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Ten Years Later

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Chapter XXVIII. The Dowry.


Monsieur Faucheux’s horses were serviceable animals, with thickset knees and legs that had some difficulty in moving. Like the carriage, they belonged to the earlier part of the century. They were not as fleet as the English horses of M. Fouquet, and consequently it took two hours to get to Saint-Mande. Their progress, it might be said, was majestic. Majesty, however, precludes hurry. The marquise stopped the carriage at the door so well known to her, although she had seen it only once, under circumstances, it will now be remembered, no less painful than those which brought her now to it again. She drew a key from her pocket, and inserted it into the lock, pushed open the door, which noiselessly yielded to her touch, and directed the clerk to carry the chest upstairs to the first floor. The weight of the chest was so great that the clerk was obliged to get the coachman to assist him with it. They placed it in a small cabinet, ante-room, or boudoir rather, adjoining the saloon where we once saw M. Fouquet at the marquise’s feet. Madame de Belliere gave the coachman a louis, smiled gracefully at the clerk, and dismissed them both. She closed the door after them, and waited in the room, alone and barricaded. There was no servant to be seen about the rooms, but everything was prepared as though some invisible genius had divined the wishes and desires of an expected guest. The fire was laid, candles in the candelabra, refreshments upon the table, books scattered about, fresh-cut flowers in the vases. One might almost have imagined it an enchanted house.

The marquise lighted the candles, inhaled the perfume of the flowers, sat down, and was soon plunged in profound thought. Her deep musings, melancholy though they were, were not untinged with a certain vague joy. Spread out before her was a treasure, a million wrung from her fortune as a gleaner plucks the blue corn-flower from her crown of flowers. She conjured up the sweetest dreams. Her principal thought, and one that took precedence of all others, was to devise means of leaving this money for M. Fouquet without his possibly learning from whom the gift had come. This idea, naturally enough, was the first to present itself to her mind. But although, on reflection, it appeared difficult to carry out, she did not despair of success. She would then ring to summon M. Fouquet and make her escape, happier than if, instead of having given a million, she had herself found one. But, being there, and having seen the boudoir so coquettishly decorated that it might almost be said the least particle of dust had but the moment before been removed by the servants; having observed the drawing-room, so perfectly arranged that it might almost be said her presence there had driven away the fairies who were its occupants, she asked herself if the glance or gaze of those whom she had displaced—whether spirits, fairies, elves, or human creatures—had not already recognized her. To secure success, it was necessary that some steps should be seriously taken, and it was necessary also that the superintendent should comprehend the serious position in which he was placed, in order to yield compliance with the generous fancies of a woman; all the fascinations of an eloquent friendship would be required to persuade him, and, should this be insufficient, the maddening influence of a devoted passion, which, in its resolute determination to carry conviction, would not be turned aside. Was not the superintendent, indeed, known for his delicacy and dignity of feeling? Would he allow himself to accept from any woman that of which she had stripped herself? No! He would resist, and if any voice in the world could overcome his resistance, it would be the voice of the woman he loved.

Another doubt, and that a cruel one, suggested itself to Madame de Belliere with a sharp, acute pain, like a dagger thrust. Did he really love her? Would that volatile mind, that inconstant heart, be likely to be fixed for a moment, even were it to gaze upon an angel? Was it not the same with Fouquet, notwithstanding his genius and his uprightness of conduct, as with those conquerors on the field of battle who shed tears when they have gained a victory? “I must learn if it be so, and must judge of that for myself,” said the marquise. “Who can tell whether that heart, so coveted, is not common in its impulses, and full of alloy? Who can tell if that mind, when the touchstone is applied to it, will not be found of a mean and vulgar character? Come, come,” she said, “this is doubting and hesitation too much—to the proof,” she said, looking at the timepiece. “It is now seven o’clock,” she said; “he must have arrived; it is the hour for signing his papers.” With a feverish impatience she rose and walked towards the mirror, in which she smiled with a resolute smile of devotedness; she touched the spring and drew out the handle of the bell. Then, as if exhausted beforehand by the struggle she had just undergone, she threw herself on her knees, in utter abandonment, before a large couch, in which she buried her face in her trembling hands. Ten minutes afterwards she heard the spring of the door sound. The door moved upon invisible hinges, and Fouquet appeared. He looked pale, and seemed bowed down by the weight of some bitter reflection. He did not hurry, but simply came at the summons. The preoccupation of his mind must indeed have been very great, that a man, so devoted to pleasure, for whom indeed pleasure meant everything, should obey such a summons so listlessly. The previous night, in fact, fertile in melancholy ideas, had sharpened his features, generally so noble in their indifference of expression, and had traced dark lines of anxiety around his eyes. Handsome and noble he still was, and the melancholy expression of his mouth, a rare expression with men, gave a new character to his features, by which his youth seemed to be renewed. Dressed in black, the lace in front of his chest much disarranged by his feverishly restless hand, the looks of the superintendent, full of dreamy reflection, were fixed upon the threshold of the room which he had so frequently approached in search of expected happiness. This gloomy gentleness of manner, this smiling sadness of expression, which had replaced his former excessive joy, produced an indescribable effect upon Madame de Belliere, who was regarding him at a distance.

