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Ten Years Later

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Ten Years Later
by Alexandre Dumas

The Vicomte de Bragelonne.

Volume I.

CHAPTER 1

The Letter.

Towards the middle of the month of May, in the year 1660, at
nine o'clock in the morning, when the sun, already high in
the heavens, was fast absorbing the dew from the ramparts of
the castle of Blois a little cavalcade, composed of three
men and two pages, re-entered the city by the bridge,
without producing any other effect upon the passengers of
the quay beyond a first movement of the hand to the head, as
a salute, and a second movement of the tongue to express, in
the purest French then spoken in France: "There is Monsieur
returning from hunting." And that was all.

Whilst, however, the horses were climbing the steep
acclivity which leads from the river to the castle, several
shop-boys approached the last horse, from whose saddle-bow a
number of birds were suspended by the beak.

On seeing this, the inquisitive youths manifested with
rustic freedom their contempt for such paltry sport, and,
after a dissertation among themselves upon the disadvantages
of hawking, they returned to their occupations; one only of
the curious party, a stout, stubby, cheerful lad, having
demanded how it was that Monsieur, who, from his great
revenues, had it in his power to amuse himself so much
better, could be satisfied with such mean diversions.

"Do you not know," one of the standers-by replied, "that
Monsieur's principal amusement is to weary himself?"

The light-hearted boy shrugged his shoulders with a gesture
which said as clear as day: "In that case I would rather be
plain Jack than a prince." And all resumed their labors.

In the meanwhile, Monsieur continued his route with an air
at once so melancholy and so majestic, that he certainly
would have attracted the attention of spectators, if
spectators there had been; but the good citizens of Blois
could not pardon Monsieur for having chosen their gay city
for an abode in which to indulge melancholy at his ease, and
as often as they caught a glimpse of the illustrious ennuye,
they stole away gaping, or drew back their heads into the
interior of their dwellings, to escape the soporific
influence of that long pale face, of those watery eyes, and
that languid address; so that the worthy prince was almost
certain to find the streets deserted whenever he chanced to
pass through them.

Now, on the part of the citizens of Blois this was a
culpable piece of disrespect, for Monsieur was, after the
king -- nay, even, perhaps before the king -- the greatest
noble of the kingdom. In fact, God, who had granted to Louis
XIV., then reigning, the honor of being son of Louis XIII.,
had granted to Monsieur the honor of being son of Henry IV.
It was not then, or, at least it ought not to have been, a
trifling source of pride for the city of Blois, that Gaston
of Orleans had chosen it as his residence, and he his court
in the ancient castle of its states.

But it was the destiny of this great prince to excite the
attention and admiration of the public in a very modified
degree wherever he might be. Monsieur had fallen into this
situation by habit.

It was not, perhaps, this which gave him that air of
listlessness. Monsieur had been tolerably busy in the course
of his life. A man cannot allow the heads of a dozen of his
best friends to be cut off without feeling a little
excitement, and as, since the accession of Mazarin to power,
no heads had been cut off, Monsieur's occupation was gone,
and his morale suffered from it.

The life of the poor prince was, then, very dull. After his
little morning hawking-party on the banks of the Beuvion, or
in the woods of Chiverny, Monsieur crossed the Loire, went
to breakfast at Chambord, with or without an appetite and
the city of Blois heard no more of its sovereign lord and
master till the next hawking-day.

So much for the ennui extra muros; of the ennui of the
interior we will give the reader an idea if he will with us
follow the cavalcade to the majestic porch of the castle of
the states.

Monsieur rode a little steady-paced horse, equipped with a
large saddle of red Flemish velvet, with stirrups in the
shape of buskins; the horse was of a bay color; Monsieur's
pourpoint of crimson velvet corresponded with the cloak of
the same shade and the horse's equipment, and it was only by
this red appearance of the whole that the prince could be
known from his two companions, the one dressed in violet,
the other in green. He on the left, in violet, was his
equerry; he on the right, in green, was the grand veneur.

One of the pages carried two gerfalcons upon a perch, the
other a hunting-horn, which he blew with a careless note at
twenty paces from the castle. Every one about this listless
prince did what he had to do listlessly.

At this signal, eight guards, who were lounging in the sun
in the square court, ran to their halberts, and Monsieur
made his solemn entry into the castle.

When he had disappeared under the shades of the porch, three
or four idlers, who had followed the cavalcade to the
castle, after pointing out the suspended birds to each
other, dispersed with comments upon what they saw: and, when
they were gone, the street, the place, and the court all
remained deserted alike.

Monsieur dismounted without speaking a word, went straight
to his apartments, where his valet changed his dress, and as
Madame had not yet sent orders respecting breakfast,
Monsieur stretched himself upon a chaise longue, and was
soon as fast asleep as if it had been eleven o'clock at
night.

The eight guards, who concluded their service for the day
was over, laid themselves down very comfortably in the sun
upon some stone benches; the grooms disappeared with their
horses into the stables, and, with the exception of a few
joyous birds, startling each other with their sharp chirping
in the tufted shrubberies, it might have been thought that
the whole castle was as soundly asleep as Monsieur was.

All at once, in the midst of this delicious silence, there
resounded a clear ringing laugh, which caused several of the
halberdiers in the enjoyment of their siesta to open at
least one eye.

This burst of laughter proceeded from a window of the
castle, visited at this moment by the sun, that embraced it
in one of those large angles which the profiles of the
chimneys mark out upon the walls before mid-day.

The little balcony of wrought iron which advanced in front
of this window was furnished with a pot of red gilliflowers,
another pot of primroses, and an early rose-tree, the
foliage of which, beautifully green, was variegated with
numerous red specks announcing future roses.

In the chamber lighted by this window was a square table,
covered with an old large-flowered Haarlem tapestry; in the
center of this table was a long-necked stone bottle, in
which were irises and lilies of the valley; at each end of
this table was a young girl.

The position of these two young people was singular; they
might have been taken for two boarders escaped from a
convent. One of them, with both elbows on the table, and a
pen in her hand, was tracing characters upon a sheet of fine
Dutch paper; the other, kneeling upon a chair, which allowed
her to advance her head and bust over the back of it to the
middle of the table, was watching her companion as she
wrote, or rather hesitated to write.

Thence the thousand cries, the thousand railleries, the
thousand laughs, one of which, more brilliant than the rest,
had startled the birds in the gardens, and disturbed the
slumbers of Monsieur's guards.

We are taking portraits now; we shall be allowed, therefore,
we hope, to sketch the two last of this chapter.

The one who was leaning in the chair -- that is to say, the
joyous, the laughing one -- was a beautiful girl of from
eighteen to twenty, with brown complexion and brown hair,
splendid, from eyes which sparkled beneath strongly-marked
brows, and particularly from her teeth, which seemed to
shine like pearls between her red coral lips. Her every
movement seemed the accent of a sunny nature, she did not
walk -- she bounded.

The other, she who was writing, looked at her turbulent
companion with an eye as limpid, as pure, and as blue as the
azure of the day. Her hair, of a shaded fairness, arranged
with exquisite taste, fell in silky curls over her lovely
mantling cheeks; she passed across the paper a delicate
hand, whose thinness announced her extreme youth. At each
burst of laughter that proceeded from her friend, she
raised, as if annoyed, her white shoulders in a poetical and
mild manner, but they were wanting in that richfulness of
mold which was likewise to be wished in her arms and hands.

"Montalais! Montalais!" said she at length, in a voice soft
and caressing as a melody, "you laugh too loud -- you laugh
like a man! You will not only draw the attention of
messieurs the guards, but you will not hear Madame's bell
when Madame rings."

This admonition neither made the young girl called Montalais
cease to laugh and gesticulate. She only replied: "Louise,
you do not speak as you think, my dear; you know that
messieurs the guards, as you call them, have only just
commenced their sleep, and that a cannon would not waken
them; you know that Madame's bell can be heard at the bridge
of Blois, and that consequently I shall hear it when my
services are required by Madame. What annoys you, my child,
is that I laugh while you are writing; and what you are
afraid of is that Madame de Saint-Remy, your mother, should
come up here, as she does sometimes when we laugh too loud,
that she should surprise us, and that she should see that
enormous sheet of paper upon which, in a quarter of an hour,
you have only traced the words Monsieur Raoul. Now, you are
right, my dear Louise, because after these words, `Monsieur
Raoul,' others may be put so significant and so incendiary
as to cause Madame de Saint-Remy to burst out into fire and
flames! Hein! is not that true now? -- say."

