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Louise de la Valliere by Alexandre Dumas, Pere

Part 10 out of 12

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the top of the staircase. They then separated, Raoul pretending to thank
her highness; Henrietta pitying, or seeming to pity, with all her heart,
the wretched young man she had just condemned to such fearful torture.
"Oh!" she said, as she saw him disappear, pale as death, and his eyes
bursting with blood, "if I had foreseen this, I would have hid the truth
from that poor gentleman."

Chapter LIV:
Porthos's Plan of Action.

The great number of individuals we have introduced into this long story
is the reason why each of them has been forced to appear only in turn,
according to the exigencies of the recital. The result is, that our
readers have had no opportunity of meeting our friend Porthos since his
return from Fontainebleau. The honors which he had received from the
king had not changed the easy, affectionate character of that excellent-
hearted man; he may, perhaps, have held up his head a little higher than
usual, and a majesty of demeanor, as it were, may have betrayed itself
since the honor of dining at the king's table had been accorded him. His
majesty's banqueting-room had produced a certain effect on Porthos. Le
Seigneur de Bracieux et de Pierrefonds delighted to remember that, during
that memorable dinner, the numerous array of servants, and the large
number of officials in attendance on the guests, gave a certain tone and
effect to the repast, and seemed, as it were, to furnish the room.
Porthos undertook to confer upon Mouston a position of some kind or
other, in order to establish a sort of hierarchy among his other
domestics, and to create a military household, which was not unusual
among the great captains of the age, since, in the preceding century,
this luxury had been greatly encouraged by Messieurs de Treville, de
Schomberg, de la Vieuville, without alluding to M. de Richelieu, M. de
Conde, and de Bouillon-Turenne. And, therefore, why should not he,
Porthos, the friend of the king, and of M. Fouquet, a baron, and
engineer, etc., why should not he, indeed, enjoy all the delightful
privileges which large possessions and unusual merit invariably confer?
Somewhat neglected by Aramis, who, we know, was greatly occupied with M.
Fouquet; neglected, also, on account of his being on duty, by D'Artagnan;
tired of Truchen and Planchet, Porthos was surprised to find himself
dreaming, without precisely knowing why; but if any one had said to him,
"Do you want anything, Porthos?" he would most certainly have replied,
"Yes." After one of those dinners, during which Porthos attempted to
recall to his recollection all the details of the royal banquet, gently
joyful, thanks to the excellence of the wines; gently melancholy, thanks
to his ambitions ideas, Porthos was gradually falling off into a placid
doze, when his servant entered to announce that M. de Bragelonne wished
to speak to him. Porthos passed into an adjoining room, where he found
his young friend in the disposition of mind we are already aware of.
Raoul advanced towards Porthos, and shook him by the hand; Porthos,
surprised at his seriousness of aspect, offered him a seat. "Dear M. du
Vallon," said Raoul, "I have a service to ask of you."

"Nothing could happen more fortunately, my young friend," replied
Porthos; "I have eight thousand livres sent me this morning from
Pierrefonds; and if you want any money - "

"No, I thank you; it is not money."

"So much the worse, then. I have always heard it said that that is the
rarest service, but the easiest to render. The remark struck me; I like
to cite remarks that strike me."

"Your heart is as good as your mind is sound and true."

"You are much too kind, I declare. You will dine here, of course?"

"No; I am not hungry."

"Eh! not dine? What a dreadful country England is!"

"Not too much so, indeed - but - "

"Well, if such excellent fish and meat were not to be procured there, it
would hardly be endurable."

"Yes, I came to - "

"I am listening. Only just allow me to take a little sip. One gets
thirsty in Paris;" and he ordered a bottle of champagne to be brought;
and, having first filled Raoul's glass, he filled his own, drank it down
at a gulp, and then resumed: "I needed that, in order to listen to you
with proper attention. I am now entirely at your service. What do you
wish to ask me, dear Raoul? What do you want?"

"Give me your opinion on quarrels in general, my dear friend."

"My opinion! Well - but - Explain your idea a little more coherently,"
replied Porthos, rubbing his forehead.

"I mean - you are generally good-humored, good-tempered, whenever any
misunderstanding arises between a friend of yours and a stranger, for

"Oh! in the best of tempers."

"Very good; but what do you do, in such a case?"

"Whenever any friend of mine gets into a quarrel, I always act on one

"What is that?"

"That lost time is irreparable, and one never arranges an affair so well
as when everything has been done to embroil the disputants as much as

"Ah! indeed, is that the principle on which you proceed?"

"Precisely; so, as soon as a quarrel takes place, I bring the two parties


"You understand that by this means it is impossible for an affair not to
be arranged."

"I should have thought that, treated in this manner, an affair would, on
the contrary - "

"Oh! not the least in the world. Just fancy, now, I have had in my life
something like a hundred and eighty to a hundred and ninety regular
duels, without reckoning hasty encounters, or chance meetings."

"It is a very handsome aggregate," said Raoul, unable to resist a smile.

"A mere nothing; but I am so gentle. D'Artagnan reckons his duels by
hundreds. It is very true he is a little too hard and sharp - I have
often told him so."

"And so," resumed Raoul, "you generally arrange the affairs of honor your
friends confide to you."

"There is not a single instance in which I have not finished by arranging
every one of them," said Porthos, with a gentleness and confidence that
surprised Raoul.

"But the way in which you settle them is at least honorable, I suppose?"

"Oh! rely upon that; and at this stage, I will explain my other principle
to you. As soon as my friend has intrusted his quarrel to me, this is
what I do; I go to his adversary at once, armed with a politeness and
self-possession absolutely requisite under such circumstances."

"That is the way, then," said Raoul, bitterly, "that you arrange affairs
so safely."

"I believe you. I go to the adversary, then, and say to him: 'It is
impossible, monsieur, that you are ignorant of the extent to which you
have insulted my friend.'" Raoul frowned at this remark.

"It sometimes happens - very often, indeed," pursued Porthos - "that my
friend has not been insulted at all; he has even been the first to give
offense; you can imagine, therefore, whether my language is or is not
well chosen." And Porthos burst into a peal of laughter.

"Decidedly," said Raoul to himself while the merry thunder of Porthos's
laughter was resounding in his ears, "I am very unfortunate. De Guiche
treats me with coolness, D'Artagnan with ridicule, Porthos is too tame;
no one will settle this affair in the only way I wish it to be settled.
And I came to Porthos because I wanted to find a sword instead of cold
reasoning at my service. My ill-luck dogs me."

Porthos, who had recovered himself, continued: "By one simple expression,
I leave my adversary without an excuse."

"That is as it may happen," said Raoul, absently.

"Not at all, it is quite certain. I have not left him an excuse; and
then it is that I display all my courtesy, in order to attain the happy
issue of my project. I advance, therefore, with an air of great
politeness, and taking my adversary by the hand, I say to him: 'Now that
you are convinced of having given the offense, we are sure of reparation;
between my friend and yourself, the future can only offer an exchange of
mutual courtesies of conduct, and consequently, my mission now is to
acquaint you with the length of my friend's sword.'"

"What!" said Raoul.

"Wait a minute. 'The length of my friend's sword. My horse is waiting
below; my friend is in such and such a spot and is impatiently awaiting
your agreeable society; I will take you with me; we can call upon your
second as we go along:' and the affair is arranged."

"And so," said Raoul, pale with vexation, "you reconcile the two
adversaries on the ground."

"I beg your pardon," interrupted Porthos. "Reconcile! What for?"

"You said that the affair was arranged."

"Of course! since my friend is waiting for him."

"Well! what then? If he is waiting - "

"Well! if he is waiting, it is merely to stretch his legs a little. The
adversary, on the contrary, is stiff from riding; they place themselves
in proper order, and my friend kills the opponent, and the affair is

"Ah! he kills him, then?" cried Raoul.

"I should think so," said Porthos. "Is it likely I should ever have as a
friend a man who allows himself to get killed? I have a hundred and one
friends; at the head of the list stand your father, Aramis, and
D'Artagnan, all of whom are living and well, I believe?"

"Oh, my dear baron," exclaimed Raoul, as he embraced Porthos.

"You approve of my method, then?" said the giant.

"I approve of it so thoroughly, that I shall have recourse to it this
very day, without a moment's delay, - at once, in fact. You are the very
man I have been looking for."

"Good; here I am, then; you want to fight, I suppose?"


"It is very natural. With whom?"

"With M. de Saint-Aignan."

"I know him - a most agreeable man, who was exceedingly polite to me the
day I had the honor of dining with the king. I shall certainly
acknowledge his politeness in return, even if it had not happened to be
my usual custom. So, he has given you an offense?"

"A mortal offense."

"The deuce! I can say so, I suppose?"

"More than that, even, if you like."

"That is a very great convenience."

"I may look upon it as one of your arranged affairs, may I not?" said
Raoul, smiling.

"As a matter of course. Where will you be waiting for him?"

"Ah! I forgot; it is a very delicate matter. M. de Saint-Aignan is a
very great friend of the king's."

"So I have heard it said."

