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  • 1847
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personification of artless gentleness.”

De Guiche was not, however, the less diligent on that account, and five minutes afterwards they were within sight of the Hotel de Ville. The first thing which struck them was the number of people assembled in the square. “Excellent,” said De Guiche; “our apartments, I see, are prepared.”

In fact, in front of the Hotel de Ville, upon the wide open space before it, eight tents had been raised, surmounted by the flags of France and England united. The hotel was surrounded by tents, as by a girdle of variegated colors; ten pages and a dozen mounted troopers, who had been given to the ambassadors, for an escort, mounted guard before the tents. It had a singularly curious effect, almost fairy-like in its appearance. These tents had been constructed during the night-time. Fitted up, within and without, with the richest materials that De Guiche had been able to procure in Havre, they completely encircled the Hotel de Ville. The only passage which led to the steps of the hotel, and which was not inclosed by the silken barricade, was guarded by two tents, resembling two pavilions, the doorways of both of which opened towards the entrance. These two tents were destined for De Guiche and Raoul; in whose absence they were intended to be occupied, that of De Guiche by De Wardes, and that of Raoul by Manicamp. Surrounding these two tents, and the six others, a hundred officers, gentlemen, and pages, dazzling in their display of silk and gold, thronged like bees buzzing about a hive. Every one of them, their swords by their sides, was ready to obey the slightest sign either of De Guiche or Bragelonne, the leaders of the embassy.

At the very moment the two young men appeared at the end of one of the streets leading to the square, they perceived, crossing the square at full gallop, a young man on horseback, whose costume was of surprising richness. He pushed hastily through the crowd of curious lookers-on, and, at the sight of these unexpected erections, uttered a cry of anger and dismay. It was Buckingham, who had awakened from his stupor, in order to adorn himself with a costume perfectly dazzling from its beauty, and to await the arrival of the princess and the queen-mother at the Hotel de Ville. At the entrance to the tents, the soldiers barred his passage, and his further progress was arrested. Buckingham, hopelessly infuriated, raised his whip; but his arm was seized by a couple of officers. Of the two guardians of the tent, only one was there. De Wardes was in the interior of the Hotel de Ville, engaged in attending to the execution of some orders given by De Guiche. At the noise made by Buckingham Manicamp, who was indolently reclining upon the cushions at the doorway of one of the tents, rose with his usual indifference, and, perceiving that the disturbance continued, made his appearance from underneath the curtains. “What is the matter?” he said, in a gentle tone of voice, “and who is it making this disturbance?”

It so happened, that, at the moment he began to speak, silence had just been restored, and, although his voice was very soft and gentle in its tone, every one heard his question. Buckingham turned round; and looked at the tall, thin figure, and the listless expression of countenance of his questioner. Probably the personal appearance of Manicamp, who was dressed very plainly, did not inspire him with much respect, for he replied disdainfully, “Who may you be, monsieur?”

Manicamp, leaning on the arm of a gigantic trooper, as firm as the pillar of a cathedral, replied in his usual tranquil tone of voice, — “And you, monsieur?”

“I, monsieur, am the Duke of Buckingham; I have hired all the houses which surround the Hotel de Ville, where I have business to transact; and as these houses are let, they belong to me, and, as I hired them in order to preserve the right of free access to the Hotel de Ville, you are not justified in preventing me passing to it.”

“But who prevents you passing, monsieur?” inquired Manicamp.

“Your sentinels.”

“Because you wish to pass on horseback, and orders have been given to let only persons on foot pass.”

“No one has any right to give orders here, except myself,” said Buckingham.

“On what grounds?” inquired Manicamp, with his soft tone. “Will you do me the favor to explain this enigma to me?”

“Because, as I have already told you, I have hired all the houses looking on the square.”

“We are very well aware of that, since nothing but the square itself has been left for us.”

“You are mistaken, monsieur; the square belongs to me, as well as the houses in it.”

“Forgive me, monsieur, but you are mistaken there. In our country, we say, the highway belongs to the king, therefore this square is his majesty’s; and, consequently, as we are the king’s ambassadors, the square belongs to us.”

“I have already asked you who you are, monsieur,” exclaimed Buckingham, exasperated at the coolness of his interlocutor.

“My name is Manicamp,” replied the young man, in a voice whose tones were as harmonious and sweet as the notes of an AEolian harp.

Buckingham shrugged his shoulders contemptuously, and said, “When I hired these houses which surround the Hotel de Ville, the square was unoccupied; these barracks obstruct my sight; I hereby order them to be removed.”

A hoarse and angry murmur ran through the crowd of listeners at these words. De Guiche arrived at this moment; he pushed through the crowd which separated him from Buckingham, and, followed by Raoul, arrived on the scene of action from one side, just as De Wardes came up from the other. “Pardon me, my lord; but if you have any complaint to make, have the goodness to address it to me, inasmuch as it was I who supplied the plans for the construction of these tents.”

“Moreover, I would beg you to observe, monsieur, that the term `barrack’ is a highly objectionable one!” added Manicamp, graciously.

“You were saying, monsieur — ” continued De Guiche.

“I was saying, monsieur le comte,” resumed Buckingham, in a tone of anger more marked than ever, although in some measure moderated by the presence of an equal, “I was saying that it is impossible these tents can remain where they are.”

“Impossible!” exclaimed De Guiche, “and why?”

“Because I object to them.”

A movement of impatience escaped De Guiche, but a warning glance from Raoul restrained him.

“You should the less object to them, monsieur, on account of the abuse of priority you have permitted yourself to exercise.”

“Abuse!”

“Most assuredly. You commission a messenger, who hires in your name the whole of the town of Havre, without considering the members of the French court, who would be sure to arrive here to meet Madame. Your Grace will admit that this is hardly friendly conduct in the representative of a friendly nation.”

“The right of possession belongs to him who is first on the ground.”

“Not in France, monsieur.”

“Why not in France?”

“Because France is a country where politeness is observed.”

“Which means!” exclaimed Buckingham, in so violent a manner that those who were present drew back, expecting an immediate collision.

“Which means, monsieur,” replied De Guiche, now rather pale, “that I caused these tents to be raised as habitations for myself and my friends, as a shelter for the ambassadors of France, as the only place of refuge which your exactions have left us in the town; and that I and those who are with me, shall remain in them, at least, until an authority more powerful, and more supreme, than your own shall dismiss me from them.”

“In other words, until we are ejected, as the lawyers say,” observed Manicamp, blandly.

“I know an authority, monsieur, which I trust is such as you will respect,” said Buckingham, placing his hand on his sword.

At this moment, and as the goddess of Discord, inflaming all minds, was about to direct their swords against each other, Raoul gently placed his hand on Buckingham’s shoulder. “One word, my lord,” he said.

“My right, my right, first of all,” exclaimed the fiery young man.

“It is precisely upon that point I wish to have the honor of addressing a word to you.”

“Very well, monsieur, but let your remarks be brief.”

“One question is all I ask; you can hardly expect me to be briefer.”

“Speak, monsieur, I am listening.”

“Are you, or is the Duke of Orleans, going to marry the granddaughter of Henry IV.?”

“What do you mean?” exclaimed Buckingham, retreating a few steps, bewildered.

“Have the goodness to answer me,” persisted Raoul, tranquilly.

“Do you mean to ridicule me, monsieur?” inquired Buckingham.

“Your question is a sufficient answer for me. You admit, then, that it is not you who are going to marry the princess?”

“Thou know it perfectly well, monsieur, I should imagine.”

“I beg your pardon, but your conduct has been such as to leave it not altogether certain.”

“Proceed, monsieur, what do you mean to convey?”

Raoul approached the duke. “Are you aware, my lord,” he said, lowering his voice, “that your extravagances very much resemble the excesses of jealousy? These jealous fits, with respect to any woman, are not becoming in one who is neither her lover nor her husband; and I am sure you will admit that my remark applies with still greater force, when the lady in question is a princess of the blood royal!”

“Monsieur,” exclaimed Buckingham, “do you mean to insult Madame Henrietta?”

“Be careful, my lord,” replied Bragelonne, coldly, “for it is you who insult her. A little while since, when on board the admiral’s ship, you wearied the queen, and exhausted the admiral’s patience. I was observing, my lord; and, at first, I concluded you were not in possession of your senses, but I have since surmised the real significance of your madness.”

“Monsieur!” exclaimed Buckingham.

“One moment more, for I have yet another word to add. I trust I am the only one of my companions who has guessed it.”

“Are you aware, monsieur,” said Buckingham, trembling with mingled feelings of anger and uneasiness, “are you aware that you are holding language towards me which requires to be checked?”

