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Louise de la Valliere by Alexandre Dumas, Pere

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and cupidity at the magnificent new home. Hampton Court, with its brick
walls, its large windows, its handsome iron gates, as well as its curious
bell turrets, its retired covered walks, and interior fountains, like
those of the Alhambra, was a perfect bower of roses, jasmine, and
clematis. Every sense, sight and smell particularly, was gratified, and
the reception-rooms formed a very charming framework for the pictures of
love which Charles II. unrolled among the voluptuous paintings of Titian,
of Pordenone and of Van Dyck; the same Charles whose father's portrait
the martyr king - was hanging in his gallery, and who could show upon the
wainscots of the various apartments the holes made by the balls of the
puritanical followers of Cromwell, when on the 24th of August, 1648, at
the time they had brought Charles I. prisoner to Hampton Court. There it
was that the king, intoxicated with pleasure and adventure, held his
court - he, who, a poet in feeling, thought himself justified in
redeeming, by a whole day of voluptuousness, every minute which had been
formerly passed in anguish and misery. It was not the soft green sward
of Hampton Court - so soft that it almost resembled the richest velvet in
the thickness of its texture - nor was it the beds of flowers, with their
variegated hues which encircled the foot of every tree with rose-trees
many feet in height, embracing most lovingly their trunks - nor even the
enormous lime-trees, whose branches swept the earth like willows,
offering a ready concealment for love or reflection beneath the shade of
their foliage - it was none of these things for which Charles II. loved
his palace of Hampton Court. Perhaps it might have been that beautiful
sheet of water, which the cool breeze rippled like the wavy undulations
of Cleopatra's hair, waters bedecked with cresses and white water-lilies,
whose chaste bulbs coyly unfolding themselves beneath the sun's warm
rays, reveal the golden gems which lie concealed within their milky
petals - murmuring waters, on the bosom of which black swans majestically
floated, and the graceful water-fowl, with their tender broods covered
with silken down, darted restlessly in every direction, in pursuit of the
insects among the reeds, or the fogs in their mossy retreats. Perhaps it
might have been the enormous hollies, with their dark and tender green
foliage; or the bridges uniting the banks of the canals in their embrace;
or the fawns browsing in the endless avenues of the park; or the
innumerable birds that hopped about the gardens, or flew from branch to
branch, amidst the emerald foliage.

It might well have been any of these charms - for Hampton Court had them
all; and possessed, too, almost forests of white roses, which climbed and
trailed along the lofty trellises, showering down upon the ground their
snowy leaves rich with soft perfumery. But no, what Charles II. most
loved in Hampton Court were the charming figures who, when midday was
past, flitted to and fro along the broad terraces of the gardens; like
Louis XIV., he had their wealth of beauties painted for his gallery by
one of the great artists of the period - an artist who well knew the
secret of transferring to canvas the rays of light which escaped from
beaming eyes heavy laden with love and love's delights.

The day of our arrival at Hampton Court is almost as clear and bright as
a summer's day in France; the atmosphere is heavy with the delicious
perfume of geraniums, sweet-peas, seringas, and heliotrope scattered in
profusion around. It is past midday, and the king, having dined after
his return from hunting, paid a visit to Lady Castlemaine, the lady who
was reputed at the time to hold his heart in bondage; and this proof of
his devotion discharged, he was readily permitted to pursue his
infidelities until evening arrived. Love and amusement ruled the entire
court; it was the period when ladies would seriously interrogate their
ruder companions as to their opinions upon a foot more or less
captivating, according to whether it wore a pink or lilac silk stocking
for it was the period when Charles II. had declared that there was no
hope of safety for a woman who wore green silk stockings, because Miss
Lucy Stewart wore them of that color. While the king is endeavoring in
all directions to inculcate others with his preferences on this point, we
will ourselves bend our steps towards an avenue of beech-trees opposite
the terrace, and listen to the conversation of a young girl in a dark-
colored dress, who is walking with another of about her own age dressed
in blue. They crossed a beautiful lawn, from the center of which sprang
a fountain, with the figure of a siren executed in bronze, and strolled
on, talking as they went, towards the terrace, along which, looking out
upon the park and interspersed at frequent intervals, were erected summer-
houses, diverse in form and ornament; these summer-houses were nearly all
occupied; the two young women passed on, the one blushing deeply, while
the other seemed dreamily silent. At last, having reached the end of the
terrace which looks on the river, and finding there a cool retreat, they
sat down close to each other.

"Where are we going?" said the younger to her companion.

"My dear, we are going where you yourself led the way."


"Yes, you; to the extremity of the palace, towards that seat yonder,
where the young Frenchman is seated, wasting his time in sighs and

Miss Mary Grafton hurriedly said, "No, no; I am not going there."

"Why not?"

"Let us go back, Lucy."

"Nay, on the contrary, let us go on, and have an explanation."

"What about?"

"About how it happens that the Vicomte de Bragelonne always accompanies
you in all your walks, as you invariably accompany him in his."

"And you conclude either that he loves me, or that I love him?"

"Why not? - he is a most agreeable and charming companion. - No one hears
me, I hope," said Lucy Stewart, as she turned round with a smile, which
indicated, moreover, that her uneasiness on the subject was not extreme.

"No, no," said Mary, "the king is engaged in his summer-house with the
Duke of Buckingham."

"Oh! _a propos_ of the duke, Mary, it seems he has shown you great
attention since his return from France; how is your own heart in that

Mary Grafton shrugged her shoulders with seeming indifference.

"Well, well, I will ask Bragelonne about it," said Stewart, laughing;
"let us go and find him at once."

"What for?"

"I wish to speak to him."

"Not yet, one word before you do: come, come, you who know so many of the
king's secrets, tell me why M. de Bragelonne is in England?"

"Because he was sent as an envoy from one sovereign to another."

"That may be; but, seriously, although politics do not much concern us,
we know enough to be satisfied that M. de Bragelonne has no mission of
serious import here."

"Well, then, listen," said Stewart, with assumed gravity, "for your sake
I am going to betray a state secret. Shall I tell you the nature of the
letter which King Louis XIV. gave M. de Bragelonne for King Charles II.?
I will; these are the very words: 'My brother, the bearer of this is a
gentleman attached to my court, and the son of one whom you regard most
warmly. Treat him kindly, I beg, and try and make him like England.'"

"Did it say that!"

"Word for word - or something very like it. I will not answer for the
form, but the substance I am sure of."

"Well, and what conclusion do you, or rather what conclusion does the
king, draw from that?"

"That the king of France has his own reasons for removing M. de
Bragelonne, and for getting him married anywhere else than in France."

"So that, then, in consequence of this letter - "

"King Charles received M. de Bragelonne, as you are aware, in the most
distinguished and friendly manner; the handsomest apartments in Whitehall
were allotted to him; and as you are the most valuable and precious
person in his court, inasmuch as you have rejected his heart, - nay, do
not blush, - he wished you to take a fancy to this Frenchman, and he was
desirous to confer upon him so costly a prize. And this is the reason
why you, the heiress of three hundred thousand pounds, a future duchess,
so beautiful, so good, have been thrown in Bragelonne's way, in all the
promenades and parties of pleasure to which he was invited. In fact it
was a plot, - a kind of conspiracy."

Mary Grafton smiled with that charming expression which was habitual to
her, and pressing her companion's arm, said: "Thank the king, Lucy."

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

Hardly had she pronounced these words, when the duke appeared from one of
the pavilions on the terrace, and, approaching the two girls, with a
smile, said, "You are mistaken, Miss Lucy; I am not jealous; and the
proof, Miss Mary, is yonder, in the person of M. de Bragelonne himself,
who ought to be the cause of my jealousy, but who is dreaming in pensive
solitude. Poor fellow! Allow me to leave you for a few minutes, while I
avail myself of those few minutes to converse with Miss Lucy Stewart, to
whom I have something to say." And then, bowing to Lucy, he added, "Will
you do me the honor to accept my hand, in order that I may lead you to
the king, who is waiting for us?" With these words, Buckingham, still
smiling, took Miss Stewart's hand, and led her away. When by herself,
Mary Grafton, her head gently inclined towards her shoulder, with that
indolent gracefulness of action which distinguishes young English girls,
remained for a moment with her eyes fixed on Raoul, but as if uncertain
what to do. At last, after first blushing violently, and then turning
deadly pale, thus revealing the internal combat which assailed her heart,
she seemed to make up her mind to adopt a decided course, and with a
tolerably firm step, advanced towards the seat on which Raoul was
reclining, buried in the profoundest meditation, as we have already
said. The sound of Miss Mary's steps, though they could hardly be heard
upon the green sward, awakened Raoul from his musing attitude; he turned
round, perceived the young girl, and walked forward to meet the companion
whom his happy destiny had thrown in his way.

"I have been sent to you, monsieur," said Mary Grafton; "will you take
care of me?"

"To whom is my gratitude due, for so great a happiness?" inquired Raoul.

"To the Duke of Buckingham," replied Mary, affecting a gayety she did not
really feel.