A woman’s eye can read the face of the man she loves, its every feeling of pride, its every expression of suffering; it might almost be said that Heaven has graciously granted to women, on account of their very weakness, more than it has accorded to other creatures. They can conceal their own feelings from a man, but from them no man can conceal his. The marquise divined in a single glace the whole weight of the unhappiness of the superintendent. She divined a night passed without sleep, a day passed in deceptions. From that moment she was firm in her own strength, and she felt that she loved Fouquet beyond everything else. She arose and approached him, saying, “You wrote to me this morning to say you were beginning to forget me, and that I, whom you had not seen lately, had no doubt ceased to think of you. I have come to undeceive you, monsieur, and the more completely so, because there is one thing I can read in your eyes.”

“What is that, madame?” said Fouquet, astonished.

“That you have never loved me so much as at this moment; in the same manner you can read, in my present step towards you, that I have not forgotten you.”

“Oh! madame,” said Fouquet, whose face was for a moment lighted up by a sudden gleam of joy, “you are indeed an angel, and no man can suspect you. All he can do is to humble himself before you and entreat forgiveness.”

“Your forgiveness is granted, then,” said the marquise. Fouquet was about to throw himself upon his knees. “No, no,” she said, “sit here by my side. Ah! that is an evil thought which has just crossed your mind.”

“How do you detect it, madame?”

“By the smile that has just marred the expression of your countenance. Be candid, and tell me what your thought was—no secrets between friends.”

“Tell me, then, madame, why you have been so harsh these three or four months past?”

“Harsh?”

“Yes; did you not forbid me to visit you?”

“Alas!” said Madame de Belliere, sighing, “because your visit to me was the cause of your being visited with a great misfortune; because my house is watched; because the same eyes that have seen you already might see you again; because I think it less dangerous for you that I should come here than that you should come to my house; and, lastly, because I know you to be already unhappy enough not to wish to increase your unhappiness further.”

Fouquet started, for these words recalled all the anxieties connected with his office of superintendent—he who, for the last few minutes, had indulged in all the wild aspirations of the lover. “I unhappy?” he said, endeavoring to smile: “indeed, marquise, you will almost make me believe I am so, judging from your own sadness. Are your beautiful eyes raised upon me merely in pity? I was looking for another expression from them.”

“It is not I who am sad, monsieur; look in the mirror, there—it is yourself.”

“It is true I am somewhat pale, marquise; but it is from overwork; the king yesterday required a supply of money from me.”

“Yes, four millions; I am aware of it.”

“You know it?” exclaimed Fouquet, in a tone of surprise; “how can you have learnt it? It was after the departure of the queen, and in the presence of one person only, that the king—”

“You perceive that I do know it; is that not sufficient? Well, go on, monsieur, the money the king has required you to supply—”

“You understand, marquise, that I have been obliged to procure it, then to get it counted, afterwards registered—altogether a long affair. Since Monsieur de Mazarin’s death, financial affairs occasion some little fatigue and embarrassment. My administration is somewhat overtaxed, and this is the reason why I have not slept during the past night.”

“So you have the amount?” inquired the marquise, with some anxiety.

“It would indeed be strange, marquise,” replied Fouquet, cheerfully, “if a superintendent of finances were not to have a paltry four millions in his coffers.”

“Yes, yes, I believe you either have, or will have them.”

“What do you mean by saying I shall have them?”

“It is not very long since you were required to furnish two millions.”

“On the contrary, it seems almost an age; but do not let us talk of money matters any longer.”

“On the contrary, we will continue to speak of them, for that is my only reason for coming to see you.”

“I am at a loss to compass your meaning,” said the superintendent, whose eyes began to express an anxious curiosity.

“Tell me, monsieur, is the office of superintendent a permanent position?”

“You surprise me, marchioness, for you speak as if you had some motive or interest in putting the question.”

“My reason is simple enough; I am desirous of placing some money in your hands, and naturally I wish to know if you are certain of your post.”

