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Louise de la Valliere

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Chapter LVIII. King and Noble.


The king endeavored to recover his self-possession as quickly as possible, in order to meet M. de la Fere with an untroubled countenance. He clearly saw it was not mere chance that had induced the comte’s visit, he had some vague impression of its importance; but he felt that to a man of Athos’s tone of mind, to one of such a high order of intellect, his first reception ought not to present anything either disagreeable or otherwise than kind and courteous. As soon as the king had satisfied himself that, as far as appearances went, he was perfectly calm again, he gave directions to the ushers to introduce the comte. A few minutes afterwards Athos, in full court dress, and with his breast covered with the orders that he alone had the right to wear at the court of France, presented himself with so grave and solemn an air that the king perceived, at the first glance, that he was not deceived in his anticipations. Louis advanced a step towards the comte, and, with a smile, held out his hand to him, over which Athos bowed with the air of the deepest respect.

“Monsieur le Comte de la Fere,” said the king rapidly, “you are so seldom here, that it is a real piece of good fortune to see you.”

Athos bowed and replied, “I should wish always to enjoy the happiness of being near your majesty.”

The tone, however, in which this reply was conveyed, evidently signified, “I should wish to be one of your majesty’s advisers, to save you the commission of faults.” The king felt it so, and determined in this man’s presence to preserve all the advantages which could be derived from his command over himself, as well as from his rank and position.

“I see you have something to say to me,” he said.

“Had it not been so, I should not have presumed to present myself before your majesty.”

“Speak quickly, I am anxious to satisfy you,” returned the king, seating himself.

“I am persuaded,” replied Athos, in a somewhat agitated tone of voice, “that your majesty will give me every satisfaction.”

“Ah!” said the king, with a certain haughtiness of manner, “you have come to lodge a complaint here, then?”

“It would be a complaint,” returned Athos, “only in the event of your majesty—but if you will deign to permit me, sire, I will begin the conversation from the very commencement.”

“Do so, I am listening.”

“Your majesty will remember that at the period of the Duke of Buckingham’s departure, I had the honor of an interview with you.”

“At or about that period, I think I remember you did; only, with regard to the subject of the conversation, I have quite forgotten it.”

Athos started, as he replied. “I shall have the honor to remind your majesty of it. It was with regard to a formal demand I had addressed to you respecting a marriage which M. de Bragelonne wished to contract with Mademoiselle de la Valliere.”

“Ah!” thought the king, “we have come to it now.—I remember,” he said, aloud.

“At that period,” pursued Athos, “your majesty was so kind and generous towards M. de Bragelonne and myself, that not a single word which then fell from your lips has escaped my memory; and, when I asked your majesty to accord me Mademoiselle de la Valliere’s hand for M. de Bragelonne, you refused.”

“Quite true,” said Louis, dryly.

“Alleging,” Athos hastened to say, “that the young lady had no position in society.”

Louis could hardly force himself to listen with an appearance of royal propriety.

“That,” added Athos, “she had but little fortune.”

The king threw himself back in his armchair.

“That her extraction was indifferent.”

A renewed impatience on the part of the king.

“And little beauty,” added Athos, pitilessly.

This last bolt buried itself deep in the king’s heart, and made him almost bound from his seat.

“You have a good memory, monsieur,” he said.

“I invariably have, on occasions when I have had the distinguished honor of an interview with your majesty,” retorted the comte, without being in the least disconcerted.

“Very good: it is admitted that I said all that.”

“And I thanked your majesty for your remarks at the time, because they testified an interest in M. de Bragelonne which did him much honor.”

“And you may possibly remember,” said the king, very deliberately, “that you had the greatest repugnance for this marriage.”

“Quite true, sire.”

“And that you solicited my permission, much against your own inclination?”

“Yes, sire.”

“And finally, I remember, for I have a memory nearly as good as your own; I remember, I say, that you observed at the time: ‘I do not believe that Mademoiselle de la Valliere loves M. de Bragelonne.’ Is that true?”

The blow told well, but Athos did not draw back. “Sire,” he said, “I have already begged your majesty’s forgiveness; but there are certain particulars in that conversation which are only intelligible from the denouement.”

“Well, what is the denouement, monsieur?”

“This: that your majesty then said, ‘that you would defer the marriage out of regard for M. de Bragelonne’s own interests.’”

