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Louise de la Valliere by Alexandre Dumas, Pere

Part 3 out of 12

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"I will hand them to you as I receive them."

"What shall we tell the king about Madame?"

"That Madame is still in love with his majesty."

"What shall we tell Madame about the king?"

"That she would be exceedingly wrong not to humor him."

"What shall we tell La Valliere about Madame?"

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

"How so?"

"Every way."

"What do you mean?"

"In the first place, through the Vicomte de Bragelonne."

"Explain yourself."

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

"I forget nothing."

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

"And, consequently, it is you who have them still?"


"Where, - here?"

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

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


"Did you not put them in a box?"

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

"Ah, very good," said Malicorne.

"Why are you satisfied?"

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

"You have brought the box away?"

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

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

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

"And now, one last word."

"Why _last?_"

"Do we need any one to assist us?"

"No one."

"Valets or maid-servants?"

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

"You are quite right; but what is going on yonder in M. de Guiche's room?"

"Nothing; he is only opening his window."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter XII:
How De Wardes Was Received at Court.

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

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

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

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

"Indeed! and yet in this terribly hot weather - "

"The sea-breezes were very fresh and cool, Madame, and then I had one

"Indeed! What was it?"

"The knowledge that my adversary's sufferings were still greater than my

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Instead of an ally, I have two enemies," murmured Madame; "two
determined enemies, and in league with each other." And she changed the
conversation. To change the conversation is, as every one knows, a right
possessed by princes which etiquette requires all to respect. The
remainder of the conversation was moderate enough in tone; the principal
actors had rehearsed their parts. Madame withdrew easily, and Monsieur,
who wished to question her on several matters, offered her his hand on
leaving. The chevalier was seriously afraid that an understanding might
be established between the husband and wife if he were to leave them
quietly together. He therefore made his way to Monsieur's apartments, in
order to surprise him on his return, and to destroy with a few words all
the good impressions Madame might have been able to sow in his heart. De
Guiche advanced towards De Wardes, who was surrounded by a large number
of persons, and thereby indicated his wish to converse with him; De
Wardes, at the same time, showing by his looks and by a movement of his
head that he perfectly understood him. There was nothing in these signs
to enable strangers to suppose they were otherwise than upon the most
friendly footing. De Guiche could therefore turn away from him, and wait
until he was at liberty. He had not long to wait; for De Wardes, freed
from his questioners, approached De Guiche, and after a fresh salutation,
they walked side by side together.

"You have made a good impression since your return, my dear De Wardes,"
said the comte.

"Excellent, as you see."

"And your spirits are just as lively as ever?"


"And a very great happiness, too."

"Why not? Everything is so ridiculous in this world, everything so
absurd around us."

"You are right."

"You are of my opinion, then?"

"I should think so! And what news do you bring us from yonder?"

"I? None at all. I have come to look for news here."

"But, tell me, you surely must have seen some people at Boulogne, one of
our friends, for instance; it is no great time ago."

"Some people - one of our friends - "

"Your memory is short."

"Ah! true; Bragelonne, you mean."

"Exactly so."

"Who was on his way to fulfil a mission, with which he was intrusted to
King Charles II."

"Precisely. Well, then, did he not tell you, or did not you tell him - "

"I do not precisely know what I told him, I must confess: but I do know
what I did _not_ tell him." De Wardes was _finesse_ itself. He
perfectly well knew from De Guiche's tone and manner, which was cold and
dignified, that the conversation was about to assume a disagreeable
turn. He resolved to let it take what course it pleased, and to keep
strictly on his guard.

"May I ask you what you did not tell him?" inquired De Guiche.

"All about La Valliere."

"La Valliere... What is it? and what was that strange circumstance you
seem to have known over yonder, which Bragelonne, who was here on the
spot, was not acquainted with?"

"Do you really ask me that in a serious manner?"

"Nothing more so."

"What! you, a member of the court, living in Madame's household, a friend
of Monsieur's, a guest at their table, the favorite of our lovely

Guiche colored violently from anger. "What princess are you alluding
to?" he said.

"I am only acquainted with one, my dear fellow. I am speaking of Madame
herself. Are you devoted to
another princess, then? Come, tell me."

De Guiche was on the point of launching out, but he saw the drift of the
remark. A quarrel was imminent between the two young men. De Wardes
wished the quarrel to be only in Madame's name, while De Guiche would not
accept it except on La Valliere's account. From this moment, it became a
series of feigned attacks, which would have continued until one of the
two had been touched home. De Guiche therefore resumed all the self-
possession he could command.

"There is not the slightest question in the world of Madame in this
matter, my dear De Wardes." said Guiche, "but simply of what you were
talking about just now."

"What was I saying?"

"That you had concealed certain things from Bragelonne."

"Certain things which you know as well as I do," replied De Wardes.

"No, upon my honor."


"If you tell me what they are, I shall know, but not otherwise, I swear."

"What! I who have just arrived from a distance of sixty leagues, and you
who have not stirred from this place, who have witnessed with your own
eyes that which rumor informed me of at Calais! Do you now tell me
seriously that you do not know what it is about? Oh! comte, this is
hardly charitable of you."

"As you like, De Wardes; but I again repeat, I know nothing."

"You are truly discreet - well! - perhaps it is very prudent of you."

"And so you will not tell me anything, will not tell me any more than you
told Bragelonne?"

"You are pretending to be deaf, I see. I am convinced that Madame could
not possibly have more command over herself than _you_ have."

"Double hypocrite," murmured Guiche to himself, "you are again returning
to the old subject."

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

"Nay," said De Guiche, "I have no affairs of my own to talk about. You
have not said anything about me, I suppose, to Bragelonne, which you
cannot repeat to my face?"

"No; but understand me, Guiche, that however much I may be ignorant of
certain matters, I am quite as conversant with others. If, for instance,
we were conversing about the intimacies of the Duke of Buckingham at
Paris, as I did during my journey with the duke, I could tell you a great
many interesting circumstances. Would you like me to mention them?"

De Guiche passed his hand across his forehead, which was covered in
perspiration. "No, no," he said, "a hundred times no! I have no
curiosity for matters which do not concern me. The Duke of Buckingham is
for me nothing more than a simple acquaintance, whilst Raoul is an
intimate friend. I have not the slightest curiosity to learn what
happened to the duke, while I have, on the contrary, the greatest
interest in all that happened to Raoul."

"In Paris?"

"Yes, in Paris, or Boulogne. You understand I am on the spot; if
anything should happen, I am here to meet it; whilst Raoul is absent, and
has only myself to represent him; so, Raoul's affairs before my own."

"But he will return?"

"Not, however, until his mission is completed. In the meantime, you
understand, evil reports cannot be permitted to circulate about him
without my looking into them."

"And for a better reason still, that he will remain some time in London,"
said De Wardes, chuckling.

"You think so," said De Guiche, simply.

"Think so, indeed! do you suppose he was sent to London for no other
purpose than to go there and return again immediately? No, no; he was
sent to London to remain there."

"Ah! De Wardes," said De Guiche, grasping De Wardes's hand, "that is a
very serious suspicion concerning Bragelonne, which completely confirms
what he wrote to me from Boulogne."

De Wardes resumed his former coldness of manner: his love of raillery had
led him too far, and by his own imprudence, he had laid himself open to

"Well, tell me, what did he write to you about?" he inquired.

"He told me that you had artfully insinuated some injurious remarks
against La Valliere, and that you had seemed to laugh at his great
confidence in that young girl."