“Weigh your words well, my lord,” said Raoul, haughtily: “my nature is not such that its vivacities need checking; whilst you, on the contrary, are descended from a race whose passions are suspected by all true Frenchmen; I repeat, therefore, for the second time, be careful!”

“Careful of what, may I ask? Do you presume to threaten me?”

“I am the son of the Comte de la Fere, my lord, and I never threaten, because I strike first. Therefore, understand me well, the threat that I hold out to you is this —- “

Buckingham clenched his hands, but Raoul continued, as though he had not observed the gesture. “At the very first word, beyond the respect and deference due to her royal highness, which you permit yourself to use towards her, — be patient, my lord, for I am perfectly so.”

“You?”

“Undoubtedly. So long as Madame remained on English territory, I held my peace; but from the very moment she stepped on French ground, and now that we have received her in the name of the prince, I warn you, that at the first mark of disrespect which you, in your insane attachment, exhibit towards the royal house of France, I shall have one of two courses to follow; — either I declare, in the presence of every one, the madness with which you are now affected, and I get you ignominiously ordered back to England; or if you prefer it, I will run my dagger through your throat in the presence of all here. This second alternative seems to me the least disagreeable, and I think I shall hold to it.”

Buckingham had become paler than the lace collar around his neck. “M. de Bragelonne,” he said, “is it, indeed, a gentleman who is speaking to me?”

“Yes; only the gentleman is speaking to a madman. Get cured, my lord, and he will hold quite another language to you.”

“But, M. de Bragelonne,” murmured the duke, in a voice, half-choked, and putting his hand to his neck, — “Do you not see I am choking?”

“If your death were to take place at this moment, my lord,” replied Raoul, with unruffled composure, “I should, indeed, regard it as a great happiness, for this circumstance would prevent all kinds of evil remarks; not alone about yourself, but also about those illustrious persons whom your devotion is compromising in so absurd a manner.”

“You are right, you are right,” said the young man, almost beside himself. “Yes, yes; better to die, than to suffer as I do at this moment.” And he grasped a beautiful dagger, the handle of which was inlaid with precious stones; and which he half drew from his breast.

Raoul thrust his hand aside. “Be careful what you do,” he said; “if you do not kill yourself, you commit a ridiculous action; and if you were to kill yourself, you sprinkle blood upon the nuptial robe of the princess of England.”

Buckingham remained a minute gasping for breath; during this interval, his lips quivered, his fingers worked convulsively, and his eyes wandered as though in delirium. Then suddenly, he said, “M. de Bragelonne, I know nowhere a nobler mind than yours; you are, indeed, a worthy son of the most perfect gentleman that ever lived. Keep your tents.” And he threw his arms round Raoul’s neck. All who were present, astounded at this conduct, which was the very reverse of what was expected, considering the violence of the one adversary and the determination of the other, began immediately to clap their hands, and a thousand cheers and joyful shouts arose from all sides. De Guiche, in his turn, embraced Buckingham somewhat against his inclination; but, at all events, he did embrace him. This was the signal for French and English to do the same; and they who, until that moment, had looked at each other with restless uncertainty, fraternized on the spot. In the meantime, the procession of the princess arrived, and had it not been for Bragelonne, two armies would have been engaged together in conflict, and blood have been shed upon the flowers with which the ground was covered. At the appearance, however, of the banners borne at the head of the procession, complete order was restored.

CHAPTER 86

Night

Concord returned to its place amidst the tents. English and French rivaled each other in their devotion and courteous attention to the illustrious travelers. The English forwarded to the French baskets of flowers, of which they had made a plentiful provision to greet the arrival of the young princess; the French in return invited the English to a supper, which was to be given the next day. Congratulations were poured in upon the princess everywhere during her journey. From the respect paid her on all sides, she seemed like a queen; and from the adoration with which she was treated by two or three, she appeared an object of worship. The queen-mother gave the French the most affectionate reception. France was her native country, and she had suffered too much unhappiness in England for England to have made her forget France. She taught her daughter, then, by her own affection for it, that love for a country where they had both been hospitably received, and where a brilliant future opened before them. After the public entry was over, and the spectators in the streets had partially dispersed, and the sound of the music and cheering of the crowd could be heard only in the distance; when the night had closed in, wrapping with its star-covered mantle the sea, the harbor, the town, and surrounding country, De Guiche, still excited by the great events of the day, returned to his tent, and seated himself upon one of the stools with so profound an expression of distress that Bragelonne kept his eyes fixed on him, until he heard him sigh, and then he approached him. The count had thrown himself back on his seat, leaning his shoulders against the partition of the tent, and remained thus, his face buried in his hands, with heaving chest and restless limbs.

“You are suffering?” asked Raoul.

“Cruelly.”

“Bodily, I suppose?”

“Yes; bodily.”

“This has indeed been a harassing day,” continued the young man, his eyes fixed upon his friend.

“Yes; a night’s rest will probably restore me.”

“Shall I leave you?”

“No; I wish to talk to you.”

“You shall not speak to me, Guiche, until you have first answered my questions.”

“Proceed then.”

“You will be frank with me?”

“I always am.”

“Can you imagine why Buckingham has been so violent?”

“I suspect.”

“Because he is in love with Madame, is it not?”

“One could almost swear to it, to observe him.”

“You are mistaken; there is nothing of the kind.”

“It is you who are mistaken, Raoul; I have read his distress in his eyes, in his every gesture and action the whole day.”

“You are a poet, my dear count, and find subject for your muse everywhere.”

“I can perceive love clearly enough.”

“Where it does not exist?”

“Nay, where it does exist.”

“Do you not think you are deceiving yourself, Guiche?”

“I am convinced of what I say,” said the count.

“Now, inform me count,” said Raoul, fixing a penetrating look upon him, “what has happened to render you so clear-sighted?”

Guiche hesitated for a moment, and then answered, “Self-love, I suppose.”

“Self-love is a pedantic word, Guiche.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that, generally, you are less out of spirits than seems to be the case this evening.”

“I am fatigued.”

“Listen to me, Guiche; we have been campaigners together; we have been on horseback for eighteen hours at a time, and our horses dying from exhaustion, or hunger, have fallen beneath us, and yet we have laughed at our mishaps. Believe me, it is not fatigue that saddens you to-night.”

“It is annoyance, then.”

“What annoyance?”

“That of this evening.”

“The mad conduct of the Duke of Buckingham, do you mean?”

“Of course; is it not vexatious for us, the representatives of our sovereign master, to witness the devotion of an Englishman to our future mistress, the second lady in point of rank in the kingdom?”

“Yes, you are right; but I do not think any danger is to be apprehended from Buckingham.”

“No; still he is intrusive. Did he not, on his arrival here, almost succeed in creating a disturbance between the English and ourselves; and, had it not been for you, for your admirable prudence, for your singular decision of character, swords would have been drawn in the very streets of the town.”

“You observe, however, that he has changed his tactics.”

“Yes, certainly; but this is the very thing that amazes me so much. You spoke to him in a low tone of voice, what did you say to him? You think he loves her; you admit that such a passion does not give way readily. He does not love her, then!” De Guiche pronounced the latter with so marked an expression that Raoul raised his head. The noble character of the young man’s countenance expressed a displeasure which could easily be read.

“What I said to him, count,” replied Raoul, “I will repeat to you. Listen to me. I said, `You are regarding with wistful feelings, and most injurious desire, the sister of your prince, — her to whom you are not affianced, who is not, who can never be anything to you; you are outraging those who, like ourselves, have come to seek a young lady to escort her to her husband.'”

“You spoke to him in that manner?” asked Guiche coloring.

“In those very terms; I even added more. `How would you regard us,’ I said, `if you were to perceive among us a man mad enough, disloyal enough, to entertain other than sentiments of the most perfect respect for a princess who is the destined wife of our master?'”

These words were so applicable to De Guiche that he turned pale, and, overcome by a sudden agitation, was barely able to stretch out one hand mechanically towards Raoul, as he covered his eyes and face with the other.

“But,” continued Raoul, not interrupted by this movement of his friend, “Heaven be praised, the French who are pronounced to be thoughtless and indiscreet, reckless, even, are capable of bringing a calm and sound judgment to bear on matters of such high importance. I added even more, for I said, `Learn, my lord, that we gentlemen of France devote ourselves to our sovereigns by sacrificing for them our affections, as well as our fortunes and our lives; and whenever it may chance to happen that the tempter suggests one of those vile thoughts that set the heart on fire, we extinguish the flame, even if it has to be done by shedding our blood for the purpose. Thus it is that the honor of three is saved: our country’s, our master’s, and our own. It is thus that we act, your Grace; it is thus that every man of honor ought to act. In this manner, my dear Guiche,” continued Raoul, “I addressed the Duke of Buckingham; and he admitted I was right, and resigned himself unresistingly to my arguments.”

