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

“Married?”

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

“But your father?”

“My father leaves me perfectly free.”

“Yet —- “

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

“Reflect, M. Raoul; wait.”

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

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

CHAPTER 90

The Consent of Athos

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

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

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

“Speak, Raoul.”

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

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

“You have reflected well upon it?” he inquired.

“Yes, monsieur.”

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

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

“You do persist, then?”

Bragelonne stammered out an almost unintelligible assent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“My horses, Grimaud,” continued the count.

“Why this order, monsieur?” inquired Raoul.

“We shall set off in a few hours.”

“Whither?”

“For Paris.”

“Paris, monsieur?”

“Is not the king at Paris?”

“Certainly.”

“Well, ought we not to go there?”

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

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

“You overpower me with your kindness, monsieur.”

“How do you think his majesty is affected?”

“Towards me, monsieur?”

“Yes.”

“Excellently well disposed.”

“You know that to be so?” continued the count.

“The king has himself told me so.”

“On what occasion?”

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

“So much the better.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why did you suffer him to live?”

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

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

“What do you intend to ask him?”

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

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

“Did I reproach you, Raoul?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Tell me his name, monsieur.”

“I will not allow you to expose yourself.

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

“You insist upon it?”

“I demand it.”

“The Vicomte de Wardes.”

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

CHAPTER 91

Monsieur becomes jealous of the Duke of Buckingha

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

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

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

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

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

“One indeed has occupied me more than any other.”

“Well, what is it? I am listening.”

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

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

“I do not say no, madame.”

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

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

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

“Yes.”

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

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

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

“Madame is pretty, certainly.”

“No doubt of it.”

“Yet not altogether beautiful.”

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

“And consequently others have remarked it.”

“Undoubtedly, for a woman of ordinary rank is noticed — and with still greater reason a princess.”

“She has been well brought up, I suppose?”

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

“What do you mean?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I do not precisely say it is serious.”

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

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

“For shame, Philip.”

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

“Explain yourself.”

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

“You are jealous, Philip.”

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

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

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

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

“Precisely so.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Well,” said Philip, “tell me one thing.”

“What is that?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes; one of those arm-chair soldiers —- “

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, and what do you see?”

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

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

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

“Certainly.”

“What was it?”

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

“What do you intend to do, then?”

“I shall complain to the king.”

“And what do you expect the king to reply?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Madame, I know what I know.”

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

“I am not patient by disposition, madame.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is to be done, then? — I will consult my friends about it.”

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

“As soon as possible, madame.”

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

“You shall be obeyed, madame.”

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

“That will not be difficult.”

“Where do you suppose him to be?”

“At my wife’s door, whose levee he is probably awaiting.”

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

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

CHAPTER 92

Forever!

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

“Your majesty,” said Buckingham, respectfully, “desired to speak to me.”

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

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

“It is a lovely country, madame,” replied the duke.

“Had you ever seen it before?”

“Once only, madame.”

“But, like all true Englishmen, you prefer England?”

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

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

“It was my father’s residence,” replied Buckingham, casting down his eyes.

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

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

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

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

“What do you mean?”

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

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

“Perfectly so, madame, for his majesty’s kindness to me is unbounded.”

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

“My income, madame, has never been so large.”

“There is some secret cause, then?”

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

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

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

“Do you think so, my lord?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, my lord.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I have said nothing, — I know nothing.”

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

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

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

“I have been betrayed or denounced, then?”

“By whom?”

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

“I do not know whom you mean.”

“M. de Bragelonne, for instance.”

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

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

“What would you do, duke?”

“There are secrets which kill those who discover them.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It is for your sake, then, madame?”

“For mine alone.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“When must I leave? Command me.”

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

“My wish?” murmured the young duke.

“Yes, duke.”

“And shall I never return to France?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHAPTER 93

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

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

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

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

“He is below, and awaits your majesty’s permission.”

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

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

“That is well,” said the king, joyously.

“It is not for myself, sire.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That is a misfortune we can remedy.”

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

“Do so, comte.”

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

“Certainly.”

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

“No false delicacy, comte; what is the bride’s name?”

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

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

“Yes, sire, it is his daughter.”

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

“Your majesty is correctly informed.”

“More than that, the young lady has lately become one of the princess’s maids of honor.”

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

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

“I am not quite sure,” replied Athos.

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

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

“Beautiful fair hair, however.”

“I think so.”

“And her blue eyes are tolerably good.”

“Yes, sire.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, sire, that is true.”

“I do not understand you, then; refuse.”

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

“Tell me, comte, is she in love with him?”

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

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

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

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

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

“And I, too, as much as yourself, comte, wish to secure M. de Bragelonne’s happiness.”

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

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

“But, sire,” exclaimed Athos, “your majesty has promised!”

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

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

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

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

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

“Love, sir, is overwhelming in its might.”

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

“When one has the soul of a king, — your own, for instance, sire.”

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

“Yet once more, sire.”

“Comte, you told me you came to request a favor.”

“Assuredly, sire.”

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

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

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

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

“I am in traveling-costume, sire.”

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

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

“Well, monsieur?” said the young man.

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

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

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

“The king has not signed, however?”

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

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

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

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

“Since I am here,” said Athos, suddenly, “cannot I see M. d’Artagnan?”

“Shall I show you his apartments?” said De Bragelonne.

“Do so.”

“They are on the opposite staircase.”

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

“What is it?” said Raoul.

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

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

“Certainly.”

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

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

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

“You will excuse me, I trust,” said Raoul.

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

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

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

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

“Your devoted

“Villiers, Duke of Buckingham.”

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

CHAPTER 94

Sword-thrusts in the Water

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

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

“It is your case, then, Raoul, as it is my own, — our love affairs do not progress.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You wish Monsieur’s death,” exclaimed Raoul.

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

“Of the lover?” said Raoul.

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

“Are you jealous of the Duke of Buckingham?”

“To the very death.”

“Again jealous?”

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

“It was you, then, who wrote to him?”

“How do you know that?”

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

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

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

“But that is almost out of the question.”

“What is?”

“That I shall call on him for that purpose.”

“Why so?”

“The duke consults me as you do.”

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

“Reflect, De Guiche.”

“I thought I told you I have reflected.”

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

“The consequences concern me.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, that is true.”

“He knows nothing?”

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

“Has he not told you anything?”

“Nothing.”

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

“Let us go, then.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes,” replied D’Artagnan, “I have just left him.”

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

“We have arranged to meet again.”

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

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

“What is it, my dear vicomte?”

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

“Ah, ah, is M. Fouquet there?” inquired D’Artagnan.

“Do you not see him?”

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

“You are a more important personage.”

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

“You will do me this service, will you not?”

“M. Fouquet — the deuce!”

“Are you not on good terms with him?”

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

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

“No, no, don’t deceive yourself, it is indeed me for whom this honor is intended.”

“The opportunity is a good one, then?”

“Do you think so?”

“Pray go.”

“Well, I will.”

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

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

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

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

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

“I have only been there once,” replied D’Artagnan, with readiness and good-humor.

“Did you remain there long?”

“Scarcely a day.”

“Did you see much of it while you were there?”

“All that could be seen in a day.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Precisely.”

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

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

“Believe me, monseigneur,” said the duke, “that if I quit the court of France —- “

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

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

“Indeed,” said Monsieur.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Forgive me, duke; my friendship, my lasting friendship is yours.”

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

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

“Why so?”

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

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

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