"Well, it is perfectly true I did so," said De Wardes, "and I was quite
ready, at the time, to hear from the Vicomte de Bragelonne that which
every man expects from another whenever anything may have been said to
displease him. In the same way, for instance, if I were seeking a
quarrel with you, I should tell you that Madame after having shown the
greatest preference for the Duke of Buckingham, is at this moment
supposed to have sent the handsome duke away for your benefit."

"Oh! that would not wound me in the slightest degree, my dear De Wardes,"
said De Guiche, smiling, notwithstanding the shiver that ran through his
whole frame. "Why, such a favor would be too great a happiness."

"I admit that, but if I absolutely wished to quarrel with you, I should
try and invent a falsehood, perhaps, and speak to you about a certain
arbor, where you and that illustrious princess were together - I should
speak also of certain gratifications, of certain kissings of the hand;
and you who are so secret on all occasions, so hasty, so punctilious - "

"Well," said De Guiche, interrupting him, with a smile upon his lips,
although he almost felt as if he were going to die; "I swear I should not
care for that, nor should I in any way contradict you; for you must know,
my dear marquis, that for all matters which concern myself I am a block
of ice; but it is a very different thing when an absent friend is
concerned, a friend, who, on leaving, confided his interests to my safe-
keeping; for such a friend, De Wardes, believe me, I am like fire itself."

"I understand you, Monsieur de Guiche. In spite of what you say, there
cannot be any question between us, just now, either of Bragelonne or of
this insignificant girl, whose name is La Valliere."

At this moment some of the younger courtiers were crossing the apartment,
and having already heard the few words which had just been pronounced,
were able also to hear those which were about to follow. De Wardes
observed this, and continued aloud: - "Oh! if La Valliere were a coquette
like Madame, whose innocent flirtations, I am sure, were, first of all,
the cause of the Duke of Buckingham being sent back to England, and
afterwards were the reason of your being sent into exile; for you will
not deny, I suppose, that Madame's pretty ways really had a certain
influence over you?"

The courtiers drew nearer to the speakers, Saint-Aignan at their head,
and then Manicamp.

"But, my dear fellow, whose fault was that?" said De Guiche, laughing.
"I am a vain, conceited fellow, I know, and everybody else knows it too.
I took seriously that which was only intended as a jest, and got myself
exiled for my pains. But I saw my error. I overcame my vanity, and I
obtained my recall, by making the _amende honorable_, and by promising
myself to overcome this defect; and the consequence is, that I am so
thoroughly cured, that I now laugh at the very thing which, three or four
days ago, would have almost broken my heart. But Raoul is in love, and
is loved in return; he cannot laugh at the reports which disturb his
happiness - reports which you seem to have undertaken to interpret, when
you know, marquis, as I do, as these gentlemen do, as every one does in
fact, that all such reports are pure calumny."

"Calumny!" exclaimed De Wardes, furious at seeing himself caught in the
snare by De Guiche's coolness of temper.

"Certainly - calumny. Look at this letter from him, in which he tell me
you have spoken ill of Mademoiselle de la Valliere; and where he asks me,
if what you reported about this young girl is true or not. Do you wish
me to appeal to these gentlemen, De Wardes, to decide?" And with
admirable coolness, De Guiche read aloud the paragraph of the letter
which referred to La Valliere. "And now," continued De Guiche, "there is
no doubt in the world, as far as I am concerned, that you wished to
disturb Bragelonne's peace of mind, and that your remarks were
maliciously intended."

De Wardes looked round him, to see if he could find support from any one;
but, at the idea that De Wardes had insulted, either directly or
indirectly, the idol of the day, every one shook his head; and De Wardes
saw that he was in the wrong.

"Messieurs," said De Guiche, intuitively divining the general feeling,
"my discussion with Monsieur de Wardes refers to a subject so delicate in
its nature, that it is most important no one should hear more than you
have already heard. Close the doors, then, I beg you, and let us finish
our conversation in the manner which becomes two gentlemen, one of whom
has given the other the lie."

"Messieurs, messieurs!" exclaimed those who were present.

"Is it your opinion, then, that I was wrong in defending Mademoiselle de
la Valliere?" said De Guiche. "In that case, I pass judgment upon
myself, and am ready to withdraw the offensive words I may have used to
Monsieur de Wardes."

"The deuce! certainly not!" said Saint-Aignan. "Mademoiselle de la
Valliere is an angel."

"Virtue and purity itself," said Manicamp.

"You see, Monsieur de Wardes," said De Guiche, "I am not the only one who
undertakes the defense of
that poor girl. I entreat you, therefore,
messieurs, a second time, to leave us. You see, it is impossible we
could be more calm and composed than we are."

It was the very thing the courtiers wished; some went out at one door,
and the rest at the other, and the two young men were left alone.

"Well played," said De Wardes, to the comte.

"Was it not?" replied the latter.

"How can it be wondered at, my dear fellow; I have got quite rusty in the
country, while the command you have acquired over yourself, comte,
confounds me; a man always gains something in women's society; so, pray
accept my congratulations."

"I do accept them."

"And I will make Madame a present of them."

"And now, my dear Monsieur de Wardes, let us speak as loud as you please."

"Do not defy me."

"I do defy you, for you are known to be an evil-minded man; if you do
that, you will be looked upon as a coward, too; and Monsieur would have
you hanged, this evening, at his window-casement. Speak, my dear De
Wardes, speak."

"I have fought already."

"But not quite enough, yet."

"I see, you would not be sorry to fight with me while my wounds are still

"No; better still."

"The deuce! you are unfortunate in the moment you have chosen; a duel,
after the one I have just fought, would hardly suit me; I have lost too
much blood at Boulogne; at the slightest effort my wounds would open
again, and you would really have too good a bargain."

"True," said De Guiche; "and yet, on your arrival here, your looks and
your arms showed there was nothing the matter with you."

"Yes, my arms are all right, but my legs are weak; and then, I have not
had a foil in my hand since that devil of a duel; and you, I am sure,
have been fencing every day, in order to carry your little conspiracy
against me to a successful issue."

"Upon my honor, monsieur," replied De Guiche, "it is six months since I
last practiced."

"No, comte, after due reflection, I will not fight, at least, with you.
I will await Bragelonne's return, since you say it is Bragelonne who
finds fault with me."

"Oh no, indeed! You shall not wait until Bragelonne's return," exclaimed
the comte, losing all command over himself, "for you have said that
Bragelonne might, possibly, be some time before he returns; and, in the
meanwhile, your wicked insinuations would have had their effect."

"Yet, I shall have my excuse. So take care."

"I will give you a week to finish your recovery."

"That is better. We will wait a week."

"Yes, yes, I understand; a week will give time to my adversary to make
his escape. No, no; I will not give you one day, even."

"You are mad, monsieur," said De Wardes, retreating a step.

"And you are a coward, if you do not fight willingly. Nay, what is more,
I will denounce you to the king, as having refused to fight, after having
insulted La Valliere."

"Ah!" said De Wardes, "you are dangerously treacherous, though you pass
for a man of honor."

"There is nothing more dangerous than the treachery, as you term it, of
the man whose conduct is always loyal and upright."

"Restore me the use of my legs, then, or get yourself bled, till you are
as white as I am, so as to equalize our chances."

"No, no; I have something better than that to propose."

"What is it?"

"We will fight on horseback, and will exchange three pistol-shots each.
You are a first rate marksman. I have seen you bring down swallows with
single balls, and at full gallop. Do not deny it, for I have seen you

"I believe you are right," said De Wardes; "and as that is the case, it
is not unlikely I might kill you."

"You would be rendering me a very great service, if you did."

"I will do my best."

"Is it agreed? Give me your hand upon it."

"There it is: but on one condition, however."

