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Ten Years Later

Part 18 out of 21

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was, then, your reason for coming here. I love you as I
never yet loved you. Thanks, Louise, for this devotion; but
measures must be taken to place you beyond all insult, to
shield you from every lure. Louise, a maid of honor in the
court of a young princess in these days of free manners and
inconstant affections ---a maid of honor is placed as an
object of attack without having any means of defence
afforded her; this state of things cannot continue, you must
be married in order to be respected."

"Married?"

"Yes, here is my hand, Louise; will you place yours within
it?"

"But your father?"

"My father leaves me perfectly free."

"Yet ---- "

"I understand your scruples, Louise; I will consult my
father."

"Reflect, M. Raoul; wait."

"Wait! it is impossible. Reflect, Louise, when you are
concerned! it would be insulting, -- give me your hand, dear
Louise; I am my own master. My father will consent, I know;
give me your hand, do not keep me waiting thus. One word in
answer, one word only; if not, I shall begin to think that,
in order to change you forever, nothing more was needed than
a single step in the palace, a single breath of favor, a
smile from the queen, a look from the king."

Raoul had no sooner pronounced this latter word, than La
Valliere became as pale as death, no doubt from fear at
seeing the young man excite himself. With a movement as
rapid as thought, she placed both her hands in those of
Raoul, and then fled without adding a syllable; disappearing
without casting a look behind her. Raoul felt his whole
frame tremble at the contact of her hand; he received the
compact as a solemn bargain wrung by affection from her
child-like timidity.

CHAPTER 90

The Consent of Athos

Raoul quitted the Palais-Royal full of ideas that admitted
no delay in execution. He mounted his horse in the
courtyard, and followed the road to Blois, while the
marriage festivities of Monsieur and the princess of England
were being celebrated with exceeding animation by the
courtiers, but to the despair of De Guiche and Buckingham.
Raoul lost no time on the road, and in sixteen hours he
arrived at Blois. As he traveled along, he marshaled his
arguments in the most becoming manner. Fever also is an
argument that cannot be answered, and Raoul had an attack.
Athos was in his study, making additions to his memoirs,
when Raoul entered, accompanied by Grimaud. Keen-sighted and
penetrating, a mere glance at his son told him that
something extraordinary had befallen him.

"You seem to come on a matter of importance," said he to
Raoul, after he had embraced him, pointing to a seat.

"Yes, monsieur," replied the young man; "and I entreat you
to give me the same kind attention that has never yet failed
me."

"Speak, Raoul."

"I present the case to you, monsieur, free from all preface,
for that would be unworthy of you. Mademoiselle de la
Valliere is in Paris as one of Madame's maids of honor. I
have pondered deeply on the matter; I love Mademoiselle de
la Valliere above everything; and it is not proper to leave
her in a position where her reputation, her virtue even, may
be assailed. It is my wish, therefore, to marry her,
monsieur, and I have come to solicit your consent to my
marriage."

While this communication was being made to him, Athos
maintained the profoundest silence and reserve. Raoul, who
had begun his address with an assumption of self-possession,
finished it by allowing a manifest emotion to escape him at
every word. Athos fixed upon Bragelonne a searching look,
overshadowed indeed by a slight sadness.

"You have reflected well upon it?" he inquired.

"Yes, monsieur."

"I believe you are already acquainted with my views
respecting this alliance?"

"Yes, monsieur," replied Raoul, in a low tone of voice, "but
you added, that if I persisted ---- "

"You do persist, then?"

Bragelonne stammered out an almost unintelligible assent.

"Your passion," continued Athos, tranquilly, "must indeed be
very great, since, notwithstanding my dislike to this union,
you persist in wishing it."

Raoul passed his trembling hand across his forehead to
remove the perspiration that collected there. Athos looked
at him, and his heart was touched by pity. He rose and said,
----

"It is no matter. My own personal feelings are not to be
taken into consideration since yours are concerned; you need
my assistance; I am ready to give it. Tell me what you
want."

"Your kind indulgence, first of all, monsieur," said Raoul,
taking hold of his hand.

"You have mistaken my feelings, Raoul, I have more than mere
indulgence for you in my heart."

Raoul kissed as devotedly as a lover could have done the
hand he held in his own.

"Come, come," said Athos, "I am quite ready; what do you
wish me to sign?"

"Nothing whatever, monsieur. only it would be very kind if
you would take the trouble to write to the king to whom I
belong, and solicit his majesty's permission for me to marry
Mademoiselle de la Valliere."

"Well thought, Raoul! After, or rather before myself, you
have a master to consult, that master being the king; it is
loyal in you to submit yourself voluntarily to this double
proof; I will grant your request without delay, Raoul."

The count approached the window, and leaning out, called to
Grimaud, who showed his head from an arbor covered with
jasmine, which he was occupied in trimming.

"My horses, Grimaud," continued the count.

"Why this order, monsieur?" inquired Raoul.

"We shall set off in a few hours."

"Whither?"

"For Paris."

"Paris, monsieur?"

"Is not the king at Paris?"

"Certainly."

"Well, ought we not to go there?"

"Yes, monsieur," said Raoul, almost alarmed by this kind
condescension. "I do not ask you to put yourself to such
inconvenience, and a letter merely ---- "

"You mistake my position, Raoul; it is not respectful that a
simple gentleman, such as I am, should write to his
sovereign. I wish to speak, I ought to speak, to the king,
and I will do so. We will go together, Raoul."

"You overpower me with your kindness, monsieur."

"How do you think his majesty is affected?"

"Towards me, monsieur?"

"Yes."

"Excellently well disposed."

"You know that to be so?" continued the count.

"The king has himself told me so."

"On what occasion?"

"Upon the recommendation of M. d'Artagnan, I believe, and on
account of an affair in the Place de Greve, when I had the
honor to draw my sword in the king's service. I have reason
to believe that, vanity apart, I stand well with his
majesty."

"So much the better."

"But I entreat you, monsieur," pursued Raoul, "not to
maintain towards me your present grave and serious manner.
Do not make me bitterly regret having listened to a feeling
stronger than anything else."

"That is the second time you have said so, Raoul; it was
quite unnecessary, you require my formal consent, and you
have it. We need talk no more on the subject, therefore.
Come and see my new plantations, Raoul."

The young man knew very well, that, after the expression of
his father's wish, no opportunity of discussion was left
him. He bowed his head, and followed his father into the
garden. Athos slowly pointed out to him the grafts, the
cuttings, and the avenues he was planting. This perfect
repose of manner disconcerted Raoul extremely; the affection
with which his own heart was filled seemed so great that the
whole world could hardly contain it. How, then, could his
father's heart remain void, and closed to its influence?
Bragelonne, therefore, collecting all his courage, suddenly
exclaimed, ----

"It is impossible, monsieur, you can have any reason to
reject Mademoiselle de la Valliere? In Heaven's name, she is
so good, so gentle and pure, that your mind, so perfect in
its penetration, ought to appreciate her accordingly. Does
any secret repugnance, or any hereditary dislike, exist
between you and her family?"

"Look, Raoul, at that beautiful lily of the valley," said
Athos; "observe how the shade and the damp situation suit
it, particularly the shadow which that sycamore-tree casts
over it, so that the warmth, and not the blazing heat of the
sun, filters through its leaves."

Raoul stopped, bit his lips, and then with the blood
mantling in his face, he said, courageously, -- "One word of
explanation, I beg, monsieur. You cannot forget that your
son is a man."

"In that case," replied Athos, drawing himself up with
sternness, "prove to me that you are a man, for you do not
show yourself a son. I begged you to wait the opportunity of
forming an illustrious alliance. I would have obtained a
wife for you from the first ranks of the rich nobility. I
wish you to be distinguished by the splendor which glory and
fortune confer, for nobility of descent you have already."

"Monsieur," exclaimed Raoul, carried away by a first
impulse, "I was reproached the other day for not knowing who
my mother was."