The king remained silent. “M. de Bragelonne is now so exceedingly unhappy that he cannot any longer defer asking your majesty for a solution of the matter.”

The king turned pale; Athos looked at him with fixed attention.

“And what,” said the king, with considerable hesitation, “does M. de Bragelonne request?”

“Precisely the very thing that I came to ask your majesty for at my last audience, namely, your majesty’s consent to his marriage.”

The king remained perfectly silent. “The questions which referred to the different obstacles in the way are all now quite removed for us,” continued Athos. “Mademoiselle de la Valliere, without fortune, birth, or beauty, is not the less on that account the only good match in the world for M. de Bragelonne, since he loves this young girl.”

The king pressed his hands impatiently together. “Does your majesty hesitate?” inquired the comte, without losing a particle of either his firmness of his politeness.

“I do not hesitate—I refuse,” replied the king.

Athos paused a moment, as if to collect himself: “I have had the honor,” he said, in a mild tone, “to observe to your majesty that no obstacle now interferes with M. de Bragelonne’s affections, and that his determination seems unalterable.”

“There is my will—and that is an obstacle, I should imagine!”

“That is the most serious of all,” Athos replied quickly.

“Ah!”

“And may we, therefore, be permitted to ask your majesty, with the greatest humility, your reason for this refusal?”

“The reason!—A question to me!” exclaimed the king.

“A demand, sire!”

The king, leaning with both his hands upon the table, said, in a deep tone of concentrated passion: “You have lost all recollection of what is usual at court. At court, please to remember, no one ventures to put a question to the king.”

“Very true, sire; but if men do not question, they conjecture.”

“Conjecture! What may that mean, monsieur?”

“Very frequently, sire, conjecture with regard to a particular subject implies a want of frankness on the part of the king—”

“Monsieur!”

“And a want of confidence on the part of the subject,” pursued Athos, intrepidly.

“You forget yourself,” said the king, hurried away by anger in spite of all his self-control.

“Sire, I am obliged to seek elsewhere for what I thought I should find in your majesty. Instead of obtaining a reply from you, I am compelled to make one for myself.”

The king rose. “Monsieur le comte,” he said, “I have now given you all the time I had at my disposal.” This was a dismissal.

“Sire,” replied the comte, “I have not yet had time to tell your majesty what I came with the express object of saying, and I so rarely see your majesty that I ought to avail myself of the opportunity.”

“Just now you spoke rudely of conjectures; you are now becoming offensive, monsieur.”

“Oh, sire! offend your majesty! I?—never! All my life through I have maintained that kings are above all other men, not only from their rank and power, but from their nobleness of heart and their true dignity of mind. I never can bring myself to believe that my sovereign, he who passed his word to me, did so with a mental reservation.”

“What do you mean? what mental reservation do you allude to?”

“I will explain my meaning,” said Athos, coldly. “If, in refusing Mademoiselle de la Valliere to Monsieur de Bragelonne, your majesty had some other object in view than the happiness and fortune of the vicomte—”

“You perceive, monsieur, that you are offending me.”

“If, in requiring the vicomte to delay his marriage, your majesty’s only object was to remove the gentleman to whom Mademoiselle de la Valliere was engaged—”

“Monsieur! monsieur!”

“I have heard it said so in every direction, sire. Your majesty’s affection for Mademoiselle de la Valliere is spoken of on all sides.”

The king tore his gloves, which he had been biting for some time. “Woe to those,” he cried, “who interfere in my affairs. I have made up my mind to take a particular course, and I will break through every obstacle in my way.”

“What obstacle?” said Athos.

The king stopped short, like a horse which, having taken the bit between his teeth and run away, finds it has slipped it back again, and that his career is checked. “I love Mademoiselle de la Valliere,” he said suddenly, with mingled nobleness of feeling and passion.

“But,” interrupted Athos, “that does not preclude your majesty from allowing M. de Bragelonne to marry Mademoiselle de la Valliere. The sacrifice is worthy of so great a monarch; it is fully merited by M. de Bragelonne, who has already rendered great service to your majesty, and who may well be regarded as a brave and worthy man. Your majesty, therefore, in renouncing the affection you entertain, offers a proof at once of generosity, gratitude, and good policy.”

“Mademoiselle de la Valliere does not love M. de Bragelonne,” said the king, hoarsely.