"Name it."

"That not a word shall be said about it to the king."

"Not a word, I swear."

"I will go and get my horse, then."

"And I, mine."

"Where shall we meet?"

"In the plain; I know an admirable place."

"Shall we go together?"

"Why not?"

And both of them, on their way to the stables, passed beneath Madame's
windows, which were faintly lighted; a shadow could be seen behind the
lace curtains. "There is a woman," said De Wardes, smiling, "who does
not suspect that we are going to fight - to die, perhaps, on her account."

Chapter XIII:
The Combat.

De Wardes and De Guiche selected their horses, and saddled them with
their own hands, with holster saddles. De Guiche, having two pairs of
pistols, went to his apartments to get them; and after having loaded
them, gave the choice to De Wardes, who selected the pair he had made use
of twenty times before - the same, indeed, with which De Guiche had seen
him kill swallows flying. "You will not be surprised," he said, "if I
take every precaution. You know the weapons well, and, consequently, I
am only making the chances equal."

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

"Now," said De Wardes, "I beg you to have the goodness to help me to
mount; for I still experience a little difficulty in doing so."

"In that case, we had better settle the matter on foot."

"No; once in the saddle, I shall be all right."

"Very good, then; we will not speak of it again," said De Guiche, as he
assisted De Wardes to mount his horse.

"And now," continued the young man, "in our eagerness to murder one
another, we have neglected one circumstance."

"What is that?"

"That it is quite dark, and we shall almost be obliged to grope about, in
order to kill."

"Oh!" said De Guiche, "you are as anxious as I am that everything should
be done in proper order."

"Yes; but I do not wish people to say that you have assassinated me, any
more than, supposing I were to kill you, I should myself like to be
accused of such a crime."

"Did any one make a similar remark about your duel with the Duke of
Buckingham?" said De Guiche; "it took place precisely under the same
conditions as ours."

"Very true; but there was still light enough to see by; and we were up to
our middles almost, in the water; besides, there were a good number of
spectators on shore, looking at

De Guiche reflected for a moment; and the thought which had already
presented itself to him became more confirmed - that De Wardes wished to
have witnesses present, in order to bring back the conversation about
Madame, and to give a new turn to the combat. He avoided saying a word
in reply, therefore; and, as De Wardes once more looked at him
interrogatively, he replied, by a movement of the head, that it would be
best to let things remain as they were. The two adversaries consequently
set off, and left the chateau by the same gate, close to which we may
remember to have seen Montalais and Malicorne together. The night, as if
to counteract the extreme heat of the day, had gathered the clouds
together in masses which were moving slowly along from the west to the
east. The vault above, without a clear spot anywhere visible, or without
the faintest indication of thunder, seemed to hang heavily over the
earth, and soon began, by the force of the wind, to split into streamers,
like a huge sheet torn to shreds. Large and warm drops of rain began to
fall heavily, and gathered the dust into globules, which rolled along the
ground. At the same time, the hedges, which seemed conscious of the
approaching storm, the thirsty plants, the drooping branches of the
trees, exhaled a thousand aromatic odors, which revived in the mind
tender recollections, thoughts of youth, endless life, happiness, and
love. "How fresh the earth smells," said De Wardes; "it is a piece of
coquetry to draw us to her."

"By the by," replied De Guiche, "several ideas have just occurred to me;
and I wish to have your opinion upon them."

"Relative to - "

"Relative to our engagement."

"It is quite some time, in fact, that we should begin to arrange matters."

"Is it to be an ordinary combat, and conducted according to established

"Let me first know what your established custom is."

"That we dismount in any particular open space that may suit us, fasten
our horses to the nearest object, meet, each without our pistols in our
hands, and afterwards retire for a hundred and fifty paces, in order to
advance on each other."

"Very good; that is precisely the way in which I killed poor Follivent,
three weeks ago, at Saint-Denis."

"I beg your pardon, but you forgot one circumstance."

"What is that?"

"That in your duel with Follivent you advanced towards each other on
foot, your swords between your teeth, and your pistols in your hands."


"While now, on the contrary, as you cannot walk, you yourself admit that
we shall have to mount our horses again, and charge; and the first who
wishes to fire will do so."

"That is the best course, no doubt; but it is quite dark; we must make
allowances for more missed
shots than would be the case in the daytime."

"Very well; each will fire three times; the pair of pistols already
loaded, and one reload."

"Excellent! Where shall our engagement take place?"

"Have you any preference?"


"You see that small wood which lies before us?"

"The wood which is called Rochin?"


"You know it?"


"You know that there is an open glade in the center?"


"Well, this glade is admirably adapted for such a purpose, with a variety
of roads, by-places, paths, ditches, windings, and avenues. We could not
find a better spot."

"I am perfectly satisfied, if you are so. We are at our destination, if
I am not mistaken."

"Yes. Look at the beautiful open space in the center. The faint light
which the stars afford seems concentrated in this spot; the woods which
surround it seem, with their barriers, to form its natural limits."

"Very good. Do as you say."

"Let us first settle the conditions."

"These are mine; if you have any objection to make you will state it."

"I am listening."

"If the horse be killed, its rider will be obliged to fight on foot."

"That is a matter of course, since we have no change of horses here."

"But that does not oblige his adversary to dismount."

"His adversary will, in fact, be free to act as he likes."

"The adversaries, having once met in close contact, cannot quit each
other under any circumstances, and may, consequently, fire muzzle to


"Three shots and no more will do, I suppose?"

"Quite sufficient, I think. Here are powder and balls for your pistols;
measure out three charges, take three balls, I will do the same; then we
will throw the rest of the powder and balls away."

"And we will solemnly swear," said De Wardes, "that we have neither balls
nor powder about us?"

"Agreed; and I swear it," said De Guiche, holding his hand towards
heaven, a gesture which De Wardes imitated.

"And now, my dear comte," said De Wardes, "allow me to tell you that I am
in no way your dupe. You already are, or soon will be, the accepted
lover of Madame. I have detected your secret, and you are afraid I shall
tell others of it. You wish to kill me, to insure my silence; that is
very clear; and in your place, I should do the same." De Guiche hung
down his head. "Only," continued De Wardes, triumphantly, "was it really
worth while, tell me, to throw this affair of Bragelonne's on my
shoulders? But, take care, my dear fellow; in bringing the wild boar to
bay, you enrage him to madness; in running down the fox, you endow him
with the ferocity of the jaguar. The consequence is, that brought to bay
by you, I shall defend myself to the very last."

"You will be quite right to do so."

"Yes; but take care; I shall work more harm than you think. In the first
place, as a beginning, you will readily suppose that I have not been
absurd enough to lock up my secret, or your secret rather, in my own
breast. There is a friend of mine, who resembles me in every way, a man
whom you know very well, who shares my secret with me; so, pray
understand, that if you kill me, my death will not have been of much
service to you; whilst, on the contrary, if I kill you - and everything
is possible, you know - you understand?" De Guiche shuddered. "If I
kill you," continued De Wardes, "you will have secured two mortal enemies
to Madame, who will do their very utmost to ruin her."

"Oh! monsieur," exclaimed De Guiche, furiously, "do not reckon upon my
death so easily. Of the two enemies you speak of, I trust most heartily
to dispose of one immediately, and the other at the earliest opportunity."

The only reply De Wardes made was a burst of laughter, so diabolical in
its sound, that a superstitious man would have been terrified. But De
Guiche was not so impressionable as that. "I think," he said, "that
everything is now settled, Monsieur de Wardes; so have the goodness to
take your place first, unless you would prefer me to do so."