"To the Duke of Buckingham, do you say? - he who so passionately seeks
your charming society! Am I really to believe you are serious,

"The fact is, monsieur, you perceive, that everything seems to conspire
to make us pass the best, or rather the longest, part of our days
together. Yesterday it was the king who desired me to beg you to seat
yourself next to me at dinner; to-day, it is the Duke of Buckingham who
begs me to come and place myself near you on this seat."

"And he has gone away in order to leave us together?" asked Raoul, with
some embarrassment.

"Look yonder, at the turning of that path; he is just out of sight, with
Miss Stewart. Are these polite attentions usual in France, monsieur le

"I cannot very precisely say what people do in France, mademoiselle, for
I can hardly be called a Frenchman. I have resided in many countries,
and almost always as a solider; and then, I have spent a long period of
my life in the country. I am almost a savage."

"You do not like your residence in England, I fear."

"I scarcely know," said Raoul, inattentively, and sighing deeply at the
same time.

"What! you do not know?"

"Forgive me," said Raoul, shaking his head, and collecting his thoughts,
"I did not hear you."

"Oh!" said the young girl, sighing in her turn, "how wrong the duke was
to send me here!"

"Wrong!" said Raoul, "perhaps so; for I am but a rude, uncouth companion,
and my society annoys you. The duke did, indeed, very wrong to send you."

"It is precisely," replied Mary Grafton, in a clear, calm voice, "because
your society does not annoy me, that the duke was wrong to send me to

It was now Raoul's turn to blush. "But," he resumed, "how happens it
that the Duke of Buckingham should send you to me; and why did you come?
the duke loves you, and you love him."

"No," replied Mary, seriously, "the duke does not love me, because he is
in love with the Duchesse d'Orleans; and, as for myself, I have no
affection for the duke."

Raoul looked at the young lady with astonishment.

"Are you a friend of the Duke of Buckingham?" she inquired.

"The duke has honored me by calling me so ever since we met in France."

"You are simple acquaintances, then?"

"No; for the duke is the most intimate friend of one whom I regard as a

"The Duc de Guiche?"


"He who is in love with Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans?"

"Oh! What is that you are saying?"

"And who loves him in return," continued the young girl, quietly.

Raoul bent down his head, and Mary Grafton, sighing deeply, continued,
"They are very happy. But, leave me, Monsieur de Bragelonne, for the
Duke of Buckingham has given you a very troublesome commission in
offering me as a companion for your promenade. Your heart is elsewhere,
and it is with the greatest difficulty you can be charitable enough to
lend me your attention. Confess truly; it would be unfair on your part,
vicomte, not to admit it."

"Madame, I do confess it."

She looked at him steadily. He was so noble and so handsome in his
bearing, his eyes revealed so much gentleness, candor, and resolution,
that the idea could not possibly enter her mind that he was either rudely
discourteous, or a mere simpleton. She only perceived, clearly enough,
that he loved another woman, and not herself, with the whole strength of
his heart. "Ah! I now understand you," she said; "you have left your
heart behind you in France." Raoul bowed. "The duke is aware of your

"No one knows it," replied Raoul.

"Why, therefore, do you tell me? Nay, answer me."

"I cannot."

"It is for me, then, to anticipate an explanation; you do not wish to
tell me anything, because you are now convinced that I do not love the
duke; because you see that I possibly might have loved you; because you
are a gentleman of noble and delicate sentiments; and because, instead of
accepting, even were it for the mere amusement of the passing hour, a
hand which is almost pressed upon you; and because, instead of meeting my
smiles with a smiling lip, you, who are young, have preferred to tell me,
whom men have called beautiful, 'My heart is over the sea - it is in
France.' For this, I thank you, Monsieur de Bragelonne; you are, indeed,
a noble-hearted, noble-minded man, and I regard you all the more for it,
as a friend only. And now let us cease speaking of myself, and talk of
your own affairs. Forget that I have ever spoken to you of myself, tell
me why you are sad, and why you have become more than usually so during
these past four days?"

Raoul was deeply and sensibly moved by these sweet and melancholy tones;
and as he could not, at the moment, find a word to say, the young girl
again came to his assistance.

"Pity me," she said. "My mother was born in France, and I can truly
affirm that I, too, am French in blood, as well as in feeling; but the
leaden atmosphere and characteristic gloom of England seem to weigh upon
me. Sometimes my dreams are golden-hued and full of wonderful
enjoyments, when suddenly a mist rises and overspreads my fancy, blotting
them out forever. Such, indeed, is the case at the present moment.
Forgive me; I have now said enough on that subject; give me your hand,
and relate you griefs to me as a friend."

"You say you are French in heart and soul?"

"Yes, not only, I repeat it, that my mother was French, but, further, as
my father, a friend of King Charles I., was exiled in France, I, during
the trial of that prince, as well as during the Protector's life, was
brought up in Paris; at the Restoration of King Charles II., my poor
father returned to England, where he died almost immediately afterwards;
and then the king created me a duchess, and has dowered me according to
my rank.

"Have you any relations in France?" Raoul inquired, with the deepest

"I have a sister there, my senior by seven or eight years, who was
married in France, and was early left a widow; her name is Madame de
Belliere. Do you know her?" she added, observing Raoul start suddenly.

"I have heard her name."

"She, too, loves with her whole heart; and her last letters inform me she
is happy, and her affection is, I conclude, returned. I told you,
Monsieur de Bragelonne, that although I possess half of her nature, I do
not share her happiness. But let us now speak of yourself; whom do you
love in France?"

"A young girl, as soft and pure as a lily."

"But if she loves you, why are you sad?"

"I have been told that she ceases to love me."

"You do not believe it, I trust?"

"He who wrote me so does not sign his letter."

"An anonymous denunciation! some treachery, be assured," said Miss

"Stay," said Raoul, showing the young girl a letter which he had read
over a thousand times; she took it from his hand and read as follows:

"VICOMTE, - You are perfectly right to amuse yourself yonder with the
lovely faces of Charles II.'s court, for at Louis XIV.'s court, the
castle in which your affections are enshrined is being besieged. Stay in
London altogether, poor vicomte, or return without delay to Paris."

"There is no signature," said Miss Mary.


"Believe it not, then."

"Very good; but here is a second letter, from my friend De Guiche, which
says, 'I am lying here wounded and ill. Return, Raoul, oh, return!'"

"What do you intend doing?" inquired the young girl, with a feeling of
oppression at her heart.

"My intention, as soon as I received this letter, was immediately to take
my leave of the king."

"When did you receive it?"

"The day before yesterday."

"It is dated Fontainebleau."

"A singular circumstance, do you not think, for the court is now at
Paris? At all events, I would have set off; but when I mentioned my
intention to the king, he began to laugh, and said to me, 'How comes it,
monsieur l'amassadeur, that you think of leaving? Has your sovereign
recalled you?' I colored, naturally enough, for I was confused by the
question; for the fact is, the king himself sent me here, and I have
received no order to return."

Mary frowned in deep thought, and said, "Do you remain, then?"

"I must, mademoiselle."

"Do you ever receive any letters from her to whom you are so devoted?"


"Never, do you say? Does she not love you, then?"

"At least, she has not written to me since my departure, although she
used occasionally to write to me before. I trust she may have been

"Hush! the duke is coming."

And Buckingham at that moment was seen at the end of the walk,
approaching towards them, alone and smiling; he advanced slowly, and held
out his hands to them both. "Have you arrived at an understanding?" he

"About what?"

"About whatever might render you happy, dear Mary, and make Raoul less

"I do not understand you, my lord," said Raoul.

"That is my view of the subject, Miss Mary; do you wish me to mention it
before M. de Bragelonne?" he added, with a smile.

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

Buckingham reflected for a moment, and, without seeming in any way
discountenanced, as she expected, he said: "My reason for leaving you
with M. de Bragelonne was, that I thoroughly knew your refined delicacy
of feeling, no less than the perfect loyalty of your mind and heart, and
I hoped that M. de Bragelonne's cure might be effected by the hands of a
physician such as you are."

"But, my lord, before you spoke of M. de Bragelonne's heart, you spoke to
me of your own. Do you mean to effect the cure of two hearts at the same

"Perfectly true, madame; but you will do me the justice to admit that I
have long discontinued a useless pursuit, acknowledging that my own wound
is incurable."

"My lord," said Mary, collecting herself for a moment before she spoke,
"M. de Bragelonne is happy, for he loves and is beloved. He has no need
of such a physician as I can be."

"M. de Bragelonne," said Buckingham, "is on the very eve of experiencing
a serious misfortune, and he has greater need than ever of sympathy and

"Explain yourself, my lord," inquired Raoul, anxiously.

"No; gradually I will explain myself; but, if you desire it, I can tell
Miss Grafton what you may not listen to yourself."

"My lord, you are putting me to the torture; you know something you wish
to conceal from me?"

"I know that Miss Mary Grafton is the most charming object that a heart
ill at ease could possibly meet with in its way through life."

"I have already told you that the Vicomte de Bragelonne loves elsewhere,"
said the young girl.

"He is wrong, then."

"Do you assume to know, my lord, that _I_ am wrong?"


"Whom is it that he loves, then?" exclaimed the young girl.

"He loves a lady who is unworthy of him," said Buckingham, with that
calm, collected manner peculiar to Englishmen.

