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Ten Years Later

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Chapter IV. Malicorne and Manicamp.


The introduction of these two new personages into this history and that mysterious affinity of names and sentiments, merit some attention on the part of both historian and reader. We will then enter into some details concerning Messieurs Malicorne and Manicamp. Malicorne, we know, had made the journey to Orleans in search of the brevet destined for Mademoiselle de Montalais, the arrival of which had produced such a strong feeling at the castle of Blois. At that moment, M. de Manicamp was at Orleans. A singular person was this M. de Manicamp; a very intelligent young fellow, always poor, always needy, although he dipped his hand freely into the purse of M. le Comte de Guiche, one of the best furnished purses of the period. M. le Comte de Guiche had had, as the companion of his boyhood, this De Manicamp, a poor gentleman, vassal-born, of the house of Gramont. M. de Manicamp, with his tact and talent had created himself a revenue in the opulent family of the celebrated marechal. From his infancy he had, with calculation beyond his age, lent his mane and complaisance to the follies of the Comte de Guiche. If his noble companion had stolen some fruit destined for Madame la Marechale, if he had broken a mirror, or put out a dog’s eye, Manicamp declared himself guilty of the crime committed, and received the punishment, which was not made the milder for falling on the innocent. But this was the way this system of abnegation was paid for: instead of wearing such mean habiliments as his paternal fortunes entitled him to, he was able to appear brilliant, superb, like a young noble of fifty thousand livres a year. It was not that he was mean in character or humble in spirit; no, he was a philosopher, or rather he had the indifference, the apathy, the obstinacy which banish from man every sentiment of the supernatural. His sole ambition was to spend money. But, in this respect, the worthy M. de Manicamp was a gulf. Three or four times every year he drained the Comte de Guiche, and when the Comte de Guiche was thoroughly drained, when he had turned out his pockets and his purse before him, when he declared that it would be at least a fortnight before paternal munificence would refill those pockets and that purse, Manicamp lost all his energy, he went to bed, remained there, ate nothing and sold his handsome clothes, under the pretense that, remaining in bed, he did not want them. During this prostration of mind and strength, the purse of the Comte de Guiche was getting full again, and when once filled, overflowed into that of De Manicamp, who bought new clothes, dressed himself again, and recommenced the same life he had followed before. The mania of selling his new clothes for a quarter of what they were worth, had rendered our hero sufficiently celebrated in Orleans, a city where, in general, we should be puzzled to say why he came to pass his days of penitence. Provincial debauches, petits-maitres of six hundred livres a year, shared the fragments of his opulence.

Among the admirers of these splendid toilettes, our friend Malicorne was conspicuous; he was the son of a syndic of the city, of whom M. de Conde, always needy as a De Conde, often borrowed money at enormous interest. M. Malicorne kept the paternal money-chest; that is to say, that in those times of easy morals, he had made for himself, by following the example of his father, and lending at high interest for short terms, a revenue of eighteen hundred livres, without reckoning six hundred livres furnished by the generosity of the syndic; so that Malicorne was the king of the gay youth of Orleans, having two thousand four hundred livres to scatter, squander, and waste on follies of every kind. But, quite contrary to Manicamp, Malicorne was terribly ambitious. He loved from ambition; he spent money out of ambition; and he would have ruined himself for ambition. Malicorne had determined to rise, at whatever price it might cost, and for this, whatever price it did cost, he had given himself a mistress and a friend. The mistress, Mademoiselle de Montalais, was cruel, as regarded love; but she was of a noble family, and that was sufficient for Malicorne. The friend had little or no friendship, but he was the favorite of the Comte de Guiche, himself the friend of Monsieur, the king’s brother; and that was sufficient for Malicorne. Only, in the chapter of charges, Mademoiselle de Montalais cost per annum:—ribbons, gloves, and sweets, a thousand livres. De Manicamp cost—money lent, never returned—from twelve to fifteen hundred livres per annum. So that there was nothing left for Malicorne. Ah! yes, we are mistaken; there was left the paternal strong box. He employed a mode of proceeding, upon which he preserved the most profound secrecy, and which consisted in advancing to himself, from the coffers of the syndic, half a dozen year’s profits, that is to say, fifteen thousand livres, swearing to himself—observe, quite to himself—to repay this deficiency as soon as an opportunity should present itself. The opportunity was expected to be the concession of a good post in the household of Monsieur, when that household would be established at the period of his marriage. This juncture had arrived, and the household was about to be established. A good post in the family of a prince of the blood, when it is given by the credit, and on the recommendation of a friend, like the Comte de Guiche, is worth at least twelve thousand livres per annum; and by the means which M. Malicorne had taken to make his revenues fructify, twelve thousand livres might rise to twenty thousand. Then, when once an incumbent of this post, he would marry Mademoiselle de Montalais. Mademoiselle de Montalais, of a half noble family, not only would be dowered, but would ennoble Malicorne. But, in order that Mademoiselle de Montalais, who had not a large patrimonial fortune, although an only daughter, should be suitably dowered, it was necessary that she should belong to some great princess, as prodigal as the dowager Madame was covetous. And in order that the wife should not be of one party whilst the husband belonged to the other, a situation which presents serious inconveniences, particularly with characters like those of the future consorts—Malicorne had imagined the idea of making the central point of union the household of Monsieur, the king’s brother. Mademoiselle de Montalais would be maid of honor to Madame. M. Malicorne would be officer to Monsieur.

