he had already
made, that the soldier sent to M. du Vallon was his own messenger,
and that the only object that letter had in view was to announce his
intended arrival. From that moment, no one opposed D’Artagnan’s entrance
any further, and he entered accordingly. A valet wished to accompany
him, but he answered that it was useless to take that trouble on his
account, inasmuch as he knew perfectly well where M. du Vallon was.
There was nothing, of course, to say to a man so thoroughly and
completely informed on all points, and D’Artagnan was permitted,
therefore, to do as he liked. The terraces, the magnificent apartments,
the gardens, were all reviewed and narrowly inspected by the musketeer.
He walked for a quarter of an hour in this more than royal residence,
which included as many wonders as articles of furniture, and as many
servants as there were columns and doors. “Decidedly,” he said to
himself, “this mansion has no other limits than the pillars of the
habitable world. Is it probable Porthos has taken it into his head to go
back to Pierrefonds without even leaving M. Fouquet’s house?” He finally
reached a remote part of the chateau inclosed by a stone wall, which was
covered with a profusion of thick plants, luxuriant in blossoms as large
and solid as fruit. At equal distances on the top of this wall were
placed various statues in timid or mysterious attitudes. These were
vestals hidden beneath the long Greek peplum, with its thick, sinuous
folds; agile nymphs, covered with their marble veils, and guarding the
palace with their fugitive glances. A statue of Hermes, with his
finger on his lips; one of Iris, with extended wings; another of Night,
sprinkled all over with poppies, dominated the gardens and outbuildings,
which could be seen through the trees. All these statues threw in white
relief their profiles upon the dark ground of the tall cypresses, which
darted their somber summits towards the sky. Around these cypresses were
entwined climbing roses, whose flowering rings were fastened to every
fork of the branches, and spread over the lower boughs and the various
statues, showers of flowers of the rarest fragrance. These enchantments
seemed to the musketeer the result of the greatest efforts of the human
mind. He felt in a dreamy, almost poetical, frame of mind. The idea
that Porthos was living in so perfect an Eden gave him a higher idea of
Porthos, showing how tremendously true it is, that even the very highest
orders of minds are not quite exempt from the influence of surroundings.
D’Artagnan found the door, and on, or rather in the door, a kind
of spring which he detected; having touched it, the door flew open.
D’Artagnan entered, closed the door behind him, and advanced into a
pavilion built in a circular form, in which no other sound could be
heard but cascades and the songs of birds. At the door of the pavilion
he met a lackey.

“It is here, I believe,” said D’Artagnan, without hesitation, “that M.
le Baron du Vallon is staying?”

“Yes, monsieur,” answered the lackey.

“Have the goodness to tell him that M. le Chevalier d’Artagnan, captain
of the king’s musketeers, is waiting to see him.”

D’Artagnan was introduced into the _salon_, and had not long to remain
in expectation: a well-remembered step shook the floor of the adjoining
room, a door opened, or rather flew open, and Porthos appeared and threw
himself into his friend’s arms with a sort of embarrassment which did
not ill become him. “You here?” he exclaimed.

“And you?” replied D’Artagnan. “Ah, you sly fellow!”

“Yes,” said Porthos, with a somewhat embarrassed smile; “yes, you see
I am staying in M. Fouquet’s house, at which you are not a little
surprised, I suppose?”

“Not at all; why should you not be one of M. Fouquet’s friends? M.
Fouquet has a very large number, particularly among clever men.”

Porthos had the modesty not to take the compliment to himself.
“Besides,” he added, “you saw me at Belle-Isle.”

“A greater reason for my believing you to be one of M. Fouquet’s
friends.”

“The fact is, I am acquainted with him,” said Porthos, with a certain
embarrassment of manner.

“Ah, friend Porthos,” said D’Artagnan, “how treacherously you have
behaved towards me.”

“In what way?” exclaimed Porthos.

“What! you complete so admirable a work as the fortifications of
Belle-Isle, and you did not tell me of it!” Porthos colored. “Nay, more
than that,” continued D’Artagnan, “you saw me out yonder, you know I
am in the king’s service, and yet you could not guess that the king,
jealously desirous of learning the name of the man whose abilities had
wrought a work of which he heard the most wonderful accounts,--you could
not guess, I say, that the king sent me to learn who this man was?”

“What! the king sent you to learn--”

“Of course; but don’t let us speak of that any more.”

“Not speak of it!” said Porthos; “on the contrary, we will speak of it;
and so the king knew that we were fortifying Belle-Isle?”

“Of course; does not the king know everything?”

“But he did not know who was fortifying it?”

“No, he only suspected, from what he had been told of the nature of the
works, that it was some celebrated soldier or another.”

“The devil!” said Porthos, “if I had only known that!”

“You would not have run away from Vannes as you did, perhaps?”

“No; what did you say when you couldn’t find me?”

“My dear fellow, I reflected.”

“Ah, indeed; you reflect, do you? Well, and what did that reflection
lead to?”

“It led me to guess the whole truth.”

“Come, then, tell me what did you guess after all?” said Porthos,
settling himself into an armchair, and assuming the airs of a sphinx.

“I guessed, in the first place, that you were fortifying Belle-Isle.”

“There was no great difficulty in that, for you saw me at work.”

“Wait a minute; I also guessed something else,--that you were fortifying
Belle-Isle by M. Fouquet’s orders.”

“That’s true.”

“But even that is not all. Whenever I feel myself in trim for guessing,
I do not stop on my road; and so I guessed that M. Fouquet wished to
preserve the most absolute secrecy respecting these fortifications.”

“I believe that was his intention, in fact,” said Porthos.

“Yes, but do you know why he wished to keep it secret?”

“In order it should not become known, perhaps,” said Porthos.

“That was his principal reason. But his wish was subservient to a bit of
generosity--”

“In fact,” said Porthos, “I have heard it said that M. Fouquet was a very
generous man.”

“To a bit of generosity he wished to exhibit towards the king.”

“Oh, oh!”

“You seem surprised at that?”

“Yes.”

“And you didn’t guess?”

“No.”

“Well, I know it, then.”

“You are a wizard.”

“Not at all, I assure you.”

“How do you know it, then?”

“By a very simple means. I heard M. Fouquet himself say so to the king.”

“Say what to the king?”

“That he fortified Belle-Isle on his majesty’s account, and that he had
made him a present of Belle Isle.”

“And you heard M. Fouquet say that to the king?”

“In those very words. He even added: ‘Belle-Isle has been fortified by
an engineer, one of my friends, a man of a great deal of merit, whom I
shall ask your majesty’s permission to present to you.’

“‘What is his name?’ said the king.

“‘The Baron du Vallon,’ M. Fouquet replied.

“‘Very well,’ returned his majesty, ‘you will present him to me.’”

“The king said that?”

“Upon the word of a D’Artagnan!”

“Oh, oh!” said Porthos. “Why have I not been presented, then?”

“Have they not spoken to you about this presentation?”

“Yes, certainly; but I am always kept waiting for it.”

“Be easy, it will be sure to come.”

“Humph! humph!” grumbled Porthos, which D’Artagnan pretended not to
hear; and, changing the conversation, he said, “You seem to be living in
a very solitary place here, my dear fellow?”

“I always preferred retirement. I am of a melancholy disposition,”
 replied Porthos, with a sigh.

“Really, that is odd,” said D’Artagnan, “I never remarked that before.”

“It is only since I have taken to reading,” said Porthos, with a
thoughtful air.

“But the labors of the mind have not affected the health of the body, I
trust?”

“Not in the slightest degree.”

“Your strength is as great as ever?”

“Too great, my friend, too great.”

“Ah! I had heard that, for a short time after your arrival--”

“That I could hardly move a limb, I suppose?”

“How was it?” said D’Artagnan, smiling, “and why was it you could not
move?”

Porthos, perceiving that he had made a mistake, wished to correct it.
“Yes, I came from Belle-Isle upon very hard horses,” he said, “and that
fatigued me.”

“I am no longer astonished, then, since I, who followed you, found seven
or eight lying dead on the road.”

“I am very heavy, you know,” said Porthos.

“So that you were bruised all over.”

“My marrow melted, and that made me very ill.”

“Poor Porthos! But how did Aramis act towards you under those
circumstances?”

“Very well, indeed. He had me attended to by M. Fouquet’s own doctor.
But just imagine, at the end of a week I could not breathe any longer.”

“What do you mean?”

“The room was too small; I had absorbed every atom of air.”

“Indeed?”

“I was told so, at least; and so I was removed into another apartment.”

“Where you were able to breathe, I hope and trust?”

“Yes, more freely; but no exercise--nothing to do. The doctor pretended
that I was not to stir; I, on the contrary, felt that I was stronger
than ever; that was the cause of a very serious accident.”

“What accident?”

“Fancy, my dear fellow, that I revolted against the directions of that
ass of a doctor, and I resolved to go out, whether it suited him or
not: and, consequently, I told the valet who waited on me to bring me my
clothes.”

“You were quite naked, then?”

“Oh, no! on the contrary, I had a magnificent dressing-gown to wear. The
lackey obeyed; I dressed myself in my own clothes, which had become
too large for me; but a strange circumstance had happened,--my feet had
become too large.”

“Yes, I quite understand.”

“And my boots too small.”

“You mean your feet were still swollen?”

“Exactly; you have hit it.”

“_Pardieu!_ And is that the accident you were going to tell me about?”

“Oh, yes; I did not make the same reflection you have done. I said to
myself: ‘Since my feet have entered my boots ten times, there is no
reason why they should not go in the eleventh.’”

“Allow me to tell you, my dear Porthos, that on this occasion you failed
in your logic.”

“In short, then, they placed me opposite to a part of the room which
was partitioned; I tried to get my boot on; I pulled it with my hands,
I pushed with all the strength of the muscles of my leg, making the most
unheard-of efforts, when suddenly the two tags of my boot remained in my
hands, and my foot struck out like a ballista.”

“How learned you are in fortification, dear Porthos.”

“My foot darted out like a ballista, and came against the partition,
which it broke in; I really thought that, like Samson, I had demolished
the temple. And the number of pictures, the quantity of china, vases
of flowers, carpets, and window-panes that fell down were really
wonderful.”

“Indeed!”

“Without reckoning that on the other side of the partition was a small
table laden with porcelain--”

“Which you knocked over?”

“Which I dashed to the other side of the room,” said Porthos, laughing.

“Upon my word, it is, as you say, astonishing,” replied D’Artagnan,
beginning to laugh also; whereupon Porthos laughed louder than ever.

“I broke,” said Porthos, in a voice half-choked from his increasing
mirth, “more than three thousand francs worth of china--ha, ha, ha!”

“Good!” said D’Artagnan.

“I smashed more than four thousand francs worth of glass!--ho, ho, ho!”

“Excellent.”

“Without counting a luster, which fell on my head and was broken into a
thousand pieces--ha, ha, ha!”

“Upon your head?” said D’Artagnan, holding his sides.

“On top.”

“But your head was broken, I suppose?”

“No, since I tell you, on the contrary, my dear fellow, that it was the
luster which was broken, like glass, which, in point of fact, it was.”

“Ah! the luster was glass, you say.”

“Venetian glass! a perfect curiosity, quite matchless, indeed, and
weighed two hundred pounds.”

“And it fell upon your head!”

“Upon my head. Just imagine, a globe of crystal, gilded all over, the
lower part beautifully encrusted, perfumes burning at the top, with jets
from which flame issued when they were lighted.”

“I quite understand, but they were not lighted at the time, I suppose?”

“Happily not, or I should have been grilled prematurely.”

“And you were only knocked down flat, instead?”

“Not at all.”

“How, ‘not at all?’”

“Why, the luster fell on my skull. It appears that we have upon the top
of our heads an exceedingly thick crust.”

“Who told you that, Porthos?”

“The doctor. A sort of dome which would bear Notre-Dame.”

“Bah!”

“Yes, it seems that our skulls are made in that manner.”

“Speak for yourself, my dear fellow, it is your own skull that is made
in that manner, and not the skulls of other people.”

“Well, that may be so,” said Porthos, conceitedly, “so much, however,
was that the case, in my instance, that no sooner did the luster fall
upon the dome which we have at the top of our head, than there was a
report like a cannon, the crystal was broken to pieces, and I fell,
covered from head to foot.”

“With blood, poor Porthos!”

“Not at all; with perfumes, which smelt like rich creams; it was
delicious, but the odor was too strong, and I felt quite giddy from it;
perhaps you have experienced it sometimes yourself, D’Artagnan?”

“Yes, in inhaling the scent of the lily of the valley; so that, my
poor friend, you were knocked over by the shock and overpowered by the
perfumes?”

“Yes; but what is very remarkable, for the doctor told me he had never
seen anything like it--”

“You had a bump on your head I suppose?” interrupted D’Artagnan.

“I had five.”

“Why five?”

“I will tell you; the luster had, at its lower extremity, five gilt
ornaments; excessively sharp.”

“Oh!”

“Well, these five ornaments penetrated my hair, which, as you see, I
wear very thick.”

“Fortunately so.”

“And they made a mark on my skin. But just notice the singularity of
it, these things seem really only to happen to me! Instead of making
indentations, they made bumps. The doctor could never succeed in
explaining that to me satisfactorily.”

“Well, then, I will explain it to you.”

“You will do me a great service if you will,” said Porthos, winking his
eyes, which, with him, was sign of the profoundest attention.

“Since you have been employing your brain in studies of an exalted
character, in important calculations, and so on, the head has gained a
certain advantage, so that your head is now too full of science.”

“Do you think so?”

“I am sure of it. The result is, that, instead of allowing any foreign
matter to penetrate the interior of the head, your bony box or skull,
which is already too full, avails itself of the openings which are made
in allowing this excess to escape.”

“Ah!” said Porthos, to whom this explanation appeared clearer than that
of the doctor.

“The five protuberances, caused by the five ornaments of the luster,
must certainly have been scientific globules, brought to the surface by
the force of circumstances.”

“In fact,” said Porthos, “the real truth is, that I felt far worse
outside my head than inside. I will even confess, that when I put my hat
upon my head, clapping it on my head with that graceful energy which we
gentlemen of the sword possess, if my fist was not very gently applied,
I experienced the most painful sensations.”

“I quite believe you, Porthos.”

“Therefore, my friend,” said the giant, “M. Fouquet decided, seeing how
slightly built the house was, to give me another lodging, and so they
brought me here.”

“It is the private park, I think, is it not?”

“Yes.”

“Where the rendezvous are made; that park, indeed, which is
so celebrated in some of those mysterious stories about the
superintendent?”

“I don’t know; I have had no rendezvous or heard mysterious stories
myself, but they have authorized me to exercise my muscles, and I take
advantage of the permission by rooting up some of the trees.”

“What for?”

“To keep my hand in, and also to take some birds’ nests; I find it more
convenient than climbing.”

“You are as pastoral as Tyrcis, my dear Porthos.”

“Yes, I like the small eggs; I like them very much better than larger
ones. You have no idea how delicate an _omelette_ is, if made of four
or five hundred eggs of linnets, chaffinches, starlings, blackbirds, and
thrushes.”

“But five hundred eggs is perfectly monstrous!”

“A salad-bowl will hold them easily enough,” said Porthos.

D’Artagnan looked at Porthos admiringly for full five minutes, as if
he had seen him for the first time, while Porthos spread his chest
out joyously and proudly. They remained in this state several minutes,
Porthos smiling, and D’Artagnan looking at him. D’Artagnan was evidently
trying to give the conversation a new turn. “Do you amuse yourself much
here, Porthos?” he asked at last, very likely after he had found out
what he was searching for.

“Not always.”

“I can imagine that; but when you get thoroughly bored, by and by, what
do you intend to do?”

“Oh! I shall not be here for any length of time. Aramis is waiting until
the last bump on my head disappears, in order to present me to the king,
who I am told cannot endure the sight of a bump.”

“Aramis is still in Paris, then?”

“No.”

“Whereabouts is he, then?”

“At Fontainebleau.”

“Alone?”

“With M. Fouquet.”

“Very good. But do you happen to know one thing?”

“No, tell it me, and then I shall know.”

“Well, then, I think Aramis is forgetting you.”

“Do you really think so?”

“Yes; for at Fontainebleau yonder, you must know, they are laughing,
dancing, banqueting, and drawing the corks of M. de Mazarin’s wine in
fine style. Are you aware that they have a ballet every evening there?”

“The deuce they have!”

“I assure you that your dear Aramis is forgetting you.”

“Well, that is not at all unlikely, and I have myself thought so
sometimes.”

“Unless he is playing you a trick, the sly fellow!”

“Oh!”

“You know that Aramis is as sly as a fox.”

“Yes, but to play _me_ a trick--”

“Listen: in the first place, he puts you under a sort of sequestration.”

“He sequestrates me! Do you mean to say I am sequestrated?”

“I think so.”

“I wish you would have the goodness to prove that to me.”

“Nothing easier. Do you ever go out?”

“Never.”

“Do you ever ride on horseback?”

“Never.”

“Are your friends allowed to come and see you?”

“Never.”

“Very well, then; never to go out, never to ride on horseback, never to
be allowed to see your friends, that is called being sequestrated.”

“But why should Aramis sequestrate me?” inquired Porthos.

“Come,” said D’Artagnan, “be frank, Porthos.”

“As gold.”

“It was Aramis who drew the plan of the fortifications at Belle-Isle,
was it not?”

Porthos colored as he said, “Yes; but that was all he did.”

“Exactly, and my own opinion is that it was no very great affair after
all.”

“That is mine, too.”

“Very good; I am delighted we are of the same opinion.”

“He never even came to Belle-Isle,” said Porthos.

“There now, you see.”

“It was I who went to Vannes, as you may have seen.”

“Say rather, as I did see. Well, that is precisely the state of the
case, my dear Porthos. Aramis, who only drew the plans, wishes to pass
himself off as the engineer, whilst you, who, stone by stone, built the
wall, the citadel, and the bastions, he wishes to reduce to the rank of
a mere builder.”

“By builder, you mean mason, perhaps?”

“Mason; the very word.”

“Plasterer, in fact?”

“Hodman?”

“Exactly.”

“Oh, oh! my dear Aramis, you seem to think you are only five and twenty
years of age still.”

“Yes, and that is not all, for he believes you are fifty.”

“I should have amazingly liked to have seen him at work.”

“Yes, indeed.”

“A fellow who has got the gout?”

“Yes.”

“Who has lost three of his teeth?”

“Four.”

“While I, look at mine.” And Porthos, opening his large mouth very wide,
displayed two rows of teeth not quite as white as snow, but even, hard,
and sound as ivory.

“You can hardly believe, Porthos,” said D’Artagnan, “what a fancy the
king has for good teeth. Yours decide me; I will present you to the king
myself.”

“You?”

“Why not? Do you think I have less credit at court than Aramis?”

“Oh, no!”

“Do you think I have the slightest pretensions upon the fortifications
at Belle-Isle?”

“Certainly not.”

“It is your own interest alone which would induce me to do it.”

“I don’t doubt it in the least.”

“Well, I am the intimate friend of the king; and a proof of that is,
that whenever there is anything disagreeable to tell him, it is I who
have to do it.”

“But, dear D’Artagnan, if you present me--”

“Well!”

“Aramis will be angry.”

“With me?”

“No, with _me_.”

“Bah! whether he or I present you, since you are to be presented, what
does it matter?”

“They were going to get me some clothes made.”

“Your own are splendid.”

“Oh! those I had ordered were far more beautiful.”

“Take care: the king likes simplicity.”

“In that case, I will be simple. But what will M. Fouquet say, when he
learns that I have left?”

“Are you a prisoner, then, on parole?”

“No, not quite that. But I promised him I would not leave without
letting him know.”

“Wait a minute, we shall return to that presently. Have you anything to
do here?”

“I, nothing: nothing of any importance, at least.”

“Unless, indeed, you are Aramis’s representative for something of
importance.”

“By no means.”

“What I tell you--pray, understand that--is out of interest for you. I
suppose, for instance, that you are commissioned to send messages and
letters to him?”

“Ah! letters--yes. I send certain letters to him.”

“Where?”

“To Fontainebleau.”

“Have you any letters, then?”

“But--”

“Nay, let me speak. Have you any letters, I say?”

“I have just received one for him.”

“Interesting?”

“I suppose so.”

“You do not read them, then?”

“I am not at all curious,” said Porthos, as he drew out of his pocket
the soldier’s letter which Porthos had not read, but D’Artagnan had.

“Do you know what to do with it?” said D’Artagnan.

“Of course; do as I always do, send it to him.”

“Not so.”

“Why not? Keep it, then?”

“Did they not tell you that this letter was important?”

“Very important.”

“Well, you must take it yourself to Fontainebleau.”

“To Aramis?”

“Yes.”

“Very good.”

“And since the king is there--”

“You will profit by that.”

“I shall profit by the opportunity to present you to the king.”

“Ah! D’Artagnan, there is no one like you for expedients.”

“Therefore, instead of forwarding to our friend any messages, which may
or may not be faithfully delivered, we will ourselves be the bearers of
the letter.”

“I had never even thought of that, and yet it is simple enough.”

“And therefore, because it is urgent, Porthos, we ought to set off at
once.”

“In fact,” said Porthos, “the sooner we set off the less chance there is
of Aramis’s letter being delayed.”

“Porthos, your reasoning is always accurate, and, in your case, logic
seems to serve as an auxiliary to the imagination.”

“Do you think so?” said Porthos.

“It is the result of your hard reading,” replied D’Artagnan. “So come
along, let us be off.”

“But,” said Porthos, “my promise to M. Fouquet?”

“Which?”

“Not to leave Saint-Mande without telling him of it.”

“Ah! Porthos,” said D’Artagnan, “how very young you still are.”

“In what way?”

“You are going to Fontainebleau, are you not, where you will find M.
Fouquet?”

“Yes.”

“Probably in the king’s palace?”

“Yes,” repeated Porthos, with an air full of majesty.

“Well, you will accost him with these words: ‘M. Fouquet, I have the
honor to inform you that I have just left Saint-Mande.’”

“And,” said Porthos, with the same majestic mien, “seeing me at
Fontainebleau at the king’s, M. Fouquet will not be able to tell me I am
not speaking the truth.”

“My dear Porthos, I was just on the point of opening my lips to make
the same remark, but you anticipate me in everything. Oh! Porthos, how
fortunately you are gifted! Years have made not the slightest impression
on you.”

“Not over-much, certainly.”

“Then there is nothing more to say?”

“I think not.”

“All your scruples are removed?”

“Quite so.”

“In that case I shall carry you off with me.”

“Exactly; and I will go and get my horse saddled.”

“You have horses here, then?”

“I have five.”

“You had them sent from Pierrefonds, I suppose?”

“No, M. Fouquet gave them to me.”

“My dear Porthos, we shall not want five horses for two persons;
besides, I have already three in Paris, which would make eight, and that
will be too many.”

“It would not be too many if I had some of my servants here; but, alas!
I have not got them.”

“Do you regret them, then?”

“I regret Mousqueton; I miss Mousqueton.”

“What a good-hearted fellow you are, Porthos,” said D’Artagnan; “but
the best thing you can do is to leave your horses here, as you have left
Mousqueton out yonder.”

“Why so?”

“Because, by and by, it might turn out a very good thing if M. Fouquet
had never given you anything at all.”

“I don’t understand you,” said Porthos.

“It is not necessary you should understand.”

“But yet--”

“I will explain to you later, Porthos.”

“I’ll wager it is some piece of policy or other.”

“And of the most subtle character,” returned D’Artagnan.

Porthos nodded his head at this word policy; then, after a moment’s
reflection, he added, “I confess, D’Artagnan, that I am no politician.”

“I know that well.”

“Oh! no one knows what you told me yourself, you, the bravest of the
brave.”

“What did I tell you, Porthos?”

“That every man has his day. You told me so, and I have experienced it
myself. There are certain days when one feels less pleasure than others
in exposing one’s self to a bullet or a sword-thrust.”

“Exactly my own idea.”

“And mine, too, although I can hardly believe in blows or thrusts that
kill outright.”

“The deuce! and yet you have killed a few in your time.”

“Yes; but I have never been killed.”

“Your reason is a very good one.”

“Therefore, I do not believe I shall ever die from a thrust of a sword
or a gun-shot.”

“In that case, then, you are afraid of nothing. Ah! water, perhaps?”

“Oh! I swim like an otter.”

“Of a quartan fever, then?”

“I have never had one yet, and I don’t believe I ever shall; but there
is one thing I will admit,” and Porthos dropped his voice.

“What is that?” asked D’Artagnan, adopting the same tone of voice as
Porthos.

“I must confess,” repeated Porthos, “that I am horribly afraid of
politics.”

“Ah, bah!” exclaimed D’Artagnan.

“Upon my word, it’s true,” said Porthos, in a stentorian voice. “I have
seen his eminence Monsieur le Cardinal de Richelieu, and his eminence
Monsieur le Cardinal de Mazarin; the one was a red politician, the other
a black politician; I never felt very much more satisfied with the one
than with the other; the first struck off the heads of M. de Marillac,
M. de Thou, M. de Cinq-Mars, M. Chalais, M. de Bouteville, and M. de
Montmorency; the second got a whole crowd of Frondeurs cut in pieces,
and we belonged to them.”

“On the contrary, we did not belong to them,” said D’Artagnan.

“Oh! indeed, yes; for if I unsheathed my sword for the cardinal, I
struck it for the king.”

“My good Porthos!”

“Well, I have done. My dread of politics is such, that if there is any
question of politics in the matter, I should greatly prefer to return to
Pierrefonds.”

“You would be quite right, if that were the case. But with me, my dear
Porthos, no politics at all, that is quite clear. You have labored hard
in fortifying Belle-Isle; the king wished to know the name of the clever
engineer under whose directions the works were carried out; you are
modest, as all men of true genius are; perhaps Aramis wishes to put you
under a bushel. But I happen to seize hold of you; I make it known
who you are; I produce you; the king rewards you; and that is the only
policy I have to do with.”

“And the only one I will have to do with either,” said Porthos, holding
out his hand to D’Artagnan.

But D’Artagnan knew Porthos’s grasp; he knew that, once imprisoned
within the baron’s five fingers, no hand ever left it without being
half-crushed. He therefore held out, not his hand, but his fist, and
Porthos did not even perceive the difference. The servants talked a
little with each other in an undertone, and whispered a few words,
which D’Artagnan understood, but which he took very good care not to let
Porthos understand. “Our friend,” he said to himself, “was really and
truly Aramis’s prisoner. Let us now see what the result will be of the
liberation of the captive.”



Chapter IV. The Rat and the Cheese.

D’Artagnan and Porthos returned on foot, as D’Artagnan had set out.
When D’Artagnan, as he entered the shop of the Pilon d’Or, announced to
Planchet that M. du Vallon would be one of the privileged travelers, and
as the plume in Porthos’s hat made the wooden candles suspended over the
front jingle together, a melancholy presentiment seemed to eclipse the
delight Planchet had promised himself for the morrow. But the grocer
had a heart of gold, ever mindful of the good old times--a trait that
carries youth into old age. So Planchet, notwithstanding a sort of
internal shiver, checked as soon as experienced, received Porthos with
respect, mingled with the tenderest cordiality. Porthos, who was a
little cold and stiff in his manners at first, on account of the social
difference existing at that period between a baron and a grocer, soon
began to soften when he perceived so much good-feeling and so many kind
attentions in Planchet. He was particularly touched by the liberty which
was permitted him to plunge his great palms into the boxes of dried
fruits and preserves, into the sacks of nuts and almonds, and into the
drawers full of sweetmeats. So that, notwithstanding Planchet’s pressing
invitations to go upstairs to the _entresol_, he chose as his favorite
seat, during the evening which he had to spend at Planchet’s house, the
shop itself, where his fingers could always fish up whatever his nose
detected. The delicious figs from Provence, filberts from the forest,
Tours plums, were subjects of his uninterrupted attention for five
consecutive hours. His teeth, like millstones, cracked heaps of nuts,
the shells of which were scattered all over the floor, where they were
trampled by every one who went in and out of the shop; Porthos pulled
from the stalk with his lips, at one mouthful, bunches of the rich
Muscatel raisins with their beautiful bloom, half a pound of which
passed at one gulp from his mouth to his stomach. In one of the corners
of the shop, Planchet’s assistants, huddled together, looked at each
other without venturing to open their lips. They did not know who
Porthos was, for they had never seen him before. The race of those
Titans who had worn the cuirasses of Hugh Capet, Philip Augustus,
and Francis I. had already begun to disappear. They could hardly help
thinking he might be the ogre of the fairy tale, who was going to turn
the whole contents of Planchet’s shop into his insatiable stomach, and
that, too, without in the slightest degree displacing the barrels and
chests that were in it. Cracking, munching, chewing, nibbling, sucking,
and swallowing, Porthos occasionally said to the grocer:

“You do a very good business here, friend Planchet.”

“He will very soon have none at all to do, if this sort of thing
continues,” grumbled the foreman, who had Planchet’s word that he should
be his successor. In the midst of his despair, he approached Porthos,
who blocked up the whole of the passage leading from the back shop to
the shop itself. He hoped that Porthos would rise and that this movement
would distract his devouring ideas.

“What do you want, my man?” asked Porthos, affably.

“I should like to pass you, monsieur, if it is not troubling you too
much.”

“Very well,” said Porthos, “it does not trouble me in the least.”

At the same moment he took hold of the young fellow by the waistband,
lifted him off the ground, and placed him very gently on the other
side, smiling all the while with the same affable expression. As soon as
Porthos had placed him on the ground, the lad’s legs so shook under him
that he fell back upon some sacks of corks. But noticing the giant’s
gentleness of manner, he ventured again, and said:

“Ah, monsieur! pray be careful.”

“What about?” inquired Porthos.

“You are positively putting a fiery furnace into your body.”

“How is that, my good fellow?”

“All those things are very heating to the system!”

“Which?”

“Raisins, nuts, and almonds.”

“Yes; but if raisins, nuts, and almonds are heating--”

“There is no doubt at all of it, monsieur.”

“Honey is very cooling,” said Porthos, stretching out his hand toward
a small barrel of honey which was open, and he plunged the scoop with
which the wants of the customers were supplied into it, and swallowed a
good half-pound at one gulp.

“I must trouble you for some water now, my man,” said Porthos.

“In a pail, monsieur?” asked the lad, simply.

“No, in a water-bottle; that will be quite enough;” and raising the
bottle to his mouth, as a trumpeter does his trumpet, he emptied the
bottle at a single draught.

Planchet was agitated in every fibre of propriety and self-esteem.
However, a worthy representative of the hospitality which prevailed in
early days, he feigned to be talking very earnestly with D’Artagnan, and
incessantly repeated:--“Ah! monsieur, what a happiness! what an honor!”

“What time shall we have supper, Planchet?” inquired Porthos, “I feel
hungry.”

The foreman clasped his hands together. The two others got under the
counters, fearing Porthos might have a taste for human flesh.

“We shall only take a sort of snack here,” said D’Artagnan; “and when we
get to Planchet’s country-seat, we will have supper.”

“Ah, ah! so we are going to your country-house, Planchet,” said Porthos;
“so much the better.”

“You overwhelm me, monsieur le baron.”

The “monsieur le baron” had a great effect upon the men, who detected
a personage of the highest quality in an appetite of that kind. This
title, too, reassured them. They had never heard that an ogre was ever
called “monsieur le baron”.

“I will take a few biscuits to eat on the road,” said Porthos,
carelessly; and he emptied a whole jar of aniseed biscuits into the huge
pocket of his doublet.

“My shop is saved!” exclaimed Planchet.

“Yes, as the cheese was,” whispered the foreman.

“What cheese?”

“The Dutch cheese, inside which a rat had made his way, and we found
only the rind left.”

Planchet looked all round his shop, and observing the different articles
which had escaped Porthos’s teeth, he found the comparison somewhat
exaggerated. The foreman, who remarked what was passing in his master’s
mind, said, “Take care; he is not gone yet.”

“Have you any fruit here?” said Porthos, as he went upstairs to the
_entresol_, where it had just been announced that some refreshment was
prepared.

“Alas!” thought the grocer, addressing a look at D’Artagnan full of
entreaty, which the latter half understood.

As soon as they had finished eating they set off. It was late when the
three riders, who had left Paris about six in the evening, arrived at
Fontainebleau. The journey passed very agreeably. Porthos took a fancy
to Planchet’s society, because the latter was very respectful in his
manners, and seemed delighted to talk to him about his meadows, his
woods, and his rabbit-warrens. Porthos had all the taste and pride of
a landed proprietor. When D’Artagnan saw his two companions in earnest
conversation, he took the opposite side of the road, and letting his
bridle drop upon his horse’s neck, separated himself from the whole
world, as he had done from Porthos and from Planchet. The moon shone
softly through the foliage of the forest. The breezes of the open
country rose deliciously perfumed to the horse’s nostrils, and they
snorted and pranced along delightedly. Porthos and Planchet began to
talk about hay-crops. Planchet admitted to Porthos that in the advanced
years of his life, he had certainly neglected agricultural pursuits
for commerce, but that his childhood had been passed in Picardy in the
beautiful meadows where the grass grew as high as the knees, and where
he had played under the green apple-trees covered with red-cheeked
fruit; he went on to say, that he had solemnly promised himself that as
soon as he should have made his fortune, he would return to nature, and
end his days, as he had begun them, as near as he possibly could to the
earth itself, where all men must sleep at last.

“Eh, eh!” said Porthos; “in that case, my dear Monsieur Planchet, your
retirement is not far distant.”

“How so?”

“Why, you seem to be in the way of making your fortune very soon.”

“Well, we are getting on pretty well, I must admit,” replied Planchet.

“Come, tell me what is the extent of your ambition, and what is the
amount you intend to retire upon?”

“There is one circumstance, monsieur,” said Planchet, without answering
the question, “which occasions me a good deal of anxiety.”

“What is it?” inquired Porthos, looking all round him as if in search of
the circumstance that annoyed Planchet, and desirous of freeing him from
it.

“Why, formerly,” said the grocer, “you used to call me Planchet quite
short, and you would have spoken to me then in a much more familiar
manner than you do now.”

“Certainly, certainly, I should have said so formerly,” replied the
good-natured Porthos, with an embarrassment full of delicacy; “but
formerly--”

“Formerly I was M. d’Artagnan’s lackey; is not that what you mean?”

“Yes.”

“Well if I am not quite his lackey, I am as much as ever I was his
devoted servant; and more than that, since that time--”

“Well, Planchet?”

“Since that time, I have had the honor of being in partnership with
him.”

“Oh, oh!” said Porthos. “What, has D’Artagnan gone into the grocery
business?”

“No, no,” said D’Artagnan, whom these words had drawn out of his
reverie, and who entered into the conversation with that readiness and
rapidity which distinguished every operation of his mind and body. “It
was not D’Artagnan who entered into the grocery business, but Planchet
who entered into a political affair with me.”

“Yes,” said Planchet, with mingled pride and satisfaction, “we
transacted a little business which brought me in a hundred thousand
francs and M. d’Artagnan two hundred thousand.”

“Oh, oh!” said Porthos, with admiration.

“So that, monsieur le baron,” continued the grocer, “I again beg you to
be kind enough to call me Planchet, as you used to do; and to speak
to me as familiarly as in old times. You cannot possibly imagine the
pleasure it would give me.”

“If that be the case, my dear Planchet, I will do so, certainly,”
 replied Porthos. And as he was quite close to Planchet, he raised
his hand, as if to strike him on the shoulder, in token of friendly
cordiality; but a fortunate movement of the horse made him miss his aim,
so that his hand fell on the crupper of Planchet’s horse, instead; which
made the animal’s legs almost give way.

D’Artagnan burst out laughing, as he said, “Take care, Planchet; for
if Porthos begins to like you so much, he will caress you, and if he
caresses you he will knock you as flat as a pancake. Porthos is still as
strong as ever, you know.”

“Oh,” said Planchet, “Mousqueton is not dead, and yet monsieur le baron
is very fond of him.”

“Certainly,” said Porthos, with a sigh which made all the three horses
rear; “and I was only saying, this very morning, to D’Artagnan, how much
I regretted him. But tell me, Planchet?”

“Thank you, monsieur le baron, thank you.”

“Good lad, good lad! How many acres of park have you got?”

“Of park?”

“Yes; we will reckon up the meadows presently, and the woods
afterwards.”

“Whereabouts, monsieur?” “At your chateau.”

“Oh, monsieur le baron, I have neither chateau, nor park, nor meadows,
nor woods.”

“What have you got, then?” inquired Porthos, “and why do you call it a
country-seat?”

“I did not call it a country-seat, monsieur le baron,” replied Planchet,
somewhat humiliated, “but a country-box.”

“Ah, ah! I understand. You are modest.”

“No, monsieur le baron, I speak the plain truth. I have rooms for a
couple of friends, that’s all.”

“But in that case, whereabouts do your friends walk?”

“In the first place, they can walk about the king’s forest, which is
very beautiful.”

“Yes, I know the forest is very fine,” said Porthos; “nearly as
beautiful as my forest at Berry.”

Planchet opened his eyes very wide. “Have you a forest of the same kind
as the forest at Fontainebleau, monsieur le baron?” he stammered out.

“Yes; I have two, indeed, but the one at Berry is my favorite.”

“Why so?” asked Planchet.

“Because I don’t know where it ends; and, also, because it is full of
poachers.”

“How can the poachers make the forest so agreeable to you?”

“Because they hunt my game, and I hunt them--which, in these peaceful
times, is for me a sufficiently pleasing picture of war on a small
scale.”

They had reached this turn of conversation, when Planchet, looking up,
perceived the houses at the commencement of Fontainebleau, the lofty
outlines of which stood out strongly against the misty visage of the
heavens; whilst, rising above the compact and irregularly formed mass
of buildings, the pointed roofs of the chateau were clearly visible, the
slates of which glistened beneath the light of the moon, like the scales
of an immense fish. “Gentlemen,” said Planchet, “I have the honor to
inform you that we have arrived at Fontainebleau.”



Chapter V. Planchet’s Country-House.

The cavaliers looked up, and saw that what Planchet had announced to
them was true. Ten minutes afterwards they were in the street called the
Rue de Lyon, on the opposite side of the hostelry of the Beau Paon.
A high hedge of bushy elders, hawthorn, and wild hops formed an
impenetrable fence, behind which rose a white house, with a high tiled
roof. Two of the windows, which were quite dark, looked upon the street.
Between the two, a small door, with a porch supported by a couple of
pillars, formed the entrance to the house. The door was gained by a step
raised a little from the ground. Planchet got off his horse, as if he
intended to knock at the door; but, on second thoughts, he took hold of
his horse by the bridle, and led it about thirty paces further on, his
two companions following him. He then advanced about another thirty
paces, until he arrived at the door of a cart-house, lighted by an
iron grating; and, lifting up a wooden latch, pushed open one of the
folding-doors. He entered first, leading his horse after him by the
bridle, into a small courtyard, where an odor met them which revealed
their close vicinity to a stable. “That smells all right,” said Porthos,
loudly, getting off his horse, “and I almost begin to think I am near my
own cows at Pierrefonds.”

“I have only one cow,” Planchet hastened to say modestly.

“And I have thirty,” said Porthos; “or rather, I don’t exactly know how
many I have.”

When the two cavaliers had entered, Planchet fastened the door behind
them. In the meantime, D’Artagnan, who had dismounted with his usual
agility, inhaled the fresh perfumed air with the delight a Parisian
feels at the sight of green fields and fresh foliage, plucked a piece
of honeysuckle with one hand, and of sweet-briar with the other. Porthos
clawed hold of some peas which were twined round poles stuck into
the ground, and ate, or rather browsed upon them, shells and all: and
Planchet was busily engaged trying to wake up an old and infirm peasant,
who was fast asleep in a shed, lying on a bed of moss, and dressed in
an old stable suit of clothes. The peasant, recognizing Planchet, called
him “the master,” to the grocer’s great satisfaction. “Stable the horses
well, old fellow, and you shall have something good for yourself,” said
Planchet.

“Yes, yes; fine animals they are too,” said the peasant. “Oh! they shall
have as much as they like.”

“Gently, gently, my man,” said D’Artagnan, “we are getting on a little
too fast. A few oats and a good bed--nothing more.”

“Some bran and water for my horse,” said Porthos, “for it is very warm,
I think.”

“Don’t be afraid, gentlemen,” replied Planchet; “Daddy Celestin is an
old gendarme, who fought at Ivry. He knows all about horses; so come
into the house.” And he led the way along a well-sheltered walk, which
crossed a kitchen-garden, then a small paddock, and came out into a
little garden behind the house, the principal front of which, as we have
already noticed, faced the street. As they approached, they could
see, through two open windows on the ground floor, which led into a
sitting-room, the interior of Planchet’s residence. This room, softly
lighted by a lamp placed on the table, seemed, from the end of the
garden, like a smiling image of repose, comfort, and happiness. In every
direction where the rays of light fell, whether upon a piece of old
china, or upon an article of furniture shining from excessive neatness,
or upon the weapons hanging against the wall, the soft light was softly
reflected; and its rays seemed to linger everywhere upon something or
another, agreeable to the eye. The lamp which lighted the room, whilst
the foliage of jasmine and climbing roses hung in masses from the
window-frames, splendidly illuminated a damask table-cloth as white as
snow. The table was laid for two persons. Amber-colored wine sparkled
in a long cut-glass bottle; and a large jug of blue china, with a silver
lid, was filled with foaming cider. Near the table, in a high-backed
armchair, reclined, fast asleep, a woman of about thirty years of age,
her face the very picture of health and freshness. Upon her knees lay
a large cat, with her paws folded under her, and her eyes half-closed,
purring in that significant manner which, according to feline habits,
indicates perfect contentment. The two friends paused before the window
in complete amazement, while Planchet, perceiving their astonishment,
was in no little degree secretly delighted at it.

“Ah! Planchet, you rascal,” said D’Artagnan, “I now understand your
absences.”

“Oh, oh! there is some white linen!” said Porthos, in his turn, in a
voice of thunder. At the sound of this gigantic voice, the cat took
flight, the housekeeper woke up with a start, and Planchet, assuming
a gracious air, introduced his two companions into the room, where the
table was already laid.

“Permit me, my dear,” he said, “to present to you Monsieur le Chevalier
d’Artagnan, my patron.” D’Artagnan took the lady’s hand in his in the
most courteous manner, and with precisely the same chivalrous air as he
would have taken Madame’s.

“Monsieur le Baron du Vallon de Bracieux de Pierrefonds,” added
Planchet. Porthos bowed with a reverence which Anne of Austria would
have approved of.

It was then Planchet’s turn, and he unhesitatingly embraced the lady
in question, not, however, until he had made a sign as if requesting
D’Artagnan’s and Porthos’s permission, a permission as a matter of
course frankly conceded. D’Artagnan complimented Planchet, and said,
“You are indeed a man who knows how to make life agreeable.”

“Life, monsieur,” said Planchet, laughing, “is capital which a man ought
to invest as sensibly as he possibly can.”

“And you get very good interest for yours,” said Porthos, with a burst
of laughter like a peal of thunder.

Planchet turned to his housekeeper. “You have before you,” he said to
her, “the two gentlemen who influenced the greatest, gayest, grandest
portion of my life. I have spoken to you about them both very
frequently.”

“And about two others as well,” said the lady, with a very decided
Flemish accent.

“Madame is Dutch?” inquired D’Artagnan. Porthos curled his mustache, a
circumstance which was not lost upon D’Artagnan, who noticed everything.

“I am from Antwerp,” said the lady.

“And her name is Madame Getcher,” said Planchet.

“You should not call her madame,” said D’Artagnan.

“Why not?” asked Planchet.

“Because it would make her seem older every time you call her so.”

“Well, I call her Truchen.”

“And a very pretty name too,” said Porthos.

“Truchen,” said Planchet, “came to me from Flanders with her virtue and
two thousand florins. She ran away from a brute of a husband who was in
the habit of beating her. Being myself a Picard born, I was always
very fond of the Artesian women, and it is only a step from Artois to
Flanders; she came crying bitterly to her godfather, my predecessor
in the Rue des Lombards; she placed her two thousand florins in my
establishment, which I have turned to very good account, and which have
brought her in ten thousand.”

“Bravo, Planchet.”

“She is free and well off; she has a cow, a maid servant and old
Celestin at her orders; she mends my linen, knits my winter stockings;
she only sees me every fortnight, and seems to make herself in all
things tolerably happy.

“And indeed, gentlemen, I _am_ very happy and comfortable,” said
Truchen, with perfect ingenuousness.

Porthos began to curl the other side of his mustache. “The deuce,”
 thought D’Artagnan, “can Porthos have any intentions in that quarter?”

In the meantime Truchen had set her cook to work, had laid the table for
two more, and covered it with every possible delicacy that could convert
a light supper into a substantial meal, a meal into a regular feast.
Fresh butter, salt beef, anchovies, tunny, a shopful of Planchet’s
commodities, fowls, vegetables, salad, fish from the pond and the
river, game from the forest--all the produce, in fact, of the province.
Moreover, Planchet returned from the cellar, laden with ten bottles of
wine, the glass of which could hardly be seen for the thick coating of
dust which covered them. Porthos’s heart began to expand as he said, “I
am hungry,” and he sat himself beside Madame Truchen, whom he looked at
in the most killing manner. D’Artagnan seated himself on the other side
of her, while Planchet, discreetly and full of delight, took his seat
opposite.

“Do not trouble yourselves,” he said, “if Truchen should leave the
table now and then during supper; for she will have to look after your
bedrooms.”

In fact, the housekeeper made her escape quite frequently, and they
could hear, on the first floor above them, the creaking of the wooden
bedsteads and the rolling of the castors on the floor. While this
was going on, the three men, Porthos especially, ate and drank
gloriously,--it was wonderful to see them. The ten full bottles were ten
empty ones by the time Truchen returned with the cheese. D’Artagnan
still preserved his dignity and self-possession, but Porthos had lost
a portion of his; and the mirth soon began to grow somewhat uproarious.
D’Artagnan recommended a new descent into the cellar, and, as Planchet
no longer walked with the steadiness of a well-trained foot-soldier,
the captain of the musketeers proposed to accompany him. They set off,
humming songs wild enough to frighten anybody who might be listening.
Truchen remained behind at table with Porthos. While the two
wine-bibbers were looking behind the firewood for what they wanted, a
sharp report was heard like the impact of a pair of lips on a lady’s
cheek.

“Porthos fancies himself at La Rochelle,” thought D’Artagnan, as they
returned freighted with bottles. Planchet was singing so loudly that
he was incapable of noticing anything. D’Artagnan, whom nothing ever
escaped, remarked how much redder Truchen’s left cheek was than her
right. Porthos was sitting on Truchen’s left, and was curling with both
his hands both sides of his mustache at once, and Truchen was looking at
him with a most bewitching smile. The sparkling wine of Anjou very soon
produced a remarkable effect upon the three companions. D’Artagnan had
hardly strength enough left to take a candlestick to light Planchet up
his own staircase. Planchet was pulling Porthos along, who was following
Truchen, who was herself jovial enough. It was D’Artagnan who found out
the rooms and the beds. Porthos threw himself into the one destined for
him, after his friend had undressed him. D’Artagnan got into his own
bed, saying to himself, “_Mordioux!_ I had made up my mind never to
touch that light-colored wine, which brings my early camp days back
again. Fie! fie! if my musketeers were only to see their captain in such
a state.” And drawing the curtains of his bed, he added, “Fortunately
enough, though, they will not see me.”

“The country is very amusing,” said Porthos, stretching out his legs,
which passed through the wooden footboard, and made a tremendous
crash, of which, however, no one in the house was capable of taking
the slightest notice. By two o’clock in the morning every one was fast
asleep.



Chapter VI. Showing What Could Be Seen from Planchet’s House.

The next morning found the three heroes sleeping soundly. Truchen had
closed the outside blinds to keep the first rays of the sun from the
leaden-lidded eyes of her guests, like a kind, good housekeeper. It
was still perfectly dark, then, beneath Porthos’s curtains and under
Planchet’s canopy, when D’Artagnan, awakened by an indiscreet ray of
light which made its way through a peek-hole in the shutters, jumped
hastily out of bed, as if he wished to be the first at a forlorn hope.
He took by assault Porthos’s room, which was next to his own. The worthy
Porthos was sleeping with a noise like distant thunder; in the dim
obscurity of the room his gigantic frame was prominently displayed, and
his swollen fist hung down outside the bed upon the carpet. D’Artagnan
awoke Porthos, who rubbed his eyes in a tolerably good humor. In the
meantime Planchet was dressing himself, and met at their bedroom doors
his two guests, who were still somewhat unsteady from their previous
evening’s entertainment. Although it was yet very early, the whole
household was already up. The cook was mercilessly slaughtering in
the poultry-yard; Celestin was gathering white cherries in the garden.
Porthos, brisk and lively as ever, held out his hand to Planchet’s, and
D’Artagnan requested permission to embrace Madame Truchen. The latter,
to show that she bore no ill-will, approached Porthos, upon whom she
conferred the same favor. Porthos embraced Madame Truchen, heaving an
enormous sigh. Planchet took both his friends by the hand.

“I am going to show you over the house,” he said; “when we arrived last
night it was as dark as an oven, and we were unable to see anything;
but in broad daylight, everything looks different, and you will be
satisfied, I hope.”

“If we begin by the view you have here,” said D’Artagnan, “that charms
me beyond everything; I have always lived in royal mansions, you know,
and royal personages have tolerably sound ideas upon the selection of
points of view.”

“I am a great stickler for a good view myself,” said Porthos. “At my
Chateau de Pierrefonds, I have had four avenues laid out, and at the
end of each is a landscape of an altogether different character from the
others.”

“You shall see _my_ prospect,” said Planchet; and he led his two guests
to a window.

“Ah!” said D’Artagnan, “this is the Rue de Lyon.”

“Yes, I have two windows on this side, a paltry, insignificant view,
for there is always that bustling and noisy inn, which is a very
disagreeable neighbor. I had four windows here, but I bricked up two.”

“Let us go on,” said D’Artagnan.

They entered a corridor leading to the bedrooms, and Planchet pushed
open the outside blinds.

“Hollo! what is that out yonder?” said Porthos.

“The forest,” said Planchet. “It is the horizon,--a thick line of green,
which is yellow in the spring, green in the summer, red in the autumn,
and white in the winter.”

“All very well, but it is like a curtain, which prevents one seeing a
greater distance.”

“Yes,” said Planchet; “still, one can see, at all events, everything
that intervenes.”

“Ah, the open country,” said Porthos. “But what is that I see out
there,--crosses and stones?”

“Ah, that is the cemetery,” exclaimed D’Artagnan.

“Precisely,” said Planchet; “I assure you it is very curious. Hardly a
day passes that some one is not buried there; for Fontainebleau is by no
means an inconsiderable place. Sometimes we see young girls clothed in
white carrying banners; at others, some of the town-council, or rich
citizens, with choristers and all the parish authorities; and then, too,
we see some of the officers of the king’s household.”

“I should not like that,” said Porthos.

“There is not much amusement in it, at all events,” said D’Artagnan.

“I assure you it encourages religious thoughts,” replied Planchet.

“Oh, I don’t deny that.”

“But,” continued Planchet, “we must all die one day or another, and
I once met with a maxim somewhere which I have remembered, that the
thought of death is a thought that will do us all good.”

“I am far from saying the contrary,” said Porthos.

“But,” objected D’Artagnan, “the thought of green fields, flowers,
rivers, blue horizons, extensive and boundless plains, is not likely to
do us good.”

“If I had any, I should be far from rejecting them,” said Planchet; “but
possessing only this little cemetery, full of flowers, so moss-grown,
shady, and quiet, I am contented with it, and I think of those who live
in town, in the Rue des Lombards, for instance, and who have to listen
to the rumbling of a couple of thousand vehicles every day, and to
the soulless tramp, tramp, tramp of a hundred and fifty thousand
foot-passengers.”

“But living,” said Porthos; “living, remember that.”

“That is exactly the reason,” said Planchet, timidly, “why I feel it
does me good to contemplate a few dead.”

“Upon my word,” said D’Artagnan, “that fellow Planchet is born a
philosopher as well as a grocer.”

“Monsieur,” said Planchet, “I am one of those good-humored sort of men
whom Heaven created for the purpose of living a certain span of days,
and of considering all good they meet with during their transitory stay
on earth.”

D’Artagnan sat down close to the window, and as there seemed to be
something substantial in Planchet’s philosophy, he mused over it.

“Ah, ah!” exclaimed Planchet, “if I am not mistaken, we are going to
have a representation now, for I think I heard something like chanting.”

“Yes,” said D’Artagnan, “I hear singing too.”

“Oh, it is only a burial of a very poor description,” said Planchet,
disdainfully; “the officiating priest, the beadle, and only one
chorister boy, nothing more. You observe, messieurs, that the defunct
lady or gentleman could not have been of very high rank.”

“No; no one seems to be following the coffin.”

“Yes,” said Porthos; “I see a man.”

“You are right; a man wrapped in a cloak,” said D’Artagnan.

“It’s not worth looking at,” said Planchet.

“I find it interesting,” said D’Artagnan, leaning on the window-sill.

“Come, come, you are beginning to take a fancy to the place already,”
 said Planchet, delightedly; “it is exactly my own case. I was so
melancholy at first that I could do nothing but make the sign of the
cross all day, and the chants were like so many nails being driven into
my head; but now, they lull me to sleep, and no bird I have ever seen
or heard can sing better than those which are to be met with in this
cemetery.”

“Well,” said Porthos, “this is beginning to get a little dull for me,
and I prefer going downstairs.”

Planchet with one bound was beside his guest, whom he offered to lead
into the garden.

“What!” said Porthos to D’Artagnan, as he turned round, “are you going
to remain here?”

“Yes, I will join you presently.”

“Well, M. D’Artagnan is right, after all,” said Planchet: “are they
beginning to bury yet?”

“Not yet.”

“Ah! yes, the grave-digger is waiting until the cords are fastened round
the bier. But, see, a woman has just entered the cemetery at the other
end.”

“Yes, yes, my dear Planchet,” said D’Artagnan, quickly, “leave me,
leave me; I feel I am beginning already to be much comforted by my
meditations, so do not interrupt me.”

Planchet left, and D’Artagnan remained, devouring with his eager gaze
from behind the half-closed blinds what was taking place just before
him. The two bearers of the corpse had unfastened the straps by which
they carried the litter, and were letting their burden glide gently into
the open grave. At a few paces distant, the man with the cloak wrapped
round him, the only spectator of this melancholy scene, was leaning
with his back against a large cypress-tree, and kept his face and person
entirely concealed from the grave-diggers and the priests; the corpse
was buried in five minutes. The grave having been filled up, the priests
turned away, and the grave-digger having addressed a few words to them,
followed them as they moved away. The man in the mantle bowed as they
passed him, and put a piece of gold into the grave-digger’s hand.

“_Mordioux!_” murmured D’Artagnan; “it is Aramis himself.”

Aramis, in fact, remained alone, on that side at least; for hardly had
he turned his head when a woman’s footsteps, and the rustling of her
dress, were heard in the path close to him. He immediately turned round,
and took off his hat with the most ceremonious respect; he led the lady
under the shelter of some walnut and lime trees, which overshadowed a
magnificent tomb.

“Ah! who would have thought it,” said D’Artagnan; “the bishop of
Vannes at a rendezvous! He is still the same Abbe Aramis as he was
at Noisy-le-Sec. Yes,” he added, after a pause; “but as it is in a
cemetery, the rendezvous is sacred.” But he almost laughed.

The conversation lasted for fully half an hour. D’Artagnan could not see
the lady’s face, for she kept her back turned towards him; but he saw
perfectly well, by the erect attitude of both the speakers, by their
gestures, by the measured and careful manner with which they glanced
at each other, either by way of attack or defense, that they must be
conversing about any other subject than of love. At the end of the
conversation the lady rose, and bowed profoundly to Aramis.

“Oh, oh,” said D’Artagnan; “this rendezvous finishes like one of a very
tender nature though. The cavalier kneels at the beginning, the
young lady by and by gets tamed down, and then it is she who has to
supplicate. Who is this lady? I would give anything to ascertain.”

This seemed impossible, however, for Aramis was the first to leave;
the lady carefully concealed her head and face, and then immediately
departed. D’Artagnan could hold out no longer; he ran to the window
which looked out on the Rue de Lyon, and saw Aramis entering the inn.
The lady was proceeding in quite an opposite direction, and seemed, in
fact, to be about to rejoin an equipage, consisting of two led horses
and a carriage, which he could see standing close to the borders of
the forest. She was walking slowly, her head bent down, absorbed in the
deepest meditation.

“_Mordioux! Mordioux!_ I must and will learn who that woman is,” said
the musketeer again; and then, without further deliberation, he set off
in pursuit of her. As he was going along, he tried to think how he could
possibly contrive to make her raise her veil. “She is not young,” he
said, “and is a woman of high rank in society. I ought to know that
figure and peculiar style of walk.” As he ran, the sound of his spurs
and of his boots upon the hard ground of the street made a strange
jingling noise; a fortunate circumstance in itself, which he was far
from reckoning upon. The noise disturbed the lady; she seemed to fancy
she was being either followed or pursued, which was indeed the case, and
turned round. D’Artagnan started as if he had received a charge of small
shot in his legs, and then turning suddenly round as if he were going
back the same way he had come, he murmured, “Madame de Chevreuse!”
 D’Artagnan would not go home until he had learnt everything. He asked
Celestin to inquire of the grave-digger whose body it was they had
buried that morning.

“A poor Franciscan mendicant friar,” replied the latter, “who had not
even a dog to love him in this world, and to accompany him to his last
resting-place.”

“If that were really the case,” thought D’Artagnan, “we should not
have found Aramis present at his funeral. The bishop of Vannes is not
precisely a dog as far as devotion goes: his scent, however, is quite as
keen, I admit.”



Chapter VII. How Porthos, Truchen, and Planchet Parted with Each Other
on Friendly Terms, Thanks to D’Artagnan.

There was good living in Planchet’s house. Porthos broke a ladder and
two cherry-trees, stripped the raspberry-bushes, and was only unable to
succeed in reaching the strawberry-beds on account, as he said, of his
belt. Truchen, who had become quite sociable with the giant, said that
it was not the belt so much as his corporation; and Porthos, in a state
of the highest delight, embraced Truchen, who gathered him a pailful of
the strawberries, and made him eat them out of her hands. D’Artagnan,
who arrived in the midst of these little innocent flirtations, scolded
Porthos for his indolence, and silently pitied Planchet. Porthos
breakfasted with a very good appetite, and when he had finished, he
said, looking at Truchen, “I could make myself very happy here.”
 Truchen smiled at his remark, and so did Planchet, but not without
embarrassment.

D’Artagnan then addressed Porthos: “You must not let the delights of
Capua make you forget the real object of our journey to Fontainebleau.”

“My presentation to the king?”

“Certainly. I am going to take a turn in the town to get everything
ready for that. Do not think of leaving the house, I beg.”

“Oh, no!” exclaimed Porthos.

Planchet looked at D’Artagnan nervously.

“Will you be away long?” he inquired.

“No, my friend; and this very evening I will release you from two
troublesome guests.”

“Oh! Monsieur d’Artagnan! can you say--”

“No, no; you are a noble-hearted fellow, but your house is very small.
Such a house, with half a dozen acres of land, would be fit for a king,
and make him very happy, too. But you were not born a great lord.”

“No more was M. Porthos,” murmured Planchet.

“But he has become so, my good fellow; his income has been a hundred
thousand francs a year for the last twenty years, and for the last fifty
years Porthos has been the owner of a couple of fists and a backbone,
which are not to be matched throughout the whole realm of France.
Porthos is a man of the very greatest consequence compared to you,
and... well, I need say no more, for I know you are an intelligent
fellow.”

“No, no, monsieur, explain what you mean.”

“Look at your orchard, how stripped it is, how empty your larder, your
bedstead broken, your cellar almost exhausted, look too... at Madame
Truchen--”

“Oh! my goodness gracious!” said Planchet.

“Madame Truchen is an excellent person,” continued D’Artagnan, “but
keep her for yourself, do you understand?” and he slapped him on the
shoulder.

Planchet at this moment perceived Porthos and Truchen sitting close
together in an arbor; Truchen, with a grace of manner peculiarly
Flemish, was making a pair of earrings for Porthos out of a double
cherry, while Porthos was laughing as amorously as Samson in the company
of Delilah. Planchet pressed D’Artagnan’s hand, and ran towards the
arbor. We must do Porthos the justice to say that he did not move as
they approached, and, very likely, he did not think he was doing any
harm. Nor indeed did Truchen move either, which rather put Planchet out;
but he, too, had been so accustomed to see fashionable folk in his shop,
that he found no difficulty in putting a good countenance on what seemed
disagreeable or rude. Planchet seized Porthos by the arm, and proposed
to go and look at the horses, but Porthos pretended he was tired.
Planchet then suggested that the Baron du Vallon should taste some
noyeau of his own manufacture, which was not to be equaled anywhere; an
offer the baron immediately accepted; and, in this way, Planchet managed
to engage his enemy’s attention during the whole of the day, by dint of
sacrificing his cellar, in preference to his _amour propre_. Two hours
afterwards D’Artagnan returned.

“Everything is arranged,” he said; “I saw his majesty at the very moment
he was setting off for the chase; the king expects us this evening.”

“The king expects _me!_” cried Porthos, drawing himself up. It is a sad
thing to have to confess, but a man’s heart is like an ocean billow;
for, from that very moment Porthos ceased to look at Madame Truchen
in that touching manner which had so softened her heart. Planchet
encouraged these ambitious leanings as best as he could. He talked over,
or rather gave exaggerated accounts of all the splendors of the last
reign, its battles, sieges, and grand court ceremonies. He spoke of the
luxurious display which the English made; the prizes the three brave
companions carried off; and how D’Artagnan, who at the beginning had
been the humblest of the four, finished by becoming the leader. He fired
Porthos with a generous feeling of enthusiasm by reminding him of his
early youth now passed away; he boasted as much as he could of the moral
life this great lord had led, and how religiously he respected the ties
of friendship; he was eloquent, and skillful in his choice of subjects.
He tickled Porthos, frightened Truchen, and made D’Artagnan think. At
six o’clock, the musketeer ordered the horses to be brought round, and
told Porthos to get ready. He thanked Planchet for his kind hospitality,
whispered a few words about a post he might succeed in obtaining for
him at court, which immediately raised Planchet in Truchen’s estimation,
where the poor grocer--so good, so generous, so devoted--had become much
lowered ever since the appearance and comparison with him of the two
great gentlemen. Such, however, is a woman’s nature; they are anxious
to possess what they have not got, and disdain it as soon as it is
acquired. After having rendered this service to his friend Planchet,
D’Artagnan said in a low tone of voice to Porthos: “That is a very
beautiful ring you have on your finger.”

“It is worth three hundred pistoles,” said Porthos.

“Madame Truchen will remember you better if you leave her that ring,”
 replied D’Artagnan, a suggestion which Porthos seemed to hesitate to
adopt.

“You think it is not beautiful enough, perhaps,” said the musketeer. “I
understand your feelings; a great lord such as you would not think of
accepting the hospitality of an old servant without paying him most
handsomely for it: but I am sure that Planchet is too good-hearted a
fellow to remember that you have an income of a hundred thousand francs
a year.”

“I have more than half a mind,” said Porthos, flattered by the remark,
“to make Madame Truchen a present of my little farm at Bracieux; it has
twelve acres.”

“It is too much, my good Porthos, too much just at present... Keep it
for a future occasion.” He then took the ring off Porthos’s finger, and
approaching Truchen, said to her:--“Madame, monsieur le baron hardly
knows how to entreat you, out of your regard for him, to accept this
little ring. M. du Vallon is one of the most generous and discreet
men of my acquaintance. He wished to offer you a farm that he has at
Bracieux, but I dissuaded him from it.”

“Oh!” said Truchen, looking eagerly at the diamond.

“Monsieur le baron!” exclaimed Planchet, quite overcome.

“My good friend,” stammered out Porthos, delighted at having been so
well represented by D’Artagnan. These several exclamations, uttered at
the same moment, made quite a pathetic winding-up of a day which might
have finished in a very ridiculous manner. But D’Artagnan was there,
and, on every occasion, wheresoever D’Artagnan exercised any control,
matters ended only just in the very way he wished and willed. There were
general embracings; Truchen, whom the baron’s munificence had restored
to her proper position, very timidly, and blushing all the while,
presented her forehead to the great lord with whom she had been on such
very pretty terms the evening before. Planchet himself was overcome by
a feeling of genuine humility. Still, in the same generosity of
disposition, Porthos would have emptied his pockets into the hands of
the cook and of Celestin; but D’Artagnan stopped him.

“No,” he said, “it is now my turn.” And he gave one pistole to the woman
and two to the man; and the benedictions which were showered down
upon them would have rejoiced the heart of Harpagon himself, and have
rendered even him a prodigal.

D’Artagnan made Planchet lead them to the chateau, and introduced
Porthos into his own apartment, where he arrived safely without having
been perceived by those he was afraid of meeting.



Chapter VIII. The Presentation of Porthos at Court.

At seven o’clock the same evening, the king gave an audience to an
ambassador from the United Provinces, in the grand reception-room. The
audience lasted a quarter of an hour. His majesty afterwards received
those who had been recently presented, together with a few ladies, who
paid their respects first. In one corner of the salon, concealed behind
a column, Porthos and D’Artagnan were conversing together, waiting until
their turn arrived.

“Have you heard the news?” inquired the musketeer of his friend.

“No!”

“Well, look, then.” Porthos raised himself on tiptoe, and saw M. Fouquet
in full court dress, leading Aramis towards the king.

“Aramis!” said Porthos.

“Presented to the king by M. Fouquet.”

“Ah!” ejaculated Porthos.

“For having fortified Belle-Isle,” continued D’Artagnan.

“And I?”

“You--oh, you! as I have already had the honor of telling you, are the
good-natured, kind-hearted Porthos; and so they begged you to take care
of Saint-Mande a little.”

“Ah!” repeated Porthos.

“But, happily, I was there,” said D’Artagnan, “and presently it will be
_my_ turn.”

At this moment Fouquet addressed the king.

“Sire,” he said, “I have a favor to solicit of your majesty. M.
d’Herblay is not ambitious, but he knows when he can be of service. Your
majesty needs a representative at Rome, who would be able to exercise
a powerful influence there; may I request a cardinal’s hat for M.
d’Herblay?” The king started. “I do not often solicit anything of your
majesty,” said Fouquet.

“That is a reason, certainly,” replied the king, who always expressed
any hesitation he might have in that manner, and to which remark there
was nothing to say in reply.

Fouquet and Aramis looked at each other. The king resumed: “M. d’Herblay
can serve us equally well in France; an archbishopric, for instance.”

“Sire,” objected Fouquet, with a grace of manner peculiarly his own,
“your majesty overwhelms M. d’Herblay; the archbishopric may, in your
majesty’s extreme kindness, be conferred in addition to the hat; the one
does not exclude the other.”

The king admired the readiness which he displayed, and smiled, saying:
“D’Artagnan himself could not have answered better.” He had no sooner
pronounced the name than D’Artagnan appeared.

“Did your majesty call me?” he said.

Aramis and Fouquet drew back a step, as if they were about to retire.

“Will your majesty allow me,” said D’Artagnan quickly, as he led forward
Porthos, “to present to your majesty M. le Baron du Vallon, one of the
bravest gentlemen of France?”

As soon as Aramis saw Porthos, he turned as pale as death, while Fouquet
clenched his hands under his ruffles. D’Artagnan smiled blandly at
both of them, while Porthos bowed, visibly overcome before the royal
presence.

“Porthos here?” murmured Fouquet in Aramis’s ear.

“Hush! deep treachery at work,” hissed the latter.

“Sire,” said D’Artagnan, “it is more than six years ago I ought to have
presented M. du Vallon to your majesty; but certain men resemble stars,
they move not one inch unless their satellites accompany them. The
Pleiades are never disunited, and that is the reason I have selected,
for the purpose of presenting him to you, the very moment when you would
see M. d’Herblay by his side.”

Aramis almost lost countenance. He looked at D’Artagnan with a proud,
haughty air, as though willing to accept the defiance the latter seemed
to throw down.

“Ah! these gentlemen are good friends, then?” said the king.

“Excellent friends, sire; the one can answer for the other. Ask M. de
Vannes now in what manner Belle-Isle was fortified?” Fouquet moved back
a step.

“Belle-Isle,” said Aramis, coldly, “was fortified by that gentleman,”
 and he indicated Porthos with his hand, who bowed a second time.
Louis could not withhold his admiration, though at the same time his
suspicions were aroused.

“Yes,” said D’Artagnan, “but ask monsieur le baron whose assistance he
had in carrying the works out?”

“Aramis’s,” said Porthos, frankly; and he pointed to the bishop.

“What the deuce does all this mean?” thought the bishop, “and what sort
of a termination are we to expect to this comedy?”

“What!” exclaimed the king, “is the cardinal’s, I mean this bishop’s,
name _Aramis?_”

“His _nom de guerre_,” said D’Artagnan.

“My nickname,” said Aramis.

“A truce to modesty!” exclaimed D’Artagnan; “beneath the priest’s robe,
sire, is concealed the most brilliant officer, a gentleman of the most
unparalleled intrepidity, and the wisest theologian in your kingdom.”

Louis raised his head. “And an engineer, also, it appears,” he said,
admiring Aramis’s calm, imperturbable self-possession.

“An engineer for a particular purpose, sire,” said the latter.

“My companion in the musketeers, sire,” said D’Artagnan, with great
warmth of manner, “the man who has more than a hundred times aided your
father’s ministers by his advice--M. d’Herblay, in a word, who, with
M. du Vallon, myself, and M. le Comte de la Fere, who is known to your
majesty, formed that quartette which was a good deal talked about during
the late king’s reign, and during your majesty’s minority.”

“And who fortified Belle-Isle?” the king repeated, in a significant
tone.

Aramis advanced and bowed: “In order to serve the son as I served the
father.”

D’Artagnan looked very narrowly at Aramis while he uttered these words,
which displayed so much true respect, so much warm devotion, such entire
frankness and sincerity, that even he, D’Artagnan, the eternal doubter,
he, the almost infallible in judgment, was deceived by it. “A man who
lies cannot speak in such a tone as that,” he said.

Louis was overcome by it. “In that case,” he said to Fouquet, who
anxiously awaited the result of this proof, “the cardinal’s hat is
promised. Monsieur d’Herblay, I pledge you my honor that the first
promotion shall be yours. Thank M. Fouquet for it.” Colbert overheard
these words; they stung him to the quick, and he left the salon
abruptly. “And you, Monsieur du Vallon,” said the king, “what have you
to ask? I am truly pleased to have it in my power to acknowledge the
services of those who were faithful to my father.”

“Sire--” began Porthos, but he was unable to proceed with what he was
going to say.

“Sire,” exclaimed D’Artagnan, “this worthy gentleman is utterly
overpowered by your majesty’s presence, he who so valiantly sustained
the looks and the fire of a thousand foes. But, knowing what his
thoughts are, I--who am more accustomed to gaze upon the sun--can
translate them: he needs nothing, absolutely nothing; his sole desire
is to have the happiness of gazing upon your majesty for a quarter of an
hour.”

“You shall sup with me this evening,” said the king, saluting Porthos
with a gracious smile.

Porthos became crimson from delight and pride. The king dismissed him,
and D’Artagnan pushed him into the adjoining apartment, after he had
embraced him warmly.

“Sit next to me at table,” said Porthos in his ear.

“Yes, my friend.”

“Aramis is annoyed with me, I think.”

“Aramis has never liked you so much as he does now. Fancy, it was I who
was the means of his getting the cardinal’s hat.”

“Of course,” said Porthos. “By the by, does the king like his guests to
eat much at his table?”

“It is a compliment to himself if you do,” said D’Artagnan, “for he
himself possesses a royal appetite.”



Chapter IX. Explanations.

Aramis cleverly managed to effect a diversion for the purpose of finding
D’Artagnan and Porthos. He came up to the latter, behind one of the
columns, and, as he pressed his hand, said, “So you have escaped from my
prison?”

“Do not scold him,” said D’Artagnan; “it was I, dear Aramis, who set him
free.”

“Ah! my friend,” replied Aramis, looking at Porthos, “could you not have
waited with a little more patience?”

D’Artagnan came to the assistance of Porthos, who already began to
breathe hard, in sore perplexity.

“You see, you members of the Church are great politicians; we mere
soldiers come at once to the point. The facts are these: I went to pay
Baisemeaux a visit--”

Aramis pricked up his ears at this announcement.

“Stay!” said Porthos; “you make me remember that I have a letter from
Baisemeaux for you, Aramis.” And Porthos held out the bishop the letter
we have already seen. Aramis begged to be allowed to read it, and read
it without D’Artagnan feeling in the slightest degree embarrassed by
the circumstance that he was so well acquainted with the contents of it.
Besides, Aramis’s face was so impenetrable, that D’Artagnan could not
but admire him more than ever; after he had read it, he put the letter
into his pocket with the calmest possible air.

“You were saying, captain?” he observed.

“I was saying,” continued the musketeer, “that I had gone to pay
Baisemeaux a visit on his majesty’s service.”

“On his majesty’s service?” said Aramis.

“Yes,” said D’Artagnan, “and, naturally enough, we talked about you and
our friends. I must say that Baisemeaux received me coldly; so I soon
took my leave of him. As I was returning, a soldier accosted me, and
said (no doubt as he recognized me, notwithstanding I was in private
clothes), ‘Captain, will you be good enough to read me the name written
on this envelope?’ and I read, ‘To Monsieur du Vallon, at M. Fouquet’s
house, Saint-Mande.’ The deuce, I said to myself, Porthos has not
returned, then, as I fancied, to Bell-Isle, or to Pierrefonds, but is
at M. Fouquet’s house, at Saint-Mande; and as M. Fouquet is not at
Saint-Mande, Porthos must be quite alone, or, at all events, with
Aramis; I will go and see Porthos, and I accordingly went to see
Porthos.”

“Very good,” said Aramis, thoughtfully.

“You never told me that,” said Porthos.

“I had no time, my friend.”

“And you brought back Porthos with you to Fontainebleau?”

“Yes, to Planchet’s house.”

“Does Planchet live at Fontainebleau?” inquired Aramis.

“Yes, near the cemetery,” said Porthos, thoughtlessly.

“What do you mean by ‘near the cemetery?’” said Aramis, suspiciously.

“Come,” thought the musketeer, “since there is to be a squabble, let us
take advantage of it.”

“Yes, the cemetery,” said Porthos. “Planchet is a very excellent fellow,
who makes very excellent preserves; but his house has windows which look
out upon the cemetery. And a confoundedly melancholy prospect it is! So
this morning--”

“This morning?” said Aramis, more and more excited.

D’Artagnan turned his back to them, and walked to the window, where he
began to play a march upon one of the panes of glass.

“Yes, this morning we saw a man buried there.”

“Ah!”

“Very depressing, was it not? I should never be able to live in a house
where burials can always be seen from the window. D’Artagnan, on the
contrary, seems to like it very much.”

“So D’Artagnan saw it as well?”

“Not simply _saw_ it; he literally never took his eyes off the whole
time.”

Aramis started, and turned to look at the musketeer, but the latter was
engaged in earnest conversation with Saint-Aignan. Aramis continued to
question Porthos, and when he had squeezed all the juice out of this
enormous lemon, he threw the peel aside. He turned towards his friend
D’Artagnan, and clapping him on the shoulder, when Saint-Aignan had left
him, the king’s supper having been announced, said, “D’Artagnan.”

“Yes, my dear fellow,” he replied.

“We do not sup with his majesty, I believe?”

“Well?--_we_ do.”

“Can you give me ten minutes’ conversation?”

“Twenty, if you like. His majesty will take quite that time to get
properly seated at table.”

“Where shall we talk, then?”

“Here, upon these seats if you like; the king has left, we can sit down,
and the apartment is empty.”

“Let us sit down, then.”

They sat down, and Aramis took one of D’Artagnan’s hands in his.

“Tell me, candidly, my dear friend, whether you have not counseled
Porthos to distrust me a little?”

“I admit, I have, but not as you understand it. I saw that Porthos was
bored to death, and I wished, by presenting him to the king, to do for
him, and for you, what you would never do for yourselves.”

“What is that?”

“Speak in your own praise.”

“And you have done it most nobly; I thank you.”

“And I brought the cardinal’s hat a little nearer, just as it seemed to
be retreating from you.”

“Ah! I admit that,” said Aramis, with a singular smile, “you are,
indeed, not to be matched for making your friends’ fortunes for them.”

“You see, then, that I only acted with the view of making Porthos’s
fortune for him.”

“I meant to have done that myself; but your arm reaches farther than
ours.”

It was now D’Artagnan’s turn to smile.

“Come,” said Aramis, “we ought to deal truthfully with each other. Do
you still love me, D’Artagnan?”

“The same as I used to do,” replied D’Artagnan, without compromising
himself too much by this reply.

“In that case, thanks; and now, for the most perfect frankness,” said
Aramis; “you visited Belle-Isle on behalf of the king?”

“_Pardieu!_”

“You wished to deprive us of the pleasure of offering Bell-Isle
completely fortified to the king.”

“But before I could deprive you of that pleasure, I ought to have been
made acquainted with your intention of doing so.”

“You came to Belle-Isle without knowing anything?”

“Of you! yes. How the devil could I imagine that Aramis had become
so clever an engineer as to be able to fortify like Polybius, or
Archimedes?”

“True. And yet you smelt me out over yonder?”

“Oh! yes.”

“And Porthos, too?”

“I did not divine that Aramis was an engineer. I was only able to guess
that Porthos might have become one. There is a saying, one becomes an
orator, one is born a poet; but it has never been said, one is born
Porthos, and one becomes an engineer.”

“Your wit is always amusing,” said Aramis, coldly.

“Well, I will go on.”

“Do. When you found out our secret, you made all the haste you could to
communicate it to the king.”

“I certainly made as much haste as I could, since I saw that you were
making still more. When a man weighing two hundred and fifty pounds, as
Porthos does, rides post; when a gouty prelate--I beg your pardon, but
you yourself told me you were so--when a prelate scours the highway--I
naturally suppose that my two friends, who did not wish to be
communicative with me, had certain matters of the highest importance
to conceal from me, and so I made as much haste as my leanness and the
absence of gout would allow.”

“Did it not occur to you, my dear friend, that you might be rendering
Porthos and myself a very sad service?”

“Yes, I thought it not unlikely; but you and Porthos made me play a very
ridiculous part at Belle-Isle.”

“I beg your pardon,” said Aramis.

“Excuse me,” said D’Artagnan.

“So that,” pursued Aramis, “you now know everything?”

“No, indeed.”

“You know I was obliged to inform M. Fouquet of what had happened, in
order that he would be able to anticipate what you might have to tell
the king?”

“That is rather obscure.”

“Not at all: M. Fouquet has his enemies--you will admit that, I
suppose.”

“Certainly.”

“And one in particular.”

“A dangerous one?”

“A mortal enemy. Well, in order to counteract that man’s influence, it
was necessary that M. Fouquet should give the king a proof of his great
devotion to him, and of his readiness to make the greatest sacrifices.
He surprised his majesty by offering him Belle-Isle. If you had been the
first to reach Paris, the surprise would have been destroyed, it would
have looked as if we had yielded to fear.”

“I understand.”

“That is the whole mystery,” said Aramis, satisfied that he had at last
quite convinced the musketeer.

“Only,” said the latter, “it would have been more simple to have
taken me aside, and said to me, ‘My dear D’Artagnan, we are fortifying
Belle-Isle, and intend to offer it to the king. Tell us frankly, for
whom you are acting. Are you a friend of M. Colbert, or of M. Fouquet?’
Perhaps I should not have answered you, but you would have added,--‘Are
you my friend?’ I should have said ‘Yes.’” Aramis hung down his head.
“In this way,” continued D’Artagnan, “you would have paralyzed my
movements, and I should have gone to the king, and said, ‘Sire, M.
Fouquet is fortifying Belle-Isle, and exceedingly well, too; but here is
a note, which the governor of Belle-Isle gave me for your majesty;’ or,
‘M. Fouquet is about to wait upon your majesty to explain his intentions
with regard to it.’ I should not have been placed in an absurd position;
you would have enjoyed the surprise so long planned, and we should not
have had any occasion to look askant at each other when we met.”

“While, on the contrary,” replied Aramis, “you have acted altogether
as one friendly to M. Colbert. And you really are a friend of his, I
suppose?”

“Certainly not, indeed!” exclaimed the captain. “M. Colbert is a mean
fellow, and I hate him as I used to hate Mazarin, but without fearing
him.”

“Well, then,” said Aramis, “I love M. Fouquet, and his interests are
mine. You know my position. I have no property or means whatever. M.
Fouquet gave me several livings, a bishopric as well; M. Fouquet has
served and obliged me like the generous-hearted man he is, and I know
the world sufficiently well to appreciate a kindness when I meet with
one. M. Fouquet has won my regard, and I have devoted myself to his
service.”

“You could not possibly do better. You will find him a very liberal
master.”

Aramis bit his lips; and then said, “The best a man could possibly
have.” He then paused for a minute, D’Artagnan taking good care not to
interrupt him.

“I suppose you know how Porthos got mixed up in all this?”

“No,” said D’Artagnan; “I am curious, of course, but I never question a
friend when he wishes to keep a secret from me.”

“Well, then, I will tell you.”

“It is hardly worth the trouble, if the confidence is to bind me in any
way.”

“Oh! do not be afraid.; there is no man whom I love better than
Porthos, because he is so simple-minded and good-natured. Porthos is
so straightforward in everything. Since I have become a bishop, I have
looked for these primeval natures, which make me love truth and hate
intrigue.”

D’Artagnan stroked his mustache, but said nothing.

“I saw Porthos and again cultivated his acquaintance; his own time
hanging idly on his hands, his presence recalled my earlier and better
days without engaging me in any present evil. I sent for Porthos to come
to Vannes. M. Fouquet, whose regard for me is very great, having
learnt that Porthos and I were attached to each other by old ties of
friendship, promised him increase of rank at the earliest promotion, and
that is the whole secret.”

“I shall not abuse your confidence,” said D’Artagnan.

“I am sure of that, my dear friend; no one has a finer sense of honor
than yourself.”

“I flatter myself that you are right, Aramis.”

“And now”--and here the prelate looked searchingly and scrutinizingly
at his friend--“now let us talk of ourselves and for ourselves; will you
become one of M. Fouquet’s friends? Do not interrupt me until you know
what that means.”

“Well, I am listening.”

“Will you become a marechal of France, peer, duke, and the possessor of
a duchy, with a million of francs?”

“But, my friend,” replied D’Artagnan, “what must one do to get all
that?”

“Belong to M. Fouquet.”

“But I already belong to the king.”

“Not exclusively, I suppose.”

“Oh! a D’Artagnan cannot be divided.”

“You have, I presume, ambitions, as noble hearts like yours have.”

“Yes, certainly I have.”

“Well?”

“Well! I wish to be a marechal; the king will make me marechal, duke,
peer; the king will make me all that.”

Aramis fixed a searching look upon D’Artagnan.

“Is not the king master?” said D’Artagnan.

“No one disputes it; but Louis XIII. was master also.”

“Oh! my dear friend, between Richelieu and Louis XIII. stood no
D’Artagnan,” said the musketeer, very quietly.

“There are many stumbling-blocks round the king,” said Aramis.

“Not for the king’s feet.”

“Very likely not; still--”

“One moment, Aramis; I observe that every one thinks of himself, and
never of his poor prince; I will maintain myself maintaining him.”

“And if you meet with ingratitude?”

“The weak alone are afraid of that.”

“You are quite certain of yourself?”

“I think so.”

“Still, the king may some day have no further need for you!”

“On the contrary, I think his need of me will soon be greater than ever;
and hearken, my dear fellow, if it became necessary to arrest a new
Conde, who would do it? This--this alone in France!” and D’Artagnan
struck his sword, which clanked sullenly on the tesselated floor.

“You are right,” said Aramis, turning very pale; and then he rose and
pressed D’Artagnan’s hand.

“That is the last summons for supper,” said the captain of the
musketeers; “will you excuse me?”

Aramis threw his arm round the musketeer’s neck, and said, “A
friend like you is the brightest jewel in the royal crown.” And they
immediately separated.

“I was right,” mused D’Artagnan; “there is, indeed, something strangely
serious stirring.”

“We must hasten the explosion,” breathed the coming cardinal, “for
D’Artagnan has discovered the existence of a plot.”



Chapter X. Madame and De Guiche.

It will not be forgotten how Comte de Guiche left the queen-mother’s
apartments on the day when Louis XIV. presented La Valliere with the
beautiful bracelets he had won in the lottery. The comte walked to and
fro for some time outside the palace, in the greatest distress, from
a thousand suspicions and anxieties with which his mind was beset.
Presently he stopped and waited on the terrace opposite the grove of
trees, watching for Madame’s departure. More than half an hour passed
away; and as he was at that moment quite alone, the comte could hardly
have had any very diverting ideas at his command. He drew his tables
from his pocket, and, after hesitating over and over again, determined
to write these words:--“Madame, I implore you to grant me one moment’s
conversation. Do not be alarmed at this request, which contains nothing
in any way opposed to the profound respect with which I subscribe
myself, etc., etc.” He had signed and folded this singular love-letter,
when he suddenly observed several ladies leaving the chateau, and
afterwards several courtiers too; in fact, almost every one that formed
the queen’s circle. He saw La Valliere herself, then Montalais talking
with Malicorne; he watched the departure of the very last of the
numerous guests that had a short time before thronged the queen-mother’s
cabinet.

Madame herself had not yet passed; she would be obliged, however, to
cross the courtyard in order to enter her own apartments; and, from the
terrace where he was standing, De Guiche could see all that was going on
in the courtyard. At last he saw Madame leave, attended by a couple
of pages, who were carrying torches before her. She was walking very
quickly; as soon as she reached the door, she said:

“Let some one go and look for De Guiche: he has to render an account
of a mission he had to discharge for me; if he should be disengaged,
request him to be good enough to come to my apartment.”

De Guiche remained silent, hidden in the shade; but as soon as Madame
had withdrawn, he darted from the terrace down the steps and assumed a
most indifferent air, so that the pages who were hurrying towards his
rooms might meet him.

“Ah! it is Madame, then, who is seeking me!” he said to himself, quite
overcome; and he crushed in his hand the now worse than useless letter.

“M. le comte,” said one of the pages, approaching him, “we are indeed
most fortunate in meeting you.”

“Why so, messieurs?”

“A command from Madame.”

“From Madame!” said De Guiche, looking surprised.

“Yes, M. le comte, her royal highness has been asking for you; she
expects to hear, she told us, the result of a commission you had to
execute for her. Are you at liberty?”

“I am quite at her royal highness’s orders.”

“Will you have the goodness to follow us, then?”

When De Guiche entered the princess’s apartments, he found her pale and
agitated. Montalais was standing at the door, evidently uneasy about
what was passing in her mistress’s mind. De Guiche appeared.

“Ah! is that you, Monsieur de Guiche?” said Madame; “come in, I beg.
Mademoiselle de Montalais, I do not require your attendance any longer.”

Montalais, more puzzled than ever, courtesied and withdrew. De Guiche
and the princess were left alone. The comte had every advantage in his
favor; it was Madame who had summoned him to a rendezvous. But how was
it possible for the comte to make use of this advantage? Madame was so
whimsical, and her disposition so changeable. She soon allowed this to
be perceived, for, suddenly, opening the conversation, she said: “Well!
have you nothing to say to me?”

He imagined she must have guessed his thoughts; he fancied (for those
who are in love are thus constituted, being as credulous and blind as
poets or prophets), he fancied she knew how ardent was his desire to see
her, and also the subject uppermost in his mind.

“Yes, Madame,” he said, “and I think it very singular.”

“The affair of the bracelets,” she exclaimed, eagerly, “you mean that, I
suppose?”

“Yes, Madame.”

“And you think the king is in love; do you not?”

Guiche looked at her for some time; her eyes sank under his gaze, which
seemed to read her very heart.

“I think,” he said, “that the king may possibly have had an idea of
annoying some one; were it not for that, the king would hardly show
himself so earnest in his attentions as he is; he would not run the risk
of compromising, from mere thoughtlessness of disposition, a young girl
against whom no one has been hitherto able to say a word.”

“Indeed! the bold, shameless girl,” said the princess, haughtily.

“I can positively assure your royal highness,” said De Guiche, with a
firmness marked by great respect, “that Mademoiselle de la Valliere
is beloved by a man who merits every respect, for he is a brave and
honorable gentleman.”

“Bragelonne?”

“My friend; yes, Madame.”

“Well, and though he is your friend, what does that matter to the king?”

“The king knows that Bragelonne is affianced to Mademoiselle de la
Valliere; and as Raoul has served the king most valiantly, the king will
not inflict an irreparable injury upon him.”

Madame began to laugh in a manner that produced a sinister impression
upon De Guiche.

“I repeat, Madame, I do not believe the king is in love with
Mademoiselle de la Valliere; and the proof that I do not believe it is,
that I was about to ask you whose _amour propre_ it is likely the king
is desirous of wounding? You, who are well acquainted with the whole
court, can perhaps assist me in ascertaining that; and assuredly, with
greater certainty, since it is everywhere said that your royal highness
is on very friendly terms with the king.”

Madame bit her lips, and, unable to assign any good and sufficient
reasons, changed the conversation. “Prove to me,” she said, fixing on
him one of those looks in which the whole soul seems to pass into the
eyes, “prove to me, I say, that you intended to interrogate me at the
very moment I sent for you.”

De Guiche gravely drew from his pocket the now crumpled note that he had
written, and showed it to her.

“Sympathy,” she said.

“Yes,” said the comte, with an indescribable tenderness of tone,
“sympathy. I have explained to you how and why I sought you; you,
however, have yet to tell me, Madame, why you sent for me.”

“True,” replied the princess. She hesitated, and then suddenly
exclaimed, “Those bracelets will drive me mad.”

“You expected the king would offer them to you,” replied De Guiche.

“Why not?”

“But before you, Madame, before you, his sister-in-law, was there not
the queen herself to whom the king should have offered them?”

“Before La Valliere,” cried the princess, wounded to the quick, “could
he not have presented them to me? Was there not the whole court, indeed,
to choose from?”

“I assure you, Madame,” said the comte, respectfully, “that if any one
heard you speak in this manner, if any one were to see how red your eyes
are, and, Heaven forgive me, to see, too, that tear trembling on your
eyelids, it would be said that your royal highness was jealous.”

“Jealous!” said the princess, haughtily, “jealous of La Valliere!”

She expected to see De Guiche yield beneath her scornful gesture and her
proud tone; but he simply and boldly replied, “Jealous of La Valliere;
yes, Madame.”

“Am I to suppose, monsieur,” she stammered out, “that your object is to
insult me?”

“It is not possible, Madame,” replied the comte, slightly agitated, but
resolved to master that fiery nature.

“Leave the room!” said the princess, thoroughly exasperated, De Guiche’s
coolness and silent respect having made her completely lose her temper.

De Guiche fell back a step, bowed slowly, but with great respect, drew
himself up, looking as white as his lace cuffs, and, in a voice slightly
trembling, said, “It was hardly worth while to have hurried here to be
subjected to this unmerited disgrace.” And he turned away with hasty
steps.

He had scarcely gone half a dozen paces when Madame darted like a
tigress after him, seized him by the cuff, and making him turn round
again, said, trembling with passion as she did so, “The respect you
pretend to have is more insulting than the insult itself. Insult me, if
you please, but at least speak.”

“Madame,” said the comte, gently, as he drew his sword, “thrust this
blade into my heart, rather than kill me by degrees.”

At the look he fixed upon her,--a look full of love, resolution, and
despair, even,--she knew how readily the comte, so outwardly calm in
appearance, would pass his sword through his own breast if she added
another word. She tore the blade from his hands, and, pressing his arm
with a feverish impatience, which might pass for tenderness, said, “Do
not be too hard upon me, comte. You see how I am suffering, and yet you
have no pity for me.”

Tears, the cries of this strange attack, stifled her voice. As soon as
De Guiche saw her weep, he took her in his arms and carried her to an
armchair; in another moment she would have been suffocated.

“Oh, why,” he murmured, as he knelt by her side, “why do you conceal
your troubles from me? Do you love any one--tell me? It would kill me,
I know, but not until I should have comforted, consoled, and served you
even.”

“And do you love me to that extent?” she replied, completely conquered.

“I do indeed love you to that extent, Madame.”

She placed both her hands in his. “My heart is indeed another’s,” she
murmured in so low a tone that her voice could hardly be heard; but he
heard it, and said, “Is it the king you love?”

She gently shook her head, and her smile was like a clear bright streak
in the clouds, through which after the tempest has passed one almost
fancies Paradise is opening. “But,” she added, “there are other passions
in a high-born heart. Love is poetry; but the real life of the heart is
pride. Comte, I was born on a throne, I am proud and jealous of my rank.
Why does the king gather such unworthy objects round him?”

“Once more, I repeat,” said the comte, “you are acting unjustly towards
that poor girl, who will one day be my friend’s wife.”

“Are you simple enough to believe that, comte?”

“If I did not believe it,” he said, turning very pale, “Bragelonne
should be informed of it to-morrow; indeed he should, if I thought that
poor La Valliere had forgotten the vows she had exchanged with Raoul.
But no, it would be cowardly to betray a woman’s secret; it would be
criminal to disturb a friend’s peace of mind.”

“You think, then,” said the princess, with a wild burst of laughter,
“that ignorance is happiness?”

“I believe it,” he replied.

“Prove it to me, then,” she said, hurriedly.

“It is easily done, Madame. It is reported through the whole court that
the king loves you, and that you return his affection.”

“Well?” she said, breathing with difficulty.

“Well; admit for a moment that Raoul, my friend, had come and said to
me, ‘Yes, the king loves Madame, and has made an impression upon her
heart,’ I possibly should have slain Raoul.”

“It would have been necessary,” said the princess, with the obstinacy of
a woman who feels herself not easily overcome, “for M. de Bragelonne to
have had proofs before he ventured to speak to you in that manner.”

“Such, however, is the case,” replied De Guiche, with a deep sigh,
“that, not having been warned, I have never examined into the matter
seriously; and I now find that my ignorance has saved my life.”

“So, then, you drive selfishness and coldness to that extent,” said
Madame, “that you would let this unhappy young man continue to love La
Valliere?”

“I would, until La Valliere’s guilt were revealed.”

“But the bracelets?”

“Well, Madame, since you yourself expected to receive them from the
king, what can I possibly say?”

The argument was a telling one, and the princess was overwhelmed by it,
and from that moment her defeat was assured. But as her heart and
mind were instinct with noble and generous feelings, she understood De
Guiche’s extreme delicacy. She saw that in his heart he really suspected
that the king was in love with La Valliere, and that he did not wish
to resort to the common expedient of ruining a rival in the mind of
a woman, by giving the latter the assurance and certainty that this
rival’s affections were transferred to another woman. She guessed that
his suspicions of La Valliere were aroused, and that, in order to leave
himself time for his convictions to undergo a change, so as not to ruin
Louise utterly, he was determined to pursue a certain straightforward
line of conduct. She could read so much real greatness of character, and
such true generosity of disposition in her lover, that her heart really
warmed with affection towards him, whose passion for her was so pure and
delicate. Despite his fear of incurring her displeasure, De Guiche, by
retaining his position as a man of proud independence of feeling and
deep devotion, became almost a hero in her estimation, and reduced her
to the state of a jealous and little-minded woman. She loved him for
this so tenderly, that she could not refuse to give him a proof of her
affection.

“See how many words we have wasted,” she said, taking his hand,
“suspicions, anxieties, mistrust, sufferings--I think we have enumerated
all those words.”

“Alas! Madame, yes.”

“Efface them from your heart as I drive them from mine. Whether La
Valliere does or does not love the king, and whether the king does
or does not love La Valliere--from this moment you and I will draw a
distinction in the two characters I have to perform. You open your eyes
so wide that I am sure you hardly understand me.”

“You are so impetuous, Madame, that I always tremble at the fear of
displeasing you.”

“And see how he trembles now, poor fellow,” she said, with the most
charming playfulness of manner. “Yes, monsieur, I have two characters
to perform. I am the sister of the king, the sister-in-law of the
king’s wife. In this character ought I not to take an interest in these
domestic intrigues? Come, tell me what you think?”

“As little as possible, Madame.”

“Agreed, monsieur; but it is a question of dignity; and then, you
know, I am the wife of the king’s brother.” De Guiche sighed. “A
circumstance,” she added, with an expression of great tenderness, “which
will remind you that I am always to be treated with the profoundest
respect.” De Guiche fell at her feet, which he kissed, with the
religious fervor of a worshipper. “And I begin to think that, really and
truly, I have another character to perform. I was almost forgetting it.”

“Name it, oh! name it,” said De Guiche.

“I am a woman,” she said, in a voice lower than ever, “and I love.”
 He rose, she opened her arms, and their lips met. A footstep was heard
behind the tapestry, and Mademoiselle de Montalais appeared.

“What do you want?” said Madame.

“M. de Guiche is wanted,” replied Montalais, who was just in time to see
the agitation of the actors of these four characters; for De Guiche had
consistently carried out his part with heroism.



Chapter XI. Montalais and Malicorne.

Montalais was right. M. de Guiche, thus summoned in every direction, was
very much exposed, from such a multiplication of business, to the
risk of not attending to any. It so happened that, considering the
awkwardness of the interruption, Madame, notwithstanding her wounded
pride, and secret anger, could not, for the moment at least, reproach
Montalais for having violated, in so bold a manner, the semi-royal order
with which she had been dismissed on De Guiche’s entrance. De Guiche,
also, lost his presence of mind, or, it would be more correct to say,
had already lost it, before Montalais’s arrival, for, scarcely had he
heard the young girl’s voice, than, without taking leave of Madame, as
the most ordinary politeness required, even between persons equal in
rank and station, he fled from her presence, his heart tumultuously
throbbing, and his brain on fire, leaving the princess with one hand
raised, as though to bid him adieu. Montalais was at no loss, therefore,
to perceive the agitation of the two lovers--the one who fled was
agitated, and the one who remained was equally so.

“Well,” murmured the young girl, as she glanced inquisitively round her,
“this time, at least, I think I know as much as the most curious
woman could possibly wish to know.” Madame felt so embarrassed by this
inquisitorial look, that, as if she heard Montalais’s muttered side
remark, she did not speak a word to her maid of honor, but, casting down
her eyes, retired at once to her bedroom. Montalais, observing this,
stood listening for a moment, and then heard Madame lock and bolt her
door. By this she knew that the rest of the evening was at her own
disposal; and making, behind the door which had just been closed, a
gesture which indicated but little real respect for the princess, she
went down the staircase in search of Malicorne, who was very busily
engaged at that moment in watching a courier, who, covered with dust,
had just left the Comte de Guiche’s apartments. Montalais knew that
Malicorne was engaged in a matter of some importance; she therefore
allowed him to look and stretch out his neck as much as he pleased; and
it was only when Malicorne had resumed his natural position, that she
touched him on the shoulder. “Well,” said Montalais, “what is the latest
intelligence you have?”