De Guiche, who had hitherto sat leaning forward while Raoul was speaking, drew himself up, his eyes glancing proudly; he seized Raoul’s hand, his face, which had been as cold as ice, seemed on fire. “And you spoke magnificently,” he said, in a half-choked voice; “you are indeed a friend, Raoul. But now, I entreat you, leave me to myself.”

“Do you wish it?”

“Yes; I need repose. Many things have agitated me to-day, both in mind and body; when you return tomorrow I shall no longer be the same man.”

“I leave you, then,” said Raoul, as he withdrew. The count advanced a step towards his friend, and pressed him warmly in his arms. But in this friendly pressure Raoul could detect the nervous agitation of a great internal conflict.

The night was clear, starlit, and splendid; the tempest had passed away, and the sweet influences of the evening had restored life, peace and security everywhere. A few fleecy clouds were floating in the heavens, and indicated from their appearance a continuance of beautiful weather, tempered by a gentle breeze from the east. Upon the large square in front of the hotel, the shadows of the tents, intersected by the golden moonbeams, formed as it were a huge mosaic of jet and yellow flagstones. Soon, however, the entire town was wrapped in slumber; a feeble light still glimmered in Madame’s apartment, which looked out upon the square, and the soft rays from the expiring lamp seemed to be the image of the calm sleep of a young girl, hardly yet sensible of life’s anxieties, and in whom the flame of existence sinks placidly as sleep steals over the body.

Bragelonne quitted the tent with the slow and measured step of a man curious to observe, but anxious not to be seen. Sheltered behind the thick curtains of his own tent, embracing with a glance the whole square, he noticed that, after a few moments’ pause, the curtains of De Guiche’s tent were agitated, and then drawn partially aside. Behind them he could perceive the shadow of De Guiche, his eyes glittering in the obscurity, fastened ardently upon the princess’s sitting apartment, which was partially lighted by the lamp in the inner room. The soft light which illumined the windows was the count’s star. The fervent aspirations of his nature could be read in his eyes. Raoul, concealed in the shadow, divined the many passionate thoughts that established, between the tent of the young ambassador and the balcony of the princess, a mysterious and magical bond of sympathy — a bond created by thoughts imprinted with so much strength and persistence of will, that they must have caused happy and loving dreams to alight upon the perfumed couch, which the count, with the eyes of his soul, devoured so eagerly.

But De Guiche and Raoul were not the only watchers. The window of one of the houses looking on the square was opened too, the casement of the house where Buckingham resided. By the aid of the rays of light which issued from this latter, the profile of the duke could be distinctly seen, as he indolently reclined upon the carved balcony with its velvet hangings; he also was breathing in the direction of the princess’s apartment his prayers and the wild visions of his love.

Raoul could not resist smiling, as thinking of Madame, he said to himself, “Hers is, indeed, a heart well besieged;” and then added, compassionately, as he thought of Monsieur, “and he is a husband well threatened too; it is a good thing for him that he is a prince of such high rank, that he has an army to safeguard for him that which is his own.” Bragelonne watched for some time the conduct of the two lovers, listened to the loud and uncivil slumbers of Manicamp, who snored as imperiously as though he was wearing his blue and gold, instead of his violet suit.

Then he turned towards the night breeze which bore towards him, he seemed to think, the distant song of the nightingale; and, after having laid in a due provision of melancholy, another nocturnal malady, he retired to rest thinking, with regard to his own love affair, that perhaps four or even a larger number of eyes, quite as ardent as those of De Guiche and Buckingham, were coveting his own idol in the chateau at Blois. “And Mademoiselle de Montalais is by no means a very conscientious garrison,” said he to himself, sighing aloud.

CHAPTER 87

From Havre to Paris

The next day the fetes took place, accompanied by all the pomp and animation that the resources of the town and the cheerful disposition of men’s minds could supply. During the last few hours spent in Havre, every preparation for the departure had been made. After Madame had taken leave of the English fleet, and, once again, had saluted the country in saluting its flags, she entered her carriage, surrounded by a brilliant escort. De Guiche had hoped that the Duke of Buckingham would accompany the admiral to England; but Buckingham succeeded in demonstrating to the queen that there would be great impropriety in allowing Madame to proceed to Paris almost unprotected. As soon as it had been settled that Buckingham was to accompany Madame, the young duke selected a corps of gentlemen and officers to form part of his own suite, so that it was almost an army that now set out towards Paris, scattering gold, and exciting the liveliest demonstrations as they passed through the different towns and villages on the route. The weather was very fine. France is a beautiful country, especially along the route by which the procession passed. Spring cast its flowers and its perfumed foliage on their path. Normandy, with its vast variety of vegetation, its blue skies and silver rivers, displayed itself in all the loveliness of a paradise to the new sister of the king. Fetes and brilliant displays received them everywhere along the line of march. De Guiche and Buckingham forgot everything; De Guiche in his anxiety to prevent any fresh attempts on the part of the duke, and Buckingham, in his desire to awaken in the heart of the princess a softer remembrance of the country to which the recollection of many happy days belonged. But, alas! the poor duke could perceive that the image of that country so cherished by himself became, from day to day, more and more effaced in Madame’s mind, in exact proportion as her affection for France became more deeply engraved on her heart. In fact, it was not difficult to perceive that his most devoted attention awakened no acknowledgment, and that the grace with which he rode one of his most fiery horses was thrown away, for it was only casually and by the merest accident that the princess’s eyes were turned towards him. In vain did he try, in order to fix upon himself one of those looks, which were thrown carelessly around, or bestowed elsewhere, to produce in the animal he rode its greatest display of strength, speed, temper and address; in vain did he, by exciting his horse almost to madness, spur him, at the risk of dashing himself in pieces against the trees, or of rolling in the ditches, over the gates and barriers which they passed, or down the steep declivities of the hills. Madame, whose attention had been aroused by the noise, turned her head for a moment to observe the cause of it, and then, slightly smiling, again entered into conversation with her faithful guardians, Raoul and De Guiche, who were quietly riding at her carriage doors. Buckingham felt himself a prey to all the tortures of jealousy; an unknown, unheard of anguish glided through his veins, and laid siege to his heart; and then, as if to show that he knew the folly of his conduct, and that he wished to correct, by the humblest submission, his flights of absurdity, he mastered his horse, and compelled him, reeking with sweat and flecked with foam, to champ his bit close beside the carriage, amidst the crowd of courtiers. Occasionally he obtained a word from Madame as a recompense, and yet her speech seemed almost a reproach.

“That is well, my lord,” she said, “now you are reasonable.”

Or from Raoul, “Your Grace is killing your horse.”

Buckingham listened patiently to Raoul’s remarks, for he instinctively felt, without having had any proof that such was the case, that Raoul checked the display of De Guiche’s feelings, and that, had it not been for Raoul, some mad act or proceeding, either of the count, or of Buckingham himself, would have brought about an open rupture, or a disturbance — perhaps even exile itself. From the moment of that excited conversation the two young men had held in front of the tents at Havre, when Raoul made the duke perceive the impropriety of his conduct, Buckingham felt himself attracted towards Raoul almost in spite of himself. He often entered into conversation with him, and it was nearly always to talk to him either of his father or of D’Artagnan, their mutual friend, in whose praise Buckingham was nearly as enthusiastic as Raoul. Raoul endeavored, as much as possible, to make the conversation turn upon this subject in De Wardes’s presence, who had, during the whole journey, been exceedingly annoyed at the superior position taken by Bragelonne, and especially by his influence over De Guiche. De Wardes had that keen and merciless penetration most evil natures possess; he had immediately remarked De Guiche’s melancholy, and divined the nature of his regard for the princess. Instead, however, of treating the subject with the same reserve which Raoul practiced; instead of regarding with that respect, which was their due, the obligations and duties of society, De Wardes resolutely attacked in the count the ever-sounding chord of juvenile audacity and pride. It happened one evening, during a halt at Nantes, that while De Guiche and De Wardes were leaning against a barrier, engaged in conversation, Buckingham and Raoul were also talking together as they walked up and down. Manicamp was engaged in devoted attendance on the princess, who already treated him without reserve, on account of his versatile fancy, his frank courtesy of manner, and conciliatory disposition.

“Confess,” said De Wardes, “that you are really ill and that your pedagogue of a friend has not succeeded in curing you.”

“I do not understand you,” said the count.

“And yet it is easy enough; you are dying of love.”

“You are mad, De Wardes.”

“Madness it would be, I admit, if Madame were really indifferent to your martyrdom; but she takes so much notice of it, observes it to such an extent, that she compromises herself, and I tremble lest, on our arrival at Paris, M. de Bragelonne may not denounce both of you.”

“For shame, De Wardes, again attacking De Bragelonne.”