“Really, marquise, I am at a loss what to reply; I cannot conceive your meaning.”

“Seriously, then, dear M. Fouquet, I have certain funds which somewhat embarrass me. I am tired of investing my money in lands, and am anxious to intrust it to some friend who will turn it to account.”

“Surely it does not press,” said M. Fouquet.

“On the contrary, it is very pressing.”

“Very well, we will talk of that by and by.”

“By and by will not do, for my money is there,” returned the marquise, pointing out the coffer to the superintendent, and showing him, as she opened it, the bundles of notes and heaps of gold. Fouquet, who had risen from his seat at the same moment as Madame de Belliere, remained for a moment plunged in thought; then suddenly starting back, he turned pale, and sank down in his chair, concealing his face in his hands. “Madame, madame,” he murmured, “what opinion can you have of me, when you make me such an offer?”

“Of you!” returned the marquise. “Tell me, rather, what you yourself think of the step I have taken.”

“You bring me this money for myself, and you bring it because you know me to be embarrassed. Nay, do not deny it, for I am sure of it. Can I not read your heart?”

“If you know my heart, then, can you not see that it is my heart I offer you?”

“I have guessed rightly, then,” exclaimed Fouquet. “In truth, madame, I have never yet given you the right to insult me in this manner.”

“Insult you,” she said, turning pale, “what singular delicacy of feeling! You tell me you love me; in the name of that affection you wish me to sacrifice my reputation and my honor, yet, when I offer you money which is my own, you refuse me.”

“Madame, you are at liberty to preserve what you term your reputation and your honor. Permit me to preserve mine. Leave me to my ruin, leave me to sink beneath the weight of the hatreds which surround me, beneath the faults I have committed, beneath the load, even, of my remorse, but, for Heaven’s sake, madame, do not overwhelm me with this last infliction.”

“A short time since, M. Fouquet, you were wanting in judgment; now you are wanting in feeling.”

Fouquet pressed his clenched hand upon his breast, heaving with emotion, saying: “overwhelm me, madame, for I have nothing to reply.”

“I offered you my friendship, M. Fouquet.”

“Yes, madame, and you limited yourself to that.”

“And what I am now doing is the act of a friend.”

“No doubt it is.”

“And you reject this mark of my friendship?”

“I do reject it.”

“Monsieur Fouquet, look at me,” said the marquise, with glistening eyes, “I now offer you my love.”

“Oh, madame,” exclaimed Fouquet.

“I have loved you for a long while past; women, like men, have a false delicacy at times. For a long time past I have loved you, but would not confess it. Well, then, you have implored this love on your knees, and I have refused you; I was blind, as you were a little while since; but as it was my love that you sought, it is my love I now offer you.”

“Oh! madame, you overwhelm me beneath a load of happiness.”

“Will you be happy, then, if I am yours—entirely?”

“It will be the supremest happiness for me.”

“Take me, then. If, however, for your sake I sacrifice a prejudice, do you, for mine, sacrifice a scruple.”

“Do not tempt me.”

“Do not refuse me.”

“Think seriously of what you are proposing.”

“Fouquet, but one word. Let it be ‘No,’ and I open this door,” and she pointed to the door which led into the streets, “and you will never see me again. Let that word be ‘Yes,’ and I am yours entirely.”

“Elise! Elise! But this coffer?”

“Contains my dowry.”

“It is your ruin,” exclaimed Fouquet, turning over the gold and papers; “there must be a million here.”

“Yes, my jewels, for which I care no longer if you do not love me, and for which, equally, I care no longer if you love me as I love you.”

“This is too much,” exclaimed Fouquet. “I yield, I yield, even were it only to consecrate so much devotion. I accept the dowry.”

“And take the woman with it,” said the marquise, throwing herself into his arms.






Chapter XXIX. Le Terrain de Dieu.


During the progress of these events Buckingham and De Wardes traveled in excellent companionship, and made the journey from Paris to Calais in undisturbed harmony together. Buckingham had hurried his departure, so that the greater part of his adieux were very hastily made. His visit to Monsieur and Madame, to the young queen, and to the queen-dowager, had been paid collectively—a precaution on the part of the queen-mother which saved him the distress of any private conversation with Monsieur, and also the danger of seeing Madame again. The carriages containing the luggage had already been sent on beforehand, and in the evening he set off in his traveling carriage with his attendants.

De Wardes, irritated at finding himself dragged away in so abrupt a manner by this Englishman, had sought in his subtle mind for some means of escaping from his fetters; but no one having rendered him any assistance in this respect, he was absolutely obliged, therefore, to submit to the burden of his own evil thoughts and caustic spirit.