Athos turned pale; then, knitting his brows like the
greatest of all the heathen deities: -- "I am waiting to
learn the reply you made," he demanded, in an imperious
manner.

"Forgive me! oh, forgive me," murmured the young man,
sinking at once from the lofty tone he had assumed.

"What was your reply, monsieur?" inquired the count,
stamping his feet upon the ground.

"Monsieur, my sword was in my hand immediately, my adversary
placed himself on guard, I struck his sword over the
palisade, and threw him after it."

"Why did you suffer him to live?"

"The king has prohibited duelling, and, at that moment, I
was an ambassador of the king."

"Very well," said Athos, "but all the greater reason I
should see his majesty."

"What do you intend to ask him?"

"Authority to draw my sword against the man who has
inflicted this injury upon me."

"If I did not act as I ought to have done, I beg you to
forgive me."

"Did I reproach you, Raoul?"

"Still, the permission you are going to ask from the king?"

"I will implore his majesty to sign your marriage-contract,
but on one condition."

"Are conditions necessary with me, monsieur? Command, and
you shall be obeyed."

"On one condition, I repeat," continued Athos; "that you
tell me the name of the man who spoke of your mother in that
way."

"What need is there that you should know his name; the
offense was directed against myself, and the permission once
obtained from his majesty, to revenge it is my affair."

"Tell me his name, monsieur."

"I will not allow you to expose yourself.

"Do you take me for a Don Diego? His name, I say."

"You insist upon it?"

"I demand it."

"The Vicomte de Wardes."

"Very well," said Athos, tranquilly, "I know him. But our
horses are ready, I see; and, instead of delaying our
departure for a couple of hours, we will set off at once.
Come, monsieur."

CHAPTER 91

Monsieur becomes jealous of the Duke of Buckingha

While the Comte de la Fere was proceeding on his way to
Paris, accompanied by Raoul, the Palais-Royal was the
theatre wherein a scene of what Moliere would have called
excellent comedy was being performed. Four days had elapsed
since his marriage, and Monsieur, having breakfasted very
hurriedly, passed into his ante-chamber, frowning and out of
temper. The repast had not been over-agreeable. Madame had
had breakfast served in her own apartment, and Monsieur had
breakfasted almost alone; the Chevalier de Lorraine and
Manicamp were the only persons present at the meal which
lasted three-quarters of an hour without a single syllable
having been uttered. Manicamp, who was less intimate with
his royal highness than the Chevalier de Lorraine, vainly
endeavored to detect, from the expression of the prince's
face, what had made him so ill-humored. The Chevalier de
Lorraine, who had no occasion to speculate about anything,
inasmuch as he knew all, ate his breakfast with that
extraordinary appetite which the troubles of one's friends
but stimulates, and enjoyed at the same time both Monsieur's
ill-humor and the vexation of Manicamp. He seemed delighted,
while he went on eating, to detain the prince, who was very
impatient to move, still at table. Monsieur at times
repented the ascendancy which he had permitted the Chevalier
de Lorraine to acquire over him, and which exempted the
latter from any observance of etiquette towards him.
Monsieur was now in one of those moods, but he dreaded as
much as he liked the chevalier, and contented himself with
nursing his anger without betraying it. Every now and then
Monsieur raised his eyes to the ceiling, then lowered them
towards the slices of pate which the chevalier was
attacking, and finally, not caring to betray his resentment,
he gesticulated in a manner which Harlequin might have
envied. At last, however, Monsieur could control himself no
longer, and at the dessert, rising from the table in
excessive wrath, as we have related, he left the Chevalier
de Lorraine to finish his breakfast as he pleased. Seeing
Monsieur rise from the table, Manicamp, napkin in hand, rose
also. Monsieur ran rather than walked, towards the
ante-chamber, where, noticing an usher in attendance, he
gave him some directions in a low tone of voice. Then
turning back again, but avoiding passing through the
breakfast apartment, he crossed several rooms, with the
intention of seeking the queen-mother in her oratory, where
she usually remained.

It was about ten o'clock in the morning. Anne of Austria was
engaged in writing as Monsieur entered. The queen-mother was
extremely attached to her son, for he was handsome in person
and amiable in disposition. He was, in fact, more
affectionate, and, it might be, more effeminate than the
king. He pleased his mother by those trifling sympathizing
attentions all women are glad to receive. Anne of Austria,
who would have been rejoiced to have had a daughter, almost
found in this, her favorite son, the attentions, solicitude,
and playful manners of a child of twelve years of age. All
the time he passed with his mother he employed in admiring
her arms, in giving his opinion upon her cosmetics, and
receipts for compounding essences, in which she was very
particular; and then, too, he kissed her hands and cheeks in
the most childlike and endearing manner, and had always some
sweetmeats to offer her, or some new style of dress to
recommend. Anne of Austria loved the king, or rather the
regal power in her eldest son; Louis XIV. represented
legitimacy by right divine. With the king, her character was
that of the queen-mother, with Philip she was simply the
mother. The latter knew that, of all places of refuge, a
mother's heart is the most compassionate and surest. When
quite a child he always fled there for refuge when he and
his brother quarrelled, often, after having struck him,
which constituted the crime of high treason on his part,
after certain engagements with hands and nails, in which the
king and his rebellious subject indulged in their
night-dresses respecting the right to a disputed bed, having
their servant Laporte as umpire, -- Philip, conqueror, but
terrified at victory, used to flee to his mother to obtain
reinforcements from her, or at least the assurance of
forgiveness, which Louis XIV. granted with difficulty, and
after an interval. Anne, from this habit of peaceable
intervention, succeeded in arranging the disputes of her
sons, and in sharing, at the same time, all their secrets.
The king, somewhat jealous of that maternal solicitude which
was bestowed particularly upon his brother, felt disposed to
show towards Anne of Austria more submission and attachment
than his character really dictated. Anne of Austria had
adopted this line of conduct especially towards the young
queen. In this manner she ruled with almost despotic sway
over the royal household, and she was already preparing her
batteries to govern with the same absolute authority the
household of her second son. Anne experienced almost a
feeling of pride whenever she saw any one enter her
apartment with woe-begone looks, pale cheeks, or red eyes,
gathering from appearances that assistance was required
either by the weakest or the most rebellious. She was
writing, we have said, when Monsieur entered her oratory,
not with red eyes or pale cheeks, but restless, out of
temper, and annoyed. With an absent air he kissed his
mother's hands, and sat himself down before receiving her
permission to do so. Considering the strict rules of
etiquette established at the court of Anne of Austria, this
forgetfulness of customary civilities was a sign of
preoccupation, especially on Philip's part, who, of his own
accord, observed a respect towards her of a somewhat
exaggerated character. If, therefore, he so notoriously
failed in this regard, there must be a serious cause for it.

"What is the matter, Philip?" inquired Anne of Austria,
turning towards her son.

"A good many things," murmured the prince, in a doleful tone
of voice.

"You look like a man who has a great deal to do," said the
queen, laying down her pen. Philip frowned, but did not
reply. "Among the various subjects which occupy your mind,"
said Anne of Austria, "there must surely be one that absorbs
it more than others."

"One indeed has occupied me more than any other."

"Well, what is it? I am listening."

Philip opened his mouth as if to express all the troubles
his mind was filled with, and which he seemed to be waiting
only for an opportunity of declaring. But he suddenly became
silent, and a sigh alone expressed all that his heart was
overflowing with.

"Come, Philip, show a little firmness," said the
queen-mother. "When one has to complain of anything, it is
generally an individual who is the cause of it. Am I not
right?"

"I do not say no, madame."

"Whom do you wish to speak about? Come, take courage."

"In fact, madame, what I might possibly have to say must be
kept a profound secret; for when a lady is in the case ----
"

"Ah! you are speaking of Madame, then?" inquired the
queen-mother, with a feeling of the liveliest curiosity.