“Does your majesty know that to be the case?” remarked Athos, with a searching look.

“I do know it.”

“Since a very short time, then; for doubtless, had your majesty known it when I first preferred my request, you would have taken the trouble to inform me of it.”

“Since a very short time, it is true, monsieur.”

Athos remained silent for a moment, and then resumed: “In that case, I do not understand why your majesty should have sent M. de Bragelonne to London. That exile, and most properly so, too, is a matter of astonishment to every one who regards your majesty’s honor with sincere affection.”

“Who presumes to impugn my honor, Monsieur de la Fere?”

“The king’s honor, sire, is made up of the honor of his whole nobility. Whenever the king offends one of his gentlemen, that is, whenever he deprives him of the smallest particle of his honor, it is from him, from the king himself, that that portion of honor is stolen.”

“Monsieur de la Fere!” said the king, haughtily.

“Sire, you sent M. de Bragelonne to London either before you were Mademoiselle de la Valliere’s lover, or since you have become so.”

The king, irritated beyond measure, especially because he felt that he was being mastered, endeavored to dismiss Athos by a gesture.

“Sire,” replied the comte, “I will tell you all; I will not leave your presence until I have been satisfied by your majesty or by myself; satisfied if you prove to me that you are right,—satisfied if I prove to you that you are wrong. Nay, sire, you can but listen to me. I am old now, and I am attached to everything that is really great and really powerful in your kingdom. I am of those who have shed their blood for your father and for yourself, without ever having asked a single favor either from yourself or from your father. I have never inflicted the slightest wrong or injury on any one in this world, and even kings are still my debtors. You can but listen to me, I repeat. I have come to ask you for an account of the honor of one of your servants whom you have deceived by a falsehood, or betrayed by want of heart of judgment. I know that these words irritate your majesty, but the facts themselves are killing us. I know that you are endeavoring to find some means whereby to chastise me for my frankness; but I know also the chastisement I will implore God to inflict upon you when I relate to Him your perjury and my son’s unhappiness.”

The king during these remarks was walking hurriedly to and fro, his hand thrust into the breast of his coat, his head haughtily raised, his eyes blazing with wrath. “Monsieur,” he cried, suddenly, “if I acted towards you as a king, you would be already punished; but I am only a man, and I have the right to love in this world every one who loves me,—a happiness which is so rarely found.”

“You cannot pretend to such a right as a man any more than as a king, sire; or if you intend to exercise that right in a loyal manner, you should have told M. de Bragelonne so, and not have exiled him.”

“It is too great a condescension, monsieur, to discuss these things with you,” interrupted Louis XIV., with that majesty of air and manner he alone seemed able to give his look and his voice.

“I was hoping that you would reply to me,” said the comte.

“You shall know my reply, monsieur.”

“You already know my thoughts on the subject,” was the Comte de la Fere’s answer.

“You have forgotten you are speaking to the king, monsieur. It is a crime.”

“You have forgotten you are destroying the lives of two men, sire. It is a mortal sin.”

“Leave the room!”

“Not until I have said this: ‘Son of Louis XIII., you begin your reign badly, for you begin it by abduction and disloyalty! My race—myself too—are now freed from all that affection and respect towards you, which I made my son swear to observe in the vaults of Saint-Denis, in the presence of the relics of your noble forefathers. You are now become our enemy, sire, and henceforth we have nothing to do save with Heaven alone, our sole master. Be warned, be warned, sire.’”

“What! do you threaten?”

“Oh, no,” said Athos, sadly, “I have as little bravado as fear in my soul. The God of whom I spoke to you is now listening to me; He knows that for the safety and honor of your crown I would even yet shed every drop of blood twenty years of civil and foreign warfare have left in my veins. I can well say, then, that I threaten the king as little as I threaten the man; but I tell you, sire, you lose two servants; for you have destroyed faith in the heart of the father, and love in the heart of the son; the one ceases to believe in the royal word, the other no longer believes in the loyalty of the man, or the purity of woman: the one is dead to every feeling of respect, the other to obedience. Adieu!”

Thus saying, Athos broke his sword across his knee, slowly placed the two pieces upon the floor, and saluting the king, who was almost choking from rage and shame, he quitted the cabinet. Louis, who sat near the table, completely overwhelmed, was several minutes before he could collect himself; but he suddenly rose and rang the bell violently. “Tell M. d’Artagnan to come here,” he said to the terrified ushers.