Such of his friends in whom he had been able to confide, had, in their character of wits, rallied him upon the duke’s superiority. Others, less brilliant, but more sensible, had reminded him of the king’s orders prohibiting dueling. Others, again, and they the larger number, who, in virtue of charity, or national vanity, might have rendered him assistance, did not care to run the risk of incurring disgrace, and would, at the best, have informed the ministers of a departure which might end in a massacre on a small scale. The result was, that, after having fully deliberated upon the matter, De Wardes packed up his luggage, took a couple of horses, and, followed only by one servant, made his way towards the barrier, where Buckingham’s carriage was to await him.

The duke received his adversary as he would have done an intimate acquaintance, made room beside him on the same seat with himself, offered him refreshments, and spread over his knees the sable cloak that had been thrown on the front seat. They then conversed of the court, without alluding to Madame; of Monsieur, without speaking of domestic affairs; of the king, without speaking of his brother’s wife; of the queen-mother, without alluding to her daughter-in-law; of the king of England, without alluding to his sister; of the state of the affections of either of the travelers, without pronouncing any name that might be dangerous. In this way the journey, which was performed by short stages, was most agreeable, and Buckingham, almost a Frenchman from wit and education, was delighted at having so admirably selected his traveling companion. Elegant repasts were served, of which they partook but lightly; trials of horses made in the beautiful meadows that skirted the road; coursing indulged in, for Buckingham had his greyhounds with him; and in such ways did they pass away the pleasant time. The duke somewhat resembled the beautiful river Seine, which folds France a thousand times in its loving embrace, before deciding upon joining its waters with the ocean. In quitting France, it was her recently adopted daughter he had brought to Paris whom he chiefly regretted; his every thought was a remembrance of her—his every memory a regret. Therefore, whenever, now and then, despite his command over himself, he was lost in thought, De Wardes left him entirely to his musings. This delicacy might have touched Buckingham, and changed his feelings towards De Wardes, if the latter, while preserving silence, had shown a glance less full of malice, and a smile less false. Instinctive dislikes, however, are relentless; nothing appeases them; a few ashes may, sometimes, apparently, extinguish them; but beneath those ashes the smothered embers rage more furiously. Having exhausted every means of amusement the route offered, they arrived, as we have said, at Calais towards the end of the sixth day. The duke’s attendants, since the previous evening, had traveled in advance, and now chartered a boat, for the purpose of joining the yacht, which had been tacking about in sight, or bore broadside on, whenever it felt its white wings wearied, within cannon-shot of the jetty.

The boat was destined for the transport of the duke’s equipages from the shore to the yacht. The horses had been embarked, having been hoisted from the boat upon the deck in baskets, expressly made for the purpose, and wadded in such a manner that their limbs, even in the most violent fits of terror or impatience, were always protected by the soft support which the sides afforded, and their coats not even turned. Eight of these baskets, placed side by side, filled the ship’s hold. It is well known that, in short voyages horses refuse to eat, but remain trembling all the while, with the best of food before them, such as they would have greatly coveted on land. By degrees, the duke’s entire equipage was transported on board the yacht; he was then informed that everything was in readiness, and that they only waited for him, whenever he would be disposed to embark with the French gentleman; for no one could possibly imagine that the French gentleman would have any other accounts to settle with his Grace other than those of friendship. Buckingham desired the captain to be told to hold himself in readiness, but that, as the sea was beautiful, and as the day promised a splendid sunset, he did not intend to go on board until nightfall, and would avail himself of the evening to enjoy a walk on the strand. He added also, that, finding himself in such excellent company, he had not the least desire to hasten his embarkation.

As he said this he pointed out to those who surrounded him the magnificent spectacle which the sky presented, of deepest azure in the horizon, the amphitheatre of fleecy clouds ascending from the sun’s disc to the zenith, assuming the appearance of a range of snowy mountains, whose summits were heaped one upon another. The dome of clouds was tinged at its base with, as it were, the foam of rubies, fading away into opal and pearly tints, in proportion as the gaze was carried from base to summit. The sea was gilded with the same reflection, and upon the crest of every sparkling wave danced a point of light, like a diamond by lamplight. The mildness of the evening, the sea breezes, so dear to contemplative minds, setting in from the east and blowing in delicious gusts; then, in the distance, the black outline of the yacht with its rigging traced upon the empurpled background of the sky—while, dotting the horizon, might be seen, here and there, vessels with their trimmed sails, like the wings of a seagull about to plunge; such a spectacle indeed well merited admiration. A crowd of curious idlers followed the richly dressed attendants, amongst whom they mistook the steward and the secretary for the master and his friend. As for Buckingham, who was dressed very simply, in a gray satin vest, and doublet of violet-colored velvet, wearing his hat thrust over his eyes, and without orders or embroidery, he was taken no more notice of than De Wardes, who was in black, like an attorney.