“Come, come, a truce to child’s play,” replied the count’s evil genius, in an undertone; “you know as well as I do what I mean. Besides, you must have observed how the princess’s glance softens as she looks at you; — you can tell, by the very inflection of her voice, what pleasure she takes in listening to you, and can feel how thoroughly she appreciates the verses you recite to her. You cannot deny, too, that every morning she tells you how indifferently she slept the previous night.”

“True, De Wardes, quite true; but what good is there in your telling me all that?”

“Is it not important to know the exact position of affairs?”

“No, no; not when I am a witness of things that are enough to drive one mad.”

“Stay, stay,” said De Wardes; “look, she calls you, — do you understand? Profit by the occasion, while your pedagogue is absent.”

De Guiche could not resist; an invincible attraction drew him towards the princess. De Wardes smiled as he saw him withdraw.

“You are mistaken, monsieur,” said Raoul, suddenly stepping across the barrier against which the previous moment the two friends had been leaning. “The pedagogue is here, and has overheard you.”

De Wardes, at the sound of Raoul’s voice, which he recognized without having occasion to look at him, half drew his sword.

“Put up your sword,” said Raoul, “you know perfectly well that, until our journey is at an end, every demonstration of that nature is useless. Why do you distill into the heart of the man you term your friend all the bitterness that infects your own? As regards myself, you wish to arouse a feeling of deep dislike against a man of honor — my father’s friend and my own: and as for the count you wish him to love one who is destined for your master. Really, monsieur, I should regard you as a coward, and a traitor too, if I did not, with greater justice, regard you as a madman.”

“Monsieur,” exclaimed De Wardes, exasperated, “I was deceived, I find, in terming you a pedagogue. The tone you assume, and the style which is peculiarly your own, is that of a Jesuit, and not of a gentleman. Discontinue, I beg, whenever I am present, this style I complain of, and the tone also. I hate M. d’Artagnan because he was guilty of a cowardly act towards my father.”

“You lie, monsieur,” said Raoul, coolly.

“You give me the lie, monsieur?” exclaimed De Wardes.

“Why not, if what you assert is untrue?”

“You give me the lie and will not draw your sword?”

“I have resolved, monsieur, not to kill you until Madame shall have been delivered safely into her husband’s hands.”

“Kill me! Believe me, monsieur, your schoolmaster’s rod does not kill so easily.”

“No,” replied Raoul, sternly, “but M. d’Artagnan’s sword kills; and, not only do I possess his sword, but he has himself taught me how to use it: and with that sword, when a befitting time arrives, I will avenge his name —a name you have dishonored.”

“Take care, monsieur,” exclaimed De Wardes; “if you do not immediately give me satisfaction, I will avail myself of every means to revenge myself.”

“Indeed, monsieur,” said Buckingham, suddenly, appearing upon the scene of action, “that is a threat which savors of assassination, and therefore, ill becomes a gentleman.”

“What did you say, my lord?” said De Wardes, turning round towards him.

“I said, monsieur, that the words you spoken are displeasing to my English ears.”

“Very well, monsieur, if what you say is true,” exclaimed De Wardes, thoroughly incensed, “I at least find in you one who will not escape me. Understand my words as you like.”

“I take them in the manner they cannot but be understood,” replied Buckingham, with that haughty tone which characterized him. and which, even in ordinary conversation, gave a tone of defiance to everything he said; “M. de Bragelonne is my friend, you insult M. de Bragelonne, and you shall give me satisfaction for that insult.”

De Wardes cast a look upon De Bragelonne, who, faithful to the character he had assumed, remained calm and unmoved, even after the duke’s defiance.

“It would seem that I did not insult M. de Bragelonne, since M. de Bragelonne, who carries a sword by his side, does not consider himself insulted.”

“At all events you insult some one.”

“Yes, I insulted M. d’Artagnan,” resumed De Wardes, who had observed that this was the only means of stinging Raoul, so as to awaken his anger.

“That then,” said Buckingham, “is another matter.”

“Precisely so,” said De Wardes, “it is the province of M. d’Artagnan’s friends to defend him.”

“I am entirely of your opinion,” replied the duke, who had regained all his indifference of manner; “if M. de Bragelonne were offended, I could not reasonably be expected to espouse his quarrel, since he is himself here; but when you say that it is a quarrel of M. d’Artagnan —- “

“You will of course leave me to deal with the matter,” said De Wardes.

“Nay, on the contrary, for I draw my sword,” said Buckingham, unsheathing it as he spoke; “for if M. d’Artagnan injured your father, he rendered, or at least did all that he could to render, a great service to mine.”

De Wardes was thunderstruck.

“M. d’Artagnan,” continued Buckingham, “is the bravest gentleman I know. I shall be delighted, as I owe him many personal obligations, to settle them with you, by crossing my sword with yours.” At the same moment Buckingham drew his sword gracefully from its scabbard, saluted Raoul, and put himself on guard.

De Wardes advanced a step to meet him.

“Stay, gentlemen,” said Raoul, advancing towards them, and placing his own drawn sword between the combatants, “the affair is hardly worth the trouble of blood being shed almost in the presence of the princess. M. de Wardes speaks ill of M. d’Artagnan, with whom he is not even acquainted.”

“What, monsieur,” said De Wardes, setting his teeth hard together, and resting the point of his sword on the toe of his boot, “do you assert that I do not know M. d’Artagnan?”

“Certainly not; you do not know him,” replied Raoul, coldly, “and you are even not aware where he is to he found.”

“Not know where he is?”

“Such must be the case, since you fix your quarrel with him upon strangers, instead of seeking M. d’Artagnan where he is to be found.” De Wardes turned pale. “Well, monsieur,” continued Raoul, “I will tell you where M. d’Artagnan is: he is now in Paris; when on duty he is to be met with at the Louvre, — when not on duty, in the Rue des Lombards. M. d’Artagnan can be easily discovered at either of those two places. Having, therefore, as you assert, so many causes of complaint against him, show your courage in seeking him out, and afford him an opportunity of giving you that satisfaction you seem to ask of every one but of himself.” De Wardes passed his hand across his forehead, which was covered with perspiration. “For shame, M. de Wardes! so quarrelsome a disposition is hardly becoming after the publication of the edicts against duels. Pray think of that; the king will be incensed at our disobedience, particularly at such a time, — and his majesty will be in the right.”

“Excuses,” murmured De Wardes; “mere pretexts.”

“Really, M. De Wardes,” resumed Raoul, “such remarks are the idlest bluster. You know very well that the Duke of Buckingham is a man of undoubted courage, who has already fought ten duels, and will probably fight eleven. His name alone is significant enough. As far as I am concerned, you are well aware that I can fight also. I fought at Sens, at Bleneau, at the Dunes in front of the artillery, a hundred paces in front of the line, while you — I say this parenthetically — were a hundred paces behind it. True it is, that on that occasion there was far too great a concourse of persons present for your courage to be observed, and on that account, perhaps, you did not reveal it; while here, it would be a display, and would excite remark — you wish that others should talk about you, in what manner you do not care. Do not depend upon me, M. de Wardes, to assist you in your designs, for I shall certainly not afford you that pleasure.”

“Sensibly observed,” said Buckingham, putting up his sword, “and I ask your forgiveness, M. de Bragelonne, for having allowed myself to yield to a first impulse.”

De Wardes, however, on the contrary, perfectly furious, bounded forward and raised his sword, threateningly, against Raoul, who had scarcely time to put himself in a posture of defense.

“Take care, monsieur,” said Bragelonne, tranquilly, “or you will put out one of my eyes.”

“You will not fight, then?” said De Wardes.

“Not at this moment, but this I promise to do; immediately on our arrival at Paris I will conduct you to M. d’Artagnan, to whom you shall detail all the causes of complaint you have against him. M. d’Artagnan will solicit the king’s permission to measure swords with you. The king will yield his consent, and when you shall have received the sword-thrust in due course, you will consider, in a calmer frame of mind, the precepts of the Gospel, which enjoin forgetfulness of injuries.”

“Ah!” exclaimed De Wardes, furious at this imperturbable coolness, “one can clearly see you are half a bastard, M. de Bragelonne.”

Raoul became as pale as death; his eyes flashed lightning, causing De Wardes involuntarily to fall back. Buckingham, also, who had perceived their expression, threw himself between the two adversaries, whom he had expected to see precipitate themselves on each other. De Wardes had reserved this injury for the last; he clasped his sword firmly in his hand, and awaited the encounter. “You are right, monsieur,” said Raoul, mastering his emotion, “I am only acquainted with my father’s name, but I know too well that the Comte de la Fere is too upright and honorable a man to allow me to fear for a single moment that there is, as you insinuate, any stain upon my birth. My ignorance, therefore, of my mother’s name is a misfortune for me, and not a reproach. You are deficient in loyalty of conduct; you are wanting in courtesy, in reproaching me with misfortune. It matters little, however, the insult has been given, and I consider myself insulted accordingly. It is quite understood, then, that after you shall have received satisfaction from M. d’Artagnan, you will settle your quarrel with me.”