And Montalais redoubled her laughter and noisy provocations.

The fair girl at length became quite angry; she tore the
sheet of paper on which, in fact, the words "Monsieur Raoul"
were written in good characters, and crushing the paper in
her trembling hands, she threw it out of the window.

"There! there!" said Mademoiselle de Montalais; "there is
our little lamb, our gentle dove, angry! Don't be afraid,
Louise -- Madame de Saint-Remy will not come; and if she
should, you know I have a quick ear. Besides, what can be
more permissible than to write to an old friend of twelve
years' standing, particularly when the letter begins with
the words `Monsieur Raoul'?"

"It is all very well -- I will not write to him at all,"
said the young girl.

"Ah, ah! in good sooth, Montalais is properly punished,"
cried the jeering brunette, still laughing. "Come, come! let
us try another sheet of paper, and finish our dispatch
off-hand. Good! there is the bell ringing now. By my faith,
so much the worse! Madame must wait, or else do without her
first maid of honor this morning."

A bell, in fact, did ring; it announced that Madame had
finished her toilette, and waited for Monsieur to give her
his hand, and conduct her from the salon to the refectory.

This formality being accomplished with great ceremony, the
husband and wife breakfasted, and then separated till the
hour of dinner, invariably fixed at two o'clock.

The sound of this bell caused a door to be opened in the
offices on the left hand of the court, from which filed two
maitres d'hotel followed by eight scullions bearing a kind
of hand-barrow loaded with dishes under silver covers.

One of the maitres d'hotel, the first in rank, touched one
of the guards, who was snoring on his bench, slightly with
his wand; he even carried his kindness so far as to place
the halbert which stood against the wall in the hands of the
man stupid with sleep, after which the soldier, without
explanation, escorted the viande of Monsieur to the
refectory, preceded by a page and the two maitres d'hotel.

Wherever the viande passed, the soldiers ported arms.

Mademoiselle de Montalais and her companion had watched from
their window the details of this ceremony, to which, by the
bye, they must have been pretty well accustomed. But they
did not look so much from curiosity as to be assured they
should not be disturbed. So guards, scullions, maitres
d'hotel, and pages having passed, they resumed their places
at the table; and the sun, which, through the window-frame,
had for an instant fallen upon those two charming
countenances, now only shed its light upon the gilliflowers,
primroses, and rosetree.

"Bah!" said Mademoiselle de Montalais, taking her place
again; "Madame will breakfast very well without me!"

"Oh! Montalais, you will be punished!" replied the other
girl, sitting down quietly in hers.

"Punished, indeed! -- that is to say, deprived of a ride!
That is just the way in which I wish to be punished. To go
out in the grand coach, perched upon a doorstep; to turn to
the left, twist round to the right, over roads full of ruts,
where we cannot exceed a league in two hours; and then to
come back straight towards the wing of the castle in which
is the window of Mary de Medici, so that Madame never fails
to say: `Could one believe it possible that Mary de Medici
should have escaped from that window -- forty-seven feet
high? The mother of two princes and three princesses!' If
you call that relaxation, Louise, all I ask is to be
punished every day; particularly when my punishment is to
remain with you and write such interesting letters as we
write!"

"Montalais! Montalais! there are duties to be performed."

"You talk of them very much at your ease, dear child! --
you, who are left quite free amidst this tedious court. You
are the only person that reaps the advantages of them
without incurring the trouble, -- you, who are really more
one of Madame's maids of honor than I am, because Madame
makes her affection for your father-in-law glance off upon
you; so that you enter this dull house as the birds fly into
yonder court, inhaling the air, pecking the flowers, picking
up the grain, without having the least service to perform,
or the least annoyance to undergo. And you talk to me of
duties to be performed! In sooth, my pretty idler, what are
your own proper duties, unless to write to the handsome
Raoul? And even that you don't do; so that it looks to me as
if you likewise were rather negligent of your duties!"

Louise assumed a serious air, leant her chin upon her hand,
and, in a tone full of candid remonstrance, "And do you
reproach me with my good fortune?" said she. "Can you have
the heart to do it? You have a future; you belong to the
court; the king, if he should marry, will require Monsieur
to be near his person; you will see splendid fetes; you will
see the king, who they say is so handsome, so agreeable!"

"Ay, and still more, I shall see Raoul, who attends upon M.
le Prince," added Montalais, maliciously.

"Poor Raoul!" sighed Louise.

"Now is the time to write to him, my pretty dear! Come,
begin again, with that famous `Monsieur Raoul' which figures
at the top of the poor torn sheet."

She then held the pen toward her, and with a charming smile
encouraged her hand, which quickly traced the words she
named.

"What next?" asked the younger of the two girls.

"Why, now write what you think, Louise," replied Montalais.

"Are you quite sure I think of anything?"

"You think of somebody, and that amounts to the same thing,
or rather even more."

"Do you think so, Montalais?"

"Louise, Louise, your blue eyes are as deep as the sea I saw
at Boulogne last year! No, no, I mistake -- the sea is
perfidious: your eyes are as deep as the azure yonder --
look! -- over our heads!"

"Well, since you can read so well in my eyes, tell me what I
am thinking about, Montalais."

"In the first place, you don't think Monsieur Raoul; you
think My dear Raoul."

"Oh! ---- "

"Never blush for such a trifle as that! `My dear Raoul,' we
will say -- `You implore me to write to you at Paris, where
you are detained by your attendance on M. le Prince. As you
must be very dull there, to seek for amusement in the
remembrance of a provinciale ---- '"

Louise rose up suddenly. "No, Montalais," said she, with a
smile; "I don't think a word of that. Look, this is what I
think;" and she seized the pen boldly and traced, with a
firm hand, the following words: --

"I should have been very unhappy if your entreaties to
obtain a remembrance of me had been less warm. Everything
here reminds me of our early days, which so quickly passed
away, which so delightfully flew by, that no others will
ever replace the charm of them in my heart."

Montalais, who watched the flying pen, and read, the wrong
way upwards, as fast as her friend wrote, here interrupted
by clapping her hands. "Capital!" cried she; "there is
frankness -- there is heart -- there is style! Show these
Parisians, my dear, that Blois is the city for fine
language!"

"He knows very well that Blois was a Paradise to me,"
replied the girl.

"That is exactly what you mean to say; and you speak like an
angel."

"I will finish, Montalais," and she continued as follows:
"You often think of me, you say, Monsieur Raoul: I thank
you; but that does not surprise me, when I recollect how
often our hearts have beaten close to each other."

"Oh! oh!" said Montalais. "Beware; my lamb! You are
scattering your wool, and there are wolves about."

Louise was about to reply, when the gallop of a horse
resounded under the porch of the castle.

"What is that?" said Montalais, approaching the window. "A
handsome cavalier, by my faith!"

"Oh! -- Raoul!" exclaimed Louise, who had made the same
movement as her friend, and, becoming pale as death, sunk
back beside her unfinished letter.

"Now, he is a clever lover, upon my word!" cried Montalais;
"he arrives just at the proper moment."

"Come in, come in, I implore you!" murmured Louise.

"Bah! he does not know me. Let me see what he has come here
for."

CHAPTER 2

The Messenger.

Mademoiselle de Montalais was right; the young cavalier was
goodly to look upon.

He was a young man of from twenty-four to twenty-five years
of age, tall and slender, wearing gracefully the picturesque
military costume of the period. His large boots contained a
foot which Mademoiselle de Montalais might not have disowned
if she had been transformed into a man. With one of his
delicate but nervous hands he checked his horse in the
middle of the court, and with the other raised his hat,
whose long plumes shaded his at once serious and ingenuous
countenance.

The guards, roused by the steps of the horse, awoke and were
on foot in a minute. The young man waited till one of them
was close to his saddle-bow: then stooping towards him, in a
clear, distinct voice, which was perfectly audible at the
window where the two girls were concealed, "A message for
his royal highness," he said.

"Ah, ah!" cried the soldier. "Officer, a messenger!"

But this brave guard knew very well that no officer would
appear, seeing that the only one who could have appeared
dwelt at the other side of the castle, in an apartment
looking into the gardens. So he hastened to add: "The
officer, monsieur, is on his rounds, but in his absence, M.
de Saint-Remy, the maitre d'hotel shall be informed."

"M. de Saint-Remy?" repeated the cavalier, slightly
blushing.

"Do you know him?"