The duke’s attendants had received directions to have a boat in readiness at the jetty head, and to watch the embarkation of their master, without approaching him until either he or his friend should summon them,—“whatever may happen,” he had added, laying a stress upon these words, so that they might not be misunderstood. Having walked a few paces upon the strand, Buckingham said to De Wardes, “I think it is now time to take leave of each other. The tide, you perceive, is rising; ten minutes hence it will have soaked the sands where we are now walking in such a manner that we shall not be able to keep our footing.”

“I await your orders, my lord, but—”

“But, you mean, we are still upon soil which is part of the king’s territory.”

“Exactly.”

“Well, do you see yonder a kind of little island surrounded by a circle of water? The pool is increasing every minute, and the isle is gradually disappearing. This island, indeed, belongs to Heaven, for it is situated between two seas, and is not shown on the king’s charts. Do you observe it?”

“Yes; but we can hardly reach it now, without getting our feet wet.”

“Yes; but observe that it forms an eminence tolerably high, and that the tide rises up on every side, leaving the top free. We shall be admirably placed upon that little theatre. What do you think of it?”

“I shall be perfectly happy wherever I may have the honor of crossing my sword with your lordship’s.”

“Very well, then, I am distressed to be the cause of your wetting your feet, M. de Wardes, but it is most essential you should be able to say to the king: ‘Sire, I did not fight upon your majesty’s territory.’ Perhaps the distinction is somewhat subtle, but, since Port-Royal, your nation delights in subtleties of expression. Do not let us complain of this, however, for it makes your wit very brilliant, and of a style peculiarly your own. If you do not object, we will hurry ourselves, for the sea, I perceive, is rising fast, and night is setting in.”

“My reason for not walking faster was, that I did not wish to precede your Grace. Are you still on dry land, my lord?”

“Yes, at present I am. Look yonder! My servants are afraid we shall be drowned, and have converted the boat into a cruiser. Do you remark how curiously it dances upon the crests of the waves? But, as it makes me feel sea-sick, would you permit me to turn my back towards them?”

“You will observe, my lord, that in turning your back to them, you will have the sun full in your face.”

“Oh, its rays are very feeble at this hour and it will soon disappear; do not be uneasy on that score.”

“As you please, my lord; it was out of consideration for your lordship that I made the remark.”

“I am aware of that, M. de Wardes, and I fully appreciate your kindness. Shall we take off our doublets?”

“As you please, my lord.”

“Do not hesitate to tell me, M. de Wardes, if you do not feel comfortable upon the wet sand, or if you think yourself a little too close to French territory. We could fight in England, or even upon my yacht.”

“We are exceedingly well placed here, my lord; only I have the honor to remark that, as the sea is rising fast, we have hardly time—”

Buckingham made a sign of assent, took off his doublet and threw it on the ground, a proceeding which De Wardes imitated. Both their bodies, which seemed like phantoms to those who were looking at them from the shore, were thrown strongly into relief by a dark red violet-colored shadow with which the sky became overspread.

“Upon my word, your Grace,” said De Wardes, “we shall hardly have time to begin. Do you not perceive how our feet are sinking into the sand?”

“I have sunk up to the ankles,” said Buckingham, “without reckoning that the water is even now breaking in upon us.”

“It has already reached me. As soon as you please, therefore, your Grace,” said De Wardes, who drew his sword, a movement imitated by the duke.

“M. de Wardes,” said Buckingham, “one final word. I am about to fight you because I do not like you,—because you have wounded me in ridiculing a certain devotional regard I have entertained, and one which I acknowledge that, at this moment, I still retain, and for which I would very willingly die. You are a bad and heartless man, M. de Wardes, and I will do my very utmost to take your life; for I feel assured that, if you survive this engagement, you will, in the future, work great mischief towards my friends. That is all I have to remark, M. de Wardes,” concluded Buckingham as he saluted him.

“And I, my lord, have only this to reply to you: I have not disliked you hitherto, but, since you give me such a character, I hate you, and will do all I possibly can to kill you;” and De Wardes saluted Buckingham.

Their swords crossed at the same moment, like two flashes of lightning on a dark night. The swords seemed to seek each other, guessed their position, and met. Both were practiced swordsmen, and the earlier passes were without any result. The night was fast closing in, and it was so dark that they attacked and defended themselves almost instinctively. Suddenly De Wardes felt his word arrested,—he had just touched Buckingham’s shoulder. The duke’s sword sunk, as his arm was lowered.