"So that if I kill him - "

"Oh! you will kill him, certainly; you must take every precaution to do
so. But there is no difficulty in these matters now; if you had lived in
our early days, - ah, those were days worth living for!"

"My dear friend, you do not quite understand me. I mean, that M. de
Saint-Aignan being a friend of the king, the affair will be more
difficult to manage, since the king might learn beforehand - "

"Oh! no; that is not likely. You know my method: 'Monsieur, you have
just injured my friend, and - '"

"Yes, I know it."

"And then: 'Monsieur, I have horses below.' I carry him off before he
can have spoken to any one."

"Will he allow himself to be carried off like that?"

"I should think so! I should like to see it fail. It would be the first
time, if it did. It is true, though, that the young men of the present
day - Bah! I would carry him off bodily, if that were all," and Porthos,
adding gesture to speech, lifted Raoul and the chair he was sitting on
off the ground, and carried them round the room.

"Very good," said Raoul, laughing. "All we have to do is to state the
grounds of the quarrel with M. de Saint-Aignan."

"Well, but that is done, it seems."

"No, my dear M. du Vallon, the usage of the present day requires that the
cause of the quarrel should be explained."

"Very good. Tell me what it is, then."

"The fact is - "

"Deuce take it! how troublesome all this is! In former days we had no
occasion to say anything about the matter. People fought for the sake of
fighting; and I, for one, know no better reason than that."

"You are quite right, M. du Vallon."

"However, tell me what the cause is."

"It is too long a story to tell; only, as one must particularize to a
certain extent, and as, on the other hand, the affair is full of
difficulties, and requires the most absolute secrecy, you will have the
kindness merely to tell M. de Saint-Aignan that he has, in the first
place, insulted me by changing his lodgings."

"By changing his lodgings? Good," said Porthos, who began to count on
his fingers; "next?"

"Then in getting a trap-door made in his new apartments."

"I understand," said Porthos; "a trap-door: upon my word, that is very
serious; you ought to be furious at that. What the deuce does the fellow
mean by getting trap-doors made without first consulting you? Trap-
doors! _mordioux!_ I haven't got any, except in my dungeons at Bracieux."

"And you will please add," said Raoul, "that my last motive for
considering myself insulted is, the existence of the portrait that M. de
Saint-Aignan well knows."

"Is it possible? A portrait, too! A change of residence, a trap-door,
and a portrait! Why, my dear friend, with but one of these causes of
complaint there is enough, and more than enough, for all the gentlemen in
France and Spain to cut each other's throats, and that is saying but very

"Well, my dear friend, you are furnished with all you need, I suppose?"

"I shall take a second horse with me. Select your own rendezvous, and
while you are waiting there, you can practice some of the best passes, so
as to get your limbs as elastic as possible."

"Thank you. I shall be waiting for you in the wood of Vincennes, close
to Minimes."

"All goes well, then. Where am I to find this M. de Saint-Aignan?"

"At the Palais Royal."

Porthos ran a huge hand-bell. "My court suit," he said to the servant
who answered the summons, "my horse, and a led horse to accompany me."
Then turning to Raoul, as soon as the servant had quitted the room, he
said: "Does your father know anything about this?"

"No; I am going to write to him."

"And D'Artagnan?"

"No, nor D'Artagnan either. He is very cautions, you know, and might
have diverted me from my purpose."

"D'Artagnan is a sound adviser, though," said Porthos, astonished that,
in his own loyal faith in D'Artagnan, any one could have thought of
himself, so long as there was a D'Artagnan in the world.

"Dear M. du Vallon," said Raoul, "do not question me any more, I implore
you. I have told you all that I had to say; it is prompt action I now
expect, sharp and decided as you know how to arrange it. That, indeed,
is my reason for having chosen you."

"You will be satisfied with me," replied Porthos.

"Do not forget, either, that, except ourselves, no one must know anything
of this meeting."

"People generally find these things out," said Porthos, dryly, "when a
dead body is discovered in a wood. But I promise everything, my dear
friend, except the concealment of the dead body. There it is, and it
must be seen, as a matter of course. It is a principle of mine, not to
bury bodies. That has a smack of the assassin about it. Every risk has
its peculiarities."

"To work, then, my dear friend."

"Rely upon me," said the giant, finishing the bottle, while a servant
spread out upon a sofa the gorgeously decorated dress trimmed with lace.

Raoul left the room, saying to himself, with a secret delight,
"Perfidious king! traitorous monarch! I cannot reach thee. I do not
wish it; for kings are sacred objects. But your friend, your accomplice,
your panderer - the coward who represents you - shall pay for your
crime. I will kill him in thy name, and, afterwards, we will bethink
ourselves of - _Louise_."

Chapter LV:
The Change of Residence, the Trap-Door, and the Portrait.

Porthos, intrusted, to his great delight, with this mission, which made
him feel young again, took half an hour less than his usual time to put
on his court suit. To show that he was a man acquainted with the usages
of high society, he had begun by sending his lackey to inquire if
Monsieur de Saint-Aignan were at home, and heard, in answer, that M. le
Comte de Saint-Aignan had had the honor of accompanying the king to Saint-
Germain, as well as the whole court; but that monsieur le comte had just
that moment returned. Immediately upon this reply, Porthos made as much
haste as possible, and reached Saint-Aignan's apartments just as the
latter was having his boots taken off. The promenade had been
delightful. The king, who was in love more than ever, and of course
happier than ever, behaved in the most charming manner to every one.
Nothing could possibly equal his kindness. M. de Saint-Aignan, it may be
remembered, was a poet, and fancied that he had proved that he was so
under too many a memorable circumstance to allow the title to be disputed
by any one. An indefatigable rhymester, he had, during the whole of the
journey, overwhelmed with quatrains, sextains, and madrigals, first the
king, and then La Valliere. The king, on his side, was in a similarly
poetical mood, and had made a distich; while La Valliere, delighting in
poetry, as most women do who are in love, had composed two sonnets. The
day, then, had not been a bad one for Apollo; and so, as soon as he had
returned to Paris, Saint-Aignan, who knew beforehand that his verse would
be sure to be extensively circulated in court circles, occupied himself,
with a little more attention than he had been able to bestow during the
promenade, with the composition, as well as with the idea itself.
Consequently, with all the tenderness of a father about to start his
children in life, he candidly interrogated himself whether the public
would find these offsprings of his imagination sufficiently elegant and
graceful; and in order to make his mind easy on the subject, M. de Saint-
Aignan recited to himself the madrigal he had composed, and which he had
repeated from memory to the king, and had promised to write out for him
on his return. All the time he was committing these words to memory, the
comte was engaged in undressing himself more completely. He had just
taken off his coat, and was putting on his dressing-gown, when he was
informed that Monsieur le Baron du Vallon de Bracieux de Pierrefonds was
waiting to be received.

"Eh!" he said, "what does that bunch of names mean? I don't know
anything about him."

"It is the same gentleman," replied the lackey, "who had the honor of
dining with you, monseigneur, at the king's table, when his majesty was
staying at Fontainebleau."

"Introduce him, then, at once," cried Saint-Aignan.

Porthos, in a few minutes, entered the room. M. de Saint-Aignan had an
excellent recollection of persons, and, at the first glance, he
recognized the gentleman from the country, who enjoyed so singular a
reputation, and whom the king had received so favorably at Fontainebleau,
in spite of the smiles of some of those who were present. He therefore
advanced towards Porthos with all the outward signs of consideration of
manner which Porthos thought but natural, considering that he himself,
whenever he called upon an adversary, hoisted a standard of the most
refined politeness. Saint-Aignan desired the servant to give Porthos a
chair; and the latter, who saw nothing unusual in this act of politeness,
sat down gravely and coughed. The ordinary courtesies having been
exchanged between the two gentlemen, the comte, to whom the visit was
paid, said, "May I ask, monsieur le baron, to what happy circumstance I
am indebted for the favor of a visit from you?"

"The very thing I am about to have the honor of explaining to you,
monsieur le comte; but, I beg your pardon - "

"What is the matter, monsieur?" inquired Saint-Aignan.

"I regret to say that I have broken your chair."

"Not at all, monsieur," said Saint-Aignan; "not at all."

"It is the fact, though, monsieur le comte; I have broken it - so much
so, indeed, that if I do not move, I shall fall down, which would be an
exceedingly disagreeable position for me in the discharge of the very
serious mission which has been intrusted to me with regard to yourself."

Porthos rose; and but just in time, for the chair had given way several
inches. Saint-Aignan looked about him for something more solid for his
guest to sit upon.

"Modern articles of furniture," said Porthos, while the comte was looking
about, "are constructed in a ridiculously flimsy manner. In my early
days, when I used to sit down with far more energy than is now the case,
I do not remember ever to have broken a chair, except in taverns, with my

Saint-Aignan smiled at this remark. "But," said Porthos, as he settled
himself down on a couch, which creaked, but did not give way beneath his
weight, "that unfortunately has nothing whatever to do with my present

"Why unfortunately? Are you the bearer of a message of ill-omen,
monsieur le baron?"