"By no means," said De Wardes. "I shall be delighted to save you the
slightest trouble." And spurring his horse to a gallop, he crossed the
wide open space, and took his stand at that point of the circumference of
the cross-road immediately opposite to where De Guiche was stationed. De
Guiche remained motionless. At this distance of a hundred paces, the two
adversaries were absolutely invisible to each other, being completely
concealed by the thick shade of elms and chestnuts. A minute elapsed
amidst the profoundest silence. At the end of the minute, each of them,
in the deep shade in which he was concealed, heard the double click of
the trigger, as they put the pistols on full cock. De Guiche, adopting
the usual tactics, put his horse to a gallop, persuaded that he should
render his safety doubly sure by the movement, as well as by the speed of
the animal. He directed his course in a straight line towards the point
where, in his opinion, De Wardes would be stationed; and he expected to
meet De Wardes about half-way; but in this he was mistaken. He continued
his course, presuming that his adversary was impatiently awaiting his
approach. When, however, he had gone about two-thirds of the distance,
he beheld the trees suddenly illuminated and a ball flew by, cutting the
plume of his hat in two. Nearly at the same moment, and as if the flash
of the first shot had served to indicate the direction of the other, a
second report was heard, and a second ball passed through the head of De
Guiche's horse, a little below the ear. The animal fell. These two
reports, proceeding from the very opposite direction in which he expected
to find De Wardes, surprised him a great deal; but as he was a man of
amazing self-possession, he prepared himself for his horse falling, but
not so completely, however, that the toe of his boot escaped being caught
under the animal as it fell. Very fortunately the horse in its dying
agonies moved so as to enable him to release the leg which was less
entangled than the other. De Guiche rose, felt himself all over, and
found that he was not wounded. At the very moment he had felt the horse
tottering under him, he placed his pistols in the holsters, afraid that
the force of the fall might explode one at least, if not both of them, by
which he would have been disarmed, and left utterly without defense.
Once on his feet, he took the pistols out of the holsters, and advanced
towards the spot where, by the light of the flash, he had seen De Wardes
appear. De Wardes had, at the first shot, accounted for the maneuver,
than which nothing could have been simpler. Instead of advancing to meet
De Guiche, or remaining in his place to await his approach, De Wardes
had, for about fifteen paces, followed the circle of the shadow which hid
him from his adversary's observation, and at the very moment when the
latter presented his flank in his career, he had fired from the place
where he stood, carefully taking aim, and assisted instead of being
inconvenienced by the horse's gallop. It has been seen that,
notwithstanding the darkness, the first ball passed hardly more than an
inch above De Guiche's head. De Wardes had so confidently relied upon
his aim, that he thought he had seen De Guiche fall; his astonishment was
extreme when he saw he still remained erect in his saddle. He hastened
to fire his second shot, but his hand trembled, and he killed the horse
instead. It would be a most fortunate chance for him if De Guiche were
to remain held fast under the animal. Before he could have freed
himself, De Wardes would have loaded his pistol and had De Guiche at his
mercy. But De Guiche, on the contrary, was up, and had three shots to
fire. De Guiche immediately understood the position of affairs. It
would be necessary to exceed De Wardes in rapidity of execution. He
advanced, therefore, so as to reach him before he should have had time to
reload his pistol. De Wardes saw him approaching like a tempest. The
ball was rather tight, and offered some resistance to the ramrod. To
load carelessly would be simply to lose his last chance; to take the
proper care in loading meant fatal loss of time, or rather, throwing away
his life. He made his horse bound on one side. De Guiche turned round
also, and, at the moment the horse was quiet again, fired, and the ball
carried off De Wardes's hat from his head. De Wardes now knew that he
had a moment's time at his own disposal; he availed himself of it in
order to finish loading his pistol. De Guiche, noticing that his
adversary did not fall, threw the pistol he had just discharged aside,
and walked straight towards De Wardes, elevating the second pistol as he
did so. He had hardly proceeded more than two or three paces, when De
Wardes took aim at him as he was walking, and fired. An exclamation of
anger was De Guiche's answer; the comte's arm contracted and dropped
motionless by his side, and the pistol fell from his grasp. His anxiety
was excessive. "I am lost," murmured De Wardes, "he is not mortally
wounded." At the very moment, however, De Guiche was about to raise his
pistol against De Wardes, the head, shoulders, and limbs of the comte
seemed to collapse. He heaved a deep-drawn sigh, tottered, and fell at
the feet of De Wardes's horse.

"That is all right," said De Wardes, and gathering up the reins, he
struck his spurs into the horse's sides. The horse cleared the comte's
motionless body, and bore De Wardes rapidly back to the chateau. When he
arrived there, he remained a quarter of an hour deliberating within
himself as to the proper course to be adopted. In his impatience to
leave the field of battle, he had omitted to ascertain whether De Guiche
were dead or not. A double hypothesis presented itself to De Wardes's
agitated mind; either De Guiche was killed, or De Guiche was wounded
only. If he were killed, why should he leave his body in that manner to
the tender mercies of the wolves; it was a perfectly useless piece of
cruelty, for if De Guiche were dead, he certainly could not breathe a
syllable of what had passed; if he were not killed, why should he, De
Wardes, in leaving him there uncared for, allow himself to be regarded as
a savage, incapable of one generous feeling? This last consideration
determined his line of conduct.

De Wardes immediately instituted inquires after Manicamp. He was told
that Manicamp had been looking after De Guiche, and, not knowing where to
find him, had retired to bed. De Wardes went and awoke the sleeper,
without any delay, and related the whole affair to him, which Manicamp
listened to in perfect silence, but with an expression of momentarily
increasing energy, of which his face could hardly have been supposed
capable. It was only when De Wardes had finished, that Manicamp uttered
the words, "Let us go."

As they proceeded, Manicamp became more and more excited, and in
proportion as De Wardes related the details of the affair to him, his
countenance assumed every moment a darker expression. "And so," he said,
when De Wardes had finished, "you think he is dead?"

"Alas, I do."

"And you fought in that manner, without witnesses?"

"He insisted upon it."

"It is very singular."

"What do you mean by saying it is singular?"

"That it is very unlike Monsieur de Guiche's disposition."

"You do not doubt my word, I suppose?"

"Hum! hum!"

"You do doubt it, then?"

"A little. But I shall doubt it more than ever, I warn you, if I find
the poor fellow is really dead."

"Monsieur Manicamp!"

"Monsieur de Wardes!"

"It seems you intend to insult me."

"Just as you please. The fact is, I never did like people who come and
say, 'I have killed such and such a gentleman in a corner; it is a great
pity, but I killed him in a perfectly honorable manner.' It has an ugly
appearance, M. de Wardes."

"Silence! we have arrived."

In fact, the glade could now be seen, and in the open space lay the
motionless body of the dead horse. To the right of the horse, upon the
dark grass, with his face against the ground, the poor comte lay, bathed
in his blood. He had remained in the same spot, and did not even seem to
have made the slightest movement. Manicamp threw himself on his knees,
lifted the comte in his arms, and found him quite cold, and steeped in
blood. He let him gently fall again. Then, stretching out his hand and
feeling all over the ground close to where the comte lay, he sought until
he found De Guiche's pistol.

"By Heaven!" he said, rising to his feet, pale as death and with the
pistol in his hand, "you are not mistaken, he is quite dead."

"Dead!" repeated De Wardes.

"Yes; and his pistol is still loaded," added Manicamp, looking into the

"But I told you that I took aim as he was walking towards me, and fired
at him at the very moment he was going to fire at me."