“You are wounded, my lord,” said De Wardes, drawing back a step or two.

“Yes, monsieur, but only slightly.”

“Yet you quitted your guard.”

“Only from the first effect of the cold steel, but I have recovered. Let us go on, if you please.” And disengaging his sword with a sinister clashing of the blade, the duke wounded the marquis in the breast.

“A hit?” he said.

“No,” cried De Wardes, not moving from his place.

“I beg your pardon, but observing that your shirt was stained—” said Buckingham.

“Well,” said De Wardes furiously, “it is now your turn.”

And with a terrible lunge, he pierced Buckingham’s arm, the sword passing between the two bones. Buckingham feeling his right arm paralyzed, stretched out his left, seized his sword, which was about falling from his nerveless grasp, and before De Wardes could resume his guard, he thrust him through the breast. De Wardes tottered, his knees gave way beneath him, and leaving his sword still fixed in the duke’s arm, he fell into the water, which was soon crimsoned with a more genuine reflection than that which it had borrowed from the clouds. De Wardes was not dead; he felt the terrible danger that menaced him, for the sea rose fast. The duke, too, perceived the danger. With an effort and an exclamation of pain he tore out the blade which remained in his arm, and turning towards De Wardes said, “Are you dead, marquis?”

“No,” replied De Wardes, in a voice choked by the blood which rushed from his lungs to his throat, “but very near it.”

“Well, what is to be done; can you walk?” said Buckingham, supporting him on his knee.

“Impossible,” he replied. Then falling down again, said, “call to your people, or I shall be drowned.”

“Halloa! boat there! quick, quick!”

The boat flew over the waves, but the sea rose faster than the boat could approach. Buckingham saw that De Wardes was on the point of being again covered by a wave; he passed his left arm, safe and unwounded, round his body and raised him up. The wave ascended to his waist, but did not move him. The duke immediately began to carry his late antagonist towards the shore. He had hardly gone ten paces, when a second wave, rushing onwards higher, more furious and menacing than the former, struck him at the height of his chest, threw him over and buried him beneath the water. At the reflux, however, the duke and De Wardes were discovered lying on the strand. De Wardes had fainted. At this moment four of the duke’s sailors, who comprehended the danger, threw themselves into the sea, and in a moment were close beside him. Their terror was extreme when they observed how their master became covered with blood, in proportion to the water, with which it was impregnated, flowed towards his knees and feet; they wished to carry him.

“No, no,” exclaimed the duke, “take the marquis on shore first.”

“Death to the Frenchman!” cried the English sullenly.

“Wretched knaves!” exclaimed the duke, drawing himself up with a haughty gesture, which sprinkled them with blood, “obey directly! M. de Wardes on shore! M. de Wardes’s safety to be looked to first, or I will have you all hanged!”

The boat had by this time reached them; the secretary and steward leaped into the sea, and approached the marquis, who no longer showed any sign of life.

“I commit him to your care, as you value your lives,” said the duke. “Take M. de Wardes on shore.” They took him in their arms, and carried him to the dry sand, where the tide never rose so high. A few idlers and five or six fishermen had gathered on the shore, attracted by the strange spectacle of two men fighting with the water up to their knees. The fishermen, observing a group of men approaching carrying a wounded man, entered the sea until the water was up to their waists. The English transferred the wounded man to them, at the very moment the latter began to open his eyes again. The salt water and the fine sand had got into his wounds, and caused him the acutest pain. The duke’s secretary drew out a purse filled with gold from his pocket, and handed it to the one among those present who appeared of most importance, saying: “From my master, his Grace the Duke of Buckingham, in order that every possible care may be taken of the Marquis de Wardes.”

Then, followed by those who had accompanied him, he returned to the boat, which Buckingham had been enabled to reach with the greatest difficulty, but only after he had seen De Wardes out of danger. By this time it was high tide; embroidered coats, and silk sashes were lost; many hats, too, had been carried away by the waves. The flow of the tide had borne the duke’s and De Wardes’s clothes to the shore, and De Wardes was wrapped in the duke’s doublet, under the belief that it was his own, when the fishermen carried him in their arms towards the town.






Chapter XXX. Threefold Love.


