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Louise de la Valliere
by Alexandre Dumas

Chapter I:
Malaga.

During all these long and noisy debates between the opposite ambitions of
politics and loveone of our charactersperhaps the one least deserving
of neglectwashoweververy much neglectedvery much forgottenand
exceedingly unhappy. In factD'Artagnan - D'Artagnanwe sayfor we
must call him by his nameto remind our readers of his existence D'Artagnan
we repeathad absolutely nothing whatever to doamidst
these brilliant butterflies of fashion. After following the king during
two whole days at Fontainebleauand critically observing the various
pastoral fancies and heroi-comic transformations of his sovereignthe
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 quietsarcastic tonesWhy, 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: andwhether agreeable or not
the inquirer was obliged to be satisfied with it. Whenever any one asked
himHow do you intend to dress yourself this evening?he repliedI
shall undress myself;at which the ladies all laughedand a few of them
blushed. But after a couple of days passed in this mannerthe
musketeerperceiving that nothing serious was likely to arise which
would concern himand that the king had completelyorat least
appeared to have completely forgotten ParisSaint-Mandeand Belle-Isle
- that M. Colbert's mind was occupied with illuminations and fireworks that
for the next monthat leastthe ladies had plenty of glances to
bestowand 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 requesthis majesty was on the point of going to
bedquite exhausted from dancing.

You wish to leave me, Monsieur d'Artagnan?inquired the kingwith 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'ArtagnanI 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 kinggravelypeople dance
without balancing-poles.

Ah! indeed,said the musketeercontinuing his imperceptible tone of
ironyI 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 kingand he granted him leave of absence.


We shall not look for D'Artagnanthereforeat Fontainebleaufor to do
so would be useless; butwith the permission of our readersfollow him
to the Rue des Lombardswhere he was located at the sign of the Pilon
d'Orin the house of our old friend Planchet. It was about eight
o'clock in the eveningand the weather was exceedingly warm; there was
only one window openand that one belonging to a room on the
_entresol_. A perfume of spicesmingled with another perfume less
exoticbut more penetratingnamelythat which arose from the street
ascended to salute the nostrils of the musketeer. D'Artagnanreclining
in an immense straight-backed chairwith his legs not stretched outbut
simply placed upon a stoolformed an angle of the most obtuse form that
could possibly be seen. Both his arms were crossed over his headhis
head reclining upon his left shoulderlike Alexander the Great. His
eyesusually so quick and intelligent in their expressionwere now halfclosed
and seemed fastenedas it wereupon a small corner of blue sky
that was visible behind the opening of the chimneys; there was just
enough blueand no moreto fill one of the sacks of lentilsor
haricotswhich formed the principal furniture of the shop on the ground
floor. Thus extended at his easeand sheltered in his place of
observation behind the windowD'Artagnan seemed as if he had ceased to
be a soldieras if he were no longer an officer belonging to the palace
but wason the contrarya quieteasy-going citizen in a state of
stagnation between his dinner and supperor between his supper and his
bed; one of those strongossified brainswhich have no more room for a
single ideaso fiercely does animal matter keep watch at the doors of
intelligencenarrowly 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 inthe shops were being lightedwhile
the windows of the upper apartments were being closedand the rhythmic
steps of a patrol of soldiers forming the night watch could be heard
retreating. D'Artagnan continuedhoweverto think of nothingexcept
the blue corner of the sky. A few paces from himcompletely in the
shadelying on his stomachupon a sack of Indian cornwas Planchet
with both his arms under his chinand his eyes fixed on D'Artagnanwho
was either thinkingdreamingor sleepingwith his eyes open. Planchet
had been watching him for a tolerably long timeandby way of
interruptionhe began by exclaimingHum! 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 subjectthe
most ingenious means that suggested itself to him under the present
circumstanceswas to let himself roll off the sack on to the floor
murmuringat the same timeagainst himselfthe word "stupid." But
notwithstanding the noise produced by Planchet's fallD'Artagnanwho
had in the course of his existence heard many otherand very different
fallsdid not appear to pay the least attention to the present one.
Besidesan enormous cartladen with stonespassing from the Rue Saint-
Medericabsorbedin the noise of its wheelsthe noise of Planchet's
tumble. And yet Planchet fancied thatin token of tacit approvalhe
saw him imperceptibly smile at the word "stupid." This emboldened him to
sayAre you asleep, Monsieur d'Artagnan?

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

I am in despair,said Planchetto 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'ArtagnanI 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 passbut as for the last propositionthat it is 'better to be dead
than alive' it isin my opinionvery absurdmy own undoubted
preference being for my bed; and if you are not of my opinionit is
simplyas I have already had the honor of telling youbecause 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 Planchetuneasily.
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 grocerif 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'Artagnanyou 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 Planchetyou 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'Artagnanstriking his chest which sounded like an empty

cuirassit is impossible, Planchet.
Ah!said Planchetslightly 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'Artagnanstarting 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 hadduring this second outburst of Planchet'sso placed
himself as not to lose a single look of his face; that ishe sat with
both his hands resting on both his kneesand his head stretched out
towards the grocer. "Comeexplain yourself he said, and tell me how
you could possibly utter such a blasphemy. M. d'Herblayyour old
mastermy friendan ecclesiastica musketeer turned bishop - do you
mean to say you would raise your sword against himPlanchet?"

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'Artagnanuneasily.

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; andas he pronounced these wordshe winked his eye with a
cunning expressionwhich 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 grocerrubbing his hands together.

D'Artagnan crossed one leg over the otherand saidPlanchet, my
friend, I am unnerved with extreme surprise; for you are revealing
yourself to me under a perfectly new light.

Planchetflattered in the highest degree by this remarkcontinued to
rub his hands very hard together. "Ahah he said, because I happen
to be only slowyou think meperhapsa positive fool."

Very good, Planchet; very well reasoned.

Follow my idea, monsieur, if you please. I said to myself,continued


Planchetthat, 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 heave 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 musketeerthat 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'Artagnanreally fidgety with curiosityupon 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 PlanchetI 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 cornstretching
himselfand making all his bones crackone after the otherwith a sort
of harmony.

Planchet! Planchet!exclaimed D'ArtagnanI 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'Artagnanand
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-nightand went down to his back shopwhich he used as a
bedroom. D'Artagnan resumed his original position upon his chairand
his browwhich had been unruffled for a momentbecame 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. Yesyesthose three points include
everything: Firstto ascertain what Baisemeaux wanted with Aramis;
secondlyto 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. Sincetherefore continued D'Artagnan, our friends tell us
nothingwe 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'Artagnanfaithful to his planwent 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 upthe staircases scraped and
cleaned; and the jailers seemed to be carefully engaged in polishing the
very keys. As for the soldiers belonging to the garrisonthey were
walking about in different courtyardsunder the pretense that they were
clean enough. The governorBaisemeauxreceived D'Artagnan with more
than ordinary politenessbut he behaved towards him with so marked a
reserve of mannerthat all D'Artagnan's tact and cleverness could not
get a syllable out of him. The more he kept himself within boundsthe
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'Artagnanand had rendered him expansivenotwithstanding
what had passed on that eveningBaisemeaux pretended that he had some
orders to give in the prisonand left D'Artagnan so long alone waiting
for himthat our musketeerfeeling sure that he should not get another
syllable out of himleft the Bastile without waiting until Baisemeaux
returned from his inspection. But D'Artagnan's suspicions were aroused
and when once that was the caseD'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 impatienceat 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 is place of observationand neither hunger nor thirst
can draw it from its meditations. D'Artagnanwho was burning with
impatiencesuddenly threw aside the feelinglike a cloak which he felt
too heavy on his shouldersand said to himself that that which they were
concealing from him was the very thing it was important he should know;
andconsequentlyhe reasoned that Baisemeaux would not fail to put
Aramis on his guardif Aramis had given him any particular
recommendationand this wasin factthe very thing that happened.


Baisemeaux had hardly had time to return from the donjonthan D'Artagnan
placed himself in ambuscade close to the Rue de Petit-Muscso 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 mustfirst of
all he thought, see the fellow's face. A man seen is a man judged."
D'Artagnan increased his paceandwhich was not very difficultby the
bysoon got in advance of the soldier. Not only did he observe that his



face showed a tolerable amount of intelligence and resolutionbut he
noticed also that his nose was a little red. "He has a weakness for
brandyI 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.

Goodhe 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 seizedand his
letter with him. I could easily get assistance at the very first guardhouse;
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 drinkhis suspicions would
be roused; and besideshe 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 devilmake him draw his sword and
kill him for the sake of his letter? No harm in thatif it were a
question of a letter from a queen to a noblemanor 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? Nono
indeed; not even ten crowns." As he philosophized in this mannerbiting
first his nailsand then his mustacheshe perceived a group of archers
and a commissary of the police engaged in carrying away a man of very
gentlemanly exteriorwho was struggling with all his might against
them. The archers had torn his clothesand were dragging him roughly
away. He begged they would lead him along more respectfullyasserting
that he was a gentleman and a soldier. And observing our soldier walking
in the streethe called outHelp, comrade.

The soldier walked on with the same step towards the man who had called
out to himfollowed by the crowd. An idea suddenly occurred to
D'Artagnan; it was his first oneand 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 thiefwhen the truth was he was
only there as a lover; and while the soldier was pitying himand
offering him consolation and advice with that gravity which a French
soldier has always ready whenever his vanity or his _esprit de corps_ is
concernedD'Artagnan glided behind the soldierwho was closely hemmed
in by the crowdand with a rapid sweeplike a sabre slashsnatched the
letter from his belt. As at this moment the gentleman with the torn
clothes was pulling about the soldierto show how the commissary of
police had pulled him aboutD'Artagnan effected his pillage of the
letter without the slightest interference. He stationed himself about
ten paces distantbehind the pillar of an adjoining houseand read on
the addressTo Monsieur du Vallon, at Monsieur Fouquet's, Saint-Mande.

Good!he saidand then he unsealedwithout tearing the letterdrew
out the paperwhich was folded in fourfrom 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 musketeerwhat 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 soldierand went on their way with the prisonerthe latter being
still surrounded by the crowdand continuing his complaints. D'Artagnan
advanced into the very middle of the crowdlet the letter fallwithout
any one having observed himand then retreated rapidly. The soldier
resumed his route towards Saint-Mandehis mind occupied with the
gentleman who had implored his protection. Suddenly he thought of his
letterandlooking at his beltsaw that it was no longer there.
D'Artagnan derived no little satisfaction from his suddenterrified
cry. The poor soldier in the greatest anguish of mind looked round him
on every sideand at lastabout twenty paces behind himhe perceived
the lucky envelope. He pounced on it like a falcon on its prey. The
envelope was certainly a little dirtyand rather crumpledbut at all
events the letter itself was found. D'Artagnan observed that the broken
seal attracted the soldier's attention a good dealbut he finished
apparently by consoling himselfand returned the letter to his belt.
Go on,said D'ArtagnanI 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 soldierhe 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 hadaccording to his usual stylecalculated that every hour
is worth sixty minutesand every minute worth sixty seconds. Thanks to
this perfectly exact calculation of minutes and secondshe reached the
superintendent's door at the very moment the soldier was leaving it with
his belt empty. D'Artagnan presented himself at the doorwhich a porter
with a profusely embroidered livery held half opened for him. D'Artagnan
would very much have liked to enter without giving his namebut this was
impossibleand so he gave it. Notwithstanding this concessionwhich
ought to have removed every difficulty in the wayat least D'Artagnan
thought sothe _concierge_ hesitated; howeverat the second repetition
of the titlecaptain of the king's guardsthe _concierge_without
quite leaving the passage clear for himceased to bar it completely.
D'Artagnan understood that orders of the most positive character had
been given. He decidedthereforeto tell a falsehood- a
circumstancemoreoverwhich did not seriously affect his peace of mind
when he saw that beyond the falsehood the safety of the state itselfor
even purely and simply his own individual personal interestmight be at
stake. He moreover added to the declarations he had already madethat
the soldier sent to M. du Vallon was his own messengerand that the only
object that letter had in view was to announce his intended arrival.
From that momentno one opposed D'Artagnan's entrance any furtherand
he entered accordingly. A valet wished to accompany himbut he answered
that it was useless to take that trouble on his accountinasmuch as he
knew perfectly well where M. du Vallon was. There was nothingof
courseto say to a man so thoroughly and completely informed on all
pointsand D'Artagnan was permittedthereforeto do as he liked. The
terracesthe magnificent apartmentsthe gardenswere all reviewed and
narrowly inspected by the musketeer. He walked for a quarter of an hour
in this more than royal residencewhich included as many wonders as
articles of furnitureand 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 wallwhich was covered with a profusion of thick
plantsluxuriant 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
peplumwith its thicksinuous folds; agile nymphscovered with their
marble veilsand guarding the palace with their fugitive glances. A
statue of Hermeswith his finger on his lips; one of Iriswith extended
wings; another of Nightsprinkled all over with poppiesdominated the
gardens and outbuildingswhich could be seen through the trees. All
these statues threw in white relief their profiles upon the dark ground
of the tall cypresseswhich darted their somber summits towards the
sky. Around these cypresses were entwined climbing roseswhose
flowering rings were fastened to every fork of the branchesand spread
over the lower boughs and the various statuesshowers 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 dreamyalmost
poeticalframe of mind. The idea that Porthos was living in so perfect
an Eden gave him a higher idea of Porthosshowing how tremendously true
it isthat even the very highest orders of minds are not quite exempt
from the influence of surroundings. D'Artagnan found the doorand on
or rather in the doora kind of spring which he detected; having touched
itthe door flew open. D'Artagnan enteredclosed the door behind him
and advanced into a pavilion built in a circular formin 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'Artagnanwithout hesitationthat 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
rooma door openedor rather flew openand 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. "Ahyou sly fellow!"

Yes,said Porthoswith a somewhat embarrassed smile; "yesyou see I
am staying in M. Fouquet's houseat which you are not a little
surprisedI 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 addedyou 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 Porthoswith a certain
embarrassment of manner.

Ah, friend Porthos,said D'Artagnanhow 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. "Naymore than
that continued D'Artagnan, you saw me out yonderyou know I am in the
king's serviceand yet you could not guess that the kingjealously
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
guessI saythat 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 contrarywe 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 Porthosif 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 armchairand 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 PorthosI have head 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 presentedthen?"


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 Porthoswhich D'Artagnan pretended not to hear;
andchanging the conversationhe saidYou seem to be living in a very
solitary place here, my dear fellow?

I always preferred retirement. I am of a melancholy disposition,
replied Porthoswith a sigh.

Really, that is odd,said D'ArtagnanI never remarked that before.

It is only since I have taken to reading, said Porthoswith 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'Artagnansmilingand why was it you could not
move?

Porthosperceiving that he had made a mistakewished to correct it.
Yes, I came from Belle-Isle upon very hard horses,he saidand 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 Porthosin a voice half-choked from his increasing
mirthmore 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'Artagnanholding 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 Porthosconceitedlyso 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 Porthoswinking his
eyeswhichwith himwas 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 Porthosto 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 Porthosthe 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 giantM. 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 minutesas if he
had seen him for the first timewhile Porthos spread his chest out
joyously and proudly. They remained in this state several minutes
Porthos smilingand D'Artagnan looking at him. D'Artagnan was evidently
trying to give the conversation a new turn. "Do you amuse yourself much
herePorthos?" he asked at lastvery 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'Artagnanbe frank, Porthos.

As gold.

It was Aramis who drew the plan of the fortifications at Belle-Isle, was
it not?
Porthos colored as he saidYes; 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 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 Porthosopening his large mouth very wide
displayed two rows of teeth not quite as white as snowbut evenhard
and sound as ivory.

You can hardly believe, Porthos,said D'Artagnanwhat 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 Porthosas he drew out of his pocket the
soldier's letter which Porthos had not readbut 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 Porthosthe 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
alonglet us be off."

But,said Porthosmy promise to M. Fouquet?

Which?

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

Ah! Porthos,said D'Artagnanhow 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 Porthoswith 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 Porthoswith the same majestic mienseeing 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 hereas 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; thenafter a moment's


reflectionhe addedI 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'Artagnanadopting the same tone of voice as
Porthos.

I must confess,repeated Porthosthat I am horribly afraid of
politics.

Ah, bah!exclaimed D'Artagnan.

Upon my word, it's true,said Porthosin a stentorian voice. "I have
seen his eminence Monsieur le Cardinal de Richelieuand his eminence
Monsieur le Cardinal de Mazarin; the one was a red politicianthe 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 MarillacM.
de ThouM. de Cinq-MarsM. ChalaisM. de Boutevilleand M. de
Montmorency; the second got a whole crowd of Frondeurs cut in piecesand
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 Porthosholding
out his hand to D'Artagnan.

But D'Artagnan knew Porthos's grasp; he knew thatonce imprisoned within
the baron's five fingersno hand ever left it without being halfcrushed.
He therefore held outnot his handbut his fistand Porthos


did not even perceive the difference. The servants talked a little with
each other in an undertoneand whispered a few wordswhich D'Artagnan
understoodbut 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 footas D'Artagnan had set out. When
D'Artagnanas he entered the shop of the Pilon d'Orannounced to
Planchet that M. du Vallon would be one of the privileged travelersand
as the plume in Porthos's hat made the wooden candles suspended over the
front jingle togethera melancholy presentiment seemed to eclipse the
delight Planchet had promised himself for the morrow. But the grocer had
a heart of goldever mindful of the good old times - a trait that
carries youth into old age. So Planchetnotwithstanding a sort of
internal shiverchecked as soon as experiencedreceived Porthos with
respectmingled with the tenderest cordiality. Porthoswho was a
little cold and stiff in his manners at firston account of the social
difference existing at that period between a baron and a grocersoon
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 preservesinto the sacks of nuts and almondsand into the
drawers full of sweetmeats. So thatnotwithstanding Planchet's pressing
invitations to go upstairs to the _entresol_he chose as his favorite
seatduring the evening which he had to spend at Planchet's housethe
shop itselfwhere his fingers could always fish up whatever his nose
detected. The delicious figs from Provencefilberts from the forest
Tours plumswere subjects of his uninterrupted attention for five
consecutive hours. His teethlike millstonescracked heaps of nuts
the shells of which were scattered all over the floorwhere they were
trampled by every one who went in and out of the shop; Porthos pulled
from the stalk with his lipsat one mouthfulbunches of the rich
Muscatel raisins with their beautiful bloomhalf a pound of which passed
at one gulp from his mouth to his stomach. In one of the corners of the
shopPlanchet's assistantshuddled togetherlooked 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 CapetPhilip Augustusand Francis I. had
already begun to disappear. They could hardly help thinking he might be
the ogre of the fairy talewho was going to turn the whole contents of
Planchet's shop into his insatiable stomachand thattoowithout in
the slightest degree displacing the barrels and chests that were in it.
Crackingmunchingchewingnibblingsuckingand swallowingPorthos
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 foremanwho had Planchet's word that he should
be his successor. In the midst of his despairhe 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 Porthosaffably.


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



Very well,said Porthosit 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 groundand 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 groundthe lad's legs so shook under him
that he fell back upon some sacks of corks. But noticing the giant's
gentleness of mannerhe ventured againand 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 Porthosstretching out his hand toward a
small barrel of honey which was openand he plunged the scoop with which
the wants of the customers were supplied into itand 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 ladsimply.

No, in a water-bottle; that will be quite enough;and raising the
bottle to his mouthas a trumpeter does his trumpethe emptied the
bottle at a single draught.

Planchet was agitated in every fibre of propriety and self-esteem.
Howevera worthy representative of the hospitality which prevailed in
early dayshe feigned to be talking very earnestly with D'Artagnanand
incessantly repeated: - "Ah! monsieurwhat a happiness! what an honor!"

What time shall we have supper, Planchet?inquired PorthosI feel
hungry.

The foreman clasped his hands together. The two others got under the
countersfearing 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-seatwe 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 menwho detected a
personage of the highest quality in an appetite of that kind. This
titletooreassured 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 shopand observing the different articles
which had escaped Porthos's teethhe found the comparison somewhat
exaggerated. The foremanwho remarked what was passing in his master's
mindsaidTake care; he is not gone yet.

Have you any fruit here?said Porthosas he went upstairs to the
_entresol_where it had just been announced that some refreshment was
prepared.

Alas!thought the groceraddressing a look at D'Artagnan full of
entreatywhich the latter half understood.

As soon as they had finished eating they set off. It was late when the
three riderswho had left Paris about six in the eveningarrived at
Fontainebleau. The journey passed very agreeably. Porthos took a fancy
to Planchet's societybecause the latter was very respectful in his
mannersand seemed delighted to talk to him about his meadowshis
woodsand his rabbit-warrens. Porthos had all the taste and pride of a
landed proprietor. When D'Artagnan saw his two companions in earnest
conversationhe took the opposite side of the roadand letting his
bridle drop upon his horse's neckseparated himself from the whole
worldas 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 nostrilsand 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 lifehe had certainly neglected agricultural pursuits for
commercebut that his childhood had been passed in Picardy in the
beautiful meadows where the grass grew as high as the kneesand where he
had played under the green apple-trees covered with red-cheeked fruit; he
went on to saythat he had solemnly promised himself that as soon as he
should have made his fortunehe would return to natureand end his
daysas he had begun themas near as he possibly could to the earth
itselfwhere all men must sleep at last.

Eh, eh!said Porthos; "in that casemy dear Monsieur Planchetyour
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 Planchetwithout answering
the questionwhich occasions me a good deal of anxiety.

What is it?inquired Porthoslooking all round him as if in search of


the circumstance that annoyed Planchetand desirous of freeing him from
it.

Why, formerly,said the groceryou 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 goodnatured
Porthoswith 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. "Whathas D'Artagnan gone into the grocery
business?"

No, no,said D'Artagnanwhom 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 businessbut Planchet who
entered into a political affair with me."

Yes,said Planchetwith mingled pride and satisfactionwe transacted
a little business which brought me in a hundred thousand francs and M.
d'Artagnan two hundred thousand.

Oh, oh!said Porthoswith admiration.

So that, monsieur le baron,continued the grocerI 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 Planchethe raised his handas
if to strike him on the shoulderin token of friendly cordiality; but a
fortunate movement of the horse made him miss his aimso that his hand
fell on the crupper of Planchet's horseinstead; which made the animal's
legs almost give way.

D'Artagnan burst out laughingas he saidTake 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 every, you know.

Oh,said PlanchetMousqueton is not dead, and yet monsieur le baron
is very fond of him.

Certainly,said Porthoswith a sigh which made all the three horses
rear; "and I was only sayingthis very morningto D'Artagnanhow much
I regretted him. But tell mePlanchet?"

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 Porthosand why do you call it a
country-seat?


I did not call it a country-seat, monsieur le baron,replied Planchet
somewhat humiliatedbut 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 Fontainebleaumonsieur 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 conversationwhen Planchetlooking up
perceived the houses at the commencement of Fontainebleauthe lofty
outlines of which stood out strongly against the misty visage of the
heavens; whilstrising above the compact and irregularly formed mass of
buildingsthe pointed roofs of the chateau were clearly visiblethe
slates of which glistened beneath the light of the moonlike 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 upand saw that what Planchet had announced to them
was true. Ten minutes afterwards they were in the street called the Rue
de Lyonon the opposite side of the hostelry of the Beau Paon. A high
hedge of bushy eldershawthornand wild hops formed an impenetrable
fencebehind which rose a white housewith a high tiled roof. Two of
the windowswhich were quite darklooked upon the street. Between the
twoa small doorwith a porch supported by a couple of pillarsformed



the entrance to the house. The door was gained by a step raised a little
from the ground. Planchet got off his horseas if he intended to knock
at the door; buton second thoughtshe took hold of his horse by the
bridleand led it about thirty paces further onhis two companions
following him. He then advanced about another thirty pacesuntil he
arrived at the door of a cart-houselighted by an iron grating; and
lifting up a wooden latchpushed open one of the folding-doors. He
entered firstleading his horse after him by the bridleinto a small
courtyardwhere 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 ratherI don't exactly know how
many I have."

When the two cavaliers had enteredPlanchet fastened the door behind
them. In the meantimeD'Artagnanwho had dismounted with his usual
agilityinhaled the fresh perfumed air with the delight a Parisian feels
at the sight of green fields and fresh foliageplucked a piece of
honeysuckle with one handand of sweet-briar with the other. Porthos
clawed hold of some peas which were twined round poles stuck into the
groundand ateor rather browsed upon themshells and all: and
Planchet was busily engaged trying to wake up an old and infirm peasant
who was fast asleep in a shedlying on a bed of mossand dressed in an
old stable suit of clothes. The peasantrecognizing Planchetcalled
him "the master to the grocer's great satisfaction. Stable the horses
wellold fellowand you shall have something good for yourself said
Planchet.

Yesyes; fine animals they are too said the peasant. Oh! they shall
have as much as they like."

Gently, gently, my man,said D'Artagnanwe are getting on a little
too fast. A few oats and a good bed - nothing more.

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

Don't be afraid, gentlemen,replied Planchet; "Daddy Celestin is an old
gendarmewho fought at Ivry. He knows all about horses; so come into
the house." And he led the way along a well-sheltered walkwhich
crossed a kitchen-gardenthen a small paddockand came out into a
little garden behind the housethe principal front of whichas we have
already noticedfaced the street. As they approachedthey could see
through two open windows on the ground floorwhich led into a sittingroom
the interior of Planchet's residence. This roomsoftly lighted by
a lamp placed on the tableseemedfrom the end of the gardenlike a
smiling image of reposecomfortand happiness. In every direction
where the rays of light fellwhether upon a piece of old chinaor upon
an article of furniture shining from excessive neatnessor upon the
weapons hanging against the wallthe 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 roomwhilst the
foliage of jasmine and climbing roses hung in masses from the windowframes
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 chinawith a silver lid
was filled with foaming cider. Near the tablein a high-backed
armchairreclinedfast asleepa woman of about thirty years of age
her face the very picture of health and freshness. Upon her knees lay a
large catwith her paws folded under herand her eyes half-closed
purring in that significant manner whichaccording to feline habits


indicates perfect contentment. The two friends paused before the window
in complete amazementwhile Planchetperceiving their astonishmentwas
in no little degree secretly delighted at it.

Ah! Planchet, you rascal,said D'ArtagnanI now understand your
absences.

Oh, oh! there is some white linen!said Porthosin his turnin a
voice of thunder. At the sound of this gigantic voicethe cat took
flightthe housekeeper woke up with a startand Planchetassuming a
gracious airintroduced his two companions into the roomwhere the
table was already laid.

Permit me, my dear,he saidto present to you Monsieur le Chevalier
d'Artagnan, my patron.D'Artagnan took the lady's hand in his in the
most courteous mannerand 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 turnand he unhesitatingly embraced the lady in
questionnothoweveruntil he had made a sign as if requesting
D'Artagnan's and Porthos's permissiona permission as a matter of course
frankly conceded. D'Artagnan complimented Planchetand saidYou are
indeed a man who knows how to make life agreeable.

Life, monsieur,said Planchetlaughingis capital which a man ought
to invest as sensibly as he possibly can.

And you get very good interest for yours,said Porthoswith 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 greatestgayestgrandest
portion of my life. I have spoken to you about them both very
frequently."

And about two others as well,said the ladywith a very decided
Flemish accent.

Madame is Dutch?inquired D'Artagnan. Porthos curled his mustachea
circumstance which was not lost upon D'Artagnanwho 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 Planchetcame 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 indeedgentlemenI _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 workhad laid the table for
two moreand covered it with every possible delicacy that could convert
a light supper into a substantial meala meal into a regular feast.
Fresh buttersalt beefanchoviestunnya shopful of Planchet's
commoditiesfowlsvegetablessaladfish from the pond and the river
game from the forest - all the producein factof the province.
MoreoverPlanchet returned from the cellarladen with ten bottles of
winethe glass of which could hardly be seen for the thick coating of
dust which covered them. Porthos's heart began to expand as he saidI
am hungry,and he sat himself beside Madame Truchenwhom he looked at
in the most killing manner. D'Artagnan seated himself on the other side
of herwhile Planchetdiscreetly and full of delighttook his seat
opposite.

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

In factthe housekeeper made her escape quite frequentlyand they could
hearon the first floor above themthe creaking of the wooden bedsteads
and the rolling of the castors on the floor. While this was going on
the three menPorthos especiallyate and drank gloriously- it was
wonderful to see them. The ten full bottles were ten empty one by the
time Truchen returned with the cheese. D'Artagnan still preserved his
dignity and self-possessionbut Porthos had lost a portion of his; and
the mirth soon began to grow somewhat uproarious. D'Artagnan recommended
a new descent into the cellarandas Planchet no longer walked with the
steadiness of a well-trained foot-soldierthe captain of the musketeers
proposed to accompany him. They set offhumming 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 wanteda 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'Artagnanas they
returned freighted with bottles. Planchet was singing so loudly that he
was incapable of noticing anything. D'Artagnanwhom nothing ever
escapedremarked how much redder Truchen's left cheek was than her
right. Porthos was sitting on Truchen's leftand was curling with both
his hands both sides of his mustache at onceand 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 alongwho was following
Truchenwho was herself jovial enough. It was D'Artagnan who found out
the rooms and the beds. Porthos threw himself into the one destined for
himafter his friend had undressed him. D'Artagnan got into his own
bedsaying 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 bedhe addedFortunately
enough, though, they will not see me.


The country is very amusing,said Porthosstretching out his legs
which passed through the wooden footboardand made a tremendous crash
of whichhoweverno 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 guestslike a kindgood housekeeper. It was
still perfectly darkthenbeneath Porthos's curtains and under
Planchet's canopywhen D'Artagnanawakened by an indiscreet ray of
light which made its way through a peek-hole in the shuttersjumped
hastily out of bedas if he wished to be the first at a forlorn hope.
He took by assault Porthos's roomwhich 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 displayedand
his swollen fist hung down outside the bed upon the carpet. D'Artagnan
awoke Porthoswho rubbed his eyes in a tolerably good humor. In the
meantime Planchet was dressing himselfand met at their bedroom doors
his two guestswho were still somewhat unsteady from their previous
evening's entertainment. Although it was yet very earlythe whole
household was already up. The cook was mercilessly slaughtering in the
poultry-yard; Celestin was gathering white cherries in the garden.
Porthosbrisk and lively as everheld out his hand to Planchet'sand
D'Artagnan requested permission to embrace Madame Truchen. The latter
to show that she bore no ill-willapproached Porthosupon whom she
conferred the same favor. Porthos embraced Madame Truchenheaving 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 ovenand we were unable to see anything; but
in broad daylighteverything looks differentand you will be satisfied
I hope."


If we begin by the view you have here,said D'Artagnanthat 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 PierrefondsI have had four avenues laid outand 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'Artagnanthis 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 bedroomsand 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
greenwhich is yellow in the springgreen in the summerred in the
autumnand white in the winter."

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

Yes,said Planchet; "stillone can seeat all eventseverything 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 otherssome of the town-councilor rich
citizenswith choristers and all the parish authorities; and thentoo
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 Planchetwe 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'Artagnanthe thought of green fields, flowers,
rivers, blue horizons, extensive and boundless plains, is no likely to do
us good.

If I had any, I should be far from rejecting them,said Planchet; "but
possessing only this little cemeteryfull of flowersso moss-grown
shadyand quietI am contented with itand I think of those who live
in townin the Rue des Lombardsfor instanceand who have to listen to
the rumbling of a couple of thousand vehicles every dayand to the
soulless tramptramptramp of a hundred and fifty thousand footpassengers."


But living,said Porthos; "livingremember that."

That is exactly the reason,said Planchettimidlywhy I feel it does
me good to contemplate a few dead.

Upon my word,said D'Artagnanthat fellow Planchet is born a
philosopher as well as a grocer.

Monsieur,said PlanchetI 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 windowand as there seemed to be
something substantial in Planchet's philosophyhe mused over it.

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

Yes,said D'ArtagnanI hear singing too.

Oh, it is only a burial of a very poor description,said Planchet
disdainfully; "the officiating priestthe beadleand only one chorister
boynothing more. You observemessieursthat 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'Artagnanleaning on the window-sill.

Come, come, you are beginning to take a fancy to the place already,
said Planchetdelightedly; "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 dayand the chants were like so many nails being driven into
my head; but nowthey lull me to sleepand no bird I have ever seen or
heard can sing better than those which are to be met with in this
cemetery."

Well,said Porthosthis is beginning to get a little dull for me, and
I prefer going downstairs.

Planchet with one bound was beside his guestwhom he offered to lead
into the garden.

What!said Porthos to D'Artagnanas he turned roundare 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'Artagnanquicklyleave me, leave
me; I feel I am beginning already to be much comforted by my meditations,
so do not interrupt me.

Planchet leftand D'Artagnan remaineddevouring 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 litterand were letting their burden glide gently into
the open grave. At a few paces distantthe man with the cloak wrapped
round himthe only spectator of this melancholy scenewas leaning with
his back against a large cypress-treeand 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 upthe priests
turned awayand 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 himand put a piece of gold into the grave-digger's hand.

_Mordioux!_murmured D'Artagnan; "it is Aramis himself."

Aramisin factremained aloneon that side at least; for hardly had he
turned his head when a woman's footstepsand the rustling of her dress
were heard in the path close to him. He immediately turned roundand
took off his hat with the most ceremonious respect; he led the lady under
the shelter of some walnut and lime treeswhich 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 cemeterythe
rendezvous is sacred." But he almost laughed.

The conversation lasted for fully half an hour. D'Artagnan could not see
the lady's facefor she kept her back turned towards him; but he saw
perfectly wellby the erect attitude of both the speakersby their
gesturesby the measured and careful manner with which they glanced at
each othereither by way of attack or defensethat they must be
conversing about any other subject than of love. At the end of the
conversation the lady roseand 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 beginningthe young
lady by and by gets tamed downand then it is she who has to
supplicate. Who is this lady? I would give anything to ascertain."

This seemed impossiblehoweverfor Aramis was the first to leave; the
lady carefully concealed her head and faceand then immediately
departed. D'Artagnan could hold out no longer; he ran to the window
which looked out on the Rue de Lyonand saw Aramis entering the inn.
The lady was proceeding in quite an opposite directionand seemedin
factto be about to rejoin an equipageconsisting of two led horses and
a carriagewhich he could see standing close to the borders of the
forest. She was walking slowlyher head bent downabsorbed in the
deepest meditation.

_Mordioux! Mordioux!_ I must and will learn who that woman is,said
the musketeer again; and thenwithout further deliberationhe set off
in pursuit of her. As he was going alonghe 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 ranthe sound of his spurs
and of his boots upon the hard ground of the street made a strange
jingling noise; a fortunate circumstance in itselfwhich he was far
from reckoning upon. The noise disturbed the lady; she seemed to fancy
she was being either followed or pursuedwhich was indeed the caseand
turned round. D'Artagnan started as if he had received a charge of small
shot in his legsand then turning suddenly round as if he were going
back the same way he had comehe murmuredMadame 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 latterwho 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'Artagnanwe 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 PorthosTruchenand Planchet Parted with Each Other on Friendly
TermsThanks to D'Artagnan.


There was good living in Planchet's house. Porthos broke a ladder and
two cherry-treesstripped the raspberry-bushesand was only unable to
succeed in reaching the strawberry-beds on accountas he saidof his
belt. Truchenwho had become quite sociable with the giantsaid that
it was not the belt so much as his corporation; and Porthosin a state
of the highest delightembraced Truchenwho gathered him a pailful of
the strawberriesand made him eat them out of her hands. D'Artagnan
who arrived in the midst of these little innocent flirtationsscolded
Porthos for his indolenceand silently pitied Planchet. Porthos
breakfasted with a very good appetiteand when he had finishedhe said
looking at TruchenI could make myself very happy here.Truchen
smiled at his remarkand so did Planchetbut 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'Artagnanbut 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; Truchenwith a grace of manner peculiarly Flemish
was making a pair of earrings for Porthos out of a double cherrywhile
Porthos was laughing as amorously as Samson in the company of Delilah.
Planchet pressed D'Artagnan's handand ran towards the arbor. We must
do Porthos the justice to say that he did not move as they approached
andvery likelyhe did not think he was doing any harm. Nor indeed did
Truchen move eitherwhich rather put Planchet out; but hetoohad been
so accustomed to see fashionable folk in his shopthat he found no
difficulty in putting a good countenance on what seemed disagreeable or
rude. Planchet seized Porthos by the armand proposed to go and look at
the horsesbut 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; andin this wayPlanchet managed to engage his enemy's
attention during the whole of the dayby 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 Porthosdrawing himself up. It is a sad
thing to have to confessbut 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 overor rather
gave exaggerated accounts of all the splendors of the last reignits
battlessiegesand grand court ceremonies. He spoke of the luxurious
display which the English made; the prizes the three brave companions
carried off; and how D'Artagnanwho at the beginning had been the
humblest of the fourfinished 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 ledand how religiously he respected the ties of
friendship; he was eloquentand skillful in his choice of subjects. He
tickled Porthosfrightened Truchenand made D'Artagnan think. At six
o'clockthe musketeer ordered the horses to be brought roundand 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 courtwhich immediately raised Planchet in Truchen's estimation
where the poor grocer - so goodso generousso devoted - had become
much lowered ever since the appearance and comparison with him of the two
great gentlemen. Suchhoweveris a woman's nature; they are anxious to
possess what they have not gotand 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'Artagnana 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 Porthosflattered 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 fingerand
approaching Truchensaid to her: - "Madamemonsieur le baron hardly
knows how to entreat youout of your regard for himto 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
Bracieuxbut I dissuaded him from it."


Oh!said Truchenlooking eagerly at the diamond.


Monsieur le baron!exclaimed Planchetquite overcome.