Miss Grafton uttered a cry, which, together with the remark that
Buckingham had that moment made, spread of De Bragelonne's features a
deadly paleness, arising from the sudden surprise, and also from a vague
fear of impending misfortune. "My lord," he exclaimed, "you have just
pronounced words which compel me, without a moment's delay, to seek their
explanation in Paris."

"You will remain here," said Buckingham, "because you have no right to
leave; and no one has the right to quit the service of the king for that
of any woman, even were she as worthy of being loved as Mary Grafton is."

"You will tell me all, then?"

"I will, on condition that you will remain."

"I will remain, if you will promise to speak openly and without reserve."

Thus far had their conversation proceeded, and Buckingham, in all
probability, was on the point of revealing, not indeed all that had taken
place, but at least all he was aware of, when one of the king's
attendants appeared at the end of the terrace, and advanced towards the
summer-house where the king was sitting with Lucy Stewart. A courier
followed him, covered with dust from head to foot, and who seemed as if
he had but a few moments before dismounted from his horse.

"The courier from France! Madame's courier!" exclaimed Raoul,
recognizing the princess's livery; and while the attendant and the
courier advanced towards the king, Buckingham and Miss Grafton exchanged
a look full of intelligence with each other.

Chapter XXXVIII:
The Courier from Madame.

Charles II. was busily engaged in proving, or in endeavoring to prove, to
Miss Stewart that she was the only person for whom he cared at all, and
consequently was avowing to her an affection similar to that which his
ancestor Henry IV. had entertained for Gabrielle. Unfortunately for
Charles II., he had hit upon an unlucky day, the very day Miss Stewart
had taken it into her head to make him jealous, and therefore, instead of
being touched by his offer, as the king had hoped, she laughed heartily.

"Oh! sire, sire," she cried, laughing all the while; "if I were to be
unfortunate enough to ask you for a proof of the affection you possess,
how easy it would be to see that you are telling a falsehood."

"Nay, listen to me," said Charles, "you know my cartoons by Raphael; you
know whether I care for them or not; the whole world envies me their
possession, as you well know also; my father commissioned Van Dyck to
purchase them. Would you like me to send them to your house this very

"Oh, no!" replied the young girl; "pray keep them yourself, sire; my
house is far too small to accommodate such visitors."

"In that case you shall have Hampton Court to put the cartoons in."

"Be less generous, sire, and learn to love a little while longer, that is
all I have to ask you."

"I shall never cease to love you; is not that enough?"

"You are smiling, sire."

"Do you wish me to weep?"

"No; but I should like to see you a little more melancholy."

"Thank Heaven, I have been so long enough; fourteen years of exile,
poverty, and misery, I think I may well regard it as a debt discharged;
besides, melancholy makes people look so plain."

"Far from that - for look at the young Frenchman."

"What! the Vicomte de Bragelonne? are you smitten too? By Heaven, they
will all grow mad over him one after the other; but he, on the contrary,
has a reason for being melancholy."

"Why so?"

"Oh, indeed! you wish me to betray state secrets, do you?"

"If I wish it, you must do so, for you told me you were quite ready to do
everything I wished."

"Well, then, he is bored in his own country. Does that satisfy you?"


"Yes, a proof that he is a simpleton; I allow him to fall in love with
Miss Mary Grafton, and he feels bored. Can you believe it?"

"Very good; it seems, then, that if you were to find Miss Lucy Stewart
indifferent to you, you would console yourself by falling in love with
Miss Mary Grafton."

"I don't say that; in the first place, you know that Mary Grafton does
not care for me; besides, a man can only console himself for a lost
affection by the discovery of a new one. Again, however, I repeat, the
question is not of myself, but of that young man. One might almost be
tempted to call the girl he has left behind him a Helen - a Helen before
the little ceremony she went through with Paris, of course."

"He has left some one, then?"

"That is to say, some one has left _him_."

"Poor fellow! so much the worse!"

"Why do you mean by 'so much the worse'?"

"Why not? why did he leave?"

"Do you think it was of his own wish or will that he left?"

"Was he obliged to leave, then?"

"He left Paris under orders, my dear Stewart; and prepare to be surprised
- by express orders of the king."

"Ah! I begin to see, now."

"At least say nothing at all about it."

"You know very well that I am just as discreet as anybody else. And so
the king sent him away?"


"And during his absence he takes his sweetheart from him?"

"Yes; and, will you believe it? the silly fellow, instead of thanking the
king, is making himself miserable."

"What! thank the king for depriving him of the woman he loves! Really,
sire, yours is a most ungallant speech."

"But, pray understand me. If she whom the king had run off with was
either a Miss Grafton or a Miss Stewart, I should not be of his opinion;
nay, I should even think him not half wretched enough; but she is a
little, thin, lame thing. Deuce take such fidelity as that! Surely, one
can hardly understand how a man can refuse a girl who is rich for one who
is poverty itself - a girl who loves him for one who deceives and betrays

"Do you think that Mary seriously wishes to please the vicomte, sire?"

"I do, indeed."

"Very good! the vicomte will settle down in England, for Mary has a clear
head, and when she fixes her mind upon anything, she does so thoroughly."

"Take care, my dear Miss Stewart; if the vicomte has any idea of adopting
our country, he has not long to do so, for it was only the day before
yesterday that he again asked me for permission to leave."

"Which you refused him, I suppose?"

"I should think so, indeed; my royal brother is far too anxious for his
absence; and, for myself, my _amour propre_ is enlisted on his side, for
I will never have it said that I had held out as a bait to this young man
the noblest and gentlest creature in England - "

"You are very gallant, sire," said Miss Stewart, with a pretty pout.

"I do not allude to Miss Stewart, for she is worthy of a king's devotion;
and since she has captivated me I trust that no one else will be caught
by her; I say, therefore, finally, that the attention I have shown this
young man will not have been thrown away; he will stay with us here, he
will marry here, or I am very much mistaken."

"And I hope that when he is once married and settled, instead of being
angry with your majesty, he will be grateful to you, for every one tries
his utmost to please him; even the Duke of Buckingham, whose brilliancy,
which is incredible, seems to pale before that of this young Frenchman."

"Including Miss Stewart even, who calls him the most finished gentleman
she ever saw."

"Stay, sire; you have spoken quite enough, and quite highly enough, of
Miss Grafton, to overlook what I may have said about De Bragelonne. But,
by the by, sire, your kindness for some time past astonishes me: you
think of those who are absent, you forgive those who have done you a
wrong, in fact, you are as nearly as possible, perfect. How does it
happen - "

"It is because you allow yourself to be loved," he said, beginning to

"Oh! there must be some other reason."

"Well, I am doing all I can to oblige my brother, Louis XIV."

"Nay, I must have another reason."

"Well, then, the true motive is that Buckingham strongly recommended the
young man to me, saying: 'Sire, I begin by yielding up all claim to Miss
Grafton; I pray you follow my example.'"

"The duke is, indeed, a true gentleman."

"Oh! of course, of course; it is Buckingham's turn now, I suppose, to
turn your head. You seem determined to cross me in everything to-day."

At this moment some one rapped at the door.

"Who is it who presumes to interrupt us?" exclaimed Charles, impatiently.

"Really, sire, you are extremely vain with your 'who is it who presumes?'
and in order to punish you for it - "

She went to the door and opened it.

"It is a courier from France," said Miss Stewart.

"A courier from France!" exclaimed Charles; "from my sister, perhaps?"

"Yes, sire," said the usher, "a special messenger."

"Let him come in at once," said Charles.

"You have a letter for me," said the king to the courier as he entered,
"from the Duchess of Orleans?"

"Yes, sire," replied the courier, "and so urgent in its nature that I
have only been twenty-six hours in bringing it to your majesty, and yet I
lost three-quarters of an hour at Calais."

"Your zeal shall not be forgotten," said the king, as he opened the
letter. When he had read it he burst out laughing, and exclaimed, "Upon
my word, I am at a loss to understand anything about it." He then read
the letter a second time, Miss Stewart assuming a manner marked by the
greatest reserve, and doing her utmost to restrain her ardent curiosity.

"Francis," said the king to his valet, "see that this excellent fellow is
well taken care of and sleeps soundly, and that on waking to-morrow he
finds a purse of fifty sovereigns by his bedside."

"Sire!" said the courier, amazed.

"Begone, begone; my sister was perfectly right in desiring you to use the
utmost diligence; the affair was most pressing." And he again began to
laugh louder than ever. The courier, the valet, and Miss Stewart hardly
knew what sort of countenance to assume. "Ah!" said the king, throwing
himself back in his armchair: "When I think that you have knocked up
how many horses?"


"Two horses to bring this intelligence to me. That will do, you can
leave us now."

The courier retired with the valet. Charles went to the window, which he
opened, and leaning forward, called out - "Duke! Buckingham! come here,
there's a good fellow."

The duke hurried to him, in obedience to the summons; but when he reached
the door, and perceived Miss Stewart, he hesitated to enter.

"Come in, and shut the door," said the king. The duke obeyed; and,
perceiving in what an excellent humor the king was, he advanced, smiling,
towards him. "Well, my dear duke, how do you get on with your Frenchman?"

"Sire, I am in the most perfect state of utter despair about him."

"Why so?"

"Because charming Miss Grafton is willing to marry him, but he is unwilling."