"Yes."

"Well, then, if you wish to speak of Madame, do not hesitate
to do so. I am your mother, and she is no more than a
stranger to me. Yet, as she is my daughter-in-law, rest
assured I shall be interested, even were it for your own
sake alone, in hearing all you may have to say about her."

"Pray tell me, madame, in your turn, whether you have not
remarked something?"

"`Something'! Philip? Your words almost frighten me, from
their want of meaning. What do you mean by `something'?"

"Madame is pretty, certainly."

"No doubt of it."

"Yet not altogether beautiful."

"No, but as she grows older, she will probably become
strikingly beautiful. You must have remarked the change
which a few years have already made in her. Her beauty will
improve more and more; she is now only sixteen years of age.
At fifteen I was, myself, very thin; but even as she is at
present, Madame is very pretty."

"And consequently others have remarked it."

"Undoubtedly, for a woman of ordinary rank is noticed -- and
with still greater reason a princess."

"She has been well brought up, I suppose?"

"Madame Henrietta, her mother, is a woman somewhat cold in
manner, slightly pretentious, but full of noble thoughts.
The princess's education may have been neglected, but her
principles, I believe, are good. Such at least was the
opinion I formed of her when she resided in France; but she
afterwards returned to England, and I am ignorant what may
have occurred there."

"What do you mean?"

"Simply that there are some heads naturally giddy, which are
easily turned by prosperity."

"That is the very word, madame. I think the princess rather
giddy."

"We must not exaggerate, Philip; she is clever and witty,
and has a certain amount of coquetry very natural in a young
woman; but this defect in persons of high rank and position
is a great advantage at a court. A princess who is tinged
with coquetry usually forms a brilliant court around her;
her smile stimulates luxury, arouses wit, and even courage;
the nobles, too, fight better for a prince whose wife is
beautiful."

"Thank you extremely, madame," said Philip, with some
temper; "you really have drawn some very alarming pictures
for me."

"In what respect?" asked the queen, with pretended
simplicity.

"You know, madame," said Philip, dolefully, "whether I had
or had not a very great dislike to getting married."

"Now, indeed, you alarm me. You have some serious cause of
complaint against Madame."

"I do not precisely say it is serious."

"In that case, then, throw aside your doleful looks. If you
show yourself to others in your present state, people will
take you for a very unhappy husband."

"The fact is," replied Philip, "I am not altogether
satisfied as a husband, and I shall not be sorry if others
know it."

"For shame, Philip."

"Well, then, madame, I will tell you frankly that I do not
understand the life I am required to lead."

"Explain yourself."

"My wife does not seem to belong to me; she is always
leaving me for some reason or another. In the mornings there
are visits, correspondences, and toilettes; in the evenings,
balls and concerts."

"You are jealous, Philip."

"I! Heaven forbid. Let others act the part of a jealous
husband, not I. But I am annoyed."

"All these things you reproach your wife with are perfectly
innocent, and, so long as you have nothing of greater
importance ---- "

"Yet, listen; without being very blamable, a woman can
excite a good deal of uneasiness. Certain visitors may be
received, certain preferences shown, which expose young
women to remark, and which are enough to drive out of their
senses even those husbands who are least disposed to be
jealous."

"Ah! now we are coming to the real point at last, and not
without some difficulty. You speak of frequent visits, and
certain preferences -- very good; for the last hour we have
been beating about the bush, and at last you have broached
the true question. This is more serious than I thought. It
is possible, then, that Madame can have given you grounds
for these complaints against her?"

"Precisely so."

"What, your wife, married only four days ago, prefers some
other person to yourself? Take care, Philip, you exaggerate
your grievances; in wishing to prove everything, you prove
nothing."

The prince, bewildered by his mother's serious manner wished
to reply, but he could only stammer out some unintelligible
words.

"You draw back, then?" said Anne of Austria. "I prefer that,
as it is an acknowledgment of your mistake."

"No!" exclaimed Philip, "I do not draw back, and I will
prove all I asserted. I spoke of preference and of visits,
did I not? Well, listen."

Anne of Austria prepared herself to listen, with that love
of gossip which the best woman living and the best mother,
were she a queen even, always finds in being mixed up with
the petty squabbles of a household.

"Well," said Philip, "tell me one thing."

"What is that?"

"Why does my wife retain an English court about her?" said
Philip, as he crossed his arms and looked his mother
steadily in the face, as if he were convinced that she could
not answer the question.

"For a very simple reason," returned Anne of Austria;
"because the English are her countrymen, because they have
expended large sums in order to accompany her to France, and
because it would be hardly polite -- not politic, certainly
-- to dismiss abruptly those members of the English nobility
who have not shrunk from any devotion or from any
sacrifice."

"A wonderful sacrifice indeed," returned Philip, "to desert
a wretched country to come to a beautiful one, where a
greater effect can be produced for a crown than can be
procured elsewhere for four! Extraordinary devotion, really,
to travel a hundred leagues in company with a woman one is
in love with!"

"In love, Philip! think what you are saying. Who is in love
with Madame?"

"The Duke of Buckingham. Perhaps you will defend him, too."

Anne of Austria blushed and smiled at the same time. The
name of the Duke of Buckingham recalled certain
recollections of a very tender and melancholy nature. "The
Duke of Buckingham?" she murmured.

"Yes; one of those arm-chair soldiers ---- "

"The Buckinghams are loyal and brave," said Anne of Austria,
courageously.

"This is too bad; my own mother takes the part of my wife's
lover against me," exclaimed Philip, incensed to such an
extent that his weak organization was effected almost to
tears.

"Philip, my son," exclaimed Anne of Austria, "such an
expression is unworthy of you. Your wife has no lover and,
had she one, it would not be the Duke of Buckingham. The
members of that family, I repeat are loyal and discreet, and
the rights of hospitality are sure to be respected by them."

"The Duke of Buckingham is an Englishman, madame," said
Philip; "and may I ask if the English so very religiously
respect what belongs to princes of France?"

Anne blushed a second time, and turned aside under the
pretext of taking her pen from her desk again, but in
reality to conceal her confusion from her son. "Really,
Philip," she said, "you seem to discover expressions for the
purpose of embarrassing me, and your anger blinds you while
it alarms me; reflect a little."

"There is no need for reflection, madame. I can see with my
own eyes."

"Well, and what do you see?"

"That Buckingham never quits my wife. He presumes to make
presents to her, and she ventures to accept them. Yesterday
she was talking about sachets a la violette; well, our
French perfumers, you know very well, madame, for you have
over and over again asked for it without success -- our
French perfumers, I say, have never been able to procure
this scent. The duke, however, wore about him a sachet a la
violette, and I am sure that the one my wife has came from
him."

"Indeed, monsieur," said Anne of Austria, "you build your
pyramids on needle points; be careful. What harm, I ask you,
can there be in a man giving to his countrywoman a receipt
for a new essence? These strange ideas, I protest, painfully
recall your father to me; he who so frequently and so
unjustly made me suffer."

"The Duke of Buckingham's father was probably more reserved
and more respectful than his son," said Philip,
thoughtlessly, not perceiving how deeply he had wounded his
mother's feelings. The queen turned pale, and pressed her
clenched hands upon her bosom; but, recovering herself
immediately, she said, "You came here with some intention or
another, I suppose?"

"Certainly."

"What was it?"

"I came, madame, intending to complain energetically, and to
inform you that I will not submit to such behavior from the
Duke of Buckingham."

"What do you intend to do, then?"

"I shall complain to the king."

"And what do you expect the king to reply?"

"Very well, then," said Monsieur, with an expression of
stern determination on his countenance, which offered a
singular contrast to its usual gentleness. "Very well. I
will right myself!"

"What do you call righting yourself?" inquired Anne of
Austria, in alarm.

"I will have the Duke of Buckingham quit the princess, I
will have him quit France, and I will see that my wishes are
intimated to him."