Chapter LIX. After the Storm.


Our readers will doubtlessly have been asking themselves how it happened that Athos, of whom not a word has been said for some time past, arrived so very opportunely at court. We will, without delay, endeavor to satisfy their curiosity.

Porthos, faithful to his duty as an arranger of affairs, had, immediately after leaving the Palais Royal, set off to join Raoul at the Minimes in the Bois de Vincennes, and had related everything, even to the smallest details, which had passed between Saint-Aignan and himself. He finished by saying that the message which the king had sent to his favorite would probably not occasion more than a short delay, and that Saint-Aignan, as soon as he could leave the king, would not lose a moment in accepting the invitation Raoul had sent him.

But Raoul, less credulous than his old friend, had concluded from Porthos’s recital that if Saint-Aignan was going to the king, Saint-Aignan would tell the king everything, and that the king would most assuredly forbid Saint-Aignan to obey the summons he had received to the hostile meeting. The consequence of his reflections was, that he had left Porthos to remain at the place appointed for the meeting, in the very improbable case that Saint-Aignan would come there; having endeavored to make Porthos promise that he would not remain there more than an hour or an hour and a half at the very longest. Porthos, however, formally refused to do anything of the kind, but, on the contrary, installed himself in the Minimes as if he were going to take root there, making Raoul promise that when he had been to see his father, he would return to his own apartments, in order that Porthos’s servant might know where to find him in case M. de Saint-Aignan should happen to come to the rendezvous.

Bragelonne had left Vincennes, and proceeded at once straight to the apartments of Athos, who had been in Paris during the last two days, the comte having been already informed of what had taken place, by a letter from D’Artagnan. Raoul arrived at his father’s; Athos, after having held out his hand to him, and embraced him most affectionately, made a sign for him to sit down.

“I know you come to me as a man would go to a friend, vicomte, whenever he is suffering; tell me, therefore, what is it that brings you now.”

The young man bowed, and began his recital; more than once in the course of it his tears almost choked his utterance, and a sob, checked in his throat, compelled him to suspend his narrative for a few minutes. Athos most probably already knew how matters stood, as we have just now said D’Artagnan had already written to him; but, preserving until the conclusion that calm, unruffled composure of manner which constituted the almost superhuman side of his character, he replied, “Raoul, I do not believe there is a word of truth in these rumors; I do not believe in the existence of what you fear, although I do not deny that persons best entitled to the fullest credit have already conversed with me on the subject. In my heart and soul I think it utterly impossible that the king could be guilty of such an outrage on a gentleman. I will answer for the king, therefore, and will soon bring you back the proof of what I say.”

Raoul, wavering like a drunken man between what he had seen with his own eyes and the imperturbable faith he had in a man who had never told a falsehood, bowed and simply answered, “Go, then, monsieur le comte; I will await your return.” And he sat down, burying his face in his hands. Athos dressed, and then left him, in order to wait upon the king; the result of that interview is already known to our readers.

When he returned to his lodgings, Raoul, pale and dejected, had not quitted his attitude of despair. At the sound, however, of the opening doors, and of his father’s footsteps as he approached him, the young man raised his head. Athos’s face was very pale, his head uncovered, and his manner full of seriousness; he gave his cloak and hat to the lackey, dismissed him with a gesture, and sat down near Raoul.

“Well, monsieur,” inquired the young man, “are you convinced yet?”

“I am, Raoul; the king loves Mademoiselle de la Valliere.”

“He confesses it, then?” cried Raoul.

“Yes,” replied Athos.

“And she?”

“I have not seen her.”

“No; but the king spoke to you about her. What did he say?”

“He says that she loves him.”

“Oh, you see—you see, monsieur!” said the young man, with a gesture of despair.

“Raoul,” resumed the comte, “I told the king, believe me, all that you yourself could possibly have urged, and I believe I did so in becoming language, though sufficiently firm.”

“And what did you say to him, monsieur?”

“I told him, Raoul, that everything was now at an end between him and ourselves; that you would never serve him again. I told him that I, too, should remain aloof. Nothing further remains for me, then, but to be satisfied of one thing.”

“What is that, monsieur?”

“Whether you have determined to adopt any steps.”