“M. de Guiche is in love with Madame.”

“Fine news, truly! I know something more recent than that.”

“Well, what do you know?”

“That Madame is in love with M. de Guiche.”

“The one is the consequence of the other.”

“Not always, my good monsieur.”

“Is that remark intended for me?”

“Present company always excepted.”

“Thank you,” said Malicorne. “Well, and in the other direction, what is
stirring?”

“The king wished, this evening, after the lottery, to see Mademoiselle
de la Valliere.”

“Well, and he has seen her?”

“No, indeed!”

“What do you mean by that?”

“The door was shut and locked.”

“So that--”

“So that the king was obliged to go back again, looking very sheepish,
like a thief who has forgotten his crowbar.”

“Good.”

“And in the third place?” inquired Montalais.

“The courier who has just arrived for De Guiche came from M. de
Bragelonne.”

“Excellent,” said Montalais, clapping her hands together.

“Why so?”

“Because we have work to do. If we get weary now, something unlucky will
be sure to happen.”

“We must divide the work, then,” said Malicorne, “in order to avoid
confusion.”

“Nothing easier,” replied Montalais. “Three intrigues, carefully nursed,
and carefully encouraged, will produce, one with another, and taking a
low average, three love letters a day.”

“Oh!” exclaimed Malicorne, shrugging his shoulders, “you cannot mean
what you say, darling; three letters a day, that may do for sentimental
common people. A musketeer on duty, a young girl in a convent, may
exchange letters with their lovers once a day, perhaps, from the top
of a ladder, or through a hole in the wall. A letter contains all the
poetry their poor little hearts have to boast of. But the cases we have
in hand require to be dealt with very differently.”

“Well, finish,” said Montalais, out of patience with him. “Some one may
come.”

“Finish! Why, I am only at the beginning. I have still three points as
yet untouched.”

“Upon my word, he will be the death of me, with his Flemish
indifference,” exclaimed Montalais.

“And you will drive me mad with your Italian vivacity. I was going to
say that our lovers here will be writing volumes to each other. But what
are you driving at?”

“At this. Not one of our lady correspondents will be able to keep the
letters they may receive.”

“Very likely.”

“M. de Guiche will not be able to keep his either.”

“That is probable.”

“Very well, then; I will take care of all that.”

“That is the very thing that is impossible,” said Malicorne.

“Why so?”

“Because you are not your own mistress; your room is as much La
Valliere’s as yours; and there are certain persons who will think
nothing of visiting and searching a maid of honor’s room; so that I am
terribly afraid of the queen, who is as jealous as a Spaniard; of the
queen-mother, who is as jealous as a couple of Spaniards; and, last of
all, of Madame herself, who has jealousy enough for ten Spaniards.”

“You forgot some one else.”

“Who?”

“Monsieur.”

“I was only speaking of the women. Let us add them up, then: we will
call Monsieur, No. 1.”

“De Guiche?”

“No. 2.”

“The Vicomte de Bragelonne?”

“No. 3.”

“And the king, the king?”

“No. 4. Of course the king, who not only will be more jealous, but more
powerful than all the rest put together. Ah, my dear!”

“Well?”

“Into what a wasp’s nest you have thrust yourself!”

“And as yet not quite far enough, if you will follow me into it.”

“Most certainly I will follow you where you like. Yet--”

“Well, yet--”

“While we have time, I think it will be prudent to turn back.”

“But I, on the contrary, think the wisest course to take is to put
ourselves at once at the head of all these intrigues.”

“You will never be able to do it.”

“With you, I could superintend ten of them. I am in my element, you must
know. I was born to live at the court, as the salamander is made to live
in the fire.”

“Your comparison does not reassure me in the slightest degree in the
world, my dear Montalais. I have heard it said, and by learned men too,
that, in the first place, there are no salamanders at all, and that, if
there had been any, they would have been infallibly baked or roasted on
leaving the fire.”

“Your learned men may be very wise as far as salamanders are concerned,
but they would never tell you what I can tell you; namely, that Aure
de Montalais is destined, before a month is over, to become the first
diplomatist in the court of France.”

“Be it so, but on condition that I shall be the second.”

“Agreed; an offensive and defensive alliance, of course.”

“Only be very careful of any letters.”

“I will hand them to you as I receive them.”

“What shall we tell the king about Madame?”

“That Madame is still in love with his majesty.”

“What shall we tell Madame about the king?”

“That she would be exceedingly wrong not to humor him.”

“What shall we tell La Valliere about Madame?”

“Whatever we choose, for La Valliere is in our power.”

“How so?”

“Every way.”

“What do you mean?”

“In the first place, through the Vicomte de Bragelonne.”

“Explain yourself.”

“You do not forget, I hope, that Monsieur de Bragelonne has written many
letters to Mademoiselle de la Valliere.”

“I forget nothing.”

“Well, then, it was I who received, and I who intercepted those
letters.”

“And, consequently, it is you who have them still?”

“Yes.”

“Where,--here?”

“Oh, no; I have them safe at Blois, in the little room you know well
enough.”

“That dear little room,--that darling little room, the ante-chamber of
the palace I intend you to live in one of these days. But, I beg your
pardon, you said that all those letters are in that little room?”

“Yes.”

“Did you not put them in a box?”

“Of course; in the same box where I put all the letters I received from
you, and where I put mine also when your business or your amusements
prevented you from coming to our rendezvous.”

“Ah, very good,” said Malicorne.

“Why are you satisfied?”

“Because I see there is a possibility of not having to run to Blois
after the letters, for I have them here.”

“You have brought the box away?”

“It was very dear to me, because it belonged to you.”

“Be sure and take care of it, for it contains original documents that
will be of priceless value by and by.”

“I am perfectly well aware of that indeed, and that is the very reason
why I laugh as I do, and with all my heart, too.”

“And now, one last word.”

“Why _last?_”

“Do we need any one to assist us?”

“No one.”

“Valets or maid-servants?”

“Bad policy. You will give the letters,--you will receive them. Oh!
we must have no pride in this affair, otherwise M. Malicorne and
Mademoiselle Aure, not transacting their own affairs themselves, will
have to make up their minds to see them done by others.”

“You are quite right; but what is going on yonder in M. de Guiche’s
room?”

“Nothing; he is only opening his window.”

“Let us be gone.” And they both immediately disappeared, all the terms
of the contract being agreed on.

The window just opened was, in fact, that of the Comte de Guiche. It
was not alone with the hope of catching a glimpse of Madame through her
curtains that he seated himself by the open window for his preoccupation
of mind had at that time a different origin. He had just received, as
we have already stated, the courier who had been dispatched to him by
Bragelonne, the latter having written to De Guiche a letter which had
made the deepest impression upon him, and which he had read over and
over again. “Strange, strange!” he murmured. “How irresponsible are the
means by which destiny hurries men onward to their fate!” Leaving the
window in order to approach nearer to the light, he once more read the
letter he had just received:--


“CALAIS.

“MY DEAR COUNT,--I found M. de Wardes at Calais; he has been
seriously wounded in an affair with the Duke of Buckingham. De Wardes
is, as you know, unquestionably brave, but full of malevolent and wicked
feelings. He conversed with me about yourself, for whom, he says, he
has a warm regard, also about Madame, whom he considers a beautiful and
amiable woman. He has guessed your affection for a certain person. He
also talked to me about the lady for whom I have so ardent a regard, and
showed the greatest interest on my behalf in expressing a deep pity for
me, accompanied, however, by dark hints which alarmed me at first, but
which I at last looked upon as the result of his usual love of mystery.
These are the facts: he had received news of the court; you will
understand, however, that it was only through M. de Lorraine. The report
goes, so says the news, that a change has taken place in the king’s
affections. You know whom that concerns. Afterwards, the news continues,
people are talking about one of the maids of honor, respecting whom
various slanderous reports are being circulated. These vague phrases
have not allowed me to sleep. I have been deploring, ever
since yesterday, that my diffidence and vacillation of purpose,
notwithstanding a certain obstinacy of character I may possess, have
left me unable to reply to these insinuations. In a word, M. de Wardes
was setting off for Paris, and I did not delay his departure with
explanations; for it seemed rather hard, I confess, to cross-examine a
man whose wounds are hardly yet closed. In short, he travelled by short
stages, as he was anxious to leave, he said, in order to be present at a
curious spectacle the court cannot fail to offer within a short time.
He added a few congratulatory words accompanied by vague sympathizing
expressions. I could not understand the one any more than the other. I
was bewildered by my own thoughts, and tormented by a mistrust of this
man,--a mistrust which, you know better than any one else, I have never
been able to overcome. As soon as he left, my perceptions seemed
to become clearer. It is hardly possible that a man of De Wardes’s
character should not have communicated something of his own malicious
nature to the statements he made to me. It is not unlikely, therefore,
that in the strange hints De Wardes threw out in my presence, there may
be a mysterious signification, which I might have some difficulty in
applying either to myself or to some one with whom you are acquainted.
Being compelled to leave as soon as possible, in obedience to the king’s
commands, the idea did not occur to me of running after De Wardes in
order to ask him to explain his reserve; but I have dispatched a courier
to you with this letter, which will explain in detail my various doubts.
I regard you as myself; you have reflected and observed; it will be for
you to act. M. de Wardes will arrive very shortly; endeavor to learn
what he meant, if you do not already know. M. de Wardes, moreover,
pretended that the Duke of Buckingham left Paris on the very best of
terms with Madame. This was an affair which would have unhesitatingly
made me draw my sword, had I not felt that I was under the necessity
of dispatching the king’s mission before undertaking any quarrel
whatsoever. Burn this letter, which Olivain will hand you. Whatever
Olivain says, you may confidently rely on. Will you have the goodness,
my dear comte, to recall me to the remembrance of Mademoiselle de la
Valliere, whose hands I kiss with the greatest respect.

“Your devoted

“DE BRAGELONNE.

“P. S.--If anything serious should happen--we should be prepared for
everything, dispatch a courier to me with this one single word, ‘come,’
and I will be in Paris within six and thirty hours after the receipt of
your letter.”


De Guiche sighed, folded up the letter a third time, and, instead of
burning it, as Raoul had recommended him to do, placed it in his pocket.
He felt it needed reading over and over again.

“How much distress of mind, yet what sublime confidence, he shows!”
 murmured the comte; “he has poured out his whole soul in this letter.
He says nothing of the Comte de la Fere, and speaks of his respect for
Louise. He cautions me on my own account, and entreats me on his. Ah!”
 continued De Guiche, with a threatening gesture, “you interfere in my
affairs, Monsieur de Wardes, do you? Very well, then; I will shortly
occupy myself with yours. As for you, poor Raoul,--you who intrust your
heart to my keeping, be assured I will watch over it.”

With this promise, De Guiche begged Malicorne to come immediately to his
apartments, if possible. Malicorne acknowledged the invitation with an
activity which was the first result of his conversation with Montalais.
And while De Guiche, who thought that his motive was undiscovered,
cross-examined Malicorne, the latter, who appeared to be working in the
dark, soon guessed his questioner’s motives. The consequence was,
that, after a quarter of an hour’s conversation, during which De Guiche
thought he had ascertained the whole truth with regard to La Valliere
and the king, he had learned absolutely nothing more than his own eyes
had already acquainted him with, while Malicorne learned, or guessed,
that Raoul, who was absent, was fast becoming suspicious, and that De
Guiche intended to watch over the treasure of the Hesperides. Malicorne
accepted the office of dragon. De Guiche fancied he had done everything
for his friend, and soon began to think of nothing but his personal
affairs. The next evening, De Wardes’s return and first appearance at
the king’s reception were announced. When that visit had been paid, the
convalescent waited on Monsieur; De Guiche taking care, however, to be
at Monsieur’s apartments before the visit took place.



Chapter XII. How De Wardes Was Received at Court.

Monsieur had received De Wardes with that marked favor light and
frivolous minds bestow on every novelty that comes in their way. De
Wardes, who had been absent for a month, was like fresh fruit to him.
To treat him with marked kindness was an infidelity to old friends, and
there is always something fascinating in that; moreover, it was a sort
of reparation to De Wardes himself. Nothing, consequently, could exceed
the favorable notice Monsieur took of him. The Chevalier de Lorraine,
who feared this rival but a little, but who respected a character and
disposition only too parallel to his own in every particular, with the
addition of a bull-dog courage he did not himself possess, received De
Wardes with a greater display of regard and affection than even Monsieur
had done. De Guiche, as we have said, was there also, but kept in the
background, waiting very patiently until all these interchanges were
over. De Wardes, while talking to the others, and even to Monsieur
himself, had not for a moment lost sight of De Guiche, who, he
instinctively felt, was there on his account. As soon as he had finished
with the others, he went up to De Guiche. They exchanged the most
courteous compliments, after which De Wardes returned to Monsieur and
the other gentlemen.

In the midst of these congratulations Madame was announced. She had
been informed of De Wardes’s arrival, and knowing all the details of his
voyage and duel, she was not sorry to be present at the remarks she
knew would be made, without delay, by one who, she felt assured, was her
personal enemy. Two or three of her ladies accompanied her. De Wardes
saluted Madame in the most graceful and respectful manner, and, as a
commencement of hostilities, announced, in the first place, that he
could furnish the Duke of Buckingham’s friends with the latest news
about him. This was a direct answer to the coldness with which Madame
had received him. The attack was a vigorous one, and Madame felt the
blow, but without appearing to have even noticed it. He rapidly cast a
glance at Monsieur and at De Guiche,--the former colored, and the latter
turned very pale. Madame alone preserved an unmoved countenance; but,
as she knew how many unpleasant thoughts and feelings her enemy could
awaken in the two persons who were listening to him, she smilingly
bent forward towards the traveler, as if to listen to the news he had
brought--but he was speaking of other matters. Madame was brave, even to
imprudence; if she were to retreat, it would be inviting an attack; so,
after the first disagreeable impression had passed away, she returned to
the charge.

“Have you suffered much from your wounds, Monsieur de Wardes?” she
inquired, “for we have been told that you had the misfortune to get
wounded.”

It was now De Wardes’s turn to wince; he bit his lips, and replied, “No,
Madame, hardly at all.”

“Indeed! and yet in this terribly hot weather--”

“The sea-breezes were very fresh and cool, Madame, and then I had one
consolation.”

“Indeed! What was it?”

“The knowledge that my adversary’s sufferings were still greater than my
own.”

“Ah! you mean he was more seriously wounded than you were; I was not
aware of that,” said the princess, with utter indifference.

“Oh, Madame, you are mistaken, or rather you pretend to misunderstand
my remark. I did not say that he was a greater sufferer in body than
myself; but his heart was very seriously affected.”

De Guiche comprehended instinctively from what direction the struggle
was approaching; he ventured to make a sign to Madame, as if entreating
her to retire from the contest. But she, without acknowledging De
Guiche’s gesture, without pretending to have noticed it even, and still
smiling, continued:

“Is it possible,” she said, “that the Duke of Buckingham’s heart was
touched? I had no idea, until now, that a heart-wound could be cured.”

“Alas! Madame,” replied De Wardes, politely, “every woman believes that;
and it is this belief that gives them that superiority to man which
confidence begets.”

“You misunderstand altogether, dearest,” said the prince, impatiently;
“M. de Wardes means that the Duke of Buckingham’s heart had been
touched, not by the sword, but by something sharper.”

“Ah! very good, very good!” exclaimed Madame. “It is a jest of M. de
Wardes’s. Very good; but I should like to know if the Duke of Buckingham
would appreciate the jest. It is, indeed, a very great pity he is not
here, M. de Wardes.”

The young man’s eyes seemed to flash fire. “Oh!” he said, as he clenched
his teeth, “there is nothing I should like better.”

De Guiche did not move. Madame seemed to expect that he would come to
her assistance. Monsieur hesitated. The Chevalier de Lorraine advanced
and continued the conversation.

“Madame,” he said, “De Wardes knows perfectly well that for a
Buckingham’s heart to be touched is nothing new, and what he has said
has already taken place.”

“Instead of an ally, I have two enemies,” murmured Madame; “two
determined enemies, and in league with each other.” And she changed the
conversation. To change the conversation is, as every one knows, a
right possessed by princes which etiquette requires all to respect. The
remainder of the conversation was moderate enough in tone; the principal
actors had rehearsed their parts. Madame withdrew easily, and Monsieur,
who wished to question her on several matters, offered her his hand on
leaving. The chevalier was seriously afraid that an understanding might
be established between the husband and wife if he were to leave them
quietly together. He therefore made his way to Monsieur’s apartments, in
order to surprise him on his return, and to destroy with a few words all
the good impressions Madame might have been able to sow in his heart. De
Guiche advanced towards De Wardes, who was surrounded by a large number
of persons, and thereby indicated his wish to converse with him; De
Wardes, at the same time, showing by his looks and by a movement of his
head that he perfectly understood him. There was nothing in these signs
to enable strangers to suppose they were otherwise than upon the most
friendly footing. De Guiche could therefore turn away from him, and wait
until he was at liberty. He had not long to wait; for De Wardes,
freed from his questioners, approached De Guiche, and after a fresh
salutation, they walked side by side together.

“You have made a good impression since your return, my dear De Wardes,”
 said the comte.

“Excellent, as you see.”

“And your spirits are just as lively as ever?”

“Better.”

“And a very great happiness, too.”

“Why not? Everything is so ridiculous in this world, everything so
absurd around us.”

“You are right.”

“You are of my opinion, then?”

“I should think so! And what news do you bring us from yonder?”

“I? None at all. I have come to look for news here.”

“But, tell me, you surely must have seen some people at Boulogne, one of
our friends, for instance; it is no great time ago.”

“Some people--one of our friends--”

“Your memory is short.”

“Ah! true; Bragelonne, you mean.”

“Exactly so.”

“Who was on his way to fulfil a mission, with which he was intrusted to
King Charles II.”

“Precisely. Well, then, did he not tell you, or did not you tell him--”

“I do not precisely know what I told him, I must confess: but I do know
what I did _not_ tell him.” De Wardes was _finesse_ itself. He
perfectly well knew from De Guiche’s tone and manner, which was cold
and dignified, that the conversation was about to assume a disagreeable
turn. He resolved to let it take what course it pleased, and to keep
strictly on his guard.

“May I ask you what you did not tell him?” inquired De Guiche.

“All about La Valliere.”

“La Valliere... What is it? and what was that strange circumstance you
seem to have known over yonder, which Bragelonne, who was here on the
spot, was not acquainted with?”

“Do you really ask me that in a serious manner?”

“Nothing more so.”

“What! you, a member of the court, living in Madame’s household, a
friend of Monsieur’s, a guest at their table, the favorite of our lovely
princess?”

Guiche colored violently from anger. “What princess are you alluding
to?” he said.

“I am only acquainted with one, my dear fellow. I am speaking of Madame
herself. Are you devoted to another princess, then? Come, tell me.”

De Guiche was on the point of launching out, but he saw the drift of
the remark. A quarrel was imminent between the two young men. De Wardes
wished the quarrel to be only in Madame’s name, while De Guiche would
not accept it except on La Valliere’s account. From this moment, it
became a series of feigned attacks, which would have continued until one
of the two had been touched home. De Guiche therefore resumed all the
self-possession he could command.

“There is not the slightest question in the world of Madame in this
matter, my dear De Wardes.” said Guiche, “but simply of what you were
talking about just now.”

“What was I saying?”

“That you had concealed certain things from Bragelonne.”

“Certain things which you know as well as I do,” replied De Wardes.

“No, upon my honor.”

“Nonsense.”

“If you tell me what they are, I shall know, but not otherwise, I
swear.”

“What! I who have just arrived from a distance of sixty leagues, and you
who have not stirred from this place, who have witnessed with your
own eyes that which rumor informed me of at Calais! Do you now tell
me seriously that you do not know what it is about? Oh! comte, this is
hardly charitable of you.”

“As you like, De Wardes; but I again repeat, I know nothing.”

“You are truly discreet--well!--perhaps it is very prudent of you.”

“And so you will not tell me anything, will not tell me any more than
you told Bragelonne?”

“You are pretending to be deaf, I see. I am convinced that Madame could
not possibly have more command over herself than _you_ have.”

“Double hypocrite,” murmured Guiche to himself, “you are again returning
to the old subject.”

“Very well, then,” continued De Wardes, “since we find it so difficult
to understand each other about La Valliere and Bragelonne let us speak
about your own affairs.”

“Nay,” said De Guiche, “I have no affairs of my own to talk about. You
have not said anything about me, I suppose, to Bragelonne, which you
cannot repeat to my face?”

“No; but understand me, Guiche, that however much I may be ignorant of
certain matters, I am quite as conversant with others. If, for instance,
we were conversing about the intimacies of the Duke of Buckingham at
Paris, as I did during my journey with the duke, I could tell you a
great many interesting circumstances. Would you like me to mention
them?”

De Guiche passed his hand across his forehead, which was covered
in perspiration. “No, no,” he said, “a hundred times no! I have no
curiosity for matters which do not concern me. The Duke of Buckingham
is for me nothing more than a simple acquaintance, whilst Raoul is
an intimate friend. I have not the slightest curiosity to learn what
happened to the duke, while I have, on the contrary, the greatest
interest in all that happened to Raoul.”

“In Paris?”

“Yes, in Paris, or Boulogne. You understand I am on the spot; if
anything should happen, I am here to meet it; whilst Raoul is absent,
and has only myself to represent him; so, Raoul’s affairs before my
own.”

“But he will return?”

“Not, however, until his mission is completed. In the meantime, you
understand, evil reports cannot be permitted to circulate about him
without my looking into them.”

“And for a better reason still, that he will remain some time in
London,” said De Wardes, chuckling.

“You think so,” said De Guiche, simply.

“Think so, indeed! do you suppose he was sent to London for no other
purpose than to go there and return again immediately? No, no; he was
sent to London to remain there.”

“Ah! De Wardes,” said De Guiche, grasping De Wardes’s hand, “that is a
very serious suspicion concerning Bragelonne, which completely confirms
what he wrote to me from Boulogne.”

De Wardes resumed his former coldness of manner: his love of raillery
had led him too far, and by his own imprudence, he had laid himself open
to attack.

“Well, tell me, what did he write to you about?” he inquired.

“He told me that you had artfully insinuated some injurious remarks
against La Valliere, and that you had seemed to laugh at his great
confidence in that young girl.”

“Well, it is perfectly true I did so,” said De Wardes, “and I was quite
ready, at the time, to hear from the Vicomte de Bragelonne that which
every man expects from another whenever anything may have been said
to displease him. In the same way, for instance, if I were seeking a
quarrel with you, I should tell you that Madame after having shown
the greatest preference for the Duke of Buckingham, is at this moment
supposed to have sent the handsome duke away for your benefit.”

“Oh! that would not wound me in the slightest degree, my dear De
Wardes,” said De Guiche, smiling, notwithstanding the shiver that
ran through his whole frame. “Why, such a favor would be too great a
happiness.”

“I admit that, but if I absolutely wished to quarrel with you, I should
try and invent a falsehood, perhaps, and speak to you about a certain
arbor, where you and that illustrious princess were together--I should
speak also of certain gratifications, of certain kissings of the hand;
and you who are so secret on all occasions, so hasty, so punctilious--”

“Well,” said De Guiche, interrupting him, with a smile upon his lips,
although he almost felt as if he were going to die; “I swear I should
not care for that, nor should I in any way contradict you; for you must
know, my dear marquis, that for all matters which concern myself I am a
block of ice; but it is a very different thing when an absent friend
is concerned, a friend, who, on leaving, confided his interests to my
safe-keeping; for such a friend, De Wardes, believe me, I am like fire
itself.”

“I understand you, Monsieur de Guiche. In spite of what you say, there
cannot be any question between us, just now, either of Bragelonne or of
this insignificant girl, whose name is La Valliere.”

At this moment some of the younger courtiers were crossing the
apartment, and having already heard the few words which had just been
pronounced, were able also to hear those which were about to follow. De
Wardes observed this, and continued aloud:--“Oh! if La Valliere were a
coquette like Madame, whose innocent flirtations, I am sure, were, first
of all, the cause of the Duke of Buckingham being sent back to England,
and afterwards were the reason of your being sent into exile; for you
will not deny, I suppose, that Madame’s pretty ways really had a certain
influence over you?”

The courtiers drew nearer to the speakers, Saint-Aignan at their head,
and then Manicamp.

“But, my dear fellow, whose fault was that?” said De Guiche, laughing.
“I am a vain, conceited fellow, I know, and everybody else knows it too.
I took seriously that which was only intended as a jest, and got myself
exiled for my pains. But I saw my error. I overcame my vanity, and I
obtained my recall, by making the _amende honorable_, and by promising
myself to overcome this defect; and the consequence is, that I am so
thoroughly cured, that I now laugh at the very thing which, three or
four days ago, would have almost broken my heart. But Raoul is in love,
and is loved in return; he cannot laugh at the reports which disturb his
happiness--reports which you seem to have undertaken to interpret, when
you know, marquis, as I do, as these gentlemen do, as every one does in
fact, that all such reports are pure calumny.”

“Calumny!” exclaimed De Wardes, furious at seeing himself caught in the
snare by De Guiche’s coolness of temper.

“Certainly--calumny. Look at this letter from him, in which he tells me
you have spoken ill of Mademoiselle de la Valliere; and where he asks
me, if what you reported about this young girl is true or not. Do you
wish me to appeal to these gentlemen, De Wardes, to decide?” And with
admirable coolness, De Guiche read aloud the paragraph of the letter
which referred to La Valliere. “And now,” continued De Guiche, “there
is no doubt in the world, as far as I am concerned, that you wished
to disturb Bragelonne’s peace of mind, and that your remarks were
maliciously intended.”

De Wardes looked round him, to see if he could find support from any
one; but, at the idea that De Wardes had insulted, either directly or
indirectly, the idol of the day, every one shook his head; and De Wardes
saw that he was in the wrong.

“Messieurs,” said De Guiche, intuitively divining the general feeling,
“my discussion with Monsieur de Wardes refers to a subject so delicate
in its nature, that it is most important no one should hear more than
you have already heard. Close the doors, then, I beg you, and let us
finish our conversation in the manner which becomes two gentlemen, one
of whom has given the other the lie.”

“Messieurs, messieurs!” exclaimed those who were present.

“Is it your opinion, then, that I was wrong in defending Mademoiselle
de la Valliere?” said De Guiche. “In that case, I pass judgment upon
myself, and am ready to withdraw the offensive words I may have used to
Monsieur de Wardes.”

“The deuce! certainly not!” said Saint-Aignan. “Mademoiselle de la
Valliere is an angel.”

“Virtue and purity itself,” said Manicamp.

“You see, Monsieur de Wardes,” said De Guiche, “I am not the only one
who undertakes the defense of that poor girl. I entreat you, therefore,
messieurs, a second time, to leave us. You see, it is impossible we
could be more calm and composed than we are.”

It was the very thing the courtiers wished; some went out at one door,
and the rest at the other, and the two young men were left alone.

“Well played,” said De Wardes, to the comte.

“Was it not?” replied the latter.

“How can it be wondered at, my dear fellow; I have got quite rusty in
the country, while the command you have acquired over yourself, comte,
confounds me; a man always gains something in women’s society; so, pray
accept my congratulations.”

“I do accept them.”

“And I will make Madame a present of them.”

“And now, my dear Monsieur de Wardes, let us speak as loud as you
please.”

“Do not defy me.”

“I do defy you, for you are known to be an evil-minded man; if you do
that, you will be looked upon as a coward, too; and Monsieur would have
you hanged, this evening, at his window-casement. Speak, my dear De
Wardes, speak.”

“I have fought already.”

“But not quite enough, yet.”

“I see, you would not be sorry to fight with me while my wounds are
still open.”

“No; better still.”

“The deuce! you are unfortunate in the moment you have chosen; a duel,
after the one I have just fought, would hardly suit me; I have lost too
much blood at Boulogne; at the slightest effort my wounds would open
again, and you would really have too good a bargain.”

“True,” said De Guiche; “and yet, on your arrival here, your looks and
your arms showed there was nothing the matter with you.”

“Yes, my arms are all right, but my legs are weak; and then, I have not
had a foil in my hand since that devil of a duel; and you, I am sure,
have been fencing every day, in order to carry your little conspiracy
against me to a successful issue.”

“Upon my honor, monsieur,” replied De Guiche, “it is six months since I
last practiced.”

“No, comte, after due reflection, I will not fight, at least, with you.
I will await Bragelonne’s return, since you say it is Bragelonne who
finds fault with me.”

“Oh no, indeed! You shall not wait until Bragelonne’s return,” exclaimed
the comte, losing all command over himself, “for you have said that
Bragelonne might, possibly, be some time before he returns; and, in the
meanwhile, your wicked insinuations would have had their effect.”

“Yet, I shall have my excuse. So take care.”

“I will give you a week to finish your recovery.”

“That is better. We will wait a week.”

“Yes, yes, I understand; a week will give time to my adversary to make
his escape. No, no; I will not give you one day, even.”

“You are mad, monsieur,” said De Wardes, retreating a step.

“And you are a coward, if you do not fight willingly. Nay, what is
more, I will denounce you to the king, as having refused to fight, after
having insulted La Valliere.”

“Ah!” said De Wardes, “you are dangerously treacherous, though you pass
for a man of honor.”

“There is nothing more dangerous than the treachery, as you term it, of
the man whose conduct is always loyal and upright.”

“Restore me the use of my legs, then, or get yourself bled, till you are
as white as I am, so as to equalize our chances.”

“No, no; I have something better than that to propose.”

“What is it?”

“We will fight on horseback, and will exchange three pistol-shots each.
You are a first rate marksman. I have seen you bring down swallows with
single balls, and at full gallop. Do not deny it, for I have seen you
myself.”

“I believe you are right,” said De Wardes; “and as that is the case, it
is not unlikely I might kill you.”

“You would be rendering me a very great service, if you did.”

“I will do my best.”

“Is it agreed? Give me your hand upon it.”

“There it is: but on one condition, however.”

“Name it.”

“That not a word shall be said about it to the king.”

“Not a word, I swear.”

“I will go and get my horse, then.”

“And I, mine.”

“Where shall we meet?”

“In the plain; I know an admirable place.”

“Shall we go together?”

“Why not?”

And both of them, on their way to the stables, passed beneath Madame’s
windows, which were faintly lighted; a shadow could be seen behind the
lace curtains. “There is a woman,” said De Wardes, smiling, “who
does not suspect that we are going to fight--to die, perhaps, on her
account.”



Chapter XIII. The Combat.

De Wardes and De Guiche selected their horses, and saddled them with
their own hands, with holster saddles. De Guiche, having two pairs of
pistols, went to his apartments to get them; and after having loaded
them, gave the choice to De Wardes, who selected the pair he had made
use of twenty times before--the same, indeed, with which De Guiche had
seen him kill swallows flying. “You will not be surprised,” he said, “if
I take every precaution. You know the weapons well, and, consequently, I
am only making the chances equal.”

“Your remark was quite useless,” replied De Guiche, “and you have done
no more than you are entitled to do.”

“Now,” said De Wardes, “I beg you to have the goodness to help me to
mount; for I still experience a little difficulty in doing so.”

“In that case, we had better settle the matter on foot.”

“No; once in the saddle, I shall be all right.”

“Very good, then; we will not speak of it again,” said De Guiche, as he
assisted De Wardes to mount his horse.

“And now,” continued the young man, “in our eagerness to murder one
another, we have neglected one circumstance.”

“What is that?”

“That it is quite dark, and we shall almost be obliged to grope about,
in order to kill.”

“Oh!” said De Guiche, “you are as anxious as I am that everything should
be done in proper order.”

“Yes; but I do not wish people to say that you have assassinated me,
any more than, supposing I were to kill you, I should myself like to be
accused of such a crime.”

“Did any one make a similar remark about your duel with the Duke of
Buckingham?” said De Guiche; “it took place precisely under the same
conditions as ours.”

“Very true; but there was still light enough to see by; and we were up
to our middles almost, in the water; besides, there were a good number
of spectators on shore, looking at us.”

De Guiche reflected for a moment; and the thought which had already
presented itself to him became more confirmed--that De Wardes wished to
have witnesses present, in order to bring back the conversation about
Madame, and to give a new turn to the combat. He avoided saying a
word in reply, therefore; and, as De Wardes once more looked at him
interrogatively, he replied, by a movement of the head, that it would be
best to let things remain as they were. The two adversaries consequently
set off, and left the chateau by the same gate, close to which we may
remember to have seen Montalais and Malicorne together. The night, as
if to counteract the extreme heat of the day, had gathered the clouds
together in masses which were moving slowly along from the west to the
east. The vault above, without a clear spot anywhere visible, or without
the faintest indication of thunder, seemed to hang heavily over
the earth, and soon began, by the force of the wind, to split into
streamers, like a huge sheet torn to shreds. Large and warm drops of
rain began to fall heavily, and gathered the dust into globules, which
rolled along the ground. At the same time, the hedges, which seemed
conscious of the approaching storm, the thirsty plants, the drooping
branches of the trees, exhaled a thousand aromatic odors, which revived
in the mind tender recollections, thoughts of youth, endless life,
happiness, and love. “How fresh the earth smells,” said De Wardes; “it
is a piece of coquetry to draw us to her.”

“By the by,” replied De Guiche, “several ideas have just occurred to me;
and I wish to have your opinion upon them.”

“Relative to--”

“Relative to our engagement.”

“It is quite some time, in fact, that we should begin to arrange
matters.”

“Is it to be an ordinary combat, and conducted according to established
custom?”

“Let me first know what your established custom is.”

“That we dismount in any particular open space that may suit us, fasten
our horses to the nearest object, meet, each without our pistols in our
hands, and afterwards retire for a hundred and fifty paces, in order to
advance on each other.”

“Very good; that is precisely the way in which I killed poor Follivent,
three weeks ago, at Saint-Denis.”

“I beg your pardon, but you forgot one circumstance.”

“What is that?”

“That in your duel with Follivent you advanced towards each other on
foot, your swords between your teeth, and your pistols in your hands.”

“True.”

“While now, on the contrary, as you cannot walk, you yourself admit that
we shall have to mount our horses again, and charge; and the first who
wishes to fire will do so.”

“That is the best course, no doubt; but it is quite dark; we must make
allowances for more missed shots than would be the case in the daytime.”

“Very well; each will fire three times; the pair of pistols already
loaded, and one reload.”

“Excellent! Where shall our engagement take place?”

“Have you any preference?”

“No.”

“You see that small wood which lies before us?”

“The wood which is called Rochin?”

“Exactly.”

“You know it?”

“Perfectly.”

“You know that there is an open glade in the center?”

“Yes.”

“Well, this glade is admirably adapted for such a purpose, with a
variety of roads, by-places, paths, ditches, windings, and avenues. We
could not find a better spot.”

“I am perfectly satisfied, if you are so. We are at our destination, if
I am not mistaken.”

“Yes. Look at the beautiful open space in the center. The faint light
which the stars afford seems concentrated in this spot; the woods which
surround it seem, with their barriers, to form its natural limits.”

“Very good. Do as you say.”

“Let us first settle the conditions.”

“These are mine; if you have any objection to make you will state it.”

“I am listening.”

“If the horse be killed, its rider will be obliged to fight on foot.”

“That is a matter of course, since we have no change of horses here.”

“But that does not oblige his adversary to dismount.”

“His adversary will, in fact, be free to act as he likes.”

“The adversaries, having once met in close contact, cannot quit each
other under any circumstances, and may, consequently, fire muzzle to
muzzle.”

“Agreed.”

“Three shots and no more will do, I suppose?”

“Quite sufficient, I think. Here are powder and balls for your pistols;
measure out three charges, take three balls, I will do the same; then we
will throw the rest of the powder and balls away.”

“And we will solemnly swear,” said De Wardes, “that we have neither
balls nor powder about us?”

“Agreed; and I swear it,” said De Guiche, holding his hand towards
heaven, a gesture which De Wardes imitated.

“And now, my dear comte,” said De Wardes, “allow me to tell you that I
am in no way your dupe. You already are, or soon will be, the accepted
lover of Madame. I have detected your secret, and you are afraid I shall
tell others of it. You wish to kill me, to insure my silence; that is
very clear; and in your place, I should do the same.” De Guiche hung
down his head. “Only,” continued De Wardes, triumphantly, “was it
really worth while, tell me, to throw this affair of Bragelonne’s on my
shoulders? But, take care, my dear fellow; in bringing the wild boar to
bay, you enrage him to madness; in running down the fox, you endow him
with the ferocity of the jaguar. The consequence is, that brought to bay
by you, I shall defend myself to the very last.”

“You will be quite right to do so.”

“Yes; but take care; I shall work more harm than you think. In the first
place, as a beginning, you will readily suppose that I have not been
absurd enough to lock up my secret, or your secret rather, in my own
breast. There is a friend of mine, who resembles me in every way, a
man whom you know very well, who shares my secret with me; so, pray
understand, that if you kill me, my death will not have been of much
service to you; whilst, on the contrary, if I kill you--and everything
is possible, you know--you understand?” De Guiche shuddered. “If I kill
you,” continued De Wardes, “you will have secured two mortal enemies to
Madame, who will do their very utmost to ruin her.”

“Oh! monsieur,” exclaimed De Guiche, furiously, “do not reckon upon my
death so easily. Of the two enemies you speak of, I trust most
heartily to dispose of one immediately, and the other at the earliest
opportunity.”

The only reply De Wardes made was a burst of laughter, so diabolical in
its sound, that a superstitious man would have been terrified. But De
Guiche was not so impressionable as that. “I think,” he said, “that
everything is now settled, Monsieur de Wardes; so have the goodness to
take your place first, unless you would prefer me to do so.”

“By no means,” said De Wardes. “I shall be delighted to save you the
slightest trouble.” And spurring his horse to a gallop, he crossed the
wide open space, and took his stand at that point of the circumference
of the cross-road immediately opposite to where De Guiche was stationed.
De Guiche remained motionless. At this distance of a hundred paces,
the two adversaries were absolutely invisible to each other, being
completely concealed by the thick shade of elms and chestnuts. A minute
elapsed amidst the profoundest silence. At the end of the minute, each
of them, in the deep shade in which he was concealed, heard the double
click of the trigger, as they put the pistols on full cock. De Guiche,
adopting the usual tactics, put his horse to a gallop, persuaded that he
should render his safety doubly sure by the movement, as well as by the
speed of the animal. He directed his course in a straight line towards
the point where, in his opinion, De Wardes would be stationed; and he
expected to meet De Wardes about half-way; but in this he was mistaken.
He continued his course, presuming that his adversary was impatiently
awaiting his approach. When, however, he had gone about two-thirds of
the distance, he beheld the trees suddenly illuminated and a ball flew
by, cutting the plume of his hat in two. Nearly at the same moment, and
as if the flash of the first shot had served to indicate the direction
of the other, a second report was heard, and a second ball passed
through the head of De Guiche’s horse, a little below the ear. The
animal fell. These two reports, proceeding from the very opposite
direction in which he expected to find De Wardes, surprised him a
great deal; but as he was a man of amazing self-possession, he prepared
himself for his horse falling, but not so completely, however, that the
toe of his boot escaped being caught under the animal as it fell. Very
fortunately the horse in its dying agonies moved so as to enable him to
release the leg which was less entangled than the other. De Guiche rose,
felt himself all over, and found that he was not wounded. At the very
moment he had felt the horse tottering under him, he placed his pistols
in the holsters, afraid that the force of the fall might explode one at
least, if not both of them, by which he would have been disarmed, and
left utterly without defense. Once on his feet, he took the pistols out
of the holsters, and advanced towards the spot where, by the light of
the flash, he had seen De Wardes appear. De Wardes had, at the first
shot, accounted for the maneuver, than which nothing could have been
simpler. Instead of advancing to meet De Guiche, or remaining in his
place to await his approach, De Wardes had, for about fifteen paces,
followed the circle of the shadow which hid him from his adversary’s
observation, and at the very moment when the latter presented his flank
in his career, he had fired from the place where he stood, carefully
taking aim, and assisted instead of being inconvenienced by the horse’s
gallop. It has been seen that, notwithstanding the darkness, the first
ball passed hardly more than an inch above De Guiche’s head. De Wardes
had so confidently relied upon his aim, that he thought he had seen De
Guiche fall; his astonishment was extreme when he saw he still remained
erect in his saddle. He hastened to fire his second shot, but his hand
trembled, and he killed the horse instead. It would be a most fortunate
chance for him if De Guiche were to remain held fast under the animal.
Before he could have freed himself, De Wardes would have loaded his
pistol and had De Guiche at his mercy. But De Guiche, on the contrary,
was up, and had three shots to fire. De Guiche immediately understood
the position of affairs. It would be necessary to exceed De Wardes in
rapidity of execution. He advanced, therefore, so as to reach him
before he should have had time to reload his pistol. De Wardes saw him
approaching like a tempest. The ball was rather tight, and offered some
resistance to the ramrod. To load carelessly would be simply to lose
his last chance; to take the proper care in loading meant fatal loss of
time, or rather, throwing away his life. He made his horse bound on
one side. De Guiche turned round also, and, at the moment the horse was
quiet again, fired, and the ball carried off De Wardes’s hat from
his head. De Wardes now knew that he had a moment’s time at his own
disposal; he availed himself of it in order to finish loading his
pistol. De Guiche, noticing that his adversary did not fall, threw the
pistol he had just discharged aside, and walked straight towards
De Wardes, elevating the second pistol as he did so. He had hardly
proceeded more than two or three paces, when De Wardes took aim at him
as he was walking, and fired. An exclamation of anger was De Guiche’s
answer; the comte’s arm contracted and dropped motionless by his side,
and the pistol fell from his grasp. His anxiety was excessive. “I am
lost,” murmured De Wardes, “he is not mortally wounded.” At the very
moment, however, De Guiche was about to raise his pistol against De
Wardes, the head, shoulders, and limbs of the comte seemed to collapse.
He heaved a deep-drawn sigh, tottered, and fell at the feet of De
Wardes’s horse.

“That is all right,” said De Wardes, and gathering up the reins, he
struck his spurs into the horse’s sides. The horse cleared the comte’s
motionless body, and bore De Wardes rapidly back to the chateau. When
he arrived there, he remained a quarter of an hour deliberating within
himself as to the proper course to be adopted. In his impatience to
leave the field of battle, he had omitted to ascertain whether De Guiche
were dead or not. A double hypothesis presented itself to De Wardes’s
agitated mind; either De Guiche was killed, or De Guiche was wounded
only. If he were killed, why should he leave his body in that manner to
the tender mercies of the wolves; it was a perfectly useless piece of
cruelty, for if De Guiche were dead, he certainly could not breathe a
syllable of what had passed; if he were not killed, why should he, De
Wardes, in leaving him there uncared for, allow himself to be regarded
as a savage, incapable of one generous feeling? This last consideration
determined his line of conduct.

De Wardes immediately instituted inquires after Manicamp. He was told
that Manicamp had been looking after De Guiche, and, not knowing where
to find him, had retired to bed. De Wardes went and awoke the sleeper,
without any delay, and related the whole affair to him, which Manicamp
listened to in perfect silence, but with an expression of momentarily
increasing energy, of which his face could hardly have been supposed
capable. It was only when De Wardes had finished, that Manicamp uttered
the words, “Let us go.”

As they proceeded, Manicamp became more and more excited, and in
proportion as De Wardes related the details of the affair to him, his
countenance assumed every moment a darker expression. “And so,” he said,
when De Wardes had finished, “you think he is dead?”

“Alas, I do.”

“And you fought in that manner, without witnesses?”

“He insisted upon it.”

“It is very singular.”

“What do you mean by saying it is singular?”

“That it is very unlike Monsieur de Guiche’s disposition.”

“You do not doubt my word, I suppose?”

“Hum! hum!”

“You do doubt it, then?”

“A little. But I shall doubt it more than ever, I warn you, if I find
the poor fellow is really dead.”

“Monsieur Manicamp!”

“Monsieur de Wardes!”

“It seems you intend to insult me.”

“Just as you please. The fact is, I never did like people who come and
say, ‘I have killed such and such a gentleman in a corner; it is a great
pity, but I killed him in a perfectly honorable manner.’ It has an ugly
appearance, M. de Wardes.”

“Silence! we have arrived.”

In fact, the glade could now be seen, and in the open space lay the
motionless body of the dead horse. To the right of the horse, upon the
dark grass, with his face against the ground, the poor comte lay, bathed
in his blood. He had remained in the same spot, and did not even seem to
have made the slightest movement. Manicamp threw himself on his knees,
lifted the comte in his arms, and found him quite cold, and steeped in
blood. He let him gently fall again. Then, stretching out his hand and
feeling all over the ground close to where the comte lay, he sought
until he found De Guiche’s pistol.

“By Heaven!” he said, rising to his feet, pale as death and with the
pistol in his hand, “you are not mistaken, he is quite dead.”

“Dead!” repeated De Wardes.

“Yes; and his pistol is still loaded,” added Manicamp, looking into the
pan.

“But I told you that I took aim as he was walking towards me, and fired
at him at the very moment he was going to fire at me.”

“Are you quite sure that you fought with him, Monsieur de Wardes? I
confess that I am very much afraid it has been a foul assassination.
Nay, nay, no exclamations! You have had your three shots, and his pistol
is still loaded. You have killed his horse, and he, De Guiche, one of
the best marksmen in France, has not touched even either your horse
or yourself. Well, Monsieur de Wardes, you have been very unlucky in
bringing me here; all the blood in my body seems to have mounted to my
head; and I verily believe that since so good an opportunity presents
itself, I shall blow your brains out on the spot. So, Monsieur de
Wardes, recommend yourself to Heaven.”

“Monsieur Manicamp, you cannot think of such a thing!”

“On the contrary, I am thinking of it very strongly.”

“Would you assassinate me?”

“Without the slightest remorse, at least for the present.”

“Are you a gentleman?”

“I have given a great many proofs of that.”

“Let me defend my life, then, at least.”

“Very likely; in order, I suppose, that you may do to me what you have
done to poor De Guiche.”

And Manicamp slowly raised his pistol to the height of De Wardes’s
breast, and with arm stretched out, and a fixed, determined look on his
face, took a careful aim.

De Wardes did not attempt a flight; he was completely terrified. In the
midst, however, of this horrible silence, which lasted about a second,
but which seemed an age to De Wardes, a faint sigh was heard.

“Oh,” exclaimed De Wardes, “he still lives! Help, De Guiche, I am about
to be assassinated!”

Manicamp fell back a step or two, and the two young men saw the comte
raise himself slowly and painfully upon one hand. Manicamp threw the
pistol away a dozen paces, and ran to his friend, uttering a cry of
delight. De Wardes wiped his forehead, which was covered with a cold
perspiration.

“It was just in time,” he murmured.

“Where are you hurt?” inquired Manicamp of De Guiche, “and whereabouts
are you wounded?”

De Guiche showed him his mutilated hand and his chest covered with
blood.

“Comte,” exclaimed De Wardes, “I am accused of having assassinated you;
speak, I implore you, and say that I fought loyally.”

“Perfectly so,” said the wounded man; “Monsieur de Wardes fought quite
loyally, and whoever says the contrary will make an enemy of me.”

“Then, sir,” said Manicamp, “assist me, in the first place, to carry
this gentleman home, and I will afterwards give you every satisfaction
you please; or, if you are in a hurry, we can do better still; let
us stanch the blood from the comte’s wounds here, with your
pocket-handkerchief and mine, and then, as there are two shots left, we
can have them between us.”

“Thank you,” said De Wardes. “Twice already, in one hour, I have seen
death too close at hand to be agreeable; I don’t like his look at all,
and I prefer your apologies.”

Manicamp burst out laughing, and Guiche, too, in spite of his
sufferings. The two young men wished to carry him, but he declared
he felt quite strong enough to walk alone. The ball had broken his
ring-finger and his little finger, and then had glanced along his side,
but without penetrating deeply into his chest. It was the pain rather
than the seriousness of the wound, therefore, which had overcome De
Guiche. Manicamp passed his arm under one of the count’s shoulders, and
De Wardes did the same with the other, and in this way they brought
him back to Fontainebleau, to the house of the same doctor who had been
present at the death of the Franciscan, Aramis’s predecessor.



Chapter XIV. The King’s Supper.

The king, while these matters were being arranged, was sitting at the
supper-table, and the not very large number of guests for that day had
taken their seats too, after the usual gesture intimating the royal
permission. At this period of Louis XIV.’s reign, although etiquette was
not governed by the strict regulations subsequently adopted, the French
court had entirely thrown aside the traditions of good-fellowship and
patriarchal affability existing in the time of Henry IV., which the
suspicious mind of Louis XIII. had gradually replaced with pompous state
and ceremony, which he despaired of being able fully to realize.

The king, therefore, was seated alone at a small separate table, which,
like the desk of a president, overlooked the adjoining tables. Although
we say a small table, we must not omit to add that this small table was
the largest one there. Moreover, it was the one on which were placed the
greatest number and quantity of dishes, consisting of fish, game, meat,
fruit, vegetables, and preserves. The king was young and full of vigor
and energy, very fond of hunting, addicted to all violent exercises
of the body, possessing, besides, like all the members of the Bourbon
family, a rapid digestion and an appetite speedily renewed. Louis XIV.
was a formidable table-companion; he delighted in criticising his cooks;
but when he honored them by praise and commendation, the honor was
overwhelming. The king began by eating several kinds of soup, either
mixed together or taken separately. He intermixed, or rather separated,
each of the soups by a glass of old wine. He ate quickly and somewhat
greedily. Porthos, who from the beginning had, out of respect, been
waiting for a jog of D’Artagnan’s arm, seeing the king make such rapid
progress, turned to the musketeer and said in a low voice:

“It seems as if one might go on now; his majesty is very encouraging,
from the example he sets. Look.”

“The king eats,” said D’Artagnan, “but he talks at the same time; try
and manage matters in such a manner that, if he should happen to address
a remark to you, he will not find you with your mouth full--which would
be very disrespectful.”

“The best way, in that case,” said Porthos, “is to eat no supper at all;
and yet I am very hungry, I admit, and everything looks and smells most
invitingly, as if appealing to all my senses at once.”

“Don’t think of not eating for a moment,” said D’Artagnan; “that would
put his majesty out terribly. The king has a saying, ‘that he who works
well, eats well,’ and he does not like people to eat indifferently at
his table.”

“How can I avoid having my mouth full if I eat?” said Porthos.

“All you have to do,” replied the captain of the musketeers, “is simply
to swallow what you have in it, whenever the king does you the honor to
address a remark to you.”

“Very good,” said Porthos; and from that moment he began to eat with a
certain well-bred enthusiasm.

The king occasionally looked at the different persons who were at
table with him, and, _en connoisseur_, could appreciate the different
dispositions of his guests.

“Monsieur du Vallon!” he said.

Porthos was enjoying a _salmi de lievre_, and swallowed half of the
back. His name, pronounced in such a manner, made him start, and by a
vigorous effort of his gullet he absorbed the whole mouthful.

“Sire,” replied Porthos, in a stifled voice, but sufficiently
intelligible, nevertheless.

“Let those _filets d’agneau_ be handed to Monsieur du Vallon,” said the
king; “do you like brown meats, M. du Vallon?”

“Sire, I like everything,” replied Porthos.

D’Artagnan whispered: “Everything your majesty sends me.”

Porthos repeated: “Everything your majesty sends me,” an observation
which the king apparently received with great satisfaction.

“People eat well who work well,” replied the king, delighted to have _en
tete-a-tete_ a guest who could eat as Porthos did. Porthos received the
dish of lamb, and put a portion of it on his plate.

“Well?” said the king.

“Exquisite,” said Porthos, calmly.

“Have you as good mutton in your part of the country, Monsieur du
Vallon?” continued the king.

“Sire, I believe that from my own province, as everywhere else, the best
of everything is sent to Paris for your majesty’s use; but, on the other
hand, I do not eat lamb in the same way your majesty does.”

“Ah, ah! and how do you eat it?”

“Generally, I have a lamb dressed whole.”

“_Whole?_”

“Yes, sire.”

“In what manner, Monsieur du Vallon?”

“In this, sire: my cook, who is a German, first stuffs the lamb in
question with small sausages he procures from Strasburg, force-meat
balls from Troyes, and larks from Pithiviers; by some means or other,
which I am not acquainted with, he bones the lamb as he would do a fowl,
leaving the skin on, however, which forms a brown crust all over the
animal; when it is cut in beautiful slices, in the same way as an
enormous sausage, a rose-colored gravy pours forth, which is as
agreeable to the eye as it is exquisite to the palate.” And Porthos
finished by smacking his lips.

The king opened his eyes with delight, and, while cutting some of the
_faisan en daube_, which was being handed to him, he said:

“That is a dish I should very much like to taste, Monsieur du Vallon. Is
it possible! a whole lamb!”

“Absolutely an entire lamb, sire.”

“Pass those pheasants to M. du Vallon; I perceive he is an amateur.”

The order was immediately obeyed. Then, continuing the conversation, he
said: “And you do not find the lamb too fat?”

“No, sire, the fat falls down at the same time as the gravy does, and
swims on the surface; then the servant who carves removes the fat with a
spoon, which I have had expressly made for that purpose.”

“Where do you reside?” inquired the king.

“At Pierrefonds, sire.”

“At Pierrefonds; where is that, M. du Vallon--near Belle-Isle?”

“Oh, no, sire! Pierrefonds is in the Soissonnais.”

“I thought you alluded to the lamb on account of the salt marshes.”

“No, sire, I have marshes which are not salt, it is true, but which are
not the less valuable on that account.”

The king had now arrived at the _entrements_, but without losing sight
of Porthos, who continued to play his part in the best manner.

“You have an excellent appetite, M. du Vallon,” said the king, “and you
make an admirable guest at table.”

“Ah! sire, if your majesty were ever to pay a visit to Pierrefonds,
we would both of us eat our lamb together; for your appetite is not an
indifferent one by any means.”

D’Artagnan gave Porthos a kick under the table, which made Porthos color
up.

“At your majesty’s present happy age,” said Porthos, in order to repair
the mistake he had made, “I was in the musketeers, and nothing could
ever satisfy me then. Your majesty has an excellent appetite, as I have
already had the honor of mentioning, but you select what you eat with
quite too much refinement to be called for one moment a great eater.”

The king seemed charmed at his guest’s politeness.

“Will you try some of these creams?” he said to Porthos.

“Sire, you majesty treats me with far too much kindness to prevent me
speaking the whole truth.”

“Pray do so, M. du Vallon.”

“Will, sire, with regard to sweet dishes I only recognize pastry, and
even that should be rather solid; all these frothy substances swell the
stomach, and occupy a space which seems to me to be too precious to be
so badly tenanted.”

“Ah! gentlemen,” said the king, indicating Porthos by a gesture, “here
is indeed a model of gastronomy. It was in such a manner that our
fathers, who so well knew what good living was, used to _eat_, while
we,” added his majesty, “do nothing but tantalize with our stomachs.”
 And as he spoke, he took the breast of a chicken with ham, while Porthos
attacked a dish of partridges and quails. The cup-bearer filled his
majesty’s glass. “Give M. du Vallon some of my wine,” said the king.
This was one of the greatest honors of the royal table. D’Artagnan
pressed his friend’s knee. “If you could only manage to swallow the half
of that boar’s head I see yonder,” said he to Porthos, “I shall believe
you will be a duke and peer within the next twelvemonth.”

“Presently,” said Porthos, phlegmatically; “I shall come to that by and
by.”

In fact it was not long before it came to the boar’s turn, for the king
seemed to take pleasure in urging on his guest; he did not pass any
of the dishes to Porthos until he had tasted them himself, and he
accordingly took some of the boar’s head. Porthos showed that he could
keep pace with his sovereign; and, instead of eating the half, as
D’Artagnan had told him, he ate three-fourths of it. “It is impossible,”
 said the king in an undertone, “that a gentleman who eats so good a
supper every day, and who has such beautiful teeth, can be otherwise
than the most straightforward, upright man in my kingdom.”

“Do you hear?” said D’Artagnan in his friend’s ear.

“Yes; I think I am rather in favor,” said Porthos, balancing himself on
his chair.

“Oh! you are in luck’s way.”

The king and Porthos continued to eat in the same manner, to the great
satisfaction of the other guests, some of whom, from emulation, had
attempted to follow them, but were obliged to give up half-way. The
king soon began to get flushed and the reaction of the blood to his face
announced that the moment of repletion had arrived. It was then that
Louis XIV., instead of becoming gay and cheerful, as most good livers
generally do, became dull, melancholy, and taciturn. Porthos, on the
contrary, was lively and communicative. D’Artagnan’s foot had more than
once to remind him of this peculiarity of the king. The dessert now
made its appearance. The king had ceased to think anything further of
Porthos; he turned his eyes anxiously towards the entrance-door, and
he was heard occasionally to inquire how it happened that Monsieur de
Saint-Aignan was so long in arriving. At last, at the moment when
his majesty was finishing a pot of preserved plums with a deep sigh,
Saint-Aignan appeared. The king’s eyes, which had become somewhat dull,
immediately began to sparkle. The comte advanced towards the king’s
table, and Louis rose at his approach. Everybody got up at the same
time, including Porthos, who was just finishing an almond-cake capable
of making the jaws of a crocodile stick together. The supper was over.



Chapter XV. After Supper.

The king took Saint-Aignan by the arm, and passed into the adjoining
apartment. “What has detained you, comte?” said the king.

“I was bringing the answer, sire,” replied the comte.

“She has taken a long time to reply to what I wrote her.”

“Sire, your majesty deigned to write in verse, and Mademoiselle de la
Valliere wished to repay your majesty in the same coin; that is to say,
in gold.”

“Verses! Saint-Aignan,” exclaimed the king in ecstasy. “Give them to
me at once.” And Louis broke the seal of a little letter, inclosing the
verses which history has preserved entire for us, and which are more
meritorious in invention than in execution. Such as they were, however,
the king was enchanted with them, and exhibited his satisfaction by
unequivocal transports of delight; but the universal silence which
reigned in the rooms warned Louis, so sensitively particular with
regard to good breeding, that his delight must give rise to various
interpretations. He turned aside and put the note in his pocket, and
then advancing a few steps, which brought him again to the threshold of
the door close to his guests, he said, “M. du Vallon, I have seen you
to-day with the greatest pleasure, and my pleasure will be equally great
to see you again.” Porthos bowed as the Colossus of Rhodes would have
done, and retired from the room with his face towards the king. “M.
d’Artagnan,” continued the king, “you will await my orders in the
gallery; I am obliged to you for having made me acquainted with M. du
Vallon. Gentlemen,” addressing himself to the other guests, “I return
to Paris to-morrow on account of the departure of the Spanish and Dutch
ambassadors. Until to-morrow then.”

The apartment was immediately cleared of the guests. The king took
Saint-Aignan by the arm, made him read La Valliere’s verses over again,
and said, “What do you think of them?”

“Charming, sire.”

“They charm me, in fact, and if they were known--”

“Oh! the professional poets would be jealous of them; but it is not
likely they will know anything about them.”

“Did you give her mine?”

“Oh! sire, she positively devoured them.”

“They were very weak, I am afraid.”

“That is not what Mademoiselle de la Valliere said of them.”

“Do you think she was pleased with them?”

“I am sure of it, sire.”

“I must answer, then.”

“Oh! sire, immediately after supper? Your majesty will fatigue
yourself.”

“You are quite right; study after eating is notoriously injurious.”

“The labor of a poet especially so; and besides, there is great
excitement prevailing at Mademoiselle de la Valliere’s.”

“What do you mean?”

“With her as with all the ladies of the court.”

“Why?”

“On account of poor De Guiche’s accident.”

“Has anything serious happened to De Guiche, then?”

“Yes, sire, he has one hand nearly destroyed, a hole in his breast; in
fact, he is dying.”

“Good heavens! who told you that?”

“Manicamp brought him back just now to the house of a doctor here in
Fontainebleau, and the rumor soon reached us all.”

“Brought back! Poor De Guiche; and how did it happen?”

“Ah! that is the very question,--how did it happen?”

“You say that in a very singular manner, Saint-Aignan. Give me the
details. What does he say himself?”

“He says nothing, sire; but others do.”

“What others?”

“Those who brought him back, sire.”

“Who are they?”

“I do not know, sire; but M. de Manicamp knows. M. de Manicamp is one of
his friends.”

“As everybody is, indeed,” said the king.

“Oh! no!” returned Saint-Aignan, “you are mistaken sire; every one is
not precisely a friend of M. de Guiche.”

“How do you know that?”

“Does your majesty require me to explain myself?”

“Certainly I do.”

“Well, sire, I believe I have heard something said about a quarrel
between two gentlemen.”

“When?”

“This very evening, before your majesty’s supper was served.”

“That can hardly be. I have issued such stringent and severe ordinances
with respect to duelling, that no one, I presume, would dare to disobey
them.”

“In that case, Heaven preserve me from excusing any one!” exclaimed
Saint-Aignan. “Your majesty commanded me to speak, and I spoke
accordingly.”

“Tell me, then, in what way the Comte de Guiche has been wounded?”

“Sire, it is said to have been at a boar-hunt.”

“This evening?”

“Yes, sire.”

“One of his hands shattered, and a hole in his breast. Who was at the
hunt with M. de Guiche?”

“I do not know, sire; but M. de Manicamp knows, or ought to know.”

“You are concealing something from me, Saint-Aignan.”

“Nothing, sire, I assure you.”

“Then, explain to me how the accident happened; was it a musket that
burst?”

“Very likely, sire. But yet, on reflection, it could hardly have been
that, for De Guiche’s pistol was found close by him still loaded.”

“His pistol? But a man does not go to a boar-hunt with a pistol, I
should think.”

“Sire, it is also said that De Guiche’s horse was killed and that the
horse is still to be found in the wide open glade in the forest.”

“His horse?--Guiche go on horseback to a boar-hunt?--Saint-Aignan, I do
not understand a syllable of what you have been telling me. Where did
this affair happen?”

“At the Rond-point, in that part of the forest called the Bois-Rochin.”

“That will do. Call M. d’Artagnan.” Saint-Aignan obeyed, and the
musketeer entered.

“Monsieur d’Artagnan,” said the king, “you will leave this place by the
little door of the private staircase.”

“Yes, sire.”

“You will mount your horse.”

“Yes, sire.”

“And you will proceed to the Rond-point du Bois-Rochin. Do you know the
spot?”

“Yes, sire. I have fought there twice.”

“What!” exclaimed the king, amazed at the reply.

“Under the edicts, sire, of Cardinal Richelieu,” returned D’Artagnan,
with his usual impassability.

“That is very different, monsieur. You will, therefore, go there, and
will examine the locality very carefully. A man has been wounded there,
and you will find a horse lying dead. You will tell me what your opinion
is upon the whole affair.”

“Very good, sire.”

“As a matter of course, it is your own opinion I require, and not that
of any one else.”

“You shall have it in an hour’s time, sire.”

“I prohibit your speaking with any one, whoever it may be.”

“Except with the person who must give me a lantern,” said D’Artagnan.

“Oh! that is a matter of course,” said the king, laughing at the
liberty, which he tolerated in no one but his captain of the musketeers.
D’Artagnan left by the little staircase.

“Now, let my physician be sent for,” said Louis. Ten minutes afterwards
the king’s physician arrived, quite out of breath.

“You will go, monsieur,” said the king to him, “and accompany M. de
Saint-Aignan wherever he may take you; you will render me an account of
the state of the person you may see in the house you will be taken to.”
 The physician obeyed without a remark, as at that time people began to
obey Louis XIV., and left the room preceding Saint-Aignan.

“Do you, Saint-Aignan, send Manicamp to me, before the physician can
possibly have spoken to him.” And Saint-Aignan left in his turn.



Chapter XVI. Showing in What Way D’Artagnan Discharged the Mission with
Which the King Had Intrusted Him.

While the king was engaged in making these last-mentioned arrangements
in order to ascertain the truth, D’Artagnan, without losing a second,
ran to the stable, took down the lantern, saddled his horse himself, and
proceeded towards the place his majesty had indicated. According to
the promise he had made, he had not accosted any one; and, as we have
observed, he had carried his scruples so far as to do without the
assistance of the stable-helpers altogether. D’Artagnan was one of those
who in moments of difficulty pride themselves on increasing their own
value. By dint of hard galloping, he in less than five minutes
reached the wood, fastened his horse to the first tree he came to, and
penetrated to the broad open space on foot. He then began to inspect
most carefully, on foot and with his lantern in his hand, the whole
surface of the Rond-point, went forward, turned back again, measured,
examined, and after half an hour’s minute inspection, he returned
silently to where he had left his horse, and pursued his way in deep
reflection and at a foot-pace to Fontainebleau. Louis was waiting in his
cabinet; he was alone, and with a pencil was scribbling on paper certain
lines which D’Artagnan at the first glance recognized as unequal and
very much touched up. The conclusion he arrived at was, that they must
be verses. The king raised his head and perceived D’Artagnan. “Well,
monsieur,” he said, “do you bring me any news?”

“Yes, sire.”

“What have you seen?”

“As far as probability goes, sire--” D’Artagnan began to reply.

“It was certainty I requested of you.”

“I will approach it as near as I possibly can. The weather was very well
adapted for investigations of the character I have just made; it has
been raining this evening, and the roads were wet and muddy--”

“Well, the result, M. d’Artagnan?”

“Sire, your majesty told me that there was a horse lying dead in the
cross-road of the Bois-Rochin, and I began, therefore, by studying the
roads. I say the roads, because the center of the cross-road is reached
by four separate roads. The one that I myself took was the only one that
presented any fresh traces. Two horses had followed it side by side;
their eight feet were marked very distinctly in the clay. One of the
riders was more impatient than the other, for the footprints of the one
were invariably in advance of the other about half a horse’s length.”

“Are you quite sure they were traveling together?” said the king.

“Yes sire. The horses are two rather large animals of equal
pace,--horses well used to maneuvers of all kinds, for they wheeled
round the barrier of the Rond-point together.”

“Well--and after?”

“The two cavaliers paused there for a minute, no doubt to arrange the
conditions of the engagement; the horses grew restless and impatient.
One of the riders spoke, while the other listened and seemed to have
contented himself by simply answering. His horse pawed the ground, which
proves that his attention was so taken up by listening that he let the
bridle fall from his hand.”

“A hostile meeting did take place then?”

“Undoubtedly.”

“Continue; you are a very accurate observer.”

“One of the two cavaliers remained where he was standing, the one, in
fact, who had been listening; the other crossed the open space, and at
first placed himself directly opposite to his adversary. The one who
had remained stationary traversed the Rond-point at a gallop, about
two-thirds of its length, thinking that by this means he would gain
upon his opponent; but the latter had followed the circumference of the
wood.”

“You are ignorant of their names, I suppose?”

“Completely so, sire. Only he who followed the circumference of the wood
was mounted on a black horse.”

“How do you know that?”

“I found a few hairs of his tail among the brambles which bordered the
sides of the ditch.”

“Go on.”

“As for the other horse, there can be no trouble in describing him,
since he was left dead on the field of battle.”

“What was the cause of his death?”

“A ball which had passed through his brain.”

“Was the ball that of a pistol or a gun?”

“It was a pistol-bullet, sire. Besides, the manner in which the horse
was wounded explained to me the tactics of the man who had killed it.
He had followed the circumference of the wood in order to take his
adversary in flank. Moreover, I followed his foot-tracks on the grass.”

“The tracks of the black horse, do you mean?”

“Yes, sire.”

“Go on, Monsieur d’Artagnan.”

“As your majesty now perceives the position of the two adversaries, I
will, for a moment, leave the cavalier who had remained stationary for
the one who started off at a gallop.”

“Do so.”

“The horse of the cavalier who rode at full speed was killed on the
spot.”

“How do you know that?”

“The cavalier had not time even to throw himself off his horse, and so
fell with it. I observed the impression of his leg, which, with a great
effort, he was enabled to extricate from under the horse. The spur,
pressed down by the weight of the animal, had plowed up the ground.”

“Very good; and what did he do as soon as he rose up again?”

“He walked straight up to his adversary.”

“Who still remained upon the verge of the forest?”

“Yes, sire. Then, having reached a favorable distance, he stopped
firmly, for the impression of both his heels are left in the ground
quite close to each other, fired, and missed his adversary.”

“How do you know he did not hit him?”

“I found a hat with a ball through it.”

“Ah, a proof, then!” exclaimed the king.

“Insufficient, sire,” replied D’Artagnan, coldly; “it is a hat without
any letters indicating its ownership, without arms; a red feather, as
all hats have; the lace, even, had nothing particular in it.”

“Did the man with the hat through which the bullet had passed fire a
second time?”

“Oh, sire, he had already fired twice.”

“How did you ascertain that?”

“I found the waddings of the pistol.”

“And what became of the bullet which did not kill the horse?”

“It cut in two the feather of the hat belonging to him against whom
it was directed, and broke a small birch at the other end of the open
glade.”

“In that case, then, the man on the black horse was disarmed, whilst his
adversary had still one more shot to fire?”

“Sire, while the dismounted rider was extricating himself from his
horse, the other was reloading his pistol. Only, he was much agitated
while he was loading it, and his hand trembled greatly.”

“How do you know that?”

“Half the charge fell to the ground, and he threw the ramrod aside, not
having time to replace it in the pistol.”

“Monsieur d’Artagnan, this is marvellous you tell me.”

“It is only close observation, sire, and the commonest highwayman could
tell as much.”

“The whole scene is before me from the manner in which you relate it.”

“I have, in fact, reconstructed it in my own mind, with merely a few
alterations.”

“And now,” said the king, “let us return to the dismounted cavalier. You
were saying that he walked towards his adversary while the latter was
loading his pistol.”

“Yes; but at the very moment he himself was taking aim, the other
fired.”

“Oh!” said the king; “and the shot?”

“The shot told terribly, sire; the dismounted cavalier fell upon his
face, after having staggered forward three or four paces.”

“Where was he hit?”

“In two places; in the first place, in his right hand, and then, by the
same bullet, in his chest.”

“But how could you ascertain that?” inquired the king, full of
admiration.

“By a very simple means; the butt end of the pistol was covered with
blood, and the trace of the bullet could be observed, with fragments of
a broken ring. The wounded man, in all probability, had the ring-finger
and the little finger carried off.”

“As far as the hand goes, I have nothing to say; but the chest?”

“Sire, there were two small pools of blood, at a distance of about two
feet and a half from each other. At one of these pools of blood the
grass was torn up by the clenched hand; at the other, the grass was
simply pressed down by the weight of the body.”

“Poor De Guiche!” exclaimed the king.

“Ah! it was M. de Guiche, then?” said the musketeer, quietly. “I
suspected it, but did not venture to mention it to your majesty.”

“And what made you suspect it?”

“I recognized the De Gramont arms upon the holsters of the dead horse.”

“And you think he is seriously wounded?”

“Very seriously, since he fell immediately, and remained a long time
in the same place; however, he was able to walk, as he left the spot,
supported by two friends.”

“You met him returning, then?”

“No; but I observed the footprints of three men; the one on the right
and the one on the left walked freely and easily, but the one in the
middle dragged his feet as he walked; besides, he left traces of blood
at every step he took.”

“Now, monsieur, since you saw the combat so distinctly that not a single
detail seems to have escaped you, tell me something about De Guiche’s
adversary.”

“Oh, sire, I do not know him.”

“And yet you see everything very clearly.”

“Yes, sire, I see everything; but I do not tell all I see; and, since
the poor devil has escaped, your majesty will permit me to say that I do
not intend to denounce him.”

“And yet he is guilty, since he has fought a duel, monsieur.”

“Not guilty in my eyes, sire,” said D’Artagnan, coldly.

“Monsieur!” exclaimed the king, “are you aware of what you are saying?”

“Perfectly, sire; but, according to my notions, a man who fights a duel
is a brave man; such, at least, is my own opinion; but your majesty may
have another, it is but natural, for you are master here.”

“Monsieur d’Artagnan, I ordered you, however--”

D’Artagnan interrupted the king by a respectful gesture. “You ordered
me, sire, to gather what particulars I could, respecting a hostile
meeting that had taken place; those particulars you have. If you order
me to arrest M. de Guiche’s adversary, I will do so; but do not order me
to denounce him to you, for in that case I will not obey.”

“Very well! Arrest him, then.”

“Give me his name, sire.”

The king stamped his foot angrily; but after a moment’s reflection, he
said, “You are right--ten times, twenty times, a hundred times right.”

“That is my opinion, sire: I am happy that, this time, it accords with
your majesty’s.”

“One word more. Who assisted Guiche?”

“I do not know, sire.”

“But you speak of two men. There was a person present, then, as second.”

“There was no second, sire. Nay, more than that, when M. de Guiche fell,
his adversary fled without giving him any assistance.”

“The miserable coward!” exclaimed the king.

“The consequence of your ordinances, sire. If a man has fought well, and
fairly, and has already escaped one chance of death, he naturally wishes
to escape a second. M. de Bouteville cannot be forgotten very easily.”

“And so, men turn cowards.”

“No, they become prudent.”

“And he has fled, then, you say?”

“Yes; and as fast as his horse could possibly carry him.”

“In what direction?”

“In the direction of the chateau.”

“Well, and after that?”

“Afterwards, as I have had the honor of telling your majesty, two men on
foot arrived, who carried M. de Guiche back with them.”

“What proof have you that these men arrived after the combat?”

“A very evident proof, sire; at the moment the encounter took place,
the rain had just ceased, the ground had not had time to imbibe the
moisture, and was, consequently, soaked; the footsteps sank in the
ground; but while M. de Guiche was lying there in a fainting condition,
the ground became firm again, and the footsteps made a less sensible
impression.”

Louis clapped his hands together in sign of admiration. “Monsieur
d’Artagnan,” he said, “you are positively the cleverest man in my
kingdom.”

“The identical thing M. de Richelieu thought, and M. de Mazarin said,
sire.”

“And now, it remains for us to see if your sagacity is at fault.”

“Oh! sire, a man may be mistaken; _humanum est errare_,” said the
musketeer, philosophically. [1]

“In that case, you are not human, Monsieur d’Artagnan, for I believe you
are never mistaken.”

“Your majesty said that we were going to see whether such was the case,
or not.”

“Yes.”

“In what way, may I venture to ask?”

“I have sent for M. de Manicamp, and M. de Manicamp is coming.”

“And M. de Manicamp knows the secret?”

“De Guiche has no secrets from M. de Manicamp.”

D’Artagnan shook his head. “No one was present at the combat, I repeat;
and unless M. de Manicamp was one of the two men who brought him back--”

“Hush!” said the king, “he is coming; remain, and listen attentively.”

“Very good, sire.”

And, at the very same moment, Manicamp and Saint-Aignan appeared at the
threshold of the door.



Chapter XVII. The Encounter.

The king signified with an imperious gesture, first to the musketeer,
then to Saint-Aignan, “On your lives, not a word.” D’Artagnan withdrew,
like a sentinel, to a corner of the room; Saint-Aignan, in his character
of a favorite, leaned over the back of the king’s chair. Manicamp, with
his right foot properly advanced, a smile upon his lips, and his
white and well-formed hands gracefully disposed, advanced to make his
reverence to the king, who returned the salutation by a bow. “Good
evening, M. de Manicamp,” he said.

“Your majesty did me the honor to send for me,” said Manicamp.

“Yes, in order to learn from you all the details of the unfortunate
accident which has befallen the Comte de Guiche.”

“Oh! sire, it is grievous indeed.”

“You were there?”

“Not precisely, sire.”

“But you arrived on the scene of the accident, a few minutes after it
took place?”

“Sire, about half an hour afterwards.”

“And where did the accident happen?”

“I believe, sire, the place is called the Rond-point du Bois-Rochin.”

“Oh! the rendezvous of the hunt.”

“The very spot, sire.”

“Good; give me all the details you are acquainted with, respecting this
unhappy affair, Monsieur de Manicamp.”

“Perhaps your majesty has already been informed of them, and I fear to
fatigue you with useless repetition.”

“No, do not be afraid of that.”

Manicamp looked round him; he saw only D’Artagnan leaning with his
back against the wainscot--D’Artagnan, calm, kind, and good-natured as
usual--and Saint-Aignan whom he had accompanied, and who still leaned
over the king’s armchair with an expression of countenance equally full
of good feeling. He determined, therefore, to speak out. “Your majesty
is perfectly aware,” he said, “that accidents are very frequent in
hunting.”

“In hunting, do you say?”

“I mean, sire, when an animal is brought to bay.”

“Ah, ah!” said the king, “it was when the animal was brought to bay,
then, that the accident happened?”

“Alas! sire, unhappily it was.”

The king paused for a moment before he said: “What animal was being
hunted?”

“A wild boar, sire.”

“And what could possibly have possessed De Guiche to go to a wild
boar-hunt by himself; that is but a clownish idea of sport, only fit for
that class of people who, unlike the Marechal de Gramont, have no dogs
and huntsmen, to hunt as gentlemen should do.”

Manicamp shrugged his shoulders. “Youth is very rash,” he said,
sententiously.

“Well, go on,” said the king.

“At all events,” continued Manicamp, not venturing to be too precipitate
and hasty, and letting his words fall very slowly one by one, “at all
events, sire, poor De Guiche went hunting--all alone.”

“Quite alone? indeed?--What a sportsman! And is not M. de Guiche aware
that the wild boar always stands at bay?”

“That is the very thing that really happened, sire.”

“He had some idea, then, of the beast being there?”

“Yes, sire, some peasants had seen it among their potatoes.” [2]

“And what kind of animal was it?”

“A short, thick beast.”

“You may as well tell me, monsieur, that De Guiche had some idea of
committing suicide; for I have seen him hunt, and he is an active and
vigorous hunter. Whenever he fires at an animal brought to bay and held
in check by the dogs, he takes every possible precaution, and yet he
fires with a carbine, and on this occasion he seems to have faced the
boar with pistols only.”

Manicamp started.

“A costly pair of pistols, excellent weapons to fight a duel with a man
and not a wild boar. What an absurdity!”

“There are some things, sire, which are difficult of explanation.”

“You are quite right, and the event which we are now discussing is
certainly one of them. Go on.”

During the recital, Saint-Aignan, who probably would have made a sign to
Manicamp to be careful what he was about, found that the king’s glance
was constantly fixed upon himself, so that it was utterly impossible to
communicate with Manicamp in any way. As for D’Artagnan, the statue of
Silence at Athens was far more noisy and far more expressive than he.
Manicamp, therefore, was obliged to continue in the same way he
had begun, and so contrived to get more and more entangled in his
explanation. “Sire,” he said, “this is probably how the affair happened.
Guiche was waiting to receive the boar as it rushed towards him.”

“On foot or on horseback?” inquired the king.

“On horseback. He fired upon the brute and missed his aim, and then it
dashed upon him.”

“And the horse was killed.”

“Ah! your majesty knows that, then.”

“I have been told that a horse has been found lying dead in the
cross-roads of the Bois-Rochin, and I presume it was De Guiche’s horse.”

“Perfectly true, sire, it was his.”

“Well, so much for the horse, and now for De Guiche?”

“De Guiche, once down, was attacked and worried by the wild boar, and
wounded in the hand and in the chest.”

“It is a horrible accident, but it must be admitted it was De Guiche’s
own fault. How could he possibly have gone to hunt such an animal merely
armed with pistols; he must have forgotten the fable of Adonis?”

Manicamp rubbed his ear in seeming perplexity. “Very true,” he said, “it
was very imprudent.”

“Can you explain it, Monsieur Manicamp?”

“Sire, what is written is written!”

“Ah! you are a fatalist.”

Manicamp looked very uncomfortable and ill at ease.

“I am angry with you, Monsieur Manicamp,” continued the king.

“With me, sire?”

“Yes. How was it that you, who are De Guiche’s intimate friend, and
who know that he is subject to such acts of folly, did not stop him in
time?”

Manicamp no longer knew what to do; the tone in which the king spoke
was anything but that of a credulous man. On the other hand, it did
not indicate any particular severity, nor did he seem to care very
much about the cross-examination. There was more of raillery in it than
menace. “And you say, then,” continued the king, “that it was positively
De Guiche’s horse that was found dead?”

“Quite positive, sire.”

“Did that astonish you?”

“No, sire; for your majesty will remember that, at the last hunt, M. de
Saint-Maure had a horse killed under him, and in the same way.”

“Yes, but that one was ripped open.”

“Of course, sire.”

“Had Guiche’s horse been ripped open like M. de Saint-Maure’s horse, I
should not have been astonished.”

Manicamp opened his eyes very wide.

“Am I mistaken,” resumed the king, “was it not in the frontal bone that
De Guiche’s horse was struck? You must admit, Monsieur de Manicamp, that
that is a very singular place for a wild boar to attack.”

“You are aware, sire, that the horse is a very intelligent animal, and
he doubtless endeavoured to defend himself.”

“But a horse defends himself with his heels and not with his head.”

“In that case, the terrified horse may have slipped or fallen down,”
 said Manicamp, “and the boar, you understand sire, the boar--”

“Oh! I understand that perfectly, as far as the horse is concerned; but
how about his rider?”

“Well! that, too, is simple enough; the boar left the horse and attacked
the rider; and, as I have already had the honor of informing your
majesty, shattered De Guiche’s hand at the very moment he was about to
discharge his second pistol at him, and then, with a gouge of his tusk,
made that terrible hole in his chest.”

“Nothing is more likely; really, Monsieur de Manicamp, you are wrong in
placing so little confidence in your own eloquence, and you can tell a
story most admirably.”

“Your majesty is exceedingly kind,” said Manicamp, saluting him in the
most embarrassed manner.

“From this day henceforth, I will prohibit any gentleman attached to my
court going out to a similar encounter. Really, one might just as well
permit duelling.”

Manicamp started, and moved as if he were about to withdraw. “Is your
majesty satisfied?”

“Delighted; but do not withdraw yet, Monsieur de Manicamp,” said Louis,
“I have something to say to you.”

“Well, well!” thought D’Artagnan, “there is another who is not up to the
mark;” and he uttered a sigh which might signify, “Oh! the men of _our_
stamp, where are they _now?_”

At this moment an usher lifted up the curtain before the door, and
announced the king’s physician.

“Ah!” exclaimed Louis, “here comes Monsieur Valot, who has just been to
see M. de Guiche. We shall now hear news of the man maltreated by the
boar.”

Manicamp felt more uncomfortable than ever.

“In this way, at least,” added the king, “our conscience will be quite
clear.” And he looked at D’Artagnan, who did not seem in the slightest
degree discomposed.



Chapter XVIII. The Physician.

M. Valot entered. The position of the different persons present was
precisely the same: the king was seated, Saint-Aignan leaning over the
back of his armchair, D’Artagnan with his back against the wall, and
Manicamp still standing.

“Well, M. Valot,” said the king, “did you obey my directions?”

“With the greatest alacrity, sire.”

“You went to the doctor’s house in Fontainebleau?”

“Yes, sire.”

“And you found M. de Guiche there?”

“I did, sire.”

“What state was he in?--speak unreservedly.”

“In a very sad state indeed, sire.”

“The wild boar did not quite devour him, however?”

“Devour whom?”

“De Guiche.”

“What wild boar?”

“The boar that wounded him.”

“M. de Guiche wounded by a boar?”

“So it is said, at least.”

“By a poacher, rather, or by a jealous husband, or an ill-used lover,
who, in order to be revenged, fired upon him.”

“What is it that you say, Monsieur Valot? Were not M. de Guiche’s wounds
produced by defending himself against a wild boar?”

“M. de Guiche’s wounds are the result of a pistol-bullet that broke
his ring-finger and the little finger of the right hand, and afterwards
buried itself in the intercostal muscles of the chest.”

“A bullet! Are you sure Monsieur de Guiche was wounded by a _bullet?_”
 exclaimed the king, pretending to look much surprised.

“Indeed, I am, sire; so sure, in fact, that here it is.” And he
presented to the king a half-flattened bullet, which the king looked at,
but did not touch.

“Did he have that in his chest, poor fellow?” he asked.

“Not precisely. The ball did not penetrate, but was flattened, as you
see, either upon the trigger of the pistol or upon the right side of the
breast-bone.”

“Good heavens!” said the king, seriously, “you said nothing to me about
this, Monsieur de Manicamp.”

“Sire--”

“What does all this mean, then, this invention about hunting a wild boar
at nightfall? Come, speak, monsieur.”

“Sire--”

“It seems, then, that you are right,” said the king, turning round
towards his captain of musketeers, “and that a duel actually took
place.”

The king possessed, to a greater extent than any one else, the faculty
enjoyed by the great in power or position, of compromising and dividing
those beneath him. Manicamp darted a look full of reproaches at the
musketeer. D’Artagnan understood the look at once, and not wishing
to remain beneath the weight of such an accusation, advanced a step
forward, and said: “Sire, your majesty commanded me to go and explore
the place where the cross-roads meet in the Bois-Rochin, and to report
to you, according to my own ideas, what had taken place there. I
submitted my observations to you, but without denouncing any one. It was
your majesty yourself who was the first to name the Comte de Guiche.”

“Well, monsieur, well,” said the king, haughtily; “you have done your
duty, and I am satisfied with you. But you, Monsieur de Manicamp, have
failed in yours, for you have told me a falsehood.”

“A falsehood, sire. The expression is a hard one.”

“Find a more accurate, then.”

“Sire, I will not attempt to do so. I have already been unfortunate
enough to displease your majesty, and it will, in every respect, be far
better for me to accept most humbly any reproaches you may think proper
to address to me.”

“You are right, monsieur, whoever conceals the truth from me, risks my
displeasure.”

“Sometimes, sire, one is ignorant of the truth.”

“No further falsehood, monsieur, or I double the punishment.”

Manicamp bowed and turned pale. D’Artagnan again made another step
forward, determined to interfere, if the still increasing anger of the
king attained certain limits.

“You see, monsieur,” continued the king, “that it is useless to deny the
thing any longer. M. de Guiche has fought a duel.”

“I do not deny it, sire, and it would have been truly generous on your
majesty’s part not to have forced me to tell a falsehood.”

“Forced? Who forced you?”

“Sire, M. de Guiche is my friend. Your majesty has forbidden duels under
pain of death. A falsehood might save my friend’s life, and I told it.”

“Good!” murmured D’Artagnan, “an excellent fellow, upon my word.”

“Instead of telling a falsehood, monsieur, you should have prevented him
from fighting,” said the king.

“Oh! sire, your majesty, who is the most accomplished gentleman in
France, knows quite as well as any of us other gentlemen that we have
never considered M. de Bouteville dishonored for having suffered death
on the Place de Greve. That which does in truth dishonor a man is to
avoid meeting his enemy--not to avoid meeting his executioner!”

“Well, monsieur, that may be so,” said Louis XIV.; “I am desirous of
suggesting a means of your repairing all.”

“If it be a means of which a gentleman may avail himself, I shall most
eagerly seize the opportunity.”

“The name of M. de Guiche’s adversary?”

“Oh, oh!” murmured D’Artagnan, “are we going to take Louis XIII. as a
model?”

“Sire!” said Manicamp, with an accent of reproach.

“You will not name him, then?” said the king.

“Sire, I do not know him.”

“Bravo!” murmured D’Artagnan.

“Monsieur de Manicamp, hand your sword to the captain.”

Manicamp bowed very gracefully, unbuckled his sword, smiling as he did
so, and handed it for the musketeer to take. But Saint-Aignan advanced
hurriedly between him and D’Artagnan. “Sire,” he said, “will your
majesty permit me to say a word?”

“Do so,” said the king, delighted, perhaps, at the bottom of his heart,
for some one to step between him and the wrath he felt he had carried
him too far.

“Manicamp, you are a brave man, and the king will appreciate your
conduct; but to wish to serve your friends too well, is to destroy them.
Manicamp, you know the name the king asks you for?”

“It is perfectly true--I do know it.”

“You will give it up then?”

“If I felt I ought to have mentioned it, I should have already done so.”

“Then I will tell it, for I am not so extremely sensitive on such points
of honor as you are.”

“You are at liberty to do so, but it seems to me, however--”

“Oh! a truce to magnanimity; I will not permit you to go to the Bastile
in that way. Do you speak; or I will.”

Manicamp was keen-witted enough, and perfectly understood that he had
done quite sufficient to produce a good opinion of his conduct; it was
now only a question of persevering in such a manner as to regain the
good graces of the king. “Speak, monsieur,” he said to Saint-Aignan; “I
have on my own behalf done all that my conscience told me to do; and it
must have been very importunate,” he added, turning towards the king,
“since its mandates led me to disobey your majesty’s commands; but your
majesty will forgive me, I hope, when you learn that I was anxious to
preserve the honor of a lady.”

“Of a lady?” said the king, with some uneasiness.

“Yes, sire.”

“A lady was the cause of this duel?”

Manicamp bowed.

“If the position of the lady in question warrants it,” he said, “I shall
not complain of your having acted with so much circumspection; on the
contrary, indeed.”

“Sire, everything which concerns your majesty’s household, or the
household of your majesty’s brother, is of importance in my eyes.”

“In my brother’s household,” repeated Louis XIV., with a slight
hesitation. “The cause of the duel was a lady belonging to my brother’s
household, do you say?”

“Or to Madame’s.”

“Ah! to Madame’s?”

“Yes, sire.”

“Well--and this lady?”

“Is one of the maids of honor of her royal highness Madame la Duchesse
d’Orleans.”

“For whom M. de Guiche fought--do you say?”

“Yes, sire, and, this time, I tell no falsehood.”

Louis seemed restless and anxious. “Gentlemen,” he said, turning towards
the spectators of this scene, “will you have the goodness to retire for
a moment. I wish to be alone with M. de Manicamp; I know he has some
important communication to make for his own justification, and which
he will not venture before witnesses.... Put up your sword, M. de
Manicamp.”

Manicamp returned his sword to his belt.

“The fellow decidedly has his wits about him,” murmured the musketeer,
taking Saint-Aignan by the arm, and withdrawing with him.

“He will get out of it,” said the latter in D’Artagnan’s ear.

“And with honor, too, comte.”

Manicamp cast a glance of recognition at Saint-Aignan and the captain,
which luckily passed unnoticed by the king.

“Come, come,” said D’Artagnan, as he left the room, “I had an
indifferent opinion of the new generation. Well, I was mistaken after
all. There is some good in them, I perceive.”

Valot preceded the favorite and the captain, leaving the king and
Manicamp alone in the cabinet.



Chapter XIX. Wherein D’Artagnan Perceives that It Was He Who Was
Mistaken, and Manicamp Who Was Right.

The king, determined to be satisfied that no one was listening, went
himself to the door, and then returned precipitately and placed himself
opposite Manicamp.

“And now we are alone, Monsieur de Manicamp, explain yourself.”

“With the greatest frankness, sire,” replied the young man.

“And in the first place, pray understand,” added the king, “that there
is nothing to which I personally attach a greater importance than the
honor of _any_ lady.”

“That is the very reason, sire, why I endeavored to study your delicacy
of sentiment and feeling.”

“Yes, I understand it all now. You say that it was one of the maids of
honor of my sister-in-law who was the subject of dispute, and that the
person in question, De Guiche’s adversary, the man, in point of fact,
whom you will not name--”

“But whom M. de Saint-Aignan will name, monsieur.”

“Yes, you say, however, that this man insulted some one belonging to the
household of Madame.”

“Yes, sire. Mademoiselle de la Valliere.”

“Ah!” said the king, as if he had expected the name, and yet as if its
announcement had caused him a sudden pang; “ah! it was Mademoiselle de
la Valliere who was insulted.”

“I do not say precisely that she was insulted, sire.”

“But at all events--”

“I merely say that she was spoken of in terms far enough from
respectful.”

“A man dares to speak in disrespectful terms of Mademoiselle de la
Valliere, and yet you refuse to tell me the name of the insulter?”

“Sire, I thought it was quite understood that your majesty had abandoned
the idea of making me denounce him.”

“Perfectly true, monsieur,” returned the king, controlling his anger;
“besides, I shall know in good time the name of this man whom I shall
feel it my duty to punish.”

Manicamp perceived that they had returned to the question again. As for
the king, he saw he had allowed himself to be hurried away a little too
far, and therefore continued:--“And I will punish him--not because there
is any question of Mademoiselle de la Valliere, although I esteem her
very highly--but because a lady was the object of the quarrel. And I
intend that ladies shall be respected at my court, and that quarrels
shall be put a stop to altogether.”

Manicamp bowed.

“And now, Monsieur de Manicamp,” continued the king, “what was said
about Mademoiselle de la Valliere?”

“Cannot your majesty guess?”

“I?”

“Your majesty can imagine the character of the jest in which young men
permit themselves to indulge.”

“They very probably said that she was in love with some one?” the king
ventured to remark.

“Probably so.”

“But Mademoiselle de la Valliere has a perfect right to love any one she
pleases,” said the king.

“That is the very point De Guiche maintained.”

“And on account of which he fought, do you mean?”

“Yes, sire, the sole and only cause.”

The king colored. “And you do not know anything more, then?”

“In what respect, sire?”

“In the very interesting respect which you are now referring to.”

“What does your majesty wish to know?”

“Why, the name of the man with whom La Valliere is in love, and whom De
Guiche’s adversary disputed her right to love.”

“Sire, I know nothing--I have heard nothing--and have learnt nothing,
even accidentally; but De Guiche is a noble-hearted fellow, and
if, momentarily, he substituted himself in the place or stead of La
Valliere’s protector, it was because that protector was himself of too
exalted a position to undertake her defense.”

These words were more than transparent; they made the king blush, but
this time with pleasure. He struck Manicamp gently on the shoulder.
“Well, well, Monsieur de Manicamp, you are not only a ready, witty
fellow, but a brave gentleman besides, and your friend De Guiche is a
paladin quite after my own heart; you will express that to him from me.”

“Your majesty forgives me, then?”

“Completely.”

“And I am free?”

The king smiled and held out his hand to Manicamp, which he took and
kissed respectfully. “And then,” added the king, “you relate stories so
charmingly.”

“I, sire!”

“You told me in the most admirable manner the particulars of the
accident which happened to Guiche. I can see the wild boar rushing out
of the wood--I can see the horse fall down fighting with his head, and
the boar rush from the horse to the rider. You do not simply relate a
story well: you positively paint its incidents.”

“Sire, I think your majesty condescends to laugh at my expense,” said
Manicamp.

“On the contrary,” said Louis, seriously, “I have so little intention of
laughing, Monsieur de Manicamp, that I wish you to relate this adventure
to every one.”

“The adventure of the hunt?”

“Yes; in the same manner you told it to me, without changing a single
word--_you understand?_”

“Perfectly, sire.”

“And you will relate it, then?”

“Without losing a minute.”

“Very well! and now summon M. d’Artagnan; I hope you are no longer
afraid of him.”

“Oh, sire, from the very moment I am sure of your majesty’s kind
disposition, I no longer fear anything!”

“Call him, then,” said the king.

Manicamp opened the door, and said, “Gentlemen, the king wishes you to
return.”

D’Artagnan, Saint-Aignan, and Valot entered.

“Gentlemen,” said the king, “I summoned you for the purposes of saying
that Monsieur de Manicamp’s explanation has entirely satisfied me.”

D’Artagnan glanced at Valot and Saint-Aignan, as much as to say, “Well!
did I not tell you so?”

The king led Manicamp to the door, and then in a low tone of voice said:
“See that M. de Guiche takes good care of himself, and particularly that
he recovers as soon as possible; I am very desirous of thanking him in
the name of every lady, but let him take special care that he does not
begin again.”

“Were he to die a hundred times, sire, he would begin again if your
majesty’s honor were in any way called in question.”

This remark was direct enough. But we have already said that the incense
of flattery was very pleasing to the king, and, provided he received it,
he was not very particular as to its quality.

“Very well, very well,” he said, as he dismissed Manicamp, “I will see
De Guiche myself, and make him listen to reason.” And as Manicamp left
the apartment, the king turned round towards the three spectators of
this scene, and said, “Tell me, Monsieur d’Artagnan, how does it happen
that your sight is so imperfect?--you, whose eyes are generally so very
good.”

“My sight bad, sire?”

“Certainly.”

“It must be the case since your majesty says so; but in what respect,
may I ask?”

“Why, with regard to what occurred in the Bois-Rochin.”

“Ah! ah!”

“Certainly. You pretended to have seen the tracks of two horses, to have
detected the footprints of two men; and have described the particulars
of an engagement, which you assert took place. Nothing of the sort
occurred; pure illusion on your part.”

“Ah! ah!” said D’Artagnan.

“Exactly the same thing with the galloping to and fro of the horses, and
the other indications of a struggle. It was the struggle of De Guiche
against the wild boar, and absolutely nothing else; only the struggle
was a long and a terrible one, it seems.”

“Ah! ah!” continued D’Artagnan.

“And when I think that I almost believed it for a moment--but, then, you
told it with such confidence.”

“I admit, sire, that I must have been very short-sighted,” said
D’Artagnan, with a readiness of humor which delighted the king.

“You do admit it, then?”

“Admit it, sire, most assuredly I do.”

“So now that you see the thing--”

“In quite a different light from that in which I saw it half an hour
ago.”

“And to what, then, do you attribute this difference in your opinion?”

“Oh! a very simple thing, sire; half an hour ago I returned from
Bois-Rochin, where I had nothing to light me but a stupid stable
lantern--”

“While now?”

“While now I have all the wax-lights of your cabinet, and more than
that, your majesty’s own eyes, which illuminate everything, like the
blazing sun at noonday.”

The king began to laugh; and Saint-Aignan broke out into convulsions of
merriment.

“It is precisely like M. Valot,” said D’Artagnan, resuming the
conversation where the king had left off; “he has been imagining all
along, that not only was M. de Guiche wounded by a bullet, but still
more, that he extracted it, even, from his chest.”

“Upon my word,” said Valot, “I assure you--”

“Now, did you not believe that?” continued D’Artagnan.

“Yes,” said Valot; “not only did I believe it, but, at this very moment,
I would swear it.”

“Well, my dear doctor, you have dreamt it.”

“I have dreamt it!”

“M. de Guiche’s wound--a mere dream; the bullet, a dream. So, take my
advice, and prate no more about it.”

“Well said,” returned the king, “M. d’Artagnan’s advice is sound. Do not
speak of your dream to any one, Monsieur Valot, and, upon the word of
a gentleman, you will have no occasion to repent it. Good evening,
gentlemen; a very sad affair, indeed, is a wild boar-hunt!”

“A very serious thing, indeed,” repeated D’Artagnan, in a loud voice,
“is a wild boar-hunt!” and he repeated it in every room through which he
passed; and left the chateau, taking Valot with him.