My good friend,stammered out Porthosdelighted at having been so well
represented by D'Artagnan. These several exclamationsuttered at the
same momentmade quite a pathetic winding-up of a day which might have
finished in a very ridiculous manner. But D'Artagnan was thereandon
every occasionwheresoever D'Artagnan exercised any controlmatters
ended only just in the very way he wished and willed. There were general
embracings; Truchenwhom the baron's munificence had restored to her
proper positionvery timidlyand blushing all the whilepresented 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. Stillin the same generosity of dispositionPorthos
would have emptied his pockets into the hands of the cook and of
Celestin; but D'Artagnan stopped him.


No,he saidit 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 himselfand have rendered
even him a prodigal.


D'Artagnan made Planchet lead them to the chateauand introduced Porthos
into his own apartmentwhere 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 eveningthe king gave an audience to an
ambassador from the United Provincesin the grand reception-room. The
audience lasted a quarter of an hour. His majesty afterwards received
those who had been recently presentedtogether with a few ladieswho
paid their respects first. In one corner of the salonconcealed behind
a columnPorthos and D'Artagnan were conversing togetherwaiting until
their turn arrived.


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


No!


Well, look, then.Porthos raised himself on tiptoeand saw M. Fouquet
in full court dressleading 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'Artagnanand presently it will be
_my_ turn.

At this moment Fouquet addressed the king.

Sire,he saidI 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 reasoncertainly 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 archbishopricfor instance."

Sire,objected Fouquetwith 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 displayedand smiledsaying:
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 stepas if they were about to retire.

Will your majesty allow me,said D'Artagnan quicklyas he led forward
Porthosto present to your majesty M. le Baron du Vallon, one of the
bravest gentlemen of France?

As soon as Aramis saw Porthoshe turned as pale as deathwhile Fouquet
clenched his hands under his ruffles. D'Artagnan smiled blandly at both
of themwhile Porthos bowedvisibly overcome before the royal presence.

Porthos here?murmured Fouquet in Aramis's ear.

Hush! deep treachery at work,hissed the latter.

Sire,said D'Artagnanit 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 airas 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 Aramiscoldlywas fortified by that gentleman,and
he indicated Porthos with his handwho bowed a second time. Louis could
not withhold his admirationthough at the same time his suspicions were
aroused.

Yes,said D'Artagnanbut ask monsieur le baron whose assistance he
had in carrying the works out?

Aramis's,said Porthosfrankly; and he pointed to the bishop.

What the deuce does all this mean?thought the bishopand what sort
of a termination are we to expect to this comedy?

What!exclaimed the kingis 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
sireis concealed the most brilliant officera gentleman of the most
unparalleled intrepidityand the wisest theologian in your kingdom."

Louis raised his head. "And an engineeralsoit appears he said,
admiring Aramis's calm, imperturbable self-possession.

An engineer for a particular purposesire said the latter.

My companion in the musketeerssire 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'Herblayin a wordwhowith M.
du Vallonmyselfand M. le Comte de la Ferewho is known to your
majestyformed that quartette which was a good deal talked about during
the late king's reignand during your majesty's minority."

And who fortified Belle-Isle?the king repeatedin 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 respectso much warm devotionsuch entire
frankness and sinceritythat even heD'Artagnanthe eternal doubter
hethe almost infallible in judgmentwas 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'HerblayI 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 quickand he left the salon
abruptly. "And youMonsieur 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 Porthosbut he was unable to proceed with what he was


going to say.

Sire,exclaimed D'Artagnanthis 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 kingsaluting Porthos
with a gracious smile.

Porthos became crimson from delight and pride. The king dismissed him
and D'Artagnan pushed him into the adjoining apartmentafter 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 bydoes the king like his guests to
eat much at his table?"

It is a compliment to himself if you do,said D'Artagnanfor 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 latterbehind one of the
columnsandas he pressed his handsaidSo you have escaped from my
prison?

Do not scold him,said D'Artagnan; "it was Idear Aramiswho set him
free."

Ah! my friend,replied Aramislooking at Porthoscould you not have
waited with a little more patience?

D'Artagnan came to the assistance of Porthoswho already began to
breathe hardin 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 youAramis." And Porthos held out the bishop the letter
we have already seen. Aramis begged to be allowed to read itand 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.
BesidesAramis's face was so impenetrablethat D'Artagnan could not but
admire him more than ever; after he had read ithe put the letter into
his pocket with the calmest possible air.


You were saying, captain?he observed.

I was saying,continued the musketeerthat I had gone to pay
Baisemeaux a visit on his majesty's service.

On his majesty's service?said Aramis.

Yes,said D'Artagnanand, 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 Aramisthoughtfully.

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 Porthosthoughtlessly.

What do you mean by 'near the cemetery?'said Aramissuspiciously.

Come,thought the musketeersince 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 Aramismore and more excited.

D'Artagnan turned his back to themand walked to the windowwhere 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 startedand turned to look at the musketeerbut the latter was
engaged in earnest conversation with Saint-Aignan. Aramis continued to
question Porthosand when he had squeezed all the juice out of this


enormous lemonhe threw the peel aside. He turned towards his friend
D'Artagnanand clapping him on the shoulderwhen Saint-Aignan had left
himthe king's supper having been announcedsaidD'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 downand 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 Aramiswith a singular smileyou 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 Aramiswe ought to deal truthfully with each other. Do
you still love me, D'Artagnan?

The same as I used to do,replied D'Artagnanwithout 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 Aramiscoldly.

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 Aramisyou 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 Aramissatisfied that he had at last
quite convinced the musketeer.

Only,said the latterit 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 kingand said'SireM. Fouquet is
fortifying Belle-Isleand exceedingly welltoo; 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 plannedand we should not have
had any occasion to look askant at each other when we met."

While, on the contrary,replied Aramisyou 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
fellowand I hate him as I used to hate Mazarinbut without fearing
him."

Well, then,said AramisI 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 saidThe best a man could possibly
have.He then paused for a minuteD'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 curiousof coursebut 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 mustachebut 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'Artagnanwhat 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 musketeervery 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 swordwhich clanked sullenly on the tesselated floor.


You are right,said Aramisturning 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 neckand saidA friend like
you is the brightest jewel in the royal crown.And they immediately
separated.


I was right,mused D'Artagnan; "there isindeedsomething strangely
serious stirring."


We must hasten the explosion,breathed the coming cardinalfor
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 palacein the greatest distressfrom a
thousand suspicions and anxieties with which his mind was beset.
Presently he stopped and waited on the terrace opposite the grove of
treeswatching for Madame's departure. More than half an hour passed
away; and as he was at that moment quite alonethe comte could hardly
have had any very diverting ideas at his command. He drew his tables
from his pocketandafter hesitating over and over againdetermined to
write these words: - "MadameI implore you to grant me one moment's
conversation. Do not be alarmed at this requestwhich 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-letterwhen he
suddenly observed several ladies leaving the chateauand afterwards
several courtiers too; in factalmost every one that formed the queen's
circle. He saw La Valliere herselfthen 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 obligedhoweverto
cross the courtyard in order to enter her own apartments; andfrom the
terrace where he was standingDe Guiche could see all that was going on
in the courtyard. At last he saw Madame leaveattended by a couple of
pageswho were carrying torches before her. She was walking very
quickly; as soon as she reached the doorshe 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 silenthidden in the shade; but as soon as Madame had
withdrawnhe darted from the terrace down the steps and assumed a most
indifferent airso that the pages who were hurrying towards his rooms
might meet him.

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

M. le comte,said one of the pagesapproaching himwe are indeed
most fortunate in meeting you.

Why so, messieurs?

A command from Madame.

From Madame!said De Guichelooking 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 apartmentshe found her pale and
agitated. Montalais was standing at the doorevidently uneasy about
what was passing in her mistress's mind. De Guiche appeared.

Ah! is that you, Monsieur de Guiche?said Madame; "come inI beg.
Mademoiselle de MontalaisI do not require your attendance any longer."

Montalaismore puzzled than evercourtesied and withdrew. De Guiche
and the princess were left alone. The come 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
whimsicaland her disposition so changeable. She soon allowed this to
be perceivedforsuddenlyopening the conversationshe 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 constitutedbeing 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 saidand I think it very singular.

The affair of the bracelets,she exclaimedeagerlyyou 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 gazewhich
seemed to read her very heart.

I think,he saidthat 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 princesshaughtily.

I can positively assure your royal highness,said De Guichewith a
firmness marked by great respectthat 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 lipsandunable to assign any good and sufficient
reasonschanged 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 meI saythat 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
writtenand showed it to her.

Sympathy,she said.

Yes,said the comtewith 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 hesitatedand then suddenly
exclaimedThose 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 princesswounded to the quickcould he
not have presented them to me? Was there not the whole court, indeed, to
choose from?

I assure you, Madame,said the comterespectfullythat 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 princesshaughtilyjealous of La Valliere!

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

Am I to suppose, monsieur,she stammered outthat your object is to
insult me?

It is not possible, Madame,replied the comteslightly agitatedbut
resolved to master that fiery nature.

Leave the room!said the princessthoroughly exasperatedDe Guiche's
coolness and silent respect having made her completely lose her temper.

De Guiche fell back a stepbowed slowlybut with great respectdrew
himself uplooking as white as his lace cuffsandin a voice slightly
tremblingsaidIt 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 himseized him by the cuffand making him turn round againsaid
trembling with passion as she did soThe respect you pretend to have is
more insulting than the insult itself. Insult me, if you please, but at
least speak.

Madame,said the comtegentlyas he drew his swordthrust this
blade into my heart, rather than kill me by degrees.

At the look he fixed upon her- a look full of loveresolutionand
despaireven- she knew how readily the comteso outwardly calm in
appearancewould pass his sword through his own breast if she added
another word. She tore the blade from his handsandpressing his arm
with a feverish impatiencewhich might pass for tendernesssaidDo
not be too hard upon me, comte. You see how I am suffering, and yet you
have no pity for me.

Tearsthe cries of this strange attackstifled her voice. As soon as
De Guiche saw her weephe took her in his arms and carried her to an
armchair; in another moment she would have been suffocated.

Oh, why,he murmuredas he knelt by her sidewhy 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 repliedcompletely 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 headand her smile was like a clear bright streak
in the cloudsthrough 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. ComteI was born on a throneI am proud and jealous of my
rank. Why does the king gather such unworthy objects round him?"

Once more, I repeat,said the comteyou 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 saidturning very paleBragelonne 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 princesswith a wild burst of laughter
that ignorance is happiness?

I believe it,he replied.

Prove it to me, then,she saidhurriedly.

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 saidbreathing 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 princesswith the obstinacy of
a woman who feels herself not easily overcomefor M. de Bragelonne to
have had proofs before he ventured to speak to you in that manner.

Such, however, is the case,replied De Guichewith a deep sighthat,
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
Madamethat 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 oneand 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 feelingsshe understood De
Guiche's extreme delicacy. She saw that in his heart he really suspected
that the king was in love with La Valliereand 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 arousedand thatin order to leave
himself time for his convictions to undergo a changeso as not to ruin
Louise utterlyhe was determined to pursue a certain straightforward
line of conduct. She could read so much real greatness of characterand
such true generosity of disposition in her loverthat her heart really
warmed with affection towards himwhose passion for her was so pure and
delicate. Despite his fear of incurring her displeasureDe Guicheby
retaining his position as a man of proud independence of feeling and deep
devotionbecame almost a hero in her estimationand reduced her to the
state of a jealous and little-minded woman. She loved him for this so
tenderlythat she could not refuse to give him a proof of her affection.


See how many words we have wasted,she saidtaking 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 saidwith the most
charming playfulness of manner. "YesmonsieurI have two characters to
perform. I am the sister of the kingthe sister-in-law of the king's
wife. In this character ought I not to take an interest in these
domestic intrigues? Cometell 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 feetwhich he kissedwith the religious fervor of a
worshipper. "And I begin to think thatreally and trulyI have another
character to perform. I was almost forgetting it."


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


I am a woman,she saidin a voice lower than everand I love.He
roseshe opened her armsand their lips met. A footstep was heard
behind the tapestryand Mademoiselle de Montalais appeared.


What do you want?said Madame.


M. de Guiche is wanted,replied Montalaiswho 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 Guichethus summoned in every directionwas
very much exposedfrom such a multiplication of businessto the risk of
not attending to any. It so happened thatconsidering the awkwardness
of the interruptionMadamenotwithstanding her wounded prideand
secret angercould notfor the moment at leastreproach Montalais for
having violatedin so bold a mannerthe semi-royal order with which she
had been dismissed on De Guiche's entrance. De Guichealsolost his
presence of mindorit would be more correct to sayhad already lost
itbefore Montalais's arrivalforscarcely had he heard the young
girl's voicethanwithout taking leave of Madameas the most ordinary
politeness requiredeven between persons equal in rank and stationhe
fled from her presencehis heart tumultuously throbbingand his brain
on fireleaving the princess with one hand raisedas though to bid him
adieu. Montalais was at no lossthereforeto perceive the agitation of
the two lovers - the one who fled was agitatedand the one who remained
was equally so.



Well,murmured the young girlas 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 lookthatas if she heard Montalais's muttered side
remarkshe did not speak a word to her maid of honorbutcasting down
her eyesretired at once to her bedroom. Montalaisobserving this
stood listening for a momentand then heard Madame lock and bolt her
door. By this she knew that the rest of the evening was at her own
disposal; and makingbehind the door which had just been closeda
gesture which indicated but little real respect for the princessshe
went down the staircase in search of Malicornewho was very busily
engaged at that moment in watching a courierwhocovered with dusthad
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 positionthat 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. "Welland in the other directionwhat 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 Montalaisclapping 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 Malicornein order to avoid
confusion.

Nothing easier,replied Montalais. "Three intriguescarefully nursed
and carefully encouragedwill produceone with anotherand taking a
low averagethree love letters a day."

Oh!exclaimed Malicorneshrugging his shouldersyou 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 Montalaisout 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 queenmother,
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 disappearedall the terms
of the contract being agreed on.

The window just opened wasin factthat 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 receivedas we
have already statedthe courier who had been dispatched to him by
Bragelonnethe latter having written to De Guiche a letter which had
made the deepest impression upon himand which he had read over and over
again. "Strangestrange!" 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 lighthe 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 isas you
knowunquestionably bravebut full of malevolent and wicked feelings.
He conversed with me about yourselffor whomhe sayshe has a warm
regardalso about Madamewhom 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 regardand
showed the greatest interest on my behalf in expressing a deep pity for
meaccompaniedhoweverby dark hints which alarmed me at firstbut
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
understandhoweverthat it was only through M. de Lorraine. The report
goesso says the newsthat a change has taken place in the king's
affections. You know whom that concerns. Afterwardsthe news
continuespeople are talking about one of the maids of honorrespecting
whom various slanderous reports are being circulated. These vague
phrases have not allowed me to sleep. I have been deploringever since
yesterdaythat my diffidence and vacillation of purpose
notwithstanding a certain obstinacy of character I may possesshave left
me unable to reply to these insinuations. In a wordM. de Wardes was
setting off for Parisand I did not delay his departure with
explanations; for it seemed rather hardI confessto cross-examine a
man whose wounds are hardly yet closed. In shorthe travelled by short
stagesas he was anxious to leavehe saidin 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 thoughtsand tormented by a mistrust of this
man- a mistrust whichyou know better than any one elseI have never
been able to overcome. As soon as he leftmy 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 unlikelytherefore
that in the strange hints De Wardes threw out in my presencethere may
be a mysterious significationwhich 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 possiblein obedience to the king's
commandsthe 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 letterwhich 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 meantif you do not already know. M. de Wardesmoreover
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 swordhad I not felt that I was under the necessity of
dispatching the king's mission before undertaking any quarrel
whatsoever. Burn this letterwhich Olivain will hand you. Whatever
Olivain saysyou may confidently rely on. Will you have the goodness
my dear comteto recall me to the remembrance of Mademoiselle de la
Vallierewhose 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 sighedfolded up the letter a third timeandinstead of
burning itas Raoul had recommended him to doplaced 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 Fereand speaks of his respect for
Louise. He cautions me on my own accountand entreats me on his. Ah!"
continued De Guichewith a threatening gestureyou 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 promiseDe Guiche begged Malicorne to come immediately to his
apartmentsif possible. Malicorne acknowledged the invitation with an
activity which was the first result of his conversation with Montalais.
And while De Guichewho thought that his motive was undiscoveredcross-
examined Malicornethe latterwho appeared to be working in the dark
soon guessed his questioner's motives. The consequence wasthatafter
a quarter of an hour's conversationduring 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 withwhile Malicorne learnedor guessedthat Raoulwho
was absentwas fast becoming suspiciousand 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 friendand
soon began to think of nothing but his personal affairs. The next
eveningDe Wardes's return and first appearance at the king's reception
were announced. When that visit had been paidthe convalescent waited
on Monsieur; De Guiche taking carehoweverto 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
Wardeswho had been absent for a monthwas like fresh fruit to him. To
treat him with marked kindness was an infidelity to old friendsand
there is always something fascinating in that; moreoverit was a sort of
reparation to De Wardes himself. Nothingconsequentlycould exceed the
favorable notice Monsieur took of him. The Chevalier de Lorrainewho



feared this rival but a littlebut who respected a character and
disposition only too parallel to his own in every particularwith the
addition of a bull-dog courage he did not himself possessreceived De
Wardes with a greater display of regard and affection than even Monsieur
had done. De Guicheas we have saidwas there alsobut kept in the
backgroundwaiting very patiently until all these interchanges were
over. De Wardeswhile talking to the othersand even to Monsieur
himselfhad not for a moment lost sight of De Guichewhohe
instinctively feltwas there on his account. As soon as he had finished
with the othershe went up to De Guiche. They exchanged the most
courteous complimentsafter 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 arrivaland knowing all the details of his
voyage and duelshe was not sorry to be present at the remarks she knew
would be madewithout delayby one whoshe felt assuredwas her
personal enemy. Two or three of her ladies accompanied her. De Wardes
saluted Madame in the most graceful and respectful mannerandas a
commencement of hostilitiesannouncedin the first placethat 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 oneand Madame felt the blowbut
without appearing to have even noticed it. He rapidly cast a glance at
Monsieur and at De Guiche- the former coloredand the latter turned
very pale. Madame alone preserved an unmoved countenance; butas she
knew how many unpleasant thoughts and feelings her enemy could awaken in
the two persons who were listening to himshe smilingly bent forward
towards the traveleras if to listen to the news he had brought - but he
was speaking of other matters. Madame was braveeven to imprudence; if
she were to retreatit would be inviting an attack; soafter the first
disagreeable impression had
passed awayshe returned to the charge.

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

It was now De Wardes's turn to wince; he bit his lipsand repliedNo,
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 princesswith 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 Madameas if entreating her
to retire from the contest. But shewithout acknowledging De Guiche's
gesturewithout pretending to have noticed it evenand still smiling
continued:


Is it possible,she saidthat 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 Wardespolitelyevery woman believes that;
and it is this belief that gives them that superiority to man which
confidence begets.

You misunderstand altogether, dearest,said the princeimpatiently;
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 isindeeda very great pity he is not
hereM. de Wardes."

The young man's eyes seemed to flash fire. "Oh!" he saidas he clenched
his teeththere 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 saidDe 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 enemiesand in league with each other." And she changed the
conversation. To change the conversation isas every one knowsa 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 easilyand Monsieur
who wished to question her on several mattersoffered 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 apartmentsin
order to surprise him on his returnand 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 Wardeswho was surrounded by a large number
of personsand thereby indicated his wish to converse with him; De
Wardesat the same timeshowing 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 himand wait
until he was at liberty. He had not long to wait; for De Wardesfreed
from his questionersapproached De Guicheand 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 mannerwhich was cold and
dignifiedthat the conversation was about to assume a disagreeable
turn. He resolved to let it take what course it pleasedand 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 outbut 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 namewhile De Guiche would not
accept it except on La Valliere's account. From this momentit became a
series of feigned attackswhich would have continued until one of the
two had been touched home. De Guiche therefore resumed all the selfpossession
he could command.

There is not the slightest question in the world of Madame in this
matter, my dear De Wardes.said Guichebut 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 himselfyou are again returning
to the old subject.

Very well, then,continued De Wardessince we find it so difficult to
understand each other about
La Valliere and Bragelonne let us speak about
your own affairs.

Nay,said De GuicheI 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 foreheadwhich was covered in
perspiration. "Nono 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 acquaintancewhilst Raoul is an
intimate friend. I have not the slightest curiosity to learn what
happened to the dukewhile I haveon the contrarythe 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 Wardeschuckling.

You think so,said De Guichesimply.

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 Guichegrasping De Wardes's handthat 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 farand by his own imprudencehe 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 Wardesand 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 Guichesmilingnotwithstanding the shiver that ran through his
whole frame. "Whysuch 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 Guicheinterrupting himwith a smile upon his lips
although he almost felt as if he were going to die; "I swear I should not
care for thatnor should I in any way contradict you; for you must know
my dear marquisthat for all matters which concern myself I am a block
of ice; but it is a very different thing when an absent friend is
concerneda friendwhoon leavingconfided his interests to my safekeeping;
for such a friendDe Wardesbelieve meI 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 thisand continued aloud: - "Oh! if La Valliere were a coquette
like Madamewhose innocent flirtationsI am surewerefirst of all
the cause of the Duke of Buckingham being sent back to Englandand
afterwards were the reason of your being sent into exile; for you will


not denyI supposethat Madame's pretty ways really had a certain
influence over you?"

The courtiers drew nearer to the speakersSaint-Aignan at their head
and then Manicamp.

But, my dear fellow, whose fault was that?said De Guichelaughing.
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 Wardesfurious 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 tell 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 coolnessDe Guiche read aloud the paragraph of the letter
which referred to La Valliere. "And now continued De Guiche, there is
no doubt in the worldas far as I am concernedthat you wished to
disturb Bragelonne's peace of mindand that your remarks were
maliciously intended."

De Wardes looked round himto see if he could find support from any one;
butat the idea that De Wardes had insultedeither directly or
indirectlythe idol of the dayevery one shook his head; and De Wardes
saw that he was in the wrong.

Messieurs,said De Guicheintuitively 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 caseI pass judgment upon
myselfand 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 GuicheI 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 otherand the two young men were left alone.


Well played,said De Wardesto 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 yeton your arrival hereyour 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 Guicheit 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 comtelosing all command over himselffor 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 Wardesretreating 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 Wardesyou 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 caseit
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 themon their way to the stablespassed beneath Madame's
windowswhich 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 dieperhapson her account."

Chapter XIII:
The Combat.


De Wardes and De Guiche selected their horsesand saddled them with
their own handswith holster saddles. De Guichehaving two pairs of
pistolswent to his apartments to get them; and after having loaded
themgave the choice to De Wardeswho selected the pair he had made use
of twenty times before - the sameindeedwith 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 wellandconsequentlyI
am only making the chances equal."

Your remark was quite useless,replied De Guicheand you have done no
more than you are entitled to do.

Now,said De WardesI 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 Guicheas he
assisted De Wardes to mount his horse.

And now,continued the young manin 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 Guicheyou 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 presentin order to bring back the conversation about
Madameand to give a new turn to the combat. He avoided saying a word
in replytherefore; andas De Wardes once more looked at him
interrogativelyhe repliedby a movement of the headthat it would be
best to let things remain as they were. The two adversaries consequently
set offand left the chateau by the same gateclose to which we may
remember to have seen Montalais and Malicorne together. The nightas if
to counteract the extreme heat of the dayhad gathered the clouds
together in masses which were moving slowly along from the west to the
east. The vault abovewithout a clear spot anywhere visibleor without
the faintest indication of thunderseemed to hang heavily over the
earthand soon beganby the force of the windto split into streamers
like a huge sheet torn to shreds. Large and warm drops of rain began to
fall heavilyand gathered the dust into globuleswhich rolled along the
ground. At the same timethe hedgeswhich seemed conscious of the
approaching stormthe thirsty plantsthe drooping branches of the


treesexhaled a thousand aromatic odorswhich revived in the mind
tender recollectionsthoughts of youthendless lifehappinessand
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 Guicheseveral 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 Wardesthat we have neither balls
nor powder about us?

Agreed; and I swear it,said De Guicheholding his hand towards
heavena gesture which De Wardes imitated.

And now, my dear comte,said De Wardesallow 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 whiletell meto throw this affair of Bragelonne's on my
shoulders? Buttake caremy dear fellow; in bringing the wild boar to
bayyou enrage him to madness; in running down the foxyou endow him
with the ferocity of the jaguar. The consequence isthat brought to bay
by youI 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 Madamewho will do their very utmost to ruin her."

Oh! monsieur,exclaimed De Guichefuriouslydo 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 laughterso diabolical in
its soundthat a superstitious man would have been terrified. But De
Guiche was not so impressionable as that. "I think he said, that
everything is now settledMonsieur de Wardes; so have the goodness to
take your place firstunless 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 gallophe crossed the
wide open spaceand 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 pacesthe two
adversaries were absolutely invisible to each otherbeing completely
concealed by the thick shade of elms and chestnuts. A minute elapsed
amidst the profoundest silence. At the end of the minuteeach of them
in the deep shade in which he was concealedheard the double click of
the triggeras they put the pistols on full cock. De Guicheadopting
the usual tacticsput his horse to a galloppersuaded that he should
render his safety doubly sure by the movementas well as by the speed of
the animal. He directed his course in a straight line towards the point
wherein his opinionDe Wardes would be stationed; and he expected to
meet De Wardes about half-way; but in this he was mistaken. He continued
his coursepresuming that his adversary was impatiently awaiting his
approach. Whenhoweverhe had gone about two-thirds of the distance
he beheld the trees suddenly illuminated and a ball flew bycutting the
plume of his hat in two. Nearly at the same momentand as if the flash
of the first shot had served to indicate the direction of the othera
second report was heardand a second ball passed through the head of De
Guiche's horsea little below the ear. The animal fell. These two
reportsproceeding from the very opposite direction in which he expected
to find De Wardessurprised him a great deal; but as he was a man of
amazing self-possessionhe prepared himself for his horse fallingbut
not so completelyhoweverthat 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 rosefelt himself all overand
found that he was not wounded. At the very moment he had felt the horse
tottering under himhe placed his pistols in the holstersafraid that
the force of the fall might explode one at leastif not both of themby
which he would have been disarmedand left utterly without defense.
Once on his feethe took the pistols out of the holstersand advanced
towards the spot whereby the light of the flashhe had seen De Wardes
appear. De Wardes hadat the first shotaccounted for the maneuver
than which nothing could have been simpler. Instead of advancing to meet
De Guicheor remaining in his place to await his approachDe Wardes
hadfor about fifteen pacesfollowed the circle of the shadow which hid
him from his adversary's observationand at the very moment when the
latter presented his flank in his careerhe had fired from the place
where he stoodcarefully taking aimand assisted instead of being
inconvenienced by the horse's gallop. It has been seen that
notwithstanding the darknessthe first ball passed hardly more than an
inch above De Guiche's head. De Wardes had so confidently relied upon


his aimthat 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 shotbut his hand trembledand 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
himselfDe Wardes would have loaded his pistol and had De Guiche at his
mercy. But De Guicheon the contrarywas upand 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
advancedthereforeso 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 tightand 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 timeor ratherthrowing away
his life. He made his horse bound on one side. De Guiche turned round
alsoandat the moment the horse was quiet againfiredand 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 Guichenoticing that his
adversary did not fallthrew the pistol he had just discharged aside
and walked straight towards De Wardeselevating the second pistol as he
did so. He had hardly proceeded more than two or three paceswhen De
Wardes took aim at him as he was walkingand fired. An exclamation of
anger was De Guiche's answer; the comte's arm contracted and dropped
motionless by his sideand the pistol fell from his grasp. His anxiety
was excessive. "I am lost murmured De Wardes, he is not mortally
wounded." At the very momenthoweverDe Guiche was about to raise his
pistol against De Wardesthe headshouldersand limbs of the comte
seemed to collapse. He heaved a deep-drawn sightotteredand fell at
the feet of De Wardes's horse.

That is all right,said De Wardesand gathering up the reinshe
struck his spurs into the horse's sides. The horse cleared the comte's
motionless bodyand bore De Wardes rapidly back to the chateau. When he
arrived therehe 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 battlehe 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 killedor De Guiche was wounded
only. If he were killedwhy should he leave his body in that manner to
the tender mercies of the wolves; it was a perfectly useless piece of
crueltyfor if De Guiche were deadhe certainly could not breathe a
syllable of what had passed; if he were not killedwhy should heDe
Wardesin leaving him there uncared forallow himself to be regarded as
a savageincapable 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 Guicheandnot knowing where to
find himhad retired to bed. De Wardes went and awoke the sleeper
without any delayand related the whole affair to himwhich Manicamp
listened to in perfect silencebut with an expression of momentarily
increasing energyof which his face could hardly have been supposed
capable. It was only when De Wardes had finishedthat Manicamp uttered
the wordsLet us go.

As they proceededManicamp became more and more excitedand in
proportion as De Wardes related the details of the affair to himhis
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 factthe glade could now be seenand in the open space lay the
motionless body of the dead horse. To the right of the horseupon the
dark grasswith his face against the groundthe poor comte laybathed
in his blood. He had remained in the same spotand did not even seem to
have made the slightest movement. Manicamp threw himself on his knees
lifted the comte in his armsand found him quite coldand steeped in
blood. He let him gently fall again. Thenstretching out his hand and
feeling all over the ground close to where the comte layhe sought until
he found De Guiche's pistol.

By Heaven!he saidrising to his feetpale as death and with the
pistol in his handyou are not mistaken, he is quite dead.

Dead!repeated De Wardes.

Yes; and his pistol is still loaded,added Manicamplooking 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
breastand with arm stretched outand a fixeddetermined look on his
facetook a careful aim.

De Wardes did not attempt a flight; he was completely terrified. In the
midsthoweverof this horrible silencewhich lasted about a second
but which seemed an age to De Wardesa faint sigh was heard.

Oh,exclaimed De Wardeshe still lives! Help, De Guiche, I am about
to be assassinated!

Manicamp fell back a step or twoand the two young men saw the comte
raise himself slowly and painfully upon one hand. Manicamp threw the
pistol away a dozen pacesand ran to his frienduttering a cry of
delight. De Wardes wiped his foreheadwhich was covered with a cold
perspiration.

It was just in time,he murmured.

Where are you hurt?inquired Manicamp of De Guicheand whereabouts
are you wounded?

De Guiche showed him his mutilated hand and his chest covered with blood.

Comte,exclaimed De WardesI 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
loyallyand whoever says the contrary will make an enemy of me."

Then, sir,said Manicampassist 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 alreadyin one hourI 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 laughingand Guichetooin spite of his
sufferings. The two young men wished to carry himbut he declared he
felt quite strong enough to walk alone. The ball had broken his ringfinger
and his little fingerand then had glanced along his sidebut
without penetrating deeply into his chest. It was the pain rather than
the seriousness of the woundthereforewhich had overcome De Guiche.
Manicamp passed his arm under one of the count's shouldersand De Wardes
did the same with the otherand in this way they brought him back to


Fontainebleauto the house of the same doctor who had been present at
the death of the FranciscanAramis's predecessor.


Chapter XIV:
The King's Supper.


The kingwhile these matters were being arrangedwas sitting at the
supper-tableand the not very large number of guests for that day had
taken their seats tooafter the usual gesture intimating the royal
permission. At this period of Louis XIV.'s reignalthough etiquette was
not governed by the strict regulations subsequently adoptedthe 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 ceremonywhich he despaired of being able fully to realize.


The kingthereforewas seated alone at a small separate tablewhich
like the desk of a presidentoverlooked the adjoining tables. Although
we say a small tablewe must not omit to add that this small table was
the largest one there. Moreoverit was the one on which were placed the
greatest number and quantity of dishesconsisting of fishgamemeat
fruitvegetablesand preserves. The king was young and full of vigor
and energyvery fond of huntingaddicted to all violent exercises of
the bodypossessingbesideslike all the members of the Bourbon
familya 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 commendationthe honor was
overwhelming. The king began by eating several kinds of soupeither
mixed together or taken separately. He intermixedor rather separated
each of the soups by a glass of old wine. He ate quickly and somewhat
greedily. Porthoswho from the beginning hadout of respectbeen
waiting for a jog of D'Artagnan's armseeing the king make such rapid
progressturned 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'Artagnanbut 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 Porthosis 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
welleats 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 musketeersis 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 himand_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 namepronounced in such a mannermade him startand by a
vigorous effort of his gullet he absorbed the whole mouthful.

Sire,replied Porthosin a stifled voicebut sufficiently
intelligiblenevertheless.

Let those _filets d'agneau_ be handed to Monsieur du Vallon,said the
king; "do you like brown meatsM. 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 Porthoscalmly.

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 delightandwhile cutting some of the
_faisan en daube_which was being handed to himhe 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. Thencontinuing the conversationhe
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
Porthoswho continued to play his part in the best manner.

You have an excellent appetite, M. du Vallon,said the kingand 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 tablewhich made Porthos color
up.

At your majesty's present happy age,said Porthosin order to repair
the mistake he had madeI 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 kingindicating Porthos by a gesturehere 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 majestydo nothing but tantalize with our stomachs.And as he
spokehe took the breast of a chicken with hamwhile 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 Porthosphlegmatically; "I shall come to that by and
by."

In fact it was not long before it came to the boar's turnfor 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 himselfand he
accordingly took some of the boar's head. Porthos showed that he could
keep pace with his sovereign; andinstead of eating the halfas
D'Artagnan had told himhe ate three-fourths of it. "It is impossible
said the king in an undertone, that a gentleman who eats so good a
supper every dayand who has such beautiful teethcan be otherwise than
the most straightforwardupright man in my kingdom."

Do you hear?said D'Artagnan in his friend's ear.

Yes; I think I am rather in favor,said Porthosbalancing himself on
his chair.

Oh! you are in luck's way.

The king and Porthos continued to eat in the same mannerto the great
satisfaction of the other guestssome of whomfrom emulationhad
attempted to follow thembut 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 cheerfulas most good livers
generally dobecame dullmelancholyand taciturn. Porthoson the
contrarywas 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-doorand he
was heard occasionally to inquire how it happened that Monsieur de Saint-
Aignan was so long in arriving. At lastat the moment when his majesty
was finishing a pot of preserved plums with a deep sighSaint-Aignan
appeared. The king's eyeswhich had become somewhat dullimmediately
began to sparkle. The comte advanced towards the king's tableand Louis
rose at his approach. Everybody got up at the same timeincluding
Porthoswho 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 armand passed into the adjoining
apartment. "What has detained youcomte?" 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 letterinclosing the
verses which history has preserved entire for usand which are more
meritorious in invention than in execution. Such as they werehowever
the king was enchanted with themand exhibited his satisfaction by
unequivocal transports of delight; but the universal silence which
reigned in the rooms warned Louisso sensitively particular with regard
to good breedingthat his delight must give rise to various


interpretations. He turned aside and put the note in his pocketand
then advancing a few stepswhich brought him again to the threshold of
the door close to his guestshe saidM. du Vallon, I have seen you today
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 armmade him read La Valliere's verses over againand
saidWhat 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-Aignanyou 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 speakand 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 obeyedand the
musketeer entered.

Monsieur d'Artagnan,said the kingyou 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 kingamazed 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 kinglaughing 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 arrivedquite out of breath.

You will go, monsieur,said the king to himand 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 remarkas 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 truthD'Artagnanwithout losing a secondran to
the stabletook down the lanternsaddled his horse himselfand
proceeded towards the place his majesty had indicated. According to the
promise he had madehe had not accosted any one; andas we have
observedhe 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 gallopinghe in less than five minutes reached
the woodfastened his horse to the first tree he came toand penetrated
to the broad open space on foot. He then began to inspect most
carefullyon foot and with his lantern in his handthe whole surface of
the Rond-pointwent forwardturned back againmeasuredexaminedand
after half an hour's minute inspectionhe returned silently to where he
had left his horseand 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 wasthat they must be verses. The king raised
his head and perceived D'Artagnan. "Wellmonsieur 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 twothirds
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'Artagnancoldly; "it is a hat without
any letters indicating its ownershipwithout arms; a red featheras all
hats have; the laceevenhad 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 kinglet 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 kingfull 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 musketeerquietly. "I
suspected itbut 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'Artagnancoldly.

Monsieur!exclaimed the kingare 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
mesireto gather what particulars I couldrespecting a hostile
meeting that had taken place; those particulars you have. If you order
me to arrest M. de Guiche's adversaryI will do so; but do not order me
to denounce him to youfor 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 reflectionhe
saidYou 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
musketeerphilosophically.

Transcriber's note: "To err is human." - JB

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 combatI repeat;
and unless M. de Manicamp was one of the two men who brought him back - "

Hush!said the kinghe is coming; remain, and listen attentively.

Very good, sire.

Andat the very same momentManicamp and Saint-Aignan appeared at the
threshold of the door.

Chapter XVII:
The Encounter.

The king signified with an imperious gesturefirst to the musketeer
then to Saint-AignanOn your lives, not a word.D'Artagnan withdrew
like a sentinelto a corner of the room; Saint-Aignanin his character
of a favoriteleaned over the back of the king's chair. Manicampwith
his right foot properly advanceda smile upon his lipsand his white
and well-formed hands gracefully disposedadvanced to make his reverence
to the kingwho returned the salutation by a bow. "Good eveningM. de
Manicamp he said.

Your majesty did me the honor to send for me said Manicamp.

Yesin 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'Artagnancalmkindand good-natured as usual

-and Saint-Aignan whom he had accompaniedand who still leaned over the
king's armchair with an expression of countenance equally full of good
feeling. He determinedthereforeto 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 kingit 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 boarhunt
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.

Wellgo 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
eventssirepoor 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.