"Why, yes; but request him, if you please, that my visit be
announced to his royal highness as soon as possible."

"It appears to be pressing," said the guard, as if speaking
to himself, but really in the hope of obtaining an answer.

The messenger made an affirmative sign with his head.

"In that case," said the guard, "I will go and seek the
maitre d'hotel myself."

The young man, in the meantime, dismounted; and whilst the
others were making their remarks upon the fine horse the
cavalier rode, the soldier returned.

"Your pardon, young gentleman; but your name, if you
please?"

"The Vicomte de Bragelonne, on the part of his highness M.
le Prince de Conde."

The soldier made a profound bow, and, as if the name of the
conqueror of Rocroy and Sens had given him wings, he stepped
lightly up the steps leading to the ante-chamber.

M. de Bragelonne had not had time to fasten his horse to the
iron bars of the perron, when M. de Saint-Remy came running,
out of breath, supporting his capacious body with one hand,
whilst with the other he cut the air as a fisherman cleaves
the waves with his oar.

"Ah, Monsieur le Vicomte! You at Blois!" cried he. "Well,
that is a wonder. Good-day to you -- good-day, Monsieur
Raoul."

"I offer you a thousand respects, M. de Saint-Remy."

"How Madame de la Vall -- I mean, how delighted Madame de
Saint-Remy will be to see you! But come in. His royal
highness is at breakfast -- must he be interrupted? Is the
matter serious?"

"Yes, and no, Monsieur de Saint-Remy. A moment's delay,
however, would be disagreeable to his royal highness."

"If that is the case, we will force the consigne, Monsieur
le Vicomte. Come in. Besides, Monsieur is in an excellent
humor to-day. And then you bring news, do you not?"

"Great news, Monsieur de Saint-Remy."

"And good, I presume?"

"Excellent."

"Come quickly, come quickly then!" cried the worthy man,
putting his dress to rights as he went along.

Raoul followed him, hat in hand, and a little disconcerted
at the noise made by his spurs in these immense salons.

As soon as he had disappeared in the interior of the palace,
the window of the court was repeopled, and an animated
whispering betrayed the emotion of the two girls. They soon
appeared to have formed a resolution, for one of the two
faces disappeared from the window. This was the brunette;
the other remained behind the balcony, concealed by the
flowers, watching attentively through the branches the
perron by which M. de Bragelonne had entered the castle.

In the meantime the object of so much laudable curiosity
continued his route, following the steps of the maitre
d'hotel. The noise of quick steps, an odor of wine and
viands, a clinking of crystal and plates, warned them that
they were coming to the end of their course.

The pages, valets and officers, assembled in the office
which led up to the refectory, welcomed the newcomer with
the proverbial politeness of the country; some of them were
acquainted with Raoul, and all knew that he came from Paris.
It might be said that his arrival for a moment suspended the
service. In fact, a page, who was pouring out wine for his
royal highness, on hearing the jingling of spurs in the next
chamber, turned round like a child, without perceiving that
he was continuing to pour out, not into the glass, but upon
the tablecloth.

Madame, who was not so preoccupied as her glorious spouse
was, remarked this distraction of the page.

"Well?" exclaimed she.

"Well!" repeated Monsieur; "what is going on then?"

M. de Saint-Remy, who had just introduced his head through
the doorway, took advantage of the moment.

"Why am I to be disturbed?" said Gaston, helping himself to
a thick slice of one of the largest salmon that had ever
ascended the Loire to be captured between Painboeuf and
Saint-Nazaire.

"There is a messenger from Paris. Oh! but after monseigneur
has breakfasted will do; there is plenty of time."

"From Paris!" cried the prince, letting his fork fall. "A
messenger from Paris, do you say? And on whose part does
this messenger come?"

"On the part of M. le Prince," said the maitre d'hotel
promptly.

Every one knows that the Prince de Conde was so called.

"A messenger from M. le Prince!" said Gaston, with an
inquietude that escaped none of the assistants, and
consequently redoubled the general curiosity.

Monsieur, perhaps, fancied himself brought back again to the
happy times when the opening of a door gave him an emotion,
in which every letter might contain a state secret, -- in
which every message was connected with a dark and
complicated intrigue. Perhaps, likewise, that great name of
M. le Prince expanded itself, beneath the roofs of Blois, to
the proportions of a phantom.

Monsieur pushed away his plate.

"Shall I tell the envoy to wait?" asked M. de Saint-Remy.

A glance from Madame emboldened Gaston, who replied: "No,
no! let him come in at once, on the contrary. A propos, who
is he?"

"A gentleman of this country, M. le Vicomte de Bragelonne."

"Ah, very well! Introduce him, Saint-Remy -- introduce him."

And when he had let fall these words, with his accustomed
gravity, Monsieur turned his eyes, in a certain manner, upon
the people of his suite, so that all, pages, officers, and
equerries, quitted the service, knives and goblets, and made
towards the second chamber a retreat as rapid as it was
disorderly.

This little army had dispersed in two files when Raoul de
Bragelonne, preceded by M. de Saint-Remy, entered the
refectory.

The short interval of solitude which this retreat had left
him, permitted Monsieur the time to assume a diplomatic
countenance. He did not turn round, but waited till the
maitre d'hotel should bring the messenger face to face with
him.

Raoul stopped even with the lower end of the table, so as to
be exactly between Monsieur and Madame. From this place he
made a profound bow to Monsieur and a very humble one to
Madame; then, drawing himself up into military pose, he
waited for Monsieur to address him.

On his part the Prince waited till the doors were
hermetically closed; he would not turn round to ascertain
the fact, as that would have been derogatory to his dignity,
but he listened with all his ears for the noise of the lock,
which would promise him at least an appearance of secrecy.

The doors being closed, Monsieur raised his eyes towards the
vicomte, and said, "It appears that you come from Paris,
monsieur?"

"This minute, monseigneur."

"How is the king?"

"His majesty is in perfect health, monseigneur."

"And my sister-in-law?"

"Her majesty the queen-mother still suffers from the
complaint in her chest, but for the last month she has been
rather better."

"Somebody told me you came on the part of M. le Prince. They
must have been mistaken, surely?"

"No, monseigneur; M. le Prince has charged me to convey this
letter to your royal highness, and I am to wait for an
answer to it."

Raoul had been a little annoyed by this cold and cautious
reception, and his voice insensibly sank to a low key.

The prince forgot that he was the cause of this apparent
mystery, and his fears returned.

He received the letter from the Prince de Conde with a
haggard look, unsealed it as he would have unsealed a
suspicious packet, and in order to read it so that no one
should remark the effects of it upon his countenance, he
turned round.

Madame followed, with an anxiety almost equal to that of the
prince, every maneuver of her august husband.

Raoul, impassible, and a little disengaged by the attention
of his hosts, looked from his place through the open window
at the gardens and the statues which peopled them.

"Well!" cried Monsieur, all at once, with a cheerful smile;
"here is an agreeable surprise, and a charming letter from
M. le Prince. Look, Madame!"

The table was too large to allow the arm of the prince to
reach the hand of Madame; Raoul sprang forward to be their
intermediary, and did it with so good a grace as to procure
a flattering acknowledgment from the princess.

"You know the contents of this letter, no doubt?" said
Gaston to Raoul.

"Yes, monseigneur; M. le Prince at first gave me the message
verbally, but upon reflection his highness took up his pen."

"It is beautiful writing," said Madame, "but I cannot read
it."

"Will you read it to Madame, M. de Bragelonne?" said the
duke.

"Yes, read it, if you please, monsieur."

Raoul began to read, Monsieur giving again all his
attention. The letter was conceived in these terms:

Monseigneur -- The king is about to set out for the
frontiers. You are aware that the marriage of his majesty is
concluded upon. The king has done me the honor to appoint me
his marechal-des-logis for this journey, and as I knew with
what joy his majesty would pass a day at Blois, I venture to
ask your royal highness's permission to mark the house you
inhabit as our quarters. If, however, the suddenness of this
request should create to your royal highness any
embarrassment, I entreat you to say so by the messenger I
send, a gentleman of my suite, M. le Vicomte de Bragelonne.
My itinerary will depend upon your royal highness's
determination, and instead of passing through Blois, we
shall come through Vendome and Romorantin. I venture to hope
that your royal highness will be pleased with my
arrangement, it being the expression of my boundless desire
to make myself agreeable to you."

"Nothing can be more gracious toward us," said Madame, who
had more than once consulted the looks of her husband during
the reading of the letter. "The king here!" exclaimed she,
in a rather louder tone than would have been necessary to
preserve secrecy.

