Louise de la Valliere



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Chapter LII. Two Jealousies.

Lovers are tender towards everything that forms part of the daily life of the object of their affection. Raoul no sooner found himself alone with Montalais, than he kissed her hand with rapture. “There, there,” said the young girl, sadly, “you are throwing your kisses away; I will guarantee that they will not bring you back any interest.”

“How so?—Why?—Will you explain to me, my dear Aure?”

“Madame will explain everything to you. I am going to take you to her apartments.


“Silence! and throw away your dark and savage looks. The windows here have eyes, the walls have ears. Have the kindness not to look at me any longer; be good enough to speak to me aloud of the rain, of the fine weather, and of the charms of England.”

“At all events—” interrupted Raoul.

“I tell you, I warn you, that wherever people may be, I know not how, Madame is sure to have eyes and ears open. I am not very desirous, you can easily believe, of being dismissed or thrown in to the Bastile. Let us talk, I tell you, or rather, do not let us talk at all.”

Raoul clenched his hands, and tried to assume the look and gait of a man of courage, it is true, but of a man of courage on his way to the torture chamber. Montalais, glancing in every direction, walking along with an easy swinging gait, and holding up her head pertly in the air, preceded him to Madame’s apartments, where he was at once introduced. “Well,” he thought, “this day will pass away without my learning anything. Guiche showed too much consideration for my feelings; he had no doubt come to an understanding with Madame, and both of them, by a friendly plot, agreed to postpone the solution of the problem. Why have I not a determined, inveterate enemy—that serpent, De Wardes, for instance; that he would bite, is very likely; but I should not hesitate any more. To hesitate, to doubt—better, far, to die.”

The next moment Raoul was in Madame’s presence. Henrietta, more charming than ever, was half lying, half reclining in her armchair, her small feet upon an embroidered velvet cushion; she was playing with a kitten with long silky fur, which was biting her fingers and hanging by the lace of her collar.

Madame seemed plunged in deep thought, so deep, indeed, that it required both Montalais and Raoul’s voice to disturb her from her reverie.

“Your highness sent for me?” repeated Raoul.

Madame shook her head as if she were just awakening, and then said, “Good morning, Monsieur de Bragelonne; yes, I sent for you; so you have returned from England?”

“Yes, Madame, and am at your royal highness’s commands.”

“Thank you; leave us, Montalais,” and the latter immediately left the room.

“You have a few minutes to give me, Monsieur de Bragelonne, have you not?”

“My life is at your royal highness’s disposal,” Raoul returned with respect, guessing that there was something serious in these unusual courtesies; nor was he displeased, indeed, to observe the seriousness of her manner, feeling persuaded that there was some sort of affinity between Madame’s sentiments and his own. In fact, every one at court, of any perception at all, knew perfectly well the capricious fancy and absurd despotism of the princess’s singular character. Madame had been flattered beyond all bounds by the king’s attention; she had made herself talked about; she had inspired the queen with that mortal jealousy which is the stinging scorpion at the heel of every woman’s happiness; Madame, in a word, in her attempts to cure a wounded pride, found that her heart had become deeply and passionately attached. We know what Madame had done to recall Raoul, who had been sent out of the way by Louis XIV. Raoul did not know of her letter to Charles II., although D’Artagnan had guessed its contents. Who will undertake to account for that seemingly inexplicable mixture of love and vanity, that passionate tenderness of feeling, that prodigious duplicity of conduct? No one can, indeed; not even the bad angel who kindles the love of coquetry in the heart of a woman. “Monsieur de Bragelonne,” said the princess, after a moment’s pause, “have you returned satisfied?”

Bragelonne looked at Madame Henrietta, and seeing how pale she was, not alone from what she was keeping back, but also from what she was burning to say, said: “Satisfied! what is there for me to be satisfied or dissatisfied about, Madame?”

“But what are those things with which a man of your age, and of your appearance, is usually either satisfied or dissatisfied?”

“How eager she is,” thought Raoul, almost terrified; “what venom is it she is going to distil into my heart?” and then, frightened at what she might possibly be going to tell him, and wishing to put off the opportunity of having everything explained, which he had hitherto so ardently wished for, yet had dreaded so much, he replied: “I left, Madame, a dear friend in good health, and on my return I find him very ill.”

“You refer to M. de Guiche,” replied Madame Henrietta, with imperturbable self-possession; “I have heard he is a very dear friend of yours.”

“He is, indeed, Madame.”

“Well, it is quite true he has been wounded; but he is better now. Oh! M. de Guiche is not to be pitied,” she said hurriedly; and then, recovering herself, added, “But has he anything to complain of? Has he complained of anything? Is there any cause of grief or sorrow that we are not acquainted with?”