“Any steps? Regarding what?”

“With reference to your disappointed affection, and—your ideas of vengeance.”

“Oh, monsieur, with regard to my affection, I shall, perhaps, some day or other, succeed in tearing it from my heart; I trust I shall do so, aided by Heaven’s merciful help, and your own wise exhortations. As far as vengeance is concerned, it occurred to me only when under the influence of an evil thought, for I could not revenge myself upon the one who is actually guilty; I have, therefore, already renounced every idea of revenge.”

“And you no longer think of seeking a quarrel with M. de Saint-Aignan?”

“No, monsieur; I sent him a challenge: if M. de Saint-Aignan accepts it, I will maintain it; if he does not take it up, I will leave things as they are.”

“And La Valliere?”

“You cannot, I know, have seriously thought that I should dream of revenging myself upon a woman!” replied Raoul, with a smile so sad that a tear started even to the eyes of his father, who had so many times in the course of his life bowed beneath his own sorrows and those of others.

He held out his hand to Raoul, which the latter seized most eagerly.

“And so, monsieur le comte, you are quite satisfied that the misfortune is one beyond all remedy?” inquired the young man.

“Poor boy!” he murmured.

“You think that I still live in hope,” said Raoul, “and you pity me. Oh, it is indeed horrible suffering for me to despise, as I am bound to do, the one I have loved so devotedly. If I had but some real cause of complaint against her, I should be happy, I should be able to forgive her.”

Athos looked at his son with a profoundly sorrowful air, for the words Raoul had just pronounced seemed to have issued out of his own heart. At this moment the servant announced M. d’Artagnan. This name sounded very differently to the ears of Athos and Raoul. The musketeer entered the room with a vague smile on his lips. Raoul paused. Athos walked towards his friend with an expression of face that did not escape Bragelonne. D’Artagnan answered Athos’s look by an imperceptible movement of the eyelid; and then, advancing towards Raoul, whom he took by the hand, he said, addressing both father and son, “Well, you are trying to console this poor boy, it seems.”

“And you, kind and good as usual, have come to help me in my difficult task.”

As he said this, Athos pressed D’Artagnan’s hand between both his own. Raoul fancied he observed in this pressure something beyond the sense his mere words conveyed.

“Yes,” replied the musketeer, smoothing his mustache with the hand that Athos had left free, “yes, I have come too.”

“You are most welcome, chevalier; not for the consolation you bring with you, but on your own account. I am already consoled,” said Raoul; and he attempted to smile, but the effort was more sad than any tears D’Artagnan had ever seen shed.

“That is all well and good, then,” said D’Artagnan.

“Only,” continued Raoul, “you have arrived just as the comte was about to give me the details of his interview with the king. You will allow the comte to continue?” added the young man, as, with his eyes fixed on the musketeer, he seemed to read the very depths of his heart.

“His interview with the king?” said D’Artagnan, in a tone so natural and unassumed that there was no means of suspecting that his astonishment was feigned. “You have seen the king, then, Athos?”

Athos smiled as he said, “Yes, I have seen him.”

“Ah, indeed; you were unaware, then, that the comte had seen his majesty?” inquired Raoul, half reassured.

“Yes, indeed, quite so.”

“In that case, I am less uneasy,” said Raoul.

“Uneasy—and about what?” inquired Athos.

“Forgive me, monsieur,” said Raoul, “but knowing so well the regard and affection you have for me, I was afraid you might possibly have expressed somewhat plainly to his majesty my own sufferings and your indignation, and that the king had consequently—”

“And that the king had consequently?” repeated D’Artagnan; “well, go on, finish what you were going to say.”

“I have now to ask you to forgive me, Monsieur d’Artagnan,” said Raoul. “For a moment, and I cannot help confessing it, I trembled lest you had come here, not as M. d’Artagnan, but as captain of the musketeers.”

“You are mad, my poor boy,” cried D’Artagnan, with a burst of laughter, in which an exact observer might perhaps have wished to have heard a little more frankness.

“So much the better,” said Raoul.

“Yes, mad; and do you know what I would advise you to do?”

“Tell me, monsieur, for the advice is sure to be good, as it comes from you.”

“Very good, then; I advise you, after your long journey from England, after your visit to M. de Guiche, after your visit to Madame, after your visit to Porthos, after your journey to Vincennes, I advise you, I say, to take a few hours’ rest; go and lie down, sleep for a dozen hours, and when you wake up, go and ride one of my horses until you have tired him to death.”