"Are you quite sure that you fought with him, Monsieur de Wardes? I
confess that I am very much afraid it has been a foul assassination.
Nay, nay, no exclamations! You have had your three shots, and his
pistol is still loaded. You have killed his horse, and he, De Guiche,
one of the best marksmen in France, has not touched even either your
horse or yourself. Well, Monsieur de Wardes, you have been very unlucky
in bringing me here; all the blood in my body seems to have mounted to my
head; and I verily believe that since so good an opportunity presents
itself, I shall blow your brains out on the spot. So, Monsieur de
Wardes, recommend yourself to Heaven."

"Monsieur Manicamp, you cannot think of such a thing!"

"On the contrary, I am thinking of it very strongly."

"Would you assassinate me?"

"Without the slightest remorse, at least for the present."

"Are you a gentleman?"

"I have given a great many proofs of that."

"Let me defend my life, then, at least."

"Very likely; in order, I suppose, that you may do to me what you have
done to poor De Guiche."

And Manicamp slowly raised his pistol to the height of De Wardes's
breast, and with arm stretched out, and a fixed, determined look on his
face, took a careful aim.

De Wardes did not attempt a flight; he was completely terrified. In the
midst, however, of this horrible silence, which lasted about a second,
but which seemed an age to De Wardes, a faint sigh was heard.

"Oh," exclaimed De Wardes, "he still lives! Help, De Guiche, I am about
to be assassinated!"

Manicamp fell back a step or two, and the two young men saw the comte
raise himself slowly and painfully upon one hand. Manicamp threw the
pistol away a dozen paces, and ran to his friend, uttering a cry of
delight. De Wardes wiped his forehead, which was covered with a cold

"It was just in time," he murmured.

"Where are you hurt?" inquired Manicamp of De Guiche, "and whereabouts
are you wounded?"

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

"Comte," exclaimed De Wardes, "I am accused of having assassinated you;
speak, I implore you, and say that I fought loyally."

"Perfectly so," said the wounded man; "Monsieur de Wardes fought quite
loyally, and whoever says the contrary will make an enemy of me."

"Then, sir," said Manicamp, "assist me, in the first place, to carry this
gentleman home, and I will afterwards give you every satisfaction you
please; or, if you are in a hurry, we can do better still; let us stanch
the blood from the comte's wounds here, with your pocket-handkerchief and
mine, and then, as there are two shots left, we can have them between us."

"Thank you," said De Wardes. "Twice already, in one hour, I have seen
death too close at hand to be agreeable; I don't like his look at all,
and I prefer your apologies."

Manicamp burst out laughing, and Guiche, too, in spite of his
sufferings. The two young men wished to carry him, but he declared he
felt quite strong enough to walk alone. The ball had broken his ring-
finger and his little finger, and then had glanced along his side, but
without penetrating deeply into his chest. It was the pain rather than
the seriousness of the wound, therefore, which had overcome De Guiche.
Manicamp passed his arm under one of the count's shoulders, and De Wardes
did the same with the other, and in this way they brought him back to
Fontainebleau, to the house of the same doctor who had been present at
the death of the Franciscan, Aramis's predecessor.

Chapter XIV:
The King's Supper.

The king, while these matters were being arranged, was sitting at the
supper-table, and the not very large number of guests for that day had
taken their seats too, after the usual gesture intimating the royal
permission. At this period of Louis XIV.'s reign, although etiquette was
not governed by the strict regulations subsequently adopted, the French
court had entirely thrown aside the traditions of good-fellowship and
patriarchal affability existing in the time of Henry IV., which the
suspicious mind of Louis XIII. had gradually replaced with pompous state
and ceremony, which he despaired of being able fully to realize.

The king, therefore, was seated alone at a small separate table, which,
like the desk of a president, overlooked the adjoining tables. Although
we say a small table, we must not omit to add that this small table was
the largest one there. Moreover, it was the one on which were placed the
greatest number and quantity of dishes, consisting of fish, game, meat,
fruit, vegetables, and preserves. The king was young and full of vigor
and energy, very fond of hunting, addicted to all violent exercises of
the body, possessing, besides, like all the members of the Bourbon
family, a rapid digestion and an appetite speedily renewed. Louis XIV.
was a formidable table-companion; he delighted in criticising his cooks;
but when he honored them by praise and commendation, the honor was
overwhelming. The king began by eating several kinds of soup, either
mixed together or taken separately. He intermixed, or rather separated,
each of the soups by a glass of old wine. He ate quickly and somewhat
greedily. Porthos, who from the beginning had, out of respect, been
waiting for a jog of D'Artagnan's arm, seeing the king make such rapid
progress, turned to the musketeer and said in a low voice:

"It seems as if one might go on now; his majesty is very encouraging,
from the example he sets. Look."

"The king eats," said D'Artagnan, "but he talks at the same time; try and
manage matters in such a manner that, if he should happen to address a
remark to you, he will not find you with your mouth full - which would be
very disrespectful."

"The best way, in that case," said Porthos, "is to eat no supper at all;
and yet I am very hungry, I admit, and everything looks and smells most
invitingly, as if appealing to all my senses at once."

"Don't think of not eating for a moment," said D'Artagnan; "that would
put his majesty out terribly. The king has a saying, 'that he who works
well, eats well,' and he does not like people to eat indifferently at his

"How can I avoid having my mouth full if I eat?" said Porthos.

"All you have to do," replied the captain of the musketeers, "is simply
to swallow what you have in it, whenever the king does you the honor to
address a remark to you."

"Very good," said Porthos; and from that moment he began to eat with a
certain well-bred enthusiasm.

The king occasionally looked at the different persons who were at table
with him, and, _en connoisseur_, could appreciate the different
dispositions of his guests.

"Monsieur du Vallon!" he said.

Porthos was enjoying a _salmi de lievre_, and swallowed half of the
back. His name, pronounced in such a manner, made him start, and by a
vigorous effort of his gullet he absorbed the whole mouthful.

"Sire," replied Porthos, in a stifled voice, but sufficiently
intelligible, nevertheless.

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

"Sire, I like everything," replied Porthos.

D'Artagnan whispered: "Everything your majesty sends me."

Porthos repeated: "Everything your majesty sends me," an observation
which the king apparently received with great satisfaction.

"People eat well who work well," replied the king, delighted to have _en
tete-a-tete_ a guest who could eat as Porthos did. Porthos received the
dish of lamb, and put a portion of it on his plate.

"Well?" said the king.

"Exquisite," said Porthos, calmly.

"Have you as good mutton in your part of the country, Monsieur du
Vallon?" continued the king.

"Sire, I believe that from my own province, as everywhere else, the best
of everything is sent to Paris for your majesty's use; but, on the other
hand, I do not eat lamb in the same way your majesty does."

"Ah, ah! and how do you eat it?"

"Generally, I have a lamb dressed whole."


"Yes, sire."

"In what manner, Monsieur du Vallon?"

"In this, sire: my cook, who is a German, first stuffs the lamb in
question with small sausages he procures from Strasburg, force-meat balls
from Troyes, and larks from Pithiviers; by some means or other, which I
am not acquainted with, he bones the lamb as he would do a fowl, leaving
the skin on, however, which forms a brown crust all over the animal; when
it is cut in beautiful slices, in the same way as an enormous sausage, a
rose-colored gravy pours forth, which is as agreeable to the eye as it is
exquisite to the palate." And Porthos finished by smacking his lips.

The king opened his eyes with delight, and, while cutting some of the
_faisan en daube_, which was being handed to him, he said:

"That is a dish I should very much like to taste, Monsieur du Vallon. Is
it possible! a whole lamb!"

"Absolutely an entire lamb, sire."