As soon as Buckingham departed, Guiche imagined the coast would be perfectly clear for him without any interference. Monsieur, who no longer retained the slightest feeling of jealousy, and who, besides, permitted himself to be monopolized by the Chevalier de Lorraine, allowed as much liberty and freedom in his house as the most exacting could desire. The king, on his side, who had conceived a strong predilection for his sister-in-law’s society, invented a variety of amusements, in quick succession to each other, in order to render her residence in Paris as cheerful as possible, so that in fact, not a day passed without a ball at the Palais Royal, or a reception in Monsieur’s apartments. The king had directed that Fontainebleau should be prepared for the reception of the court, and every one was using his utmost interest to get invited. Madame led a life of incessant occupation; neither her voice nor her pen were idle for a moment. The conversations with De Guiche were gradually assuming a tone of interest which might unmistakably be recognized as the prelude of a deep-seated attachment. When eyes look languishingly while the subject under discussion happens to be colors of materials for dresses; when a whole hour is occupied in analyzing the merits and the perfume of a sachet or a flower;—there are words in this style of conversation which every one might listen to, but there are gestures and sighs that every one cannot perceive. After Madame had talked for some time with De Guiche, she conversed with the king, who paid her a visit regularly every day. They played, wrote verses, or selected mottoes or emblematical devices; this spring was not only the Maytide of nature, it was the youth of an entire people, of which those at court were the head. The king was handsome, young, and of unequaled gallantry. All women were passionately loved by him, even the queen, his wife. This mighty monarch was, however, more timid and more reserved than any other person in the kingdom, to such a degree, indeed, that he did not confess his sentiments even to himself. This timidity of bearing restrained him within the limits of ordinary politeness, and no woman could boast of having any preference shown her beyond that shown to others. It might be foretold that the day when his real character would be displayed would be the dawn of a new sovereignty; but as yet he had not declared himself. M. de Guiche took advantage of this, and constituted himself the sovereign prince of the whole laughter-loving court. It had been reported that he was on the best of terms with Mademoiselle de Montalais; that he had been assiduously attentive to Mademoiselle de Chatillon; but now he was not even barely civil to any of the court beauties. He had eyes and ears for one person alone. In this manner, and, as it were, without design, he devoted himself to Monsieur, who had a great regard for him, and kept him as much as possible in his own apartments. Unsociable from natural disposition, he had estranged himself too much previous to the arrival of Madame, but, after her arrival, he did not estrange himself sufficiently. This conduct, which every one had observed, had been particularly remarked by the evil genius of the house, the Chevalier de Lorraine, for whom Monsieur exhibited the warmest attachment because he was of a very cheerful disposition, even in his remarks most full of malice, and because he was never at a loss how to wile the time away. The Chevalier de Lorraine, therefore, having noticed that he was threatened with being supplanted by De Guiche, resorted to strong measures. He disappeared from the court, leaving Monsieur much embarrassed. The first day of his absence, Monsieur hardly inquired about him, for he had De Guiche with him, and, except that the time given to conversation with Madame, his days and nights were rigorously devoted to the prince. On the second day, however, Monsieur, finding no one near him, inquired where the chevalier was. He was told that no one knew.

De Guiche, after having spent the morning in selecting embroideries and fringes with Madame, went to console the prince. But after dinner, as there were some amethysts to be looked at, De Guiche returned to Madame’s cabinet. Monsieur was left quite to himself during the time devoted to dressing and decorating himself; he felt that he was the most miserable of men, and again inquired whether there was any news of the chevalier, in reply to which he was told that no one could tell where the chevalier was to be found. Monsieur, hardly knowing in what direction to inflict his weariness, went to Madame’s apartments dressed in his morning-gown. He found a large assemblage of people there, laughing and whispering in every part of the room; at one end, a group of women around one of the courtiers, talking together, amid smothered bursts of laughter; at the other end, Manicamp and Malicorne were being pillaged at cards by Montalais and Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente, while two others were standing by, laughing. In another part were Madame, seated upon some cushions on the floor, and De Guiche, on his knees beside her, spreading out a handful of pearls and precious stones, while the princess, with her white and slender fingers pointed out such among them as pleased her the most. Again, in another corner of the room, a guitar player was playing some of the Spanish seguedillas, to which Madame had taken the greatest fancy ever since she had heard them sung by the young queen with a melancholy expression of voice. But the songs which the Spanish princess had sung with tears in her eyes, the young Englishwoman was humming with a smile that well displayed her beautiful teeth. The cabinet presented, in fact, the most perfect representation of unrestrained pleasure and amusement. As he entered, Monsieur was struck at beholding so many persons enjoying themselves without him. He was so jealous at the sight that he could not resist exclaiming, like a child, “What! you are amusing yourselves here, while I am sick and tired of being alone!”

