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Ten Years Later

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Chapter X. The Tents.


The admiral, as we have seen, was determined to pay no further attention to Buckingham’s threatening glances and fits of passion. In fact, from the moment they quitted England, he had gradually accustomed himself to his behavior. De Guiche had not yet in any way remarked the animosity which appeared to influence that young nobleman against him, but he felt, instinctively, that there could be no sympathy between himself and the favorite of Charles II. The queen-mother, with greater experience and calmer judgment, perceived the exact position of affairs, and, as she discerned its danger, was prepared to meet it, whenever the proper moment should arrive. Quiet had been everywhere restored, except in Buckingham’s heart; he, in his impatience, addressed himself to the princess, in a low tone of voice: “For Heaven’s sake, madame, I implore you to hasten your disembarkation. Do you not perceive how that insolent Duke of Norfolk is killing me with his attentions and devotions to you?”

Henrietta heard this remark; she smiled, and without turning her head towards him, but giving only to the tone of her voice that inflection of gentle reproach, and languid impertinence, which women and princesses so well know how to assume, she murmured, “I have already hinted, my lord, that you must have taken leave of your senses.”

Not a single detail escaped Raoul’s attention; he heard both Buckingham’s entreaty and the princess’s reply; he remarked Buckingham retire, heard his deep sigh, and saw him pass a hand over his face. He understood everything, and trembled as he reflected on the position of affairs, and the state of the minds of those about him. At last the admiral, with studied delay, gave the last orders for the departure of the boats. Buckingham heard the directions given with such an exhibition of delight that a stranger would really imagine the young man’s reason was affected. As the Duke of Norfolk gave his commands, a large boat or barge, decked with flags, and capable of holding about twenty rowers and fifteen passengers, was slowly lowered from the side of the admiral’s vessel. The barge was carpeted with velvet and decorated with coverings embroidered with the arms of England, and with garlands of flowers; for, at that time, ornamentation was by no means forgotten in these political pageants. No sooner was this really royal boat afloat, and the rowers with oars uplifted, awaiting, like soldiers presenting arms, the embarkation of the princess, than Buckingham ran forward to the ladder in order to take his place. His progress was, however, arrested by the queen. “My lord,” she said, “it is hardly becoming that you should allow my daughter and myself to land without having previously ascertained that our apartments are properly prepared. I beg your lordship to be good enough to precede us ashore, and to give directions that everything be in proper order on our arrival.”

This was a fresh disappointment for the duke, and, still more so, since it was so unexpected. He hesitated, colored violently, but could not reply. He had thought he might be able to keep near Madame during the passage to the shore, and, by this means, to enjoy to the very last moment the brief period fortune still reserved for him. The order, however, was explicit; and the admiral, who heard it given, immediately called out, “Launch the ship’s gig.” His directions were executed with that celerity which distinguishes every maneuver on board a man-of-war.

Buckingham, in utter hopelessness, cast a look of despair at the princess, of supplication towards the queen, and directed a glance full of anger towards the admiral. The princess pretended not to notice him, while the queen turned aside her head, and the admiral laughed outright, at the sound of which Buckingham seemed ready to spring upon him. The queen-mother rose, and with a tone of authority said, “Pray set off, sir.”

The young duke hesitated, looked around him, and with a last effort, half-choked by contending emotions, said, “And you, gentlemen, M. de Guiche and M. de Bragelonne, do not you accompany me?”

De Guiche bowed and said, “Both M. de Bragelonne and myself await her majesty’s orders; whatever the commands she imposes on us, we shall obey them.” Saying this, he looked towards the princess, who cast down her eyes.

“Your grace will remember,” said the queen, “that M. de Guiche is here to represent Monsieur; it is he who will do the honors of France, as you have done those of England; his presence cannot be dispensed with; besides, we owe him this slight favor for the courage he displayed in venturing to seek us in such a terrible stress of weather.”