It is plain the plan was formed by a clear head; it is plain, also, that it had been bravely executed. Malicorne had asked Manicamp to ask a brevet of maid of honor of the Comte de Guiche; and the Comte de Guiche had asked this brevet of Monsieur, who had signed it without hesitation. The constructive plan of Malicorne—for we may well suppose that the combinations of a mind as active as his were not confined to the present, but extended to the future—the constructive plan of Malicorne, we say, was this:—To obtain entrance into the household of Madame Henrietta for a woman devoted to himself, who was intelligent, young, handsome, and intriguing; to learn, by means of this woman, all the feminine secrets of the young household; whilst he, Malicorne, and his friend Manicamp, should, between them, know all the male secrets of the young community. It was by these means that a rapid and splendid fortune might be acquired at one and the same time. Malicorne was a vile name; he who bore it had too much wit to conceal this truth from himself; but an estate might be purchased; and Malicorne of some place, or even De Malicorne itself, for short, would ring more nobly on the ear.

It was not improbable that a most aristocratic origin might be hunted up by the heralds for this name of Malicorne; might it not come from some estate where a bull with mortal horns had caused some great misfortune, and baptized the soil with the blood it had spilt? Certes, this plan presented itself bristling with difficulties: but the greatest of all was Mademoiselle de Montalais herself. Capricious, variable, close, giddy, free, prudish, a virgin armed with claws, Erigone stained with grapes, she sometimes overturned, with a single dash of her white fingers, or with a single puff from her laughing lips, the edifice which had exhausted Malicorne’s patience for a month.

Love apart, Malicorne was happy; but this love, which he could not help feeling, he had the strength to conceal with care; persuaded that at the least relaxing of the ties by which he had bound his Protean female, the demon would overthrow and laugh at him. He humbled his mistress by disdaining her. Burning with desire, when she advanced to tempt him, he had the art to appear ice, persuaded that if he opened his arms, she would run away laughing at him. On her side, Montalais believed she did not love Malicorne; whilst, on the contrary, in reality she did. Malicorne repeated to her so often his protestation of indifference, that she finished, sometimes, by believing him; and then she believed she detested Malicorne. If she tried to bring him back by coquetry, Malicorne played the coquette better than she could. But what made Montalais hold to Malicorne in an indissoluble fashion, was that Malicorne always came cram full of fresh news from the court and the city; Malicorne always brought to Blois a fashion, a secret, or a perfume; that Malicorne never asked for a meeting, but, on the contrary, required to be supplicated to receive the favors he burned to obtain. On her side, Montalais was no miser with stories. By her means, Malicorne learnt all that passed at Blois, in the family of the dowager Madame; and he related to Manicamp tales that made him ready to die with laughing, which the latter, out of idleness, took ready-made to M. de Guiche, who carried them to Monsieur.

Such, in two words, was the woof of petty interests and petty conspiracies which united Blois with Orleans, and Orleans with Pairs; and which was about to bring into the last named city where she was to produce so great a revolution, the poor little La Valliere, who was far from suspecting, as she returned joyfully, leaning on the arm of her mother, for what a strange future she was reserved. As to the good man, Malicorne—we speak of the syndic of Orleans—he did not see more clearly into the present than others did into the future; and had no suspicion as he walked, every day, between three and five o’clock, after his dinner, upon the Place Sainte-Catherine, in his gray coat, cut after the fashion of Louis XIII. and his cloth shoes with great knots of ribbon, that it was he who was paying for all those bursts of laughter, all those stolen kisses, all those whisperings, all those little keepsakes, and all those bubble projects which formed a chain of forty-five leagues in length, from the palais of Blois to the Palais Royal.