“I admire your prudence, monsieur,” replied De Wardes with a bitter smile; “a little while ago you promised me a sword-thrust from M. d’Artagnan, and now, after I shall have received his, you offer me one from yourself.”

“Do not disturb yourself,” replied Raoul, with concentrated anger, “in all affairs of that nature, M. d’Artagnan is exceedingly skillful, and I will beg him as a favor to treat you as he did your father; in other words, to spare your life at least, so as to leave me the pleasure, after your recovery, of killing you outright; for you have the heart of a viper, M. de Wardes, and in very truth, too many precautions cannot be taken against you.”

“I shall take my precautions against you,” said De Wardes, “be assured of it.”

“Allow me, monsieur,” said Buckingham, “to translate your remark by a piece of advice I am about to give M. de Bragelonne; M. de Bragelonne, wear a cuirass.”

De Wardes clenched his hands. “Ah!” said he, “you two gentlemen intend to wait until you have taken that precaution before you measure your swords against mine.”

“Very well, monsieur,” said Raoul, “since you positively will have it so, let us settle the affair now.” And drawing his sword he advanced towards De Wardes.

“What are you going to do?” said Buckingham.

“Be easy,” said Raoul, “it will not be very long.”

De Wardes placed himself on his guard; their swords crossed. De Wardes flew upon Raoul with such impetuosity, that at the first clashing of the steel blades Buckingham clearly saw that Raoul was only trifling with his adversary. Buckingham stepped aside, and watched the combat. Raoul was as calm as if he were handling a foil, instead of a sword; having retreated a step, he parried three or four fierce thrusts which De Wardes made at him, caught the sword of the latter within his own, and sent it flying twenty paces the other side of the barrier. Then as De Wardes stood disarmed and astounded at his defeat Raoul sheathed his sword, seized him by the collar and the waist-band, and hurled his adversary to the other end of the barrier, trembling, and mad with rage.

“We shall meet again,” murmured De Wardes, rising from the ground and picking up his sword.

“I have done nothing for the last hour,” said Raoul, “but say the same thing.” Then, turning towards the duke, he said, “I entreat you to be silent about this affair; I am ashamed to have gone so far, but my anger carried me away, and I ask your forgiveness for it; — forget it, too.”

“Dear viscount,” said the duke, pressing within his own the vigorous and valiant hand of his companion, “allow me, on the contrary, to remember it, and to look after your safety; that man is dangerous, — he will kill you.”

“My father,” replied Raoul, “lived for twenty years under the menace of a much more formidable enemy, and he still lives.”

“Your father had good friends, viscount.”

“Yes,” sighed Raoul, “such friends indeed, that none are now left like them.”

“Do not say that, I beg, at the very moment I offer you my friendship;” and Buckingham opened his arms to embrace Raoul, who delightedly received the proffered alliance. “In my family,” added Buckingham, “you are aware, M. de Bragelonne, wee die to save our friends.”

“I know it well, duke,” replied Raoul.

CHAPTER 88

An Account of what the Chevalier de Lorraine thought of Madame

Nothing further interrupted the journey. Under a pretext that was little remarked, M. de Wardes went forward in advance of the others. He took Manicamp with him, for his equable and dreamy disposition acted as a counterpoise to his own. It is a subject of remark, that quarrelsome and restless characters invariably seek the companionship of gentle, timorous dispositions, as if the former sought, in the contrast, a repose for their own ill-humor, and the latter a protection for their weakness. Buckingham and Bragelonne admitting De Guiche into their friendship, in concert with him, sang the praises of the princess during the whole of the journey. Bragelonne had, however, insisted that their three voices should be in concert, instead of singing in solo parts, as De Guiche and his rival seemed to have acquired a dangerous habit of investigation. This style of harmony pleased the queen-mother exceedingly, but it was not perhaps so agreeable to the young princess, who was an incarnation of coquetry, and who, without any fear as far as her own voice was concerned, sought opportunities of so perilously distinguishing herself. She possessed one of those fearless and incautious dispositions that find gratification in an excess of sensitiveness of feeling, and for whom, also, danger has a certain fascination. And so her glances, her smiles, her toilette, an inexhaustible armory of weapons of offense. were showered on the three young men with overwhelming force; and, from her well-stored arsenal issued glances, kindly recognitions, and a thousand other little charming attentions which were intended to strike at long range the gentlemen who formed the escort, the townspeople, the officers of the different cities she passed through, pages, populace, and servants; it was wholesale slaughter, a general devastation. By the time Madame arrived at Paris, she had reduced to slavery about a hundred thousand lovers: and brought in her train to Paris half a dozen men who were almost mad about her, and two who were, indeed, literally out of their minds. Raoul was the only person who divined the power of this woman’s attraction, and as his heart was already engaged, he arrived in the capital full of indifference and distrust. Occasionally during the journey he conversed with the queen of England respecting the power of fascination which Madame possessed, and the mother, whom so many misfortunes and deceptions had taught experience, replied: “Henrietta was sure to be illustrious in one way or another, whether born in a palace or born in obscurity; for she is a woman of great imagination, capricious and self-willed.” De Wardes and Manicamp, in their self-assumed character of courtiers, had announced the princess’s arrival. The procession was met at Nanterre by a brilliant escort of cavaliers and carriages. It was Monsieur himself, followed by the Chevalier de Lorraine and by his favorites, the latter being themselves followed by a portion of the king’s military household, who had arrived to meet his affianced bride. At St. Germain, the princess and her mother had changed their heavy traveling carriage, somewhat impaired by the journey, for a light, richly decorated chariot drawn by six horses with white and gold harness. Seated in this open carriage, as though upon a throne, and beneath a parasol of embroidered silk, fringed with feathers, sat the young and lovely princess, on whose beaming face were reflected the softened rose-tints which suited her delicate skin to perfection. Monsieur, on reaching the carriage, was struck by her beauty; he showed his admiration in so marked a manner that the Chevalier de Lorraine shrugged his shoulders as he listened to his compliments, while Buckingham and De Guiche were almost heart-broken. After the usual courtesies had been rendered, and the ceremony completed, the procession slowly resumed the road to Paris. The presentations had been carelessly made, and Buckingham, with the rest of the English gentlemen, had been introduced to Monsieur, from whom they had received but very indifferent attention. But, during their progress, as he observed that the duke devoted himself with his accustomed earnestness to the carriage-door, he asked the Chevalier de Lorraine, his inseparable companion, “Who is that cavalier?”

“He was presented to your highness a short while ago; it is the handsome Duke of Buckingham.”

“Ah, yes, I remember.”

“Madame’s knight,” added the favorite, with an inflection of the voice which envious minds can alone give to the simplest phrases.

“What do you say?” replied the prince.

“I said `Madame’s knight.'”

“Has she a recognized knight, then?”

“One would think you can judge of that for yourself; look, only, how they are laughing and flirting. All three of them.”

“What do you mean by all three?”

“Do you not see that De Guiche is one of the party?”

“Yes, I see. But what does that prove?”

“That Madame has two admirers instead of one.”

“Thou poison the simplest thing!”

“I poison nothing. Ah! your royal highness’s mind is perverted. The honors of the kingdom of France are being paid to your wife and you are not satisfied.”

The Duke of Orleans dreaded the satirical humor of the Chevalier de Lorraine whenever it reached a certain degree of bitterness, and he changed the conversation abruptly. “The princess is pretty,” said he, very negligently, as if he were speaking of a stranger.

“Yes,” replied the chevalier, in the same tone.

“You say `yes’ like a `no.’ She has very beautiful black eyes.”

“Yes, but small.”

“That is so, but they are brilliant. She is tall, and of a good figure.”

“I fancy she stoops a little, my lord?”

“I do not deny it. She has a noble appearance.”

“Yes, but her face is thin.”

“I thought her teeth beautiful.”

“They can easily be seen, for her mouth is large enough. Decidedly, I was wrong, my lord; you are certainly handsomer than your wife.”

“But do you think me as handsome as Buckingham?”

“Certainly, and he thinks so, too; for look, my lord, he is redoubling his attentions to Madame to prevent your effacing the impression he has made.”

Monsieur made a movement of impatience, but as he noticed a smile of triumph pass across the chevalier’s lips, he drew up his horse to a foot-pace. “Why,” said he, “should I occupy myself any longer about my cousin? Do I not already know her? Were we not brought up together? Did I not see her at the Louvre when she was quite a child?”