Buckingham opened his lips, as if he were about to speak, but, whether thoughts or expressions failed him, not a syllable escaped them, and turning away, as though out of his mind, he leapt from the vessel into the boat. The sailors were just in time to catch hold of him to steady themselves; for his weight and the rebound had almost upset the boat.

“His grace cannot be in his senses,” said the admiral aloud to Raoul.

“I am uneasy on the Duke’s account,” replied Bragelonne.

While the boat was advancing towards the shore, the duke kept his eyes immovably fixed on the admiral’s ship, like a miser torn away from his coffers, or a mother separated from her child, about to be lead away to death. No one, however, acknowledged his signals, his frowns, or his pitiful gestures. In very anguish of mind, he sank down in the boat, burying his hands in his hair, whilst the boat, impelled by the exertions of the merry sailors, flew over the waves. On his arrival he was in such a state of apathy, that, had he not been received at the harbor by the messenger whom he had directed to precede him, he would hardly have had strength to ask his way. Having once, however, reached the house which had been set apart for him, he shut himself up, like Achilles in his tent. The barge bearing the princess quitted the admiral’s vessel at the very moment Buckingham landed. It was followed by another boat filled with officers, courtiers, and zealous friends. Great numbers of the inhabitants of Le Havre, having embarked in fishing-cobles and boats of every description, set off to meet the royal barge. The cannon from the forts fired salutes, which were returned by the flagship and the two other vessels, and the flashes from the open mouths of the cannon floated in white fumes over the waves, and disappeared in the clear blue sky.

The princess landed at the decorated quay. Bands of gay music greeted her arrival, and accompanied her every step she took. During the time she was passing through the center of town, and treading beneath her delicate feet the richest carpets and the gayest flowers, which had been strewn upon the ground, De Guiche and Raoul, escaping from their English friends, hurried through the town and hastened rapidly towards the place intended for the residence of Madame.

“Let us hurry forward,” said Raoul to De Guiche, “for if I read Buckingham’s character aright, he will create some disturbance, when he learns the result of our deliberations of yesterday.”

“Never fear,” said De Guiche, “De Wardes is there, who is determination itself, while Manicamp is the very personification of the artless gentleness.”

De Guiche was not, however, the less diligent on that account, and five minutes afterwards they were within sight of the Hotel de Ville. The first thing which struck them was the number of people assembled in the square. “Excellent,” said De Guiche; “our apartments, I see, are prepared.”

In fact, in front of the Hotel de Ville, upon the wide open space before it, eight tents had been raised, surmounted by the flags of France and England united. The hotel was surrounded by tents, as by a girdle of variegated colors; ten pages and a dozen mounted troopers, for an escort, mounted guard before the tents. It had a singularly curious effect, almost fairy-like in its appearance. These tents had been constructed during the night-time. Fitted up, within and without, with the richest materials that De Guiche had been able to procure in Le Havre, they completely encircled the Hotel de Ville. The only passage which led to the steps of the hotel, and which was not inclosed by the silken barricade, was guarded by two tents, resembling two pavilions, the doorways of both of which opened towards the entrance. These two tents were destined for De Guiche and Raoul; in whose absence they were intended to be occupied, that of De Guiche by De Wardes, and that of Raoul by Manicamp. Surrounding these two tents, and the six others, a hundred officers, gentlemen, and pages, dazzling in their display of silk and gold, thronged like bees buzzing about a hive. Every one of them, their swords by their sides, was ready to obey the slightest sign either of De Guiche or Bragelonne, the leaders of the embassy.