“I allude only to his wound, Madame.”

“So much the better, then, for, in other respects, M. de Guiche seems to be very happy; he is always in very high spirits. I am sure that you, Monsieur de Bragelonne, would far prefer to be, like him, wounded only in the body... for what, in deed, is such a wound, after all!”

Raoul started. “Alas!” he said to himself, “she is returning to it.”

“What did you say?” she inquired.

“I did not say anything Madame.”

“You did not say anything; you disapprove of my observation, then? you are perfectly satisfied, I suppose?”

Raoul approached closer to her. “Madame,” he said, “your royal highness wishes to say something to me, and your instinctive kindness and generosity of disposition induce you to be careful and considerate as to your manner of conveying it. Will your royal highness throw this kind forbearance aside? I am able to bear everything; and I am listening.”

“Ah!” replied Henrietta, “what do you understand, then?”

“That which your royal highness wishes me to understand,” said Raoul, trembling, notwithstanding his command over himself, as he pronounced these words.

“In point of fact,” murmured the princess... “it seems cruel, but since I have begun—”

“Yes, Madame, once your highness has deigned to begin, will you condescend to finish—”

Henrietta rose hurriedly and walked a few paces up and down her room. “What did M. de Guiche tell you?” she said, suddenly.

“Nothing, Madame.”

“Nothing! Did he say nothing? Ah! how well I recognize him in that.”

“No doubt he wished to spare me.”

“And that is what friends call friendship. But surely, M. d’Artagnan, whom you have just left, must have told you.”

“No more than De Guiche, Madame.”

Henrietta made a gesture full of impatience, as she said, “At least, you know all the court knows.”

“I know nothing at all, Madame.”

“Not the scene in the storm?”

“No, Madame.”

“Not the tete-a-tete in the forest?”

“No, Madame.”

“Nor the flight to Chaillot?”

Raoul, whose head dropped like a blossom cut down by the reaper, made an almost superhuman effort to smile, as he replied with the greatest gentleness: “I have had the honor of telling your royal highness that I am absolutely ignorant of everything, that I am a poor unremembered outcast, who has this moment arrived from England. There have rolled so many stormy waves between myself and those I left behind me here, that the rumor of none of the circumstances your highness refers to, has been able to reach me.”

Henrietta was affected by his extreme pallor, his gentleness, and his great courage. The principal feeling in her heart at that moment was an eager desire to hear the nature of the remembrance which the poor lover retained of the woman who had made him suffer so much. “Monsieur de Bragelonne,” she said, “that which your friends have refused to do, I will do for you, whom I like and esteem very much. I will be your friend on this occasion. You hold your head high, as a man of honor should; and I deeply regret that you may have to bow before ridicule, and in a few days, it might be, contempt.”

“Ah!” exclaimed Raoul, perfectly livid. “It is as bad as that, then?”

“If you do not know,” said the princess, “I see that you guess; you were affianced, I believe, to Mademoiselle de la Valliere?”

“Yes, Madame.”

“By that right, you deserve to be warned about her, as some day or another I shall be obliged to dismiss Mademoiselle de la Valliere from my service—”

“Dismiss La Valliere!” cried Bragelonne.

“Of course. Do you suppose I shall always be amenable to the tears and protestations of the king? No, no! my house shall no longer be made a convenience for such practices; but you tremble, you cannot stand—”

“No, Madame, no,” said Bragelonne, making an effort over himself; “I thought I should have died just now, that was all. Your royal highness did me the honor to say that the king wept and implored you—”

“Yes, but in vain,” returned the princess; who then related to Raoul the scene that took place at Chaillot, and the king’s despair on his return; she told him of his indulgence to herself and the terrible word with which the outraged princess, the humiliated coquette, had quashed the royal anger.

Raoul stood with his head bent down.

“What do you think of it all?” she said.

“The king loves her,” he replied.

“But you seem to think she does not love him!”

“Alas, Madame, I was thinking of the time when she loved me.”

Henrietta was for a moment struck with admiration at this sublime disbelief: and then, shrugging her shoulders, she said, “You do not believe me, I see. How deeply you must love her. And you doubt if she loves the king?”

“I do, until I have a proof of it. Forgive me, Madame, but she has given me her word; and her mind and heart are too upright to tell a falsehood.”

“You require a proof! Be it so. Come with me, then.”

Chapter LIII. A Domiciliary Visit.