Chapter V: Manicamp and Malicorne.


Malicorne, then, left Blois, as we have said, and went to find his friend, Manicamp, then in temporary retreat in the city of Orleans. It was just at the moment when that young nobleman was employed in selling the last decent clothing he had left. He had, a fortnight before, extorted from the Comte de Guiche a hundred pistoles, all he had, to assist in equipping him properly to go and meet Madame, on her arrival at Le Havre. He had drawn from Malicorne, three days before, fifty pistoles, the price of the brevet obtained for Montalais. He had then no expectation of anything else, having exhausted all his resources, with the exception of selling a handsome suit of cloth and satin, embroidered and laced with gold, which had been the admiration of the court. But to be able to sell this suit, the last he had left,—as we have been forced to confess to the reader—Manicamp had been obliged to take to his bed. No more fire, no more pocket-money, no more walking-money, nothing but sleep to take the place of repasts, companies and balls. It has been said—“He who sleeps, dines;” but it has never been affirmed—He who sleeps, plays—or, He who sleeps, dances. Manicamp, reduced to this extremity of neither playing nor dancing, for a week at least, was, consequently, very sad; he was expecting a usurer, and saw Malicorne enter. A cry of distress escaped him.

“Eh! what!” said he, in a tone which nothing can describe, “is that you again, dear friend?”

“Humph! you are very polite!” said Malicorne.

“Ay, but look you, I was expecting money, and, instead of money, I see you.”

“And suppose I brought you some money?”

“Oh! that would be quite another thing. You are very welcome, my dear friend!”

And he held out his hand, not for the hand of Malicorne, but for the purse. Malicorne pretended to be mistaken, and gave him his hand.

“And the money?” said Manicamp.

“My dear friend, if you wish to have it, earn it.”

“What must be done for it?”

“Earn it, parbleu!”

“And after what fashion?”

“Oh! that is rather trying, I warn you.”

“The devil!”

“You must get out of bed, and go immediately to M. le Comte de Guiche.”

“I get up!” said Manicamp, stretching himself in his bed, complacently, “oh, no, thank you!”

“You have sold all your clothes?”

“No, I have one suit left, the handsomest even, but I expect a purchaser.”

“And the chausses?”

“Well, if you look, you will see them on that chair.”

“Very well! since you have some chausses and a pourpoint left, put your legs into the first and your back into the other; have a horse saddled, and set off.”

“Not I.”

“And why not?”

“Morbleu! don’t you know, then, that M. de Guiche is at Etampes?”

“No, I thought he was at Paris. You will then only have fifteen leagues to go, instead of thirty.”

“You are a wonderfully clever fellow! If I were to ride fifteen leagues in these clothes, they would never be fit to put on again; and, instead of selling them for thirty pistoles, I should be obliged to take fifteen.”

“Sell them for whatever you like, but I must have a second commission of maid of honor.”

“Good! for whom? Is Montalais doubled, then?”

“Vile fellow!—It is you who are doubled. You swallow up two fortunes—mine, and that of M. le Comte de Guiche.”

“You should say, that of M. le Comte de Guiche and yours.”

“That is true; honor where it is due; but I return to my brevet.”

“And you are wrong.”

“Prove me that.”

“My friend, there will only be twelve maids of honor for madame; I have already obtained for you what twelve hundred women are trying for, and for that I was forced to employ all my diplomacy.”

“Oh! yes, I know you have been quite heroic, my dear friend.”

“We know what we are about,” said Manicamp.

“To whom do you tell that? When I am king, I promise you one thing.”

“What? To call yourself Malicorne the First?”

“No; to make you superintendent of my finances; but that is not the question now.”

“Unfortunately.”

“The present affair is to procure for me a second place of maid of honor.”

“My friend, if you were to promise me the price of heaven, I would decline to disturb myself at this moment.”

Malicorne chinked the money in his pocket.

“There are twenty pistoles here,” said Malicorne.

“And what would you do with twenty pistoles, mon Dieu!”

“Well!” said Malicorne, a little angry, “suppose I were to add them to the five hundred you already owe me?”