“And now we are alone,” said the king to Saint-Aignan, “what is the name
of De Guiche’s adversary?”

Saint-Aignan looked at the king.

“Oh! do not hesitate,” said the king; “you know that I am bound
beforehand to forgive.”

“De Wardes,” said Saint-Aignan.

“Very good,” said Louis XIV.; and then, retiring to his own room, added
to himself, “To forgive is not to forget.”



Chapter XX. Showing the Advantage of Having Two Strings to One’s Bow.

Manicamp quitted the king’s apartment, delighted at having succeeded
so well, when, just as he reached the bottom of the staircase and was
passing a doorway, he felt that some one suddenly pulled him by the
sleeve. He turned round and recognized Montalais, who was waiting for
him in the passage, and who, in a very mysterious manner, with her
body bent forward, and in a low tone of voice, said to him, “Follow me,
monsieur, and without any delay, if you please.”

“Where to, mademoiselle?” inquired Manicamp.

“In the first place, a true knight would not have asked such a question,
but would have followed me without requiring any explanation.”

“Well, mademoiselle, I am quite ready to conduct myself as a true
knight.”

“No; it is too late, and you cannot take the credit of it. We are going
to Madame’s apartment, so come at once.”

“Ah, ah!” said Manicamp. “Lead on, then.”

And he followed Montalais, who ran before him as light as Galatea.

“This time,” said Manicamp, as he followed his guide, “I do not think
that stories about hunting expeditions would be acceptable. We will try,
however, and if need be--well, if there should be any occasion for it,
we must try something else.”

Montalais still ran on.

“How fatiguing it is,” thought Manicamp, “to have need of one’s head and
legs at the same time.”

At last, however, they arrived. Madame had just finished undressing, and
was in a most elegant _deshabille_, but it must be understood that she
had changed her dress before she had any idea of being subjected to
the emotions now agitating her. She was waiting with the most restless
impatience; and Montalais and Manicamp found her standing near the door.
At the sound of their approaching footsteps, Madame came forward to meet
them.

“Ah!” she said, “at last!”

“Here is M. Manicamp,” replied Montalais.

Manicamp bowed with the greatest respect; Madame signed to Montalais to
withdraw, and she immediately obeyed. Madame followed her with her eyes,
in silence, until the door closed behind her, and then, turning towards
Manicamp, said, “What is the matter?--and is it true, as I am told,
Monsieur de Manicamp, that some one is lying wounded in the chateau?”

“Yes, Madame, unfortunately so--Monsieur de Guiche.”

“Yes, Monsieur de Guiche,” repeated the princess. “I had, in fact,
heard it rumored, but not confirmed. And so, in truth, it is Monsieur de
Guiche who has been thus unfortunate?”

“M. de Guiche himself, Madame.”

“Are you aware, M. de Manicamp,” said the princess, hastily, “that the
king has the strongest antipathy to duels?”

“Perfectly so, Madame; but a duel with a wild beast is not answerable.”

“Oh, you will not insult me by supposing that I credit the absurd fable,
with what object I cannot tell, respecting M. de Guiche having been
wounded by a wild boar. No, no, monsieur; the real truth is known, and,
in addition to the inconvenience of his wound, M. de Guiche runs the
risk of losing his liberty if not his life.”

“Alas! Madame, I am well aware of that, but what is to be done?”

“You have seen the king?”

“Yes, Madame.”

“What did you say to him?”

“I told him how M. de Guiche went to the chase, and how a wild boar
rushed forth out of the Bois-Rochin; how M. de Guiche fired at it, and
how, in fact, the furious brute dashed at De Guiche, killed his horse,
and grievously wounded himself.”

“And the king believed that?”

“Implicitly.”

“Oh, you surprise me, Monsieur de Manicamp; you surprise me very much.”

And Madame walked up and down the room, casting a searching look from
time to time at Manicamp, who remained motionless and impassible in the
same place. At last she stopped.

“And yet,” she said, “every one here seems unanimous in giving another
cause for this wound.”

“What cause, Madame?” said Manicamp; “may I be permitted, without
indiscretion, to ask your highness?”

“You ask such a question! You, M. de Guiche’s intimate friend, his
confidant, indeed!”

“Oh, Madame! his intimate friend--yes; confidant--no. De Guiche is a man
who can keep his own secrets, who has some of his own certainly, but who
never breathes a syllable about them. De Guiche is discretion itself,
Madame.”

“Very well, then; those secrets which M. de Guiche keeps so
scrupulously, I shall have the pleasure of informing you of,” said the
princess, almost spitefully; “for the king may possibly question you a
second time, and if, on the second occasion, you were to repeat the same
story to him, he possibly might not be very well satisfied with it.”

“But, Madame, I think your highness is mistaken with regard to the king.
His majesty was perfectly satisfied with me, I assure you.”

“In that case, permit me to assure you, Monsieur de Manicamp, it only
proves one thing, which is, that his majesty is very easily satisfied.”

“I think your highness is mistaken in arriving at such an opinion; his
majesty is well known not to be contented except with very good reason.”

“And do you suppose that he will thank you for your officious falsehood,
when he will learn to-morrow that M. de Guiche had, on behalf of his
friend M. de Bragelonne, a quarrel which ended in a hostile meeting?”

“A quarrel on M. de Bragelonne’s account,” said Manicamp, with the most
innocent expression in the world; “what does your royal highness do me
the honor to tell me?”

“What is there astonishing in that? M. de Guiche is susceptible,
irritable, and easily loses his temper.”

“On the contrary, Madame, I know M. de Guiche to be very patient, and
never susceptible or irritable except upon very good grounds.”

“But is not friendship a just ground?” said the princess.

“Oh, certainly, Madame; and particularly for a heart like his.”

“Very good; you will not deny, I suppose, that M. de Bragelonne is M. de
Guiche’s good friend?”

“A great friend.”

“Well, then, M. de Guiche has taken M. de Bragelonne’s part; and as M.
de Bragelonne was absent and could not fight, he fought for him.”

Manicamp began to smile, and moved his head and shoulders very slightly,
as much as to say, “Oh, if you will positively have it so--”

“But speak, at all events,” said the princess, out of patience; “speak!”

“I?”

“Of course; it is quite clear you are not of my opinion, and that you
have something to say.”

“I have only one thing to say, Madame.”

“Name it!”

“That I do not understand a single word of what you have just been
telling me.”

“What!--you do not understand a single word about M. de Guiche’s quarrel
with M. de Wardes,” exclaimed the princess, almost out of temper.

Manicamp remained silent.

“A quarrel,” she continued, “which arose out of a conversation
scandalous in its tone and purport, and more or less well founded,
respecting the virtue of a certain lady.”

“Ah! of a certain lady,--this is quite another thing,” said Manicamp.

“You begin to understand, do you not?”

“Your highness will excuse me, but I dare not--”

“You dare not,” said Madame, exasperated; “very well, then, wait one
moment, I will dare.”

“Madame, Madame!” exclaimed Manicamp, as if in great dismay, “be careful
of what you are going to say.”

“It would seem, monsieur, that, if I happened to be a man, you would
challenge me, notwithstanding his majesty’s edicts, as Monsieur de
Guiche challenged M. de Wardes; and that, too, on account of the virtue
of Mademoiselle de la Valliere.”

“Of Mademoiselle de la Valliere!” exclaimed Manicamp, starting
backwards, as if that was the very last name he expected to hear
pronounced.

“What makes you start in that manner, Monsieur de Manicamp?” said
Madame, ironically; “do you mean to say you would be impertinent enough
to suspect that young lady’s honor?”

“Madame, in the whole course of this affair there has not been the
slightest question of Mademoiselle de la Valliere’s honor.”

“What! when two men have almost blown each other’s brains out on a
woman’s behalf, do you mean to say she has had nothing to do with the
affair, and that her name has not been called in question at all? I did
not think you so good a courtier, Monsieur de Manicamp.”

“Pray forgive me, Madame,” said the young man, “but we are very far from
understanding one another. You do me the honor to speak one language
while I am speaking altogether another.”

“I beg your pardon, but I do not understand your meaning.”

“Forgive me, then; but I fancied I understood your highness to remark
that De Guiche and De Wardes had fought on Mademoiselle de la Valliere’s
account?”

“Certainly.”

“On account of Mademoiselle de la Valliere, I think you said?” repeated
Manicamp.

“I do not say that M. de Guiche personally took an interest in
Mademoiselle de la Valliere, but I say that he did so as representing or
acting on behalf of another.”

“On behalf of another?”

“Come, do not always assume such a bewildered look. Does not every
one here know that M. de Bragelonne is affianced to Mademoiselle de la
Valliere, and that before he went on the mission with which the king
intrusted him, he charged his friend M. de Guiche to watch over that
interesting young lady?”

“There is nothing more for me to say, then. Your highness is
well-informed.”

“Of everything. I beg you to understand that clearly.”

Manicamp began to laugh, which almost exasperated the princess, who was
not, as we know, of a very patient disposition.

“Madame,” resumed the discreet Manicamp, saluting the princess, “let us
bury this affair altogether in forgetfulness, for it will probably never
be quite cleared up.”

“Oh, as far as that goes there is nothing more to do, and the
information is complete. The king will learn that M. de Guiche has taken
up the cause of this little adventuress, who gives herself all the
airs of a grand lady; he will learn that Monsieur de Bragelonne, having
nominated his friend M. de Guiche his guardian-in-ordinary, the latter
immediately fastened, as he was required to do, upon the Marquis de
Wardes, who ventured to trench upon his privileges. Moreover, you
cannot pretend to deny, Monsieur Manicamp--you who know everything so
well--that the king on his side casts a longing eye upon this famous
treasure, and that he will bear no slight grudge against M. de Guiche
for constituting himself its defender. Are you sufficiently well
informed now, or do you require anything further? If so, speak,
monsieur.”

“No, Madame, there is nothing more I wish to know.”

“Learn, however--for you ought to know it, Monsieur de Manicamp--learn
that his majesty’s indignation will be followed by terrible
consequences. In princes of a similar temperament to that of his
majesty, the passion which jealousy causes sweeps down like a
whirlwind.”

“Which you will temper, Madame.”

“I!” exclaimed the princess, with a gesture of indescribable irony; “I!
and by what title, may I ask?”

“Because you detest injustice, Madame.”

“And according to your account, then, it would be an injustice to
prevent the king arranging his love affairs as he pleases.”

“You will intercede, however, in M. de Guiche’s favor?”

“You are mad, monsieur,” said the princess, in a haughty tone of voice.

“On the contrary, I am in the most perfect possession of my senses; and
I repeat, you will defend M. de Guiche before the king.”

“Why should I?”

“Because the cause of M. de Guiche is your own, Madame,” said Manicamp,
with ardor kindling in his eyes.

“What do you mean by that?”

“I mean, Madame, that, with respect to the defense which Monsieur de
Guiche undertook in M. de Bragelonne’s absence, I am surprised that your
highness has not detected a pretext in La Valliere’s name having been
brought forward.”

“A pretext? But a pretext for what?” repeated the princess,
hesitatingly, for Manicamp’s steady look had just revealed something of
the truth to her.

“I trust, Madame,” said the young man, “I have said sufficient to induce
your highness not to overwhelm before his majesty my poor friend, De
Guiche, against whom all the malevolence of a party bitterly opposed to
your own will now be directed.”

“You mean, on the contrary, I suppose, that all those who have no great
affection for Mademoiselle de la Valliere, and even, perhaps, a few of
those who have some regard for her, will be angry with the comte?”

“Oh, Madame! why will you push your obstinacy to such an extent, and
refuse to open your ears and listen to the counsel of one whose
devotion to you is unbounded? Must I expose myself to the risk of your
displeasure,--am I really to be called upon to name, contrary to my own
wish, the person who was the real cause of this quarrel?”

“The person?” said Madame, blushing.

“Must I,” continued Manicamp, “tell you how poor De Guiche became
irritated, furious, exasperated beyond all control, at the different
rumors now being circulated about this person? Must I, if you persist
in this willful blindness, and if respect should continue to prevent me
naming her,--must I, I repeat, recall to your recollection the
various scenes which Monsieur had with the Duke of Buckingham, and the
insinuations which were reported respecting the duke’s exile? Must I
remind you of the anxious care the comte always took in his efforts to
please, to watch, to protect that person for whom alone he lives,--for
whom alone he breathes? Well! I will do so; and when I shall have made
you recall all the particulars I refer to, you will perhaps understand
how it happened that the comte, having lost all control over himself,
and having been for some time past almost harassed to death by De
Wardes, became, at the first disrespectful expression which the latter
pronounced respecting the person in question, inflamed with passion, and
panted only for an opportunity of avenging the affront.”

The princess concealed her face with her hands. “Monsieur, monsieur!”
 she exclaimed; “do you know what you are saying, and to whom you are
speaking?”

“And so, Madame,” pursued Manicamp, as if he had not heard the
exclamations of the princess, “nothing will astonish you any
longer,--neither the comte’s ardor in seeking the quarrel, nor his
wonderful address in transferring it to a quarter foreign to your own
personal interests. That latter circumstance was, indeed, a marvelous
instance of tact and perfect coolness, and if the person in whose
behalf the comte so fought and shed his blood does, in reality, owe
some gratitude to the poor wounded sufferer, it is not on account of the
blood he has shed, or the agony he has suffered, but for the steps he
has taken to preserve from comment or reflection an honor which is more
precious to him than his own.”

“Oh!” cried Madame, as if she had been alone, “is it possible the
quarrel was on my account!”

Manicamp felt he could now breathe for a moment--and gallantly had he
won the right to do so. Madame, on her side, remained for some time
plunged in a painful reverie. Her agitation could be seen by her quick
respiration, by her drooping eyelids, by the frequency with which she
pressed her hand upon her heart. But, in her, coquetry was not so much
a passive quality, as, on the contrary, a fire which sought for fuel to
maintain itself, finding anywhere and everywhere what it required.

“If it be as you assert,” she said, “the comte will have obliged two
persons at the same time; for Monsieur de Bragelonne also owes a deep
debt of gratitude to M. de Guiche--and with far greater reason, indeed,
because everywhere, and on every occasion, Mademoiselle de la Valliere
will be regarded as having been defended by this generous champion.”

Manicamp perceived that there still remained some lingering doubt in the
princess’s heart. “A truly admirable service, indeed,” he said, “is the
one he has rendered to Mademoiselle de la Valliere! A truly admirable
service to M. de Bragelonne! The duel has created a sensation which, in
some respects, casts a dishonorable suspicion upon that young girl;
a sensation, indeed, which will embroil her with the vicomte. The
consequence is that De Wardes’s pistol-bullet has had three results
instead of one; it destroys at the same time the honor of a woman, the
happiness of a man, and, perhaps, it has wounded to death one of
the best gentlemen in France. Oh, Madame! your logic is cold--even
calculating; it always condemns--it never absolves.”

Manicamp’s concluding words scattered to the winds the last doubt which
lingered, not in Madame’s heart, but in her mind. She was no longer
a princess full of scruples, nor a woman with her ever-returning
suspicions, but one whose heart has just felt the mortal chill of a
wound. “Wounded to death!” she murmured, in a faltering voice, “oh,
Monsieur de Manicamp! did you not say, wounded to death?”

Manicamp returned no other answer than a deep sigh.

“And so you said that the comte is dangerously wounded?” continued the
princess.

“Yes, Madame; one of his hands is shattered, and he has a bullet lodged
in his breast.”

“Gracious heavens!” resumed the princess, with a feverish excitement,
“this is horrible! Monsieur de Manicamp! a hand shattered, do you say,
and a bullet in his breast? And that coward! that wretch! that assassin,
De Wardes, did it!”

Manicamp seemed overcome by a violent emotion. He had, in fact,
displayed no little energy in the latter part of his speech. As for
Madame, she entirely threw aside all regard for the formal observances
of propriety society imposes; for when, with her, passion spoke
in accents either of anger or sympathy, nothing could restrain her
impulses. Madame approached Manicamp, who had subsided in a chair, as if
his grief were a sufficiently powerful excuse for his infraction of the
laws of etiquette. “Monsieur,” she said, seizing him by the hand, “be
frank with me.”

Manicamp looked up.

“Is M. de Guiche in danger of death?”

“Doubly so, Madame,” he replied; “in the first place on account of the
hemorrhage which has taken place, an artery having been injured in the
hand; and next, in consequence of the wound in his breast, which may,
the doctor is afraid, at least, have injured some vital part.”

“He may die, then?”

“Die, yes, Madame; and without even having had the consolation of
knowing that you have been told of his devotion.”

“You will tell him.”

“I?”

“Yes; are you not his friend?”

“I? oh, no, Madame; I will only tell M. de Guiche--if, indeed, he is
still in a condition to hear me--I will only tell him what I have seen;
that is, your cruelty to him.”

“Oh, monsieur, you will not be guilty of such barbarity!”

“Indeed, Madame, I shall speak the truth, for nature is very energetic
in a man of his age. The physicians are clever men, and if, by chance,
the poor comte should survive his wound, I should not wish him to die of
a wound of the heart, after surviving one of the body.” Manicamp rose,
and with an expression of profoundest respect, seemed to be desirous of
taking leave.

“At least, monsieur,” said Madame, stopping him with almost a suppliant
air, “you will be kind enough to tell me in what state your wounded
friend is, and who is the physician who attends him?”

“As regards the state he is in, Madame, he is seriously ill; his
physician is M. Valot, his majesty’s private medical attendant. M. Valot
is moreover assisted by a professional friend, to whose house M. de
Guiche has been carried.”

“What! he is not in the chateau?” said Madame.

“Alas, Madame! the poor fellow was so ill, that he could not even be
conveyed thither.”

“Give me the address, monsieur,” said the princess, hurriedly; “I will
send to inquire after him.”

“Rue du Feurre; a brick-built house, with white outside blinds. The
doctor’s name is on the door.”

“You are returning to your wounded friend, Monsieur de Manicamp?”

“Yes, Madame.”

“You will be able, then, to do me a service.”

“I am at your highness’s orders.”

“Do what you intended to do; return to M. de Guiche, send away all those
whom you may find there, and have the kindness yourself to go away too.”

“Madame--”

“Let us waste no time in useless explanations. Accept the fact as I
present it to you; see nothing in it beyond what is really there, and
ask nothing further than what I tell you. I am going to send one of my
ladies, perhaps two, because it is now getting late; I do not wish them
to see you, or rather I do not wish you to see them. These are scruples
you can understand--you particularly, Monsieur de Manicamp, who seem
capable of divining so much.”

“Oh, Madame, perfectly; I can even do better still,--I will precede, or
rather walk, in advance of your attendants; it will, at the same time,
be the means of showing them the way more accurately, and of protecting
them, if occasion arises, though there is no probability of their
needing protection.”

“And, by this means, then, they would be sure of entering without
difficulty, would they not?”

“Certainly, Madame; for as I should be the first to pass, I thus remove
any difficulties that might chance to be in the way.”

“Very well. Go, go, Monsieur de Manicamp, and wait at the bottom of the
staircase.”

“I go at once, Madame.”

“Stay.”

Manicamp paused.

“When you hear the footsteps of two women descending the stairs, go out,
and, without once turning round, take the road which leads to where the
poor count is lying.”

“But if, by any mischance, two other persons were to descend, and I were
to be mistaken?”

“You will hear one of the two clap her hands together softly. Go.”

Manicamp turned round, bowed once more, and left the room, his heart
overflowing with joy. In fact, he knew very well that the presence of
Madame herself would be the best balm to apply to his friend’s wounds. A
quarter of an hour had hardly elapsed when he heard the sound of a door
opened softly, and closed with like precaution. He listened to the light
footfalls gliding down the staircase, and then heard the signal agreed
upon. He immediately went out, and, faithful to his promise, bent
his way, without once turning his head, through the streets of
Fontainebleau, towards the doctor’s dwelling.



Chapter XXI. M. Malicorne the Keeper of the Records of France.

Two women, their figures completely concealed by their mantles, and
whose masks effectually hid the upper portion of their faces, timidly
followed Manicamp’s steps. On the first floor, behind curtains of
red damask, the soft light of a lamp placed upon a low table faintly
illumined the room, at the other extremity of which, on a large bedstead
supported by spiral columns, around which curtains of the same color as
those which deadened the rays of the lamp had been closely drawn, lay De
Guiche, his head supported by pillows, his eyes looking as if the mists
of death were gathering; his long black hair, scattered over the pillow,
set off the young man’s hollow temples. It was easy to see that fever
was the chief tenant of the chamber. De Guiche was dreaming. His
wandering mind was pursuing, through gloom and mystery, one of those
wild creations delirium engenders. Two or three drops of blood, still
liquid, stained the floor. Manicamp hurriedly ran up the stairs, but
paused at the threshold of the door, looked into the room, and seeing
that everything was perfectly quiet, he advanced towards the foot of the
large leathern armchair, a specimen of furniture of the reign of Henry
IV., and seeing that the nurse, as a matter of course, had dropped off
to sleep, he awoke her, and begged her to pass into the adjoining room.

Then, standing by the side of the bed, he remained for a moment
deliberating whether it would be better to awaken Guiche, in order to
acquaint him with the good news. But, as he began to hear behind the
door the rustling of silk dresses and the hurried breathing of his two
companions, and as he already saw that the curtain screening the doorway
seemed on the point of being impatiently drawn aside, he passed round
the bed and followed the nurse into the next room. As soon as he had
disappeared the curtain was raised, and his two female companions
entered the room he had just left. The one who entered first made a
gesture to her companion, which riveted her to the spot where she stood,
close to the door, and then resolutely advanced towards the bed, drew
back the curtains along the iron rod, and threw them in thick folds
behind the head of the bed. She gazed upon the comte’s pallid face;
remarked his right hand enveloped in linen whose dazzling whiteness was
emphasized by the counterpane patterned with dark leaves thrown across
the couch. She shuddered as she saw a stain of blood growing larger
and larger upon the bandages. The young man’s breast was uncovered,
as though for the cool night air to assist his respiration. A narrow
bandage fastened the dressings of the wound, around which a purplish
circle of extravasated blood was gradually increasing in size. A deep
sigh broke from her lips. She leaned against one of the columns of the
bed, and gazed, through the apertures in her mask, upon the harrowing
spectacle before her. A hoarse harsh groan passed like a death-rattle
through the comte’s clenched teeth. The masked lady seized his left
hand, which scorched like burning coals. But at the very moment she
placed her icy hand upon it, the action of the cold was such that De
Guiche opened his eyes, and by a look in which revived intelligence
was dawning, seemed as though struggling back again into existence. The
first thing upon which he fixed his gaze was this phantom standing erect
by his bedside. At that sight, his eyes became dilated, but without any
appearance of consciousness in them. The lady thereupon made a sign to
her companion, who had remained at the door; and in all probability the
latter had already received her lesson, for in a clear tone of
voice, and without any hesitation whatever, she pronounced these
words:--“Monsieur le comte, her royal highness Madame is desirous of
knowing how you are able to bear your wound, and to express to you, by
my lips, her great regret at seeing you suffer.”

As she pronounced the word Madame, Guiche started; he had not as yet
remarked the person to whom the voice belonged, and he naturally turned
towards the direction whence it preceded. But, as he felt the cold hand
still resting on his own, he again turned towards the motionless figure
beside him. “Was it you who spoke, madame?” he asked, in a weak voice,
“or is there another person in beside you in the room?”

“Yes,” replied the figure, in an almost unintelligible voice, as she
bent down her head.

“Well,” said the wounded man, with a great effort, “I thank you. Tell
Madame that I no longer regret to die, since she has remembered me.”

At the words “to die,” pronounced by one whose life seemed to hang on a
thread, the masked lady could not restrain her tears, which flowed under
the mask, and appeared upon her cheeks just where the mask left her face
bare. If De Guiche had been in fuller possession of his senses, he would
have seen her tears roll like glistening pearls, and fall upon his bed.
The lady, forgetting that she wore her mask, raised her hand as though
to wipe her eyes, and meeting the rough velvet, she tore away her mask
in anger, and threw it on the floor. At the unexpected apparition before
him, which seemed to issue from a cloud, De Guiche uttered a cry and
stretched his arms towards her; but every word perished on his lips, and
his strength seemed utterly abandoning him. His right hand, which had
followed his first impulse, without calculating the amount of strength
he had left, fell back again upon the bed, and immediately afterwards
the white linen was stained with a larger spot than before. In the
meantime, the young man’s eyes became dim, and closed, as if he were
already struggling with the messenger of death; and then, after a few
involuntary movements, his head fell back motionless on his pillow; his
face grew livid. The lady was frightened; but on this occasion, contrary
to what is usually the case, fear attracted. She leaned over the young
man, gazed earnestly, fixedly at his pale, cold face, which she almost
touched, then imprinted a rapid kiss upon De Guiche’s left hand, who,
trembling as if an electric shock had passed through him, awoke a second
time, opened his large eyes, incapable of recognition, and again
fell into a state of complete insensibility. “Come,” she said to her
companion, “we must not remain here any longer; I shall be committing
some folly or other.”

“Madame, Madame, your highness is forgetting your mask!” said her
vigilant companion.

“Pick it up,” replied her mistress, as she tottered almost senseless
towards the staircase, and as the outer door had been left only
half-closed, the two women, light as birds, passed through it, and
with hurried steps returned to the palace. One of them ascended towards
Madame’s apartments, where she disappeared; the other entered the rooms
belonging to the maids of honor, namely, on the _entresol_, and having
reached her own room, she sat down before a table, and without giving
herself time even to breathe, wrote the following letter:

“This evening Madame has been to see M. de Guiche. Everything is going
well on this side. See that your news is equally exemplary, and do not
forget to burn this paper.”

She folded the letter, and leaving her room with every possible
precaution, crossed a corridor which led to the apartments appropriated
to the gentlemen attached to Monsieur’s service. She stopped before a
door, under which, having previously knocked twice in a short, quick
manner, she thrust the paper, and fled. Then, returning to her own
room, she removed every trace of her having gone out, and also of
having written the letter. Amid the investigations she was so diligently
pursuing she perceived on the table the mask which belonged to Madame,
and which, according to her mistress’s directions, she had brought back
but had forgotten to restore to her. “Oh, oh!” she said, “I must not
forget to do to-morrow what I have forgotten to-day.”

And she took hold of the velvet mask by that part which covered the
cheeks, and feeling that her thumb was wet, looked at it. It was not
only wet, but reddened. The mask had fallen upon one of the spots of
blood which, we have already said, stained the floor, and from that
black velvet outside which had accidentally come into contact with
it, the blood had passed through to the inside, and stained the white
cambric lining. “Oh, oh!” said Montalais, for doubtless our readers have
already recognized her by these various maneuvers, “I shall not give
back this mask; it is far too precious now.”

And rising from her seat, she ran towards a box made of maple wood,
which inclosed different articles of toilette and perfumery. “No, not
here,” she said, “such a treasure must not be abandoned to the slightest
chance of detection.”

Then, after a moment’s silence, and with a smile that was peculiarly her
own, she added:--“Beautiful mask, stained with the blood of that brave
knight, you shall go and join that collection of wonders, La Valliere’s
and Raoul’s letters, that loving collection, indeed, which will some day
or other form part of the history of France, of European royalty. You
shall be placed under M. Malicorne’s care,” said the laughing girl, as
she began to undress herself, “under the protection of that worthy M.
Malicorne,” she said, blowing out the taper, “who thinks he was born
only to become the chief usher of Monsieur’s apartments, and whom I will
make keeper of the records and historiographer of the house of Bourbon,
and of the first houses in the kingdom. Let him grumble now, that
discontented Malicorne,” she added, as she drew the curtains and fell
asleep.



Chapter XXII. The Journey.

The next day being agreed upon for the departure, the king, at eleven
o’clock precisely, descended the grand staircase with the two queens and
Madame, in order to enter his carriage drawn by six horses, that were
pawing the ground in impatience at the foot of the staircase. The whole
court awaited the royal appearance in the _Fer-a-cheval_ crescent,
in their travelling costumes; the large number of saddled horses and
carriages of ladies and gentlemen of the court, surrounded by their
attendants, servants, and pages, formed a spectacle whose brilliancy
could scarcely be equalled. The king entered his carriage with the two
queens; Madame was in the same one with Monsieur. The maids of honor
followed their example, and took their seats, two by two, in the
carriages destined for them. The weather was exceedingly warm; a light
breeze, which, early in the morning, all had thought would have proved
sufficient to cool the air, soon became fiercely heated by the rays of
the sun, although it was hidden behind the clouds, and filtered through
the heated vapor which rose from the ground like a scorching wind,
bearing particles of fine dust against the faces of the travelers.
Madame was the first to complain of the heat. Monsieur’s only reply was
to throw himself back in the carriage as though about to faint, and to
inundate himself with scents and perfumes, uttering the deepest sighs
all the while; whereupon Madame said to him, with her most amiable
expression:--“Really, Monsieur, I fancied that you would have been
polite enough, on account of the terrible heat, to have left me my
carriage to myself, and to have performed the journey yourself on
horseback.”

“Ride on horseback!” cried the prince, with an accent of dismay which
showed how little idea he had of adopting this unnatural advice; “you
cannot suppose such a thing, Madame! My skin would peel off if I were to
expose myself to such a burning breeze as this.”

Madame began to laugh.

“You can take my parasol,” she said.

“But the trouble of holding it!” replied Monsieur, with the greatest
coolness; “besides, I have no horse.”

“What, no horse?” replied the princess, who, if she did not secure the
solitude she required, at least obtained the amusement of teasing.
“No horse! You are mistaken, Monsieur; for I see your favorite bay out
yonder.”

“My bay horse!” exclaimed the prince, attempting to lean forward to look
out of the door; but the movement he was obliged to make cost him so
much trouble that he soon hastened to resume his immobility.

“Yes,” said Madame; “your horse, led by M. de Malicorne.”

“Poor beast,” replied the prince; “how warm it must be!”

And with these words he closed his eyes, like a man on the point of
death. Madame, on her side, reclined indolently in the other corner of
the carriage, and closed her eyes also, not, however, to sleep, but to
think more at her ease. In the meantime the king, seated in the front
seat of his carriage, the back of which he had yielded up to the two
queens, was a prey to that feverish contrariety experienced by anxious
lovers, who, without being able to quench their ardent thirst, are
ceaselessly desirous of seeing the loved object, and then go away
partially satisfied, without perceiving they have acquired a more
insatiable thirst than ever. The king, whose carriage headed the
procession, could not from the place he occupied perceive the carriages
of the ladies and maids of honor, which followed in a line behind it.
Besides, he was obliged to answer the eternal questions of the young
queen, who, happy to have with her “_her dear husband_,” as she called
him in utter forgetfulness of royal etiquette, invested him with all her
affection, stifled him with her attentions, afraid that some one might
come to take him from her, or that he himself might suddenly take a
fancy to quit her society. Anne of Austria, whom nothing at that moment
occupied except the occasional cruel throbbings in her bosom, looked
pleased and delighted, and although she perfectly realized the king’s
impatience, tantalizingly prolonged his sufferings by unexpectedly
resuming the conversation at the very moment the king, absorbed in his
own reflections, began to muse over his secret attachment. Everything
seemed to combine--not alone the little teasing attentions of the queen,
but also the queen-mother’s interruptions--to make the king’s position
almost insupportable; for he knew not how to control the restless
longings of his heart. At first, he complained of the heat--a complaint
merely preliminary to others, but with sufficient tact to prevent
Maria Theresa guessing his real object. Understanding the king’s remark
literally, she began to fan him with her ostrich plumes. But the heat
passed away, and the king then complained of cramps and stiffness in his
legs, and as the carriages at that moment stopped to change horses, the
queen said:--“Shall I get out with you? I too feel tired of sitting. We
can walk on a little distance; the carriage will overtake us, and we can
resume our places presently.”

The king frowned; it is a hard trial a jealous woman makes her husband
submit to whose fidelity she suspects, when, although herself a prey
to jealousy, she watches herself so narrowly that she avoids giving any
pretext for an angry feeling. The king, therefore, in the present case,
could not refuse; he accepted the offer, alighted from the carriage,
gave his arm to the queen, and walked up and down with her while the
horses were being changed. As he walked along, he cast an envious glance
upon the courtiers, who were fortunate enough to be on horseback. The
queen soon found out that the promenade she had suggested afforded
the king as little pleasure as he had experienced from driving. She
accordingly expressed a wish to return to her carriage, and the king
conducted her to the door, but did not get in with her. He stepped back
a few paces, and looked along the file of carriages for the purpose of
recognizing the one in which he took so strong an interest. At the door
of the sixth carriage he saw La Valliere’s fair countenance. As the
king thus stood motionless, wrapt in thought, without perceiving that
everything was ready, and that he alone was causing the delay, he heard
a voice close beside him, addressing him in the most respectful manner.
It was M. Malicorne, in a complete costume of an equerry, holding over
his left arm the bridles of a couple of horses.

“Your majesty asked for a horse, I believe,” he said.

“A horse? Have you one of my horses here?” inquired the king, trying
to remember the person who addressed him, and whose face was not as yet
familiar to him.

“Sire,” replied Malicorne, “at all events I have a horse here which is
at your majesty’s service.”

And Malicorne pointed at Monsieur’s bay horse, which Madame had
observed. It was a beautiful creature royally caparisoned.

“This is not one of my horses, monsieur,” said the king.

“Sire, it is a horse out of his royal highness’s stables; but he does
not ride when the weather is as hot as it is now.”

Louis did not reply, but approached the horse, which stood pawing the
ground with its foot. Malicorne hastened to hold the stirrup for him,
but the king was already in the saddle. Restored to good-humor by this
lucky accident, the king hastened towards the queen’s carriage, where he
was anxiously expected; and notwithstanding Maria Theresa’s thoughtful
and preoccupied air, he said: “I have been fortunate enough to find
this horse, and I intend to avail myself of it. I felt stifled in the
carriage. Adieu, ladies.”

Then bending gracefully over the arched neck of his beautiful steed,
he disappeared in a second. Anne of Austria leaned forward, in order
to look after him as he rode away; he did not get very far, for when he
reached the sixth carriage, he reined in his horse suddenly and took off
his hat. He saluted La Valliere, who uttered a cry of surprise as
she saw him, blushing at the same time with pleasure. Montalais, who
occupied the other seat in the carriage, made the king a most respectful
bow. And then, with all the tact of a woman, she pretended to be
exceedingly interested in the landscape, and withdrew herself into the
left-hand corner. The conversation between the king and La Valliere
began, as all lovers’ conversations generally do, namely, by eloquent
looks and by a few words utterly devoid of common sense. The king
explained how warm he had felt in his carriage, so much so indeed that
he could almost regard the horse he then rode as a blessing thrown in
his way. “And,” he added, “my benefactor is an exceedingly intelligent
man, for he seemed to guess my thoughts intuitively. I have now only
one wish, that of learning the name of the gentleman who so cleverly
assisted his king out of his dilemma, and extricated him from his cruel
position.”

Montalais, during this colloquy, the first words of which had awakened
her attention, had slightly altered her position, and contrived so as
to meet the king’s look as he finished his remark. It followed very
naturally that the king looked inquiringly as much at her as at La
Valliere; she had every reason to suppose that it was herself who
was appealed to, and consequently might be permitted to answer. She
therefore said: “Sire, the horse which your majesty is riding belongs to
Monsieur, and was being led by one of his royal highness’s gentlemen.”

“And what is that gentleman’s name, may I ask, mademoiselle?”

“M. de Malicorne, sire.”

The name produced its usual effect, for the king repeated it smilingly.

“Yes, sire,” replied Aure. “Stay, it is the gentleman who is galloping
on my left hand;” and she pointed out Malicorne, who, with a very
sanctified expression, was galloping by the side of the carriage,
knowing perfectly well that they were talking of him at that very
moment, but sitting in his saddle as if he were deaf and dumb.

“Yes,” said the king, “that is the gentleman; I remember his face, and
will not forget his name;” and the king looked tenderly at La Valliere.

Aure had now nothing further to do; she had let Malicorne’s name fall;
the soil was good; all that was now left to be done was to let the
name take root, and the event would bear fruit in due season. She
consequently threw herself back in her corner, feeling perfectly
justified in making as many agreeable signs of recognition as she liked
to Malicorne, since the latter had had the happiness of pleasing the
king. As will readily be believed, Montalais was not mistaken; and
Malicorne, with his quick ear and his sly look, seemed to interpret
her remark as “All goes on well,” the whole being accompanied by a
pantomimic action, which he fancied conveyed something resembling a
kiss.

“Alas! mademoiselle,” said the king, after a moment’s pause, “the
liberty and freedom of the country is soon about to cease; your
attendance on Madame will be more strictly enforced, and we shall see
each other no more.”

“Your majesty is too much attached to Madame,” replied Louise, “not to
come and see her very frequently; and whenever your majesty may chance
to pass across the apartments--”

“Ah!” said the king, in a tender voice, which was gradually lowered in
its tone, “to perceive is not to see, and yet it seems that it would be
quite sufficient for you.”

Louise did not answer a syllable; a sigh filled her heart almost to
bursting, but she stifled it.

“You exercise a great control over yourself,” said the king to Louise,
who smiled upon him with a melancholy expression. “Exert the strength
you have in loving fondly,” he continued, “and I will bless Heaven for
having bestowed it on you.”

La Valliere still remained silent, but raised her eyes, brimful of
affection, toward the king. Louis, as if overcome by this burning
glance, passed his hand across his forehead, and pressing the sides
of his horse with his knees, made him bound several paces forward. La
Valliere, leaning back in her carriage, with her eyes half closed, gazed
fixedly upon the king, whose plumes were floating in the air; she could
not but admire his graceful carriage, his delicate and nervous limbs
which pressed his horse’s sides, and the regular outline of his
features, which his beautiful curling hair set off to great advantage,
revealing occasionally his small and well-formed ear. In fact the poor
girl was in love, and she reveled in her innocent affection. In a few
moments the king was again by her side.

“Do you not perceive,” he said, “how terribly your silence affects me?
Oh! mademoiselle, how pitilessly inexorable you would become if you were
ever to resolve to break off all acquaintance with any one; and then,
too, I think you changeable; in fact--in fact, I dread this deep
affection which fills my whole being.”

“Oh! sire, you are mistaken,” said La Valliere; “if ever I love, it will
be for all my life.”

“If you love, you say,” exclaimed the king; “you do _not_ love now,
then?”

She hid her face in her hands.

“You see,” said the king, “that I am right in accusing you; you must
admit you are changeable, capricious, a coquette, perhaps.”

“Oh, no! sire, be perfectly satisfied as to that. No, I say again; no,
no!”

“Promise me, then, that to me you will always be the same.”

“Oh! always, sire.”

“That you will never show any of that severity which would break my
heart, none of that fickleness of manner which would be worse than death
to me.”

“Oh! no, no.”

“Very well, then! but listen. I like promises, I like to place under
the guarantee of an oath, under the protection of Heaven, in fact,
everything which interests my heart and my affections. Promise me, or
rather swear to me, that if in the life we are about to commence, a life
which will be full of sacrifice, mystery, anxiety, disappointment, and
misunderstanding; swear to me that if we should in any way deceive, or
misunderstand each other, or should judge each other unjustly, for that
indeed would be criminal in love such as ours; swear to me, Louise--”

She trembled with agitation to the very depths of her heart; it was the
first time she had heard her name pronounced in that manner by her
royal lover. As for the king, taking off his glove, and placing his
hand within the carriage, he continued:--“Swear, that never in all
our quarrels will we allow one night even to pass by, if any
misunderstanding should arise between us, without a visit, or at least
a message, from either, in order to convey consolation and repose to the
other.”

La Valliere took her lover’s burning hand between her own cool palms,
and pressed it softly, until a movement of the horse, frightened by the
proximity of the wheels, obliged her to abandon her happiness. She had
vowed as he desired.

“Return, sire,” she said, “return to the queen. I foresee a storm
yonder, which threatens my peace of mind and yours.”

Louis obeyed, saluted Mademoiselle de Montalais, and set off at a gallop
to rejoin the queen. As he passed Monsieur’s carriage, he observed that
he was fast asleep, although Madame, on her part, was wide awake. As
the king passed her she said, “What a beautiful horse, sire! Is it not
Monsieur’s bay horse?”

The young queen kindly asked, “Are you better now, sire?” [3]



Chapter XXIII. Triumfeminate.

On the king’s arrival in Paris, he sat at the council which had been
summoned, and worked for a certain portion of the day. The queen
remained with the queen-mother, and burst into tears as soon as she had
taken leave of the king. “Ah, madame!” she said, “the king no longer
loves me! What will become of me?”

“A husband always loves his wife when she is like you,” replied Anne of
Austria.

“A time may come when he will love another woman instead of me.”

“What do you call loving?”

“Always thinking of a person--always seeking her society.”

“Do you happen to have remarked,” said Anne of Austria, “that the king
has ever done anything of the sort?”

“No, madame,” said the young queen, hesitatingly.

“What is there to complain of, then, Marie?”

“You will admit that the king leaves me?”

“The king, my daughter, belongs to his people.”

“And that is the very reason why he no longer belongs to me; and that is
the reason, too, why I shall find myself, as so many queens before me,
forsaken and forgotten, whilst glory and honors will be reserved for
others. Oh, my mother! the king is so handsome! how often will others
tell him that they love him, and how much, indeed, they must do so!”

“It is very seldom, indeed, that women love the man in loving the king.
But if such a thing happened, which I doubt, you would do better to
wish, Marie, that such women should really love your husband. In the
first place, the devoted love of a mistress is a rapid element of the
dissolution of a lover’s affection; and then, by dint of loving, the
mistress loses all influence over her lover, whose power of wealth she
does not covet, caring only for his affection. Wish, therefore, that the
king should love but lightly, and that his mistress should love with all
her heart.”

“Oh, my mother, what power may not a deep affection exercise over him!”

“And yet you say you are resigned?”

“Quite true, quite true; I speak absurdly. There is a feeling of
anguish, however, which I can never control.”

“And that is?”

“The king may make a happy choice--may find a home, with all the tender
influences of home, not far from that we can offer him,--a home with
children round him, the children of another woman. Oh, madame! I should
die if I were but to see the king’s children.”

“Marie, Marie,” replied the queen-mother with a smile, and she took the
young queen’s hand in her own, “remember what I am going to say, and
let it always be a consolation to you: the king cannot have a Dauphin
without _you_.”

With this remark the queen-mother quitted her daughter-in-law, in
order to meet Madame, whose arrival in the grand cabinet had just been
announced by one of the pages. Madame had scarcely taken time to change
her dress. Her face revealed her agitation, which betrayed a plan, the
execution of which occupied, while the result disturbed, her mind.

“I came to ascertain,” she said, “if your majesties are suffering any
fatigue from our journey.”

“None at all,” said the queen-mother.

“A little,” replied Maria Theresa.

“I have suffered from annoyance more than anything else,” said Madame.

“How was that?” inquired Anne of Austria.

“The fatigue the king undergoes in riding about on horseback.”

“That does the king good.”

“And it was I who advised him,” said Maria Theresa, turning pale.

Madame said not a word in reply; but one of those smiles which were
peculiarly her own flitted for a moment across her lips, without passing
over the rest of her face; then, immediately changing the conversation,
she continued, “We shall find Paris precisely the Paris we quitted; the
same intrigues, plots, and flirtations going on.”

“Intrigues! What intrigues do you allude to?” inquired the queen-mother.

“People are talking a good deal about M. Fouquet and Madame
Plessis-Belliere.”

“Who makes up the number to about ten thousand,” replied the
queen-mother. “But what are the plots you speak of?”

“We have, it seems, certain misunderstandings with Holland to settle.”

“What about?”

“Monsieur has been telling me the story of the medals.”

“Oh!” exclaimed the young queen, “you mean those medals struck in
Holland, on which a cloud is seen passing across the sun, which is the
king’s device. You are wrong in calling that a plot--it is an insult.”

“But so contemptible that the king can well despise it,” replied the
queen-mother. “Well, what are the flirtations which are alluded to? Do
you mean that of Madame d’Olonne?”

“No, no; nearer ourselves than that.”

“_Casa de usted_,” murmured the queen-mother, and without moving her
lips, in her daughter-in-law’s ear, without being overheard by Madame,
who thus continued:--“You know the terrible news?” [4]

“Oh, yes; M. de Guiche’s wound.”

“And you attribute it, I suppose, as every one else does, to an accident
which happened to him while hunting?”

“Yes, of course,” said both the queens together, their interest
awakened.

Madame drew closer to them, as she said, in a low tone of voice, “It was
a duel.”

“Ah!” said Anne of Austria, in a severe tone; for, in her ears, the word
“duel,” which had been forbidden in France all the time she reigned over
it, had a strange sound.

“A most deplorable duel, which has nearly cost Monsieur two of his best
friends, and the king two of his best servants.”

“What was the cause of the duel?” inquired the young queen, animated by
a secret instinct.

“Flirtation,” repeated Madame, triumphantly. “The gentlemen in question
were conversing about the virtue of a particular lady belonging to the
court. One of them thought that Pallas was a very second-rate person
compared to her; the other pretended that the lady in question was an
imitation of Venus alluring Mars; and thereupon the two gentlemen fought
as fiercely as Hector and Achilles.”

“Venus alluring Mars?” said the young queen in a low tone of voice
without venturing to examine into the allegory very deeply.

“Who is the lady?” inquired Anne of Austria abruptly. “You said, I
believe, she was one of the ladies of honor?”

“Did I say so?” replied Madame.

“Yes; at least I thought I heard you mention it.”

“Are you not aware that such a woman is of ill-omen to a royal house?”

“Is it not Mademoiselle de la Valliere?” said the queen-mother.

“Yes, indeed, that plain-looking creature.”

“I thought she was affianced to a gentleman who certainly is not, at
least so I have heard, either M. de Guiche or M. de Wardes?”

“Very possibly, madame.”

The young queen took up a piece of tapestry, and began to broider with
an affectation of tranquillity her trembling fingers contradicted.

“What were you saying about Venus and Mars?” pursued the queen-mother.
“Is there a Mars also?”

“She boasts of that being the case.”

“Did you say she boasts of it?”

“That was the cause of the duel.”

“And M. de Guiche upheld the cause of Mars?”

“Yes, certainly; like the devoted servant he is.”

“The devoted servant of whom?” exclaimed the young queen, forgetting her
reserve in allowing her jealous feeling to escape.

“Mars, not to be defended except at the expense of Venus,” replied
Madame. “M. de Guiche maintained the perfect innocence of Mars, and no
doubt affirmed that it was all a mere boast.”

“And M. de Wardes,” said Anne of Austria, quietly, “spread the report
that Venus was within her rights, I suppose?”

“Oh, De Wardes,” thought Madame, “you shall pay dearly for the wound you
have given that noblest--best of men!” And she began to attack De Wardes
with the greatest bitterness; thus discharging her own and De Guiche’s
debt, with the assurance that she was working the future ruin of her
enemy. She said so much, in fact, that had Manicamp been there, he would
have regretted he had shown such firm regard for his friend, inasmuch as
it resulted in the ruin of his unfortunate foe.

“I see nothing in the whole affair but _one_ cause of mischief, and that
is La Valliere herself,” said the queen-mother.

The young queen resumed her work with perfect indifference of manner,
while Madame listened eagerly.

“I do not yet quite understand what you said just now about the danger
of coquetry,” resumed Anne of Austria.

“It is quite true,” Madame hastened to say, “that if the girl had not
been a coquette, Mars would not have thought at all about her.”

The repetition of this word Mars brought a passing color to the queen’s
face; but she still continued her work.

“I will not permit that, in my court, gentlemen should be set against
each other in this manner,” said Anne of Austria, calmly. “Such manners
were useful enough, perhaps, in days when the divided nobility had no
other rallying-point than mere gallantry. At that time women, whose sway
was absolute and undivided, were privileged to encourage men’s valor by
frequent trials of their courage. But now, thank Heaven, there is but
one master in France, and to him every instinct of the mind, every
pulse of the body are due. I will not allow my son to be deprived of
any single one of his servants.” And she turned towards the young queen,
saying, “What is to be done with this La Valliere?”

“La Valliere?” said the queen, apparently surprised, “I do not even know
the name;” and she accompanied this remark by one of those cold, fixed
smiles only to be observed on royal lips.

Madame was herself a princess great in every respect, great in
intelligence, great by birth, by pride; the queen’s reply, however,
completely astonished her, and she was obliged to pause for a moment
in order to recover herself. “She is one of my maids of honor,” she
replied, with a bow.

“In that case,” retorted Maria Theresa, in the same tone, “it is your
affair, my sister, and not ours.”

“I beg your pardon,” resumed Anne of Austria, “it is my affair. And
I perfectly well understand,” she pursued, addressing a look full of
intelligence at Madame, “Madame’s motive for saying what she has just
said.”

“Everything which emanates from you, madame,” said the English princess,
“proceeds from the lips of Wisdom.”

“If we send this girl back to her own family,” said Maria Theresa,
gently, “we must bestow a pension upon her.”

“Which I will provide for out of my income,” exclaimed Madame.

“No, no,” interrupted Anne of Austria, “no disturbance, I beg. The king
dislikes that the slightest disrespectful remark should be made of
any lady. Let everything be done quietly. Will you have the kindness,
Madame, to send for this girl here; and you, my daughter, will have the
goodness to retire to your own room.”

The dowager queen’s entreaties were commands, and as Maria Theresa rose
to return to her apartments, Madame rose in order to send a page to
summon La Valliere.



Chapter XXIV. The First Quarrel.

La Valliere entered the queen-mother’s apartments without in the least
suspecting that a serious plot was being concerted against her. She
thought it was for something connected with her duties, and never had
the queen-mother been unkind to her when such was the case. Besides, not
being immediately under the control or direction of Anne of Austria,
she could only have an official connection with her, to which her own
gentleness of disposition, and the rank of the august princess, made
her yield on every occasion with the best possible grace. She therefore
advanced towards the queen-mother with that soft and gentle smile
which constituted her principal charm, and as she did not approach
sufficiently close, Anne of Austria signed to her to come nearer. Madame
then entered the room, and with a perfectly calm air took her seat
beside her mother-in-law, and continued the work which Maria Theresa had
begun. When La Valliere, instead of the direction which she expected to
receive immediately on entering the room, perceived these preparations,
she looked with curiosity, if not with uneasiness, at the two
princesses. Anne seemed full of thought, while Madame maintained an
affectation of indifference that would have alarmed a less timid person
even than Louise.

“Mademoiselle,” said the queen-mother suddenly, without attempting to
moderate or disguise her Spanish accent, which she never failed to do
except when she was angry, “come closer; we were talking of you, as
every one else seems to be doing.”

“Of me!” exclaimed La Valliere, turning pale.

“Do you pretend to be ignorant of it; are you not aware of the duel
between M. de Guiche and M. de Wardes?”

“Oh, madame! I heard of it yesterday,” said La Valliere, clasping her
hands together.

“And did you not foresee this quarrel?”

“Why should I, madame?”

“Because two men never fight without a motive, and because you must
be aware of the motive which awakened the animosity of the two in
question.”

“I am perfectly ignorant of it, madame.”

“A persevering denial is a very commonplace mode of defense, and you,
who have great pretensions to be witty and clever, ought to avoid
commonplaces. What else have you to say?”

“Oh! madame, your majesty terrifies me with your cold severity
of manner; but I do not understand how I can have incurred your
displeasure, or in what respect people concern themselves about me.”

“Then I will tell you. M. de Guiche has been obliged to undertake your
defense.”

“My defense?”

“Yes. He is a gallant knight, and beautiful adventuresses like to see
brave knights couch lances in their honor. But, for my part, I hate
fields of battle, and above all I hate adventures, and--take my remark
as you please.”

La Valliere sank at the queen’s feet, who turned her back upon her.
She stretched out her hands towards Madame, who laughed in her face. A
feeling of pride made her rise to her feet.

“I have begged your majesty to tell me what is the crime I am accused
of--I can claim this at your hands; and I see I am condemned before I am
even permitted to justify myself.”

“Eh! indeed,” cried Anne of Austria, “listen to her beautiful phrases,
Madame, and to her fine sentiments; she is an inexhaustible well of
tenderness and heroic expressions. One can easily see, young lady, that
you have cultivated your mind in the society of crowned heads.”

La Valliere felt struck to the heart; she became, not whiter, but as
white as a lily, and all her strength forsook her.

“I wished to inform you,” interrupted the queen, disdainfully, “that if
you continue to nourish such feelings, you will humiliate us to such a
degree that we shall be ashamed of appearing before you. Be simple in
your manners. By the by, I am informed that you are affianced; is it the
case?”

La Valliere pressed her hand over her heart, which was wrung with a
fresh pang.

“Answer when you are spoken to!”

“Yes, madame.”

“To a gentleman?”

“Yes, madame.”

“His name?”

“The Vicomte de Bragelonne.”

“Are you aware that it is an exceedingly fortunate circumstance for you,
mademoiselle, that such is the case, and without fortune or position,
as you are, or without any very great personal advantages, you ought
to bless Heaven for having procured you such a future as seems to be in
store for you?”

La Valliere did not reply. “Where is the Vicomte de Bragelonne?” pursued
the queen.

“In England,” said Madame, “where the report of this young lady’s
success will not fail to reach him.”

“Oh, Heaven!” murmured La Valliere in despair.

“Very well, mademoiselle!” said Anne of Austria, “we will get this young
gentleman to return, and send you away somewhere with him. If you are
of a different opinion--for girls have strange views and fancies at
times--trust to me, I will put you in a proper path again. I have done
as much for girls who are not as good as you are, probably.”

La Valliere ceased to hear the queen, who pitilessly added: “I will
send you somewhere, by yourself, where you will be able to indulge in a
little serious reflection. Reflection calms the ardor of the blood, and
swallows up the illusions of youth. I suppose you understand what I have
been saying?”

“Madame!”

“Not a word?”

“I am innocent of everything your majesty supposes. Oh, madame! you are
a witness of my despair. I love, I respect your majesty so much.”

“It would be far better not to respect me at all,” said the queen, with
a chilling irony of manner. “It would be far better if you were not
innocent. Do you presume to suppose that I should be satisfied simply to
leave you unpunished if you had committed the fault?”

“Oh, madame! you are killing me.”

“No acting, if you please, or I will precipitate the _denouement_ of
this _play_; leave the room; return to your own apartment, and I trust
my lesson may be of service to you.”

“Madame!” said La Valliere to the Duchess d’Orleans, whose hands she
seized in her own, “do you, who are so good, intercede for me?”

“I!” replied the latter, with an insulting joy, “I--good!--Ah,
mademoiselle, you think nothing of the kind;” and with a rude, hasty
gesture she repulsed the young girl’s grasp.

La Valliere, instead of giving way, as from her extreme pallor and her
tears the two princesses possibly expected, suddenly resumed her calm
and dignified air; she bowed profoundly, and left the room.

“Well!” said Anne of Austria to Madame, “do you think she will begin
again?”

“I always suspect those gentle, patient characters,” replied Madame.
“Nothing is more full of courage than a patient heart, nothing more
self-reliant than a gentle spirit.”

“I feel I may almost venture to assure you she will think twice before
she looks at the god Mars again.”

“So long as she does not obtain the protection of his buckler I do not
care,” retorted Madame.

A proud, defiant look of the queen-mother was the reply to this
objection, which was by no means deficient in finesse; and both of them,
almost sure of their victory, went to look for Maria Theresa, who had
been waiting for them with impatience.

It was about half-past six in the evening, and the king had just
partaken of refreshment. He lost no time; but the repast finished, and
business matters settled, he took Saint-Aignan by the arm, and desired
him to lead the way to La Valliere’s apartments. The courtier uttered an
exclamation.

“Well, what is that for? It is a habit you will have to adopt, and in
order to adopt a habit, one must make a beginning.”

“Oh, sire!” said Saint-Aignan, “it is hardly possible: for every one can
be seen entering or leaving those apartments. If, however, some pretext
or other were made use of--if your majesty, for instance, would wait
until Madame were in her own apartments--”

“No pretext; no delays. I have had enough of these impediments and
mysteries; I cannot perceive in what respect the king of France
dishonors himself by conversing with an amiable and clever girl. Evil be
to him who evil thinks.”

“Will your majesty forgive an excess of zeal on my part?”

“Speak freely.”

“How about the queen?”

“True, true; I always wish the most entire respect to be shown to her
majesty. Well, then, this evening only will I pay Mademoiselle de la
Valliere a visit, and after to-day I will make use of any pretext you
like. To-morrow we will devise all sorts of means; to-night I have no
time.”

Saint-Aignan made no reply; he descended the steps, preceding the king,
and crossed the different courtyards with a feeling of shame, which the
distinguished honor of accompanying the king did not remove. The reason
was that Saint-Aignan wished to stand well with Madame, as well as
with the queens, and also, that he did not, on the other hand, want to
displease Mademoiselle de la Valliere: and in order to carry out so
many promising affairs, it was difficult to avoid jostling against some
obstacle or other. Besides, the windows of the young queen’s rooms,
those of the queen-mother’s, and of Madame herself, looked out upon the
courtyard of the maids of honor. To be seen, therefore, accompanying the
king, would be effectually to quarrel with three great and influential
princesses--whose authority was unbounded--for the purpose of supporting
the ephemeral credit of a mistress. The unhappy Saint-Aignan, who had
not displayed a very great amount of courage in taking La Valliere’s
part in the park of Fontainebleau, did not feel any braver in the broad
day-light, and found a thousand defects in the poor girl which he was
most eager to communicate to the king. But his trial soon finished,--the
courtyards were crossed; not a curtain was drawn aside, nor a window
opened. The king walked hastily, because of his impatience, and the
long legs of Saint-Aignan, who preceded him. At the door, however,
Saint-Aignan wished to retire, but the king desired him to remain; a
delicate consideration, on the king’s part, which the courtier could
very well have dispensed with. He had to follow Louis into La Valliere’s
apartment. As soon as the king arrived the young girl dried her tears,
but so precipitately that the king perceived it. He questioned her most
anxiously and tenderly, and pressed her to tell him the cause of her
emotion.

“Nothing is the matter, sire,” she said.

“And yet you were weeping?”

“Oh, no, indeed, sire.”

“Look, Saint-Aignan, and tell me if I am mistaken.”

Saint-Aignan ought to have answered, but he was too much embarrassed.

“At all events your eyes are red, mademoiselle,” said the king.

“The dust of the road merely, sire.”

“No, no; you no longer possess the air of supreme contentment which
renders you so beautiful and so attractive. You do not look at me. Why
avoid my gaze?” he said, as she turned aside her head. “In Heaven’s
name, what is the matter?” he inquired, beginning to lose command over
himself.

“Nothing at all, sire; and I am perfectly ready to assure your majesty
that my mind is as free from anxiety as you could possibly wish.”

“Your mind at ease, when I see you are embarrassed at the slightest
thing. Has any one annoyed you?”

“No, no, sire.”

“I insist upon knowing if such really be the case,” said the prince, his
eyes sparkling.

“No one, sire, no one has in any way offended me.”

“In that case, pray resume your gentle air of gayety, or that sweet
melancholy look which I so loved in you this morning; for pity’s sake,
do so.”

“Yes, sire, yes.”

The king tapped the floor impatiently with his foot, saying, “Such a
change is positively inexplicable.” And he looked at Saint-Aignan, who
had also remarked La Valliere’s peculiar lethargy, as well as the king’s
impatience.

It was futile for the king to entreat, and as useless for him to try to
overcome her depression: the poor girl was completely overwhelmed,--the
appearance of an angel would hardly have awakened her from her torpor.

The king saw in her repeated negative replies a mystery full of
unkindness; he began to look round the apartment with a suspicious air.
There happened to be in La Valliere’s room a miniature of Athos.
The king remarked that this portrait bore a strong resemblance to
Bragelonne, for it had been taken when the count was quite a young man.
He looked at it with a threatening air. La Valliere, in her misery far
indeed from thinking of this portrait, could not conjecture the cause
of the king’s preoccupation. And yet the king’s mind was occupied with
a terrible remembrance, which had more than once taken possession of
his mind, but which he had always driven away. He recalled the
intimacy existing between the two young people from their birth, their
engagement, and that Athos himself had come to solicit La Valliere’s
hand for Raoul. He therefore could not but suppose that on her return
to Paris, La Valliere had found news from London awaiting her, and that
this news had counterbalanced the influence he had been enabled to exert
over her. He immediately felt himself stung, as it were, by feelings
of the wildest jealousy; and again questioned her, with increased
bitterness. La Valliere could not reply, unless she were to acknowledge
everything, which would be to accuse the queen, and Madame also; and the
consequence would be, that she would have to enter into an open warfare
with these two great and powerful princesses. She thought within herself
that as she made no attempt to conceal from the king what was passing in
her own mind, the king ought to be able to read in her heart, in
spite of her silence; and that, had he really loved her, he would have
understood and guessed everything. What was sympathy, then, if not that
divine flame which possesses the property of enlightening the heart, and
of saving lovers the necessity of an expression of their thoughts and
feelings? She maintained her silence, therefore, sighing, and concealing
her face in her hands. These sighs and tears, which had at first
distressed, then terrified Louis XIV., now irritated him. He could not
bear opposition,--the opposition which tears and sighs exhibited, any
more than opposition of any other kind. His remarks, therefore, became
bitter, urgent, and openly aggressive in their nature. This was a
fresh cause of distress for the poor girl. From that very circumstance,
therefore, which she regarded as an injustice on her lover’s part, she
drew sufficient courage to bear, not only her other troubles, but this
one also.

The king next began to accuse her in direct terms. La Valliere did not
even attempt to defend herself; she endured all his accusations without
according any other reply than that of shaking her head; without any
other remark than that which escapes the heart in deep distress--a
prayerful appeal to Heaven for help. But this ejaculation, instead of
calming the king’s displeasure, rather increased it. He, moreover, saw
himself seconded by Saint-Aignan, for Saint-Aignan, as we have observed,
having seen the storm increasing, and not knowing the extent of the
regard of which Louis XIV. was capable, felt, by anticipation, all the
collected wrath of the three princesses, and the near approach of poor
La Valliere’s downfall, and he was not true knight enough to resist
the fear that he himself might be dragged down in the impending ruin.
Saint-Aignan did not reply to the king’s questions except by short, dry
remarks, pronounced half-aloud; and by abrupt gestures, whose object was
to make things worse, and bring about a misunderstanding, the result
of which would be to free him from the annoyance of having to cross the
courtyards in open day, in order to follow his illustrious companion to
La Valliere’s apartments. In the meantime the king’s anger momentarily
increased; he made two or three steps towards the door as if to leave
the room, but returned. The young girl did not, however, raise her head,
although the sound of his footsteps might have warned her that her lover
was leaving her. He drew himself up, for a moment, before her, with his
arms crossed.

“For the last time, mademoiselle,” he said, “will you speak? Will you
assign a reason for this change, this fickleness, for this caprice?”

“What can I say?” murmured La Valliere. “Do you not see, sire, that I am
completely overwhelmed at this moment; that I have no power of will, or
thought, or speech?”

“Is it so difficult, then, to speak the truth? You could have told me
the whole truth in fewer words than those in which you have expressed
yourself.”

“But the truth about what, sire?”

“About everything.”

La Valliere was just on the point of revealing the truth to the king,
her arms made a sudden movement as if they were about to open, but her
lips remained silent, and her hands again fell listlessly by her side.
The poor girl had not yet endured sufficient unhappiness to risk the
necessary revelation. “I know nothing,” she stammered out.

“Oh!” exclaimed the king, “this is no longer mere coquetry, or caprice,
it is treason.”

And this time nothing could restrain him. The impulse of his heart was
not sufficient to induce him to turn back, and he darted out of the room
with a gesture full of despair. Saint-Aignan followed him, wishing for
nothing better than to quit the place.

Louis XIV. did not pause until he reached the staircase, and grasping
the balustrade, said: “You see how shamefully I have been duped.”

“How, sire?” inquired the favorite.

“De Guiche fought on the Vicomte de Bragelonne’s account, and this
Bragelonne... oh! Saint-Aignan, she still loves him. I vow to you,
Saint-Aignan, that if, in three days from now, there were to remain but
an atom of affection for her in my heart, I should die from very shame.”
 And the king resumed his way to his own apartments.

“I told your majesty how it would be,” murmured Saint-Aignan, continuing
to follow the king, and timidly glancing up at the different windows.

Unfortunately their return was not, like their arrival, unobserved. A
curtain was suddenly drawn aside; Madame was behind it. She had seen
the king leave the apartments of the maids of honor, and as soon as she
observed that his majesty had passed, she left her own apartments with
hurried steps, and ran up the staircase that led to the room the king
had just left.



Chapter XXV. Despair.

As soon as the king was gone La Valliere raised herself from the ground,
and stretched out her arms, as if to follow and detain him, but when,
having violently closed the door, the sound of his retreating footsteps
could be heard in the distance, she had hardly sufficient strength
left to totter towards and fall at the foot of her crucifix. There
she remained, broken-hearted, absorbed, and overwhelmed by her grief,
forgetful and indifferent to everything but her profound sorrow;--a
grief she only vaguely realized--as though by instinct. In the midst of
this wild tumult of thoughts, La Valliere heard her door open again; she
started, and turned round, thinking it was the king who had returned.
She was deceived, however, for it was Madame who appeared at the
door. What did she now care for Madame! Again she sank down, her head
supported by her _prie-Dieu_ chair. It was Madame, agitated, angry,
and threatening. But what was that to her? “Mademoiselle,” said the
princess, standing before La Valliere, “this is very fine, I admit,
to kneel and pray, and make a pretense of being religious; but however
submissive you may be in your address to Heaven, it is desirable that
you should pay some little attention to the wishes of those who reign
and rule here below.”

La Valliere raised her head painfully in token of respect.

“Not long since,” continued Madame, “a certain recommendation was
addressed to you, I believe.”

La Valliere’s fixed and wild gaze showed how complete her forgetfulness
or ignorance was.

“The queen recommended you,” continued Madame, “to conduct yourself in
such a manner that no one could be justified in spreading any reports
about you.”

La Valliere darted an inquiring look towards her.

“I will not,” continued Madame, “allow my household, which is that of
the first princess of the blood, to set an evil example to the court;
you would be the cause of such an example. I beg you to understand,
therefore, in the absence of any witness of your shame--for I do not
wish to humiliate you--that you are from this moment at perfect liberty
to leave, and that you can return to your mother at Blois.”

La Valliere could not sink lower, nor could she suffer more than she had
already suffered. Her countenance did not even change, but she remained
kneeling with her hands clasped, like the figure of the Magdalen.

“Did you hear me?” said Madame.

A shiver, which passed through her whole frame, was La Valliere’s only
reply. And as the victim gave no other signs of life, Madame left the
room. And then, her very respiration suspended, and her blood almost
congealed, as it were, in her veins, La Valliere by degrees felt that
the pulsation of her wrists, her neck, and temples, began to throb more
and more painfully. These pulsations, as they gradually increased, soon
changed into a species of brain fever, and in her temporary delirium
she saw the figures of her friends contending with her enemies, floating
before her vision. She heard, too, mingled together in her deafened
ears, words of menace and words of fond affection; she seemed raised out
of her existence as though it were upon the wings of a mighty tempest,
and in the dim horizon of the path along which her delirium hurried
her, she saw the stone which covered her tomb upraised, and the grim,
appalling texture of eternal night revealed to her distracted gaze. But
the horror of the dream which possessed her senses faded away, and she
was again restored to the habitual resignation of her character. A ray
of hope penetrated her heart, as a ray of sunlight streams into the
dungeon of some unhappy captive. Her mind reverted to the journey from
Fontainebleau, she saw the king riding beside her carriage, telling
her that he loved her, asking for her love in return, requiring her to
swear, and himself to swear too, that never should an evening pass by,
if ever a misunderstanding were to arise between them, without a visit,
a letter, a sign of some kind, being sent, to replace the troubled
anxiety of the evening with the calm repose of the night. It was the
king who had suggested that, who had imposed a promise on her, and who
had sworn to it himself. It was impossible, therefore, she reasoned,
that the king should fail in keeping the promise which he had himself
exacted from her, unless, indeed, Louis was a despot who enforced love
as he enforced obedience; unless, too, the king were so indifferent
that the first obstacle in his way was sufficient to arrest his further
progress. The king, that kind protector, who by a word, a single
word, could relieve her distress of mind, the king even joined her
persecutors. Oh! his anger could not possibly last. Now that he was
alone, he would be suffering all that she herself was a prey to. But he
was not tied hand and foot as she was; he could act, could move about,
could come to her, while she could do nothing but wait. And the poor
girl waited and waited, with breathless anxiety--for she could not
believe it possible that the king would not come.

It was now about half-past ten. He would either come to her, or write to
her, or send some kind word by M. de Saint-Aignan. If he were to come,
oh! how she would fly to meet him; how she would thrust aside that
excess of delicacy which she now discovered was misunderstood; how
eagerly she would explain: “It is not I who do not love you--it is the
fault of others who will not allow me to love you.” And then it must be
confessed that she reflected upon it, and also the more she reflected,
Louis appeared to her to be less guilty. In fact, he was ignorant of
everything. What must he have thought of the obstinacy with which she
remained silent? Impatient and irritable as the king was known to be, it
was extraordinary that he had been able to preserve his temper so long.
And yet, had it been her own case, she undoubtedly would not have acted
in such a manner; she would have understood--have guessed everything.
Yes, but she was nothing but a poor simple-minded girl, and not a
great and powerful monarch. Oh! if he would but come, if he would but
come!--how eagerly she would forgive him for all he had just made her
suffer! how much more tenderly she would love him because she had so
cruelly suffered! And so she sat, with her head bent forward in eager
expectation towards the door, her lips slightly parted, as if--and
Heaven forgive her for the mental exclamation!--they were awaiting the
kiss which the king’s lips had in the morning so sweetly indicated, when
he pronounced the word _love!_ If the king did not come, at least he
would write; it was a second chance; a chance less delightful certainly
than the other, but which would show an affection just as strong, only
more timid in its nature. Oh! how she would devour his letter, how eager
she would be to answer it! and when the messenger who had brought it had
left her, how she would kiss it, read it over and over again, press to
her heart the lucky paper which would have brought her ease of mind,
tranquillity, and perfect happiness. At all events, if the king did not
come, if the king did not write, he could not do otherwise than send
Saint-Aignan, or Saint-Aignan could not do otherwise than come of his
own accord. Even if it were a third person, how openly she would speak
to him; the royal presence would not be there to freeze her words upon
her tongue, and then no suspicious feeling would remain a moment longer
in the king’s heart.

Everything with La Valliere, heart and look, body and mind, was
concentrated in eager expectation. She said to herself that there was an
hour left in which to indulge hope; that until midnight struck, the
king might come, or write or send; that at midnight only would every
expectation vanish, every hope be lost. Whenever she heard any stir in
the palace, the poor girl fancied she was the cause of it; whenever
she heard any one pass in the courtyard below she imagined they were
messengers of the king coming to her. Eleven o’clock struck, then a
quarter-past eleven; then half-past. The minutes dragged slowly on
in this anxiety, and yet they seemed to pass too quickly. And now, it
struck a quarter to twelve. Midnight--midnight was near, the last, the
final hope that remained. With the last stroke of the clock, the last
ray of light seemed to fade away; and with the last ray faded her final
hope. And so, the king himself had deceived her; it was he who had been
the first to fail in keeping the oath which he had sworn that very day;
twelve hours only between his oath and his perjured vow; it was not long,
alas! to have preserved the illusion. And so, not only did the king not
love her, but he despised her whom every one ill-treated, he despised
her to the extent even of abandoning her to the shame of an expulsion
which was equivalent to having an ignominious sentence passed on her;
and yet, it was he, the king himself, who was the first cause of this
ignominy. A bitter smile, the only symptom of anger which during this
long conflict had passed across the angelic face, appeared upon her
lips. What, in fact, now remained on earth for her, after the king was
lost to her? Nothing. But Heaven still remained, and her thoughts flew
thither. She prayed that the proper course for her to follow might be
suggested. “It is from Heaven,” she thought, “that I expect everything;
it is from Heaven I ought to expect everything.” And she looked at her
crucifix with a devotion full of tender love. “There,” she said, “hangs
before me a Master who never forgets and never abandons those who
neither forget nor abandon Him; it is to Him alone that we must
sacrifice ourselves.” And, thereupon, could any one have gazed into the
recesses of that chamber, they would have seen the poor despairing girl
adopt a final resolution, and determine upon one last plan in her mind.
Then, as her knees were no longer able to support her, she gradually
sank down upon the _prie-Dieu_, and with her head pressed against the
wooden cross, her eyes fixed, and her respiration short and quick, she
watched for the earliest rays of approaching daylight. At two o’clock
in the morning she was still in the same bewilderment of mind, or rather
the same ecstasy of feeling. Her thoughts had almost ceased to hold
communion with things of the world. And when she saw the pale violet
tints of early dawn visible over the roofs of the palace, and vaguely
revealing the outlines of the ivory crucifix which she held embraced,
she rose from the ground with a new-born strength, kissed the feet of
the divine martyr, descended the staircase leading from the room, and
wrapped herself from head to foot in a mantle as she went along. She
reached the wicket at the very moment the guard of the musketeers opened
the gate to admit the first relief-guard belonging to one of the Swiss
regiments. And then, gliding behind the soldiers, she reached the street
before the officer in command of the patrol had even thought of asking
who the young girl was who was making her escape from the palace at so
early an hour.



Chapter XXVI. The Flight.

La Valliere followed the patrol as it left the courtyard. The
patrol bent its steps towards the right, by the Rue St. Honore,
and mechanically La Valliere turned to the left. Her resolution was
taken--her determination fixed; she wished to betake herself to the
convent of the Carmelites at Chaillot, the superior of which enjoyed
a reputation for severity which made the worldly-minded people of the
court tremble. La Valliere had never seen Paris, she had never gone out
on foot, and so would have been unable to find her way even had she been
in a calmer frame of mind than was then the case; and this may explain
why she ascended, instead of descending, the Rue St. Honore. Her only
thought was to get away from the Palais Royal, and this she was doing;
she had heard it said that Chaillot looked out upon the Seine, and she
accordingly directed her steps towards the Seine. She took the Rue de
Coq, and not being able to cross the Louvre, bore towards the church of
Saint Germain l’Auxerrois, proceeding along the site of the colonnade
which was subsequently built there by Perrault. In a very short time she
reached the quays. Her steps were rapid and agitated; she scarcely felt
the weakness which reminded her of having sprained her foot when very
young, and which obliged her to limp slightly. At any other hour in
the day her countenance would have awakened the suspicions of the least
clear-sighted, attracted the attention of the most indifferent. But at
half-past two in the morning, the streets of Paris are almost, if not
quite, deserted, and scarcely is any one to be seen but the hard-working
artisan on his way to earn his daily bread or the roistering idlers of
the streets, who are returning to their homes after a night of riot and
debauchery; for the former the day was beginning, and for the latter
it was just closing. La Valliere was afraid of both faces, in which her
ignorance of Parisian types did not permit her to distinguish the type
of probity from that of dishonesty. The appearance of misery alarmed
her, and all she met seemed either vile or miserable. Her dress, which
was the same she had worn during the previous evening, was elegant even
in its careless disorder; for it was the one in which she had presented
herself to the queen-mother; and, moreover, when she drew aside the
mantle which covered her face, in order to enable her to see the way she
was going, her pallor and her beautiful eyes spoke an unknown language
to the men she met, and, unconsciously, the poor fugitive seemed
to invite the brutal remarks of the one class, or to appeal to the
compassion of the other. La Valliere still walked on in the same way,
breathless and hurried, until she reached the top of the Place de Greve.
She stopped from time to time, placed her hand upon her heart, leaned
against a wall until she could breathe freely again, and then continued
on her course more rapidly than before. On reaching the Place de Greve
La Valliere suddenly came upon a group of three drunken men, reeling and
staggering along, who were just leaving a boat which they had made fast
to the quay; the boat was freighted with wines, and it was apparent that
they had done ample justice to the merchandise. They were celebrating
their convivial exploits in three different keys, when suddenly, as they
reached the end of the railing leading down to the quay, they found an
obstacle in their path, in the shape of this young girl. La Valliere
stopped; while they, on their part, at the appearance of the young girl
dressed in court costume, also halted, and seizing each other by the
hand, they surrounded La Valliere, singing,--

“Oh! all ye weary wights, who mope alone, Come drink, and sing and
laugh, round Venus’ throne.”

La Valliere at once understood that the men were insulting her, and
wished to prevent her passing; she tried to do so several times, but
her efforts were useless. Her limbs failed her; she felt she was on the
point of falling, and uttered a cry of terror. At the same moment
the circle which surrounded her was suddenly broken through in a most
violent manner. One of her insulters was knocked to the left, another
fell rolling over and over to the right, close to the water’s edge,
while the third could hardly keep his feet. An officer of the musketeers
stood face to face with the young girl, with threatening brow and hand
raised to carry out his threat. The drunken fellows, at sight of the
uniform, made their escape with what speed their staggering limbs could
lend them, all the more eagerly for the proof of strength which the
wearer of the uniform had just afforded them.

“Is it possible,” exclaimed the musketeer, “that it can be Mademoiselle
de la Valliere?”

La Valliere, bewildered by what had just happened, and confounded by
hearing her name pronounced, looked up and recognized D’Artagnan. “Oh,
M. d’Artagnan! it is indeed I;” and at the same moment she seized
his arm. “You will protect me, will you not?” she added, in a tone of
entreaty.

“Most certainly I will protect you; but, in Heaven’s name, where are you
going at this hour?”

“I am going to Chaillot.”

“You are going to Chaillot by way of La Rapee! why, mademoiselle, you
are turning your back upon it.”

“In that case, monsieur, be kind enough to put me in the right way, and
to go with me a short distance.”

“Most willingly.”

“But how does it happen that I have found you here? By what merciful
intervention were you sent to my assistance? I almost seem to be
dreaming, or to be losing my senses.”

“I happened to be here, mademoiselle, because I have a house in the
Place de Greve, at the sign of the Notre-Dame, the rent of which I went
to receive yesterday, and where I, in fact, passed the night. And I
also wished to be at the palace early, for the purposes of inspecting my
posts.”

“Thank you,” said La Valliere.

“That is what _I_ was doing,” said D’Artagnan to himself; “but what is
_she_ doing, and why is she going to Chaillot at such an hour?” And he
offered her his arm, which she took, and began to walk with increased
precipitation, which ill-concealed, however, her weakness. D’Artagnan
perceived it, and proposed to La Valliere that she should take a little
rest, which she refused.

“You are ignorant, perhaps, where Chaillot is?” inquired D’Artagnan.

“Quite so.”

“It is a great distance.”

“That matters very little.”

“It is at least a league.”

“I can walk it.”

D’Artagnan did not reply; he could tell, merely by the tone of a voice,
when a resolution was real or not. He rather bore along rather than
accompanied La Valliere, until they perceived the elevated ground of
Chaillot.

“What house are you going to, mademoiselle?” inquired D’Artagnan.

“To the Carmelites, monsieur.”

“To the Carmelites?” repeated D’Artagnan, in amazement.

“Yes; and since Heaven has directed you towards me to give me your
support on my road, accept both my thanks and my adieux.”

“To the Carmelites! Your adieux! Are you going to become a nun?”
 exclaimed D’Artagnan.

“Yes, monsieur.”

“What, you!!!” There was in this “you,” which we have marked by
three notes of exclamation in order to render it as expressive as
possible,--there was, we repeat, in this “you” a complete poem; it
recalled to La Valliere her old recollections of Blois, and her new
recollections of Fontainebleau; it said to her, “_You_, who might be
happy with Raoul; _you_, who might be powerful with Louis; _you_ about
to become a nun!”

“Yes, monsieur,” she said, “I am going to devote myself to the service
of Heaven; and to renounce the world entirely.”

“But are you not mistaken with regard to your vocation,--are you not
mistaken in supposing it to be the will of Heaven?”

“No, since Heaven has been pleased to throw you in my way. Had it not
been for you, I should certainly have sunk from fatigue on the road, and
since Heaven, I repeat, has thrown you in my way, it is because it has
willed that I should carry out my intention.”

“Oh!” said D’Artagnan, doubtingly, “that is a rather subtle distinction,
I think.”

“Whatever it may be,” returned the young girl, “I have acquainted you
with the steps I have taken, and with my fixed resolution. And, now, I
have one last favor to ask of you, even while I return you my thanks.
The king is entirely ignorant of my flight from the Palais Royal, and is
ignorant also of what I am about to do.”

“The king ignorant, you say!” exclaimed D’Artagnan. “Take care,
mademoiselle; you are not aware of what you are doing. No one ought to
do anything with which the king is unacquainted, especially those who
belong to the court.”

“I no longer belong to the court, monsieur.”

D’Artagnan looked at the young girl with increasing astonishment.

“Do not be uneasy, monsieur,” she continued: “I have well calculated
everything; and were it not so, it would now be too late to reconsider
my resolution,--all is decided.”

“Well, mademoiselle, what do you wish me to do?”

“In the name of that sympathy which misfortune inspires, by your
generous feeling, and by your honor as a gentleman, I entreat you to
promise me one thing.”

“Name it.”

“Swear to me, Monsieur d’Artagnan, that you will not tell the king that
you have seen me, and that I am at the Carmelites.”

“I will not swear that,” said D’Artagnan, shaking his head.

“Why?”

“Because I know the king, I know you, I know myself even, nay, the whole
human race, too well; no, no, I will not swear that!”

“In that case,” cried La Valliere, with an energy of which one would
hardly have thought her capable, “instead of the blessing which I should
have implored for you until my dying day, I will invoke a curse, for you
are rendering me the most miserable creature that ever lived.”

We have already observed that D’Artagnan could easily recognize the
accents of truth and sincerity, and he could not resist this last
appeal. He saw by her face how bitterly she suffered from a feeling of
degradation, he remarked her trembling limbs, how her whole slight and
delicate frame was violently agitated by some internal struggle, and
clearly perceived that resistance might be fatal. “I will do as you
wish, then,” he said. “Be satisfied, mademoiselle, I will say nothing to
the king.”

“Oh! thanks, thanks,” exclaimed La Valliere, “you are the most generous
man breathing.”

And in her extreme delight she seized hold of D’Artagnan’s hands
and pressed them between her own. D’Artagnan, who felt himself quite
overcome, said: “This is touching, upon my word; she begins where others
leave off.”

And La Valliere, who, in the bitterness of her distress, had sunk upon
the ground, rose and walked towards the convent of the Carmelites,
which could now, in the dawning light, be perceived just before them.
D’Artagnan followed her at a distance. The entrance-door was half-open;
she glided in like a shadow, and thanking D’Artagnan by a parting
gesture, disappeared from his sight. When D’Artagnan found himself quite
alone, he reflected very profoundly upon what had just taken place.
“Upon my word,” he said, “this looks very much like what is called a
false position. To keep such a secret as that, is to keep a burning coal
in one’s breeches-pocket, and trust that it may not burn the stuff.
And yet, not to keep it when I have sworn to do so is dishonorable. It
generally happens that some bright idea or other occurs to me as I am
going along; but I am very much mistaken if I shall not, now, have to go
a long way in order to find the solution of this affair. Yes, but which
way to go? Oh! towards Paris, of course; that is the best way, after
all. Only one must make haste, and in order to make haste four legs are
better than two, and I, unhappily, only have two. ‘A horse, a horse,’ as
I heard them say at the theatre in London, ‘my kingdom for a horse!’
And now I think of it, it need not cost me so much as that, for at the
Barriere de la Conference there is a guard of musketeers, and instead of
the one horse I need, I shall find ten there.”

So, in pursuance of this resolution, which he adopted with his usual
rapidity, D’Artagnan immediately turned his back upon the heights of
Chaillot, reached the guard-house, took the fastest horse he could find
there, and was at the palace in less than ten minutes. It was striking
five as he reached the Palais Royal. The king, he was told, had gone to
bed at his usual hour, having been long engaged with M. Colbert, and, in
all probability, was still sound asleep. “Come,” said D’Artagnan, “she
spoke the truth; the king is ignorant of everything; if he only knew
one-half of what has happened, the Palais Royal by this time would be
turned upside down.” [5]



Chapter XXVII. Showing How Louis, on His Part, Had Passed the Time from
Ten to Half-Past Twelve at Night.

When the king left the apartments of the maids of honor, he found
Colbert awaiting him to take directions for the next day’s ceremony, as
the king was then to receive the Dutch and Spanish ambassadors. Louis
XIV. had serious causes of dissatisfaction with the Dutch; the States
had already been guilty of many mean shifts and evasions with France,
and without perceiving or without caring about the chances of a rupture,
they again abandoned the alliance with his Most Christian Majesty, for
the purpose of entering into all kinds of plots with Spain. Louis XIV.
at his accession, that is to say, at the death of Cardinal Mazarin, had
found this political question roughly sketched out; the solution was
difficult for a young man, but as, at that time, the king represented
the whole nation, anything that the head resolved upon, the body would
be found ready to carry out. Any sudden impulse of anger, the reaction
of young hot blood upon the brain, would be quite sufficient to change
an old form of policy and create another system altogether. The part
that diplomatists had to play in those days was that of arranging among
themselves the different _coups-d’etat_ which their sovereign masters
might wish to effect. Louis was not in that calm frame of mind which was
necessary to enable him to determine on a wise course of policy. Still
much agitated from the quarrel he had just had with La Valliere,
he walked hastily into his cabinet, dimly desirous of finding an
opportunity of producing an explosion after he had controlled himself
for so long a time. Colbert, as he saw the king enter, knew the position
of affairs at a glance, understood the king’s intentions, and resolved
therefore to maneuver a little. When Louis requested to be informed what
it would be necessary to say on the morrow, Colbert began by expressing
his surprise that his majesty had not been properly informed by M.
Fouquet. “M. Fouquet,” he said, “is perfectly acquainted with the whole
of this Dutch affair--he received the dispatches himself direct.”

The king, who was accustomed to hear M. Colbert speak in not
over-scrupulous terms of M. Fouquet, allowed this remark to pass
unanswered, and merely listened. Colbert noticed the effect it had
produced, and hastened to back out, saying that M. Fouquet was not on
all occasions as blamable as at the first glance might seem to be the
case, inasmuch as at that moment he was greatly occupied. The king
looked up. “What do you allude to?” he said.

“Sire, men are but men, and M. Fouquet has his defects as well as his
great qualities.”

“Ah! defects, who is without them, M. Colbert?”

“Your majesty, hardly,” said Colbert, boldly; for he knew how to convey
a good deal of flattery in a light amount of blame, like the arrow which
cleaves the air notwithstanding its weight, thanks to the light feathers
which bear it up.

The king smiled. “What defect has M. Fouquet, then?” he said.

“Still the same, sire; it is said he is in love.”

“In love! with whom?”

“I am not quite sure, sire; I have very little to do with matters of
gallantry.”

“At all events you know, since you speak of it.”

“I have heard a name mentioned.”

“Whose?”

“I cannot now remember whose, but I think it is one of Madame’s maids of
honor.”

The king started. “You know more than you like to say, M. Colbert,” he
murmured.

“I assure you, no, sire.”

“At all events, Madame’s maids of honor are all known, and in mentioning
their names to you, you will perhaps recollect the one you allude to.”

“No, sire.”

“At least, try.”

“It would be useless, sire. Whenever the name of any lady who runs the
risk of being compromised is concerned, my memory is like a coffer of
bronze, the key of which I have lost.”

A dark cloud seemed to pass over the mind as well as across the face
of the king; then, wishing to appear as if he were perfect master of
himself and his feelings, he said, “And now for the affair concerning
Holland.”

“In the first place, sire, at what hour will your majesty receive the
ambassadors?”

“Early in the morning.”

“Eleven o’clock?”

“That is too late--say nine o’clock.”

“That will be too early, sire.”

“For friends, that would be a matter of no importance; one does what one
likes with one’s friends; but for one’s enemies, in that case nothing
could be better than if they _were_ to feel hurt. I should not be sorry,
I confess, to have to finish altogether with these marsh-birds, who
annoy me with their cries.”

“It shall be precisely as your majesty desires. At nine o’clock,
therefore--I will give the necessary orders. Is it to be a formal
audience?”

“No. I wish to have an explanation with them, and not to embitter
matters, as is always the case when many persons are present, but, at
the same time, I wish to clear up everything with them, in order not to
have to begin over again.”

“Your majesty will inform me of the persons whom you wish to be present
at the reception.”

“I will draw out a list. Let us speak of the ambassadors; what do they
want?”

“Allies with Spain, they gain nothing; allies with France, they lose
much.”

“How is that?”

“Allied with Spain, they see themselves bounded and protected by the
possessions of their allies; they cannot touch them, however anxious
they may be to do so. From Antwerp to Rotterdam is but a step, and that
by the way of the Scheldt and the Meuse. If they wish to make a bite at
the Spanish cake, you, sire, the son-in-law of the king of Spain, could
with your cavalry sweep the earth from your dominions to Brussels in a
couple of days. Their design is, therefore, only to quarrel so far with
you, and only to make you suspect Spain so far, as will be sufficient to
induce you not to interfere with their own affairs.”

“It would be far more simple, I should imagine,” replied the king,
“to form a solid alliance with me, by means of which I should gain
something, while they would gain everything.”

“Not so; for if, by chance, they were to have you, or France rather, as
a boundary, your majesty is not an agreeable neighbor. Young, ardent,
warlike, the king of France might inflict some serious mischief on
Holland, especially if he were to get near her.”

“I perfectly understand, M. Colbert, and you have explained it very
clearly; but be good enough to tell me the conclusion you have arrived
at.”

“Your majesty’s own decisions are never deficient in wisdom.”

“What will these ambassadors say to me?”

“They will tell your majesty that they are ardently desirous of forming
an alliance with you, which will be a falsehood: they will tell Spain
that the three powers ought to unite so as to check the prosperity
of England, and that will equally be a falsehood; for at present, the
natural ally of your majesty is England, who has ships while we have
none; England, who can counteract Dutch influence in India; England, in
fact, a monarchical country, to which your majesty is attached by ties
of relationship.”

“Good; but how would you answer?”

“I should answer, sire, with the greatest possible moderation of tone,
that the disposition of Holland does not seem friendly towards the
Court of France; that the symptoms of public feeling among the Dutch are
alarming as regards your majesty; that certain medals have been struck
with insulting devices.”

“Towards me?” exclaimed the young king, excitedly.

“Oh, no! sire, no; insulting is not the word; I was mistaken, I ought to
have said immeasurably flattering to the Dutch.”

“Oh! if that be so, the pride of the Dutch is a matter of indifference
to me,” said the king, sighing.

“Your majesty is right, a thousand times right. However, it is never
a mistake in politics, your majesty knows better than myself, to
exaggerate a little in order to obtain a concession in your own
favor. If your majesty were to complain as if your susceptibility were
offended, you would stand in a far higher position with them.”

“What are these medals you speak of?” inquired Louis; “for if I allude
to them, I ought to know what to say.”

“Upon my word, sire, I cannot very well tell you--some overweeningly
conceited device--that is the sense of it; the words have little to do
with the thing itself.”

“Very good! I will mention the word ‘medal,’ and they can understand it
if they like.”

“Oh! they will understand without any difficulty. Your majesty can also
slip in a few words about certain pamphlets which are being circulated.”

“Never! Pamphlets befoul those who write them much more than those
against whom they are written. M. Colbert, I thank you. You can leave
now. Do not forget the hour I have fixed, and be there yourself.”

“Sire, I await your majesty’s list.”

“True,” returned the king; and he began to meditate; he had not thought
of the list in the least. The clock struck half-past eleven. The king’s
face revealed a violent conflict between pride and love. The political
conversation had dispelled a good deal of the irritation which Louis had
felt, and La Valliere’s pale, worn features, in his imagination, spoke
a very different language from that of the Dutch medals, or the Batavian
pamphlets. He sat for ten minutes debating within himself whether he
should or should not return to La Valliere; but Colbert having with some
urgency respectfully requested that the list might be furnished him,
the king was ashamed to be thinking of mere matters of affection where
important state affairs required his attention. He therefore dictated:
the queen-mother, the queen, Madame, Madame de Motteville, Madame de
Chatillon, Madame de Navailles; and, for the men, M. le Prince, M. de
Gramont, M. de Manicamp, M. de Saint-Aignan, and the officers on duty.

“The ministers?” asked Colbert.

“As a matter of course, and the secretaries also.”

“Sire, I will leave at once in order to get everything prepared; the
orders will be at the different residences to-morrow.”

“Say rather to-day,” replied Louis mournfully, as the clock struck
twelve. It was the very hour when poor La Valliere was almost dying from
anguish and bitter suffering. The king’s attendants entered, it being
the hour of his retirement to his chamber; the queen, indeed, had
been waiting for more than an hour. Louis accordingly retreated to his
bedroom with a sigh; but, as he sighed, he congratulated himself on his
courage, and applauded himself for having been as firm in love as in
affairs of state.



Chapter XXVIII. The Ambassadors.

D’Artagnan had, with very few exceptions, learned almost all of the
particulars of what we have just been relating; for among his friends
he reckoned all the useful, serviceable people in the royal
household,--officious attendants who were proud of being recognized
by the captain of the musketeers, for the captain’s influence was
very great; and then, in addition to any ambitious views they may have
imagined he could promote, they were proud of being regarded as
worth being spoken to by a man as brave as D’Artagnan. In this manner
D’Artagnan learned every morning what he had not been able either to see
or to ascertain the night before, from the simple fact of his not being
ubiquitous; so that, with the information he had been able by his own
means to pick up during the day, and with what he had gathered from
others, he succeeded in making up a bundle of weapons, which he was in
the prudent habit of using only when occasion required. In this way,
D’Artagnan’s two eyes rendered him the same service as the hundred eyes
of Argus. Political secrets, bedside revelations, hints or scraps of
conversation dropped by the courtiers on the threshold of the royal
ante-chamber, in this way D’Artagnan managed to ascertain, and to store
away everything in the vast and impenetrable mausoleum of his memory,
by the side of those royal secrets so dearly bought and faithfully
preserved. He therefore knew of the king’s interview with Colbert,
and of the appointment made for the ambassadors in the morning, and,
consequently, that the question of the medals would be brought up for
debate; and, while he was arranging and constructing the conversation
upon a few chance words which had reached his ears, he returned to his
post in the royal apartments, so as to be there at the very moment the
king awoke. It happened that the king rose very early,--proving thereby
that he, too, on his side, had slept but indifferently. Towards seven
o’clock, he half-opened his door very gently. D’Artagnan was at his
post. His majesty was pale, and seemed wearied; he had not, moreover,
quite finished dressing.

“Send for M. de Saint-Aignan,” he said.

Saint-Aignan was probably awaiting a summons, for the messenger, when he
reached his apartment, found him already dressed. Saint-Aignan hastened
to the king in obedience to the summons. A moment afterwards the king
and Saint-Aignan passed by together--the king walking first. D’Artagnan
went to the window which looked out upon the courtyard; he had no need
to put himself to the trouble of watching in what direction the king
went, for he had no difficulty in guessing beforehand where his majesty
was going. The king, in fact, bent his steps towards the apartments
of the maids of honor,--a circumstance which in no way astonished
D’Artagnan, for he more than suspected, although La Valliere had not
breathed a syllable on the subject, that the king had some kind of
reparation to make. Saint-Aignan followed him as he had done the
previous evening, rather less uneasy in his mind, though still slightly
agitated, for he fervently trusted that at seven o’clock in the morning
there might be only himself and the king awake amongst the august guests
at the palace. D’Artagnan stood at the window, careless and perfectly
calm in his manner. One could almost have sworn that he noticed nothing,
and was utterly ignorant who were these two hunters after adventures,
passing like shadows across the courtyard, wrapped up in their cloaks.
And yet, all the while that D’Artagnan appeared not to be looking at
them at all, he did not for one moment lose sight of them, and while
he whistled that old march of the musketeers, which he rarely recalled
except under great emergencies, he conjectured and prophesied how
terrible would be the storm which would be raised on the king’s return.
In fact, when the king entered La Valliere’s apartment and found the
room empty and the bed untouched, he began to be alarmed, and called out
to Montalais, who immediately answered the summons; but her astonishment
was equal to the king’s. All that she could tell his majesty was, that
she had fancied she had heard La Valliere’s weeping during a portion of
the night, but, knowing that his majesty had paid her a visit, she had
not dared to inquire what was the matter.

“But,” inquired the king, “where do you suppose she is gone?”

“Sire,” replied Montalais, “Louise is of a very sentimental disposition,
and as I have often seen her rise at daybreak in order to go out into
the garden, she may, perhaps, be there now.”

This appeared probable, and the king immediately ran down the staircase
in search of the fugitive. D’Artagnan saw him grow very pale, and
talking in an excited manner with his companion, as he went towards the
gardens; Saint-Aignan following him, out of breath. D’Artagnan did
not stir from the window, but went on whistling, looking as if he saw
nothing, yet seeing everything. “Come, come,” he murmured, when the king
disappeared, “his majesty’s passion is stronger than I thought; he is
now doing, I think, what he never did for Mademoiselle de Mancini.” [6]

In a quarter of an hour the king again appeared: he had looked
everywhere, was completely out of breath, and, as a matter of course,
had not discovered anything. Saint-Aignan, who still followed him,
was fanning himself with his hat, and in a gasping voice, asking for
information about La Valliere from such of the servants as were about,
in fact from every one he met. Among others he came across Manicamp,
who had arrived from Fontainebleau by easy stages; for whilst others had
performed the journey in six hours, he had taken four and twenty.

“Have you seen Mademoiselle de la Valliere?” Saint-Aignan asked him.

Whereupon Manicamp, dreamy and absent as usual, answered, thinking that
some one was asking him about De Guiche, “Thank you, the comte is a
little better.”

And he continued on his way until he reached the ante-chamber where
D’Artagnan was, whom he asked to explain how it was that the king
looked, as he thought, so bewildered; to which D’Artagnan replied that
he was quite mistaken, that the king, on the contrary, was as lively and
merry as he could possibly be.

In the midst of all this, eight o’clock struck. It was usual for the
king to take his breakfast at this hour, for the code of etiquette
prescribed that the king should always be hungry at eight o’clock. His
breakfast was laid upon a small table in his bedroom, and he ate very
fast. Saint-Aignan, of whom he would not lose sight, waited on the
king. He then disposed of several military audiences, during which
he dispatched Saint-Aignan to see what he could find out. Then, still
occupied, full of anxiety, still watching Saint-Aignan’s return, who had
sent out the servants in every direction, to make inquires, and who
had also gone himself, the hour of nine struck, and the king forthwith
passed into his large cabinet.