"Monsieur," said his royal highness in his turn, "you will
offer my thanks to M. de Conde, and express to him my
gratitude for the honor he has done me."

Raoul bowed.

"On what day will his majesty arrive?" continued the prince.

"The king, monseigneur, will in all probability arrive this
evening."

"But how, then, could he have known my reply if it had been
in the negative?"

"I was desired, monseigneur, to return in all haste to
Beaugency, to give counter-orders to the courier, who was
himself to go back immediately with counter-orders to M. le
Prince."

"His majesty is at Orleans, then?"

"Much nearer, monseigneur; his majesty must by this time
have arrived at Meung."

"Does the court accompany him?"

"Yes, monseigneur."

"A propos, I forgot to ask you after M. le Cardinal."

"His eminence appears to enjoy good health, monseigneur."

"His nieces accompany him, no doubt?"

"No, monseigneur, his eminence has ordered the
Mesdemoiselles de Mancini to set out for Brouage. They will
follow the left bank of the Loire, while the court will come
by the right."

"What! Mademoiselle Mary de Mancini quit the court in that
manner?" asked Monsieur, his reserve beginning to diminish.

"Mademoiselle Mary de Mancini in particular," replied Raoul
discreetly.

A fugitive smile, an imperceptible vestige of his ancient
spirit of intrigue, shot across the pale face of the prince.

"Thanks, M. de Bragelonne," then said Monsieur. "You would,
perhaps, not be willing to carry M. le Prince the commission
with which I would charge you, and that is, that his
messenger has been very agreeable to me; but I will tell him
so myself."

Raoul bowed his thanks to Monsieur for the honor he had done
him.

Monsieur made a sign to Madame, who struck a bell which was
placed at her right hand; M. de Saint-Remy entered, and the
room was soon filled with people.

"Messieurs," said the prince, "his majesty is about to pay
me the honor of passing a day at Blois; I depend upon the
king, my nephew, not having to repent of the favor he does
my house."

"Vive le Roi!" cried all the officers of the household with
frantic enthusiasm, and M. de Saint-Remy louder than the
rest.

Gaston hung down his head with evident chagrin. He had all
his life been obliged to hear, or rather to undergo this cry
of "Vive le Roi!" which passed over him. For a long time,
being unaccustomed to hear it, his ear had had rest, and now
a younger, more vivacious, and more brilliant royalty rose
up before him, like a new and more painful provocation.

Madame perfectly understood the sufferings of that timid,
gloomy heart; she rose from the table, Monsieur imitated her
mechanically, and all the domestics, with a buzzing like
that of several bee-hives, surrounded Raoul for the purpose
of questioning him.

Madame saw this movement, and called M. de Saint Remy. "This
is not the time for gossiping, but working," said she, with
the tone of an angry housekeeper.

M. de Saint-Remy hastened to break the circle formed by the
officers round Raoul, so that the latter was able to gain
the ante-chamber.

"Care will be taken of that gentleman, I hope," added
Madame, addressing M. de Saint-Remy.

The worthy man immediately hastened after Raoul. "Madame
desires refreshments to be offered to you," said he; "and
there is, besides, a lodging for you in the castle."

"Thanks, M. de Saint-Remy," replied Raoul; "but you know how
anxious I must be to pay my duty to M. le Comte, my father."

"That is true, that is true, Monsieur Raoul; present him, at
the same time, my humble respects, if you please."

Raoul thus once more got rid of the old gentleman, and
pursued his way. As he was passing under the porch, leading
his horse by the bridle, a soft voice called him from the
depths of an obscure path.

"Monsieur Raoul!" said the voice.

The young man turned round, surprised, and saw a dark
complexioned girl, who, with a finger on her lip, held out
her other hand to him. This young lady was an utter
stranger.

CHAPTER 3

The Interview.

Raoul made one step towards the girl who thus called him.

"But my horse, madame?" said he.

"Oh! you are terribly embarrassed! Go yonder way -- there is
a shed in the outer court: fasten your horse, and return
quickly!"

"I obey, madame."

Raoul was not four minutes in performing what he had been
directed to do; he returned to the little door, where, in
the gloom, he found his mysterious conductress waiting for
him, on the first steps of a winding staircase.

"Are you brave enough to follow me, monsieur knight errant?"
asked the girl, laughing at the momentary hesitation Raoul
had manifested.

The latter replied by springing up the dark staircase after
her. They thus climbed up three stories, he behind her,
touching with his hands, when he felt for the banister, a
silk dress which rubbed against each side of the staircase.
At every false step made by Raoul, his conductress cried,
"Hush!" and held out to him a soft and perfumed hand.

"One would mount thus to the belfry of the castle without
being conscious of fatigue," said Raoul.

"All of which means, monsieur, that you are very much
perplexed, very tired, and very uneasy. But be of good
cheer, monsieur; here we are, at our destination."

The girl threw open a door, which immediately, without any
transition, filled with a flood of light the landing of the
staircase, at the top of which Raoul appeared, holding fast
by the balustrade.

The girl continued to walk on -- he followed her; she
entered a chamber -- he did the same.

As soon as he was fairly in the net he heard a loud cry,
and, turning round, saw at two paces from him, with her
hands clasped and her eyes closed, that beautiful fair girl
with blue eyes and white shoulders, who, recognizing him,
called him Raoul.

He saw her, and divined at once so much love and so much joy
in the expression of her countenance, that he sank on his
knees in the middle of the chamber, murmuring, on his part,
the name of Louise.

"Ah! Montalais -- Montalais!" she sighed, "it is very wicked
to deceive me so."

"Who, I? I have deceived you?"

"Yes; you told me you would go down to inquire the news, and
you have brought up monsieur!"

"Well, I was obliged to do so -- how else could he have
received the letter you wrote him?" And she pointed with her
finger to the letter which was still upon the table.

Raoul made a step to take it; Louise, more rapid, although
she had sprung forward with a sufficiently remarkable
physical hesitation, reached out her hand to stop him. Raoul
came in contact with that trembling hand, took it within his
own, and carried it so respectfully to his lips, that he
might be said to have deposited a sigh upon it rather than a
kiss.

In the meantime Mademoiselle de Montalais had taken the
letter, folded it carefully, as women do, in three folds,
and slipped it into her bosom.

"Don't be afraid, Louise," said she; "monsieur will no more
venture to take it hence than the defunct king Louis XIII.
ventured to take billets from the corsage of Mademoiselle de
Hautefort."

Raoul blushed at seeing the smile of the two girls; and he
did not remark that the hand of Louise remained in his.

"There " said Montalais, "you have pardoned me, Louise, for
having brought monsieur to you; and you, monsieur, bear me
no malice for having followed me to see mademoiselle. Now,
then, peace being made, let us chat like old friends.
Present me, Louise, to M. de Bragelonne."

"Monsieur le Vicomte," said Louise, with her quiet grace and
ingenuous smile, "I have the honour to present to you
Mademoiselle Aure de Montalais, maid of honor to her royal
highness Madame, and moreover my friend -- my excellent
friend."

Raoul bowed ceremoniously.

"And me, Louise," said he -- "will you not present me also
to mademoiselle?"

"Oh, she knows you -- she knows all!"

This unguarded expression made Montalais laugh and Raoul
sigh with happiness, for he interpreted it thus: "She knows
all our love."

"The ceremonies being over, Monsieur le Vicomte," said
Montalais, "take a chair, and tell us quickly the news you
bring flying thus."

"Mademoiselle, it is no longer a secret; the king, on his
way to Poitiers, will stop at Blois, to visit his royal
highness."

"The king here!" exclaimed Montalais, clapping her hands.
"What! are we going to see the court? Only think, Louise --
the real court from Paris! Oh, good heavens! But when will
this happen, monsieur?"

"Perhaps this evening, mademoiselle; at latest, tomorrow."

Montalais lifted her shoulders in sign of vexation.

"No time to get ready! No time to prepare a single dress! We
are as far behind the fashions as the Poles. We shall look
like portraits of the time of Henry IV. Ah, monsieur! this
is sad news you bring us!"

"But, mesdemoiselles, you will be still beautiful!"

"That's no news! Yes, we shall be always beautiful because
nature has made us passable; but we shall be ridiculous,
because the fashion will have forgotten us. Alas!
ridiculous! I shall be thought ridiculous -- I!

"And by whom?" said Louise, innocently.