“You are right,” replied Manicamp, stretching out his hand again, “and from that point of view I can accept them. Give them to me.”

“An instant, what the devil! it is not only holding out your hand that will do; if I give you the twenty pistoles, shall I have my brevet?”

“To be sure you shall.”

“Soon?”

“To-day.”

“Oh! take care! Monsieur de Manicamp; you undertake much, and I do not ask that. Thirty leagues in a day is too much, you would kill yourself.”

“I think nothing impossible when obliging a friend.”

“You are quite heroic.”

“Where are the twenty pistoles?”

“Here they are,” said Malicorne, showing them.

“That’s well.”

“Yes, but my dear M. Manicamp, you would consume them in post-horses alone!”

“No, no, make yourself easy on that score.”

“Pardon me. Why, it is fifteen leagues from this place to Etampes?”

“Fourteen.”

“Well! fourteen be it; fourteen leagues makes seven posts; at twenty sous the post, seven livres; seven livres the courier, fourteen; as many for coming back, twenty-eight! as much for bed and supper, that makes sixty livres this complaisance would cost.”

Manicamp stretched himself like a serpent in his bed, and fixing his two great eyes upon Malicorne, “You are right,” said he; “I could not return before to-morrow;” and he took the twenty pistoles.

“Now, then, be off!”

“Well, as I cannot be back before to-morrow, we have time.”

“Time for what?”

“Time to play.”

“What do you wish to play with?”

“Your twenty pistoles, pardieu!”

“No; you always win.”

“I will wager them, then.”

“Against what?”

“Against twenty others.”

“And what shall be the object of the wager?”

“This. We have said it was fourteen leagues to Etampes.”

“Yes.”

“And fourteen leagues back?”

“Doubtless.”

“Well; for these twenty-eight leagues you cannot allow less than fourteen hours?”

“That is agreed.”

“One hour to find the Comte de Guiche.”

“Go on.”

“And an hour to persuade him to write a letter to Monsieur.”

“Just so.”

“Sixteen hours in all?”

“You reckon as well as M. Colbert.”

“It is now twelve o’clock.”

“Half-past.”

“Hein!—you have a handsome watch!”

“What were you saying?” said Malicorne, putting his watch quickly back into his fob.

“Ah! true; I was offering to lay you twenty pistoles against these you have lent me, that you will have the Comte de Guiche’s letter in—”

“How soon?”

“In eight hours.”

“Have you a winged horse, then?”

“That is no matter. Will you bet?”

“I shall have the comte’s letter in eight hours?”

“Yes.”

“In hand?”

“In hand.”

“Well, be it so; I lay,” said Malicorne, curious enough to know how this seller of clothes would get through.

“Is it agreed?”

“It is.”

“Pass me the pen, ink, and paper.”

“Here they are.”

“Thank you.”

Manicamp raised himself with a sigh, and leaning on his left elbow, in his best hand, traced the following lines:—

“Good for an order for a place of maid of honor to Madame, which M. le Comte de Guiche will take upon him to obtain at sight. DE MANICAMP.”

This painful task accomplished, he laid himself down in bed again.

“Well!” asked Malicorne, “what does this mean?”

“That means that if you are in a hurry to have the letter from the Comte de Guiche for Monsieur, I have won my wager.”

“How the devil is that?”

“That is transparent enough, I think; you take that paper.”

“Well?”

“And you set out instead of me.”

“Ah!”

“You put your horses to their best speed.”

“Good!”

“In six hours you will be at Etampes; in seven hours you have the letter from the comte, and I shall have won my wager without stirring from my bed, which suits me and you too, at the same time, I am very sure.”

“Decidedly, Manicamp, you are a great man.”

“Hein! I know that.”

“I am to start then for Etampes?”

“Directly.”

“I am to go to the Comte de Guiche with this order?”

“He will give you a similar one for Monsieur.”

“Monsieur will approve?”

“Instantly.”

“And I shall have my brevet?”

“You will.”

“Ah!”

“Well, I hope I behave genteely?”

“Adorably.”

“Thank you.”

“You do as you please, then, with the Comte de Guiche, Manicamp?”

“Except making money of him—everything?”

“Diable! the exception is annoying; but then, if instead of asking him for money, you were to ask—”

“What?”

“Something important.”

“What do you call important?”

“Well! suppose one of your friends asked you to render him a service?”

“I would not render it to him.”

“Selfish fellow!”

“Or at least I would ask him what service he would render me in exchange.”