"You will intimate nothing of the kind, Philip," said the
queen, "for if you act in that manner, and violate
hospitality to that extent, I will invoke the severity of
the king against you."

"Do you threaten me, madame?" exclaimed Philip, almost in
tears; "do you threaten me in the midst of my complaints!"

"I do not threaten you; I do but place an obstacle in the
path of your hasty anger. I maintain that, to adopt towards
the Duke of Buckingham, or any other Englishman, any
rigorous measure -- to take even a discourteous step towards
him, would be to plunge France and England into the most
disastrous disagreement. Can it be possible that a prince of
the blood, the brother of the king of France, does not know
how to hide an injury, even did it exist in reality, where
political necessity requires it?" Philip made a movement.
"Besides," continued the queen, "the injury is neither true
nor possible, and it is merely a matter of silly jealousy."

"Madame, I know what I know."

"Whatever you may know, I can only advise you to be
patient."

"I am not patient by disposition, madame."

The queen rose, full of severity, and with an icy
ceremonious manner. "Explain what you really require,
monsieur," she said.

"I do not require anything, madame; I simply express what I
desire. If the Duke of Buckingham does not, of his own
accord, discontinue his visits to my apartments I shall
forbid him entrance."

"That is a point you will refer to the king," said Anne of
Austria, her heart swelling as she spoke, and her voice
trembling with emotion.

"But, madame," exclaimed Philip, striking his hands
together, "act as my mother and not as the queen, since I
speak to you as a son; it is simply a matter of a few
minutes' conversation between the duke and myself."

"It is that very conversation I forbid," said the queen,
resuming her authority, "because it is unworthy of you."

"Be it so; I will not appear in the matter, but I shall
intimate my will to Madame."

"Oh!" said the queen-mother, with a melancholy arising from
reflection, "never tyrannize over a wife -- never behave too
haughtily or imperiously towards your own. A woman
unwillingly convinced is unconvinced."

"What is to be done, then? -- I will consult my friends
about it."

"Yes, your double-dealing advisers, your Chevalier de
Lorraine -- your De Wardes. Intrust the conduct of this
affair to me. You wish the Duke of Buckingham to leave, do
you not?"

"As soon as possible, madame."

"Send the duke to me, then; smile upon your wife, behave to
her, to the king, to every one, as usual. But follow no
advice but mine. Alas! I too well know what any household
comes to that is troubled by advisers."

"You shall be obeyed, madame."

"And you will be satisfied at the result. Send the duke to
me."

"That will not be difficult."

"Where do you suppose him to be?"

"At my wife's door, whose levee he is probably awaiting."

"Very well." said Anne of Austria, calmly. "Be good enough
to tell the duke that I shall be charmed if he will pay me a
visit."

Philip kissed his mother's hand, and started off to find the
Duke of Buckingham.

CHAPTER 92

Forever!

The Duke of Buckingham, obedient to the queen-mother's
invitation, presented himself in her apartments half an hour
after the departure of the Duc d'Orleans. When his name was
announced by the gentleman-usher in attendance, the queen,
who was sitting with her elbow resting on a table, and her
head buried in her hands, rose, and smilingly received the
graceful and respectful salutation which the duke addressed
to her. Anne of Austria was still beautiful. It is well
known that at her then somewhat advanced age, her long
auburn hair, perfectly formed hands, and bright ruby lips,
were still the admiration of all who saw her. On the present
occasion, abandoned entirely to a remembrance which evoked
all the past in her heart, she looked almost as beautiful as
in the days of her youth, when her palace was open to the
visits of the Duke of Buckingham's father, then a young and
impassioned man, as well as an unfortunate prince, who lived
for her alone, and died with her name upon his lips. Anne of
Austria fixed upon Buckingham a look so tender in its
expression, that it denoted, not alone the indulgence of
maternal affection, but a gentleness of expression like the
coquetry of a woman who loves.

"Your majesty," said Buckingham, respectfully, "desired to
speak to me."

"Yes, duke," said the queen, in English; "will you be good
enough to sit down?"

The favor which Anne of Austria thus extended to the young
man, and the welcome sound of the language of a country from
which the duke had been estranged since his stay in France,
deeply affected him. He immediately conjectured that the
queen had a request to make of him. After having abandoned
the first few moments to the irrepressible emotions she
experienced, the queen resumed the smiling air with which
she had received him. "What do you think of France?" she
said, in French.

"It is a lovely country, madame," replied the duke.

"Had you ever seen it before?"

"Once only, madame."

"But, like all true Englishmen, you prefer England?"

"I prefer my own native land to France," replied the duke;
"but if your majesty were to ask me which of the two cities,
London or Paris, I should prefer as a residence, I should be
forced to answer, Paris."

Anne of Austria observed the ardent manner with which these
words had been pronounced. "I am told my lord, you have rich
possessions in your own country and that you live in a
splendid and time-honored palace."

"It was my father's residence," replied Buckingham, casting
down his eyes.

"Those are indeed great advantages and souvenirs," replied
the queen, alluding, in spite of herself, to recollections
from which it is impossible voluntarily to detach one's
self.

"In fact," said the duke, yielding to the melancholy
influence of this opening conversation, "sensitive persons
live as much in the past or the future, as in the present."

"That is very true," said the queen, in a low tone of voice.
"It follows, then, my lord,' she added, "that you, who are a
man of feeling, will soon quit France in order to shut
yourself up with your wealth and your relics of the past."

Buckingham raised his head and said, "I think not, madame."

"What do you mean?"

"On the contrary, I think of leaving England in order to
take up my residence in France."

It was now Anne of Austria's turn to exhibit surprise.
"Why?" she said. "Are you not in favor with the new king?"

"Perfectly so, madame, for his majesty's kindness to me is
unbounded."

"It cannot," said the queen, "be because your fortune has
diminished, for it is said to be enormous."

"My income, madame, has never been so large."

"There is some secret cause, then?"

"No, madame," said Buckingham, eagerly, "there is nothing
secret in my reason for this determination. I prefer
residence in France; I like a court so distinguished by its
refinement and courtesy; I like the amusements, somewhat
serious in their nature, which are not the amusements of my
own country, and which are met with in France."

Anne of Austria smiled shrewdly. "Amusements of a serious
nature?" she said. "Has your Grace well reflected on their
seriousness?" The duke hesitated. "There is no amusement so
serious," continued the queen, "as to prevent a man of your
rank ---- "

"Your majesty seems to insist greatly on that point,"
interrupted the duke.

"Do you think so, my lord?"

"If you will forgive me for saying so, it is the second time
you have vaunted the attractions of England at the expense
of the delight which all experience who live in France."

Anne of Austria approached the young man, and placing her
beautiful hand upon his shoulder, which trembled at the
touch, said, "Believe me, monsieur, nothing can equal a
residence in one's own native country. I have very
frequently had occasion to regret Spain. I have lived long,
my lord, very long for a woman, and I confess to you, that
not a year has passed I have not regretted Spain."

"Not one year, madame?" said the young duke coldly. "Not one
of those years when you reigned Queen of Beauty -- as you
still are, indeed?"

"A truce to flattery, duke, for I am old enough to be your
mother." She emphasized these latter words in a manner, and
with a gentleness, which penetrated Buckingham's heart.
"Yes," she said, "I am old enough to be your mother; and for
this reason, I will give you a word of advice."

"That advice being that I should return to London?" he
exclaimed.

"Yes, my lord."

The duke clasped his hands with a terrified gesture which
could not fail of its effect upon the queen, already
disposed to softer feelings by the tenderness of her own
recollections. "It must be so," added the queen.

"What!" he again exclaimed, "am I seriously told that I must
leave, -- that I must exile myself, -- that I am to flee at
once?"

"Exile yourself, did you say? One would fancy France was
your native country."

"Madame, the country of those who love is the country of
those whom they love."

"Not another word, my lord; you forget whom you are
addressing."