"Of ill-omen - for a gentleman? Certainly not, monsieur le comte,"
replied Porthos, nobly. "I have simply come to say that you have
seriously insulted a friend of mine."

"I, monsieur?" exclaimed Saint-Aignan - "I have insulted a friend of
yours, do you say? May I ask his name?"

"M. Raoul de Bragelonne."

"I have insulted M. Raoul de Bragelonne!" cried Saint-Aignan. "I really
assure you, monsieur, that it is quite impossible; for M. de Bragelonne,
whom I know but very slightly, - nay, whom I know hardly at all - is in
England, and, as I have not seen him for a long time past, I cannot
possibly have insulted him."

"M. de Bragelonne is in Paris, monsieur le comte," said Porthos,
perfectly unmoved; "and I repeat, it is quite certain you have insulted
him, since he himself told me you had. Yes, monsieur, you have seriously
insulted him, mortally insulted him, I repeat."

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

"Besides," added Porthos, "you cannot be ignorant of the circumstance,
since M. de Bragelonne informed me that he had already apprised you of it
by a note."

"I give you my word of honor, monsieur, that I have received no note

"This is most extraordinary," replied Porthos.

"I will convince you," said Saint-Aignan, "that have received nothing in
any way from him." And he rang the bell. "Basque," he said to the
servant who entered, "how many letters have or notes were sent here
during my absence?"

"Three, monsieur le comte - a note from M. de Fiesque, one from Madame de
Laferte, and a letter from M. de las Fuentes."

"Is that all?"

"Yes, monsieur le comte."

"Speak the truth before this gentleman - the truth, you understand. I
will take care you are not blamed."

"There was a note, also, from - from - "

"Well, from whom?"

"From Mademoiselle - de - "

"Out with it!"

"De Laval."

"That is quite sufficient," interrupted Porthos. "I believe you,
monsieur le comte."

Saint-Aignan dismissed the valet, and followed him to the door, in order
to close it after him; and when he had done so, looking straight before
him, he happened to see in the keyhole of the adjoining apartment the
paper which Bragelonne had slipped in there as he left. "What is this?"
he said.

Porthos, who was sitting with his back to the room, turned round. "Aha!"
he said.

"A note in the keyhole!" exclaimed Saint-Aignan.

"That is not unlikely to be the missing letter, monsieur le comte," said

Saint-Aignan took out the paper. "A note from M. de Bragelonne!" he

"You see, monsieur, I was right. Oh, when I say a thing - "

"Brought here by M. de Bragelonne himself," the comte murmured, turning
pale. "This is infamous! How could he possibly have come here?" And
the comte rang again.

"Who has been here during my absence with the king?"

"No one, monsieur."

"That is impossible! Some one must have been here."

"No one could possibly have entered, monsieur, since the keys have never
left my pocket."

"And yet I find the letter in yonder lock; some one must have put it
there; it could not have come here of its own accord."

Basque opened his arms as if signifying the most absolute ignorance on
the subject.

"Probably it was M. de Bragelonne himself who placed it there," said

"In that case he must have entered here."

"How could that have been, since I have the key in my own pocket?"
returned Basque, perseveringly.

Saint-Aignan crumpled the letter in his palm, after having read it.
"There is something mysterious about this," he murmured, absorbed in
thought. Porthos left him to his reflections; but after a while returned
to the mission he had undertaken.

"Shall we return to our little affair?" Porthos resumed, addressing Saint-
Aignan after a brief pause.

"I think I can now understand it, from this note, which has arrived here
in so singular a manner. Monsieur de Bragelonne says that a friend will

"I am his friend. I am the person he alludes to."

"For the purpose of giving me a challenge?"


"And he complains that I have insulted him?"


"In what way, may I ask; for his conduct is so mysterious, that, at
least, it needs some explanation?"

"Monsieur," replied Porthos, "my friend cannot but be right; and, as far
as his conduct is concerned, if it be mysterious, as you say, you have
only yourself to blame for it." Porthos pronounced these words with an
amount of confidence which, for a man who was unaccustomed to his ways,
must have revealed an infinity of sense.

"Mystery, so be it; but what is all the mystery about?" said Saint-Aignan.

"You will think it the best, perhaps," Porthos replied, with a low bow,
"if I do not enter in to particulars."

"Oh, I perfectly understand. We will touch very lightly upon it, then,
so speak, monsieur, I am listening."

"In the first place, monsieur," said Porthos, "you have changed your

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

"You admit it," said Porthos, with an air of satisfaction.

"Admit it! of course I admit it. Why should I not admit it, do you

"You have admitted it. Very good," said Porthos, lifting up one finger.

"But how can my having moved my lodgings have done M. de Bragelonne any
harm? Have the goodness to tell me that, for I positively do not
comprehend a word of what you are saying."

Porthos stopped him, and then said, with great gravity, "Monsieur, this
is the first of M. de Bragelonne's complaints against you. If he makes a
complaint, it is because he feels himself insulted."

Saint-Aignan began to beat his foot impatiently on the ground. "This
looks like a spurious quarrel," he said.

"No one can possibly have a spurious quarrel with the Vicomte de
Bragelonne," returned Porthos; "but, at all events, you have nothing to
add on the subject of your changing your apartments, I suppose?"

"Nothing. And what is the next point?"

"Ah, the next! You will observe, monsieur, that the one I have already
mentioned is a most serious injury, to which you have given no answer, or
rather, have answered very indifferently. Is it possible, monsieur, that
you have changed your lodgings? M. de Bragelonne feels insulted at your
having done so, and you do not attempt to excuse yourself."

"What!" cried Saint-Aignan, who was getting annoyed at the perfect
coolness of his visitor - "what! am I to consult M. de Bragelonne whether
I am to move or not? You can hardly be serious, monsieur."

"I am. And it is absolutely necessary, monsieur; but under any
circumstances, you will admit that it is nothing in comparison with the
second ground of complaint."

"Well, what is that?"

Porthos assumed a very solemn expression as he said: "How about the trap-
door, monsieur?"

Saint-Aignan turned exceedingly pale. He pushed back his chair so
abruptly, that Porthos, simple as he was, perceived that the blow had
told. "The trap-door," murmured Saint-Aignan.

"Yes, monsieur, explain that if you can," said Porthos, shaking his head.

Saint-Aignan held down his head, as he murmured: "I have been betrayed,
everything is known!"

"Everything," replied Porthos, who knew nothing.

"You see me perfectly overwhelmed," pursued Saint-Aignan, "overwhelmed
to a degree that I hardly know what I am about."

"A guilty conscience, monsieur. Your affair is a bad one, and when the
public learns all about it, it will judge - "

"Oh, monsieur!" exclaimed the count, hurriedly, "such a secret ought not
to be known even by one's confessor."

"That we will think about," said Porthos; "the secret will not go far, in

"Surely, monsieur," returned Saint-Aignan, "since M. de Bragelonne has
penetrated the secret, he must be aware of the danger he as well as
others run the risk of incurring."

"M. de Bragelonne runs no danger, monsieur, nor does he fear any either,
as you, if it please Heaven, will find out very soon."

"This fellow is a perfect madman," thought Saint-Aignan. "What, in
Heaven's name, does he want?" He then said aloud: "Come, monsieur, let
us hush up this affair."

"You forget the portrait," said Porthos, in a voice of thunder, which
made the comte's blood freeze in his veins.

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

Porthos assumed an imposing air, all the majesty of ignorance, in fact,
as he said: "It matters nothing whatever to me, nor to yourself, indeed,
whether or not my friend was, as you say, engaged to be married. I am
even astonished that you should have made use of so indiscreet a remark.
It may possibly do your cause harm, monsieur."

"Monsieur," replied Saint-Aignan, "you are the incarnation of
intelligence, delicacy, and loyalty of feeling united. I see the whole
matter now clearly enough."

"So much the better," said Porthos.

"And," pursued Saint-Aignan, "you have made me comprehend it in the most
ingenious and the most delicate manner possible. I beg you to accept my
best thanks." Porthos drew himself up, unable to resist the flattery of
the remark. "Only, now that I know everything, permit me to explain - "

Porthos shook his head, as a an who does not wish to hear, but Saint-
Aignan continued: "I am in despair, I assure you, at all that has
happened; but how would you have acted in my place? Come, between
ourselves, tell me what you would have done?"

Porthos drew himself up as he answered: "There is now no question of all
of what I should have done, young man; you have been made acquainted with
the three causes of complaint against you, I believe?"

"As for the first, my change of rooms, and I now address myself to you as
a man of honor and of great intelligence, could I, when the desire of so
august a personage was so urgently expressed that I should move, ought I
to have disobeyed?"

Porthos was about to speak, but Saint-Aignan did not give him time to
answer. "Ah! my frankness, I see, convinces you," he said, interpreting
the movement according to his own fancy. "You feel that I am right."