The sound of his voice was like a clap of thunder coming to interrupt the warbling of birds under the leafy covert of the trees; a dead silence ensued. De Guiche was on his feet in a moment. Malicorne tried to hide himself behind Montalais. Manicamp stood bolt upright, and assumed a very ceremonious demeanor. The guitar player thrust his instrument under a table, covering it with a piece of carpet to conceal it from the prince’s observation. Madame was the only one who did not move, and smiling at her husband, said, “Is not this the hour you usually devote to your toilette?”

“An hour which others select, it seems, for amusing themselves,” replied the prince, grumblingly.

This untoward remark was the signal for a general rout; the women fled like a flock of terrified starlings; the guitar player vanished like a shadow; Malicorne, still protected by Montalais, who purposely widened out her dress, glided behind the hanging tapestry. As for Manicamp, he went to the assistance of De Guiche, who naturally remained near Madame, and both of them, with the princess herself, courageously sustained the attack. The count was too happy to bear malice against the husband; but Monsieur bore a grudge against his wife. Nothing was wanting but a quarrel; he sought it, and the hurried departure of the crowd, which had been so joyous before he arrived, and was so disturbed by his entrance, furnished him with a pretext.

“Why do they run away at the very sight of me?” he inquired, in a supercilious tone; to which remark Madame replied, that, “whenever the master of the house made his appearance, the family kept aloof out of respect.” As she said this, she made so funny and so pretty a grimace, that De Guiche and Manicamp could not control themselves; they burst into a peal of laugher; Madame followed their example, and even Monsieur himself could not resist it, and he was obliged to sit down, as, for laughing, he could scarcely keep his equilibrium. However, he very soon left off, but his anger had increased. He was still more furious because he had permitted himself to laugh, than from having seen others laugh. He looked at Manicamp steadily, not venturing to show his anger towards De Guiche; but, at a sign which displayed no little amount of annoyance, Manicamp and De Guiche left the room, so that Madame, left alone, began sadly to pick up her pearls and amethysts, no longer smiling, and speaking still less.

“I am very happy,” said the duke, “to find myself treated as a stranger here, Madame,” and he left the room in a passion. On his way out, he met Montalais, who was in attendance in the ante-room. “It is very agreeable to pay you a visit here, but outside the door.”

Montalais made a very low obeisance. “I do not quite understand what your royal highness does me the honor to say.”

“I say that when you are all laughing together in Madame’s apartment, he is an unwelcome visitor who does not remain outside.”

“Your royal highness does not think, and does not speak so, of yourself?”

“On the contrary, it is on my own account that I do speak and think. I have no reason, certainly, to flatter myself about the reception I meet with here at any time. How is it that, on the very day there is music and a little society in Madame’s apartments—in my own apartments, indeed, for they are mine—on the very day that I wish to amuse myself a little in my turn, every one runs away? Are they afraid to see me, that they all take wing as soon as I appear? Is there anything wrong, then, going on in my absence?”

“Yet nothing has been done to-day, monseigneur, which is not done every day.”

“What! do they laugh like that every day?”

“Why, yes, monseigneur.”

“The same group of people simpering and the same singing and strumming going on every day?”

“The guitar, monseigneur, was introduced to-day; but when we have no guitars, we have violins and flutes; ladies soon weary without music.”

“The deuce!—and the men?”

“What men, monseigneur?”

“M. de Guiche, M. de Manicamp, and the rest of them?”

“They all belong to your highness’s household.”

“Yes, yes, you are right,” said the prince, as he returned to his own apartments, full of thought. He threw himself into the largest of his arm-chairs, without looking at himself in the glass. “Where can the chevalier be?” said he. One of the prince’s attendants happened to be near him, overheard his remark, and replied,—

“No one knows, your highness.”

“Still the same answer. The first one who answers me again, ‘I do not know,’ I will discharge.” Every one at this remark hurried out of his apartments, in the same manner as the others had fled from Madame’s apartments. The prince then flew into the wildest rage. He kicked over a chiffonier, which tumbled on the carpet, broken into pieces. He next went into the galleries, and with the greatest coolness threw down, one after another, an enameled vase, a porphyry ewer, and a bronze candelabrum. The noise summoned every one to the various doors.

“What is your highness’s pleasure?” said the captain of the guards, timidly.

“I am treating myself to some music,” replied the prince, gnashing his teeth.

The captain of the guards desired his royal highness’s physician to be sent for. But before he came, Malicorne arrived, saying to the prince, “Monseigneur, the Chevalier de Lorraine is here.”

The duke looked at Malicorne, and smiled graciously at him, just as the chevalier entered.