At the very moment the two young men appeared at the end of one of the streets leading to the square, they perceived, crossing the square at full gallop, a young man on horseback, whose costume was of surprising richness. He pushed hastily thorough the crowd of curious lookers-on, and, at the sight of these unexpected erections, uttered a cry of anger and dismay. It was Buckingham, who had awakened from his stupor, in order to adorn himself with a costume perfectly dazzling from its beauty, and to await the arrival of the princess and the queen-mother at the Hotel de Ville. At the entrance to the tents, the soldiers barred his passage, and his further progress was arrested. Buckingham, hopelessly infuriated, raised his whip; but his arm was seized by a couple of officers. Of the two guardians of the tent, only one was there. De Wardes was in the interior of the Hotel de Ville, engaging in attending to the execution of some orders by De Guiche. At the noise made by Buckingham, Manicamp, who was indolently reclining upon the cushions at the doorway of one of the tents, rose with his usual indifference, and, perceiving that the disturbance continued, made his appearance from underneath the curtains. “What is the matter?” he said, in a gentle tone of voice, “and who is making this disturbance?”

It so happened, that, at the moment he began to speak, silence had just been restored, and, although his voice was very soft and gentle in its touch, every one heard his question. Buckingham turned round, and looked at the tall thin figure, and the listless expression of countenance of his questioner. Probably the personal appearance of Manicamp, who was dressed very plainly, did not inspire him with much respect, for he replied disdainfully, “Who may you be, monsieur?”

Manicamp, leaning on the arm of a gigantic trooper, as firm as the pillar of a cathedral, replied in his usual tranquil tone of voice,—“And you, monsieur?”

“I, monsieur, am the Duke of Buckingham; I have hired all the houses which surround the Hotel de Ville, where I have business to transact; and as these houses are let, they belong to me, and, as I hired them in order to preserve the right of free access to the Hotel de Ville, you are not justified in preventing me passing to it.”

“But who prevents you passing, monsieur?” inquired Manicamp.

“Your sentinels.”

“Because you wish to pass on horseback, and orders have been given to let only persons on foot pass.”

“No one has any right to give orders here, except myself,” said Buckingham.

“On what grounds?” inquired Manicamp, with his soft tone. “Will you do me the favor to explain this enigma to me?”

“Because, as I have already told you, I have hired all the houses looking on the square.”

“We are very well aware of that, since nothing but the square itself has been left for us.”

“You are mistaken, monsieur; the square belongs to me, as well as the houses in it.”

“Forgive me, monsieur, but you are mistaken there. In our country, we say, the highway belongs to the king, therefore this square is his majesty’s; and, consequently, as we are the king’s ambassadors, the square belongs to us.”

“I have already asked you who you are, monsieur,” exclaimed Buckingham, exasperated at the coolness of his interlocutor.

“My name is Manicamp,” replied the young man, in a voice whose tones were as harmonious and sweet as the notes of an Aeolian harp.

Buckingham shrugged his shoulders contemptuously, and said, “When I hired these houses which surround the Hotel de Ville, the square was unoccupied; these barracks obstruct my sight; I hereby order them to be removed.”

A hoarse and angry murmur ran through the crowd of listeners at these words. De Guiche arrived at this moment; he pushed through the crowd which separated him from Buckingham, and, followed by Raoul, arrived on the scene of action from one side, just as De Wardes came up from the other. “Pardon me, my lord; but if you have any complaint to make, have the goodness to address it to me, inasmuch as it was I who supplied the plans for the construction of these tents.”

“Moreover, I would beg you to observe, monsieur, that the term ‘barrack’ is a highly objectionable one!” added Manicamp, graciously.

“You were saying, monsieur—” continued De Guiche.

“I was saying, monsieur le comte,” resumed Buckingham, in a tone of anger more marked than ever, although in some measure moderated by the presence of an equal, “I was saying that it is impossible these tents can remain where they are.”

“Impossible!” exclaimed De Guiche, “and why?”

“Because I object to them.”

A movement of impatience escaped De Guiche, but a warning glance from Raoul restrained him.

“You should the less object to them, monsieur, on account of the abuse of priority you have permitted yourself to exercise.”

“Abuse!”

“Most assuredly. You commission a messenger, who hires in your name the whole of the town of Le Havre, without considering the members of the French court, who would be sure to arrive here to meet Madame. Your Grace will admit that this is hardly friendly conduct in the representative of a friendly nation.”