Transcriber's note: Potatoes were not grown in France at this time. Le
Siecle insists that the error is theirsand that Dumas meant
tomatoes. - JB


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 recitalSaint-Aignanwho probably would have made a sign to
Manicamp to be careful what he was aboutfound that the king's glance
was constantly fixed upon himselfso that it was utterly impossible to
communicate with Manicamp in any way. As for D'Artagnanthe statue of
Silence at Athens was far more noisy and far more expressive than he.
Manicampthereforewas obliged to continue in the same way he had
begunand 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 crossroads
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 handit did not
indicate any particular severitynor 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 kingthat 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 kingwas 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
Manicampand 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 Manicampsaluting 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 startedand 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'Artagnanthere is another who is not up to the
mark;and he uttered a sigh which might signifyOh! the men of _our_
stamp, where are they _now?_

At this moment an usher lifted up the curtain before the doorand
announced the king's physician.

Ah!exclaimed Louishere 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 kingour conscience will be quite
clear.And he looked at D'Artagnanwho 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 seatedSaint-Aignan leaning over the
back of his armchairD'Artagnan with his back against the walland
Manicamp still standing.
Well, M. Valot,said the kingdid 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 kingpretending 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 bulletwhich 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 kingseriouslyyou 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 kingturning round
towards his captain of musketeersand that a duel actually took place.

The king possessedto a greater extent than any one elsethe faculty
enjoyed by the great in power or positionof compromising and dividing
those beneath him. Manicamp darted a look full of reproaches at the
musketeer. D'Artagnan understood the look at onceand not wishing to
remain beneath the weight of such an accusationadvanced a step forward
and said: "Sireyour majesty commanded me to go and explore the place
where the cross-roads meet in the Bois-Rochinand to report to you
according to my own ideaswhat had taken place there. I submitted my
observations to youbut without denouncing any one. It was your majesty
yourself who was the first to name the Comte de Guiche."

Well, monsieur, well,said the kinghaughtily; "you have done your
dutyand I am satisfied with you. But youMonsieur de Manicamphave
failed in yoursfor 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
forwarddetermined to interfereif the still increasing anger of the
king attained certain limits.

You see, monsieur,continued the kingthat 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'Artagnanan 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'Artagnanare we going to take Louis XIII. as a
model?

Sire!said Manicampwith 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 gracefullyunbuckled his swordsmiling as he did
soand 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 kingdelightedperhapsat 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 enoughand 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. "Speakmonsieur 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 meI hopewhen you learn that I was anxious to preserve
the honor of a lady."

Of a lady?said the kingwith 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 saidI 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
householddo 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 justificationand which he
will not venture before witnesses.... Put up your swordM. 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 armand 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'Artagnanas he left the roomI 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 captainleaving the king and
Manicamp alone in the cabinet.


Chapter XIX:
Wherein D'Artagnan Perceives that It Was He Who Was Mistakenand
Manicamp Who Was Right.


The kingdetermined to be satisfied that no one was listeningwent
himself to the doorand 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 kingthat 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 kingas if he had expected the nameand 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 kingcontrolling 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 kinghe saw he had allowed himself to be hurried away a little too
farand therefore continued: - "And I will punish him - not because
there is any question of Mademoiselle de la Vallierealthough 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 courtand that quarrels
shall be put a stop to altogether."

Manicamp bowed.

And now, Monsieur de Manicamp,continued the kingwhat 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 morethen?"

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 blushbut
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 Manicampwhich 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 LouisseriouslyI 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 doorand saidGentlemen, the king wishes you to
return.

D'ArtagnanSaint-Aignanand Valot entered.

Gentlemen,said the kingI summoned you for the purposes of saying
that Monsieur de Manicamp's explanation has entirely satisfied me.

D'Artagnan glanced at Valot and Saint-Aignanas much as to sayWell!
did I not tell you so?

The king led Manicamp to the doorand 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 kingandprovided he received it
he was not very particular as to its quality.


Very well, very well,he saidas he dismissed ManicampI will see De
Guiche myself, and make him listen to reason.And as Manicamp left the
apartmentthe king turned round towards the three spectators of this
sceneand saidTell 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'Artagnanwith 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'Artagnanresuming the
conversation where the king had left off; "he has been imagining all
alongthat not only was M. de Guiche wounded by a bulletbut still
morethat he extracted itevenfrom his chest."


Upon my word,said ValotI assure you -

Now, did you not believe that?continued D'Artagnan.

Yes,said Valot; "not only did I believe itbutat 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 kingM. 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'Artagnanin a loud voiceis
a wild boar-hunt!and he repeated it in every room through which he
passed; and left the chateautaking Valot with him.


And now we are alone,said the king to Saint-Aignanwhat 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 thenretiring to his own roomadded
to himselfTo forgive is not to forget.


Chapter XX:
Showing the Advantage of Having Two Strings to One's Bow.


Manicamp quitted the king's apartmentdelighted at having succeeded so
wellwhenjust as he reached the bottom of the staircase and was
passing a doorwayhe felt that some one suddenly pulled him by the
sleeve. He turned round and recognized Montalaiswho was waiting for
him in the passageand whoin a very mysterious mannerwith her body
bent forwardand in a low tone of voicesaid to himFollow 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 onthen."


And he followed Montalaiswho ran before him as light as Galatea.


This time,said Manicampas he followed his guideI 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 Manicampto have need of one's head and
legs at the same time.

At lasthoweverthey arrived. Madame had just finished undressingand
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 footstepsMadame came forward to meet
them.

Ah!she saidat last!

Here is M. Manicamp,replied Montalais.

Manicamp bowed with the greatest respect; Madame signed to Montalais to
withdrawand she immediately obeyed. Madame followed her with her eyes
in silenceuntil the door closed behind herand thenturning towards
ManicampsaidWhat 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 hadin factheard
it rumoredbut not confirmed. And soin truthit is Monsieur de
Guiche who has been thus unfortunate?"

M. de Guiche himself, Madame.

Are you aware, M. de Manicamp,said the princeshastilythat 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 roomcasting a searching look from
time to time at Manicampwho remained motionless and impassible in the
same place. At last she stopped.

And yet,she saidevery one here seems unanimous in giving another
cause for this wound.

What cause, Madame?said Manicamp; "may I be permittedwithout
indiscretionto 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 princessalmost
spitefully; "for the king may possibly question you a second timeand
ifon the second occasionyou were to repeat the same story to himhe
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 Manicampwith 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 smileand moved his head and shoulders very slightly
as much as to sayOh, if you will positively have it so -

But speak, at all events,said the princessout 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 princessalmost out of temper.

Manicamp remained silent.

A quarrel,she continuedwhich 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 Madameexasperated; "very wellthenwait one
momentI will dare."

Madame, Madame!exclaimed Manicampas if in great dismaybe 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 Manicampstarting 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 manbut 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 wellinformed.


Of everything. I beg you to understand that clearly.

Manicamp began to laughwhich almost exasperated the princesswho was
notas we knowof a very patient disposition.

Madame,resumed the discreet Manicampsaluting the princesslet 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 princesswith a gesture of indescribable irony; "I!
and by what titlemay 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 princessin 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
hesitatinglyfor Manicamp's steady look had just revealed something of
the truth to her.

I trust, Madame,said the young manI 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 Madameblushing.

Must I,continued Manicamptell 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. "Monsieurmonsieur!"
she exclaimed; "do you know what you are sayingand to whom you are
speaking?"

And so, Madame,pursued Manicampas if he had not heard the
exclamations of the princessnothing will astonish you any longer, neither
the comte's ardor in seeking the quarrel, nor his wonderful
address in transferring it to an 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 Madameas if she had been aloneis 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. Madameon her sideremained for some time
plunged in a painful reverie. Her agitation could be seen by her quick
respirationby her drooping eyelidsby the frequency with which she
pressed her hand upon her heart. Butin hercoquetry was not so much a
passive qualityason the contrarya fire which sought for fuel to
maintain itselffinding anywhere and everywhere what it required.

If it be as you assert,she saidthe 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 serviceindeed 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 whichin
some respectscasts a dishonorable suspicion upon that young girl; a
sensationindeedwhich 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 womanthe
happiness of a manandperhapsit has wounded to death one of the best
gentlemen in France. OhMadame! your logic is cold - even calculating;
it always condemns - it never absolves."

Manicamp's concluding words scattered to the winds the last doubt which
lingerednot in Madame's heartbut in her mind. She was no longer a
princess full of scruplesnor a woman with her ever-returning
suspicionsbut one whose heart has just felt the mortal chill of a
wound. "Wounded to death!" she murmuredin a faltering voiceoh,
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 princesswith 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 hadin fact
displayed no little energy in the latter part of his speech. As for
Madameshe entirely threw aside all regard for the formal observances of
propriety society imposes; for whenwith herpassion spoke in accents
either of anger or sympathynothing could restrain her impulses. Madame
approached Manicampwho had subsided in a chairas 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 placean artery having been injured in the
hand; and nextin consequence of the wound in his breastwhich maythe
doctor is afraidat leasthave 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 roseand
with an expression of profoundest respectseemed to be desirous of
taking leave.

At least, monsieur,said Madamestopping him with almost a suppliant
airyou 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 princesshurriedly; "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 roundbowed once moreand left the roomhis heart
overflowing with joy. In facthe 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 softlyand closed with like precaution. He listened to the light
footfalls gliding down the staircaseand then hard the signal agreed
upon. He immediately went outandfaithful to his promisebent his
waywithout once turning his headthrough the streets of Fontainebleau
towards the doctor's dwelling.

Chapter XXI:

M. Malicorne the Keeper of the Records of France.
Two womentheir figures completely concealed by their mantlesand whose
masks effectually hid the upper portion of their facestimidly followed
Manicamp's steps. On the first floorbehind curtains of red damaskthe
soft light of a lamp placed upon a low table faintly illumined the room
at the other extremity of whichon a large bedstead supported by spiral
columnsaround which curtains of the same color as those which deadened
the rays of the lamp had been closely drawnlay De Guichehis head
supported by pillowshis eyes looking as if the mists of death were
gathering; his long black hairscattered over the pillowset 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


pursuingthrough gloom and mysteryone of those wild creations delirium
engenders. Two or three drops of bloodstill liquidstained the
floor. Manicamp hurriedly ran up the stairsbut paused at the threshold
of the doorlooked into the roomand seeing that everything was
perfectly quiethe advanced towards the foot of the large leathern
armchaira specimen of furniture of the reign of Henry IV.and seeing
that the nurseas a matter of coursehad dropped off to sleephe awoke
herand begged her to pass into the adjoining room.

Thenstanding by the side of the bedhe remained for a moment
deliberating whether it would be better to awaken Guichein order to
acquaint him with the good news. Butas he began to hear behind the
door the rustling of silk dresses and the hurried breathing of his two
companionsand as he already saw that the curtain screening the doorway
seemed on the point of being impatiently drawn asidehe passed round the
bed and followed the nurse into the next room. As soon as he had
disappeared the curtain was raisedand his two female companions entered
the room he had just left. The one who entered first made a gesture to
her companionwhich riveted her to the spot where she stoodclose to
the doorand then resolutely advanced towards the beddrew back the
curtains along the iron rodand 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 uncoveredas though for the cool
night air to assist his respiration. A narrow bandage fastened the
dressings of the woundaround 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 bedand gazed
through the apertures in her maskupon 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 handwhich scorched
like burning coals. But at the very moment she placed her icy hand upon
itthe action of the cold was such that De Guiche opened his eyesand
by a look in which revived intelligence was dawningseemed 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
sighthis eyes became dilatedbut 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 lessonfor in a clear tone of voiceand without
any hesitation whatevershe pronounced these words: - "Monsieur le
comteher royal highness Madame is desirous of knowing how you are able
to bear your woundand to express to youby my lipsher great regret
at seeing you suffer."

As she pronounced the word MadameGuiche started; he had not as yet
remarked the person to whom the voice belongedand he naturally turned
towards the direction whence it preceded. Butas he felt the cold hand
still resting on his ownhe again turned towards the motionless figure
beside him. "Was it you who spokemadame?" he askedin a weak voice
or is there another person in beside you in the room?

Yes,replied the figurein an almost unintelligible voiceas she bent
down her head.

Well,said the wounded manwith a great effortI 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 mistressas she tottered almost senseless
towards the staircaseand as the outer door had been left only halfclosed
the two womenlight as birdspassed through itand with
hurried steps returned to the palace. One of the ascended towards
Madame's apartmentswhere she disappeared; the other entered the rooms
belonging to the maids of honornamelyon the _entresol_and having
reached her own roomshe sat down before a tableand without giving
herself time even to breathewrote 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 letterand leaving her room with every possible
precautioncrossed a corridor which led to the apartments appropriated
to the gentlemen attached to Monsieur's service. She stopped before a
doorunder whichhaving previously knocked twice in a shortquick
mannershe thrust the paperand fled. Thenreturning to her own room
she removed every trace of her having gone outand 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 whichaccording to her mistress's directionsshe had brought back
but had forgotten to restore to her. "Ohoh!" she saidI 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
cheeksand feeling that her thumb was wetlooked at it. It was not
only wetbut reddened. The mask had fallen upon one of the spots of
blood whichwe have already saidstained the floorand from that black
velvet outside which had accidentally come into contact with itthe
blood had passed through to the insideand stained the white cambric
lining. "Ohoh!" said Montalaisfor doubtless our readers have already
recognized her by these various maneuversI shall not give back this
mask; it is far too precious now.

And rising from her seatshe ran towards a box made of maple woodwhich
inclosed different articles of toilette and perfumery. "Nonot here
she said, such a treasure must not be abandoned to the slightest chance


of detection."

Thenafter a moment's silenceand with a smile that was peculiarly her
ownshe added: - "Beautiful maskstained with the blood of that brave
knightyou shall go and join that collection of wondersLa Valliere's
and Raoul's lettersthat loving collectionindeedwhich will some day
or other form part of the history of Franceof 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 apartmentsand whom I will make
keeper of the records and historiographer of the house of Bourbonand of
the first houses in the kingdom. Let him grumble nowthat 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: - ReallyMonsieurI fancied that you would have been
polite enoughon account of the terrible heartto have left me my
carriage to myselfand to have performed the journey yourself on
horseback."

Ride on horseback!cried the princewith an accent of dismay which
showed how little idea he had of adopting this unnatural advice; "you
cannot suppose such a thingMadame! 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 Monsieurwith the greatest
coolness; "besidesI have no horse."

What, no horse?replied the princesswhoif she did not secure the
solitude she requiredat least obtained the amusement of teasing. "No
horse! You are mistakenMonsieur; for I see your favorite bay out
yonder."

My bay horse!exclaimed the princeattempting 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 horseled by M. de Malicorne."

Poor beast,replied the prince; "how warm it must be!"

And with these words he closed his eyeslike a man on the point of
death. Madameon her sidereclined indolently in the other corner of
the carriageand closed her eyes alsonothoweverto sleepbut to
think more at her ease. In the meantime the kingseated in the front
seat of his carriagethe back of which he had yielded up to the two
queenswas a prey to that feverish contrariety experienced by anxious
loverswhowithout being able to quench their ardent thirstare
ceaselessly desirous of seeing the loved objectand then go away
partially satisfiedwithout perceiving they have acquired a more
insatiable thirst than ever. The kingwhose carriage headed the
processioncould not from the place he occupied perceive the carriages
of the ladies and maids of honorwhich followed in a line behind it.
Besideshe was obliged to answer the eternal questions of the young
queenwhohappy 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 usand 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 suspectswhenalthough herself a prey to
jealousyshe watches herself so narrowly that she avoids giving any
pretext for an angry feeling. The kingthereforein the present case
could not refuse; he accepted the offeralighted from the carriagegave
his arm to the queenand walked up and down with her while the horses
were being changed. As he walked alonghe cast an envious glance upon
the courtierswho 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 carriageand the king conducted her to
the doorbut did not get in with her. He stepped back a few pacesand
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
motionlesswrapt in thoughtwithout perceiving that everything was
readyand that he alone was causing the delayhe heard a voice close
beside himaddressing him in the most respectful manner. It was M.
Malicornein a complete costume of an equerryholding 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 kingtrying to
remember the person who addressed himand whose face was not as yet
familiar to him.

Sire,replied Malicorneat all events I have a horse here which is at
your majesty's service.

And Malicorne pointed at Monsieur's bay horsewhich 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 replybut approached the horsewhich 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 accidentthe king hastened towards the queen's carriagewhere he
was anxiously expected; and notwithstanding Maria Theresa's thoughtful
and preoccupied airhe said: "I have been fortunate enough to find this
horseand I intend to avail myself of it. I felt stifled in the
carriage. Adieuladies."

Then bending gracefully over the arched neck of his beautiful steedhe
disappeared in a second. Anne of Austria leaned forwardin order to
look after him as he rode away; he did not get very farfor when he
reached the sixth carriagehe reined in his horse suddenly and took off
his hat. He saluted La Vallierewho uttered a cry of surprise as she
saw himblushing at the same time with pleasure. Montalaiswho
occupied the other seat in the carriagemade the king a most respectful
bow. And thenwith all the tact of a womanshe pretended to be
exceedingly interested in the landscapeand withdrew herself into the
left-hand corner. The conversation between the king and La Valliere
beganas all lovers' conversations generally donamelyby eloquent
looks and by a few words utterly devoid of common sense. The king
explained how warm he had felt in his carriageso 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
wishthat of learning the name of the gentleman who so cleverly assisted
his king out of his dilemmaand extricated him from his cruel position."

Montalaisduring this colloquythe first words of which had awakened
her attentionhad slightly altered her positionand 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 toand consequently might be permitted to answer. She
therefore said: "Sirethe horse which your majesty is riding belongs to
Monsieurand 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 effectfor the king repeated it smilingly.

Yes, sire,replied Aure. "Stayit is the gentleman who is galloping
on my left hand;" and she pointed out Malicornewhowith a very
sanctified expressionwas galloping by the side of the carriageknowing
perfectly well that they were talking of him at that very momentbut
sitting in his saddle as if he were deaf and dumb.


Yes,said the kingthat 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 rootand the event would bear fruit in due season. She
consequently threw herself back in her cornerfeeling perfectly
justified in making as many agreeable signs of recognition as she liked
to Malicornesince the latter had had the happiness of pleasing the
king. As will readily be believedMontalais was not mistaken; and
Malicornewith his quick ear and his sly lookseemed 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 enforcedand we shall see each other no
more."

Your majesty is too much attached to Madame,replied Louisenot to
come and see her very frequently; and whenever your majesty may chance to
pass across the apartments -

Ah!said the kingin a tender voicewhich was gradually lowered in
its toneto 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
burstingbut 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 silentbut raised her eyesbrimful of
affectiontoward the king. Louisas if overcome by this burning
glancepassed his hand across his foreheadand pressing the sides of
his horse with his kneesmade him bound several paces forward. La
Valliereleaning back in her carriagewith her eyes half closedgazed
fixedly upon the kingwhose plumes were floating in the air; she could
not but admire his graceful carriagehis delicate and nervous limbs
which pressed his horse's sidesand the regular outline of his features
which his beautiful curling hair set off to great advantagerevealing
occasionally his small and well-formed ear. In fact the poor girl was in
loveand she reveled in her innocent affection. In a few moments the
king was again by her side.

Do you not perceive,he saidhow 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 loveit will
be for all my life."

If you love, you say,exclaimed the king; "you do _not_ love nowthen?"

She hid her face in her hands.

You see,said the kingthat 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 kingtaking off his gloveand placing his hand
within the carriagehe continued: - "Swearthat never in all our
quarrels will we allow one night even to pass byif any misunderstanding
should arise between uswithout a visitor at least a messagefrom
eitherin order to convey consolation and repose to the other."

La Valliere took her lover's burning hand between her own cool palmsand
pressed it softlyuntil a movement of the horsefrightened by the
proximity of the wheelsobliged her to abandon her happiness. She had
vowed as he desired.

Return, sire,she saidreturn to the queen. I foresee a storm
yonder, which threatens my peace of mind and yours.

Louis obeyedsaluted Mademoiselle de Montalaisand set off at a gallop
to rejoin the queen. As he passed Monsieur's carriagehe observed that
he was fast asleepalthough Madameon her partwas wide awake. As the
king passed her she saidWhat a beautiful horse, sire! Is it not
Monsieur's bay horse?

The young queen kindly askedAre you better now, sire?

Transcriber's note: In the five-volume editionVolume 3 ends here. - JB

Chapter XXIII:
Triumfeminate.

On the king's arrival in Parishe sat at the council which had been
summonedand worked for a certain portion of the day. The queen
remained with the queen-motherand burst into tears as soon as she had
taken leave of the king. "Ahmadame!" she saidthe 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 Austriathat the king
has ever done anything of the sort?

No, madame,said the young queenhesitatingly.

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 smileand she took the
young queen's hand in her ownremember 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-lawin order
to meet Madamewhose 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 agitationwhich betrayed a planthe
execution of which occupiedwhile the result disturbedher mind.

I came to ascertain,she saidif 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 Theresaturning pale.

Madame said not a word in reply; but one of those smiles which were
peculiarly her own flitted for a moment across her lipswithout passing
over the rest of her face; thenimmediately changing the conversation
she continuedWe 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 queenmother.
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 queenyou 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. "Wellwhat 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-motherand without moving her
lipsin her daughter-in-law's earwithout being overheard by Madame
who thus continued: - "You know the terrible news?"

Transcriber's note: "In your house." - JB

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 togethertheir interest awakened.

Madame drew closer to themas she saidin a low tone of voiceIt was
a duel.

Ah!said Anne of Austriain a severe tone; forin her earsthe word
duel,which had been forbidden in France all the time she reigned over
ithad 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 queenanimated by a
secret instinct.


Flirtation,repeated Madametriumphantly. "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 saidI
believeshe 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 tapestryand 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 queenforgetting 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 Marsand no
doubt affirmed that it was all a mere boast."

And M. de Wardes,said Anne of Austriaquietlyspread the report
that Venus was within her rights, I suppose?

Oh, De Wardes,thought Madameyou 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 debtwith the assurance that she was working the future ruin of
her enemy. She said so muchin factthat had Manicamp been therehe
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 saythat 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 Austriacalmly. "Such manners
were useful enoughperhapsin days when the divided nobility had no
other rallying-point than mere gallantry. At that time womenwhose sway
was absolute and undividedwere privileged to encourage men's valor by
frequent trials of their courage. But nowthank Heaventhere is but
one master in Franceand to him every instinct of the mindevery 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
sayingWhat is to be done with this La Valliere?


La Valliere?said the queenapparently surprisedI do not even know
the name;and she accompanied this remark by one of those coldfixed
smiles only to be observed on royal lips.


Madame was herself a princess great in every respectgreat in
intelligencegreat by birthby pride; the queen's replyhowever
completely astonished herand 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
affairmy sisterand not ours."


I beg your pardon,resumed Anne of Austriait is my affair. And I
perfectly well understand,she pursuedaddressing a look full of
intelligence at MadameMadame'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
gentlywe must bestow a pension upon her.


Which I will provide for out of my income,exclaimed Madame.


No, no,interrupted Anne of Austriano 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 commandsand as Maria Theresa rose
to return to her apartmentsMadame 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 dutiesand never had the
queen-mother been unkind to her when such was the case. Besidesnot
being immediately under the control or direction of Anne of Austriashe
could only have an official connection with herto which her own
gentleness of dispositionand the rank of the august princessmade 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 charmand as she did not approach sufficiently
closeAnne of Austria signed to her to come nearer. Madame then entered
the roomand with a perfectly calm air took her seat beside her motherin-
lawand continued the work which Maria Theresa had begun. When La
Valliereinstead of the direction which she expected to receive
immediately on entering the roomperceived these preparationsshe
looked with curiosityif not with uneasinessat the two princesses.
Anne seemed full of thoughtwhile Madame maintained an affectation of
indifference that would have alarmed a less timid person even than Louise.

Mademoiselle,said the queen-mother suddenlywithout attempting to
moderate or disguise her Spanish accentwhich she never failed to do
except when she was angrycome closer; we were talking of you, as every
one else seems to be doing.

Of me!exclaimed La Valliereturning 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 Valliereclasping 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 feetwho turned her back upon her. She
stretched out her hands towards Madamewho 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 Austrialisten 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 becamenot whiterbut as
white as a lilyand all her strength forsook her.

I wished to inform you,interrupted the queendisdainfullythat 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 heartwhich 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 Madamewhere 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 Austriawe 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 queenwho pitilessly added: "I will send
you somewhereby yourselfwhere you will be able to indulge in a little
serious reflection. Reflection calms the ardor of the bloodand
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 queenwith 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'Orleanswhose hands she
seized in her owndo you, who are so good, intercede for me?

I!replied the latterwith an insulting joyI - good! - Ah,
mademoiselle, you think nothing of the kind;and with a rudehasty
gesture she repulsed the young girl's grasp.

La Valliereinstead of giving wayas from her extreme pallor and her
tears the two princesses possibly expectedsuddenly resumed her calm and
dignified air; she bowed profoundlyand left the room.

Well!said Anne of Austria to Madamedo 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 selfreliant
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 prouddefiant look of the queen-mother was the reply to this
objectionwhich was by no means deficient in finesse; and both of them
almost sure of their victorywent to look for Maria Theresawho had
been waiting for them with impatience.

It was about half-past six in the eveningand the king had just partaken
of refreshment. He lost no time; but the repast finishedand business
matters settledhe took Saint-Aignan by the armand 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-Aignanit 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 stepspreceding the king
and crossed the different courtyards with a feeling of shamewhich the
distinguished honor of accompanying the king did not remove. The reason
was that Saint-Aignan wished to stand well with Madameas well as with
the queensand alsothat he did noton the other handwant to
displease Mademoiselle de la Valliere: and in order to carry out so many
promising affairsit was difficult to avoid jostling against some
obstacle or other. Besidesthe windows of the young queen's rooms
those of the queen-mother'sand of Madame herselflooked out upon the
courtyard of the maids of honor. To be seenthereforeaccompanying the
kingwould 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 Fontainebleaudid not feel any braver in
the broad day-lightand 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 hastilybecause of his impatience
and the long legs of Saint-Aignanwho preceded him. At the door
howeverSaint-Aignan wished to retirebut the king desired him to
remain; a delicate considerationon the king's partwhich 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 tearsbut so precipitately that the king perceived it. He
questioned her most anxiously and tenderlyand 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 answeredbut 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 saidas she turned aside her head. "In Heaven's
namewhat is the matter?" he inquiredbeginning to lose command over
himself.

Nothing at all, sire; and I am perfectly ready to assure your majesty
that my mind is as free form 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 princehis
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 footsayingSuch a
change is positively inexplicable.And he looked at Saint-Aignanwho
had also remarked La Valliere's peculiar lethargyas well as the king's
impatience.

It was futile for the king to entreatand 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 Vallierein her misery far indeed from
thinking of this portraitcould not conjecture the cause of the king's
preoccupation. And yet the king's mind was occupied with a terrible
remembrancewhich had more than once taken possession of his mindbut
which he had always driven away. He recalled the intimacy existing
between the two young people from their birththeir engagementand that
Athos himself had come to solicit La Valliere's hand for Raoul. He
therefore could not but suppose that on her return to ParisLa Valliere
had found news from London awaiting herand that this news had
counterbalanced the influence he had been enabled to exert over her. He
immediately felt himself stungas it wereby feelings of the wildest
jealousy; and again questioned herwith increased bitterness. La
Valliere could not replyunless she were to acknowledge everything
which would be to accuse the queenand Madame also; and the consequence
would bethat 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
mindthe king ought to be able to read in her heartin spite of her
silence; and thathad he really loved herhe would have understood and
guessed everything. What was sympathythenif not that divine flame
which possesses the property of enlightening the heartand of saving
lovers the necessity of an expression of their thoughts and feelings?
She maintained her silencethereforesighingand concealing her face
in her hands. These sighs and tearswhich had at first distressedthen
terrified Louis XIV.now irritated him. He could not bear oppositionthe
opposition which tears and sighs exhibitedany more than opposition
of any other kind. His remarksthereforebecame bitterurgentand
openly aggressive in their nature. This was a fresh cause of distress
for the poor girl. From that very circumstancethereforewhich she
regarded as an injustice on her lover's partshe drew sufficient courage
to bearnot only her other troublesbut 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 ejaculationinstead of
calming the king's displeasurerather increased it. Hemoreoversaw
himself seconded by Saint-Aignanfor Saint-Aignanas we have observed


having seen the storm increasingand not knowing the extent of the
regard of which Louis XIV. was capablefeltby anticipationall the
collected wrath of the three princessesand the near approach of poor La
Valliere's downfalland 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 shortdry
remarkspronounced half-aloud; and by abrupt gestureswhose object was
to make things worseand bring about a misunderstandingthe result of
which would be to free him from the annoyance of having to cross the
courtyards in open dayin 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
roombut returned. The young girl did nothoweverraise her head
although the sound of his footsteps might have warned her that her lover
was leaving her. He drew himself upfor a momentbefore herwith his
arms crossed.

For the last time, mademoiselle,he saidwill 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 seesirethat I am
completely overwhelmed at this moment; that I have no power of willor
thoughtor 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 kingher
arms made a sudden movement as if they were about to openbut her lips
remained silentand 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 kingthis 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 backand he darted out of the room
with a gesture full of despair. Saint-Aignan followed himwishing for
nothing better than to quit the place.

Louis XIV. did not pause until he reached the staircaseand grasping the
balustradesaid: "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-Aignancontinuing
to follow the kingand timidly glancing up at the different windows.

Unfortunately their return was notlike their arrivalunobserved. A
curtain was suddenly drawn aside; Madame was behind it. She had seen the
king leave the apartments of the maids of honorand as soon as she
observed that his majesty had passedshe left her own apartments with


hurried stepsand 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 armsas if to follow and detain himbut when
having violently closed the doorthe sound of his retreating footsteps
could be heard in the distanceshe had hardly sufficient strength left
to totter towards and fall at the foot of her crucifix. There she
remainedbroken-heartedabsorbedand 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 thoughtsLa Valliere heard her door open again; she
startedand turned roundthinking it was the king who had returned.
She was deceivedhoweverfor it was Madame who appeared at the door.
What did she now care for Madame! Again she sank downher head
supported by her _prie-Dieu_ chair. It was Madameagitatedangryand
threatening. But what was that to her? "Mademoiselle said the
princess, standing before La Valliere, this is very fineI admitto
kneel and prayand make a pretense of being religious; but however
submissive you may be in your address to Heavenit 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 Madamea 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 Madameto 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 Madameallow 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 lowernor could she suffer more than she had
already suffered. Her countenance did not even changebut she remained
kneeling with her hands claspedlike the figure of the Magdalen.

Did you hear me?said Madame.

A shiverwhich passed through her whole framewas La Valliere's only
reply. And as the victim gave no other signs of lifeMadame left the
room. And thenher very respiration suspendedand her blood almost
congealedas it werein her veinsLa Valliere by degrees felt that the
pulsation of her wristsher neckand templesbegan to throb more and
more painfully. These pulsationsas they gradually increasedsoon
changed into a species of brain feverand in her temporary delirium she
saw the figures of her friends contending with her enemiesfloating
before her vision. She heardtoomingled together in her deafened
earswords 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 upraisedand the grim
appalling texture of eternal night revealed to her distracted gaze. But
the horror of the dream which possessed her senses faded awayand she
was again restored to the habitual resignation of her character. A ray
of hope penetrated her heartas a ray of sunlight streams into the
dungeon of some unhappy captive. Her mind reverted to the journey from
Fontainebleaushe saw the king riding beside her carriagetelling her
that he loved herasking for her love in returnrequiring her to swear
and himself to swear toothat never should an evening pass byif ever a
misunderstanding were to arise between themwithout a visita lettera
sign of some kindbeing sentto replace the troubled anxiety of the
evening with the calm repose of the night. It was the king who had
suggested thatwho had imposed a promise on herand who had sworn to it
himself. It was impossiblethereforeshe reasonedthat the king
should fail in keeping the promise which he had himself exacted from her
unlessindeedLouis was a despot who enforced love as he enforced
obedience; unlesstoothe king were so indifferent that the first
obstacle in his way was sufficient to arrest his further progress. The
kingthat kind protectorwho by a worda single wordcould relieve
her distress of mindthe king even joined her persecutors. Oh! his
anger could not possibly last. Now that he was alonehe would be
suffering all that she herself was a prey to. But he was not tied hand
and foot as she was; he could actcould move aboutcould come to her
while she could do nothing but wait. And the poor girl waited and
waitedwith 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 heror write to
heror 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 itand also the more she reflectedLouis
appeared to her to be less guilty. In facthe 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 beit
was extraordinary that he had been able to preserve his temper so long.
And yethad it been her own caseshe undoubtedly would not have acted
in such a manner; she would have understood - have guessed everything.
Yesbut she was nothing but a poor simple-minded girland not a great
and powerful monarch. Oh! if he would but comeif 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 satwith her head bent forward in eager
expectation towards the doorher lips slightly partedas 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 indicatedwhen
he pronounced the word _love!_ If the king did not comeat least he
would write; it was a second chance; a chance less delightful certainly
than the otherbut which would show an affection just as strongonly
more timid in its nature. Oh! how she would devour his letterhow eager
she would be to answer it! and when the messenger who had brought it had
left herhow she would kiss itread it over and over againpress to
her heart the lucky paper which would have brought her ease of mind
tranquillityand perfect happiness. At all eventsif the king did not
comeif the king did not writehe could not do otherwise than send
Saint-Aignanor Saint-Aignan could not do otherwise than come of his own
accord. Even if it were a third personhow openly she would speak to
him; the royal presence would not be there to freeze her words upon her
tongueand then no suspicious feeling would remain a moment longer in
the king's heart.


Everything with La Valliereheart and lookbody and mindwas
concentrated in eager expectation. She said to herself that there was an
hour left in which to indulge hope; that until midnight struckthe king
might comeor write or send; that at midnight only would every
expectation vanishevery hope be lost. Whenever she heard any stir in
the palacethe 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 struckthen a
quarter-past eleven; then half-past. The minutes dragged slowly on in
this anxietyand yet they seemed to pass too quickly. And nowit
struck a quarter to twelve. Midnight - midnight was nearthe lastthe
final hope that remained. With the last stroke of the clockthe last
ray of light seemed to fade away; and with the last ray faded her final
hope. And sothe 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 as not long
alas! to have preserved the illusion. And sonot only did the king not
love herbut he despised her whom every one ill-treatedhe 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 hethe king himselfwho was the first cause of this ignominy. A
bitter smilethe only symptom of anger which during this long conflict
had passed across the angelic faceappeared upon her lips. Whatin
factnow remained on earth for herafter the king was lost to her?
Nothing. But Heaven still remainedand 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."
Andthereuponcould any one have gazed into the recesses of that
chamberthey would have seen the poor despairing girl adopt a final
resolutionand determine upon one last plan in her mind. Thenas her
knees were no longer able to support hershe gradually sank down upon
the _prie-Dieu_and with her head pressed against the wooden crossher
eyes fixedand her respiration short and quickshe watched for the
earliest rays of approaching daylight. At two o'clock in the morning she
was still in the same bewilderment of mindor 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 palaceand vaguely revealing the outlines of the
ivory crucifix which she held embracedshe rose from the ground with a
new-born strengthkissed the feet of the divine martyrdescended the
staircase leading from the roomand 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 reliefguard
belonging to one of the Swiss regiments. And thengliding behind
the soldiersshe 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 rightby the Rue St. Honoreand 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 Chaillotthe superior of which enjoyed a reputation for
severity which made the worldly-minded people of the court tremble. La
Valliere had never seen Parisshe had never gone out on footand 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
ascendedinstead of descendingthe Rue St. Honore. Her only thought
was to get away from the Palais Royaland this she was doing; she had
heard it said that Chaillot looked out upon the Seineand she
accordingly directed her steps towards the Seine. She took the Rue de
Coqand not being able to cross the Louvrebore towards the church of
Saint Germain l'Auxerroisproceeding 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
youngand which obliged her to limp slightly. At any other hour in the
day her countenance would have awakened the suspicions of the least clear-
sightedattracted the attention of the most indifferent. But at half-
past two in the morningthe streets of Paris are almostif not quite
desertedand 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
streetswho are returning to their homes after a night of riot and
debauchery; for the former the day was beginningand for the latter it
was just closing. La Valliere was afraid of both facesin 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 dresswhich was
the same she had worn during the previous eveningwas elegant even in
its careless disorder; for it was the one in which she had presented
herself to the queen-mother; andmoreoverwhen she drew aside the
mantle which covered her facein order to enable her to see the way she
was goingher pallor and her beautiful eyes spoke an unknown language to
the men she metandunconsciouslythe poor fugitive seemed to invite
the brutal remarks of the one classor to appeal to the compassion of
the other. La Valliere still walked on in the same waybreathless and
hurrieduntil she reached the top of the Place de Greve. She stopped
from time to timeplaced her hand upon her heartleaned against a wall
until she could breathe freely againand 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 menreeling and staggering
alongwho were just leaving a boat which they had made fast to the quay;
the boat was freighted with winesand it was apparent that they had done
ample justice to the merchandise. They were celebrating their convivial
exploits in three different keyswhen suddenlyas they reached the end
of the railing leading down to the quaythey found an obstacle in their
pathin the shape of this young girl. La Valliere stopped; while they
on their partat the appearance of the young girl dressed in court
costumealso haltedand seizing each other by the handthey surrounded
La Vallieresinging-


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 herand
wished to prevent her passing; she tried to do so several timesbut her
efforts were useless. Her limbs failed her; she felt she was on the
point of fallingand 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 leftanother
fell rolling over and over to the rightclose to the water's edgewhile
the third could hardly keep his feet. An officer of the musketeers stood
face to face with the young girlwith threatening brow and hand raised
to carry out his threat. The drunken fellowsat 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 musketeerthat it can be Mademoiselle



de la Valliere?