As the clock was striking nine the ambassadors entered, and as it
finished, the two queens and Madame made their appearance. There were
three ambassadors from Holland, and two from Spain. The king glanced at
them, and then bowed; and, at the same moment, Saint-Aignan entered,--an
entrance which the king regarded as far more important, in a different
sense, however, than that of ambassadors, however numerous they might
be, and from whatever country they came; and so, setting everything
aside, the king made a sign of interrogation to Saint-Aignan, which the
latter answered by a most decisive negative. The king almost entirely
lost his courage; but as the queens, the members of the nobility who
were present, and the ambassadors, had their eyes fixed upon him, he
overcame his emotion by a violent effort, and invited the latter to
speak. Whereupon one of the Spanish deputies made a long oration, in
which he boasted the advantages which the Spanish alliance would offer.

The king interrupted him, saying, “Monsieur, I trust that whatever is
best for France must be exceedingly advantageous for Spain.”

This remark, and particularly the peremptory tone in which it was
pronounced, made the ambassadors pale, and brought the color into the
cheeks of the two queens, who, being Spanish, felt wounded in their
pride of relationship and nationality by this reply.

The Dutch ambassador then began to address himself to the king, and
complained of the injurious suspicions which the king exhibited against
the government of his country.

The king interrupted him, saying, “It is very singular, monsieur, that
you should come with any complaint, when it is I rather who have reason
to be dissatisfied; and yet, you see, I do not complain.”

“Complain, sire, and in what respect?”

The king smiled bitterly. “Will you blame me, monsieur,” he said, “if
I should happen to entertain suspicions against a government which
authorizes and protects international impertinence?”

“Sire!”

“I tell you,” resumed the king, exciting himself by a recollection of
his own personal annoyance, rather than from political grounds, “that
Holland is a land of refuge for all who hate me, and especially for all
who malign me.”

“Oh, sire!”

“You wish for proofs, perhaps? Very good; they can be had easily enough.
Whence proceed all those vile and insolent pamphlets which represent me
as a monarch without glory and without authority? your printing-presses
groan under their number. If my secretaries were here, I would mention
the titles of the works as well as the names of the printers.”

“Sire,” replied the ambassador, “a pamphlet can hardly be regarded as
the work of a whole nation. Is it just, is it reasonable, that a great
and powerful monarch like your majesty should render a whole nation
responsible for the crime of a few madmen, who are, perhaps, only
scribbling in a garret for a few sous to buy bread for their family?”

“That may be the case, I admit. But when the mint itself, at Amsterdam,
strikes off medals which reflect disgrace upon me, is that also the
crime of a few madmen?”

“Medals!” stammered out the ambassador.

“Medals,” repeated the king, looking at Colbert.

“Your majesty,” the ambassador ventured, “should be quite sure--”

The king still looked at Colbert; but Colbert appeared not to understand
him, and maintained an unbroken silence, notwithstanding the king’s
repeated hints. D’Artagnan then approached the king, and taking a piece
of money out of his pocket, he placed it in the king’s hands, saying,
“_This_ is the medal your majesty alludes to.”

The king looked at it, and with a look which, ever since he had become
his own master, was ever piercing as the eagle’s, observed an insulting
device representing Holland arresting the progress of the sun, with this
inscription: “_In conspectu meo stetit sol_.”

“In my presence the sun stands still,” exclaimed the king, furiously.
“Ah! you will hardly deny it now, I suppose.”

“And the sun,” said D’Artagnan, “is this,” as he pointed to the panels
of the cabinet, where the sun was brilliantly represented in every
direction, with this motto, “_Nec pluribus impar_.” [7]

Louis’s anger, increased by the bitterness of his own personal
sufferings, hardly required this additional circumstance to foment it.
Every one saw, from the kindling passion in the king’s eyes, that an
explosion was imminent. A look from Colbert kept postponed the bursting
of the storm. The ambassador ventured to frame excuses by saying that
the vanity of nations was a matter of little consequence; that Holland
was proud that, with such limited resources, she had maintained her rank
as a great nation, even against powerful monarchs, and that if a little
smoke had intoxicated his countrymen, the king would be kindly disposed,
and would even excuse this intoxication. The king seemed as if he
would be glad of some suggestion; he looked at Colbert, who remained
impassible; then at D’Artagnan, who simply shrugged his shoulders, a
movement which was like the opening of the flood-gates, whereby the
king’s anger, which he had restrained for so long a period, now burst
forth. As no one knew what direction his anger might take, all preserved
a dead silence. The second ambassador took advantage of it to begin his
excuses also. While he was speaking, and while the king, who had again
gradually returned to his own personal reflections, was automatically
listening to the voice, full of nervous anxiety, with the air of an
absent man listening to the murmuring of a cascade, D’Artagnan, on whose
left hand Saint-Aignan was standing, approached the latter, and, in a
voice which was loud enough to reach the king’s ears, said: “Have you
heard the news?”

“What news?” said Saint-Aignan.

“About La Valliere.”

The king started, and advanced his head.

“What has happened to La Valliere?” inquired Saint-Aignan, in a tone
which can easily be imagined.

“Ah! poor girl! she is going to take the veil.”

“The veil!” exclaimed Saint-Aignan.

“The veil!” cried the king, in the midst of the ambassador’s discourse;
but then, mindful of the rules of etiquette, he mastered himself, still
listening, however, with rapt attention.

“What order?” inquired Saint-Aignan.

“The Carmelites of Chaillot.”

“Who the deuce told you that?”

“She did herself.”

“You have seen her, then?”

“Nay, I even went with her to the Carmelites.”

The king did not lose a syllable of this conversation; and again he
could hardly control his feelings.

“But what was the cause of her flight?” inquired Saint-Aignan.

“Because the poor girl was driven away from the court yesterday,”
 replied D’Artagnan.

He had no sooner said this, than the king, with an authoritative
gesture, said to the ambassador, “Enough, monsieur, enough.” Then,
advancing towards the captain, he exclaimed:

“Who says Mademoiselle de la Valliere is going to take the religious
vows?”

“M. d’Artagnan,” answered the favorite.

“Is it true what you say?” said the king, turning towards the musketeer.

“As true as truth itself.”

The king clenched his hands, and turned pale.

“You have something further to add, M. d’Artagnan?” he said.

“I know nothing more, sire.”

“You added that Mademoiselle de la Valliere had been driven away from
the court.”

“Yes, sire.”

“Is that true, also?”

“Ascertain for yourself, sire.”

“And from whom?”

“Ah!” sighed D’Artagnan, like a man who is declining to say anything
further.

The king almost bounded from his seat, regardless of ambassadors,
ministers, courtiers, queens, and politics. The queen-mother rose;
she had heard everything, or, if she had not heard everything, she had
guessed it. Madame, almost fainting from anger and fear, endeavored
to rise as the queen-mother had done; but she sank down again upon her
chair, which by an instinctive movement she made roll back a few paces.

“Gentlemen,” said the king, “the audience is over; I will communicate my
answer, or rather my will, to Spain and to Holland;” and with a proud,
imperious gesture, he dismissed the ambassadors.

“Take care, my son,” said the queen-mother, indignantly, “you are hardly
master of yourself, I think.”

“Ah! madame,” returned the young lion, with a terrible gesture, “if I
am not master of myself, I will be, I promise you, of those who do me a
deadly injury; come with me, M. d’Artagnan, come.” And he quitted the
room in the midst of general stupefaction and dismay. The king hastily
descended the staircase, and was about to cross the courtyard.

“Sire,” said D’Artagnan, “your majesty mistakes the way.”

“No; I am going to the stables.”

“That is useless, sire, for I have horses ready for your majesty.”

The king’s only answer was a look, but this look promised more than the
ambition of three D’Artagnans could have dared to hope.



Chapter XXIX. Chaillot.

Although they had not been summoned, Manicamp and Malicorne had followed
the king and D’Artagnan. They were both exceedingly intelligent men;
except that Malicorne was too precipitate, owing to ambition, while
Manicamp was frequently too tardy, owing to indolence. On this occasion,
however, they arrived at precisely the proper moment. Five horses were
in readiness. Two were seized upon by the king and D’Artagnan, two
others by Manicamp and Malicorne, while a groom belonging to the stables
mounted the fifth. The cavalcade set off at a gallop. D’Artagnan had
been very careful in his selection of the horses; they were the very
animals for distressed lovers--horses which did not simply run, but
flew. Within ten minutes after their departure, the cavalcade, amidst a
cloud of dust, arrived at Chaillot. The king literally threw himself off
his horse; but notwithstanding the rapidity with which he accomplished
this maneuver, he found D’Artagnan already holding his stirrup. With
a sign of acknowledgement to the musketeer, he threw the bridle to the
groom, and darted into the vestibule, violently pushed open the door,
and entered the reception-room. Manicamp, Malicorne, and the groom
remained outside, D’Artagnan alone following him. When he entered the
reception-room, the first object which met his gaze was Louise herself,
not simply on her knees, but lying at the foot of a large stone
crucifix. The young girl was stretched upon the damp flag-stones,
scarcely visible in the gloom of the apartment, which was lighted only
by means of a narrow window, protected by bars and completely shaded by
creeping plants. When the king saw her in this state, he thought she was
dead, and uttered a loud cry, which made D’Artagnan hurry into the
room. The king had already passed one of his arms round her body, and
D’Artagnan assisted him in raising the poor girl, whom the torpor of
death seemed already to have taken possession of. D’Artagnan seized hold
of the alarm-bell and rang with all his might. The Carmelite sisters
immediately hastened at the summons, and uttered loud exclamations of
alarm and indignation at the sight of the two men holding a woman in
their arms. The superior also hurried to the scene of action, but far
more a creature of the world than any of the female members of the
court, notwithstanding her austerity of manners, she recognized the king
at the first glance, by the respect which those present exhibited for
him, as well as by the imperious and authoritative way in which he had
thrown the whole establishment into confusion. As soon as she saw the
king, she retired to her own apartments, in order to avoid compromising
her dignity. But by one of the nuns she sent various cordials, Hungary
water, etc., etc., and ordered that all the doors should immediately be
closed, a command which was just in time, for the king’s distress was
fast becoming of a most clamorous and despairing character. He had
almost decided to send for his own physician, when La Valliere exhibited
signs of returning animation. The first object which met her gaze, as
she opened her eyes, was the king at her feet; in all probability she
did not recognize him, for she uttered a deep sigh full of anguish and
distress. Louis fixed his eyes devouringly upon her face; and when, in
the course of a few moments, she recognized Louis, she endeavored to
tear herself from his embrace.

“Oh, heavens!” she murmured, “is not the sacrifice yet made?”

“No, no!” exclaimed the king, “and it shall _not_ be made, I swear.”

Notwithstanding her weakness and utter despair, she rose from the
ground, saying, “It must be made, however; it must be; so do not stay me
in my purpose.”

“I leave you to sacrifice yourself! I! never, never!” exclaimed the
king.

“Well,” murmured D’Artagnan, “I may as well go now. As soon as they
begin to speak, we may as well prevent there being any listeners.” And
he quitted the room, leaving the lovers alone.

“Sire,” continued La Valliere, “not another word, I implore you. Do not
destroy the only future I can hope for--my salvation; do not destroy the
glory and brightness of your own future for a mere caprice.”

“A caprice?” cried the king.

“Oh, sire! it is now, only, that I can see clearly into your heart.”

“You, Louise, what mean you?”

“An inexplicable impulse, foolish and unreasonable in its nature, may
ephemerally appear to offer a sufficient excuse for your conduct; but
there are duties imposed upon you which are incompatible with your
regard for a poor girl such as I am. So, forget me.”

“I forget you!”

“You have already done so, once.”

“Rather would I die.”

“You cannot love one whose peace of mind you hold so lightly, and whom
you so cruelly abandoned, last night, to the bitterness of death.”

“What can you mean? Explain yourself, Louise.”

“What did you ask me yesterday morning? To love you. What did you
promise me in return? Never to let midnight pass without offering me an
opportunity of reconciliation, if, by any chance, your anger should be
roused against me.”

“Oh! forgive me, Louise, forgive me! I was mad from jealousy.”

“Jealousy is a sentiment unworthy of a king--a man. You may become
jealous again, and will end by killing me. Be merciful, then, and leave
me now to die.”

“Another word, mademoiselle, in that strain, and you will see me expire
at your feet.”

“No, no, sire, I am better acquainted with my own demerits; and believe
me, that to sacrifice yourself for one whom all despise, would be
needless.”

“Give me the names of those you have cause to complain of.”

“I have no complaints, sire, to prefer against any one; no one but
myself to accuse. Farewell, sire; you are compromising yourself in
speaking to me in such a manner.”

“Oh! be careful, Louise, in what you say; for you are reducing me to the
darkness of despair.”

“Oh! sire, sire, leave me at least the protection of Heaven, I implore
you.”

“No, no; Heaven itself shall not tear you from me.”

“Save me, then,” cried the poor girl, “from those determined and
pitiless enemies who are thirsting to annihilate my life and honor too.
If you have courage enough to love me, show at least that you have power
enough to defend me. But no; she whom you say you love, others insult
and mock, and drive shamelessly away.” And the gentle-hearted girl,
forced, by her own bitter distress to accuse others, wrung her hands in
an uncontrollable agony of tears.

“You have been driven away!” exclaimed the king. “This is the second
time I have heard that said.”

“I have been driven away with shame and ignominy, sire. You see, then,
that I have no other protector but Heaven, no consolation but prayer,
and this cloister is my only refuge.”

“My palace, my whole court, shall be your park of peace. Oh! fear
nothing further now, Louise; those--be they men or women--who yesterday
drove you away, shall to-morrow tremble before you--to-morrow, do I say?
nay, this very day I have already shown my displeasure--have already
threatened. It is in my power, even now, to hurl the thunderbolt I have
hitherto withheld. Louise, Louise, you shall be bitterly revenged; tears
of blood shall repay you for the tears you have shed. Give me only the
names of your enemies.”

“Never, never.”

“How can I show any anger, then?”

“Sire, those upon whom your anger would be prepared to fall, would force
you to draw back your hand upraised to punish.”

“Oh! you do not know me,” cried the king, exasperated. “Rather than draw
back, I would sacrifice my kingdom, and would abjure my family. Yes,
I would strike until this arm had utterly destroyed all those who had
ventured to make themselves the enemies of the gentlest and best of
creatures.” And, as he said these words, Louis struck his fist violently
against the oaken wainscoting with a force which alarmed La Valliere;
for his anger, owing to his unbounded power, had something imposing
and threatening in it, like the lightning, which may at any time prove
deadly. She, who thought that her own sufferings could not be surpassed,
was overwhelmed by a suffering which revealed itself by menace and by
violence.

“Sire,” she said, “for the last time I implore you to leave me; already
do I feel strengthened by the calm seclusion of this asylum; and the
protection of Heaven has reassured me; for all the pretty human meanness
of this world are forgotten beneath the Divine protection. Once more,
then, sire, and for the last time, I again implore you to leave me.”

“Confess, rather,” cried Louis, “that you have never loved me; admit
that my humility and my repentance are flattering to your pride, but
that my distress affects you not; that the king of this wide realm is
no longer regarded as a lover whose tenderness of devotion is capable
of working out your happiness, but as a despot whose caprice has crushed
your very heart beneath his iron heel. Do not say you are seeking
Heaven, say rather you are fleeing from the king.”

Louise’s heart was wrung within her, as she listened to his passionate
utterance, which made the fever of hope course once more through her
every vein.

“But did you not hear me say that I have been driven away, scorned,
despised?”

“I will make you the most respected, and most adored, and the most
envied of my whole court.”

“Prove to me that you have not ceased to love me.”

“In what way?”

“By leaving me.”

“I will prove it to you by never leaving you again.”

“But do you imagine, sire, that I shall allow that; do you imagine that
I will let you come to an open rupture with every member of your family;
do you imagine that, for my sake, you could abandon mother, wife and
sister?”

“Ah! you have named them, then, at last; it is they, then, who have
wrought this grievous injury? By the heaven above us, then, upon them
shall my anger fall.”

“That is the reason why the future terrifies me, why I refuse
everything, why I do not wish you to revenge me. Tears enough have
already been shed, sufficient sorrow and affliction have already
been occasioned. I, at least, will never be the cause of sorrow, or
affliction, or distress to whomsoever it may be, for I have mourned and
suffered, and wept too much myself.”

“And do you count _my_ sufferings, _my_ tears, as nothing?”

“In Heaven’s name, sire, do not speak to me in that manner. I need all
my courage to enable me to accomplish the sacrifice.”

“Louise, Louise, I implore you! whatever you desire, whatever you
command, whether vengeance or forgiveness, your slightest wish shall be
obeyed, but do not abandon me.”

“Alas! sire, we must part.”

“You do not love me, then!”

“Heaven knows I do!”

“It is false, Louise; it is false.”

“Oh! sire, if I did not love you, I should let you do what you please;
I should let you revenge me, in return for the insult which has been
inflicted on me; I should accept the brilliant triumph to my pride
which you propose; and yet, you cannot deny that I reject even the sweet
compensation which your affection affords, that affection which for me
is life itself, for I wished to die when I thought that you loved me no
longer.”

“Yes, yes; I now know, I now perceive it; you are the sweetest, best,
and purest of women. There is no one so worthy as yourself, not alone of
my respect and devotion, but also of the respect and devotion of all who
surround me; and therefore no one shall be loved like yourself; no one
shall ever possess the influence over me that you wield. You wish me to
be calm, to forgive?--be it so, you shall find me perfectly unmoved. You
wish to reign by gentleness and clemency?--I will be clement and
gentle. Dictate for me the conduct you wish me to adopt, and I will obey
blindly.”

“In Heaven’s name, no, sire; what am I, a poor girl, to dictate to so
great a monarch as yourself?”

“You are my life, the very spirit and principle of my being. Is it not
the spirit that rules the body?”

“You love me, then, sire?”

“On my knees, yes; with my hands upraised to you, yes; with all the
strength and power of my being, yes; I love you so deeply, that I would
lay down my life for you, gladly, at your merest wish.”

“Oh! sire, now I know you love me, I have nothing to wish for in the
world. Give me your hand, sire; and then, farewell! I have enjoyed in
this life all the happiness I was ever meant for.”

“Oh! no, no! your happiness is not a happiness of yesterday, it is of
to-day, of to-morrow, ever enduring. The future is yours, everything
which is mine is yours, too. Away with these ideas of separation, away
with these gloomy, despairing thoughts. You will live for me, as I will
live for you, Louise.” And he threw himself at her feet, embracing her
knees with the wildest transports of joy and gratitude.

“Oh! sire, sire! all that is but a wild dream.”

“Why, a wild dream?”

“Because I cannot return to the court. Exiled, how can I see you again?
Would it not be far better to bury myself in a cloister for the rest of
my life, with the rich consolation that your affection gives me, with
the pulses of your heart beating for me, and your latest confession of
attachment still ringing in my ears?”

“Exiled, you!” exclaimed Louis XIV., “and who dares to exile, let me
ask, when I recall?”

“Oh! sire, something which is greater than and superior to the kings
even--the world and public opinion. Reflect for a moment; you cannot
love a woman who has been ignominiously driven away--love one whom your
mother has stained with suspicions; one whom your sister has threatened
with disgrace; such a woman, indeed, would be unworthy of you.”

“Unworthy! one who belongs to me?”

“Yes, sire, precisely on that account; from the very moment she belongs
to you, the character of your mistress renders her unworthy.”

“You are right, Louise; every shade of delicacy of feeling is yours.
Very well, you shall not be exiled.”

“Ah! from the tone in which you speak, you have not heard Madame, that
is very clear.”

“I will appeal from her to my mother.”

“Again, sire, you have not seen your mother.”

“She, too!--my poor Louise! every one’s hand, then, is against you.”

“Yes, yes, poor Louise, who was already bending beneath the fury of
the storm, when you arrived and crushed her beneath the weight of your
displeasure.”

“Oh! forgive me.”

“You will not, I know, be able to make either of them yield; believe me,
the evil cannot be repaired, for I will not allow you to use violence,
or to exercise your authority.”

“Very well, Louise, to prove to you how fondly I love you, I will do one
thing, I will see Madame; I will make her revoke her sentence, I will
compel her to do so.”

“Compel? Oh! no, no!”

“True; you are right. I will bend her.”

Louise shook her head.

“I will entreat her, if it be necessary,” said Louis. “Will you believe
in my affection after that?”

Louise drew herself up. “Oh, never, never shall you humiliate yourself
on my account; sooner, a thousand times, would I die.”

Louis reflected; his features assumed a dark expression. “I will love
you as much as you have loved; I will suffer as keenly as you have
suffered; this shall be my expiation in your eyes. Come, mademoiselle,
put aside these paltry considerations; let us show ourselves as great as
our sufferings, as strong as our affection for each other.” And, as he
said this, he took her in his arms, and encircled her waist with both
his hands, saying, “My own love! my own dearest and best beloved, follow
me.”

She made a final effort, in which she concentrated, no longer all of
her firmness of will, for that had long since been overcome, but all her
physical strength. “No!” she replied, weakly, “no! no! I should die from
shame.”

“No! you shall return like a queen. No one knows of your having
left--except, indeed, D’Artagnan.”

“He has betrayed me, then?”

“In what way?”

“He promised faithfully--”

“I promised not to say anything to the king,” said D’Artagnan, putting
his head through the half-opened door, “and I kept my word; I was
speaking to M. de Saint-Aignan, and it was not my fault if the king
overheard me; was it, sire?”

“It is quite true,” said the king; “forgive him.”

La Valliere smiled, and held out her small white hand to the musketeer.

“Monsieur d’Artagnan,” said the king, “be good enough to see if you can
find a carriage for Mademoiselle de la Valliere.”

“Sire,” said the captain, “the carriage is waiting at the gate.”

“You are a magic mould of forethought,” exclaimed the king.

“You have taken a long time to find it out,” muttered D’Artagnan,
notwithstanding he was flattered by the praise bestowed upon him.

La Valliere was overcome: after a little further hesitation, she allowed
herself to be led away, half fainting, by her royal lover. But, as she
was on the point of leaving the room, she tore herself from the king’s
grasp, and returned to the stone crucifix, which she kissed, saying,
“Oh, Heaven! it was thou who drewest me hither! thou, who has rejected
me; but thy grace is infinite. Whenever I shall again return, forget
that I have ever separated myself from thee, for, when I return it will
be--never to leave thee again.”

The king could not restrain his emotion, and D’Artagnan, even, was
overcome. Louis led the young girl away, lifted her into the carriage,
and directed D’Artagnan to seat himself beside her, while he,
mounting his horse, spurred violently towards the Palais Royal, where,
immediately on his arrival, he sent to request an audience of Madame.



Chapter XXX. Madame.

From the manner in which the king had dismissed the ambassadors, even
the least clear-sighted persons belonging to the court imagined war
would ensue. The ambassadors themselves, but slightly acquainted with
the king’s domestic disturbances, had interpreted as directed against
themselves the celebrated sentence: “If I be not master of myself, I, at
least, will be so of those who insult me.” Happily for the destinies of
France and Holland, Colbert had followed them out of the king’s presence
for the purpose of explaining matters to them; but the two queens and
Madame, who were perfectly aware of every particular that had taken
place in their several households, having heard the king’s remark, so
full of dark meaning, retired to their own apartments in no little fear
and chagrin. Madame, especially, felt that the royal anger might fall
upon her, and, as she was brave and exceedingly proud, instead of
seeking support and encouragement from the queen-mother, she had
returned to her own apartments, if not without some uneasiness, at least
without any intention of avoiding an encounter. Anne of Austria, from
time to time at frequent intervals, sent messages to learn if the king
had returned. The silence which the whole palace preserved upon the
matter, and upon Louise’s disappearance, was indicative of a long train
of misfortunes to all those who knew the haughty and irritable humor of
the king. But Madame, unmoved in spite of all the flying rumors, shut
herself up in her apartments, sent for Montalais, and, with a voice as
calm as she could possibly command, desired her to relate all she knew
about the event itself. At the moment that the eloquent Montalais
was concluding, with all kinds of oratorical precautions, and was
recommending, if not in actual language, at least in spirit, that she
should show forbearance towards La Valliere, M. Malicorne made his
appearance to beg an audience of Madame, on behalf of the king.
Montalais’s worthy friend bore upon his countenance all the signs of the
very liveliest emotion. It was impossible to be mistaken; the interview
which the king requested would be one of the most interesting chapters
in the history of the hearts of kings and of men. Madame was disturbed
by her brother-in-law’s arrival; she did not expect it so soon, nor
had she, indeed, expected any direct step on Louis’s part. Besides,
all women who wage war successfully by indirect means, are invariably
neither very skillful nor very strong when it becomes a question of
accepting a pitched battle. Madame, however, was not one who ever drew
back; she had the very opposite defect or qualification, in whichever
light it may be considered; she took an exaggerated view of what
constituted real courage; and therefore the king’s message, of which
Malicorne had been the bearer, was regarded by her as the bugle-note
proclaiming the commencement of hostilities. She, therefore, boldly
accepted the gage of battle. Five minutes afterwards the king ascended
the staircase. His color was heightened from having ridden hard. His
dusty and disordered clothes formed a singular contrast with the fresh
and perfectly arranged toilette of Madame, who, notwithstanding the
rouge on her cheeks, turned pale as Louis entered the room. Louis
lost no time in approaching the object of his visit; he sat down, and
Montalais disappeared.

“My dear sister,” said the king, “you are aware that Mademoiselle de la
Valliere fled from her own room this morning, and that she has retired
to a cloister, overwhelmed by grief and despair.” As he pronounced these
words, the king’s voice was singularly moved.

“Your majesty is the first to inform me of it,” replied Madame.

“I should have thought that you might have learned it this morning,
during the reception of the ambassadors,” said the king.

“From your emotion, sire, I imagined that something extraordinary had
happened, but without knowing what.”

The king, with his usual frankness, went straight to the point. “Why did
you send Mademoiselle de la Valliere away?”

“Because I had reason to be dissatisfied with her conduct,” she replied,
dryly.

The king became crimson, and his eyes kindled with a fire which it
required all Madame’s courage to support. He mastered his anger,
however, and continued: “A stronger reason than that is surely
requisite, for one so good and kind as you are, to turn away and
dishonor, not only the young girl herself, but every member of her
family as well. You know that the whole city has its eyes fixed upon the
conduct of the female portion of the court. To dismiss a maid of honor
is to attribute a crime to her--at the very least a fault. What crime,
what fault has Mademoiselle de la Valliere been guilty of?”

“Since you constitute yourself the protector of Mademoiselle de la
Valliere,” replied Madame, coldly, “I will give you those explanations
which I should have a perfect right to withhold from every one.”

“Even from the king!” exclaimed Louis, as, with a sudden gesture, he
covered his head with his hat.

“You have called me your sister,” said Madame, “and I am in my own
apartments.”

“It matters not,” said the youthful monarch, ashamed at having been
hurried away by his anger; “neither you, nor any one else in this
kingdom, can assert a right to withhold an explanation in my presence.”

“Since that is the way you regard it,” said Madame, in a hoarse, angry
tone of voice, “all that remains for me to do is bow submission to your
majesty, and to be silent.”

“Not so. Let there be no equivocation between us.”

“The protection with which you surround Mademoiselle de la Valliere does
not impose any respect.”

“No equivocation, I repeat; you are perfectly aware that, as the head of
the nobility in France, I am accountable to all for the honor of every
family. You dismiss Mademoiselle de la Valliere, or whoever else it
may be--” Madame shrugged her shoulders. “Or whoever else it may be, I
repeat,” continued the king; “and as, acting in that manner, you cast a
dishonorable reflection upon that person, I ask you for an explanation,
in order that I may confirm or annul the sentence.”

“Annul my sentence!” exclaimed Madame, haughtily. “What! when I have
discharged one of my attendants, do you order me to take her back
again?” The king remained silent.

“This would be a sheer abuse of power, sire; it would be indecorous and
unseemly.”

“Madame!”

“As a woman, I should revolt against an abuse so insulting to me; I
should no longer be able to regard myself as a princess of your blood,
a daughter of a monarch; I should be the meanest of creatures, more
humbled and disgraced than the servant I had sent away.”

The king rose from his seat with anger. “It cannot be a heart,” he
cried, “you have beating in your bosom; if you act in such a way with
me, I may have reason to act with corresponding severity.”

It sometimes happens that in a battle a chance ball may reach its
mark. The observation which the king had made without any particular
intention, struck Madame home, and staggered her for a moment; some
day or other she might indeed have reason to dread reprisals. “At all
events, sire,” she said, “explain what you require.”

“I ask, madame, what has Mademoiselle de la Valliere done to warrant
your conduct toward her?”

“She is the most cunning fomenter of intrigues I know; she was the
occasion of two personal friends engaging in mortal combat; and has
made people talk of her in such shameless terms that the whole court is
indignant at the mere sound of her name.”

“She! she!” cried the king.

“Under her soft and hypocritical manner,” continued Madame, “she hides a
disposition full of foul and dark conceit.”

“She!”

“You may possibly be deceived, sire, but I know her right well; she
is capable of creating dispute and misunderstanding between the most
affectionate relatives and the most intimate friends. You see that she
has already sown discord betwixt us two.”

“I do assure you--” said the king.

“Sire, look well into the case as it stands; we were living on the
most friendly understanding, and by the artfulness of her tales and
complaints, she has set your majesty against me.”

“I swear to you,” said the king, “that on no occasion has a bitter
word ever passed her lips; I swear that, even in my wildest bursts of
passion, she would not allow me to menace any one; and I swear, too,
that you do not possess a more devoted and respectful friend than she
is.”

“Friend!” said Madame, with an expression of supreme disdain.

“Take care, Madame!” said the king; “you forget that you now understand
me, and that from this moment everything is equalized. Mademoiselle de
la Valliere will be whatever I may choose her to become; and to-morrow,
if I were determined to do so, I could seat her on a throne.”

“She was not born to a throne, at least, and whatever you may do can
affect the future alone, but cannot affect the past.”

“Madame, towards you I have shown every kind consideration, and every
eager desire to please you; do not remind me that I am master.”

“It is the second time, sire, that you have made that remark, and I have
already informed you I am ready to submit.”

“In that case, then, you will confer upon me the favor of receiving
Mademoiselle de la Valliere back again.”

“For what purpose, sire, since you have a throne to bestow upon her? I
am too insignificant to protect so exalted a personage.”

“Nay, a truce to this bitter and disdainful spirit. Grant me her
forgiveness.”

“_Never!_”

“You drive me, then, to open warfare in my own family.”

“I, too, have a family with whom I can find refuge.”

“Do you mean that as a threat, and could you forget yourself so far? Do
you believe that, if you push the affront to that extent, your family
would encourage you?”

“I hope, sire, that you will not force me to take any step which would
be unworthy of my rank.”

“I hoped that you would remember our recent friendship, and that you
would treat me as a brother.”

Madame paused for a moment. “I do not disown you for a brother,” she
said, “in refusing your majesty an injustice.”

“An injustice!”

“Oh, sire! if I informed others of La Valliere’s conduct; if the queen
knew--”

“Come, come, Henrietta, let your heart speak; remember that, for however
brief a time, you once loved me; remember, too, that human hearts should
be as merciful as the heart of a sovereign Master. Do not be inflexible
with others; forgive La Valliere.”

“I cannot; she has offended me.”

“But for my sake.”

“Sire, it is for your sake I would do anything in the world, except
that.”

“You will drive me to despair--you compel me to turn to the last
resource of weak people, and seek counsel of my angry and wrathful
disposition.”

“I advise you to be reasonable.”

“Reasonable!--I can be so no longer.”

“Nay, sire! I pray you--”

“For pity’s sake, Henrietta; it is the first time I entreated any one,
and I have no hope in any one but in you.”

“Oh, sire! you are weeping.”

“From rage, from humiliation. That I, the king, should have been obliged
to descend to entreaty. I shall hate this moment during my whole life.
You have made me suffer in one moment more distress and more degradation
than I could have anticipated in the greatest extremity in life.” And
the king rose and gave free vent to his tears, which, in fact, were
tears of anger and shame.

Madame was not touched exactly--for the best women, when their pride is
hurt, are without pity; but she was afraid that the tears the king was
shedding might possibly carry away every soft and tender feeling in his
heart.

“Give what commands you please, sire,” she said; “and since you prefer
my humiliation to your own--although mine is public and yours has been
witnessed but by myself alone--speak, I will obey your majesty.”

“No, no, Henrietta!” exclaimed Louis, transported with gratitude, “you
will have yielded to a brother’s wishes.”

“I no longer have any brother, since I obey.”

“All that I have would be too little in return.”

“How passionately you love, sire, when you do love!”

Louis did not answer. He had seized upon Madame’s hand and covered it
with kisses. “And so you will receive this poor girl back again, and
will forgive her; you will find how gentle and pure-hearted she is.”

“I will maintain her in my household.”

“No, you will give her your friendship, my sister.”

“I never liked her.”

“Well, for my sake, you will treat her kindly, will you not, Henrietta?”

“I will treat her as your--_mistress_.”

The king rose suddenly to his feet. By this word, which had so
infelicitously escaped her, Madame had destroyed the whole merit of her
sacrifice. The king felt freed from all obligations. Exasperated beyond
measure, and bitterly offended, he replied:

“I thank you, Madame; I shall never forget the service you have rendered
me.” And, saluting her with an affectation of ceremony, he took his
leave of her. As he passed before a glass, he saw that his eyes were
red, and angrily stamped his foot on the ground. But it was too late,
for Malicorne and D’Artagnan, who were standing at the door, had seen
his eyes.

“The king has been crying,” thought Malicorne. D’Artagnan approached the
king with a respectful air, and said in a low tone of voice:

“Sire, it would be better to return to your own apartments by the small
staircase.”

“Why?”

“Because the dust of the road has left its traces on your face,” said
D’Artagnan. “By heavens!” he thought, “when the king has given way like
a child, let those look to it who may make the lady weep for whom the
king sheds tears.”



Chapter XXXI. Mademoiselle de la Valliere’s Pocket-Handkerchief.

Madame was not bad-hearted--she was only hasty and impetuous. The king
was not imprudent--he was simply in love. Hardly had they entered into
this compact, which terminated in La Valliere’s recall, when they both
sought to make as much as they could by their bargain. The king wished
to see La Valliere every moment of the day, while Madame, who was
sensible of the king’s annoyance ever since he had so entreated her,
would not relinquish her revenge on La Valliere without a contest. She
planted every conceivable difficulty in the king’s path; he was,
in fact, obliged, in order to get a glimpse of La Valliere, to be
exceedingly devoted in his attentions to his sister-in-law, and this,
indeed, was Madame’s plan of policy. As she had chosen some one to
second her efforts, and as this person was our old friend Montalais,
the king found himself completely hemmed in every time he paid Madame
a visit; he was surrounded, and was never left a moment alone. Madame
displayed in her conversation a charm of manner and brilliancy of wit
which dazzled everybody. Montalais followed her, and soon rendered
herself perfectly insupportable to the king, which was, in fact, the
very thing she expected would happen. She then set Malicorne at the
king, who found means of informing his majesty that there was a young
person belonging to the court who was exceedingly miserable; and on
the king inquiring who this person was, Malicorne replied that it
was Mademoiselle de Montalais. To this the king answered that it was
perfectly just that a person should be unhappy when she rendered others
so. Whereupon Malicorne explained how matters stood; for he had received
his directions from Montalais. The king began to open his eyes; he
remarked that, as soon as he made his appearance, Madame made hers too;
that she remained in the corridors until after he had left; that she
accompanied him back to his own apartments, fearing that he might speak
in the ante-chambers to one of her maids of honor. One evening she went
further still. The king was seated, surrounded by the ladies who were
present, and holding in his hand, concealed by his lace ruffle, a small
note which he wished to slip into La Valliere’s hand. Madame guessed
both his intention and the letter too. It was difficult to prevent the
king going wherever he pleased, and yet it was necessary to prevent his
going near La Valliere, or speaking to her, as by so doing he could
let the note fall into her lap behind her fan, or into her
pocket-handkerchief. The king, who was also on the watch, suspected that
a snare was being laid for him. He rose and pushed his chair, without
affectation, near Mademoiselle de Chatillon, with whom he began to
talk in a light tone. They were amusing themselves making rhymes; from
Mademoiselle de Chatillon he went to Montalais, and then to Mademoiselle
de Tonnay-Charente. And thus, by this skillful maneuver, he found
himself seated opposite to La Valliere, whom he completely concealed.
Madame pretended to be greatly occupied, altering a group of flowers
that she was working in tapestry. The king showed the corner of his
letter to La Valliere, and the latter held out her handkerchief with
a look that signified, “Put the letter inside.” Then, as the king had
placed his own handkerchief upon his chair, he was adroit enough to let
it fall on the ground, so that La Valliere slipped her handkerchief on
the chair. The king took it up quietly, without any one observing what
he did, placed the letter within it, and returned the handkerchief to
the place he had taken it from. There was only just time for La Valliere
to stretch out her hand to take hold of the handkerchief with its
valuable contents.

But Madame, who had observed everything that had passed, said to
Mademoiselle de Chatillon, “Chatillon, be good enough to pick up the
king’s handkerchief, if you please; it has fallen on the carpet.”

The young girl obeyed with the utmost precipitation, the king having
moved from his seat, and La Valliere being in no little degree nervous
and confused.

“Ah! I beg your majesty’s pardon,” said Mademoiselle de Chatillon; “you
have two handkerchiefs, I perceive.”

And the king was accordingly obliged to put into his pocket La
Valliere’s handkerchief as well as his own. He certainly gained that
souvenir of Louise, who lost, however, a copy of verses which had cost
the king ten hours’ hard labor, and which, as far as he was concerned,
was perhaps as good as a long poem. It would be impossible to describe
the king’s anger and La Valliere’s despair; but shortly afterwards a
circumstance occurred which was more than remarkable. When the king
left, in order to retire to his own apartments, Malicorne, informed
of what had passed, one can hardly tell how, was waiting in the
ante-chamber. The ante-chambers of the Palais Royal are naturally very
dark, and, in the evening, they were but indifferently lighted. Nothing
pleased the king more than this dim light. As a general rule, love,
whose mind and heart are constantly in a blaze, contemns all light,
except the sunshine of the soul. And so the ante-chamber was dark; a
page carried a torch before the king, who walked on slowly, greatly
annoyed at what had recently occurred. Malicorne passed close to the
king, almost stumbled against him in fact, and begged his forgiveness
with the profoundest humility; but the king, who was in an exceedingly
ill-temper, was very sharp in his reproof to Malicorne, who disappeared
as soon and as quietly as he possibly could. Louis retired to rest,
having had a misunderstanding with the queen; and the next day, as soon
as he entered the cabinet, he wished to have La Valliere’s handkerchief
in order to press his lips to it. He called his valet.

“Fetch me,” he said, “the coat I wore yesterday evening, but be very
sure you do not touch anything it may contain.”

The order being obeyed, the king himself searched the pocket of the
coat; he found only one handkerchief, and that his own; La Valliere’s
had disappeared. Whilst busied with all kinds of conjectures and
suspicions, a letter was brought to him from La Valliere; it ran thus:

“How good and kind of you to have sent me those beautiful verses; how
full of ingenuity and perseverance your affection is; how is it possible
to help loving you so dearly!”

“What does this mean?” thought the king; “there must be some mistake.
Look well about,” said he to the valet, “for a pocket-handkerchief
must be in one of my pockets; and if you do not find it, or if you have
touched it--” He reflected for a moment. To make a state matter of the
loss of the handkerchief would be to act absurdly, and he therefore
added, “There was a letter of some importance inside the handkerchief,
which had somehow got among the folds of it.”

“Sire,” said the valet, “your majesty had only one handkerchief, and
that is it.”

“True, true,” replied the king, setting his teeth hard together. “Oh,
poverty, how I envy you! Happy is the man who can empty his own pockets
of letters and handkerchiefs!”

He read La Valliere’s letter over again, endeavoring to imagine in what
conceivable way his verses could have reached their destination. There
was a postscript to the letter:

“I send you back by your messenger this reply, so unworthy of what you
sent me.”

“So far so good; I shall find out something now,” he said delightedly.
“Who is waiting, and who brought me this letter?”

“M. Malicorne,” replied the _valet de chambre_, timidly.

“Desire him to come in.”

Malicorne entered.

“You come from Mademoiselle de la Valliere?” said the king, with a sigh.

“Yes, sire.”

“And you took Mademoiselle de la Valliere something from me?”

“I, sire?”

“Yes, you.”

“Oh, no, sire.”

“Mademoiselle de la Valliere says so, distinctly.”

“Oh, sire, Mademoiselle de la Valliere is mistaken.”

The king frowned. “What jest is this?” he said; “explain yourself. Why
does Mademoiselle de la Valliere call you my messenger? What did you
take to that lady? Speak, monsieur, and quickly.”

“Sire, I merely took Mademoiselle de la Valliere a pocket-handkerchief,
that was all.”

“A handkerchief,--what handkerchief?”

“Sire, at the very moment when I had the misfortune to stumble against
your majesty yesterday--a misfortune which I shall deplore to the
last day of my life, especially after the dissatisfaction which you
exhibited--I remained, sire, motionless with despair, your majesty being
at too great a distance to hear my excuses, when I saw something white
lying on the ground.”

“Ah!” said the king.

“I stooped down,--it was a pocket-handkerchief. For a moment I had an
idea that when I stumbled against your majesty I must have been the
cause of the handkerchief falling from your pocket; but as I felt it all
over very respectfully, I perceived a cipher at one of the corners,
and, on looking at it closely, I found that it was Mademoiselle de la
Valliere’s cipher. I presumed that on her way to Madame’s apartment in
the earlier part of the evening she had let her handkerchief fall, and
I accordingly hastened to restore it to her as she was leaving; and that
is all I gave to Mademoiselle de la Valliere, I entreat your majesty to
believe.” Malicorne’s manner was so simple, so full of contrition, and
marked with such extreme humility, that the king was greatly amused in
listening to him. He was as pleased with him for what he had done as if
he had rendered him the greatest service.

“This is the second fortunate meeting I have had with you, monsieur,” he
said; “you may count upon my good intentions.”

The plain and sober truth was, that Malicorne had picked the king’s
pocket of the handkerchief as dexterously as any of the pickpockets of
the good city of Paris could have done. Madame never knew of this little
incident, but Montalais gave La Valliere some idea of the manner in
which it had really happened, and La Valliere afterwards told the king,
who laughed exceedingly at it and pronounced Malicorne to be a first
rate politician. Louis XIV. was right, and it is well known that he was
tolerably well acquainted with human nature.



Chapter XXXII. Which Treats of Gardeners, of Ladders, and Maids of
Honor.

Miracles, unfortunately, could not be always happening, whilst Madame’s
ill-humor still continued. In a week’s time, matters had reached such a
point, that the king could no longer look at La Valliere without a look
full of suspicion crossing his own. Whenever a promenade was proposed,
Madame, in order to avoid the recurrence of similar scenes to that of
the thunder-storm, or the royal oak, had a variety of indispositions
ready prepared; and, thanks to them, she was unable to go out, and her
maids of honor were obliged to remain indoors also. There was not the
slightest chance of means of paying a nocturnal visit; for in this
respect the king had, on the very first occasion, experienced a severe
check, which happened in the following manner. As at Fontainebleau, he
had taken Saint-Aignan with him one evening when he wished to pay
La Valliere a visit; but he had found no one but Mademoiselle de
Tonnay-Charente, who had begun to call out “Fire!” and “Thieves!” in
such a manner that a perfect legion of chamber-maids, attendants, and
pages, ran to her assistance; so that Saint-Aignan, who had remained
behind in order to save the honor of his royal master, who had fled
precipitately, was obliged to submit to a severe scolding from the
queen-mother, as well as from Madame herself. In addition, he had, the
next morning, received two challenges from the De Mortemart family, and
the king had been obliged to interfere. This mistake had been owing
to the circumstance of Madame having suddenly ordered a change in the
apartments of her maids of honor, and directed La Valliere and Montalais
to sleep in her own cabinet. No gateway, therefore, was any longer
open--not even communication by letter; to write under the eyes of
so ferocious an Argus as Madame, whose temper and disposition were so
uncertain, was to run the risk of exposure to the greatest danger; and
it can well be conceived into what a state of continuous irritation, and
ever increasing anger, all these petty annoyances threw the young lion.
The king almost tormented himself to death endeavoring to discover a
means of communication; and, as he did not think proper to call in the
aid of Malicorne or D’Artagnan, the means were not discovered at all.
Malicorne had, indeed, occasional brilliant flashes of imagination, with
which he tried to inspire the king with confidence; but, whether from
shame or suspicion, the king, who had at first begun to nibble at the
bait, soon abandoned the hook. In this way, for instance, one evening,
while the king was crossing the garden, and looking up at Madame’s
windows, Malicorne stumbled over a ladder lying beside a border of box,
and said to Manicamp, then walking with him behind the king, “Did you
not see that I just now stumbled against a ladder, and was nearly thrown
down?”

“No,” said Manicamp, as usual very absent-minded, “but it appears you
did not fall.”

“That doesn’t matter; but it is not on that account the less dangerous
to leave ladders lying about in that manner.”

“True, one might hurt one’s self, especially when troubled with fits of
absence of mind.”

“I don’t mean that; what I did mean, was that it is dangerous to allow
ladders to lie about so near the windows of the maids of honor.” Louis
started imperceptibly.

“Why so?” inquired Manicamp.

“Speak louder,” whispered Malicorne, as he touched him with his arm.

“Why so?” said Manicamp, louder. The king listened.

“Because, for instance,” said Malicorne, “a ladder nineteen feet high is
just the height of the cornice of those windows.” Manicamp, instead of
answering, was dreaming of something else.

“Ask me, can’t you, what windows I mean,” whispered Malicorne.

“But what windows are you referring to?” said Manicamp, aloud.

“The windows of Madame’s apartments.”

“Eh!”

“Oh! I don’t say that any one would ever venture to go up a ladder into
Madame’s room; but in Madame’s cabinet, merely separated by a partition,
sleep two exceedingly pretty girls, Mesdemoiselles de la Valliere and de
Montalais.”

“By a partition?” said Manicamp.

“Look; you see how brilliantly lighted Madame’s apartments are--well, do
you see those two windows?”

“Yes.”

“And that window close to the others, but more dimly lighted?”

“Yes.”

“Well, that is the room of the maids of honor. Look, there is
Mademoiselle de la Valliere opening the window. Ah! how many soft things
could an enterprising lover say to her, if he only suspected that there
was lying here a ladder nineteen feet long, which would just reach the
cornice.”

“But she is not alone; you said Mademoiselle de Montalais is with her.”

“Mademoiselle de Montalais counts for nothing; she is her oldest friend,
and exceedingly devoted to her--a positive well, into which can be
thrown all sorts of secrets one might wish to get rid of.”

The king did not lose a single syllable of this conversation. Malicorne
even remarked that his majesty slackened his pace, in order to give him
time to finish. So, when they arrived at the door, Louis dismissed every
one, with the exception of Malicorne--a circumstance which excited no
surprise, for it was known that the king was in love; and they suspected
he was going to compose some verses by moonlight; and, although there
was no moon that evening, the king might, nevertheless, have some verses
to compose. Every one, therefore, took his leave; and, immediately
afterwards, the king turned towards Malicorne, who respectfully waited
until his majesty should address him. “What were you saying, just now,
about a ladder, Monsieur Malicorne?” he asked.

“Did I say anything about ladders, sire?” said Malicorne, looking up, as
if in search of words which had flown away.

“Yes, of a ladder nineteen feet long.”

“Oh, yes, sire, I remember; but I spoke to M. Manicamp, and I should not
have said a word had I known your majesty was near enough to hear us.”

“And why would you not have said a word?”

“Because I should not have liked to get the gardener into a scrape who
left it there--poor fellow!”

“Don’t make yourself uneasy on that account. What is this ladder like?”

“If your majesty wishes to see it, nothing is easier, for there it is.”

“In that box hedge?”

“Exactly.”

“Show it to me.”

Malicorne turned back, and led the king up to the ladder, saying, “This
is it, sire.”

“Pull it this way a little.”

When Malicorne had brought the ladder on to the gravel walk, the king
began to step its whole length. “Hum!” he said; “you say it is nineteen
feet long?”

“Yes, sire.”

“Nineteen feet--that is rather long; I hardly believe it can be so long
as that.”

“You cannot judge very correctly with the ladder in that position, sire.
If it were upright, against a tree or a wall, for instance, you would
be better able to judge, because the comparison would assist you a good
deal.”

“Oh! it does not matter, M. Malicorne; but I can hardly believe that the
ladder is nineteen feet high.”

“I know how accurate your majesty’s glance is, and yet I would wager.”

The king shook his head. “There is one unanswerable means of verifying
it,” said Malicorne.

“What is that?”

“Every one knows, sire, that the ground-floor of the palace is eighteen
feet high.”

“True, that is very well known.”

“Well, sire, if I place the ladder against the wall, we shall be able to
ascertain.”

“True.”

Malicorne took up the ladder, like a feather, and placed it upright
against the wall. And, in order to try the experiment, he chose, or
chance, perhaps, directed him to choose, the very window of the cabinet
where La Valliere was. The ladder just reached the edge of the cornice,
that is to say, the sill of the window; so that, by standing upon the
last round but one of the ladder, a man of about the middle height, as
the king was, for instance, could easily talk with those who might be
in the room. Hardly had the ladder been properly placed, when the king,
dropping the assumed part he had been playing in the comedy, began to
ascend the rounds of the ladder, which Malicorne held at the bottom. But
hardly had he completed half the distance when a patrol of Swiss guards
appeared in the garden, and advanced straight towards them. The king
descended with the utmost precipitation, and concealed himself among
the trees. Malicorne at once perceived that he must offer himself as
a sacrifice; for if he, too, were to conceal himself, the guard would
search everywhere until they had found either himself or the king,
perhaps both. It would be far better, therefore, that he alone should be
discovered. And, consequently, Malicorne hid himself so clumsily that
he was the only one arrested. As soon as he was arrested, Malicorne
was taken to the guard-house, and there he declared who he was, and was
immediately recognized. In the meantime, by concealing himself first
behind one clump of trees and then behind another, the king reached
the side door of his apartment, very much humiliated, and still more
disappointed. More than that, the noise made in arresting Malicorne had
drawn La Valliere and Montalais to their window; and even Madame herself
had appeared at her own, with a pair of wax candles, one in each hand,
clamorously asking what was the matter.

In the meantime, Malicorne sent for D’Artagnan, who did not lose a
moment in hurrying to him. But it was in vain he attempted to make him
understand his reasons, and in vain also that D’Artagnan did understand
them; and, further, it was equally in vain that both their sharp and
intuitive minds endeavored to give another turn to the adventure; there
was no other resource left for Malicorne but to let it be supposed
that he had wished to enter Mademoiselle de Montalais’s apartment,
as Saint-Aignan had passed for having wished to force Mademoiselle
de Tonnay-Charente’s door. Madame was inflexible; in the first place,
because, if Malicorne had, in fact, wished to enter her apartment at
night through the window, and by means of the ladder, in order to see
Montalais, it was a punishable offense on Malicorne’s part, and he must
be punished accordingly; and, in the second place, if Malicorne, instead
of acting in his own name, had acted as an intermediary between La
Valliere and a person whose name it was superfluous to mention, his
crime was in that case even greater, since love, which is an excuse for
everything, did not exist in the case as an excuse. Madame therefore
made the greatest possible disturbance about the matter, and obtained
his dismissal from Monsieur’s household, without reflecting, poor blind
creature, that both Malicorne and Montalais held her fast in their
clutches in consequence of her visit to De Guiche, and in a variety
of other ways equally delicate. Montalais, who was perfectly furious,
wished to revenge herself immediately, but Malicorne pointed out to her
that the king’s countenance would repay them for all the disgraces
in the world, and that it was a great thing to have to suffer on his
majesty’s account.

Malicorne was perfectly right, and, therefore, although Montalais had
the spirit of ten women in her, he succeeded in bringing her round to
his own opinion. And we must not omit to state that the king helped them
to console themselves, for, in the first place, he presented Malicorne
with fifty thousand francs as a compensation for the post he had lost,
and, in the next place, he gave him an appointment in his own household,
delighted to have an opportunity of revenging himself in such a manner
upon Madame for all she had made him and La Valliere suffer. But as
Malicorne could no longer carry significant handkerchiefs for him or
plant convenient ladders, the royal lover was in a terrible state. There
seemed to be no hope, therefore, of ever getting near La Valliere again,
so long as she should remain at the Palais Royal. All the dignities and
all the money in the world could not remedy that. Fortunately, however,
Malicorne was on the lookout, and this so successfully that he met
Montalais, who, to do her justice, it must be admitted, was doing her
best to meet Malicorne. “What do you do during the night in Madame’s
apartment?” he asked the young girl.

“Why, I go to sleep, of course,” she replied.

“But it is very wrong to sleep; it can hardly be possible that, with the
pain you are suffering, you can manage to do so.”

“And what am I suffering from, may I ask?”

“Are you not in despair at my absence?”

“Of course not, since you have received fifty thousand francs and an
appointment in the king’s household.”

“That is a matter of no moment; you are exceedingly afflicted at not
seeing me as you used to see me formerly, and more than all, you are
in despair at my having lost Madame’s confidence; come now, is not that
true?”

“Perfectly true.”

“Very good; your distress of mind prevents you sleeping at night, and so
you sob, and sigh, and blow your nose ten times every minute as loud as
possible.”

“But, my dear Malicorne, Madame cannot endure the slightest noise near
her.”

“I know that perfectly well; of course she can’t endure anything; and
so, I tell you, when she hears your deep distress, she will turn you out
of her rooms without a moment’s delay.”

“I understand.”

“Very fortunate you _do_.”

“Well, and what will happen next?”

“The next thing that will happen will be, that La Valliere, finding
herself alone without you, will groan and utter such loud lamentations,
that she will exhibit despair enough for two.”

“In that case she will be put into _another_ room, don’t you see?”

“Precisely so.”

“Yes, but which?”

“Which?”

“Yes, that will puzzle you to say, Mr. Inventor-General.”

“Not at all; whenever and whatever the room may be, it will always be
preferable to Madame’s own room.”

“That is true.”

“Very good, so begin your lamentations to-night.”

“I certainly will not fail to do so.”

“And give La Valliere a hint also.”

“Oh! don’t fear her, she cries quite enough already to herself.”

“Very well! all she has to do is cry out loudly.”

And they separated.



Chapter XXXIII. Which Treats of Carpentry Operations, and Furnishes
Details upon the Mode of Constructing Staircases.

The advice which had been given to Montalais was communicated by her
to La Valliere, who could not but acknowledge that it was by no means
deficient in judgment, and who, after a certain amount of resistance,
rising rather from timidity than indifference to the project, resolved
to put it into execution. This story of the two girls weeping, and
filling Madame’s bedroom with the noisiest lamentations, was Malicorne’s
_chef-d’oeuvre_. As nothing is so probable as improbability, so natural
as romance, this kind of Arabian Nights story succeeded perfectly with
Madame. The first thing she did was to send Montalais away, and then,
three days, or rather three nights afterwards, she had La Valliere
removed. She gave the latter one of the small rooms on the top story,
situated immediately over the apartments allotted to the gentlemen
of Monsieur’s suite. One story only, that is to say, a mere flooring
separated the maids of honor from the officers and gentlemen of her
husband’s household. A private staircase, which was placed under Madame
de Navailles’s surveillance, was the only means of communication. For
greater safety, Madame de Navailles, who had heard of his majesty’s
previous attempts, had the windows of the rooms and the openings of the
chimneys carefully barred. There was, therefore, every possible security
provided for Mademoiselle de la Valliere, whose room now bore more
resemblance to a cage than to anything else. When Mademoiselle de la
Valliere was in her own room, and she was there very frequently, for
Madame scarcely ever had any occasion for her services, since she once
knew she was safe under Madame de Navailles’s inspection, Mademoiselle
de la Valliere had no better means of amusing herself than looking
through the bars of her windows. It happened, therefore, that one
morning, as she was looking out as usual, she perceived Malicorne at one
of the windows exactly opposite to her own. He held a carpenter’s rule
in his hand, was surveying the buildings, and seemed to be adding up
some figures on paper. La Valliere recognized Malicorne and nodded to
him; Malicorne, in his turn, replied by a formal bow, and disappeared
from the window. She was surprised at this marked coolness, so different
from his usual unfailing good-humor, but she remembered that he had lost
his appointment on her account, and that he could hardly be very amiably
disposed towards her, since, in all probability, she would never be in
a position to make him any recompense for what he had lost. She knew how
to forgive offenses, and with still more readiness could she sympathize
with misfortune. La Valliere would have asked Montalais her opinion, if
she had been within hearing, but she was absent, it being the hour
she commonly devoted to her own correspondence. Suddenly La Valliere
observed something thrown from the window where Malicorne had been
standing, pass across the open space which separated the iron bars, and
roll upon the floor. She advanced with no little curiosity towards this
object, and picked it up; it was a wooden reel for silk, only, in this
instance, instead of silk, a piece of paper was rolled round it. La
Valliere unrolled it and read as follows:

“MADEMOISELLE,--I am exceedingly anxious to learn two things: the first
is, to know if the flooring of your apartment is wood or brick; the
second, to ascertain at what distance your bed is placed from the
window. Forgive my importunity, and will you be good enough to send me
an answer by the same way you receive this letter--that is to say, by
means of the silk winder; only, instead of throwing into my room, as
I have thrown it into yours, which will be too difficult for you
to attempt, have the goodness merely to let it fall. Believe me,
mademoiselle, your most humble, most respectful servant,

“MALICORNE.

“Write the reply, if you please, upon the letter itself.”


“Ah! poor fellow,” exclaimed La Valliere, “he must have gone out of his
mind;” and she directed towards her correspondent--of whom she caught
but a faint glimpse, in consequence of the darkness of the room--a look
full of compassionate consideration. Malicorne understood her, and shook
his head, as if he meant to say, “No, no, I am not out of my mind; be
quite satisfied.”

She smiled, as if still in doubt.

“No, no,” he signified by a gesture, “my head is right,” and pointed
to his head, then, after moving his hand like a man who writes very
rapidly, he put his hands together as if entreating her to write.

La Valliere, even if he were mad, saw no impropriety in doing what
Malicorne requested her; she took a pencil and wrote “Wood,” and then
walked slowly from her window to her bed, and wrote, “Six paces,” and
having done this, she looked out again at Malicorne, who bowed to her,
signifying that he was about to descend. La Valliere understood that
it was to pick up the silk winder. She approached the window, and, in
accordance with Malicorne’s instructions, let it fall. The winder was
still rolling along the flag-stones as Malicorne started after it,
overtook and picked it up, and beginning to peel it as a monkey would
do with a nut, he ran straight towards M. de Saint-Aignan’s apartment.
Saint-Aignan had chosen, or rather solicited, that his rooms might be
as near the king as possible, as certain plants seek the sun’s rays in
order to develop themselves more luxuriantly. His apartment consisted of
two rooms, in that portion of the palace occupied by Louis XIV. himself.
M. de Saint-Aignan was very proud of this proximity, which afforded
easy access to his majesty, and, more than that, the favor of occasional
unexpected meetings. At the moment we are now referring to, he
was engaged in having both his rooms magnificently carpeted, with
expectation of receiving the honor of frequent visits from the king; for
his majesty, since his passion for La Valliere, had chosen Saint-Aignan
as his confidant, and could not, in fact, do without him, either night
or day. Malicorne introduced himself to the comte, and met with no
difficulties, because he had been favorably noticed by the king; and
also, because the credit which one man may happen to enjoy is always a
bait for others. Saint-Aignan asked his visitor if he brought any news
with him.

“Yes; great news,” replied the latter.

“Ah! ah!” said Saint-Aignan, “what is it?”

“Mademoiselle de la Valliere has changed her quarters.”

“What do you mean?” said Saint-Aignan, opening his eyes very wide. “She
was living in the same apartments as Madame.”

“Precisely so; but Madame got tired of her proximity, and has installed
her in a room which is situated exactly above your future apartment.”

“What! up there,” exclaimed Saint-Aignan, with surprise, and pointing at
the floor above him with his finger.

“No,” said Malicorne, “yonder,” indicating the building opposite.

“What do you mean, then, by saying that her room is above my apartment?”

“Because I am sure that your apartment _ought_, providentially, to be
under Mademoiselle de la Valliere’s room.”

Saint-Aignan, at this remark, gave poor Malicorne a look, similar to one
of those La Valliere had already given a quarter of an hour before, that
is to say, he thought he had lost his senses.

“Monsieur,” said Malicorne to him, “I wish to answer what you are
thinking about.”

“What do you mean by ‘what I am thinking about’?”

“My reason is, that you have not clearly understood what I want to
convey.”

“I admit it.”

“Well, then, you are aware that underneath the apartments set for
Madame’s maids of honor, the gentlemen in attendance on the king and on
Monsieur are lodged.”

“Yes, I know that, since Manicamp, De Wardes, and others are living
there.”

“Precisely. Well, monsieur, admire the singularity of the circumstance;
the two rooms destined for M. de Guiche are exactly the very two
rooms situated underneath those which Mademoiselle de Montalais and
Mademoiselle de la Valliere occupy.”

“Well; what then?”

“‘What then,’ do you say? Why, these two rooms are empty, since M. de
Guiche is now lying wounded at Fontainebleau.”

“I assure you, my dear fellow, I cannot grasp your meaning.”

“Well! if I had the happiness to call myself Saint-Aignan, I should
guess immediately.”

“And what would you do then?”

“I should at once change the rooms I am occupying here, for those which
M. de Guiche is not using yonder.”

“Can you suppose such a thing?” said Saint-Aignan, disdainfully. “What!
abandon the chief post of honor, the proximity to the king, a privilege
conceded only to princes of the blood, to dukes, and peers! Permit me
to tell you, my dear Monsieur de Malicorne, that you must be out of your
senses.”

“Monsieur,” replied the young man, seriously, “you commit two mistakes.
My name is Malicorne, simply; and I am in perfect possession of all my
senses.” Then, drawing a paper from his pocket, he said, “Listen to what
I am going to say; and afterwards, I will show you this paper.”

“I am listening,” said Saint-Aignan.

“You know that Madame looks after La Valliere as carefully as Argus did
after the nymph Io.”

“I do.”

“You know that the king has sought for an opportunity, but uselessly,
of speaking to the prisoner, and that neither you nor myself have yet
succeeded in procuring him this piece of good fortune.”

“You certainly ought to know something about the subject, my poor
Malicorne,” said Saint-Aignan, smiling.

“Very good; what do you suppose would happen to the man whose
imagination devised some means of bringing the lovers together?”

“Oh! the king would set no bounds to his gratitude.”

“Let me ask you, then, M. de Saint-Aignan, whether you would not be
curious to taste a little of this royal gratitude?”

“Certainly,” replied Saint-Aignan, “any favor of my master, as a
recognition of the proper discharge of my duty, would assuredly be most
precious.”

“In that case, look at this paper, monsieur le comte.”

“What is it--a plan?”

“Yes; a plan of M. de Guiche’s two rooms, which, in all probability,
will soon be your two rooms.”

“Oh! no, whatever may happen.”

“Why so?”

“Because my rooms are the envy of too many gentlemen, to whom I
certainly shall not give them up; M. de Roquelaure, for instance, M. de
la Ferte, and M. de Dangeau, would all be anxious to get them.”

“In that case I shall leave you, monsieur le comte, and I shall go and
offer to one of those gentlemen the plan I have just shown you, together
with the advantages annexed to it.”

“But why do you not keep them for yourself?” inquired Saint-Aignan,
suspiciously.

“Because the king would never do me the honor of paying me a visit
openly, whilst he would readily go and see any one of those gentlemen.”

“What! the king would go and see any one of those gentlemen?”

“Go! most certainly he would ten times instead of once. Is it possible
you can ask me if the king would go to an apartment which would bring
him nearer to Mademoiselle de la Valliere?”

“Yes, indeed, delightfully near her, with a floor between them.”

Malicorne unfolded the piece of paper which had been wrapped round the
bobbin. “Monsieur le comte,” he said, “have the goodness to observe that
the flooring of Mademoiselle de la Valliere’s room is merely a wooden
flooring.”

“Well?”

“Well! all you would have to do would be to get hold of a journeyman
carpenter, lock him up in your apartments, without letting him know
where you have taken him to, and let him make a hole in your ceiling,
and consequently in the flooring of Mademoiselle de la Valliere’s room.”

“Good heavens!” exclaimed Saint-Aignan, as if dazzled.

“What is the matter?” said Malicorne.

“Nothing, except that you have hit upon a singular, bold idea,
monsieur.”

“It will seem a very trifling one to the king, I assure you.”

“Lovers never think of the risk they run.”

“What danger do you apprehend, monsieur le comte?”

“Why, effecting such an opening as that will make a terrible noise: it
could be heard all over the palace.”

“Oh! monsieur le comte, I am quite sure that the carpenter I shall
select will not make the slightest noise in the world. He will saw an
opening three feet square, with a saw covered with tow, and no one, not
even those adjoining, will know that he is at work.”

“My dear Monsieur Malicorne, you astound, you positively bewilder me.”

“To continue,” replied Malicorne, quietly, “in the room, the ceiling of
which you will have cut through, you will put up a staircase, which will
either allow Mademoiselle de la Valliere to descend into your room, or
the king to ascend into Mademoiselle de la Valliere’s room.”

“But the staircase will be seen.”

“No; for in your room it will be hidden by a partition, over which
you will throw a tapestry similar to that which covers the rest of the
apartment; and in Mademoiselle de la Valliere’s room it will not be
seen, for the trapdoor, which will be a part of the flooring itself,
will be made to open under the bed.”

“Of course,” said Saint-Aignan, whose eyes began to sparkle with
delight.

“And now, monsieur le comte, there is no occasion to make you admit
that the king will frequently come to the room where such a staircase is
constructed. I think that M. Dangeau, particularly, will be struck by my
idea, and I shall now go and explain to him.”

“But, my dear Monsieur Malicorne, you forget that you spoke to me about
it the first, and that I have consequently the right of priority.”

“Do you wish for the preference?”

“Do I wish it? Of course I do.”

“The fact is, Monsieur de Saint-Aignan, I am presenting you with a
Jacob’s ladder, which is better than the promise of an additional step
in the peerage--perhaps, even with a good estate to accompany your
dukedom.”

“At least,” replied Saint-Aignan, “it will give me an opportunity of
showing the king that he is not mistaken in occasionally calling me his
friend; an opportunity, dear M. Malicorne, for which I am indebted to
you.”

“And which you will not forget to remember?” inquired Malicorne,
smiling.

“Nothing will delight me more, monsieur.”

“But I am not the king’s friend; I am simply his attendant.”

“Yes; and if you imagine that that staircase is as good as a dukedom for
myself, I think there will certainly be letters of nobility at the top
of it for you.”

Malicorne bowed.

“All I have to do now,” said Saint-Aignan, “is to move as soon as
possible.”

“I do not think the king will object to it. Ask his permission,
however.”

“I will go and see him this very moment.”

“And I will run and get the carpenter I was speaking of.”

“When will he be here?”

“This very evening.”

“Do not forget your precautions.”

“He shall be brought with his eyes bandaged.”

“And I will send you one of my carriages.”

“Without arms.”

“And one of my servants without livery. But stay, what will La Valliere
say if she sees what is going on?”

“Oh! I can assure you she will be very much interested in the operation,
and I am equally sure that if the king has not courage enough to ascend
to her room, she will have sufficient curiosity to come down to him.”

“We will live in hope,” said Saint-Aignan; “and now I am off to his
majesty. At what time will the carpenter be here?”

“At eight o’clock.”

“How long do you suppose he will take to make this opening?”

“About a couple of hours; only afterwards he must have sufficient time
to construct what may be called the hyphen between the two rooms. One
night and a portion of the following day will do; we must not reckon
upon less than two days, including putting up the staircase.”

“Two days, that is a very long time.”

“Nay; when one undertakes to open up communications with paradise
itself, we must at least take care that the approaches are respectable.”

“Quite right; so farewell for a short time, dear M. Malicorne. I shall
begin to remove the day after to-morrow, in the evening.”



Chapter XXXIV. The Promenade by Torchlight.

Saint-Aignan, delighted with what he had just heard, and rejoiced at
what the future foreshadowed for him, bent his steps towards De Guiche’s
two rooms. He who, a quarter of an hour previously, would hardly
yield up his own rooms for a million francs, was now ready to expend
a million, if it were necessary, upon the acquisition of the two happy
rooms he coveted so eagerly. But he did not meet with so many obstacles.
M. de Guiche did not yet know where he was to lodge, and, besides,
was still too far ill to trouble himself about his lodgings; and so
Saint-Aignan obtained De Guiche’s two rooms without difficulty. As for
M. Dangeau, he was so immeasurably delighted, that he did not even give
himself the trouble to think whether Saint-Aignan had any particular
reason for removing. Within an hour after Saint-Aignan’s new resolution,
he was in possession of the two rooms; and ten minutes later Malicorne
entered, followed by the upholsterers. During this time, the king asked
for Saint-Aignan; the valet ran to his late apartments and found M.
Dangeau there; Dangeau sent him on to De Guiche’s, and Saint-Aignan was
found there; but a little delay had of course taken place, and the king
had already exhibited once or twice evident signs of impatience, when
Saint-Aignan entered his royal master’s presence, quite out of breath.

“You, too, abandon me, then,” said Louis XIV., in a similar tone
of lamentation to that with which Caesar, eighteen hundred years
previously, had pronounced the _Et tu quoque_.

“Sire, I am far from abandoning you, for, on the contrary, I am busily
occupied in changing my lodgings.”

“What do you mean? I thought you had finished moving three days ago.”

“Yes, sire. But I don’t find myself comfortable where I am, so I am
going to change to the opposite side of the building.”

“Was I not right when I said you were abandoning me?” exclaimed the
king. “Oh! this exceeds all endurance. But so it is: there was only
one woman for whom my heart cared at all, and all my family is leagued
together to tear her from me; and my friend, to whom I confided my
distress, and who helped me to bear up under it, has become wearied
of my complaints and is going to leave me without even asking my
permission.”

Saint-Aignan began to laugh. The king at once guessed there must be some
mystery in this want of respect. “What is it?” cried the king, full of
hope.

“This, sire, that the friend whom the king calumniates is going to try
if he cannot restore to his sovereign the happiness he has lost.”

“Are you going to let me see La Valliere?” said Louis XIV.

“I cannot say so, positively, but I hope so.”

“How--how?--tell me that, Saint-Aignan. I wish to know what your project
is, and to help you with all my power.”

“Sire,” replied Saint-Aignan, “I cannot, even myself, tell very well how
I must set about attaining success; but I have every reason to believe
that from to-morrow--”

“To-morrow, do you say! What happiness! But why are you changing your
rooms?”

“In order to serve your majesty to better advantage.”

“How can your moving serve me?”

“Do you happen to know where the two rooms destined for De Guiche are
situated?”

“Yes.”

“Well, your majesty now knows where I am going.”

“Very likely; but that does not help me.”

“What! is it possible that you do not understand, sire, that above
De Guiche’s lodgings are two rooms, one of which is Mademoiselle
Montalais’s, and the other--”

“La Valliere’s, is it not so, Saint-Aignan? Oh! yes, yes. It is a
brilliant idea, Saint-Aignan, a true friend’s idea, a poet’s idea. By
bringing me nearer her from whom the world seems to unite to separate
me--you are far more than Pylades was for Orestes, or Patroclus for
Achilles.”

“Sire,” said Aignan, with a smile, “I question whether, if your majesty
were to know my projects in their full extent, you would continue to
pronounce such a pompous eulogium upon me. Ah! sire, I know how very
different are the epithets which certain Puritans of the court will
not fail to apply to me when they learn of what I intend to do for your
majesty.”

“Saint-Aignan, I am dying with impatience; I am in a perfect fever; I
shall never be able to wait until to-morrow--to-morrow! why, to-morrow
is an eternity!”

“And yet, sire, I shall require you, if you please, to go out presently
and divert your impatience by a good walk.”

“With you--agreed; we will talk about your projects, we will talk of
her.”

“Nay, sire; I remain here.”

“Whom shall I go out with, then?”

“With the queen and all the ladies of the court.”

“Nothing shall induce me to do that, Saint-Aignan.”

“And yet, sire, you must.”

“_Must?_--no, no--a thousand times no! I will never again expose
myself to the horrible torture of being close to her, of seeing her, of
touching her dress as I pass by her, and yet not be able to say a
word to her. No, I renounce a torture which you suppose will bring me
happiness, but which consumes and eats away my very life; to see her in
the presence of strangers, and not to tell her that I love her, when my
whole being reveals my affection and betrays me to every one; no! I have
sworn never to do it again, and I will keep my oath.”

“Yet, sire, pray listen to me for a moment.”

“I will listen to nothing, Saint-Aignan.”

“In that case, I will continue; it is most urgent, sire--pray understand
me, it is of the greatest importance--that Madame and her maids of honor
should be absent for two hours from the palace.”

“I cannot understand your meaning at all, Saint-Aignan.”

“It is hard for me to give my sovereign directions what to do; but under
the circumstances I do give you directions, sire; and either a hunting
or a promenade party must be got up.”

“But if I were to do what you wish, it would be a caprice, a mere whim.
In displaying such an impatient humor I show my whole court that I have
no control over my own feelings. Do not people already say that I am
dreaming of the conquest of the world, but that I ought previously to
begin by achieving a conquest over myself?”

“Those who say so, sire, are as insolent as they would like to be
thought facetious; but whomever they may be, if your majesty prefers
to listen to them, I have nothing further to say. In such a case,
that which we have fixed to take place to-morrow must be postponed
indefinitely.”

“Nay, Saint-Aignan, I will go out this evening--I will go by torchlight
to Saint-Germain: I will breakfast there to-morrow, and will return to
Paris by three o’clock. Will that do?”

“Admirably.”

“In that case I will set out this evening at eight o’clock.”

“Your majesty has fixed upon the exact minute.”

“And you positively will tell me nothing more?”

“It is because I have nothing more to tell you. Industry counts for
something in this world, sire; but still, chance plays so important
a part in it that I have been accustomed to leave her the sidewalk,
confident that she will manage so as to always take the street.”

“Well, I abandon myself entirely to you.”

“And you are quite right.”

Comforted in this manner, the king went immediately to Madame, to whom
he announced the intended expedition. Madame fancied at the first moment
that she saw in this unexpectedly arranged party a plot of the king’s
to converse with La Valliere, either on the road under cover of the
darkness, or in some other way, but she took especial care not to show
any of her fancies to her brother-in-law, and accepted the invitation
with a smile upon her lips. She gave directions aloud that her maids of
honor should accompany her, secretly intending in the evening to take
the most effectual steps to interfere with his majesty’s attachment.
Then, when she was alone, and at the very moment the poor lover, who
had issued orders for the departure, was reveling in the idea that
Mademoiselle de la Valliere would form one of the party,--luxuriating in
the sad happiness persecuted lovers enjoy of realizing through the
sense of sight alone all the transports of possession,--Madame, who
was surrounded by her maids of honor, was saying:--“Two ladies will
be enough for me this evening, Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente and
Mademoiselle de Montalais.”

La Valliere had anticipated her own omission, and was prepared for it:
but persecution had rendered her courageous, and she did not give Madame
the pleasure of seeing on her face the impression of the shock her heart
received. On the contrary, smiling with that ineffable gentleness which
gave an angelic expression to her features--“In that case, Madame, I
shall be at liberty this evening, I suppose?” she said.

“Of course.”

“I shall be able to employ it, then, in progressing with that piece of
tapestry which your highness has been good enough to notice, and which I
have already had the honor of offering to you.”

And having made a respectful obeisance she withdrew to her own
apartment; Mesdemoiselles de Tonnay-Charente and de Montalais did the
same. The rumor of the intended promenade soon spread all over the
palace; ten minutes afterwards Malicorne learned Madame’s resolution,
and slipped under Montalais’s door a note, in the following terms:

“L. V. must positively pass the night the night with Madame.”

Montalais, in pursuance of the compact she had entered into, began by
burning the letter, and then sat down to reflect. Montalais was a girl
full of expedients, and so she very soon arranged her plan. Towards five
o’clock, which was the hour for her to repair to Madame’s apartment, she
was running across the courtyard, and had reached within a dozen paces
of a group of officers, when she uttered a cry, fell gracefully on
one knee, rose again, with difficulty, and walked on limpingly. The
gentlemen ran forward to her assistance; Montalais had sprained her
foot. Faithful to the discharge of her duty, she insisted, however,
notwithstanding her accident, upon going to Madame’s apartments.

“What is the matter, and why do you limp so?” she inquired; “I mistook
you for La Valliere.”

Montalais related how it had happened, that in hurrying on, in order to
arrive as quickly as possible, she had sprained her foot. Madame seemed
to pity her, and wished to have a surgeon sent for immediately, but
she, assuring her that there was nothing really serious in the accident,
said: “My only regret, Madame, is, that it will preclude my attendance
on you, and I should have begged Mademoiselle de la Valliere to take my
place with your royal highness, but--” seeing that Madame frowned, she
added--“I have not done so.”

“Why did you not do so?” inquired Madame.

“Because poor La Valliere seemed so happy to have her liberty for a
whole evening and night too, that I did not feel courageous enough to
ask her to take my place.”

“What, is she so delighted as that?” inquired madame, struck by these
words.

“She is wild with delight; she, who is always so melancholy, was singing
like a bird. Besides, your highness knows how much she detests going out,
and also that her character has a spice of wildness in it.”

“So!” thought Madame, “this extreme delight hardly seems natural to me.”

“She has already made all her preparations for dining in her own room
_tete-a-tete_ with one of her favorite books. And then, as your highness
has six other young ladies who would be delighted to accompany you, I
did not make my proposal to La Valliere.” Madame did not say a word in
reply.

“Have I acted properly?” continued Montalais, with a slight fluttering
of the heart, seeing the little success that seemed to attend the _ruse
de guerre_ which she had relied upon with so much confidence that she
had not thought it even necessary to try and find another. “Does Madame
approve of what I have done?” she continued.

Madame was reflecting that the king could very easily leave
Saint-Germain during the night, and that, as it was only four leagues
and a half from Paris to Saint-Germain, he might readily be in Paris
in an hour’s time. “Tell me,” she said, “whether La Valliere, when she
heard of your accident, offered at least to bear you company?”

“Oh! she does not yet know of my accident; but even did she know of it,
I most certainly should not ask her to do anything that might interfere
with her own plans. I think she wishes this evening to realize quietly
by herself that amusement of the late king, when he said to M. de
Cinq-Mars, ‘Let us amuse ourselves by doing nothing, and making
ourselves miserable.’”

Madame felt convinced that some mysterious love adventure lurked behind
this strong desire for solitude. The secret _might_ be Louis’s return
during the night; it could not be doubted any longer La Valliere had
been informed of his intended return, and that was the reason for her
delight at having to remain behind at the Palais Royal. It was a plan
settled and arranged beforehand.

“I will not be their dupe though,” said Madame, and she took a decisive
step. “Mademoiselle de Montalais,” she said, “will you have the
goodness to inform your friend, Mademoiselle de la Valliere, that I
am exceedingly sorry to disarrange her projects of solitude, but that
instead of becoming _ennuyee_ by remaining behind alone as she wished,
she will be good enough to accompany us to Saint-Germain and get
_ennuyee_ there.”

“Ah! poor La Valliere,” said Montalais, compassionately, but with her
heart throbbing with delight; “oh, Madame, could there not be some
means--”

“Enough,” said Madame; “I desire it. I prefer Mademoiselle la Baume le
Blanc’s society to that of any one else. Go, and send her to me, and
take care of your foot.”

Montalais did not wait for the order to be repeated; she returned to her
room, almost forgetting to feign lameness, wrote an answer to Malicorne,
and slipped it under the carpet. The answer simply said: “She shall.” A
Spartan could not have written more laconically.

“By this means,” thought Madame, “I will look narrowly after all on the
road; she shall sleep near me during the night, and his majesty must
be very clever if he can exchange a single word with Mademoiselle de la
Valliere.”

La Valliere received the order to set off with the same indifferent
gentleness with which she had received the order to play Cinderella.
But, inwardly, her delight was extreme, and she looked upon this change
in the princess’s resolution as a consolation which Providence had sent
her. With less penetration than Madame possessed, she attributed all
to chance. While every one, with the exception of those in disgrace,
of those who were ill, and those who were suffering from sprains, were
being driven towards Saint-Germain, Malicorne smuggled his workman into
the palace in one of M. de Saint-Aignan’s carriages, and led him into
the room corresponding to La Valliere’s. The man set to work with a
will, tempted by the splendid reward which had been promised him. As the
very best tools and implements had been selected from the reserve stock
belonging to the engineers attached to the king’s household--and among
others, a saw with teeth so sharp and well tempered that it was able,
under water even, to cut through oaken joists as hard as iron--the work
in question advanced very rapidly, and a square portion of the ceiling,
taken from between two of the joists, fell into the arms of the
delighted Saint-Aignan, Malicorne, the workman, and a confidential
valet, the latter being one brought into the world to see and hear
everything, but to repeat nothing. In accordance with a new plan
indicated by Malicorne, the opening was effected in an angle of the
room--and for this reason. As there was no dressing-closet adjoining La
Valliere’s room, she had solicited, and had that very morning obtained,
a large screen intended to serve as a partition. The screen that had
been allotted her was perfectly sufficient to conceal the opening, which
would, besides, be hidden by all the artifices skilled cabinet-makers
would have at their command. The opening having been made, the workman
glided between the joists, and found himself in La Valliere’s room. When
there, he cut a square opening in the flooring, and out of the boards he
manufactured a trap so accurately fitting into the opening that the most
practised eye could hardly detect the necessary interstices made by its
lines of juncture with the floor. Malicorne had provided for everything:
a ring and a couple of hinges which had been bought for the purpose,
were affixed to the trap-door; and a small circular stair-case, packed
in sections, had been bought ready made by the industrious Malicorne,
who had paid two thousand francs for it. It was higher than what was
required, but the carpenter reduced the number of steps, and it
was found to suit exactly. This staircase, destined to receive so
illustrious a burden, was merely fastened to the wall by a couple of
iron clamps, and its base was fixed into the floor of the comte’s room
by two iron pegs screwed down tightly, so that the king, and all his
cabinet councilors too, might pass up and down the staircase without any
fear. Every blow of the hammer fell upon a thick pad or cushion, and
the saw was not used until the handle had been wrapped in wool, and the
blade steeped in oil. The noisiest part of the work, moreover, had taken
place during the night and early in the morning, that is to say, when
La Valliere and Madame were both absent. When, about two o’clock in the
afternoon, the court returned to the Palais Royal, La Valliere went up
into her own room. Everything was in its proper place--not the smallest
particle of sawdust, not the smallest chip, was left to bear witness to
the violation of her domicile. Saint-Aignan, however, wishing to do his
utmost in forwarding the work, had torn his fingers and his shirt
too, and had expended no ordinary amount of perspiration in the king’s
service. The palms of his hands were covered with blisters, occasioned
by his having held the ladder for Malicorne. He had, moreover, brought
up, one by one, the seven pieces of the staircase, each consisting of
two steps. In fact, we can safely assert that, if the king had seen him
so ardently at work, his majesty would have sworn an eternal gratitude
towards his faithful attendant. As Malicorne anticipated, the workman
had completely finished the job in twenty-four hours; he received
twenty-four louis, and left, overwhelmed with delight, for he had gained
in one day as much as six months’ hard work would have procured him.
No one had the slightest suspicion of what had taken place in the room
under Mademoiselle de la Valliere’s apartment. But in the evening of the
second day, at the very moment La Valliere had just left Madame’s circle
and returned to her own room, she heard a slight creaking sound in one
corner. Astonished, she looked to see whence it proceeded, and the noise
began again. “Who is there?” she said, in a tone of alarm.

“It is I, Louise,” replied the well-known voice of the king.

“You! you!” cried the young girl, who for a moment fancied herself under
the influence of a dream. “But where? You, sire?”

“Here,” replied the king, opening one of the folds of the screen, and
appearing like a ghost at the end of the room.

La Valliere uttered a loud cry, and fell trembling into an armchair, as
the king advanced respectfully towards her.



Chapter XXXV. The Apparition.

La Valliere very soon recovered from her surprise, for, owing to his
respectful bearing, the king inspired her with more confidence by his
presence than his sudden appearance had deprived her of. But, as he
noticed that which made La Valliere most uneasy was the means by which
he had effected an entrance into her room, he explained to her the
system of the staircase concealed by the screen, and strongly disavowed
the notion of his being a supernatural appearance.

“Oh, sire!” said La Valliere, shaking her fair head with a most engaging
smile, “present or absent, you do not appear to my mind more at one time
than at another.”

“Which means, Louise--”

“Oh, what you know so well, sire; that there is not one moment in which
the poor girl whose secret you surprised at Fontainebleau, and whom
you came to snatch from the foot of the cross itself, does not think of
you.”

“Louise, you overwhelm me with joy and happiness.”

La Valliere smiled mournfully, and continued: “But, sire, have you
reflected that your ingenious invention could not be of the slightest
service to us?”

“Why so? Tell me,--I am waiting most anxiously.”

“Because this room may be subject to being searched at any moment of
the day. Madame herself may, at any time, come here accidentally; my
companions run in at any moment they please. To fasten the door on the
inside, is to denounce myself as plainly as if I had written above, ‘No
admittance,--the king is within!’ Even now, sire, at this very moment,
there is nothing to prevent the door opening, and your majesty being
seen here.”

“In that case,” said the king, laughingly, “I should indeed be taken for
a phantom, for no one can tell in what way I came here. Besides, it is
only spirits that can pass through brick walls, or floors and ceilings.”

“Oh, sire, reflect for a moment how terrible the scandal would be!
Nothing equal to it could ever have been previously said about the
maids of honor, poor creatures! whom evil report, however, hardly ever
spares.”

“And your conclusion from all this, my dear Louise,--come, explain
yourself.”

“Alas! it is a hard thing to say--but your majesty must suppress
staircase plots, surprises and all; for the evil consequences which
would result from your being found here would be far greater than our
happiness in seeing each other.”

“Well, Louise,” replied the king, tenderly, “instead of removing this
staircase by which I have ascended, there is a far more simple means, of
which you have not thought.”

“A means--another means!”

“Yes, another. Oh, you do not love me as I love you, Louise, since my
invention is quicker than yours.”

She looked at the king, who held out his hand to her, which she took and
gently pressed between her own.

“You were saying,” continued the king, “that I shall be detected coming
here, where any one who pleases can enter.”

“Stay, sire; at this very moment, even while you are speaking about it,
I tremble with dread of your being discovered.”

“But you would not be found out, Louise, if you were to descend the
staircase which leads to the room underneath.”

“Oh, sire! what do you say?” cried Louise, in alarm.

“You do not quite understand me, Louise, since you get offended at
my very first word; first of all, do you know to whom the apartments
underneath belong?”

“To M. de Guiche, sire, I believe.”

“Not at all; they are M. de Saint-Aignan’s.”

“Are you sure?” cried La Valliere; and this exclamation which escaped
from the young girl’s joyous heart made the king’s heart throb with
delight.

“Yes, to Saint-Aignan, _our friend_,” he said.

“But, sire,” returned La Valliere, “I cannot visit M. de
Saint-Aignan’s rooms any more than I could M. de Guiche’s. It is
impossible--impossible.”

“And yet, Louise, I should have thought that, under the safe-conduct of
the king, you would venture anything.”

“Under the safe-conduct of the king,” she said, with a look full of
tenderness.

“You have faith in my word, I hope, Louise?”

“Yes, sire, when you are not present; but when you are present,--when
you speak to me,--when I look upon you, I have faith in nothing.”

“What can possibly be done to reassure you?”

“It is scarcely respectful, I know, to doubt the king, but--for me--you
are _not_ the king.”

“Thank Heaven!--I, at least, hope so most devoutly; you see how
anxiously I am trying to find or invent a means of removing all
difficulty. Stay; would the presence of a third person reassure you?”

“The presence of M. de Saint-Aignan would, certainly.”

“Really, Louise, you wound me by your suspicions.”

Louise did not answer, she merely looked steadfastly at him with that
clear, piercing gaze which penetrates the very heart, and said softly to
herself, “Alas! alas! it is not you of whom I am afraid,--it is not you
upon whom my doubts would fall.”

“Well,” said the king, sighing, “I agree; and M. de Saint-Aignan, who
enjoys the inestimable privilege of reassuring you, shall always be
present at our interviews, I promise you.”

“You promise that, sire?”

“Upon my honor as a gentleman; and you, on your side--”

“Oh, wait, sire, that is not all yet; for such conversations ought, at
least, to have a reasonable motive of some kind for M. de Saint-Aignan.”

“Dear Louise, every shade of delicacy of feeling is yours, and my only
study is to equal you on that point. It shall be just as you wish:
therefore our conversations shall have a reasonable motive, and I have
already hit upon one; so that from to-morrow, if you like--”

“To-morrow?”

“Do you meant that that is not soon enough?” exclaimed the king,
caressing La Valliere’s hand between his own.

At this moment the sound of steps was heard in the corridor.

“Sire! sire!” cried La Valliere, “some one is coming; do you hear? Oh,
fly! fly! I implore you.”

The king made but one bound from the chair where he was sitting to his
hiding-place behind the screen. He had barely time; for as he drew
one of the folds before him, the handle of the door was turned, and
Montalais appeared at the threshold. As a matter of course she entered
quite naturally, and without any ceremony, for she knew perfectly
well that to knock at the door beforehand would be showing a suspicion
towards La Valliere which would be displeasing to her. She accordingly
entered, and after a rapid glance round the room, in the brief course of
which she observed two chairs very close to each other, she was so long
in shutting the door, which seemed to be difficult to close, one can
hardly tell how or why, that the king had ample time to raise the
trap-door, and to descend again to Saint-Aignan’s room.

“Louise,” she said to her, “I want to talk to you, and seriously, too.”

“Good heavens! my dear Aure, what is the matter now?”

“The matter is, that Madame suspects _everything_.”

“Explain yourself.”

“Is there any occasion for us to enter into explanations, and do you not
understand what I mean? Come, you must have noticed the fluctuations in
Madame’s humor during several days past; you must have noticed how she
first kept you close beside her, then dismissed you, and then sent for
you again.”

“Yes, I have noticed it, of course.”

“Well, it seems Madame has now succeeded in obtaining sufficient
information, for she has now gone straight to the point, as there is
nothing further left in France to withstand the torrent which sweeps
away all obstacles before it; you know what I mean by the torrent?”

La Valliere hid her face in her hands.

“I mean,” continued Montalais, pitilessly, “that torrent which burst
through the gates of the Carmelites of Chaillot, and overthrew all the
prejudices of the court, as well at Fontainebleau as at Paris.”

“Alas! alas!” murmured La Valliere, her face still covered by her hands,
and her tears streaming through her fingers.

“Oh, don’t distress yourself in that manner, or you have only heard half
of your troubles.”

“In Heaven’s name,” exclaimed the young girl, in great anxiety, “what is
the matter?”

“Well, then, this is how the matter stands: Madame, who can no longer
rely upon any further assistance in France; for she has, one after the
other, made use of the two queens, of Monsieur, and the whole court,
too, now bethinks herself of a certain person who has certain pretended
rights over you.”

La Valliere became as white as a marble statue.

“This person,” continued Madame, “is not in Paris at this moment; but,
if I am not mistaken, is, just now, in England.”

“Yes, yes,” breathed La Valliere, almost overwhelmed with terror.

“And is to be found, I think, at the court of Charles II.; am I right?”

“Yes.”

“Well, this evening a letter has been dispatched by Madame to Saint
James’s, with directions for the courier to go straight to Hampton
Court, which I believe is one of the royal residences, situated about a
dozen miles from London.”

“Yes, well?”

“Well; as Madame writes regularly to London once a fortnight, and as the
ordinary courier left for London not more than three days ago, I have
been thinking that some serious circumstance alone could have induced
her to write again so soon, for you know she is a very indolent
correspondent.”

“Yes.”

“This letter has been written, therefore, something tells me so, at
least, on your account.”

“On my account?” repeated the unhappy girl, mechanically.

“And I, who saw the letter lying on Madame’s desk before she sealed it,
fancied I could read--”

“What did you fancy you could read?”

“I might possibly have been mistaken, though--”

“Tell me,--what was it?”

“The name of Bragelonne.”

La Valliere rose hurriedly from her chair, a prey to the most painful
agitation. “Montalais,” she said, her voice broken by sobs, “all my
smiling dreams of youth and innocence have fled already. I have nothing
now to conceal, either from you or any one else. My life is exposed to
every one’s inspection, and can be opened like a book, in which all
the world can read, from the king himself to the first passer-by. Aure,
dearest Aure, what can I do--what will become of me?”

Montalais approached close to her, and said, “Consult your own heart, of
course.”

“Well; I do not love M. de Bragelonne; when I say I do not love him,
understand that I love him as the most affectionate sister could love
the best of brothers, but that is not what he requires, nor what I
promised him.”

“In fact, you love the king,” said Montalais, “and that is a
sufficiently good excuse.”

“Yes, I do love the king,” hoarsely murmured the young girl, “and I have
paid dearly enough for pronouncing those words. And now, Montalais, tell
me--what can you do either for me, or against me, in my position?”

“You must speak more clearly still.”

“What am I to say, then?”

“And so you have nothing very particular to tell me?”

“No!” said Louise, in astonishment.

“Very good; and so all you have to ask me is my advice respecting M.
Raoul?”

“Nothing else.”

“It is a very delicate subject,” replied Montalais.

“No, it is nothing of the kind. Ought I to marry him in order to keep
the promise I made, or ought I continue to listen to the king?”

“You have really placed me in a very difficult position,” said
Montalais, smiling; “you ask me if you ought to marry Raoul, whose
friend I am, and whom I shall mortally offend in giving my opinion
against him; and then, you ask me if you should cease to listen to the
king, whose subject I am, and whom I should offend if I were to advise
you in a particular way. Ah, Louise, you seem to hold a difficult
position at a very cheap rate.”

“You have not understood me, Aure,” said La Valliere, wounded by the
slightly mocking tone of her companion; “if I were to marry M. de
Bragelonne, I should be far from bestowing on him the happiness he
deserves; but, for the same reason, if I listen to the king he would
become the possessor of one indifferent in very many aspects, I admit,
but one whom his affection confers an appearance of value. What I ask
you, then, is to tell me some means of disengaging myself honorably
either from the one or from the other; or rather, I ask you, from which
side you think I can free myself most honorably.”

“My dear Louise,” replied Montalais, after a pause, “I am not one of the
seven wise men of Greece, and I have no perfectly invariable rules
of conduct to govern me; but, on the other hand, I have a little
experience, and I can assure you that no woman ever asks for advice of
the nature which you have just asked me, without being in a terrible
state of embarrassment. Besides, you have made a solemn promise, which
every principle of honor requires you to fulfil; if, therefore, you are
embarrassed, in consequence of having undertaken such an engagement, it
is not a stranger’s advice (every one is a stranger to a heart full of
love), it is not my advice, I repeat, that can extricate you from your
embarrassment. I shall not give it you, therefore; and for a greater
reason still--because, were I in your place, I should feel much more
embarrassed after the advice than before it. All I can do is, to repeat
what I have already told you; shall I assist you?”

“Yes, yes.”

“Very well; that is all. Tell me in what way you wish me to help
you; tell me for and against whom,--in this way we shall not make any
blunders.”

“But first of all,” said La Valliere, pressing her companion’s hand,
“for whom or against whom do you decide?”

“For you, if you are really and truly my friend.”

“Are you not Madame’s confidant?”

“A greater reason for being of service to you; if I were not to know
what is going on in that direction I should not be of any service
at all, and consequently you would not obtain any advantage from my
acquaintance. Friendships live and thrive upon a system of reciprocal
benefits.”

“The result is, then, that you will remain at the same time Madame’s
friend also?”

“Evidently. Do you complain of that?”

“I hardly know,” sighed La Valliere, thoughtfully, for this cynical
frankness appeared to her an offense both to the woman and the friend.

“All well and good, then,” said Montalais, “for if you did, you would be
very foolish.”

“You wish to serve me, then?”

“Devotedly--if you will serve me in return.”

“One would almost say that you do not know my heart,” said La Valliere,
looking at Montalais with her eyes wide open.

“Why, the fact is, that since we have belonged to the court, my dear
Louise, we are very much changed.”

“In what way?”

“It is very simple. Were you the second queen of France yonder, at
Blois?”

La Valliere hung down her head, and began to weep. Montalais looked
at her in an indefinable manner, and murmured “Poor girl!” and then,
adding, “Poor king!” she kissed Louise on the forehead, and returned to
her apartment, where Malicorne was waiting for her.



Chapter XXXVI. The Portrait.

In that malady which is termed love the paroxysms succeed each other
at intervals, ever accelerating from the moment the disease declares
itself. By and by, the paroxysms are less frequent, in proportion as
the cure approaches. This being laid down as a general axiom, and as the
leading article of a particular chapter, we will now proceed with
our recital. The next day, the day fixed by the king for the first
conversation in Saint-Aignan’s room, La Valliere, on opening one of
the folds of the screen, found upon the floor a letter in the king’s
handwriting. The letter had been passed, through a slit in the floor,
from the lower apartment to her own. No indiscreet hand or curious gaze
could have brought or did bring this single paper. This, too, was one of
Malicorne’s ideas. Having seen how very serviceable Saint-Aignan would
become to the king on account of his apartment, he did not wish that the
courtier should become still more indispensable as a messenger, and so
he had, on his own private account, reserved this last post for himself.
La Valliere most eagerly read the letter, which fixed two o’clock
that same afternoon for the rendezvous, and which indicated the way of
raising the trap-door which was constructed out of the flooring. “Make
yourself look as beautiful as you can,” added the postscript of the
letter, words which astonished the young girl, but at the same time
reassured her.

The hours passed away very slowly, but the time fixed, however, arrived
at last. As punctual as the priestess Hero, Louise lifted up the
trap-door at the last stroke of the hour of two, and found the king on
the steps, waiting for her with the greatest respect, in order to
give her his hand to descend. The delicacy and deference shown in this
attention affected her very powerfully. At the foot of the staircase
the two lovers found the comte, who, with a smile and a low reverence
distinguished by the best taste, expressed his thanks to La Valliere
for the honor she conferred upon him. Then turning towards the king, he
said:

“Sire, our man is here.” La Valliere looked at the king with some
uneasiness.

“Mademoiselle,” said the king, “if I have begged you to do me the honor
of coming down here, it was from an interested motive. I have procured
a most admirable portrait painter, who is celebrated for the fidelity
of his likenesses, and I wish you to be kind enough to authorize him
to paint yours. Besides, if you positively wish it, the portrait shall
remain in your own possession.” La Valliere blushed. “You see,” said
the king to her, “we shall not be three as you wished, but four instead.
And, so long as we are not alone, there can be as many present as you
please.” La Valliere gently pressed her royal lover’s hand.