“A great change has taken place in her since then, prince. At the period you allude to, she was somewhat less brilliant, and scarcely so proud, either. One evening, particularly, you may remember, my lord, the king refused to dance with her, because he thought her plain and badly dressed!”

These words made the Duke of Orleans frown. It was by no means flattering for him to marry a princess of whom, when young, the king had not thought much. He would probably have retorted, but at this moment De Guiche quitted the carriage to join the prince. He had remarked the prince and the chevalier together, and full of anxious attention he seemed to try and guess the nature of the remarks which they had just exchanged. The chevalier, whether he had some treacherous object in view, or from imprudence, did not take the trouble to dissimulate. “Count,” he said, “you’re a man of excellent taste.”

“Thank you for the compliment,” replied De Guiche; “but why do you say that?”

“Well, I appeal to his highness.”

“No doubt of it,” said Monsieur, “and Guiche knows perfectly well that I regard him as a most finished cavalier.”

“Well, since that is decided, I resume. You have been in the princess’s society, count, for the last eight days, have you not?”

“Yes,” replied De Guiche, coloring in spite of himself.

“Well, then, tell us frankly, what do you think of her personal appearance?”

“Of her personal appearance?” returned De Guiche, stupefied.

“`Yes; of her appearance, of her mind, of herself, in fact.”

Astounded by this question, De Guiche hesitated answering.

“Come, come, De Guiche,” resumed the chevalier, laughingly, “tell us your opinion frankly; the prince commands it.”

“Yes, yes,” said the prince, “be frank.”

De Guiche stammered out a few unintelligible words.

“I am perfectly well aware,” returned Monsieur, “that the subject is a delicate one, but you know you can tell me everything. What do you think of her?”

In order to avoid betraying his real thoughts, De Guiche had recourse to the only defense which a man taken by surprise really has, and accordingly told an untruth. “I do not find Madame,” he said, “either good or bad looking, yet rather good than bad looking.”

“What! count,” exclaimed the chevalier, “you who went into such ecstasies and uttered so many exclamations at the sight of her portrait.”

De Guiche colored violently. Very fortunately his horse, which was slightly restive, enabled him by a sudden plunge to conceal his agitation. “What portrait!” he murmured, joining them again. The chevalier had not taken his eyes off him.

“Yes, the portrait. Was not the miniature a good likeness?”

“I do not remember. I had forgotten the portrait; it quite escaped my recollection.”

“And yet it made a very marked impression upon you,” said the chevalier.

“That is not unlikely.”

“Is she witty, at all events?” inquired the duke.

“I believe so, my lord.”

“Is M. de Buckingham witty, too?” said the chevalier.

“I do not know.”

“My own opinion is, that he must be,” replied the chevalier, “for he makes Madame laugh, and she seems to take no little pleasure in his society, which never happens to a clever woman when in the company of a simpleton.”

“Of course, then, he must be clever,” said De Guiche, simply.

At this moment Raoul opportunely arrived, seeing how De Guiche was pressed by his dangerous questioner, to whom he addressed a remark, and in that way changed the conversation. The entree was brilliant and joyous.

The king, in honor of his brother, had directed that the festivities should be on a scale of the greatest possible magnificence. Madame and her mother alighted at the Louvre, where, during their exile, they had so gloomily submitted to obscurity, misery, and privations of every description. That palace, which had been so inhospitable a residence for the unhappy daughter of Henry IV., the naked walls, the uneven floorings, the ceilings matted with cobwebs, the vast dilapidated chimney-places, the cold hearths on which the charity extended to them by parliament hardly permitted a fire to glow, was completely altered in appearance. The richest hangings and the thickest carpets, glistening flagstones and pictures, with their richly gilded frames; in every direction could be seen candelabra, mirrors, and furniture and fittings of the most sumptuous character; in every direction, also, were guards of the proudest military bearing, with floating plumes, crowds of attendants and courtiers in the ante-chambers and upon the staircases. In the courtyards, where the grass had formerly been allowed to luxuriate, as if the ungrateful Mazarin had thought it a good idea to let the Parisians perceive that solitude and disorder were, with misery and despair, the fit accompaniments of fallen monarchy, the immense courtyards, formerly silent and desolate, were now thronged with courtiers whose horses were pacing and prancing to and fro. The carriages were filled with young and beautiful women, who awaited the opportunity of saluting, as she passed, the daughter of that daughter of France who, during her widowhood and exile, had sometimes gone without wood for her fire, and bread for her table, whom the meanest attendants at the chateau had treated with indifference and contempt. And so, Madame Henrietta once more returned to the Louvre, with her heart more swollen with bitter recollections than her daughter’s, whose disposition was fickle and forgetful, with triumph and delight. She knew but too well this brilliant reception was paid to the happy mother of a king restored to his throne, a throne second to none in Europe, while the worse than indifferent reception she had before met with was paid to her, the daughter of Henry IV., as a punishment for having been unfortunate. After the princesses had been installed in their apartments and had rested, the gentlemen who had formed their escort, having, in like manner, recovered from their fatigue, they resumed their accustomed habits and occupations. Raoul began by setting off to see his father, who had left for Blois. He then tried to see M. d’Artagnan, who, however, being engaged in the organization of a military household for the king, could not be found anywhere. Bragelonne next sought out De Guiche, but the count was occupied in a long conference with his tailors and with Manicamp, which consumed his whole time. With the Duke of Buckingham he fared still worse, for the duke was purchasing horses after horses, diamonds upon diamonds. He monopolized every embroiderer, jeweler, and tailor that Paris could boast of. Between De Guiche and himself a vigorous contest ensued, invariably a courteous one, in which, in order to insure success, the duke was ready to spend a million; while the Marechal de Grammont had only allowed his son sixty thousand francs. So Buckingham laughed and spent his money. Guiche groaned in despair, and would have shown it more violently, had it not been for the advice De Bragelonne gave him.

“A million!” repeated De Guiche daily; “I must submit. Why will not the marechal advance me a portion of my patrimony?”

“Because you would throw it away,” said Raoul.

“What can that matter to him? If I am to die of it, I shall die of it, and then I shall need nothing further.”

“But what need is there to die?” said Raoul.

“I do not wish to be conquered in elegance by an Englishman.”

“My dear count,” said Manicamp, “elegance is not a costly commodity, it is only a very difficult accomplishment.”

“Yes, but difficult things cost a good deal of money, and I have only got sixty thousand francs.”

“A very embarrassing state of things, truly,” said De Wardes; “even if you spent as much as Buckingham there is only nine hundred and forty thousand francs difference.”

“Where am I to find them?”

“Get into debt.”

“I am in debt already.”

“A greater reason for getting further.”

Advice like this resulted in De Guiche becoming excited to such an extent that he committed extravagances where Buckingham only incurred expenses. The rumor of this extravagant profuseness delighted the hearts of all the shopkeepers in Paris, from the hotel of the Duke of Buckingham to that of the Comte de Grammont nothing but miracles was attempted. While all this was going on, Madame was resting herself, and Bragelonne was engaged in writing to Mademoiselle de la Valliere. He had already dispatched four letters, and not an answer to any one of them had been received, when, on the very morning fixed for the marriage ceremony, which was to take place in the chapel at the Palais-Royal, Raoul, who was dressing, heard his valet announce M. de Malicorne. “What can this Malicorne want with me?” thought Raoul; and then said to his valet, “Let him wait.”

“It is a gentleman from Blois,” said the valet.

“Admit him at once,” said Raoul, eagerly.

Malicorne entered as brilliant as a star, and wearing a superb sword at his side. After having saluted Raoul most gracefully, he said: “M. de Bragelonne, I am the bearer of a thousand compliments from a lady to you.”

Raoul colored. “From a lady,” said he, “from a lady of Blois?”

“Yes, monsieur; from Mademoiselle de Montalais.”

“Thank you, monsieur; I recollect you now,” said Raoul. “And what does Mademoiselle de Montalais require of me?”

Malicorne drew four letters from his pocket, which he offered to Raoul.

“My own letters, is it possible?” he said, turning pale; “my letters, and the seals unbroken?”

“Monsieur, your letters did not find at Blois the person to whom they were addressed, and so they are now returned to you.”

“Mademoiselle de la Valliere has left Blois, then?” exclaimed Raoul.

“Eight days ago.”

“Where is she, then?”

“In Paris.”

“How was it known that these letters were from me?”

“Mademoiselle de Montalais recognized your handwriting and your seal,” said Malicorne.

Raoul colored and smiled. “Mademoiselle de Montalais is exceedingly amiable,” he said; “she is always kind and charming.”

“Always, monsieur.”

“Surely she could give me some precise information about Mademoiselle de la Valliere. I never could find her in this immense city.”