La Vallierebewildered by what had just happenedand confounded by
hearing her name pronouncedlooked 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 mewill you not?" she addedin 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_ doingand why is she going to Chaillot at such an hour?" And he
offered her his armwhich she tookand began to walk with increased
precipitationwhich ill-concealedhoweverher weakness. D'Artagnan
perceived itand proposed to La Valliere that she should take a little
restwhich 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 tellmerely by the tone of a voice
when a resolution was real or not. He rather bore along rather than
accompanied La Valliereuntil 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'Artagnanin 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 Bloisand 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 saidI 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'Artagnandoubtinglythat is a rather subtle distinction,
I think.

Whatever it may be,returned the young girlI 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 unacquaintedespecially 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 soit 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'Artagnanshaking 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 Vallierewith an energy of which one would
hardly have thought her capableinstead 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 sincerityand he could not resist this last
appeal. He saw by her face how bitterly she suffered from a feeling of
degradationhe remarked her trembling limbshow her whole slight and
delicate frame was violently agitated by some internal struggleand
clearly perceived that resistance might be fatal. "I will do as you
wishthen he said. Be satisfiedmademoiselleI will say nothing to
the king."

Oh! thanks, thanks,exclaimed La Valliereyou 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'Artagnanwho felt himself quite
overcomesaid: "This is touchingupon my word; she begins where others
leave off."

And La Vallierewhoin the bitterness of her distresshad sunk upon
the groundrose and walked towards the convent of the Carmeliteswhich
could nowin the dawning lightbe perceived just before them.
D'Artagnan followed her at a distance. The entrance-door was half-open;
she glided in like a shadowand thanking D'Artagnan by a parting
gesturedisappeared from his sight. When D'Artagnan found himself quite
alonehe reflected very profoundly upon what had just taken place.
Upon my word,he saidthis 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.

Soin pursuance of this resolutionwhich he adopted with his usual
rapidityD'Artagnan immediately turned his back upon the heights of
Chaillotreached the guard-housetook the fastest horse he could find
thereand was at the palace in less than ten minutes. It was striking
five as he reached the Palais Royal. The kinghe was toldhad gone to
bed at his usual hourhaving been long engaged with M. Colbertandin
all probabilitywas still sound asleep. "Come said D'Artagnan, she
spoke the truth; the king is ignorant of everything; if he only knew onehalf
of what has happenedthe Palais Royal by this time would be turned
upside down."

Transcriber's note: 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. - JB

Chapter XXVII:
Showing How Louison His PartHad Passed the Time from Ten to Half-Past
Twelve at Night.


When the king left the apartments of the maids of honorhe found Colbert
awaiting him to take directions for the next day's ceremonyas 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 Franceand without
perceiving or without caring about the chances of a rupturethey again
abandoned the alliance with his Most Christian Majestyfor the purpose
of entering into all kinds of plots with Spain. Louis XIV. at his
accessionthat is to sayat the death of Cardinal Mazarinhad found
this political question roughly sketched out; the solution was difficult
for a young manbut asat that timethe king represented the whole
nationanything that the head resolved uponthe body would be found
ready to carry out. Any sudden impulse of angerthe reaction of young
hot blood upon the brainwould 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 Vallierehe
walked hastily into his cabinetdimly desirous of finding an opportunity
of producing an explosion after he had controlled himself for so long a
time. Colbertas he saw the king enterknew the position of affairs at
a glanceunderstood the king's intentionsand resolved therefore to
maneuver a little. When Louis requested to be informed what it would be
necessary to say on the morrowColbert 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 kingwho was accustomed to hear M. Colbert speak in not over-
scrupulous terms of M. Fouquetallowed this remark to pass unanswered
and merely listened. Colbert noticed the effect it had producedand
hastened to back outsaying that M. Fouquet was not on all occasions as
blamable as at the first glance might seem to be the caseinasmuch 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 Colbertboldly; for he knew how to convey a
good deal of flattery in a light amount of blamelike the arrow which
cleaves the air notwithstanding its weightthanks to the light feathers
which bear it up.


The king smiled. "What defect has M. Fouquetthen?" 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 sayM. Colbert he
murmured.

I assure younosire."

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; thenwishing to appear as if he were perfect master of himself
and his feelingshe saidAnd 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 kingto
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 kingexcitedly.

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 kingsighing.

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
themI 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
feltand La Valliere's paleworn featuresin his imaginationspoke a
very different language from that of the Dutch medalsor 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 himthe
king was ashamed to be thinking of mere matters of affection where
important state affairs required his attention. He therefore dictated:
the queen-motherthe queenMadameMadame de MottevilleMadame de
ChatillonMadame de Navailles; andfor the menM. le PrinceM. de
GramontM. de ManicampM. de Saint-Aignanand 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 mournfullyas 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 enteredit being
the hour of his retirement to his chamber; the queenindeedhad been
waiting for more than an hour. Louis accordingly retreated to his
bedroom with a sigh; butas he sighedhe congratulated himself on his
courageand applauded himself for having been as firm in love as in
affairs of state.

Chapter XXVIII:
The Ambassadors.

D'Artagnan hadwith very few exceptionslearned almost all of the
particulars of what we have just been relating; for among his friends he
reckoned all the usefulserviceable people in the royal householdofficious
attendants who were proud of being recognized by the captain of
the musketeersfor the captain's influence was very great; and thenin
addition to any ambitious vies 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 thatwith the
information he had been able by his own means to pick up during the day
and with what he had gathered from othershe succeeded in making up a
bundle of weaponswhich he was in the prudent habit of using only when
occasion required. In this wayD'Artagnan's two eyes rendered him the
same service as the hundred eyes of Argus. Political secretsbedside
revelationshints or scraps of conversation dropped by the courtiers on


the threshold of the royal ante-chamberin this way D'Artagnan managed
to ascertainand to store away everything in the vast and impenetrable
mausoleum of his memoryby the side of those royal secrets so dearly
bought and faithfully preserved. He therefore knew of the king's
interview with Colbertand of the appointment made for the ambassadors
in the morningandconsequentlythat the question of the medals would
be brought up for debate; andwhile he was arranging and constructing
the conversation upon a few chance words which had reached his earshe
returned to his post in the royal apartmentsso as to be there at the
very moment the king awoke. It happened that the king rose very earlyproving
thereby that hetooon his sidehad slept but indifferently.
Towards seven o'clockhe half-opened his door very gently. D'Artagnan
was at his post. His majesty was paleand seemed wearied; he had not
moreoverquite finished dressing.

Send for M. de Saint-Aignan,he said.

Saint-Aignan was probably awaiting a summonsfor the messengerwhen he
reached his apartmentfound 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 kingin factbent his steps towards the apartments of the
maids of honor- a circumstance which in no way astonished D'Artagnan
for he more than suspectedalthough La Valliere had not breathed a
syllable on the subjectthat 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 mindthough still slightly agitatedfor 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 windowcareless and perfectly calm in his
manner. One could almost have sworn that he noticed nothingand was
utterly ignorant who were these two hunters after adventurespassing
like shadows across the courtyardwrapped 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 themand while he whistled that
old march of the musketeerswhich he rarely recalled except under great
emergencieshe conjectured and prophesied how terrible would be the
storm which would be raised on the king's return. In factwhen the king
entered La Valliere's apartment and found the room empty and the bed
untouchedhe began to be alarmedand called out to Montalaiswho
immediately answered the summons; but her astonishment was equal to the
king's. All that she could tell his majesty wasthat she had fancied
she had heard La Valliere's weeping during a portion of the nightbut
knowing that his majesty had paid her a visitshe had not dared to
inquire what was the matter.

But,inquired the kingwhere do you suppose she is gone?

Sire,replied MontalaisLouise 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 probableand the king immediately ran down the staircase
in search of the fugitive. D'Artagnan saw him grow very paleand
talking in an excited manner with his companionas he went towards the
gardens; Saint-Aignan following himout of breath. D'Artagnan did not
stir from the windowbut went on whistlinglooking as if he saw
nothingyet seeing everything. "Comecome he murmured, when the king
disappeared, his majesty's passion is stronger than I thought; he is now
doingI thinkwhat he never did for Mademoiselle de Mancini."


Transcriber's note: 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 InfantaMaria Theresaafforded. See The Vicomte de Bragelonne
Chapter XIII. - JB

In a quarter of an hour the king again appeared: he had looked
everywherewas completely out of breathandas a matter of coursehad
not discovered anything. Saint-Aignanwho still followed himwas
fanning himself with his hatand in a gasping voiceasking for
information about La Valliere from such of the servants as were aboutin
fact from every one he met. Among others he came across Manicampwho
had arrived from Fontainebleau by easy stages; for whilst others had
performed the journey in six hourshe had taken four and twenty.

Have you seen Mademoiselle de la Valliere?Saint-Aignan asked him.

Whereupon Manicampdreamy and absent as usualansweredthinking that
some one was asking him about De GuicheThank you, the comte is a
little better.

And he continued on his way until he reached the ante-chamber where
D'Artagnan waswhom he asked to explain how it was that the king looked
as he thoughtso bewildered; to which D'Artagnan replied that he was
quite mistakenthat the kingon the contrarywas as lively and merry
as he could possibly be.

In the midst of all thiseight o'clock struck. It was usual for the
king to take his breakfast at this hourfor 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 bedroomand he ate very
fast. Saint-Aignanof whom he would not lose sightwaited on the
king. He then disposed of several military audiencesduring which he
dispatched Saint-Aignan to see what he could find out. Thenstill
occupiedfull of anxietystill watching Saint-Aignan's returnwho had
sent out the servants in every directionto make inquiresand who had
also gone himselfthe hour of nine struckand the king forthwith passed
into his large cabinet.

As the clock was striking nine the ambassadors enteredand as it
finishedthe two queens and Madame made their appearance. There were
three ambassadors from Hollandand two from Spain. The king glanced at
themand then bowed; andat the same momentSaint-Aignan entered- an
entrance which the king regarded as far more importantin a different
sensehoweverthan that of ambassadorshowever numerous they might be
and from whatever country they came; and sosetting everything aside
the king made a sign of interrogation to Saint-Aignanwhich the latter
answered by a most decisive negative. The king almost entirely lost his
courage; but as the queensthe members of the nobility who were present
and the ambassadorshad their eyes fixed upon himhe overcame his
emotion by a violent effortand invited the latter to speak. Whereupon
one of the Spanish deputies made a long orationin which he boasted the
advantages which the Spanish alliance would offer.

The king interrupted himsayingMonsieur, I trust that whatever is
best for France must be exceedingly advantageous for Spain.

This remarkand particularly the peremptory tone in which it was
pronouncedmade the ambassadors paleand brought the color into the
cheeks of the two queenswhobeing Spanishfelt wounded in their pride
of relationship and nationality by this reply.

The Dutch ambassador then began to address himself to the kingand
complained of the injurious suspicions which the king exhibited against
the government of his country.


The king interrupted himsayingIt 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 memonsieur he said, if I
should happen to entertain suspicions against a government which
authorizes and protects international impertinence?"

Sire!

I tell you,resumed the kingexciting himself by a recollection of his
own personal annoyancerather than from political groundsthat 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 ambassadora 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 kinglooking at Colbert.

Your majesty,the ambassador venturedshould be quite sure -

The king still looked at Colbert; but Colbert appeared not to understand
himand maintained an unbroken silencenotwithstanding the king's
repeated hints. D'Artagnan then approached the kingand taking a piece
of money out of his pockethe placed it in the king's handssaying
_This_ is the medal your majesty alludes to.

The king looked at itand with a look whichever since he had become
his own masterwas ever piercing as the eagle'sobserved an insulting
device representing Holland arresting the progress of the sunwith this
inscription: "_In conspectu meo stetit sol_."

In my presence the sun stands still,exclaimed the kingfuriously.
Ah! you will hardly deny it now, I suppose.

And the sun,said D'Artagnanis this,as he pointed to the panels of
the cabinetwhere the sun was brilliantly represented in every direction
with this motto_Nec pluribus impar_.

Transcriber's note: "[A sun] not eclipsed by many suns." Louis's
device. - JB


Louis's angerincreased by the bitterness of his own personal
sufferingshardly required this additional circumstance to foment it.
Every one sawfrom the kindling passion in the king's eyesthat 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 thatwith such limited resourcesshe had maintained her rank
as a great nationeven against powerful monarchsand that if a little
smoke had intoxicated his countrymenthe 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 Colbertwho remained
impassible; then at D'Artagnanwho simply shrugged his shouldersa
movement which was like the opening of the flood-gateswhereby the
king's angerwhich he had restrained for so long a periodnow burst
forth. As no one knew what direction his anger might takeall preserved
a dead silence. The second ambassador took advantage of it to begin his
excuses also. While he was speakingand while the kingwho had again
gradually returned to his own personal reflectionswas automatically
listening to the voicefull of nervous anxietywith the air of an
absent man listening to the murmuring of a cascadeD'Artagnanon whose
left hand Saint-Aignan was standingapproached the latterandin a
voice which was loud enough to reach the king's earssaid: "Have you
heard the news?"

What news?said Saint-Aignan.

About La Valliere.

The king startedand advanced his head.

What has happened to La Valliere?inquired Saint-Aignanin 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 kingin the midst of the ambassador's discourse;
but thenmindful of the rules of etiquettehe mastered himselfstill
listeninghoweverwith 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 thisthan the kingwith an authoritative gesture
said to the ambassadorEnough, monsieur, enough.Thenadvancing
towards the captainhe 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 kingturning towards the musketeer.

As true as truth itself.

The king clenched his handsand 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'Artagnanlike a man who is declining to say anything
further.

The king almost bounded from his seatregardless of ambassadors
ministerscourtiersqueensand politics. The queen-mother rose; she
had heard everythingorif she had not heard everythingshe had
guessed it. Madamealmost fainting from anger and fearendeavored to
rise as the queen-mother had done; but she sank down again upon her
chairwhich by an instinctive movement she made roll back a few paces.

Gentlemen,said the kingthe audience is over; I will communicate my
answer, or rather my will, to Spain and to Holland;and with a proud
imperious gesturehe dismissed the ambassadors.

Take care, my son,said the queen-motherindignantlyyou are hardly
master of yourself, I think.

Ah! madame,returned the young lionwith a terrible gestureif I am
not mater 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 staircaseand was about to cross the courtyard.

Sire,said D'Artagnanyour 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 lookbut this look promised more than the
ambition of three D'Artagnans could have dared to hope.

Chapter XXIX:
Chaillot.

Although they had not been summonedManicamp and Malicorne had followed


the king and D'Artagnan. They were both exceedingly intelligent men;
except that Malicorne was too precipitateowing to ambitionwhile
Manicamp was frequently too tardyowing to indolence. On this occasion
howeverthey arrived at precisely the proper moment. Five horses were
in readiness. Two were seized upon by the king and D'Artagnantwo
others by Manicamp and Malicornewhile 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 runbut
flew. Within ten minutes after their departurethe cavalcadeamidst a
cloud of dustarrived at Chaillot. The king literally threw himself off
his horse; but notwithstanding the rapidity with which he accomplished
this maneuverhe found D'Artagnan already holding his stirrup. With a
sign of acknowledgement to the musketeerhe threw the bridle to the
groomand darted into the vestibuleviolently pushed open the doorand
entered the reception-room. ManicampMalicorneand the groom remained
outsideD'Artagnan alone following him. When he entered the receptionroom
the first object which met his gaze was Louise herselfnot simply
on her kneesbut lying at the foot of a large stone crucifix. The young
girl was stretched upon the damp flag-stonesscarcely visible in the
gloom of the apartmentwhich was lighted only by means of a narrow
windowprotected by bars and completely shaded by creeping plants. When
the king saw her in this statehe thought she was deadand uttered a
loud crywhich made D'Artagnan hurry into the room. The king had
already passed one of his arms round her bodyand D'Artagnan assisted
him in raising the poor girlwhom 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 summonsand 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 actionbut far more a creature of the world
than any of the female members of the courtnotwithstanding her
austerity of mannersshe recognized the king at the first glanceby the
respect which those present exhibited for himas well as by the
imperious and authoritative way in which he had thrown the whole
establishment into confusion. As soon as she saw the kingshe retired
to her own apartmentsin order to avoid compromising her dignity. But
by one of the nuns she sent various cordialsHungary wateretc.etc.
and ordered that all the doors should immediately be closeda command
which was just in timefor the king's distress was fast becoming of a
most clamorous and despairing character. He had almost decided to send
for his own physicianwhen La Valliere exhibited signs of returning
animation. The first object which met her gazeas 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 whenin the course of a few
momentsshe recognized Louisshe endeavored to tear herself from his
embrace.

Oh, heavens!she murmuredis not the sacrifice yet made?

No, no!exclaimed the kingand it shall _not_ be made, I swear.

Notwithstanding her weakness and utter despairshe rose from the ground
sayingIt 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'ArtagnanI 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 roomleaving the lovers alone.

Sire,continued La Vallierenot 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 girlfrom 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 girlforcedby her
own bitter distress to accuse otherswrung 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 kingexasperated. "Rather than draw
backI would sacrifice my kingdomand would abjure my family. YesI
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." Andas he said these wordsLouis struck his fist violently
against the oaken wainscoting with a force which alarmed La Valliere; for
his angerowing to his unbounded powerhad something imposing and
threatening in itlike the lightningwhich may at any time prove
deadly. Shewho thought that her own sufferings could not be surpassed
was overwhelmed by a suffering which revealed itself by menace and by
violence.

Sire,she saidfor 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 Louisthat 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 heras she listened to his passionate
utterancewhich 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 today,
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 feetembracing 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. "Ohnevernever shall you humiliate yourself
on my account; soonera thousand timeswould 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. Comemademoiselle
put aside these paltry considerations; let us show ourselves as great as
our sufferingsas strong as our affection for each other." Andas he
said thishe took her in his armsand encircled her waist with both his
handssayingMy own love! my own dearest and best beloved, follow me.

She made a final effortin which she concentratedno longer all of her
firmness of willfor that had long since been overcomebut all her
physical strength. "No!" she repliedweaklyno! 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'Artagnanputting
his head through the half-opened doorand 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 smiledand held out her small white hand to the musketeer.

Monsieur d'Artagnan,said the kingbe good enough to see if you can
find a carriage for Mademoiselle de la Valliere.

Sire,said the captainthe 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 hesitationshe allowed
herself to be led awayhalf faintingby her royal lover. Butas she
was on the point of leaving the roomshe tore herself from the king's
graspand returned to the stone crucifixwhich she kissedsayingOh,
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 emotionand D'Artagnanevenwas
overcome. Louis led the young girl awaylifted her into the carriage
and directed D'Artagnan to seat himself beside herwhile hemounting


his horsespurred violently towards the Palais Royalwhereimmediately
on his arrivalhe sent to request an audience of Madame.

Chapter XXX:
Madame.

From the manner in which the king had dismissed the ambassadorseven the
least clear-sighted persons belonging to the court imagined war would
ensue. The ambassadors themselvesbut slightly acquainted with the
king's domestic disturbanceshad interpreted as directed against
themselves the celebrated sentence: "If I be not master of myselfIat
leastwill be so of those who insult me." Happily for the destinies of
France and HollandColbert had followed them out of the king's presence
for the purpose of explaining matters to them; but the two queens and
Madamewho were perfectly aware of every particular that had taken place
in their several householdshaving heard the king's remarkso full of
dark meaningretired to their own apartments in no little fear and
chagrin. Madameespeciallyfelt that the royal anger might fall upon
herandas she was brave and exceedingly proudinstead of seeking
support and encouragement from the queen-mothershe had returned to her
own apartmentsif not without some uneasinessat least without any
intention of avoiding an encounter. Anne of Austriafrom time to time
at frequent intervalssent messages to learn if the king had returned.
The silence which the whole palace preserved upon the matterand upon
Louise's disappearancewas indicative of a long train of misfortunes to
all those who knew the haughty and irritable humor of the king. But
Madameunmoved in spite of all the flying rumorsshut herself up in her
apartmentssent for Montalaisandwith a voice as calm as she could
possibly commanddesired her to relate all she knew about the event
itself. At the moment that the eloquent Montalais was concludingwith
all kinds of oratorical precautionsand was recommendingif not in
actual languageat least in spiritthat she should show forbearance
towards La ValliereM. Malicorne made his appearance to beg an audience
of Madameon 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 soonnor had sheindeedexpected any direct
step on Louis's part. Besidesall women who wage war successfully by
indirect meansare invariably neither very skillful nor very strong when
it becomes a question of accepting a pitched battle. Madamehowever
was not one who ever drew back; she had the very opposite defect or
qualificationin whichever light it may be considered; she took an
exaggerated view of what constituted real courage; and therefore the
king's messageof which Malicorne had been the bearerwas regarded by
her as the bugle-note proclaiming the commencement of hostilities. She
thereforeboldly 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 Madamewho
notwithstanding the rouge on her cheeksturned pale as Louis entered the
room. Louis lost no time in approaching the object of his visit; he sat
downand Montalais disappeared.

My dear sister,said the kingyou 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
wordsthe 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 kingwith his usual franknesswent 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 crimsonand his eyes kindled with a fire which it
required all Madame's courage to support. He mastered his anger
howeverand continued: "A stronger reason than that is surely requisite
for one so good and kind as you areto turn away and dishonornot only
the young girl herselfbut 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 crimewhat fault has
Mademoiselle de la Valliere been guilty of?"

Since you constitute yourself the protector of Mademoiselle de la
Valliere,replied MadamecoldlyI will give you those explanations
which I should have a perfect right to withhold from every one.

Even from the king!exclaimed Louisaswith a sudden gesturehe
covered his head with his hat.

You have called me your sister,said Madameand I am in my own
apartments.

It matters not,said the youthful monarchashamed at having been
hurried away by his anger; "neither younor any one else in this
kingdomcan assert a right to withhold an explanation in my presence."

Since that is the way you regard it,said Madamein a hoarseangry
tone of voiceall 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 beI
repeat continued the king; and asacting in that manneryou cast a
dishonorable reflection upon that personI ask you for an explanation
in order that I may confirm or annul the sentence."

Annul my sentence!exclaimed Madamehaughtily. "What! when I have
discharged one of my attendantsdo 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 homeand staggered her for a moment; some day or other she
might indeed have reason to dread reprisals. "At all eventssire 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 Madameshe 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 kingthat 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 Madamewith an expression of supreme disdain.

Take care, Madame!said the king; "you forget that you now understand
meand 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 soI 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 you 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 tearswhichin factwere tears
of anger and shame.

Madame was not touched exactly - for the best womenwhen their pride is
hurtare 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 - speakI will obey your majesty."


No, no, Henrietta!exclaimed Louistransported with gratitudeyou
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 againand
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 wordwhich had so
infelicitously escaped herMadame had destroyed the whole merit of her
sacrifice. The king felt freed from all obligations. Exasperated beyond
measureand bitterly offendedhe replied:


I thank you, Madame; I shall never forget the service you have rendered
me.Andsaluting her with an affectation of ceremonyhe took his
leave of her. As he passed before a glasshe saw that his eyes were
redand angrily stamped his foot on the ground. But it was too late
for Malicorne and D'Artagnanwho were standing at the doorhad seen his
eyes.


The king has been crying,thought Malicorne. D'Artagnan approached the
king with a respectful airand 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 thoughtwhen 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 compactwhich terminated in La Valliere's recallwhen they both
sought to make as much as they could by their bargain. The king wished
to see La Valliere every moment of the daywhile Madamewho 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 wasin fact
obligedin order to get a glimpse of La Valliereto be exceedingly
devoted in his attentions to his sister-in-lawand thisindeedwas
Madame's plan of policy. As she had chosen some one to second her
effortsand as this person was our old friend Montalaisthe king found
himself completely hemmed in every time he paid Madame a visit; he was
surroundedand was never left a moment alone. Madame displayed in her
conversation a charm of manner and brilliancy of wit which dazzled
everybody. Montalais followed herand soon rendered herself perfectly
insupportable to the kingwhich wasin factthe very thing she
expected would happen. She then set Malicorne at the kingwho 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 wasMalicorne 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 thatas
soon as he made his appearanceMadame made hers too; that she remained
in the corridors until after he had left; that she accompanied him back
to his own apartmentsfearing that he might speak in the ante-chambers
to one of her maids of honor. One evening she went further still. The
king was seatedsurrounded by the ladies who were presentand holding
in his handconcealed by his lace rufflea 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
pleasedand yet it was necessary to prevent his going near La Valliere
or speaking to heras by so doing he could let the note fall into her
lap behind her fanor into her pocket-handkerchief. The kingwho was
also on the watchsuspected that a snare was being laid for him. He
rose and pushed his chairwithout affectationnear Mademoiselle de
Chatillonwith whom he began to talk in a light tone. They were amusing
themselves making rhymes; from Mademoiselle de Chatillon he went to
Montalaisand then to Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente. And thusby
this skillful maneuverhe 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 Valliereand the latter held out
her handkerchief with a look that signifiedPut the letter inside.
Thenas the king had placed his own handkerchief upon his chairhe was
adroit enough to let it fall on the groundso that La Valliere slipped
her handkerchief on the chair. The king took it up quietlywithout any
one observing what he didplaced the letter within itand 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 Madamewho had observed everything that had passedsaid to
Mademoiselle de ChatillonChatillon, 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 precipitationthe king having
moved from his seatand La Valliere being in no little degree nervous
and confused.

Ah! I beg your majesty's pardon,said Mademoiselle de Chatillon; "you
have two handkerchiefsI 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
Louisewho losthowevera copy of verses which had cost the king ten
hours' hard laborand whichas far as he was concernedwas 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 leftin order to retire
to his own apartmentsMalicorneinformed of what had passedone can
hardly tell howwas waiting in the ante-chamber. The ante-chambers of
the Palais Royal are naturally very darkandin the eveningthey were
but indifferently lighted. Nothing pleased the king more than this dim
light. As a general rulelovewhose mind and heart are constantly in a
blazecontemns all lightexcept the sunshine of the soul. And so the
ante-chamber was dark; a page carried a torch before the kingwho walked
on slowlygreatly annoyed at what had recently occurred. Malicorne
passed close to the kingalmost stumbled against him in factand begged
his forgiveness with the profoundest humility; but the kingwho was in
an exceedingly ill-temperwas very sharp in his reproof to Malicorne
who disappeared as soon and as quietly as he possibly could. Louis
retired to resthaving had a misunderstanding with the queen; and the
next dayas soon as he entered the cabinethe wished to have La
Valliere's handkerchief in order to press his lips to it. He called his
valet.

Fetch me,he saidthe coat I wore yesterday evening, but be very sure
you do not touch anything it may contain.

The order being obeyedthe king himself searched the pocket of the coat;
he found only one handkerchiefand 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 itor 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 absurdlyand he therefore
addedThere was a letter of some importance inside the handkerchief,
which had somehow got among the folds of it.

Sire,said the valetyour majesty had only one handkerchief, and that
is it.

True, true,replied the kingsetting his teeth hard together. "Oh
povertyhow I envy you! Happy is the man who can empty his own pockets
of letters and handkerchiefs!"

He read La Valliere's letter over againendeavoring 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 kingwith 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? Speakmonsieurand 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 simpleso full of contritionand marked with
such extreme humilitythat 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 wasthat 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
incidentbut Montalais gave La Valliere some idea of the manner in which
it had really happenedand La Valliere afterwards told the kingwho
laughed exceedingly at it and pronounced Malicorne to be a first rate
politician. Louis XIV. was rightand it is well known that he was
tolerably well acquainted with human nature.


Chapter XXXII:
Which Treats of Gardenersof Laddersand Maids of Honor.


Miraclesunfortunatelycould not be always happeningwhilst Madame's
ill-humor still continued. In a week's timematters had reached such a



pointthat the king could no longer look at La Valliere without a look
full of suspicion crossing his own. Whenever a promenade was proposed
Madamein order to avoid the recurrence of similar scenes to that of the
thunder-stormor the royal oakhad a variety of indispositions ready
prepared; andthanks to themshe was unable to go outand 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
hadon the very first occasionexperienced a severe checkwhich
happened in the following manner. As at Fontainebleauhe 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-Charentewho
had begun to call out "Fire!" and "Thieves!" in such a manner that a
perfect legion of chamber-maidsattendantsand pagesran to her
assistance; so that Saint-Aignanwho had remained behind in order to
save the honor of his royal masterwho had fled precipitatelywas
obliged to submit to a severe scolding from the queen-motheras well as
from Madame herself. In additionhe hadthe next morningreceived two
challenges from the De Mortemart familyand 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
gatewaythereforewas any longer open - not even communication by
letter; to write under the eyes of so ferocious an Argus as Madamewhose
temper and disposition were so uncertainwas to run the risk of exposure
to the greatest danger; and it can well be conceived into what a state of
continuous irritationand ever increasing angerall these petty
annoyances threw the young lion. The king almost tormented himself to
death endeavoring to discover a means of communication; andas he did
not think proper to call in the aid of Malicorne or D'Artagnanthe means
were not discovered at all. Malicorne hadindeedoccasional brilliant
flashes of imaginationwith which he tried to inspire the king with
confidence; butwhether from shame or suspicionthe kingwho had at
first begun to nibble at the baitsoon abandoned the hook. In this way
for instanceone eveningwhile the king was crossing the gardenand
looking up at Madame's windowsMalicorne stumbled over a ladder lying
beside a border of boxand said to Manicampthen walking with him
behind the kingDid you not see that I just now stumbled against a
ladder, and was nearly thrown down?

No,said Manicampas usual very absent-mindedbut 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 Malicorneas he touched him with his arm.

Why so?said Manicamplouder. The king listened.

Because, for instance,said Malicornea ladder nineteen feet high is
just the height of the cornice of those windows.Manicampinstead of
answeringwas dreaming of something else.

Ask me, can't you, what windows I mean,whispered Malicorne.


But what windows are you referring to?said Manicampaloud.

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 pacein order to give him
time to finish. Sowhen they arrived at the doorLouis dismissed every
onewith the exception of Malicorne - a circumstance which excited no
surprisefor it was known that the king was in love; and they suspected
he was going to compose some verses by moonlight; andalthough there was
no moon that eveningthe king mightneverthelesshave some verses to
compose. Every onethereforetook his leave; andimmediately
afterwardsthe king turned towards Malicornewho respectfully waited
until his majesty should address him. "What were you sayingjust now
about a ladderMonsieur Malicorne?" he asked.

Did I say anything about ladders, sire?said Malicornelooking upas
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 backand led the king up to the laddersayingThis
is it, sire.

Pull it this way a little.

When Malicorne had brought the ladder on to the gravel walkthe 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 ladderlike a featherand placed it upright
against the wall. Andin order to try the experimenthe choseor
chanceperhapsdirected him to choosethe very window of the cabinet
where La Valliere was. The ladder just reached the edge of the cornice
that is to saythe sill of the window; so thatby standing upon the
last round but one of the laddera man of about the middle heightas
the king wasfor instancecould easily talk with those who might be in
the room. Hardly had the ladder been properly placedwhen the king
dropping the assumed part he had been playing in the comedybegan to
ascend the rounds of the ladderwhich Malicorne held at the bottom. But
hardly had he completed half the distance when a patrol of Swiss guards
appeared in the gardenand advanced straight towards them. The king
descended with the utmost precipitationand concealed himself among the
trees. Malicorne at once perceived that he must offer himself as a
sacrifice; for if hetoowere to conceal himselfthe guard would
search everywhere until they had found either himself or the king
perhaps both. It would be far betterthereforethat he alone should be
discovered. AndconsequentlyMalicorne hid himself so clumsily that he
was the only one arrested. As soon as he was arrestedMalicorne was
taken to the guard-houseand there he declared who he wasand was


immediately recognized. In the meantimeby concealing himself first
behind one clump of trees and then behind anotherthe king reached the
side door of his apartmentvery much humiliatedand still more
disappointed. More than thatthe noise made in arresting Malicorne had
drawn La Valliere and Montalais to their window; and even Madame herself
had appeared at her ownwith a pair of wax candlesone in each hand
clamorously asking what was the matter.

In the meantimeMalicorne sent for D'Artagnanwho did not lose a moment
in hurrying to him. But it was in vain he attempted to make him
understand his reasonsand in vain also that D'Artagnan did understand
them; andfurtherit 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 apartmentas Saint-
Aignan had passed for having wished to force Mademoiselle de Tonnay-
Charente's door. Madame was inflexible; in the first placebecauseif
Malicorne hadin factwished to enter her apartment at night through
the windowand by means of the ladderin order to see Montalaisit was
a punishable offense on Malicorne's partand he must be punished
accordingly; andin the second placeif Malicorneinstead of acting in
his own namehad acted as an intermediary between La Valliere and a
person whose name it was superfluous to mentionhis crime was in that
case even greatersince lovewhich is an excuse for everythingdid not
exist in the case as an excuse. Madame therefore made the greatest
possible disturbance about the matterand obtained his dismissal from
Monsieur's householdwithout reflectingpoor blind creaturethat both
Malicorne and Montalais held her fast in their clutches in consequence of
her visit to De Guicheand in a variety of other ways equally delicate.
Montalaiswho was perfectly furiouswished to revenge herself
immediatelybut Malicorne pointed out to her that the king's countenance
would repay them for all the disgraces in the worldand that it was a
great thing to have to suffer on his majesty's account.

Malicorne was perfectly rightandthereforealthough Montalais had the
spirit of ten women in herhe succeeded in bringing her round to his own
opinion. And we must not omit to state that the king helped them to
console themselvesforin the first placehe presented Malicorne with
fifty thousand francs as a compensation for the post he had lostandin
the next placehe 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 laddersthe royal lover was in a terrible state. There
seemed to be no hopethereforeof 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. Fortunatelyhowever
Malicorne was on the lookoutand this so successfully that he met
Montalaiswhoto do her justiceit must be admittedwas 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 Operationsand Furnishes Details upon the Mode
of Constructing Staircases.


The advice which had been given to Montalais was communicated by her to
La Vallierewho could not but acknowledge that it was by no means
deficient in judgmentand whoafter a certain amount of resistance
rising rather from timidity than indifference to the projectresolved to



put it into execution. This story of the two girls weepingand filling
Madame's bedroom with the noisiest lamentationswas Malicorne's _chefd'oeuvre_.
As nothing is so probable as improbabilityso natural as
romancethis kind of Arabian Nights story succeeded perfectly with
Madame. The first thing she did was to send Montalais awayand then
three daysor rather three nights afterwardsshe 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 onlythat is to saya mere flooring
separated the maids of honor from the officers and gentlemen of her
husband's household. A private staircasewhich was placed under Madame
de Navailles's surveillancewas the only means of communication. For
greater safetyMadame de Navailleswho had heard of his majesty's
previous attemptshad the windows of the rooms and the openings of the
chimneys carefully barred. There wasthereforeevery possible security
provided for Mademoiselle de la Vallierewhose room now bore more
resemblance to a cage than to anything else. When Mademoiselle de la
Valliere was in her own roomand she was there very frequentlyfor
Madame scarcely ever had any occasion for her servicessince she once
knew she was safe under Madame de Navailles's inspectionMademoiselle de
la Valliere had no better means of amusing herself than looking through
the bars of her windows. It happenedthereforethat one morningas
she was looking out as usualshe perceived Malicorne at one of the
windows exactly opposite to her own. He held a carpenter's rule in his
handwas surveying the buildingsand seemed to be adding up some
figures on paper. La Valliere recognized Malicorne and nodded to him;
Malicornein his turnreplied by a formal bowand disappeared from the
window. She was surprised at this marked coolnessso different from his
usual unfailing good-humorbut she remembered that he had lost his
appointment on her accountand that he could hardly be very amiably
disposed towards hersincein all probabilityshe would never be in a
position to make him any recompense for what he had lost. She knew how
to forgive offensesand with still more readiness could she sympathize
with misfortune. La Valliere would have asked Montalais her opinionif
she had been within hearingbut she was absentit being the hour she
commonly devoted to her own correspondence. Suddenly La Valliere
observed something thrown from the window where Malicorne had been
standingpass across the open space which separated the iron barsand
roll upon the floor. She advanced with no little curiosity towards this
objectand picked it up; it was a wooden reel for silkonlyin this
instanceinstead of silka 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 Vallierehe must have gone out of his
mind;and she directed towards her correspondent - of whom she caught
but a faint glimpsein consequence of the darkness of the room - a look
full of compassionate consideration. Malicorne understood herand shook
his headas if he meant to sayNo, no, I am not out of my mind; be
quite satisfied.

She smiledas if still in doubt.


No, no,he signified by a gesturemy head is right,and pointed to
his headthenafter moving his hand like a man who writes very rapidly
he put his hands together as if entreating her to write.

La Valliereeven if he were madsaw 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-Aignanwhat is it?

Mademoiselle de la Valliere has changed her quarters.

What do you mean?said Saint-Aignanopening 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-Aignanwith surpriseand pointing at
the floor above him with his finger.

No,said Malicorneyonder,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-Aignanat this remarkgave poor Malicorne a looksimilar to one
of those La Valliere had already given a quarter of an hour beforethat
is to sayhe thought he had lost his senses.

Monsieur,said Malicorne to himI 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-Aignandisdainfully. "What!
abandon the chief post of honorthe proximity to the kinga privilege
conceded only to princes of the bloodto dukesand peers! Permit me to
tell youmy dear Monsieur de Malicornethat you must be out of your
senses."

Monsieur,replied the young manseriouslyyou commit two mistakes.
My name is Malicorne, simply; and I am in perfect possession of all my
senses.Thendrawing a paper from his pockethe saidListen 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-Aignansmiling.

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-Aignanany 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-Aignanas 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 Malicornequietlyin 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-Aignanwhose 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-Aignanit 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 Malicornesmiling.