The princess, preceding Raoul, led him through the courtyard towards that part of the building La Valliere inhabited, and, ascending the same staircase which Raoul himself had ascended that very morning, she paused at the door of the room in which the young man had been so strangely received by Montalais. The opportunity was remarkably well chosen to carry out the project Madame Henrietta had conceived, for the chateau was empty. The king, the courtiers, and the ladies of the court, had set off for Saint-Germain; Madame Henrietta was the only one who knew of Bragelonne’s return, and thinking over the advantages which might be drawn from this return, she had feigned indisposition in order to remain behind. Madame was therefore confident of finding La Valliere’s room and Saint-Aignan’s apartment perfectly empty. She took a pass-key from her pocket and opened the door of her maid of honor’s apartment. Bragelonne’s gaze was immediately fixed upon the interior of the room, which he recognized at once; and the impression which the sight of it produced upon him was torture. The princess looked at him, and her practiced eye at once detected what was passing in the young man’s heart.

“You asked for proofs,” she said; “do not be astonished, then, if I give you them. But if you do not think you have courage enough to confront them, there is still time to withdraw.”

“I thank you, Madame,” said Bragelonne; “but I came here to be convinced. You promised to convince me,—do so.”

“Enter, then,” said Madame, “and shut the door behind you.”

Bragelonne obeyed, and then turned towards the princess, whom he interrogated by a look.

“You know where you are, I suppose?” inquired Madame Henrietta.

“Everything leads me to believe I am in Mademoiselle de la Valliere’s room.”

“You are.”

“But I would observe to your highness, that this room is a room, and is not a proof.”

“Wait,” said the princess, as she walked to the foot of the bed, folded up the screen into its several compartments, and stooped down towards the floor. “Look here,” she continued; “stoop down and lift up this trap-door yourself.”

“A trap-door!” said Raoul, astonished; for D’Artagnan’s words began to return to his memory, and he had an indistinct recollection that D’Artagnan had made use of the same word. He looked, but uselessly, for some cleft or crevice which might indicate an opening or a ring to assist in lifting up the planking.

“Ah, I forgot,” said Madame Henrietta, “I forgot the secret spring; the fourth plank of the flooring,—press on the spot where you will observe a knot in the wood. Those are the instructions; press, vicomte! press, I say, yourself.”

Raoul, pale as death, pressed his finger on the spot which had been indicated to him; at the same moment the spring began to work, and the trap rose of its own accord.

“It is ingenious enough, certainly,” said the princess; “and one can see that the architect foresaw that a woman’s hand only would have to make use of this spring, for see how easily the trap-door opened without assistance.”

“A staircase!” cried Raoul.

“Yes, and a very pretty one, too,” said Madame Henrietta. “See, vicomte, the staircase has a balustrade, intended to prevent the falling of timid persons, who might be tempted to descend the staircase; and I will risk myself on it accordingly. Come, vicomte, follow me!”

“But before following you, madame, may I ask where this staircase leads to?”

“Ah, true; I forgot to tell you. You know, perhaps, that formerly M. de Saint-Aignan lived in the very next apartment to the king?”

“Yes, Madame, I am aware of that; that was the arrangement, at least, before I left; and more than once I had the honor of visiting his rooms.”

“Well, he obtained the king’s leave to change his former convenient and beautiful apartment for the two rooms to which this staircase will conduct us, and which together form a lodging for him half the size, and at ten times greater the distance from the king,—a close proximity to whom is by no means disdained, in general, by the gentlemen belonging to the court.”

“Very good, Madame,” returned Raoul; “but go on, I beg, for I do not understand yet.”

“Well, then it accidentally happened,” continued the princess, “that M. de Saint-Aignan’s apartment is situated underneath the apartments of my maids of honor, and by a further coincidence, exactly underneath the room of La Valliere.”

“But what was the motive of this trap-door and this staircase?”

“That I cannot tell you. Would you like to go down to Monsieur de Saint-Aignan’s rooms? Perhaps we shall be able to find the solution of the enigma there.”