“The right of possession belongs to him who is first on the ground.”

“Not in France, monsieur.”

“Why not in France?”

“Because France is a country where politeness is observed.”

“Which means?” exclaimed Buckingham, in so violent a manner that those who were present drew back, expecting an immediate collision.

“Which means, monsieur,” replied De Guiche, now rather pale, “that I caused these tents to be raised as habitations for myself and my friends, as a shelter for the ambassadors of France, as the only place of refuge which your exactions have left us in the town; and that I and those who are with me, shall remain in them, at least, until an authority more powerful, and more supreme, than your own shall dismiss me from them.”

“In other words, until we are ejected, as the lawyers say,” observed Manicamp, blandly.

“I know an authority, monsieur, which I trust is such as you will respect,” said Buckingham, placing his hand on his sword.

At this moment, and as the goddess of Discord, inflaming all minds, was about to direct their swords against each other, Raoul gently placed his hand on Buckingham’s shoulder. “One word, my lord,” he said.

“My right, my right, first of all,” exclaimed the fiery young man.

“It is precisely upon that point I wish to have the honor of addressing a word to you.”

“Very well, monsieur, but let your remarks be brief.”

“One question is all I ask; you can hardly expect me to be briefer.”

“Speak, monsieur, I am listening.”

“Are you, or is the Duke of Orleans, going to marry the granddaughter of Henry IV.?”

“What do you mean?” exclaimed Buckingham, retreating a few steps, bewildered.

“Have the goodness to answer me,” persisted Raoul tranquilly.

“Do you mean to ridicule me, monsieur?” inquired Buckingham.

“Your question is a sufficient answer for me. You admit, then, that it is not you who are going to marry the princess?”

“You know it perfectly well, monsieur, I should imagine.”

“I beg your pardon, but your conduct has been such as to leave it not altogether certain.”

“Proceed, monsieur, what do you mean to convey?”

Raoul approached the duke. “Are you aware, my lord,” he said, lowering his voice, “that your extravagances very much resemble the excesses of jealousy? These jealous fits, with respect to any woman, are not becoming in one who is neither her lover nor her husband; and I am sure you will admit that my remark applies with still greater force, when the lady in question is a princess of the blood royal!”

“Monsieur,” exclaimed Buckingham, “do you mean to insult Madame Henrietta?”

“Be careful, my lord,” replied Bragelonne, coldly, “for it is you who insult her. A little while since, when on board the admiral’s ship, you wearied the queen, and exhausted the admiral’s patience. I was observing, my lord; and, at first, I concluded you were not in possession of your senses, but I have since surmised the real significance of your madness.”

“Monsieur!” exclaimed Buckingham.

“One moment more, for I have yet another word to add. I trust I am the only one of my companions who has guessed it.”

“Are you aware, monsieur,” said Buckingham, trembling with mingled feelings of anger and uneasiness, “are you aware that you are holding language towards me which requires to be checked?”

“Weigh your words well, my lord,” said Raoul, haughtily; “my nature is not such that its vivacities need checking; whilst you, on the contrary, are descended from a race whose passions are suspected by all true Frenchmen; I repeat, therefore, for the second time, be careful!”

“Careful of what, may I ask? Do you presume to threaten me?”

“I am the son of the Comte de la Fere, my lord, and I never threaten, because I strike first. Therefore, understand me well, the threat that I hold out to you is this—”

Buckingham clenched his hands, but Raoul continued, as though he had not observed the gesture. “At the very first word, beyond the respect and deference due to her royal highness, which you permit yourself to use towards her,—be patient my lord, for I am perfectly so.”

“You?”

“Undoubtedly. So long as Madame remained on English territory, I held my peace; but from the very moment she stepped on French ground, and now that we have received her in the name of the prince, I warn you, that at the first mark of disrespect which you, in your insane attachment, exhibit towards the royal house of France, I shall have one of two courses to follow;—either I declare, in the presence of every one, the madness with which you are now affected, and I get you ignominiously ordered back to England; or if you prefer it, I will run my dagger through your throat in the presence of all here. This second alternative seems to me the least disagreeable, and I think I shall hold to it.”