"Pass those pheasants to M. du Vallon; I perceive he is an amateur."

The order was immediately obeyed. Then, continuing the conversation, he
said: "And you do not find the lamb too fat?"

"No, sire, the fat falls down at the same time as the gravy does, and
swims on the surface; then the servant who carves removes the fat with a
spoon, which I have had expressly made for that purpose."

"Where do you reside?" inquired the king.

"At Pierrefonds, sire."

"At Pierrefonds; where is that, M. du Vallon - near Belle-Isle?"

"Oh, no, sire! Pierrefonds is in the Soissonnais."

"I thought you alluded to the lamb on account of the salt marshes."

"No, sire, I have marshes which are not salt, it is true, but which are
not the less valuable on that account."

The king had now arrived at the _entrements_, but without losing sight of
Porthos, who continued to play his part in the best manner.

"You have an excellent appetite, M. du Vallon," said the king, "and you
make an admirable guest at table."

"Ah! sire, if your majesty were ever to pay a visit to Pierrefonds, we
would both of us eat our lamb together; for your appetite is not an
indifferent one by any means."

D'Artagnan gave Porthos a kick under the table, which made Porthos color

"At your majesty's present happy age," said Porthos, in order to repair
the mistake he had made, "I was in the musketeers, and nothing could ever
satisfy me then. Your majesty has an excellent appetite, as I have
already had the honor of mentioning, but you select what you eat with
quite too much refinement to be called for one moment a great eater."

The king seemed charmed at his guest's politeness.

"Will you try some of these creams?" he said to Porthos.

"Sire, you majesty treats me with far too much kindness to prevent me
speaking the whole truth."

"Pray do so, M. du Vallon."

"Will, sire, with regard to sweet dishes I only recognize pastry, and
even that should be rather solid; all these frothy substances swell the
stomach, and occupy a space which seems to me to be too precious to be so
badly tenanted."

"Ah! gentlemen," said the king, indicating Porthos by a gesture, "here is
indeed a model of gastronomy. It was in such a manner that our fathers,
who so well knew what good living was, used to _eat_, while we," added
his majesty, "do nothing but tantalize with our stomachs." And as he
spoke, he took the breast of a chicken with ham, while Porthos attacked a
dish of partridges and quails. The cup-bearer filled his majesty's
glass. "Give M. du Vallon some of my wine," said the king. This was one
of the greatest honors of the royal table. D'Artagnan pressed his
friend's knee. "If you could only manage to swallow the half of that
boar's head I see yonder," said he to Porthos, "I shall believe you will
be a duke and peer within the next twelvemonth."

"Presently," said Porthos, phlegmatically; "I shall come to that by and

In fact it was not long before it came to the boar's turn, for the king
seemed to take pleasure in urging on his guest; he did not pass any of
the dishes to Porthos until he had tasted them himself, and he
accordingly took some of the boar's head. Porthos showed that he could
keep pace with his sovereign; and, instead of eating the half, as
D'Artagnan had told him, he ate three-fourths of it. "It is impossible,"
said the king in an undertone, "that a gentleman who eats so good a
supper every day, and who has such beautiful teeth, can be otherwise than
the most straightforward, upright man in my kingdom."

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

"Yes; I think I am rather in favor," said Porthos, balancing himself on
his chair.

"Oh! you are in luck's way."

The king and Porthos continued to eat in the same manner, to the great
satisfaction of the other guests, some of whom, from emulation, had
attempted to follow them, but were obliged to give up half-way. The king
soon began to get flushed and the reaction of the blood to his face
announced that the moment of repletion had arrived. It was then that
Louis XIV., instead of becoming gay and cheerful, as most good livers
generally do, became dull, melancholy, and taciturn. Porthos, on the
contrary, was lively and communicative. D'Artagnan's foot had more than
once to remind him of this peculiarity of the king. The dessert now made
its appearance. The king had ceased to think anything further of
Porthos; he turned his eyes anxiously towards the entrance-door, and he
was heard occasionally to inquire how it happened that Monsieur de Saint-
Aignan was so long in arriving. At last, at the moment when his majesty
was finishing a pot of preserved plums with a deep sigh, Saint-Aignan
appeared. The king's eyes, which had become somewhat dull, immediately
began to sparkle. The comte advanced towards the king's table, and Louis
rose at his approach. Everybody got up at the same time, including
Porthos, who was just finishing an almond-cake capable of making the jaws
of a crocodile stick together. The supper was over.

Chapter XV:
After Supper.

The king took Saint-Aignan by the arm, and passed into the adjoining
apartment. "What has detained you, comte?" said the king.

"I was bringing the answer, sire," replied the comte.

"She has taken a long time to reply to what I wrote her."

"Sire, your majesty deigned to write in verse, and Mademoiselle de la
Valliere wished to repay your majesty in the same coin; that is to say,
in gold."

"Verses! Saint-Aignan," exclaimed the king in ecstasy. "Give them to me
at once." And Louis broke the seal of a little letter, inclosing the
verses which history has preserved entire for us, and which are more
meritorious in invention than in execution. Such as they were, however,
the king was enchanted with them, and exhibited his satisfaction by
unequivocal transports of delight; but the universal silence which
reigned in the rooms warned Louis, so sensitively particular with regard
to good breeding, that his delight must give rise to various
interpretations. He turned aside and put the note in his pocket, and
then advancing a few steps, which brought him again to the threshold of
the door close to his guests, he said, "M. du Vallon, I have seen you to-
day with the greatest pleasure, and my pleasure will be equally great to
see you again." Porthos bowed as the Colossus of Rhodes would have done,
and retired from the room with his face towards the king. "M.
d'Artagnan," continued the king, "you will await my orders in the
gallery; I am obliged to you for having made me acquainted with M. du
Vallon. Gentlemen," addressing himself to the other guests, "I return to
Paris to-morrow on account of the departure of the Spanish and Dutch
ambassadors. Until to-morrow then."

The apartment was immediately cleared of the guests. The king took Saint-
Aignan by the arm, made him read La Valliere's verses over again, and
said, "What do you think of them?"

"Charming, sire."

"They charm me, in fact, and if they were known - "

"Oh! the professional poets would be jealous of them; but it is not
likely they will know anything about them."

"Did you give her mine?"

"Oh! sire, she positively devoured them."

"They were very weak, I am afraid."

"That is not what Mademoiselle de la Valliere said of them."

"Do you think she was pleased with them?"

"I am sure of it, sire."

"I must answer, then."

"Oh! sire, immediately after supper? Your majesty will fatigue yourself."

"You are quite right; study after eating is notoriously injurious."

"The labor of a poet especially so; and besides, there is great
excitement prevailing at Mademoiselle de la Valliere's."

"What do you mean?"

"With her as with all the ladies of the court."


"On account of poor De Guiche's accident."

"Has anything serious happened to De Guiche, then?"

"Yes, sire, he has one hand nearly destroyed, a hole in his breast; in
fact, he is dying."

"Good heavens! who told you that?"

"Manicamp brought him back just now to the house of a doctor here in
Fontainebleau, and the rumor soon reached us all."

"Brought back! Poor De Guiche; and how did it happen?"

"Ah! that is the very question, - how did it happen?"

"You say that in a very singular manner, Saint-Aignan. Give me the
details. What does he say himself?"

"He says nothing, sire; but others do."

"What others?"

"Those who brought him back, sire."

"Who are they?"

"I do not know, sire; but M. de Manicamp knows. M. de Manicamp is one of
his friends."

"As everybody is, indeed," said the king.

"Oh! no!" returned Saint-Aignan, "you are mistaken sire; every one is not
precisely a friend of M. de Guiche."