And Madame set the example by going down herself, while Raoul, sighing deeply, followed her. At every step Bragelonne took, he advanced further into that mysterious apartment which had witnessed La Valliere’s sighs and still retained the perfume of her presence. Bragelonne fancied he perceived, as he inhaled the atmosphere, that the young girl must have passed through. Then succeeded to these emanations of herself, which he regarded as invisible though certain proofs, flowers she preferred to all others—books of her own selection. If Raoul retained a single doubt on the subject, it would have vanished at the secret harmony of tastes and connection of the mind with the ordinary objects of life. La Valliere, in Bragelonne’s eyes, was present there in each article of furniture, in the color of the hangings, in all that surrounded him. Dumb, and now completely overwhelmed, there was nothing further for him now to learn, and he followed his pitiless conductress as blindly as the culprit follows the executioner; while Madame, as cruel as women of overstrung temperaments generally are, did not spare him the slightest detail. But it must be admitted that, notwithstanding the kind of apathy into which he had fallen, none of these details, even had he been left alone, would have escaped him. The happiness of the woman who loves, when that happiness is derived from a rival, is a living torture for a jealous man; but for a jealous man such as Raoul was, for one whose heart for the first time in its existence was being steeped in gall and bitterness, Louise’s happiness was in reality an ignominious death, a death of body and soul. He guessed all; he fancied he could see them, with their hands clasped in each other’s, their faces drawn close together, and reflected, side by side, in loving proximity, and they gazed upon the mirrors around them—so sweet an occupation for lovers, who, as they thus see themselves twice over, imprint the picture still more deeply on their memories. He could guess, too, the stolen kiss snatched as they separated from each other’s loved society. The luxury, the studied elegance, eloquent of the perfection of indolence, of ease; the extreme care shown, either to spare the loved object every annoyance, or to occasion her a delightful surprise; that might and majesty of love multiplied by the majesty and might of royalty itself, seemed like a death-blow to Raoul. If there be anything which can in any way assuage or mitigate the tortures of jealousy, it is the inferiority of the man who is preferred to yourself; whilst, on the very contrary, if there be one anguish more bitter than another, a misery for which language lacks a word, it is the superiority of the man preferred to yourself, superior, perhaps, in youth, beauty, grace. It is in such moments as these that Heaven almost seems to have taken part against the disdained and rejected lover.

One final pang was reserved for poor Raoul. Madame Henrietta lifted up a silk curtain, and behind the canvas he perceived La Valliere’s portrait. Not only the portrait of La Valliere, but of La Valliere radiant with youth, beauty, and happiness, inhaling life and enjoyment at every pore, because at eighteen years of age love itself is life.

“Louise!” murmured Bragelonne,—“Louise! is it true, then? Oh, you have never loved me, for never have you looked at me in that manner.” And he felt as if his heart were crushed within his bosom.

Madame Henrietta looked at him, almost envious of his extreme grief, although she well knew there was nothing to envy in it, and that she herself was as passionately loved by De Guiche as Louise by Bragelonne. Raoul interpreted Madame Henrietta’s look.

“Oh, forgive me, forgive me, Madame; in your presence I know I ought to have greater self-control. But Heaven grant that you may never be struck by similar misery to that which crushes me at this moment, for you are but a woman, and would not be able to endure so terrible an affliction. Forgive me, I again entreat you, Madame; I am but a man without rank or position, while you belong to a race whose happiness knows no bounds, whose power acknowledges no limit.”

“Monsieur de Bragelonne,” replied Henrietta, “a mind such as yours merits all the consideration and respect which a queen’s heart even can bestow. Regard me as your friend, monsieur; and as such, indeed, I would not allow your whole life to be poisoned by perfidy, and covered with ridicule. It was I, indeed, who, with more courage than any of your pretended friends,—I except M. de Guiche,—was the cause of your return from London; it is I, also, who now give you the melancholy proofs, necessary, however, for your cure if you are a lover with courage in his heart, and not a weeping Amadis. Do not thank me; pity me, even, and do not serve the king less faithfully than you have done.”

Raoul smiled bitterly. “Ah! true, true; I was forgetting that; the king is my master.”

“Your liberty, nay, your very life, is in danger.”

A steady, penetrating look informed Madame Henrietta that she was mistaken, and that her last argument was not a likely one to affect the young man. “Take care, Monsieur de Bragelonne,” she said, “for if you do not weigh well all your actions, you might throw into an extravagance of wrath a prince whose passions, once aroused, exceed the bounds of reason, and you would thereby involve your friends and family in the deepest distress; you must bend, you must submit, and you must cure yourself.”

“I thank you, Madame; I appreciate the advice your royal highness is good enough to give me, and I will endeavor to follow it; but one final word, I beg.”

“Name it.”

“Should I be indiscreet in asking you the secret of this staircase, of this trap-door; a secret, which, it seems, you have discovered?”