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-Aignanis 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-Aignandelighted with what he had just heardand rejoiced at what
the future foreshadowed for himbent his steps towards De Guiche's two
rooms. He whoa quarter of an hour previouslywould hardly yield up
his own rooms for a million francswas now ready to expend a millionif
it were necessaryupon 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 lodgeandbesideswas 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. Dangeauhe was so
immeasurably delightedthat 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 resolutionhe was in possession
of the two rooms; and ten minutes later Malicorne enteredfollowed by
the upholsterers. During this timethe king asked for Saint-Aignan; the
valet ran to his late apartments and found M. Dangeau there; Dangeau sent
him on to De Guiche'sand Saint-Aignan was found there; but a little
delay had of course taken placeand the king had already exhibited once
or twice evident signs of impatiencewhen Saint-Aignan entered his royal
master's presencequite out of breath.


You, too, abandon me, then,said Louis XIV.in a similar tone of
lamentation to that with which Caesareighteen 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 alland all my family is leagued
together to tear her from me; and my friendto whom I confided my
distressand who helped me to bear up under ithas 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 kingfull 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-AignanI 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 Aignanwith a smileI 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 mannerthe king went immediately to Madameto 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 Valliereeither on the road under cover of the
darknessor in some other waybut she took especial care not to show
any of her fancies to her brother-in-lawand accepted the invitation
with a smile upon her lips. She gave directions aloud that her maids of
honor should accompany hersecretly intending in the evening to take the
most effectual steps to interfere with his majesty's attachment. Then
when she was aloneand at the very moment the poor loverwho had issued
orders for the departurewas 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- Madamewho was surrounded by
her maids of honorwas saying: - "Two ladies will be enough for me this
eveningMademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente and Mademoiselle de Montalais."

La Valliere had anticipated her own omissionand was prepared for it:
but persecution had rendered her courageousand she did not give Madame
the pleasure of seeing on her face the impression of the shock her heart
received. On the contrarysmiling with that ineffable gentleness which
gave an angelic expression to her features - "In that caseMadameI
shall be at liberty this eveningI 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 resolutionand slipped
under Montalais's door a notein the following terms:

L. V. must positively pass the night the night with Madame.

Montalaisin pursuance of the compact she had entered intobegan by
burning the letterand then sat down to reflect. Montalais was a girl
full of expedientsand so she very soon arranged her plan. Towards five
o'clockwhich was the hour for her to repair to Madame's apartmentshe
was running across the courtyardand had reached within a dozen paces of
a group of officerswhen she uttered a cryfell gracefully on one knee
rose againwith difficultyand walked on limpingly. The gentlemen ran
forward to her assistance; Montalais had sprained her foot. Faithful to
the discharge of her dutyshe insistedhowevernotwithstanding her
accidentupon 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 happenedthat in hurrying onin order to
arrive as quickly as possibleshe had sprained her foot. Madame seemed
to pity herand wished to have a surgeon sent for immediatelybut she
assuring her that there was nothing really serious in the accidentsaid:
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 frownedshe 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 madamestruck by these
words.

She is wild with delight; she, who is always so melancholy, was singing
like a bird. Besides, you highness knows how much she detests going out,
and also that her character has a spice of wildness in it.

So!thought Madamethis 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 Montalaiswith a slight fluttering of
the heartseeing 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 nightand thatas it was only four leagues and a half from
Paris to Saint-Germainhe might readily be in Paris in an hour's time.
Tell me,she saidwhether 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 returnand 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 Madameand she took a decisive
step. "Mademoiselle de Montalais she said, will you have the goodness
to inform your friendMademoiselle de la Vallierethat I am exceedingly
sorry to disarrange her projects of solitudebut that instead of
becoming _ennuyee_ by remaining behind alone as she wishedshe will be
good enough to accompany us to Saint-Germain and get _ennuyee_ there."


Ah! poor La Valliere,said Montalaiscompassionatelybut with her
heart throbbing with delight; "ohMadamecould 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. Goand send her to meand
take care of your foot."

Montalais did not wait for the order to be repeated; she returned to her
roomalmost forgetting to feign lamenesswrote 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 MadameI 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.
Butinwardlyher delight was extremeand she looked upon this change
in the princess's resolution as a consolation which Providence had sent
her. With less penetration than Madame possessedshe attributed all to
chance. While every onewith the exception of those in disgraceof
those who were illand those who were suffering from sprainswere being
driven towards Saint-GermainMalicorne smuggled his workman into the
palace in one of M. de Saint-Aignan's carriagesand 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
othersa saw with teeth so sharp and well tempered that it was able
under water evento cut through oaken joists as hard as iron - the work
in question advanced very rapidlyand a square portion of the ceiling
taken from between two of the joistsfell into the arms of the delighted
Saint-AignanMalicornethe workmanand a confidential valetthe
latter being one brought into the world to see and hear everythingbut
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 roomshe had
solicitedand had that very morning obtaineda large screen intended to
serve as a partition. The screen that had been allotted her was
perfectly sufficient to conceal the openingwhich wouldbesidesbe
hidden by all the artifices skilled cabinet-makers would have at their
command. The opening having been madethe workman glided between the
joistsand found himself in La Valliere's room. When therehe cut a
square opening in the flooringand 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 purposewere
affixed to the trap-door; and a small circular stair-casepacked in
sectionshad been bought ready made by the industrious Malicornewho
had paid two thousand francs for it. It was higher than what was
requiredbut the carpenter reduced the number of stepsand it was found
to suit exactly. This staircasedestined to receive so illustrious a
burdenwas merely fastened to the wall by a couple of iron clampsand
its base was fixed into the floor of the comte's room by two iron pegs
screwed down tightlyso that the kingand all his cabinet councilors
toomight pass up and down the staircase without any fear. Every blow
of the hammer fell upon a thick pad or cushionand the saw was not used
until the handle had been wrapped in wooland the blade steeped in oil.
The noisiest part of the workmoreoverhad taken place during the night
and early in the morningthat is to saywhen La Valliere and Madame


were both absent. Whenabout two o'clock in the afternoonthe court
returned to the Palais RoyalLa Valliere went up into her own room.
Everything was in its proper place - not the smallest particle of
sawdustnot the smallest chipwas left to bear witness to the violation
of her domicile. Saint-Aignanhoweverwishing to do his utmost in
forwarding the workhad torn his fingers and his shirt tooand had
expended no ordinary amount of perspiration in the king's service. The
palms of his hands were covered with blistersoccasioned by his having
held the ladder for Malicorne. He hadmoreoverbrought upone by one
the seven pieces of the staircaseeach consisting of two steps. In
factwe can safely assert thatif the king had seen him so ardently at
workhis majesty would have sworn an eternal gratitude towards his
faithful attendant. As Malicorne anticipatedthe workman had completely
finished the job in twenty-four hours; he received twenty-four louisand
leftoverwhelmed with delightfor 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 dayat the very
moment La Valliere had just left Madame's circle and returned to her own
roomshe heard a slight creaking sound in one corner. Astonishedshe
looked to see whence it proceededand the noise began again. "Who is
there?" she saidin a tone of alarm.

It is I, Louise,replied the well-known voice of the king.

You! you!cried the young girlwho for a moment fancied herself under
the influence of a dream. "But where? Yousire?"

Here,replied the kingopening one of the folds of the screenand
appearing like a ghost at the end of the room.

La Valliere uttered a loud cryand fell trembling into an armchairas
the king advanced respectfully towards her.

Chapter XXXV:
The Apparition.

La Valliere very soon recovered from her surpriseforowing to his
respectful bearingthe king inspired her with more confidence by his
presence than his sudden appearance had deprived her of. Butas he
noticed that which made La Valliere most uneasy was the means by which he
had effected an entrance into her roomhe explained to her the system of
the staircase concealed by the screenand strongly disavowed the notion
of his being a supernatural appearance.

Oh, sire!said La Valliereshaking her fair head with a most engaging
smilepresent 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 mournfullyand continued: "Butsirehave 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 kinglaughinglyI 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 kingtenderlyinstead 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 kingwho held out his hand to herwhich she took and
gently pressed between her own.

You were saying,continued the kingthat 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 Louisein 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 ValliereI 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 saidwith 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 answershe merely looked steadfastly at him with that
clearpiercing gaze which penetrates the very heartand said softly to
herselfAlas! alas! it is not you of whom I am afraid, - it is not you
upon whom my doubts would fall.

Well,said the kingsighingI 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 Vallieresome 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 himthe handle of the door was turnedand Montalais
appeared at the threshold. As a matter of course she entered quite
naturallyand without any ceremonyfor 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 enteredand
after a rapid glance round the roomin the brief course of which she


observed two chairs very close to each othershe was so long in shutting
the doorwhich seemed to be difficult to closeone can hardly tell how
or whythat the king had ample time to raise the trap-doorand to
descend again to Saint-Aignan's room.

Louise,she said to herI 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 Montalaispitilesslythat 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 Valliereher 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 girlin great anxietywhat 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 Madameis not in Paris at this moment; but, if
I am not mistaken, is, just now, in England.

Yes, yes,breathed La Vallierealmost 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 girlmechanically.

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 chaira 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 concealeither from you or any one else. My life is exposed to
every one's inspectionand can be opened like a bookin which all the
world can readfrom the king himself to the first passer-by. Aure
dearest Aurewhat can I do - what will become of me?"

Montalais approached close to herand saidConsult 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 Montalaisand that is a sufficiently
good excuse.

Yes, I do love the king,hoarsely murmured the young girland 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 Louisein 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 Raoulwhose friend I amand
whom I shall mortally offend in giving my opinion against him; and then
you ask me if you should cease to listen to the kingwhose subject I am
and whom I should offend if I were to advise you in a particular way.
AhLouiseyou seem to hold a difficult position at a very cheap rate."

You have not understood me, Aure,said La Vallierewounded by the
slightly mocking tone of her companion; "if I were to marry M. de
BragelonneI should be far from bestowing on him the happiness he
deserves; butfor the same reasonif I listen to the king he would
become the possessor of one indifferent in very many aspectsI admit
but one whom his affection confers an appearance of value. What I ask
youthenis to tell me some means of disengaging myself honorably
either from the one or from the other; or ratherI ask youfrom which
side you think I can free myself most honorably."

My dear Louise,replied Montalaisafter a pauseI 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 Vallierepressing her companion's handfor
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 Vallierethoughtfullyfor this cynical
frankness appeared to her an offense both to the woman and the friend.

All well and good, then,said Montalaisfor 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 headand began to weep. Montalais looked at
her in an indefinable mannerand murmured "Poor girl!" and thenadding
Poor king!she kissed Louise on the foreheadand returned to her
apartmentwhere Malicorne was waiting for her.

Chapter XXXVI:
The Portrait.

In that malady which is termed love the paroxysms succeed each other at
intervalsever accelerating from the moment the disease declares
itself. By and bythe paroxysms are less frequentin proportion as the
cure approaches. This being laid down as a general axiomand as the
leading article of a particular chapterwe will now proceed with our
recital. The next daythe day fixed by the king for the first
conversation in Saint-Aignan's roomLa Valliereon opening one of the
folds of the screenfound upon the floor a letter in the king's
handwriting. The letter had been passedthrough 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. Thistoowas one of
Malicorne's ideas. Having seen how very serviceable Saint-Aignan would
become to the king on account of his apartmenthe did not wish that the
courtier should become still more indispensable as a messengerand so he
hadon his own private accountreserved this last post for himself. La
Valliere most eagerly read the letterwhich fixed two o'clock that same
afternoon for the rendezvousand 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 trapdoor
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:

Sireour man is here." La Valliere looked at the king with some
uneasiness.

Mademoiselle,said the kingif 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 wishedbut four instead.


Andso long as we are not alonethere 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-Aignanopening 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 snowupon which her long fair ringlets fell in heavy masses. La
Valliere was dressed in a thick silk robe of pearl gray colorwith a
tinge of rosewith jet ornamentswhich displayed to greater effect the
dazzling purity of her skinholding in her slender and transparent hands
a bouquet of heartseaseBengal rosesand clematissurrounded with
leaves of the tenderest greenabove which uproselike a tiny goblet
spilling magic influence a Haarlem tulip of gray and violet tints of a
pure and beautiful specieswhich had cost the gardener five years' toil
of combinationsand the king five thousand francs. Louis had placed
this bouquet in La Valliere's hand as he saluted her. In the roomthe
door of which Saint-Aignan had just openeda young man was standing
dressed in a purple velvet jacketwith beautiful black eyes and long
brown hair. It was the painter; his canvas was quite readyand his
palette prepared for use.

He bowed to La Valliere with the grave curiosity of an artist who is
studying his modelsaluted the king discreetlyas if he did not
recognize himand as he wouldconsequentlyhave saluted any other
gentleman. Thenleading Mademoiselle de la Valliere to the seat he had
arranged for herhe begged her to sit down.

The young girl assumed an attitude graceful and unrestrainedher hands
occupied and her limbs reclining on cushions; and in order that her gaze
might not assume a vague or affected expressionthe painter begged her
to choose some kind of occupationso as to engage her attention;
whereupon Louis XIV.smilingsat down on the cushions at La Valliere's
feet; so that shein the reclining posture she had assumedleaning back
in the armchairholding her flowers in her handand hewith his eyes
raised towards her and fixed devouringly on her face - theyboth
togetherformed so charming a groupthat the artist contemplated
painting it with professional delightwhile on his sideSaint-Aignan
regarded them with feelings of envy. The painter sketched rapidly; and
very soonbeneath the earliest touches of the brushthere started into
lifeout of the gray backgroundthe gentlepoetry-breathing facewith
its soft calm eyes and delicately tinted cheeksenframed in the masses
of hair which fell about her neck. The lovershoweverspoke but
littleand looked at each other a great deal; sometimes their eyes
became so languishing in their gazethat 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
rescueand recited versesor repeated one of those little tales such as
Patru relatedand Tallemant des Reaux wrote so cleverly. Orit might
be that La Valliere was fatiguedand the sitting wastherefore
suspended for awhile; andimmediatelya tray of precious porcelain
laden with the most beautiful fruits which could be obtainedand rich
wines distilling their bright colors in silver gobletsbeautifully
chasedserved as accessories to the picture of which the painter could
but retrace the most ephemeral resemblance.

Louis was intoxicated with loveLa Valliere with happinessSaint-Aignan
with ambitionand the painter was storing up recollections for his old
age. Two hours passed away in this mannerand four o'clock having
struckLa Valliere roseand made a sign to the king. Louis also rose
approached the pictureand addressed a few flattering remarks to the
painter. Saint-Aignan also praised the picturewhichas he pretended
was already beginning to assume an accurate resemblance. La Valliere in
her turnblushingly thanked the painter and passed into the next room
where the king followed herafter 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 kingwill 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 sighedbutwithout the courage to oppose her royal lover's
wishshe repeatedTo-morrow, then, since you desire it, sire,and
with these words she ran lightly up the stairsand disappeared from her
lover's gaze.

Well, sire?inquired Saint-Aignanwhen 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
smilingas 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 againas he was unable to see the
original. He pointed out several alterations to the painter and left the
roomand then Saint-Aignan dismissed the artist. The easelpaintsand
painter himselfhad scarcely gonewhen Malicorne showed his head in the


doorway. He was received by Saint-Aignan with open armsbut still with
a little sadnessfor the cloud which had passed across the royal sun
veiledin its turnthe faithful satelliteand Malicorne at a glance
perceived the melancholy that brooded on Saint-Aignan's face.

Oh, monsieur le comte,he saidhow 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 earas he askedWhat 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.

Malicornenotwithstanding his respect for Saint-Aignancould not help
smiling. "And the painter he said, did the king wish him to be here
at two o'clockalso?"

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. "Comedear Monsieur Malicorne said
Saint-Aignan, laugh less at meand speak a little more freelyI 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-Aignanin
alarm.

Very well, do as you like; don't pay any attention to what I say,said
Malicornemoving 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 Malicornebowing profoundly and retiring from the room
backwards.

There is no doubt that fellow has more invention than I have,said
Saint-Aignanas if compelled by his conviction to admit it.

Chapter XXXVII:
Hampton Court.

The revelation we have witnessedthat Montalais made to La Vallierein
a preceding chaptervery naturally makes us return to the principal hero
of this talea poor wandering knightroving about at the king's
caprice. If our readers will be good enough to follow uswe willin
his companycross that straitmore stormy than the Euripuswhich
separates Calais from Dover; we will speed across that green and fertile
countrywith its numerous little streams; through Maidstoneand many
other villages and townseach prettier than the other; andfinally
arrive at London. From thencelike bloodhounds following a trackafter
having ascertained that Raoul had made his first stay at Whitehallhis
second at St. James'sand having learned that he had been warmly
received by Monkand introduced to the best society of Charles II.'s
courtwe will follow him to one of Charles II.'s summer residences near
the lively little village of Kingstonat Hampton Courtsituated on the
Thames. The river is notat that spotthe boastful highway which bears
upon its broad bosom its thousands of travelers; nor are its waters black
and troubled as those of Cocytusas it boastfully assertsI, too, am
cousin of the old ocean.Noat Hampton Court it is a soft and
murmuring streamwith moss-fringed banksreflectingin its broad
mirrorthe willows and beeches which ornament its sidesand on which
may occasionally be seen a light bark indolently reclining among the tall
reedsin 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


wreathspeeped forth from the belts of green holly which environed them;
children dressed in red frocks appeared and disappeared amidst the high
grasslike poppies bowed by the gentler breath of the passing breeze.
The sheepruminating with half-closed eyeslay lazily about under the
shadow of the stunted aspenswhilefar and nearthe kingfishers
plumed with emerald and goldskimmed swiftly along the surface of the
waterlike a magic ball heedlessly touchingas he passedthe line of
his brother anglerwho 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 lightrose the palace of Hampton Courtbuilt by Wolsey

-a residence the haughty cardinal had been obligedtimid courtier that
he wasto offer to his masterHenry VIII.who had glowered with envy
and cupidity at the magnificent new home. Hampton Courtwith its brick
wallsits large windowsits handsome iron gatesas well as its curious
bell turretsits retired covered walksand interior fountainslike
those of the Alhambrawas a perfect bower of rosesjasmineand
clematis. Every sensesight and smell particularlywas gratifiedand
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 galleryand who could show upon the
wainscots of the various apartments the holes made by the balls of the
puritanical followers of Cromwellwhen on the 24th of August1648at
the time they had brought Charles I. prisoner to Hampton Court. There it
was that the kingintoxicated with pleasure and adventureheld his
court - hewhoa poet in feelingthought himself justified in
redeemingby a whole day of voluptuousnessevery 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 flowerswith their
variegated hues which encircled the foot of every tree with rose-trees
many feet in heightembracing most lovingly their trunks - nor even the
enormous lime-treeswhose 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 waterwhich the cool breeze rippled like the wavy undulations
of Cleopatra's hairwaters bedecked with cresses and white water-lilies
whose chaste bulbs coyly unfolding themselves beneath the sun's warm
raysreveal the golden gems which lie concealed within their milky
petals - murmuring waterson the bosom of which black swans majestically
floatedand the graceful water-fowlwith their tender broods covered
with silken downdarted restlessly in every directionin pursuit of the
insects among the reedsor the fogs in their mossy retreats. Perhaps it
might have been the enormous hollieswith 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 gardensor flew from branch to
branchamidst the emerald foliage.
It might well have been any of these charms - for Hampton Court had them
all; and possessedtooalmost forests of white roseswhich climbed and
trailed along the lofty trellisesshowering down upon the ground their
snowy leaves rich with soft perfumery. But nowhat Charles II. most
loved in Hampton Court were the charming figures whowhen midday was
pastflitted 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 geraniumssweet-peasseringasand heliotrope scattered in


profusion around. It is past middayand the kinghaving dined after
his return from huntingpaid a visit to Lady Castlemainethe lady who
was reputed at the time to hold his heart in bondage; and this proof of
his devotion dischargedhe 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
captivatingaccording 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 stockingsbecause Miss
Lucy Stewart wore them of that color. While the king is endeavoring in
all directions to inculcate others with his preferences on this pointwe
will ourselves bend our steps towards an avenue of beech-trees opposite
the terraceand listen to the conversation of a young girl in a darkcolored
dresswho is walking with another of about her own age dressed
in blue. They crossed a beautiful lawnfrom the center of which sprang
a fountainwith the figure of a siren executed in bronzeand strolled
ontalking as they wenttowards the terracealong whichlooking out
upon the park and interspersed at frequent intervalswere erected summerhouses
diverse in form and ornament; these summer-houses were nearly all
occupied; the two young women passed onthe one blushing deeplywhile
the other seemed dreamily silent. At lasthaving reached the end of the
terrace which looks on the riverand finding there a cool retreatthey
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 saidNo, 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 Stewartas she turned round with a smilewhich
indicatedmoreoverthat her uneasiness on the subject was not extreme.

No, no,said Marythe 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 Stewartlaughing;


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 Stewartwith assumed gravityfor 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
herand pressing her companion's armsaid: "Thank the kingLucy."

Yes, yes, but the Duke of Buckingham is jealous, so take care.

Hardly had she pronounced these wordswhen the duke appeared from one of
the pavilions on the terraceandapproaching the two girlswith a
smilesaidYou 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 thenbowing to Lucyhe addedWill
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 wordsBuckinghamstill
smilingtook Miss Stewart's handand led her away. When by herself
Mary Graftonher head gently inclined towards her shoulderwith that
indolent gracefulness of action which distinguishes young English girls


remained for a moment with her eyes fixed on Raoulbut as if uncertain
what to do. At lastafter first blushing violentlyand then turning
deadly palethus revealing the internal combat which assailed her heart
she seemed to make up her mind to adopt a decided courseand with a
tolerably firm stepadvanced towards the seat on which Raoul was
recliningburied in the profoundest meditationas we have already
said. The sound of Miss Mary's stepsthough they could hardly be heard
upon the green swardawakened Raoul from his musing attitude; he turned
roundperceived the young girland 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 Maryaffecting 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 Raoulwith
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 solider; 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 Raoulinattentivelyand sighing deeply at the
same time.

What! you do not know?

Forgive me,said Raoulshaking his headand collecting his thoughts
I did not hear you.

Oh!said the young girlsighing in her turnhow wrong the duke was
to send me here!

Wrong!said Raoulperhaps 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 Graftonin a clearcalm voicebecause
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 youand you love him."


No,replied Maryseriouslythe 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 girlquietly.

Raoul bent down his headand Mary Graftonsighing deeplycontinued
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
bearinghis eyes revealed so much gentlenesscandorand resolution
that the idea could not possibly enter her mind that he was either rudely
discourteousor a mere simpleton. She only perceivedclearly enough
that he loved another womanand not herselfwith 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 notat the momentfind a word to saythe young girl
again came to his assistance.

Pity me,she said. "My mother was born in Franceand I can truly
affirm that Itooam French in bloodas 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
enjoymentswhen suddenly a mist rises and overspreads my fancyblotting
them out forever. Suchindeedis the case at the present moment.
Forgive me; I have now said enough on that subject; give me your hand
and relate you 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 inquiredwith 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 addedobserving 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 Raoulshowing 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 girlwith 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 thoughtand saidDo 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 themalone and smiling; he advanced slowlyand 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 addedwith a smile.

If you mean,replied the young girlhaughtilythat I was not
indisposed to love M. de Bragelonne, that is useless, for I have told him
so myself.

Buckingham reflected for a momentandwithout seeming in any way
discountenancedas she expectedhe said: "My reason for leaving you
with M. de Bragelonne wasthat I thoroughly knew your refined delicacy


of feelingno less than the perfect loyalty of your mind and heartand
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 Marycollecting 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 Buckinghamis 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 Raoulanxiously.

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 Buckinghamwith that
calmcollected manner peculiar to Englishmen.

Miss Grafton uttered a crywhichtogether with the remark that
Buckingham had that moment madespread of De Bragelonne's features a
deadly palenessarising from the sudden surpriseand also from a vague
fear of impending misfortune. "My lord he exclaimed, you have just
pronounced words which compel mewithout a moment's delayto seek their
explanation in Paris."

You will remain here,said Buckinghambecause 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 proceededand Buckinghamin all
probabilitywas on the point of revealingnot indeed all that had taken


placebut at least all he was aware ofwhen one of the king's
attendants appeared at the end of the terraceand advanced towards the
summer-house where the king was sitting with Lucy Stewart. A courier
followed himcovered with dust from head to footand 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 kingBuckingham and Miss Grafton exchanged
a look full of intelligence with each other.


Chapter XXXVIII:
The Courier from Madame.


Charles II. was busily engaged in provingor in endeavoring to proveto
Miss Stewart that she was the only person for whom he cared at alland
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 daythe very day Miss Stewart
had taken it into her head to make him jealousand thereforeinstead of
being touched by his offeras the king had hopedshe laughed heartily.


Oh! sire, sire,she criedlaughing 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 Charlesyou 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 yourselfsire; 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 Stewartwith 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 saidbeginning 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 Charlesimpatiently.

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 sisterperhaps?"

Yes, sire,said the ushera 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 courierand 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 kingas he opened the
letter. When he had read it he burst out laughingand exclaimedUpon
my word, I am at a loss to understand anything about it.He then read
the letter a second timeMiss Stewart assuming a manner marked by the
greatest reserveand doing her utmost to restrain her ardent curiosity.

Francis,said the king to his valetsee 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 courieramazed.

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 courierthe valetand Miss Stewart hardly
knew what sort of countenance to assume. "Ah!" said the kingthrowing
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 windowwhich he
openedand leaning forwardcalled out - "Duke! Buckingham! come here
there's a good fellow."

The duke hurried to himin obedience to the summons; but when he reached
the doorand perceived Miss Stewarthe hesitated to enter.

Come in, and shut the door,said the king. The duke obeyed; and
perceiving in what an excellent humor the king washe advancedsmiling
towards him. "Wellmy dear dukehow 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 Buckinghamseriouslyyou know, or you ought to know,
madame, that M. de Bragelonne is in love in another direction.


In that case,said the kingcoming to Miss Stewart's helpnothing 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 Stewarthe has done something; and a very
good thing too, upon my word.

But,said BuckinghamI 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
kingwith 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 startedand Miss Stewart opened her eyes very wide in
astonishment.

But, sire,said the dukeyour 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 BuckinghamI would not answer for
him.

Oh, the king has his musketeers to take care of him,said Charles
quietly; "I know that perfectly wellfor I was kept dancing attendance
in his ante-chamber at Blois. He has M. d'Artagnanand what better
guardian could the king have than M. d'Artagnan? I should make myself
perfectly easy with twenty storms of passionsuch as Bragelonne might
displayif 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 dukeread, and
answer yourself what you would do in my place.

Buckingham slowly took hold of Madame's letterand trembling with
emotionread 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 dukestupefied.

Nay, would you, of all persons,said the kingartfullyadvise 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 letterhe read:

A thousand kind remembrances to those who love me.

The duke's head sank gradually on his breast; the paper trembled in his
fingersas if it had been changed to lead. The king paused for a
momentandseeing that Buckingham did not speakHe 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! Goand bring our friend here
Villiers."

The duke opened the trellised door of the summer-houseand pointing at
Raoul and Marywho were walking together side by sidesaidWhat 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. Therelook at Miss
Stewartwho is wiping her eyes- now deuce take the French fellow!"

The duke called to Raouland taking Miss Grafton by the handhe 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 Raoulgreatly 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 kingsignified that another
place of residence would be more agreeable to you than this.

At this moment Raoul turned towards the dooragainst which Miss Grafton
was leaningpale and sorrow-stricken; her other hand was passed through
the duke's arm.

You do not reply,pursued Charles; "the proverb is plain enoughthat
'silence gives consent.' Very goodMonsieur de Bragelonne; I am now in
a position to satisfy you; whenever you pleasethereforeyou can leave
for Parisfor which you have my authority."

Sire!exclaimed Raoulwhile Mary stifled an exclamation of grief which
rose to her lipsunconsciously pressing Buckingham's arm.

You can be at Dover this evening,continued the kingthe tide serves
at two o'clock in the morning.

Raoulastoundedstammered out a few broken sentenceswhich 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 kingrising; "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; andas Raoul received the
ring from the king's handhetoofelt his strength and courage failing
him. He addressed a few respectful words to the kinga passing
compliment to Miss Stewartand 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 Graftonwith returning
animation; "I am not one of those women who have more pride than heart;
if she whom he loves is in Francelet him return thither and bless me
for having advised him to go and seek his happiness there. Ifon the
contraryshe shall have ceased to love himlet him come back here
again; I shall still love himand 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 parumegenti cuncta_. 'To
the rich is accorded littleto 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 Raoulwith a gloomy airthat 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
pityand Raoul returned her look with a sweetsorrowful smilesaying
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 Buckinghamwhile 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 accentsa 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 Graftonin 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 armandwhile Raoul
was hurrying away with headlong speedshe 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 wordRaoul disappeared. Miss Grafton returned
to her own apartmentspaler than death. Buckingham availed himself of
the arrival of the courierwho had brought the letter to the kingto
write to Madame and to the Comte de Guiche. The king had not been
mistakenfor at two in the morning the tide was at full floodand 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 brushawaiting the
completion of a particular planor the result of a combination of
colorsand suggesting various modifications to the painterwhich the
latter consented to adopt with the most respectful docility. And again
when the artistfollowing Malicorne's advicewas a little late in
arrivingand when Saint-Aignan had been obliged to be absent for some
timeit was interesting to observethough no one witnessed themthose
moments of silence full of deep expressionwhich united in one sigh two
souls most disposed to understand each otherand who by no means
objected to the quiet meditation they enjoyed together. The minutes flew
rapidly byas if on wingsand as the king drew closer to Louise and
bent his burning gaze upon hera noise was suddenly heard in the ante-
room. It was the artistwho had just arrived; Saint-Aignantoohad
returnedfull of apologies; and the king began to talk and La Valliere



to answer him very hurriedlytheir eyes revealing to Saint-Aignan that
they had enjoyed a century of happiness during his absence. In a word
Malicornephilosopher that he wasthough he knew it nothad learned
how to inspire the king with an appetite in the midst of plentyand with
desire in the assurance of possession. La Valliere's fears of
interruption had never been realizedand 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 enteringand Malicornethe man of so many ingenious inventions
had constructed an acoustic piece of mechanismby means of which La
Vallierewhen in Saint-Aignan's apartmentwas always forewarned of any
visits which were paid to the room she usually inhabited. In this
mannerthereforewithout leaving her roomand having no _confidante_
she was able to return to her apartmentthus removing by her appearance
a little tardy perhapsthe suspicions of the most determined skeptics.
Malicorne having asked Saint-Aignan the next morning what news he had to
reportthe 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 ithoweverthat on the evening of the fourth
dayat the moment when the painter was packing up his implementsduring
Saint-Aignan's continued absenceSaint-Aignan on his return noticed upon
La Valliere's face a shade of disappointment and vexationwhich she
could not conceal. The king was less reservedand exhibited his
annoyance by a very significant shrug of the shouldersat which La
Valliere could not help blushing. "Very good!" thought Saint-Aignan to
himself; "M. Malicorne will be delighted this evening;" as hein fact
waswhen it was reported to him.

It is very evident,he remarked to the comtethat 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
latterif you were to refuse his majesty that half-hour's satisfaction.

But the painter,objected Saint-Aignan.

_I_ will take care of him,said Malicorneonly 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
closelyfor the very same evening the king accompanied the queen to
Madame's apartmentsand made himself so remarked by his serious face and
his deep sighand looked at La Valliere with such a languishing
expressionthat Malicorne said to Montalais during the evening: "Tomorrow."
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 withinwhen La Vallierewho was
now quite familiar with the lower storylifted up the trap-door and
descended. The kingas usual was waiting for her on the staircaseand
held a bouquet in his hand; as soon as he saw herhe clasped her
tenderly in his arms. La Vallieremuch moved at the actionlooked
around the roombut as she saw the king was aloneshe did not complain
of it. They sat downthe king reclining near the cushions on which


Louise was seatedwith his head supported by her kneesplaced 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; shetoogazed with similar passion upon himand from
her eyesso softly pureemanated a flamewhose rays first kindled and
then inflamed the heart of the kingwhotrembling with happiness as
Louise's hand rested on his headgrew giddy from excess of joyand
momentarily awaited either the painter's or Saint-Aignan's return to
break the sweet illusion. But the door remained closedand neither
Saint-Aignan nor the painter appearednor 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 overcometurned round his head and buried his burning lips in
La Valliere's handswhoherself faintwith excess of emotionpressed
her trembling hands against her lover's lips. Louis threw himself upon
his kneesand as La Valliere did not move her headthe king's forehead
being within reach of her lipsshe furtively passed her lips across the
perfumed locks which caressed her cheeks. The king seized her in his
armsandunable to resist the temptationthey exchanged their first
kissthat burning kisswhich changes love into delirium. Suddenlya
noise upon the upper floor was heardwhich hadin factcontinued
though it had remained unnoticedfor some time; it had at last aroused
La Valliere's attentionthough but slowly so. As the noisehowever
continuedas it forced itself upon the attentionand recalled the poor
girl from her dreams of happiness to the sad realities of lifeshe rose
in a state of utter bewildermentthough 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 kingwith infinite
tenderness of tone. "Let others henceforth wait for you."

But she gently shook her headas 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 saidand she hurried up the staircase;
the king followed herunable to let her leave his sightand covering
her hand with his kisses. "Yesyes repeated La Valliere, who had
passed half-way through the opening. Yesit is Montalais who is
calling me; something important must have happened."

Go then, dearest love,said the kingbut return quickly.

No, no, not to-day, sire! Adieu! adieu!she saidas she stooped down
once more to embrace her lover - and escaped. Montalais wasin fact
waiting for hervery pale and agitated.

Quick, quick! _he_ is coming,she said.

Who - who is coming?

Raoul,murmured Montalais.

It is I - I,said a joyous voiceupon the last steps of the grand
staircase.

La Valliere uttered a terrible shriek and threw herself back.

I am here, dear Louise,said Raoulrunning towards her. "I knew but
too well that you had not ceased to love me."


La Valliere with a gesturepartly of extreme terrorand partly as if
invoking a blessingattempted to speakbut could not articulate one
word. "Nono!" she saidas she fell into Montalais's armsmurmuring
Do not touch me, do not come near me.


Montalais made a sign to Raoulwho 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 wasshe exclaimed:
Imprudent girl, she has not even closed the trap-door.


And she advanced towards the corner of the room to close the screenand
alsobehind the screenthe trap-door. But suddenly the kingwho had
heard Louise's exclamationdarted through the openingand hurried
forward to her assistance. He threw himself on his knees before heras
he overwhelmed Montalais with questionswho hardly knew where she was.
At the momenthoweverwhen the king threw himself on his kneesa cry
of utter despair rang through the corridoraccompanied 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 himfor Louisquitting his hold of La Valliere
hurried towards the doortoo latehoweverfor Raoul was already at a
distanceand the king only beheld a shadow that quickly vanished in the
silent corridor.


Transcriber's note: In the three-volume editionVolume 2entitled
Louise de la Valliereends here. - JB


Chapter XL:
Two Old Friends.


Whilst every one at court was busily engaged with his own affairsa man
mysteriously took up his post behind the Place de Grevein 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 largesurrounded by gardensinclosed in the Rue Saint-
Jean by the shops of toolmakerswhich protected it from prying looks
and was walled in by a triple rampart of stonenoiseand verdurelike
an embalmed mummy in its triple coffin. The man we have just alluded to
walked along with a firm stepalthough he was no longer in his early
prime. His dark cloak and long sword plainly revealed one who seemed in
search of adventures; andjudging from his curling mustachehis fine
smooth skinwhich 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 facthardly had the cavalier entered the housewhen
the clock struck eight; and ten minutes afterwards a ladyfollowed by a
servant armed to the teethapproached 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 youngshe was still active
and of an imposing carriage. She concealedbeneath a rich toilette and
the most exquisite tastean age which Ninon de l'Enclos alone could have
smiled at with impunity. Hardly had she reached the vestibulewhen the
cavalierwhose features we have only roughly sketchedadvanced towards
herholding out his hand.


God day, my dear duchesse,he said.


How do you do, my dear Aramis?replied the duchesse.


He led her to a most elegantly furnished apartmenton whose high windows
were reflected the expiring rays of the setting sunwhich 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 roomand they buried themselves as it were in the shadow



as if they wished to bury themselves in forgetfulness.

Chevalier,said the duchesseyou 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 duchesstalk 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
Aramissmiling without apprehension in the growing gloom by which the
room was overcastfor 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 Aramisdiscreetly.

I remembered, therefore,continued the duchessethat 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 handand 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 chevalierI 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 Aramisannoyed.

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 remarkand a light flashed from his
eyes in the darkness of the roomwhich he could not conceal from his
keen-sighted friend. "M. de Baisemeaux!" he saidwhy did D'Artagnan
send you to M. de Baisemeaux?

I cannot tell you.

What can this possibly mean?said the bishopsummoning all the
resources of his mind to his aidin 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
duchessesatisfied at having successfully overcome the various
difficulties of so delicate an explanationbegan to breathe freely
againwhich Aramishowevercould not succeed in doing. "We had got as
far as your visit to M. BaisemeauxI believe?"

Nay,she saidlaughingfarther than that.

In that case we must have been speaking about the grudge you have
against the queen-mother.

Further still,she returnedfurther still; we were talking of the
connection -

Which existed between you and the Franciscan,said Aramisinterrupting
her eagerlywell, 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
Aramissoftly.

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 me to do
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 Aramisbut it was perfectly dark.
Well, such is the rule, however,she resumed. "I hadthereforeto
appear to possess a power of usefulness of some kind or otherand I
proposed to travel for the orderand I was placed on the list of
affiliated travelers. You understand it was a formalityby means of
which I received my pensionwhich 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 Aramiswith a penetrating lookwhich 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 Aramisin a calm voiceit 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 impatientlyand 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 himand must be a Spaniardaccording to the statutes of
the order. You are not a Spaniardnor have you been nominated by the
king of Spain."

Aramis did not reply to this remarkexcept to sayYou 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 Aramiswith 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 duchesseto 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 mannerit 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 Aramiscoldly - "money? Wellduchessehow 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 ofand have not
communicated them to M. Fouquet?"