"Why, he is a perfect Boeotian!" cried Miss Stewart. "Let him say either
'Yes,' or No,' and let the affair end."

"But," said Buckingham, seriously, "you know, or you ought to know,
madame, that M. de Bragelonne is in love in another direction."

"In that case," said the king, coming to Miss Stewart's help, "nothing is
easier; let him say 'No,' then."

"Very true; and I have proved to him he was wrong not to say 'Yes.'"

"You told him candidly, I suppose, that La Valliere was deceiving him?"

"Yes, without the slightest reserve; and, as soon as I had done so, he
gave a start, as if he were going to clear the Channel at a bound."

"At all events," said Miss Stewart, "he has done something; and a very
good thing too, upon my word."

"But," said Buckingham, "I stopped him; I have left him and Miss Mary in
conversation together, and I sincerely trust that now he will not leave,
as he seemed to have an idea of doing."

"An idea of leaving England?" cried the king.

"I, at one moment, hardly thought that any human power could have
prevented him; but Miss Mary's eyes are now bent fully on him, and he
will remain."

"Well, that is the very thing which deceives you, Buckingham," said the
king, with a peal of laughter; "the poor fellow is predestined."

"Predestined to what?"

"If it were to be simply deceived, that is nothing; but, to look at him,
it is a great deal."

"At a distance, and with Miss Grafton's aid, the blow will be warded off."

"Far from it, far from it; neither distance nor Miss Grafton's help will
be of the slightest avail. Bragelonne will set off for Paris within an
hour's time."

Buckingham started, and Miss Stewart opened her eyes very wide in

"But, sire," said the duke, "your majesty knows that it is impossible."

"That is to say, my dear Buckingham, that it is impossible until it

"Do not forget, sire, that the young man is a perfect lion, and that his
wrath is terrible."

"I don't deny it, my dear duke."

"And that if he sees that his misfortune is certain, so much the worse
for the author of it."

"I don't deny it; but what the deuce am I to do?"

"Were it the king himself," cried Buckingham, "I would not answer for

"Oh, the king has his musketeers to take care of him," said Charles,
quietly; "I know that perfectly well, for I was kept dancing attendance
in his ante-chamber at Blois. He has M. d'Artagnan, and what better
guardian could the king have than M. d'Artagnan? I should make myself
perfectly easy with twenty storms of passion, such as Bragelonne might
display, if I had four guardians like D'Artagnan."

"But I entreat your majesty, who is so good and kind, to reflect a

"Stay," said Charles II., presenting the letter to the duke, "read, and
answer yourself what you would do in my place."

Buckingham slowly took hold of Madame's letter, and trembling with
emotion, read the following words:

"For your own sake, for mine, for the honor and safety of every one, send
M. de Bragelonne back to France immediately. Your devoted sister,

"Well, Villiers, what do you say?"

"Really, sire, I have nothing to say," replied the duke, stupefied.

"Nay, would you, of all persons," said the king, artfully, "advise me not
to listen to my sister when she writes so urgently?"

"Oh, no, no, sire; and yet - "

"You have not read the postscript, Villiers; it is under the fold of the
letter, and escaped me at first; read it." And as the duke turned down a
fold of the letter, he read:

"A thousand kind remembrances to those who love me."

The duke's head sank gradually on his breast; the paper trembled in his
fingers, as if it had been changed to lead. The king paused for a
moment, and, seeing that Buckingham did not speak, "He must follow his
destiny, as we ours," continued the king; "every man has his own share of
grief in this world; I have had my own, - I have had that of others who
belong to me, - and have thus had a double weight of woe to endure! - But
the deuce take all my cares now! Go, and bring our friend here,

The duke opened the trellised door of the summer-house, and pointing at
Raoul and Mary, who were walking together side by side, said, "What a
cruel blow, sire, for poor Miss Grafton!"

"Nonsense; call him," said Charles II., knitting his black brows
together; "every one seems to be sentimental here. There, look at Miss
Stewart, who is wiping her eyes, - now deuce take the French fellow!"

The duke called to Raoul, and taking Miss Grafton by the hand, he led her
towards the king.

"Monsieur de Bragelonne," said Charles II., "did you not ask me the day
before yesterday for permission to return to Paris?"

"Yes, sire," replied Raoul, greatly puzzled by this address.

"And I refused you, I think?"

"Yes, sire."

"For which you were angry with me?"

"No, sire; your majesty had no doubt excellent reasons for withholding
it; for you are so wise and so good that everything you do is well done."

"I alleged, I believe, as a reason, that the king of France had not
recalled you?"

"Yes, sire, that was the reason you assigned."

"Well, M. de Bragelonne, I have reflected over the matter since; if the
king did not, in fact, fix your return, he begged me to render your
sojourn in England as agreeable as possible; since, however, you ask my
permission to return, it is because your longer residence in England is
no longer agreeable to you."

"I do not say that, sire."

"No, but your request, at least," said the king, "signified that another
place of residence would be more agreeable to you than this."

At this moment Raoul turned towards the door, against which Miss Grafton
was leaning, pale and sorrow-stricken; her other hand was passed through
the duke's arm.

"You do not reply," pursued Charles; "the proverb is plain enough, that
'silence gives consent.' Very good, Monsieur de Bragelonne; I am now in
a position to satisfy you; whenever you please, therefore, you can leave
for Paris, for which you have my authority."

"Sire!" exclaimed Raoul, while Mary stifled an exclamation of grief which
rose to her lips, unconsciously pressing Buckingham's arm.

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

Raoul, astounded, stammered out a few broken sentences, which equally
answered the purpose both of thanks and of excuse.

"I therefore bid you adieu, Monsieur de Bragelonne, and wish you every
sort of prosperity," said the king, rising; "you will confer a pleasure
on me by keeping this diamond in remembrance of me; I had intended it as
a marriage gift."

Miss Grafton felt her limbs almost giving way; and, as Raoul received the
ring from the king's hand, he, too, felt his strength and courage failing
him. He addressed a few respectful words to the king, a passing
compliment to Miss Stewart, and looked for Buckingham to bid him adieu.
The king profited by this moment to disappear. Raoul found the duke
engaged in endeavoring to encourage Miss Grafton.

"Tell him to remain, I implore you!" said Buckingham to Mary.

"No, I will tell him to go," replied Miss Grafton, with returning
animation; "I am not one of those women who have more pride than heart;
if she whom he loves is in France, let him return thither and bless me
for having advised him to go and seek his happiness there. If, on the
contrary, she shall have ceased to love him, let him come back here
again; I shall still love him, and his unhappiness will not have lessened
him in my regard. In the arms of my house you will find that which
Heaven has engraven on my heart - _Habenti parum, egenti cuncta_. 'To
the rich is accorded little, to the poor everything.'"

"I do not believe, Bragelonne, that you will find yonder the equivalent
of what you leave behind you here."

"I think, or at least hope," said Raoul, with a gloomy air, "that she
whom I love is worthy of my affection; but if it be true she is unworthy
of me, as you have endeavored to make me believe, I will tear her image
from my heart, duke, even if my heart breaks in the attempt."

Mary Grafton gazed upon him with an expression of the most indefinable
pity, and Raoul returned her look with a sweet, sorrowful smile, saying,
"Mademoiselle, the diamond which the king has given me was destined for
you, - give me leave to offer it for your acceptance: if I marry in
France, you will send it me back; if I do not marry, keep it." And he
bowed and left her.

"What does he mean?" thought Buckingham, while Raoul pressed Mary's icy
hand with marks of the most reverential respect.

Mary understood the look that Buckingham fixed upon her.

"If it were a wedding-ring, I would not accept it," she said.

"And yet you were willing to ask him to return to you."

"Oh! duke," cried the young girl in heart-broken accents, "a woman such
as I am is never accepted as a consolation by a man like him."

"You do not think he will return, then?"

"Never," said Miss Grafton, in a choking voice.

"And I grieve to tell you, Mary, that he will find yonder his happiness
destroyed, his mistress lost to him. His honor even has not escaped.
What will be left him, then, Mary, equal to your affection? Answer,
Mary, you who know yourself so well."

Miss Grafton placed her white hand on Buckingham's arm, and, while Raoul
was hurrying away with headlong speed, she repeated in dying accents the
line from Romeo and Juliet:

"_I must be gone and live, or stay and die_."

As she finished the last word, Raoul disappeared. Miss Grafton returned
to her own apartments, paler than death. Buckingham availed himself of
the arrival of the courier, who had brought the letter to the king, to
write to Madame and to the Comte de Guiche. The king had not been
mistaken, for at two in the morning the tide was at full flood, and Raoul
had embarked for France.

Chapter XXXIX:
Saint-Aignan Follows Malicorne's Advice.