"How do you know that?"

"Does your majesty require me to explain myself?"

"Certainly I do."

"Well, sire, I believe I have heard something said about a quarrel
between two gentlemen."


"This very evening, before your majesty's supper was served."

"That can hardly be. I have issued such stringent and severe ordinances
with respect to duelling, that no one, I presume, would dare to disobey

"In that case, Heaven preserve me from excusing any one!" exclaimed Saint-
Aignan. "Your majesty commanded me to speak, and I spoke accordingly."

"Tell me, then, in what way the Comte de Guiche has been wounded?"

"Sire, it is said to have been at a boar-hunt."

"This evening?"

"Yes, sire."

"One of his hands shattered, and a hole in his breast. Who was at the
hunt with M. de Guiche?"

"I do not know, sire; but M. de Manicamp knows, or ought to know."

"You are concealing something from me, Saint-Aignan."

"Nothing, sire, I assure you."

"Then, explain to me how the accident happened; was it a musket that

"Very likely, sire. But yet, on reflection, it could hardly have been
that, for De Guiche's pistol was found close by him still loaded."

"His pistol? But a man does not go to a boar-hunt with a pistol, I
should think."

"Sire, it is also said that De Guiche's horse was killed and that the
horse is still to be found in the wide open glade in the forest."

"His horse? - Guiche go on horseback to a boar-hunt? - Saint-Aignan, I do
not understand a syllable of what you have been telling me. Where did
this affair happen?"

"At the Rond-point, in that part of the forest called the Bois-Rochin."

"That will do. Call M. d'Artagnan." Saint-Aignan obeyed, and the
musketeer entered.

"Monsieur d'Artagnan," said the king, "you will leave this place by the
little door of the private staircase."

"Yes, sire."

"You will mount your horse."

"Yes, sire."

"And you will proceed to the Rond-point du Bois-Rochin. Do you know the

"Yes, sire. I have fought there twice."

"What!" exclaimed the king, amazed at the reply.

"Under the edicts, sire, of Cardinal Richelieu," returned D'Artagnan,
with his usual impassability.

"That is very different, monsieur. You will, therefore, go there, and
will examine the locality very carefully. A man has been wounded there,
and you will find a horse lying dead. You will tell me what your opinion
is upon the whole affair."

"Very good, sire."

"As a matter of course, it is your own opinion I require, and not that of
any one else."

"You shall have it in an hour's time, sire."

"I prohibit your speaking with any one, whoever it may be."

"Except with the person who must give me a lantern," said D'Artagnan.

"Oh! that is a matter of course," said the king, laughing at the liberty,
which he tolerated in no one but his captain of the musketeers.
D'Artagnan left by the little staircase.

"Now, let my physician be sent for," said Louis. Ten minutes afterwards
the king's physician arrived, quite out of breath.

"You will go, monsieur," said the king to him, "and accompany M. de Saint-
Aignan wherever he may take you; you will render me an account of the
state of the person you may see in the house you will be taken to." The
physician obeyed without a remark, as at that time people began to obey
Louis XIV., and left the room preceding Saint-Aignan.

"Do you, Saint-Aignan, send Manicamp to me, before the physician can
possibly have spoken to him." And Saint-Aignan left in his turn.

Chapter XVI:
Showing in What Way D'Artagnan Discharged the Mission with Which the King
Had Intrusted Him.

While the king was engaged in making these last-mentioned arrangements in
order to ascertain the truth, D'Artagnan, without losing a second, ran to
the stable, took down the lantern, saddled his horse himself, and
proceeded towards the place his majesty had indicated. According to the
promise he had made, he had not accosted any one; and, as we have
observed, he had carried his scruples so far as to do without the
assistance of the stable-helpers altogether. D'Artagnan was one of those
who in moments of difficulty pride themselves on increasing their own
value. By dint of hard galloping, he in less than five minutes reached
the wood, fastened his horse to the first tree he came to, and penetrated
to the broad open space on foot. He then began to inspect most
carefully, on foot and with his lantern in his hand, the whole surface of
the Rond-point, went forward, turned back again, measured, examined, and
after half an hour's minute inspection, he returned silently to where he
had left his horse, and pursued his way in deep reflection and at a foot-
pace to Fontainebleau. Louis was waiting in his cabinet; he was alone,
and with a pencil was scribbling on paper certain lines which D'Artagnan
at the first glance recognized as unequal and very much touched up. The
conclusion he arrived at was, that they must be verses. The king raised
his head and perceived D'Artagnan. "Well, monsieur," he said, "do you
bring me any news?"

"Yes, sire."

"What have you seen?"

"As far as probability goes, sire - " D'Artagnan began to reply.

"It was certainty I requested of you."

"I will approach it as near as I possibly can. The weather was very well
adapted for investigations of the character I have just made; it has been
raining this evening, and the roads were wet and muddy - "

"Well, the result, M. d'Artagnan?"

"Sire, your majesty told me that there was a horse lying dead in the
cross-road of the Bois-Rochin, and I began, therefore, by studying the
roads. I say the roads, because the center of the cross-road is reached
by four separate roads. The one that I myself took was the only one that
presented any fresh traces. Two horses had followed it side by side;
their eight feet were marked very distinctly in the clay. One of the
riders was more impatient than the other, for the footprints of the one
were invariably in advance of the other about half a horse's length."

"Are you quite sure they were traveling together?" said the king.

"Yes sire. The horses are two rather large animals of equal pace, -
horses well used to maneuvers of all kinds, for they wheeled round the
barrier of the Rond-point together."

"Well - and after?"

"The two cavaliers paused there for a minute, no doubt to arrange the
conditions of the engagement; the horses grew restless and impatient.
One of the riders spoke, while the other listened and seemed to have
contented himself by simply answering. His horse pawed the ground, which
proves that his attention was so taken up by listening that he let the
bridle fall from his hand."

"A hostile meeting did take place then?"


"Continue; you are a very accurate observer."

"One of the two cavaliers remained where he was standing, the one, in
fact, who had been listening; the other crossed the open space, and at
first placed himself directly opposite to his adversary. The one who had
remained stationary traversed the Rond-point at a gallop, about two-
thirds of its length, thinking that by this means he would gain upon his
opponent; but the latter had followed the circumference of the wood."

"You are ignorant of their names, I suppose?"

"Completely so, sire. Only he who followed the circumference of the wood
was mounted on a black horse."

"How do you know that?"

"I found a few hairs of his tail among the brambles which bordered the
sides of the ditch."

"Go on."

"As for the other horse, there can be no trouble in describing him, since
he was left dead on the field of battle."

"What was the cause of his death?"

"A ball which had passed through his brain."

"Was the ball that of a pistol or a gun?"

"It was a pistol-bullet, sire. Besides, the manner in which the horse
was wounded explained to me the tactics of the man who had killed it. He
had followed the circumference of the wood in order to take his adversary
in flank. Moreover, I followed his foot-tracks on the grass."

"The tracks of the black horse, do you mean?"

"Yes, sire."

"Go on, Monsieur d'Artagnan."

"As your majesty now perceives the position of the two adversaries, I
will, for a moment, leave the cavalier who had remained stationary for
the one who started off at a gallop."

"Do so."

"The horse of the cavalier who rode at full speed was killed on the spot."

"How do you know that?"

"The cavalier had not time even to throw himself off his horse, and so
fell with it. I observed the impression of his leg, which, with a great
effort, he was enabled to extricate from under the horse. The spur,
pressed down by the weight of the animal, had plowed up the ground."

"Very good; and what did he do as soon as he rose up again?"