Ah!replied the duchesseI 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 Aramisin cold accentsit 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 duchesseand 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 bishopwill 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 duchesseas 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 duchessepretending 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 momentand then saidThat is
more serious: I will think it over.

And notwithstanding the profound obscurityAramis seemed to feel a
basilisk glancelike a white-hot ironescape from his friend's eyes
and plunge into his heart.

Let us recapitulate,said Aramisdetermined to keep himself on his
guardand 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 duchessethoughtlessly.

This remark made the chevalier prick up his ears; and from the moment his
adversary had committed this errorhis mind was so thoroughly on its
guardthat he seemed every moment to gain the advantage more and more;
and sheconsequentlyto lose it. "I will admitfor 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
thousandand 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 duchessewithout taking notice of the
ironythat 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 onold owl - hissbeldame-viper."


But the duchesse had said enoughand advanced a few steps towards the
door. Aramishoweverhad reserved one exposure which she did _not_
expect.


He rang the bellcandles immediately appeared in the adjoining roomand
the bishop found himself completely encircled by lightswhich shone upon
the wornhaggard face of the duchesserevealing every feature but too
clearly. Aramis fixed a long ironical look upon her palethinwithered
cheeks - her dimdull eyes - and upon her lipswhich she kept carefully
closed over her discolored scanty teeth. Hehoweverhad thrown himself
into a graceful attitudewith 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 mirrorin which her decrepitude
so carefully concealedwas only made more manifest. Andthereupon
without even saluting Aramiswho bowed with the ease and grace of the
musketeer of early daysshe hurried away with trembling stepswhich her
very precipitation only the more impeded. Aramis sprang across the room
like a zephyrto lead her to the door. Madame de Chevreuse made a sign
to her servantwho resumed his musketand 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 followedand 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
hoteland hardly had assured herself that no one who could cause her any
uneasiness was on her trackwhen she opened the door of the garden
leading into another streetand hurried towards the Rue Croix des Petits-
Champswhere M. Colbert resided.


We have already said that eveningor rather nighthad closed in; it was
a darkthick nightbesides; Paris had once more sunk into its calm
quiescent stateenshrouding alike within its indulgent mantle the high-
born duchesse carrying out her political intrigueand the simple
citizen's wifewhohaving been detained late by a supper in the city
was making her way slowly homewardshanging on the arm of a loverby
the shortest possible route. Madame de Chevreuse had been too well
accustomed to nocturnal political intrigues to be ignorant that a
minister never denies himselfeven at his own private residenceto any
young and beautiful woman who may chance to object to the dust and
confusion of a public officeor to old womenas full of experience as



of yearswho dislike the indiscreet echo of official residences. A
valet received the duchesse under the peristyleand received herit
must be admittedwith some indifference of manner; he intimatedafter
having looked at her facethat 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 Chevreusewithout
looking or appearing to be annoyedwrote 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 largeill-formed characters of the higher classes of that period
handed it to the valetwithout uttering a wordbut with so haughty and
imperious a gesturethat the fellowwell accustomed to judge of people
from their manners and appearanceperceived at once the quality of the
person before himbowed his headand ran to M. Colbert's room. The
minister could not control a sudden exclamation as he opened the paper;
and the valetgathering from it the interest with which his master
regarded the mysterious visitorreturned as fast as he could to beg the
duchesse to follow him. She ascended to the first floor of the beautiful
new house very slowlyrested herself on the landing-placein order not
to enter the apartment out of breathand appeared before M. Colbert
whowith his own handsheld both the folding doors open. The duchesse
paused at the thresholdfor the purpose of well studying the character
of the man with whom she was about to converse. At the first glancethe
roundlargeheavy headthick browsand ill-favored features of
Colbertwho worethrust low down on his heada cap like a priest's
_calotte_seemed to indicate that but little difficulty was likely to be
met with in her negotiations with himbut 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 revengeor of an exalted
ambition. But whenon closer inspectionthe duchesse perceived the
smallpiercingly black eyesthe longitudinal wrinkles of his high and
massive foreheadthe imperceptible twitching of the lipson which were
apparent traces of rough good-humorMadame de Chevreuse altered her
opinion of himand 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 you of you, monsieur,returned the duchesseas 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 Colbertyou are the intendant of financesand
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 Colbertafter a
silence which enabled the duchesse to sound the depths of his
dissimulationbut 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
Chevreusecoldly. "I do not live at such a distance from Paris as not
to know what takes place there. The king does not like M. Fouquetand
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 Colbertwhose 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 duchesseas 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 _espirit 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 Colbertwhose darkgloomy features were
momentarily lighted up by an expression of hate and vengeance."

Ah! ah! Monsieur Colbert,said the duchesseforgive 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 faceand then saidsuddenlyWait 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 remarkthe 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 laughsilentlyso that his large eyebrows went
up and down like the wings of a batupon the deep lines of his yellow
forehead. "No one he said.

You surely will make an exception in your own favorMonsieur 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 figureshe was of an insolent and mathematical probity. "I will take
with memadame 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 imaginedfor a momentthat
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 crownshad already offered it to Fouquet
for the same sum. As he still hesitatedthe 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 Colbertscribbling a few lines on a piece
of paperwhich he handed to the duchesseaddingYou are paid.


The trait is a fine one, Monsieur Colbert, and I will reward you for
it,she saidbeginning to laugh.


Madame de Chevreuse's laugh was a very sinister sound; a man with youth
faithlovelife itselfthrobbing in his heartwould prefer a sob to
such a lamentable laugh. The duchesse opened the front of her dress and
drew forth from her bosomsomewhat less white than it once had beena
small packet of paperstied with a flame-colored ribbonandstill
laughingshe saidThere, 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 religions 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 letterand gently drew aside the chair
behind which she was standing; Madame de Chevreusewith a very slight
bowimmediately left the room. Colbertwho had recognized Mazarin's
handwritingand had counted the lettersrang to summon his secretary
whom he enjoined to go in immediate search of M. Vanela counselor of
the parliament. The secretary replied thataccording to his usual
practiceM. Vanel had just that moment entered the housein 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 lampsread the letters of the deceased cardinal
over againsmiled 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 minutesreflected profoundly. In the meantimea
tallloosely-made man entered the room; his sparethin facesteady
lookand hooked noseas he entered Colbert's cabinetwith a modest
assurance of mannerrevealed a character at once supple and decidedsupple
towards the master who could throw him the preyfirm towards the
dogs who might possibly be disposed to dispute its possession. M. Vanel
carried a voluminous bundle of papers under his armand placed it on the
desk on which Colbert was leaning both his elbowsas he supported his
head.

Good day, M. Vanel,said the latterrousing himself from his
meditation.

Good day, monseigneur,said Vanelnaturally.

You should say monsieur, and not monseigneur,replied Colbertgently.

We give the title of monseigneur to ministers,returned Vanelwith
extreme self-possessionand 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 reador try to readupon 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 lookeven backed with the full authority of the title
he had conferred. Colbert sighed; he could not read anything in Vanel's
faceand Vanel might possibly be honest in his professionsbut Colbert
recollected that this maninferior 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 lotVanel coldly drew from his pocket a
perfumed lettersealed with Spanish waxand held it towards Colbert
sayingA letter from my wife, monseigneur.

Colbert coughedtookopened and read the letterand then put it
carefully away in his pocketwhile 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 wordsVanel fixed his peculiarhumbledull look upon Colbert
who could hardly tell whether Vanel comprehended him or not. "Why do you
speak to memonseigneur 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 Vanelbeginning to laugh.

Would you be afraid, then, of the post?said Colbertgravely.

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 procureurgeneral?"


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 attitudeand
his perseverance in continuing the conversation on this subjectVanel
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 Colbertsuddenly
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 rosebewildered by this offer which had been so suddenly and
unexpectedly made to him. "You are not trifling with memonseigneur?"
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 Colbertwith 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 VanelM. 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 Vanelin an altered tone.


Is there anything in that which can possibly be objectionable to you,
Monsieur Vanel?said Colbertcoldly.


Oh! no, no,replied Vanelnervously.


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 Royalwith Madame de
Motteville and Senora Molina. King Louiswho had been impatiently
expected the whole dayhad not made his appearance; and the queenwho
was growing impatienthad 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 apartmentcool and distant to
every one; and the queen-motherafter she had said her prayers in Latin
talked of domestic matters with her two friends in pure Castilian.
Madame de Mottevillewho understood the language perfectlyanswered her



in French. When the three ladies had exhausted every form of
dissimulation and of politenessas a circuitous mode of expressing that
the king's conduct was making the queen and the queen-mother pine away
through sheer grief and vexationand whenin the most guarded and
polished phrasesthey had fulminated every variety of imprecation
against Mademoiselle de la Vallierethe queen-mother terminated her
attack by an exclamation indicative of her own reflections and
character. "_Estos hijos!_" said she to Molina - which meansThese
children!words full of meaning on a mother's lips - words full of
terrible significance in the mouth of a queen wholike Anne of Austria
hid many curious secrets in her soul.

Yes,said Molinachildren, children! for whom every mother becomes a
sacrifice.

Yes,replied the queen; "a mother sacrifices everythingcertainly."
She did not finish her phrase; for she fanciedwhen she raised her eyes
towards the full-length portrait of the pale Louis XIII.that light once
more flashed from her husband's dull eyesand his nostrils grew livid
with wrath. The portrait seemed animated by a living expression - speak
it did notbut 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 Mottevillesurprised at the look of mutual
intelligence which had been exchanged between the confidant and her
mistresscast down her eyes like a discreet womanand pretending to be
observant of nothing that was passinglistened with the utmost attention
to every word. She heard nothinghoweverbut a very insignificant
humon the part of the Spanish duennawho 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 surpriseas she
repliedAnother 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 cautiona sharpacute pain seized the queenwho
turned deadly paleand threw herself back in the chairwith every
symptom of a sudden fainting fit. Molina ran to a richly gilded tortoiseshell
cabinetfrom which she took a large rock-crystal bottle of scented
saltsand held it to the queen's nostrilswho inhaled it wildly for a


few minutesand murmured:

It is hastening my death - but Heaven's will be done!

Your majesty's death is not so near at hand,added Molinareplacing
the smelling-bottle in the cabinet.

Does your majesty feel better now?inquired Madame de Motteville.

Much better,returned the queenplacing her finger on her lipsto
impose silence on her favorite.

It is very strange,remarked Madame de Mottevilleafter 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 cryburied her face in her handsand seemed
utterly prostrated for some minutes; but whether from recollections which
arose in her mindor from reflectionor even with sheer painwas
doubtful. La Molina darted a look at Madame de Mottevilleso full of
bitter reproachthat the poor womanperfectly ignorant of its meaning
was in her own exculpation on the point of asking an explanationwhen
suddenlyAnne of Austria arose and saidYes, 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 addedthe bitter expiation
of a too excessive joy.

Andfrom that momentAnne of Austriawhose memory and reason seemed to
be suspended for the timeremained impenetrablewith vacant lookmind
almost wanderingand hands hanging heavily downas 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 Molinahaving observed this sign of weaknessfixed her
black vigilant eyes upon her.

Yes, yes,replied the queen. "Leave usMotteville; go."

The word "us" produced a disagreeable effect upon the ears of the French
favorite; for it signified that an interchange of secretsor of
revelations of the pastwas about to be madeand 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 submissionand
was about to withdrawwhen suddenly an old female attendantdressed as
if she had belonged to the Spanish court of the year 1620opened the
doorand surprised the queen in her tears. "The remedy!" she cried
delightedlyto the queenas 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 Mottevilleeagerly; "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 voiceat once firm and gentle in
its tonewhich proceeded from the other side of the tapestry hangings; a
voice which made the attendants startand the queen tremble
excessively. At the same momenta masked female appeared through the
hangingsandbefore the queen could speak a syllable she addedI 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 soundand 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 attendantswho immediately withdrew. The
Beguinethereuponadvanced a few steps towards the queenand bowed
reverently before her. The queen gazed with increasing mistrust at this
womanwhoin her turnfixed a pair of brilliant eyes upon herthrough
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 upendeavoring to discover through the mysterious
maskand this ambiguous languagethe name of her companionwho
expressed herself with such familiarity and freedom; thensuddenly
wearied by a curiosity which wounded every feeling of pride in her
natureshe saidYou are ignorant, perhaps, that royal personages are
never spoken to with the face masked.

Deign to excuse me, madame,replied the Beguinehumbly.

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 suspicionbut did not remove
her feeling of curiosity. "You are rightshe said; it ill-becomes
those who are suffering to reject the means of relief Heaven sends them.
Speakthen; and may youindeedbe ableas you assertto administer
relief to my body - "

Let us first speak a little of the mind, if you please,said the
Beguine - "of the mindwhichI am suremust 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 armdazzling in its perfect whitenessand pure
in its rounded outlines as it was in the time of her earlier days.

The evils to which you allude,she saidare 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 Beguineresolutelythat you would
rather have dreaded the past.

Hardly had these words escaped her lipsthan the queen rose up proudly.
Speak,she criedin a shortimperious tone of voice; "explain
yourself brieflyquicklyentirely; orif not - "

Nay, do not threaten me, your majesty,said the Beguinegently; "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 queenclenching 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 Beguinethe 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; Peronne, the midwife,
soon followed him; Laporte is already forgotten.

The queen opened her lips as though to reply; she feltbeneath her icy
handwith which she kept her face half concealedthe beads of
perspiration on her brow.


It was eight o'clock,pursued the Beguine; "the king was seated at
supperfull 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 guardsthe musketeersand the royal guards
wandered through the cityborne about in triumph by the drunken
students. Those boisterous sounds of general joy disturbed the dauphin
the future king of Francewho was quietly lying in the arms of Madame de
Hausachis nurseand whose eyesas he opened themand stared about
might have observed two crowns at the foot of his cradle. Suddenly your
majesty uttered a piercing cryand Dame Peronne immediately flew to your
beside. The doctors were dining in a room at some distance from your
chamber; the palacedeserted from the frequency of the irruptions made
into itwas without either sentinels or guards. The midwifehaving
questioned and examined your majestygave a sudden exclamation as if in
wild astonishmentand taking you in her armsbewildered almost out of
her senses from sheer distress of minddispatched Laporte to inform the
king that her majesty the queen-mother wished to see him in her room.
Laporteyou are awaremadamewas 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; besidesit was not a very terrifying intelligence
which awaited the king. ThereforeLaporte appeared with a smile upon
his lipsand approached the king's chairsaying to him - 'Sirethe
queen is very happyand would be still more so to see your majesty.' On
that dayLouis XIII. would have given his crown away to the veriest
beggar for a 'God bless you.' Animatedlight-heartedand full of
gayetythe king rose from the tableand said to those around himin a
tone that Henry IV. might have adopted- 'GentlemenI am going to see
my wife.' He came to your besidemadameat the very moment Dame
Peronne presented to him a second princeas beautiful and healthy as the
formerand said - 'SireHeaven will not allow the kingdom of France to
fall into the female line.' The kingyielding to a first impulse
clasped the child in his armsand cried'OhHeavenI thank Thee!'"

At this part of her recitalthe Beguine pausedobserving how intensely
the queen was suffering; she had thrown herself back in her chairand
with her head bent forward and her eyes fixedlistened without seeming
to hearand her lips moving convulsivelyeither 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 Beguinethe 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 Beguinequicklythat 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 seatpale as deathand her hands
clenched together:

You know too much,she saidin a hoarsethick voicesince 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 Austriajoining gesture to the threatadvanced a couple of
steps towards the Beguine.

Learn,said the latterto know and value the fidelity, the honor, and
secrecy of the friends you have abandoned.Andthensuddenly 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 meduchesse. Alas!
you kill your friend in thus trifling with her terrible distress."

And the queenleaning her head upon the shoulder of the old duchesse
burst into a flood of bitter tears. "How young you are - still!" said
the latterin a hollow voice; "you can weep!"

Chapter XLIV:
Two Friends.

The queen looked steadily at Madame de Chevreuseand said: "I believe
you just now made use of the word 'happy' in speaking of me. Hitherto
duchesseI 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 Austriabitterly. "What can induce you to
pronounce the word 'pleasure' duchesse - you whojust nowadmitted
that my body and my mind both stood in need of remedies?"

Madame de Chevreuse collected herself for a momentand 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 coloredfor 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 - secretlyyou 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 hereeven 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 Annein alarm.

Traitors only,replied the duchessedestroy 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. "Yesunhappy
most unhappy!" murmured Anne of Austria; "how sad the existence he led
poor childto finish it in so cruel a manner."

Is he dead?cried the duchesse suddenlywith 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 discouragementwhich would
have afforded the queen the most unfeigned delighthad 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: "WellmadameI inquired some years ago at Noisy-le-
Sec about this unhappy child. I was told that it was not believed he was
deadand that was my reason for not having at first condoled with your
majesty; formost certainlyif I could have thought it were truenever
should I have made the slightest allusion to so deplorable an eventand
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 duchessesomewhat
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 conclusionand 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 queena little distant in her mannerfrom an
uneasiness of feeling produced by this remark. "But do not forgetmy
good Chevreusethat 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 queenstupefied. "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 queenwith some
suspicionif my presence can in any way be useful to you.

Useful!exclaimed the duchesselaughing; "ohnonoagreeable –
delightfulif you like; and you promise methen?"

I swear it,said the queenwhereupon the duchesse seized her beautiful
handand covered it with kisses. The queen could not help murmuring to
herselfShe 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 duchesseknowing 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 queengently nodding her head in sign of intelligencea
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 orderand 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 mindso variously
complicatedhas been enabled to develop itself at its ease in the three
outlines with which our recital has supplied it. It is not unlikely
thatin the future we are now preparinga question of politics and
intrigues may still arisebut the springs by which they work will be so
carefully concealed that no one will be able to see aught but flowers and
paintingsjust as at a theaterwhere 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-Mandewhere 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 Fouquetand never _was_ any pretextas Gourville saidmore
fallaciousfor there was not even a shadow of money to be seen.


M. Vatel was resolutely painstaking in keeping up the reputation of the
houseand 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; fishermenwhom the superintendent engaged on the
coast of Normandycalculated that if they were paid all that was due to
themthe amount would enable them to retire comfortably for life; fish
whichat a later periodwas the cause of Vatel's deathdid not arrive
at all. Howeveron the ordinary reception daysFouquet's friends
flocked in more numerously than ever. Gourville and the Abbe Fouquet
talked over money matters - that is to saythe abbe borrowed a few
pistoles from Gourville; Pelissonseated with his legs crossedwas

engaged in finishing the peroration of a speech with which Fouquet was to
open the parliament; and this speech was a masterpiecebecause Pelisson
wrote it for his friend - that is to sayhe 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 gardenengaged in a dispute about the art of making verses. The
painters and musiciansin their turnwere hovering near the diningroom.
As soon as eight o'clock struck the supper would be announcedfor
the superintendent never kept any one waiting. It was already half-past
sevenand the appetites of the guests were beginning to declare
themselves in an emphatic manner. As soon as all the guests were
assembledGourville went straight up to Pelissonawoke him out of his
reverieand led him into the middle of a roomand closed the doors.
Well,he saidanything new?

Pelisson raised his intelligent and gentle faceand said: "I have
borrowed five and twenty thousand francs of my auntand 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 laughwhich made La Fontaine
blush. "I beg your pardon he said, I had not forgotten it; ohno!
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 Pelissonyou 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 Gourvillein astonishment
for he knew the poet's disinterestedness.

My wife would not let me,replied the latterat 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 form 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 sidesyou 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-comedyand when the laughter had subsidedone 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 Fontaineonly 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 poetwith assumed indifferenceand I have
introduced the greatest freedom of language I could possibly employ.

Peals of laughter again broke forthwhile the poet was thus announcing
the quality of his wares. "And he continued, I have tried to excel
everything that BoccaccioAretinand 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 Fontainesimply. "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 Fontainerubbing his hands together. "Serious and
religions books sell at about half that rate."


It would have been better,said Gourvilleto 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 bagand
I beg to offer them as _my_ contribution."


As he said thishe placed his offering in the hands of their treasurer;
it was then Loret's turnwho 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 manwho had possessed so many millionswho
had exhausted all the pleasures and honors the world had to bestowthis
generous heartthis inexhaustible brainwhich hadlike two burning
cruciblesdevoured the material and moral substance of the first kingdom
in Europewas seen to cross the threshold with tears in his eyesand
pass his fingers through the gold and silver which the bag contained.


Poor offering,he saidin a softened and affected tone of voiceyou
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 presentwho were all tearfultoophilosophers as they werehe
embraced La Fontainesaying to himPoor 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 yearsI shall have written a hundred other tales
whichat two editions eachwill pay off the debt."


Chapter XLVI:
La Fontaine in the Character of a Negotiator.


Fouquet pressed La Fontaine's hand most warmlysaying to himMy 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 Fontainewith a little air of prideyou must not suppose
that I have only brought this idea and the eighty pistoles to the
superintendent.


Oh! indeed,was the general acclimation from all parts of the roomM.
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
repliedstriking 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 LoretConrartand 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. Fouquetsmiling.

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 Pelissonwe 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 Pelissonannoyed 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 Conrartand 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 Pelissongravelythat 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
laughterin which the superintendent joinedfollowed this sally.

But why hares?objected Conrartvexed.

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 Conrartseems impossible to me, when one is
fortunate enough to wear the gown of the procureur-general.

Transcriber's note: "To what heights may he not aspire?" Fouquet's
motto. - JB

On the contrary, it seems so to me without that gown,said the
obstinate Pelisson; "what is your opinionGourville?"

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 Fouquetstopping the
discussion by the expression of his own opinionwhich 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 itit 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 summerand you are altogether
prevented showing off your graces; there is a snake herewho will give
you a million and a half for your shell.'"

Good!said the superintendentlaughing.

Well, what next?said La Fontainemore 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 Fouquetwho had become very
thoughtful; "whenever a vulture wishes to devour a tortoisehe 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 fablePelissonI would give
him my shell."

_Rara avis in terres!_cried Conrart.

Transcriber's note: "A creature rare on earth." - JB


And like a black swan, is he not?added La Fontaine; "wellthenthe
bird in questionblack and rareis 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 Conrartyou 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. "WellLa Fontainewho 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 Fouquetwith an expression of great interest.

He wishes to be everything that you have been, monsieur,said
Gourvilleand 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 Fontainehe 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 Guienneand has received
the purchase money.'"

That's a pretty sum to touch all at once,said the Abbe Fouquetwho
had not hitherto said a word.

Poor Madame Vanel!murmured Fouquet.

Pelisson shrugged his shouldersas he whispered in Fouquet's earThat
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 Fouquetwhose thoughts were from
that moment fixed upon a fresh object in view.

Well!inquired La Fontainewhat 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 Fouquetwith the air of a
nobleman who condescends to barbarisms. To which the Latinists present
answered with loud applause.

Transcriber's note: "With always an eye to the climax." - JB

My _denouement_,cried La Fontaineis 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 Fouquetseriously; "let the business be a serious
oneif it is to be one at all. But first of alllet us show we are
hospitable. Make my apologiesLa Fontaineto M. Vaneland tell him
how distressed I am to have kept him waitingbut that I was not was not
aware he was there."

La Fontaine set off at oncefortunately accompanied by Gourvillefor
absorbed in his own calculationsthe 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 afterwardsM. Vanel was introduced into the
superintendent's cabineta description of which has already been given
at the beginning of this story. When Fouquet saw him enterhe called to
Pelissonand 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 descriptionbe 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 offnot quite clear as to his friend's meaning or
intentionbut confidentlike every true friendin 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 superintendentand was about to begin a speech.

Do not trouble yourself, monsieur,said Fouquetpolitely; "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 Vanelfrightened almost by the
unpretending simplicityamounting to greatnessof the manfor he had
expected disputesdifficultiesopposition 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 Vanelas cold as iceand feeling quite bewildered.

Adieu, Monsieur Vanel, present my humblest respects to Madame Vanel,
said Fouquetas he rose; upon which Vanelwho felt the blood rushing to
his headfor he was quite confounded by his successsaid seriously to
the superintendentWill you give me your word, monseigneur, upon this
affair?


Fouquet turned round his headsaying_Pardieu_, and you, monsieur?


Vanel hesitatedtrembled all overand 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 palmand he
pressed it in his ownin order the better to convince himself of the
compact. The superintendent gently disengaged his handas he again
saidAdieu.And then Vanel ran hastily to the doorhurried along the
vestibuleand 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? Andnow that the most scrupulous and
sensitive conscience will be unable to reproach me with anythinglet 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, Comemarquise; we are waiting supper for you." With
her heart filled with happiness Madame de Belliere ran to her carriage in
the Avenue de Vincennesand in a few minutes she was holding out her
hand to Gourvillewho was standing at the entrancewherein order the
better to please his masterhe had stationed himself to watch her
arrival. She had not observed that Fouquet's black horse arrived at the
same timeall steaming and foam-flakedhaving 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
cabinetwhich 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 accountwhich amounted to thirteen hundred
thousand francs. Thengoing for a few moments to his deskhe wrote an
order for fourteen hundred thousand francspayable at sightat his
treasurybefore twelve o'clock the next day.


A hundred thousand francs profit!cried the goldsmith. "Oh
monseigneurwhat generosity!"


Nay, nay, not so, monsieur,said Fouquettouching 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.Andsaying thishe unfastened from his sleeve a



diamond buttonwhich 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 goldsmithcompletely overcomeare
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 Bellierewho was already surrounded
by all the guests. The marquise was always beautifulbut now her
loveliness was more dazzling than ever. "Do you not thinkgentlemen
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 marquisesmiling.

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 gueststhat can very well be said of one
who has the finest diamonds in Paris.

Well?said Fouquet to Pelissonin a low tone.

Well, at last I have understood you,returned the latter; "and you have
done exceedingly well."

Supper is ready, monseigneur,said Vatelwith majestic air and tone.

The crowd of guests hurriedmore quickly than is usually the case with
ministerial entertainmentstowards the banqueting-roomwhere a
magnificent spectacle presented itself. Upon the buffetsupon the sidetables
upon the supper-table itselfin 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 artistswhom the Medici family patronized
sculpturedchasedand moulded for the purpose of holding flowersat a
time when gold existed still in France. These hidden marvelswhich had
been buried during the civil warstimidly reappeared during the
intervals of that war of good taste called La Fronde; at a time when
noblemen fighting against nobleman killedbut 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 diamondssapphires
emeraldsantique cameossardonyx stonescarved by the old Greeks of
Asia Minorwith mountings of Mysian gold; curious mosaics of ancient
Alexandriaset in silver; massive Egyptian bracelets lay heaped on a
large plate of Palissy waresupported by a tripod of gilt bronze
sculptured by Benvenuto Cellini. The marquise turned paleas 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 saidall 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 wordsand 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 rosepale and smiling; and as she
held out her glass with a faltering handand her trembling fingers
touched those of Fouquether lookfull of lovefound its mirror in
that of her ardent and generous-hearted lover. Begun in this mannerthe
supper soon became a _fete_; no one tried to be wittybut no one failed
in being so. La Fontaine forgot his Gorgny wineand allowed Vatel to
reconcile him to the wines of the Rhoneand those from the shores of
Spain. The Abbe Fouquet became so kind and good-naturedthat Gourville
said to himTake care, monsieur l'abbe; if you are so tender, you will
be carved and eaten.

The hours passed away so joyouslythatcontrary to his usual custom
the superintendent did not leave the table before the end of the
dessert. He smiled upon his friendsdelighted as a man is whose heart
becomes intoxicated before his head - andfor the first timelooked at
the clock. Suddenly a carriage rolled into the courtyardandstrange
to sayit was heard high above the noise of the mirth which prevailed.
Fouquet listened attentivelyand then turned his eyes towards the antechamber.
It seemed as if he could hear a step passing across ita step
thatinstead of pressing the groundweighed 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 garlandsof 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 arriveif 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 frightenedperhapsat the noise which our
wild friends here are making?"

Monseigneur,replied AramisrespectfullyI 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 presentFouquet rosesaying: "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 thishe took the hand of Madame de Bellierewho looked at
him with a kind of uneasinessand then led her to an adjoining _salon_
after having recommended her to the most reasonable of his guests. And
thentaking Aramis by the armhe led him towards his cabinet. As soon
as Aramis was therethrowing aside the respectful air he had assumedhe
threw himself into a chairsaying: "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 Fouquetphlegmatically.

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 superintendentstretching himself in his
armchairin 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. YesyesI
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 Fouquetas he quietly rose from his chairand went to
his large ebony bureau inlaid with mother-of-pearl and gold.

What I most admire in you,said Aramiswith an air of great
satisfactionis, your memory in the first place, then your selfpossession,
and, finally, the perfect order which prevails in your
administration; you, of all men, too, who are by nature a poet.

Yes,said FouquetI 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. "Naymore than that he continued, I remember
the paper as if I saw it; it is thicksomewhat crumpledwith gilt
edges; Mazarin had made a blot upon the figure of the date. Ah!" he
saidthe 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 drawerAramis 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 papersand 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 Aramisagitated.

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 Aramissmilingnot 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 Fouquetwho sat trembling in his chairclose to the
open drawers; he placed his hand on his shoulderand in an affectionate
tone of voicesaid: "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 Fouquetsuddenlydashing his fist upon the table.

Well! what? what is the matter?

I am procureur-general no longer.


Aramisat this replybecame as livid as death; he pressed his hands
together convulsivelyand with a wildhaggard lookwhich almost
annihilated Fouquethe saidlaying 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 Aramiscoldly; "I do not think you are in the
full possession of your sensesmy friend; collect yourself."

I tell you,returned Fouquetthat 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 terrorthat it had more effect upon the
superintendent than all the exclamations and speeches in the world. "You
had need of moneythen?" he saidat last.

Yes; to discharge a debt of honor.And in a few wordshe gave Aramis
an account of Madame de Belliere's generosityand the manner in which he
had thought it but right to discharge that act of generosity.

Yes,said Aramisthat 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 Aramisclapping his hands togethernothing
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 Fouquetin 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 soldierI have risked my life five hundred times; as
a priest I have rendered still greater servicesboth to the state and to
my friends. The value of a wordonce passedis estimated according to
the worth of the man who gives it. So long as it is in his own keeping
it is of the purestfinest gold; when his wish to keep it has passed
awayit is a two-edged sword. With that wordthereforehe defends
himself as with an honorable weaponconsidering thatwhen he disregards
his wordhe 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
casemonsieurhe appeals to Heaven and to justice."

Fouquet bent down his headas he repliedI 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 deeplyand looked all round him with the impatient gesture
of a man who would gladly dash something to piecesas 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 criedrising 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 Fouquetand 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 Fouquetpassing his hand across his
foreheadfrom 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 himandat the very momenta richly
ornamented tortoise-shell clocksupported by golden figureswhich was
standing on a console table opposite to the fireplacestruck six. The
sound of a door being opened in the vestibule was heardand Gourville
came to the door of the cabinet to inquire if Fouquet would received M.
Vanel. Fouquet turned his eyes from the gaze of Aramisand then desired
that M. Vanel should be shown in.


Chapter XLIX:
Monsieur Colbert's Rough Draft.


Vanelwho entered at this stage of the conversationwas nothing less
for Aramis and Fouquet than the full stop which completes a phrase. But
for VanelAramis's presence in Fouquet's cabinet had quite another
signification; andthereforeat his first step into the roomhe 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 Fouqueta perfect politicianthat is to saycomplete master of
himselfhe had alreadyby 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 longerthereforea man
overwhelmed by misfortune and reduced to resort to expedients; he held
his head proudly erectand indicated by a gesture that Vanel could
enter. He was now the first minister of the stateand 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 himselfthenfor 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 listensin order to learn
and understand. Vanel was visibly overcomeand advanced into the middle
of the cabinetbowing to everything and everybody. "I am here he said.


You are punctualMonsieur Vanel returned Fouquet.



In matters of businessmonseigneur replied Vanel, I look upon
exactitude as a virtue."

No doubt, monsieur.

I beg your pardon,interrupted Aramisindicating Vanel with his
fingerbut addressing himself to Fouquet; "this is the gentlemanI
believewho has come about the purchase of your appointment?"

Yes, I am,replied Vanelastonished 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 Aramisdryly. Vanel bowed.

Come, gentlemen, a truce to these ceremonies; let us proceed to the
matter itself.

Monseigneur sees,said Vanelthat 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 himselfhe has reflected on the matter and I am
lost.But resuming his couragehe continuedNo, 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 Fouquetthat 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 imprudentor a
foolto undertake engagements which he cannot keep; and Iat least
have always regarded a thing agreed on as a thing actually carried out."

Fouquet coloredwhile 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 variableand full of these very
excusable capriceswhich arehoweversometimes 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.

Aramiswho was delighted to find the superintendent carry on the debate
with such clearness and precisionstood leaning his arm upon the marble
top of a console table and began to play with a small gold knifewith a
malachite handle. Fouquet did not hasten to reply; but after a moment's
pauseCome, my dear Monsieur Vanel,he saidI 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 overcomemonseigneurat 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 saidas 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 Vanelawkwardly.

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 meantimeAramis had continued
his close observation of the man. Vanel's narrow facehis deeply sunken
eyeshis arched eyebrowshad 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 Aramisthat 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 Vanelwhose secret Aramis hadwith keen-sighted
gazewrung 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 Fouquetwho began to understand Aramis's meaning.

Vanel remained perfectly silent; hetoohad understood him. Aramis
observed his coldness of manner and his silence. "Very good he said to
himself, you are waitingI seeuntil you know the amount; but do not
fearI 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 princeevenwould have been satisfied with
such a bonus. A hundred thousand crowns at that period was the dowry of
a king's daughter. Vanelhoweverdid not move.

He is a perfect rascal!thought the bishopwell, 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. Wellwhat 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 facewhich
remained perfectly impassible; not a muscle of it changed in the
slightest degree. Aramis cast a look almost of despair at Fouquetand
thengoing straight up to Vanel and taking hold of him by the coatin
a familiar mannerhe saidMonsieur 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 repliedbeginning to tremble in every limbas
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 addedas he shook him nervously.

A million!repeated Vanelas pale as death.

A million; in other words, at the present rate of interest, an income of
seventy thousand francs.

Come, monsieur,said Fouquetyou can hardly refuse that. Answer - do
you accept?

Impossible,murmured Vanel.


Aramis bit his lipsand 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 francsI think. Wellyou will receive these fifteen
hundred thousand francs back again; by paying M. Fouquet a visitand
shaking hands with him on the bargainyou will have become a gainer of a
million and a half. You get honor and profit at the same timeMonsieur
Vanel."

I cannot do it,said Vanelhoarsely.

Very well,replied Aramiswho had grasped Vanel so tightly by the coat
thatwhen he let go his holdVanel staggered back a few pacesvery
well; one can now see clearly enough your object in coming here.

Yes,said Fouquetone can easily see that.

But - said Vanelattempting to stand erect before the weakness of
these two men of honor.

Does the fellow presume to speak?said Aramiswith the tone of an
emperor.

Fellow!repeated Vanel.

The scoundrel, I meant to say,added Aramiswho had now resumed his
usual self-possession. "Comemonsieurproduce your deed of sale- you
have it about youI supposein one of your pocketsalready 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 pocketsand as he drew out his pocket-
booka paper fell out of itwhile Vanel offered the other to Fouquet.
Aramis pounced upon the paper which had fallen outas 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 Aramiswith a smile more cutting
than a lash of a whip; "and what I admire most isthat this draft is in

M. Colbert's handwriting. Lookmonseigneurlook."
And he handed the draft to Fouquetwho recognized the truth of the fact;
forcovered with erasureswith inserted wordsthe margins filled with
additionsthis deed - a living proof of Colbert's plot - had just
revealed everything to its unhappy victim. "Well!" murmured Fouquet.

Vanelcompletely humiliatedseemed as if he were looking for some hole
wherein to hide himself.

Well!said Aramisif 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; butinstead of the deed which Vanel
handed to himhe took the rough draft of it.

No, not that paper,said Aramishastily; "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 signedand saidHere it is, Monsieur Vanel.And the latter
seized the paperdashed down the moneyand was about to make his
escape.

One moment,said Aramis. "Are you quite sure the exact amount is
there? It ought to be counted overMonsieur Vanel; particularly since

M. Colbert makes presents of money to ladiesI see. Ahthat worthy M.
Colbert is not so generous as M. Fouquet." And Aramisspelling every
wordevery letter of the order to paydistilled his wrath and his
contemptdrop by dropupon the miserable wretchwho had to submit to
this torture for a quarter of an hour. He was then dismissednot in
wordsbut by a gestureas one dismisses or discharges a beggar or a
menial.
As soon as Vanel had gonethe minister and the prelatetheir eyes fixed
on each otherremained silent for a few moments.

Well,said Aramisthe first to break the silence; "to what can that
man be comparedwhoat the very moment he is on the point of entering
into a conflict with an enemy armed from head to footpanting for his
lifepresents himself for the contest utterly defenselessthrows down
his armsand smiles and kisses his hands to his adversary in the most
gracious manner? Good faithM. Fouquetis a weapon which scoundrels
frequently make use of against men of honorand it answers their
purpose. Men of honoroughtin their turnalsoto make use of
dishonest means against such scoundrels. You would soon see how strong
they would becomewithout 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 Fouquetmournfullyyou 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 saidPhilosophy - 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 continuedas
Fouquet looked at him with a bewildered airspeak to me about an idea
you had of giving a _fete_ at Vaux?

Oh!said Fouquetthat 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 Aramisquietlyyou 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 Fouquetwho
misunderstood Aramis's ideait 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 Aramisin 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 Fouquetgiddy with amazementwhither are
you hurrying me?

Across the gulf into which you were about to fall,replied the bishop
of Vannes. "Take hold of my cloakand 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
casehowever - the reason is very simple. On the day you speak ofI
had not the million which you had need of at my disposalwhilst now I
can easily procure the twenty millions we require."