The king most assiduously followed the progress which was made in La
Valliere's portrait; and did so with a care and attention arising as much
from a desire that it should resemble her as from the wish that the
painter should prolong the period of its completion as much as possible.
It was amusing to observe him follow the artist's brush, awaiting the
completion of a particular plan, or the result of a combination of
colors, and suggesting various modifications to the painter, which the
latter consented to adopt with the most respectful docility. And again,
when the artist, following Malicorne's advice, was a little late in
arriving, and when Saint-Aignan had been obliged to be absent for some
time, it was interesting to observe, though no one witnessed them, those
moments of silence full of deep expression, which united in one sigh two
souls most disposed to understand each other, and who by no means
objected to the quiet meditation they enjoyed together. The minutes flew
rapidly by, as if on wings, and as the king drew closer to Louise and
bent his burning gaze upon her, a noise was suddenly heard in the ante-
room. It was the artist, who had just arrived; Saint-Aignan, too, had
returned, full of apologies; and the king began to talk and La Valliere
to answer him very hurriedly, their eyes revealing to Saint-Aignan that
they had enjoyed a century of happiness during his absence. In a word,
Malicorne, philosopher that he was, though he knew it not, had learned
how to inspire the king with an appetite in the midst of plenty, and with
desire in the assurance of possession. La Valliere's fears of
interruption had never been realized, and no one imagined she was absent
from her apartment two or three hours every day; she pretended that her
health was very uncertain; those who went to her room always knocked
before entering, and Malicorne, the man of so many ingenious inventions,
had constructed an acoustic piece of mechanism, by means of which La
Valliere, when in Saint-Aignan's apartment, was always forewarned of any
visits which were paid to the room she usually inhabited. In this
manner, therefore, without leaving her room, and having no _confidante_,
she was able to return to her apartment, thus removing by her appearance,
a little tardy perhaps, the suspicions of the most determined skeptics.
Malicorne having asked Saint-Aignan the next morning what news he had to
report, the latter was obliged to confess that the quarter of an hour's
liberty had made the king in most excellent humor. "We must double the
dose," replied Malicorne, "but by insensible degrees; wait until they
seem to wish it."

They were so desirous for it, however, that on the evening of the fourth
day, at the moment when the painter was packing up his implements, during
Saint-Aignan's continued absence, Saint-Aignan on his return noticed upon
La Valliere's face a shade of disappointment and vexation, which she
could not conceal. The king was less reserved, and exhibited his
annoyance by a very significant shrug of the shoulders, at which La
Valliere could not help blushing. "Very good!" thought Saint-Aignan to
himself; "M. Malicorne will be delighted this evening;" as he, in fact,
was, when it was reported to him.

"It is very evident," he remarked to the comte, "that Mademoiselle de la
Valliere hoped that you would be at least ten minutes later."

"And the king that I should be half an hour later, dear Monsieur

"You would show but very indifferent devotion to the king," replied the
latter, "if you were to refuse his majesty that half-hour's satisfaction."

"But the painter," objected Saint-Aignan.

"_I_ will take care of him," said Malicorne, "only I must study faces and
circumstances a little better before I act; those are my magical
inventions and contrivances; and while sorcerers are enabled by means of
their astrolabe to take the altitude of the sun, moon, and stars, I am
satisfied merely by looking into people's faces, in order to see if their
eyes are encircled with dark lines, and if the mouth describes a convex
or concave arc."

And the cunning Malicorne had every opportunity of watching narrowly and
closely, for the very same evening the king accompanied the queen to
Madame's apartments, and made himself so remarked by his serious face and
his deep sigh, and looked at La Valliere with such a languishing
expression, that Malicorne said to Montalais during the evening: "To-
morrow." And he went off to the painter's house in the street of the
Jardins Saint-Paul to request him to postpone the next sitting for a
couple of days. Saint-Aignan was not within, when La Valliere, who was
now quite familiar with the lower story, lifted up the trap-door and
descended. The king, as usual was waiting for her on the staircase, and
held a bouquet in his hand; as soon as he saw her, he clasped her
tenderly in his arms. La Valliere, much moved at the action, looked
around the room, but as she saw the king was alone, she did not complain
of it. They sat down, the king reclining near the cushions on which
Louise was seated, with his head supported by her knees, placed there as
in an asylum whence no one could banish him; he gazed ardently upon her,
and as if the moment had arrived when nothing could interpose between
their two hearts; she, too, gazed with similar passion upon him, and from
her eyes, so softly pure, emanated a flame, whose rays first kindled and
then inflamed the heart of the king, who, trembling with happiness as
Louise's hand rested on his head, grew giddy from excess of joy, and
momentarily awaited either the painter's or Saint-Aignan's return to
break the sweet illusion. But the door remained closed, and neither
Saint-Aignan nor the painter appeared, nor did the hangings even move. A
deep mysterious silence reigned in the room - a silence which seemed to
influence even the song-birds in their gilded prisons. The king,
completely overcome, turned round his head and buried his burning lips in
La Valliere's hands, who, herself faint, with excess of emotion, pressed
her trembling hands against her lover's lips. Louis threw himself upon
his knees, and as La Valliere did not move her head, the king's forehead
being within reach of her lips, she furtively passed her lips across the
perfumed locks which caressed her cheeks. The king seized her in his
arms, and, unable to resist the temptation, they exchanged their first
kiss, that burning kiss, which changes love into delirium. Suddenly, a
noise upon the upper floor was heard, which had, in fact, continued,
though it had remained unnoticed, for some time; it had at last aroused
La Valliere's attention, though but slowly so. As the noise, however,
continued, as it forced itself upon the attention, and recalled the poor
girl from her dreams of happiness to the sad realities of life, she rose
in a state of utter bewilderment, though beautiful in her disorder,

"Some one is waiting for me above. Louis, Louis, do you not hear?"

"Well! and am I not waiting for you, also?" said the king, with infinite
tenderness of tone. "Let others henceforth wait for you."

But she gently shook her head, as she replied: "Happiness hidden... power
concealed... my pride should be as silent as my heart."

The noise was again resumed.

"I hear Montalais's voice," she said, and she hurried up the staircase;
the king followed her, unable to let her leave his sight, and covering
her hand with his kisses. "Yes, yes," repeated La Valliere, who had
passed half-way through the opening. "Yes, it is Montalais who is
calling me; something important must have happened."

"Go then, dearest love," said the king, "but return quickly."

"No, no, not to-day, sire! Adieu! adieu!" she said, as she stooped down
once more to embrace her lover - and escaped. Montalais was, in fact,
waiting for her, very pale and agitated.

"Quick, quick! _he_ is coming," she said.

"Who - who is coming?"

"Raoul," murmured Montalais.

"It is I - I," said a joyous voice, upon the last steps of the grand

La Valliere uttered a terrible shriek and threw herself back.

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

La Valliere with a gesture, partly of extreme terror, and partly as if
invoking a blessing, attempted to speak, but could not articulate one
word. "No, no!" she said, as she fell into Montalais's arms, murmuring,
"Do not touch me, do not come near me."

Montalais made a sign to Raoul, who stood almost petrified at the door,
and did not even attempt to advance another step into the room. Then,
looking towards the side of the room where the screen was, she exclaimed:
"Imprudent girl, she has not even closed the trap-door."

And she advanced towards the corner of the room to close the screen, and
also, behind the screen, the trap-door. But suddenly the king, who had
heard Louise's exclamation, darted through the opening, and hurried
forward to her assistance. He threw himself on his knees before her, as
he overwhelmed Montalais with questions, who hardly knew where she was.
At the moment, however, when the king threw himself on his knees, a cry
of utter despair rang through the corridor, accompanied by the sound of
retreating footsteps. The king wished to see who had uttered the cry and
whose were the footsteps he had heard; and it was in vain that Montalais
sought to retain him, for Louis, quitting his hold of La Valliere,
hurried towards the door, too late, however, for Raoul was already at a
distance, and the king only beheld a shadow that quickly vanished in the
silent corridor. (8)

Chapter XL:
Two Old Friends.

Whilst every one at court was busily engaged with his own affairs, a man
mysteriously took up his post behind the Place de Greve, in the house
which we once saw besieged by D'Artagnan on the occasion of the
_emeute_. The principal entrance of the house was in the Place Baudoyer;
it was tolerably large, surrounded by gardens, inclosed in the Rue Saint-
Jean by the shops of toolmakers, which protected it from prying looks,
and was walled in by a triple rampart of stone, noise, and verdure, like
an embalmed mummy in its triple coffin. The man we have just alluded to
walked along with a firm step, although he was no longer in his early
prime. His dark cloak and long sword plainly revealed one who seemed in
search of adventures; and, judging from his curling mustache, his fine
smooth skin, which could be seen beneath his _sombrero_, it would not
have been difficult to pronounce that gallantry had not a little share in
his adventures. In fact, hardly had the cavalier entered the house, when
the clock struck eight; and ten minutes afterwards a lady, followed by a
servant armed to the teeth, approached and knocked at the same door,
which an old woman immediately opened for her. The lady raised her veil
as she entered; though no longer beautiful or young, she was still active
and of an imposing carriage. She concealed, beneath a rich toilette and
the most exquisite taste, an age which Ninon de l'Enclos alone could have
smiled at with impunity. Hardly had she reached the vestibule, when the
cavalier, whose features we have only roughly sketched, advanced towards
her, holding out his hand.

"God day, my dear duchesse," he said.

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

He led her to a most elegantly furnished apartment, on whose high windows
were reflected the expiring rays of the setting sun, which filtered
gaudily through the dark green needles of the adjacent firs. They sat
down side by side. Neither of them thought of asking for additional
light in the room, and they buried themselves as it were in the shadow,
as if they wished to bury themselves in forgetfulness.