Buckingham threw himself on his knees. "Madame, you are the
source of intelligence, of goodness, and of compassion; you
are the first person in this kingdom, not only by your rank,
but the first person in the world on account of your angelic
attributes. I have said nothing, madame. Have I, indeed,
said anything you should answer with such a cruel remark?
What have I betrayed?"

"You have betrayed yourself," said the queen, in a low tone
of voice.

"I have said nothing, -- I know nothing."

"You forget you have spoken and thought in the presence of a
woman, and besides ---- "

"Besides," said the duke, "no one knows you are listening to
me."

"On the contrary, it is known; you have all the defects and
all the qualities of youth."

"I have been betrayed or denounced, then?"

"By whom?"

"By those who, at Havre, had, with infernal perspicacity,
read my heart like an open book."

"I do not know whom you mean."

"M. de Bragelonne, for instance."

"I know the name without being acquainted with the person to
whom it belongs. M. de Bragelonne has said nothing."

"Who can it be, then? If any one, madame, had had the
boldness to notice in me that which I do not myself wish to
behold ---- "

"What would you do, duke?"

"There are secrets which kill those who discover them."

"He, then, who has discovered your secret, madman that you
are, still lives; and, what is more, you will not slay him,
for he is armed on all sides, -- he is a husband, a jealous
man, -- he is the second gentleman in France, -- he is my
son, the Duc d'Orleans."

The duke turned pale as death. "You are very cruel, madame,"
he said.

"You see, Buckingham," said Anne of Austria, sadly, "how you
pass from one extreme to another, and fight with shadows,
when it would seem so easy to remain at peace with
yourself."

"If we fight, madame, we die on the field of battle,"
replied the young man, gently, abandoning himself to the
most gloomy depression.

Anne ran towards him and took him by the hand. "Villiers,"
she said, in English, with a vehemence of tone which nothing
could resist, "what is it you ask? Do you ask a mother to
sacrifice her son, -- a queen to consent to the dishonor of
her house? Child that you are, do not dream of it. What! in
order to spare your tears am I to commit these crimes?
Villiers! you speak of the dead; the dead, at least, were
full of respect and submission; they resigned themselves to
an order of exile; they carried their despair away with them
in their hearts, like a priceless possession, because the
despair was caused by the woman they loved, and because
death, thus deceptive, was like a gift or a favor conferred
upon them."

Buckingham rose, his features distorted, and his hands
pressed against his heart. "You are right, madame," he said,
"but those of whom you speak had received their order of
exile from the lips of the one whom they loved; they were
not driven away; they were entreated to leave, and were not
laughed at."

"No," murmured Anne of Austria, "they were not forgotten.
But who says you are driven away, or that you are exiled?
Who says that your devotion will not be remembered? I do not
speak on any one's behalf but my own, when I tell you to
leave. Do me this kindness -- grant me this favor; let me,
for this also, be indebted to one of your name."

"It is for your sake, then, madame?"

"For mine alone."

"No one whom I shall leave behind me will venture to mock,
-- no prince even who shall say, `I required it.'"

"Listen to me, duke," and hereupon the dignified features of
the queen assumed a solemn expression. "I swear to you that
no one commands in this matter but myself. I swear to you
that, not only shall no one either laugh or boast in any
way, but no one even shall fail in the respect due to your
rank. Rely upon me, duke, as I rely upon you."

"You do not explain yourself, madame; my heart is full of
bitterness, and I am in utter despair; no consolation,
however gentle and affectionate, can afford me relief."

"Do you remember your mother, duke?" replied the queen, with
a winning smile.

"Very slightly, madame; yet I remember how she used to cover
me with her caresses and her tears whenever I wept."

"Villiers," murmured the queen, passing her arm round the
young man's neck, "look upon me as your mother, and believe
that no one shall ever make my son weep."

"I thank you, madame," said the young man, affected and
almost suffocated by his emotion, "I feel there is indeed
still room in my heart for a gentler and nobler sentiment
than love."

The queen-mother looked at him and pressed his hand. "Go,"
she said.

"When must I leave? Command me."

"At any time that may suit you, my lord," resumed the queen;
"you will choose your own day of departure. Instead,
however, of setting off to-day, as you would doubtless wish
to do, or to-morrow, as others may have expected, leave the
day after to-morrow, in the evening; but announce to-day
that it is your wish to leave."

"My wish?" murmured the young duke.

"Yes, duke."

"And shall I never return to France?"

Anne of Austria reflected for a moment, seemingly absorbed
in sad and serious thought. "It would be a consolation for
me," she said, "if you were to return on the day when I
shall be carried to my final resting-place at Saint-Denis
beside the king, my husband."

"Madame, you are goodness itself; the tide of prosperity is
setting in on you; your cup brims over with happiness, and
many long years are yet before you."

"In that case you will not come for some time, then," said
the queen, endeavoring to smile.

"I shall not return," said Buckingham, "young as I am. Death
does not reckon by years; it is impartial; some die young,
some reach old age."

"I will not harbor any sorrowful ideas, duke. Let me comfort
you; return in two years. I perceive from your face that the
very idea which saddens you so much now, will have
disappeared before six months have passed, and will be not
only dead but forgotten in the period of absence I have
assigned you.'

"I think you judged me better a little while ago madame,"
replied the young man, "when you said that time is powerless
against members of the family of Buckingham."

"Silence," said the queen, kissing the duke upon the
forehead with an affection she could not restrain. "Go, go;
spare me and forget yourself no longer. I am the queen; you
are the subject of the king of England. King Charles awaits
your return. Adieu, Villiers, -- farewell."

"Forever!" replied the young man, and he fled, endeavoring
to master his emotion.

Anne leaned her head upon her hands, and then looking at
herself in the glass, murmured, "It has been truly said,
that a woman who has truly loved is always young, and that
the bloom of twenty years ever lies concealed in some secret
cloister of the heart."

CHAPTER 93

King Louis XIV. does not think Mademoiselle de la
Valliere either rich enough or pretty enough for a
Gentleman of the Rank of the Vicomte de Bragelonne

Raoul and the Comte de la Fere reached Paris the evening of
the same day on which Buckingham had held the conversation
with the queen-mother. The count had scarcely arrived, when,
through Raoul, he solicited an audience of the king. His
majesty had passed a portion of the morning in looking over,
with Madame and the ladies of the court, various goods of
Lyons manufacture, of which he had made his sister-in-law a
present. A court dinner had succeeded, then cards, and
afterwards, according to his usual custom, the king, leaving
the card-tables at eight o'clock, passed into his cabinet in
order to work with M. Colbert and M. Fouquet. Raoul entered
the ante-chamber at the very moment the two ministers
quitted it, and the king, perceiving him through the
half-closed door, said, "What do you want, M. de
Bragelonne?"

The young man approached: "An audience, sire," he replied,
"for the Comte de la Fere, who has just arrived from Blois,
and is most anxious to have an interview with your majesty."

"I have an hour to spare between cards and supper," said the
king. "Is the Comte de la Fere at hand?"

"He is below, and awaits your majesty's permission."

"Let him come up at once," said the king, and five minutes
afterwards Athos entered the presence of Louis XIV. He was
received by the king with that gracious kindness of manner
which Louis, with a tact beyond his years, reserved for the
purpose of gaining those who were not to be conquered by
ordinary favors. "Let me hope, comte," said the king, "that
you have come to ask me for something."

"I will not conceal from your majesty," replied the comte,
"that I am indeed come for that purpose."

"That is well," said the king, joyously.

"It is not for myself, sire."

"So much the worse; but, at least, I will do for your
protege what you refuse to permit me to do for you."

"Your majesty encourages me. I have come to speak on behalf
of the Vicomte de Bragelonne."

"It is the same as if you spoke on your own behalf, comte."

"Not altogether so, sire. I am desirous of obtaining from
your majesty that which I cannot ask for myself. The vicomte
thinks of marrying."