“Shall we pass into the next room, sire?” said Saint-Aignan, opening the
door to let his guests precede him. The king walked behind La Valliere,
and fixed his eyes lingeringly and passionately upon that neck as white
as snow, upon which her long fair ringlets fell in heavy masses. La
Valliere was dressed in a thick silk robe of pearl gray color, with a
tinge of rose, with jet ornaments, which displayed to greater effect
the dazzling purity of her skin, holding in her slender and transparent
hands a bouquet of heartsease, Bengal roses, and clematis, surrounded
with leaves of the tenderest green, above which uprose, like a tiny
goblet spilling magic influence a Haarlem tulip of gray and violet tints
of a pure and beautiful species, which had cost the gardener five years’
toil of combinations, and the king five thousand francs. Louis had
placed this bouquet in La Valliere’s hand as he saluted her. In the
room, the door of which Saint-Aignan had just opened, a young man was
standing, dressed in a purple velvet jacket, with beautiful black eyes
and long brown hair. It was the painter; his canvas was quite ready, and
his palette prepared for use.

He bowed to La Valliere with the grave curiosity of an artist who
is studying his model, saluted the king discreetly, as if he did not
recognize him, and as he would, consequently, have saluted any other
gentleman. Then, leading Mademoiselle de la Valliere to the seat he had
arranged for her, he begged her to sit down.

The young girl assumed an attitude graceful and unrestrained, her hands
occupied and her limbs reclining on cushions; and in order that her gaze
might not assume a vague or affected expression, the painter begged
her to choose some kind of occupation, so as to engage her attention;
whereupon Louis XIV., smiling, sat down on the cushions at La Valliere’s
feet; so that she, in the reclining posture she had assumed, leaning
back in the armchair, holding her flowers in her hand, and he, with his
eyes raised towards her and fixed devouringly on her face--they, both
together, formed so charming a group, that the artist contemplated
painting it with professional delight, while on his side, Saint-Aignan
regarded them with feelings of envy. The painter sketched rapidly; and
very soon, beneath the earliest touches of the brush, there started into
life, out of the gray background, the gentle, poetry-breathing face,
with its soft calm eyes and delicately tinted cheeks, enframed in the
masses of hair which fell about her neck. The lovers, however, spoke
but little, and looked at each other a great deal; sometimes their eyes
became so languishing in their gaze, that the painter was obliged to
interrupt his work in order to avoid representing an Erycina instead
of La Valliere. It was on such occasions that Saint-Aignan came to the
rescue, and recited verses, or repeated one of those little tales such
as Patru related, and Tallemant des Reaux wrote so cleverly. Or, it
might be that La Valliere was fatigued, and the sitting was, therefore,
suspended for awhile; and, immediately, a tray of precious porcelain
laden with the most beautiful fruits which could be obtained, and rich
wines distilling their bright colors in silver goblets, beautifully
chased, served as accessories to the picture of which the painter could
but retrace the most ephemeral resemblance.

Louis was intoxicated with love, La Valliere with happiness,
Saint-Aignan with ambition, and the painter was storing up recollections
for his old age. Two hours passed away in this manner, and four o’clock
having struck, La Valliere rose, and made a sign to the king. Louis also
rose, approached the picture, and addressed a few flattering remarks
to the painter. Saint-Aignan also praised the picture, which, as he
pretended, was already beginning to assume an accurate resemblance. La
Valliere in her turn, blushingly thanked the painter and passed into the
next room, where the king followed her, after having previously summoned
Saint-Aignan.

“Will you not come to-morrow?” he said to La Valliere.

“Oh! sire, pray think that some one will be sure to come to my room, and
will not find me there.”

“Well?”

“What will become of me in that case?”

“You are very apprehensive, Louise.”

“But at all events, suppose Madame were to send for me?”

“Oh!” replied the king, “will the day never come when you yourself will
tell me to brave everything so that I may not have to leave you again?”

“On that day, sire, I shall be quite out of my mind, and you must not
believe me.”

“To-morrow, Louise.”

La Valliere sighed, but, without the courage to oppose her royal lover’s
wish, she repeated, “To-morrow, then, since you desire it, sire,” and
with these words she ran lightly up the stairs, and disappeared from her
lover’s gaze.

“Well, sire?” inquired Saint-Aignan, when she had left.

“Well, Saint-Aignan, yesterday I thought myself the happiest of men.”

“And does your majesty, then, regard yourself to-day,” said the comte,
smiling, “as the unhappiest of men?”

“No; but my love for her is an unquenchable thirst; in vain do I drink,
in vain do I swallow the drops of water which your industry procures for
me; the more I drink, the more unquenchable it becomes.”

“Sire, that is in some degree your own fault, and your majesty alone has
made the position such as it is.”

“You are right.”

“In that case, therefore, the means to be happy, is to fancy yourself
satisfied, and to wait.”

“Wait! you know that word, then?”

“There, there, sire--do not despair: I have already been at work on your
behalf--I have still other resources in store.” The king shook his head
in a despairing manner.

“What, sire! have you not been satisfied hitherto?”

“Oh! yes, indeed, yes, my dear Saint-Aignan; but invent, for Heaven’s
sake, invent some further project yet.”

“Sire, I undertake to do my best, and that is all that any one can do.”

The king wished to see the portrait again, as he was unable to see the
original. He pointed out several alterations to the painter and left the
room, and then Saint-Aignan dismissed the artist. The easel, paints, and
painter himself, had scarcely gone, when Malicorne showed his head in
the doorway. He was received by Saint-Aignan with open arms, but still
with a little sadness, for the cloud which had passed across the royal
sun, veiled, in its turn, the faithful satellite, and Malicorne at a
glance perceived the melancholy that brooded on Saint-Aignan’s face.

“Oh, monsieur le comte,” he said, “how sad you seem!”

“And good reason too, my dear Monsieur Malicorne. Will you believe that
the king is still dissatisfied?”

“With his staircase, do you mean?”

“Oh, no; on the contrary, he is delighted with the staircase.”

“The decorations of the apartments, I suppose, don’t please him.”

“Oh! he has not even thought of that. No, indeed, it seems that what has
dissatisfied the king--”

“I will tell you, monsieur le comte,--he is dissatisfied at finding
himself the fourth person at a rendezvous of this kind. How is it
possible you could not have guessed that?”

“Why, how is it likely I could have done so, dear M. Malicorne, when I
followed the king’s instructions to the very letter?”

“Did his majesty really insist on your being present?”

“Positively.”

“And also required that the painter, whom I met downstairs just now,
should be here, too?”

“He insisted upon it.”

“In that case, I can easily understand why his majesty is dissatisfied.”

“What! dissatisfied that I have so punctually and so literally obeyed
his orders? I don’t understand you.”

Malicorne began to scratch his ear, as he asked, “What time did the king
fix for the rendezvous in your apartments?”

“Two o’clock.”

“And you were waiting for the king?”

“Ever since half-past one; it would have been a fine thing, indeed, to
have been unpunctual with his majesty.”

Malicorne, notwithstanding his respect for Saint-Aignan, could not help
smiling. “And the painter,” he said, “did the king wish him to be here
at two o’clock, also?”

“No; but I had him waiting here from midday. Far better, you know, for
a painter to be kept waiting a couple of hours than the king a single
minute.”

Malicorne began to laugh aloud. “Come, dear Monsieur Malicorne,” said
Saint-Aignan, “laugh less at me, and speak a little more freely, I beg.”

“Well, then, monsieur le comte, if you wish the king to be a little more
satisfied the next time he comes--”

“‘_Ventre saint-gris!_’ as his grandfather used to say; of course I wish
it.”

“Well, all you have to do is, when the king comes to-morrow, to be
obliged to go away on a most pressing matter of business, which cannot
possibly be postponed, and stay away for twenty minutes.”

“What! leave the king alone for twenty minutes?” cried Saint-Aignan, in
alarm.

“Very well, do as you like; don’t pay any attention to what I say,” said
Malicorne, moving towards the door.

“Nay, nay, dear Monsieur Malicorne; on the contrary, go on--I begin to
understand you. But the painter--”

“Oh! the painter must be half an hour late.”

“Half an hour--do you really think so?”

“Yes, I do, decidedly.”

“Very well, then, I will do as you tell me.”

“And my opinion is, that you will be doing perfectly right. Will you
allow me to call upon you for the latest news to-morrow?”

“Of course.”

“I have the honor to be your most respectful servant, M. de
Saint-Aignan,” said Malicorne, bowing profoundly and retiring from the
room backwards.

“There is no doubt that fellow has more invention than I have,” said
Saint-Aignan, as if compelled by his conviction to admit it.



Chapter XXXVII. Hampton Court.

The revelation we have witnessed, that Montalais made to La Valliere,
in a preceding chapter, very naturally makes us return to the principal
hero of this tale, a poor wandering knight, roving about at the king’s
caprice. If our readers will be good enough to follow us, we will, in
his company, cross that strait, more stormy than the Euripus, which
separates Calais from Dover; we will speed across that green and fertile
country, with its numerous little streams; through Maidstone, and many
other villages and towns, each prettier than the other; and, finally,
arrive at London. From thence, like bloodhounds following a track, after
having ascertained that Raoul had made his first stay at Whitehall,
his second at St. James’s, and having learned that he had been warmly
received by Monk, and introduced to the best society of Charles II.’s
court, we will follow him to one of Charles II.’s summer residences near
the lively little village of Kingston, at Hampton Court, situated on the
Thames. The river is not, at that spot, the boastful highway which bears
upon its broad bosom its thousands of travelers; nor are its waters
black and troubled as those of Cocytus, as it boastfully asserts, “I,
too, am cousin of the old ocean.” No, at Hampton Court it is a soft
and murmuring stream, with moss-fringed banks, reflecting, in its broad
mirror, the willows and beeches which ornament its sides, and on which
may occasionally be seen a light bark indolently reclining among the
tall reeds, in a little creek formed of alders and forget-me-nots. The
surrounding country on all sides smiled in happiness and wealth; the
brick cottages from whose chimneys the blue smoke was slowly ascending
in wreaths, peeped forth from the belts of green holly which environed
them; children dressed in red frocks appeared and disappeared amidst
the high grass, like poppies bowed by the gentler breath of the passing
breeze. The sheep, ruminating with half-closed eyes, lay lazily about
under the shadow of the stunted aspens, while, far and near, the
kingfishers, plumed with emerald and gold, skimmed swiftly along the
surface of the water, like a magic ball heedlessly touching, as he
passed, the line of his brother angler, who sat watching in his boat
the fish as they rose to the surface of the sparkling stream. High above
this paradise of dark shadows and soft light, rose the palace of Hampton
Court, built by Wolsey--a residence the haughty cardinal had been
obliged, timid courtier that he was, to offer to his master, Henry
VIII., who had glowered with envy and cupidity at the magnificent
new home. Hampton Court, with its brick walls, its large windows, its
handsome iron gates, as well as its curious bell turrets, its retired
covered walks, and interior fountains, like those of the Alhambra, was
a perfect bower of roses, jasmine, and clematis. Every sense, sight and
smell particularly, was gratified, and the reception-rooms formed a very
charming framework for the pictures of love which Charles II. unrolled
among the voluptuous paintings of Titian, of Pordenone and of Van Dyck;
the same Charles whose father’s portrait--the martyr king--was hanging
in his gallery, and who could show upon the wainscots of the various
apartments the holes made by the balls of the puritanical followers of
Cromwell, when on the 24th of August, 1648, at the time they had brought
Charles I. prisoner to Hampton Court. There it was that the king,
intoxicated with pleasure and adventure, held his court--he, who, a poet
in feeling, thought himself justified in redeeming, by a whole day of
voluptuousness, every minute which had been formerly passed in anguish
and misery. It was not the soft green sward of Hampton Court--so soft
that it almost resembled the richest velvet in the thickness of its
texture--nor was it the beds of flowers, with their variegated hues
which encircled the foot of every tree with rose-trees many feet in
height, embracing most lovingly their trunks--nor even the enormous
lime-trees, whose branches swept the earth like willows, offering a
ready concealment for love or reflection beneath the shade of their
foliage--it was none of these things for which Charles II. loved his
palace of Hampton Court. Perhaps it might have been that beautiful sheet
of water, which the cool breeze rippled like the wavy undulations of
Cleopatra’s hair, waters bedecked with cresses and white water-lilies,
whose chaste bulbs coyly unfolding themselves beneath the sun’s warm
rays, reveal the golden gems which lie concealed within their milky
petals--murmuring waters, on the bosom of which black swans majestically
floated, and the graceful water-fowl, with their tender broods covered
with silken down, darted restlessly in every direction, in pursuit
of the insects among the reeds, or the fogs in their mossy retreats.
Perhaps it might have been the enormous hollies, with their dark and
tender green foliage; or the bridges uniting the banks of the canals in
their embrace; or the fawns browsing in the endless avenues of the park;
or the innumerable birds that hopped about the gardens, or flew from
branch to branch, amidst the emerald foliage.

It might well have been any of these charms--for Hampton Court had them
all; and possessed, too, almost forests of white roses, which climbed
and trailed along the lofty trellises, showering down upon the ground
their snowy leaves rich with soft perfumery. But no, what Charles II.
most loved in Hampton Court were the charming figures who, when midday
was past, flitted to and fro along the broad terraces of the gardens;
like Louis XIV., he had their wealth of beauties painted for his gallery
by one of the great artists of the period--an artist who well knew the
secret of transferring to canvas the rays of light which escaped from
beaming eyes heavy laden with love and love’s delights.

The day of our arrival at Hampton Court is almost as clear and bright
as a summer’s day in France; the atmosphere is heavy with the delicious
perfume of geraniums, sweet-peas, seringas, and heliotrope scattered in
profusion around. It is past midday, and the king, having dined after
his return from hunting, paid a visit to Lady Castlemaine, the lady who
was reputed at the time to hold his heart in bondage; and this proof
of his devotion discharged, he was readily permitted to pursue his
infidelities until evening arrived. Love and amusement ruled the entire
court; it was the period when ladies would seriously interrogate
their ruder companions as to their opinions upon a foot more or
less captivating, according to whether it wore a pink or lilac silk
stocking--for it was the period when Charles II. had declared that there
was no hope of safety for a woman who wore green silk stockings, because
Miss Lucy Stewart wore them of that color. While the king is endeavoring
in all directions to inculcate others with his preferences on this
point, we will ourselves bend our steps towards an avenue of beech-trees
opposite the terrace, and listen to the conversation of a young girl in
a dark-colored dress, who is walking with another of about her own age
dressed in blue. They crossed a beautiful lawn, from the center of which
sprang a fountain, with the figure of a siren executed in bronze, and
strolled on, talking as they went, towards the terrace, along which,
looking out upon the park and interspersed at frequent intervals, were
erected summer-houses, diverse in form and ornament; these summer-houses
were nearly all occupied; the two young women passed on, the one
blushing deeply, while the other seemed dreamily silent. At last, having
reached the end of the terrace which looks on the river, and finding
there a cool retreat, they sat down close to each other.

“Where are we going?” said the younger to her companion.

“My dear, we are going where you yourself led the way.”

“I?”

“Yes, you; to the extremity of the palace, towards that seat yonder,
where the young Frenchman is seated, wasting his time in sighs and
lamentations.”

Miss Mary Grafton hurriedly said, “No, no; I am not going there.”

“Why not?”

“Let us go back, Lucy.”

“Nay, on the contrary, let us go on, and have an explanation.”

“What about?”

“About how it happens that the Vicomte de Bragelonne always accompanies
you in all your walks, as you invariably accompany him in his.”

“And you conclude either that he loves me, or that I love him?”

“Why not?--he is a most agreeable and charming companion.--No one hears
me, I hope,” said Lucy Stewart, as she turned round with a smile, which
indicated, moreover, that her uneasiness on the subject was not extreme.

“No, no,” said Mary, “the king is engaged in his summer-house with the
Duke of Buckingham.”

“Oh! _a propos_ of the duke, Mary, it seems he has shown you great
attention since his return from France; how is your own heart in that
direction?”

Mary Grafton shrugged her shoulders with seeming indifference.

“Well, well, I will ask Bragelonne about it,” said Stewart, laughing;
“let us go and find him at once.”

“What for?”

“I wish to speak to him.”

“Not yet, one word before you do: come, come, you who know so many of
the king’s secrets, tell me why M. de Bragelonne is in England?”

“Because he was sent as an envoy from one sovereign to another.”

“That may be; but, seriously, although politics do not much concern us,
we know enough to be satisfied that M. de Bragelonne has no mission of
serious import here.”

“Well, then, listen,” said Stewart, with assumed gravity, “for your sake
I am going to betray a state secret. Shall I tell you the nature of the
letter which King Louis XIV. gave M. de Bragelonne for King Charles II.?
I will; these are the very words: ‘My brother, the bearer of this is a
gentleman attached to my court, and the son of one whom you regard most
warmly. Treat him kindly, I beg, and try and make him like England.’”

“Did it say that!”

“Word for word--or something very like it. I will not answer for the
form, but the substance I am sure of.”

“Well, and what conclusion do you, or rather what conclusion does the
king, draw from that?”

“That the king of France has his own reasons for removing M. de
Bragelonne, and for getting him married anywhere else than in France.”

“So that, then, in consequence of this letter--”

“King Charles received M. de Bragelonne, as you are aware, in the
most distinguished and friendly manner; the handsomest apartments in
Whitehall were allotted to him; and as you are the most valuable
and precious person in his court, inasmuch as you have rejected his
heart,--nay, do not blush,--he wished you to take a fancy to this
Frenchman, and he was desirous to confer upon him so costly a prize.
And this is the reason why you, the heiress of three hundred thousand
pounds, a future duchess, so beautiful, so good, have been thrown in
Bragelonne’s way, in all the promenades and parties of pleasure to which
he was invited. In fact it was a plot,--a kind of conspiracy.”

Mary Grafton smiled with that charming expression which was habitual to
her, and pressing her companion’s arm, said: “Thank the king, Lucy.”

“Yes, yes, but the Duke of Buckingham is jealous, so take care.”

Hardly had she pronounced these words, when the duke appeared from one
of the pavilions on the terrace, and, approaching the two girls, with
a smile, said, “You are mistaken, Miss Lucy; I am not jealous; and the
proof, Miss Mary, is yonder, in the person of M. de Bragelonne himself,
who ought to be the cause of my jealousy, but who is dreaming in pensive
solitude. Poor fellow! Allow me to leave you for a few minutes, while I
avail myself of those few minutes to converse with Miss Lucy Stewart, to
whom I have something to say.” And then, bowing to Lucy, he added, “Will
you do me the honor to accept my hand, in order that I may lead you to
the king, who is waiting for us?” With these words, Buckingham, still
smiling, took Miss Stewart’s hand, and led her away. When by herself,
Mary Grafton, her head gently inclined towards her shoulder, with that
indolent gracefulness of action which distinguishes young English girls,
remained for a moment with her eyes fixed on Raoul, but as if uncertain
what to do. At last, after first blushing violently, and then turning
deadly pale, thus revealing the internal combat which assailed her
heart, she seemed to make up her mind to adopt a decided course, and
with a tolerably firm step, advanced towards the seat on which Raoul
was reclining, buried in the profoundest meditation, as we have already
said. The sound of Miss Mary’s steps, though they could hardly be heard
upon the green sward, awakened Raoul from his musing attitude; he
turned round, perceived the young girl, and walked forward to meet the
companion whom his happy destiny had thrown in his way.

“I have been sent to you, monsieur,” said Mary Grafton; “will you take
care of me?”

“To whom is my gratitude due, for so great a happiness?” inquired Raoul.

“To the Duke of Buckingham,” replied Mary, affecting a gayety she did
not really feel.

“To the Duke of Buckingham, do you say?--he who so passionately
seeks your charming society! Am I really to believe you are serious,
mademoiselle?”

“The fact is, monsieur, you perceive, that everything seems to conspire
to make us pass the best, or rather the longest, part of our days
together. Yesterday it was the king who desired me to beg you to seat
yourself next to me at dinner; to-day, it is the Duke of Buckingham who
begs me to come and place myself near you on this seat.”

“And he has gone away in order to leave us together?” asked Raoul, with
some embarrassment.

“Look yonder, at the turning of that path; he is just out of sight, with
Miss Stewart. Are these polite attentions usual in France, monsieur le
vicomte?”

“I cannot very precisely say what people do in France, mademoiselle, for
I can hardly be called a Frenchman. I have resided in many countries,
and almost always as a soldier; and then, I have spent a long period of
my life in the country. I am almost a savage.”

“You do not like your residence in England, I fear.”

“I scarcely know,” said Raoul, inattentively, and sighing deeply at the
same time.

“What! you do not know?”

“Forgive me,” said Raoul, shaking his head, and collecting his thoughts,
“I did not hear you.”

“Oh!” said the young girl, sighing in her turn, “how wrong the duke was
to send me here!”

“Wrong!” said Raoul, “perhaps so; for I am but a rude, uncouth
companion, and my society annoys you. The duke did, indeed, very wrong
to send you.”

“It is precisely,” replied Mary Grafton, in a clear, calm voice,
“because your society does not annoy me, that the duke was wrong to send
me to you.”

It was now Raoul’s turn to blush. “But,” he resumed, “how happens it
that the Duke of Buckingham should send you to me; and why did you come?
the duke loves you, and you love him.”

“No,” replied Mary, seriously, “the duke does not love me, because he
is in love with the Duchesse d’Orleans; and, as for myself, I have no
affection for the duke.”

Raoul looked at the young lady with astonishment.

“Are you a friend of the Duke of Buckingham?” she inquired.

“The duke has honored me by calling me so ever since we met in France.”

“You are simple acquaintances, then?”

“No; for the duke is the most intimate friend of one whom I regard as a
brother.”

“The Duc de Guiche?”

“Yes.”

“He who is in love with Madame la Duchesse d’Orleans?”

“Oh! What is that you are saying?”

“And who loves him in return,” continued the young girl, quietly.

Raoul bent down his head, and Mary Grafton, sighing deeply, continued,
“They are very happy. But, leave me, Monsieur de Bragelonne, for the
Duke of Buckingham has given you a very troublesome commission in
offering me as a companion for your promenade. Your heart is elsewhere,
and it is with the greatest difficulty you can be charitable enough to
lend me your attention. Confess truly; it would be unfair on your part,
vicomte, not to admit it.”

“Madame, I do confess it.”

She looked at him steadily. He was so noble and so handsome in his
bearing, his eyes revealed so much gentleness, candor, and resolution,
that the idea could not possibly enter her mind that he was either
rudely discourteous, or a mere simpleton. She only perceived, clearly
enough, that he loved another woman, and not herself, with the whole
strength of his heart. “Ah! I now understand you,” she said; “you have
left your heart behind you in France.” Raoul bowed. “The duke is aware
of your affection?”

“No one knows it,” replied Raoul.

“Why, therefore, do you tell me? Nay, answer me.”

“I cannot.”

“It is for me, then, to anticipate an explanation; you do not wish to
tell me anything, because you are now convinced that I do not love the
duke; because you see that I possibly might have loved you; because you
are a gentleman of noble and delicate sentiments; and because, instead
of accepting, even were it for the mere amusement of the passing hour,
a hand which is almost pressed upon you; and because, instead of meeting
my smiles with a smiling lip, you, who are young, have preferred to tell
me, whom men have called beautiful, ‘My heart is over the sea--it is in
France.’ For this, I thank you, Monsieur de Bragelonne; you are, indeed,
a noble-hearted, noble-minded man, and I regard you all the more for it,
as a friend only. And now let us cease speaking of myself, and talk of
your own affairs. Forget that I have ever spoken to you of myself, tell
me why you are sad, and why you have become more than usually so during
these past four days?”

Raoul was deeply and sensibly moved by these sweet and melancholy tones;
and as he could not, at the moment, find a word to say, the young girl
again came to his assistance.

“Pity me,” she said. “My mother was born in France, and I can truly
affirm that I, too, am French in blood, as well as in feeling; but the
leaden atmosphere and characteristic gloom of England seem to weigh
upon me. Sometimes my dreams are golden-hued and full of wonderful
enjoyments, when suddenly a mist rises and overspreads my fancy,
blotting them out forever. Such, indeed, is the case at the present
moment. Forgive me; I have now said enough on that subject; give me your
hand, and relate your griefs to me as a friend.”

“You say you are French in heart and soul?”

“Yes, not only, I repeat it, that my mother was French, but, further, as
my father, a friend of King Charles I., was exiled in France, I, during
the trial of that prince, as well as during the Protector’s life, was
brought up in Paris; at the Restoration of King Charles II., my poor
father returned to England, where he died almost immediately afterwards;
and then the king created me a duchess, and has dowered me according to
my rank.

“Have you any relations in France?” Raoul inquired, with the deepest
interest.

“I have a sister there, my senior by seven or eight years, who was
married in France, and was early left a widow; her name is Madame de
Belliere. Do you know her?” she added, observing Raoul start suddenly.

“I have heard her name.”

“She, too, loves with her whole heart; and her last letters inform me
she is happy, and her affection is, I conclude, returned. I told you,
Monsieur de Bragelonne, that although I possess half of her nature, I do
not share her happiness. But let us now speak of yourself; whom do you
love in France?”

“A young girl, as soft and pure as a lily.”

“But if she loves you, why are you sad?”

“I have been told that she ceases to love me.”

“You do not believe it, I trust?”

“He who wrote me so does not sign his letter.”

“An anonymous denunciation! some treachery, be assured,” said Miss
Grafton.

“Stay,” said Raoul, showing the young girl a letter which he had read
over a thousand times; she took it from his hand and read as follows:

“VICOMTE,--You are perfectly right to amuse yourself yonder with the
lovely faces of Charles II.’s court, for at Louis XIV.’s court, the
castle in which your affections are enshrined is being besieged. Stay in
London altogether, poor vicomte, or return without delay to Paris.”

“There is no signature,” said Miss Mary.

“None.”

“Believe it not, then.”

“Very good; but here is a second letter, from my friend De Guiche, which
says, ‘I am lying here wounded and ill. Return, Raoul, oh, return!’”

“What do you intend doing?” inquired the young girl, with a feeling of
oppression at her heart.

“My intention, as soon as I received this letter, was immediately to
take my leave of the king.”

“When did you receive it?”

“The day before yesterday.”

“It is dated Fontainebleau.”

“A singular circumstance, do you not think, for the court is now at
Paris? At all events, I would have set off; but when I mentioned my
intention to the king, he began to laugh, and said to me, ‘How comes
it, monsieur l’amassadeur, that you think of leaving? Has your sovereign
recalled you?’ I colored, naturally enough, for I was confused by the
question; for the fact is, the king himself sent me here, and I have
received no order to return.”

Mary frowned in deep thought, and said, “Do you remain, then?”

“I must, mademoiselle.”

“Do you ever receive any letters from her to whom you are so devoted?”

“Never.”

“Never, do you say? Does she not love you, then?”

“At least, she has not written to me since my departure, although she
used occasionally to write to me before. I trust she may have been
prevented.”

“Hush! the duke is coming.”

And Buckingham at that moment was seen at the end of the walk,
approaching towards them, alone and smiling; he advanced slowly, and
held out his hands to them both. “Have you arrived at an understanding?”
 he said.

“About what?”

“About whatever might render you happy, dear Mary, and make Raoul less
miserable.”

“I do not understand you, my lord,” said Raoul.

“That is my view of the subject, Miss Mary; do you wish me to mention it
before M. de Bragelonne?” he added, with a smile.

“If you mean,” replied the young girl, haughtily, “that I was not
indisposed to love M. de Bragelonne, that is useless, for I have told
him so myself.”

Buckingham reflected for a moment, and, without seeming in any way
discountenanced, as she expected, he said: “My reason for leaving you
with M. de Bragelonne was, that I thoroughly knew your refined delicacy
of feeling, no less than the perfect loyalty of your mind and heart, and
I hoped that M. de Bragelonne’s cure might be effected by the hands of a
physician such as you are.”

“But, my lord, before you spoke of M. de Bragelonne’s heart, you spoke
to me of your own. Do you mean to effect the cure of two hearts at the
same time?”

“Perfectly true, madame; but you will do me the justice to admit that
I have long discontinued a useless pursuit, acknowledging that my own
wound is incurable.”

“My lord,” said Mary, collecting herself for a moment before she spoke,
“M. de Bragelonne is happy, for he loves and is beloved. He has no need
of such a physician as I can be.”

“M. de Bragelonne,” said Buckingham, “is on the very eve of experiencing
a serious misfortune, and he has greater need than ever of sympathy and
affection.”

“Explain yourself, my lord,” inquired Raoul, anxiously.

“No; gradually I will explain myself; but, if you desire it, I can tell
Miss Grafton what you may not listen to yourself.”

“My lord, you are putting me to the torture; you know something you wish
to conceal from me?”

“I know that Miss Mary Grafton is the most charming object that a heart
ill at ease could possibly meet with in its way through life.”

“I have already told you that the Vicomte de Bragelonne loves
elsewhere,” said the young girl.

“He is wrong, then.”

“Do you assume to know, my lord, that _I_ am wrong?”

“Yes.”

“Whom is it that he loves, then?” exclaimed the young girl.

“He loves a lady who is unworthy of him,” said Buckingham, with that
calm, collected manner peculiar to Englishmen.

Miss Grafton uttered a cry, which, together with the remark that
Buckingham had that moment made, spread oover De Bragelonne’s features a
deadly paleness, arising from the sudden surprise, and also from a vague
fear of impending misfortune. “My lord,” he exclaimed, “you have just
pronounced words which compel me, without a moment’s delay, to seek
their explanation in Paris.”

“You will remain here,” said Buckingham, “because you have no right to
leave; and no one has the right to quit the service of the king for that
of any woman, even were she as worthy of being loved as Mary Grafton
is.”

“You will tell me all, then?”

“I will, on condition that you will remain.”

“I will remain, if you will promise to speak openly and without
reserve.”

Thus far had their conversation proceeded, and Buckingham, in all
probability, was on the point of revealing, not indeed all that had
taken place, but at least all he was aware of, when one of the king’s
attendants appeared at the end of the terrace, and advanced towards the
summer-house where the king was sitting with Lucy Stewart. A courier
followed him, covered with dust from head to foot, and who seemed as if
he had but a few moments before dismounted from his horse.

“The courier from France! Madame’s courier!” exclaimed Raoul,
recognizing the princess’s livery; and while the attendant and the
courier advanced towards the king, Buckingham and Miss Grafton exchanged
a look full of intelligence with each other.



Chapter XXXVIII. The Courier from Madame.

Charles II. was busily engaged in proving, or in endeavoring to prove,
to Miss Stewart that she was the only person for whom he cared at all,
and consequently was avowing to her an affection similar to that which
his ancestor Henry IV. had entertained for Gabrielle. Unfortunately for
Charles II., he had hit upon an unlucky day, the very day Miss Stewart
had taken it into her head to make him jealous, and therefore, instead
of being touched by his offer, as the king had hoped, she laughed
heartily.

“Oh! sire, sire,” she cried, laughing all the while; “if I were to be
unfortunate enough to ask you for a proof of the affection you possess,
how easy it would be to see that you are telling a falsehood.”

“Nay, listen to me,” said Charles, “you know my cartoons by Raphael;
you know whether I care for them or not; the whole world envies me their
possession, as you well know also; my father commissioned Van Dyck to
purchase them. Would you like me to send them to your house this very
day?”

“Oh, no!” replied the young girl; “pray keep them yourself, sire; my
house is far too small to accommodate such visitors.”

“In that case you shall have Hampton Court to put the cartoons in.”

“Be less generous, sire, and learn to love a little while longer, that
is all I have to ask you.”

“I shall never cease to love you; is not that enough?”

“You are smiling, sire.”

“Do you wish me to weep?”

“No; but I should like to see you a little more melancholy.”

“Thank Heaven, I have been so long enough; fourteen years of exile,
poverty, and misery, I think I may well regard it as a debt discharged;
besides, melancholy makes people look so plain.”

“Far from that--for look at the young Frenchman.”

“What! the Vicomte de Bragelonne? are you smitten too? By Heaven, they
will all grow mad over him one after the other; but he, on the contrary,
has a reason for being melancholy.”

“Why so?”

“Oh, indeed! you wish me to betray state secrets, do you?”

“If I wish it, you must do so, for you told me you were quite ready to
do everything I wished.”

“Well, then, he is bored in his own country. Does that satisfy you?”

“Bored?”

“Yes, a proof that he is a simpleton; I allow him to fall in love with
Miss Mary Grafton, and he feels bored. Can you believe it?”

“Very good; it seems, then, that if you were to find Miss Lucy Stewart
indifferent to you, you would console yourself by falling in love with
Miss Mary Grafton.”

“I don’t say that; in the first place, you know that Mary Grafton does
not care for me; besides, a man can only console himself for a lost
affection by the discovery of a new one. Again, however, I repeat, the
question is not of myself, but of that young man. One might almost be
tempted to call the girl he has left behind him a Helen--a Helen before
the little ceremony she went through with Paris, of course.”

“He has left some one, then?”

“That is to say, some one has left _him_.”

“Poor fellow! so much the worse!”

“Why do you mean by ‘so much the worse’?”

“Why not? why did he leave?”

“Do you think it was of his own wish or will that he left?”

“Was he obliged to leave, then?”

“He left Paris under orders, my dear Stewart; and prepare to be
surprised--by express orders of the king.”

“Ah! I begin to see, now.”

“At least say nothing at all about it.”

“You know very well that I am just as discreet as anybody else. And so
the king sent him away?”

“Yes.”

“And during his absence he takes his sweetheart from him?”

“Yes; and, will you believe it? the silly fellow, instead of thanking
the king, is making himself miserable.”

“What! thank the king for depriving him of the woman he loves! Really,
sire, yours is a most ungallant speech.”

“But, pray understand me. If she whom the king had run off with was
either a Miss Grafton or a Miss Stewart, I should not be of his opinion;
nay, I should even think him not half wretched enough; but she is a
little, thin, lame thing. Deuce take such fidelity as that! Surely, one
can hardly understand how a man can refuse a girl who is rich for one
who is poverty itself--a girl who loves him for one who deceives and
betrays him.”

“Do you think that Mary seriously wishes to please the vicomte, sire?”

“I do, indeed.”

“Very good! the vicomte will settle down in England, for Mary has a
clear head, and when she fixes her mind upon anything, she does so
thoroughly.”

“Take care, my dear Miss Stewart; if the vicomte has any idea of
adopting our country, he has not long to do so, for it was only the day
before yesterday that he again asked me for permission to leave.”

“Which you refused him, I suppose?”

“I should think so, indeed; my royal brother is far too anxious for his
absence; and, for myself, my _amour propre_ is enlisted on his side, for
I will never have it said that I had held out as a bait to this young
man the noblest and gentlest creature in England--”

“You are very gallant, sire,” said Miss Stewart, with a pretty pout.

“I do not allude to Miss Stewart, for she is worthy of a king’s
devotion; and since she has captivated me I trust that no one else will
be caught by her; I say, therefore, finally, that the attention I have
shown this young man will not have been thrown away; he will stay with
us here, he will marry here, or I am very much mistaken.”

“And I hope that when he is once married and settled, instead of being
angry with your majesty, he will be grateful to you, for every one tries
his utmost to please him; even the Duke of Buckingham, whose brilliancy,
which is incredible, seems to pale before that of this young Frenchman.”

“Including Miss Stewart even, who calls him the most finished gentleman
she ever saw.”

“Stay, sire; you have spoken quite enough, and quite highly enough, of
Miss Grafton, to overlook what I may have said about De Bragelonne. But,
by the by, sire, your kindness for some time past astonishes me: you
think of those who are absent, you forgive those who have done you a
wrong, in fact, you are as nearly as possible, perfect. How does it
happen--”

“It is because you allow yourself to be loved,” he said, beginning to
laugh.

“Oh! there must be some other reason.”

“Well, I am doing all I can to oblige my brother, Louis XIV.”

“Nay, I must have another reason.”

“Well, then, the true motive is that Buckingham strongly recommended the
young man to me, saying: ‘Sire, I begin by yielding up all claim to Miss
Grafton; I pray you follow my example.’”

“The duke is, indeed, a true gentleman.”

“Oh! of course, of course; it is Buckingham’s turn now, I suppose, to
turn your head. You seem determined to cross me in everything to-day.”

At this moment some one rapped at the door.

“Who is it who presumes to interrupt us?” exclaimed Charles,
impatiently.

“Really, sire, you are extremely vain with your ‘who is it who
presumes?’ and in order to punish you for it--”

She went to the door and opened it.

“It is a courier from France,” said Miss Stewart.

“A courier from France!” exclaimed Charles; “from my sister, perhaps?”

“Yes, sire,” said the usher, “a special messenger.”

“Let him come in at once,” said Charles.

“You have a letter for me,” said the king to the courier as he entered,
“from the Duchess of Orleans?”

“Yes, sire,” replied the courier, “and so urgent in its nature that I
have only been twenty-six hours in bringing it to your majesty, and yet
I lost three-quarters of an hour at Calais.”

“Your zeal shall not be forgotten,” said the king, as he opened the
letter. When he had read it he burst out laughing, and exclaimed, “Upon
my word, I am at a loss to understand anything about it.” He then read
the letter a second time, Miss Stewart assuming a manner marked by the
greatest reserve, and doing her utmost to restrain her ardent curiosity.

“Francis,” said the king to his valet, “see that this excellent fellow
is well taken care of and sleeps soundly, and that on waking to-morrow
he finds a purse of fifty sovereigns by his bedside.”

“Sire!” said the courier, amazed.

“Begone, begone; my sister was perfectly right in desiring you to use
the utmost diligence; the affair was most pressing.” And he again began
to laugh louder than ever. The courier, the valet, and Miss Stewart
hardly knew what sort of countenance to assume. “Ah!” said the king,
throwing himself back in his armchair: “When I think that you have
knocked up--how many horses?”

“Two!”

“Two horses to bring this intelligence to me. That will do, you can
leave us now.”

The courier retired with the valet. Charles went to the window, which he
opened, and leaning forward, called out--“Duke! Buckingham! come here,
there’s a good fellow.”

The duke hurried to him, in obedience to the summons; but when he
reached the door, and perceived Miss Stewart, he hesitated to enter.

“Come in, and shut the door,” said the king. The duke obeyed; and,
perceiving in what an excellent humor the king was, he advanced,
smiling, towards him. “Well, my dear duke, how do you get on with your
Frenchman?”

“Sire, I am in the most perfect state of utter despair about him.”

“Why so?”

“Because charming Miss Grafton is willing to marry him, but he is
unwilling.”

“Why, he is a perfect Boeotian!” cried Miss Stewart. “Let him say either
‘Yes,’ or No,’ and let the affair end.”

“But,” said Buckingham, seriously, “you know, or you ought to know,
madame, that M. de Bragelonne is in love in another direction.”

“In that case,” said the king, coming to Miss Stewart’s help, “nothing
is easier; let him say ‘No,’ then.”

“Very true; and I have proved to him he was wrong not to say ‘Yes.’”

“You told him candidly, I suppose, that La Valliere was deceiving him?”

“Yes, without the slightest reserve; and, as soon as I had done so, he
gave a start, as if he were going to clear the Channel at a bound.”

“At all events,” said Miss Stewart, “he has done something; and a very
good thing too, upon my word.”

“But,” said Buckingham, “I stopped him; I have left him and Miss Mary in
conversation together, and I sincerely trust that now he will not leave,
as he seemed to have an idea of doing.”

“An idea of leaving England?” cried the king.

“I, at one moment, hardly thought that any human power could have
prevented him; but Miss Mary’s eyes are now bent fully on him, and he
will remain.”

“Well, that is the very thing which deceives you, Buckingham,” said the
king, with a peal of laughter; “the poor fellow is predestined.”

“Predestined to what?”

“If it were to be simply deceived, that is nothing; but, to look at him,
it is a great deal.”

“At a distance, and with Miss Grafton’s aid, the blow will be warded
off.”

“Far from it, far from it; neither distance nor Miss Grafton’s help will
be of the slightest avail. Bragelonne will set off for Paris within an
hour’s time.”

Buckingham started, and Miss Stewart opened her eyes very wide in
astonishment.

“But, sire,” said the duke, “your majesty knows that it is impossible.”

“That is to say, my dear Buckingham, that it is impossible until it
happens.”

“Do not forget, sire, that the young man is a perfect lion, and that his
wrath is terrible.”

“I don’t deny it, my dear duke.”

“And that if he sees that his misfortune is certain, so much the worse
for the author of it.”

“I don’t deny it; but what the deuce am I to do?”

“Were it the king himself,” cried Buckingham, “I would not answer for
him.”

“Oh, the king has his musketeers to take care of him,” said Charles,
quietly; “I know that perfectly well, for I was kept dancing attendance
in his ante-chamber at Blois. He has M. d’Artagnan, and what better
guardian could the king have than M. d’Artagnan? I should make myself
perfectly easy with twenty storms of passion, such as Bragelonne might
display, if I had four guardians like D’Artagnan.”

“But I entreat your majesty, who is so good and kind, to reflect a
little.”

“Stay,” said Charles II., presenting the letter to the duke, “read, and
answer yourself what you would do in my place.”

Buckingham slowly took hold of Madame’s letter, and trembling with
emotion, read the following words:

“For your own sake, for mine, for the honor and safety of every one,
send M. de Bragelonne back to France immediately. Your devoted sister,
HENRIETTA.”

“Well, Villiers, what do you say?”

“Really, sire, I have nothing to say,” replied the duke, stupefied.

“Nay, would you, of all persons,” said the king, artfully, “advise me
not to listen to my sister when she writes so urgently?”

“Oh, no, no, sire; and yet--”

“You have not read the postscript, Villiers; it is under the fold of the
letter, and escaped me at first; read it.” And as the duke turned down a
fold of the letter, he read:

“A thousand kind remembrances to those who love me.”

The duke’s head sank gradually on his breast; the paper trembled in
his fingers, as if it had been changed to lead. The king paused for a
moment, and, seeing that Buckingham did not speak, “He must follow his
destiny, as we ours,” continued the king; “every man has his own share
of grief in this world; I have had my own,--I have had that of
others who belong to me,--and have thus had a double weight of woe to
endure!--But the deuce take all my cares now! Go, and bring our friend
here, Villiers.”

The duke opened the trellised door of the summer-house, and pointing at
Raoul and Mary, who were walking together side by side, said, “What a
cruel blow, sire, for poor Miss Grafton!”

“Nonsense; call him,” said Charles II., knitting his black brows
together; “every one seems to be sentimental here. There, look at Miss
Stewart, who is wiping her eyes,--now deuce take the French fellow!”

The duke called to Raoul, and taking Miss Grafton by the hand, he led
her towards the king.

“Monsieur de Bragelonne,” said Charles II., “did you not ask me the day
before yesterday for permission to return to Paris?”

“Yes, sire,” replied Raoul, greatly puzzled by this address.

“And I refused you, I think?”

“Yes, sire.”

“For which you were angry with me?”

“No, sire; your majesty had no doubt excellent reasons for withholding
it; for you are so wise and so good that everything you do is well
done.”

“I alleged, I believe, as a reason, that the king of France had not
recalled you?”

“Yes, sire, that was the reason you assigned.”

“Well, M. de Bragelonne, I have reflected over the matter since; if
the king did not, in fact, fix your return, he begged me to render your
sojourn in England as agreeable as possible; since, however, you ask my
permission to return, it is because your longer residence in England is
no longer agreeable to you.”

“I do not say that, sire.”

“No, but your request, at least,” said the king, “signified that another
place of residence would be more agreeable to you than this.”

At this moment Raoul turned towards the door, against which Miss Grafton
was leaning, pale and sorrow-stricken; her other hand was passed through
the duke’s arm.

“You do not reply,” pursued Charles; “the proverb is plain enough, that
‘silence gives consent.’ Very good, Monsieur de Bragelonne; I am now in
a position to satisfy you; whenever you please, therefore, you can leave
for Paris, for which you have my authority.”

“Sire!” exclaimed Raoul, while Mary stifled an exclamation of grief
which rose to her lips, unconsciously pressing Buckingham’s arm.

“You can be at Dover this evening,” continued the king, “the tide serves
at two o’clock in the morning.”

Raoul, astounded, stammered out a few broken sentences, which equally
answered the purpose both of thanks and of excuse.

“I therefore bid you adieu, Monsieur de Bragelonne, and wish you every
sort of prosperity,” said the king, rising; “you will confer a pleasure
on me by keeping this diamond in remembrance of me; I had intended it as
a marriage gift.”

Miss Grafton felt her limbs almost giving way; and, as Raoul received
the ring from the king’s hand, he, too, felt his strength and courage
failing him. He addressed a few respectful words to the king, a passing
compliment to Miss Stewart, and looked for Buckingham to bid him adieu.
The king profited by this moment to disappear. Raoul found the duke
engaged in endeavoring to encourage Miss Grafton.

“Tell him to remain, I implore you!” said Buckingham to Mary.

“No, I will tell him to go,” replied Miss Grafton, with returning
animation; “I am not one of those women who have more pride than heart;
if she whom he loves is in France, let him return thither and bless me
for having advised him to go and seek his happiness there. If, on the
contrary, she shall have ceased to love him, let him come back here
again; I shall still love him, and his unhappiness will not have
lessened him in my regard. In the arms of my house you will find that
which Heaven has engraven on my heart--_Habenti parum, egenti cuncta_.
‘To the rich is accorded little, to the poor everything.’”

“I do not believe, Bragelonne, that you will find yonder the equivalent
of what you leave behind you here.”

“I think, or at least hope,” said Raoul, with a gloomy air, “that she
whom I love is worthy of my affection; but if it be true she is unworthy
of me, as you have endeavored to make me believe, I will tear her image
from my heart, duke, even if my heart breaks in the attempt.”

Mary Grafton gazed upon him with an expression of the most indefinable
pity, and Raoul returned her look with a sweet, sorrowful smile, saying,
“Mademoiselle, the diamond which the king has given me was destined
for you,--give me leave to offer it for your acceptance: if I marry in
France, you will send it me back; if I do not marry, keep it.” And he
bowed and left her.

“What does he mean?” thought Buckingham, while Raoul pressed Mary’s icy
hand with marks of the most reverential respect.

Mary understood the look that Buckingham fixed upon her.

“If it were a wedding-ring, I would not accept it,” she said.

“And yet you were willing to ask him to return to you.”

“Oh! duke,” cried the young girl in heart-broken accents, “a woman such
as I am is never accepted as a consolation by a man like him.”

“You do not think he will return, then?”

“Never,” said Miss Grafton, in a choking voice.

“And I grieve to tell you, Mary, that he will find yonder his happiness
destroyed, his mistress lost to him. His honor even has not escaped.
What will be left him, then, Mary, equal to your affection? Answer,
Mary, you who know yourself so well.”

Miss Grafton placed her white hand on Buckingham’s arm, and, while Raoul
was hurrying away with headlong speed, she repeated in dying accents the
line from Romeo and Juliet:

“_I must be gone and live, or stay and die_.”

As she finished the last word, Raoul disappeared. Miss Grafton returned
to her own apartments, paler than death. Buckingham availed himself of
the arrival of the courier, who had brought the letter to the king,
to write to Madame and to the Comte de Guiche. The king had not been
mistaken, for at two in the morning the tide was at full flood, and
Raoul had embarked for France.



Chapter XXXIX. Saint-Aignan Follows Malicorne’s Advice.

The king most assiduously followed the progress which was made in La
Valliere’s portrait; and did so with a care and attention arising as
much from a desire that it should resemble her as from the wish that the
painter should prolong the period of its completion as much as possible.
It was amusing to observe him follow the artist’s brush, awaiting the
completion of a particular plan, or the result of a combination of
colors, and suggesting various modifications to the painter, which the
latter consented to adopt with the most respectful docility. And again,
when the artist, following Malicorne’s advice, was a little late in
arriving, and when Saint-Aignan had been obliged to be absent for some
time, it was interesting to observe, though no one witnessed them, those
moments of silence full of deep expression, which united in one sigh
two souls most disposed to understand each other, and who by no means
objected to the quiet meditation they enjoyed together. The minutes flew
rapidly by, as if on wings, and as the king drew closer to Louise
and bent his burning gaze upon her, a noise was suddenly heard in the
ante-room. It was the artist, who had just arrived; Saint-Aignan, too,
had returned, full of apologies; and the king began to talk and
La Valliere to answer him very hurriedly, their eyes revealing to
Saint-Aignan that they had enjoyed a century of happiness during his
absence. In a word, Malicorne, philosopher that he was, though he knew
it not, had learned how to inspire the king with an appetite in the
midst of plenty, and with desire in the assurance of possession. La
Valliere’s fears of interruption had never been realized, and no one
imagined she was absent from her apartment two or three hours every day;
she pretended that her health was very uncertain; those who went to her
room always knocked before entering, and Malicorne, the man of so many
ingenious inventions, had constructed an acoustic piece of mechanism, by
means of which La Valliere, when in Saint-Aignan’s apartment, was
always forewarned of any visits which were paid to the room she usually
inhabited. In this manner, therefore, without leaving her room, and
having no _confidante_, she was able to return to her apartment, thus
removing by her appearance, a little tardy perhaps, the suspicions of
the most determined skeptics. Malicorne having asked Saint-Aignan the
next morning what news he had to report, the latter was obliged to
confess that the quarter of an hour’s liberty had made the king in most
excellent humor. “We must double the dose,” replied Malicorne, “but by
insensible degrees; wait until they seem to wish it.”

They were so desirous for it, however, that on the evening of the fourth
day, at the moment when the painter was packing up his implements,
during Saint-Aignan’s continued absence, Saint-Aignan on his return
noticed upon La Valliere’s face a shade of disappointment and vexation,
which she could not conceal. The king was less reserved, and exhibited
his annoyance by a very significant shrug of the shoulders, at which La
Valliere could not help blushing. “Very good!” thought Saint-Aignan to
himself; “M. Malicorne will be delighted this evening;” as he, in fact,
was, when it was reported to him.

“It is very evident,” he remarked to the comte, “that Mademoiselle de la
Valliere hoped that you would be at least ten minutes later.”

“And the king that I should be half an hour later, dear Monsieur
Malicorne.”

“You would show but very indifferent devotion to the king,” replied
the latter, “if you were to refuse his majesty that half-hour’s
satisfaction.”

“But the painter,” objected Saint-Aignan.

“_I_ will take care of him,” said Malicorne, “only I must study faces
and circumstances a little better before I act; those are my magical
inventions and contrivances; and while sorcerers are enabled by means of
their astrolabe to take the altitude of the sun, moon, and stars, I
am satisfied merely by looking into people’s faces, in order to see if
their eyes are encircled with dark lines, and if the mouth describes a
convex or concave arc.”

And the cunning Malicorne had every opportunity of watching narrowly
and closely, for the very same evening the king accompanied the queen
to Madame’s apartments, and made himself so remarked by his serious face
and his deep sigh, and looked at La Valliere with such a languishing
expression, that Malicorne said to Montalais during the evening:
“To-morrow.” And he went off to the painter’s house in the street of
the Jardins Saint-Paul to request him to postpone the next sitting for
a couple of days. Saint-Aignan was not within, when La Valliere, who
was now quite familiar with the lower story, lifted up the trap-door and
descended. The king, as usual was waiting for her on the staircase,
and held a bouquet in his hand; as soon as he saw her, he clasped her
tenderly in his arms. La Valliere, much moved at the action, looked
around the room, but as she saw the king was alone, she did not complain
of it. They sat down, the king reclining near the cushions on which
Louise was seated, with his head supported by her knees, placed there as
in an asylum whence no one could banish him; he gazed ardently upon her,
and as if the moment had arrived when nothing could interpose between
their two hearts; she, too, gazed with similar passion upon him, and
from her eyes, so softly pure, emanated a flame, whose rays first
kindled and then inflamed the heart of the king, who, trembling with
happiness as Louise’s hand rested on his head, grew giddy from excess
of joy, and momentarily awaited either the painter’s or Saint-Aignan’s
return to break the sweet illusion. But the door remained closed, and
neither Saint-Aignan nor the painter appeared, nor did the hangings even
move. A deep mysterious silence reigned in the room--a silence which
seemed to influence even the song-birds in their gilded prisons. The
king, completely overcome, turned round his head and buried his burning
lips in La Valliere’s hands, who, herself faint, with excess of emotion,
pressed her trembling hands against her lover’s lips. Louis threw
himself upon his knees, and as La Valliere did not move her head, the
king’s forehead being within reach of her lips, she furtively passed
her lips across the perfumed locks which caressed her cheeks. The king
seized her in his arms, and, unable to resist the temptation, they
exchanged their first kiss, that burning kiss, which changes love into
delirium. Suddenly, a noise upon the upper floor was heard, which had,
in fact, continued, though it had remained unnoticed, for some time; it
had at last aroused La Valliere’s attention, though but slowly so. As
the noise, however, continued, as it forced itself upon the attention,
and recalled the poor girl from her dreams of happiness to the sad
realities of life, she rose in a state of utter bewilderment, though
beautiful in her disorder, saying:

“Some one is waiting for me above. Louis, Louis, do you not hear?”

“Well! and am I not waiting for you, also?” said the king, with infinite
tenderness of tone. “Let others henceforth wait for you.”

But she gently shook her head, as she replied: “Happiness hidden...
power concealed... my pride should be as silent as my heart.”

The noise was again resumed.

“I hear Montalais’s voice,” she said, and she hurried up the staircase;
the king followed her, unable to let her leave his sight, and covering
her hand with his kisses. “Yes, yes,” repeated La Valliere, who had
passed half-way through the opening. “Yes, it is Montalais who is
calling me; something important must have happened.”

“Go then, dearest love,” said the king, “but return quickly.”

“No, no, not to-day, sire! Adieu! adieu!” she said, as she stooped down
once more to embrace her lover--and escaped. Montalais was, in fact,
waiting for her, very pale and agitated.

“Quick, quick! _he_ is coming,” she said.

“Who--who is coming?”

“Raoul,” murmured Montalais.

“It is I--I,” said a joyous voice, upon the last steps of the grand
staircase.

La Valliere uttered a terrible shriek and threw herself back.

“I am here, dear Louise,” said Raoul, running towards her. “I knew but
too well that you had not ceased to love me.”

La Valliere with a gesture, partly of extreme terror, and partly as if
invoking a blessing, attempted to speak, but could not articulate one
word. “No, no!” she said, as she fell into Montalais’s arms, murmuring,
“Do not touch me, do not come near me.”

Montalais made a sign to Raoul, who stood almost petrified at the door,
and did not even attempt to advance another step into the room.
Then, looking towards the side of the room where the screen was, she
exclaimed: “Imprudent girl, she has not even closed the trap-door.”

And she advanced towards the corner of the room to close the screen, and
also, behind the screen, the trap-door. But suddenly the king, who had
heard Louise’s exclamation, darted through the opening, and hurried
forward to her assistance. He threw himself on his knees before her, as
he overwhelmed Montalais with questions, who hardly knew where she was.
At the moment, however, when the king threw himself on his knees, a cry
of utter despair rang through the corridor, accompanied by the sound of
retreating footsteps. The king wished to see who had uttered the cry and
whose were the footsteps he had heard; and it was in vain that Montalais
sought to retain him, for Louis, quitting his hold of La Valliere,
hurried towards the door, too late, however, for Raoul was already at a
distance, and the king only beheld a shadow that quickly vanished in the
silent corridor. [8]



Chapter XL: Two Old Friends.

Whilst every one at court was busily engaged with his own affairs, a man
mysteriously took up his post behind the Place de Greve, in the
house which we once saw besieged by D’Artagnan on the occasion of the
_emeute_. The principal entrance of the house was in the Place Baudoyer;
it was tolerably large, surrounded by gardens, inclosed in the Rue
Saint-Jean by the shops of toolmakers, which protected it from prying
looks, and was walled in by a triple rampart of stone, noise, and
verdure, like an embalmed mummy in its triple coffin. The man we have
just alluded to walked along with a firm step, although he was no longer
in his early prime. His dark cloak and long sword plainly revealed
one who seemed in search of adventures; and, judging from his curling
mustache, his fine smooth skin, which could be seen beneath his
_sombrero_, it would not have been difficult to pronounce that gallantry
had not a little share in his adventures. In fact, hardly had the
cavalier entered the house, when the clock struck eight; and ten minutes
afterwards a lady, followed by a servant armed to the teeth, approached
and knocked at the same door, which an old woman immediately opened for
her. The lady raised her veil as she entered; though no longer beautiful
or young, she was still active and of an imposing carriage. She
concealed, beneath a rich toilette and the most exquisite taste, an age
which Ninon de l’Enclos alone could have smiled at with impunity. Hardly
had she reached the vestibule, when the cavalier, whose features we have
only roughly sketched, advanced towards her, holding out his hand.

“Good day, my dear duchesse,” he said.

“How do you do, my dear Aramis?” replied the duchesse.

He led her to a most elegantly furnished apartment, on whose high
windows were reflected the expiring rays of the setting sun, which
filtered gaudily through the dark green needles of the adjacent firs.
They sat down side by side. Neither of them thought of asking for
additional light in the room, and they buried themselves as it were in
the shadow, as if they wished to bury themselves in forgetfulness.

“Chevalier,” said the duchesse, “you have never given me a single sign
of life since our interview at Fontainebleau, and I confess that your
presence there on the day of the Franciscan’s death, and your initiation
in certain secrets, caused me the liveliest astonishment I ever
experienced in my whole life.”

“I can explain my presence there to you, as well as my initiation,” said
Aramis.

“But let us, first of all,” said the duchess, “talk a little of
ourselves, for our friendship is by no means of recent date.”

“Yes, madame: and if Heaven wills it, we shall continue to be friends, I
will not say for a long time, but forever.”

“That is quite certain, chevalier, and my visit is a proof of it.”

“Our interests, duchess, are no longer the same as they used to be,”
 said Aramis, smiling without apprehension in the growing gloom by which
the room was overcast, for it could not reveal that his smile was less
agreeable and not so bright as formerly.

“No, chevalier, at the present day we have other interests. Every
period of life brings its own; and, as we now understand each other in
conversing, as perfectly as we formerly did without saying a word, let
us talk, if you like.”

“I am at your orders, duchesse. Ah! I beg your pardon, how did you
obtain my address, and what was your object?”

“You ask me why? I have told you. Curiosity in the first place. I wished
to know what you could have to do with the Franciscan, with whom I had
certain business transactions, and who died so singularly. You know that
on the occasion of our interview at Fontainebleau, in the cemetery, at
the foot of the grave so recently closed, we were both so much overcome
by our emotions that we omitted to confide to each other what we may
have to say.”

“Yes, madame.”

“Well, then, I had no sooner left you than I repented, and have ever
since been most anxious to ascertain the truth. You know that Madame de
Longueville and myself are almost one, I suppose?”

“I was not aware,” said Aramis, discreetly.

“I remembered, therefore,” continued the duchesse, “that neither of us
said anything to the other in the cemetery; that you did not speak of
the relationship in which you stood to the Franciscan, whose burial you
superintended, and that I did not refer to the position in which I
stood to him; all which seemed very unworthy of two such old friends as
ourselves, and I have sought an opportunity of an interview with you in
order to give you some information that I have recently acquired, and to
assure you that Marie Michon, now no more, has left behind her one who
has preserved her recollection of events.”

Aramis bowed over the duchess’s hand, and pressed his lips upon it. “You
must have had some trouble to find me again,” he said.

“Yes,” she answered, annoyed to find the subject taking a turn which
Aramis wished to give it; “but I knew you were a friend of M. Fouquet’s,
and so I inquired in that direction.”

“A friend! oh!” exclaimed the chevalier, “I can hardly pretend to be
_that_. A poor priest who has been favored by a generous protector, and
whose heart is full of gratitude and devotion, is all that I pretend to
be to M. Fouquet.”

“He made you a bishop?”

“Yes, duchesse.”

“A very good retiring pension for so handsome a musketeer.”

“Yes; in the same way that political intrigue is for yourself,” thought
Aramis. “And so,” he added, “you inquired after me at M. Fouquet’s?”

“Easily enough. You had been to Fontainebleau with him, and had
undertaken a voyage to your diocese, which is Belle-Ile-en-Mer, I
believe.”

“No, madame,” said Aramis. “My diocese is Vannes.”

“I meant that. I only thought that Belle-Ile-en-Mer--”

“Is a property belonging to M. Fouquet, nothing more.”

“Ah! I had been told that Belle-Isle was fortified; besides, I know how
great the military knowledge is you possess.”

“I have forgotten everything of the kind since I entered the Church,”
 said Aramis, annoyed.

“Suffice it to know that I learned you had returned from Vannes, and
I sent off to one of our friends, M. le Comte de la Fere, who is
discretion itself, in order to ascertain it, but he answered that he was
not aware of your address.”

“So like Athos,” thought the bishop; “the really good man never
changes.”

“Well, then, you know that I cannot venture to show myself here, and
that the queen-mother has always some grievance or other against me.”

“Yes, indeed, and I am surprised at it.”

“Oh! there are various reasons for it. But, to continue, being obliged
to conceal myself, I was fortunate enough to meet with M. d’Artagnan,
who was formerly one of your old friends, I believe?”

“A friend of mine still, duchesse.”

“He gave me certain information, and sent me to M. Baisemeaux, the
governor of the Bastile.”

Aramis was somewhat agitated at this remark, and a light flashed from
his eyes in the darkness of the room, which he could not conceal
from his keen-sighted friend. “M. de Baisemeaux!” he said, “why did
D’Artagnan send you to M. de Baisemeaux?”

“I cannot tell you.”

“What can this possibly mean?” said the bishop, summoning all the
resources of his mind to his aid, in order to carry on the combat in a
befitting manner.

“M. de Baisemeaux is greatly indebted to you, D’Artagnan told me.”

“True, he is so.”

“And the address of a creditor is as easily ascertained as that of a
debtor.”

“Very true; and so Baisemeaux indicated to you--”

“Saint-Mande, where I forwarded a letter to you.”

“Which I have in my hand, and which is most precious to me,” said
Aramis, “because I am indebted to it for the pleasure of seeing you
here.” The duchesse, satisfied at having successfully overcome the
various difficulties of so delicate an explanation, began to breathe
freely again, which Aramis, however, could not succeed in doing. “We had
got as far as your visit to M. Baisemeaux, I believe?”

“Nay,” she said, laughing, “farther than that.”

“In that case we must have been speaking about the grudge you have
against the queen-mother.”

“Further still,” she returned, “further still; we were talking of the
connection--”

“Which existed between you and the Franciscan,” said Aramis,
interrupting her eagerly, “well, I am listening to you very
attentively.”

“It is easily explained,” returned the duchesse. “You know that I am
living at Brussels with M. de Laicques?”

“I heard so.”

“You know that my children have ruined and stripped me of everything.”

“How terrible, dear duchesse.”

“Terrible indeed; this obliged me to resort to some means of obtaining a
livelihood, and, particularly, to avoid vegetating for the remainder of
my existence. I had old hatreds to turn to account, old friendships to
make use of; I no longer had either credit or protectors.”

“_You_, who had extended protection towards so many persons,” said
Aramis, softly.

“It is always the case, chevalier. Well, at the present time I am in the
habit of seeing the king of Spain very frequently.”

“Ah!”

“Who has just nominated a general of the Jesuits, according to the usual
custom.”

“Is it usual, indeed?”

“Were you not aware of it?”

“I beg your pardon; I was inattentive.”

“You must be aware of that--you who were on such good terms with the
Franciscan.”

“With the general of the Jesuits, you mean?”

“Exactly. Well, then, I have seen the king of Spain, who wished to do
me a service, but was unable. He gave me recommendations, however, to
Flanders, both for myself and for Laicques too; and conferred a pension
on me out of the funds belonging to the order.”

“Of Jesuits?”

“Yes. The general--I mean the Franciscan--was sent to me; and, for the
purpose of conforming with the requisitions of the statues of the order,
and of entitling me to the pension, I was reputed to be in a position to
render certain services. You are aware that that is the rule?”

“No, I did not know it,” said Aramis.

Madame de Chevreuse paused to look at Aramis, but it was perfectly dark.
“Well, such is the rule, however,” she resumed. “I had, therefore, to
appear to possess a power of usefulness of some kind or other, and
I proposed to travel for the order, and I was placed on the list of
affiliated travelers. You understand it was a formality, by means of
which I received my pension, which was very convenient for me.”

“Good heavens! duchesse, what you tell me is like a dagger-thrust. _You_
obliged to receive a pension from the Jesuits?”

“No, chevalier! from Spain.”

“Except for a conscientious scruple, duchesse, you will admit that it is
pretty nearly the same thing.”

“No, not at all.”

“But surely of your magnificent fortune there must remain--”

“Dampierre is all that remains.”

“And that is handsome enough.”

“Yes; but Dampierre is burdened, mortgaged, and almost fallen to ruin,
like its owner.”

“And can the queen-mother know and see all that, without shedding a
tear?” said Aramis, with a penetrating look, which encountered nothing
but darkness.

“Yes. She has forgotten everything.”

“You, I believe, attempted to get restored to favor?”

“Yes; but, most singularly, the young king inherits the antipathy his
dear father had for me. You will, perhaps, tell me that I am indeed a
woman to be hated, and that I am no longer one who can be loved.”

“Dear duchesse, pray come quickly to the cause that brought you here;
for I think we can be of service to each other.”

“Such has been my own thought. I came to Fontainebleau with a double
object in view. In the first place, I was summoned there by the
Franciscan whom you knew. By the by, how did you know him?--for I have
told you my story, and have not yet heard yours.”

“I knew him in a very natural way, duchesse. I studied theology with him
at Parma. We became fast friends; and it happened, from time to time,
that business, or travel, or war, separated us from each other.”

“You were, of course, aware that he was the general of the Jesuits?”

“I suspected it.”

“But by what extraordinary chance did it happen that you were at the
hotel when the affiliated travelers met together?”

“Oh!” said Aramis, in a calm voice, “it was the merest chance in the
world. I was going to Fontainebleau to see M. Fouquet, for the purpose
of obtaining an audience of the king. I was passing by, unknown; I saw
the poor dying monk in the road, and recognized him immediately. You
know the rest--he died in my arms.”

“Yes; but bequeathing to you so vast a power that you issue your
sovereign orders and directions like a monarch.”

“He certainly did leave me a few commissions to settle.”

“And what for me?”

“I have told you--a sum of twelve thousand livres was to be paid to
you. I thought I had given you the necessary signature to enable you to
receive it. Did you not get the money?”

“Oh! yes, yes. You give your orders, I am informed, with so much
mystery, and such a majestic presence, that it is generally believed you
are the successor of the defunct chief.”

Aramis colored impatiently, and the duchesse continued: “I have obtained
my information,” she said, “from the king of Spain himself; and he
cleared up some of my doubts on the point. Every general of the Jesuits
is nominated by him, and must be a Spaniard, according to the statutes
of the order. You are not a Spaniard, nor have you been nominated by the
king of Spain.”

Aramis did not reply to this remark, except to say, “You see, duchesse,
how greatly you were mistaken, since the king of Spain told you that.”

“Yes, my dear Aramis; but there was something else which I have been
thinking of.”

“What is that?”

“You know, I believe, something about most things, and it occurred to me
that you know the Spanish language.”

“Every Frenchman who has been actively engaged in the Fronde knows
Spanish.”

“You have lived in Flanders?”

“Three years.”

“And have stayed at Madrid?”

“Fifteen months.”

“You are in a position, then, to become a naturalized Spaniard, when you
like.”

“Really?” said Aramis, with a frankness which deceived the duchesse.

“Undoubtedly. Two years’ residence and an acquaintance with the language
are indispensable. You have upwards of four years--more than double the
time necessary.”

“What are you driving at, duchesse?”

“At this--I am on good terms with the king of Spain.”

“And I am not on bad terms,” thought Aramis to himself.

“Shall I ask the king,” continued the duchesse, “to confer the
succession to the Franciscan’s post upon you?”

“Oh, duchesse!”

“You have it already, perhaps?” she said.

“No, upon my honor.”

“Very well, then, I can render you that service.”

“Why did you not render the same service to M. de Laicques, duchesse? He
is a very talented man, and one you love, besides.”

“Yes, no doubt; but, at all events, putting Laicques aside, will you
have it?”

“No, I thank you, duchesse.”

She paused. “He is nominated,” she thought; and then resumed aloud,
“If you refuse me in this manner, it is not very encouraging for me,
supposing I should have something to ask of you.”

“Oh! ask, pray, ask.”

“Ask! I cannot do so, if you have not the power to grant what I want.”

“However limited my power and ability, ask all the same.”

“I need a sum of money, to restore Dampierre.”

“Ah!” replied Aramis, coldly--“money? Well, duchesse, how much would you
require?”

“Oh! a tolerably round sum.”

“So much the worse--you know I am not rich.”

“No, no; but the order is--and if you had been the general--”

“You know I am not the general, I think.”

“In that case, you have a friend who must be very wealthy--M. Fouquet.”

“M. Fouquet! He is more than half ruined, madame.”

“So it is said, but I did not believe it.”

“Why, duchesse?”

“Because I have, or rather Laicques has, certain letters in his
possession from Cardinal Mazarin, which establish the existence of very
strange accounts.”

“What accounts?”

“Relative to various sums of money borrowed and disposed of. I cannot
very distinctly remember what they are; but they establish the fact
that the superintendent, according to these letters, which are signed by
Mazarin, had taken thirteen millions of francs from the coffers of the
state. The case is a very serious one.”

Aramis clenched his hands in anxiety and apprehension. “Is it possible,”
 he said, “that you have such letters as you speak of, and have not
communicated them to M. Fouquet?”

“Ah!” replied the duchesse, “I keep such trifling matters as these in
reserve. The day may come when they will be of service; and they can be
withdrawn from the safe custody in which they now remain.”

“And that day has arrived?” said Aramis.

“Yes.”

“And you are going to show those letters to M. Fouquet?”

“I prefer to talk about them with you, instead.”

“You must be in sad want of money, my poor friend, to think of such
things as these--you, too, who held M. de Mazarin’s prose effusions in
such indifferent esteem.”

“The fact is, I am in want of money.”

“And then,” continued Aramis, in cold accents, “it must have been very
distressing to you to be obliged to have recourse to such a means. It is
cruel.”

“Oh! if had wished to do harm instead of good,” said Madame de
Chevreuse, “instead of asking the general of the order, or M. Fouquet,
for the five hundred thousand francs I require, I--”

“_Five hundred thousand francs!_”

“Yes; no more. Do you think it much? I require at least as much as that
to restore Dampierre.”

“Yes, madame.”

“I say, therefore, that instead of asking for this amount, I should
have gone to see my old friend the queen-mother; the letters from her
husband, Signor Mazarini, would have served me as an introduction, and
I should have begged this mere trifle of her, saying to her, ‘I wish,
madame, to have the honor of receiving you at Dampierre. Permit me to
put Dampierre in a fit state for that purpose.’”

Aramis did not return a single word. “Well,” she said, “what are you
thinking about?”

“I am making certain additions,” said Aramis.

“And M. Fouquet subtractions. I, on the other hand, am trying my hand at
the art of multiplication. What excellent calculators we all three are!
How well we might understand one another!”

“Will you allow me to reflect?” said Aramis.

“No, for with such an opening between people like ourselves, ‘yes’ or
‘no’ is the only answer, and that an immediate one.”

“It is a snare,” thought the bishop; “it is impossible that Anne of
Austria would listen to such a woman as this.”

“Well?” said the duchesse.

“Well, madame, I should be very much astonished if M. Fouquet had five
hundred thousand francs at his disposal at the present moment.”

“It is no use speaking of it, then,” said the duchesse, “and Dampierre
must get restored how best it may.”

“Oh! you are not embarrassed to such an extent as that, I suppose.”

“No; I am never embarrassed.”

“And the queen,” continued the bishop, “will certainly do for you what
the superintendent is unable to do?”

“Oh! certainly. But tell me, do you think it would be better that I
should speak, myself, to M. Fouquet about these letters?”

“Nay, duchesse, you will do precisely whatever you please in that
respect. M. Fouquet either feels or does not feel himself to be guilty;
if he really be so, I know he is proud enough not to confess it; if he
be not so, he will be exceedingly offended at your menace.”

“As usual, you reason like an angel,” said the duchesse, as she rose
from her seat.

“And so, you are now going to denounce M. Fouquet to the queen,” said
Aramis.

“‘Denounce!’ Oh! what a disagreeable word. I shall not ‘denounce’ my
dear friend; you know matters of policy too well to be ignorant how
easily these affairs are arranged. I shall merely side against M.
Fouquet, and nothing more; and, in a war of party against party, a
weapon is always a weapon.”

“No doubt.”

“And once on friendly terms again with the queen-mother, I may be
dangerous towards some persons.”

“You are at liberty to prove so, duchesse.”

“A liberty of which I shall avail myself.”

“You are not ignorant, I suppose, duchesse, that M. Fouquet is on the
best terms with the king of Spain.”

“I suppose so.”

“If, therefore, you begin a party warfare against M. Fouquet, he will
reply in the same way; for he, too, is at perfect liberty to do so, is
he not?”

“Oh! certainly.”

“And as he is on good terms with Spain, he will make use of that
friendship as a weapon of attack.”

“You mean, that he is, naturally, on good terms with the general of the
order of the Jesuits, my dear Aramis.”

“That may be the case, duchesse.”

“And that, consequently, the pension I have been receiving from the
order will be stopped.”

“I am greatly afraid it might be.”

“Well; I must contrive to console myself in the best way I can; for
after Richelieu, after the Fronde, after exile, what is there left for
Madame de Chevreuse to be afraid of?”

“The pension, you are aware, is forty-eight thousand francs.”

“Alas! I am quite aware of it.”

“Moreover, in party contests, you know, the friends of one’s enemy do
not escape.”

“Ah! you mean that poor Laicques will have to suffer.”

“I am afraid it is almost inevitable, duchesse.”

“Oh! he only receives twelve thousand francs pension.”

“Yes, but the king of Spain has some influence left; advised by M.
Fouquet, he might get M. Laicques shut up in prison for a little while.”

“I am not very nervous on that point, my dear friend; because, once
reconciled with Anne of Austria, I will undertake that France would
insist upon M. Laicques’s liberation.”

“True. In that case, you will have something else to apprehend.”

“What can that be?” said the duchesse, pretending to be surprised and
terrified.

“You will learn; indeed, you must know it already, that having once been
an affiliated member of the order, it is not easy to leave it; for the
secrets that any particular member may have acquired are unwholesome,
and carry with them the germs of misfortune for whosoever may reveal
them.”

The duchesse paused and reflected for a moment, and then said, “That is
more serious: I will think it over.”

And notwithstanding the profound obscurity, Aramis seemed to feel a
basilisk glance, like a white-hot iron, escape from his friend’s eyes,
and plunge into his heart.

“Let us recapitulate,” said Aramis, determined to keep himself on
his guard, and gliding his hand into his breast where he had a dagger
concealed.

“Exactly, let us recapitulate; short accounts make long friends.”

“The suppression of your pension--”

“Forty-eight thousand francs, and that of Laicques’s twelve, make
together sixty thousand francs; that is what you mean, I suppose?”

“Precisely; and I was trying to find out what would be your equivalent
for that.”

“Five hundred thousand francs, which I shall get from the queen.”

“Or, which you will _not_ get.”

“I know a means of procuring them,” said the duchesse, thoughtlessly.

This remark made the chevalier prick up his ears; and from the moment
his adversary had committed this error, his mind was so thoroughly on
its guard, that he seemed every moment to gain the advantage more and
more; and she, consequently, to lose it. “I will admit, for argument’s
sake, that you obtain the money,” he resumed; “you will lose twice as
much, having a hundred thousand francs’ pension to receive instead of
sixty thousand, and that for a period of ten years.”

“Not so, for I shall only be subjected to this reduction of my income
during the period of M. Fouquet’s remaining in power, a period which I
estimate at two months.”

“Ah!” said Aramis.

“I am frank, you see.”

“I thank you for it, duchesse; but you would be wrong to suppose that
after M. Fouquet’s disgrace the order would resume the payment of your
pension.”

“I know a means of making the order pay, as I know a means of forcing
the queen-mother to concede what I require.”

“In that case, duchesse, we are all obliged to strike our flags to you.
The victory is yours, and the triumph also. Be clement, I entreat you.”

“But is it possible,” resumed the duchesse, without taking notice of the
irony, “that you really draw back from a miserable sum of five hundred
thousand francs, when it is a question of sparing you--I mean your
friend--I beg your pardon, I ought rather to say your protector--the
disagreeable consequences which a party contest produces?”

“Duchesse, I tell you why; supposing the five hundred thousand francs
were to be given you, M. Laicques will require his share, which will be
another five hundred thousand francs, I presume? and then, after M. de
Laicques’s and your own portions have been arranged, the portions which
your children, your poor pensioners, and various other persons will
require, will start up as fresh claims, and these letters, however
compromising they may be in their nature, are not worth from three
to four millions. Can you have forgotten the queen of France’s
diamonds?--they were surely worth more than these bits of waste paper
signed by Mazarin, and yet their recovery did not cost a fourth part of
what you ask for yourself.”

“Yes, that is true; but the merchant values his goods at his own price,
and it is for the purchaser to buy or refuse.”

“Stay a moment, duchesse; would you like me to tell you why I will not
buy your letters?”

“Pray tell me.”

“Because the letters you claim to be Mazarin’s are false.”

“What an absurdity.”

“I have no doubt of it, for it would, to say the least, be very
singular, that after you had quarreled with the queen through M.
Mazarin’s means, you should have kept up any intimate acquaintance with
the latter; it would look as if you had been acting as a spy; and upon
my word, I do not like to make use of the word.”

“Oh! pray do.”

“You great complacence would seem suspicions, at all events.”

“That is quite true; but the contents of the letters are even more so.”

“I pledge you my word, duchesse, that you will not be able to make use
of it with the queen.”

“Oh! yes, indeed; I can make use of everything with the queen.”

“Very good,” thought Aramis. “Croak on, old owl--hiss, beldame-viper.”

But the duchesse had said enough, and advanced a few steps towards the
door. Aramis, however, had reserved one exposure which she did _not_
expect.

He rang the bell, candles immediately appeared in the adjoining room,
and the bishop found himself completely encircled by lights, which shone
upon the worn, haggard face of the duchesse, revealing every feature
but too clearly. Aramis fixed a long ironical look upon her pale, thin,
withered cheeks--her dim, dull eyes--and upon her lips, which she kept
carefully closed over her discolored scanty teeth. He, however,
had thrown himself into a graceful attitude, with his haughty and
intelligent head thrown back; he smiled so as to reveal teeth still
brilliant and dazzling. The antiquated coquette understood the trick
that had been played her. She was standing immediately before a large
mirror, in which her decrepitude, so carefully concealed, was only made
more manifest. And, thereupon, without even saluting Aramis, who bowed
with the ease and grace of the musketeer of early days, she hurried
away with trembling steps, which her very precipitation only the more
impeded. Aramis sprang across the room, like a zephyr, to lead her to
the door. Madame de Chevreuse made a sign to her servant, who resumed
his musket, and she left the house where such tender friends had not
been able to understand each other only because they had understood each
other too well.



Chapter XLI. Wherein May Be Seen that a Bargain Which Cannot Be Made
with One Person, Can Be Carried Out with Another.

Aramis had been perfectly correct in his supposition; for hardly had she
left the house in the Place Baudoyer than Madame de Chevreuse proceeded
homeward. She was doubtless afraid of being followed, and by this means
thought she might succeed in throwing those who might be following her
off their guard; but scarcely had she arrived within the door of the
hotel, and hardly had assured herself that no one who could cause her
any uneasiness was on her track, when she opened the door of the garden,
leading into another street, and hurried towards the Rue Croix des
Petits-Champs, where M. Colbert resided.

We have already said that evening, or rather night, had closed in; it
was a dark, thick night, besides; Paris had once more sunk into its
calm, quiescent state, enshrouding alike within its indulgent mantle the
high-born duchesse carrying out her political intrigue, and the simple
citizen’s wife, who, having been detained late by a supper in the city,
was making her way slowly homewards, hanging on the arm of a lover,
by the shortest possible route. Madame de Chevreuse had been too well
accustomed to nocturnal political intrigues to be ignorant that a
minister never denies himself, even at his own private residence, to
any young and beautiful woman who may chance to object to the dust and
confusion of a public office, or to old women, as full of experience
as of years, who dislike the indiscreet echo of official residences. A
valet received the duchesse under the peristyle, and received her, it
must be admitted, with some indifference of manner; he intimated, after
having looked at her face, that it was hardly at such an hour that one
so advanced in years as herself could be permitted to disturb Monsieur
Colbert’s important occupations. But Madame de Chevreuse, without
looking or appearing to be annoyed, wrote her name upon a leaf of her
tablets--a name which had but too frequently sounded so disagreeably in
the ears of Louis XIII. and of the great cardinal. She wrote her name in
the large, ill-formed characters of the higher classes of that period,
handed it to the valet, without uttering a word, but with so haughty and
imperious a gesture, that the fellow, well accustomed to judge of people
from their manners and appearance, perceived at once the quality of the
person before him, bowed his head, and ran to M. Colbert’s room. The
minister could not control a sudden exclamation as he opened the paper;
and the valet, gathering from it the interest with which his master
regarded the mysterious visitor, returned as fast as he could to beg the
duchesse to follow him. She ascended to the first floor of the beautiful
new house very slowly, rested herself on the landing-place, in order not
to enter the apartment out of breath, and appeared before M. Colbert,
who, with his own hands, held both the folding doors open. The duchesse
paused at the threshold, for the purpose of well studying the character
of the man with whom she was about to converse. At the first glance,
the round, large, heavy head, thick brows, and ill-favored features of
Colbert, who wore, thrust low down on his head, a cap like a priest’s
_calotte_, seemed to indicate that but little difficulty was likely
to be met with in her negotiations with him, but also that she was to
expect as little interest in the discussion of particulars; for there
was scarcely any indication that the rough and uncouth nature of the man
was susceptible to the impulses of a refined revenge, or of an exalted
ambition. But when, on closer inspection, the duchesse perceived the
small, piercingly black eyes, the longitudinal wrinkles of his high and
massive forehead, the imperceptible twitching of the lips, on which were
apparent traces of rough good-humor, Madame de Chevreuse altered her
opinion of him, and felt she could say to herself: “I have found the man
I want.”

“What is the subject, madame, which procures me the honor of a visit
from you?” he inquired.

“The need I have of you, monsieur,” returned the duchesse, “as well
as that which you have of me.”

“I am delighted, madame, with the first portion of your sentence; but,
as far as the second portion is concerned--”

Madame de Chevreuse sat down in the armchair which M. Colbert advanced
towards her. “Monsieur Colbert, you are the intendant of finances, and
are ambitious of becoming the superintendent?”

“Madame!”

“Nay, do not deny it; that would only unnecessarily prolong our
conversation, and that is useless.”

“And yet, madame, however well-disposed and inclined to show politeness
I may be towards a lady of your position and merit, nothing will make
me confess that I have ever entertained the idea of supplanting my
superior.”

“I said nothing about supplanting, Monsieur Colbert. Could I
accidentally have made use of that word? I hardly think that likely.
The word ‘replace’ is less aggressive in its signification, and
more grammatically suitable, as M. de Voiture would say. I presume,
therefore, that you are ambitious of replacing M. Fouquet.”

“M. Fouquet’s fortune, madame, enables him to withstand all attempts.
The superintendent in this age plays the part of the Colossus of Rhodes;
the vessels pass beneath him and do not overthrow him.”

“I ought to have availed myself precisely of that very comparison. It
is true, M. Fouquet plays the part of the Colossus of Rhodes; but I
remember to have heard it said by M. Conrart, a member of the academy, I
believe, that when the Colossus of Rhodes fell from its lofty position,
the merchant who had cast it down--a merchant, nothing more, M.
Colbert--loaded four hundred camels with the ruins. A merchant! and that
is considerably less than an intendant of finances.”

“Madame, I can assure you that I shall never overthrow M. Fouquet.”

“Very good, Monsieur Colbert, since you persist in showing so much
sensitiveness with me, as if you were ignorant that I am Madame de
Chevreuse, and also that I am somewhat advanced in years; in other
words, that you have to do with a woman who has had political dealings
with the Cardinal Richelieu, and who has no time to lose; as, I repeat,
you do not hesitate to commit such an imprudence, I shall go and find
others who are more intelligent and more desirous of making their
fortunes.”

“How, madame, how?”

“You give me a very poor idea of negotiations of the present day.
I assure you that if, in my earlier days, a woman had gone to M.
de Cinq-Mars, who was not, moreover, a man of a very high order of
intellect, and had said to him about the cardinal what I have just said
to you of M. Fouquet, M. de Cinq-Mars would by this time have already
set actively to work.”

“Nay, madame, show a little indulgence, I entreat you.”

“Well, then, do you really consent to replace M. Fouquet?”

“Certainly, I do, if the king dismisses M. Fouquet.”

“Again, a word too much; it is quite evident that, if you have not yet
succeeded in driving M. Fouquet from his post, it is because you have
not been able to do so. Therefore, I should be the greatest simpleton
possible if, in coming to you, I did not bring the very thing you
require.”

“I am distressed to be obliged to persist, madame,” said Colbert,
after a silence which enabled the duchesse to sound the depths of
his dissimulation, “but I must warn you that, for the last six years,
denunciation after denunciation has been made against M. Fouquet, and he
has remained unshaken and unaffected by them.”

“There is a time for everything, Monsieur Colbert; those who were the
authors of those denunciations were not called Madame de Chevreuse, and
they had no proofs equal to the six letters from M. de Mazarin which
establish the offense in question.”

“The offense!”

“The crime, if you like it better.”

“The crime! committed by M. Fouquet!”

“Nothing less. It is rather strange, M. Colbert, but your face, which
just now was cold and indifferent, is now positively the very reverse.”

“A crime!”

“I am delighted to see that it makes an impression upon you.”

“It is because that word, madame, embraces so many things.”

“It embraces the post of superintendent of finance for yourself, and a
letter of exile, or the Bastile, for M. Fouquet.”

“Forgive me, madame la duchesse, but it is almost impossible that M.
Fouquet can be exiled; to be imprisoned or disgraced, that is already a
great deal.”

“Oh, I am perfectly aware of what I am saying,” returned Madame de
Chevreuse, coldly. “I do not live at such a distance from Paris as not
to know what takes place there. The king does not like M. Fouquet, and
he would willingly sacrifice M. Fouquet if an opportunity were only
given him.”

“It must be a good one, though.”

“Good enough, and one I estimate to be worth five hundred thousand
francs.”

“In what way?” said Colbert.

“I mean, monsieur, that holding this opportunity in my own hands, I will
not allow it to be transferred to yours except for a sum of five hundred
thousand francs.”

“I understand you perfectly, madame. But since you have fixed a price
for the sale, let me now see the value of the articles to be sold.”

“Oh, a mere trifle; six letters, as I have already told you, from M. de
Mazarin; and the autographs will most assuredly not be regarded as too
highly priced, if they establish, in an irrefutable manner, that
M. Fouquet has embezzled large sums of money from the treasury and
appropriated them to his own purposes.”

“In an irrefutable manner, do you say?” observed Colbert, whose eyes
sparkled with delight.

“Perfectly so; would you like to read the letters?”

“With all my heart! Copies, of course?”

“Of course, the copies,” said the duchesse, as she drew from her bosom a
small packet of papers flattened by her velvet bodice. “Read,” she said.

Colbert eagerly snatched the papers and devoured them. “Excellent!” he
said.

“It is clear enough, is it not?”

“Yes, madame, yes; M. Mazarin must have handed the money to M. Fouquet,
who must have kept it for his own purposes; but the question is, what
money?”

“Exactly,--what money; if we come to terms I will join to these six
letters a seventh, which will supply you with the fullest particulars.”

Colbert reflected. “And the originals of these letters?”

“A useless question to ask; exactly as if I were to ask you, Monsieur
Colbert, whether the money-bags you will give me will be full or empty.”

“Very good, madame.”

“Is it concluded?”

“No; for there is one circumstance to which neither of us has given any
attention.”

“Name it!”

“M. Fouquet can be utterly ruined, under the legal circumstances you
have detailed, only by means of legal proceedings.”

“Well?”

“A public scandal, for instance; and yet neither the legal proceedings
nor the scandal can be commenced against him.”

“Why not?”

“Because he is procureur-general of the parliament; because, too,
in France, all public administrators, the army, justice itself, and
commerce, are intimately connected by ties of good-fellowship, which
people call _esprit de corps_. In such a case, madame, the parliament
will never permit its chief to be dragged before a public tribunal; and
never, even if he be dragged there by royal authority, never, I say,
will he be condemned.”

“Well, Monsieur Colbert, I do not see what I have to do with that.”

“I am aware of that, madame; but I have to do with it, and it
consequently diminishes the value of what you have brought to show me.
What good can a proof of a crime be to me, without the possibility of
obtaining a condemnation?”

“Even if he be only suspected, M. Fouquet will lose his post of
superintendent.”

“Is that all?” exclaimed Colbert, whose dark, gloomy features were
momentarily lighted up by an expression of hate and vengeance.

“Ah! ah! Monsieur Colbert,” said the duchesse, “forgive me, but I did
not think you were so impressionable. Very good; in that case, since you
need more than I have to give you, there is no occasion to speak of the
matter at all.”

“Yes, madame, we will go on talking of it; only, as the value of your
commodities had decreased, you must lower your pretensions.”

“You are bargaining, then?”

“Every man who wishes to deal loyally is obliged to do so.”

“How much will you offer me?”

“Two hundred thousand francs,” said Colbert.

The duchesse laughed in his face, and then said, suddenly, “Wait a
moment, I have another arrangement to propose; will you give me three
hundred thousand francs?”

“No, no.”

“Oh, you can either accept or refuse my terms; besides, that is not
all.”

“More still! you are becoming too impracticable to deal with, madame.”

“Less so than you think, perhaps, for it is not money I am going to ask
you for.”

“What is it, then?”

“A service; you know that I have always been most affectionately
attached to the queen, and I am desirous of having an interview with her
majesty.”

“With the queen?”

“Yes, Monsieur Colbert, with the queen, who is, I admit, no longer my
friend, and who has ceased to be so for a long time past, but who may
again become so if the opportunity be only given her.”

“Her majesty has ceased to receive any one, madame. She is a great
sufferer, and you may be aware that the paroxysms of her disease occur
with greater frequency than ever.”

“That is the very reason why I wish to have an interview with her
majesty; for in Flanders there is a great variety of these kinds of
complaints.”

“What, cancers--a fearful, incurable disorder?”

“Do not believe that, Monsieur Colbert. The Flemish peasant is somewhat
a man of nature, and his companion for life is not alone a wife, but a
female laborer also; for while he is smoking his pipe, the woman works:
it is she who draws the water from the well; she who loads the mule
or the ass, and even bears herself a portion of the burden. Taking but
little care of herself, she gets knocked about first in one direction,
and then in another, and very often is beaten by her husband, and
cancers frequently rise from contusions.”

“True, true,” said Colbert.

“The Flemish women do not die the sooner on that account. When they are
great sufferers from this disease they go in search of remedies, and the
Beguines of Bruges are excellent doctors for every kind of disease. They
have precious waters of one sort or another; specifics of various kinds;
and they give a bottle of it and a wax candle to the sufferer, whereby
the priests are gainers, and Heaven is served by the disposal of both
their wares. I will take the queen some of this holy water, which I will
procure from the Beguines of Bruges; her majesty will recover, and will
burn as many wax candles as she may see fit. You see, Monsieur Colbert,
to prevent my seeing the queen is almost as bad as committing the crime
of regicide.”

“You are undoubtedly, madame la duchesse, a woman of exceedingly great
abilities, and I am more than astounded at their display; still I cannot
but suppose that this charitable consideration towards the queen in some
measure covers a slight personal interest for yourself.”

“I have not given myself the trouble to conceal it, that I am aware
of, Monsieur Colbert. You said, I believe, that I had a slight personal
interest? On the contrary, it is a very great interest, and I will prove
it to you, by resuming what I was saying. If you procure me a personal
interview with her majesty, I will be satisfied with the three hundred
thousand francs I have claimed; if not, I shall keep my letters, unless,
indeed, you give me, on the spot, five hundred thousand francs.”

And rising from her seat with this decisive remark, the old duchesse
plunged M. Colbert into a disagreeable perplexity. To bargain any
further was out of the question; and not to bargain was to pay a great
deal too dearly for them. “Madame,” he said, “I shall have the pleasure
of handing over a hundred thousand crowns; but how shall I get the
actual letters themselves?”

“In the simplest manner in the world, my dear Monsieur Colbert--whom
will you trust?”

The financier began to laugh, silently, so that his large eyebrows went
up and down like the wings of a bat, upon the deep lines of his yellow
forehead. “No one,” he said.

“You surely will make an exception in your own favor, Monsieur Colbert?”

“In what way, madame?”

“I mean that, if you would take the trouble to accompany me to the place
where the letters are, they would be delivered into your own hands, and
you would be able to verify and check them.”

“Quite true.”

“You would bring the hundred thousand crowns with you at the same time,
for I, too, do not trust any one.”

Colbert colored to the tips of his ears. Like all eminent men in the art
of figures, he was of an insolent and mathematical probity. “I will
take with me, madame,” he said, “two orders for the amount agreed upon,
payable at my treasury. Will that satisfy you?”

“Would that the orders on your treasury were for two millions, monsieur
l’intendant! I shall have the pleasure of showing you the way, then?”

“Allow me to order my carriage?”

“I have a carriage below, monsieur.”

Colbert coughed like an irresolute man. He imagined, for a moment, that
the proposition of the duchesse was a snare; that perhaps some one was
waiting at the door; and that she whose secret had just been sold to
Colbert for a hundred thousand crowns, had already offered it to Fouquet
for the same sum. As he still hesitated, the duchesse looked at him full
in the face.

“You prefer your own carriage?” she said.

“I admit I _do_.”

“You suppose I am going to lead you into a snare or trap of some sort or
other?”

“Madame la duchesse, you have the character of being somewhat
inconsiderate at times, as I am reputed a sober, solemn character, a
jest or practical joke might compromise me.”

“Yes; the fact is, you are afraid. Well, then, take your own carriage,
as many servants as you like, only think well of what I am going to say.
What we two may arrange between ourselves, we are the only persons who
will know--if a third person is present we might as well tell the whole
world about it. After all, I do not make a point of it; my carriage
shall follow yours, and I shall be satisfied to accompany you in your
own carriage to the queen.”

“To the queen?”

“Have you forgotten that already? Is it possible that one of the clauses
of the agreement of so much importance to me, can have escaped you so
soon? How trifling it seems to you, indeed; if I had known it I should
have asked double what I have done.”

“I have reflected, madame, and I shall not accompany you.”

“Really--and why not?”

“Because I have the most perfect confidence in you.”

“You overpower me. But--provided I receive the hundred thousand crowns?”

“Here they are, madame,” said Colbert, scribbling a few lines on a piece
of paper, which he handed to the duchesse, adding, “You are paid.”

“The trait is a fine one, Monsieur Colbert, and I will reward you for
it,” she said, beginning to laugh.

Madame de Chevreuse’s laugh was a very sinister sound; a man with youth,
faith, love, life itself, throbbing in his heart, would prefer a sob to
such a lamentable laugh. The duchesse opened the front of her dress and
drew forth from her bosom, somewhat less white than it once had been,
a small packet of papers, tied with a flame-colored ribbon, and, still
laughing, she said, “There, Monsieur Colbert, are the originals of
Cardinal Mazarin’s letters; they are now your own property,” she added,
refastening the body of her dress; “your fortune is secured. And now
accompany me to the queen.”

“No, madame; if you are again about to run the chance of her majesty’s
displeasure, and it were known at the Palais Royal that I had been the
means of introducing you there, the queen would never forgive me while
she lived. No; there are certain persons at the palace who are devoted
to me, who will procure you an admission without my being compromised.”

“Just as you please, provided I enter.”

“What do you term those religious women at Bruges who cure disorders?”

“Beguines.”

“Good; are you one?”

“As you please,--but I must soon cease to be one.”

“That is your affair.”

“Excuse me, but I do not wish to be exposed to a refusal.”

“That is again your own affair, madame. I am going to give directions
to the head valet of the gentleman in waiting on the queen to allow
admission to a Beguine, who brings an effectual remedy for her majesty’s
sufferings. You are the bearer of my letter, you will undertake to
be provided with the remedy, and will give every explanation on the
subject. I admit a knowledge of a Beguine, but I deny all knowledge
of Madame de Chevreuse. Here, madame, then, is your letter of
introduction.”



Chapter XLII. The Skin of the Bear.

Colbert handed the duchesse the letter, and gently drew aside the chair
behind which she was standing; Madame de Chevreuse, with a very slight
bow, immediately left the room. Colbert, who had recognized Mazarin’s
handwriting, and had counted the letters, rang to summon his secretary,
whom he enjoined to go in immediate search of M. Vanel, a counselor
of the parliament. The secretary replied that, according to his usual
practice, M. Vanel had just that moment entered the house, in order to
give the intendant an account of the principal details of the business
which had been transacted during the day in parliament. Colbert
approached one of the lamps, read the letters of the deceased cardinal
over again, smiled repeatedly as he recognized the great value of the
papers Madame de Chevreuse had just delivered--and burying his head in
his hands for a few minutes, reflected profoundly. In the meantime, a
tall, loosely-made man entered the room; his spare, thin face, steady
look, and hooked nose, as he entered Colbert’s cabinet, with a
modest assurance of manner, revealed a character at once supple and
decided,--supple towards the master who could throw him the prey,
firm towards the dogs who might possibly be disposed to dispute its
possession. M. Vanel carried a voluminous bundle of papers under his
arm, and placed it on the desk on which Colbert was leaning both his
elbows, as he supported his head.

“Good day, M. Vanel,” said the latter, rousing himself from his
meditation.

“Good day, monseigneur,” said Vanel, naturally.

“You should say monsieur, and not monseigneur,” replied Colbert, gently.

“We give the title of monseigneur to ministers,” returned Vanel, with
extreme self-possession, “and you are a minister.”

“Not yet.”

“You are so in point of fact, and I call you monseigneur accordingly;
besides you are seigneur for _me_, and that is sufficient; if you
dislike my calling you monseigneur before others, allow me, at least, to
call you so in private.”

Colbert raised his head as if to read, or try to read, upon Vanel’s
face how much or how little sincerity entered into this protestation
of devotion. But the counselor knew perfectly well how to sustain the
weight of such a look, even backed with the full authority of the title
he had conferred. Colbert sighed; he could not read anything in Vanel’s
face, and Vanel might possibly be honest in his professions, but Colbert
recollected that this man, inferior to himself in every other respect,
was actually his master in virtue of the fact of his having a wife.
As he was pitying this man’s lot, Vanel coldly drew from his pocket a
perfumed letter, sealed with Spanish wax, and held it towards Colbert,
saying, “A letter from my wife, monseigneur.”