"By whom? You are a strange girl, my dear. Is that a
question to put to me? I mean everybody; I mean the
courtiers, the nobles; I mean the king."

"Pardon me, my good friend, but as here every one is
accustomed to see us as we are ---- "

"Granted; but that is about to change, and we shall be
ridiculous, even for Blois; for close to us will be seen the
fashions from Paris, and they will perceive that we are in
the fashion of Blois! It is enough to make one despair!"

"Console yourself, mademoiselle."

"Well, so let it be! After all, so much the worse for those
who do not find me to their taste!" said Montalais
philosophically.

"They would be very difficult to please," replied Raoul,
faithful to his regular system of gallantry.

"Thank you, Monsieur le Vicomte. We were saying, then, that
the king is coming to Blois?"

"With all the court."

"Mesdemoiselles de Mancini, will they be with them?"

"No, certainly not."

"But as the king, it is said, cannot do without Mademoiselle
Mary?"

"Mademoiselle, the king must do without her. M. le Cardinal
will have it so. He has exiled his nieces to Brouage."

"He! -- the hypocrite!"

"Hush!" said Louise, pressing a finger on her friend's rosy
lips.

"Bah! nobody can hear me. I say that old Mazarino Mazarini
is a hypocrite, who burns impatiently to make his niece
Queen of France."

"That cannot be, mademoiselle, since M. le Cardinal, on the
contrary, has brought about the marriage of his majesty with
the Infanta Maria Theresa."

Montalais looked Raoul full in the face, and said, "And do
you Parisians believe in these tales? Well! we are a little
more knowing than you, at Blois."

"Mademoiselle, if the king goes beyond Poitiers and sets out
for Spain, if the articles of the marriage contract are
agreed upon by Don Luis de Haro and his eminence, you must
plainly perceive that it is not child's play."

"All very fine! but the king is king, I suppose?"

"No doubt, mademoiselle; but the cardinal is the cardinal."

"The king is not a man, then! And he does not love Mary
Mancini?"

"He adores her."

"Well, he will marry her then. We shall have war with Spain.
M. Mazarin will spend a few of the millions he has put away;
our gentlemen will perform prodigies of valor in their
encounters with the proud Castilians, and many of them will
return crowned with laurels, to be recrowned by us with
myrtles. Now, that is my view of politics."

"Montalais, you are wild!" said Louise, "and every
exaggeration attracts you as light does a moth."

"Louise, you are so extremely reasonable, that you will
never know how to love."

"Oh!" said Louise, in a tone of tender reproach, "don't you
see, Montalais? The queen-mother desires to marry her son to
the Infanta; would you wish him to disobey his mother? Is it
for a royal heart like his to set such a bad example? When
parents forbid love, love must be banished."

And Louise sighed: Raoul cast down his eyes, with an
expression of constraint. Montalais, on her part, laughed
aloud.

"Well, I have no parents!" said she.

"You are acquainted, without doubt, with the state of health
of M. le Comte de la Fere?" said Louise, after breathing
that sigh which had revealed so many griefs in its eloquent
utterance.

"No, mademoiselle," replied Raoul, "I have not yet paid my
respects to my father; I was going to his house when
Mademoiselle de Montalais so kindly stopped me. I hope the
comte is well. You have heard nothing to the contrary, have
you?"

"No, M. Raoul -- nothing, thank God!"

Here, for several instants, ensued a silence, during which
two spirits, which followed the same idea, communicated
perfectly, without even the assistance of a single glance.

"Oh, heavens!" exclaimed Montalais in a fright; "there is
somebody coming up."

"Who can it be?" said Louise, rising in great agitation.

"Mesdemoiselles, I inconvenience you very much. I have,
without doubt, been very indiscreet," stammered Raoul, very
ill at ease.

"It is a heavy step," said Louise.

"Ah! if it is only M. Malicorne," added Montalais, "do not
disturb yourselves."

Louise and Raoul looked at each other to inquire who M.
Malicorne could be.

"There is no occasion to mind him," continued Montalais; "he
is not jealous."

"But, mademoiselle ---" said Raoul.

"Yes, I understand. Well, he is as discreet as I am."

"Good heavens!" cried Louise, who had applied her ear to the
door, which had been left ajar, "it is my mother's step!"

"Madame de Saint-Remy! Where shall I hide myself?" exclaimed
Raoul, catching at the dress of Montalais, who looked quite
bewildered.

"Yes," said she; "yes, I know the clicking of those pattens!
It is our excellent mother. M. le Vicomte, what a pity it is
the window looks upon a stone pavement, and that fifty paces
below it."

Raoul glanced at the balcony in despair. Louise seized his
arm and held it tight.

"Oh, how silly I am!" said Montalais, "have I not the
robe-of-ceremony closet? It looks as if it were made on
purpose."

It was quite time to act; Madame de Saint-Remy was coming up
at a quicker pace than usual. She gained the landing at the
moment when Montalais, as in all scenes of surprises, shut
the closet by leaning with her back against the door.

"Ah!" cried Madame de Saint-Remy, "you are here, are you,
Louise?"

"Yes, madame," replied she, more pale than if she had
committed a great crime.

"Well, well!"

"Pray be seated, madame," said Montalais, offering her a
chair, which she placed so that the back was towards the
closet.

"Thank you, Mademoiselle Aure -- thank you. Come my child,
be quick."

"Where do you wish me to go, madame?"

"Why, home, to be sure; have you not to prepare your
toilette?"

"What did you say?" cried Montalais, hastening to affect
surprise, so fearful was she that Louise would in some way
commit herself.

"You don't know the news, then?" said Madame de Saint-Remy.

"What news, madame, is it possible for two girls to learn up
in this dove-cote?"

"What! have you seen nobody?"

"Madame, you talk in enigmas, and you torment us at a slow
fire!" cried Montalais, who, terrified at seeing Louise
become paler and paler, did not know to what saint to put up
her vows.

At length she caught an eloquent look of her companion's,
one of those looks which would convey intelligence to a
brick wall. Louise directed her attention to a hat --
Raoul's unlucky hat, which was set out in all its feathery
splendor upon the table.

Montalais sprang towards it, and, seizing it with her left
hand, passed it behind her into the right, concealing it as
she was speaking.

"Well," said Madame de Saint-Remy, "a courier has arrived,
announcing the approach of the king. There, mesdemoiselles;
there is something to make you put on your best looks."

"Quick, quick!" cried Montalais. "Follow Madame your mother,
Louise; and leave me to get ready my dress of ceremony."

Louise arose; her mother took her by the hand, and led her
out on to the landing.

"Come along," said she; then adding in a low voice, "When I
forbid you to come to the apartment of Montalais, why do you
do so?"

"Madame, she is my friend. Besides, I had but just come."

"Did you see nobody concealed while you were there?"

"Madame!"

"I saw a man's hat, I tell you -- the hat of that fellow,
that good-for-nothing!"

"Madame!" repeated Louise.

"Of that do-nothing De Malicorne! A maid of honor to have
such company -- fie! fie!" and their voices were lost in the
depths of the narrow staircase.

Montalais had not missed a word of this conversation, which
echo conveyed to her as if through a tunnel. She shrugged
her shoulders on seeing Raoul, who had listened likewise,
issue from the closet.

"Poor Montalais!" said she, "the victim of friendship! Poor
Malicorne, the victim of love!"

She stopped on viewing the tragic-comic face of Raoul, who
was vexed at having, in one day, surprised so many secrets.

"Oh, mademoiselle!" said he; "how can we repay your
kindness?"

"Oh, we will balance accounts some day," said she. "For the
present, begone, M. de Bragelonne, for Madame de Saint-Remy
is not over indulgent; and any indiscretion on her part
might bring hither a domiciliary visit, which would be
disagreeable to all parties."

"But Louise -- how shall I know ---- "

"Begone! begone! King Louis XI. knew very well what he was
about when he invented the post."

"Alas!" sighed Raoul.

"And am I not here -- I, who am worth all the posts in the
kingdom? Quick, I say, to horse! so that if Madame de
Saint-Remy should return for the purpose of preaching me a
lesson on morality, she may not find you here."

"She would tell my father, would she not?" murmured Raoul.

"And you would be scolded. Ah, vicomte, it is very plain you
come from court; you are as timid as the king. Peste! at
Blois we contrive better than that to do without papa's
consent. Ask Malicorne else!"