"Chevalier," said the duchesse, "you have never given me a single sign of
life since our interview at Fontainebleau, and I confess that your
presence there on the day of the Franciscan's death, and your initiation
in certain secrets, caused me the liveliest astonishment I ever
experienced in my whole life."

"I can explain my presence there to you, as well as my initiation," said

"But let us, first of all," said the duchess, "talk a little of
ourselves, for our friendship is by no means of recent date."

"Yes, madame: and if Heaven wills it, we shall continue to be friends, I
will not say for a long time, but forever."

"That is quite certain, chevalier, and my visit is a proof of it."

"Our interests, duchess, are no longer the same as they used to be," said
Aramis, smiling without apprehension in the growing gloom by which the
room was overcast, for it could not reveal that his smile was less
agreeable and not so bright as formerly.

"No, chevalier, at the present day we have other interests. Every period
of life brings its own; and, as we now understand each other in
conversing, as perfectly as we formerly did without saying a word, let us
talk, if you like."

"I am at your orders, duchesse. Ah! I beg your pardon, how did you
obtain my address, and what was your object?"

"You ask me why? I have told you. Curiosity in the first place. I
wished to know what you could have to do with the Franciscan, with whom I
had certain business transactions, and who died so singularly. You know
that on the occasion of our interview at Fontainebleau, in the cemetery,
at the foot of the grave so recently closed, we were both so much
overcome by our emotions that we omitted to confide to each other what we
may have to say."

"Yes, madame."

"Well, then, I had no sooner left you than I repented, and have ever
since been most anxious to ascertain the truth. You know that Madame de
Longueville and myself are almost one, I suppose?"

"I was not aware," said Aramis, discreetly.

"I remembered, therefore," continued the duchesse, "that neither of us
said anything to the other in the cemetery; that you did not speak of the
relationship in which you stood to the Franciscan, whose burial you
superintended, and that I did not refer to the position in which I stood
to him; all which seemed very unworthy of two such old friends as
ourselves, and I have sought an opportunity of an interview with you in
order to give you some information that I have recently acquired, and to
assure you that Marie Michon, now no more, has left behind her one who
has preserved her recollection of events."

Aramis bowed over the duchess's hand, and pressed his lips upon it. "You
must have had some trouble to find me again," he said.

"Yes," she answered, annoyed to find the subject taking a turn which
Aramis wished to give it; "but I knew you were a friend of M. Fouquet's,
and so I inquired in that direction."

"A friend! oh!" exclaimed the chevalier, "I can hardly pretend to be
_that_. A poor priest who has been favored by a generous protector, and
whose heart is full of gratitude and devotion, is all that I pretend to
be to M. Fouquet."

"He made you a bishop?"

"Yes, duchesse."

"A very good retiring pension for so handsome a musketeer."

"Yes; in the same way that political intrigue is for yourself," thought
Aramis. "And so," he added, "you inquired after me at M. Fouquet's?"

"Easily enough. You had been to Fontainebleau with him, and had
undertaken a voyage to your diocese, which is Belle-Ile-en-Mer, I

"No, madame," said Aramis. "My diocese is Vannes."

"I meant that. I only thought that Belle-Ile-en-Mer - "

"Is a property belonging to M. Fouquet, nothing more."

"Ah! I had been told that Belle-Isle was fortified; besides, I know how
great the military knowledge is you possess."

"I have forgotten everything of the kind since I entered the Church,"
said Aramis, annoyed.

"Suffice it to know that I learned you had returned from Vannes, and I
sent off to one of our friends, M. le Comte de la Fere, who is discretion
itself, in order to ascertain it, but he answered that he was not aware
of your address."

"So like Athos," thought the bishop; "the really good man never changes."

"Well, then, you know that I cannot venture to show myself here, and that
the queen-mother has always some grievance or other against me."

"Yes, indeed, and I am surprised at it."

"Oh! there are various reasons for it. But, to continue, being obliged
to conceal myself, I was fortunate enough to meet with M. d'Artagnan, who
was formerly one of your old friends, I believe?"

"A friend of mine still, duchesse."

"He gave me certain information, and sent me to M. Baisemeaux, the
governor of the Bastile."

Aramis was somewhat agitated at this remark, and a light flashed from his
eyes in the darkness of the room, which he could not conceal from his
keen-sighted friend. "M. de Baisemeaux!" he said, "why did D'Artagnan
send you to M. de Baisemeaux?"

"I cannot tell you."

"What can this possibly mean?" said the bishop, summoning all the
resources of his mind to his aid, in order to carry on the combat in a
befitting manner.

"M. de Baisemeaux is greatly indebted to you, D'Artagnan told me."

"True, he is so."

"And the address of a creditor is as easily ascertained as that of a

"Very true; and so Baisemeaux indicated to you - "

"Saint-Mande, where I forwarded a letter to you."

"Which I have in my hand, and which is most precious to me," said Aramis,
"because I am indebted to it for the pleasure of seeing you here." The
duchesse, satisfied at having successfully overcome the various
difficulties of so delicate an explanation, began to breathe freely
again, which Aramis, however, could not succeed in doing. "We had got as
far as your visit to M. Baisemeaux, I believe?"

"Nay," she said, laughing, "farther than that."

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

"Further still," she returned, "further still; we were talking of the
connection - "

"Which existed between you and the Franciscan," said Aramis, interrupting
her eagerly, "well, I am listening to you very attentively."

"It is easily explained," returned the duchesse. "You know that I am
living at Brussels with M. de Laicques?"

"I heard so."

"You know that my children have ruined and stripped me of everything."

"How terrible, dear duchesse."

"Terrible indeed; this obliged me to resort to some means of obtaining a
livelihood, and, particularly, to avoid vegetating for the remainder of
my existence. I had old hatreds to turn to account, old friendships to
make use of; I no longer had either credit or protectors."

"_You_, who had extended protection towards so many persons," said
Aramis, softly.

"It is always the case, chevalier. Well, at the present time I am in the
habit of seeing the king of Spain very frequently."


"Who has just nominated a general of the Jesuits, according to the usual

"Is it usual, indeed?"

"Were you not aware of it?"

"I beg your pardon; I was inattentive."

"You must be aware of that - you who were on such good terms with the

"With the general of the Jesuits, you mean?"

"Exactly. Well, then, I have seen the king of Spain, who wished me to do
a service, but was unable. He gave me recommendations, however, to
Flanders, both for myself and for Laicques too; and conferred a pension
on me out of the funds belonging to the order."

"Of Jesuits?"

"Yes. The general - I mean the Franciscan - was sent to me; and, for the
purpose of conforming with the requisitions of the statues of the order,
and of entitling me to the pension, I was reputed to be in a position to
render certain services. You are aware that that is the rule?"

"No, I did not know it," said Aramis.

Madame de Chevreuse paused to look at Aramis, but it was perfectly dark.
"Well, such is the rule, however," she resumed. "I had, therefore, to
appear to possess a power of usefulness of some kind or other, and I
proposed to travel for the order, and I was placed on the list of
affiliated travelers. You understand it was a formality, by means of
which I received my pension, which was very convenient for me."

"Good heavens! duchesse, what you tell me is like a dagger-thrust. _You_
obliged to receive a pension from the Jesuits?"

"No, chevalier! from Spain."

"Except for a conscientious scruple, duchesse, you will admit that it is
pretty nearly the same thing."

"No, not at all."

"But surely of your magnificent fortune there must remain - "

"Dampierre is all that remains."

"And that is handsome enough."

"Yes; but Dampierre is burdened, mortgaged, and almost fallen to ruin,
like its owner."

"And can the queen-mother know and see all that, without shedding a
tear?" said Aramis, with a penetrating look, which encountered nothing
but darkness.

"Yes. She has forgotten everything."

"You, I believe, attempted to get restored to favor?"

"Yes; but, most singularly, the young king inherits the antipathy his
dear father had for me. You will, perhaps, tell me that I am indeed a
woman to be hated, and that I am no longer one who can be loved."

"Dear duchesse, pray come quickly to the cause that brought you here; for
I think we can be of service to each other."

"Such has been my own thought. I came to Fontainebleau with a double
object in view. In the first place, I was summoned there by the
Franciscan whom you knew. By the by, how did you know him? - for I have
told you my story, and have not yet heard yours."

"I knew him in a very natural way, duchesse. I studied theology with him
at Parma. We became fast friends; and it happened, from time to time,
that business, or travel, or war, separated us from each other."

"You were, of course, aware that he was the general of the Jesuits?"

"I suspected it."

"But by what extraordinary chance did it happen that you were at the
hotel when the affiliated travelers met together?"

"Oh!" said Aramis, in a calm voice, "it was the merest chance in the
world. I was going to Fontainebleau to see M. Fouquet, for the purpose
of obtaining an audience of the king. I was passing by, unknown; I saw
the poor dying monk in the road, and recognized him immediately. You
know the rest - he died in my arms."

"Yes; but bequeathing to you so vast a power that you issue your
sovereign orders and directions like a monarch."

"He certainly did leave me a few commissions to settle."

"And what for me?"