Porthos did not reply, and so Saint-Aignan continued: "I pass by that
unfortunate trap-door," he said, placing his hand on Porthos's arm, "that
trap-door, the occasion and means of so much unhappiness, and which was
constructed for - you know what. Well, then, in plain truth, do you
suppose that it was I who, of my own accord, in such a place, too, had
that trap-door made? - Oh, no! - you do not believe it; and here, again,
you feel, you guess, you understand the influence of a will superior to
my own. You can conceive the infatuation, the blind, irresistible
passion which has been at work. But, thank Heaven! I am fortunate in
speaking to a man who has so much sensitiveness of feeling; and if it
were not so, indeed, what an amount of misery and scandal would fall upon
her, poor girl! and upon him - whom I will not name."

Porthos, confused and bewildered by the eloquence and gestures of Saint-
Aignan, made a thousand efforts to stem this torrent of words, of which,
by the by, he did not understand a single one; he remained upright and
motionless on his seat, and that was all he could do. Saint-Aignan
continued, and gave a new inflection to his voice, and an increasing
vehemence to his gesture: "As for the portrait, for I readily believe the
portrait is the principal cause of complaint, tell me candidly if you
think me to blame? - Who was it who wished to have her portrait? Was it
I? - Who is in love with her? Is it I? - Who wishes to gain her
affection? Again, is it I? - Who took her likeness? I, do you think?
No! a thousand times no! I know M. de Bragelonne must be in a state of
despair; I know these misfortunes are most cruel. But I, too, am
suffering as well; and yet there is no possibility of offering any
resistance. Suppose we were to fight? we would be laughed at. If he
obstinately persist in his course, he is lost. You will tell me, I know,
that despair is ridiculous, but then you are a sensible man. You have
understood me. I perceived by your serious, thoughtful, embarrassed air,
even, that the importance of the situation we are placed in has not
escaped you. Return, therefore, to M. de Bragelonne; thank him - as I
have indeed reason to thank him - for having chosen as an intermediary a
man of your high merit. Believe me that I shall, on my side, preserve an
eternal gratitude for the man who has so ingeniously, so cleverly
arranged the misunderstanding between us. And since ill luck would have
it that the secret should be known to four instead of three, why, this
secret, which might make the most ambitious man's fortune, I am delighted
to share with you, monsieur, from the bottom of my heart I am delighted
at it. From this very moment you can make use of me as you please, I
place myself entirely at your mercy. What can I possibly do for you?
What can I solicit, nay, require even? You have only to speak, monsieur,
only to speak."

And, according to the familiarly friendly fashion of that period, Saint-
Aignan threw his arms round Porthos, and clasped him tenderly in his
embrace. Porthos allowed him to do this with the most perfect
indifference. "Speak," resumed Saint-Aignan, "what do you require?"

"Monsieur," said Porthos, "I have a horse below: be good enough to mount
him; he is a very good one and will play you no tricks."

"Mount on horseback! what for?" inquired Saint-Aignan, with no little

"To accompany me to where M. de Bragelonne is waiting us."

"Ah! he wishes to speak to me, I suppose? I can well believe that; he
wishes to have the details, very likely; alas! it is a very delicate
matter; but at the present moment I cannot, for the king is waiting for

"The king must wait, then" said Porthos.

"What do you say? the king must wait!" interrupted the finished courtier,
with a smile of utter amazement, for he could not understand that the
king could under any circumstances be supposed to have to wait.

"It is merely the affair of a very short hour," returned Porthos.

"But where is M. de Bragelonne waiting for me?"

"At the Minimes, at Vincennes."

"Ah, indeed! but are we going to laugh over the affair when we get there?"

"I don't think it likely," said Porthos, as his face assumed a look of
utter hardness.

"But the Minimes is a rendezvous where duels take place, and what can I
have to do at the Minimes?"

Porthos slowly drew his sword, and said: "That is the length of my
friend's sword."

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

The color mounted to Porthos's face, as he replied: "If I had not the
honor of being in your own apartment, monsieur, and of representing M. de
Bragelonne's interests, I would throw you out of the window. It will be
merely a pleasure postponed, and you will lose nothing by waiting. Will
you come with me to the Minimes, monsieur, of your own free will?"

"But - "

"Take care, I will carry you if you do not come quickly."

"Basque!" cried Saint-Aignan. As soon as Basque appeared, he said, "The
king wishes to see monsieur le comte."

"That is very different," said Porthos; "the king's service before
anything else. We will wait until this evening, monsieur."

And saluting Saint-Aignan with his usual courtesy, Porthos left the room,
delighted at having arranged another affair. Saint-Aignan looked after
him as he left; and then hastily putting on his court dress again, he ran
off, arranging his costume as he went along, muttering to himself, "The
Minimes! the Minimes! We shall see how the king will fancy this
challenge; for it is for him after all, that is certain."

Chapter LVI:
Rivals in Politics.

On his return from the promenade, which had been so prolific in poetical
effusions, and in which every one had paid his or her tribute to the
Muses, as the poets of the period used to say, the king found M. Fouquet
waiting for an audience. M. Colbert had lain in wait for his majesty in
the corridor, and followed him like a jealous and watchful shadow; M.
Colbert, with his square head, his vulgar and untidy, though rich
costume, somewhat resembled a Flemish gentleman after he had been over-
indulging in his national drink - beer. Fouquet, at sight of his enemy,
remained perfectly unmoved, and during the whole of the scene which
followed scrupulously resolved to observe a line of conduct particularly
difficult to the man of superior mind, who does not even wish to show his
contempt, for fear of doing his adversary too much honor. Colbert made
no attempt to conceal his insolent expression of the vulgar joy he felt.
In his opinion, M. Fouquet's was a game very badly played and hopelessly
lost, although not yet finished. Colbert belonged to that school of
politicians who think cleverness alone worthy of their admiration, and
success the only thing worth caring for. Colbert, moreover, who was not
simply an envious and jealous man, but who had the king's interest really
at heart, because he was thoroughly imbued with the highest sense of
probity in all matters of figures and accounts, could well afford to
assign as a pretext for his conduct, that in hating and doing his utmost
to ruin M. Fouquet, he had nothing in view but the welfare of the state
and the dignity of the crown. None of these details escaped Fouquet's
observation; through his enemy's thick, bushy brows, and despite the
restless movement of his eyelids, he could, by merely looking at his
eyes, penetrate to the very bottom of Colbert's heart, and he read to
what an unbounded extent hate towards himself and triumph at his
approaching fall existed there. But as, in observing everything, he
wished to remain himself impenetrable, he composed his features, smiled
with the charmingly sympathetic smile that was peculiarly his own, and
saluted the king with the most dignified and graceful ease and elasticity
of manner. "Sire," he said, "I perceive by your majesty's joyous air
that you have been gratified with the promenade."

"Most gratified, indeed, monsieur le surintendant, most gratified. You
were very wrong not to come with us, as I invited you to do."

"I was working, sire," replied the superintendent, who did not even seem
to take the trouble to turn aside his head in merest respect of Colbert's

"Ah! M. Fouquet," cried the king, "there is nothing like the country. I
should be delighted to live in the country always, in the open air and
under the trees."

"I should hope that your majesty is not yet weary of the throne," said

"No; but thrones of soft turf are very pleasant."

"Your majesty gratifies my utmost wishes in speaking in that manner, for
I have a request to submit to you."

"On whose behalf, monsieur?"

"Oh behalf of the nymphs of Vaux, sire."

"Ah! ah!" said Louis XIV.

"Your majesty, too, once deigned to make me a promise," said Fouquet.

"Yes, I remember it."

"The _fete_ at Vaux, the celebrated _fete_, I think, it was, sire," said
Colbert, endeavoring to show his importance by taking part in the

Fouquet, with the profoundest contempt, did not take the slightest notice
of the remark, as if, as far as he was concerned, Colbert had not even
thought or said a word.

"Your majesty is aware," he said, "that I destine my estate at Vaux to
receive the most amiable of princes, the most powerful of monarchs."

"I have given you my promise, monsieur," said Louis XIV., smiling; "and a
king never departs from his word."

"And I have come now, sire, to inform your majesty that I am ready to
obey your orders in every respect."

"Do you promise me many wonders, monsieur le surintendant?" said Louis,
looking at Colbert.

"Wonders? Oh! no, sire. I do not undertake that. I hope to be able to
procure your majesty a little pleasure, perhaps even a little
forgetfulness of the cares of state."

"Nay, nay, M. Fouquet," returned the king; "I insist upon the word
'wonders.' You are a magician, I believe; we all know the power you
wield; we also know that you can find gold even when there is none to be
found elsewhere; so much so, indeed, that people say you coin it."

Fouquet felt that the shot was discharged from a double quiver, and that
the king had launched an arrow from his own bow as well as one from
Colbert's. "Oh!" said he, laughingly, "the people know perfectly well
out of what mine I procure the gold; and they know it only too well,
perhaps; besides," he added, "I can assure your majesty that the gold
destined to pay the expenses of the _fete_ at Vaux will cost neither
blood nor tears; hard labor it may, perhaps, but that can be paid for."

Louis paused quite confused. He wished to look at Colbert; Colbert, too,
wished to reply to him; a glance as swift as an eagle's, a king-like
glance, indeed, which Fouquet darted at the latter, arrested the words
upon his lips. The king, who had by this time recovered his self-
possession, turned towards Fouquet, saying, "I presume, therefore, I am
now to consider myself formally invited?"