And at these words the girl pushed Raoul out of the room by
the shoulders. He glided swiftly down to the porch, regained
his horse, mounted, and set off as if he had had Monsieur's
guards at his heels.

CHAPTER 4

Father and Son.

Raoul followed the well-known road, so dear to his memory,
which led from Blois to the residence of the Comte de la
Fere.

The reader will dispense with a second description of that
habitation: he, perhaps, has been with us there before, and
knows it. Only, since our last journey thither, the walls
had taken a grayer tint, and the brickwork assumed a more
harmonious copper tone; the trees had grown, and many that
then only stretched their slender branches along the tops of
the hedges, now bushy, strong, and luxuriant, cast around,
beneath boughs swollen with sap, great shadows of blossoms
of fruit for the benefit of the traveler.

Raoul perceived, from a distance, the two little turrets,
the dove-cote in the elms, and the flights of pigeons, which
wheeled incessantly around that brick cone, seemingly
without power to quit it, like the sweet memories which
hover round a spirit at peace.

As he approached, he heard the noise of the pulleys which
grated under the weight of the massy pails; he also fancied
he heard the melancholy moaning of the water which falls
back again into the wells -- a sad, funereal, solemn sound,
which strikes the ear of the child and the poet -- both
dreamers -- which the English call splash; Arabian poets,
gasgachau; and which we Frenchmen, who would be poets, can
only translate by a paraphrase -- the noise of water falling
into water.

It was more than a year since Raoul had been to visit his
father. He had passed the whole time in the household of M.
le Prince. In fact, after all the commotions of the Fronde,
of the early period of which we formerly attempted to give a
sketch, Louis de Conde had made a public, solemn, and frank
reconciliation with the court. During all the time that the
rupture between the king and the prince had lasted, the
prince, who had long entertained a great regard for
Bragelonne, had in vain offered him advantages of the most
dazzling kind for a young man. The Comte de la Fere, still
faithful to his principles of loyalty and royalty, one day
developed before his son in the vaults of Saint Denis, --
the Comte de la Fere, in the name of his son, had always
declined them. Moreover, instead of following M. de Conde in
his rebellion, the vicomte had followed M. de Turenne,
fighting for the king. Then when M. de Turenne, in his turn,
had appeared to abandon the royal cause, he had quitted M.
de Turenne, as he had quitted M. de Conde. It resulted from
this invariable line of conduct that, as Conde and Turenne
had never been conquerors of each other but under the
standard of the king, Raoul, however young, had ten
victories inscribed on his list of services, and not one
defeat from which his bravery or conscience had to suffer.

Raoul, therefore, had, in compliance with the wish of his
father, served obstinately and passively the fortunes of
Louis XIV., in spite of the tergiversations which were
endemic, and, it might be said, inevitable, at that period.

M. de Conde, on being restored to favor, had at once availed
himself of all the privileges of the amnesty to ask for many
things back again which had been granted him before, and
among others, Raoul. M. de la Fere, with his invariable good
sense, had immediately sent him again to the prince.

A year, then, had passed away since the separation of the
father and son; a few letters had softened, but not removed,
the pains of absence. We have seen that Raoul had left at
Blois another love in addition to filial love. But let us do
him this justice -- if it had not been for chance and
Mademoiselle de Montalais, two great temptations, Raoul,
after delivering his message, would have galloped off
towards his father's house, turning his head round, perhaps,
but without stopping for a single instant, even if Louise
had held out her arms to him.

So the first part of the journey was given by Raoul to
regretting the past which he had been forced to quit so
quickly, that is to say, his lady-love; and the other part
to the friend he was about to join, so much too slowly for
his wishes.

Raoul found the garden-gate open, and rode straight in,
without regarding the long arms, raised in anger, of an old
man dressed in a jacket of violet-colored wool, and a large
cap of faded velvet.

The old man, who was weeding with his hands a bed of dwarf
roses and marguerites, was indignant at seeing a horse thus
traversing his sanded and nicely-raked walks. He even
ventured a vigorous "Humph!" which made the cavalier turn
round. Then there was a change of scene; for no sooner had
he caught sight of Raoul's face, than the old man sprang up
and set off in the direction of the house, amidst
interrupted growlings, which appeared to be paroxysms of
wild delight.

When arrived at the stables, Raoul gave his horse to a
little lackey, and sprang up the perron with an ardor that
would have delighted the heart of his father.

He crossed the ante-chamber, the dining-room, and the salon,
without meeting with any one; at length, on reaching the
door of M. de la Fere's apartment, he rapped impatiently,
and entered almost without waiting for the word "Enter!"
which was vouchsafed him by a voice at once sweet and
serious. The comte was seated at a table covered with papers
and books; he was still the noble, handsome gentleman of
former days, but time had given to this nobleness and beauty
a more solemn and distinct character. A brow white and void
of wrinkles, beneath his long hair, now more white than
black; an eye piercing and mild, under the lids of a young
man; his mustache, fine but slightly grizzled, waved over
lips of a pure and delicate model, as if they had never been
curled by mortal passions; a form straight and supple; an
irreproachable but thin hand -- this was what remained of
the illustrious gentleman whom so many illustrious mouths
had praised under the name of Athos. He was engaged in
correcting the pages of a manuscript book, entirely filled
by his own hand.

Raoul seized his father by the shoulders, by the neck, as he
could, and embraced him so tenderly and so rapidly, that the
comte had neither strength nor time to disengage himself, or
to overcome his paternal emotions.

"What! you here, Raoul, -- you! Is it possible?" said he.

"Oh, monsieur, monsieur, what joy to see you once again!"

"But you don't answer me, vicomte. Have you leave of
absence, or has some misfortune happened at Paris?"

"Thank God, monsieur," replied Raoul, calming himself by
degrees, "nothing has happened but what is fortunate. The
king is going to be married, as I had the honor of informing
you in my last letter, and, on his way to Spain, he will
pass through Blois."

"To pay a visit to Monsieur?"

"Yes, monsieur le comte. So, fearing to find him unprepared,
or wishing to be particularly polite to him, monsieur le
prince sent me forward to have the lodgings ready."

"You have seen Monsieur?" asked the vicomte, eagerly.

"I have had that honor."

"At the castle?"

"Yes, monsieur," replied Raoul, casting down his eyes,
because, no doubt, he had felt there was something more than
curiosity in the comte's inquiries.

"Ah, indeed, vicomte? Accept my compliments thereupon."

Raoul bowed.

"But you have seen some one else at Blois?"

"Monsieur, I saw her royal highness, Madame."

"That's very well: but it is not Madame that I mean.'

Raoul colored deeply, but made no reply.

"You do not appear to understand me, monsieur le vicomte,"
persisted M. de la Fere, without accenting his words more
strongly, but with a rather severer look.

"I understand you quite plainly, monsieur," replied Raoul,
"and if I hesitate a little in my reply, you are well
assured I am not seeking for a falsehood."

"No, you cannot tell a lie, and that makes me so astonished
you should be so long in saying yes or no."

"I cannot answer you without understanding you very well,
and if I have understood you, you will take my first words
in ill part. You will be displeased, no doubt, monsieur le
comte, because I have seen ---- "

"Mademoiselle de la Valliere -- have you not?"

"It was of her you meant to speak, I know very well,
monsieur," said Raoul, with inexpressible sweetness.

"And I asked you if you have seen her."

"Monsieur, I was ignorant, when I entered the castle, that
Mademoiselle de la Valliere was there; it was only on my
return, after I had performed my mission, that chance
brought us together. I have had the honor of paying my
respects to her."

"But what do you call the chance that led you into the
presence of Mademoiselle de la Valliere?"

"Mademoiselle de Montalais, monsieur."

"And who is Mademoiselle de Montalais?"

"A young lady I did not know before, whom I had never seen.
She is maid of honor to Madame."

"Monsieur le vicomte, I will push my interrogatory no
further, and reproach myself with having carried it so far.
I had desired you to avoid Mademoiselle de la Valliere, and
not to see her without my permission. Oh, I am quite sure
you have told me the truth, and that you took no measures to
approach her. Chance has done me this injury; I do not
accuse you of it. I will be content then, with what I
formerly said to you concerning this young lady. I do not
reproach her with anything -- God is my witness! only it is
not my intention or wish that you should frequent her place
of residence. I beg you once more, my dear Raoul, to
understand that."

It was plain the limpid eyes of Raoul were troubled at this
speech.

"Now, my friend," said the comte, with his soft smile, and
in his customary tone, "let us talk of other matters. You
are returning, perhaps, to your duty?"