And drawing Raoul towards him, he embraced him as he would have done his own child. Athos did the like; only it was very visible that the kiss was still more affectionate, and the pressure of his lips even warmer with the father than with the friend. The young man again looked at both his companions, endeavoring to penetrate their real meaning or their real feelings with the utmost strength of his intelligence; but his look was powerless upon the smiling countenance of the musketeer or upon the calm and composed features of the Comte de la Fere. “Where are you going, Raoul?” inquired the latter, seeing that Bragelonne was preparing to go out.

“To my own apartments,” replied the latter, in his soft, sad voice.

“We shall be sure to find you there, then, if we should have anything to say to you?”

“Yes, monsieur; but do you suppose it likely you will have something to say to me?”

“How can I tell?” said Athos.

“Yes, something fresh to console you with,” said D’Artagnan, pushing him towards the door.

Raoul, observing the perfect composure which marked every gesture of his two friends, quitted the comte’s room, carrying away with him nothing but the individual feeling of his own particular distress.

“Thank Heaven,” he said, “since that is the case, I need only think of myself.”

And wrapping himself up in his cloak, in order to conceal from the passers-by in the streets his gloomy and sorrowful face, he quitted them, for the purpose of returning to his own rooms, as he had promised Porthos. The two friends watched the young man as he walked away with a feeling of genuine disinterested pity; only each expressed it in a different way.

“Poor Raoul!” said Athos, sighing deeply.

“Poor Raoul!” said D’Artagnan, shrugging his shoulders.






Chapter LX. Heu! Miser!


“Poor Raoul!” had said Athos. “Poor Raoul!” had said D’Artagnan: and, in point of fact, to be pitied by both these men, Raoul must indeed have been most unhappy. And therefore, when he found himself alone, face to face, as it were, with his own troubles, leaving behind him the intrepid friend and the indulgent father; when he recalled the avowal of the king’s affection, which had robbed him of Louise de la Valliere, whom he loved so deeply, he felt his heart almost breaking, as indeed we all have at least once in our lives, at the first illusion destroyed, the first affection betrayed. “Oh!” he murmured, “all is over, then. Nothing is now left me in this world. Nothing to look forward to, nothing to hope for. Guiche has told me so, my father has told me so, M. d’Artagnan has told me so. All life is but an idle dream. The future which I have been hopelessly pursuing for the last ten years is a dream! the union of hearts, a dream! a life of love and happiness, a dream! Poor fool that I am,” he continued, after a pause, “to dream away my existence aloud, publicly, and in the face of others, friends and enemies—and for what purpose, too? in order that my friends may be saddened by my troubles, and my enemies may laugh at my sorrows. And so my unhappiness will soon become a notorious disgrace, a public scandal; and who knows but that to-morrow I may even be a public laughing-stock?”

And, despite the composure which he had promised his father and D’Artagnan to observe, Raoul could not resist uttering a few words of darkest menace. “And yet,” he continued, “if my name were De Wardes, and if I had the pliancy of character and strength of will of M. d’Artagnan, I should laugh, with my lips at least; I should convince other women that this perfidious girl, honored by the affection I have wasted on her, leaves me only one regret, that of having been abused and deceived by her seemingly modest and irreproachable conduct; a few might perhaps fawn on the king by jesting at my expense; I should put myself on the track of some of those buffoons; I should chastise a few of them, perhaps; the men would fear me, and by the time I had laid three dying or dead at my feet, I should be adored by the women. Yes, yes, that, indeed, would be the proper course to adopt, and the Comte de la Fere himself would not object to it. Has not he also been tried, in his earlier days, in the same manner as I have just been tried myself? Did he not replace affection by intoxication? He has often told me so. Why should I not replace love by pleasure? He must have suffered as much as I suffer, even more—if that is possible. The history of one man is the history of all, a dragging trial, more or less prolonged, more or less bitter—sorrowful. The note of human nature is nothing but one sustained cry. But what are the sufferings of others compared to those from which I am now suffering? Does the open wound in another’s breast soften the anguish of the gaping ulcer in our own? Does the blood which is welling from another man’s side stanch that which is pouring from our own? Does the general grief of our fellow-creatures lessen our own private and particular woe? No, no, each suffers on his own account, each struggles with his own grief, each sheds his own tears. And besides,” he went on, “what has my life been up to the present moment? A cold, barren, sterile arena, in which I have always fought for others, never for myself. Sometimes for a king, sometimes for a woman. The king has betrayed, the woman disdained me. Miserable, unlucky wretch that I am! Women! Can I not make all expiate the crime of one of their sex? What does that need? To have a heart no longer, or to forget that I ever had one; to be strong, even against weakness itself; to lean always, even when one feels that the support is giving way. What is needed to attain, or succeed in all that? To be young, handsome, strong, valiant, rich. I am, or shall be, all that. But honor?” he still continued, “and what is honor after all? A theory which every man understands in his own way. My father tells me: ‘Honor is the consideration of what is due to others, and particularly what is due to oneself.’ But Guiche, and Manicamp, and Saint-Aignan particularly, would say to me: ‘What’s honor? Honor consists in studying and yielding to the passions and pleasures of one’s king.’ Honor such as that indeed, is easy and productive enough. With honor like that, I can keep my post at the court, become a gentleman of the chamber, and accept the command of a regiment, which may at any time be presented to me. With honor such as that, I can be duke and peer.