“Ah! that, perhaps, is fair. Well, that friend speaks to you.”

“What, you, Malicorne?”

“Yes; I.”

“Ah! ah! you are rich, then?”

“I have still fifty pistoles left.”

“Exactly the sum I want. Where are those fifty pistoles?”

“Here,” said Malicorne, slapping his pocket.

“Then speak, my friend; what do you want?”

Malicorne took up the pen, ink, and paper again, and presented them all to Manicamp. “Write!” said he.

“Dictate!”

“An order for a place in the household of Monsieur.”

“Oh!” said Manicamp, laying down the pen, “a place in the household of Monsieur for fifty pistoles?”

“You mistook me, my friend; you did not hear plainly.”

“What did you say, then?”

“I said five hundred.”

“And the five hundred?”

“Here they are.”

Manicamp devoured the rouleau with his eyes; but this time Malicorne held it at a distance.

“Eh! what do you say to that? Five hundred pistoles.”

“I say it is for nothing, my friend,” said Manicamp, taking up the pen again, “and you exhaust my credit. Dictate.”

Malicorne continued:

“Which my friend the Comte de Guiche will obtain for my friend Malicorne.”

“That’s it,” said Manicamp.

“Pardon me, you have forgotten to sign.”

“Ah! that is true. The five hundred pistoles?”

“Here are two hundred and fifty of them.”

“And the other two hundred and fifty?”

“When I am in possession of my place.”

Manicamp made a face.

“In that case give me the recommendation back again.”

“What to do?”

“To add two words to it.”

“Two words?”

“Yes; two words only.”

“What are they?”

“In haste.”

Malicorne returned the recommendation; Manicamp added the words.

“Good,” said Malicorne, taking back the paper.

Manicamp began to count out the pistoles.

“There want twenty,” said he.

“How so?”

“The twenty I have won.”

“In what way?”

“By laying that you would have the letter from the Comte de Guiche in eight hours.”

“Ah! that’s fair,” and he gave him the twenty pistoles.

Manicamp began to scoop up his gold by handfuls, and pour it in cascades upon his bed.

“This second place,” murmured Malicorne, whilst drying his paper, “which, at first glance appears to cost me more than the first, but—” He stopped, took up the pen in his turn, and wrote to Montalais:—

“MADEMOISELLE,—Announce to your friend that her commission will not be long before it arrives; I am setting out to get it signed: that will be twenty-eight leagues I shall have gone for the love of you.”

Then with his sardonic smile, taking up the interrupted sentence:—“This place,” said he, “at first glance, appears to have cost more than the first; but—the benefit will be, I hope, in proportion with the expense, and Mademoiselle de la Valliere will bring me back more than Mademoiselle de Montalais, or else,—or else my name is not Malicorne. Farewell, Manicamp,” and he left the room.






Chapter VI. The Courtyard of the Hotel Grammont.


On Malicorne’s arrival at Orleans, he was informed that the Comte de Guiche had just set out for Paris. Malicorne rested himself for a couple of hours, and then prepared to continue his journey. He reached Paris during the night, and alighted at a small hotel, where, in his previous journeys to the capital, he had been accustomed to put up, and at eight o’clock the next morning presented himself at the Hotel Grammont. Malicorne arrived just in time, for the Comte de Guiche was on the point of taking leave of Monsieur before setting out for Le Havre, where the principal members of the French nobility had gone to await Madame’s arrival from England. Malicorne pronounced the name of Manicamp, and was immediately admitted. He found the Comte de Guiche in the courtyard of the Hotel Grammont, inspecting his horses, which his trainers and equerries were passing in review before him. The count, in the presence of his tradespeople and of his servants, was engaged in praising or blaming, as the case seemed to deserve, the appointments, horses, and harness that were being submitted to him; when, in the midst of this important occupation, the name of Manicamp was announced.

“Manicamp!” he exclaimed; “let him enter by all means.” And he advanced a few steps toward the door.

Malicorne slipped through the half-open door, and looking at the Comte de Guiche, who was surprised to see a face he did not recognize, instead of the one he expected, said: “Forgive me, monsieur le comte, but I believe a mistake has been made. M. Manicamp himself was announced to you, instead of which it is only an envoy from him.”

“Ah!” exclaimed De Guiche, coldly; “and what do you bring me?”

“A letter, monsieur le comte.” Malicorne handed him the first document, and narrowly watched the count’s face, who, as he read it, began to laugh.