Buckingham had become paler than the lace collar around his neck. “M. de Bragelonne,” he said, “is it, indeed, a gentleman who is speaking to me?”

“Yes; only the gentleman is speaking to a madman. Get cured, my lord, and he will hold quite another language to you.”

“But, M. de Bragelonne,” murmured the duke, in a voice, half-choked, and putting his hand to his neck,—“Do you not see I am choking?”

“If your death were to take place at this moment, my lord,” replied Raoul, with unruffled composure, “I should, indeed, regard it as a great happiness, for this circumstance would prevent all kinds of evil remarks; not alone about yourself, but also about those illustrious persons whom your devotion is compromising in so absurd a manner.”

“You are right, you are right,” said the young man, almost beside himself. “Yes, yes; better to die, than to suffer as I do at this moment.” And he grasped a beautiful dagger, the handle of which was inlaid with precious stones; and which he half drew from his breast.

Raoul thrust his hand aside. “Be careful what you do,” he said; “if you do not kill yourself, you commit a ridiculous action; and if you were to kill yourself, you sprinkle blood upon the nuptial robe of the princess of England.”

Buckingham remained a minute gasping for breath; during this interval, his lips quivered, his fingers worked convulsively, and his eyes wandered, as though in delirium. Then suddenly, he said, “M. de Bragelonne, I know nowhere a nobler mind than yours; you are, indeed, a worthy son of the most perfect gentleman that ever lived. Keep your tents.” And he threw his arms round Raoul’s neck. All who were present, astounded at this conduct, which was the very reverse of what was expected, considering the violence of the one adversary and the determination of the other, began immediately to clap their hands, and a thousand cheers and joyful shouts arose from all sides. De Guiche, in his turn, embraced Buckingham somewhat against his inclination; but, at all events, he did embrace him. This was the signal for French and English to do the same; and they who, until that moment, had looked at each other with restless uncertainty, fraternized on the spot. In the meantime, the procession of the princess arrived, and had it not been for Bragelonne, two armies would have been engaged together in conflict, and blood would have been shed upon the flowers with which the ground was covered. At the appearance, however, of the banners borne at the head of the procession, complete order was restored.






Chapter XI. Night.


Concord returned to its place amidst the tents. English and French rivaled each other in their devotion and courteous attention to the illustrious travelers. The English forwarded to the French baskets of flowers, of which they had made a plentiful provision to greet the arrival of the young princess; the French in return invited the English to a supper, which was to be given the next day. Congratulations were poured in upon the princess everywhere during her journey. From the respect paid her on all sides, she seemed like a queen; and from the adoration with which she was treated by two or three; she appeared an object of worship. The queen-mother gave the French the most affectionate reception. France was her native country, and she had suffered too much unhappiness in England for England to have made her forget France. She taught her daughter, then, by her own affection for it, that love for a country where they had both been hospitably received, and where a brilliant future opened before them. After the public entry was over, and the spectators in the streets had partially dispersed, and the sound of the music and cheering of the crowd could be heard only in the distance; when the night had closed in, wrapping with its star-covered mantle the sea, the harbor, the town, and surrounding country, De Guiche, still excited by the great events of the day, returned to his tent, and seated himself upon one of the stools with so profound an expression of distress that Bragelonne kept his eyes fixed upon him, until he heard him sigh, and then he approached him. The count had thrown himself back on his seat, leaning his shoulders against the partition of the tent, and remained thus, his face buried in his hands, with heaving chest and restless limbs.

“You are suffering?” asked Raoul.

“Cruelly.”

“Bodily, I suppose?”

“Yes; bodily.”

“This has indeed been a harassing day,” continued the young man, his eyes fixed upon his friend.

“Yes; a night’s rest will probably restore me.”

“Shall I leave you?”