"No, monsieur, I have no duty for to-day, except the
pleasure of remaining with you. The prince kindly appointed
me no other: which was so much in accord with my wish."

"Is the king well?"

"Perfectly."

"And monsieur le prince also?"

"As usual, monsieur."

The comte forgot to inquire after Mazarin; that was an old
habit.

"Well, Raoul, since you are entirely mine, I will give up my
whole day to you. Embrace me -- again, again! You are at
home, vicomte! Ah, there is our old Grimaud! Come in,
Grimaud: monsieur le vicomte is desirous of embracing you
likewise."

The good old man did not require to be twice told; he rushed
in with open arms, Raoul meeting him halfway.

"Now, if you please, we will go into the garden, Raoul. I
will show you the new lodging I have had prepared for you
during your leave of absence, and whilst examining the last
winter's plantations and two saddle-horses I have just
acquired, you will give me all the news of our friends in
Paris."

The comte closed his manuscript, took the young man's arm,
and went out into the garden with him.

Grimaud looked at Raoul with a melancholy air as the young
man passed out; observing that his head nearly touched the
traverse of the doorway, stroking his white royale, he
slowly murmured:

"How he has grown!"

CHAPTER 5

In which Something will be said of Cropoli
--of Cropoli and of a Great Unknown Painter.

Whilst the Comte de la Fere with Raoul visits the new
buildings he has had erected, and the new horses he has
bought, with the reader's permission we will lead him back
to the city of Blois, and make him a witness of the
unaccustomed activity which pervades that city.

It was in the hotels that the surprise of the news brought
by Raoul was most sensibly felt.

In fact, the king and the court at Blois, that is to say, a
hundred horsemen, ten carriages, two hundred horses, as many
lackeys as masters -- where was this crowd to be housed?
Where were to be lodged all the gentry of the neighborhood,
who would gather in two or three hours after the news had
enlarged the circle of its report, like the increasing
circumference produced by a stone thrown into a placid lake?

Blois, as peaceful in the morning, as we have seen, as the
calmest lake in the world, at the announcement of the royal
arrival, was suddenly filled with the tumult and buzzing of
a swarm of bees.

All the servants of the castle, under the inspection of the
officers, were sent into the city in quest of provisions,
and ten horsemen were dispatched to the preserves of
Chambord to seek for game, to the fisheries of Beuvion for
fish, and to the gardens of Chaverny for fruits and flowers.

Precious tapestries, and lusters with great gilt chains,
were drawn from the cupboards; an army of the poor were
engaged in sweeping the courts and washing the stone fronts,
whilst their wives went in droves to the meadows beyond the
Loire, to gather green boughs and field-flowers. The whole
city, not to be behind in this luxury of cleanliness,
assumed its best toilette with the help of brushes, brooms,
and water.

The kennels of the upper town, swollen by these continued
lotions, became rivers at the bottom of the city, and the
pavement, generally very muddy, it must be allowed, took a
clean face, and absolutely shone in the friendly rays of the
sun.

Next the music was to be provided; drawers were emptied; the
shop-keepers did a glorious trade in wax, ribbons, and
sword-knots; housekeepers laid in stores of bread, meat, and
spices. Already numbers of the citizens whose houses were
furnished as if for a siege, having nothing more to do,
donned their festive clothes and directed their course
towards the city gate, in order to be the first to signal or
see the cortege. They knew very well that the king would not
arrive before night, perhaps not before the next morning.
Yet what is expectation but a kind of folly, and what is
that folly but an excess of hope?

In the lower city, at scarcely a hundred paces from the
Castle of the States, between the mall and the castle, in a
sufficiently handsome street, then called Rue Vieille, and
which must, in fact, have been very old, stood a venerable
edifice, with pointed gables, of squat but large dimensions,
ornamented with three windows looking into the street on the
first floor, with two in the second and with a little oeil
de boeuf in the third.

On the sides of this triangle had recently been constructed
a parallelogram of considerable size, which encroached upon
the street remorselessly, according to the familiar uses of
the building of that period. The street was narrowed by a
quarter by it, but then the house was enlarged by a half;
and was not that a sufficient compensation?

Tradition said that this house with the pointed gables was
inhabited, in the time of Henry III., by a councilor of
state whom Queen Catherine came, some say to visit, and
others to strangle. However that may be, the good lady must
have stepped with a circumspect foot over the threshold of
this building.

After the councilor had died -- whether by strangulation or
naturally is of no consequence -- the house had been sold,
then abandoned, and lastly isolated from the other houses of
the street. Towards the middle of the reign of Louis XIII.
only, an Italian, named Cropoli, escaped from the kitchens
of the Marquis d'Ancre, came and took possession of this
house. There he established a little hostelry, in which was
fabricated a macaroni so delicious that people came from
miles round to fetch it or eat it.

So famous had the house become for it, that when Mary de
Medici was a prisoner, as we know, in the castle of Blois,
she once sent for some.

It was precisely on the day she had escaped by the famous
window. The dish of macaroni was left upon the table, only
just tasted by the royal mouth.

This double favor, of a strangulation and a macaroni,
conferred upon the triangular house, gave poor Cropoli a
fancy to grace his hostelry with a pompous title. But his
quality of an Italian was no recommendation in these times,
and his small, well-concealed fortune forbade attracting too
much attention.

When he found himself about to die, which happened in 1643,
just after the death of Louis XIII., he called to him his
son, a young cook of great promise, and with tears in his
eyes, he recommended him to preserve carefully the secret of
the macaroni, to Frenchify his name, and at length, when the
political horizon should be cleared from the clouds which
obscured it -- this was practiced then as in our day, to
order of the nearest smith a handsome sign, upon which a
famous painter, whom he named, should design two queens'
portraits, with these words as a legend: "To The Medici."

The worthy Cropoli, after these recommendations, had only
sufficient time to point out to his young successor a
chimney, under the slab of which he had hidden a thousand
ten-franc pieces, and then expired.

Cropoli the younger, like a man of good heart, supported the
loss with resignation, and the gain without insolence. He
began by accustoming the public to sound the final i of his
name so little, that by the aid of general complaisance, he
was soon called nothing but M. Cropole, which is quite a
French name. He then married, having had in his eye a little
French girl, from whose parents he extorted a reasonable
dowry by showing them what there was beneath the slab of the
chimney.

These two points accomplished, he went in search of the
painter who was to paint the sign; and he was soon found. He
was an old Italian, a rival of the Raphaels and the Caracci,
but an unfortunate rival. He said he was of the Venetian
school, doubtless from his fondness for color. His works, of
which he had never sold one, attracted the eye at a distance
of a hundred paces; but they so formidably displeased the
citizens, that he had finished by painting no more.

He boasted of having painted a bath-room for Madame la
Marechale d'Ancre, and mourned over this chamber having been
burnt at the time of the marechal's disaster.

Cropoli, in his character of a compatriot, was indulgent
towards Pittrino, which was the name of the artist. Perhaps
he had seen the famous pictures of the bath-room. Be this as
it may, he held in such esteem, we may say in such
friendship, the famous Pittrino, that he took him in his own
house.

Pittrino, grateful, and fed with macaroni, set about
propagating the reputation of this national dish, and from
the time of its founder, he had rendered, with his
indefatigable tongue, signal services to the house of
Cropoli.

As he grew old he attached himself to the son as he had done
to the father, and by degrees became a kind of overlooker of
a house in which his remarkable integrity, his acknowledged
sobriety, and a thousand other virtues useless to enumerate,
gave him an eternal place by the fireside, with a right of
inspection over the domestics. Besides this, it was he who
tasted the macaroni, to maintain the pure flavor of the
ancient tradition; and it must be allowed that he never
permitted a grain of pepper too much, or an atom of parmesan
too little. His joy was at its height on that day when
called upon to share the secret of Cropoli the younger, and
to paint the famous sign.

He was seen at once rummaging with ardor in an old box, in
which he found some brushes, a little gnawed by the rats,
but still passable; some colors in bladders almost dried up;
some linseed-oil in a bottle, and a palette which had
formerly belonged to Bronzino, that dieu de la pittoure, as
the ultramontane artist, in his ever young enthusiasm,
always called him.

Pittrino was puffed up with all the joy of a rehabilitation.