"Yes, sire, if your majesty will condescend so far as to accept my

"What day have you fixed?"

"Any day your majesty may find most convenient."

"You speak like an enchanter who has but to conjure up in actuality the
wildest fancies, Monsieur Fouquet. I could not say so much, indeed,

"Your majesty will do, whenever you please, everything that a monarch can
and ought to do. The king of France has servants at his bidding who are
able to do anything on his behalf, to accomplish everything to gratify
his pleasures."

Colbert tried to look at the superintendent, in order to see whether this
remark was an approach to less hostile sentiments on his part; but
Fouquet had not even looked at his enemy, and Colbert hardly seemed to
exist as far as he was concerned. "Very good, then," said the king.
"Will a week hence suit you?"

"Perfectly well, sire."

"This is Tuesday; if I give you until next Sunday week, will that be

"The delay which your majesty deigns to accord me will greatly aid the
various works which my architects have in hand for the purpose of adding
to the amusement of your majesty and your friends."

"By the by, speaking of my friends," resumed the king; "how do you intend
to treat them?"

"The king is master everywhere, sire; your majesty will draw up your own
list and give your own orders. All those you may deign to invite will be
my guests, my honored guests, indeed."

"I thank you!" returned the king, touched by the noble thought expressed
in so noble a tone.

Fouquet, therefore, took leave of Louis XIV., after a few words had been
added with regard to the details of certain matters of business. He felt
that Colbert would remain behind with the king, that they would both
converse about him, and that neither of them would spare him in the least
degree. The satisfaction of being able to give a last and terrible blow
to his enemy seemed to him almost like a compensation for everything they
were about to subject him to. He turned back again immediately, as soon,
indeed, as he had reached the door, and addressing the king, said, "I was
forgetting that I had to crave your majesty's forgiveness."

"In what respect?" said the king, graciously.

"For having committed a serious fault without perceiving it."

"A fault! You! Ah! Monsieur Fouquet, I shall be unable to do otherwise
than forgive you. In what way or against whom have you been found

"Against every sense of propriety, sire. I forgot to inform your majesty
of a circumstance that has lately occurred of some little importance."

"What is it?"

Colbert trembled; he fancied that he was about to frame a denunciation
against him. His conduct had been unmasked. A single syllable from
Fouquet, a single proof formally advanced, and before the youthful
loyalty of feeling which guided Louis XIV., Colbert's favor would
disappear at once; the latter trembled, therefore, lest so daring a blow
might overthrow his whole scaffold; in point of fact, the opportunity was
so admirably suited to be taken advantage of, that a skillful, practiced
player like Aramis would not have let it slip. "Sire," said Fouquet,
with an easy, unconcerned air, "since you have had the kindness to
forgive me, I am perfectly indifferent about my confession; this morning
I sold one of the official appointments I hold."

"One of your appointments," said the king, "which?"

Colbert turned perfectly livid. "That which conferred upon me, sire, a
grand gown, and a stern air of gravity; the appointment of procureur-

The king involuntarily uttered a loud exclamation and looked at Colbert,
who, with his face bedewed with perspiration, felt almost on the point of
fainting. "To whom have you sold this department, Monsieur Fouquet?"
inquired the king.

Colbert was obliged to lean against a column of the fireplace. "To a
councilor belonging to the parliament, sire, whose name is Vanel."


"Yes, sire, a particular friend of the intendant Colbert," added Fouquet;
letting every word fall from his lips with the most inimitable
nonchalance, and with an admirably assumed expression of forgetfulness
and ignorance. And having finished, and having overwhelmed Colbert
beneath the weight of this superiority, the superintendent again saluted
the king and quitted the room, partially revenged by the stupefaction of
the king and the humiliation of the favorite.

"Is it really possible," said the king, as soon as Fouquet had
disappeared, "that he has sold that office?"

"Yes, sire," said Colbert, meaningly.

"He must be mad," the king added.

Colbert this time did not reply; he had penetrated the king's thought, a
thought which amply revenged him for the humiliation he had just been
made to suffer; his hatred was augmented by a feeling of bitter jealousy
of Fouquet; and a threat of disgrace was now added to the plan he had
arranged for his ruin. Colbert felt perfectly assured that for the
future, between Louis XIV. and himself, their hostile feelings and ideas
would meet with no obstacles, and that at the first fault committed by
Fouquet, which could be laid hold of as a pretext, the chastisement so
long impending would be precipitated. Fouquet had thrown aside his
weapons of defense, and hate and jealousy had picked them up. Colbert
was invited by the king to the _fete_ at Vaux; he bowed like a man
confident in himself, and accepted the invitation with the air of one who
almost confers a favor. The king was about writing down Saint-Aignan's
name on his list of royal commands, when the usher announced the Comte de
Saint-Aignan. As soon as the royal "Mercury" entered, Colbert discreetly

Chapter LVII:
Rivals in Love.

Saint-Aignan had quitted Louis XIV. hardly a couple of hours before; but
in the first effervescence of his affection, whenever Louis XIV. was out
of sight of La Valliere, he was obliged to talk about her. Besides, the
only person with whom he could speak about her at his ease was Saint-
Aignan, and thus Saint-Aignan had become an indispensable.

"Ah, is that you, comte?" he exclaimed, as soon as he perceived him,
doubly delighted, not only to see him again, but also to get rid of
Colbert, whose scowling face always put him out of humor. "So much the
better, I am very glad to see you. You will make one of the best
traveling party, I suppose?"

"Of what traveling part are you speaking, sire?" inquired Saint-Aignan.

"The one we are making up to go to the _fete_ the superintendent is about
to give at Vaux. Ah! Saint-Aignan, you will, at last, see a _fete_, a
royal _fete_, by the side of which all our amusements at Fontainebleau
are petty, contemptible affairs."

"At Vaux! the superintendent going to give a _fete_ in your majesty's
honor? Nothing more than that!"

"'Nothing more than that,' do you say? It is very diverting to find you
treating it with so much disdain. Are you who express such an
indifference on the subject, aware, that as soon as it is known that M.
Fouquet is going to receive me at Vaux next Sunday week, people will be
striving their very utmost to get invited to the _fete?_ I repeat, Saint-
Aignan, you shall be one of the invited guests."

"Very well, sire; unless I shall, in the meantime, have undertaken a
longer and a less agreeable journey."

"What journey do you allude to?"

"The one across the Styx, sire."

"Bah!" said Louis XIV., laughing.

"No, seriously, sire," replied Saint-Aignan, "I am invited; and in such a
way, in truth, that I hardly know what to say, or how to act, in order to
refuse the invitation."

"I do not understand you. I know that you are in a poetical vein; but
try not to sink from Apollo to Phoebus."

"Very well; if your majesty will deign to listen to me, I will not keep
your mind on the rack a moment longer."


"Your majesty knows the Baron du Vallon?"

"Yes, indeed; a good servant to my father, the late king, and an
admirable companion at table; for, I think, you are referring to the
gentleman who dined with us at Fontainebleau?"

"Precisely so; but you have omitted to add to his other qualifications,
sire, that he is a most charming polisher-off of other people."

"What! Does M. du Vallon wish to polish you off?"

"Or to get me killed, which is much the same thing."

"The deuce!"

"Do not laugh, sire, for I am not saying one word beyond the exact truth."

"And you say he wishes to get you killed."

"Such is that excellent person's present idea."

"Be easy; I will defend you, if he be in the wrong."

"Ah! There is an 'if'!"

"Of course; answer me as candidly as if it were some one else's affair
instead of your own, my poor Saint-Aignan; is he right or wrong?"

"Your majesty shall be the judge."

"What have you done to him?"

"To him, personally, nothing at all; but, it seems, to one of his
friends, I have."

"It is all the same. Is his friend one of the celebrated 'four'?"

"No. It is the son of one of the celebrated 'four,' though."

"What have you done to the son? Come, tell me."

"Why, it seems that I have helped some one to take his mistress from him."

"You confess it, then?"

"I cannot help confessing it, for it is true."

"In that case, you are wrong; and if he were to kill you, he would be
doing perfectly right."

"Ah! that is your majesty's way of reasoning, then!"

"Do you think it a bad way?"

"It is a very expeditious way, at all events."

"'Good justice is prompt;' so my grandfather Henry IV. used to say."

"In that case, your majesty will, perhaps, be good enough to sign my
adversary's pardon, for he is now waiting for me at the Minimes, for the
purpose of putting me out of my misery."

"His name, and a parchment!"

"There is a parchment upon your majesty's table; and for his name - "

"Well, what is it?"

"The Vicomte de Bragelonne, sire."

"'The Vicomte de Bragelonne!'" exclaimed the king; changing from a fit of
laughter to the most profound stupor, and then, after a moment's silence,
while he wiped his forehead, which was bedewed with perspiration, he
again murmured, "Bragelonne!"

"No other, sire."

"Bragelonne, who was affianced to - "

"Yes, sire."

"But - he has been in London."

"Yes; but I can assure you, sire, he is there no longer."