Colbert coughed, took, opened and read the letter, and then put it
carefully away in his pocket, while Vanel turned over the leaves of
the papers he had brought with him with an unmoved and unconcerned air.
“Vanel,” he said suddenly to his _protege_, “you are a hard-working man,
I know; would twelve hours’ daily labor frighten you?”

“I work fifteen hours every day.”

“Impossible. A counselor need not work more than three hours a day in
parliament.”

“Oh! I am working up some returns for a friend of mine in the department
of accounts, and, as I still have spare time on my hands, I am studying
Hebrew.”

“Your reputation stands high in the parliament, Vanel.”

“I believe so, monseigneur.”

“You must not grow rusty in your post of counselor.”

“What must I do to avoid it?”

“Purchase a high place. Mean and low ambitions are very difficult to
satisfy.”

“Small purses are the most difficult ones to fill, monseigneur.”

“What post have you in view?” said Colbert.

“I see none--not one.”

“There is one, certainly, but one need be almost the king himself to be
able to buy it without inconvenience; and the king will not be inclined,
I suppose, to purchase the post of procureur-general.”

At these words, Vanel fixed his peculiar, humble, dull look upon
Colbert, who could hardly tell whether Vanel comprehended him or not.
“Why do you speak to me, monseigneur,” said Vanel, “of the post of
procureur-general to the parliament; I know no other post than the one
M. Fouquet fills.”

“Exactly so, my dear counselor.”

“You are not over fastidious, monseigneur; but before the post can be
bought, it must be offered for sale.”

“I believe, Monsieur Vanel, that it will be for sale before long.”

“For sale! What! M. Fouquet’s post of procureur-general?”

“So it is _said_.”

“The post which renders him so perfectly invincible, for sale! Ha, ha!”
 said Vanel, beginning to laugh.

“Would you be afraid, then, of the post?” said Colbert, gravely.

“Afraid! no; but--”

“Are you desirous of obtaining it?”

“You are laughing at me, monseigneur,” replied Vanel. “Is it likely
that a counselor of the parliament would not be desirous of becoming
procureur-general?”

“Well, Monsieur Vanel, since I tell you that the post, as report goes,
will be shortly for sale--”

“I cannot help repeating, monseigneur, that it is impossible; a man
never throws away the buckler, behind which he maintains his honor, his
fortune, his very life.”

“There are certain men mad enough, Vanel, to fancy themselves out of the
reach of all mischances.”

“Yes, monseigneur; but such men never commit their mad acts for the
advantage of the poor Vanels of the world.”

“Why not?”

“For the very reason that those Vanels are poor.”

“It is true that M. Fouquet’s post might cost a good round sum. What
would you bid for it, Monsieur Vanel?”

“Everything I am worth.”

“Which means?”

“Three or four hundred thousand francs.”

“And the post is worth--”

“A million and a half, at the very lowest. I know persons who have
offered one million seven hundred thousand francs, without being able to
persuade M. Fouquet to sell. Besides, supposing it were to happen that
M. Fouquet wished to sell, which I do not believe, in spite of what I
have been told--”

“Ah! you have heard something about it, then; who told you?”

“M. de Gourville, M. Pelisson, and others.”

“Very good; if, therefore, M. Fouquet did wish to sell--”

“I could not buy it just yet, since the superintendent will only sell
for ready money, and no one has a million and a half to put down at
once.”

Colbert suddenly interrupted the counselor by an imperious gesture; he
had begun to meditate. Observing his superior’s serious attitude, and
his perseverance in continuing the conversation on this subject, Vanel
awaited the solution without venturing to precipitate it.

“Explain to me the privileges which this post confers.”

“The right of impeaching every French subject who is not a prince of
the blood; the right of quashing all proceedings taken against any
Frenchman, who is neither king nor prince. The procureur-general is the
king’s right hand to punish the guilty; the office is the means whereby
also he can evade the administration of justice. M. Fouquet, therefore,
would be able, by stirring up parliament, to maintain himself even
against the king; and the king could as easily, by humoring M. Fouquet,
get his edicts registered in spite of every opposition and objection.
The procureur-general can be made a very useful or a very dangerous
instrument.”

“Vanel, would you like to be procureur-general?” said Colbert, suddenly,
softening both his look and his voice.

“I!” exclaimed the latter; “I have already had the honor to represent
to you that I want about eleven hundred thousand francs to make up the
amount.”

“Borrow that sum from your friends.”

“I have no friends richer than myself.”

“You are an honest and honorable man, Vanel.”

“Ah! monseigneur, if the world would only think as you do!”

“I think so, and that is quite enough; and if it should be needed, I
will be your security.”

“Do not forget the proverb, monseigneur.”

“What is it?”

“That he who becomes responsible for another has to pay for his fancy.”

“Let that make no difference.”

Vanel rose, bewildered by this offer which had been so suddenly and
unexpectedly made to him. “You are not trifling with me, monseigneur?”
 he said.

“Stay; you say that M. Gourville has spoken to you about M. Fouquet’s
post?”

“Yes; and M. Pelisson, also.”

“Officially so, or only through their own suggestion?”

“These were their very words: ‘The parliament members are as proud as
they are wealthy; they ought to club together two or three millions
among themselves, to present to their protector and leader, M.
Fouquet.’”

“And what did you reply?”

“I said that, for my own part, I would give ten thousand francs if
necessary.”

“Ah! you like M. Fouquet, then!” exclaimed Colbert, with a look of
hatred.

“No; but M. Fouquet is our chief. He is in debt--is on the high road
to ruin; and we ought to save the honor of the body of which we are
members.”

“Exactly; and that explains why M. Fouquet will be always safe and
sound, so long as he occupies his present post,” replied Colbert.

“Thereupon,” said Vanel, “M. Gourville added, ‘If we were to do anything
out of charity to M. Fouquet, it could not be otherwise than most
humiliating to him; and he would be sure to refuse it. Let the
parliament subscribe among themselves to purchase, in a proper manner,
the post of procureur-general; in that case, all would go well; the
honor of our body would be saved, and M. Fouquet’s pride spared.’”

“That is an opening.”

“I considered it so, monseigneur.”

“Well, Monsieur Vanel, you will go at once, and find out either M.
Gourville or M. Pelisson. Do you know any other friend of M. Fouquet?”

“I know M. de la Fontaine very well.”

“La Fontaine, the rhymester?”

“Yes; he used to write verses to my wife, when M. Fouquet was one of our
friends.”

“Go to him, then, and try and procure an interview with the
superintendent.”

“Willingly--but the sum itself?”

“On the day and hour you arrange to settle the matter, Monsieur Vanel,
you shall be supplied with the money, so do not make yourself uneasy on
_that_ account.”

“Monseigneur, such munificence! You eclipse kings even--you surpass M.
Fouquet himself.”

“Stay a moment--do not let us mistake each other: I do not make you a
present of fourteen hundred thousand francs, Monsieur Vanel; for I have
children to provide for--but I will _lend_ you that sum.”

“Ask whatever interest, whatever security you please, monseigneur; I am
quite ready. And when all your requisitions are satisfied, I will still
repeat, that you surpass kings and M. Fouquet in munificence. What
conditions do you impose?”

“The repayment in eight years, and a mortgage upon the appointment
itself.”

“Certainly. Is that all?”

“Wait a moment. I reserve to myself the right of purchasing the post
from you at one hundred and fifty thousand francs profit for yourself,
if, in your mode of filling the office, you do not follow out a line
of conduct in conformity with the interests of the king and with my
projects.”

“Ah-h!” said Vanel, in an altered tone.

“Is there anything in that which can possibly be objectionable to you,
Monsieur Vanel?” said Colbert, coldly.

“Oh! no, no,” replied Vanel, nervously.

“Very good. We will sign an agreement to that effect whenever you like.
And now go as quickly as you can to M. Fouquet’s friend, obtain an
interview with the superintendent; do not be too difficult in making
whatever concessions may be required of you; and when once the
arrangements are all made--”

“I will press him to sign.”

“Be most careful to do nothing of the kind; do not speak of signatures
with M. Fouquet, nor of deeds, nor even ask him to pass his word.
Understand this: otherwise you will lose everything. All you have to do
is to get M. Fouquet to give you his hand on the matter. Go, go.”



Chapter XLIII. An Interview with the Queen-Mother.

The queen-mother was in the bedroom at the Palais Royal, with Madame
de Motteville and Senora Molina. King Louis, who had been impatiently
expected the whole day, had not made his appearance; and the queen, who
was growing impatient, had often sent to inquire about him. The moral
atmosphere of the court seemed to indicate an approaching storm;
the courtiers and the ladies of the court avoided meeting in the
ante-chambers and the corridors in order not to converse on compromising
subjects. Monsieur had joined the king early in the morning for a
hunting-party; Madame remained in her own apartment, cool and distant
to every one; and the queen-mother, after she had said her prayers
in Latin, talked of domestic matters with her two friends in pure
Castilian. Madame de Motteville, who understood the language perfectly,
answered her in French. When the three ladies had exhausted every form
of dissimulation and of politeness, as a circuitous mode of expressing
that the king’s conduct was making the queen and the queen-mother pine
away through sheer grief and vexation, and when, in the most guarded
and polished phrases, they had fulminated every variety of imprecation
against Mademoiselle de la Valliere, the queen-mother terminated
her attack by an exclamation indicative of her own reflections and
character. “_Estos hijos!_” said she to Molina--which means, “These
children!” words full of meaning on a mother’s lips--words full of
terrible significance in the mouth of a queen who, like Anne of Austria,
hid many curious secrets in her soul.

“Yes,” said Molina, “children, children! for whom every mother becomes a
sacrifice.”

“Yes,” replied the queen; “a mother sacrifices everything, certainly.”
 She did not finish her phrase; for she fancied, when she raised her eyes
towards the full-length portrait of the pale Louis XIII., that light
once more flashed from her husband’s dull eyes, and his nostrils
grew livid with wrath. The portrait seemed animated by a living
expression--speak it did not, but it seemed to threaten. A profound
silence succeeded the queen’s last remark. La Molina began to turn over
ribbons and laces on a large work-table. Madame de Motteville, surprised
at the look of mutual intelligence which had been exchanged between the
confidant and her mistress, cast down her eyes like a discreet woman,
and pretending to be observant of nothing that was passing, listened
with the utmost attention to every word. She heard nothing, however, but
a very insignificant “hum” on the part of the Spanish duenna, who was
the incarnation of caution--and a profound sigh on that of the queen.
She looked up immediately.

“You are suffering?” she said.

“No, Motteville, no; why do you say that?”

“Your majesty almost groaned just now.”

“You are right; I did sigh, in truth.”

“Monsieur Valot is not far off; I believe he is in Madame’s apartment.”

“Why is he with Madame?”

“Madame is troubled with nervous attacks.”

“A very fine disorder, indeed! There is little good in M. Valot being
there, when a very different physician would quickly cure Madame.”

Madame de Motteville looked up with an air of great surprise, as she
replied, “Another doctor instead of M. Valot?--whom do you mean?”

“Occupation, Motteville, occupation. If any one is really ill, it is my
poor daughter.”

“And your majesty, too.”

“Less so this evening, though.”

“Do not believe that too confidently, madame,” said De Motteville. And,
as if to justify her caution, a sharp, acute pain seized the queen,
who turned deadly pale, and threw herself back in the chair, with
every symptom of a sudden fainting fit. Molina ran to a richly gilded
tortoise-shell cabinet, from which she took a large rock-crystal bottle
of scented salts, and held it to the queen’s nostrils, who inhaled it
wildly for a few minutes, and murmured:

“It is hastening my death--but Heaven’s will be done!”

“Your majesty’s death is not so near at hand,” added Molina, replacing
the smelling-bottle in the cabinet.

“Does your majesty feel better now?” inquired Madame de Motteville.

“Much better,” returned the queen, placing her finger on her lips, to
impose silence on her favorite.

“It is very strange,” remarked Madame de Motteville, after a pause.

“What is strange?” said the queen.

“Does your majesty remember the day when this pain attacked you for the
first time?”

“I remember only that it was a grievously sad day for me, Motteville.”

“But your majesty did not always regard that day as a sad one.”

“Why?”

“Because three and twenty years ago, on that very day, his present
majesty, your own glorious son, was born at the very same hour.”

The queen uttered a loud cry, buried her face in her hands, and seemed
utterly prostrated for some minutes; but whether from recollections
which arose in her mind, or from reflection, or even with sheer pain,
was doubtful. La Molina darted a look at Madame de Motteville, so full
of bitter reproach, that the poor woman, perfectly ignorant of
its meaning, was in her own exculpation on the point of asking an
explanation, when, suddenly, Anne of Austria arose and said, “Yes, the
5th of September; my sorrow began on the 5th of September. The greatest
joy, one day; the deepest sorrow the next;--the sorrow,” she added, “the
bitter expiation of a too excessive joy.”

And, from that moment, Anne of Austria, whose memory and reason seemed
to be suspended for the time, remained impenetrable, with vacant look,
mind almost wandering, and hands hanging heavily down, as if life had
almost departed.

“We must put her to bed,” said La Molina.

“Presently, Molina.”

“Let us leave the queen alone,” added the Spanish attendant.

Madame de Motteville rose; large tears were rolling down the queen’s
pallid face; and Molina, having observed this sign of weakness, fixed
her black vigilant eyes upon her.

“Yes, yes,” replied the queen. “Leave us, Motteville; go.”

The word “us” produced a disagreeable effect upon the ears of the
French favorite; for it signified that an interchange of secrets, or of
revelations of the past, was about to be made, and that one person was
_de trop_ in the conversation which seemed likely to take place.

“Will Molina, alone, be sufficient for your majesty to-night?” inquired
the French woman.

“Yes,” replied the queen. Madame de Motteville bowed in submission, and
was about to withdraw, when suddenly an old female attendant, dressed
as if she had belonged to the Spanish court of the year 1620, opened
the door, and surprised the queen in her tears. “The remedy!” she cried,
delightedly, to the queen, as she unceremoniously approached the group.

“What remedy?” said Anne of Austria.

“For your majesty’s sufferings,” the former replied.

“Who brings it?” asked Madame de Motteville, eagerly; “Monsieur Valot?”

“No; a lady from Flanders.”

“From Flanders? Is she Spanish?” inquired the queen.

“I don’t know.”

“Who sent her?”

“M. Colbert.”

“Her name?”

“She did not mention it.”

“Her position in life?”

“She will answer that herself.”

“Who is she?”

“She is masked.”

“Go, Molina; go and see!” cried the queen.

“It is needless,” suddenly replied a voice, at once firm and gentle in
its tone, which proceeded from the other side of the tapestry hangings;
a voice which made the attendants start, and the queen tremble
excessively. At the same moment, a masked female appeared through the
hangings, and, before the queen could speak a syllable she added, “I
am connected with the order of the Beguines of Bruges, and do, indeed,
bring with me the remedy which is certain to effect a cure of your
majesty’s complaint.” No one uttered a sound, and the Beguine did not
move a step.

“Speak,” said the queen.

“I will, when we are alone,” was the answer.

Anne of Austria looked at her attendants, who immediately withdrew. The
Beguine, thereupon, advanced a few steps towards the queen, and bowed
reverently before her. The queen gazed with increasing mistrust at
this woman, who, in her turn, fixed a pair of brilliant eyes upon her,
through her mask.

“The queen of France must, indeed, be very ill,” said Anne of Austria,
“if it is known at the Beguinage of Bruges that she stands in need of
being cured.”

“Your majesty is not irremediably ill.”

“But tell me how you happen to know I am suffering?”

“Your majesty has friends in Flanders.”

“Since these friends, then, sent you, mention their names.”

“Impossible, madame, since your majesty’s memory has not been awakened
by your heart.”

Anne of Austria looked up, endeavoring to discover through the
mysterious mask, and this ambiguous language, the name of her companion,
who expressed herself with such familiarity and freedom; then, suddenly,
wearied by a curiosity which wounded every feeling of pride in her
nature, she said, “You are ignorant, perhaps, that royal personages are
never spoken to with the face masked.”

“Deign to excuse me, madame,” replied the Beguine, humbly.

“I cannot excuse you. I may, possibly, forgive you, if you throw your
mask aside.”

“I have made a vow, madame, to attend and aid all afflicted and
suffering persons, without ever permitting them to behold my face. I
might have been able to administer some relief to your body and to your
mind, too; but since your majesty forbids me, I will take my leave.
Adieu, madame, adieu!”

These words were uttered with a harmony of tone and respect of manner
that disarmed the queen of all anger and suspicion, but did not remove
her feeling of curiosity. “You are right,” she said; “it ill-becomes
those who are suffering to reject the means of relief Heaven sends them.
Speak, then; and may you, indeed, be able, as you assert, to administer
relief to my body--”

“Let us first speak a little of the mind, if you please,” said the
Beguine--“of the mind, which, I am sure, must also suffer.”

“My mind?”

“There are cancers so insidious in their nature that their very
pulsations cannot be felt. Such cancers, madame, leave the ivory
whiteness of the skin unblemished, and putrefy not the firm, fair flesh,
with their blue tints; the physician who bends over the patient’s
chest hears not, though he listens, the insatiable teeth of the disease
grinding onward through the muscles, and the blood flows freely on; the
knife has never been able to destroy, and rarely, even temporarily, to
disarm the rage of these mortal scourges,--their home is in the mind,
which they corrupt,--they gnaw the whole heart until it breaks. Such,
madame, are the cancers fatal to queens; are you, too, free from their
scourge?”

Anne slowly raised her arm, dazzling in its perfect whiteness, and pure
in its rounded outlines as it was in the time of her earlier days.

“The evils to which you allude,” she said, “are the condition of the
lives of the high in rank upon earth, to whom Heaven has imparted mind.
When those evils become too heavy to be borne, Heaven lightens their
burdens by penitence and confession. Thus, only, we lay down our burden
and the secrets that oppress us. But, forget not that the same gracious
Heaven, in its mercy, apportions to their trials the strength of the
feeble creatures of its hand; and my strength has enabled me to bear my
burden. For the secrets of others, the silence of Heaven is more than
sufficient; for my own secrets, that of my confessor is enough.”

“You are as courageous, madame, I see, as ever, against your enemies.
You do not acknowledge your confidence in your friends?”

“Queens have no friends; if you have nothing further to say to me,--if
you feel yourself inspired by Heaven as a prophetess--leave me, I pray,
for I dread the future.”

“I should have supposed,” said the Beguine, resolutely, “that you would
rather have dreaded the past.”

Hardly had these words escaped her lips, than the queen rose up proudly.
“Speak,” she cried, in a short, imperious tone of voice; “explain
yourself briefly, quickly, entirely; or, if not--”

“Nay, do not threaten me, your majesty,” said the Beguine, gently; “I
came here to you full of compassion and respect. I came here on the part
of a friend.”

“Prove that to me! Comfort, instead of irritating me.”

“Easily enough, and your majesty will see who is friendly to you. What
misfortune has happened to your majesty during these three and twenty
years past--”

“Serious misfortunes, indeed; have I not lost the king?”

“I speak not of misfortunes of _that_ kind. I wish to ask you, if, since
the birth of the king, any indiscretion on a friend’s part has caused
your majesty the slightest serious anxiety, or distress?”

“I do not understand you,” replied the queen, clenching her teeth in
order to conceal her emotion.

“I will make myself understood, then. Your majesty remembers that the
king was born on the 5th of September, 1638, at a quarter past eleven
o’clock.”

“Yes,” stammered out the queen.

“At half-past twelve,” continued the Beguine, “the dauphin, who had been
baptized by Monseigneur de Meaux in the king’s and your own presence,
was acknowledged as the heir of the crown of France. The king then went
to the chapel of the old Chateau de Saint-Germain, to hear the _Te Deum_
chanted.”

“Quite true, quite true,” murmured the queen.

“Your majesty’s conferment took place in the presence of Monsieur, his
majesty’s late uncle, of the princes, and of the ladies attached to
the court. The king’s physician, Bouvard, and Honore, the surgeon, were
stationed in the ante-chamber; your majesty slept from three o’clock
until seven, I believe.”

“Yes, yes; but you tell me no more than every one else knows as well as
you and myself.”

“I am now, madame, approaching that which very few persons are
acquainted with. Very few persons, did I say, alas! I might say two
only, for formerly there were but five in all, and, for many years
past, the secret has been well preserved by the deaths of the principal
participators in it. The late king sleeps now with his ancestors;
Perronnette, the midwife, soon followed him; Laporte is already
forgotten.”

The queen opened her lips as though to reply; she felt, beneath her
icy hand, with which she kept her face half concealed, the beads of
perspiration on her brow.

“It was eight o’clock,” pursued the Beguine; “the king was seated at
supper, full of joy and happiness; around him on all sides arose wild
cries of delight and drinking of healths; the people cheered beneath
the balconies; the Swiss guards, the musketeers, and the royal guards
wandered through the city, borne about in triumph by the drunken
students. Those boisterous sounds of general joy disturbed the dauphin,
the future king of France, who was quietly lying in the arms of Madame
de Hausac, his nurse, and whose eyes, as he opened them, and stared
about, might have observed two crowns at the foot of his cradle.
Suddenly your majesty uttered a piercing cry, and Dame Perronnette
immediately flew to your bedside. The doctors were dining in a room at
some distance from your chamber; the palace, deserted from the frequency
of the irruptions made into it, was without either sentinels or guards.
The midwife, having questioned and examined your majesty, gave a sudden
exclamation as if in wild astonishment, and taking you in her arms,
bewildered almost out of her senses from sheer distress of mind,
dispatched Laporte to inform the king that her majesty the queen-mother
wished to see him in her room. Laporte, you are aware, madame, was a man
of the most admirable calmness and presence of mind. He did not approach
the king as if he were the bearer of alarming intelligence and wished
to inspire the terror he himself experienced; besides, it was not a
very terrifying intelligence which awaited the king. Therefore, Laporte
appeared with a smile upon his lips, and approached the king’s chair,
saying to him--‘Sire, the queen is very happy, and would be still more
so to see your majesty.’ On that day, Louis XIII. would have given
his crown away to the veriest beggar for a ‘God bless you.’ Animated,
light-hearted, and full of gayety, the king rose from the table,
and said to those around him, in a tone that Henry IV. might have
adopted,--‘Gentlemen, I am going to see my wife.’ He came to your
beside, madame, at the very moment Dame Perronnette presented to him a
second prince, as beautiful and healthy as the former, and said--‘Sire,
Heaven will not allow the kingdom of France to fall into the female
line.’ The king, yielding to a first impulse, clasped the child in his
arms, and cried, ‘Oh, Heaven, I thank Thee!’”

At this part of her recital, the Beguine paused, observing how intensely
the queen was suffering; she had thrown herself back in her chair, and
with her head bent forward and her eyes fixed, listened without seeming
to hear, and her lips moving convulsively, either breathing a prayer to
Heaven or imprecations on the woman standing before her.

“Ah! I do not believe that, if, because there could be but one dauphin
in France,” exclaimed the Beguine, “the queen allowed that child to
vegetate, banished from his royal parents’ presence, she was on that
account an unfeeling mother. Oh, no, no; there are those alive who have
known and witnessed the passionate kisses she imprinted on that innocent
creature in exchange for a life of misery and gloom to which state
policy condemned the twin brother of Louis XIV.”

“Oh! Heaven!” murmured the queen feebly.

“It is admitted,” continued the Beguine, quickly, “that when the king
perceived the effect which would result from the existence of two sons,
equal in age and pretensions, he trembled for the welfare of France,
for the tranquillity of the state; and it is equally well known that
Cardinal de Richelieu, by the direction of Louis XIII., thought over
the subject with deep attention, and after an hour’s meditation in his
majesty’s cabinet, he pronounced the following sentence:--‘One prince
means peace and safety for the state; two competitors, civil war and
anarchy.’”

The queen rose suddenly from her seat, pale as death, and her hands
clenched together:

“You know too much,” she said, in a hoarse, thick voice, “since you
refer to secrets of state. As for the friends from whom you have
acquired this secret, they are false and treacherous. You are their
accomplice in the crime which is being now committed. Now, throw aside
your mask, or I will have you arrested by my captain of the guards. Do
not think that this secret terrifies me! You have obtained it, you shall
restore it to me. Never shall it leave your bosom, for neither your
secret nor your own life belong to you from this moment.”

Anne of Austria, joining gesture to the threat, advanced a couple of
steps towards the Beguine.

“Learn,” said the latter, “to know and value the fidelity, the honor,
and secrecy of the friends you have abandoned.” And, then, suddenly she
threw aside her mask.

“Madame de Chevreuse!” exclaimed the queen.

“With your majesty, the sole living _confidante_ of the secret.”

“Ah!” murmured Anne of Austria; “come and embrace me, duchesse. Alas!
you kill your friend in thus trifling with her terrible distress.”

And the queen, leaning her head upon the shoulder of the old duchesse,
burst into a flood of bitter tears. “How young you are--still!” said the
latter, in a hollow voice; “you can weep!”



Chapter XLIV. Two Friends.

The queen looked steadily at Madame de Chevreuse, and said: “I believe
you just now made use of the word ‘happy’ in speaking of me. Hitherto,
duchesse, I had thought it impossible that a human creature could
anywhere be found more miserable than the queen of France.”

“Your afflictions, madame, have indeed been terrible enough. But by the
side of those great and grand misfortunes to which we, two old friends,
separated by men’s malice, were just now alluding, you possess sources
of pleasure, slight enough in themselves it may be, but greatly envied
by the world.”

“What are they?” said Anne of Austria, bitterly. “What can induce you
to pronounce the word ‘pleasure,’ duchesse--you who, just now, admitted
that my body and my mind both stood in need of remedies?”

Madame de Chevreuse collected herself for a moment, and then murmured,
“How far removed kings are from other people!”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that they are so far removed from the vulgar herd that they
forget that others often stand in need of the bare necessities of life.
They are like the inhabitant of the African mountains, who, gazing from
the verdant tableland, refreshed by the rills of melted snow, cannot
comprehend that the dwellers in the plains below are perishing from
hunger and thirst in the midst of the desert, burnt up by the heat of
the sun.”

The queen colored, for she now began to perceive the drift of her
friend’s remark. “It was very wrong,” she said, “to have neglected you.”

“Oh! madame, I know the king has inherited the hatred his father bore
me. The king would exile me if he knew I were in the Palais Royal.”

“I cannot say that the king is very well disposed towards you,
duchesse,” replied the queen; “but I could--secretly, you know--”

The duchesse’s disdainful smile produced a feeling of uneasiness in the
queen’s mind. “Duchesse,” she hastened to add, “you did perfectly
right to come here, even were it only to give us the happiness of
contradicting the report of your death.”

“Has it been rumored, then, that I was dead?”

“Everywhere.”

“And yet my children did not go into mourning.”

“Ah! you know, duchesse, the court is very frequently moving about from
place to place; we see M. Albert de Luynes but seldom, and many things
escape our minds in the midst of the preoccupations that constantly
beset us.”

“Your majesty ought not to have believed the report of my death.”

“Why not? Alas! we are all mortal; and you may perceive how rapidly
I, your younger sister, as we used formerly to say, am approaching the
tomb.”

“If your majesty believed me dead, you ought, in that case, to have been
astonished not to have received the news.”

“Death not unfrequently takes us by surprise, duchesse.”

“Oh! your majesty, those who are burdened with secrets such as we have
just now discussed must, as a necessity of their nature, satisfy their
craving desire to divulge them, and they feel they must gratify that
desire before they die. Among the various preparations for their final
journey, the task of placing their papers in order is not omitted.”

The queen started.

“Your majesty will be sure to learn, in a particular manner, the day of
my death.”

“In what way?”

“Because your majesty will receive the next day, under several
coverings, everything connected with our mysterious correspondence of
former times.”

“Did you not burn them?” cried Anne, in alarm.

“Traitors only,” replied the duchesse, “destroy a royal correspondence.”

“Traitors, do you say?”

“Yes, certainly, or rather they pretend to destroy, instead of which
they keep or sell it. Faithful friends, on the contrary, most carefully
secrete such treasures, for it may happen that some day or other they
would wish to seek out their queen in order to say to her: ‘Madame, I am
getting old; my health is fast failing me; in the presence of the danger
of death, for there is the risk for your majesty that this secret may
be revealed, take, therefore, this paper, so fraught with menace for
yourself, and trust not to another to burn it for you.’”

“What paper do you refer to?”

“As far as I am concerned, I have but one, it is true, but that is
indeed most dangerous in its nature.”

“Oh! duchesse, tell me what it is.”

“A letter, dated Tuesday, the 2d of August, 1644, in which you beg me to
go to Noisy-le-Sec, to see that unhappy child. In your own handwriting,
madame, there are those words, ‘that unhappy child!’”

A profound silence ensued; the queen’s mind was busy in the past; Madame
de Chevreuse was watching the progress of her scheme. “Yes, unhappy,
most unhappy!” murmured Anne of Austria; “how sad the existence he led,
poor child, to finish it in so cruel a manner.”

“Is he dead?” cried the duchesse suddenly, with a curiosity whose
genuine accents the queen instinctively detected.

“He died of consumption, died forgotten, died withered and blighted like
the flowers a lover has given to his mistress, which she leaves to die
secreted in a drawer where she had hid them from the gaze of others.”

“Died!” repeated the duchesse with an air of discouragement, which would
have afforded the queen the most unfeigned delight, had it not
been tempered in some measure with a mixture of doubt--“Died--at
Noisy-le-Sec?”

“Yes, in the arms of his tutor, a poor, honest man, who did not long
survive him.”

“That can easily be understood; it is so difficult to bear up under the
weight of such a loss and such a secret,” said Madame de Chevreuse,--the
irony of which reflection the queen pretended not to perceive. Madame
de Chevreuse continued: “Well, madame, I inquired some years ago at
Noisy-le-Sec about this unhappy child. I was told that it was not
believed he was dead, and that was my reason for not having at first
condoled with your majesty; for, most certainly, if I could have thought
it were true, never should I have made the slightest allusion to so
deplorable an event, and thus have re-awakened your majesty’s most
natural distress.”

“You say that it is not believed the child died at Noisy?”

“No, madame.”

“What did they say about him, then?”

“They said--but, no doubt, they were mistaken--”

“Nay, speak, speak!”

“They said, that one evening, about the year 1645, a lady, beautiful and
majestic in her bearing, which was observed notwithstanding the mask and
the mantle that concealed her figure--a lady of rank, of very high rank,
no doubt--came in a carriage to the place where the road branches off;
the very same spot, you know, where I awaited news of the young prince
when your majesty was graciously pleased to send me there.”

“Well, well?”

“That the boy’s tutor, or guardian, took the child to this lady.”

“Well, what next?”

“That both the child and his tutor left that part of the country the
very next day.”

“There, you see there is some truth in what you relate, since, in point
of fact, the poor child died from a sudden attack of illness, which
makes the lives of all children, as doctors say, suspended as it were by
a thread.”

“What your majesty says is quite true; no one knows it better than
yourself--no one believes it more strongly than myself. But yet, how
strange it is--”

“What can it now be?” thought the queen.

“The person who gave me these details, who was sent to inquire after the
child’s health--”

“Did you confide such a charge to any one else? Oh, duchesse!”

“Some one as dumb as your majesty, as dumb as myself; we will suppose
it was myself, Madame; this some one, some months after, passing through
Touraine--”

“Touraine!”

“Recognized both the tutor and the child, too! I am wrong, thought he
recognized them, both living, cheerful, happy, and flourishing, the one
in a green old age, the other in the flower of his youth. Judge after
that what truth can be attributed to the rumors which are circulated, or
what faith, after that, placed in anything that may happen in the world!
But I am fatiguing your majesty; it was not my intention, however, to do
so, and I will take my leave of you, after renewing to you the assurance
of my most respectful devotion.”

“Stay, duchesse; let us first talk a little about yourself.”

“Of myself, madame! I am not worthy that you should bend your looks upon
me.”

“Why not, indeed? Are you not the oldest friend I have? Are you angry
with me, duchesse?”

“I, indeed! what motive could I have? If I had reason to be angry with
your majesty, should I have come here?”

“Duchesse, age is fast creeping on us both; we should be united against
that death whose approach cannot be far off.”

“You overpower me, madame, with the kindness of your language.”

“No one has ever loved or served me as you have done, duchesse.”

“Your majesty is too kind in remembering it.”

“Not so. Give me a proof of your friendship, duchesse.”

“My whole being is devoted to you, madame.”

“The proof I require is, that you should ask something of me.”

“Ask--”

“Oh, I know you well,--no one is more disinterested, more noble, and
truly loyal.”

“Do not praise me too highly, madame,” said the duchesse, somewhat
anxiously.

“I could never praise you as much as you deserve to be praised.”

“And yet, age and misfortune effect a terrible change in people,
madame.”

“So much the better; for the beautiful, the haughty, the adored duchesse
of former days might have answered me ungratefully, ‘I do not wish for
anything from you.’ Heaven be praised! The misfortunes you speak of have
indeed worked a change in you, for you will now, perhaps, answer me, ‘I
accept.’”

The duchesse’s look and smile soon changed at this conclusion, and she
no longer attempted to act a false part.

“Speak, dearest, what do you want?”

“I must first explain to you--”

“Do so unhesitatingly.”

“Well, then, your majesty can confer the greatest, the most ineffable
pleasure upon me.”

“What is it?” said the queen, a little distant in her manner, from an
uneasiness of feeling produced by this remark. “But do not forget, my
good Chevreuse, that I am quite as much under my son’s influence as I
was formerly under my husband’s.”

“I will not be too hard, madame.”

“Call me as you used to do; it will be a sweet echo of our happy youth.”

“Well, then, my dear mistress, my darling Anne--”

“Do you know Spanish, still?”

“Yes.”

“Ask me in Spanish, then.”

“Will your majesty do me the honor to pass a few days with me at
Dampierre?”

“Is that all?” said the queen, stupefied. “Nothing more than that?”

“Good heavens! can you possibly imagine that, in asking you that, I am
not asking you the greatest conceivable favor? If that really be the
case, you do not know me. Will you accept?”

“Yes, gladly. And I shall be happy,” continued the queen, with some
suspicion, “if my presence can in any way be useful to you.”

“Useful!” exclaimed the duchesse, laughing; “oh, no, no,
agreeable--delightful, if you like; and you promise me, then?”

“I swear it,” said the queen, whereupon the duchesse seized her
beautiful hand, and covered it with kisses. The queen could not help
murmuring to herself, “She is a good-hearted woman, and very generous,
too.”

“Will your majesty consent to wait a fortnight before you come?”

“Certainly; but why?”

“Because,” said the duchesse, “knowing me to be in disgrace, no one
would lend me the hundred thousand francs, which I require to put
Dampierre into a state of repair. But when it is known that I require
that sum for the purpose of receiving your majesty at Dampierre
properly, all the money in Paris will be at my disposal.”

“Ah!” said the queen, gently nodding her head in sign of intelligence,
“a hundred thousand francs! you want a hundred thousand francs to put
Dampierre into repair?”

“Quite as much as that.”

“And no one will lend you them?”

“No one.”

“I will lend them to you, if you like, duchesse.”

“Oh, I hardly dare accept such a sum.”

“You would be wrong if you did _not_. Besides, a hundred thousand francs
is really not much. I know but too well that you never set a right value
upon your silence and secrecy. Push that table a little towards me,
duchesse, and I will write you an order on M. Colbert; no, on M.
Fouquet, who is a far more courteous and obliging man.”

“Will he pay it, though?”

“If he will not pay it, I will; but it will be the first time he will
have refused me.”

The queen wrote and handed the duchesse the order, and afterwards
dismissed her with a warm embrace.



Chapter XLV. How Jean de La Fontaine Came to Write His First Tale.

All these intrigues are exhausted; the human mind, so variously
complicated, has been enabled to develop itself at its ease in the three
outlines with which our recital has supplied it. It is not unlikely
that, in the future we are now preparing, a question of politics and
intrigues may still arise, but the springs by which they work will be
so carefully concealed that no one will be able to see aught but flowers
and paintings, just as at a theater, where a colossus appears upon the
scene, walking along moved by the small legs and slender arms of a child
concealed within the framework.

We now return to Saint-Mande, where the superintendent was in the habit
of receiving his select confederacy of epicureans. For some time past
the host had met with nothing but trouble. Every one in the house was
aware of and felt for the minister’s distress. No more magnificent or
recklessly improvident _reunions_. Money had been the pretext assigned
by Fouquet, and never _was_ any pretext, as Gourville said, more
fallacious, for there was not even a shadow of money to be seen.

M. Vatel was resolutely painstaking in keeping up the reputation of the
house, and yet the gardeners who supplied the kitchens complained of
ruinous delays. The agents for the supply of Spanish wines sent drafts
which no one honored; fishermen, whom the superintendent engaged on the
coast of Normandy, calculated that if they were paid all that was due to
them, the amount would enable them to retire comfortably for life; fish,
which, at a later period, was the cause of Vatel’s death, did not arrive
at all. However, on the ordinary reception days, Fouquet’s friends
flocked in more numerously than ever. Gourville and the Abbe Fouquet
talked over money matters--that is to say, the abbe borrowed a few
pistoles from Gourville; Pelisson, seated with his legs crossed, was
engaged in finishing the peroration of a speech with which Fouquet
was to open the parliament; and this speech was a masterpiece, because
Pelisson wrote it for his friend--that is to say, he inserted all kinds
of clever things the latter would most certainly never have taken the
trouble to say of his own accord. Presently Loret and La Fontaine would
enter from the garden, engaged in a dispute about the art of making
verses. The painters and musicians, in their turn, were hovering near
the dining-room. As soon as eight o’clock struck the supper would be
announced, for the superintendent never kept any one waiting. It was
already half-past seven, and the appetites of the guests were beginning
to declare themselves in an emphatic manner. As soon as all the guests
were assembled, Gourville went straight up to Pelisson, awoke him out
of his reverie, and led him into the middle of a room, and closed the
doors. “Well,” he said, “anything new?”

Pelisson raised his intelligent and gentle face, and said: “I have
borrowed five and twenty thousand francs of my aunt, and I have them
here in good sterling money.”

“Good,” replied Gourville; “we only what one hundred and ninety-five
thousand livres for the first payment.”

“The payment of what?” asked La Fontaine.

“What! absent-minded as usual! Why, it was you who told us the small
estate at Corbeli was going to be sold by one of M. Fouquet’s creditors;
and you, also, who proposed that all his friends should subscribe--more
than that, it was you who said that you would sell a corner of your
house at Chateau-Thierry, in order to furnish your own proportion, and
you come and ask--‘_The payment of what?_’”

This remark was received with a general laugh, which made La Fontaine
blush. “I beg your pardon,” he said, “I had not forgotten it; oh, no!
only--”

“Only you remembered nothing about it,” replied Loret.

“That is the truth, and the fact is, he is quite right, there is a great
difference between forgetting and not remembering.”

“Well, then,” added Pelisson, “you bring your mite in the shape of the
price of the piece of land you have sold?”

“Sold? no!”

“Have you not sold the field, then?” inquired Gourville, in
astonishment, for he knew the poet’s disinterestedness.

“My wife would not let me,” replied the latter, at which there were
fresh bursts of laughter.

“And yet you went to Chateau-Thierry for that purpose,” said some one.

“Certainly I did, and on horseback.”

“Poor fellow!”

“I had eight different horses, and I was almost bumped to death.”

“You are an excellent fellow! And you rested yourself when you arrived
there?”

“Rested! Oh! of course I did, for I had an immense deal of work to do.”

“How so?”

“My wife had been flirting with the man to whom I wished to sell the
land. The fellow drew back from his bargain, and so I challenged him.”

“Very good, and you fought?”

“It seems not.”

“You know nothing about it, I suppose?”

“No, my wife and her relations interfered in the matter. I was kept a
quarter of an hour with my sword in my hand; but I was not wounded.”

“And your adversary?”

“Oh! he wasn’t wounded either, for he never came on the field.”

“Capital!” cried his friends from all sides, “you must have been
terribly angry.”

“Exceedingly so; I caught cold; I returned home and then my wife began
to quarrel with me.”

“In real earnest?”

“Yes, in real earnest. She threw a loaf of bread at my head, a large
loaf.”

“And what did you do?”

“Oh! I upset the table over her and her guests; and then I got on my
horse again, and here I am.”

Every one had great difficulty in keeping his countenance at the
exposure of this heroi-comedy, and when the laughter had subsided, one
of the guests present said to La Fontaine: “Is that all you have brought
back?”

“Oh, no! I have an excellent idea in my head.”

“What is it?”

“Have you noticed that there is a good deal of sportive, jesting poetry
written in France?”

“Yes, of course,” replied every one.

“And,” pursued La Fontaine, “only a very small portion of it is
printed.”

“The laws are strict, you know.”

“That may be; but a rare article is a dear article, and that is the
reason why I have written a small poem, excessively free in its style,
very broad, and extremely cynical in its tone.”

“The deuce you have!”

“Yes,” continued the poet, with assumed indifference, “and I have
introduced the greatest freedom of language I could possibly employ.”

Peals of laughter again broke forth, while the poet was thus announcing
the quality of his wares. “And,” he continued, “I have tried to excel
everything that Boccaccio, Aretin, and other masters of their craft have
written in the same style.”

“Its fate is clear,” said Pelisson; “it will be suppressed and
forbidden.”

“Do you think so?” said La Fontaine, simply. “I assure you I did not do
it on my own account so much as M. Fouquet’s.”

This wonderful conclusion again raised the mirth of all present.

“And I have sold the first edition of this little book for eight hundred
livres,” exclaimed La Fontaine, rubbing his hands together. “Serious and
religions books sell at about half that rate.”

“It would have been better,” said Gourville, “to have written two
religious books instead.”

“It would have been too long, and not amusing enough,” replied La
Fontaine tranquilly; “my eight hundred livres are in this little bag,
and I beg to offer them as _my_ contribution.”

As he said this, he placed his offering in the hands of their treasurer;
it was then Loret’s turn, who gave a hundred and fifty livres; the
others stripped themselves in the same way; and the total sum in the
purse amounted to forty thousand livres. The money was still being
counted over when the superintendent noiselessly entered the room;
he had heard everything; and then this man, who had possessed so many
millions, who had exhausted all the pleasures and honors the world had
to bestow, this generous heart, this inexhaustible brain, which had,
like two burning crucibles, devoured the material and moral substance of
the first kingdom in Europe, was seen to cross the threshold with tears
in his eyes, and pass his fingers through the gold and silver which the
bag contained.

“Poor offering,” he said, in a softened and affected tone of voice, “you
will disappear into the smallest corner of my empty purse, but you have
filled to overflowing that which no one can ever exhaust, my heart.
Thank you, my friends--thank you.” And as he could not embrace every
one present, who were all tearful, too, philosophers as they were, he
embraced La Fontaine, saying to him, “Poor fellow! so you have, on my
account, been beaten by your wife and censured by your confessor.”

“Oh! it is a mere nothing,” replied the poet; “if your creditors will
only wait a couple of years, I shall have written a hundred other tales,
which, at two editions each, will pay off the debt.”



Chapter XLVI. La Fontaine in the Character of a Negotiator.

Fouquet pressed La Fontaine’s hand most warmly, saying to him, “My dear
poet, write a hundred other tales, not only for the eighty pistoles
which each of them will produce you, but, still more, to enrich our
language with a hundred new masterpieces of composition.”

“Oh!” said La Fontaine, with a little air of pride, “you must not
suppose that I have only brought this idea and the eighty pistoles to
the superintendent.”

“Oh! indeed,” was the general acclamation from all parts of the room,
“M. de la Fontaine is in funds to-day.”

“Exactly,” replied La Fontaine.

“Quick, quick!” cried the assembly.

“Take care,” said Pelisson in La Fontaine’s ear; “you have had a most
brilliant success up to the present moment; do not go beyond your
depth.”

“Not at all, Monsieur Pelisson; and you, who are a man of decided taste,
will be the first to approve of what I have done.”

“We are talking of millions, remember,” said Gourville.

“I have fifteen hundred thousand francs here, Monsieur Gourville,” he
replied, striking himself on the chest.

“The deuce take this Gascon from Chateau-Thierry!” cried Loret.

“It is not the pocket you must tap--but the brain,” said Fouquet.

“Stay a moment, monsieur le surintendant,” added La Fontaine; “you are
not procureur-general--you are a poet.”

“True, true!” cried Loret, Conrart, and every person present connected
with literature.

“You are, I repeat, a poet and a painter, a sculptor, a friend of the
arts and sciences; but, acknowledge that you are no lawyer.”

“Oh! I do acknowledge it,” replied M. Fouquet, smiling.

“If you were to be nominated at the Academy, you would refuse, I think.”

“I think I should, with all due deference to the academicians.”

“Very good; if, therefore, you do not wish to belong to the Academy, why
do you allow yourself to form one of the parliament?”

“Oh!” said Pelisson, “we are talking politics.”

“I wish to know whether the barrister’s gown does or does not become M.
Fouquet.”

“There is no question of the gown at all,” retorted Pelisson, annoyed at
the laughter of those who were present.

“On the contrary, it is the gown,” said Loret.

“Take the gown away from the procureur-general,” said Conrart, “and we
have M. Fouquet left us still, of whom we have no reason to complain;
but, as he is no procureur-general without his gown, we agree with M. de
la Fontaine and pronounce the gown to be nothing but a bugbear.”

“_Fugiunt risus leporesque_,” said Loret.

“The smiles and the graces,” said some one present.

“That is not the way,” said Pelisson, gravely, “that I translate
_lepores_.”

“How do you translate it?” said La Fontaine.

“Thus: The hares run away as soon as they see M. Fouquet.” A burst of
laughter, in which the superintendent joined, followed this sally.

“But why hares?” objected Conrart, vexed.

“Because the hare will be the very one who will not be over pleased to
see M. Fouquet surrounded by all the attributes which his parliamentary
strength and power confer on him.”

“Oh! oh!” murmured the poets.

“_Quo non ascendam_,” said Conrart, “seems impossible to me, when one is
fortunate enough to wear the gown of the procureur-general.” [9]

“On the contrary, it seems so to me without that gown,” said the
obstinate Pelisson; “what is your opinion, Gourville?”

“I think the gown in question is a very good thing,” replied the latter;
“but I equally think that a million and a half is far better than the
gown.”

“And I am of Gourville’s opinion,” exclaimed Fouquet, stopping the
discussion by the expression of his own opinion, which would necessarily
bear down all the others.

“A million and a half,” Pelisson grumbled out; “now I happen to know an
Indian fable--”

“Tell it to me,” said La Fontaine; “I ought to know it too.”

“Tell it, tell it,” said the others.

“There was a tortoise, which was, as usual, well protected by its
shell,” said Pelisson; “whenever its enemies threatened it, it took
refuge within its covering. One day some one said to it, ‘You must feel
very hot in such a house as that in the summer, and you are altogether
prevented showing off your graces; there is a snake here, who will give
you a million and a half for your shell.’”

“Good!” said the superintendent, laughing.

“Well, what next?” said La Fontaine, more interested in the apologue
than in the moral.

“The tortoise sold his shell and remained naked and defenseless. A
vulture happened to see him, and being hungry, broke the tortoise’s back
with a blow of his beak and devoured it. The moral is, that M. Fouquet
should take very good care to keep his gown.”

La Fontaine understood the moral seriously. “You forget Aeschylus,” he
said, to his adversary.

“What do you mean?”

“Aeschylus was bald-headed, and a vulture--your vulture, probably--who
was a great amateur in tortoises, mistook at a distance his head for a
block of stone, and let a tortoise, which was shrunk up in his shell,
fall upon it.”

“Yes, yes, La Fontaine is right,” resumed Fouquet, who had become very
thoughtful; “whenever a vulture wishes to devour a tortoise, he well
knows how to break his shell; but happy is that tortoise a snake pays
a million and a half for his envelope. If any one were to bring me a
generous-hearted snake like the one in your fable, Pelisson, I would
give him my shell.”

“_Rara avis in terres!_” cried Conrart. [10]

“And like a black swan, is he not?” added La Fontaine; “well, then, the
bird in question, black and rare, is already found.”

“Do you mean to say that you have found a purchaser for my post of
procureur-general?” exclaimed Fouquet.

“I have, monsieur.”

“But the superintendent never said that he wished to sell,” resumed
Pelisson.

“I beg your pardon,” said Conrart, “you yourself spoke about it, even--”

“Yes, I am a witness to that,” said Gourville.

“He seems very tenacious about his brilliant idea,” said Fouquet,
laughing. “Well, La Fontaine, who is the purchaser?”

“A perfect blackbird, for he is a counselor belonging to the parliament,
an excellent fellow.”

“What is his name?”

“Vanel.”

“Vanel!” exclaimed Fouquet. “Vanel the husband of--”

“Precisely, her husband; yes, monsieur.”

“Poor fellow!” said Fouquet, with an expression of great interest.

“He wishes to be everything that you have been, monsieur,” said
Gourville, “and to do everything that you have done.”

“It is very agreeable; tell us all about it, La Fontaine.”

“It is very simple. I see him occasionally, and a short time ago I met
him, walking about on the Place de la Bastile, at the very moment when I
was about to take the small carriage to come down here to Saint-Mande.”

“He must have been watching his wife,” interrupted Loret.

“Oh, no!” said La Fontaine, “he is far from being jealous. He accosted
me, embraced me, and took me to the inn called L’Image Saint-Fiacre, and
told me all about his troubles.”

“He has his troubles, then?”

“Yes; his wife wants to make him ambitious.”

“Well, and he told you--”

“That some one had spoken to him about a post in parliament; that M.
Fouquet’s name had been mentioned; that ever since, Madame Vanel dreams
of nothing else than being called madame la procureur-generale, and that
it makes her ill and kills her every night she does not dream about it.”

“The deuce!”

“Poor woman!” said Fouquet.

“Wait a moment. Conrart is always telling me that I do not know how to
conduct matters of business; you will see how I managed this one.”

“Well, go on.”

“‘I suppose you know,’ said I to Vanel, ‘that the value of a post such
as that which M. Fouquet holds is by no means trifling.’

“‘How much do you imagine it to be?’ he said.

“‘M. Fouquet, I know, has refused seventeen hundred thousand francs.’

“‘My wife,’ replied Vanel, ‘had estimated it at about fourteen hundred
thousand.’

“‘Ready money?’ I said.

“‘Yes; she has sold some property of hers in Guienne, and has received
the purchase money.’”

“That’s a pretty sum to touch all at once,” said the Abbe Fouquet, who
had not hitherto said a word.

“Poor Madame Vanel!” murmured Fouquet.

Pelisson shrugged his shoulders, as he whispered in Fouquet’s ear, “That
woman is a perfect fiend.”

“That may be; and it will be delightful to make use of this fiend’s
money to repair the injury which an angel has done herself for me.”

Pelisson looked with a surprised air at Fouquet, whose thoughts were
from that moment fixed upon a fresh object in view.

“Well!” inquired La Fontaine, “what about my negotiation?”

“Admirable, my dear poet.”

“Yes,” said Gourville; “but there are some people who are anxious to
have the steed who have not even money enough to pay for the bridle.”

“And Vanel would draw back from his offer if he were to be taken at his
word,” continued the Abbe Fouquet.

“I do not believe it,” said La Fontaine.

“What do you know about it?”

“Why, you have not yet heard the _denouement_ of my story.”

“If there is a _denouement_, why do you beat about the bush so much?”

“_Semper ad eventum_. Is that correct?” said Fouquet, with the air of a
nobleman who condescends to barbarisms. To which the Latinists present
answered with loud applause. [11]

“My _denouement_,” cried La Fontaine, “is that Vanel, that determined
blackbird, knowing that I was coming to Saint-Mande, implored me to
bring him with me, and, if possible, to present him to M. Fouquet.”

“So that--”

“So that he is here; I left him in that part of the ground called
Bel-Air. Well, M. Fouquet, what is your reply?”

“Well, it is not respectful towards Madame Vanel that her husband
should run the risk of catching cold outside my house; send for him, La
Fontaine, since you know where he is.”

“I will go myself.”

“And I will accompany you,” said the Abbe Fouquet; “I will carry the
money bags.”

“No jesting,” said Fouquet, seriously; “let the business be a serious
one, if it is to be one at all. But first of all, let us show we are
hospitable. Make my apologies, La Fontaine, to M. Vanel, and tell him
how distressed I am to have kept him waiting, but that I was not
aware he was there.”

La Fontaine set off at once, fortunately accompanied by Gourville,
for, absorbed in his own calculations, the poet would have mistaken
the route, and was hurrying as fast as he could towards the village
of Saint-Mande. Within a quarter of an hour afterwards, M. Vanel was
introduced into the superintendent’s cabinet, a description of which has
already been given at the beginning of this story. When Fouquet saw him
enter, he called to Pelisson, and whispered a few words in his ear. “Do
not lose a single word of what I am going to say: let all the silver and
gold plate, together with my jewels of every description, be packed
up in the carriage. You will take the black horses: the jeweler
will accompany you; and you will postpone the supper until Madame de
Belliere’s arrival.”

“Will it be necessary to inform Madame de Belliere of it?” said
Pelisson.

“No; that will be useless; I will do that. So, away with you, my dear
friend.”

Pelisson set off, not quite clear as to his friend’s meaning or
intention, but confident, like every true friend, in the judgment of the
man he was blindly obeying. It is that which constitutes the strength of
such men; distrust only arises in the minds of inferior natures.

Vanel bowed lowly to the superintendent, and was about to begin a
speech.

“Do not trouble yourself, monsieur,” said Fouquet, politely; “I am told
you wish to purchase a post I hold. How much can you give me for it?”

“It is for you, monseigneur, to fix the amount you require. I know that
offers of purchase have already been made to you for it.”

“Madame Vanel, I have been told, values it at fourteen hundred thousand
livres.”

“That is all we have.”

“Can you give me the money immediately?”

“I have not the money with me,” said Vanel, frightened almost by the
unpretending simplicity, amounting to greatness, of the man, for he had
expected disputes, difficulties, opposition of every kind.

“When will you be able to bring it?”

“Whenever you please, monseigneur;” for he began to be afraid that
Fouquet was trifling with him.

“If it were not for the trouble you would have in returning to Paris,
I would say at once; but we will arrange that the payment and the
signature shall take place at six o’clock to-morrow morning.”

“Very good,” said Vanel, as cold as ice, and feeling quite bewildered.

“Adieu, Monsieur Vanel, present my humblest respects to Madame Vanel,”
 said Fouquet, as he rose; upon which Vanel, who felt the blood rushing
to his head, for he was quite confounded by his success, said seriously
to the superintendent, “Will you give me your word, monseigneur, upon
this affair?”

Fouquet turned round his head, saying, “_Pardieu_, and you, monsieur?”

Vanel hesitated, trembled all over, and at last finished by hesitatingly
holding out his hand. Fouquet opened and nobly extended his own; this
loyal hand lay for a moment in Vanel’s most hypocritical palm, and he
pressed it in his own, in order the better to convince himself of the
compact. The superintendent gently disengaged his hand, as he again
said, “Adieu.” And then Vanel ran hastily to the door, hurried along the
vestibule, and fled as quickly as he could.



Chapter XLVII. Madame de Belliere’s Plate and Diamonds.

Fouquet had no sooner dismissed Vanel than he began to reflect for a few
moments--“A man never can do too much for the woman he has once loved.
Marguerite wishes to be the wife of a procureur-general--and why not
confer this pleasure upon her? And, now that the most scrupulous and
sensitive conscience will be unable to reproach me with anything, let
my thoughts be bestowed on her who has shown so much devotion for me.
Madame de Belliere ought to be there by this time,” he said, as he
turned towards the secret door.

After he had locked himself in, he opened the subterranean passage, and
rapidly hastened towards the means of communicating between the house at
Vincennes and his own residence. He had neglected to apprise his friend
of his approach, by ringing the bell, perfectly assured that she would
never fail to be exact at the rendezvous; as, indeed, was the case, for
she was already waiting. The noise the superintendent made aroused her;
she ran to take from under the door the letter he had thrust there, and
which simply said, “Come, marquise; we are waiting supper for you.” With
her heart filled with happiness Madame de Belliere ran to her carriage
in the Avenue de Vincennes, and in a few minutes she was holding out her
hand to Gourville, who was standing at the entrance, where, in order
the better to please his master, he had stationed himself to watch her
arrival. She had not observed that Fouquet’s black horse arrived at the
same time, all steaming and foam-flaked, having returned to Saint-Mande
with Pelisson and the very jeweler to whom Madame de Belliere had sold
her plate and her jewels. Pelisson introduced the goldsmith into the
cabinet, which Fouquet had not yet left. The superintendent thanked him
for having been good enough to regard as a simple deposit in his hands,
the valuable property which he had every right to sell; and he cast his
eyes on the total of the account, which amounted to thirteen hundred
thousand francs. Then, going for a few moments to his desk, he wrote
an order for fourteen hundred thousand francs, payable at sight, at his
treasury, before twelve o’clock the next day.

“A hundred thousand francs profit!” cried the goldsmith. “Oh,
monseigneur, what generosity!”

“Nay, nay, not so, monsieur,” said Fouquet, touching him on the
shoulder; “there are certain kindnesses which can never be repaid. This
profit is only what you have earned; but the interest of your money
still remains to be arranged.” And, saying this, he unfastened from his
sleeve a diamond button, which the goldsmith himself had often valued
at three thousand pistoles. “Take this,” he said to the goldsmith, “in
remembrance of me. Farewell; you are an honest man.”

“And you, monseigneur,” cried the goldsmith, completely overcome, “are
the noblest man that ever lived.”

Fouquet let the worthy goldsmith pass out of the room by a secret door,
and then went to receive Madame de Belliere, who was already surrounded
by all the guests. The marquise was always beautiful, but now her
loveliness was more dazzling than ever. “Do you not think, gentlemen,”
 said Fouquet, “that madame is more than usually beautiful this evening?
And do you happen to know why?”

“Because madame is really the most beautiful of all women,” said some
one present.

“No; but because she is the best. And yet--”

“Yet?” said the marquise, smiling.

“And yet, all the jewels which madame is wearing this evening are
nothing but false stones.” At this remark the marquise blushed most
painfully.

“Oh, oh!” exclaimed all the guests, “that can very well be said of one
who has the finest diamonds in Paris.”

“Well?” said Fouquet to Pelisson, in a low tone.

“Well, at last I have understood you,” returned the latter; “and you
have done exceedingly well.”

“Supper is ready, monseigneur,” said Vatel, with majestic air and tone.

The crowd of guests hurried, more quickly than is usually the case
with ministerial entertainments, towards the banqueting-room, where
a magnificent spectacle presented itself. Upon the buffets, upon the
side-tables, upon the supper-table itself, in the midst of flowers and
light, glittered most dazzlingly the richest and most costly gold
and silver plate that could possibly be seen--relics of those ancient
magnificent productions the Florentine artists, whom the Medici family
patronized, sculptured, chased, and moulded for the purpose of holding
flowers, at a time when gold existed still in France. These hidden
marvels, which had been buried during the civil wars, timidly reappeared
during the intervals of that war of good taste called La Fronde; at a
time when noblemen fighting against nobleman killed, but did not pillage
each other. All the plate present had Madame de Belliere’s arms engraved
upon it. “Look,” cried La Fontaine, “here is a P and a B.”

But the most remarkable object present was the cover which Fouquet had
assigned to the marquise. Near her was a pyramid of diamonds, sapphires,
emeralds, antique cameos, sardonyx stones, carved by the old Greeks of
Asia Minor, with mountings of Mysian gold; curious mosaics of ancient
Alexandria, set in silver; massive Egyptian bracelets lay heaped on
a large plate of Palissy ware, supported by a tripod of gilt bronze,
sculptured by Benvenuto Cellini. The marquise turned pale, as she
recognized what she had never expected to see again. A profound silence
fell on every one of the restless and excited guests. Fouquet did
not even make a sign in dismissal of the richly liveried servants who
crowded like bees round the huge buffets and other tables in the room.
“Gentlemen,” he said, “all this plate which you behold once belonged
to Madame de Belliere, who, having observed one of her friends in great
distress, sent all this gold and silver, together with the heap of
jewels now before her, to her goldsmith. This noble conduct of a devoted
friend can well be understood by such friends as you. Happy indeed is
that man who sees himself loved in such a manner. Let us drink to the
health of Madame de Belliere.”

A tremendous burst of applause followed his words, and made poor Madame
de Belliere sink back dumb and breathless in her seat. “And then,”
 added Pelisson, who was always affected by a noble action, as he was
invariably impressed by beauty, “let us also drink to the health of him
who inspired madame’s noble conduct; for such a man is worthy of being
worthily loved.”

It was now the marquise’s turn. She rose, pale and smiling; and as she
held out her glass with a faltering hand, and her trembling fingers
touched those of Fouquet, her look, full of love, found its mirror in
that of her ardent and generous-hearted lover. Begun in this manner, the
supper soon became a _fete_; no one tried to be witty, but no one failed
in being so. La Fontaine forgot his Gorgny wine, and allowed Vatel to
reconcile him to the wines of the Rhone, and those from the shores of
Spain. The Abbe Fouquet became so kind and good-natured, that Gourville
said to him, “Take care, monsieur l’abbe; if you are so tender, you will
be carved and eaten.”

The hours passed away so joyously, that, contrary to his usual custom,
the superintendent did not leave the table before the end of the
dessert. He smiled upon his friends, delighted as a man is whose heart
becomes intoxicated before his head--and, for the first time, looked at
the clock. Suddenly a carriage rolled into the courtyard, and, strange
to say, it was heard high above the noise of the mirth which prevailed.
Fouquet listened attentively, and then turned his eyes towards the
ante-chamber. It seemed as if he could hear a step passing across it,
a step that, instead of pressing the ground, weighed heavily upon
his heart. “M. d’Herblay, bishop of Vannes,” the usher announced. And
Aramis’s grave and thoughtful face appeared upon the threshold of the
door, between the remains of two garlands, of which the flame of a lamp
had just burnt the thread that once united them.



Chapter XLVIII. M. de Mazarin’s Receipt.

Fouquet would have uttered an exclamation of delight on seeing another
friend arrive, if the cold air and averted aspect of Aramis had not
restored all his reserve. “Are you going to join us at dessert?” he
asked. “And yet you would be frightened, perhaps, at the noise which our
wild friends here are making?”

“Monseigneur,” replied Aramis, respectfully, “I will begin by begging
you to excuse me for having interrupted this merry meeting; and then,
I will beg you to give me, as soon as your pleasure is attended to, a
moment’s audience on matters of business.”

As the word “business” had aroused the attention of some of the
epicureans present, Fouquet rose, saying: “Business first of all,
Monsieur d’Herblay; we are too happy when matters of business arrive
only at the end of a meal.”

As he said this, he took the hand of Madame de Belliere, who looked at
him with a kind of uneasiness, and then led her to an adjoining _salon_,
after having recommended her to the most reasonable of his guests. And
then, taking Aramis by the arm, he led him towards his cabinet. As soon
as Aramis was there, throwing aside the respectful air he had assumed,
he threw himself into a chair, saying: “Guess whom I have seen this
evening?”

“My dear chevalier, every time you begin in that manner, I am sure to
hear you announce something disagreeable.”

“Well, and this time you will not be mistaken, either, my dear friend,”
 replied Aramis.

“Do not keep me in suspense,” added Fouquet, phlegmatically.

“Well, then, I have seen Madame de Chevreuse.”

“The old duchesse, do you mean?”

“Yes.”

“Her ghost, perhaps?”

“No, no; the old she-wolf herself.”

“Without teeth?”

“Possibly, but not without claws.”

“Well! what harm can she meditate against me? I am no miser with women
who are not prudes. A quality always prized, even by the woman who no
longer presumes to look for love.”

“Madame de Chevreuse knows very well that you are not avaricious, since
she wishes to draw some money of you.”

“Indeed! under what pretext?”

“Oh! pretexts are never wanting with _her_. Let me tell you what it is:
it seems that the duchesse has a good many letters of M. de Mazarin’s in
her possession.”

“I am not surprised at that, for the prelate was gallant enough.”

“Yes, but these letters have nothing whatever to do with the prelate’s
love affairs. They concern, it is said, financial matters rather.”

“And accordingly they are less interesting.”

“Do you not suspect what I mean?”

“Not at all.”

“Have you never heard speak of a prosecution being instituted for an
embezzlement, or appropriation rather, of public funds?”

“Yes, a hundred, nay, a thousand times. Ever since I have been engaged
in public matters I have hardly heard of anything else. It is precisely
your own case, when, as a bishop, people reproach you for impiety; or,
as a musketeer, for your cowardice; the very thing of which they are
always accusing ministers of finance is the embezzlement of public
funds.”

“Very good; but take a particular instance, for the duchesse asserts
that M. de Mazarin alludes to certain particular instances.”

“What are they?”

“Something like a sum of thirteen millions of francs, of which it
would be very difficult for you to define the precise nature of the
employment.”

“Thirteen millions!” said the superintendent, stretching himself in his
armchair, in order to enable him the more comfortably to look up towards
the ceiling. “Thirteen millions--I am trying to remember out of all
those I have been accused of having stolen.”

“Do not laugh, my dear monsieur, for it is very serious. It is positive
that the duchesse has certain letters in her possession, and that these
letters must be as she represents them, since she wished to sell them to
me for five hundred thousand francs.”

“Oh! one can have a very tolerable calumny got up for such a sum as
that,” replied Fouquet. “Ah! now I know what you mean,” and he began to
laugh very heartily.

“So much the better,” said Aramis, a little reassured.

“I remember the story of those thirteen millions now. Yes, yes, I
remember them quite well.”

“I am delighted to hear it; tell me about them.”

“Well, then, one day Signor Mazarin, Heaven rest his soul! made a profit
of thirteen millions upon a concession of lands in the Valtelline; he
canceled them in the registry of receipts, sent them to me, and then
made me advance them to him for war expenses.”

“Very good; then there is no doubt of their proper destination.”

“No; the cardinal made me invest them in my own name, and gave me a
receipt.”

“You have the receipt?”

“Of course,” said Fouquet, as he quietly rose from his chair, and went
to his large ebony bureau inlaid with mother-of-pearl and gold.

“What I most admire in you,” said Aramis, with an air of great
satisfaction, “is, your memory in the first place, then your
self-possession, and, finally, the perfect order which prevails in your
administration; you, of all men, too, who are by nature a poet.”

“Yes,” said Fouquet, “I am orderly out of a spirit of idleness, to save
myself the trouble of looking after things, and so I know that Mazarin’s
receipt is in the third drawer under the letter M; I open the drawer,
and place my hand upon the very paper I need. In the night, without a
light, I could find it.”

And with a confident hand he felt the bundle of papers which were piled
up in the open drawer. “Nay, more than that,” he continued, “I remember
the paper as if I saw it; it is thick, somewhat crumpled, with gilt
edges; Mazarin had made a blot upon the figure of the date. Ah!” he
said, “the paper knows we are talking about it, and that we want it very
much, and so it hides itself out of the way.”

And as the superintendent looked into the drawer, Aramis rose from his
seat.

“This is very singular,” said Fouquet.

“Your memory is treacherous, my dear monseigneur; look in another
drawer.”

Fouquet took out the bundle of papers, and turned them over once more;
he then grew very pale.

“Don’t confine your search to that drawer,” said Aramis; “look
elsewhere.”

“Quite useless; I have never made a mistake; no one but myself arranges
any papers of mine of this nature; no one but myself ever opens this
drawer, of which, besides, no one, myself excepted, is aware of the
secret.”

“What do you conclude, then?” said Aramis, agitated.

“That Mazarin’s receipt has been stolen from me; Madame de Chevreuse was
right, chevalier; I have appropriated the public funds, I have robbed
the state coffers of thirteen millions of money; I am a thief, Monsieur
d’Herblay.”

“Nay, nay, do not get irritated--do not get excited.”

“And why not, chevalier? surely there is every reason for it. If legal
proceedings are well arranged, and a judgment given in accordance with
them, your friend the superintendent will soon follow Montfaucon, his
colleague Enguerrand de Marigny, and his predecessor, Semblancay.”

“Oh!” said Aramis, smiling, “not so fast as that.”

“And why not? why not so fast? What do you suppose Madame de Chevreuse
has done with those letters--for you refused them, I suppose?”

“Yes; at once. I suppose that she went and sold them to M. Colbert.”

“Well?”

“I said I supposed so; I might have said I was sure of it, for I had her
followed, and, when she left me, she returned to her own house, went out
by a back door, and proceeded straight to the intendant’s house in the
Rue Croix des Petits-Champs.”

“Legal proceedings will be instituted, then, scandal and dishonor
will follow; and all will fall upon me like a thunderbolt, blindly,
pitilessly.”

Aramis approached Fouquet, who sat trembling in his chair, close to the
open drawers; he placed his hand on his shoulder, and in an affectionate
tone of voice, said: “Do not forget that the position of M. Fouquet can
in no way be compared to that of Semblancay or of Marigny.”

“And why not, in Heaven’s name?”

“Because the proceedings against those ministers were determined,
completed, and the sentence carried out, whilst in your case the same
thing cannot take place.”

“Another blow, why not? A peculator is, under any circumstances, a
criminal.”

“Criminals who know how to find a safe asylum are never in danger.”

“What! make my escape? Fly?”

“No, I do not mean that; you forget that all such proceedings originate
in the parliament, that they are instituted by the procureur-general,
and that you are the procureur-general. You see that, unless you wish to
condemn yourself--”

“Oh!” cried Fouquet, suddenly, dashing his fist upon the table.

“Well! what? what is the matter?”

“I am procureur-general no longer.”

Aramis, at this reply, became as livid as death; he pressed his hands
together convulsively, and with a wild, haggard look, which almost
annihilated Fouquet, he said, laying a stress on every distinct
syllable, “You are procureur-general no longer, do you say?”

“No.”

“Since when?”

“Since the last four or five hours.”

“Take care,” interrupted Aramis, coldly; “I do not think you are in the
full possession of your senses, my friend; collect yourself.”

“I tell you,” returned Fouquet, “that a little while ago, some one came
to me, brought by my friends, to offer me fourteen hundred thousand
francs for the appointment, and that I sold it.”

Aramis looked as though he had been struck by lightning; the intelligent
and mocking expression of his countenance assumed an aspect of
such profound gloom and terror, that it had more effect upon the
superintendent than all the exclamations and speeches in the world. “You
had need of money, then?” he said, at last.

“Yes; to discharge a debt of honor.” And in a few words, he gave Aramis
an account of Madame de Belliere’s generosity, and the manner in which
he had thought it but right to discharge that act of generosity.

“Yes,” said Aramis, “that is, indeed, a fine trait. What has it cost?”

“Exactly the fourteen hundred thousand francs--the price of my
appointment.”

“Which you received in that manner, without reflection. Oh, imprudent
man!”

“I have not yet received the amount, but I shall to-morrow.”

“It is not yet completed, then?”

“It must be carried out, though; for I have given the goldsmith, for
twelve o’clock to-morrow, an order upon my treasury, into which the
purchaser’s money will be paid at six or seven o’clock.”

“Heaven be praised!” cried Aramis, clapping his hands together, “nothing
is yet completed, since you have not yet been paid.”

“But the goldsmith?”

“You shall receive the fourteen hundred thousand francs from me, at a
quarter before twelve.”

“Stay a moment; it is at six o’clock, this very morning, that I am to
sign.”

“Oh! I will answer that you do not sign.”

“I have given my word, chevalier.”

“If you have given it, you will take it back again, that is all.”

“Can I believe what I hear?” cried Fouquet, in a most expressive tone.
“Fouquet recall his word, after it has once been pledged!”

Aramis replied to the almost stern look of the minister by a look full
of anger. “Monsieur,” he said, “I believe I have deserved to be called a
man of honor? As a soldier, I have risked my life five hundred times; as
a priest I have rendered still greater services, both to the state and
to my friends. The value of a word, once passed, is estimated according
to the worth of the man who gives it. So long as it is in his own
keeping, it is of the purest, finest gold; when his wish to keep it
has passed away, it is a two-edged sword. With that word, therefore, he
defends himself as with an honorable weapon, considering that, when he
disregards his word, he endangers his life and incurs an amount of risk
far greater than that which his adversary is likely to derive of profit.
In such a case, monsieur, he appeals to Heaven and to justice.”

Fouquet bent down his head, as he replied, “I am a poor, self-determined
man, a true Breton born; my mind admires and fears yours. I do not say
that I keep my word from a proper feeling only; I keep it, if you like,
from custom, practice, pride, or what you will; but, at all events, the
ordinary run of men are simple enough to admire this custom of mine; it
is my sole good quality--leave me such honor as it confers.”

“And so you are determined to sign the sale of the very appointment
which can alone defend you against all your enemies.”

“Yes, I shall sign.”

“You will deliver yourself up, then, bound hand and foot, from a false
notion of honor, which the most scrupulous casuists would disdain?”

“I shall sign,” repeated Fouquet.

Aramis sighed deeply, and looked all round him with the impatient
gesture of a man who would gladly dash something to pieces, as a relief
to his feelings. “We have still one means left,” he said; “and I trust
you will not refuse me to make use of that.”

“Certainly not, if it be loyal and honorable; as everything is, in fact,
which you propose.”

“I know nothing more loyal than the renunciation of your purchaser. Is
he a friend of yours?”

“Certainly: but--”

“‘But!’--if you allow me to manage the affair, I do not despair.”

“Oh! you shall be absolutely master to do what you please.”

“Whom are you in treaty with? What manner of man is it?”

“I am not aware whether you know the parliament.”

“Most of its members. One of the presidents, perhaps?”

“No; only a counselor, of the name of Vanel.”

Aramis became perfectly purple. “Vanel!” he cried, rising abruptly from
his seat; “Vanel! the husband of Marguerite Vanel?”

“Exactly.”

“Of your former mistress?”

“Yes, my dear fellow; she is anxious to be the wife of the
procureur-general. I certainly owed poor Vanel that slight concession,
and I am a gainer by it; since I, at the same time, can confer a
pleasure on his wife.”

Aramis walked straight up to Fouquet, and took hold of his hand. “Do you
know,” he said, very calmly, “the name of Madame Vanel’s new lover?”

“Ah! she has a new lover, then? I was not aware of it; no, I have no
idea what his name is.”

“His name is M. Jean-Baptiste Colbert; he is intendant of the finances:
he lives in the Rue Croix des Petits-Champs, where Madame de Chevreuse
has been this evening to take him Mazarin’s letters, which she wishes to
sell.”

“Gracious Heaven!” murmured Fouquet, passing his hand across his
forehead, from which the perspiration was starting.

“You now begin to understand, do you not?”

“That I am utterly lost!--yes.”

“Do you now think it worth while to be so scrupulous with regard to
keeping your word?”

“Yes,” said Fouquet.

“These obstinate people always contrive matters in such a way, that one
cannot but admire them all the while,” murmured Aramis.

Fouquet held out his hand to him, and, at the very moment, a richly
ornamented tortoise-shell clock, supported by golden figures, which was
standing on a console table opposite to the fireplace, struck six. The
sound of a door being opened in the vestibule was heard, and Gourville
came to the door of the cabinet to inquire if Fouquet would received M.
Vanel. Fouquet turned his eyes from the gaze of Aramis, and then desired
that M. Vanel should be shown in.



Chapter XLIX. Monsieur Colbert’s Rough Draft.

Vanel, who entered at this stage of the conversation, was nothing less
for Aramis and Fouquet than the full stop which completes a phrase.
But, for Vanel, Aramis’s presence in Fouquet’s cabinet had quite another
signification; and, therefore, at his first step into the room, he
paused as he looked at the delicate yet firm features of the bishop of
Vannes, and his look of astonishment soon became one of scrutinizing
attention. As for Fouquet, a perfect politician, that is to say,
complete master of himself, he had already, by the energy of his own
resolute will, contrived to remove from his face all traces of the
emotion which Aramis’s revelation had occasioned. He was no longer,
therefore, a man overwhelmed by misfortune and reduced to resort to
expedients; he held his head proudly erect, and indicated by a gesture
that Vanel could enter. He was now the first minister of the state, and
in his own palace. Aramis knew the superintendent well; the delicacy of
the feelings of his heart and the exalted nature of his mind no longer
surprised him. He confined himself, then, for the moment--intending to
resume later an active part in the conversation--to the performance of
the difficult part of a man who looks on and listens, in order to learn
and understand. Vanel was visibly overcome, and advanced into the middle
of the cabinet, bowing to everything and everybody. “I am here,” he
said.

“You are punctual, Monsieur Vanel,” returned Fouquet.

“In matters of business, monseigneur,” replied Vanel, “I look upon
exactitude as a virtue.”

“No doubt, monsieur.”

“I beg your pardon,” interrupted Aramis, indicating Vanel with his
finger, but addressing himself to Fouquet; “this is the gentleman, I
believe, who has come about the purchase of your appointment?”

“Yes, I am,” replied Vanel, astonished at the extremely haughty tone in
which Aramis had put the question; “but in what way am I to address you,
who do me the honor--”

“Call me monseigneur,” replied Aramis, dryly. Vanel bowed.

“Come, gentlemen, a truce to these ceremonies; let us proceed to the
matter itself.”

“Monseigneur sees,” said Vanel, “that I am waiting your pleasure.”

“On the contrary, I am waiting,” replied Fouquet.

“What for, may I be permitted to ask, monseigneur?”

“I thought that you had perhaps something to say.”

“Oh,” said Vanel to himself, “he has reflected on the matter and I
am lost.” But resuming his courage, he continued, “No, monseigneur,
nothing, absolutely nothing more than what I said to you yesterday, and
which I am again ready to repeat to you now.”

“Come, now, tell me frankly, Monsieur Vanel, is not the affair rather a
burdensome one for you?”

“Certainly, monseigneur; fourteen hundred thousand francs is an
important sum.”

“So important, indeed,” said Fouquet, “that I have reflected--”

“You have been reflecting, do you say, monseigneur?” exclaimed Vanel,
anxiously.

“Yes; that you might not yet be in a position to purchase.”

“Oh, monseigneur!”

“Do not make yourself uneasy on that score, Monsieur Vanel; I shall not
blame you for a failure in your word, which evidently may arise from
inability on your part.”

“Oh, yes, monseigneur, you would blame me, and you would be right in
doing so,” said Vanel; “for a man must either be very imprudent, or a
fool, to undertake engagements which he cannot keep; and I, at least,
have always regarded a thing agreed on as a thing actually carried out.”

Fouquet colored, while Aramis uttered a “Hum!” of impatience.

“You would be wrong to exaggerate such notions as those, monsieur,” said
the superintendent; “for a man’s mind is variable, and full of these
very excusable caprices, which are, however, sometimes estimable enough;
and a man may have wished for something yesterday of which he repents
to-day.”

Vanel felt a cold sweat trickle down his face. “Monseigneur!” he
muttered.

Aramis, who was delighted to find the superintendent carry on the debate
with such clearness and precision, stood leaning his arm upon the marble
top of a console table and began to play with a small gold knife, with a
malachite handle. Fouquet did not hasten to reply; but after a moment’s
pause, “Come, my dear Monsieur Vanel,” he said, “I will explain to you
how I am situated.” Vanel began to tremble.

“Yesterday I wished to sell--”

“Monseigneur did more than wish to sell, he actually sold.”

“Well, well, that may be so; but to-day I ask you the favor to restore
me my word which I pledged you.”

“I received your _word_ as a satisfactory assurance that it would be
kept.”

“I know that, and that is the reason why I now entreat you; do you
understand me? I entreat you to restore it to me.”

Fouquet suddenly paused. The words “I entreat you,” the effect of
which he did not immediately perceive, seemed almost to choke him as
he uttered it. Aramis, still playing with his knife, fixed a look upon
Vanel which seemed as if he wished to penetrate the recesses of his
heart. Vanel simply bowed, as he said, “I am overcome, monseigneur, at
the honor you do me to consult me upon a matter of business which is
already completed; but--”

“Nay, do not say _but_, dear Monsieur Vanel.”

“Alas! monseigneur, you see,” he said, as he opened a large pocket-book,
“I have brought the money with me,--the whole sum, I mean. And here,
monseigneur, is the contract of sale which I have just effected of
a property belonging to my wife. The order is authentic in every
particular, the necessary signatures have been attached to it, and it is
made payable at sight; it is ready money, in fact, and, in one word, the
whole affair is complete.”

“My dear Monsieur Vanel, there is not a matter of business in this
world, however important it may be, which cannot be postponed in order
to oblige a man, who, by that means, might and would be made a devoted
friend.”

“Certainly,” said Vanel, awkwardly.

“And much more justly acquired would that friend become, Monsieur
Vanel, since the value of the service he had received would have been so
considerable. Well, what do you say? what do you decide?”

Vanel preserved a perfect silence. In the meantime, Aramis had continued
his close observation of the man. Vanel’s narrow face, his deeply sunken
eyes, his arched eyebrows, had revealed to the bishop of Vannes the type
of an avaricious and ambitious character. Aramis’s method was to oppose
one passion by another. He saw that M. Fouquet was defeated--morally
subdued--and so he came to his rescue with fresh weapons in his hands.
“Excuse me, monseigneur,” he said; “you forgot to show M. Vanel that
his own interests are diametrically opposed to this renunciation of the
sale.”

Vanel looked at the bishop with astonishment; he had hardly expected to
find an auxiliary in him. Fouquet also paused to listen to the bishop.

“Do you not see,” continued Aramis, “that M. Vanel, in order to purchase
your appointment, has been obliged to sell a property belonging to his
wife; well, that is no slight matter; for one cannot displace, as he
has done, fourteen or fifteen hundred thousand francs without some
considerable loss, and very serious inconvenience.”

“Perfectly true,” said Vanel, whose secret Aramis had, with keen-sighted
gaze, wrung from the bottom of his heart.

“Inconveniences such as these are matters of great expense and
calculation, and whenever a man has money matters to deal with, the
expenses are generally the very first thing thought of.”

“Yes, yes,” said Fouquet, who began to understand Aramis’s meaning.

Vanel remained perfectly silent; he, too, had understood him. Aramis
observed his coldness of manner and his silence. “Very good,” he said to
himself, “you are waiting, I see, until you know the amount; but do
not fear, I shall send you such a flight of crowns that you cannot but
capitulate on the spot.”

“We must offer M. Vanel a hundred thousand crowns at once,” said
Fouquet, carried away by his generous feelings.

The sum was a good one. A prince, even, would have been satisfied with
such a bonus. A hundred thousand crowns at that period was the dowry of
a king’s daughter. Vanel, however, did not move.

“He is a perfect rascal!” thought the bishop, “well, we must offer the
five hundred thousand francs at once,” and he made a sign to Fouquet
accordingly.

“You seem to have spent more than that, dear Monsieur Vanel,” said the
superintendent. “The price of ready money is enormous. You must have
made a great sacrifice in selling your wife’s property. Well, what can I
have been thinking of? I ought to have offered to sign you an order for
five hundred thousand francs; and even in that case I shall feel that I
am greatly indebted to you.”

There was not a gleam of delight or desire on Vanel’s face, which
remained perfectly impassible; not a muscle of it changed in the
slightest degree. Aramis cast a look almost of despair at Fouquet, and
then, going straight up to Vanel and taking hold of him by the coat,
in a familiar manner, he said, “Monsieur Vanel, it is neither the
inconvenience, nor the displacement of your money, nor the sale of your
wife’s property even, that you are thinking of at this moment; it
is something more important still. I can well understand it; so pay
particular attention to what I am going to say.”

“Yes, monseigneur,” Vanel replied, beginning to tremble in every limb,
as the prelate’s eyes seemed almost ready to devour him.

“I offer you, therefore, in the superintendent’s name, not three hundred
thousand livres, nor five hundred thousand, but a million. A million--do
you understand me?” he added, as he shook him nervously.

“A million!” repeated Vanel, as pale as death.

“A million; in other words, at the present rate of interest, an income
of seventy thousand francs.”

“Come, monsieur,” said Fouquet, “you can hardly refuse that. Answer--do
you accept?”

“Impossible,” murmured Vanel.

Aramis bit his lips, and something like a cloud seemed to pass over his
face. The thunder behind this cloud could easily be imagined. He still
kept his hold on Vanel. “You have purchased the appointment for fifteen
hundred thousand francs, I think. Well, you will receive these fifteen
hundred thousand francs back again; by paying M. Fouquet a visit, and
shaking hands with him on the bargain, you will have become a gainer
of a million and a half. You get honor and profit at the same time,
Monsieur Vanel.”

“I cannot do it,” said Vanel, hoarsely.

“Very well,” replied Aramis, who had grasped Vanel so tightly by the
coat that, when he let go his hold, Vanel staggered back a few paces,
“very well; one can now see clearly enough your object in coming here.”

“Yes,” said Fouquet, “one can easily see that.”

“But--” said Vanel, attempting to stand erect before the weakness of
these two men of honor.

“Does the fellow presume to speak?” said Aramis, with the tone of an
emperor.

“Fellow!” repeated Vanel.

“The scoundrel, I meant to say,” added Aramis, who had now resumed his
usual self-possession. “Come, monsieur, produce your deed of sale,--you
have it about you, I suppose, in one of your pockets, already prepared,
as an assassin holds his pistol or his dagger concealed under his cloak.”

Vanel began to mutter something.

“Enough!” cried Fouquet. “Where is this deed?”

Vanel tremblingly searched in his pockets, and as he drew out his
pocket-book, a paper fell out of it, while Vanel offered the other to
Fouquet. Aramis pounced upon the paper which had fallen out, as soon as
he recognized the handwriting. “I beg your pardon,” said Vanel, “that is
a rough draft of the deed.”

“I see that very clearly,” retorted Aramis, with a smile more cutting
than a lash of a whip; “and what I admire most is, that this draft is in
M. Colbert’s handwriting. Look, monseigneur, look.”

And he handed the draft to Fouquet, who recognized the truth of the
fact; for, covered with erasures, with inserted words, the margins
filled with additions, this deed--a living proof of Colbert’s plot--had
just revealed everything to its unhappy victim. “Well!” murmured
Fouquet.

Vanel, completely humiliated, seemed as if he were looking for some hole
wherein to hide himself.

“Well!” said Aramis, “if your name were not Fouquet, and if your enemy’s
name were not Colbert--if you had not this mean thief before you, I
should say to you, ‘Repudiate it;’ such a proof as this absolves you
from your word; but these fellows would think you were afraid; they
would fear you less than they do; therefore sign the deed at once.” And
he held out a pen towards him.

Fouquet pressed Aramis’s hand; but, instead of the deed which Vanel
handed to him, he took the rough draft of it.

“No, not that paper,” said Aramis, hastily; “this is the one. The other
is too precious a document for you to part with.”

“No, no!” replied Fouquet; “I will sign under M. Colbert’s own
handwriting even; and I write, ‘The handwriting is approved of.’” He
then signed, and said, “Here it is, Monsieur Vanel.” And the latter
seized the paper, dashed down the money, and was about to make his
escape.

“One moment,” said Aramis. “Are you quite sure the exact amount is
there? It ought to be counted over, Monsieur Vanel; particularly since
M. Colbert makes presents of money to ladies, I see. Ah, that worthy M.
Colbert is not so generous as M. Fouquet.” And Aramis, spelling every
word, every letter of the order to pay, distilled his wrath and his
contempt, drop by drop, upon the miserable wretch, who had to submit
to this torture for a quarter of an hour. He was then dismissed, not in
words, but by a gesture, as one dismisses or discharges a beggar or a
menial.

As soon as Vanel had gone, the minister and the prelate, their eyes
fixed on each other, remained silent for a few moments.

“Well,” said Aramis, the first to break the silence; “to what can that
man be compared, who, at the very moment he is on the point of entering
into a conflict with an enemy armed from head to foot, panting for his
life, presents himself for the contest utterly defenseless, throws down
his arms, and smiles and kisses his hands to his adversary in the most
gracious manner? Good faith, M. Fouquet, is a weapon which scoundrels
frequently make use of against men of honor, and it answers their
purpose. Men of honor, ought, in their turn, also, to make use of
dishonest means against such scoundrels. You would soon see how strong
they would become, without ceasing to be men of honor.”

“What they did would be termed the acts of a scoundrel,” replied
Fouquet.

“Far from that; it would be merely coquetting or playing with the truth.
At all events, since you have finished with this Vanel; since you have
deprived yourself of the happiness of confounding him by repudiating
your word; and since you have given up, for the purpose of being used
against yourself, the only weapon which can ruin you--”

“My dear friend,” said Fouquet, mournfully, “you are like the teacher of
philosophy whom La Fontaine was telling us about the other day; he saw
a child drowning, and began to read him a lecture divided into three
heads.”

Aramis smiled as he said, “Philosophy--yes; teacher--yes; a drowning
child--yes; but a child can be saved--you shall see. But first of all
let us talk about business. Did you not some time ago,” he continued, as
Fouquet looked at him with a bewildered air, “speak to me about an idea
you had of giving a _fete_ at Vaux?”

“Oh!” said Fouquet, “that was when affairs were flourishing.”

“A _fete_, I believe, to which the king invited himself of his own
accord?”

“No, no, my dear prelate; a _fete_ to which M. Colbert advised the king
to invite himself.”

“Ah--exactly; as it would be a _fete_ of so costly a character that you
would be ruined in giving it.”

“Precisely so. In happier days, as I said just now, I had a kind of
pride in showing my enemies how inexhaustible my resources were; I felt
it a point of honor to strike them with amazement, by creating millions
under circumstances where they imagined nothing but bankruptcies and
failures would follow. But, at present, I am arranging my accounts with
the state, with the king, with myself; and I must now become a mean,
stingy man; I shall be able to prove to the world that I can act or
operate with my deniers as I used to do with my bags of pistoles, and
from to-morrow my equipages shall be sold, my mansions mortgaged, my
expenses curtailed.”

“From to-morrow,” interrupted Aramis, quietly, “you will occupy
yourself, without the slightest delay, with your _fete_ at Vaux, which
must hereafter be spoken of as one of the most magnificent productions
of your most prosperous days.”

“Are you mad, Chevalier d’Herblay?”

“I! do you think so?”

“What do you mean, then? Do you not know that a _fete_ at Vaux, one of
the very simplest possible character, would cost four or five millions?”

“I do not speak of a _fete_ of the very simplest possible character, my
dear superintendent.”

“But, since the _fete_ is to be given to the king,” replied Fouquet, who
misunderstood Aramis’s idea, “it cannot be simple.”

“Just so: it ought to be on a scale of the most unbounded magnificence.”

“In that case, I shall have to spend ten or twelve millions.”

“You shall spend twenty, if you require it,” said Aramis, in a perfectly
calm voice.

“Where shall I get them?” exclaimed Fouquet.

“That is my affair, monsieur le surintendant; and do not be uneasy for a
moment about it. The money shall be placed at once at your disposal, the
moment you have arranged the plans of your _fete_.”

“Chevalier! chevalier!” said Fouquet, giddy with amazement, “whither are
you hurrying me?”

“Across the gulf into which you were about to fall,” replied the bishop
of Vannes. “Take hold of my cloak, and throw fear aside.”

“Why did you not tell me that sooner, Aramis? There was a day when, with
one million only, you could have saved me; whilst to-day--”

“Whilst to-day I can give you twenty,” said the prelate. “Such is the
case, however--the reason is very simple. On the day you speak of, I had
not the million which you had need of at my disposal, whilst now I can
easily procure the twenty millions we require.”

“May Heaven hear you, and save me!”

Aramis resumed his usual smile, the expression of which was so singular.
“Heaven never fails to hear me,” he said.

“I abandon myself to you unreservedly,” Fouquet murmured.

“No, no; I do not understand it in that manner. I am unreservedly
devoted to you. Therefore, as you have the clearest, the most delicate,
and the most ingenious mind of the two, you shall have entire control
over the _fete_, even to the very smallest details. Only--”

“Only?” said Fouquet, as a man accustomed to understand and appreciate
the value of a parenthesis.

“Well, then, leaving the entire invention of the details to you, I shall
reserve to myself a general superintendence over the execution.”

“In what way?”

“I mean, that you will make of me, on that day, a major-domo, a sort of
inspector-general, or factotum--something between a captain of the guard
and manager or steward. I will look after the people, and will keep the
keys of the doors. You will give your orders, of course: but will give
them to no one but me. They will pass through my lips, to reach those
for whom they are intended--you understand?”

“No, I am very far from understanding.”

“But you agree?”

“Of course, of course, my friend.”

“That is all I care about, then. Thanks; and now go and prepare your
list of invitations.”

“Whom shall I invite?”

“Everybody you know.”



Chapter L: In Which the Author Thinks It Is High Time to Return to the
Vicomte de Bragelonne.

Our readers will have observed in this story, the adventures of the new
and of the past generation being detailed, as it were, side by side. He
will have noticed in the former, the reflection of the glory of earlier
years, the experience of the bitter things of this world; in the former,
also, that peace which takes possession of the heart, and that healing
of the scars which were formerly deep and painful wounds. In the latter,
the conflicts of love and vanity; bitter disappointments, ineffable
delights; life instead of memory. If, therefore, any variety has been
presented to the reader in the different episodes of this tale, it is
to be attributed to the numerous shades of color which are presented on
this double tablet, where two pictures are seen side by side, mingling
and harmonizing their severe and pleasing tones. The repose of
the emotions of one is found in harmonious contrast with the fiery
sentiments of the other. After having talked reason with older heads,
one loves to talk nonsense with youth. Therefore, if the threads of
the story do not seem very intimately to connect the chapter we are
now writing with the one we have just written, we do not intend to give
ourselves any more thought or trouble about it than Ruysdael took in
painting an autumn sky, after having finished a spring-time scene. We
accordingly resume Raoul de Bragelonne’s story at the very place where
our last sketch left him.

In a state of frenzy and dismay, or rather without power or will of
his own,--hardly knowing what he was doing,--he fled swiftly, after the
scene in La Valliere’s chamber, that strange exclusion, Louise’s grief,
Montalais’s terror, the king’s wrath--all seemed to indicate some
misfortune. But what? He had arrived from London because he had been
told of the existence of a danger; and almost on his arrival this
appearance of danger was manifest. Was not this sufficient for a lover?
Certainly it was, but it was insufficient for a pure and upright heart
such as his. And yet Raoul did not seek for explanations in the very
quarter where more jealous or less timid lovers would have done. He did
not go straightaway to his mistress, and say, “Louise, is it true
that you love me no longer? Is it true that you love another?” Full of
courage, full of friendship as he was full of love; a religious observer
of his word, and believing blindly the word of others, Raoul said within
himself, “Guiche wrote to put me on my guard, Guiche knows something;
I will go and ask Guiche what he knows, and tell him what I have seen.”
 The journey was not a long one. Guiche, who had been brought from
Fontainebleau to Paris within the last two days, was beginning to
recover from his wounds, and to walk about a little in his room. He
uttered a cry of joy as he saw Raoul, with the eagerness of friendship,
enter the apartment. Raoul was unable to refrain from a cry of grief,
when he saw De Guiche, so pale, so thin, so melancholy. A very few
words, and a simple gesture which De Guiche made to put aside Raoul’s
arm, were sufficient to inform the latter of the truth.

“Ah! so it is,” said Raoul, seating himself beside his friend; “one
loves and dies.”

“No, no, not dies,” replied Guiche, smiling, “since I am now recovering,
and since, too, I can press you in my arms.”

“Ah! I understand.”

“And I understand you, too. You fancy I am unhappy, Raoul?”

“Alas!”

“No; I am the happiest of men. My body suffers, but not my mind or my
heart. If you only knew--Oh! I am, indeed, the very happiest of men.”

“So much the better,” said Raoul; “so much the better, provided it
lasts.”

“It is over. I have had enough happiness to last me to my dying day,
Raoul.”

“I have no doubt you have had; but she--”

“Listen; I love her, because--but you are not listening to me.”

“I beg your pardon.”

“Your mind is preoccupied.”

“Yes, your health, in the first place--”

“It is not that, I know.”

“My dear friend, you would be wrong. I think, to ask me any
questions--_you_ of all persons in the world;” and he laid so much
weight upon the “you,” that he completely enlightened his friend upon
the nature of the evil, and the difficulty of remedying it.

“You say that, Raoul, on account of what I wrote to you.”

“Certainly. We will talk over that matter a little, when you have
finished telling me of all your own pleasures and your pains.”

“My dear friend, I am entirely at your service.”

“Thank you; I have hurried, I have flown here; I came in half the time
the government couriers usually take. Now, tell me, my dear friend, what
did you want?”

“Nothing whatever, but to make you come.”

“Well, then, I am here.”

“All is quite right, then.”

“There must have been something else, I suppose?”

“No, indeed.”

“De Guiche!”

“Upon my honor!”

“You cannot possibly have crushed all my hopes so violently, or have
exposed me to being disgraced by the king for my return, which is in
disobedience of his orders--you cannot, I say, have planted jealousy in
my heart, merely to say to me, ‘It is all right, be perfectly easy.’”

“I do not say to you, Raoul, ‘Be perfectly easy;’ but pray understand
me; I never will, nor can I, indeed, tell you anything else.”

“What sort of person do you take me for?”

“What do you mean?”

“If you know anything, why conceal it from me? If you do not know
anything, why did you write so warningly?”

“True, true, I was very wrong, and I regret having done so, Raoul. It
seems nothing to write to a friend and say ‘Come;’ but to have this
friend face to face, to feel him tremble, and breathlessly and anxiously
wait to hear what one hardly dare tell him, is very difficult.”

“Dare! I have courage enough, if you have not,” exclaimed Raoul, in
despair.

“See how unjust you are, and how soon you forget you have to do with a
poor wounded fellow such as your unhappy friend is. So, calm yourself,
Raoul. I said to you, ‘Come’--you are here, so ask me nothing further.”

“Your object in telling me to come was your hope that I should see with
my own eyes, was it not? Nay, do not hesitate, for I have seen all.”

“Oh!” exclaimed De Guiche.

“Or at least I thought--”

“There, now, you see you are not sure. But if you have any doubt, my
poor friend, what remains for me to do?”

“I saw Louise much agitated--Montalais in a state of bewilderment--the
king--”

“The king?”

“Yes. You turn your head aside. The danger is there, the evil is there;
tell me, is it not so, is it not the king?”

“I say nothing.”

“Oh! you say a thousand times more than nothing. Give me facts,
for pity’s sake, give me proofs. My friend, the only friend I have,
speak--tell me all. My heart is crushed, wounded to death; I am dying
from despair.”

“If that really be so, as I see it is, indeed, dear Raoul,” replied De
Guiche, “you relieve me from my difficulty, and I will tell you all,
perfectly sure that I can tell you nothing but what is consoling,
compared to the despair from which I see you suffering.”

“Go on,--go on; I am listening.”

“Well, then, I can only tell you what you might learn from every one you
meet.”

“From every one, do you say? It is talked about, then!”

“Before you say people talk about it, learn what it is that people have
to talk about. I assure you solemnly, that people only talk about what
may, in truth, be very innocent; perhaps a walk--”

“Ah! a walk with the king?”