“The stain which that woman has stamped upon me, the grief that has broken my heart, the heart of the friend and playmate of her childhood, in no way affects M. de Bragelonne, an excellent officer, a courageous leader, who will cover himself with glory at the first encounter, and who will become a hundred times greater than Mademoiselle de la Valliere is to-day, the mistress of the king—for the king will not marry her—and the more publicly he will proclaim her as his mistress, the more opaque will grow the shadow of shame he casts upon her face, in the guise of a crown; and in proportion as others despise, as I despise her, I shall be gleaning honors in the field. Alas! we had walked together side by side, she and I, during the earliest, the brightest, the most angelic portion of our existence, hand in hand along the charming path of life, covered with the blossoms of youth; and then, alas! we reach a cross-road, where she separates herself from me, in which we have to follow a different route, whereby we become more and more widely separated from each other. And to attain the end of this path, oh, Heaven! I am now alone, in utter despair, and crushed to the very earth.”

Such were the sinister reflections in which Raoul indulged, when his foot mechanically paused at the door of his own dwelling. He had reached it without remarking the streets through which he passed, without knowing how he had come; he pushed open the door, continued to advance, and ascended the staircase. The staircase, as in most of the houses at that period, was very dark, and the landings most obscure. Raoul lived on the first floor; he paused in order to ring. Olivain appeared, took his sword and cloak from his hands; Raoul himself opened the door which, from the ante-chamber, led into a small salon, richly furnished enough for the salon of a young man, and completely filled with flowers by Olivain, who, knowing his master’s tastes, had shown himself studiously attentive in gratifying them, without caring whether his master perceived his attention or not. There was a portrait of La Valliere in the salon, which had been drawn by herself and given by her to Raoul. This portrait, fastened above a large easy chair covered with dark colored damask, was the first point towards which Raoul bent his steps—the first object on which he fixed his eyes. It was, moreover, Raoul’s usual habit to do so; every time he entered his room, this portrait, before anything else, attracted his attention. This time, as usual, he walked straight up to the portrait, placed his knees upon the arm chair, and paused to look at it sadly. His arms were crossed upon his breast, his head slightly thrown back, his eyes filled with tears, his mouth worked into a bitter smile. He looked at the portrait of the one he had so tenderly loved; and then all that he had said passed before his mind again, all that he had suffered seemed again to assail his heart; and, after a long silence, he murmured for the third time, “Miserable, unhappy wretch that I am!”

He had hardly pronounced these words, when he heard the sound of a sigh and a groan behind him. He turned sharply round and perceived, in the angle of the salon, standing up, a bending veiled female figure, which he had been the means of concealing behind the door as he opened it, and which he had not perceived as he entered. He advanced towards the figure, whose presence in his room had not been announced to him; and as he bowed, and inquired at the same moment who she was, she suddenly raised her head, and removed the veil from her face, revealing her pale and sorrow-stricken features. Raoul staggered back as if he had seen a ghost.

“Louise!” he cried, in a tone of such absolute despair, one could hardly have thought the human voice was capable of so desponding a cry, without the snapping of the human heart.