"I have told you - a sum of twelve thousand livres was to be paid to
you. I thought I had given you the necessary signature to enable you to
receive it. Did you not get the money?"

"Oh! yes, yes. You give your orders, I am informed, with so much
mystery, and such a majestic presence, that it is generally believed you
are the successor of the defunct chief."

Aramis colored impatiently, and the duchesse continued: "I have obtained
my information," she said, "from the king of Spain himself; and he
cleared up some of my doubts on the point. Every general of the Jesuits
is nominated by him, and must be a Spaniard, according to the statutes of
the order. You are not a Spaniard, nor have you been nominated by the
king of Spain."

Aramis did not reply to this remark, except to say, "You see, duchesse,
how greatly you were mistaken, since the king of Spain told you that."

"Yes, my dear Aramis; but there was something else which I have been
thinking of."

"What is that?"

"You know, I believe, something about most things, and it occurred to me
that you know the Spanish language."

"Every Frenchman who has been actively engaged in the Fronde knows

"You have lived in Flanders?"

"Three years."

"And have stayed at Madrid?"

"Fifteen months."

"You are in a position, then, to become a naturalized Spaniard, when you

"Really?" said Aramis, with a frankness which deceived the duchesse.

"Undoubtedly. Two years' residence and an acquaintance with the language
are indispensable. You have upwards of four years - more than double the
time necessary."

"What are you driving at, duchesse?"

"At this - I am on good terms with the king of Spain."

"And I am not on bad terms," thought Aramis to himself.

"Shall I ask the king," continued the duchesse, "to confer the succession
to the Franciscan's post upon you?"

"Oh, duchesse!"

"You have it already, perhaps?" she said.

"No, upon my honor."

"Very well, then, I can render you that service."

"Why did you not render the same service to M. de Laicques, duchesse? He
is a very talented man, and one you love, besides."

"Yes, no doubt; but, at all events, putting Laicques aside, will you have

"No, I thank you, duchesse."

She paused. "He is nominated," she thought; and then resumed aloud, "If
you refuse me in this manner, it is not very encouraging for me,
supposing I should have something to ask of you."

"Oh! ask, pray, ask."

"Ask! I cannot do so, if you have not the power to grant what I want."

"However limited my power and ability, ask all the same."

"I need a sum of money, to restore Dampierre."

"Ah!" replied Aramis, coldly - "money? Well, duchesse, how much would
you require?"

"Oh! a tolerably round sum."

"So much the worse - you know I am not rich."

"No, no; but the order is - and if you had been the general - "

"You know I am not the general, I think."

"In that case, you have a friend who must be very wealthy - M. Fouquet."

"M. Fouquet! He is more than half ruined, madame."

"So it is said, but I did not believe it."

"Why, duchesse?"

"Because I have, or rather Laicques has, certain letters in his
possession from Cardinal Mazarin, which establish the existence of very
strange accounts."

"What accounts?"

"Relative to various sums of money borrowed and disposed of. I cannot
very distinctly remember what they are; but they establish the fact that
the superintendent, according to these letters, which are signed by
Mazarin, had taken thirteen millions of francs from the coffers of the
state. The case is a very serious one."

Aramis clenched his hands in anxiety and apprehension. "Is it possible,"
he said, "that you have such letters as you speak of, and have not
communicated them to M. Fouquet?"

"Ah!" replied the duchesse, "I keep such trifling matters as these in
reserve. The day may come when they will be of service; and they can be
withdrawn from the safe custody in which they now remain."

"And that day has arrived?" said Aramis.


"And you are going to show those letters to M. Fouquet?"

"I prefer to talk about them with you, instead."

"You must be in sad want of money, my poor friend, to think of such
things as these - you, too, who held M. de Mazarin's prose effusions in
such indifferent esteem."

"The fact is, I am in want of money."

"And then," continued Aramis, in cold accents, "it must have been very
distressing to you to be obliged to have recourse to such a means. It is

"Oh! if had wished to do harm instead of good," said Madame de Chevreuse,
"instead of asking the general of the order, or M. Fouquet, for the five
hundred thousand francs I require, I - "

"_Five hundred thousand francs!_"

"Yes; no more. Do you think it much? I require at least as much as that
to restore Dampierre."

"Yes, madame."

"I say, therefore, that instead of asking for this amount, I should have
gone to see my old friend the queen-mother; the letters from her husband,
Signor Mazarini, would have served me as an introduction, and I should
have begged this mere trifle of her, saying to her, 'I wish, madame, to
have the honor of receiving you at Dampierre. Permit me to put Dampierre
in a fit state for that purpose.'"

Aramis did not return a single word. "Well," she said, "what are you
thinking about?"

"I am making certain additions," said Aramis.

"And M. Fouquet subtractions. I, on the other hand, am trying my hand at
the art of multiplication. What excellent calculators we all three are!
How well we might understand one another!"

"Will you allow me to reflect?" said Aramis.

"No, for with such an opening between people like ourselves, 'yes' or
'no' is the only answer, and that an immediate one."

"It is a snare," thought the bishop; "it is impossible that Anne of
Austria would listen to such a woman as this."

"Well?" said the duchesse.

"Well, madame, I should be very much astonished if M. Fouquet had five
hundred thousand francs at his disposal at the present moment."

"It is no use speaking of it, then," said the duchesse, "and Dampierre
must get restored how best it may."

"Oh! you are not embarrassed to such an extent as that, I suppose."

"No; I am never embarrassed."

"And the queen," continued the bishop, "will certainly do for you what
the superintendent is unable to do?"

"Oh! certainly. But tell me, do you think it would be better that I
should speak, myself, to M. Fouquet about these letters?"

"Nay, duchesse, you will do precisely whatever you please in that
respect. M. Fouquet either feels or does not feel himself to be guilty;
if he really be so, I know he is proud enough not to confess it; if he be
not so, he will be exceedingly offended at your menace."

"As usual, you reason like an angel," said the duchesse, as she rose from
her seat.

"And so, you are now going to denounce M. Fouquet to the queen," said

"'Denounce!' Oh! what a disagreeable word. I shall not 'denounce' my
dear friend; you know matters of policy too well to be ignorant how
easily these affairs are arranged. I shall merely side against M.
Fouquet, and nothing more; and, in a war of party against party, a weapon
is always a weapon."

"No doubt."

"And once on friendly terms again with the queen-mother, I may be
dangerous towards some persons."

"You are at liberty to prove so, duchesse."

"A liberty of which I shall avail myself."

"You are not ignorant, I suppose, duchesse, that M. Fouquet is on the
best terms with the king of Spain."

"I suppose so."

"If, therefore, you begin a party warfare against M. Fouquet, he will
reply in the same way; for he, too, is at perfect liberty to do so, is he

"Oh! certainly."

"And as he is on good terms with Spain, he will make use of that
friendship as a weapon of attack."

"You mean, that he is, naturally, on good terms with the general of the
order of the Jesuits, my dear Aramis."

"That may be the case, duchesse."

"And that, consequently, the pension I have been receiving from the order
will be stopped."

"I am greatly afraid it might be."

"Well; I must contrive to console myself in the best way I can; for after
Richelieu, after the Fronde, after exile, what is there left for Madame
de Chevreuse to be afraid of?"

"The pension, you are aware, is forty-eight thousand francs."

"Alas! I am quite aware of it."

"Moreover, in party contests, you know, the friends of one's enemy do not

"Ah! you mean that poor Laicques will have to suffer."

"I am afraid it is almost inevitable, duchesse."

"Oh! he only receives twelve thousand francs pension."

"Yes, but the king of Spain has some influence left; advised by M.
Fouquet, he might get M. Laicques shut up in prison for a little while."

"I am not very nervous on that point, my dear friend; because, once
reconciled with Anne of Austria, I will undertake that France would
insist upon M. Laicques's liberation."

"True. In that case, you will have something else to apprehend."

"What can that be?" said the duchesse, pretending to be surprised and

"You will learn; indeed, you must know it already, that having once been
an affiliated member of the order, it is not easy to leave it; for the
secrets that any particular member may have acquired are unwholesome, and
carry with them the germs of misfortune for whosoever may reveal them."

The duchesse paused and reflected for a moment, and then said, "That is
more serious: I will think it over."

And notwithstanding the profound obscurity, Aramis seemed to feel a
basilisk glance, like a white-hot iron, escape from his friend's eyes,
and plunge into his heart.

"Let us recapitulate," said Aramis, determined to keep himself on his
guard, and gliding his hand into his breast where he had a dagger

"Exactly, let us recapitulate; short accounts make long friends."

"The suppression of your pension - "

"Forty-eight thousand francs, and that of Laicques's twelve, make
together sixty thousand francs; that is what you mean, I suppose?"

"Precisely; and I was trying to find out what would be your equivalent
for that."

"Five hundred thousand francs, which I shall get from the queen."

"Or, which you will _not_ get."

"I know a means of procuring them," said the duchesse, thoughtlessly.

This remark made the chevalier prick up his ears; and from the moment his
adversary had committed this error, his mind was so thoroughly on its
guard, that he seemed every moment to gain the advantage more and more;
and she, consequently, to lose it. "I will admit, for argument's sake,
that you obtain the money," he resumed; "you will lose twice as much,
having a hundred thousand francs' pension to receive instead of sixty
thousand, and that for a period of ten years."