“Yes, certainly, a walk with the king; and I believe the king has
already very frequently before taken walks with ladies, without on that
account--”

“You would not have written to me, shall I say again, if there had been
nothing unusual in this promenade.”

“I know that while the storm lasted, it would have been far better if
the king had taken shelter somewhere else, than to have remained with
his head uncovered before La Valliere; but the king is so very courteous
and polite.”

“Oh! De Guiche, De Guiche, you are killing me!”

“Do not let us talk any more, then.”

“Nay, let us continue. This walk was followed by others, I suppose?”

“No--I mean yes: there was the adventure of the oak, I think. But I know
nothing about the matter at all.” Raoul rose; De Guiche endeavored to
imitate him, notwithstanding his weakness. “Well, I will not add another
word: I have said either too much or not enough. Let others give you
further information if they will, or if they can; my duty was to warn
you, and _that_ I have done. Watch over your own affairs now, yourself.”

“Question others! Alas! you are no true friend to speak to me in that
manner,” said the young man, in utter distress. “The first man I meet
may be either evilly disposed or a fool,--if the former, he will tell
me a lie to make me suffer more than I do now; if the latter, he will
do worse still. Ah! De Guiche, De Guiche, before two hours are over, I
shall have been told ten falsehoods, and shall have as many duels on my
hands. Save me, then; is it not best to know the worst always?”

“But I know nothing, I tell you; I was wounded, attacked by fever: out
of my senses; and I have only a very faint recollection of it all. But
there is no reason why we should search very far, when the very man we
want is close at hand. Is not D’Artagnan your friend?”

“Oh! true, true!”

“Got to him, then. He will be able to throw sufficient light upon the
subject.” At this moment a lackey entered the room. “What is it?” said
De Guiche.

“Some one is waiting for monseigneur in the Cabinet des Porcelaines.”

“Very well. Will you excuse me, my dear Raoul? I am so proud since I
have been able to walk again.”

“I would offer you my arm, De Guiche, if I did not guess that the person
in question is a lady.”

“I believe so,” said De Guiche, smiling as he quitted Raoul.

Raoul remained motionless, absorbed in grief, overwhelmed, like the
miner upon whom a vault has just fallen in, who, wounded, his life-blood
welling fast, his thoughts confused, endeavors to recover himself, to
save his life and to retain his reason. A few minutes were all Raoul
needed to dissipate the bewildering sensations occasioned by these two
revelations. He had already recovered the thread of his ideas, when,
suddenly, through the door, he fancied he recognized Montalais’s voice
in the Cabinet des Porcelaines. “She!” he cried. “Yes, it is indeed her
voice! She will be able to tell me the whole truth; but shall I question
her here? She conceals herself even from me; she is coming, no doubt,
from Madame. I will see her in her own apartment. She will explain her
alarm, her flight, the strange manner in which I was driven out; she
will tell me all that--after M. d’Artagnan, who knows everything, shall
have given me a fresh strength and courage. Madame, a coquette I fear,
and yet a coquette who is herself in love, has her moments of kindness;
a coquette who is as capricious and uncertain as life or death, but who
tells De Guiche that he is the happiest of men. He at least is lying on
roses.” And so he hastily quitted the comte’s apartments, reproaching
himself as he went for having talked of nothing but his own affairs to
De Guiche, and soon reached D’Artagnan’s quarters.



Chapter LI. Bragelonne Continues His Inquiries.

The captain, sitting buried in his leathern armchair, his spurs fixed in
the floor, his sword between his legs, was reading a number of letters,
as he twisted his mustache. D’Artagnan uttered a welcome full of
pleasure when he perceived his friend’s son. “Raoul, my boy,” he said,
“by what lucky accident does it happen that the king has recalled you?”

These words did not sound agreeably in the young man’s ears, who, as
he seated himself, replied, “Upon my word I cannot tell you; all that I
know is--I have come back.”

“Hum!” said D’Artagnan, folding up his letters and directing a look
full of meaning at him; “what do you say, my boy? that the king has not
recalled you, and you have returned? I do not understand that at all.”

Raoul was already pale enough; and he now began to turn his hat round
and round in his hand.

“What the deuce is the matter that you look as you do, and what makes
you so dumb?” said the captain. “Do people nowadays assume that sort of
airs in England? I have been in England, and came here again as lively
as a chaffinch. Will you not say something?”

“I have too much to say.”

“Ah! how is your father?”

“Forgive me, my dear friend, I was going to ask you that.”

D’Artagnan increased the sharpness of his penetrating gaze, which no
secret was capable of resisting. “You are unhappy about something,” he
said.

“I am, indeed; and you know the reason very well, Monsieur d’Artagnan.”

“I?”

“Of course. Nay, do not pretend to be astonished.”

“I am not pretending to be astonished, my friend.”

“Dear captain, I know very well that in all trials of _finesse_, as well
as in all trials of strength, I shall be beaten by you. You can see that
at the present moment I am an idiot, an absolute noodle. I have neither
head nor arm; do not despise, but help me. In two words, I am the most
wretched of living beings.”

“Oh, oh! why that?” inquired D’Artagnan, unbuckling his belt and thawing
the asperity of his smile.

“Because Mademoiselle de la Valliere is deceiving me.”

“She is deceiving you,” said D’Artagnan, not a muscle of whose face had
moved; “those are big words. Who makes use of them?”

“Every one.”

“Ah! if every one says so, there must be some truth in it. I begin to
believe there is fire when I see smoke. It is ridiculous, perhaps, but
it is so.”

“Therefore you _do_ believe me?” exclaimed Bragelonne, quickly.

“I never mix myself up in affairs of that kind; you know that very
well.”

“What! not for a friend, for a son!”

“Exactly. If you were a stranger, I should tell you--I will tell _you_
nothing at all. How is Porthos, do you know?”

“Monsieur,” cried Raoul, pressing D’Artagnan’s hand, “I entreat you in
the name of the friendship you vowed my father!”

“The deuce take it, you are really ill--from curiosity.”

“No, it is not from curiosity, it is from love.”

“Good. Another big word. If you were really in love, my dear Raoul, you
would be very different.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that if you were really so deeply in love that I could believe I
was addressing myself to your heart--but it is impossible.”

“I tell you I love Louise to distraction.”

D’Artagnan could read to the very bottom of the young man’s heart.

“Impossible, I tell you,” he said. “You are like all young men; you are
not in love, you are out of your senses.”

“Well! suppose it were only that?”

“No sensible man ever succeeded in making much of a brain when the head
was turned. I have completely lost my senses in the same way a hundred
times in my life. You would listen to me, but you would not hear me! you
would hear, but you would not understand me; you would understand, but
you would not obey me.”

“Oh! try, try.”

“I go far. Even if I were unfortunate enough to know something, and
foolish enough to communicate it to you--You are my friend, you say?”

“Indeed, yes.”

“Very good. I should quarrel with you. You would never forgive me for
having destroyed your illusion, as people say in love affairs.”

“Monsieur d’Artagnan, you know all; and yet you plunge me in perplexity
and despair, in death itself.”

“There, there now.”

“I never complain, as you know; but as Heaven and my father would never
forgive me for blowing out my brains, I will go and get the first person
I meet to give me the information which you withhold; I will tell him he
lies, and--”

“And you would kill him. And a fine affair that would be. So much the
better. What should I care? Kill any one you please, my boy, if it gives
you any pleasure. It is exactly like a man with a toothache, who keeps
on saying, ‘Oh! what torture I am suffering. I could bite a piece of
iron in half.’ My answer always is, ‘Bite, my friend, bite; the tooth
will remain all the same.’”

“I shall not kill any one, monsieur,” said Raoul, gloomily.

“Yes, yes! you now assume a different tone: instead of killing, you will
get killed yourself, I suppose you mean? Very fine, indeed! How much
I should regret you! Of course I should go about all day, saying, ‘Ah!
what a fine stupid fellow that Bragelonne was! as great a stupid as I
ever met with. I have passed my whole life almost in teaching him how
to hold and use his sword properly, and the silly fellow has got himself
spitted like a lark.’ Go, then, Raoul, go and get yourself disposed of,
if you like. I hardly know who can have taught you logic, but deuce take
me if your father has not been regularly robbed of his money.”

Raoul buried his face in his hands, murmuring: “No, no; I have not a
single friend in the world.”

“Oh! bah!” said D’Artagnan.

“I meet with nothing but raillery or indifference.”

“Idle fancies, monsieur. I do not laugh at you, although I am a Gascon.
And, as for being indifferent, if I were so, I should have sent you
about your business a quarter of an hour ago, for you would make a man
who was out of his senses with delight as dull as possible, and would be
the death of one who was out of spirits. How now, young man! do you wish
me to disgust you with the girl you are attached to, and to teach you to
execrate the whole sex who constitute the honor and happiness of human
life?”

“Oh! tell me, monsieur, and I will bless you.”

“Do you think, my dear fellow, that I can have crammed into my brain all
about the carpenter, and the painter, and the staircase, and a hundred
other similar tales of the same kind?”

“A carpenter! what do you mean?”

“Upon my word I don’t know; some one told me there was a carpenter who
made an opening through a certain flooring.”

“In La Valliere’s room!”

“Oh! I don’t know where.”

“In the king’s apartment, perhaps?”

“Of course, if it were in the king’s apartment, I should tell you, I
suppose.”

“In whose room, then?”

“I have told you for the last hour that I know nothing of the whole
affair.”

“But the painter, then? the portrait--”

“It seems that the king wished to have the portrait of one of the ladies
belonging to the court.”

“La Valliere?”

“Why, you seem to have only that name in your mouth. Who spoke to you of
La Valliere?”

“If it be not her portrait, then, why do you suppose it would concern
me?”

“I do not suppose it will concern you. But you ask me all sorts of
questions, and I answer you. You positively will learn all the scandal
of the affair, and I tell you--make the best you can of it.”

Raoul struck his forehead with his hand in utter despair. “It will kill
me!” he said.

“So you have said already.”

“Yes, you are right,” and he made a step or two, as if he were going to
leave.

“Where are you going?”

“To look for some one who will tell me the truth.”

“Who is that?”

“A woman.”

“Mademoiselle de la Valliere herself, I suppose you mean?” said
D’Artagnan, with a smile. “Ah! a famous idea that! You wish to be
consoled by some one, and you will be so at once. She will tell you
nothing ill of herself, of course. So be off.”

“You are mistaken, monsieur,” replied Raoul; “the woman I mean will tell
me all the evil she possibly can.”

“You allude to Montalais, I suppose--her friend; a woman who, on that
account, will exaggerate all that is either bad or good in the matter.
Do not talk to Montalais, my good fellow.”

“You have some reasons for wishing me not to talk with Montalais?”

“Well, I admit it. And, in point of fact, why should I play with you as
a cat does with a poor mouse? You distress me, you do, indeed. And if I
wish you not to speak to Montalais just now, it is because you will be
betraying your secret, and people will take advantage of it. Wait, if
you can.”

“I cannot.”

“So much the worse. Why, you see, Raoul, if I had an idea,--but I have
not got one.”

“Promise me that you will pity me, my friend, that is all I need, and
leave me to get out of the affair by myself.”

“Oh! yes, indeed, in order that you may get deeper into the mire! A
capital idea, truly! go and sit down at that table and take a pen in
your hand.”

“What for?”

“To write and ask Montalais to give you an interview.”

“Ah!” said Raoul, snatching eagerly at the pen which the captain held
out to him.

Suddenly the door opened, and one of the musketeers, approaching
D’Artagnan, said, “Captain, Mademoiselle de Montalais is here, and
wishes to speak to you.”

“To me?” murmured D’Artagnan. “Ask her to come in; I shall soon see,” he
said to himself, “whether she wishes to speak to me or not.”

The cunning captain was quite right in his suspicions; for as soon as
Montalais entered she exclaimed, “Oh, monsieur! monsieur! I beg your
pardon, Monsieur d’Artagnan.”

“Oh! I forgive you, mademoiselle,” said D’Artagnan; “I know that, at
my age, those who are looking for me generally need me for something or
another.”

“I was looking for M. de Bragelonne,” replied Montalais.

“How very fortunate that is; he was looking for you, too. Raoul, will
you accompany Mademoiselle de Montalais?”

“Oh! certainly.”

“Go along, then,” he said, as he gently pushed Raoul out of the cabinet;
and then, taking hold of Montalais’s hand, he said, in a low voice, “Be
kind towards him; spare him, and spare her, too, if you can.”

“Ah!” she said, in the same tone of voice, “it is not I who am going to
speak to him.”

“Who, then?”

“It is Madame who has sent for him.”

“Very good,” cried D’Artagnan, “it is Madame, is it? In an hour’s time,
then, the poor fellow will be cured.”

“Or else dead,” said Montalais, in a voice full of compassion. “Adieu,
Monsieur d’Artagnan,” she said; and she ran to join Raoul, who was
waiting for her at a little distance from the door, very much puzzled
and thoroughly uneasy at the dialogue, which promised no good augury for
him.



Chapter LII. Two Jealousies.

Lovers are tender towards everything that forms part of the daily life
of the object of their affection. Raoul no sooner found himself alone
with Montalais, than he kissed her hand with rapture. “There, there,”
 said the young girl, sadly, “you are throwing your kisses away; I will
guarantee that they will not bring you back any interest.”

“How so?--Why?--Will you explain to me, my dear Aure?”

“Madame will explain everything to you. I am going to take you to her
apartments.

“_What!_”

“Silence! and throw away your dark and savage looks. The windows here
have eyes, the walls have ears. Have the kindness not to look at me any
longer; be good enough to speak to me aloud of the rain, of the fine
weather, and of the charms of England.”

“At all events--” interrupted Raoul.

“I tell you, I warn you, that wherever people may be, I know not how,
Madame is sure to have eyes and ears open. I am not very desirous, you
can easily believe, of being dismissed or thrown in to the Bastile. Let
us talk, I tell you, or rather, do not let us talk at all.”

Raoul clenched his hands, and tried to assume the look and gait of a
man of courage, it is true, but of a man of courage on his way to the
torture chamber. Montalais, glancing in every direction, walking along
with an easy swinging gait, and holding up her head pertly in the air,
preceded him to Madame’s apartments, where he was at once introduced.
“Well,” he thought, “this day will pass away without my learning
anything. Guiche showed too much consideration for my feelings; he had
no doubt come to an understanding with Madame, and both of them, by a
friendly plot, agreed to postpone the solution of the problem. Why
have I not a determined, inveterate enemy--that serpent, De Wardes, for
instance; that he would bite, is very likely; but I should not hesitate
any more. To hesitate, to doubt--better, far, to die.”

The next moment Raoul was in Madame’s presence. Henrietta, more charming
than ever, was half lying, half reclining in her armchair, her small
feet upon an embroidered velvet cushion; she was playing with a kitten
with long silky fur, which was biting her fingers and hanging by the
lace of her collar.

Madame seemed plunged in deep thought, so deep, indeed, that it required
both Montalais and Raoul’s voice to disturb her from her reverie.

“Your highness sent for me?” repeated Raoul.

Madame shook her head as if she were just awakening, and then said,
“Good morning, Monsieur de Bragelonne; yes, I sent for you; so you have
returned from England?”

“Yes, Madame, and am at your royal highness’s commands.”

“Thank you; leave us, Montalais,” and the latter immediately left the
room.

“You have a few minutes to give me, Monsieur de Bragelonne, have you
not?”

“My life is at your royal highness’s disposal,” Raoul returned with
respect, guessing that there was something serious in these unusual
courtesies; nor was he displeased, indeed, to observe the seriousness
of her manner, feeling persuaded that there was some sort of affinity
between Madame’s sentiments and his own. In fact, every one at court,
of any perception at all, knew perfectly well the capricious fancy and
absurd despotism of the princess’s singular character. Madame had
been flattered beyond all bounds by the king’s attention; she had
made herself talked about; she had inspired the queen with that mortal
jealousy which is the stinging scorpion at the heel of every woman’s
happiness; Madame, in a word, in her attempts to cure a wounded pride,
found that her heart had become deeply and passionately attached. We
know what Madame had done to recall Raoul, who had been sent out of
the way by Louis XIV. Raoul did not know of her letter to Charles II.,
although D’Artagnan had guessed its contents. Who will undertake to
account for that seemingly inexplicable mixture of love and vanity, that
passionate tenderness of feeling, that prodigious duplicity of conduct?
No one can, indeed; not even the bad angel who kindles the love of
coquetry in the heart of a woman. “Monsieur de Bragelonne,” said the
princess, after a moment’s pause, “have you returned satisfied?”

Bragelonne looked at Madame Henrietta, and seeing how pale she was, not
alone from what she was keeping back, but also from what she was burning
to say, said: “Satisfied! what is there for me to be satisfied or
dissatisfied about, Madame?”

“But what are those things with which a man of your age, and of your
appearance, is usually either satisfied or dissatisfied?”

“How eager she is,” thought Raoul, almost terrified; “what venom is it
she is going to distil into my heart?” and then, frightened at what
she might possibly be going to tell him, and wishing to put off the
opportunity of having everything explained, which he had hitherto so
ardently wished for, yet had dreaded so much, he replied: “I left,
Madame, a dear friend in good health, and on my return I find him very
ill.”

“You refer to M. de Guiche,” replied Madame Henrietta, with
imperturbable self-possession; “I _have_ heard he is a very dear friend
of yours.”

“He is, indeed, Madame.”

“Well, it is quite true he has been wounded; but he is better now.
Oh! M. de Guiche is not to be pitied,” she said hurriedly; and then,
recovering herself, added, “But has he anything to complain of? Has he
complained of anything? Is there any cause of grief or sorrow that we
are not acquainted with?”

“I allude only to his wound, Madame.”

“So much the better, then, for, in other respects, M. de Guiche seems
to be very happy; he is always in very high spirits. I am sure that you,
Monsieur de Bragelonne, would far prefer to be, like him, wounded only
in the body... for what, in deed, is such a wound, after all!”

Raoul started. “Alas!” he said to himself, “she is returning to it.”

“What did you say?” she inquired.

“I did not say anything Madame.”

“You did not say anything; you disapprove of my observation, then? you
are perfectly satisfied, I suppose?”

Raoul approached closer to her. “Madame,” he said, “your royal highness
wishes to say something to me, and your instinctive kindness and
generosity of disposition induce you to be careful and considerate as
to your manner of conveying it. Will your royal highness throw this kind
forbearance aside? I am able to bear everything; and I am listening.”

“Ah!” replied Henrietta, “what do you understand, then?”

“That which your royal highness wishes me to understand,” said Raoul,
trembling, notwithstanding his command over himself, as he pronounced
these words.

“In point of fact,” murmured the princess... “it seems cruel, but since I
have begun--”

“Yes, Madame, once your highness has deigned to begin, will you
condescend to finish--”

Henrietta rose hurriedly and walked a few paces up and down her room.
“What did M. de Guiche tell you?” she said, suddenly.

“Nothing, Madame.”

“Nothing! Did he say nothing? Ah! how well I recognize him in that.”

“No doubt he wished to spare me.”

“And that is what friends call friendship. But surely, M. d’Artagnan,
whom you have just left, must have told you.”

“No more than De Guiche, Madame.”

Henrietta made a gesture full of impatience, as she said, “At least, you
know all the court knows.”

“I know nothing at all, Madame.”

“Not the scene in the storm?”

“No, Madame.”

“Not the _tete-a-tete_ in the forest?”

“No, Madame.”

“Nor the flight to Chaillot?”

Raoul, whose head dropped like a blossom cut down by the reaper, made
an almost superhuman effort to smile, as he replied with the greatest
gentleness: “I have had the honor of telling your royal highness that
I am absolutely ignorant of everything, that I am a poor unremembered
outcast, who has this moment arrived from England. There have rolled so
many stormy waves between myself and those I left behind me here, that
the rumor of none of the circumstances your highness refers to, has been
able to reach me.”

Henrietta was affected by his extreme pallor, his gentleness, and his
great courage. The principal feeling in her heart at that moment was an
eager desire to hear the nature of the remembrance which the poor lover
retained of the woman who had made him suffer so much. “Monsieur de
Bragelonne,” she said, “that which your friends have refused to do, I
will do for you, whom I like and esteem very much. I will be your friend
on this occasion. You hold your head high, as a man of honor should; and
I deeply regret that you may have to bow before ridicule, and in a few
days, it might be, contempt.”

“Ah!” exclaimed Raoul, perfectly livid. “It is as bad as that, then?”

“If you do not know,” said the princess, “I see that you guess; you were
affianced, I believe, to Mademoiselle de la Valliere?”

“Yes, Madame.”

“By that right, you deserve to be warned about her, as some day or
another I shall be obliged to dismiss Mademoiselle de la Valliere from
my service--”

“Dismiss La Valliere!” cried Bragelonne.

“Of course. Do you suppose I shall always be amenable to the tears and
protestations of the king? No, no! my house shall no longer be made a
convenience for such practices; but you tremble, you cannot stand--”

“No, Madame, no,” said Bragelonne, making an effort over himself; “I
thought I should have died just now, that was all. Your royal highness
did me the honor to say that the king wept and implored you--”

“Yes, but in vain,” returned the princess; who then related to Raoul the
scene that took place at Chaillot, and the king’s despair on his return;
she told him of his indulgence to herself and the terrible word with
which the outraged princess, the humiliated coquette, had quashed the
royal anger.

Raoul stood with his head bent down.

“What do you think of it all?” she said.

“The king loves her,” he replied.

“But you seem to think she does not love him!”

“Alas, Madame, I was thinking of the time when she loved _me_.”

Henrietta was for a moment struck with admiration at this sublime
disbelief: and then, shrugging her shoulders, she said, “You do not
believe me, I see. How deeply you must love her. And you doubt if she
loves the king?”

“I do, until I have a proof of it. Forgive me, Madame, but she has
given me her word; and her mind and heart are too upright to tell a
falsehood.”

“You require a proof! Be it so. Come with me, then.”



Chapter LIII. A Domiciliary Visit.

The princess, preceding Raoul, led him through the courtyard towards
that part of the building La Valliere inhabited, and, ascending the same
staircase which Raoul himself had ascended that very morning, she paused
at the door of the room in which the young man had been so strangely
received by Montalais. The opportunity was remarkably well chosen to
carry out the project Madame Henrietta had conceived, for the chateau
was empty. The king, the courtiers, and the ladies of the court, had
set off for Saint-Germain; Madame Henrietta was the only one who knew
of Bragelonne’s return, and thinking over the advantages which might be
drawn from this return, she had feigned indisposition in order to remain
behind. Madame was therefore confident of finding La Valliere’s room and
Saint-Aignan’s apartment perfectly empty. She took a pass-key from
her pocket and opened the door of her maid of honor’s apartment.
Bragelonne’s gaze was immediately fixed upon the interior of the room,
which he recognized at once; and the impression which the sight of
it produced upon him was torture. The princess looked at him, and her
practiced eye at once detected what was passing in the young man’s
heart.

“You asked for proofs,” she said; “do not be astonished, then, if I give
you them. But if you do not think you have courage enough to confront
them, there is still time to withdraw.”

“I thank you, Madame,” said Bragelonne; “but I came here to be
convinced. You promised to convince me,--do so.”

“Enter, then,” said Madame, “and shut the door behind you.”

Bragelonne obeyed, and then turned towards the princess, whom he
interrogated by a look.

“You know where you are, I suppose?” inquired Madame Henrietta.

“Everything leads me to believe I am in Mademoiselle de la Valliere’s
room.”

“You are.”

“But I would observe to your highness, that this room is a room, and is
not a proof.”

“Wait,” said the princess, as she walked to the foot of the bed, folded
up the screen into its several compartments, and stooped down towards
the floor. “Look here,” she continued; “stoop down and lift up this
trap-door yourself.”

“A trap-door!” said Raoul, astonished; for D’Artagnan’s words began
to return to his memory, and he had an indistinct recollection that
D’Artagnan had made use of the same word. He looked, but uselessly,
for some cleft or crevice which might indicate an opening or a ring to
assist in lifting up the planking.

“Ah, I forgot,” said Madame Henrietta, “I forgot the secret spring; the
fourth plank of the flooring,--press on the spot where you will observe
a knot in the wood. Those are the instructions; press, vicomte! press, I
say, yourself.”

Raoul, pale as death, pressed his finger on the spot which had been
indicated to him; at the same moment the spring began to work, and the
trap rose of its own accord.

“It is ingenious enough, certainly,” said the princess; “and one can see
that the architect foresaw that a woman’s hand only would have to make
use of this spring, for see how easily the trap-door opened without
assistance.”

“A staircase!” cried Raoul.

“Yes, and a very pretty one, too,” said Madame Henrietta. “See, vicomte,
the staircase has a balustrade, intended to prevent the falling of timid
persons, who might be tempted to descend the staircase; and I will risk
myself on it accordingly. Come, vicomte, follow me!”

“But before following you, madame, may I ask where this staircase leads
to?”

“Ah, true; I forgot to tell you. You know, perhaps, that formerly M. de
Saint-Aignan lived in the very next apartment to the king?”

“Yes, Madame, I am aware of that; that was the arrangement, at least,
before I left; and more than once I had the honor of visiting his
rooms.”

“Well, he obtained the king’s leave to change his former convenient
and beautiful apartment for the two rooms to which this staircase will
conduct us, and which together form a lodging for him half the size, and
at ten times greater the distance from the king,--a close proximity to
whom is by no means disdained, in general, by the gentlemen belonging to
the court.”

“Very good, Madame,” returned Raoul; “but go on, I beg, for I do not
understand yet.”

“Well, then it accidentally happened,” continued the princess, “that M.
de Saint-Aignan’s apartment is situated underneath the apartments of
my maids of honor, and by a further coincidence, exactly underneath the
room of La Valliere.”

“But what was the motive of this trap-door and this staircase?”

“That I cannot tell you. Would you like to go down to Monsieur de
Saint-Aignan’s rooms? Perhaps we shall be able to find the solution of
the enigma there.”

And Madame set the example by going down herself, while Raoul, sighing
deeply, followed her. At every step Bragelonne took, he advanced further
into that mysterious apartment which had witnessed La Valliere’s sighs
and still retained the perfume of her presence. Bragelonne fancied he
perceived, as he inhaled the atmosphere, that the young girl must have
passed through. Then succeeded to these emanations of herself, which he
regarded as invisible though certain proofs, flowers she preferred to
all others--books of her own selection. If Raoul retained a single doubt
on the subject, it would have vanished at the secret harmony of tastes
and connection of the mind with the ordinary objects of life. La
Valliere, in Bragelonne’s eyes, was present there in each article of
furniture, in the color of the hangings, in all that surrounded him.
Dumb, and now completely overwhelmed, there was nothing further for him
now to learn, and he followed his pitiless conductress as blindly as
the culprit follows the executioner; while Madame, as cruel as women of
overstrung temperaments generally are, did not spare him the slightest
detail. But it must be admitted that, notwithstanding the kind of apathy
into which he had fallen, none of these details, even had he been left
alone, would have escaped him. The happiness of the woman who loves,
when that happiness is derived from a rival, is a living torture for
a jealous man; but for a jealous man such as Raoul was, for one whose
heart for the first time in its existence was being steeped in gall and
bitterness, Louise’s happiness was in reality an ignominious death, a
death of body and soul. He guessed all; he fancied he could see them,
with their hands clasped in each other’s, their faces drawn close
together, and reflected, side by side, in loving proximity, and they
gazed upon the mirrors around them--so sweet an occupation for lovers,
who, as they thus see themselves twice over, imprint the picture still
more deeply on their memories. He could guess, too, the stolen kiss
snatched as they separated from each other’s loved society. The luxury,
the studied elegance, eloquent of the perfection of indolence, of
ease; the extreme care shown, either to spare the loved object every
annoyance, or to occasion her a delightful surprise; that might and
majesty of love multiplied by the majesty and might of royalty itself,
seemed like a death-blow to Raoul. If there be anything which can in any
way assuage or mitigate the tortures of jealousy, it is the inferiority
of the man who is preferred to yourself; whilst, on the very contrary,
if there be one anguish more bitter than another, a misery for which
language lacks a word, it is the superiority of the man preferred to
yourself, superior, perhaps, in youth, beauty, grace. It is in such
moments as these that Heaven almost seems to have taken part against the
disdained and rejected lover.

One final pang was reserved for poor Raoul. Madame Henrietta lifted up a
silk curtain, and behind the canvas he perceived La Valliere’s portrait.
Not only the portrait of La Valliere, but of La Valliere radiant with
youth, beauty, and happiness, inhaling life and enjoyment at every pore,
because at eighteen years of age love itself is life.

“Louise!” murmured Bragelonne,--“Louise! is it true, then? Oh, you have
never loved me, for never have you looked at me in that manner.” And he
felt as if his heart were crushed within his bosom.

Madame Henrietta looked at him, almost envious of his extreme grief,
although she well knew there was nothing to envy in it, and that she
herself was as passionately loved by De Guiche as Louise by Bragelonne.
Raoul interpreted Madame Henrietta’s look.

“Oh, forgive me, forgive me, Madame; in your presence I know I ought to
have greater self-control. But Heaven grant that you may never be struck
by similar misery to that which crushes me at this moment, for you are
but a woman, and would not be able to endure so terrible an affliction.
Forgive me, I again entreat you, Madame; I am but a man without rank or
position, while you belong to a race whose happiness knows no bounds,
whose power acknowledges no limit.”

“Monsieur de Bragelonne,” replied Henrietta, “a mind such as your merits
all the consideration and respect which a queen’s heart even can bestow.
Regard me as your friend, monsieur; and as such, indeed, I would not
allow your whole life to be poisoned by perfidy, and covered with
ridicule. It was I, indeed, who, with more courage than any of your
pretended friends,--I except M. de Guiche,--was the cause of your return
from London; it is I, also, who now give you the melancholy proofs,
necessary, however, for your cure if you are a lover with courage in his
heart, and not a weeping Amadis. Do not thank me; pity me, even, and do
not serve the king less faithfully than you have done.”

Raoul smiled bitterly. “Ah! true, true; I was forgetting that; the king
is my master.”

“Your liberty, nay, your very life, is in danger.”

A steady, penetrating look informed Madame Henrietta that she was
mistaken, and that her last argument was not a likely one to affect the
young man. “Take care, Monsieur de Bragelonne,” she said, “for if you do
not weigh well all your actions, you might throw into an extravagance
of wrath a prince whose passions, once aroused, exceed the bounds of
reason, and you would thereby involve your friends and family in the
deepest distress; you must bend, you must submit, and you must cure
yourself.”

“I thank you, Madame; I appreciate the advice your royal highness is
good enough to give me, and I will endeavor to follow it; but one final
word, I beg.”

“Name it.”

“Should I be indiscreet in asking you the secret of this staircase, of
this trap-door; a secret, which, it seems, you have discovered?”

“Nothing more simple. For the purpose of exercising a surveillance over
the young girls who are attached to my service, I have duplicate keys of
their doors. It seemed very strange to me that M. de Saint-Aignan should
change his apartments. It seemed very strange that the king should
come to see M. de Saint-Aignan every day, and, finally, it seemed very
strange that so many things should be done during your absence, that the
very habits and customs of the court appeared changed. I do not wish
to be trifled with by the king, nor to serve as a cloak for his love
affairs; for after La Valliere, who weeps incessantly, he will take a
fancy to Montalais, who is always laughing; and then to Tonnay-Charente,
who does nothing but sing all day; to act such a part as that would be
unworthy of me. I thrust aside the scruples which my friendship for
you suggested. I discovered the secret. I have wounded your feelings, I
know, and I again entreat you to pardon me; but I had a duty to fulfil.
I have discharged it. You are now forewarned; the tempest will soon
burst; protect yourself accordingly.”

“You naturally expect, however, that a result of some kind must follow,”
 replied Bragelonne, with firmness; “for you do not suppose I shall
silently accept the shame thus thrust upon me, or the treachery which
has been practiced against me?”

“You will take whatever steps in the matter you please, Monsieur Raoul,
only do not betray the source whence you derived the truth. That is all
I have to ask,--the only price I require for the service I have rendered
you.”

“Fear nothing, Madame,” said Bragelonne, with a bitter smile.

“I bribed the locksmith, in whom the lovers confided. You can just as
well have done so as myself, can you not?”

“Yes, Madame. Your royal highness, however, has no other advice or
caution to give me, except that of not betraying you?”

“None.”

“I am about, therefore, to beg your royal highness to allow me to remain
here for one moment.”

“Without me?”

“Oh! no, Madame. It matters very little; for what I have to do can be
done in your presence. I only ask one moment to write a line to some
one.”

“It is dangerous, Monsieur de Bragelonne. Take care.”

“No one can possibly know that your royal highness has done me the
honor to conduct me here. Besides, I shall sign the letter I am going to
write.”

“Do as you please, then.”

Raoul drew out his tablet, and wrote rapidly on one of the leaves the
following words:

“MONSIEUR LE COMTE,--Do not be surprised to find this paper signed by
me; the friend I shall very shortly send to call on you will have the
honor to explain the object of my visit.

“VICOMTE RAOUL DE BRAGELONNE.”


He rolled up the paper, slipped it into the lock of the door which
communicated with the room set apart for the two lovers, and satisfied
himself that the missive was so apparent that Saint-Aignan could not but
see it as he entered; he rejoined the princess, who had already reached
the top of the staircase. They then separated, Raoul pretending to thank
her highness; Henrietta pitying, or seeming to pity, with all her heart,
the wretched young man she had just condemned to such fearful torture.
“Oh!” she said, as she saw him disappear, pale as death, and his eyes
bursting with blood, “if I had foreseen this, I would have hid the truth
from that poor gentleman.”



Chapter LIV. Porthos’s Plan of Action.

The great number of individuals we have introduced into this long story
is the reason why each of them has been forced to appear only in turn,
according to the exigencies of the recital. The result is, that our
readers have had no opportunity of meeting our friend Porthos since his
return from Fontainebleau. The honors which he had received from
the king had not changed the easy, affectionate character of that
excellent-hearted man; he may, perhaps, have held up his head a little
higher than usual, and a majesty of demeanor, as it were, may have
betrayed itself since the honor of dining at the king’s table had been
accorded him. His majesty’s banqueting-room had produced a certain
effect on Porthos. Le Seigneur de Bracieux et de Pierrefonds delighted
to remember that, during that memorable dinner, the numerous array of
servants, and the large number of officials in attendance on the guests,
gave a certain tone and effect to the repast, and seemed, as it were, to
furnish the room. Porthos undertook to confer upon Mouston a position of
some kind or other, in order to establish a sort of hierarchy among
his other domestics, and to create a military household, which was not
unusual among the great captains of the age, since, in the preceding
century, this luxury had been greatly encouraged by Messieurs de
Treville, de Schomberg, de la Vieuville, without alluding to M. de
Richelieu, M. de Conde, and de Bouillon-Turenne. And, therefore, why
should not he, Porthos, the friend of the king, and of M. Fouquet, a
baron, and engineer, etc., why should not he, indeed, enjoy all
the delightful privileges which large possessions and unusual merit
invariably confer? Somewhat neglected by Aramis, who, we know, was
greatly occupied with M. Fouquet; neglected, also, on account of his
being on duty, by D’Artagnan; tired of Truchen and Planchet, Porthos was
surprised to find himself dreaming, without precisely knowing why; but
if any one had said to him, “Do you want anything, Porthos?” he would
most certainly have replied, “Yes.” After one of those dinners, during
which Porthos attempted to recall to his recollection all the details of
the royal banquet, gently joyful, thanks to the excellence of the wines;
gently melancholy, thanks to his ambitious ideas, Porthos was gradually
falling off into a placid doze, when his servant entered to announce
that M. de Bragelonne wished to speak to him. Porthos passed into an
adjoining room, where he found his young friend in the disposition of
mind we are already aware of. Raoul advanced towards Porthos, and
shook him by the hand; Porthos, surprised at his seriousness of aspect,
offered him a seat. “Dear M. du Vallon,” said Raoul, “I have a service
to ask of you.”

“Nothing could happen more fortunately, my young friend,” replied
Porthos; “I have eight thousand livres sent me this morning from
Pierrefonds; and if you want any money--”

“No, I thank you; it is not money.”

“So much the worse, then. I have always heard it said that that is the
rarest service, but the easiest to render. The remark struck me; I like
to cite remarks that strike me.”

“Your heart is as good as your mind is sound and true.”

“You are much too kind, I declare. You will dine here, of course?”

“No; I am not hungry.”

“Eh! not dine? What a dreadful country England is!”

“Not too much so, indeed--but--”

“Well, if such excellent fish and meat were not to be procured there, it
would hardly be endurable.”

“Yes, I came to--”

“I am listening. Only just allow me to take a little sip. One gets
thirsty in Paris;” and he ordered a bottle of champagne to be brought;
and, having first filled Raoul’s glass, he filled his own, drank it down
at a gulp, and then resumed: “I needed that, in order to listen to you
with proper attention. I am now entirely at your service. What do you
wish to ask me, dear Raoul? What do you want?”

“Give me your opinion on quarrels in general, my dear friend.”

“My opinion! Well--but--Explain your idea a little more coherently,”
 replied Porthos, rubbing his forehead.

“I mean--you are generally good-humored, good-tempered, whenever any
misunderstanding arises between a friend of yours and a stranger, for
instance?”

“Oh! in the best of tempers.”

“Very good; but what do you do, in such a case?”

“Whenever any friend of mine gets into a quarrel, I always act on one
principle.”

“What is that?”

“That lost time is irreparable, and one never arranges an affair so well
as when everything has been done to embroil the disputants as much as
possible.”

“Ah! indeed, is that the principle on which you proceed?”

“Precisely; so, as soon as a quarrel takes place, I bring the two
parties together.”

“Exactly.”

“You understand that by this means it is impossible for an affair not to
be arranged.”

“I should have thought that, treated in this manner, an affair would, on
the contrary--”

“Oh! not the least in the world. Just fancy, now, I have had in my life
something like a hundred and eighty to a hundred and ninety regular
duels, without reckoning hasty encounters, or chance meetings.”

“It is a very handsome aggregate,” said Raoul, unable to resist a smile.

“A mere nothing; but I am so gentle. D’Artagnan reckons his duels by
hundreds. It is very true he is a little too hard and sharp--I have
often told him so.”

“And so,” resumed Raoul, “you generally arrange the affairs of honor
your friends confide to you.”

“There is not a single instance in which I have not finished by
arranging every one of them,” said Porthos, with a gentleness and
confidence that surprised Raoul.

“But the way in which you settle them is at least honorable, I suppose?”

“Oh! rely upon that; and at this stage, I will explain my other
principle to you. As soon as my friend has intrusted his quarrel to
me, this is what I do; I go to his adversary at once, armed with
a politeness and self-possession absolutely requisite under such
circumstances.”

“That is the way, then,” said Raoul, bitterly, “that you arrange affairs
so safely.”

“I believe you. I go to the adversary, then, and say to him: ‘It is
impossible, monsieur, that you are ignorant of the extent to which you
have insulted my friend.’” Raoul frowned at this remark.

“It sometimes happens--very often, indeed,” pursued Porthos--“that my
friend has not been insulted at all; he has even been the first to give
offense; you can imagine, therefore, whether my language is or is not
well chosen.” And Porthos burst into a peal of laughter.

“Decidedly,” said Raoul to himself while the merry thunder of Porthos’s
laughter was resounding in his ears, “I am very unfortunate. De Guiche
treats me with coolness, D’Artagnan with ridicule, Porthos is too tame;
no one will settle this affair in the only way I wish it to be settled.
And I came to Porthos because I wanted to find a sword instead of cold
reasoning at my service. My ill-luck dogs me.”

Porthos, who had recovered himself, continued: “By one simple
expression, I leave my adversary without an excuse.”

“That is as it may happen,” said Raoul, absently.

“Not at all, it is quite certain. I have not left him an excuse; and
then it is that I display all my courtesy, in order to attain the
happy issue of my project. I advance, therefore, with an air of great
politeness, and taking my adversary by the hand, I say to him: ‘Now
that you are convinced of having given the offense, we are sure of
reparation; between my friend and yourself, the future can only offer an
exchange of mutual courtesies of conduct, and consequently, my mission
now is to acquaint you with the length of my friend’s sword.’”

“What!” said Raoul.

“Wait a minute. ‘The length of my friend’s sword. My horse is waiting
below; my friend is in such and such a spot and is impatiently awaiting
your agreeable society; I will take you with me; we can call upon your
second as we go along:’ and the affair is arranged.”

“And so,” said Raoul, pale with vexation, “you reconcile the two
adversaries on the ground.”

“I beg your pardon,” interrupted Porthos. “Reconcile! What for?”

“You said that the affair was arranged.”

“Of course! since my friend is waiting for him.”

“Well! what then? If he is waiting--”

“Well! if he is waiting, it is merely to stretch his legs a little. The
adversary, on the contrary, is stiff from riding; they place themselves
in proper order, and my friend kills the opponent, and the affair is
ended.”

“Ah! he kills him, then?” cried Raoul.

“I should think so,” said Porthos. “Is it likely I should ever have as a
friend a man who allows himself to get killed? I have a hundred and
one friends; at the head of the list stand your father, Aramis, and
D’Artagnan, all of whom are living and well, I believe?”

“Oh, my dear baron,” exclaimed Raoul, as he embraced Porthos.

“You approve of my method, then?” said the giant.

“I approve of it so thoroughly, that I shall have recourse to it this
very day, without a moment’s delay,--at once, in fact. You are the very
man I have been looking for.”

“Good; here I am, then; you want to fight, I suppose?”

“Absolutely.”

“It is very natural. With whom?”

“With M. de Saint-Aignan.”

“I know him--a most agreeable man, who was exceedingly polite to me
the day I had the honor of dining with the king. I shall certainly
acknowledge his politeness in return, even if it had not happened to be
my usual custom. So, he has given you an offense?”

“A mortal offense.”

“The deuce! I can say so, I suppose?”

“More than that, even, if you like.”

“That is a very great convenience.”

“I may look upon it as one of your arranged affairs, may I not?” said
Raoul, smiling.

“As a matter of course. Where will you be waiting for him?”

“Ah! I forgot; it is a very delicate matter. M. de Saint-Aignan is a
very great friend of the king’s.”

“So I have heard it said.”

“So that if I kill him--”

“Oh! you will kill him, certainly; you must take every precaution to do
so. But there is no difficulty in these matters now; if you had lived in
our early days,--ah, those were days worth living for!”

“My dear friend, you do not quite understand me. I mean, that M.
de Saint-Aignan being a friend of the king, the affair will be more
difficult to manage, since the king might learn beforehand--”

“Oh! no; that is not likely. You know my method: ‘Monsieur, you have
just injured my friend, and--’”

“Yes, I know it.”

“And then: ‘Monsieur, I have horses below.’ I carry him off before he
can have spoken to any one.”

“Will he allow himself to be carried off like that?”

“I should think so! I should like to see it fail. It would be the first
time, if it did. It is true, though, that the young men of the present
day--Bah! I would carry him off bodily, if that were all,” and Porthos,
adding gesture to speech, lifted Raoul and the chair he was sitting on
off the ground, and carried them round the room.

“Very good,” said Raoul, laughing. “All we have to do is to state the
grounds of the quarrel with M. de Saint-Aignan.”

“Well, but that is done, it seems.”

“No, my dear M. du Vallon, the usage of the present day requires that
the cause of the quarrel should be explained.”

“Very good. Tell me what it is, then.”

“The fact is--”

“Deuce take it! how troublesome all this is! In former days we had no
occasion to say anything about the matter. People fought for the sake of
fighting; and I, for one, know no better reason than that.”

“You are quite right, M. du Vallon.”

“However, tell me what the cause is.”

“It is too long a story to tell; only, as one must particularize to
a certain extent, and as, on the other hand, the affair is full of
difficulties, and requires the most absolute secrecy, you will have the
kindness merely to tell M. de Saint-Aignan that he has, in the first
place, insulted me by changing his lodgings.”

“By changing his lodgings? Good,” said Porthos, who began to count on
his fingers; “next?”

“Then in getting a trap-door made in his new apartments.”

“I understand,” said Porthos; “a trap-door: upon my word, that is very
serious; you ought to be furious at that. What the deuce does the
fellow mean by getting trap-doors made without first consulting you?
Trap-doors! _mordioux!_ I haven’t got any, except in my dungeons at
Bracieux.”

“And you will please add,” said Raoul, “that my last motive for
considering myself insulted is, the existence of the portrait that M. de
Saint-Aignan well knows.”

“Is it possible? A portrait, too! A change of residence, a trap-door,
and a portrait! Why, my dear friend, with but one of these causes of
complaint there is enough, and more than enough, for all the gentlemen
in France and Spain to cut each other’s throats, and that is saying but
very little.”

“Well, my dear friend, you are furnished with all you need, I suppose?”

“I shall take a second horse with me. Select your own rendezvous, and
while you are waiting there, you can practice some of the best passes,
so as to get your limbs as elastic as possible.”

“Thank you. I shall be waiting for you in the wood of Vincennes, close
to Minimes.”

“All goes well, then. Where am I to find this M. de Saint-Aignan?”

“At the Palais Royal.”

Porthos ran a huge hand-bell. “My court suit,” he said to the servant
who answered the summons, “my horse, and a led horse to accompany me.”
 Then turning to Raoul, as soon as the servant had quitted the room, he
said: “Does your father know anything about this?”

“No; I am going to write to him.”

“And D’Artagnan?”

“No, nor D’Artagnan either. He is very cautious, you know, and might
have diverted me from my purpose.”

“D’Artagnan is a sound adviser, though,” said Porthos, astonished that,
in his own loyal faith in D’Artagnan, any one could have thought of
himself, so long as there was a D’Artagnan in the world.

“Dear M. du Vallon,” said Raoul, “do not question me any more, I implore
you. I have told you all that I had to say; it is prompt action I now
expect, sharp and decided as you know how to arrange it. That, indeed,
is my reason for having chosen you.”

“You will be satisfied with me,” replied Porthos.

“Do not forget, either, that, except ourselves, no one must know
anything of this meeting.”

“People generally find these things out,” said Porthos, dryly, “when
a dead body is discovered in a wood. But I promise everything, my dear
friend, except the concealment of the dead body. There it is, and it
must be seen, as a matter of course. It is a principle of mine, not to
bury bodies. That has a smack of the assassin about it. Every risk has
its peculiarities.”

“To work, then, my dear friend.”

“Rely upon me,” said the giant, finishing the bottle, while a servant
spread out upon a sofa the gorgeously decorated dress trimmed with lace.

Raoul left the room, saying to himself, with a secret delight,
“Perfidious king! traitorous monarch! I cannot reach thee. I do not wish
it; for kings are sacred objects. But your friend, your accomplice, your
panderer--the coward who represents you--shall pay for your crime. I
will kill him in thy name, and, afterwards, we will bethink ourselves
of--_Louise_.”



Chapter LV. The Change of Residence, the Trap-Door, and the Portrait.

Porthos, intrusted, to his great delight, with this mission, which made
him feel young again, took half an hour less than his usual time to put
on his court suit. To show that he was a man acquainted with the usages
of high society, he had begun by sending his lackey to inquire if
Monsieur de Saint-Aignan were at home, and heard, in answer, that M.
le Comte de Saint-Aignan had had the honor of accompanying the king to
Saint-Germain, as well as the whole court; but that monsieur le comte
had just that moment returned. Immediately upon this reply, Porthos made
as much haste as possible, and reached Saint-Aignan’s apartments just
as the latter was having his boots taken off. The promenade had been
delightful. The king, who was in love more than ever, and of course
happier than ever, behaved in the most charming manner to every one.
Nothing could possibly equal his kindness. M. de Saint-Aignan, it may
be remembered, was a poet, and fancied that he had proved that he was
so under too many a memorable circumstance to allow the title to be
disputed by any one. An indefatigable rhymester, he had, during
the whole of the journey, overwhelmed with quatrains, sextains, and
madrigals, first the king, and then La Valliere. The king, on his side,
was in a similarly poetical mood, and had made a distich; while La
Valliere, delighting in poetry, as most women do who are in love, had
composed two sonnets. The day, then, had not been a bad one for Apollo;
and so, as soon as he had returned to Paris, Saint-Aignan, who knew
beforehand that his verse would be sure to be extensively circulated in
court circles, occupied himself, with a little more attention than he
had been able to bestow during the promenade, with the composition, as
well as with the idea itself. Consequently, with all the tenderness of
a father about to start his children in life, he candidly interrogated
himself whether the public would find these offsprings of his
imagination sufficiently elegant and graceful; and in order to make
his mind easy on the subject, M. de Saint-Aignan recited to himself the
madrigal he had composed, and which he had repeated from memory to the
king, and had promised to write out for him on his return. All the
time he was committing these words to memory, the comte was engaged in
undressing himself more completely. He had just taken off his coat, and
was putting on his dressing-gown, when he was informed that Monsieur le
Baron du Vallon de Bracieux de Pierrefonds was waiting to be received.

“Eh!” he said, “what does that bunch of names mean? I don’t know
anything about him.”

“It is the same gentleman,” replied the lackey, “who had the honor of
dining with you, monseigneur, at the king’s table, when his majesty was
staying at Fontainebleau.”

“Introduce him, then, at once,” cried Saint-Aignan.

Porthos, in a few minutes, entered the room. M. de Saint-Aignan had
an excellent recollection of persons, and, at the first glance, he
recognized the gentleman from the country, who enjoyed so singular
a reputation, and whom the king had received so favorably at
Fontainebleau, in spite of the smiles of some of those who were present.
He therefore advanced towards Porthos with all the outward signs of
consideration of manner which Porthos thought but natural, considering
that he himself, whenever he called upon an adversary, hoisted a
standard of the most refined politeness. Saint-Aignan desired the
servant to give Porthos a chair; and the latter, who saw nothing unusual
in this act of politeness, sat down gravely and coughed. The ordinary
courtesies having been exchanged between the two gentlemen, the comte,
to whom the visit was paid, said, “May I ask, monsieur le baron, to what
happy circumstance I am indebted for the favor of a visit from you?”

“The very thing I am about to have the honor of explaining to you,
monsieur le comte; but, I beg your pardon--”

“What is the matter, monsieur?” inquired Saint-Aignan.

“I regret to say that I have broken your chair.”

“Not at all, monsieur,” said Saint-Aignan; “not at all.”

“It is the fact, though, monsieur le comte; I have broken it--so much
so, indeed, that if I do not move, I shall fall down, which would be an
exceedingly disagreeable position for me in the discharge of the very
serious mission which has been intrusted to me with regard to yourself.”

Porthos rose; and but just in time, for the chair had given way several
inches. Saint-Aignan looked about him for something more solid for his
guest to sit upon.

“Modern articles of furniture,” said Porthos, while the comte was
looking about, “are constructed in a ridiculously flimsy manner. In my
early days, when I used to sit down with far more energy than is now the
case, I do not remember ever to have broken a chair, except in taverns,
with my arms.”

Saint-Aignan smiled at this remark. “But,” said Porthos, as he settled
himself down on a couch, which creaked, but did not give way beneath his
weight, “that unfortunately has nothing whatever to do with my present
visit.”

“Why unfortunately? Are you the bearer of a message of ill-omen,
monsieur le baron?”

“Of ill-omen--for a gentleman? Certainly not, monsieur le comte,”
 replied Porthos, nobly. “I have simply come to say that you have
seriously insulted a friend of mine.”

“I, monsieur?” exclaimed Saint-Aignan--“I have insulted a friend of
yours, do you say? May I ask his name?”

“M. Raoul de Bragelonne.”

“I have insulted M. Raoul de Bragelonne!” cried Saint-Aignan. “I really
assure you, monsieur, that it is quite impossible; for M. de Bragelonne,
whom I know but very slightly,--nay, whom I know hardly at all--is in
England, and, as I have not seen him for a long time past, I cannot
possibly have insulted him.”

“M. de Bragelonne is in Paris, monsieur le comte,” said Porthos,
perfectly unmoved; “and I repeat, it is quite certain you have insulted
him, since he himself told me you had. Yes, monsieur, you have seriously
insulted him, mortally insulted him, I repeat.”

“It is impossible, monsieur le baron, I swear, quite impossible.”

“Besides,” added Porthos, “you cannot be ignorant of the circumstance,
since M. de Bragelonne informed me that he had already apprised you of
it by a note.”

“I give you my word of honor, monsieur, that I have received no note
whatever.”

“This is most extraordinary,” replied Porthos.

“I will convince you,” said Saint-Aignan, “that have received nothing
in any way from him.” And he rang the bell. “Basque,” he said to the
servant who entered, “how many letters or notes were sent here
during my absence?”

“Three, monsieur le comte--a note from M. de Fiesque, one from Madame de
Laferte, and a letter from M. de las Fuentes.”

“Is that all?”

“Yes, monsieur le comte.”

“Speak the truth before this gentleman--the truth, you understand. I
will take care you are not blamed.”

“There was a note, also, from--from--”

“Well, from whom?”

“From Mademoiselle--de--”

“Out with it!”

“De Laval.”

“That is quite sufficient,” interrupted Porthos. “I believe you,
monsieur le comte.”

Saint-Aignan dismissed the valet, and followed him to the door, in order
to close it after him; and when he had done so, looking straight before
him, he happened to see in the keyhole of the adjoining apartment the
paper which Bragelonne had slipped in there as he left. “What is this?”
 he said.

Porthos, who was sitting with his back to the room, turned round. “Aha!”
 he said.

“A note in the keyhole!” exclaimed Saint-Aignan.

“That is not unlikely to be the missing letter, monsieur le comte,” said
Porthos.

Saint-Aignan took out the paper. “A note from M. de Bragelonne!” he
exclaimed.

“You see, monsieur, I was right. Oh, when I say a thing--”

“Brought here by M. de Bragelonne himself,” the comte murmured, turning
pale. “This is infamous! How could he possibly have come here?” And the
comte rang again.

“Who has been here during my absence with the king?”

“No one, monsieur.”

“That is impossible! Some one must have been here.”

“No one could possibly have entered, monsieur, since the keys have never
left my pocket.”

“And yet I find the letter in yonder lock; some one must have put it
there; it could not have come here of its own accord.”

Basque opened his arms as if signifying the most absolute ignorance on
the subject.

“Probably it was M. de Bragelonne himself who placed it there,” said
Porthos.

“In that case he must have entered here.”

“How could that have been, since I have the key in my own pocket?”
 returned Basque, perseveringly.

Saint-Aignan crumpled the letter in his palm, after having read it.
“There is something mysterious about this,” he murmured, absorbed in
thought. Porthos left him to his reflections; but after a while returned
to the mission he had undertaken.

“Shall we return to our little affair?” Porthos resumed, addressing
Saint-Aignan after a brief pause.

“I think I can now understand it, from this note, which has arrived here
in so singular a manner. Monsieur de Bragelonne says that a friend will
call.”

“I am his friend. I am the person he alludes to.”

“For the purpose of giving me a challenge?”

“Precisely.”

“And he complains that I have insulted him?”

“Mortally.”

“In what way, may I ask; for his conduct is so mysterious, that, at
least, it needs some explanation?”

“Monsieur,” replied Porthos, “my friend cannot but be right; and, as far
as his conduct is concerned, if it be mysterious, as you say, you have
only yourself to blame for it.” Porthos pronounced these words with an
amount of confidence which, for a man who was unaccustomed to his ways,
must have revealed an infinity of sense.

“Mystery, so be it; but what is all the mystery about?” said
Saint-Aignan.

“You will think it the best, perhaps,” Porthos replied, with a low bow,
“if I do not enter in to particulars.”

“Oh, I perfectly understand. We will touch very lightly upon it, then,
so speak, monsieur, I am listening.”

“In the first place, monsieur,” said Porthos, “you have changed your
apartments.”

“Yes, that is quite true,” said Saint-Aignan.

“You admit it,” said Porthos, with an air of satisfaction.

“Admit it! of course I admit it. Why should I not admit it, do you
suppose?”

“You have admitted it. Very good,” said Porthos, lifting up one finger.

“But how can my having moved my lodgings have done M. de Bragelonne
any harm? Have the goodness to tell me that, for I positively do not
comprehend a word of what you are saying.”

Porthos stopped him, and then said, with great gravity, “Monsieur, this
is the first of M. de Bragelonne’s complaints against you. If he makes a
complaint, it is because he feels himself insulted.”

Saint-Aignan began to beat his foot impatiently on the ground. “This
looks like a spurious quarrel,” he said.

“No one can possibly have a spurious quarrel with the Vicomte de
Bragelonne,” returned Porthos; “but, at all events, you have nothing to
add on the subject of your changing your apartments, I suppose?”

“Nothing. And what is the next point?”

“Ah, the next! You will observe, monsieur, that the one I have already
mentioned is a most serious injury, to which you have given no answer,
or rather, have answered very indifferently. Is it possible, monsieur,
that you have changed your lodgings? M. de Bragelonne feels insulted at
your having done so, and you do not attempt to excuse yourself.”

“What!” cried Saint-Aignan, who was getting annoyed at the perfect
coolness of his visitor--“what! am I to consult M. de Bragelonne whether
I am to move or not? You can hardly be serious, monsieur.”

“I am. And it is absolutely necessary, monsieur; but under any
circumstances, you will admit that it is nothing in comparison with the
second ground of complaint.”

“Well, what is that?”

Porthos assumed a very solemn expression as he said: “How about the
trap-door, monsieur?”

Saint-Aignan turned exceedingly pale. He pushed back his chair so
abruptly, that Porthos, simple as he was, perceived that the blow had
told. “The trap-door,” murmured Saint-Aignan.

“Yes, monsieur, explain that if you can,” said Porthos, shaking his
head.

Saint-Aignan held down his head, as he murmured: “I have been betrayed,
everything is known!”

“Everything,” replied Porthos, who knew nothing.

“You see me perfectly overwhelmed,” pursued Saint-Aignan, “overwhelmed
to a degree that I hardly know what I am about.”

“A guilty conscience, monsieur. Your affair is a bad one, and when the
public learns all about it, it will judge--”

“Oh, monsieur!” exclaimed the count, hurriedly, “such a secret ought not
to be known even by one’s confessor.”

“That we will think about,” said Porthos; “the secret will not go far,
in fact.”

“Surely, monsieur,” returned Saint-Aignan, “since M. de Bragelonne has
penetrated the secret, he must be aware of the danger he as well as
others run the risk of incurring.”

“M. de Bragelonne runs no danger, monsieur, nor does he fear any either,
as you, if it please Heaven, will find out very soon.”

“This fellow is a perfect madman,” thought Saint-Aignan. “What, in
Heaven’s name, does he want?” He then said aloud: “Come, monsieur, let
us hush up this affair.”

“You forget the portrait,” said Porthos, in a voice of thunder, which
made the comte’s blood freeze in his veins.

As the portrait in question was La Valliere’s portrait, and no mistake
could any longer exist on the subject, Saint-Aignan’s eyes were
completely opened. “Ah!” he exclaimed--“ah! monsieur, I remember now
that M. de Bragelonne was engaged to be married to her.”

Porthos assumed an imposing air, all the majesty of ignorance, in fact,
as he said: “It matters nothing whatever to me, nor to yourself, indeed,
whether or not my friend was, as you say, engaged to be married. I am
even astonished that you should have made use of so indiscreet a remark.
It may possibly do your cause harm, monsieur.”

“Monsieur,” replied Saint-Aignan, “you are the incarnation of
intelligence, delicacy, and loyalty of feeling united. I see the whole
matter now clearly enough.”

“So much the better,” said Porthos.

“And,” pursued Saint-Aignan, “you have made me comprehend it in the most
ingenious and the most delicate manner possible. I beg you to accept my
best thanks.” Porthos drew himself up, unable to resist the flattery of
the remark. “Only, now that I know everything, permit me to explain--”

Porthos shook his head, as a man who does not wish to hear, but
Saint-Aignan continued: “I am in despair, I assure you, at all that
has happened; but how would you have acted in my place? Come, between
ourselves, tell me what you would have done?”

Porthos drew himself up as he answered: “There is now no question at
all of what I should have done, young man; you have been made acquainted
with the three causes of complaint against you, I believe?”

“As for the first, my change of rooms, and I now address myself to you
as a man of honor and of great intelligence, could I, when the desire
of so august a personage was so urgently expressed that I should move,
ought I to have disobeyed?”

Porthos was about to speak, but Saint-Aignan did not give him time to
answer. “Ah! my frankness, I see, convinces you,” he said, interpreting
the movement according to his own fancy. “You feel that I am right.”

Porthos did not reply, and so Saint-Aignan continued: “I pass by that
unfortunate trap-door,” he said, placing his hand on Porthos’s arm,
“that trap-door, the occasion and means of so much unhappiness, and
which was constructed for--you know what. Well, then, in plain truth, do
you suppose that it was I who, of my own accord, in such a place, too,
had that trap-door made?--Oh, no!--you do not believe it; and here,
again, you feel, you guess, you understand the influence of a will
superior to my own. You can conceive the infatuation, the blind,
irresistible passion which has been at work. But, thank Heaven! I am
fortunate in speaking to a man who has so much sensitiveness of feeling;
and if it were not so, indeed, what an amount of misery and scandal
would fall upon her, poor girl! and upon him--whom I will not name.”

Porthos, confused and bewildered by the eloquence and gestures of
Saint-Aignan, made a thousand efforts to stem this torrent of words,
of which, by the by, he did not understand a single one; he remained
upright and motionless on his seat, and that was all he could do.
Saint-Aignan continued, and gave a new inflection to his voice, and an
increasing vehemence to his gesture: “As for the portrait, for I readily
believe the portrait is the principal cause of complaint, tell me
candidly if you think me to blame?--Who was it who wished to have her
portrait? Was it I?--Who is in love with her? Is it I?--Who wishes to
gain her affection? Again, is it I?--Who took her likeness? I, do you
think? No! a thousand times no! I know M. de Bragelonne must be in a
state of despair; I know these misfortunes are most cruel. But I, too,
am suffering as well; and yet there is no possibility of offering any
resistance. Suppose we were to fight? we would be laughed at. If he
obstinately persist in his course, he is lost. You will tell me, I know,
that despair is ridiculous, but then you are a sensible man. You have
understood me. I perceived by your serious, thoughtful, embarrassed
air, even, that the importance of the situation we are placed in has
not escaped you. Return, therefore, to M. de Bragelonne; thank him--as I
have indeed reason to thank him--for having chosen as an intermediary a
man of your high merit. Believe me that I shall, on my side, preserve
an eternal gratitude for the man who has so ingeniously, so cleverly
arranged the misunderstanding between us. And since ill luck would have
it that the secret should be known to four instead of three, why,
this secret, which might make the most ambitious man’s fortune, I am
delighted to share with you, monsieur, from the bottom of my heart I
am delighted at it. From this very moment you can make use of me as you
please, I place myself entirely at your mercy. What can I possibly do
for you? What can I solicit, nay, require even? You have only to speak,
monsieur, only to speak.”

And, according to the familiarly friendly fashion of that period,
Saint-Aignan threw his arms round Porthos, and clasped him tenderly
in his embrace. Porthos allowed him to do this with the most perfect
indifference. “Speak,” resumed Saint-Aignan, “what do you require?”

“Monsieur,” said Porthos, “I have a horse below: be good enough to mount
him; he is a very good one and will play you no tricks.”

“Mount on horseback! what for?” inquired Saint-Aignan, with no little
curiosity.

“To accompany me to where M. de Bragelonne is waiting us.”

“Ah! he wishes to speak to me, I suppose? I can well believe that; he
wishes to have the details, very likely; alas! it is a very delicate
matter; but at the present moment I cannot, for the king is waiting for
me.”

“The king must wait, then,” said Porthos.

“What do you say? the king must wait!” interrupted the finished
courtier, with a smile of utter amazement, for he could not understand
that the king could under any circumstances be supposed to have to wait.

“It is merely the affair of a very short hour,” returned Porthos.

“But where is M. de Bragelonne waiting for me?”

“At the Minimes, at Vincennes.”

“Ah, indeed! but are we going to laugh over the affair when we get
there?”

“I don’t think it likely,” said Porthos, as his face assumed a look of
utter hardness.

“But the Minimes is a rendezvous where duels take place, and what can I
have to do at the Minimes?”

Porthos slowly drew his sword, and said: “That is the length of my
friend’s sword.”

“Why, the man is mad!” cried Saint-Aignan.

The color mounted to Porthos’s face, as he replied: “If I had not the
honor of being in your own apartment, monsieur, and of representing M.
de Bragelonne’s interests, I would throw you out of the window. It will
be merely a pleasure postponed, and you will lose nothing by waiting.
Will you come with me to the Minimes, monsieur, of your own free will?”

“But--”

“Take care, I will carry you if you do not come quickly.”

“Basque!” cried Saint-Aignan. As soon as Basque appeared, he said, “The
king wishes to see monsieur le comte.”

“That is very different,” said Porthos; “the king’s service before
anything else. We will wait until this evening, monsieur.”

And saluting Saint-Aignan with his usual courtesy, Porthos left the
room, delighted at having arranged another affair. Saint-Aignan looked
after him as he left; and then hastily putting on his court dress
again, he ran off, arranging his costume as he went along, muttering to
himself, “The Minimes! the Minimes! We shall see how the king will fancy
this challenge; for it is for him after all, that is certain.”



Chapter LVI. Rivals in Politics.

On his return from the promenade, which had been so prolific in poetical
effusions, and in which every one had paid his or her tribute to the
Muses, as the poets of the period used to say, the king found M. Fouquet
waiting for an audience. M. Colbert had lain in wait for his majesty in
the corridor, and followed him like a jealous and watchful shadow;
M. Colbert, with his square head, his vulgar and untidy, though rich
costume, somewhat resembled a Flemish gentleman after he had been
over-indulging in his national drink--beer. Fouquet, at sight of his
enemy, remained perfectly unmoved, and during the whole of the scene
which followed scrupulously resolved to observe a line of conduct
particularly difficult to the man of superior mind, who does not even
wish to show his contempt, for fear of doing his adversary too much
honor. Colbert made no attempt to conceal his insolent expression of the
vulgar joy he felt. In his opinion, M. Fouquet’s was a game very badly
played and hopelessly lost, although not yet finished. Colbert belonged
to that school of politicians who think cleverness alone worthy of
their admiration, and success the only thing worth caring for. Colbert,
moreover, who was not simply an envious and jealous man, but who had the
king’s interest really at heart, because he was thoroughly imbued with
the highest sense of probity in all matters of figures and accounts,
could well afford to assign as a pretext for his conduct, that in hating
and doing his utmost to ruin M. Fouquet, he had nothing in view but the
welfare of the state and the dignity of the crown. None of these details
escaped Fouquet’s observation; through his enemy’s thick, bushy brows,
and despite the restless movement of his eyelids, he could, by merely
looking at his eyes, penetrate to the very bottom of Colbert’s heart,
and he read to what an unbounded extent hate towards himself and triumph
at his approaching fall existed there. But as, in observing everything,
he wished to remain himself impenetrable, he composed his features,
smiled with the charmingly sympathetic smile that was peculiarly his
own, and saluted the king with the most dignified and graceful ease and
elasticity of manner. “Sire,” he said, “I perceive by your majesty’s
joyous air that you have been gratified with the promenade.”

“Most gratified, indeed, monsieur le surintendant, most gratified. You
were very wrong not to come with us, as I invited you to do.”

“I was working, sire,” replied the superintendent, who did not even
seem to take the trouble to turn aside his head in merest respect of
Colbert’s presence.

“Ah! M. Fouquet,” cried the king, “there is nothing like the country. I
should be delighted to live in the country always, in the open air and
under the trees.”

“I should hope that your majesty is not yet weary of the throne,” said
Fouquet.

“No; but thrones of soft turf are very pleasant.”

“Your majesty gratifies my utmost wishes in speaking in that manner, for
I have a request to submit to you.”

“On whose behalf, monsieur?”

“Oh behalf of the nymphs of Vaux, sire.”

“Ah! ah!” said Louis XIV.

“Your majesty, too, once deigned to make me a promise,” said Fouquet.

“Yes, I remember it.”

“The _fete_ at Vaux, the celebrated _fete_, I think, it was, sire,”
 said Colbert, endeavoring to show his importance by taking part in the
conversation.

Fouquet, with the profoundest contempt, did not take the slightest
notice of the remark, as if, as far as he was concerned, Colbert had not
even thought or said a word.

“Your majesty is aware,” he said, “that I destine my estate at Vaux to
receive the most amiable of princes, the most powerful of monarchs.”

“I have given you my promise, monsieur,” said Louis XIV., smiling; “and
a king never departs from his word.”

“And I have come now, sire, to inform your majesty that I am ready to
obey your orders in every respect.”

“Do you promise me many wonders, monsieur le surintendant?” said Louis,
looking at Colbert.

“Wonders? Oh! no, sire. I do not undertake that. I hope to be able
to procure your majesty a little pleasure, perhaps even a little
forgetfulness of the cares of state.”

“Nay, nay, M. Fouquet,” returned the king; “I insist upon the word
‘wonders.’ You are a magician, I believe; we all know the power you
wield; we also know that you can find gold even when there is none to be
found elsewhere; so much so, indeed, that people say you coin it.”

Fouquet felt that the shot was discharged from a double quiver, and
that the king had launched an arrow from his own bow as well as one from
Colbert’s. “Oh!” said he, laughingly, “the people know perfectly well
out of what mine I procure the gold; and they know it only too well,
perhaps; besides,” he added, “I can assure your majesty that the gold
destined to pay the expenses of the _fete_ at Vaux will cost neither
blood nor tears; hard labor it may, perhaps, but that can be paid for.”

Louis paused quite confused. He wished to look at Colbert; Colbert, too,
wished to reply to him; a glance as swift as an eagle’s, a king-like
glance, indeed, which Fouquet darted at the latter, arrested the
words upon his lips. The king, who had by this time recovered his
self-possession, turned towards Fouquet, saying, “I presume, therefore,
I am now to consider myself formally invited?”

“Yes, sire, if your majesty will condescend so far as to accept my
invitation.”

“What day have you fixed?”

“Any day your majesty may find most convenient.”

“You speak like an enchanter who has but to conjure up in actuality
the wildest fancies, Monsieur Fouquet. I could not say so much, indeed,
myself.”

“Your majesty will do, whenever you please, everything that a monarch
can and ought to do. The king of France has servants at his bidding
who are able to do anything on his behalf, to accomplish everything to
gratify his pleasures.”

Colbert tried to look at the superintendent, in order to see whether
this remark was an approach to less hostile sentiments on his part; but
Fouquet had not even looked at his enemy, and Colbert hardly seemed
to exist as far as he was concerned. “Very good, then,” said the king.
“Will a week hence suit you?”

“Perfectly well, sire.”

“This is Tuesday; if I give you until next Sunday week, will that be
sufficient?”

“The delay which your majesty deigns to accord me will greatly aid the
various works which my architects have in hand for the purpose of adding
to the amusement of your majesty and your friends.”

“By the by, speaking of my friends,” resumed the king; “how do you
intend to treat them?”

“The king is master everywhere, sire; your majesty will draw up your own
list and give your own orders. All those you may deign to invite will be
my guests, my honored guests, indeed.”

“I thank you!” returned the king, touched by the noble thought expressed
in so noble a tone.

Fouquet, therefore, took leave of Louis XIV., after a few words had been
added with regard to the details of certain matters of business. He felt
that Colbert would remain behind with the king, that they would both
converse about him, and that neither of them would spare him in the
least degree. The satisfaction of being able to give a last and
terrible blow to his enemy seemed to him almost like a compensation
for everything they were about to subject him to. He turned back again
immediately, as soon, indeed, as he had reached the door, and addressing
the king, said, “I was forgetting that I had to crave your majesty’s
forgiveness.”

“In what respect?” said the king, graciously.

“For having committed a serious fault without perceiving it.”

“A fault! You! Ah! Monsieur Fouquet, I shall be unable to do otherwise
than forgive you. In what way or against whom have you been found
wanting?”

“Against every sense of propriety, sire. I forgot to inform your majesty
of a circumstance that has lately occurred of some little importance.”

“What is it?”

Colbert trembled; he fancied that he was about to frame a denunciation
against him. His conduct had been unmasked. A single syllable from
Fouquet, a single proof formally advanced, and before the youthful
loyalty of feeling which guided Louis XIV., Colbert’s favor would
disappear at once; the latter trembled, therefore, lest so daring a blow
might overthrow his whole scaffold; in point of fact, the opportunity
was so admirably suited to be taken advantage of, that a skillful,
practiced player like Aramis would not have let it slip. “Sire,” said
Fouquet, with an easy, unconcerned air, “since you have had the kindness
to forgive me, I am perfectly indifferent about my confession; this
morning I sold one of the official appointments I hold.”

“One of your appointments,” said the king, “which?”

Colbert turned perfectly livid. “That which conferred upon me, sire,
a grand gown, and a stern air of gravity; the appointment of
procureur-general.”

The king involuntarily uttered a loud exclamation and looked at Colbert,
who, with his face bedewed with perspiration, felt almost on the point
of fainting. “To whom have you sold this department, Monsieur Fouquet?”
 inquired the king.

Colbert was obliged to lean against a column of the fireplace. “To a
councilor belonging to the parliament, sire, whose name is Vanel.”

“Vanel?”

“Yes, sire, a particular friend of the intendant Colbert,” added
Fouquet; letting every word fall from his lips with the most inimitable
nonchalance, and with an admirably assumed expression of forgetfulness
and ignorance. And having finished, and having overwhelmed Colbert
beneath the weight of this superiority, the superintendent again saluted
the king and quitted the room, partially revenged by the stupefaction of
the king and the humiliation of the favorite.

“Is it really possible,” said the king, as soon as Fouquet had
disappeared, “that he has sold that office?”

“Yes, sire,” said Colbert, meaningly.

“He must be mad,” the king added.

Colbert this time did not reply; he had penetrated the king’s thought,
a thought which amply revenged him for the humiliation he had just been
made to suffer; his hatred was augmented by a feeling of bitter jealousy
of Fouquet; and a threat of disgrace was now added to the plan he had
arranged for his ruin. Colbert felt perfectly assured that for the
future, between Louis XIV. and himself, their hostile feelings and ideas
would meet with no obstacles, and that at the first fault committed by
Fouquet, which could be laid hold of as a pretext, the chastisement
so long impending would be precipitated. Fouquet had thrown aside his
weapons of defense, and hate and jealousy had picked them up. Colbert
was invited by the king to the _fete_ at Vaux; he bowed like a man
confident in himself, and accepted the invitation with the air of
one who almost confers a favor. The king was about writing down
Saint-Aignan’s name on his list of royal commands, when the usher
announced the Comte de Saint-Aignan. As soon as the royal “Mercury”
 entered, Colbert discreetly withdrew.



Chapter LVII. Rivals in Love.

Saint-Aignan had quitted Louis XIV. hardly a couple of hours before; but
in the first effervescence of his affection, whenever Louis XIV. was out
of sight of La Valliere, he was obliged to talk about her. Besides,
the only person with whom he could speak about her at his ease was
Saint-Aignan, and thus Saint-Aignan had become an indispensable.

“Ah, is that you, comte?” he exclaimed, as soon as he perceived him,
doubly delighted, not only to see him again, but also to get rid of
Colbert, whose scowling face always put him out of humor. “So much
the better, I am very glad to see you. You will make one of the best
traveling party, I suppose?”

“Of what traveling part are you speaking, sire?” inquired Saint-Aignan.

“The one we are making up to go to the _fete_ the superintendent is
about to give at Vaux. Ah! Saint-Aignan, you will, at last, see a
_fete_, a royal _fete_, by the side of which all our amusements at
Fontainebleau are petty, contemptible affairs.”

“At Vaux! the superintendent going to give a _fete_ in your majesty’s
honor? Nothing more than that!”

“‘Nothing more than that,’ do you say? It is very diverting to find
you treating it with so much disdain. Are you who express such an
indifference on the subject, aware, that as soon as it is known that M.
Fouquet is going to receive me at Vaux next Sunday week, people will
be striving their very utmost to get invited to the _fete?_ I repeat,
Saint-Aignan, you shall be one of the invited guests.”

“Very well, sire; unless I shall, in the meantime, have undertaken a
longer and a less agreeable journey.”

“What journey do you allude to?”

“The one across the Styx, sire.”

“Bah!” said Louis XIV., laughing.

“No, seriously, sire,” replied Saint-Aignan, “I am invited; and in such
a way, in truth, that I hardly know what to say, or how to act, in order
to refuse the invitation.”

“I do not understand you. I know that you are in a poetical vein; but
try not to sink from Apollo to Phoebus.”

“Very well; if your majesty will deign to listen to me, I will not keep
your mind on the rack a moment longer.”

“Speak.”

“Your majesty knows the Baron du Vallon?”

“Yes, indeed; a good servant to my father, the late king, and an
admirable companion at table; for, I think, you are referring to the
gentleman who dined with us at Fontainebleau?”

“Precisely so; but you have omitted to add to his other qualifications,
sire, that he is a most charming polisher-off of other people.”

“What! Does M. du Vallon wish to polish you off?”

“Or to get me killed, which is much the same thing.”

“The deuce!”

“Do not laugh, sire, for I am not saying one word beyond the exact
truth.”

“And you say he wishes to get you killed.”

“Such is that excellent person’s present idea.”

“Be easy; I will defend you, if he be in the wrong.”

“Ah! There is an ‘if’!”

“Of course; answer me as candidly as if it were some one else’s affair
instead of your own, my poor Saint-Aignan; is he right or wrong?”

“Your majesty shall be the judge.”

“What have you done to him?”

“To him, personally, nothing at all; but, it seems, to one of his
friends, I have.”

“It is all the same. Is his friend one of the celebrated ‘four’?”

“No. It is the son of one of the celebrated ‘four,’ though.”

“What have you done to the son? Come, tell me.”

“Why, it seems that I have helped some one to take his mistress from
him.”

“You confess it, then?”

“I cannot help confessing it, for it is true.”

“In that case, you are wrong; and if he were to kill you, he would be
doing perfectly right.”

“Ah! that is your majesty’s way of reasoning, then!”

“Do you think it a bad way?”

“It is a very expeditious way, at all events.”

“‘Good justice is prompt;’ so my grandfather Henry IV. used to say.”

“In that case, your majesty will, perhaps, be good enough to sign my
adversary’s pardon, for he is now waiting for me at the Minimes, for the
purpose of putting me out of my misery.”

“His name, and a parchment!”

“There is a parchment upon your majesty’s table; and for his name--”

“Well, what is it?”

“The Vicomte de Bragelonne, sire.”

“‘The Vicomte de Bragelonne!’” exclaimed the king; changing from a fit
of laughter to the most profound stupor, and then, after a moment’s
silence, while he wiped his forehead, which was bedewed with
perspiration, he again murmured, “Bragelonne!”

“No other, sire.”

“Bragelonne, who was affianced to--”

“Yes, sire.”

“But--he has been in London.”

“Yes; but I can assure you, sire, he is there no longer.”

“Is he in Paris, then?”

“He is at Minimes, sire, where he is waiting for me, as I have already
had the honor of telling you.”

“Does he know all?”

“Yes; and many things besides. Perhaps your majesty would like to look
at the letter I have received from him;” and Saint-Aignan drew from his
pocket the note we are already acquainted with. “When your majesty has
read the letter, I will tell you how it reached me.”

The king read it in a great agitation, and immediately said, “Well?”

“Well, sire; your majesty knows a certain carved lock, closing a certain
door of carved ebony, which separates a certain apartment from a certain
blue and white sanctuary?”

“Of course; Louise’s boudoir.”

“Yes, sire. Well, it was in the keyhole of that lock that I found yonder
note.”

“Who placed it there?”

“Either M. de Bragelonne, or the devil himself; but, inasmuch as the
note smells of musk and not of sulphur, I conclude that it must be, not
the devil, but M. de Bragelonne.”

Louis bent his head, and seemed absorbed in sad and bitter thought.
Perhaps something like remorse was at that moment passing through his
heart. “The secret is discovered,” he said.

“Sire, I shall do my utmost that the secret dies in the breast of the
man who possesses it!” said Saint-Aignan, in a tone of bravado, as he
moved towards the door; but a gesture of the king made him pause.

“Where are you going?” he inquired.

“Where they await me, sire.”

“What for?”

“To fight, in all probability.”

“_You_ fight!” exclaimed the king. “One moment, if you please, monsieur
le comte!”

Saint-Aignan shook his head, as a rebellious child does, whenever any
one interferes to prevent him throwing himself into a well, or playing
with a knife. “But, sire,” he said.

“In the first place,” continued the king. “I want to be enlightened a
little further.”

“Upon all points, if your majesty will be pleased to interrogate me,”
 replied Saint-Aignan, “I will throw what light I can.”

“Who told you that M. de Bragelonne had penetrated into that room?”

“The letter which I found in the keyhole told me.”

“Who told you that it was De Bragelonne who put it there?”

“Who but himself would have dared to undertake such a mission?”

“You are right. How was he able to get into your rooms?”

“Ah! that is very serious, inasmuch as all the doors were closed, and my
lackey, Basque, had the keys in his pocket.”

“Your lackey must have been bribed.”

“Impossible, sire; for if he had been bribed, those who did so would not
have sacrificed the poor fellow, whom, it is not unlikely, they might
want to turn to further use by and by, in showing so clearly that it was
he whom they had made use of.”

“Quite true. And now I can only form one conjecture.”

“Tell me what it is, sire, and we shall see if it is the same that has
presented itself to my mind.”

“That he effected an entrance by means of the staircase.”

“Alas, sire, that seems to me more than probable.”

“There is no doubt that some one must have sold the secret of the
trap-door.”

“Either sold it or given it.”

“Why do you make that distinction?”

“Because there are certain persons, sire, who, being above the price of
treason, give, and do not sell.”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, sire! Your majesty’s mind is too clear-sighted not to guess what
I mean, and you will save me the embarrassment of naming the person I
allude to.”

“You are right: you mean Madame; I suppose her suspicions were aroused
by your changing your lodgings.”

“Madame has keys of the apartments of her maids of honor, and she is
powerful enough to discover what no one but yourself could do, or she
would not be able to discover anything.”

“And you suppose, then, that my sister must have entered into an
alliance with Bragelonne, and has informed him of all the details of the
affair.”

“Possibly even better still, for she perhaps accompanied him there.”

“Which way? through your own apartments?”

“You think it impossible, sire? Well, listen to me. Your majesty knows
that Madame is very fond of perfumes?”

“Yes, she acquired that taste from my mother.”

“Vervain, particularly.”

“Yes, it is the scent she prefers to all others.”

“Very good, sire! my apartments happen to smell very strongly of
vervain.”

The king remained silent and thoughtful for a few moments, and then
resumed: “But why should Madame take Bragelonne’s part against me?”

Saint-Aignan could very easily have replied: “A woman’s jealousy!” The
king probed his friend to the bottom of his heart to ascertain if he
had learned the secret of his flirtation with his sister-in-law. But
Saint-Aignan was not an ordinary courtier; he did not lightly run the
risk of finding out family secrets; and he was too a friend of the Muses
not to think very frequently of poor Ovidius Naso, whose eyes shed so
many tears in expiation of his crime for having once beheld something,
one hardly knows what, in the palace of Augustus. He therefore passed
by Madame’s secret very skillfully. But as he had shown no ordinary
sagacity in indicating Madame’s presence in his rooms in company with
Bragelonne, it was necessary, of course, for him to repay with interest
the king’s _amour propre_, and reply plainly to the question which had
been put to him of: “Why has Madame taken Bragelonne’s part against me?”

“Why?” replied Saint-Aignan. “Your majesty forgets, I presume, that the
Comte de Guiche is the intimate friend of the Vicomte de Bragelonne.”

“I do not see the connection, however,” said the king.

“Ah! I beg your pardon, then, sire; but I thought the Comte de Guiche
was a very great friend of Madame’s.”

“Quite true,” the king returned; “there is no occasion to search any
further, the blow came from that direction.”

“And is not your majesty of opinion that, in order to ward it off, it
will be necessary to deal another blow?”

“Yes, but not one of the kind given in the Bois de Vincennes,” replied
the king.

“You forget, sire,” said Saint-Aignan, “that I am a gentleman, and that
I have been challenged.”

“The challenge neither concerns nor was it intended for you.”

“But I am the man, sire, who has been expected at the Minimes, sire,
during the last hour and more; and I shall be dishonored if I do not
go.”

“The first honor and duty of a gentleman is obedience to his sovereign.”

“Sire!”

“I order you to remain.”

“Sire!”

“Obey, monsieur!”

“As your majesty pleases.”

“Besides, I wish to have the whole of this affair explained; I wish to
know how it is that I have been so insolently trifled with, as to have
the sanctuary of my affections pried into. It is not you, Saint-Aignan,
whose business it is to punish those who have acted in this manner, for
it is not your honor they have attacked, but my own.”

“I implore your majesty not to overwhelm M. de Bragelonne with your
wrath, for although in the whole of this affair he may have shown
himself deficient in prudence, he has not been so in his feelings of
loyalty.”

“Enough! I shall know how to decide between the just and the unjust,
even in the height of my anger. But take care that not a word of this is
breathed to Madame.”

“But what am I to do with regard to M. de Bragelonne? He will be seeking
me in every direction, and--”

“I shall either have spoken to him, or taken care that he has been
spoken to, before the evening is over.”

“Let me once more entreat your majesty to be indulgent towards him.”

“I have been indulgent long enough, comte,” said Louis XIV., frowning
severely; “it is now quite time to show certain persons that I am master
in my own palace.”

The king had hardly pronounced these words, which betokened that a fresh
feeling of irritation was mingling with the recollections of old, when
an usher appeared at the door of the cabinet. “What is the matter?”
 inquired the king, “and why do you presume to come when I have not
summoned you?”

“Sire,” said the usher, “your majesty desired me to permit M. le Comte
de la Fere to pass freely on any and every occasion, when he might wish
to speak to your majesty.”

“Well, monsieur?”

“M. le Comte de la Fere is now waiting to see your majesty.”

The king and Saint-Aignan at this reply exchanged a look which betrayed
more uneasiness than surprise. Louis hesitated for a moment, but
immediately afterwards, seeming to make up his mind, he said:

“Go, Saint-Aignan, and find Louise; inform her of the plot against us;
do not let her be ignorant that Madame will return to her system of
persecutions against her, and that she has set those to work who would
have found it far safer to remain neuter.”

“Sire--”

“If Louise gets nervous and frightened, reassure her as much as you can;
tell her that the king’s affection is an impenetrable shield over her;
if, which I suspect is the case, she already knows everything, or if she
has already been herself subjected to an attack of some kind or other
from any quarter, tell her, be sure to tell her, Saint-Aignan,” added
the king, trembling with passion, “tell her, I say, that this time,
instead of defending her, I will avenge her, and that too so terribly
that no one will in future even dare to raise his eyes towards her.”

“Is that all, sire?”

“Yes, all. Go as quickly as you can, and remain faithful; for, you who
live in the midst of this stake of infernal torments, have not, like
myself, the hope of the paradise beyond it.”

Saint-Aignan exhausted himself in protestations of devotion, took the
king’s hand, kissed it, and left the room radiant with delight.



Chapter LVIII. King and Noble.

The king endeavored to recover his self-possession as quickly as
possible, in order to meet M. de la Fere with an untroubled countenance.
He clearly saw it was not mere chance that had induced the comte’s
visit, he had some vague impression of its importance; but he felt
that to a man of Athos’s tone of mind, to one of such a high order of
intellect, his first reception ought not to present anything either
disagreeable or otherwise than kind and courteous. As soon as the king
had satisfied himself that, as far as appearances went, he was perfectly
calm again, he gave directions to the ushers to introduce the comte. A
few minutes afterwards Athos, in full court dress, and with his breast
covered with the orders that he alone had the right to wear at the court
of France, presented himself with so grave and solemn an air that the
king perceived, at the first glance, that he was not deceived in his
anticipations. Louis advanced a step towards the comte, and, with a
smile, held out his hand to him, over which Athos bowed with the air of
the deepest respect.

“Monsieur le Comte de la Fere,” said the king rapidly, “you are so
seldom here, that it is a real piece of good fortune to see you.”

Athos bowed and replied, “I should wish always to enjoy the happiness of
being near your majesty.”

The tone, however, in which this reply was conveyed, evidently
signified, “I should wish to be one of your majesty’s advisers, to save
you the commission of faults.” The king felt it so, and determined
in this man’s presence to preserve all the advantages which could be
derived from his command over himself, as well as from his rank and
position.

“I see you have something to say to me,” he said.

“Had it not been so, I should not have presumed to present myself before
your majesty.”

“Speak quickly, I am anxious to satisfy you,” returned the king, seating
himself.

“I am persuaded,” replied Athos, in a somewhat agitated tone of voice,
“that your majesty will give me every satisfaction.”

“Ah!” said the king, with a certain haughtiness of manner, “you have
come to lodge a complaint here, then?”

“It would be a complaint,” returned Athos, “only in the event of your
majesty--but if you will deign to permit me, sire, I will begin the
conversation from the very commencement.”

“Do so, I am listening.”

“Your majesty will remember that at the period of the Duke of
Buckingham’s departure, I had the honor of an interview with you.”

“At or about that period, I think I remember you did; only, with regard
to the subject of the conversation, I have quite forgotten it.”

Athos started, as he replied. “I shall have the honor to remind your
majesty of it. It was with regard to a formal demand I had addressed to
you respecting a marriage which M. de Bragelonne wished to contract with
Mademoiselle de la Valliere.”

“Ah!” thought the king, “we have come to it now.--I remember,” he said,
aloud.

“At that period,” pursued Athos, “your majesty was so kind and generous
towards M. de Bragelonne and myself, that not a single word which
then fell from your lips has escaped my memory; and, when I asked
your majesty to accord me Mademoiselle de la Valliere’s hand for M. de
Bragelonne, you refused.”

“Quite true,” said Louis, dryly.

“Alleging,” Athos hastened to say, “that the young lady had no position
in society.”

Louis could hardly force himself to listen with an appearance of royal
propriety.

“That,” added Athos, “she had but little fortune.”

The king threw himself back in his armchair.

“That her extraction was indifferent.”

A renewed impatience on the part of the king.

“And little beauty,” added Athos, pitilessly.

This last bolt buried itself deep in the king’s heart, and made him
almost bound from his seat.

“You have a good memory, monsieur,” he said.

“I invariably have, on occasions when I have had the distinguished honor
of an interview with your majesty,” retorted the comte, without being in
the least disconcerted.

“Very good: it is admitted that I said all that.”

“And I thanked your majesty for your remarks at the time, because they
testified an interest in M. de Bragelonne which did him much honor.”

“And you may possibly remember,” said the king, very deliberately, “that
you had the greatest repugnance for this marriage.”

“Quite true, sire.”

“And that you solicited my permission, much against your own
inclination?”

“Yes, sire.”

“And finally, I remember, for I have a memory nearly as good as your
own; I remember, I say, that you observed at the time: ‘I do not believe
that Mademoiselle de la Valliere loves M. de Bragelonne.’ Is that true?”

The blow told well, but Athos did not draw back. “Sire,” he said, “I
have already begged your majesty’s forgiveness; but there are certain
particulars in that conversation which are only intelligible from the
_denouement_.”

“Well, what is the _denouement_, monsieur?”

“This: that your majesty then said, ‘that you would defer the marriage
out of regard for M. de Bragelonne’s own interests.’”

The king remained silent. “M. de Bragelonne is now so exceedingly
unhappy that he cannot any longer defer asking your majesty for a
solution of the matter.”

The king turned pale; Athos looked at him with fixed attention.

“And what,” said the king, with considerable hesitation, “does M. de
Bragelonne request?”

“Precisely the very thing that I came to ask your majesty for at my last
audience, namely, your majesty’s consent to his marriage.”

The king remained perfectly silent. “The questions which referred to
the different obstacles in the way are all now quite removed for us,”
 continued Athos. “Mademoiselle de la Valliere, without fortune, birth,
or beauty, is not the less on that account the only good match in the
world for M. de Bragelonne, since he loves this young girl.”

The king pressed his hands impatiently together. “Does your majesty
hesitate?” inquired the comte, without losing a particle of either his
firmness of his politeness.

“I do not hesitate--I refuse,” replied the king.

Athos paused a moment, as if to collect himself: “I have had the honor,”
 he said, in a mild tone, “to observe to your majesty that no obstacle
now interferes with M. de Bragelonne’s affections, and that his
determination seems unalterable.”

“There is my will--and that is an obstacle, I should imagine!”

“That is the most serious of all,” Athos replied quickly.

“Ah!”

“And may we, therefore, be permitted to ask your majesty, with the
greatest humility, your reason for this refusal?”

“The reason!--A question to me!” exclaimed the king.

“A demand, sire!”

The king, leaning with both his hands upon the table, said, in a deep
tone of concentrated passion: “You have lost all recollection of what is
usual at court. At court, please to remember, no one ventures to put a
question to the king.”

“Very true, sire; but if men do not question, they conjecture.”

“Conjecture! What may that mean, monsieur?”

“Very frequently, sire, conjecture with regard to a particular subject
implies a want of frankness on the part of the king--”

“Monsieur!”

“And a want of confidence on the part of the subject,” pursued Athos,
intrepidly.

“You forget yourself,” said the king, hurried away by anger in spite of
all his self-control.

“Sire, I am obliged to seek elsewhere for what I thought I should find
in your majesty. Instead of obtaining a reply from you, I am compelled
to make one for myself.”

The king rose. “Monsieur le comte,” he said, “I have now given you all
the time I had at my disposal.” This was a dismissal.

“Sire,” replied the comte, “I have not yet had time to tell your majesty
what I came with the express object of saying, and I so rarely see your
majesty that I ought to avail myself of the opportunity.”

“Just now you spoke rudely of conjectures; you are now becoming
offensive, monsieur.”

“Oh, sire! offend your majesty! I?--never! All my life through I have
maintained that kings are above all other men, not only from their rank
and power, but from their nobleness of heart and their true dignity
of mind. I never can bring myself to believe that my sovereign, he who
passed his word to me, did so with a mental reservation.”

“What do you mean? what mental reservation do you allude to?”

“I will explain my meaning,” said Athos, coldly. “If, in refusing
Mademoiselle de la Valliere to Monsieur de Bragelonne, your majesty
had some other object in view than the happiness and fortune of the
vicomte--”

“You perceive, monsieur, that you are offending me.”

“If, in requiring the vicomte to delay his marriage, your majesty’s only
object was to remove the gentleman to whom Mademoiselle de la Valliere
was engaged--”

“Monsieur! monsieur!”

“I have heard it said so in every direction, sire. Your majesty’s
affection for Mademoiselle de la Valliere is spoken of on all sides.”

The king tore his gloves, which he had been biting for some time. “Woe
to those,” he cried, “who interfere in my affairs. I have made up
my mind to take a particular course, and I will break through every
obstacle in my way.”

“What obstacle?” said Athos.

The king stopped short, like a horse which, having taken the bit between
his teeth and run away, finds it has slipped it back again, and that
his career is checked. “I love Mademoiselle de la Valliere,” he said
suddenly, with mingled nobleness of feeling and passion.

“But,” interrupted Athos, “that does not preclude your majesty from
allowing M. de Bragelonne to marry Mademoiselle de la Valliere. The
sacrifice is worthy of so great a monarch; it is fully merited by M. de
Bragelonne, who has already rendered great service to your majesty,
and who may well be regarded as a brave and worthy man. Your majesty,
therefore, in renouncing the affection you entertain, offers a proof at
once of generosity, gratitude, and good policy.”

“Mademoiselle de la Valliere does not love M. de Bragelonne,” said the
king, hoarsely.

“Does your majesty know that to be the case?” remarked Athos, with a
searching look.

“I do know it.”

“Since a very short time, then; for doubtless, had your majesty known it
when I first preferred my request, you would have taken the trouble to
inform me of it.”

“Since a very short time, it is true, monsieur.”

Athos remained silent for a moment, and then resumed: “In that case, I
do not understand why your majesty should have sent M. de Bragelonne
to London. That exile, and most properly so, too, is a matter of
astonishment to every one who regards your majesty’s honor with sincere
affection.”

“Who presumes to impugn my honor, Monsieur de la Fere?”

“The king’s honor, sire, is made up of the honor of his whole nobility.
Whenever the king offends one of his gentlemen, that is, whenever he
deprives him of the smallest particle of his honor, it is from him, from
the king himself, that that portion of honor is stolen.”

“Monsieur de la Fere!” said the king, haughtily.

“Sire, you sent M. de Bragelonne to London either before you were
Mademoiselle de la Valliere’s lover, or since you have become so.”

The king, irritated beyond measure, especially because he felt that he
was being mastered, endeavored to dismiss Athos by a gesture.

“Sire,” replied the comte, “I will tell you all; I will not leave your
presence until I have been satisfied by your majesty or by myself;
satisfied if you prove to me that you are right,--satisfied if I prove
to you that you are wrong. Nay, sire, you can but listen to me. I am
old now, and I am attached to everything that is really great and really
powerful in your kingdom. I am of those who have shed their blood for
your father and for yourself, without ever having asked a single favor
either from yourself or from your father. I have never inflicted the
slightest wrong or injury on any one in this world, and even kings are
still my debtors. You can but listen to me, I repeat. I have come to ask
you for an account of the honor of one of your servants whom you have
deceived by a falsehood, or betrayed by want of heart of judgment. I
know that these words irritate your majesty, but the facts themselves
are killing us. I know that you are endeavoring to find some
means whereby to chastise me for my frankness; but I know also the
chastisement I will implore God to inflict upon you when I relate to Him
your perjury and my son’s unhappiness.”

The king during these remarks was walking hurriedly to and fro, his hand
thrust into the breast of his coat, his head haughtily raised, his eyes
blazing with wrath. “Monsieur,” he cried, suddenly, “if I acted towards
you as a king, you would be already punished; but I am only a man, and
I have the right to love in this world every one who loves me,--a
happiness which is so rarely found.”

“You cannot pretend to such a right as a man any more than as a king,
sire; or if you intend to exercise that right in a loyal manner, you
should have told M. de Bragelonne so, and not have exiled him.”

“It is too great a condescension, monsieur, to discuss these things with
you,” interrupted Louis XIV., with that majesty of air and manner he
alone seemed able to give his look and his voice.

“I was hoping that you would reply to me,” said the comte.

“You shall know my reply, monsieur.”

“You already know my thoughts on the subject,” was the Comte de la
Fere’s answer.

“You have forgotten you are speaking to the king, monsieur. It is a
crime.”

“You have forgotten you are destroying the lives of two men, sire. It is
a mortal sin.”

“Leave the room!”

“Not until I have said this: ‘Son of Louis XIII., you begin your reign
badly, for you begin it by abduction and disloyalty! My race--myself
too--are now freed from all that affection and respect towards you,
which I made my son swear to observe in the vaults of Saint-Denis, in
the presence of the relics of your noble forefathers. You are now become
our enemy, sire, and henceforth we have nothing to do save with Heaven
alone, our sole master. Be warned, be warned, sire.’”