Malicorne drew another packet from his pocket.

“You may possibly find in this letter what you are anxious to learn.”

Raoul hurriedly broke the seal. The writing was that of Mademoiselle Aure, and inclosed were these words: — “Paris, Palais-Royal. The day of the nuptial blessing.”

“What does this mean?” inquired Raoul of Malicorne; “you probably know.”

“I do, monsieur.”

“For pity’s sake, tell me, then.”

“Impossible, monsieur.”

“Why so?”

“Because Mademoiselle Aure has forbidden me to do so.”

Raoul looked at his strange visitor, and remained silent; — “At least, tell me whether it is fortunate or unfortunate.”

“That you will see.”

“You are very severe in your reservations.”

“Will you grant me a favor, monsieur?” said Malicorne.

“In exchange for that you refuse me?”

“Precisely.”

“What is it?”

“I have the greatest desire to see the ceremony, and I have no ticket to admit me, in spite of all the steps I have taken to secure one. Could you get me admitted “

“Certainly.”

“Do me this kindness, then, I entreat.”

“Most willingly, monsieur; come with me.”

“I am exceedingly indebted to you, monsieur,” said Malicorne.

“I thought you were a friend of M. de Manicamp.”

“I am, monsieur; but this morning I was with him as he was dressing, and I let a bottle of blacking fall over his new dress, and he flew at me sword in hand, so that I was obliged to make my escape. That is the reason I could not ask him for a ticket. He wanted to kill me.”

“I can well believe it,” laughed Raoul. “I know Manicamp is capable of killing a man who has been unfortunate enough to commit the crime you have to reproach yourself with, but I will repair the mischief as far as you are concerned. I will but fasten my cloak, and shall then be ready to serve you, not only as a guide, but as your introducer, too.”

CHAPTER 89

A Surprise for Madame de Montalais

Madame’s marriage was celebrated in the chapel of the Palais-Royal, in the presence of a crowd of courtiers, who had been most scrupulously selected. However, notwithstanding the marked favor which an invitation indicated, Raoul, faithful to his promise to Malicorne, who was so anxious to witness the ceremony, obtained admission for him. After he had fulfilled this engagement, Raoul approached De Guiche, who, as if in contrast with his magnificent costume, exhibited a countenance so utterly dejected, that the Duke of Buckingham was the only one present who could contend with him as far as pallor and discomfiture were concerned.

“Take care, count,” said Raoul, approaching his friend, and preparing to support him at the moment the archbishop blessed the married couple. In fact, the Prince of Conde was attentively scrutinizing these two images of desolation, standing like caryatides on either side of the nave of the church. The count, after that, kept a more careful watch over himself.

At the termination of the ceremony, the king and queen passed onward towards the grand reception-room, where Madame and her suite were to be presented to them. It was remarked that the king, who had seemed more than surprised at his sister-in-law’s appearance was most flattering in his compliments to her. Again, it was remarked that the queen-mother, fixing a long and thoughtful gaze upon Buckingham, leaned towards Madame de Motteville as though to ask her, “Do you not see how much he resembles his father?” and finally it was remarked that Monsieur watched everybody, and seemed quite discontented. After the reception of the princess and ambassadors, Monsieur solicited the king’s permission to present to him as well as to Madame the persons belonging to their new household.

“Are you aware, vicomte,” inquired the Prince de Conde of Raoul, “whether the household has been selected by a person of taste, and whether there are any faces worth looking at?”

“I have not the slightest idea, monseigneur,” replied Raoul.

“You affect ignorance, surely.”

“In what way, monseigneur?”

“You are a friend of De Guiche, who is one of the friends of the prince.”

“That may be so, monseigneur; but the matter having no interest whatever for me, I never questioned De Guiche on the subject; and De Guiche on his part, never having been questioned, did not communicate any particulars to me.”

“But Manicamp?”

“It is true I saw Manicamp at Havre, and during the journey here, but I was no more inquisitive with him than I had been towards De Guiche. Besides, is it likely that Manicamp should know anything of such matters? for he is a person of only secondary importance.”

“My dear vicomte, do you not know better than that?” said the prince; “why, it is these persons of secondary importance who, on such occasions, have all the influence; and the truth is, that nearly everything has been done through Manicamp’s presentations to De Guiche, and through De Guiche to Monsieur.”

“I assure you, monseigneur, I was ignorant of that,” said Raoul, “and what your highness does me the honor to impart is perfectly new to me.”

“I will most readily believe you, although it seems incredible; besides, we shall not have long to wait. See, the flying squadron is advancing, as good Queen Catherine used to say. Ah! ah! what pretty faces!”

A bevy of young girls at this moment entered the salon, conducted by Madame de Navailles, and to Manicamp’s credit be it said, if indeed he had taken that part in their selection which the Prince de Conde assigned him, it was a display calculated to dazzle those who, like the prince, could appreciate every character and style of beauty. A young, fair-complexioned girl, from twenty to one-and-twenty years of age, and whose large blue eyes flashed, as she opened them, in the most dazzling manner, walked at the head of the band and was the first presented.

“Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente,” said Madame de Navailles to Monsieur, who, as he saluted his wife, repeated “Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente.”

“Ah! ah!” said the Prince de Conde to Raoul, “she is presentable enough.”

“Yes,” said Raoul, “but has she not a somewhat haughty style?”

“Bah! we know these airs very well, vicomte; three months hence she will be tame enough. But look, there, indeed, is a pretty face.”

“Yes,” said Raoul, “and one I am acquainted with.”

“Mademoiselle Aure de Montalais,” said Madame de Navailles. The name and Christian name were carefully repeated by Monsieur.

“Great heavens!” exclaimed Raoul, fixing his bewildered gaze upon the entrance doorway.

“What’s the matter?” inquired the prince; “was it Mademoiselle Aure de Montalais who made you utter such a `Great heavens’?”

“No, monseigneur, no,” replied Raoul, pale and trembling.

“Well, then, if it be not Mademoiselle Aure de Montalais, it is that pretty blonde who follows her. What beautiful eyes! She is rather thin, but has fascinations without number.”

“Mademoiselle de la Baume le Blanc de la Valliere!” said Madame de Navailles; and, as this name resounded through his whole being, a cloud seemed to rise from his breast to his eyes, so that he neither saw nor heard anything more; and the prince, finding him nothing more than a mere echo which remained silent under his railleries, moved forward to inspect somewhat closer the beautiful girls whom his first glance had already particularized.

“Louise here! Louise a maid of honor to Madame!” murmured Raoul, and his eyes, which did not suffice to satisfy his reason, wandered from Louise to Montalais. The latter had already emancipated herself from her assumed timidity, which she only needed for the presentation and for her reverences.

Mademoiselle de Montalais, from the corner of the room to which she had retired, was looking with no slight confidence at the different persons present; and, having discovered Raoul, she amused herself with the profound astonishment which her own and her friend’s presence there caused the unhappy lover. Her waggish and malicious look, which Raoul tried to avoid meeting, and which yet he sought inquiringly from time to time, placed him on the rack. As for Louise, whether from natural timidity, or some other reason for which Raoul could not account, she kept her eyes constantly cast down; intimidated, dazzled, and with impeded respiration, she withdrew herself as much as possible aside, unaffected even by the nudges Montalais gave her with her elbow. The whole scene was a perfect enigma for Raoul, the key to which he would have given anything to obtain. But no one was there who could assist him, not even Malicorne; who, a little uneasy at finding himself in the presence of so many persons of good birth, and not a little discouraged by Montalais’s bantering glances, had described a circle, and by degrees succeeded in getting a few paces from the prince, behind the group of maids of honor, and nearly within reach of Mademoiselle Aure’s voice, she being the planet around which he, as her attendant satellite, seemed constrained to gravitate. As he recovered his self-possession, Raoul fancied he recognized voices on his right hand that were familiar to him, and he perceived De Wardes, De Guiche, and the Chevalier de Lorraine, conversing together. It is true they were talking in tones so low, that the sound of their words could hardly be heard in the vast apartment. To speak in that manner from any particular place without bending down, or turning round, or looking at the person with whom one may be engaged in conversation, is a talent that cannot be immediately acquired by newcomers. Long study is needed for such conversations, which, without a look, gesture, or movement of the head, seem like the conversation of a group of statues. In fact, in the king’s and queen’s grand assemblies, while their majesties were speaking, and while every one present seemed to be listening in the midst of the most profound silence, some of these noiseless conversations took place, in which adulation was not the prevailing feature. But Raoul was one among others exceedingly clever in this art, so much a matter of etiquette, that from the movement of the lips he was often able to guess the sense of the words.

“Who is that Montalais?” inquired De Wardes, “and that La Valliere? What country-town have we had sent here?”