“What!” he exclaimed, “another maid of honor? Are all the maids of honor in France, then, under his protection?”

Malicorne bowed.

“Why does he not come himself?” he inquired.

“He is confined to his bed.”

“The deuce! he has no money then, I suppose,” said De Guiche, shrugging his shoulders. “What does he do with his money?”

Malicorne made a movement, to indicate that upon this subject he was as ignorant as the count himself. “Why does he not make use of his credit, then?” continued De Guiche.

“With regard to that, I think—”

“What?”

“That Manicamp has credit with no one but yourself, monsieur le comte!”

“He will not be at Le Havre, then?” Whereupon Malicorne made another movement.

“But every one will be there.”

“I trust, monsieur le comte, that he will not neglect so excellent an opportunity.”

“He should be at Paris by this time.”

“He will take the direct road perhaps to make up for lost time.”

“Where is he now?”

“At Orleans.”

“Monsieur,” said De Guiche, “you seem to me a man of very good taste.”

Malicorne was wearing some of Manicamp’s old-new clothes. He bowed in return, saying, “You do me a very great honor, monsieur le comte.”

“Whom have I the pleasure of addressing?”

“My name is Malicorne, monsieur.”

“M. de Malicorne, what do you think of these pistol-holsters?”

Malicorne was a man of great readiness and immediately understood the position of affairs. Besides, the “de” which had been prefixed to his name, raised him to the rank of the person with whom he was conversing. He looked at the holsters with the air of a connoisseur and said, without hesitation: “Somewhat heavy, monsieur.”

“You see,” said De Guiche to the saddler, “this gentleman, who understands these matters well, thinks the holsters heavy, a complaint I had already made.” The saddler was full of excuses.

“What do you think,” asked De Guiche, “of this horse, which I have just purchased?”

“To look at it, it seems perfect, monsieur le comte; but I must mount it before I give you my opinion.”

“Do so, M. de Malicorne, and ride him round the court two or three times.”

The courtyard of the hotel was so arranged, that whenever there was any occasion for it, it could be used as a riding-school. Malicorne, with perfect ease, arranged the bridle and snaffle-reins, placed his left hand on the horse’s mane, and, with his foot in the stirrup, raised himself and seated himself in the saddle. At first, he made the horse walk the whole circuit of the court-yard at a foot-pace; next at a trot; lastly at a gallop. He then drew up close to the count, dismounted, and threw the bridle to a groom standing by. “Well,” said the count, “what do you think of it, M. de Malicorne?”

“This horse, monsieur le comte, is of the Mecklenburg breed. In looking whether the bit suited his mouth, I saw that he was rising seven, the very age when the training of a horse intended for a charger should commence. The forehand is light. A horse which holds its head high, it is said, never tires his rider’s hand. The withers are rather low. The drooping of the hind-quarters would almost make me doubt the purity of its German breed, and I think there is English blood in him. He stands well on his legs, but he trots high, and may cut himself, which requires attention to be paid to his shoeing. He is tractable; and as I made him turn round and change his feet, I found him quick and ready in doing so.”

“Well said, M. de Malicorne,” exclaimed the comte; “you are a judge of horses, I perceive;” then, turning towards him again, he continued, “you are most becomingly dressed, M. de Malicorne. That is not a provincial cut, I presume. Such a style of dress is not to be met with at Tours or Orleans.”

“No, monsieur le comte; my clothes were made at Paris.”

“There is no doubt about that. But let us resume our own affair. Manicamp wishes for the appointment of a second maid of honor.”

“You perceive what he has written, monsieur le comte.”

“For whom was the first appointment?”

Malicorne felt the color rise in his face as he answered hurriedly.

“A charming maid of honor, Mademoiselle de Montalais.”

“Ah, ah! you are acquainted with her?”

“We are affianced, or nearly so.”

“That is quite another thing, then; a thousand compliments,” exclaimed De Guiche, upon whose lips a courtier’s jest was already fitting, but to whom the word “affianced,” addressed by Malicorne with respect to Mademoiselle de Montalais, recalled the respect due to women.

“And for whom is the second appointment destined?” asked De Guiche; “is it for anyone to whom Manicamp may happen to be affianced? In that case I pity her, poor girl! for she will have a sad fellow for a husband.”

“No, monsieur le comte; the second appointment is for Mademoiselle de la Baume le Blanc de la Valliere.”

“Unknown,” said De Guiche.