“What! do you threaten?”

“Oh, no,” said Athos, sadly, “I have as little bravado as fear in my
soul. The God of whom I spoke to you is now listening to me; He knows
that for the safety and honor of your crown I would even yet shed every
drop of blood twenty years of civil and foreign warfare have left in
my veins. I can well say, then, that I threaten the king as little as I
threaten the man; but I tell you, sire, you lose two servants; for you
have destroyed faith in the heart of the father, and love in the heart
of the son; the one ceases to believe in the royal word, the other no
longer believes in the loyalty of the man, or the purity of woman: the
one is dead to every feeling of respect, the other to obedience. Adieu!”

Thus saying, Athos broke his sword across his knee, slowly placed the
two pieces upon the floor, and saluting the king, who was almost choking
from rage and shame, he quitted the cabinet. Louis, who sat near the
table, completely overwhelmed, was several minutes before he could
collect himself; but he suddenly rose and rang the bell violently. “Tell
M. d’Artagnan to come here,” he said to the terrified ushers.



Chapter LIX. After the Storm.

Our readers will doubtlessly have been asking themselves how it happened
that Athos, of whom not a word has been said for some time past, arrived
so very opportunely at court. We will, without delay, endeavor to
satisfy their curiosity.

Porthos, faithful to his duty as an arranger of affairs, had,
immediately after leaving the Palais Royal, set off to join Raoul at the
Minimes in the Bois de Vincennes, and had related everything, even to
the smallest details, which had passed between Saint-Aignan and himself.
He finished by saying that the message which the king had sent to his
favorite would probably not occasion more than a short delay, and that
Saint-Aignan, as soon as he could leave the king, would not lose a
moment in accepting the invitation Raoul had sent him.

But Raoul, less credulous than his old friend, had concluded from
Porthos’s recital that if Saint-Aignan was going to the king,
Saint-Aignan would tell the king everything, and that the king would
most assuredly forbid Saint-Aignan to obey the summons he had received
to the hostile meeting. The consequence of his reflections was, that he
had left Porthos to remain at the place appointed for the meeting, in
the very improbable case that Saint-Aignan would come there; having
endeavored to make Porthos promise that he would not remain there
more than an hour or an hour and a half at the very longest. Porthos,
however, formally refused to do anything of the kind, but, on the
contrary, installed himself in the Minimes as if he were going to
take root there, making Raoul promise that when he had been to see his
father, he would return to his own apartments, in order that Porthos’s
servant might know where to find him in case M. de Saint-Aignan should
happen to come to the rendezvous.

Bragelonne had left Vincennes, and proceeded at once straight to the
apartments of Athos, who had been in Paris during the last two days, the
comte having been already informed of what had taken place, by a letter
from D’Artagnan. Raoul arrived at his father’s; Athos, after having held
out his hand to him, and embraced him most affectionately, made a sign
for him to sit down.

“I know you come to me as a man would go to a friend, vicomte, whenever
he is suffering; tell me, therefore, what is it that brings you now.”

The young man bowed, and began his recital; more than once in the course
of it his tears almost choked his utterance, and a sob, checked in his
throat, compelled him to suspend his narrative for a few minutes. Athos
most probably already knew how matters stood, as we have just now
said D’Artagnan had already written to him; but, preserving until the
conclusion that calm, unruffled composure of manner which constituted
the almost superhuman side of his character, he replied, “Raoul, I do
not believe there is a word of truth in these rumors; I do not believe
in the existence of what you fear, although I do not deny that persons
best entitled to the fullest credit have already conversed with me on
the subject. In my heart and soul I think it utterly impossible that the
king could be guilty of such an outrage on a gentleman. I will answer
for the king, therefore, and will soon bring you back the proof of what
I say.”

Raoul, wavering like a drunken man between what he had seen with his own
eyes and the imperturbable faith he had in a man who had never told a
falsehood, bowed and simply answered, “Go, then, monsieur le comte; I
will await your return.” And he sat down, burying his face in his hands.
Athos dressed, and then left him, in order to wait upon the king; the
result of that interview is already known to our readers.

When he returned to his lodgings, Raoul, pale and dejected, had not
quitted his attitude of despair. At the sound, however, of the opening
doors, and of his father’s footsteps as he approached him, the young man
raised his head. Athos’s face was very pale, his head uncovered, and
his manner full of seriousness; he gave his cloak and hat to the lackey,
dismissed him with a gesture, and sat down near Raoul.

“Well, monsieur,” inquired the young man, “are you convinced yet?”

“I am, Raoul; the king loves Mademoiselle de la Valliere.”

“He confesses it, then?” cried Raoul.

“Yes,” replied Athos.

“And she?”

“I have not seen her.”

“No; but the king spoke to you about her. What did he say?”

“He says that she loves him.”

“Oh, you see--you see, monsieur!” said the young man, with a gesture of
despair.

“Raoul,” resumed the comte, “I told the king, believe me, all that you
yourself could possibly have urged, and I believe I did so in becoming
language, though sufficiently firm.”

“And what did you say to him, monsieur?”

“I told him, Raoul, that everything was now at an end between him and
ourselves; that you would never serve him again. I told him that I, too,
should remain aloof. Nothing further remains for me, then, but to be
satisfied of one thing.”

“What is that, monsieur?”

“Whether you have determined to adopt any steps.”

“Any steps? Regarding what?”

“With reference to your disappointed affection, and--your ideas of
vengeance.”

“Oh, monsieur, with regard to my affection, I shall, perhaps, some day
or other, succeed in tearing it from my heart; I trust I shall do so,
aided by Heaven’s merciful help, and your own wise exhortations. As
far as vengeance is concerned, it occurred to me only when under the
influence of an evil thought, for I could not revenge myself upon the
one who is actually guilty; I have, therefore, already renounced every
idea of revenge.”

“And you no longer think of seeking a quarrel with M. de Saint-Aignan?”

“No, monsieur; I sent him a challenge: if M. de Saint-Aignan accepts it,
I will maintain it; if he does not take it up, I will leave things as
they are.”

“And La Valliere?”

“You cannot, I know, have seriously thought that I should dream of
revenging myself upon a woman!” replied Raoul, with a smile so sad that
a tear started even to the eyes of his father, who had so many times
in the course of his life bowed beneath his own sorrows and those of
others.

He held out his hand to Raoul, which the latter seized most eagerly.

“And so, monsieur le comte, you are quite satisfied that the misfortune
is one beyond all remedy?” inquired the young man.

“Poor boy!” he murmured.

“You think that I still live in hope,” said Raoul, “and you pity me. Oh,
it is indeed horrible suffering for me to despise, as I am bound to
do, the one I have loved so devotedly. If I had but some real cause of
complaint against her, I should be happy, I should be able to forgive
her.”

Athos looked at his son with a profoundly sorrowful air, for the words
Raoul had just pronounced seemed to have issued out of his own heart. At
this moment the servant announced M. d’Artagnan. This name sounded very
differently to the ears of Athos and Raoul. The musketeer entered the
room with a vague smile on his lips. Raoul paused. Athos walked towards
his friend with an expression of face that did not escape Bragelonne.
D’Artagnan answered Athos’s look by an imperceptible movement of the
eyelid; and then, advancing towards Raoul, whom he took by the hand, he
said, addressing both father and son, “Well, you are trying to console
this poor boy, it seems.”

“And you, kind and good as usual, have come to help me in my difficult
task.”

As he said this, Athos pressed D’Artagnan’s hand between both his own.
Raoul fancied he observed in this pressure something beyond the sense
his mere words conveyed.

“Yes,” replied the musketeer, smoothing his mustache with the hand that
Athos had left free, “yes, I have come too.”

“You are most welcome, chevalier; not for the consolation you bring with
you, but on your own account. I am already consoled,” said Raoul; and
he attempted to smile, but the effort was more sad than any tears
D’Artagnan had ever seen shed.

“That is all well and good, then,” said D’Artagnan.

“Only,” continued Raoul, “you have arrived just as the comte was about
to give me the details of his interview with the king. You will allow
the comte to continue?” added the young man, as, with his eyes fixed on
the musketeer, he seemed to read the very depths of his heart.

“His interview with the king?” said D’Artagnan, in a tone so natural and
unassumed that there was no means of suspecting that his astonishment
was feigned. “You have seen the king, then, Athos?”

Athos smiled as he said, “Yes, I have seen him.”

“Ah, indeed; you were unaware, then, that the comte had seen his
majesty?” inquired Raoul, half reassured.

“Yes, indeed, quite so.”

“In that case, I am less uneasy,” said Raoul.

“Uneasy--and about what?” inquired Athos.

“Forgive me, monsieur,” said Raoul, “but knowing so well the regard
and affection you have for me, I was afraid you might possibly have
expressed somewhat plainly to his majesty my own sufferings and your
indignation, and that the king had consequently--”

“And that the king had consequently?” repeated D’Artagnan; “well, go on,
finish what you were going to say.”

“I have now to ask you to forgive me, Monsieur d’Artagnan,” said Raoul.
“For a moment, and I cannot help confessing it, I trembled lest you had
come here, not as M. d’Artagnan, but as captain of the musketeers.”

“You are mad, my poor boy,” cried D’Artagnan, with a burst of laughter,
in which an exact observer might perhaps have wished to have heard a
little more frankness.

“So much the better,” said Raoul.

“Yes, mad; and do you know what I would advise you to do?”

“Tell me, monsieur, for the advice is sure to be good, as it comes from
you.”

“Very good, then; I advise you, after your long journey from England,
after your visit to M. de Guiche, after your visit to Madame, after your
visit to Porthos, after your journey to Vincennes, I advise you, I say,
to take a few hours’ rest; go and lie down, sleep for a dozen hours, and
when you wake up, go and ride one of my horses until you have tired him
to death.”

And drawing Raoul towards him, he embraced him as he would have done his
own child. Athos did the like; only it was very visible that the kiss
was still more affectionate, and the pressure of his lips even warmer
with the father than with the friend. The young man again looked at both
his companions, endeavoring to penetrate their real meaning or their
real feelings with the utmost strength of his intelligence; but his look
was powerless upon the smiling countenance of the musketeer or upon
the calm and composed features of the Comte de la Fere. “Where are you
going, Raoul?” inquired the latter, seeing that Bragelonne was preparing
to go out.

“To my own apartments,” replied the latter, in his soft, sad voice.

“We shall be sure to find you there, then, if we should have anything to
say to you?”

“Yes, monsieur; but do you suppose it likely you will have something to
say to me?”

“How can I tell?” said Athos.

“Yes, something fresh to console you with,” said D’Artagnan, pushing him
towards the door.

Raoul, observing the perfect composure which marked every gesture of his
two friends, quitted the comte’s room, carrying away with him nothing
but the individual feeling of his own particular distress.

“Thank Heaven,” he said, “since that is the case, I need only think of
myself.”

And wrapping himself up in his cloak, in order to conceal from the
passers-by in the streets his gloomy and sorrowful face, he quitted
them, for the purpose of returning to his own rooms, as he had promised
Porthos. The two friends watched the young man as he walked away with
a feeling of genuine disinterested pity; only each expressed it in a
different way.

“Poor Raoul!” said Athos, sighing deeply.

“Poor Raoul!” said D’Artagnan, shrugging his shoulders.



Chapter LX. Heu! Miser!

“Poor Raoul!” had said Athos. “Poor Raoul!” had said D’Artagnan: and,
in point of fact, to be pitied by both these men, Raoul must indeed have
been most unhappy. And therefore, when he found himself alone, face to
face, as it were, with his own troubles, leaving behind him the intrepid
friend and the indulgent father; when he recalled the avowal of the
king’s affection, which had robbed him of Louise de la Valliere, whom
he loved so deeply, he felt his heart almost breaking, as indeed we all
have at least once in our lives, at the first illusion destroyed, the
first affection betrayed. “Oh!” he murmured, “all is over, then. Nothing
is now left me in this world. Nothing to look forward to, nothing to
hope for. Guiche has told me so, my father has told me so, M. d’Artagnan
has told me so. All life is but an idle dream. The future which I have
been hopelessly pursuing for the last ten years is a dream! the union of
hearts, a dream! a life of love and happiness, a dream! Poor fool that
I am,” he continued, after a pause, “to dream away my existence aloud,
publicly, and in the face of others, friends and enemies--and for what
purpose, too? in order that my friends may be saddened by my troubles,
and my enemies may laugh at my sorrows. And so my unhappiness will soon
become a notorious disgrace, a public scandal; and who knows but that
to-morrow I may even be a public laughing-stock?”

And, despite the composure which he had promised his father and
D’Artagnan to observe, Raoul could not resist uttering a few words of
darkest menace. “And yet,” he continued, “if my name were De Wardes, and
if I had the pliancy of character and strength of will of M. d’Artagnan,
I should laugh, with my lips at least; I should convince other women
that this perfidious girl, honored by the affection I have wasted on
her, leaves me only one regret, that of having been abused and deceived
by her seemingly modest and irreproachable conduct; a few might perhaps
fawn on the king by jesting at my expense; I should put myself on
the track of some of those buffoons; I should chastise a few of them,
perhaps; the men would fear me, and by the time I had laid three dying
or dead at my feet, I should be adored by the women. Yes, yes, that,
indeed, would be the proper course to adopt, and the Comte de la Fere
himself would not object to it. Has not he also been tried, in his
earlier days, in the same manner as I have just been tried myself? Did
he not replace affection by intoxication? He has often told me so. Why
should I not replace love by pleasure? He must have suffered as much as
I suffer, even more--if that is possible. The history of one man is the
history of all, a dragging trial, more or less prolonged, more or less
bitter--sorrowful. The note of human nature is nothing but one sustained
cry. But what are the sufferings of others compared to those from which
I am now suffering? Does the open wound in another’s breast soften the
anguish of the gaping ulcer in our own? Does the blood which is welling
from another man’s side stanch that which is pouring from our own? Does
the general grief of our fellow-creatures lessen our own private and
particular woe? No, no, each suffers on his own account, each struggles
with his own grief, each sheds his own tears. And besides,” he went on,
“what has my life been up to the present moment? A cold, barren, sterile
arena, in which I have always fought for others, never for myself.
Sometimes for a king, sometimes for a woman. The king has betrayed, the
woman disdained me. Miserable, unlucky wretch that I am! Women! Can I
not make all expiate the crime of one of their sex? What does that
need? To have a heart no longer, or to forget that I ever had one; to
be strong, even against weakness itself; to lean always, even when
one feels that the support is giving way. What is needed to attain, or
succeed in all that? To be young, handsome, strong, valiant, rich. I
am, or shall be, all that. But honor?” he still continued, “and what is
honor after all? A theory which every man understands in his own way. My
father tells me: ‘Honor is the consideration of what is due to others,
and particularly what is due to oneself.’ But Guiche, and Manicamp,
and Saint-Aignan particularly, would say to me: ‘What’s honor? Honor
consists in studying and yielding to the passions and pleasures of one’s
king.’ Honor such as that indeed, is easy and productive enough. With
honor like that, I can keep my post at the court, become a gentleman of
the chamber, and accept the command of a regiment, which may at any time
be presented to me. With honor such as that, I can be duke and peer.

“The stain which that woman has stamped upon me, the grief that has
broken my heart, the heart of the friend and playmate of her childhood,
in no way affects M. de Bragelonne, an excellent officer, a courageous
leader, who will cover himself with glory at the first encounter, and
who will become a hundred times greater than Mademoiselle de la Valliere
is to-day, the mistress of the king--for the king will not marry
her--and the more publicly he will proclaim her as his mistress, the
more opaque will grow the shadow of shame he casts upon her face, in the
guise of a crown; and in proportion as others despise, as I despise her,
I shall be gleaning honors in the field. Alas! we had walked together
side by side, she and I, during the earliest, the brightest, the most
angelic portion of our existence, hand in hand along the charming path
of life, covered with the blossoms of youth; and then, alas! we reach
a cross-road, where she separates herself from me, in which we have
to follow a different route, whereby we become more and more widely
separated from each other. And to attain the end of this path, oh,
Heaven! I am now alone, in utter despair, and crushed to the very
earth.”

Such were the sinister reflections in which Raoul indulged, when his
foot mechanically paused at the door of his own dwelling. He had reached
it without remarking the streets through which he passed, without
knowing how he had come; he pushed open the door, continued to advance,
and ascended the staircase. The staircase, as in most of the houses at
that period, was very dark, and the landings most obscure. Raoul lived
on the first floor; he paused in order to ring. Olivain appeared, took
his sword and cloak from his hands; Raoul himself opened the door which,
from the ante-chamber, led into a small _salon_, richly furnished enough
for the _salon_ of a young man, and completely filled with flowers by
Olivain, who, knowing his master’s tastes, had shown himself studiously
attentive in gratifying them, without caring whether his master
perceived his attention or not. There was a portrait of La Valliere in
the _salon_, which had been drawn by herself and given by her to Raoul.
This portrait, fastened above a large easy chair covered with dark
colored damask, was the first point towards which Raoul bent his
steps--the first object on which he fixed his eyes. It was, moreover,
Raoul’s usual habit to do so; every time he entered his room, this
portrait, before anything else, attracted his attention. This time, as
usual, he walked straight up to the portrait, placed his knees upon the
arm chair, and paused to look at it sadly. His arms were crossed upon
his breast, his head slightly thrown back, his eyes filled with tears,
his mouth worked into a bitter smile. He looked at the portrait of
the one he had so tenderly loved; and then all that he had said passed
before his mind again, all that he had suffered seemed again to assail
his heart; and, after a long silence, he murmured for the third time,
“Miserable, unhappy wretch that I am!”

He had hardly pronounced these words, when he heard the sound of a sigh
and a groan behind him. He turned sharply round and perceived, in the
angle of the _salon_, standing up, a bending veiled female figure, which
he had been the means of concealing behind the door as he opened it,
and which he had not perceived as he entered. He advanced towards the
figure, whose presence in his room had not been announced to him; and
as he bowed, and inquired at the same moment who she was, she suddenly
raised her head, and removed the veil from her face, revealing her pale
and sorrow-stricken features. Raoul staggered back as if he had seen a
ghost.

“Louise!” he cried, in a tone of such absolute despair, one could hardly
have thought the human voice was capable of so desponding a cry, without
the snapping of the human heart.



Chapter LXI. Wounds within Wounds.

Mademoiselle de la Valliere--for it was indeed she--advanced a few steps
towards him. “Yes--Louise,” she murmured.

But this interval, short as it had been, was quite sufficient for Raoul
to recover himself. “You, mademoiselle?” he said; and then added, in an
indefinable tone, “You here!”

“Yes, Raoul,” the young girl replied, “I have been waiting for you.”

“I beg your pardon. When I came into the room I was not aware--”

“I know--but I entreated Olivain not to tell you--” She hesitated; and
as Raoul did not attempt to interrupt her, a moment’s silence ensued,
during which the sound of their throbbing hearts might have been heard,
not in unison with each other, but the one beating as violently as the
other. It was for Louise to speak, and she made an effort to do so.

“I wished to speak to you,” she said. “It was absolutely necessary that
I should see you--myself--alone. I have not hesitated to adopt a step
which must remain secret; for no one, except yourself, could understand
my motive, Monsieur de Bragelonne.”

“In fact, mademoiselle,” Raoul stammered out, almost breathless from
emotion, “as far as I am concerned, and despite the good opinion you
have of me, I confess--”

“Will you do me the great kindness to sit down and listen to me?” said
Louise, interrupting him with her soft, sweet voice.

Bragelonne looked at her for a moment; then mournfully shaking his head,
he sat, or rather fell down on a chair. “Speak,” he said.

She cast a glance all round her. This look was a timid entreaty, and
implored secrecy far more effectually than her expressed words had
done a few minutes before. Raoul rouse, and went to the door, which he
opened. “Olivain,” he said, “I am not within for any one.” And then,
turning towards Louise, he added, “Is not that what you wished?”

Nothing could have produced a greater effect upon Louise than these few
words, which seemed to signify, “You see that I still understand
you.” She passed a handkerchief across her eyes, in order to remove a
rebellious tear which she could not restrain; and then, having collected
herself for a moment, she said, “Raoul, do not turn your kind, frank
look away from me. You are not one of those men who despise a woman
for having given her heart to another, even though her affection might
render him unhappy, or might wound his pride.” Raoul did not reply.

“Alas!” continued La Valliere, “it is only too true, my cause is a bad
one, and I cannot tell in what way to begin. It will be better for me,
I think, to relate to you, very simply, everything that has befallen me.
As I shall speak but the pure and simple truth, I shall always find my
path clear before me in spite of the obscurity and obstacles I have to
brave in order to solace my heart, which is full to overflowing, and
wishes to pour itself out at your feet.”

Raoul continued to preserve the same unbroken silence. La Valliere
looked at him with an air that seemed to say, “Encourage me; for pity’s
sake, but a single word!” But Raoul did not open his lips; and the young
girl was obliged to continue:

“Just now,” she said, “M. de Saint-Aignan came to me by the king’s
directions.” She cast down her eyes as she said this; while Raoul, on
his side, turned his away, in order to avoid looking at her. “M. de
Saint-Aignan came to me from the king,” she repeated, “and told me
that you knew all;” and she attempted to look Raoul in the face, after
inflicting this further wound upon him, in addition to the many others
he had already received; but it was impossible to meet Raoul’s eyes.

“He told me you were incensed with me--and justly so, I admit.”

This time Raoul looked at the young girl, and a smile full of disdain
passed across his lips.

“Oh!” she continued, “I entreat you, do not say that you have had any
other feeling against me than that of anger merely. Raoul, wait until
I have told you all--wait until I have said to you all that I had to
say--all that I came to say.”

Raoul, by the strength of his iron will, forced his features to assume a
calmer expression, and the disdainful smile upon his lip passed away.

“In the first place,” said La Valliere, “in the first place, with my
hands raised in entreaty towards you, with my forehead bowed to the
ground before you, I entreat you, as the most generous, as the noblest
of men, to pardon, to forgive me. If I have left you in ignorance
of what was passing in my own bosom, never, at least, would I have
consented to deceive you. Oh! I entreat you, Raoul--I implore you on my
knees--answer me one word, even though you wrong me in doing so. Better,
far better, an injurious word from your lips, than suspicion resting in
your heart.”

“I admire your subtlety of expression, mademoiselle,” said Raoul, making
an effort to remain calm. “To leave another in ignorance that you are
deceiving him, is loyal; but to deceive him--it seems that would be very
wrong, and that you would not do it.”

“Monsieur, for a long time I thought that I loved you better than
anything else; and so long as I believed in my affection for you, I told
you that loved you. I could have sworn it on the altar; but a day came
when I was undeceived.”

“Well, on that day, mademoiselle, knowing that I still continued to love
you, true loyalty of conduct should have forced you to inform me you had
ceased to love me.”

“But on that day, Raoul--on that day, when I read in the depths of my
own heart, when I confessed to myself that you no longer filled my mind
entirely, when I saw another future before me than that of being your
friend, your life-long companion, your wife--on that day, Raoul, you
were not, alas! any more beside me.”

“But you knew where I was, mademoiselle; you could have written to me.”

“Raoul, I did not dare to do so. Raoul, I have been weak and cowardly.
I knew you so thoroughly--I knew how devotedly you loved me, that I
trembled at the bare idea of the grief I was about to cause you; and
that is so true, Raoul, that this very moment I am now speaking to you,
bending thus before you, my heart crushed in my bosom, my voice full of
sighs, my eyes full of tears, it is so perfectly true, that I have no
other defense than my frankness, I have no other sorrow greater than
that which I read in your eyes.”

Raoul attempted to smile.

“No!” said the young girl, with a profound conviction, “no, no; you will
not do me so foul a wrong as to disguise your feelings before me now!
You loved me; you were sure of your affection for me; you did not
deceive yourself; you do not lie to your own heart--whilst I--I--” And
pale as death, her arms thrown despairingly above her head, she fell
upon her knees.

“Whilst you,” said Raoul, “you told me you loved me, and yet you loved
another.”

“Alas, yes!” cried the poor girl; “alas, yes! I do love another; and
that other--oh! for Heaven’s sake let me say it, Raoul, for it is my
only excuse--that other I love better than my own life, better than my
own soul even. Forgive my fault, or punish my treason, Raoul. I came
here in no way to defend myself, but merely to say to you: ‘You know
what it is to love!’--in such a case am I! I love to that degree, that
I would give my life, my very soul, to the man I love. If he should ever
cease to love me, I shall die of grief and despair, unless Heaven come
to my assistance, unless Heaven does show pity upon me. Raoul, I came
here to submit myself to your will, whatever it might be--to die, if it
were your wish I should die. Kill me, then, Raoul! if in your heart you
believe I deserve death.”

“Take care, mademoiselle,” said Raoul: “the woman who invites death is
one who has nothing but her heart’s blood to offer to her deceived and
betrayed lover.”

“You are right,” she said.

Raoul uttered a deep sigh, as he exclaimed, “And you love without being
able to forget?”

“I love without a wish to forget; without a wish ever to love any one
else,” replied La Valliere.

“Very well,” said Raoul. “You have said to me, in fact, all you had to
say; all I could possibly wish to know. And now, mademoiselle, it is I
who ask your forgiveness, for it is I who have almost been an obstacle
in your life; I, too, who have been wrong, for, in deceiving myself, I
helped to deceive you.”

“Oh!” said La Valliere, “I do not ask you so much as that, Raoul.”

“I only am to blame, mademoiselle,” continued Raoul, “better informed
than yourself of the difficulties of this life, I should have
enlightened you. I ought not to have relied upon uncertainty; I ought to
have extracted an answer from your heart, whilst I hardly even sought an
acknowledgement from your lips. Once more, mademoiselle, it is I who ask
your forgiveness.”

“Impossible, impossible!” she cried, “you are mocking me.”

“How, impossible?”

“Yes, it is impossible to be so good, and kind, ah! perfect to such a
degree as that.”

“Take care!” said Raoul, with a bitter smile, “for presently you may say
perhaps I did not love you.”

“Oh! you love me like an affectionate brother; let me hope that, Raoul.”

“As a brother! undeceive yourself, Louise. I love you as a lover--as a
husband, with the deepest, the truest, the fondest affection.”

“Raoul, Raoul!”

“As a brother! Oh, Louise! I love you so deeply, that I would have
shed my blood for you, drop by drop; I would, oh! how willingly, have
suffered myself to be torn to pieces for your sake, have sacrificed my
very future for you. I love you so deeply, Louise, that my heart feels
dead and crushed within me,--my faith in human nature all is gone,--my
eyes have lost their light; I loved you so deeply, that I now no longer
see, think of, care for, anything, either in this world or the next.”

“Raoul--dear Raoul! spare me, I implore you!” cried La Valliere. “Oh! if
I had but known--”

“It is too late, Louise; you love, you are happy in your affection;
I read your happiness through your tears--behind the tears which the
loyalty of your nature makes you shed; I feel the sighs your affection
breathes forth. Louise, Louise, you have made me the most abjectly
wretched man living; leave me, I entreat you. Adieu! adieu!”

“Forgive me! oh, forgive me, Raoul, for what I have done.”

“Have I not done much, much more? _Have I not told you that I love you
still?_” She buried her face in her hands.

“And to tell you that--do you hear me, Louise?--to tell you that, at
such a moment as this, to tell you that, as I have told you, is to
pronounce my own sentence of death. Adieu!” La Valliere held out her
hands to him in vain.

“We ought not to see each other again in this world,” he said, and as
she was on the point of crying out in bitter agony at this remark, he
placed his hand on her mouth to stifle the exclamation. She pressed her
lips upon it, and fell fainting to the ground. “Olivain,” said Raoul,
“take this young lady and bear her to the carriage which is waiting for
her at the door.” As Olivain lifted her up, Raoul made a movement as if
to dart towards La Valliere, in order to give her a first and last kiss,
but, stopping abruptly, he said, “No! she is not mine. I am no thief--as
is the king of France.” And he returned to his room, whilst the lackey
carried La Valliere, still fainting, to the carriage.



Chapter LXII. What Raoul Had Guessed.

As soon as Raoul had quitted Athos and D’Artagnan, as the two
exclamations that had followed his departure escaped their lips, they
found themselves face to face alone. Athos immediately resumed the
earnest air that he had assumed at D’Artagnan’s arrival.

“Well,” he said, “what have you come to announce to me, my friend?”

“I?” inquired D’Artagnan.

“Yes; I do not see you in this way without some reason for it,” said
Athos, smiling.

“The deuce!” said D’Artagnan.

“I will place you at your ease. The king is furious, I suppose?”

“Well, I must say he is not altogether pleased.”

“And you have come to arrest me, then?”

“My dear friend, you have hit the very mark.”

“Oh, I expected it. I am quite ready to go with you.”

“Deuce take it!” said D’Artagnan, “what a hurry you are in.”

“I am afraid of delaying you,” said Athos, smiling.

“I have plenty of time. Are you not curious, besides, to know how things
went on between the king and me?”

“If you will be good enough to tell me, I will listen with the greatest
of pleasure,” said Athos, pointing out to D’Artagnan a large chair, into
which the latter threw himself, assuming the easiest possible attitude.

“Well, I will do so willingly enough,” continued D’Artagnan, “for the
conversation is rather curious, I must say. In the first place the king
sent for me.”

“As soon as I had left?”

“You were just going down the last steps of the staircase, as the
musketeers told me. I arrived. My dear Athos, he was not red in the face
merely, he was positively purple. I was not aware, of course, of what
had passed; only, on the ground, lying on the floor, I saw a sword
broken in two.”

“‘Captain d’Artagnan,’ cried the king, as soon as he saw me.

“‘Sire,’ I replied.

“‘M. de la Fere has just left me; he is an insolent man.’

“‘An insolent man!’ I exclaimed, in such a tone that the king stopped
suddenly short.

“‘Captain d’Artagnan,’ resumed the king, with his teeth clenched, ‘you
will be good enough to listen to and hear me.’

“‘That is my duty, sire.’

“‘I have, out of consideration for M. de la Fere, wished to spare
him--he is a man of whom I still retain some kind recollections--the
discredit of being arrested in my palace. You will therefore take a
carriage.’ At this I made a slight movement.

“‘If you object to arrest him yourself,’ continued the king, ‘send me my
captain of the guards.’

“‘Sire,’ I replied, ‘there is no necessity for the captain of the
guards, since I am on duty.’

“‘I should not like to annoy you,’ said the king, kindly, ‘for you have
always served me well, Monsieur D’Artagnan.’

“‘You do not “annoy” me, sire,’ I replied; ‘I am on duty, that is all.’

“‘But,’ said the king, in astonishment, ‘I believe the comte is your
friend?’

“‘If he were my father, sire, it would not make me less on duty than I
am.’

“The king looked at me; he saw how unmoved my face was, and seemed
satisfied. ‘You will arrest M. le Comte de la Fere, then?’ he inquired.

“‘Most certainly, sire, if you give me the order to do so.’

“‘Very well; I order you to do so.’

“I bowed, and replied, ‘Where is the comte, sire?’

“‘You will look for him.’

“‘And am I to arrest him, wherever he may be?’

“‘Yes; but try that he may be at his own house. If he should have
started for his own estate, leave Paris at once, and arrest him on his
way thither.’

“I bowed; but as I did not move, he said, ‘Well, what are you waiting
for?’

“‘For the order to arrest the comte, signed by yourself.’

“The king seemed annoyed; for, in point of fact, it was the exercise of
a fresh act of authority, a repetition of the arbitrary act, if, indeed,
it is to be considered as such. He took hold of his pen slowly, and
evidently in no very good temper; and then he wrote, ‘Order for M. le
Chevalier d’Artagnan, captain of my musketeers, to arrest M. le Comte de
la Fere, wherever he is to be found.’ He then turned towards me; but I
was looking on without moving a muscle of my face. In all probability he
thought he perceived something like bravado in my tranquil manner,
for he signed hurriedly, and then handing me the order, he said, ‘Go,
monsieur!’ I obeyed; and here I am.”

Athos pressed his friend’s hand. “Well, let us set off,” he said.

“Oh! surely,” said D’Artagnan, “you must have some trifling matters to
arrange before you leave your apartments in this manner.”

“I?--not at all.”

“Why not?”

“Why, you know, D’Artagnan, that I have always been a very simple
traveler on this earth, ready to go to the end of the world by the order
of my sovereign; ready to quit it at the summons of my Maker. What does
a man who is thus prepared require in such a case?--a portmanteau, or
a shroud. I am ready at this moment, as I have always been, my dear
friend, and can accompany you at once.”

“But, Bragelonne--”

“I have brought him up in the same principles I laid down for my
own guidance; and you observed that, as soon as he perceived you, he
guessed, that very moment, the motive of your visit. We have thrown him
off his guard for a moment; but do not be uneasy, he is sufficiently
prepared for my disgrace not to be too much alarmed at it. So, let us
go.”

“Very well, let us go,” said D’Artagnan, quietly.

“As I broke my sword in the king’s presence, and threw the pieces at his
feet, I presume that will dispense with the necessity of delivering it
over to you.”

“You are quite right; and besides that, what the deuce do you suppose I
could do with your sword?”

“Am I to walk behind, or before you?” inquired Athos, laughing.

“You will walk arm in arm with me,” replied D’Artagnan, as he took the
comte’s arm to descend the staircase; and in this manner they arrived at
the landing. Grimaud, whom they had met in the ante-room, looked at them
as they went out together in this manner, with some little uneasiness;
his experience of affairs was quite sufficient to give him good reason
to suspect that there was something wrong.

“Ah! is that you, Grimaud?” said Athos, kindly. “We are going--”

“To take a turn in my carriage,” interrupted D’Artagnan, with a friendly
nod of the head.

Grimaud thanked D’Artagnan by a grimace, which was evidently intended
for a smile, and accompanied both the friends to the door. Athos entered
first into the carriage; D’Artagnan followed him without saying a word
to the coachman. The departure had taken place so quietly, that it
excited no disturbance or attention even in the neighborhood. When the
carriage had reached the quays, “You are taking me to the Bastile, I
perceive,” said Athos.

“I?” said D’Artagnan, “I take you wherever you may choose to go; nowhere
else, I can assure you.”

“What do you mean?” said the comte, surprised.

“Why, surely, my dear friend,” said D’Artagnan, “you quite understand
that I undertook the mission with no other object in view than that of
carrying it out exactly as you liked. You surely did not expect that I
was going to get you thrown into prison like that, brutally, and without
any reflection. If I had anticipated that, I should have let the captain
of the guards undertake it.”

“And so--?” said Athos.

“And so, I repeat again, we will go wherever you may choose.”

“My dear friend,” said Athos, embracing D’Artagnan, “how like you that
is!”

“Well, it seems simple enough to me. The coachman will take you to the
barrier of the Cours-la-Reine; you will find a horse there which I have
ordered to be kept ready for you; with that horse you will be able to do
three posts without stopping; and I, on my side, will take care not to
return to the king, to tell him that you have gone away, until the very
moment it will be impossible to overtake you. In the meantime you will
have reached Le Havre, and from Le Havre across to England, where you
will find the charming residence of which M. Monk made me a present,
without speaking of the hospitality which King Charles will not fail to
show you. Well, what do you think of this project?”

Athos shook his head, and then said, smiling as he did so, “No, no, take
me to the Bastile.”

“You are an obstinate fellow, my dear Athos,” returned D’Artagnan,
“reflect for a few moments.”

“On what subject?”

“That you are no longer twenty years of age. Believe me, I speak
according to my own knowledge and experience. A prison is certain death
for men who are at our time of life. No, no; I will never allow you to
languish in prison in such a way. Why, the very thought of it makes my
head turn giddy.”

“Dear D’Artagnan,” Athos replied, “Heaven most fortunately made my body
as strong, powerful, and enduring as my mind; and, rely upon it, I shall
retain my strength up to the very last moment.”

“But this is not strength of mind or character; it is sheer madness.”

“No, D’Artagnan, it is the highest order of reasoning. Do not suppose
that I should in the slightest degree in the world discuss the question
with you, whether you would not be ruined in endeavoring to save me. I
should have done precisely as you propose if flight had been part of
my plan of action; I should, therefore, have accepted from you what,
without any doubt, you would have accepted from me. No! I know you too
well even to breathe a word upon the subject.”

“Ah! if you would only let me do it,” said D’Artagnan, “what a dance we
would give his most gracious majesty!”

“Still he is the king; do not forget that, my dear friend.”

“Oh! that is all the same to me; and king though he be, I would plainly
tell him, ‘Sire, imprison, exile, kill every one in France and Europe;
order me to arrest and poniard even whom you like--even were it
Monsieur, your own brother; but do not touch one of the four musketeers,
or if so, _mordioux!_’”

“My dear friend,” replied Athos, with perfect calmness, “I should like
to persuade you of one thing; namely, that I wish to be arrested; that I
desire above all things that my arrest should take place.”

D’Artagnan made a slight movement of his shoulders.

“Nay, I wish it, I repeat, more than anything; if you were to let me
escape, it would be only to return of my own accord, and constitute
myself a prisoner. I wish to prove to this young man, who is dazzled
by the power and splendor of his crown, that he can be regarded as the
first and chiefest among men only on the one condition of his proving
himself to be the most generous and the wisest. He may punish me,
imprison, torture me, it matters not. He abuses his opportunities, and
I wish him to learn the bitterness of remorse, while Heaven teaches him
what chastisement is.”

“Well, well,” replied D’Artagnan, “I know only too well that, when you
have once said, ‘no,’ you mean ‘no.’ I do not insist any longer; you
wish to go to the Bastile?”

“I do wish to go there.”

“Let us go, then! To the Bastile!” cried D’Artagnan to the coachman.
And throwing himself back in the carriage, he gnawed the ends of his
mustache with a fury which, for Athos, who knew him well, signified a
resolution either already taken or in course of formation. A profound
silence ensued in the carriage, which continued to roll on, but neither
faster nor slower than before. Athos took the musketeer by the hand.

“You are not angry with me, D’Artagnan?” he said.

“I!--oh, no! certainly not; of course not. What you do for heroism, I
should have done from obstinacy.”

“But you are quite of opinion, are you not, that Heaven will avenge me,
D’Artagnan?”

“And I know one or two on earth who will not fail to lend a helping
hand,” said the captain.



Chapter LXIII. Three Guests Astonished to Find Themselves at Supper
Together.

The carriage arrived at the outside of the gate of the Bastile. A
soldier on guard stopped it, but D’Artagnan had only to utter a single
word to procure admittance, and the carriage passed on without further
difficulty. Whilst they were proceeding along the covered way which led
to the courtyard of the governor’s residence, D’Artagnan, whose lynx
eyes saw everything, even through the walls, suddenly cried out, “What
is that out yonder?”

“Well,” said Athos, quietly; “what is it?”

“Look yonder, Athos.”

“In the courtyard?”

“Yes, yes; make haste!”

“Well, a carriage; very likely conveying a prisoner like myself.”

“That would be too droll.”

“I do not understand you.”

“Make haste and look again, and look at the man who is just getting out
of that carriage.”

At that very moment a second sentinel stopped D’Artagnan, and while the
formalities were being gone through, Athos could see at a hundred paces
from him the man whom his friend had pointed out to him. He was, in
fact, getting out of the carriage at the door of the governor’s house.
“Well,” inquired D’Artagnan, “do you see him?”

“Yes; he is a man in a gray suit.”

“What do you say of him?”

“I cannot very well tell; he is, as I have just now told you, a man in a
gray suit, who is getting out of a carriage; that is all.”

“Athos, I will wager anything that it is he.”

“He, who?”

“Aramis.”

“Aramis arrested? Impossible!”

“I do not say he is arrested, since we see him alone in his carriage.”

“Well, then, what is he doing here?”

“Oh! he knows Baisemeaux, the governor,” replied the musketeer, slyly;
“so we have arrived just in time.”

“What for?”

“In order to see what we can see.”

“I regret this meeting exceedingly. When Aramis sees me, he will be very
much annoyed, in the first place, at seeing me, and in the next at being
seen.”

“Very well reasoned.”

“Unfortunately, there is no remedy for it; whenever any one meets
another in the Bastile, even if he wished to draw back to avoid him, it
would be impossible.”

“Athos, I have an idea; the question is, to spare Aramis the annoyance
you were speaking of, is it not?”

“What is to be done?”

“I will tell you; or in order to explain myself in the best possible
way, let me relate the affair in my own manner; I will not recommend you
to tell a falsehood, for that would be impossible for you to do; but I
will tell falsehoods enough for both; it is easy to do that when one is
born to the nature and habits of a Gascon.”

Athos smiled. The carriage stopped where the one we have just now
pointed out had stopped; namely, at the door of the governor’s house.
“It is understood, then?” said D’Artagnan, in a low voice to his friend.
Athos consented by a gesture. They ascended the staircase. There will
be no occasion for surprise at the facility with which they had entered
into the Bastile, if it be remembered that, before passing the first
gate, in fact, the most difficult of all, D’Artagnan had announced that
he had brought a prisoner of state. At the third gate, on the contrary,
that is to say, when he had once fairly entered the prison, he merely
said to the sentinel, “To M. Baisemeaux;” and they both passed on. In a
few minutes they were in the governor’s dining-room, and the first face
which attracted D’Artagnan’s observation was that of Aramis, who was
seated side by side with Baisemeaux, awaiting the announcement of a
meal whose odor impregnated the whole apartment. If D’Artagnan pretended
surprise, Aramis did not pretend at all; he started when he saw his
two friends, and his emotion was very apparent. Athos and D’Artagnan,
however, complimented him as usual, and Baisemeaux, amazed, completely
stupefied by the presence of his three guests, began to perform a few
evolutions around them.

“By what lucky accident--”

“We were just going to ask you,” retorted D’Artagnan.

“Are we going to give ourselves up as prisoners?” cried Aramis, with an
affection of hilarity.

“Ah! ah!” said D’Artagnan; “it is true the walls smell deucedly like a
prison. Monsieur de Baisemeaux, you know you invited me to sup with you
the other day.”

“I?” cried Baisemeaux.

“Yes, of course you did, although you now seem so struck with amazement.
Don’t you remember it?”

Baisemeaux turned pale and then red, looked at Aramis, who looked at
him, and finished by stammering out, “Certainly--I am delighted--but,
upon my honor--I have not the slightest--Ah! I have such a wretched
memory.”

“Well! I am wrong, I see,” said D’Artagnan, as if he were offended.

“Wrong, what for?”

“Wrong to remember anything about it, it seems.”

Baisemeaux hurried towards him. “Do not stand on ceremony, my dear
captain,” he said; “I have the worst memory in the world. I no sooner
leave off thinking of my pigeons and their pigeon-house, than I am no
better than the rawest recruit.”

“At all events, you remember it now,” said D’Artagnan, boldly.

“Yes, yes,” replied the governor, hesitating; “I think I do remember.”

“It was when you came to the palace to see me; you told me some story or
other about your accounts with M. de Louviere and M. de Tremblay.”

“Oh, yes! perfectly.”

“And about M. d’Herblay’s kindness towards you.”

“Ah!” exclaimed Aramis, looking at the unhappy governor full in
the face, “and yet you just now said you had no memory, Monsieur de
Baisemeaux.”

Baisemeaux interrupted the musketeer in the middle of his revelations.
“Yes, yes; you’re quite right; how could I have forgotten; I remember it
now as well as possible; I beg you a thousand pardons. But now, once for
all, my dear M. d’Artagnan, be sure that at this present time, as at any
other, whether invited or not, you are perfectly at home here, you and
M. d’Herblay, your friend,” he said, turning towards Aramis; “and this
gentleman, too,” he added, bowing to Athos.

“Well, I thought it would be sure to turn out so,” replied D’Artagnan,
“and that is the reason I came. Having nothing to do this evening at the
Palais Royal, I wished to judge for myself what your ordinary style of
living was like; and as I was coming along, I met the Comte de la Fere.”

Athos bowed. “The comte, who had just left his majesty, handed me an
order which required immediate attention. We were close by here; I
wished to call in, even if it were for no other object than that of
shaking hands with you and of presenting the comte to you, of whom you
spoke so highly that evening at the palace when--”

“Certainly, certainly--M. le Comte de la Fere?”

“Precisely.”

“The comte is welcome, I am sure.”

“And he will sup with you two, I suppose, whilst I, unfortunate dog that
I am, must run off on a matter of duty. Oh! what happy beings you are,
compared to myself,” he added, sighing as loud as Porthos might have
done.

“And so you are going away, then?” said Aramis and Baisemeaux together,
with the same expression of delighted surprise, the tone of which was
immediately noticed by D’Artagnan.

“I leave you in my place,” he said, “a noble and excellent guest.” And
he touched Athos gently on the shoulder, who, astonished also, could not
help exhibiting his surprise a little; which was noticed by Aramis only,
for M. de Baisemeaux was not quite equal to the three friends in point
of intelligence.

“What, are you going to leave us?” resumed the governor.

“I shall only be about an hour, or an hour and a half. I will return in
time for dessert.”

“Oh! we will wait for you,” said Baisemeaux.

“No, no; that would be really disobliging me.”

“You will be sure to return, though?” said Athos, with an expression of
doubt.

“Most certainly,” he said, pressing his friend’s hand confidently; and
he added, in a low voice, “Wait for me, Athos; be cheerful and lively
as possible, and above all, don’t allude even to business affairs, for
Heaven’s sake.”

And with a renewed pressure of the hand, he seemed to warn the comte of
the necessity of keeping perfectly discreet and impenetrable. Baisemeaux
led D’Artagnan to the gate. Aramis, with many friendly protestations
of delight, sat down by Athos, determined to make him speak; but Athos
possessed every virtue and quality to the very highest degree. If
necessity had required it, he would have been the finest orator in the
world, but on other occasions he would rather have died than have opened
his lips.

Ten minutes after D’Artagnan’s departure, the three gentlemen sat
down to table, which was covered with the most substantial display
of gastronomic luxury. Large joints, exquisite dishes, preserves, the
greatest variety of wines, appeared successively upon the table, which
was served at the king’s expense, and of which expense M. Colbert would
have found no difficulty in saving two thirds, without any one in the
Bastile being the worse for it. Baisemeaux was the only one who ate and
drank with gastronomic resolution. Aramis allowed nothing to pass by
him, but merely touched everything he took; Athos, after the soup and
three _hors d’oeuvres_, ate nothing more. The style of conversation was
such as might have been anticipated between three men so opposite
in temper and ideas. Aramis was incessantly asking himself by what
extraordinary chance Athos was there at Baisemeaux’s when D’Artagnan was
no longer there, and why D’Artagnan did not remain when Athos was there.
Athos sounded all the depths of the mind of Aramis, who lived in the
midst of subterfuge, evasion, and intrigue; he studied his man well and
thoroughly, and felt convinced that he was engaged upon some important
project. And then he too began to think of his own personal affair, and
to lose himself in conjectures as to D’Artagnan’s reason for having left
the Bastile so abruptly, and for leaving behind him a prisoner so badly
introduced and so badly looked after by the prison authorities. But
we shall not pause to examine into the thoughts and feelings of these
personages, but will leave them to themselves, surrounded by the remains
of poultry, game, and fish, which Baisemeaux’s generous knife and
fork had so mutilated. We are going to follow D’Artagnan instead, who,
getting into the carriage which had brought him, said to the coachman,
“Return to the palace, as fast as the horses can gallop.”



Chapter LXIV. What Took Place at the Louvre During the Supper at the
Bastile.

M. de Saint-Aignan had executed the commission with which the king had
intrusted him for La Valliere--as we have already seen in one of the
preceding chapters; but, whatever his eloquence, he did not succeed in
persuading the young girl that she had in the king a protector powerful
enough for her under any combination of circumstances, and that she had
no need of any one else in the world when the king was on her side. In
point of fact, at the very first word which the favorite mentioned
of the discovery of the famous secret, Louise, in a passion of tears,
abandoned herself in utter despair to a sorrow which would have been far
from flattering for the king, if he had been a witness of it from one of
the corners of the room. Saint-Aignan, in his character of ambassador,
felt almost as greatly offended at it as his master himself would have
been, and returned to inform the king what he had seen and heard; and it
is thus we find him, in a state of great agitation, in the presence of
the king, who was, if possible, in a state of even greater flurry than
himself.

“But,” said the king to the courtier, when the latter had finished his
report, “what did she decide to do? Shall I at least see her presently
before supper? Will she come to me, or shall I be obliged to go to her
room?”

“I believe, sire, that if your majesty wishes to see her, you will not
only have to take the first step in advance, but will have to go the
whole way.”

“That I do not mind. Do you think she has yet a secret fancy for young
Bragelonne?” muttered the king between his teeth.

“Oh! sire, that is not possible; for it is you alone, I am convinced,
Mademoiselle de la Valliere loves, and that, too, with all her heart.
But you know that De Bragelonne belongs to that proud race who play the
part of Roman heroes.”

The king smiled feebly; he knew how true the illustration was, for Athos
had just left him.

“As for Mademoiselle de la Valliere,” Saint-Aignan continued, “she was
brought up under the care of the Dowager Madame, that is to say, in
the greatest austerity and formality. This young engaged couple coldly
exchanged their little vows in the prim presence of the moon and stars;
and now, when they find they have to break those vows asunder, it plays
the very deuce with them.”

Saint-Aignan thought to have made the king laugh; but on the contrary,
from a mere smile Louis passed to the greatest seriousness of manner.
He already began to experience that remorse which the comte had promised
D’Artagnan he would inflict upon him. He reflected that, in fact, these
young persons had loved and sworn fidelity to each other; that one of
the two had kept his word, and that the other was too conscientious
not to feel her perjury most bitterly. And his remorse was not
unaccompanied; for bitter pangs of jealousy began to beset the king’s
heart. He did not say another word, and instead of going to pay a visit
to his mother, or the queen, or Madame, in order to amuse himself a
little, and make the ladies laugh, as he himself used to say, he threw
himself into the huge armchair in which his august father Louis XIII.
had passed so many weary days and years in company with Barradat and
Cinq-Mars. Saint-Aignan perceived the king was not to be amused at that
moment; he tried a last resource, and pronounced Louise’s name, which
made the king look up immediately. “What does your majesty intend to
do this evening--shall Mademoiselle de la Valliere be informed of your
intention to see her?”

“It seems she is already aware of that,” replied the king. “No, no,
Saint-Aignan,” he continued, after a moment’s pause, “we will both of us
pass our time in thinking, and musing, and dreaming; when Mademoiselle
de la Valliere shall have sufficiently regretted what she now regrets,
she will deign, perhaps, to give us some news of herself.”

“Ah! sire, is it possible you can so misunderstand her heart, which is
so full of devotion?”

The king rose, flushed from vexation and annoyance; he was a prey to
jealousy as well as to remorse. Saint-Aignan was just beginning to feel
that his position was becoming awkward, when the curtain before the door
was raised. The king turned hastily round; his first idea was that a
letter from Louise had arrived; but, instead of a letter of love, he
only saw his captain of musketeers, standing upright, and perfectly
silent in the doorway. “M. d’Artagnan,” he said, “ah! Well, monsieur?”

D’Artagnan looked at Saint-Aignan; the king’s eyes took the same
direction as those of his captain; these looks would have been clear to
any one, and for a still greater reason they were so for Saint-Aignan.
The courtier bowed and quitted the room, leaving the king and D’Artagnan
alone.

“Is it done?” inquired the king.

“Yes, sire,” replied the captain of the musketeers, in a grave voice,
“it is done.”

The king was unable to say another word. Pride, however, obliged him
not to pause at what he had done; whenever a sovereign has adopted a
decisive course, even though it be unjust, he is compelled to prove
to all witnesses, and particularly to prove it to himself, that he was
quite right all through. A good means for effecting that--an almost
infallible means, indeed--is, to try and prove his victim to be in the
wrong. Louis, brought up by Mazarin and Anne of Austria, knew better
than any one else his vocation as a monarch; he therefore endeavored to
prove it on the present occasion. After a few moment’s pause, which he
had employed in making silently to himself the same reflections which
we have just expressed aloud, he said, in an indifferent tone: “What did
the comte say?”

“Nothing at all, sire.”

“Surely he did not allow himself to be arrested without saying
something?”

“He said he expected to be arrested, sire.”

The king raised his head haughtily. “I presume,” he said, “that M. le
Comte de la Fere has not continued to play his obstinate and rebellious
part.”

“In the first place, sire, what do you wish to signify by _rebellious?_”
 quietly asked the musketeer. “A rebel, in the eyes of the king, is a
man who not only allows himself to be shut up in the Bastile, but still
more, who opposes those who do not wish to take him there.”

“Who do not wish to take him there!” exclaimed the king. “What do you
say, captain! Are you mad?”

“I believe not, sire.”

“You speak of persons who did not wish to arrest M. de la Fere! Who are
those persons, may I ask?”

“I should say those whom your majesty intrusted with that duty.”

“But it was you whom I intrusted with it,” exclaimed the king.

“Yes, sire; it was I.”

“And yet you say that, despite my orders, you had the intention of not
arresting the man who had insulted me!”

“Yes, sire--that was really my intention. I even proposed to the comte
to mount a horse that I had prepared for him at the Barriere de la
Conference.”

“And what was your object in getting this horse ready?”

“Why, sire, in order that M. le Comte de la Fere might be able to reach
Le Havre, and from that place make his escape to England.”

“You betrayed me, then, monsieur?” cried the king, kindling with a wild
pride.

“Exactly so.”

There was nothing to say in answer to statements made in such a tone;
the king was astounded at such an obstinate and open resistance on the
part of D’Artagnan. “At least you had a reason, Monsieur d’Artagnan, for
acting as you did?” said the king, proudly.

“I have always a reason for everything, sire.”

“Your reason cannot be your friendship for the comte, at all
events,--the only one that can be of any avail, the only one that could
possibly excuse you,--for I placed you perfectly at your ease in that
respect.”

“Me, sire?”

“Did I not give you the choice to arrest, or not to arrest M. le Comte
de la Fere?”

“Yes, sire, but--”

“But what?” exclaimed the king, impatiently.

“But you warned me, sire, that if I did not arrest him, your captain of
the guard should do so.”

“Was I not considerate enough towards you, from the very moment I did
not compel you to obey me?”

“To me, sire, you were, but not to my friend, for my friend would
be arrested all the same, whether by myself or by the captain of the
guards.”

“And this is your devotion, monsieur! a devotion which argues and
reasons. You are no soldier, monsieur!”

“I wait for your majesty to tell me what I am.”

“Well, then--you are a Frondeur.”

“And since there is no longer any Fronde, sire, in that case--”

“But if what you say is true--”

“What I say is always true, sire.”

“What have you come to say to me, monsieur?”

“I have come to say to your majesty, ‘Sire, M. de la Fere is in the
Bastile.’”

“That is not your fault, it would seem.”

“That is true, sire; but at all events he is there; and since he is
there, it is important that your majesty should know it.”

“Ah! Monsieur d’Artagnan, so you set your king at defiance.”

“Sire--”

“Monsieur d’Artagnan! I warn you that you are abusing my patience.”

“On the contrary, sire.”

“What do you mean by ‘on the contrary’?”

“I have come to get myself arrested, too.”

“To get yourself arrested,--you!”

“Of course. My friend will get wearied to death in the Bastile by
himself; and I have come to propose to your majesty to permit me to bear
him company; if your majesty will but give me the word, I will arrest
myself; I shall not need the captain of the guards for that, I assure
you.”

The king darted towards the table and seized hold of a pen to write the
order for D’Artagnan’s imprisonment. “Pay attention, monsieur, that this
is forever,” cried the king, in tones of sternest menace.

“I can quite believe that,” returned the musketeer; “for when you have
once done such an act as that, you will never be able to look me in the
face again.”

The king dashed down his pen violently. “Leave the room, monsieur!” he
said.

“Not so, if it please your majesty.”

“What is that you say?”

“Sire, I came to speak gently and temperately to your majesty; your
majesty got into a passion with me; that is a misfortune; but I shall
not the less on that account say what I had to say to you.”

“Your resignation, monsieur,--your resignation!” cried the king.

“Sire, you know whether I care about my resignation or not, since at
Blois, on the very day when you refused King Charles the million which
my friend the Comte de la Fere gave him, I then tendered my resignation
to your majesty.”

“Very well, monsieur--do it at once!”

“No, sire; for there is no question of my resignation at the present
moment. Your majesty took up your pen just now to send me to the
Bastile,--why should you change your intention?”

“D’Artagnan! Gascon that you are! who is king, allow me to ask,--you or
myself?”

“You, sire, unfortunately.”

“What do you mean by ‘unfortunately’?”

“Yes, sire; for if it were I--”

“If it were you, you would approve of M. d’Artagnan’s rebellious
conduct, I suppose?”

“Certainly.”

“Really!” said the king, shrugging his shoulders.

“And I should tell my captain of the musketeers,” continued D’Artagnan,
“I should tell him, looking at him all the while with human eyes, and
not with eyes like coals of fire, ‘M. d’Artagnan, I had forgotten that
I was the king, for I descended from my throne in order to insult a
gentleman.’”

“Monsieur,” said the king, “do you think you can excuse your friend by
exceeding him in insolence?”

“Oh! sire! I should go much further than he did,” said D’Artagnan; “and
it would be your own fault. I should tell you what he, a man full of
the finest sense of delicacy, did not tell you; I should say--‘Sire,
you have sacrificed his son, and he defended his son--you sacrificed
himself; he addressed you in the name of honor, of religion, of
virtue--you repulsed, drove him away, imprisoned him.’ I should be
harder than he was, for I should say to you--‘Sire; it is for you
to choose. Do you wish to have friends or lackeys--soldiers or
slaves--great men or mere puppets? Do you wish men to serve you, or to
bend and crouch before you? Do you wish men to love you, or to be afraid
of you? If you prefer baseness, intrigue, cowardice, say so at once,
sire, and we will leave you,--we who are the only individuals who are
left,--nay, I will say more, the only models of the valor of former
times; we who have done our duty, and have exceeded, perhaps, in courage
and in merit, the men already great for posterity. Choose, sire! and
that, too, without delay. Whatever relics remain to you of the great
nobility, guard them with a jealous eye; you will never be deficient in
courtiers. Delay not--and send me to the Bastile with my friend; for, if
you did not know how to listen to the Comte de la Fere, whose voice is
the sweetest and noblest in all the world when honor is the theme; if
you do not know how to listen to D’Artagnan, the frankest and honestest
voice of sincerity, you are a bad king, and to-morrow will be a poor
king. And learn from me, sire, that bad kings are hated by their people,
and poor kings are driven ignominiously away.’ That is what I had to say
to you, sire; you were wrong to drive me to say it.”

The king threw himself back in his chair, cold as death, and as livid as
a corpse. Had a thunderbolt fallen at his feet, he could not have been
more astonished; he seemed as if his respiration had utterly ceased,
and that he was at the point of death. The honest voice of sincerity,
as D’Artagnan had called it, had pierced through his heart like a
sword-blade.

D’Artagnan had said all he had to say. Comprehending the king’s anger,
he drew his sword, and, approaching Louis XIV. respectfully, he placed
it on the table. But the king, with a furious gesture, thrust aside
the sword, which fell on the ground and rolled to D’Artagnan’s feet.
Notwithstanding the perfect mastery which D’Artagnan exercised over
himself, he, too, in his turn, became pale, and, trembling with
indignation, said: “A king may disgrace a soldier,--he may exile him,
and may even condemn him to death; but were he a hundred times a king,
he has no right to insult him by casting a dishonor upon his sword!
Sire, a king of France has never repulsed with contempt the sword of
a man such as I am! Stained with disgrace as this sword now is, it has
henceforth no other sheath than either your heart or my own! I choose
my own, sire; and you have to thank Heaven and my own patience that I
do so.” Then snatching up his sword, he cried, “My blood be upon your
head!” and, with a rapid gesture, he placed the hilt upon the floor and
directed the point of the blade towards his breast. The king, however,
with a movement far more rapid than that of D’Artagnan, threw his right
arm around the musketeer’s neck, and with his left hand seized hold
of the blade by the middle, and returned it silently to the scabbard.
D’Artagnan, upright, pale, and still trembling, let the king do all to
the very end. Louis, overcome and softened by gentler feelings, returned
to the table, took a pen in his hand, wrote a few lines, signed them,
and then held it out to D’Artagnan.

“What is this paper, sire?” inquired the captain.

“An order for M. d’Artagnan to set the Comte de la Fere at liberty
immediately.”

D’Artagnan seized the king’s hand, and imprinted a kiss upon it; he then
folded the order, placed it in his belt, and quitted the room. Neither
the king nor the captain had uttered a syllable.

“Oh, human heart! thou guide and director of kings,” murmured Louis,
when alone, “when shall I learn to read in your inmost recesses, as in
the leaves of a book! Oh, I am not a bad king--nor am I a poor king; I am
but still a child, when all is said and done.”



Chapter LXV. Political Rivals.

D’Artagnan had promised M. de Baisemeaux to return in time for dessert,
and he kept his word. They had just reached the finer and more delicate
class of wines and liqueurs with which the governor’s cellar had the
reputation of being most admirably stocked, when the silver spurs of
the captain resounded in the corridor, and he himself appeared at the
threshold. Athos and Aramis had played a close game; neither of the two
had been able to gain the slightest advantage over the other. They had
supped, talked a good deal about the Bastile, of the last journey to
Fontainebleau, of the intended _fete_ that M. Fouquet was about to give
at Vaux; they had generalized on every possible subject; and no one,
excepting Baisemeaux, had in the slightest degree alluded to private
matters. D’Artagnan arrived in the very midst of the conversation,
still pale and much disturbed by his interview with the king. Baisemeaux
hastened to give him a chair; D’Artagnan accepted a glass of wine, and
set it down empty. Athos and Aramis both remarked his emotion; as
for Baisemeaux, he saw nothing more than the captain of the king’s
musketeers, to whom he endeavored to show every possible attention. But,
although Aramis had remarked his emotion, he had not been able to guess
the cause of it. Athos alone believed he had detected it. For him,
D’Artagnan’s return, and particularly the manner in which he, usually
so impassible, seemed overcome, signified, “I have just asked the king
something which the king has refused me.” Thoroughly convinced that his
conjecture was correct, Athos smiled, rose from the table, and made a
sign to D’Artagnan, as if to remind him that they had something else
to do than to sup together. D’Artagnan immediately understood him,
and replied by another sign. Aramis and Baisemeaux watched this silent
dialogue, and looked inquiringly at each other. Athos felt that he was
called upon to give an explanation of what was passing.

“The truth is, my friend,” said the Comte de la Fere, with a smile,
“that you, Aramis, have been supping with a state criminal, and you,
Monsieur de Baisemeaux, with your prisoner.”

Baisemeaux uttered an exclamation of surprise, and almost of delight;
for he was exceedingly proud and vain of his fortress, and for his own
individual profit, the more prisoners he had, the happier he was, and
the higher in rank the prisoners happened to be, the prouder he felt.
Aramis assumed the expression of countenance he thought the position
justified, and said, “Well, dear Athos, forgive me, but I almost
suspected what has happened. Some prank of Raoul and La Valliere, I
suppose?”

“Alas!” said Baisemeaux.

“And,” continued Aramis, “you, a high and powerful nobleman as you
are, forgetful that courtiers now exist--you have been to the king, I
suppose, and told him what you thought of his conduct?”

“Yes, you have guessed right.”

“So that,” said Baisemeaux, trembling at having supped so familiarly
with a man who had fallen into disgrace with the king; “so that,
monsieur le comte--”

“So that, my dear governor,” said Athos, “my friend D’Artagnan will
communicate to you the contents of the paper which I perceived just
peeping out of his belt, and which assuredly can be nothing else than
the order for my incarceration.”

Baisemeaux held out his hand with his accustomed eagerness. D’Artagnan
drew two papers from his belt, and presented one of them to the
governor, who unfolded it, and then read, in a low tone of voice,
looking at Athos over the paper, as he did so, and pausing from time to
time: “‘Order to detain, in my chateau of the Bastile, Monsieur le Comte
de la Fere.’ Oh, monsieur! this is indeed a very melancholy day for me.”

“You will have a patient prisoner, monsieur,” said Athos, in his calm,
soft voice.

“A prisoner, too, who will not remain a month with you, my dear
governor,” said Aramis; while Baisemeaux, still holding the order in his
hand, transcribed it upon the prison registry.

“Not a day, or rather not even a night,” said D’Artagnan, displaying the
second order of the king, “for now, dear M. de Baisemeaux, you will
have the goodness to transcribe also this order for setting the comte
immediately at liberty.”

“Ah!” said Aramis, “it is a labor that you have deprived me of,
D’Artagnan;” and he pressed the musketeer’s hand in a significant
manner, at the same moment as that of Athos.

“What!” said the latter in astonishment, “the king sets me at liberty!”

“Read, my dear friend,” returned D’Artagnan.

Athos took the order and read it. “It is quite true,” he said.

“Are you sorry for it?” asked D’Artagnan.

“Oh, no, on the contrary. I wish the king no harm; and the greatest evil
or misfortune that any one can wish kings, is that they should commit an
act of injustice. But you have had a difficult and painful task, I know.
Tell me, have you not, D’Artagnan?”

“I? not at all,” said the musketeer, laughing: “the king does everything
I wish him to do.”

Aramis looked fixedly at D’Artagnan, and saw that he was not speaking
the truth. But Baisemeaux had eyes for nothing but D’Artagnan, so great
was his admiration for a man who seemed to make the king do all he
wished.

“And does the king exile Athos?” inquired Aramis.

“No, not precisely; the king did not explain himself upon that subject,”
 replied D’Artagnan; “but I think the comte could not well do better
unless, indeed, he wishes particularly to thank the king--”

“No, indeed,” replied Athos, smiling.

“Well, then, I think,” resumed D’Artagnan, “that the comte cannot do
better than to retire to his _own_ chateau. However, my dear Athos, you
have only to speak, to tell me what you want. If any particular place
of residence is more agreeable to you than another, I am influential
enough, perhaps, to obtain it for you.”

“No, thank you,” said Athos; “nothing can be more agreeable to me, my
dear friend, than to return to my solitude beneath my noble trees on the
banks of the Loire. If Heaven be the overruling physician of the evils
of the mind, nature is a sovereign remedy. And so, monsieur,” continued
Athos, turning again towards Baisemeaux, “I am now free, I suppose?”

“Yes, monsieur le comte, I think so--at least, I hope so,” said the
governor, turning over and over the two papers in question, “unless,
however, M. d’Artagnan has a third order to give me.”

“No, my dear Baisemeaux, no,” said the musketeer; “the second is quite
enough: we will stop there--if you please.”

“Ah! monsieur le comte,” said Baisemeaux addressing Athos, “you do
not know what you are losing. I should have placed you among the
thirty-franc prisoners, like the generals--what am I saying?--I mean
among the fifty-francs, like the princes, and you would have supped
every evening as you have done to-night.”

“Allow me, monsieur,” said Athos, “to prefer my own simpler fare.” And
then, turning to D’Artagnan, he said, “Let us go, my dear friend. Shall
I have that greatest of all pleasures for me--that of having you as my
companion?”

“To the city gate only,” replied D’Artagnan, “after which I will tell
you what I told the king: ‘I am on duty.’”

“And you, my dear Aramis,” said Athos, smiling; “will you accompany me?
La Fere is on the road to Vannes.”

“Thank you, my dear friend,” said Aramis, “but I have an appointment in
Paris this evening, and I cannot leave without very serious interests
suffering by my absence.”

“In that case,” said Athos, “I must say adieu, and take my leave of you.
My dear Monsieur de Baisemeaux, I have to thank you exceedingly for
your kind and friendly disposition towards me, and particularly for
the enjoyable specimen you have given me of the ordinary fare of the
Bastile.” And, having embraced Aramis, and shaken hands with M. de
Baisemeaux, and having received best wishes for a pleasant journey from
them both, Athos set off with D’Artagnan.

Whilst the _denouement_ of the scene of the Palais Royal was taking
place at the Bastile, let us relate what was going on at the lodgings
of Athos and Bragelonne. Grimaud, as we have seen, had accompanied his
master to Paris; and, as we have said, he was present when Athos went
out; he had observed D’Artagnan gnaw the corners of his mustache; he
had seen his master get into the carriage; he had narrowly examined both
their countenances, and he had known them both for a sufficiently long
period to read and understand, through the mask of their impassibility,
that something serious was the matter. As soon as Athos had gone, he
began to reflect; he then, and then only, remembered the strange manner
in which Athos had taken leave of him, the embarrassment--imperceptible
as it would have been to any but himself--of the master whose ideas
were, to him, so clear and defined, and the expression of whose wishes
was so precise. He knew that Athos had taken nothing with him but the
clothes he had on him at the time; and yet he seemed to fancy that Athos
had not left for an hour merely; or even for a day. A long absence was
signified by the manner in which he pronounced the word “Adieu.”
 All these circumstances recurred to his mind, with feelings of deep
affection for Athos, with that horror of isolation and solitude which
invariably besets the minds of those who love; and all these combined
rendered poor Grimaud very melancholy, and particularly uneasy. Without
being able to account to himself for what he did since his master’s
departure, he wandered about the room, seeking, as it were, for some
traces of him, like a faithful dog, who is not exactly uneasy about his
absent master, but at least is restless. Only as, in addition to the
instinct of the animal, Grimaud subjoined the reasoning faculties of the
man, Grimaud therefore felt uneasy and restless too. Not having found
any indication which could serve as a guide, and having neither seen
nor discovered anything which could satisfy his doubts, Grimaud began
to wonder what could possibly have happened. Besides, imagination is
the resource, or rather the plague of gentle and affectionate hearts. In
fact, never does a feeling heart represent its absent friend to itself
as being happy or cheerful. Never does the dove that wings its flight in
search of adventures inspire anything but terror at home.

Grimaud soon passed from uneasiness to terror; he carefully went over,
in his own mind, everything that had taken place: D’Artagnan’s letter
to Athos, the letter which had seemed to distress Athos so much after
he had read it; then Raoul’s visit to Athos, which resulted in Athos
desiring him (Grimaud) to get his various orders and his court dress
ready to put on; then his interview with the king, at the end of which
Athos had returned home so unusually gloomy; then the explanation
between the father and the son, at the termination of which Athos had
embraced Raoul with such sadness of expression, while Raoul himself went
away equally weary and melancholy; and finally, D’Artagnan’s arrival,
biting, as if he were vexed, the end of his mustache, and leaving again
in the carriage, accompanied by the Comte de la Fere. All this composed
a drama in five acts very clearly, particularly for so analytical an
observer as Grimaud.

The first step he took was to search in his master’s coat for M.
d’Artagnan’s letter; he found the letter still there, and its contents
were found to run as follows:

“MY DEAR FRIEND,--Raoul has been to ask me for some particulars about
the conduct of Mademoiselle de la Valliere, during our young friend’s
residence in London. I am a poor captain of musketeers, and I am
sickened to death every day by hearing all the scandal of the barracks
and bedside conversations. If I had told Raoul all I believe, I know the
poor fellow would have died of it; but I am in the king’s service, and
cannot relate all I hear about the king’s affairs. If your heart tells
you to do it, set off at once; the matter concerns you more than it does
myself, and almost as much as Raoul.”

Grimaud tore, not a handful, but a finger-and-thumbful of hair out of
his head; he would have done more if his head of hair had been in a more
flourishing condition.

“Yes,” he said, “that is the key of the whole enigma. The young girl has
been playing her pranks; what people say about her and the king is true,
then; our young master has been deceived; he ought to know it. Monsieur
le comte has been to see the king, and has told him a piece of his mind;
and then the king sent M. d’Artagnan to arrange the affair. Ah! gracious
goodness!” continued Grimaud, “monsieur le comte, I now remember,
returned without his sword.”

This discovery made the perspiration break out all over poor Grimaud’s
face. He did not waste any more time in useless conjecture, but clapped
his hat on his head, and ran to Raoul’s lodgings.

Raoul, after Louise had left him, had mastered his grief, if not his
affection; and, compelled to look forward on that perilous road over
which madness and revulsion were hurrying him, he had seen, from the
very first glance, his father exposed to the royal obstinacy, since
Athos had himself been the first to oppose any resistance to the royal
will. At this moment, from a very natural sequence of feeling, the
unhappy young man remembered the mysterious signs which Athos had made,
and the unexpected visit of D’Artagnan; the result of the conflict
between a sovereign and a subject revealed itself to his terrified
vision. As D’Artagnan was on duty, that is, a fixture at his post
without the possibility of leaving it, it was certainly not likely that
he had come to pay Athos a visit merely for the pleasure of seeing him.
He must have come to say something to him. This something in the
midst of such painful conjectures must have been the news of either a
misfortune or a danger. Raoul trembled at having been so selfish as
to have forgotten his father for his affection; at having, in a word,
passed his time in idle dreams, or in an indulgence of despair, at a
time when a necessity existed for repelling such an imminent attack on
Athos. The very idea nearly drove him frantic; he buckled on his sword
and ran towards his father’s lodgings. On his way there he encountered
Grimaud, who, having set off from the opposite pole, was running with
equal eagerness in search of the truth. The two men embraced each other
most warmly.

“Grimaud,” exclaimed Raoul, “is the comte well?”

“Have you seen him?”

“No; where is he?”

“I am trying to find out.”

“And M. d’Artagnan?”

“Went out with him.”

“When?”

“Ten minutes after you did.”

“In what way did they go out?”

“In a carriage.”

“Where did they go?”

“I have no idea at all.”

“Did my father take any money with him?”

“No.”

“Or his sword?”

“No.”

“I have an idea, Grimaud, that M. d’Artagnan came in order to--”

“Arrest monsieur le comte, do you not think, monsieur?”

“Yes, Grimaud.”

“I could have sworn it.”

“What road did they take?”

“The way leading towards the quay.”

“To the Bastile, then?”

“Yes, yes.”

“Quick, quick; let us run.”

“Yes, let us not lose a moment.”

“But where are we to go?” said Raoul, overwhelmed.

“We will go to M. d’Artagnan’s first, we may perhaps learn something
there.”

“No; if they keep me in ignorance at my father’s, they will do the same
everywhere. Let us go to--Oh, good heavens! why, I must be mad to-day,
Grimaud; I have forgotten M. du Vallon, who is waiting for and expecting
me still.”

“Where is he, then?”

“At the Minimes of Vincennes.”

“Thank goodness, that is on the same side as the Bastile. I will run and
saddle the horses, and we will go at once,” said Grimaud.

“Do, my friend, do.”



Chapter LXVI. In Which Porthos Is Convinced without Having Understood
Anything.

The good and worthy Porthos, faithful to all the laws of ancient
chivalry, had determined to wait for M. de Saint-Aignan until sunset;
and as Saint-Aignan did not come, as Raoul had forgotten to communicate
with his second, and as he found that waiting so long was very
wearisome, Porthos had desired one of the gate-keepers to fetch him a
few bottles of good wine and a good joint of meat,--so that, at least,
he might pass away the time by means of a glass or two and a mouthful of
something to eat. He had just finished when Raoul arrived, escorted by
Grimaud, both of them riding at full speed. As soon as Porthos saw the
two cavaliers riding at such a pace along the road, he did not for a
moment doubt but that they were the men he was expecting, and he rose
from the grass upon which he had been indolently reclining and began to
stretch his legs and arms, saying, “See what it is to have good habits.
The fellow has finished by coming, after all. If I had gone away he
would have found no one here and would have taken advantage of that.” He
then threw himself into a martial attitude, and drew himself up to the
full height of his gigantic stature. But instead of Saint-Aignan, he
only saw Raoul, who, with the most despairing gestures, accosted him by
crying out, “Pray forgive me, my dear friend, I am most wretched.”

“Raoul!” cried Porthos, surprised.

“You have been angry with me?” said Raoul, embracing Porthos.

“I? What for?”

“For having forgotten you. But I assure you my head seems utterly lost.
If you only knew!”

“You have killed him?”

“Who?”

“Saint-Aignan; or, if that is not the case, what is the matter?”

“The matter is, that Monsieur le Comte de la Fere has by this time been
arrested.”

Porthos gave a start that would have thrown down a wall.

“Arrested!” he cried out; “by whom?”

“By D’Artagnan.”

“It is impossible,” said Porthos.

“My dear friend, it is perfectly true.”

Porthos turned towards Grimaud, as if he needed a second confirmation of
the intelligence.

Grimaud nodded his head. “And where have they taken him?”

“Probably to the Bastile.”

“What makes you think that?”

“As we came along we questioned some persons, who saw the carriage pass;
and others who saw it enter the Bastile.”

“Oh!” muttered Porthos.

“What do you intend to do?” inquired Raoul.

“I? Nothing; only I will not have Athos remain at the Bastile.”

“Do you know,” said Raoul, advancing nearer to Porthos, “that the arrest
was made by order of the king?”

Porthos looked at the young man, as if to say, “What does that matter to
me?” This dumb language seemed so eloquent of meaning to Raoul that he
did not ask any other question. He mounted his horse again; and Porthos,
assisted by Grimaud, had already done the same.

“Let us arrange our plan of action,” said Raoul.

“Yes,” returned Porthos, “that is the best thing we can do.”

Raoul sighed deeply, and then paused suddenly.

“What is the matter?” asked Porthos; “are you faint?”

“No, only I feel how utterly helpless our position is. Can we three
pretend to go and take the Bastile?”

“Well, if D’Artagnan were only here,” replied Porthos, “I am not so very
certain we would fail.”

Raoul could not resist a feeling of admiration at the sight of such
perfect confidence, heroic in its simplicity. These were truly the
celebrated men who, by three or four, attacked armies and assaulted
castles! Men who had terrified death itself, who had survived the wrecks
of a tempestuous age, and still stood, stronger than the most robust of
the young.

“Monsieur,” said he to Porthos, “you have just given me an idea; we
absolutely must see M. d’Artagnan.”

“Undoubtedly.”

“He ought by this time to have returned home, after having taken my
father to the Bastile. Let us go to his house.”

“First inquire at the Bastile,” said Grimaud, who was in the habit of
speaking little, but that to the purpose.

Accordingly, they hastened towards the fortress, when one of those
chances which Heaven bestows on men of strong will caused Grimaud
suddenly to perceive the carriage, which was entering by the great gate
of the drawbridge. This was the moment that D’Artagnan was, as we have
seen, returning from his visit to the king. In vain was it that Raoul
urged on his horse in order to join the carriage, and to see whom it
contained. The horses had already gained the other side of the great
gate, which again closed, while one of the sentries struck the nose of
Raoul’s horse with his musket; Raoul turned about, only too happy to
find he had ascertained something respecting the carriage which had
contained his father.

“We have him,” said Grimaud.

“If we wait a little it is certain he will leave; don’t you think so, my
friend?”

“Unless, indeed, D’Artagnan also be a prisoner,” replied Porthos, “in
which case everything is lost.”

Raoul returned no answer, for any hypothesis was admissible.
He instructed Grimaud to lead the horses to the little street
Jean-Beausire, so as to give rise to less suspicion, and himself with
his piercing gaze watched for the exit either of D’Artagnan or the
carriage. Nor had he decided wrongly; for twenty minutes had not elapsed
before the gate reopened and the carriage reappeared. A dazzling of
the eyes prevented Raoul from distinguishing what figures occupied the
interior. Grimaud averred that he had seen two persons, and that one of
them was his master. Porthos kept looking at Raoul and Grimaud by turns,
in the hope of understanding their idea.

“It is clear,” said Grimaud, “that if the comte is in the carriage,
either he is set at liberty or they are taking him to another prison.”

“We shall soon see that by the road he takes,” answered Porthos.

“If he is set at liberty,” said Grimaud, “they will conduct him home.”

“True,” rejoined Porthos.

“The carriage does not take that way,” cried Raoul; and indeed the
horses were just disappearing down the Faubourg St. Antoine.

“Let us hasten,” said Porthos; “we will attack the carriage on the road
and tell Athos to flee.”

“Rebellion,” murmured Raoul.

Porthos darted a second glance at Raoul, quite worthy of the first.
Raoul replied only by spurring the flanks of his steed. In a few moments
the three cavaliers had overtaken the carriage, and followed it so
closely that their horses’ breath moistened the back of it. D’Artagnan,
whose senses were ever on the alert, heard the trot of the horses, at
the moment when Raoul was telling Porthos to pass the chariot, so as to
see who was the person accompanying Athos. Porthos complied, but could
not see anything, for the blinds were lowered. Rage and impatience were
gaining mastery over Raoul. He had just noticed the mystery preserved by
Athos’s companion, and determined on proceeding to extremities. On his
part D’Artagnan had perfectly recognized Porthos, and Raoul also, from
under the blinds, and had communicated to the comte the result of his
observation. They were desirous only of seeing whether Raoul and Porthos
would push the affair to the uttermost. And this they speedily did, for
Raoul, presenting his pistol, threw himself on the leader, commanding
the coachmen to stop. Porthos seized the coachman, and dragged him from
his seat. Grimaud already had hold of the carriage door. Raoul threw
open his arms, exclaiming, “M. le comte! M. le comte!”

“Ah! is it you, Raoul?” said Athos, intoxicated with joy.

“Not bad, indeed!” added D’Artagnan, with a burst of laughter, and they
both embraced the young man and Porthos, who had taken possession of
them.

“My brave Porthos! best of friends,” cried Athos, “it is still the same
old way with you.”

“He is still only twenty,” said D’Artagnan, “brave Porthos!”

“Confound it,” answered Porthos, slightly confused, “we thought that you
were being arrested.”

“While,” rejoined Athos, “the matter in question was nothing but my
taking a drive in M. d’Artagnan’s carriage.”

“But we followed you from the Bastile,” returned Raoul, with a tone of
suspicion and reproach.

“Where we had been to take supper with our friend M. Baisemeaux. Do you
recollect Baisemeaux, Porthos?”

“Very well, indeed.”

“And there we saw Aramis.”

“In the Bastile?”

“At supper.”

“Ah!” said Porthos, again breathing freely.

“He gave us a thousand messages to you.”

“And where is M. le comte going?” asked Grimaud, already recompensed by
a smile from his master.

“We were going home to Blois.”

“How can that be?”

“At once?” said Raoul.

“Yes, right forward.”

“Without any luggage?”

“Oh! Raoul would have been instructed to forward me mine, or to bring it
with him on his return, _if_ he returns.”

“If nothing detains him longer in Paris,” said D’Artagnan, with a glance
firm and cutting as steel, and as painful (for it reopened the poor
young fellow’s wounds), “he will do well to follow you, Athos.”

“There is nothing to keep me any longer in Paris,” said Raoul.

“Then we will go immediately.”

“And M. d’Artagnan?”

“Oh! as for me, I was only accompanying Athos as far as the barrier, and
I return with Porthos.”

“Very good,” said the latter.

“Come, my son,” added the comte, gently passing his arm around Raoul’s
neck to draw him into the carriage, and again embracing him. “Grimaud,”
 continued the comte, “you will return quietly to Paris with your horse
and M. du Vallon’s, for Raoul and I will mount here and give up the
carriage to these two gentlemen to return to Paris in; and then, as
soon as you arrive, you will take my clothes and letters and forward the
whole to me at home.”

“But,” observed Raoul, who was anxious to make the comte converse,
“when you return to Paris, there will not be a single thing there for
you--which will be very inconvenient.”

“I think it will be a very long time, Raoul, ere I return to Paris. The
last sojourn we have made there has not been of a nature to encourage me
to repeat it.”

Raoul hung down his head and said not a word more. Athos descended from
the carriage and mounted the horse which had brought Porthos, and
which seemed no little pleased at the exchange. Then they embraced,
and clasped each other’s hands, and interchanged a thousand pledges of
eternal friendship. Porthos promised to spend a month with Athos at the
first opportunity. D’Artagnan engaged to take advantage of his first
leave of absence; and then, having embraced Raoul for the last time: “To
you, my boy,” said he, “I will write.” Coming from D’Artagnan, who he
knew wrote very seldom, these words expressed everything. Raoul was
moved even to tears. He tore himself away from the musketeer and
departed.

D’Artagnan rejoined Porthos in the carriage: “Well,” said he, “my dear
friend, what a day we have had!”

“Indeed we have,” answered Porthos.

“You must be quite worn out.”

“Not quite; however, I shall retire early to rest, so as to be ready for
to-morrow.”

“And wherefore?”

“Why! to complete what I have begun.”

“You make me shudder, my friend, you seem to me quite angry. What the
devil _have_ you begun which is not finished?”

“Listen; Raoul has not fought, but _I_ must fight!”

“With whom? with the king?”

“How!” exclaimed Porthos, astounded, “with the king?”

“Yes, I say, you great baby, with the king.”

“I assure you it is with M. Saint-Aignan.”

“Look now, this is what I mean; you draw your sword against the king in
fighting with this gentleman.”

“Ah!” said Porthos, staring; “are you sure of it?”

“Indeed I am.”

“What in the world are we to do, then?”

“We must try and make a good supper, Porthos. The captain of the
musketeers keeps a tolerable table. There you will see the handsome
Saint-Aignan, and will drink his health.”

“I?” cried Porthos, horrified.

“What!” said D’Artagnan, “you refuse to drink the king’s health?”

“But, body alive! I am not talking to you about the king at all; I am
speaking of M. de Saint-Aignan.”

“But when I repeat that it is the same thing?”

“Ah, well, well!” said Porthos, overcome.

“You understand, don’t you?”

“No,” answered Porthos, “but ‘tis all the same.”



Chapter LXVII. M. de Baisemeaux’s “Society.”

The reader has not forgotten that, on quitting the Bastile, D’Artagnan
and the Comte de la Fere had left Aramis in close confabulation with
Baisemeaux. When once these two guests had departed, Baisemeaux did not
in the least perceive that the conversation suffered by their absence.
He used to think that wine after supper, and that of the Bastile
in particular, was excellent, and that it was a stimulation quite
sufficient to make any honest man talkative. But he little knew
his Greatness, who was never more impenetrable than at dessert. His
Greatness, however, perfectly understood M. de Baisemeaux, when he
reckoned on making the governor discourse by the means which the latter
regarded as efficacious. The conversation, therefore, without flagging
in appearance, flagged in reality; for Baisemeaux not only had it nearly
all to himself, but further, kept speaking only of that singular event,
the incarceration of Athos, followed by so prompt an order to set him
again at liberty. Nor, moreover, had Baisemeaux failed to observe that
the two orders of arrest and of liberation, were both in the king’s
hand. But then, the king would not take the trouble to write similar
orders except under pressing circumstances. All this was very
interesting, and, above all, very puzzling to Baisemeaux; but as, on the
other hand, all this was very clear to Aramis, the latter did not
attach to the occurrence the same importance as did the worthy governor.
Besides, Aramis rarely put himself out of the way for anything, and he
had not yet told M. de Baisemeaux for what reason he had now done so.
And so at the very climax of Baisemeaux’s dissertation, Aramis suddenly
interrupted him.

“Tell me, my dear Baisemeaux,” said he, “have you never had any other
diversions at the Bastile than those at which I assisted during the two
or three visits I have had the honor to pay you?”

This address was so unexpected that the governor, like a vane which
suddenly receives an impulsion opposed to that of the wind, was quite
dumbfounded at it. “Diversions!” said he; “but I take them continually,
monseigneur.”

“Oh, to be sure! And these diversions?”

“Are of every kind.”

“Visits, no doubt?”

“No, not visits. Visits are not frequent at the Bastile.”

“What, are visits rare, then?”

“Very much so.”

“Even on the part of your society?”

“What do you term my society--the prisoners?”

“Oh, no!--your prisoners, indeed! I know well it is you who visit them,
and not they you. By your society, I mean, my dear Baisemeaux, the
society of which you are a member.”

Baisemeaux looked fixedly at Aramis, and then, as if the idea which had
flashed across his mind were impossible, “Oh,” he said, “I have very
little society at present. If I must own it to you, dear M. d’Herblay,
the fact is, to stay at the Bastile appears, for the most part,
distressing and distasteful to persons of the gay world. As for the
ladies, it is never without a certain dread, which costs me infinite
trouble to allay, that they succeed in reaching my quarters. And,
indeed, how should they avoid trembling a little, poor things, when
they see those gloomy dungeons, and reflect that they are inhabited
by prisoners who--” And in proportion as the eyes of Baisemeaux
concentrated their gaze on the face of Aramis, the worthy governor’s
tongue faltered more and more until it ended by stopping altogether.

“No, you don’t understand me, my dear M. Baisemeaux; you don’t
understand me. I do not at all mean to speak of society in general, but
of a particular society--of _the_ society, in a word--to which you are
affiliated.”

Baisemeaux nearly dropped the glass of muscat which he was in the act of
raising to his lips. “Affiliated,” cried he, “affiliated!”

“Yes, affiliated, undoubtedly,” repeated Aramis, with the greatest
self-possession. “Are you not a member of a secret society, my dear M.
Baisemeaux?”

“Secret?”

“Secret or mysterious.”

“Oh, M. d’Herblay!”

“Consider, now, don’t deny it.”

“But believe me.”

“I believe what I know.”

“I swear to you.”

“Listen to me, my dear M. Baisemeaux; I say yes, you say no; one of us
two necessarily says what is true, and the other, it inevitably follows,
what is false.”

“Well, and then?”

“Well, we shall come to an understanding presently.”

“Let us see,” said Baisemeaux; “let us see.”

“Now drink your glass of muscat, dear Monsieur de Baisemeaux,” said
Aramis. “What the devil! you look quite scared.”

“No, no; not the least in the world; oh, no.”

“Drink then.” Baisemeaux drank, but he swallowed the wrong way.

“Well,” resumed Aramis, “if, I say, you are not a member of a secret
or mysterious society, which you like to call it--the epithet is of no
consequence--if, I say, you are not a member of a society similar to
that I wish to designate, well, then, you will not understand a word of
what I am going to say. That is all.”

“Oh! be sure beforehand that I shall not understand anything.”

“Well, well!”

“Try, now; let us see!”

“That is what I am going to do.”

“If, on the contrary, you are one of the members of this society, you
will immediately answer me--yes or no.”

“Begin your questions,” continued Baisemeaux, trembling.

“You will agree, dear Monsieur de Baisemeaux,” continued Aramis, with
the same impassibility, “that it is evident a man cannot be a member of
a society, it is evident that he cannot enjoy the advantages it offers
to the affiliated, without being himself bound to certain little
services.”

“In short,” stammered Baisemeaux, “that would be intelligible, if--”

“Well,” resumed Aramis, “there is in the society of which I speak, and
of which, as it seems you are not a member--”

“Allow me,” said Baisemeaux. “I should not like to say absolutely.”

“There is an engagement entered into by all the governors and captains
of fortresses affiliated to the order.” Baisemeaux grew pale.

“Now the engagement,” continued Aramis firmly, “is of this nature.”

Baisemeaux rose, manifesting unspeakable emotion: “Go on, dear M.
d’Herblay: go on,” said he.

Aramis then spoke, or rather recited the following paragraph, in the
same tone as if he had been reading it from a book: “The aforesaid
captain or governor of a fortress shall allow to enter, when need shall
arise, and on demand of the prisoner, a confessor affiliated to the
order.” He stopped. Baisemeaux was quite distressing to look at,
being so wretchedly pale and trembling. “Is not that the text of the
agreement?” quietly asked Aramis.

“Monseigneur!” began Baisemeaux.

“Ah! well, you begin to understand, I think.”

“Monseigneur,” cried Baisemeaux, “do not trifle so with my unhappy mind!
I find myself as nothing in your hands, if you have the malignant desire
to draw from me the little secrets of my administration.”

“Oh! by no means; pray undeceive yourself, dear M. Baisemeaux; it is not
the little secrets of your administration, but those of your conscience
that I aim at.”

“Well, then, my conscience be it, dear M. d’Herblay. But have some
consideration for the situation I am in, which is no ordinary one.”

“It is no ordinary one, my dear monsieur,” continued the inflexible
Aramis, “if you are a member of this society; but it is a quite natural
one if free from all engagement. You are answerable only to the king.”

“Well, monsieur, well! I obey only the king, and whom else would you
have a French nobleman obey?”

Aramis did not yield an inch, but with that silvery voice of his
continued: “It is very pleasant,” said he, “for a French nobleman, for
a prelate of France, to hear a man of your mark express himself so
loyally, dear De Baisemeaux, and having heard you to believe no more
than you do.”

“Have you doubted, monsieur?”

“I? oh, no!”

“And so you doubt no longer?”

“I have no longer any doubt that such a man as you, monsieur,” said
Aramis, gravely, “does not faithfully serve the masters whom he
voluntarily chose for himself.”

“Masters!” cried Baisemeaux.

“Yes, masters, I said.”

“Monsieur d’Herblay, you are still jesting, are you not?”

“Oh, yes! I understand that it is a more difficult position to have
several masters than one; but the embarrassment is owing to you, my dear
Baisemeaux, and I am not the cause of it.”

“Certainly not,” returned the unfortunate governor, more embarrassed
than ever; “but what are you doing? You are leaving the table?”

“Assuredly.”

“Are you going?”

“Yes, I am going.”

“But you are behaving very strangely towards me, monseigneur.”

“I am behaving strangely--how do you make that out?”

“Have you sworn, then, to put me to the torture?”

“No, I should be sorry to do so.”

“Remain, then.”

“I cannot.”

“And why?”

“Because I have no longer anything to do here; and, indeed, I have
duties to fulfil elsewhere.”

“Duties, so late as this?”

“Yes; understand me now, my dear De Baisemeaux: they told me at the
place whence I came, ‘The aforesaid governor or captain will allow
to enter, as need shall arise, on the prisoner’s demand, a confessor
affiliated with the order.’ I came; you do not know what I mean, and so
I shall return to tell them that they are mistaken, and that they must
send me elsewhere.”

“What! you are--” cried Baisemeaux, looking at Aramis almost in terror.

“The confessor affiliated to the order,” said Aramis, without changing
his voice.

But, gentle as the words were, they had the same effect on the unhappy
governor as a clap of thunder. Baisemeaux became livid, and it seemed to
him as if Aramis’s beaming eyes were two forks of flame, piercing to
the very bottom of his soul. “The confessor!” murmured he; “you,
monseigneur, the confessor of the order!”

“Yes, I; but we have nothing to unravel together, seeing that you are
not one of the affiliated.”

“Monseigneur!”

“And I understand that, not being so, you refuse to comply with its
command.”

“Monseigneur, I beseech you, condescend to hear me.”

“And wherefore?”

“Monseigneur, I do not say that I have nothing to do with the society.”

“Ah! ah!”

“I say not that I refuse to obey.”

“Nevertheless, M. de Baisemeaux, what has passed wears very much the air
of resistance.”

“Oh, no! monseigneur, no; I only wished to be certain.”

“To be certain of what?” said Aramis, in a tone of supreme contempt.

“Of nothing at all, monseigneur.” Baisemeaux lowered his voice, and
bending before the prelate, said, “I am at all times and in all places
at the disposal of my superiors, but--”

“Very good. I like you better thus, monsieur,” said Aramis, as he
resumed his seat, and put out his glass to Baisemeaux, whose hand
trembled so that he could not fill it. “You were saying ‘but’--”
 continued Aramis.

“But,” replied the unhappy man, “having received no notice, I was very
far from expecting it.”

“Does not the Gospel say, ‘Watch, for the moment is known only of God?’
Do not the rules of the order say, ‘Watch, for that which I will, you
ought always to will also.’ And what pretext will serve you now that you
did not expect the confessor, M. de Baisemeaux?”

“Because, monseigneur, there is at present in the Bastile no prisoner
ill.”

Aramis shrugged his shoulders. “What do you know about that?” said he.

“But, nevertheless, it appears to me--”

“M. de Baisemeaux,” said Aramis, turning round in his chair, “here is
your servant, who wishes to speak with you;” and at this moment, De
Baisemeaux’s servant appeared at the threshold of the door.

“What is it?” asked Baisemeaux, sharply.

“Monsieur,” said the man, “they are bringing you the doctor’s return.”

Aramis looked at De Baisemeaux with a calm and confident eye.

“Well,” said he, “let the messenger enter.”

The messenger entered, saluted, and handed in the report. Baisemeaux
ran his eye over it, and raising his head, said in surprise, “No. 12 is
ill!”

“How was it, then,” said Aramis, carelessly, “that you told me everybody
was well in your hotel, M. de Baisemeaux?” And he emptied his glass
without removing his eyes from Baisemeaux.

The governor then made a sign to the messenger, and when he had quitted
the room, said, still trembling, “I think that there is in the article,
‘on the prisoner’s demand.’”

“Yes, it is so,” answered Aramis. “But see what it is they want with you
now.”

And that moment a sergeant put his head in at the door. “What do you
want now?” cried Baisemeaux. “Can you not leave me in peace for ten
minutes?”

“Monsieur,” said the sergeant, “the sick man, No. 12, has commissioned
the turnkey to request you to send him a confessor.”

Baisemeaux very nearly sank on the floor; but Aramis disdained to
reassure him, just as he had disdained to terrify him. “What must I
answer?” inquired Baisemeaux.

“Just what you please,” replied Aramis, compressing his lips; “that is
your business. _I_ am not the governor of the Bastile.”

“Tell the prisoner,” cried Baisemeaux, quickly,--“tell the prisoner that
his request is granted.” The sergeant left the room. “Oh! monseigneur,
monseigneur,” murmured Baisemeaux, “how could I have suspected!--how
could I have foreseen this!”

“Who requested you to suspect, and who besought you to foresee?”
 contemptuously answered Aramis. “The order suspects; the order knows;
the order foresees--is that not enough?”

“What is it you command?” added Baisemeaux.

“I?--nothing at all. I am nothing but a poor priest, a simple confessor.
Have I your orders to go and see the sufferer?”

“Oh, monseigneur, I do not order; I pray you to go.”

“‘Tis well; conduct me to him.”

End of Louise de la Valliere. The last text in the series is The Man in
the Iron Mask.



Footnotes:

[Footnote 1: “To err is human.”]

[Footnote 2: Potatoes were not grown in France at that time. La Siecle insists
that the error is theirs, and that Dumas meant “tomatoes.”]

[Footnote 3: In the five-volume edition, Volume 3 ends here.]

[Footnote 4: “In your house.”]

[Footnote 5: This alternate translation of the verse in this chapter:

     “Oh! you who sadly are wandering alone,
     Come, come, and laugh with us.”

    ---is closer to the original meaning.]

[Footnote 6: Marie de Mancini was a former love of the king’s. He had to abandon
her for the political advantages which the marriage to the Spanish
Infanta, Maria Theresa, afforded. See The Vicomte de Bragelonne, Chapter
XIII.]

[Footnote 7: “[A sun] not eclipsed by many suns.” Louis’s device was the sun.]

[Footnote 8: In the three-volume edition, Volume 2, entitled Louise de la
Valliere, ends here.]

[Footnote 9: “To what heights may he not aspire?” Fouquet’s motto.]

[Footnote 10: “A creature rare on earth.”]

[Footnote 11: “With an eye always to the climax.”]





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Louise de la Valliere" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home