"He walked straight up to his adversary."

"Who still remained upon the verge of the forest?"

"Yes, sire. Then, having reached a favorable distance, he stopped
firmly, for the impression of both his heels are left in the ground quite
close to each other, fired, and missed his adversary."

"How do you know he did not hit him?"

"I found a hat with a ball through it."

"Ah, a proof, then!" exclaimed the king.

"Insufficient, sire," replied D'Artagnan, coldly; "it is a hat without
any letters indicating its ownership, without arms; a red feather, as all
hats have; the lace, even, had nothing particular in it."

"Did the man with the hat through which the bullet had passed fire a
second time?"

"Oh, sire, he had already fired twice."

"How did you ascertain that?"

"I found the waddings of the pistol."

"And what became of the bullet which did not kill the horse?"

"It cut in two the feather of the hat belonging to him against whom it
was directed, and broke a small birch at the other end of the open glade."

"In that case, then, the man on the black horse was disarmed, whilst his
adversary had still one more shot to fire?"

"Sire, while the dismounted rider was extricating himself from his horse,
the other was reloading his pistol. Only, he was much agitated while he
was loading it, and his hand trembled greatly."

"How do you know that?"

"Half the charge fell to the ground, and he threw the ramrod aside, not
having time to replace it in the pistol."

"Monsieur d'Artagnan, this is marvellous you tell me."

"It is only close observation, sire, and the commonest highwayman could
tell as much."

"The whole scene is before me from the manner in which you relate it."

"I have, in fact, reconstructed it in my own mind, with merely a few

"And now," said the king, "let us return to the dismounted cavalier. You
were saying that he walked towards his adversary while the latter was
loading his pistol."

"Yes; but at the very moment he himself was taking aim, the other fired."

"Oh!" said the king; "and the shot?"

"The shot told terribly, sire; the dismounted cavalier fell upon his
face, after having staggered forward three or four paces."

"Where was he hit?"

"In two places; in the first place, in his right hand, and then, by the
same bullet, in his chest."

"But how could you ascertain that?" inquired the king, full of admiration.

"By a very simple means; the butt end of the pistol was covered with
blood, and the trace of the bullet could be observed, with fragments of a
broken ring. The wounded man, in all probability, had the ring-finger
and the little finger carried off."

"As far as the hand goes, I have nothing to say; but the chest?"

"Sire, there were two small pools of blood, at a distance of about two
feet and a half from each other. At one of these pools of blood the
grass was torn up by the clenched hand; at the other, the grass was
simply pressed down by the weight of the body."

"Poor De Guiche!" exclaimed the king.

"Ah! it was M. de Guiche, then?" said the musketeer, quietly. "I
suspected it, but did not venture to mention it to your majesty."

"And what made you suspect it?"

"I recognized the De Gramont arms upon the holsters of the dead horse."

"And you think he is seriously wounded?"

"Very seriously, since he fell immediately, and remained a long time in
the same place; however, he was able to walk, as he left the spot,
supported by two friends."

"You met him returning, then?"

"No; but I observed the footprints of three men; the one on the right and
the one on the left walked freely and easily, but the one in the middle
dragged his feet as he walked; besides, he left traces of blood at every
step he took."

"Now, monsieur, since you saw the combat so distinctly that not a single
detail seems to have escaped you, tell me something about De Guiche's

"Oh, sire, I do not know him."

"And yet you see everything very clearly."

"Yes, sire, I see everything; but I do not tell all I see; and, since the
poor devil has escaped, your majesty will permit me to say that I do not
intend to denounce him."

"And yet he is guilty, since he has fought a duel, monsieur."

"Not guilty in my eyes, sire," said D'Artagnan, coldly.

"Monsieur!" exclaimed the king, "are you aware of what you are saying?"

"Perfectly, sire; but, according to my notions, a man who fights a duel
is a brave man; such, at least, is my own opinion; but your majesty may
have another, it is but natural, for you are master here."

"Monsieur d'Artagnan, I ordered you, however - "

D'Artagnan interrupted the king by a respectful gesture. "You ordered
me, sire, to gather what particulars I could, respecting a hostile
meeting that had taken place; those particulars you have. If you order
me to arrest M. de Guiche's adversary, I will do so; but do not order me
to denounce him to you, for in that case I will not obey."

"Very well! Arrest him, then."

"Give me his name, sire."

The king stamped his foot angrily; but after a moment's reflection, he
said, "You are right - ten times, twenty times, a hundred times right."

"That is my opinion, sire: I am happy that, this time, it accords with
your majesty's."

"One word more. Who assisted Guiche?"

"I do not know, sire."

"But you speak of two men. There was a person present, then, as second."

"There was no second, sire. Nay, more than that, when M. de Guiche fell,
his adversary fled without giving him any assistance."

"The miserable coward!" exclaimed the king.

"The consequence of your ordinances, sire. If a man has fought well, and
fairly, and has already escaped one chance of death, he naturally wishes
to escape a second. M. de Bouteville cannot be forgotten very easily."

"And so, men turn cowards."

"No, they become prudent."

"And he has fled, then, you say?"

"Yes; and as fast as his horse could possibly carry him."

"In what direction?"

"In the direction of the chateau."

"Well, and after that?"

"Afterwards, as I have had the honor of telling your majesty, two men on
foot arrived, who carried M. de Guiche back with them."

"What proof have you that these men arrived after the combat?"

"A very evident proof, sire; at the moment the encounter took place, the
rain had just ceased, the ground had not had time to imbibe the moisture,
and was, consequently, soaked; the footsteps sank in the ground; but
while M. de Guiche was lying there in a fainting condition, the ground
became firm again, and the footsteps made a less sensible impression."

Louis clapped his hands together in sign of admiration. "Monsieur
d'Artagnan," he said, "you are positively the cleverest man in my

"The identical thing M. de Richelieu thought, and M. de Mazarin said,

"And now, it remains for us to see if your sagacity is at fault."

"Oh! sire, a man may be mistaken; _humanum est errare_," said the
musketeer, philosophically. (1)

"In that case, you are not human, Monsieur d'Artagnan, for I believe you
are never mistaken."

"Your majesty said that we were going to see whether such was the case,
or not."


"In what way, may I venture to ask?"

"I have sent for M. de Manicamp, and M. de Manicamp is coming."

"And M. de Manicamp knows the secret?"

"De Guiche has no secrets from M. de Manicamp."

D'Artagnan shook his head. "No one was present at the combat, I repeat;
and unless M. de Manicamp was one of the two men who brought him back - "

"Hush!" said the king, "he is coming; remain, and listen attentively."

"Very good, sire."

And, at the very same moment, Manicamp and Saint-Aignan appeared at the
threshold of the door.

Chapter XVII:
The Encounter.

The king signified with an imperious gesture, first to the musketeer,
then to Saint-Aignan, "On your lives, not a word." D'Artagnan withdrew,
like a sentinel, to a corner of the room; Saint-Aignan, in his character
of a favorite, leaned over the back of the king's chair. Manicamp, with
his right foot properly advanced, a smile upon his lips, and his white
and well-formed hands gracefully disposed, advanced to make his reverence
to the king, who returned the salutation by a bow. "Good evening, M. de
Manicamp," he said.

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

"Yes, in order to learn from you all the details of the unfortunate
accident which has befallen the Comte de Guiche."

"Oh! sire, it is grievous indeed."

"You were there?"

"Not precisely, sire."

"But you arrived on the scene of the accident, a few minutes after it
took place?"

"Sire, about half an hour afterwards."

"And where did the accident happen?"

"I believe, sire, the place is called the Rond-point du Bois-Rochin."

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