"He is still very young; but that does not matter. He is an
eminently distinguished man, I will choose a wife for him."

"He has already chosen one, sire, and only awaits your
consent."

"It is only a question, then, of signing the
marriage-contract?" Athos bowed. "Has he chosen a wife whose
fortune and position accord with your own anticipations?"

Athos hesitated for a moment. "His affianced wife is of good
birth, but has no fortune."

"That is a misfortune we can remedy."

"You overwhelm me with gratitude, sire; but your majesty
will permit me to offer a remark?"

"Do so, comte."

"Your majesty seems to intimate an intention of giving a
marriage-portion to this young lady."

"Certainly."

"I should regret, sire, if the step I have taken towards
your majesty should be attended by this result."

"No false delicacy, comte; what is the bride's name?"

"Mademoiselle de la Baume le Blanc de la Valliere," said
Athos, coldly."

"I seem to know that name," said the king, as if reflecting;
"there was a Marquis de la Valliere"

"Yes, sire, it is his daughter."

"But he died, and his widow married again M. de Saint-Remy,
I think, steward of the wager Madame's household."

"Your majesty is correctly informed."

"More than that, the young lady has lately become one of the
princess's maids of honor."

"Your majesty is better acquainted with her history than I
am."

The king again reflected, and glancing at the comte's
anxious countenance, said: "The young lady does not seem to
me to be very pretty, comte."

"I am not quite sure," replied Athos.

"I have seen her, but she hardly struck me as being so."

"She seems to be a good and modest girl, but has little
beauty, sire."

"Beautiful fair hair, however."

"I think so."

"And her blue eyes are tolerably good."

"Yes, sire."

"With regard to beauty, then, the match is but an ordinary
one. Now for the money side of the question."

"Fifteen to twenty thousand francs dowry at the very
outside, sire; the lovers are disinterested enough; for
myself, I care little for money."

"For superfluity, you mean; but a needful amount is of
importance. With fifteen thousand francs, without landed
property, a woman cannot live at court. We will make up the
deficiency; I will do it for De Bragelonne." The king again
remarked the coldness with which Athos received the remark.

"Let us pass from the question of money to that of rank,"
said Louis XIV.; "the daughter of the Marquis de la
Valliere, that is well enough; but there is that excellent
Saint-Remy, who somewhat damages the credit of the family;
and you, comte, are rather particular, I believe, about your
own family."

"Sire, I no longer hold to anything but my devotion to your
majesty."

The king again paused. "A moment, comte. You have surprised
me in no little degree from the beginning of your
conversation. You came to ask me to authorize a marriage,
and you seem greatly disturbed in having to make the
request. Nay, pardon me, comte, but I am rarely deceived,
young as I am; for while with some persons I place my
friendship at the disposal of my understanding, with others
I call my distrust to my aid, by which my discernment is
increased. I repeat that you do not prefer your request as
though you wished it success."

"Well, sire, that is true."

"I do not understand you, then; refuse."

"Nay, sire; I love De Bragelonne with my whole heart; he is
smitten with Mademoiselle de la Valliere, he weaves dreams
of bliss for the future; I am not one who is willing to
destroy the illusions of youth. This marriage is
objectionable to me, but I implore your majesty to consent
to it forthwith, and thus make Raoul happy."

"Tell me, comte, is she in love with him?"

"If your majesty requires me to speak candidly, I do not
believe in Mademoiselle de la Valliere's affection; the
delight at being at court, the honor of being in the service
of Madame, counteract in her head whatever affection she may
happen to have in her heart; it is a marriage similar to
many others which already exist at court; but De Bragelonne
wishes it, and so let it be."

"And yet you do not resemble those easy-tempered fathers who
volunteer as stepping-stones for their children," said the
king.

"I am determined enough against the viciously disposed, but
not so against men of upright character. Raoul is suffering;
he is in great distress of mind: his disposition, naturally
light and cheerful, has become gloomy and melancholy. I do
not wish to deprive your majesty of the services he may be
able to render."

"I understand you," said the king; "and what is more, I
understand your heart, too, comte."

"There is no occasion, therefore," replied the comte, "to
tell your majesty that my object is to make these children,
or rather Raoul, happy."

"And I, too, as much as yourself, comte, wish to secure M.
de Bragelonne's happiness."

"I only await your majesty's signature. Raoul will have the
honor of presenting himself before your majesty to receive
your consent."

"You are mistaken, comte," said the king, firmly; "I have
just said that I desire to secure M. de Bragelonne's
happiness, and from the present moment, therefore, I oppose
his marriage."

"But, sire," exclaimed Athos, "your majesty has promised!"

"Not so, comte, I did not promise you, for it is opposed to
my own views."

"I appreciate your majesty's considerate and generous
intentions in my behalf; but I take the liberty of recalling
to you that I undertook to approach you as an ambassador."

"An ambassador, comte, frequently asks, but does not always
obtain what he asks."

"But, sire, it will be such a blow for De Bragelonne."

"My hand shall deal the blow; I will speak to the vicomte."

"Love, sir, is overwhelming in its might."

"Love can be resisted, comte. I myself can assure you of
that."

"When one has the soul of a king, -- your own, for instance,
sire."

"Do not make yourself uneasy on the subject. I have certain
views for De Bragelonne. I do not say that he shall not
marry Mademoiselle de la Valliere, but I do not wish him to
marry so young; I do not wish him to marry her until she has
acquired a fortune; and he, on his side, no less deserves
favor, such as I wish to confer upon him. In a word, comte,
I wish them to wait."

"Yet once more, sire."

"Comte, you told me you came to request a favor."

"Assuredly, sire."

"Grant me one, then, instead; let us speak no longer upon
this matter. It is probable that, before long, war may be
declared. I require men about me who are unfettered. I
should hesitate to send under fire a married man, or a
father of a family. I should hesitate also, on De
Bragelonne's account, to endow with a fortune, without some
sound reason for it, a young girl, a perfect stranger; such
an act would sow jealousy amongst my nobility." Athos bowed,
and remained silent.

"Is that all you wished to ask me?" added Louis XIV.

"Absolutely all, sire; and I take my leave of your majesty.
Is it, however, necessary that I should inform Raoul?"

"Spare yourself the trouble and annoyance. Tell the vicomte
that at my levee to-morrow morning I will speak to him. I
shall expect you this evening, comte, to join my
card-table."

"I am in traveling-costume, sire."

"A day will come, I hope, when you will leave me no more.
Before long, comte, the monarchy will be established in such
a manner as to enable me to offer a worthy hospitality to
men of your merit."

"Provided, sire, a monarch reigns grandly in the hearts of
his subjects, the palace he inhabits matters little, since
he is worshipped in a temple." With these words Athos left
the cabinet, and found De Bragelonne, who was awaiting him
anxiously.

"Well, monsieur?" said the young man.

"The king, Raoul, is well intentioned towards us both; not,
perhaps, in the sense you suppose, but he is kind, and
generously disposed to our house."

"You have bad news to communicate to me, monsieur," said the
young man, turning very pale.

"The king himself will inform you tomorrow morning that it
is not bad news."

"The king has not signed, however?"

"The king wishes himself to settle the terms of the
contract, and he desires to make it so grand that he
requires time for consideration. Throw the blame rather on
your own impatience, than on the king's good feeling towards
you."

Raoul, in utter consternation, on account of his knowledge
of the count's frankness as well as his diplomacy, remained
plunged in dull and gloomy stupor.

"Will you not go with me to my lodgings?" said Athos.

"I beg your pardon, monsieur; I will follow you," he
stammered out, following Athos down the staircase.

"Since I am here," said Athos, suddenly, "cannot I see M.
d'Artagnan?"

"Shall I show you his apartments?" said De Bragelonne.

"Do so."

"They are on the opposite staircase."