"Is he in Paris, then?"

"He is at Minimes, sire, where he is waiting for me, as I have already
had the honor of telling you."

"Does he know all?"

"Yes; and many things besides. Perhaps your majesty would like to look
at the letter I have received from him;" and Saint-Aignan drew from his
pocket the note we are already acquainted with. "When your majesty has
read the letter, I will tell you how it reached me."

The king read it in a great agitation, and immediately said, "Well?"

"Well, sire; your majesty knows a certain carved lock, closing a certain
door of carved ebony, which separates a certain apartment from a certain
blue and white sanctuary?"

"Of course; Louise's boudoir."

"Yes, sire. Well, it was in the keyhole of that lock that I found yonder

"Who placed it there?"

"Either M. de Bragelonne, or the devil himself; but, inasmuch as the note
smells of musk and not of sulphur, I conclude that it must be, not the
devil, but M. de Bragelonne."

Louis bent his head, and seemed absorbed in sad and bitter thought.
Perhaps something like remorse was at that moment passing through his
heart. "The secret is discovered," he said.

"Sire, I shall do my utmost that the secret dies in the breast of the man
who possesses it!" said Saint-Aignan, in a tone of bravado, as he moved
towards the door; but a gesture of the king made him pause.

"Where are you going?" he inquired.

"Where they await me, sire."

"What for?"

"To fight, in all probability."

"_You_ fight!" exclaimed the king. "One moment, if you please, monsieur
le comte!"

Saint-Aignan shook his head, as a rebellious child does, whenever any one
interferes to prevent him throwing himself into a well, or playing with a
knife. "But, sire," he said.

"In the first place," continued the king. "I want to be enlightened a
little further."

"Upon all points, if your majesty will be pleased to interrogate me,"
replied Saint-Aignan, "I will throw what light I can."

"Who told you that M. de Bragelonne had penetrated into that room?"

"The letter which I found in the keyhole told me."

"Who told you that it was De Bragelonne who put it there?"

"Who but himself would have dared to undertake such a mission?"

"You are right. How was he able to get into your rooms?"

"Ah! that is very serious, inasmuch as all the doors were closed, and my
lackey, Basque, had the keys in his pocket."

"Your lackey must have been bribed."

"Impossible, sire; for if he had been bribed, those who did so would not
have sacrificed the poor fellow, whom, it is not unlikely, they might
want to turn to further use by and by, in showing so clearly that it was
he whom they had made use of."

"Quite true. And now I can only form one conjecture."

"Tell me what it is, sire, and we shall see if it is the same that has
presented itself to my mind."

"That he effected an entrance by means of the staircase."

"Alas, sire, that seems to me more than probable."

"There is no doubt that some one must have sold the secret of the trap-

"Either sold it or given it."

"Why do you make that distinction?"

"Because there are certain persons, sire, who, being above the price of
treason, give, and do not sell."

"What do you mean?"

"Oh, sire! Your majesty's mind is too clear-sighted not to guess what I
mean, and you will save me the embarrassment of naming the person I
allude to."

"You are right: you mean Madame; I suppose her suspicions were aroused by
your changing your lodgings."

"Madame has keys of the apartments of her maids of honor, and she is
powerful enough to discover what no one but yourself could do, or she
would not be able to discover anything."

"And you suppose, then, that my sister must have entered into an alliance
with Bragelonne, and has informed him of all the details of the affair."

"Possibly even better still, for she perhaps accompanied him there."

"Which way? through your own apartments?"

"You think it impossible, sire? Well, listen to me. Your majesty knows
that Madame is very fond of perfumes?"

"Yes, she acquired that taste from my mother."

"Vervain, particularly."

"Yes, it is the scent she prefers to all others."

"Very good, sire! my apartments happen to smell very strongly of vervain."

The king remained silent and thoughtful for a few moments, and then
resumed: "But why should Madame take Bragelonne's part against me?"

Saint-Aignan could very easily have replied: "A woman's jealousy!" The
king probed his friend to the bottom of his heart to ascertain if he had
learned the secret of his flirtation with his sister-in-law. But Saint-
Aignan was not an ordinary courtier; he did not lightly run the risk of
finding out family secrets; and he was too a friend of the Muses not to
think very frequently of poor Ovidius Naso, whose eyes shed so many tears
in expiation of his crime for having once beheld something, one hardly
knows what, in the palace of Augustus. He therefore passed by Madame's
secret very skillfully. But as he had shown no ordinary sagacity in
indicating Madame's presence in his rooms in company with Bragelonne, it
was necessary, of course, for him to repay with interest the king's
_amour propre_, and reply plainly to the question which had been put to
him of: "Why has Madame taken Bragelonne's part against me?"

"Why?" replied Saint-Aignan. "Your majesty forgets, I presume, that the
Comte de Guiche is the intimate friend of the Vicomte de Bragelonne."

"I do not see the connection, however," said the king.

"Ah! I beg your pardon, then, sire; but I thought the Comte de Guiche
was a very great friend of Madame's."

"Quite true," the king returned; "there is no occasion to search any
further, the blow came from that direction."

"And is not your majesty of opinion that, in order to ward it off, it
will be necessary to deal another blow?"

"Yes, but not one of the kind given in the Bois de Vincennes," replied
the king.

"You forget, sire," said Saint-Aignan, "that I am a gentleman, and that I
have been challenged."

"The challenge neither concerns nor was it intended for you."

"But I am the man, sire, who has been expected at the Minimes, sire,
during the last hour and more; and I shall be dishonored if I do not go."

"The first honor and duty of a gentleman is obedience to his sovereign."


"I order you to remain."


"Obey, monsieur!"

"As your majesty pleases."

"Besides, I wish to have the whole of this affair explained; I wish to
know how it is that I have been so insolently trifled with, as to have
the sanctuary of my affections pried into. It is not you, Saint-Aignan,
whose business it is to punish those who have acted in this manner, for
it is not your honor they have attacked, but my own."

"I implore your majesty not to overwhelm M. de Bragelonne with your
wrath, for although in the whole of this affair he may have shown himself
deficient in prudence, he has not been so in his feelings of loyalty."

"Enough! I shall know how to decide between the just and the unjust,
even in the height of my anger. But take care that not a word of this is
breathed to Madame."

"But what am I to do with regard to M. de Bragelonne? He will be seeking
me in every direction, and - "

"I shall either have spoken to him, or taken care that he has been spoken
to, before the evening is over."

"Let me once more entreat your majesty to be indulgent towards him."

"I have been indulgent long enough, comte," said Louis XIV., frowning
severely; "it is now quite time to show certain persons that I am master
in my own palace."

The king had hardly pronounced these words, which betokened that a fresh
feeling of irritation was mingling with the recollections of old, when an
usher appeared at the door of the cabinet. "What is the matter?"
inquired the king, "and why do you presume to come when I have not
summoned you?"

"Sire," said the usher, "your majesty desired me to permit M. le Comte de
la Fere to pass freely on any and every occasion, when he might wish to
speak to your majesty."

"Well, monsieur?"

"M. le Comte de la Fere is now waiting to see your majesty."

The king and Saint-Aignan at this reply exchanged a look which betrayed
more uneasiness than surprise. Louis hesitated for a moment, but
immediately afterwards, seeming to make up his mind, he said:

"Go, Saint-Aignan, and find Louise; inform her of the plot against us; do
not let her be ignorant that Madame will return to her system of
persecutions against her, and that she has set those to work who would
have found it far safer to remain neuter."

"Sire - "

"If Louise gets nervous and frightened, reassure her as much as you can;
tell her that the king's affection is an impenetrable shield over her;
if, which I suspect is the case, she already knows everything, or if she
has already been herself subjected to an attack of some kind or other
from any quarter, tell her, be sure to tell her, Saint-Aignan," added the
king, trembling with passion, "tell her, I say, that this time, instead
of defending her, I will avenge her, and that too so terribly that no one
will in future even dare to raise his eyes towards her."

"Is that all, sire?"

"Yes, all. Go as quickly as you can, and remain faithful; for, you who
live in the midst of this stake of infernal torments, have not, like
myself, the hope of the paradise beyond it."

Saint-Aignan exhausted himself in protestations of devotion, took the
king's hand, kissed it, and left the room radiant with delight.

Chapter LVIII:
King and Noble.

The king endeavored to recover his self-possession as quickly as
possible, in order to meet M. de la Fere with an untroubled countenance.
He clearly saw it was not mere chance that had induced the comte's visit,
he had some vague impression of its importance; but he felt that to a man
of Athos's tone of mind, to one of such a high order of intellect, his
first reception ought not to present anything either disagreeable or
otherwise than kind and courteous. As soon as the king had satisfied
himself that, as far as appearances went, he was perfectly calm again, he
gave directions to the ushers to introduce the comte. A few minutes
afterwards Athos, in full court dress, and with his breast covered with
the orders that he alone had the right to wear at the court of France,
presented himself with so grave and solemn an air that the king
perceived, at the first glance, that he was not deceived in his
anticipations. Louis advanced a step towards the comte, and, with a
smile, held out his hand to him, over which Athos bowed with the air of
the deepest respect.