He did as Raphael had done -- he changed his style, and
painted, in the fashion of the Albanian, two goddesses
rather than two queens. These illustrious ladies appeared so
lovely on the sign, -- they presented to the astonished eyes
such an assemblage of lilies and roses, the enchanting
result of the change of style in Pittrino -- they assumed
the poses of sirens so Anacreontically -- that the principal
echevin, when admitted to view this capital piece in the
salle of Cropole, at once declared that these ladies were
too handsome, of too animated a beauty, to figure as a sign
in the eyes of passers-by.

To Pittrino he added, "His royal highness, Monsieur, who
often comes into our city, will not be much pleased to see
his illustrious mother so slightly clothed, and he will send
you to the oubliettes of the state; for, remember, the heart
of that glorious prince is not always tender. You must
efface either the two sirens or the legend, without which I
forbid the exhibition of the sign. I say this for your sake,
Master Cropole, as well as for yours, Signor Pittrino."

What answer could be made to this? It was necessary to thank
the echevin for his kindness, which Cropole did. But
Pittrino remained downcast and said he felt assured of what
was about to happen.

The visitor was scarcely gone when Cropole, crossing his
arms, said: "Well, master, what is to be done?"

"We must efface the legend," said Pittrino, in a melancholy
tone. "I have some excellent ivory-black; it will be done in
a moment, and we will replace the Medici by the nymphs or
the sirens, whichever you prefer."

"No," said Cropole, "the will of my father must be carried
out. My father considered ---- "

"He considered the figures of the most importance," said
Pittrino.

"He thought most of the legend," said Cropole.

"The proof of the importance in which he held the figures,"
said Pittrino, "is that he desired they should be
likenesses, and they are so."

"Yes; but if they had not been so, who would have recognized
them without the legend? At the present day even, when the
memory of the Blaisois begins to be faint with regard to
these two celebrated persons, who would recognize Catherine
and Mary without the words `To the Medici'?"

"But the figures?" said Pittrino, in despair; for he felt
that young Cropole was right. "I should not like to lose the
fruit of my labor."

"And I should not wish you to be thrown into prison and
myself into the oubliettes."

"Let us efface `Medici,' " said Pittrino, supplicatingly.

"No," replied Cropole, firmly. "I have got an idea, a
sublime idea -- your picture shall appear, and my legend
likewise. Does not `Medici' mean doctor, or physician, in
Italian?"

"Yes, in the plural."

"Well, then, you shall order another sign-frame of the
smith; you shall paint six physicians, and write underneath
`Aux Medici' which makes a very pretty play upon words."

"Six physicians! impossible! And the composition?" cried
Pittrino.

"That is your business -- but so it shall be -- I insist
upon it -- it must be so -- my macaroni is burning."

This reasoning was peremptory -- Pittrino obeyed. He
composed the sign of six physicians, with the legend; the
echevin applauded and authorized it.

The sign produced an extravagant success in the city, which
proves that poetry has always been in the wrong, before
citizens, as Pittrino said.

Cropole, to make amends to his painter-in-ordinary, hung up
the nymphs of the preceding sign in his bedroom, which made
Madame Cropole blush every time she looked at it, when she
was undressing at night.

This is the way in which the pointed-gable house got a sign;
and this is how the hostelry of the Medici, making a
fortune, was found to be enlarged by a quarter, as we have
described. And this is how there was at Blois a hostelry of
that name, and had for painter-in-ordinary Master Pittrino.

CHAPTER 6

The Unknown.

Thus founded and recommended by its sign, the hostelry of
Master Cropole held its way steadily on towards a solid
prosperity.

It was not an immense fortune that Cropole had in
perspective; but he might hope to double the thousand louis
d'or left by his father, to make another thousand louis by
the sale of his house and stock, and at length to live
happily like a retired citizen.

Cropole was anxious for gain, and was half-crazy with joy at
the news of the arrival of Louis XIV.

Himself, his wife, Pittrino, and two cooks, immediately laid
hands upon all the inhabitants of the dove-cote, the
poultry-yard, and the rabbit-hutches; so that as many
lamentations and cries resounded in the yards of the
hostelry of the Medici as were formerly heard in Rama.

Cropole had, at the time, but one single traveler in his
house.

This was a man of scarcely thirty years of age, handsome,
tall, austere, or rather melancholy, in all his gestures and
looks.

He was dressed in black velvet with jet trimmings; a white
collar, as plain as that of the severest Puritan, set off
the whiteness of his youthful neck; a small dark-colored
mustache scarcely covered his curled, disdainful lip.

He spoke to people looking them full in the face without
affectation, it is true, but without scruple; so that the
brilliancy of his black eyes became so insupportable, that
more than one look had sunk beneath his like the weaker
sword in a single combat.

At this time, in which men, all created equal by God, were
divided, thanks to prejudices, into two distinct castes, the
gentleman and the commoner, as they are really divided into
two races, the black and the white, -- at this time, we say,
he whose portrait we have just sketched could not fail of
being taken for a gentleman, and of the best class. To
ascertain this, there was no necessity to consult anything
but his hands, long, slender, and white, of which every
muscle, every vein, became apparent through the skin at the
least movement, and eloquently spoke of good descent.

This gentleman, then, had arrived alone at Cropole's house.
He had taken, without hesitation, without reflection even,
the principal apartment which the hotelier had pointed out
to him with a rapacious aim, very praiseworthy, some will
say, very reprehensible will say others, if they admit that
Cropole was a physiognomist and judged people at first
sight.

This apartment was that which composed the whole front of
the ancient triangular house, a large salon, lighted by two
windows on the first stage, a small chamber by the side of
it, and another above it.

Now, from the time he had arrived, this gentleman had
scarcely touched any repast that had been served up to him
in his chamber. He had spoken but two words to the host, to
warn him that a traveler of the name of Parry would arrive,
and to desire that, when he did, he should be shown up to
him immediately.

He afterwards preserved so profound a silence, that Cropole
was almost offended, so much did he prefer people who were
good company.

This gentleman had risen early the morning of the day on
which this history begins, and had placed himself at the
window of his salon, seated upon the ledge, and leaning upon
the rail of the balcony, gazing sadly but persistently on
both sides of the street, watching, no doubt, for the
arrival of the traveler he had mentioned to the host.

In this way he had seen the little cortege of Monsieur
return from hunting, then had again partaken of the profound
tranquillity of the street, absorbed in his own
expectations.

All at once the movement of the crowd going to the meadows,
couriers setting out, washers of pavement, purveyors of the
royal household, gabbling, scampering shopboys, chariots in
motion, hair-dressers on the run, and pages toiling along,
this tumult and bustle had surprised him, but without losing
any of that impassible and supreme majesty which gives to
the eagle and the lion that serene and contemptuous glance
amidst the hurrahs and shouts of hunters or the curious.

Soon the cries of the victims slaughtered in the
poultry-yard, the hasty steps of Madame Cropole up that
little wooden staircase, so narrow and so echoing, the
bounding pace of Pittrino, who only that morning was smoking
at the door with all the phlegm of a Dutchman; all this
communicated something like surprise and agitation to the
traveler.

As he was rising to make inquiries, the door of his chamber
opened. The unknown concluded they were about to introduce
the impatiently expected traveler, and made three
precipitate steps to meet him.

But, instead of the person he expected, it was Master
Cropole who appeared, and behind him, in the half-dark
staircase, the pleasant face of Madame Cropole, rendered
trivial by curiosity. She only gave one furtive glance at
the handsome gentleman, and disappeared.

Cropole advanced, cap in hand, rather bent than bowing,

A gesture of the unknown interrogated him, without a word
being pronounced.

"Monsieur," said Cropole, "I come to ask how -- what ought I
to say: your lordship, monsieur le comte, or monsieur le
marquis?"

"Say monsieur, and speak quickly," replied the unknown, with
that haughty accent which admits of neither discussion nor
reply.

"I came, then, to inquire how monsieur had passed the night,
and if monsieur intended to keep this apartment?"

"Yes."

"Monsieur, something has happened upon which we could not
reckon."

"What?"

"His majesty Louis XIV. will enter our city to-day and will
remain here one day, perhaps two."

Great astonishment was painted on the countenance of the
unknown.

"The King of France coming to Blois?"

"He is on the road, monsieur."

"Then there is the stronger reason for my remaining," said
the unknown.

"Very well; but will monsieur keep all the apartments?"

"I do not understand you. Why should I require less to-day
than yesterday?"

"Because, monsieur, your lordship will permit me to say,
yesterday I did not think proper, when you chose your
lodging, to fix any price that might have made your lordship
believe that I prejudged your resources; whilst to-day ----

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