“Unknown? yes, monsieur,” said Malicorne, smiling in his turn.

“Very good. I will speak to Monsieur about it. By the by, she is of gentle birth?”

“She belongs to a very good family and is maid of honor to Madame.”

“That’s well. Will you accompany me to Monsieur?”

“Most certainly, if I may be permitted the honor.”

“Have you your carriage?”

“No; I came here on horseback.”

“Dressed as you are?”

“No, monsieur; I posted from Orleans, and I changed my traveling suit for the one I have on, in order to present myself to you.”

“True, you already told me you had come from Orleans;” saying which he crumpled Manicamp’s letter in his hand, and thrust it in his pocket.

“I beg your pardon,” said Malicorne, timidly; “but I do not think you have read all.”

“Not read all, do you say?”

“No; there were two letters in the same envelope.”

“Oh! are you sure?”

“Quite sure.”

“Let us look, then,” said the count, as he opened the letter again.

“Ah! you are right,” he said opening the paper which he had not yet read.

“I suspected it,” he continued—“another application for an appointment under Monsieur. This Manicamp is a regular vampire:—he is carrying on a trade in it.”

“No, monsieur le comte, he wishes to make a present of it.”

“To whom?”

“To myself, monsieur.”

“Why did you not say so at once, my dear M. Mauvaisecorne?”

“Malicorne, monsieur le comte.”

“Forgive me; it is that Latin that bothers me—that terrible mine of etymologies. Why the deuce are young men of family taught Latin? Mala and mauvaise—you understand it is the same thing. You will forgive me, I trust, M. de Malicorne.”

“Your kindness affects me much, monsieur: but it is a reason why I should make you acquainted with one circumstance without any delay.”

“What is it?”

“That I was not born a gentleman. I am not without courage, and not altogether deficient in ability; but my name is Malicorne simply.”

“You appear to me, monsieur!” exclaimed the count, looking at the astute face of his companion, “to be a most agreeable man. Your face pleases me, M. Malicorne, and you must possess some indisputably excellent qualities to have pleased that egotistical Manicamp. Be candid and tell me whether you are not some saint descended upon the earth.”

“Why so?”

“For the simple reason that he makes you a present of anything. Did you not say that he intended to make you a present of some appointment in the king’s household?”

“I beg your pardon, count; but, if I succeed in obtaining the appointment, you, and not he, will have bestowed it on me.”

“Besides he will not have given it to you for nothing, I suppose. Stay, I have it;—there is a Malicorne at Orleans who lends money to the prince.”

“I think that must be my father, monsieur.”

“Ah! the prince has the father, and that terrible dragon of a Manicamp has the son. Take care, monsieur, I know him. He will fleece you completely.”

“The only difference is, that I lend without interest,” said Malicorne, smiling.

“I was correct in saying you were either a saint or very much resembled one. M. Malicorne, you shall have the post you want, or I will forfeit my name.”

“Ah! monsieur le comte, what a debt of gratitude shall I not owe you?” said Malicorne, transported.

“Let us go to the prince, my dear M. Malicorne.” And De Guiche proceeded toward the door, desiring Malicorne to follow him. At the very moment they were about to cross the threshold, a young man appeared on the other side. He was from twenty-four to twenty-five years of age, of pale complexion, bright eyes and brown hair and eyebrows. “Good-day,” said he, suddenly, almost pushing De Guiche back into the courtyard again.

“Is that you, De Wardes?—What! and booted, spurred and whip in hand, too?”

“The most befitting costume for a man about to set off for Le Havre. There will be no one left in Paris to-morrow.” And hereupon he saluted Malicorne with great ceremony, whose handsome dress gave him the appearance of a prince.

“M. Malicorne,” said De Guiche to his friend. De Wardes bowed.

“M. de Wardes,” said Guiche to Malicorne, who bowed in return. “By the by, De Wardes,” continued De Guiche, “you who are so well acquainted with these matters, can you tell us, probably, what appointments are still vacant at the court; or rather in the prince’s household?”

“In the prince’s household,” said De Wardes looking up with an air of consideration, “let me see—the appointment of the master of the horse is vacant, I believe.”

“Oh,” said Malicorne, “there is no question of such a post as that, monsieur; my ambition is not nearly so exalted.”

De Wardes had a more penetrating observation than De Guiche, and fathomed Malicorne immediately. “The fact is,” he said, looking at him from head to foot, “a man must be either a duke or a peer to fill that post.”