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

Athos bowed and replied, "I should wish always to enjoy the happiness of
being near your majesty."

The tone, however, in which this reply was conveyed, evidently signified,
"I should wish to be one of your majesty's advisers, to save you the
commission of faults." The king felt it so, and determined in this man's
presence to preserve all the advantages which could be derived from his
command over himself, as well as from his rank and position.

"I see you have something to say to me," he said.

"Had it not been so, I should not have presumed to present myself before
your majesty."

"Speak quickly, I am anxious to satisfy you," returned the king, seating

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

"Ah!" said the king, with a certain haughtiness of manner, "you have come
to lodge a complaint here, then?"

"It would be a complaint," returned Athos, "only in the event of your
majesty - but if you will deign to permit me, sire, I will begin the
conversation from the very commencement."

"Do so, I am listening."

"Your majesty will remember that at the period of the Duke of
Buckingham's departure, I had the honor of an interview with you."

"At or about that period, I think I remember you did; only, with regard
to the subject of the conversation, I have quite forgotten it."

Athos started, as he replied. "I shall have the honor to remind your
majesty of it. It was with regard to a formal demand I had addressed to
you respecting a marriage which M. de Bragelonne wished to contract with
Mademoiselle de la Valliere."

"Ah!" thought the king, "we have come to it now. - I remember," he said,

"At that period," pursued Athos, "your majesty was so kind and generous
towards M. de Bragelonne and myself, that not a single word which then
fell from your lips has escaped my memory; and, when I asked your majesty
to accord me Mademoiselle de la Valliere's hand for M. de Bragelonne, you

"Quite true," said Louis, dryly.

"Alleging," Athos hastened to say, "that the young lady had no position
in society."

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

"That," added Athos, "she had but little fortune."

The king threw himself back in his armchair.

"That her extraction was indifferent."

A renewed impatience on the part of the king.

"And little beauty," added Athos, pitilessly.

This last bolt buried itself deep in the king's heart, and made him
almost bound from his seat.

"You have a good memory, monsieur," he said.

"I invariably have, on occasions when I have had the distinguished honor
of an interview with your majesty," retorted the comte, without being in
the least disconcerted.

"Very good: it is admitted that I said all that."

"And I thanked your majesty for your remarks at the time, because they
testified an interest in M. de Bragelonne which did him much honor."

"And you may possibly remember," said the king, very deliberately, "that
you had the greatest repugnance for this marriage."

"Quite true, sire."

"And that you solicited my permission, much against your own inclination?"

"Yes, sire."

"And finally, I remember, for I have a memory nearly as good as your own;
I remember, I say, that you observed at the time: 'I do not believe that
Mademoiselle de la Valliere loves M. de Bragelonne.' Is that true?"

The blow told well, but Athos did not draw back. "Sire," he said, "I
have already begged your majesty's forgiveness; but there are certain
particulars in that conversation which are only intelligible from the

"Well, what is the _denouement_, monsieur?"

"This: that your majesty then said, 'that you would defer the marriage
out of regard for M. de Bragelonne's own interests.'"

The king remained silent. "M. de Bragelonne is now so exceedingly
unhappy that he cannot any longer defer asking your majesty for a
solution of the matter."

The king turned pale; Athos looked at him with fixed attention.

"And what," said the king, with considerable hesitation, "does M. de
Bragelonne request?"

"Precisely the very thing that I came to ask your majesty for at my last
audience, namely, your majesty's consent to his marriage."

The king remained perfectly silent. "The questions which referred to the
different obstacles in the way are all now quite removed for us,"
continued Athos. "Mademoiselle de la Valliere, without fortune, birth,
or beauty, is not the less on that account the only good match in the
world for M. de Bragelonne, since he loves this young girl."

The king pressed his hands impatiently together. "Does your majesty
hesitate?" inquired the comte, without losing a particle of either his
firmness of his politeness.

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

Athos paused a moment, as if to collect himself: "I have had the honor,"
he said, in a mild tone, "to observe to your majesty that no obstacle now
interferes with M. de Bragelonne's affections, and that his determination
seems unalterable."

"There is my will - and that is an obstacle, I should imagine!"

"That is the most serious of all," Athos replied quickly.


"And may we, therefore, be permitted to ask your majesty, with the
greatest humility, your reason for this refusal?"

"The reason! - A question to me!" exclaimed the king.

"A demand, sire!"

The king, leaning with both his hands upon the table, said, in a deep
tone of concentrated passion: "You have lost all recollection of what is
usual at court. At court, please to remember, no one ventures to put a
question to the king."

"Very true, sire; but if men do not question, they conjecture."

"Conjecture! What may that mean, monsieur?"

"Very frequently, sire, conjecture with regard to a particular subject
implies a want of frankness on the part of the king - "


"And a want of confidence on the part of the subject," pursued Athos,

"You forget yourself," said the king, hurried away by anger in spite of
all his self-control.

"Sire, I am obliged to seek elsewhere for what I thought I should find in
your majesty. Instead of obtaining a reply from you, I am compelled to
make one for myself."

The king rose. "Monsieur le comte," he said, "I have now given you all
the time I had at my disposal." This was a dismissal.

"Sire," replied the comte, "I have not yet had time to tell your majesty
what I came with the express object of saying, and I so rarely see your
majesty that I ought to avail myself of the opportunity."

"Just now you spoke rudely of conjectures; you are now becoming
offensive, monsieur."

"Oh, sire! offend your majesty! I? - never! All my life through I have
maintained that kings are above all other men, not only from their rank
and power, but from their nobleness of heart and their true dignity of
mind. I never can bring myself to believe that my sovereign, he who
passed his word to me, did so with a mental reservation."

"What do you mean? what mental reservation do you allude to?"

"I will explain my meaning," said Athos, coldly. "If, in refusing
Mademoiselle de la Valliere to Monsieur de Bragelonne, your majesty had
some other object in view than the happiness and fortune of the vicomte
- "

"You perceive, monsieur, that you are offending me."

"If, in requiring the vicomte to delay his marriage, your majesty's only
object was to remove the gentleman to whom Mademoiselle de la Valliere
was engaged - "

"Monsieur! monsieur!"

"I have heard it said so in every direction, sire. Your majesty's
affection for Mademoiselle de la Valliere is spoken of on all sides."

The king tore his gloves, which he had been biting for some time. "Woe
to those," he cried, "who interfere in my affairs. I have made up my
mind to take a particular course, and I will break through every obstacle
in my way."

"What obstacle?" said Athos.

The king stopped short, like a horse which, having taken the bit between
his teeth and run away, finds it has slipped it back again, and that his
career is checked. "I love Mademoiselle de la Valliere," he said
suddenly, with mingled nobleness of feeling and passion.

"But," interrupted Athos, "that does not preclude your majesty from
allowing M. de Bragelonne to marry Mademoiselle de la Valliere. The
sacrifice is worthy of so great a monarch; it is fully merited by M. de
Bragelonne, who has already rendered great service to your majesty, and
who may well be regarded as a brave and worthy man. Your majesty,
therefore, in renouncing the affection you entertain, offers a proof at
once of generosity, gratitude, and good policy."

"Mademoiselle de la Valliere does not love M. de Bragelonne," said the
king, hoarsely.

"Does your majesty know that to be the case?" remarked Athos, with a
searching look.

"I do know it."

"Since a very short time, then; for doubtless, had your majesty known it
when I first preferred my request, you would have taken the trouble to
inform me of it."

"Since a very short time, it is true, monsieur."

Athos remained silent for a moment, and then resumed: "In that case, I do
not understand why your majesty should have sent M. de Bragelonne to
London. That exile, and most properly so, too, is a matter of
astonishment to every one who regards your majesty's honor with sincere

"Who presumes to impugn my honor, Monsieur de la Fere?"

"The king's honor, sire, is made up of the honor of his whole nobility.
Whenever the king offends one of his gentlemen, that is, whenever he
deprives him of the smallest particle of his honor, it is from him, from
the king himself, that that portion of honor is stolen."

"Monsieur de la Fere!" said the king, haughtily.

"Sire, you sent M. de Bragelonne to London either before you were
Mademoiselle de la Valliere's lover, or since you have become so."

The king, irritated beyond measure, especially because he felt that he
was being mastered, endeavored to dismiss Athos by a gesture.

"Sire," replied the comte, "I will tell you all; I will not leave your
presence until I have been satisfied by your majesty or by myself;
satisfied if you prove to me that you are right, - satisfied if I prove
to you that you are wrong. Nay, sire, you can but listen to me. I am
old now, and I am attached to everything that is really great and really
powerful in your kingdom. I am of those who have shed their blood for
your father and for yourself, without ever having asked a single favor
either from yourself or from your father. I have never inflicted the
slightest wrong or injury on any one in this world, and even kings are
still my debtors. You can but listen to me, I repeat. I have come to
ask you for an account of the honor of one of your servants whom you have
deceived by a falsehood, or betrayed by want of heart of judgment. I
know that these words irritate your majesty, but the facts themselves are
killing us. I know that you are endeavoring to find some means whereby
to chastise me for my frankness; but I know also the chastisement I will
implore God to inflict upon you when I relate to Him your perjury and my
son's unhappiness."