"Not so, for I shall only be subjected to this reduction of my income
during the period of M. Fouquet's remaining in power, a period which I
estimate at two months."

"Ah!" said Aramis.

"I am frank, you see."

"I thank you for it, duchesse; but you would be wrong to suppose that
after M. Fouquet's disgrace the order would resume the payment of your

"I know a means of making the order pay, as I know a means of forcing the
queen-mother to concede what I require."

"In that case, duchesse, we are all obliged to strike our flags to you.
The victory is yours, and the triumph also. Be clement, I entreat you."

"But is it possible," resumed the duchesse, without taking notice of the
irony, "that you really draw back from a miserable sum of five hundred
thousand francs, when it is a question of sparing you - I mean your
friend - I beg your pardon, I ought rather to say your protector - the
disagreeable consequences which a party contest produces?"

"Duchesse, I tell you why; supposing the five hundred thousand francs
were to be given you, M. Laicques will require his share, which will be
another five hundred thousand francs, I presume? and then, after M. de
Laicques's and your own portions have been arranged, the portions which
your children, your poor pensioners, and various other persons will
require, will start up as fresh claims, and these letters, however
compromising they may be in their nature, are not worth from three to
four millions. Can you have forgotten the queen of France's diamonds?
they were surely worth more than these bits of waste paper signed by
Mazarin, and yet their recovery did not cost a fourth part of what you
ask for yourself."

"Yes, that is true; but the merchant values his goods at his own price,
and it is for the purchaser to buy or refuse."

"Stay a moment, duchesse; would you like me to tell you why I will not
buy your letters?"

"Pray tell me."

"Because the letters you claim to be Mazarin's are false."

"What an absurdity."

"I have no doubt of it, for it would, to say the least, be very singular,
that after you had quarreled with the queen through M. Mazarin's means,
you should have kept up any intimate acquaintance with the latter; it
would look as if you had been acting as a spy; and upon my word, I do not
like to make use of the word."

"Oh! pray do."

"You great complacence would seem suspicions, at all events."

"That is quite true; but the contents of the letters are even more so."

"I pledge you my word, duchesse, that you will not be able to make use of
it with the queen."

"Oh! yes, indeed; I can make use of everything with the queen."

"Very good," thought Aramis. "Croak on, old owl - hiss, beldame-viper."

But the duchesse had said enough, and advanced a few steps towards the
door. Aramis, however, had reserved one exposure which she did _not_

He rang the bell, candles immediately appeared in the adjoining room, and
the bishop found himself completely encircled by lights, which shone upon
the worn, haggard face of the duchesse, revealing every feature but too
clearly. Aramis fixed a long ironical look upon her pale, thin, withered
cheeks - her dim, dull eyes - and upon her lips, which she kept carefully
closed over her discolored scanty teeth. He, however, had thrown himself
into a graceful attitude, with his haughty and intelligent head thrown
back; he smiled so as to reveal teeth still brilliant and dazzling. The
antiquated coquette understood the trick that had been played her. She
was standing immediately before a large mirror, in which her decrepitude,
so carefully concealed, was only made more manifest. And, thereupon,
without even saluting Aramis, who bowed with the ease and grace of the
musketeer of early days, she hurried away with trembling steps, which her
very precipitation only the more impeded. Aramis sprang across the room,
like a zephyr, to lead her to the door. Madame de Chevreuse made a sign
to her servant, who resumed his musket, and she left the house where such
tender friends had not been able to understand each other only because
they had understood each other too well.

Chapter XLI:
Wherein May Be Seen that a Bargain Which Cannot Be Made with One Person,
Can Be Carried Out with Another.

Aramis had been perfectly correct in his supposition; for hardly had she
left the house in the Place Baudoyer than Madame de Chevreuse proceeded
homeward. She was doubtless afraid of being followed, and by this means
thought she might succeed in throwing those who might be following her
off their guard; but scarcely had she arrived within the door of the
hotel, and hardly had assured herself that no one who could cause her any
uneasiness was on her track, when she opened the door of the garden,
leading into another street, and hurried towards the Rue Croix des Petits-
Champs, where M. Colbert resided.

We have already said that evening, or rather night, had closed in; it was
a dark, thick night, besides; Paris had once more sunk into its calm,
quiescent state, enshrouding alike within its indulgent mantle the high-
born duchesse carrying out her political intrigue, and the simple
citizen's wife, who, having been detained late by a supper in the city,
was making her way slowly homewards, hanging on the arm of a lover, by
the shortest possible route. Madame de Chevreuse had been too well
accustomed to nocturnal political intrigues to be ignorant that a
minister never denies himself, even at his own private residence, to any
young and beautiful woman who may chance to object to the dust and
confusion of a public office, or to old women, as full of experience as
of years, who dislike the indiscreet echo of official residences. A
valet received the duchesse under the peristyle, and received her, it
must be admitted, with some indifference of manner; he intimated, after
having looked at her face, that it was hardly at such an hour that one so
advanced in years as herself could be permitted to disturb Monsieur
Colbert's important occupations. But Madame de Chevreuse, without
looking or appearing to be annoyed, wrote her name upon a leaf of her
tablets - a name which had but too frequently sounded so disagreeably in
the ears of Louis XIII. and of the great cardinal. She wrote her name in
the large, ill-formed characters of the higher classes of that period,
handed it to the valet, without uttering a word, but with so haughty and
imperious a gesture, that the fellow, well accustomed to judge of people
from their manners and appearance, perceived at once the quality of the
person before him, bowed his head, and ran to M. Colbert's room. The
minister could not control a sudden exclamation as he opened the paper;
and the valet, gathering from it the interest with which his master
regarded the mysterious visitor, returned as fast as he could to beg the
duchesse to follow him. She ascended to the first floor of the beautiful
new house very slowly, rested herself on the landing-place, in order not
to enter the apartment out of breath, and appeared before M. Colbert,
who, with his own hands, held both the folding doors open. The duchesse
paused at the threshold, for the purpose of well studying the character
of the man with whom she was about to converse. At the first glance, the
round, large, heavy head, thick brows, and ill-favored features of
Colbert, who wore, thrust low down on his head, a cap like a priest's
_calotte_, seemed to indicate that but little difficulty was likely to be
met with in her negotiations with him, but also that she was to expect as
little interest in the discussion of particulars; for there was scarcely
any indication that the rough and uncouth nature of the man was
susceptible to the impulses of a refined revenge, or of an exalted
ambition. But when, on closer inspection, the duchesse perceived the
small, piercingly black eyes, the longitudinal wrinkles of his high and
massive forehead, the imperceptible twitching of the lips, on which were
apparent traces of rough good-humor, Madame de Chevreuse altered her
opinion of him, and felt she could say to herself: "I have found the man
I want."

"What is the subject, madame, which procures me the honor of a visit from
you?" he inquired.

"The need I have you of you, monsieur," returned the duchesse, "as well
as that which you have of me."

"I am delighted, madame, with the first portion of your sentence; but, as
far as the second portion is concerned - "

Madame de Chevreuse sat down in the armchair which M. Colbert advanced
towards her. "Monsieur Colbert, you are the intendant of finances, and
are ambitious of becoming the superintendent?"


"Nay, do not deny it; that would only unnecessarily prolong our
conversation, and that is useless."

"And yet, madame, however well-disposed and inclined to show politeness I
may be towards a lady of your position and merit, nothing will make me
confess that I have ever entertained the idea of supplanting my superior."

"I said nothing about supplanting, Monsieur Colbert. Could I
accidentally have made use of that word? I hardly think that likely.
The word 'replace' is less aggressive in its signification, and more
grammatically suitable, as M. de Voiture would say. I presume,
therefore, that you are ambitious of replacing M. Fouquet."

"M. Fouquet's fortune, madame, enables him to withstand all attempts.
The superintendent in this age plays the part of the Colossus of Rhodes;
the vessels pass beneath him and do not overthrow him."

"I ought to have availed myself precisely of that very comparison. It is
true, M. Fouquet plays the part of the Colossus of Rhodes; but I remember
to have heard it said by M. Conrart, a member of the academy, I believe,
that when the Colossus of Rhodes fell from its lofty position, the
merchant who had cast it down - a merchant, nothing more, M. Colbert
loaded four hundred camels with the ruins. A merchant! and that is
considerably less than an intendant of finances."

"Madame, I can assure you that I shall never overthrow M. Fouquet."

"Very good, Monsieur Colbert, since you persist in showing so much
sensitiveness with me, as if you were ignorant that I am Madame de
Chevreuse, and also that I am somewhat advanced in years; in other words,
that you have to do with a woman who has had political dealings with the
Cardinal Richelieu, and who has no time to lose; as, I repeat, you do not
hesitate to commit such an imprudence, I shall go and find others who are
more intelligent and more desirous of making their fortunes."

"How, madame, how?"

"You give me a very poor idea of negotiations of the present day. I
assure you that if, in my earlier days, a woman had gone to M. de Cinq-
Mars, who was not, moreover, a man of a very high order of intellect, and
had said to him about the cardinal what I have just said to you of M.
Fouquet, M. de Cinq-Mars would by this time have already set actively to

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