“Montalais?” said the chevalier, — “oh, I know her; she is a good sort of a girl, whom we shall find amusing enough. La Valliere is a charming girl, slightly lame.”

“Ah! bah!” said De Wardes.

“Do not be absurd, De Wardes, there are some very characteristic and ingenious Latin axioms about lame ladies.”

“Gentlemen, gentlemen,” said De Guiche, looking at Raoul with uneasiness, “be a little careful, I entreat you.”

But the uneasiness of the count, in appearance at least, was not needed. Raoul had preserved the firmest and most indifferent countenance, although he had not lost a word that passed. He seemed to keep an account of the insolence and license of the two speakers in order to settle matters with them at the earliest opportunity.

De Wardes seemed to guess what was passing in his mind, and continued:

“Who are these young ladies’ lovers?”

“Montalais’s lover?” said the chevalier.

“Yes, Montalais first.”

“You, I, or De Guiche, — whoever likes, in fact.”

“And the other?”

“Mademoiselle de la Valliere?”

“Yes.”

“Take care, gentlemen,” exclaimed De Guiche, anxious to put a stop to De Wardes’s reply; “take care, Madame is listening to us.”

Raoul thrust his hand up to the wrist into his justaucorps in great agitation. But the very malignity which he saw was excited against these poor girls made him take a serious resolution. “Poor Louise,” he thought, “has come here only with an honorable object in view and under honorable protection; and I must learn what that object is which she has in view, and who it is that protects her.” And following Malicorne’s maneuver, he made his way toward the group of the maids of honor. The presentations were soon over. The king, who had done nothing but look at and admire Madame, shortly afterwards left the reception-room, accompanied by the two queens. The Chevalier de Lorraine resumed his place beside Monsieur, and, as he accompanied him, insinuated a few drops of the venom he had collected during the last hour, while looking at some of the faces in the court, and suspecting that some of their hearts might be happy. A few of the persons present followed the king as he quitted the apartment; but such of the courtiers as assumed an independence of character, and professed a gallantry of disposition, began to approach the ladies of the court. The prince paid his compliments to Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente, Buckingham devoted himself to Madame Chalais and Mademoiselle de Lafayette, whom Madame already distinguished by her notice, and whom she held in high regard. As for the Comte de Guiche, who had abandoned Monsieur as soon as he could approach Madame alone, he conversed, with great animation, with Madame de Valentinois, and with Mesdemoiselles de Crequy and de Chatillon.

Amid these varied political and amorous interests, Malicorne was anxious to gain Montalais’s attention; but the latter preferred talking with Raoul, even if it were only to amuse herself with his innumerable questions and his astonishment. Raoul had gone direct to Mademoiselle de la Valliere, and had saluted her with the profoundest respect, at which Louise blushed, and could not say a word. Montalais, however, hurried to her assistance.

“Well, monsieur le vicomte, here we are, you see.”

“I do, indeed, see you,” said Raoul, smiling, “and it is exactly because you are here that I wish to ask for some explanation.”

Malicorne approached the group with his most fascinating smile.

“Go away, Malicorne; really, you are exceedingly indiscreet.” At this remark Malicorne bit his lips and retired a few steps, without making any reply. His smile, however, changed its expression, and from its former frankness, became mocking in its expression.

“You wished for an explanation, M. Raoul?” inquired Montalais.

“It is surely worth one, I think; Mademoiselle de la Valliere a maid of honor to Madame!”

“Why should not she be a maid of honor, as well as myself?” inquired Montalais.

“Pray accept my compliments, young ladies,” said Raoul, who fancied he perceived they were not disposed to answer him in a direct manner.

“Your remark was not made in a very complimentary manner, vicomte.”

“Mine?”

“Certainly; I appeal to Louise.”

“M. de Bragelonne probably thinks the position is above my condition,” said Louise, hesitatingly.

“Assuredly not,” replied Raoul, eagerly; “you know very well that such is not my feeling; were you called upon to occupy a queen’s throne, I should not be surprised; how much greater reason, then, such a position as this? The only circumstance that amazes me is that I should have learned it only to-day, and that by the merest accident.”

“That is true,” replied Montalais, with her usual giddiness; “you know nothing about it, and there is no reason you should. M. de Bragelonne had written several letters to you, but your mother was the only person who remained behind at Blois, and it was necessary to prevent these letters falling into her hands; I intercepted them, and returned them to M. Raoul, so that he believed you were still at Blois while you were here in Paris, and had no idea whatever, indeed, how high you had risen in rank.”

“Did you not inform M. Raoul, as I begged you to do?”

“Why should I? to give him an opportunity or making some of his severe remarks and moral reflections, and to undo what we had so much trouble in effecting? Certainly not.”

“Am I so very severe, then?” said Raoul, inquiringly.

“Besides,” said Montalais, “it is sufficient to say that it suited me. I was about setting off for Paris — you were away; Louise was weeping her eyes out; interpret that as you please; I begged a friend, a protector of mine, who had obtained the appointment for me, to solicit one for Louise; the appointment arrived. Louise left in order to get her costume prepared; as I had my own ready, I remained behind; I received your letters, and returned them to you, adding a few words, promising you a surprise. Your surprise is before you, monsieur, and seems to be a fair one enough; you have nothing more to ask. Come, M. Malicorne, it is now time to leave these young people together: they have many things to talk about; give me your hand; I trust that you appreciate the honor conferred upon you, M. Malicorne.”

“Forgive me,” said Raoul, arresting the giddy girl, and giving to his voice an intonation, the gravity of which contrasted with that of Montalais; “forgive me, but may I inquire the name of the protector you speak of; for if protection be extended towards you, Mademoiselle Montalais, — for which, indeed, so many reasons exist,” added Raoul, bowing, “I do not see that the same reasons exist why Mademoiselle de la Valliere should be similarly cared for.”

“But, M. Raoul,” said Louise, innocently, “there is no difference in the matter, and I do not see why I should not tell it you myself; it was M. Malicorne who obtained it for me.”

Raoul remained for a moment almost stupefied, asking himself if they were trifling with him; he then turned round to interrogate Malicorne, but he had been hurried away by Montalais, and was already at some distance from them. Mademoiselle de la Valliere attempted to follow her friend, but Raoul, with gentle authority, detained her.

“Louise, one word, I beg.”

“But, M. Raoul,” said Louise, blushing, “we are alone. Every one has left. They will become anxious, and will be looking for us.”

“Fear nothing,” said the young man, smiling, “we are neither of us of sufficient importance for our absence to be remarked.”

“But I have my duty to perform, M. Raoul.”

“Do not be alarmed, I am acquainted with these usages of the court; you will not be on duty until to-morrow; a few minutes are at your disposal, which will enable you to give me the information I am about to have the honor to ask you for.”

“How serious you are, M. Raoul!” said Louise.

“Because the circumstances are serious. Are you listening?”

“I am listening; I would only repeat, monsieur, that we are quite alone.”

“You are right,” said Raoul, and, offering her his hand, he led the young girl into the gallery adjoining the reception-room, the windows of which looked out upon the courtyard. Every one hurried towards the middle window, which had a balcony outside, from which all the details of the slow and formal preparations for departure could be seen. Raoul opened one of the side windows, and then, being alone with Louise, said to her: “You know, Louise, that from my childhood I have regarded you as my sister, as one who has been the confidante of all my troubles, to whom I have entrusted all my hopes.”

“Yes, M. Raoul,” she answered softly; “yes, M. Raoul, I know that.”

“You used, on your side, to show the same friendship towards me, and had the same confidence in me; why have you not, on this occasion, been my friend — why have you shown suspicion of me?”

Mademoiselle de la Valliere did not answer. “I fondly thought you loved me,” said Raoul, whose voice became more and more agitated; “I fondly thought you consented to all the plans we had, together, laid down for our own happiness, at the time when we wandered up and down the walks of Cour-Cheverny, under the avenue of poplar trees leading to Blois. You do not answer me, Louise. Is it possible,” he inquired, breathing with difficulty, “that you no longer love me?”

“I did not say so,” replied Louise, softly.

“Oh! tell me the truth, I implore you. All my hopes in life are centered in you. I chose you for your gentle and simple tastes. Do not suffer yourself to be dazzled, Louise, now that you are in the midst of a court where all that is pure too soon becomes corrupt — where all that is young too soon grows old. Louise, close your ears, so as not to hear what may be said; shut your eyes, so as not to see the examples before you; shut your lips, that you may not inhale the corrupting influences about you. Without falsehood or subterfuge, Louise, am I to believe what Mademoiselle de Montalais stated? Louise, did you come to Paris because I was no longer at Blois?”

La Valliere blushed and concealed her face in her hands.

“Yes, it was so, then!” exclaimed Raoul, delightedly; “that