May Heaven hear you, and save me!

Aramis resumed his usual smilethe expression of which was so singular.
Heaven never fails to hear me,he said.

I abandon myself to your 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 Fouquetas 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 storythe adventures of the new
and of the past generation being detailedas it wereside by side. He
will have noticed in the formerthe reflection of the glory of earlier
yearsthe experience of the bitter things of this world; in the former
alsothat peace which takes possession of the heartand that healing of
the scars which were formerly deep and painful wounds. In the latter
the conflicts of love and vanity; bitter disappointmentsineffable
delights; life instead of memory. Ifthereforeany variety has been
presented to the reader in the different episodes of this taleit is to
be attributed to the numerous shades of color which are presented on this
double tabletwhere two pictures are seen side by sidemingling 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 headsone loves to talk
nonsense with youth. Thereforeif the threads of the story do not seem
very intimately to connect the chapter we are now writing with the one we
have just writtenwe do not intend to give ourselves any more thought or
trouble about it than Ruysdael took in painting an autumn skyafter
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 dismayor rather without power or will of his
own- hardly knowing what he was doing- he fled swiftlyafter the
scene in La Valliere's chamberthat strange exclusionLouise's grief
Montalais's terrorthe 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 wasbut 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 mistressand sayLouise, is it true that
you love me no longer? Is it true that you love another?Full of
couragefull of friendship as he was full of love; a religious observer
of his wordand believing blindly the word of othersRaoul said within
himselfGuiche 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. Guichewho had been brought from
Fontainebleau to Paris within the last two dayswas beginning to recover
from his woundsand to walk about a little in his room. He uttered a
cry of joy as he saw Raoulwith the eagerness of friendshipenter the
apartment. Raoul was unable to refrain from a cry of griefwhen he saw
De Guicheso paleso thinso melancholy. A very few wordsand a
simple gesture which De Guiche made to put aside Raoul's armwere
sufficient to inform the latter of the truth.

Ah! so it is,said Raoulseating himself beside his friend; "one loves
and dies."

No, no, not dies,replied Guichesmilingsince 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 betterprovided 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
eviland 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 Raoulin
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
Guicheyou 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 himnotwithstanding his weakness. "WellI will not add
another word: I have said either too much or not enough. Let others give
you further information if they willor if they can; my duty was to warn
youand _that_ I have done. Watch over your own affairs nowyourself."

Question others! Alas! you are no true friend to speak to me in that
manner,said the young manin utter distress. "The first man I meet
may be either evilly disposed or a fool- if the formerhe will tell me
a lie to make me suffer more than I do now; if the latterhe will do
worse still. Ah! De GuicheDe Guichebefore two hours are overI
shall have been told ten falsehoodsand shall have as many duels on my
hands. Save methen; 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 on 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 Guichesmiling as he quitted Raoul.


Raoul remained motionlessabsorbed in griefoverwhelmedlike the miner
upon whom a vault has just fallen inwhowoundedhis life-blood
welling fasthis thoughts confusedendeavors to recover himselfto
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 ideaswhen
suddenlythrough the doorhe fancied he recognized Montalais's voice in
the Cabinet des Porcelaines. "She!" he cried. "Yesit 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 comingno doubt
from Madame. I will see her in her own apartment. She will explain her
alarmher flightthe strange manner in which I was driven out; she will
tell me all that - after M. d'Artagnanwho knows everythingshall have
given me a fresh strength and courage. Madamea coquette I fearand
yet a coquette who is herself in lovehas her moments of kindness; a
coquette who is as capricious and uncertain as life or deathbut 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 apartmentsreproaching
himself as he went for having talked of nothing but his own affairs to De
Guicheand soon reached D'Artagnan's quarters.


Chapter LI:
Bragelonne Continues His Inquiries.


The captainsitting buried in his leathern armchairhis spurs fixed in
the floorhis sword between his legswas 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. "Raoulmy 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 earswhoas he
seated himselfrepliedUpon my word I cannot tell you; all that I know
is - I have come back.


Hum!said D'Artagnanfolding up his letters and directing a look full
of meaning at him; "what do you saymy boy? that the king has not
recalled youand 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 Englandand 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 gazewhich no
secret was capable of resisting. "You are unhappy about something he



said.
I amindeed; and you know the reason very wellMonsieur 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'Artagnanunbuckling his belt and thawing
the asperity of his smile.

Because Mademoiselle de la Valliere is deceiving me.

She is deceiving you,said D'Artagnannot 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 Bragelonnequickly.

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 Raoulpressing D'Artagnan's handI 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 loveyou 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'Bitemy friendbite; the tooth
will remain all the same.'"

I shall not kill any one, monsieur,said Raoulgloomily.

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 handsmurmuring: "Nono; 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 twoas 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'Artagnanwith a smile. "Ah! a famous idea that! You wish to be
consoled by some oneand you will be so at once. She will tell you
nothing ill of herselfof 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 Raoulsnatching eagerly at the pen which the captain held out
to him.

Suddenly the door openedand one of the musketeersapproaching
D'ArtagnansaidCaptain, 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 exclaimedOh, monsieur! monsieur! I beg your
pardon, Monsieur d'Artagnan.

Oh! I forgive you, mademoiselle,said D'Artagnan; "I know thatat my
agethose 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 saidas he gently pushed Raoul out of the cabinet;
and thentaking hold of Montalais's handhe saidin a low voiceBe
kind towards him; spare him, and spare her, too, if you can.

Ah!she saidin the same tone of voiceit is not I who am going to
speak to him.

Who, then?

It is Madame who has sent for him.

Very good,cried D'Artagnanit is Madame, is it? In an hour's time,
then, the poor fellow will be cured.


Or else dead,said Montalaisin 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. Therethere 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 handsand tried to assume the look and gait of a man
of courageit is truebut of a man of courage on his way to the torture
chamber. Montalaisglancing in every directionwalking along with an
easy swinging gaitand holding up her head pertly in the airpreceded
him to Madame's apartmentswhere 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 Madameand both of themby a friendly plotagreed
to postpone the solution of the problem. Why have I not a determined
inveterate enemy - that serpentDe Wardesfor instance; that he would
biteis very likely; but I should not hesitate any more. To hesitate
to doubt - betterfarto die."

The next moment Raoul was in Madame's presence. Henriettamore charming
than everwas half lyinghalf reclining in her armchairher small feet
upon an embroidered velvet cushion; she was playing with a kitten with
long silky furwhich was biting her fingers and hanging by the lace of
her collar.

Madame seemed plunged in deep thoughtso deepindeedthat 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 awakeningand then saidGood
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
respectguessing that there was something serious in these unusual
courtesies; nor was he displeasedindeedto observe the seriousness of
her mannerfeeling persuaded that there was some sort of affinity
between Madame's sentiments and his own. In factevery one at courtof
any perception at allknew 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 wordin her attempts to cure a wounded pridefound that her heart
had become deeply and passionately attached. We know what Madame had
done to recall Raoulwho 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 vanitythat passionate tenderness of
feelingthat prodigious duplicity of conduct? No one canindeed; 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 Henriettaand seeing how pale she wasnot
alone from what she was keeping backbut also from what she was burning
to saysaid: "Satisfied! what is there for me to be satisfied or
dissatisfied aboutMadame?"

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 Raoulalmost terrified; "what venom is it
she is going to distil into my heart?" and thenfrightened at what she
might possibly be going to tell himand wishing to put off the
opportunity of having everything explainedwhich he had hitherto so
ardently wished foryet had dreaded so muchhe replied: "I left
Madamea dear friend in good healthand on my return I find him very
ill."

You refer to M. de Guiche,replied Madame Henriettawith 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 herselfaddedBut 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 himselfshe 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 meand 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 Henriettawhat do you understand, then?

That which your royal highness wishes me to understand,said Raoul
tremblingnotwithstanding his command over himselfas he pronounced
these words.

In point of fact,murmured the princess… "it seems cruelbut 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 saidsuddenly.

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 impatienceas she saidAt 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?

Raoulwhose head dropped like a blossom cut down by the reapermade an
almost superhuman effort to smileas he replied with the greatest
gentleness: "I have had the honor of telling your royal highness that I
am absolutely ignorant of everythingthat I am a poor unremembered
outcastwho has this moment arrived from England. There have rolled so
many stormy waves between myself and those I left behind me herethat
the rumor of none of the circumstances your highness refers tohas been
able to reach me."

Henrietta was affected by his extreme pallorhis gentlenessand 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 doI
will do for youwhom I like and esteem very much. I will be your friend
on this occasion. You hold your head highas a man of honor should; and
I deeply regret that you may have to bow before ridiculeand in a few
daysit might becontempt."


Ah!exclaimed Raoulperfectly livid. "It is as bad as thatthen?"


If you do not know,said the princessI 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 Bragelonnemaking an effort over himself; "I
thought I should have died just nowthat 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 Chaillotand the king's despair on his return;
she told him of his indulgence to herself and the terrible word with
which the outraged princessthe humiliated coquettehad 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 thenshrugging her shouldersshe saidYou 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 princesspreceding Raoulled him through the courtyard towards that
part of the building La Valliere inhabitedandascending the same
staircase which Raoul himself had ascended that very morningshe 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 conceivedfor the chateau was



empty. The kingthe courtiersand the ladies of the courthad set off
for Saint-Germain; Madame Henrietta was the only one who knew of
Bragelonne's returnand thinking over the advantages which might be
drawn from this returnshe 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 himand her
practiced eye at once detected what was passing in the young man's heart.

You asked for proofs,she said; "do not be astonishedthenif I give
you them. But if you do not think you have courage enough to confront
themthere 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 Madameand shut the door behind you.

Bragelonne obeyedand then turned towards the princesswhom 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 princessas she walked to the foot of the bedfolded
up the screen into its several compartmentsand stooped down towards the
floor. "Look here she continued; stoop down and lift up this trapdoor
yourself."

A trap-door!said Raoulastonished; for D'Artagnan's words began to
return to his memoryand he had an indistinct recollection that
D'Artagnan had made use of the same word. He lookedbut uselesslyfor
some cleft or crevice which might indicate an opening or a ring to assist
in lifting up the planking.

Ah, I forgot,said Madame HenriettaI 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.

Raoulpale as deathpressed his finger on the spot which had been
indicated to him; at the same moment the spring began to workand 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 springfor see how easily the trap-door opened without
assistance."

A staircase!cried Raoul.

Yes, and a very pretty one, too,said Madame Henrietta. "Seevicomte
the staircase has a balustradeintended to prevent the falling of timid
personswho might be tempted to descend the staircase; and I will risk


myself on it accordingly. Comevicomtefollow 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 onI begfor I do not
understand yet."

Well, then it accidentally happened,continued the princessthat 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 herselfwhile Raoulsighing
deeplyfollowed her. At every step Bragelonne tookhe advanced further
into that mysterious apartment which had witnessed La Valliere's sighs
and still retained the perfume of her presence. Bragelonne fancied he
perceivedas he inhaled the atmospherethat the young girl must have
passed through. Then succeeded to these emanations of herselfwhich he
regarded as invisible though certain proofsflowers she preferred to all
others - books of her own selection. If Raoul retained a single doubt on
the subjectit 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 eyeswas present there in each article of furniturein
the color of the hangingsin all that surrounded him. Dumband now
completely overwhelmedthere was nothing further for him now to learn
and he followed his pitiless conductress as blindly as the culprit
follows the executioner; while Madameas cruel as women of overstrung
temperaments generally aredid not spare him the slightest detail. But
it must be admitted thatnotwithstanding the kind of apathy into which
he had fallennone of these detailseven had he been left alonewould
have escaped him. The happiness of the woman who loveswhen that
happiness is derived from a rivalis a living torture for a jealous man;
but for a jealous man such as Raoul wasfor 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 deatha death of body
and soul. He guessed all; he fancied he could see themwith their hands
clasped in each other'stheir faces drawn close togetherand reflected
side by sidein loving proximityand they gazed upon the mirrors around
them - so sweet an occupation for loverswhoas they thus see
themselves twice overimprint the picture still more deeply on their
memories. He could guesstoothe stolen kiss snatched as they
separated from each other's loved society. The luxurythe studied
eleganceeloquent of the perfection of indolenceof ease; the extreme
care showneither to spare the loved object every annoyanceor to


occasion her a delightful surprise; that might and majesty of love
multiplied by the majesty and might of royalty itselfseemed like a
death-blow to Raoul. If there be anything which can in any way assuage
or mitigate the tortures of jealousyit is the inferiority of the man
who is preferred to yourself; whilston the very contraryif there be
one anguish more bitter than anothera misery for which language lacks a
wordit is the superiority of the man preferred to yourselfsuperior
perhapsin youthbeautygrace. 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 curtainand behind the canvas he perceived La Valliere's portrait.
Not only the portrait of La Vallierebut of La Valliere radiant with
youthbeautyand happinessinhaling life and enjoyment at every pore
because at eighteen years of age love itself is life.

Louise!murmured Bragelonne- "Louise! is it truethen? Ohyou have
never loved mefor 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 himalmost envious of his extreme grief
although she well knew there was nothing to envy in itand 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 Henriettaa 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! truetrue; I was forgetting that; the king
is my master."

Your liberty, nay, your very life, is in danger.

A steadypenetrating look informed Madame Henrietta that she was
mistakenand that her last argument was not a likely one to affect the
young man. "Take careMonsieur de Bragelonne she said, for if you do
not weigh well all your actionsyou might throw into an extravagance of
wrath a prince whose passionsonce arousedexceed the bounds of reason
and you would thereby involve your friends and family in the deepest
distress; you must bendyou must submitand 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 Bragelonnewith firmness; "for you do not suppose I shall
silently accept the shame thus thrust upon meor 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 Bragelonnewith 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 tabletand 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 paperslipped it into the lock of the door which
communicated with the room set apart for the two loversand satisfied
himself that the missive was so apparent that Saint-Aignan could not but
see it as he entered; he rejoined the princesswho had already reached
the top of the staircase. They then separatedRaoul pretending to thank
her highness; Henrietta pityingor seeming to pitywith all her heart
the wretched young man she had just condemned to such fearful torture.
Oh!she saidas she saw him disappearpale as deathand his eyes
bursting with bloodif 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 isthat 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 easyaffectionate character of that excellent-
hearted man; he mayperhapshave held up his head a little higher than
usualand a majesty of demeanoras it weremay 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 thatduring
that memorable dinnerthe numerous array of servantsand the large
number of officials in attendance on the guestsgave a certain tone and
effect to the repastand seemedas it wereto furnish the room.
Porthos undertook to confer upon Mouston a position of some kind or
otherin order to establish a sort of hierarchy among his other
domesticsand to create a military householdwhich was not unusual
among the great captains of the agesincein the preceding century
this luxury had been greatly encouraged by Messieurs de Trevillede
Schombergde la Vieuvillewithout alluding to M. de RichelieuM. de
Condeand de Bouillon-Turenne. Andthereforewhy should not he
Porthosthe friend of the kingand of M. Fouqueta baronand
engineeretc.why should not heindeedenjoy all the delightful
privileges which large possessions and unusual merit invariably confer?
Somewhat neglected by Aramiswhowe knowwas greatly occupied with M.
Fouquet; neglectedalsoon account of his being on dutyby D'Artagnan;
tired of Truchen and PlanchetPorthos was surprised to find himself
dreamingwithout 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 dinnersduring which Porthos attempted to
recall to his recollection all the details of the royal banquetgently
joyfulthanks to the excellence of the wines; gently melancholythanks
to his ambitions ideasPorthos was gradually falling off into a placid
dozewhen his servant entered to announce that M. de Bragelonne wished
to speak to him. Porthos passed into an adjoining roomwhere he found
his young friend in the disposition of mind we are already aware of.
Raoul advanced towards Porthosand shook him by the hand; Porthos
surprised at his seriousness of aspectoffered 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;
andhaving first filled Raoul's glasshe filled his owndrank it down
at a gulpand then resumed: "I needed thatin order to listen to you
with proper attention. I am now entirely at your service. What do you
wish to ask medear 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 Porthosrubbing 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 Raoulunable 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 Raoulyou 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 Porthoswith 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 Raoulbitterlythat 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 imaginethereforewhether 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 earsI 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.

Porthoswho had recovered himselfcontinued: "By one simple expression
I leave my adversary without an excuse."

That is as it may happen,said Raoulabsently.

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 Raoulpale with vexationyou 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 fatherAramisand
D'Artagnanall of whom are living and wellI believe?"

Oh, my dear baron,exclaimed Raoulas 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
Raoulsmiling.
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 speechlifted Raoul and the chair he was sitting on
off the groundand carried them round the room.

Very good,said Raoullaughing. "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 Porthoswho 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 wordthat 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? Trapdoors!
_mordioux!_ I haven't got anyexcept in my dungeons at Bracieux."

And you will please add,said Raoulthat 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 horseand a led horse to accompany me."
Then turning to Raoulas soon as the servant had quitted the roomhe
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 cautions, you know, and might
have diverted me from my purpose.


D'Artagnan is a sound adviser, though,said Porthosastonished that
in his own loyal faith in D'Artagnanany one could have thought of
himselfso long as there was a D'Artagnan in the world.


Dear M. du Vallon,said Raouldo 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 Porthosdrylywhen 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 giantfinishing the bottlewhile a servant
spread out upon a sofa the gorgeously decorated dress trimmed with lace.


Raoul left the roomsaying to himselfwith 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 Residencethe Trap-Doorand the Portrait.


Porthosintrustedto his great delightwith this missionwhich made



him feel young againtook 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 societyhe had begun by sending his lackey to inquire if
Monsieur de Saint-Aignan were at homeand heardin answerthat M. le
Comte de Saint-Aignan had had the honor of accompanying the king to Saint-
Germainas well as the whole court; but that monsieur le comte had just
that moment returned. Immediately upon this replyPorthos made as much
haste as possibleand reached Saint-Aignan's apartments just as the
latter was having his boots taken off. The promenade had been
delightful. The kingwho was in love more than everand of course
happier than everbehaved in the most charming manner to every one.
Nothing could possibly equal his kindness. M. de Saint-Aignanit may be
rememberedwas a poetand 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 rhymesterhe hadduring the whole of the
journeyoverwhelmed with quatrainssextainsand madrigalsfirst the
kingand then La Valliere. The kingon his sidewas in a similarly
poetical moodand had made a distich; while La Vallieredelighting in
poetryas most women do who are in lovehad composed two sonnets. The
daythenhad not been a bad one for Apollo; and soas soon as he had
returned to ParisSaint-Aignanwho knew beforehand that his verse would
be sure to be extensively circulated in court circlesoccupied himself
with a little more attention than he had been able to bestow during the
promenadewith the compositionas well as with the idea itself.
Consequentlywith all the tenderness of a father about to start his
children in lifehe 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 subjectM. de Saint-
Aignan recited to himself the madrigal he had composedand which he had
repeated from memory to the kingand had promised to write out for him
on his return. All the time he was committing these words to memorythe
comte was engaged in undressing himself more completely. He had just
taken off his coatand was putting on his dressing-gownwhen he was
informed that Monsieur le Baron du Vallon de Bracieux de Pierrefonds was
waiting to be received.

Eh!he saidwhat does that bunch of names mean? I don't know
anything about him.

It is the same gentleman,replied the lackeywho 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.

Porthosin a few minutesentered the room. M. de Saint-Aignan had an
excellent recollection of personsandat the first glancehe
recognized the gentleman from the countrywho enjoyed so singular a
reputationand 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 naturalconsidering that he himself
whenever he called upon an adversaryhoisted a standard of the most
refined politeness. Saint-Aignan desired the servant to give Porthos a
chair; and the latterwho saw nothing unusual in this act of politeness
sat down gravely and coughed. The ordinary courtesies having been
exchanged between the two gentlementhe comteto whom the visit was
paidsaidMay 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 timefor 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 Porthoswhile the comte was looking
aboutare 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 Porthosnobly. "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
yoursdo you say? May I ask his name?"

M. Raoul de Bragelonne.

I have insulted M. Raoul de Bragelonne!cried Saint-Aignan. "I really
assure youmonsieurthat it is quite impossible; for M. de Bragelonne
whom I know but very slightly- naywhom I know hardly at all - is in
Englandandas I have not seen him for a long time pastI cannot
possibly have insulted him."

M. de Bragelonne is in Paris, monsieur le comte,said Porthos
perfectly unmoved; "and I repeatit is quite certain you have insulted
himsince he himself told me you had. Yesmonsieuryou have seriously
insulted himmortally insulted himI repeat."

It is impossible, monsieur le baron, I swear, quite impossible.

Besides,added Porthosyou 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-Aignanthat have received nothing in
any way from him.And he rang the bell. "Basque he said to the
servant who entered, how many letters have 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.
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 valetand followed him to the doorin order
to close it after him; and when he had done solooking straight before
himhe 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.

Porthoswho was sitting with his back to the roomturned 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 murmuredturning
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 Basqueperseveringly.

Saint-Aignan crumpled the letter in his palmafter having read it.
There is something mysterious about this,he murmuredabsorbed 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 resumedaddressing 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 Porthosmy 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 whichfor 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 repliedwith 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 Porthosyou have changed your
apartments.

Yes, that is quite true,said Saint-Aignan.

You admit it,said Porthoswith 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 Porthoslifting 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 himand then saidwith great gravityMonsieur, 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; butat all eventsyou have nothing to
add on the subject of your changing your apartmentsI 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-Aignanwho 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 seriousmonsieur."

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 trapdoor
monsieur?"

Saint-Aignan turned exceedingly pale. He pushed back his chair so
abruptlythat Porthossimple as he wasperceived that the blow had
told. "The trap-door murmured Saint-Aignan.

Yesmonsieurexplain 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 Porthoswho knew nothing.

You see me perfectly overwhelmed,pursued Saint-Aignanoverwhelmed
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 counthurriedlysuch a secret ought not
to be known even by one's confessor.

That we will think about,said Porthos; "the secret will not go farin
fact."

Surely, monsieur,returned Saint-Aignansince 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. "Whatin
Heaven's namedoes he want?" He then said aloud: "Comemonsieurlet
us hush up this affair."

You forget the portrait,said Porthosin a voice of thunderwhich
made the comte's blood freeze in his veins.


As the portrait in question was La Valliere's portraitand no mistake
could any longer exist on the subjectSaint-Aignan's eyes were
completely opened. "Ah!" he exclaimed - "ah! monsieurI remember now
that M. de Bragelonne was engaged to be married to her."

Porthos assumed an imposing airall the majesty of ignorancein fact
as he said: "It matters nothing whatever to menor to yourselfindeed
whether or not my friend wasas you sayengaged to be married. I am
even astonished that you should have made use of so indiscreet a remark.
It may possibly do your cause harmmonsieur."

Monsieur,replied Saint-Aignanyou 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-Aignanyou 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 upunable to resist the flattery of
the remark. "Onlynow that I know everythingpermit me to explain - "

Porthos shook his headas a an who does not wish to hearbut Saint-
Aignan continued: "I am in despairI assure youat all that has
happened; but how would you have acted in my place? Comebetween
ourselvestell me what you would have done?"

Porthos drew himself up as he answered: "There is now no question of all
of what I should have doneyoung man; you have been made acquainted with
the three causes of complaint against youI 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 speakbut Saint-Aignan did not give him time to
answer. "Ah! my franknessI seeconvinces you he said, interpreting
the movement according to his own fancy. You feel that I am right."

Porthos did not replyand so Saint-Aignan continued: "I pass by that
unfortunate trap-door he said, placing his hand on Porthos's arm, that
trap-doorthe occasion and means of so much unhappinessand which was
constructed for - you know what. Wellthenin plain truthdo you
suppose that it was I whoof my own accordin such a placetoohad
that trap-door made? - Ohno! - you do not believe it; and hereagain
you feelyou guessyou understand the influence of a will superior to
my own. You can conceive the infatuationthe blindirresistible
passion which has been at work. Butthank Heaven! I am fortunate in
speaking to a man who has so much sensitiveness of feeling; and if it
were not soindeedwhat an amount of misery and scandal would fall upon
herpoor girl! and upon him - whom I will not name."

Porthosconfused and bewildered by the eloquence and gestures of Saint-
Aignanmade a thousand efforts to stem this torrent of wordsof which
by the byhe did not understand a single one; he remained upright and
motionless on his seatand that was all he could do. Saint-Aignan
continuedand gave a new inflection to his voiceand an increasing
vehemence to his gesture: "As for the portraitfor I readily believe the
portrait is the principal cause of complainttell 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? Againis it I? - Who took her likeness? Ido 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 Itooam
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 coursehe is lost. You will tell meI know
that despair is ridiculousbut then you are a sensible man. You have
understood me. I perceived by your seriousthoughtfulembarrassed air
eventhat the importance of the situation we are placed in has not
escaped you. Returnthereforeto 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 shallon my sidepreserve an
eternal gratitude for the man who has so ingeniouslyso cleverly
arranged the misunderstanding between us. And since ill luck would have
it that the secret should be known to four instead of threewhythis
secretwhich might make the most ambitious man's fortuneI am delighted
to share with youmonsieurfrom the bottom of my heart I am delighted
at it. From this very moment you can make use of me as you pleaseI
place myself entirely at your mercy. What can I possibly do for you?
What can I solicitnayrequire even? You have only to speakmonsieur
only to speak."

Andaccording to the familiarly friendly fashion of that periodSaint-
Aignan threw his arms round Porthosand 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 PorthosI 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-Aignanwith 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, thensaid Porthos.

What do you say? the king must wait!interrupted the finished courtier
with a smile of utter amazementfor 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 Porthosas 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 swordand said: "That is the length of my
friend's sword."

Why, the man is mad!cried Saint-Aignan.


The color mounted to Porthos's faceas he replied: "If I had not the
honor of being in your own apartmentmonsieurand of representing M. de
Bragelonne's interestsI would throw you out of the window. It will be
merely a pleasure postponedand you will lose nothing by waiting. Will
you come with me to the Minimesmonsieurof 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 appearedhe saidThe
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 eveningmonsieur."

And saluting Saint-Aignan with his usual courtesyPorthos 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 againhe ran
offarranging his costume as he went alongmuttering to himselfThe
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 promenadewhich had been so prolific in poetical
effusionsand in which every one had paid his or her tribute to the
Musesas the poets of the period used to saythe king found M. Fouquet
waiting for an audience. M. Colbert had lain in wait for his majesty in
the corridorand followed him like a jealous and watchful shadow; M.
Colbertwith his square headhis vulgar and untidythough rich
costumesomewhat resembled a Flemish gentleman after he had been overindulging
in his national drink - beer. Fouquetat sight of his enemy
remained perfectly unmovedand during the whole of the scene which
followed scrupulously resolved to observe a line of conduct particularly
difficult to the man of superior mindwho does not even wish to show his
contemptfor 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 opinionM. Fouquet's was a game very badly played and hopelessly
lostalthough not yet finished. Colbert belonged to that school of
politicians who think cleverness alone worthy of their admirationand
success the only thing worth caring for. Colbertmoreoverwho was not
simply an envious and jealous manbut who had the king's interest really
at heartbecause he was thoroughly imbued with the highest sense of
probity in all matters of figures and accountscould well afford to
assign as a pretext for his conductthat in hating and doing his utmost
to ruin M. Fouquethe 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 thickbushy browsand despite the
restless movement of his eyelidshe couldby merely looking at his
eyespenetrate to the very bottom of Colbert's heartand he read to
what an unbounded extent hate towards himself and triumph at his
approaching fall existed there. But asin observing everythinghe
wished to remain himself impenetrablehe composed his featuressmiled
with the charmingly sympathetic smile that was peculiarly his ownand
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 superintendentwho 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 kingthere 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
Colbertendeavoring to show his importance by taking part in the
conversation.

Fouquetwith the profoundest contemptdid not take the slightest notice
of the remarkas ifas far as he was concernedColbert had not even
thought or said a word.

Your majesty is aware,he saidthat 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 magicianI 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 soindeedthat people say you coin it."

Fouquet felt that the shot was discharged from a double quiverand that
the king had launched an arrow from his own bow as well as one from
Colbert's. "Oh!" said helaughinglythe people know perfectly well
out of what mine I procure the gold; and they know it only too well,
perhaps; besides,he addedI 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; Colberttoo


wished to reply to him; a glance as swift as an eagle'sa king-like
glanceindeedwhich Fouquet darted at the latterarrested the words
upon his lips. The kingwho had by this time recovered his selfpossession
turned towards FouquetsayingI 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 superintendentin order to see whether this
remark was an approach to less hostile sentiments on his part; but
Fouquet had not even looked at his enemyand Colbert hardly seemed to
exist as far as he was concerned. "Very goodthen 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 kingtouched by the noble thought expressed
in so noble a tone.

Fouquetthereforetook 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 kingthat they would both
converse about himand 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 immediatelyas soon
indeedas he had reached the doorand addressing the kingsaidI was
forgetting that I had to crave your majesty's forgiveness.

In what respect?said the kinggraciously.

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
Fouqueta single proof formally advancedand before the youthful
loyalty of feeling which guided Louis XIV.Colbert's favor would
disappear at once; the latter trembledthereforelest so daring a blow
might overthrow his whole scaffold; in point of factthe opportunity was
so admirably suited to be taken advantage ofthat a skillfulpracticed
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 meI am perfectly indifferent about my confession; this morning
I sold one of the official appointments I hold."

One of your appointments,said the kingwhich?

Colbert turned perfectly livid. "That which conferred upon mesirea
grand gownand a stern air of gravity; the appointment of procureurgeneral."


The king involuntarily uttered a loud exclamation and looked at Colbert
whowith his face bedewed with perspirationfelt almost on the point of
fainting. "To whom have you sold this departmentMonsieur Fouquet?"
inquired the king.

Colbert was obliged to lean against a column of the fireplace. "To a
councilor belonging to the parliamentsirewhose 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
nonchalanceand with an admirably assumed expression of forgetfulness
and ignorance. And having finishedand having overwhelmed Colbert
beneath the weight of this superioritythe superintendent again saluted
the king and quitted the roompartially revenged by the stupefaction of
the king and the humiliation of the favorite.

Is it really possible,said the kingas soon as Fouquet had
disappearedthat he has sold that office?

Yes, sire,said Colbertmeaningly.

He must be mad,the king added.

Colbert this time did not reply; he had penetrated the king's thoughta
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
futurebetween Louis XIV. and himselftheir hostile feelings and ideas
would meet with no obstaclesand that at the first fault committed by
Fouquetwhich could be laid hold of as a pretextthe chastisement so
long impending would be precipitated. Fouquet had thrown aside his
weapons of defenseand 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 himselfand 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 commandswhen the usher announced the Comte de
Saint-Aignan. As soon as the royal "Mercury" enteredColbert 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 affectionwhenever Louis XIV. was out
of sight of La Vallierehe was obliged to talk about her. Besidesthe
only person with whom he could speak about her at his ease was Saint-
Aignanand thus Saint-Aignan had become an indispensable.

Ah, is that you, comte?he exclaimedas soon as he perceived him
doubly delightednot only to see him againbut also to get rid of
Colbertwhose scowling face always put him out of humor. "So much the
betterI am very glad to see you. You will make one of the best
traveling partyI 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-AignanI 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 stuporand thenafter a moment's silence


while he wiped his foreheadwhich was bedewed with perspirationhe
again murmuredBragelonne!

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 letterI will tell you how it reached me."

The king read it in a great agitationand immediately saidWell?

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 headand 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.

SireI shall do my utmost that the secret dies in the breast of the man
who possesses it!" said Saint-Aignanin a tone of bravadoas 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 momentif you pleasemonsieur
le comte!"

Saint-Aignan shook his headas a rebellious child doeswhenever any one
interferes to prevent him throwing himself into a wellor playing with a
knife. "Butsire 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-AignanI 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 trapdoor.


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 momentsand 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 Nasowhose eyes shed so many tears
in expiation of his crime for having once beheld somethingone hardly
knows whatin 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 Bragelonneit
was necessaryof coursefor 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 forgetsI presumethat 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
furtherthe 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-Aignanthat 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 wordswhich betokened that a fresh
feeling of irritation was mingling with the recollections of oldwhen an
usher appeared at the door of the cabinet. "What is the matter?"
inquired the kingand why do you presume to come when I have not
summoned you?

Sire,said the usheryour 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 momentbut
immediately afterwardsseeming to make up his mindhe 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
kingtrembling with passiontell 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 devotiontook the
king's handkissed itand left the room radiant with delight.

Chapter LVIII:
King and Noble.

The king endeavored to recover his self-possession as quickly as
possiblein 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 mindto one of such a high order of intellecthis
first reception ought not to present anything either disagreeable or
otherwise than kind and courteous. As soon as the king had satisfied
himself thatas far as appearances wenthe was perfectly calm againhe
gave directions to the ushers to introduce the comte. A few minutes
afterwards Athosin full court dressand 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
perceivedat the first glancethat he was not deceived in his
anticipations. Louis advanced a step towards the comteandwith a
smileheld out his hand to himover which Athos bowed with the air of
the deepest respect.

Monsieur le Comte de la Fere,said the king rapidlyyou are so seldom
here, that it is a real piece of good fortune to see you.

Athos bowed and repliedI should wish always to enjoy the happiness of
being near your majesty.

The tonehoweverin which this reply was conveyedevidently signified
I should wish to be one of your majesty's advisers, to save you the
commission of faults.The king felt it soand determined in this man's
presence to preserve all the advantages which could be derived from his
command over himselfas 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 kingseating
himself.

I am persuaded,replied Athosin a somewhat agitated tone of voice
that your majesty will give me every satisfaction.

Ah!said the kingwith a certain haughtiness of manneryou have come
to lodge a complaint here, then?

It would be a complaint,returned Athosonly 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 startedas 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 kingwe have come to it now. - I remember,he said
aloud.

At that period,pursued Athosyour 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 Louisdryly.

Alleging,Athos hastened to saythat the young lady had no position
in society.

Louis could hardly force himself to listen with an appearance of royal
propriety.

That,added Athosshe 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 Athospitilessly.

This last bolt buried itself deep in the king's heartand 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 comtewithout 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 kingvery deliberatelythat
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 wellbut 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 kingwith considerable hesitationdoes 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 Vallierewithout fortunebirth
or beautyis not the less on that account the only good match in the
world for M. de Bragelonnesince he loves this young girl."

The king pressed his hands impatiently together. "Does your majesty
hesitate?" inquired the comtewithout losing a particle of either his
firmness of his politeness.

I do not hesitate - I refuse,replied the king.

Athos paused a momentas 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 affectionsand 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 kingleaning with both his hands upon the tablesaidin a deep
tone of concentrated passion: "You have lost all recollection of what is
usual at court. At courtplease to rememberno 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 kinghurried 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 comteI 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 Athoscoldly. "Ifin refusing
Mademoiselle de la Valliere to Monsieur de Bragelonneyour 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 gloveswhich 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 courseand I will break through every obstacle
in my way."

What obstacle?said Athos.

The king stopped shortlike a horse whichhaving taken the bit between
his teeth and run awayfinds it has slipped it back againand 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
Bragelonnewho has already rendered great service to your majestyand
who may well be regarded as a brave and worthy man. Your majesty
thereforein renouncing the affection you entertainoffers a proof at
once of generositygratitudeand good policy."


Mademoiselle de la Valliere does not love M. de Bragelonne,said the
kinghoarsely.

Does your majesty know that to be the case?remarked Athoswith 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 momentand then resumed: "In that caseI do
not understand why your majesty should have sent M. de Bragelonne to
London. That exileand most properly sotoois 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 kinghaughtily.

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 kingirritated beyond measureespecially because he felt that he
was being masteredendeavored to dismiss Athos by a gesture.

Sire,replied the comteI 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 frohis hand
thrust into the breast of his coathis head haughtily raisedhis eyes
blazing with wrath. "Monsieur he cried, suddenly, if I acted towards
you as a kingyou would be already punished; but I am only a manand 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 AthossadlyI 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 sayingAthos broke his sword across his kneeslowly placed the two
pieces upon the floorand saluting the kingwho was almost choking from
rage and shamehe quitted the cabinet. Louiswho sat near the table
completely overwhelmedwas 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 friendvicomtewhenever
he is suffering; tell methereforewhat is it that brings you now."

The young man bowedand began his recital; more than once in the course
of it his tears almost choked his utteranceand a sobchecked in his
throatcompelled him to suspend his narrative for a few minutes. Athos
most probably already knew how matters stoodas we have just now said
D'Artagnan had already written to him; butpreserving until the
conclusion that calmunruffled composure of manner which constituted the
almost superhuman side of his characterhe repliedRaoul, 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.

Raoulwavering 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
falsehoodbowed and simply answeredGo, then, monsieur le comte; I
will await your return.And he sat downburying his face in his
hands. Athos dressedand then left himin order to wait upon the king;
the result of that interview is already known to our readers.

When he returned to his lodgingsRaoulpale and dejectedhad not
quitted his attitude of despair. At the soundhoweverof the opening
doorsand of his father's footsteps as he approached himthe young man
raised his head. Athos's face was very palehis head uncoveredand his
manner full of seriousness; he gave his cloak and hat to the lackey
dismissed him with a gestureand sat down near Raoul.

Well, monsieur,inquired the young manare 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 manwith a gesture of
despair.

Raoul,resumed the comteI 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 Raoulwith a smile so sad that a
tear started even to the eyes of his fatherwho 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 Raoulwhich 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 Raouland 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 airfor 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 thenadvancing towards Raoulwhom he took by the handhe
saidaddressing both father and sonWell, 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 thisAthos 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 musketeersmoothing his mustache with the hand that
Athos had left freeyes, 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 smilebut 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 Raoulyou 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 manaswith his eyes fixed on the
musketeerhe seemed to read the very depths of his heart.

His interview with the king?said D'Artagnanin a tone so natural and
unassumed that there was no means of suspecting that his astonishment was
feigned. "You have seen the kingthenAthos?"