“No; I wish to talk to you.”

“You shall not speak to me, Guiche, until you have first answered my questions.”

“Proceed then.”

“You will be frank with me?”

“I always am.”

“Can you imagine why Buckingham has been so violent?”

“I suspect.”

“Because he is in love with Madame, is it not?”

“One could almost swear to it, to observe him.”

“You are mistaken; there is nothing of the kind.”

“It is you who are mistaken, Raoul; I have read his distress in his eyes, in his every gesture and action the whole day.”

“You are a poet, my dear count, and find subjects for your muse everywhere.”

“I can perceive love clearly enough.”

“Where it does not exist?”

“Nay, where it does exist.”

“Do you not think you are deceiving yourself, Guiche?”

“I am convinced of what I say,” said the count.

“Now, inform me, count,” said Raoul, fixing a penetrating look upon him, “what happened to render you so clear-sighted.”

Guiche hesitated for a moment, and then answered, “Self-love, I suppose.”

“Self-love is a pedantic word, Guiche.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that, generally, you are less out of spirits than seems to be the case this evening.”

“I am fatigued.”

“Listen to me, Guiche; we have been campaigners together; we have been on horseback for eighteen hours at a time, and our horses dying from exhaustion, or hunger, have fallen beneath us, and yet we have laughed at our mishaps. Believe me, it is not fatigue that saddens you to-night.”

“It is annoyance, then.”

“What annoyance?”

“That of this evening.”

“The mad conduct of the Duke of Buckingham, do you mean?”

“Of course; is it not vexations for us, the representatives of our sovereign master, to witness the devotion of an Englishman to our future mistress, the second lady in point of rank in the kingdom?”

“Yes, you are right; but I do not think any danger is to be apprehended from Buckingham.”

“No; still he is intrusive. Did he not, on his arrival here, almost succeed in creating a disturbance between the English and ourselves; and, had it not been for you, for your admirable presence, for your singular decision of character, swords would have been drawn in the very streets of the town.”

“You observe, however, that he has changed his tactics.”

“Yes, certainly; but this is the very thing that amazes me so much. You spoke to him in a low tone of voice, what did you say to him? You think he loves her; you admit that such a passion does not give way readily. He does not love her, then!” De Guiche pronounced the latter with so marked an expression that Raoul raised his head. The noble character of the young man’s countenance expressed a displeasure which could easily be read.

“What I said to him, count,” replied Raoul, “I will repeat to you. Listen to me. I said, ‘You are regarding with wistful feelings, and most injurious desire, the sister of your prince,—her to whom you are not affianced, who is not, who can never be anything to you; you are outraging those who, like ourselves, have come to seek a young lady to escort her to her husband.’”

“You spoke to him in that manner?” asked Guiche, coloring.

“In those very terms; I even added more. ‘How would you regard us,’ I said, ‘if you were to perceive among us a man mad enough, disloyal enough, to entertain other than sentiments of the most perfect respect for a princess who is the destined wife of our master?’”

These words were so applicable to De Guiche that he turned pale, and, overcome by a sudden agitation, was barely able to stretch out one hand mechanically towards Raoul, as he covered his eyes and face with the other.

“But,” continued Raoul, not interrupted by this movement of his friend, “Heaven be praised, the French, who are pronounced to be thoughtless and indiscreet, reckless, even, are capable of bringing a calm and sound judgment to bear on matters of such high importance. I added even more, for I said, ‘Learn, my lord, that we gentlemen of France devote ourselves to our sovereigns by sacrificing them our affections, as well as our fortunes and our lives; and whenever it may chance to happen that the tempter suggests one of those vile thoughts that set the heart on fire, we extinguish the flame, even if it has to be done by shedding our blood for the purpose. Thus it is that the honor of three is saved: our country’s, our master’s, and our own. It is thus that we act, your Grace; it is thus that every man of honor ought to act.’ In this manner, my dear Guiche,” continued Bragelonne, “I addressed the Duke of Buckingham; and he admitted I was right, and resigned himself unresistingly to my arguments.”