The king during these remarks was walking hurriedly to and fro, his hand
thrust into the breast of his coat, his head haughtily raised, his eyes
blazing with wrath. "Monsieur," he cried, suddenly, "if I acted towards
you as a king, you would be already punished; but I am only a man, and I
have the right to love in this world every one who loves me, - a
happiness which is so rarely found."

"You cannot pretend to such a right as a man any more than as a king,
sire; or if you intend to exercise that right in a loyal manner, you
should have told M. de Bragelonne so, and not have exiled him."

"It is too great a condescension, monsieur, to discuss these things with
you," interrupted Louis XIV., with that majesty of air and manner he
alone seemed able to give his look and his voice.

"I was hoping that you would reply to me," said the comte.

"You shall know my reply, monsieur."

"You already know my thoughts on the subject," was the Comte de la Fere's

"You have forgotten you are speaking to the king, monsieur. It is a

"You have forgotten you are destroying the lives of two men, sire. It is
a mortal sin."

"Leave the room!"

"Not until I have said this: 'Son of Louis XIII., you begin your reign
badly, for you begin it by abduction and disloyalty! My race - myself
too - are now freed from all that affection and respect towards you,
which I made my son swear to observe in the vaults of Saint-Denis, in the
presence of the relics of your noble forefathers. You are now become our
enemy, sire, and henceforth we have nothing to do save with Heaven alone,
our sole master. Be warned, be warned, sire.'"

"What! do you threaten?"

"Oh, no," said Athos, sadly, "I have as little bravado as fear in my
soul. The God of whom I spoke to you is now listening to me; He knows
that for the safety and honor of your crown I would even yet shed every
drop of blood twenty years of civil and foreign warfare have left in my
veins. I can well say, then, that I threaten the king as little as I
threaten the man; but I tell you, sire, you lose two servants; for you
have destroyed faith in the heart of the father, and love in the heart of
the son; the one ceases to believe in the royal word, the other no longer
believes in the loyalty of the man, or the purity of woman: the one is
dead to every feeling of respect, the other to obedience. Adieu!"

Thus saying, Athos broke his sword across his knee, slowly placed the two
pieces upon the floor, and saluting the king, who was almost choking from
rage and shame, he quitted the cabinet. Louis, who sat near the table,
completely overwhelmed, was several minutes before he could collect
himself; but he suddenly rose and rang the bell violently. "Tell M.
d'Artagnan to come here," he said to the terrified ushers.

Chapter LIX:
After the Storm.

Our readers will doubtlessly have been asking themselves how it happened
that Athos, of whom not a word has been said for some time past, arrived
so very opportunely at court. We will, without delay, endeavor to
satisfy their curiosity.

Porthos, faithful to his duty as an arranger of affairs, had, immediately
after leaving the Palais Royal, set off to join Raoul at the Minimes in
the Bois de Vincennes, and had related everything, even to the smallest
details, which had passed between Saint-Aignan and himself. He finished
by saying that the message which the king had sent to his favorite would
probably not occasion more than a short delay, and that Saint-Aignan, as
soon as he could leave the king, would not lose a moment in accepting the
invitation Raoul had sent him.

But Raoul, less credulous than his old friend, had concluded from
Porthos's recital that if Saint-Aignan was going to the king, Saint-
Aignan would tell the king everything, and that the king would most
assuredly forbid Saint-Aignan to obey the summons he had received to the
hostile meeting. The consequence of his reflections was, that he had
left Porthos to remain at the place appointed for the meeting, in the
very improbable case that Saint-Aignan would come there; having
endeavored to make Porthos promise that he would not remain there more
than an hour or an hour and a half at the very longest. Porthos,
however, formally refused to do anything of the kind, but, on the
contrary, installed himself in the Minimes as if he were going to take
root there, making Raoul promise that when he had been to see his father,
he would return to his own apartments, in order that Porthos's servant
might know where to find him in case M. de Saint-Aignan should happen to
come to the rendezvous.

Bragelonne had left Vincennes, and proceeded at once straight to the
apartments of Athos, who had been in Paris during the last two days, the
comte having been already informed of what had taken place, by a letter
from D'Artagnan. Raoul arrived at his father's; Athos, after having held
out his hand to him, and embraced him most affectionately, made a sign
for him to sit down.

"I know you come to me as a man would go to a friend, vicomte, whenever
he is suffering; tell me, therefore, what is it that brings you now."

The young man bowed, and began his recital; more than once in the course
of it his tears almost choked his utterance, and a sob, checked in his
throat, compelled him to suspend his narrative for a few minutes. Athos
most probably already knew how matters stood, as we have just now said
D'Artagnan had already written to him; but, preserving until the
conclusion that calm, unruffled composure of manner which constituted the
almost superhuman side of his character, he replied, "Raoul, I do not
believe there is a word of truth in these rumors; I do not believe in the
existence of what you fear, although I do not deny that persons best
entitled to the fullest credit have already conversed with me on the
subject. In my heart and soul I think it utterly impossible that the
king could be guilty of such an outrage on a gentleman. I will answer
for the king, therefore, and will soon bring you back the proof of what I

Raoul, wavering like a drunken man between what he had seen with his own
eyes and the imperturbable faith he had in a man who had never told a
falsehood, bowed and simply answered, "Go, then, monsieur le comte; I
will await your return." And he sat down, burying his face in his
hands. Athos dressed, and then left him, in order to wait upon the king;
the result of that interview is already known to our readers.

When he returned to his lodgings, Raoul, pale and dejected, had not
quitted his attitude of despair. At the sound, however, of the opening
doors, and of his father's footsteps as he approached him, the young man
raised his head. Athos's face was very pale, his head uncovered, and his
manner full of seriousness; he gave his cloak and hat to the lackey,
dismissed him with a gesture, and sat down near Raoul.

"Well, monsieur," inquired the young man, "are you convinced yet?"

"I am, Raoul; the king loves Mademoiselle de la Valliere."

"He confesses it, then?" cried Raoul.

"Yes," replied Athos.

"And she?"

"I have not seen her."

"No; but the king spoke to you about her. What did he say?"

"He says that she loves him."

"Oh, you see - you see, monsieur!" said the young man, with a gesture of

"Raoul," resumed the comte, "I told the king, believe me, all that you
yourself could possibly have urged, and I believe I did so in becoming
language, though sufficiently firm."

"And what did you say to him, monsieur?"

"I told him, Raoul, that everything was now at an end between him and
ourselves; that you would never serve him again. I told him that I, too,
should remain aloof. Nothing further remains for me, then, but to be
satisfied of one thing."

"What is that, monsieur?"

"Whether you have determined to adopt any steps."

"Any steps? Regarding what?"

"With reference to your disappointed affection, and - your ideas of

"Oh, monsieur, with regard to my affection, I shall, perhaps, some day or
other, succeed in tearing it from my heart; I trust I shall do so, aided
by Heaven's merciful help, and your own wise exhortations. As far as
vengeance is concerned, it occurred to me only when under the influence
of an evil thought, for I could not revenge myself upon the one who is
actually guilty; I have, therefore, already renounced every idea of

"And you no longer think of seeking a quarrel with M. de Saint-Aignan?"

"No, monsieur; I sent him a challenge: if M. de Saint-Aignan accepts it,
I will maintain it; if he does not take it up, I will leave things as
they are."

"And La Valliere?"

"You cannot, I know, have seriously thought that I should dream of
revenging myself upon a woman!" replied Raoul, with a smile so sad that a
tear started even to the eyes of his father, who had so many times in the
course of his life bowed beneath his own sorrows and those of others.

He held out his hand to Raoul, which the latter seized most eagerly.

"And so, monsieur le comte, you are quite satisfied that the misfortune
is one beyond all remedy?" inquired the young man.

"Poor boy!" he murmured.

"You think that I still live in hope," said Raoul, "and you pity me. Oh,
it is indeed horrible suffering for me to despise, as I am bound to do,
the one I have loved so devotedly. If I had but some real cause of
complaint against her, I should be happy, I should be able to forgive

Athos looked at his son with a profoundly sorrowful air, for the words
Raoul had just pronounced seemed to have issued out of his own heart. At
this moment the servant announced M. d'Artagnan. This name sounded very
differently to the ears of Athos and Raoul. The musketeer entered the
room with a vague smile on his lips. Raoul paused. Athos walked towards
his friend with an expression of face that did not escape Bragelonne.
D'Artagnan answered Athos's look by an imperceptible movement of the
eyelid; and then, advancing towards Raoul, whom he took by the hand, he
said, addressing both father and son, "Well, you are trying to console
this poor boy, it seems."

"And you, kind and good as usual, have come to help me in my difficult

As he said this, Athos pressed D'Artagnan's hand between both his own.
Raoul fancied he observed in this pressure something beyond the sense his
mere words conveyed.

"Yes," replied the musketeer, smoothing his mustache with the hand that
Athos had left free, "yes, I have come too."

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