They altered their course, but on reaching the landing of
the grand staircase, Raoul perceived a servant in the Comte
de Guiche's livery, who ran towards him as soon as he heard
his voice.

"What is it?" said Raoul.

"This note, monsieur. My master heard of your return and
wrote to you without delay; I have been looking for you for
the last half-hour."

Raoul approached Athos as he unsealed the letter. saying,
"With your permission, monsieur."

"Certainly."

"Dear Raoul," wrote the Comte de Guiche, "I have an affair
in hand which requires immediate attention; I know you have
returned, come to me as soon as possible."

Hardly had he finished reading it, when a servant in the
livery of the Duke of Buckingham, turning out of the
gallery, recognized Raoul, and approached him respectfully,
saying, "From his Grace, monsieur."

"Well, Raoul, as I see you are already as busy as a general
of an army, I shall leave you, and will find M. d'Artagnan
myself."

"You will excuse me, I trust," said Raoul.

"Yes, yes, I excuse you; adieu, Raoul; you will find me at
my apartments until to-morrow; during the day I may set out
for Blois, unless I have orders to the contrary."

"I shall present my respects to you to-morrow, monsieur."

As soon as Athos had left, Raoul opened Buckingham's letter.

"Monsieur de Bragelonne," it ran, "You are, of all the
Frenchmen I have known, the one with whom I am most pleased;
I am about to put your friendship to the proof. I have
received a certain message, written in very good French. As
I am an Englishman, I am afraid of not comprehending it very
clearly. The letter has a good name attached to it, and that
is all I can tell you. Will you be good enough to come and
see me? for I am told you have arrived from Blois.

"Your devoted

"Villiers, Duke of Buckingham."

"I am going now to see your master," said Raoul to De
Guiche's servant, as he dismissed him; "and I shall be with
the Duke of Buckingham in an hour," he added, dismissing
with these words the duke's messenger.

CHAPTER 94

Sword-thrusts in the Water

Raoul, on betaking himself to De Guiche, found him
conversing with De Wardes and Manicamp. De Wardes, since the
affair of the barricade, had treated Raoul as a stranger;
they behaved as if they were not acquainted. As Raoul
entered, De Guiche walked up to him; and Raoul, as he
grasped his friend's hand, glanced rapidly at his two
companions, hoping to be able to read on their faces what
was passing in their minds. De Wardes was cold and
impenetrable; Manicamp seemed absorbed in the contemplation
of some trimming to his dress. De Guiche led Raoul to an
adjoining cabinet, and made him sit down, saying, "How well
you look!"

"That is singular," replied Raoul, "for I am far from being
in good spirits."

"It is your case, then, Raoul, as it is my own, -- our love
affairs do not progress."

"So much the better, count, as far as you are concerned; the
worst news would be good news."

"In that case do not distress yourself, for, not only am I
very unhappy, but, what is more, I see others about me who
are happy."

"Really, I do not understand you," replied Raoul; "explain
yourself."

"You will soon learn. I have tried, but in vain, to overcome
the feeling you saw dawn in me, increase and take entire
possession of me. I have summoned all your advice and my own
strength to my aid. I have well weighed the unfortunate
affair in which I have embarked; I have sounded its depths;
that it is an abyss, I am aware, but it matters little, for
I shall pursue my own course."

"This is madness, De Guiche! you cannot advance another step
without risking your own ruin to-day, perhaps your life
to-morrow."

"Whatever may happen, I have done with reflections; listen."

"And you hope to succeed; you believe that Madame will love
you?"

"Raoul, I believe nothing; I hope, because hope exists in
man, and never abandons him till death."

"But, admitting that you obtain the happiness you covet,
even then, you are more certainly lost than if you had
failed in obtaining it."

"I beseech you, Raoul, not to interrupt me any more; you
could never convince me, for I tell you beforehand, I do not
wish to be convinced; I have gone so far I cannot recede; I
have suffered so much, death itself would be a boon. I no
longer love to madness, Raoul, I am being engulfed by a
whirlpool of jealousy."

Raoul struck his hands together with an expression
resembling anger. "Well?" said he.

"Well or ill matters little. This is what I claim from you,
my friend, my almost brother. During the last three days
Madame has been living in a perfect intoxication of gayety.
On the first day, I dared not look at her; I hated her for
not being as unhappy as myself. The next day I could not
bear her out of my sight; and she, Raoul -- at least I
thought I remarked it -- she looked at me, if not with pity,
at least with gentleness. But between her looks and mine, a
shadow intervened; another's smile invited hers. Beside her
horse another's always gallops, which is not mine; in her
ear another's caressing voice, not mine, unceasingly
vibrates. Raoul, for three days past my brain has been on
fire; flame, not blood, courses through my veins. That
shadow must be driven away, that smile must be quenched;
that voice must be silenced."

"You wish Monsieur's death," exclaimed Raoul.

"No, no, I am not jealous of the husband; I am jealous of
the lover."

"Of the lover?" said Raoul.

"Have you not observed it, you who were formerly so
keen-sighted?"

"Are you jealous of the Duke of Buckingham?"

"To the very death."

"Again jealous?"

"This time the affair will be easy to arrange between us; I
have taken the initiative, and have sent him a letter."

"It was you, then, who wrote to him?"

"How do you know that?"

"I know it, because he told me so. Look at this;" and he
handed De Guiche the letter he had received nearly at the
same moment as his own. De Guiche read it eagerly, and said,
"He is a brave man, and more than that, a gallant man."

"Most certainly the duke is a gallant man; I need not ask if
you wrote to him in a similar style."

"He will show you my letter when you call on him on my
behalf."

"But that is almost out of the question."

"What is?"

"That I shall call on him for that purpose."

"Why so?"

"The duke consults me as you do."

"I suppose you will give me the preference! Listen to me,
Raoul, I wish you to tell his Grace -- it is a very simple
matter -- that to-day, to-morrow, the following day, or any
other day he may choose. I will meet him at Vincennes."

"Reflect, De Guiche."

"I thought I told you I have reflected."

"The duke is a stranger here; he is on a mission which
renders his person inviolable.... Vincennes is close to the
Bastile."

"The consequences concern me."

"But the motive for this meeting? What motive do you wish me
to assign?"

"Be perfectly easy on that score, he will not ask any. The
duke must be as sick of me as I am of him. I implore you,
therefore, seek the duke, and if it is necessary to entreat
him to accept my offer, I will do so."

"That is useless. The duke has already informed me that he
wishes to speak to me. The duke is now playing cards with
the king. Let us both go there. I will draw him aside in the
gallery: you will remain aloof. Two words will be
sufficient."

"That is well arranged. I will take De Wardes to keep me in
countenance."

"Why not Manicamp? De Wardes can join us at any time; we can
leave him here."

"Yes, that is true."

"He knows nothing?"

"Positively nothing. You continue still on an unfriendly
footing, then?"

"Has he not told you anything?"

"Nothing."

"I do not like the man, and, as I never liked him, the
result is, that I am on no worse terms with him to-day than
I was yesterday."

"Let us go, then."

The four descended the stairs. De Guiche's carriage was
waiting at the door, and took them to the Palais-Royal. As
they were going along, Raoul was engaged in devising his
scheme of action. The sole depositary of two secrets, he did
not despair of concluding some arrangement between the two
parties. He knew the influence he exercised over Buckingham,
and the ascendency he had acquired over De Guiche, and
affairs did not look utterly hopeless. On their arrival in
the gallery, dazzling with the blaze of light, where the
most beautiful and illustrious women of the court moved to
and fro, like stars in their own atmosphere, Raoul could not
prevent himself for a moment forgetting De Guiche in order
to seek out Louise, who, amidst her companions, like a dove
completely fascinated, gazed long and fixedly upon the royal
circle, which glittered with jewels and gold. All its
members were standing, the king alone being seated. Raoul
perceived Buckingham, who was standing a few places from
Monsieur, in a group of French and English, who were
admiring his aristocratic carriage and the incomparable
magnificence of his costume. Some of the older courtiers
remembered having seen his father, but their recollections
were not prejudicial to the son.