“Nothing more simple. For the purpose of exercising a surveillance over the young girls who are attached to my service, I have duplicate keys of their doors. It seemed very strange to me that M. de Saint-Aignan should change his apartments. It seemed very strange that the king should come to see M. de Saint-Aignan every day, and, finally, it seemed very strange that so many things should be done during your absence, that the very habits and customs of the court appeared changed. I do not wish to be trifled with by the king, nor to serve as a cloak for his love affairs; for after La Valliere, who weeps incessantly, he will take a fancy to Montalais, who is always laughing; and then to Tonnay-Charente, who does nothing but sing all day; to act such a part as that would be unworthy of me. I thrust aside the scruples which my friendship for you suggested. I discovered the secret. I have wounded your feelings, I know, and I again entreat you to pardon me; but I had a duty to fulfil. I have discharged it. You are now forewarned; the tempest will soon burst; protect yourself accordingly.”

“You naturally expect, however, that a result of some kind must follow,” replied Bragelonne, with firmness; “for you do not suppose I shall silently accept the shame thus thrust upon me, or the treachery which has been practiced against me?”

“You will take whatever steps in the matter you please, Monsieur Raoul, only do not betray the source whence you derived the truth. That is all I have to ask,—the only price I require for the service I have rendered you.”

“Fear nothing, Madame,” said Bragelonne, with a bitter smile.

“I bribed the locksmith, in whom the lovers confided. You can just as well have done so as myself, can you not?”

“Yes, Madame. Your royal highness, however, has no other advice or caution to give me, except that of not betraying you?”


“I am about, therefore, to beg your royal highness to allow me to remain here for one moment.”

“Without me?”

“Oh! no, Madame. It matters very little; for what I have to do can be done in your presence. I only ask one moment to write a line to some one.”

“It is dangerous, Monsieur de Bragelonne. Take care.”

“No one can possibly know that your royal highness has done me the honor to conduct me here. Besides, I shall sign the letter I am going to write.”

“Do as you please, then.”

Raoul drew out his tablet, and wrote rapidly on one of the leaves the following words:

“MONSIEUR LE COMTE,—Do not be surprised to find this paper signed by me; the friend I shall very shortly send to call on you will have the honor to explain the object of my visit.


He rolled up the paper, slipped it into the lock of the door which communicated with the room set apart for the two lovers, and satisfied himself that the missive was so apparent that Saint-Aignan could not but see it as he entered; he rejoined the princess, who had already reached the top of the staircase. They then separated, Raoul pretending to thank her highness; Henrietta pitying, or seeming to pity, with all her heart, the wretched young man she had just condemned to such fearful torture. “Oh!” she said, as she saw him disappear, pale as death, and his eyes bursting with blood, “if I had foreseen this, I would have hid the truth from that poor gentleman.”

Chapter LIV. Porthos’s Plan of Action.

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

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

“No, I thank you; it is not money.”

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

“Your heart is as good as your mind is sound and true.”

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

“No; I am not hungry.”

“Eh! not dine? What a dreadful country England is!”

“Not too much so, indeed—but—”

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

“Yes, I came to—”

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

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

“My opinion! Well—but—Explain your idea a little more coherently,” replied Porthos, rubbing his forehead.

“I mean—you are generally good-humored, good-tempered, whenever any misunderstanding arises between a friend of yours and a stranger, for instance?”

“Oh! in the best of tempers.”

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

“Whenever any friend of mine gets into a quarrel, I always act on one principle.”

“What is that?”

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

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

“Precisely; so, as soon as a quarrel takes place, I bring the two parties together.”


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

“I should have thought that, treated in this manner, an affair would, on the contrary—”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That is as it may happen,” said Raoul, absently.

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

“What!” said Raoul.

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

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

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

“You said that the affair was arranged.”

“Of course! since my friend is waiting for him.”

“Well! what then? If he is waiting—”

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

“Ah! he kills him, then?” cried Raoul.

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

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

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

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

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


“It is very natural. With whom?”

“With M. de Saint-Aignan.”

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

“A mortal offense.”

“The deuce! I can say so, I suppose?”

“More than that, even, if you like.”

“That is a very great convenience.”

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

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

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

“So I have heard it said.”

“So that if I kill him—”

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

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

“Oh! no; that is not likely. You know my method: ‘Monsieur, you have just injured my friend, and—‘”

“Yes, I know it.”

“And then: ‘Monsieur, I have horses below.’ I carry him off before he can have spoken to any one.”

“Will he allow himself to be carried off like that?”

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

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

“Well, but that is done, it seems.”

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

“Very good. Tell me what it is, then.”

“The fact is—”

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

“You are quite right, M. du Vallon.”

“However, tell me what the cause is.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“At the Palais Royal.”

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

“No; I am going to write to him.”

“And D’Artagnan?”

“No, nor D’Artagnan either. He is very cautious, you know, and might have diverted me from my purpose.”

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

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

“You will be satisfied with me,” replied Porthos.

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

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

“To work, then, my dear friend.”

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

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