Athos smiled as he saidYes, I have seen him.

Ah, indeed; you were unaware, then, that the comte had seen his
majesty?inquired Raoulhalf reassured.

Yes, indeed, quite so.

In that case, I am less uneasy,said Raoul.

Uneasy - and about what?inquired Athos.

Forgive me, monsieur,said Raoulbut 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; "wellgo 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'Artagnanwith 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 himhe 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 affectionateand the pressure of his lips even warmer
with the father than with the friend. The young man again looked at both
his companionsendeavoring 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 latterseeing that Bragelonne was preparing to go
out.

To my own apartments,replied the latterin his softsad 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'Artagnanpushing him
towards the door.

Raoulobserving the perfect composure which marked every gesture of his
two friendsquitted the comte's roomcarrying away with him nothing but
the individual feeling of his own particular distress.

Thank Heaven,he saidsince that is the case, I need only think of
myself.

And wrapping himself up in his cloakin order to conceal from the
passers-by in the streets his gloomy and sorrowful facehe quitted them
for the purpose of returning to his own roomsas 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 Athossighing deeply.

Poor Raoul!said D'Artagnanshrugging his shoulders.

Chapter LX:
Heu! Miser!

Poor Raoul!had said Athos. "Poor Raoul!" had said D'Artagnan: andin
point of factto be pitied by both these menRaoul must indeed have
been most unhappy. And thereforewhen he found himself aloneface to


faceas it werewith his own troublesleaving behind him the intrepid
friend and the indulgent father; when he recalled the avowal of the
king's affectionwhich had robbed him of Louise de la Vallierewhom he
loved so deeplyhe felt his heart almost breakingas indeed we all have
at least once in our livesat the first illusion destroyedthe first
affection betrayed. "Oh!" he murmuredall 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 continuedafter a pauseto 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 tomorrow
I may even be a public laughing-stock?

Anddespite the composure which he had promised his father and
D'Artagnan to observeRaoul could not resist uttering a few words of
darkest menace. "And yet he continued, if my name were De Wardesand
if I had the pliancy of character and strength of will of M. d'Artagnan
I should laughwith my lips at least; I should convince other women that
this perfidious girlhonored by the affection I have wasted on her
leaves me only one regretthat 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 themperhaps; the men
would fear meand by the time I had laid three dying or dead at my feet
I should be adored by the women. Yesyesthatindeedwould be the
proper course to adoptand the Comte de la Fere himself would not object
to it. Has not he also been triedin his earlier daysin 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 suffereven more - if that
is possible. The history of one man is the history of alla dragging
trialmore or less prolongedmore 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
noeach suffers on his own accounteach 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 coldbarrensterile arenain which I
have always fought for othersnever for myself. Sometimes for a king
sometimes for a woman. The king has betrayedthe woman disdained me.
Miserableunlucky 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
longeror to forget that I ever had one; to be strongeven against
weakness itself; to lean alwayseven when one feels that the support is
giving way. What is needed to attainor succeed in all that? To be
younghandsomestrongvaliantrich. I amor shall beall that.
But honor?" he still continuedand 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 methe grief that has
broken my heartthe heart of the friend and playmate of her childhood
in no way affects M. de Bragelonnean excellent officera courageous
leaderwho will cover himself with glory at the first encounterand who
will become a hundred times greater than Mademoiselle de la Valliere is
to-daythe mistress of the king - for the king will not marry her - and
the more publicly he will proclaim her as his mistressthe more opaque
will grow the shadow of shame he casts upon her facein the guise of a
crown; and in proportion as others despiseas I despise herI shall be
gleaning honors in the field. Alas! we had walked together side by side
she and Iduring the earliestthe brightestthe most angelic portion
of our existencehand in hand along the charming path of lifecovered
with the blossoms of youth; and thenalas! we reach a cross-roadwhere
she separates herself from mein which we have to follow a different
routewhereby we become more and more widely separated from each other.
And to attain the end of this pathohHeaven! I am now alonein utter
despairand crushed to the very earth."

Such were the sinister reflections in which Raoul indulgedwhen his foot
mechanically paused at the door of his own dwelling. He had reached it
without remarking the streets through which he passedwithout knowing
how he had come; he pushed open the doorcontinued to advanceand
ascended the staircase. The staircaseas in most of the houses at that
periodwas very darkand the landings most obscure. Raoul lived on the
first floor; he paused in order to ring. Olivain appearedtook his
sword and cloak from his hands; Raoul himself opened the door whichfrom
the ante-chamberled into a small _salon_richly furnished enough for
the _salon_ of a young manand completely filled with flowers by
Olivainwhoknowing his master's tasteshad shown himself studiously
attentive in gratifying themwithout 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
portraitfastened above a large easy chair covered with dark colored
damaskwas the first point towards which Raoul bent his steps - the
first object on which he fixed his eyes. It wasmoreoverRaoul's usual
habit to do so; every time he entered his roomthis portraitbefore
anything elseattracted his attention. This timeas usualhe walked
straight up to the portraitplaced his knees upon the arm chairand
paused to look at it sadly. His arms were crossed upon his breasthis
head slightly thrown backhis eyes filled with tearshis 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
againall that he had suffered seemed again to assail his heart; and
after a long silencehe murmured for the third timeMiserable, unhappy
wretch that I am!

He had hardly pronounced these wordswhen he heard the sound of a sigh
and a groan behind him. He turned sharply round and perceivedin the
angle of the _salon_standing upa bending veiled female figurewhich
he had been the means of concealing behind the door as he opened itand
which he had not perceived as he entered. He advanced towards the
figurewhose presence in his room had not been announced to him; and as
he bowedand inquired at the same moment who she wasshe suddenly
raised her headand removed the veil from her facerevealing her pale
and sorrow-stricken features. Raoul staggered back as if he had seen a
ghost.

Louise!he criedin a tone of such absolute despairone could hardly
have thought the human voice was capable of so desponding a crywithout
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. Youmademoiselle?" he said; and then addedin an
indefinable toneYou here!


Yes, Raoul,the young girl repliedI 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 hera moment's silence ensued
during which the sound of their throbbing hearts might have been heard
not in unison with each otherbut the one beating as violently as the
other. It was for Louise to speakand 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 oneexcept yourselfcould understand
my motiveMonsieur de Bragelonne."


In fact, mademoiselle,Raoul stammered outalmost breathless from
emotionas 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
Louiseinterrupting him with her softsweet voice.


Bragelonne looked at her for a moment; then mournfully shaking his head
he sator 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 thenturning
towards Louisehe addedIs not that what you wished?


Nothing could have produced a greater effect upon Louise than these few
wordswhich seemed to signifyYou see that I still understand you.
She passed a handkerchief across her eyesin order to remove a
rebellious tear which she could not restrain; and thenhaving collected
herself for a momentshe saidRaoul, 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 Valliereit 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 sayEncourage 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 saidM. de Saint-Aignan came to me by the king's



directions.She cast down her eyes as she said this; while Raoulon
his sideturned his awayin 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 faceafter
inflicting this further wound upon himin 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 girland a smile full of disdain
passed across his lips.

Oh!she continuedI 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.

Raoulby the strength of his iron willforced his features to assume a
calmer expressionand the disdainful smile upon his lip passed away.

In the first place,said La Vallierein 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 Raoulmaking
an effort to remain calm. "To leave another in ignorance that you are
deceiving himis loyal; but to deceive him - it seems that would be very
wrongand 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 girlwith a profound convictionno, 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 deathher arms thrown despairingly above her headshe fell upon her
knees.

Whilst you,said Raoulyou told me you loved me, and yet you loved
another.

Alas, yes!cried the poor girl; "alasyes! I do love another; and
that other - oh! for Heaven's sake let me say itRaoulfor it is my
only excuse - that other I love better than my own lifebetter than my
own soul even. Forgive my faultor punish my treasonRaoul. I came
here in no way to defend myselfbut merely to say to you: 'You know what
it is to love!' - in such a case am I! I love to that degreethat I
would give my lifemy very soulto the man I love. If he should ever
cease to love meI shall die of grief and despairunless Heaven come to
my assistanceunless Heaven does show pity upon me. RaoulI came here
to submit myself to your willwhatever it might be - to dieif it were
your wish I should die. Kill methenRaoul! 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 sighas he exclaimedAnd 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 mein factall you had to
say; all I could possibly wish to know. And nowmademoiselleit is I
who ask your forgivenessfor it is I who have almost been an obstacle in
your life; Itoowho have been wrongforin deceiving myselfI
helped to deceive you."

Oh!said La ValliereI do not ask you so much as that, Raoul.

I only am to blame, mademoiselle,continued Raoulbetter 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 criedyou 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 saidand as she
was on the point of crying out in bitter agony at this remarkhe placed
his hand on her mouth to stifle the exclamation. She pressed her lips
upon itand 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 upRaoul made a movement as if to dart
towards La Vallierein order to give her a first and last kissbut
stopping abruptlyhe saidNo! she is not mine. I am no thief - as is
the king of France.And he returned to his roomwhilst the lackey
carried La Vallierestill faintingto the carriage.


Chapter LXII:
What Raoul Had Guessed.


As soon as Raoul had quitted Athos and D'Artagnanas the two
exclamations that had followed his departure escaped their lipsthey
found themselves face to face alone. Athos immediately resumed the
earnest air that he had assumed at D'Artagnan's arrival.


Well,he saidwhat 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
Athossmiling.


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'Artagnanwhat a hurry you are in.

I am afraid of delaying you,said Athossmiling.

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 Athospointing out to D'Artagnan a large chairinto
which the latter threw himselfassuming the easiest possible attitude.

Well, I will do so willingly enough,continued D'Artagnanfor 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 exclaimedin 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 dutysire.'

'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 kingkindly'for you have
always served me wellMonsieur D'Artagnan.'

'You do not annoy" mesire' I replied; 'I am on dutythat is all.'

'But,' said the king, in astonishment, 'I believe the comte is your
friend?'

'If he were my fathersireit 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 certainlysireif you give me the order to do so.'

'Very well; I order you to do so.'

I bowedand replied'Where is the comtesire?'

'You will look for him.'

'And am I to arrest himwherever 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 movehe said'Wellwhat are you waiting
for?'

'For the order to arrest the comte, signed by yourself.'

The king seemed annoyed; forin point of factit was the exercise of a
fresh act of authoritya repetition of the arbitrary actifindeedit
is to be considered as such. He took hold of his pen slowlyand
evidently in no very good temper; and then he wrote'Order for M. le
Chevalier d'Artagnancaptain of my musketeersto arrest M. le Comte de
la Ferewherever 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 mannerfor he
signed hurriedlyand then handing me the orderhe said'Go
monsieur!' I obeyed; and here I am."

Athos pressed his friend's hand. "Welllet 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'Artagnanquietly.

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 Athoslaughing.

You will walk arm in arm with me,replied D'Artagnanas he took the
comte's arm to descend the staircase; and in this manner they arrived at
the landing. Grimaudwhom they had met in the ante-roomlooked at them
as they went out together in this mannerwith 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 Athoskindly. "We are going - "

To take a turn in my carriage,interrupted D'Artagnanwith a friendly
nod of the head.

Grimaud thanked D'Artagnan by a grimacewhich was evidently intended for
a smileand 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 quietlythat it excited
no disturbance or attention even in the neighborhood. When the carriage
had reached the quaysYou are taking me to the Bastile, I perceive,
said Athos.

I?said D'ArtagnanI take you wherever you may choose to go; nowhere
else, I can assure you.

What do you mean?said the comtesurprised.

Why, surely, my dear friend,said D'Artagnanyou 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 Athosembracing D'Artagnanhow 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 headand then saidsmiling as he did soNo, 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 repliedHeaven 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'Artagnanwhat 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 Athoswith perfect calmnessI 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'ArtagnanI 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 carriagehe gnawed the ends of his
mustache with a fury whichfor Athoswho knew him wellsignified a
resolution either already taken or in course of formation. A profound
silence ensued in the carriagewhich continued to roll onbut 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 itbut D'Artagnan had only to utter a single
word to procure admittanceand the carriage passed on without further
difficulty. Whilst they were proceeding along the covered way which led
to the courtyard of the governor's residenceD'Artagnanwhose lynx eyes
saw everythingeven through the wallssuddenly cried outWhat is that
out yonder?


Well,said Athosquietly; "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'Artagnanand while the
formalities were being gone throughAthos could see at a hundred paces
from him the man whom his friend had pointed out to him. He wasin
factgetting out of the carriage at the door of the governor's house.
Well,inquired D'Artagnando 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 musketeerslyly;
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; namelyat the door of the governor's house.
It is understood, then?said D'Artagnanin 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 Bastileif it be remembered thatbefore passing the first
gatein factthe most difficult of allD'Artagnan had announced that
he had brought a prisoner of state. At the third gateon the contrary
that is to saywhen he had once fairly entered the prisonhe merely
said to the sentinelTo M. Baisemeaux;and they both passed on. In a
few minutes they were in the governor's dining-roomand the first face
which attracted D'Artagnan's observation was that of Aramiswho was
seated side by side with Baisemeauxawaiting the announcement of a meal
whose odor impregnated the whole apartment. If D'Artagnan pretended
surpriseAramis did not pretend at all; he started when he saw his two
friendsand his emotion was very apparent. Athos and D'Artagnan
howevercomplimented him as usualand Baisemeauxamazedcompletely
stupefied by the presence of his three guestsbegan 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 Aramiswith an
affection of hilarity.

Ah! ah!said D'Artagnan; "it is true the walls smell deucedly like a
prison. Monsieur de Baisemeauxyou 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 redlooked at Aramiswho looked at him
and finished by stammering outCertainly - 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'Artagnanas if he were offended.


Wrong, what for?

Wrong to remember anything about it, it seems.

Baisemeaux hurried towards him. "Do not stand on ceremonymy dear
captain he said; I have the worst memory in the world. I no sooner
leave off thinking of my pigeons and their pigeon-housethan I am no
better than the rawest recruit."

At all events, you remember it now,said D'Artagnanboldly.

Yes, yes,replied the governorhesitating; "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 Aramislooking 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 saidturning towards Aramis; "and this
gentlemantoo he added, bowing to Athos.

WellI 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 RoyalI wished to judge for myself what your ordinary style of
living was like; and as I was coming alongI met the Comte de la Fere."

Athos bowed. "The comtewho had just left his majestyhanded me an
order which required immediate attention. We were close by here; I
wished to call ineven if it were for no other object than that of
shaking hands with you and of presenting the comte to youof 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 addedsighing 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 surprisedthe tone of which was
immediately noticed by D'Artagnan.

I leave you in my place,he saida noble and excellent guest.And
he touched Athos gently on the shoulderwhoastonished alsocould 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 Athoswith an expression of
doubt.


Most certainly,he saidpressing his friend's hand confidently; and he
addedin a low voiceWait 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 handhe seemed to warn the comte of
the necessity of keeping perfectly discreet and impenetrable. Baisemeaux
led D'Artagnan to the gate. Aramiswith many friendly protestations of
delightsat down by Athosdetermined to make him speak; but Athos
possessed every virtue and quality to the very highest degree. If
necessity had required ithe would have been the finest orator in the
worldbut on other occasions he would rather have died than have opened
his lips.


Ten minutes after D'Artagnan's departurethe three gentlemen sat down to
tablewhich was covered with the most substantial display of gastronomic
luxury. Large jointsexquisite dishespreservesthe greatest variety
of winesappeared successively upon the tablewhich was served at the
king's expenseand of which expense M. Colbert would have found no
difficulty in saving two thirdswithout 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 himbut
merely touched everything he took; Athosafter 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
thereand why D'Artagnan did not remain when Athos was there. Athos
sounded all the depths of the mind of Aramiswho lived in the midst of
subterfugeevasionand intrigue; he studied his man well and
thoroughlyand felt convinced that he was engaged upon some important
project. And then he too began to think of his own personal affairand
to lose himself in conjectures as to D'Artagnan's reason for having left
the Bastile so abruptlyand 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
personagesbut will leave them to themselvessurrounded by the remains
of poultrygameand fishwhich Baisemeaux's generous knife and fork
had so mutilated. We are going to follow D'Artagnan insteadwho
getting into the carriage which had brought himsaid 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; butwhatever his eloquencehe did not succeed in
persuading the young girl that she had in the king a protector powerful
enough for her under any combination of circumstancesand that she had
no need of any one else in the world when the king was on her side. In
point of factat the very first word which the favorite mentioned of the
discovery of the famous secretLouisein a passion of tearsabandoned

herself in utter despair to a sorrow which would have been far from
flattering for the kingif he had been a witness of it from one of the
corners of the room. Saint-Aignanin his character of ambassadorfelt
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 himin a state of great agitationin the presence of the
kingwho wasif possiblein a state of even greater flurry than himself.

But,said the king to the courtierwhen the latter had finished his
reportwhat 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 wasfor Athos
had just left him.

As for Mademoiselle de la Valliere,Saint-Aignan continuedshe 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 thatin factthese
young persons had loved and sworn fidelity to each other; that one of the
two had kept his wordand 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 wordand instead of going to pay a visit to his motheror
the queenor Madamein order to amuse himself a littleand make the
ladies laughas he himself used to sayhe 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
resourceand pronounced Louise's namewhich 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. "Nono
Saint-Aignan he continued, after a moment's pause, we will both of us
pass our time in thinkingand musingand dreaming; when Mademoiselle de
la Valliere shall have sufficiently regretted what she now regretsshe
will deignperhapsto 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 roseflushed 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 awkwardwhen the curtain before the door
was raised. The king turned hastily round; his first idea was that a
letter from Louise had arrived; butinstead of a letter of lovehe only
saw his captain of musketeersstanding uprightand perfectly silent in
the doorway. "M. d'Artagnan he said, ah! Wellmonsieur?"

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 oneand for a still greater reason they were so for Saint-Aignan.
The courtier bowed and quitted the roomleaving the king and D'Artagnan
alone.

Is it done?inquired the king.

Yes, sire,replied the captain of the musketeersin a grave voiceit
is done.

The king was unable to say another word. Pridehoweverobliged him not
to pause at what he had done; whenever a sovereign has adopted a decisive
courseeven though it be unjusthe is compelled to prove to all
witnessesand particularly to prove it to himselfthat he was quite
right all through. A good means for effecting that - an almost
infallible meansindeed - isto try and prove his victim to be in the
wrong. Louisbrought up by Mazarin and Anne of Austriaknew 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 pausewhich he
had employed in making silently to himself the same reflections which we
have just expressed aloudhe saidin 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 rebelin the eyes of the kingis a man
who not only allows himself to be shut up in the Bastilebut 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
saycaptain! 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 kingkindling 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 reasonMonsieur d'Artagnanfor
acting as you did?" said the kingproudly.

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 kingimpatiently.

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 attentionmonsieurthat 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 thatyou will never be able to look me in the
face again."

The king dashed down his pen violently. "Leave the roommonsieur!" 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 kingshrugging 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 kingdo 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 hea man full of the
finest sense of delicacydid not tell you; I should say - 'Sireyou
have sacrificed his sonand he defended his son - you sacrificed
himself; he addressed you in the name of honorof religionof virtue –
you repulseddrove him awayimprisoned him.' I should be harder than
he wasfor 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 youor to bend and crouch before
you? Do you wish men to love youor to be afraid of you? If you prefer
basenessintriguecowardicesay so at oncesireand we will leave
you- we who are the only individuals who are left- nayI will say
morethe only models of the valor of former times; we who have done our
dutyand have exceededperhapsin courage and in meritthe men
already great for posterity. Choosesire! and thattoowithout
delay. Whatever relics remain to you of the great nobilityguard them
with a jealous eye; you will never be deficient in courtiers. Delay not

-and send me to the Bastile with my friend; forif you did not know how
to listen to the Comte de la Ferewhose 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'Artagnanthe frankest and honestest voice of sincerity
you are a bad kingand to-morrow will be a poor king. And learn from
mesirethat bad kings are hated by their peopleand poor kings are
driven ignominiously away.' That is what I had to say to yousire; you
were wrong to drive me to say it."
The king threw himself back in his chaircold as deathand as livid as
a corpse. Had a thunderbolt fallen at his feethe could not have been
more astonished; he seemed as if his respiration had utterly ceasedand
that he was at the point of death. The honest voice of sincerityas
D'Artagnan had called ithad pierced through his heart like a swordblade.


D'Artagnan had said all he had to say. Comprehending the king's anger
he drew his swordandapproaching Louis XIV. respectfullyhe placed it
on the table. But the kingwith a furious gesturethrust aside the
swordwhich fell on the ground and rolled to D'Artagnan's feet.
Notwithstanding the perfect mastery which D'Artagnan exercised over
himselfhetooin his turnbecame paleandtrembling with
indignationsaid: "A king may disgrace a soldier- he may exile him
and may even condemn him to death; but were he a hundred times a kinghe
has no right to insult him by casting a dishonor upon his sword! Sirea
king of France has never repulsed with contempt the sword of a man such
as I am! Stained with disgrace as this sword now isit has henceforth
no other sheath than either your heart or my own! I choose my ownsire;
and you have to thank Heaven and my own patience that I do so." Then
snatching up his swordhe criedMy blood be upon your head!andwith
a rapid gesturehe placed the hilt upon the floor and directed the point
of the blade towards his breast. The kinghoweverwith a movement far
more rapid than that of D'Artagnanthrew his right arm around the
musketeer's neckand with his left hand seized hold of the blade by the
middleand returned it silently to the scabbard. D'Artagnanupright


paleand still tremblinglet the king do all to the very end. Louis
overcome and softened by gentler feelingsreturned to the tabletook a
pen in his handwrote a few linessigned themand 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 handand imprinted a kiss upon it; he then
folded the orderplaced it in his beltand quitted the room. Neither
the king nor the captain had uttered a syllable.

Oh, human heart! thou guide and director of kings,murmured Louiswhen
alonewhen 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 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 stockedwhen the silver spurs of the
captain resounded in the corridorand 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
suppedtalked a good deal about the Bastileof the last journey to
Fontainebleauof the intended _fete_ that M. Fouquet was about to give
at Vaux; they had generalized on every possible subject; and no one
excepting Baisemeauxhad in the slightest degree alluded to private
matters. D'Artagnan arrived in the very midst of the conversationstill
pale and much disturbed by his interview with the king. Baisemeaux
hastened to give him a chair; D'Artagnan accepted a glass of wineand
set it down empty. Athos and Aramis both remarked his emotion; as for
Baisemeauxhe saw nothing more than the captain of the king's
musketeersto whom he endeavored to show every possible attention. But
although Aramis had remarked his emotionhe had not been able to guess
the cause of it. Athos alone believed he had detected it. For him
D'Artagnan's returnand particularly the manner in which heusually so
impassibleseemed overcomesignifiedI have just asked the king
something which the king has refused me.Thoroughly convinced that his
conjecture was correctAthos smiledrose from the tableand made a
sign to D'Artagnanas if to remind him that they had something else to
do than to sup together. D'Artagnan immediately understood himand
replied by another sign. Aramis and Baisemeaux watched this silent
dialogueand 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 Ferewith a smilethat
you, Aramis, have been supping with a state criminal, and you, Monsieur
de Baisemeaux, with your prisoner.

Baisemeaux uttered an exclamation of surpriseand almost of delight; for
he was exceedingly proud and vain of his fortressand for his own
individual profitthe more prisoners he hadthe happier he wasand the
higher in rank the prisoners happened to bethe prouder he felt. Aramis
assumed the expression of countenance he thought the position justified
and saidWell, 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 Aramisyou, 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 Baisemeauxtrembling at having supped so familiarly with
a man who had fallen into disgrace with the king; "so thatmonsieur le
comte - "

So that, my dear governor,said Athosmy 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 beltand presented one of them to the governor
who unfolded itand then readin a low tone of voicelooking at Athos
over the paperas he did soand pausing from time to time: "'Order to
detainin my chateau of the BastileMonsieur le Comte de la Fere.' Oh
monsieur! this is indeed a very melancholy day for me."

You will have a patient prisoner, monsieur,said Athosin his calm
soft voice.

A prisoner, too, who will not remain a month with you, my dear
governor,said Aramis; while Baisemeauxstill holding the order in his
handtranscribed it upon the prison registry.

Not a day, or rather not even a night,said D'Artagnandisplaying the
second order of the kingfor now, dear M. de Baisemeaux, you will have
the goodness to transcribe also this order for setting the comte
immediately at liberty.

Ah!said Aramisit 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 astonishmentthe 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 musketeerlaughing: "the king does everything
I wish him to do."

Aramis looked fixedly at D'Artagnanand saw that he was not speaking the
truth. But Baisemeaux had eyes for nothing but D'Artagnanso 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


unlessindeedhe wishes particularly to thank the king - "

No, indeed,replied Athossmiling.

Well, then, I think,resumed D'Artagnanthat 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 memy
dear friendthan 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 mindnature is a sovereign remedy. And somonsieur continued
Athos, turning again towards Baisemeaux, I am now freeI suppose?"

Yes, monsieur le comte, I think so - at least, I hope so,said the
governorturning over and over the two papers in questionunless,
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 Athosyou do not
know what you are losing. I should have placed you among the thirtyfranc
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 Athosto prefer my own simpler fare.And
thenturning to D'Artagnanhe saidLet 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'Artagnanafter which I will tell you
what I told the king: 'I am on duty.'

And you, my dear Aramis,said Athossmiling; "will you accompany me?
La Fere is on the road to Vannes."

Thank you, my dear friend,said Aramisbut I have an appointment in
Paris this evening, and I cannot leave without very serious interests
suffering by my absence.

In that case,said AthosI 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.Andhaving embraced Aramisand shaken hands with M. de
Baisemeauxand having received best wishes for a pleasant journey from
them bothAthos set off with D'Artagnan.

Whilst the _denouement_ of the scene of the Palais Royal was taking place
at the Bastilelet us relate what was going on at the lodgings of Athos
and Bragelonne. Grimaudas we have seenhad accompanied his master to
Paris; andas we have saidhe 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
countenancesand he had known them both for a sufficiently long period
to read and understandthrough the mask of their impassibilitythat
something serious was the matter. As soon as Athos had gonehe began to
reflect; he thenand then onlyremembered the strange manner in which
Athos had taken leave of himthe embarrassment - imperceptible as it
would have been to any but himself - of the master whose ideas wereto


himso clear and definedand 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 mindwith feelings of deep affection for
Athoswith that horror of isolation and solitude which invariably besets
the minds of those who love; and all these combined rendered poor Grimaud
very melancholyand particularly uneasy. Without being able to account
to himself for what he did since his master's departurehe wandered
about the roomseekingas it werefor some traces of himlike a
faithful dogwho is not exactly uneasy about his absent masterbut at
least is restless. Only asin addition to the instinct of the animal
Grimaud subjoined the reasoning faculties of the manGrimaud therefore
felt uneasy and restless too. Not having found any indication which
could serve as a guideand having neither seen nor discovered anything
which could satisfy his doubtsGrimaud began to wonder what could
possibly have happened. Besidesimagination is the resourceor rather
the plague of gentle and affectionate hearts. In factnever 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 overin
his own mindeverything that had taken place: D'Artagnan's letter to
Athosthe letter which had seemed to distress Athos so much after he had
read it; then Raoul's visit to Athoswhich resulted in Athos desiring
him (Grimaud) to get his various orders and his court dress ready to put
on; then his interview with the kingat the end of which Athos had
returned home so unusually gloomy; then the explanation between the
father and the sonat the termination of which Athos had embraced Raoul
with such sadness of expressionwhile Raoul himself went away equally
weary and melancholy; and finallyD'Artagnan's arrivalbitingas if he
were vexedthe end of his mustacheand leaving again in the carriage
accompanied by the Comte de la Fere. All this composed a drama in five
acts very clearlyparticularly 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 thereand 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 torenot a handfulbut 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 saidthat 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 Grimaudmonsieur 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 conjecturebut clapped
his hat on his headand ran to Raoul's lodgings.

Raoulafter Louise had left himhad mastered his griefif not his
affection; andcompelled to look forward on that perilous road over
which madness and revulsion were hurrying himhe had seenfrom the very
first glancehis father exposed to the royal obstinacysince Athos had
himself been the first to oppose any resistance to the royal will. At
this momentfrom a very natural sequence of feelingthe unhappy young
man remembered the mysterious signs which Athos had madeand 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 dutythat isa fixture at his post without the
possibility of leaving itit 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 havingin a wordpassed his time in
idle dreamsor in an indulgence of despairat 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 Grimaudwhohaving
set off from the opposite polewas running with equal eagerness in
search of the truth. The two men embraced each other most warmly.

Grimaud,exclaimed Raoulis 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 Raouloverwhelmed.

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 Porthosfaithful to all the laws of ancient
chivalryhad determined to wait for M. de Saint-Aignan until sunset; and
as Saint-Aignan did not comeas Raoul had forgotten to communicate with
his secondand 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 thatat leasthe 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 arrivedescorted by Grimaudboth
of them riding at full speed. As soon as Porthos saw the two cavaliers
riding at such a pace along the roadhe did not for a moment doubt but
that they were the men he was expectingand he rose from the grass upon
which he had been indolently reclining and began to stretch his legs and
armssayingSee 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 attitudeand drew himself up to the full height of his
gigantic stature. But instead of Saint-Aignanhe only saw Raoulwho
with the most despairing gesturesaccosted him by crying outPray
forgive me, my dear friend, I am most wretched.


Raoul!cried Porthossurprised.


You have been angry with me?said Raoulembracing 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 Grimaudas 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 Raouladvancing nearer to Porthosthat the arrest
was made by order of the king?

Porthos looked at the young manas if to sayWhat 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 Grimaudhad already done the same.

Let us arrange our plan of action,said Raoul.

Yes,returned Porthosthat is the best thing we can do.
Raoul sighed deeplyand 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 PorthosI am not so very
certain we would fail.

Raoul could not resist a feeling of admiration at the sight of such
perfect confidenceheroic in its simplicity. These were truly the
celebrated men whoby three or fourattacked armies and assaulted


castles! Men who had terrified death itselfwho had survived the wrecks
of a tempestuous ageand still stoodstronger than the most robust of
the young.

Monsieur,said he to Porthosyou 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 Grimaudwho was in the habit of
speaking littlebut that to the purpose.

Accordinglythey hastened towards the fortresswhen one of those
chances which Heaven bestows on men of strong will caused Grimaud
suddenly to perceive the carriagewhich was entering by the great gate
of the drawbridge. This was the moment that D'Artagnan wasas we have
seenreturning from his visit to the king. In vain was it that Raoul
urged on his horse in order to join the carriageand to see whom it
contained. The horses had already gained the other side of the great
gatewhich again closedwhile one of the sentries struck the nose of
Raoul's horse with his musket; Raoul turned aboutonly 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 Porthosin
which case everything is lost.

Raoul returned no answerfor any hypothesis was admissible. He
instructed Grimaud to lead the horses to the little street Jean-Beausire
so as to give rise to less suspicionand 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 personsand that one of them was his
master. Porthos kept looking at Raoul and Grimaud by turnsin the hope
of understanding their idea.

It is clear,said Grimaudthat 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 Grimaudthey 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 Raoulquite worthy of the first.


Raoul replied only by spurring the flanks of his steed. In a few moments
the three cavaliers had overtaken the carriageand followed it so
closely that their horses' breath moistened the back of it. D'Artagnan
whose senses were ever on the alertheard the trot of the horsesat the
moment when Raoul was telling Porthos to pass the chariotso as to see
who was the person accompanying Athos. Porthos compliedbut could not
see anythingfor the blinds were lowered. Rage and impatience were
gaining mastery over Raoul. He had just noticed the mystery preserved by
Athos's companionand determined on proceeding to extremities. On his
part D'Artagnan had perfectly recognized Porthosand Raoul alsofrom
under the blindsand 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 didfor
Raoulpresenting his pistolthrew himself on the leadercommanding the
coachmen to stop. Porthos seized the coachmanand dragged him from his
seat. Grimaud already had hold of the carriage door. Raoul threw open
his armsexclaimingM. le comte! M. le comte!

Ah! is it you, Raoul?said Athosintoxicated with joy.

Not bad, indeed!added D'Artagnanwith a burst of laughterand they
both embraced the young man and Porthoswho had taken possession of them.

My brave Porthos! best of friends,cried Athosit is still the same
old way with you.

He is still only twenty,said D'Artagnanbrave Porthos!

Confound it,answered Porthosslightly confusedwe thought that you
were being arrested.

While,rejoined Athosthe matter in question was nothing but my
taking a drive in M. d'Artagnan's carriage.

But we followed you from the Bastile,returned Raoulwith 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 Porthosagain breathing freely.

He gave us a thousand messages to you.

And where is M. le comte going?asked Grimaudalready 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'Artagnanwith a glance
firm and cutting as steeland 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 comtegently passing his arm around Raoul's
neck to draw him into the carriageand again embracing him. "Grimaud
continued the comte, you will return quietly to Paris with your horse
and M. du Vallon'sfor Raoul and I will mount here and give up the
carriage to these two gentlemen to return to Paris in; and thenas soon
as you arriveyou will take my clothes and letters and forward the whole
to me at home."

But,observed Raoulwho was anxious to make the comte conversewhen
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 Porthosand which
seemed no little pleased at the exchange. Then they embracedand
clasped each other's handsand 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 thenhaving embraced Raoul for the last time: "To
youmy boy said he, I will write." Coming from D'Artagnanwho he
knew wrote very seldomthese 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
friendwhat 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 Porthosastoundedwith 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 Porthosstaring; "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 Porthoshorrified.

What!said D'Artagnanyou 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 Porthosovercome.

You understand, don't you?

No,answered Porthosbut 'tis all the same.

Chapter LXVII:

M. de Baisemeaux's "Society."
The reader has not forgotten thaton quitting the BastileD'Artagnan
and the Comte de la Fere had left Aramis in close confabulation with
Baisemeaux. When once these two guests had departedBaisemeaux did not
in the least perceive that the conversation suffered by their absence.
He used to think that wine after supperand that of the Bastile in
particularwas excellentand that it was a stimulation quite sufficient
to make any honest man talkative. But he little knew his Greatnesswho
was never more impenetrable that at dessert. His Greatnesshowever
perfectly understood M. de Baisemeauxwhen he reckoned on making the
governor discourse by the means which the latter regarded as
efficacious. The conversationthereforewithout flagging in
appearanceflagged in reality; for Baisemeaux not only had it nearly all
to himselfbut furtherkept speaking only of that singular eventthe
incarceration of Athosfollowed by so prompt an order to set him again
at liberty. Normoreoverhad Baisemeaux failed to observe that the two
orders of arrest and of liberationwere both in the king's hand. But
thenthe king would not take the trouble to write similar orders except
under pressing circumstances. All this was very interestingandabove
allvery puzzling to Baisemeaux; but ason the other handall this was
very clear to Aramisthe latter did not attach to the occurrence the
same importance as did the worthy governor. BesidesAramis rarely put
himself out of the way for anythingand 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 dissertationAramis suddenly interrupted him.

Tell me, my dear Baisemeaux,said hehave 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 governorlike a vane which
suddenly receives an impulsion opposed to that of the windwas 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 Aramisand thenas if the idea which had
flashed across his mind were impossibleOh,he saidI 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 Aramisthe 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 Aramiswith the greatest selfpossession.
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 drankbut he swallowed the wrong way.

Well,resumed Aramisif, 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 Baisemeauxtrembling.

You will agree, dear Monsieur de Baisemeaux,continued Aramiswith the
same impassibilitythat 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 Baisemeauxthat would be intelligible, if -

Well,resumed Aramisthere 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 firmlyis of this nature.

Baisemeaux rosemanifesting unspeakable emotion: "Go ondear 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 enterwhen need shall ariseand
on demand of the prisonera confessor affiliated to the order." He
stopped. Baisemeaux was quite distressing to look atbeing 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 Baisemeauxdo 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
Aramisif 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 inchbut with that silvery voice of his
continued: "It is very pleasant said he, for a French noblemanfor a
prelate of Franceto hear a man of your mark express himself so loyally
dear De Baisemeauxand 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
Aramisgravelydoes 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 governormore 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 Baisemeauxlooking at Aramis almost in terror.

The confessor affiliated to the order,said Aramiswithout changing
his voice.

Butgentle as the words werethey had the same effect on the unhappy
governor as a clap of thunder. Baisemeaux became lividand it seemed to
him as if Aramis's beaming eyes were two forks of flamepiercing to the
very bottom of his soul. "The confessor!" murmured he; "you
monseigneurthe 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 Aramisin a tone of supreme contempt.

Of nothing at all, monseigneur.Baisemeaux lowered his voiceand
bending before the prelatesaidI am at all times and in all places at
the disposal of my superiors, but -


Very good. I like you better thus, monsieur,said Aramisas he
resumed his seatand put out his glass to Baisemeauxwhose hand
trembled so that he could not fill it. "You were saying 'but' - "
continued Aramis.

But,replied the unhappy manhaving 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 Aramisturning round in his chairhere is
your servant, who wishes to speak with you;and at this momentDe
Baisemeaux's servant appeared at the threshold of the door.

What is it?asked Baisemeauxsharply.

Monsieur,said the manthey are bringing you the doctor's return.

Aramis looked at De Baisemeaux with a calm and confident eye.

Well,said helet the messenger enter.

The messenger enteredsalutedand handed in the report. Baisemeaux ran
his eye over itand raising his headsaid in surpriseNo. 12 is ill!

How was it, then,said Aramiscarelesslythat 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 messengerand when he had quitted
the roomsaidstill tremblingI 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 sergeantthe 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 himjust as he had disdained to terrify him. "What must I
answer?" inquired Baisemeaux.

Just what you please,replied Aramiscompressing his lips; "that is
your business. _I_ am not the governor of the Bastile."

Tell the prisoner,cried Baisemeauxquickly- "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.