Buckingham was conversing with Fouquet, who was talking with
him aloud about Belle-Isle. "I cannot speak to him at
present," said Raoul.

"Wait, then, and choose your opportunity, but finish
everything speedily. I am on thorns."

"See, our deliverer approaches," said Raoul, perceiving
D'Artagnan, who, magnificently dressed in his new uniform of
captain of the musketeers, had just made his entry in the
gallery; and he advanced towards D'Artagnan.

"The Comte de la Fere has been looking for you, chevalier,"
said Raoul.

"Yes," replied D'Artagnan, "I have just left him."

"I thought you would have passed a portion of the evening
together."

"We have arranged to meet again."

As he answered Raoul, his absent looks were directed on all
sides, as if seeking some one in the crowd, or looking for
something in the room. Suddenly his gaze became fixed, like
that of an eagle on its prey. Raoul followed the direction
of his glance, and noticed that De Guiche and D'Artagnan
saluted each other, but he could not distinguish at whom the
captain's inquiring and haughty glance was aimed.

"Chevalier," said Raoul, "there is no one here but yourself
who can render me a service."

"What is it, my dear vicomte?"

"It is simply to go and interrupt the Duke of Buckingham, to
whom I wish to say two words, and, as the duke is conversing
with M. Fouquet, you understand that it would not do for me
to throw myself into the middle of the conversation."

"Ah, ah, is M. Fouquet there?" inquired D'Artagnan.

"Do you not see him?"

"Yes, now I do. But do you think I have a greater right than
you have?"

"You are a more important personage."

"Yes, you're right; I am captain of the musketeers; I have
had the post promised me so long, and have enjoyed it for so
brief a period, that I am always forgetting my dignity."

"You will do me this service, will you not?"

"M. Fouquet -- the deuce!"

"Are you not on good terms with him?"

"It is rather he who may not be on good terms with me;
however, since it must be done some day or another ---- "

"Stay; I think he is looking at you; or is it likely that it
might be ---- "

"No, no, don't deceive yourself, it is indeed me for whom
this honor is intended."

"The opportunity is a good one, then?"

"Do you think so?"

"Pray go."

"Well, I will."

De Guiche had not removed his eyes from Raoul, who made a
sign to him that all was arranged. D'Artagnan walked
straight up to the group, and civilly saluted M. Fouquet as
well as the others.

"Good evening, M. d'Artagnan; we were speaking of
Belle-Isle," said Fouquet, with that usage of society, and
that perfect knowledge of the language of looks, which
require half a lifetime thoroughly to acquire, and which
some persons, notwithstanding all their study, never attain.

"Of Belle-Isle-en-Mer! Ah!" said D'Artagnan. "It belongs to
you, I believe, M. Fouquet?"

"M. Fouquet has just told me that he had presented it to the
king," said Buckingham.

"Do you know Belle-Isle, chevalier?" inquired Fouquet.

"I have only been there once," replied D'Artagnan, with
readiness and good-humor.

"Did you remain there long?"

"Scarcely a day."

"Did you see much of it while you were there?"

"All that could be seen in a day."

"A great deal can be seen with observation as keen as
yours," said Fouquet; at which D'Artagnan bowed.

During this Raoul made a sign to Buckingham. "M. Fouquet,"
said Buckingham, "I leave the captain with you, he is more
learned than I am in bastions, scarps, and counter-scarps,
and I will join one of my friends, who has just beckoned
me." Saying this, Buckingham disengaged himself from the
group, and advanced towards Raoul, stopping for a moment at
the table where the queen-mother, the young queen, and the
king were playing together.

"Now, Raoul," said De Guiche, "there he is; be firm and
quick."

Buckingham, having made some complimentary remark to Madame,
continued his way towards Raoul, who advanced to meet him,
while De Guiche remained in his place, though he followed
him with his eyes. The maneuver was so arranged that the
young men met in an open space which was left vacant,
between the group of players and the gallery, where they
walked, stopping now and then for the purpose of saying a
few words to some of the graver courtiers who were walking
there. At the moment when the two lines were about to unite,
they were broken by a third. It was Monsieur who advanced
toward the Duke of Buckingham. Monsieur had his most
engaging smile on his red and perfumed lips.

"My dear duke," said he, with the most affectionate
politeness; "is it really true what I have just been told?"

Buckingham turned round, he had not noticed Monsieur
approach; but had merely heard his voice. He started in
spite of his command over himself, and a slight pallor
overspread his face. "Monseigneur," he asked, "what has been
told you that surprises you so much?"

"That which throws me into despair, and will, in truth, be a
real cause of mourning for the whole court."

"Your highness is very kind, for I perceive that you allude
to my departure."

"Precisely."

Guiche had overheard the conversation from where he was
standing, and started in his turn. "His departure," he
murmured. "What does he say?"

Philip continued with the same gracious air, "I can easily
conceive, monsieur, why the king of Great Britain recalls
you; we all know that King Charles II.; who appreciates true
gentlemen, cannot dispense with you. But it cannot be
supposed we can let you go without great regret; and I beg
you to receive the expression of my own."

"Believe me, monseigneur," said the duke, "that if I quit
the court of France ---- "

"Because you are recalled; but, if you suppose the
expression of my own wish on the subject might possibly have
any influence with the king, I will gladly volunteer to
entreat his majesty Charles II. to leave you with us a
little while longer."

"I am overwhelmed, monseigneur, by so much kindness,"
replied Buckingham, "but I have received positive commands.
My residence in France was limited; I have prolonged it at
the risk of displeasing my gracious sovereign. It is only
this very day that I recollected I ought to have set off
four days ago."

"Indeed," said Monsieur.

"Yes, but," added Buckingham, raising his voice in such a
manner that the princess could hear him, -- "but I resemble
that dweller in the East, who turned mad, and remained so
for several days, owing to a delightful dream that he had
had, but who one day awoke, if not completely cured, in some
respects rational at least. The court of France has its
intoxicating properties, which are not unlike this dream, my
lord; but at last I wake and leave it. I shall be unable,
therefore, to prolong my residence, as your highness has so
kindly invited me to do."

"When do you leave?" inquired Philip, with an expression
full of interest.

"To-morrow, monseigneur. My carriages have been ready for
three days."

The Duc d'Orleans made a movement of the head, which seemed
to signify, "Since you are determined, duke, there is
nothing to be said." Buckingham returned the gesture,
concealing under a smile a contraction of his heart; and
then Monsieur moved away in the same direction by which he
had approached. At the same moment, however, De Guiche
advanced from the opposite direction. Raoul feared that the
impatient young man might possibly make the proposition
himself, and hurried forward before him.

"No, no, Raoul, all is useless now," said Guiche, holding
both his hands toward the duke, and leading him behind a
column. "Forgive me, duke, for what I wrote to you, I was
mad; give me back my letter."

"It is true," said the duke, "you cannot owe me a grudge any
longer now."

"Forgive me, duke; my friendship, my lasting friendship is
yours."

"There is certainly no reason why you should bear me any
ill-will from the moment I leave her never to see her
again."

Raoul heard these words, and comprehending that his presence
was now useless between the two young men, who had now only
friendly words to exchange, withdrew a few paces; a movement
which brought him closer to De Wardes, who was conversing
with the Chevalier de Lorraine respecting the departure of
Buckingham. "A strategic retreat," said De Wardes.

"Why so?"

"Because the dear duke saves a sword-thrust by it." At which
reply both laughed.

Raoul, indignant, turned round frowningly, flushed with
anger and his lip curling with disdain. The Chevalier de
Lorraine turned on his heel, but De Wardes remained and
waited.

"You will not break yourself of the habit," said Raoul to De
Wardes, "of insulting the absent; yesterday it was M.

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