“All I solicit,” said Malicorne, “is a very humble appointment; I am of little importance, and I do not rank myself above my position.”

“M. Malicorne, whom you see here,” said De Guiche to De Wardes, “is a very excellent fellow, whose only misfortune is that of not being of gentle birth. As far as I am concerned, you know, I attach little value to those who have but gentle birth to boast of.”

“Assuredly,” said De Wardes; “but will you allow me to remark, my dear count, that, without rank of some sort, one can hardly hope to belong to his royal highness’s household?”

“You are right,” said the count, “court etiquette is absolute. The devil!—we never so much as gave it a thought.”

“Alas! a sad misfortune for me, monsieur le comte,” said Malicorne, changing color.

“Yet not without remedy, I hope,” returned De Guiche.

“The remedy is found easily enough,” exclaimed De Wardes; “you can be created a gentleman. His Eminence, the Cardinal Mazarin, did nothing else from morning till night.”

“Hush, hush, De Wardes,” said the count; “no jests of that kind; it ill becomes us to turn such matters into ridicule. Letters of nobility, it is true, are purchasable; but that is a sufficient misfortune without the nobles themselves laughing at it.”

“Upon my word, De Guiche, you’re quite a Puritan, as the English say.”

At this moment the Vicomte de Bragelonne was announced by one of the servants in the courtyard, in precisely the same manner as he would have done in a room.

“Come here, my dear Raoul. What! you, too, booted and spurred? You are setting off, then?”

Bragelonne approached the group of young men, and saluted them with that quiet and serious manner peculiar to him. His salutation was principally addressed to De Wardes, with whom he was unacquainted, and whose features, on his perceiving Raoul, had assumed a strange sternness of expression. “I have come, De Guiche,” he said, “to ask your companionship. We set off for Le Havre, I presume.”

“This is admirable—delightful. We shall have a most enjoyable journey. M. Malicorne, M. Bragelonne—ah! M. de Wardes, let me present you.” The young men saluted each other in a restrained manner. Their very natures seemed, from the beginning, disposed to take exception to each other. De Wardes was pliant, subtle, full of dissimulation; Raoul was calm, grave, and upright. “Decide between us—between De Wardes and myself, Raoul.”

“Upon what subject?”

“Upon the subject of noble birth.”

“Who can be better informed on that subject than a De Gramont?”

“No compliments; it is your opinion I ask.”

“At least, inform me of the subject under discussion.”

“De Wardes asserts that the distribution of titles is abused; I, on the contrary, maintain that a title is useless to the man on whom it is bestowed.”

“And you are correct,” said Bragelonne, quietly.

“But, monsieur le vicomte,” interrupted De Wardes, with a kind of obstinacy, “I affirm that it is I who am correct.”

“What was your opinion, monsieur?”

“I was saying that everything is done in France at the present moment, to humiliate men of family.”

“And by whom?”

“By the king himself. He surrounds himself with people who cannot show four quarterings.”

“Nonsense,” said De Guiche, “where could you possibly have seen that, De Wardes?”

“One example will suffice,” he returned, directing his look fully upon Raoul.

“State it then.”

“Do you know who has just been nominated captain-general of the musketeers?—an appointment more valuable than a peerage; for it gives precedence over all the marechals of France.”

Raoul’s color mounted in his face; for he saw the object De Wardes had in view. “No; who has been appointed? In any case it must have been very recently, for the appointment was vacant eight days ago; a proof of which is, that the king refused Monsieur, who solicited the post for one of his proteges.”

“Well, the king refused it to Monsieur’s protege, in order to bestow it upon the Chevalier d’Artagnan, a younger brother of some Gascon family, who has been trailing his sword in the ante-chambers during the last thirty years.”

“Forgive me if I interrupt you,” said Raoul, darting a glance full of severity at De Wardes; “but you give me the impression of being unacquainted with the gentleman of whom you are speaking.”

“I not acquainted with M. d’Artagnan? Can you tell me, monsieur, who does not know him?”

“Those who do know him, monsieur,” replied Raoul, with still greater calmness and sternness of manner, “are in the habit of saying, that if he is not as good a gentleman as the king—which is not his fault—he is the equal of all the kings of the earth in courage and loyalty. Such is my opinion, monsieur; and I thank heaven I have known M. d’Artagnan from my birth.”

De Wardes was about to reply, when De Guiche interrupted him.