De Guiche, who had hitherto sat leaning forward while Raoul was speaking, drew himself up, his eyes glancing proudly; he seized Raoul’s hand, his face, which had been as cold as ice, seemed on fire. “And you spoke magnificently,” he said, in a half-choked voice; “you are indeed a friend, Raoul. But now, I entreat you, leave me to myself.”

“Do you wish it?”

“Yes; I need repose. Many things have agitated me to-day, both in mind and body; when you return to-morrow I shall no longer be the same man.”

“I leave you, then,” said Raoul, as he withdrew. The count advanced a step towards his friend, and pressed him warmly in his arms. But in this friendly pressure Raoul could detect the nervous agitation of a great internal conflict.

The night was clear, starlit, and splendid; the tempest had passed away, and the sweet influences of the evening had restored life, peace and security everywhere. A few fleecy clouds were floating in the heavens, and indicated from their appearance a continuance of beautiful weather, tempered by a gentle breeze from the east. Upon the large square in front of the hotel, the shadows of the tents, intersected by the golden moonbeams, formed as it were a huge mosaic of jet and yellow flagstones. Soon, however, the entire town was wrapped in slumber; a feeble light still glimmered in Madame’s apartment, which looked out upon the square, and the soft rays from the expiring lamp seemed to be the image of the calm sleep of a young girl, hardly yet sensible of life’s anxieties, and in whom the flame of existence sinks placidly as sleep steals over the body.

Bragelonne quitted the tent with the slow and measured step of a man curious to observe, but anxious not to be seen. Sheltered behind the thick curtains of his own tent, embracing with a glance the whole square, he noticed that, after a few moments’ pause, the curtains of De Guiche’s tent were agitated, and then drawn partially aside. Behind them he could perceive the shadow of De Guiche, his eyes, glittering in the obscurity, fastened ardently upon the princess’s sitting apartment, which was partially lighted by the lamp in the inner room. The soft light which illumined the windows was the count’s star. The fervent aspirations of his nature could be read in his eyes. Raoul, concealed in the shadow, divined the many passionate thoughts that established, between the tent of the young ambassador and the balcony of the princess, a mysterious and magical bond of sympathy—a bond created by thoughts imprinted with so much strength and persistence of will, that they must have caused happy and loving dreams to alight upon the perfumed couch, which the count, with the eyes of his soul, devoured so eagerly.

But De Guiche and Raoul were not the only watchers. The window of one of the houses looking on the square was opened too, the casement of the house where Buckingham resided. By the aid of the rays of light which issued from this latter, the profile of the duke could be distinctly seen, as he indolently reclined upon the carved balcony with its velvet hangings; he also was breathing in the direction of the princess’s apartment his prayers and the wild visions of his love.

Raoul could not resist smiling, as thinking of Madame, he said to himself, “Hers is, indeed, a heart well besieged;” and then added, compassionately, as he thought of Monsieur, “and he is a husband well threatened too; it is a good thing for him that he is a prince of such high rank, that he has an army to safeguard for him that which is his own.” Bragelonne watched for some time the conduct of the two lovers, listened to the loud and uncivil slumbers of Manicamp, who snored as imperiously as though he was wearing his blue and gold, instead of his violet suit.

Then he turned towards the night breeze which bore towards him, he seemed to think, the distant song of the nightingale; and, after having laid in a due provision of melancholy, another nocturnal malady, he retired to rest thinking, with regard to his own love affair, that perhaps four or even a larger number of eyes, quite as ardent as those of De Guiche and Buckingham, were coveting his own idol in the chateau at Blois. “And Mademoiselle de Montalais is by no means a very conscientious garrison,” said he to himself, sighing aloud.






Chapter XII. From Le Havre to Paris.


The next day the fetes took place, accompanied by all the pomp and animation that the resources of the town and the cheerful disposition of men’s minds could supply. During the last few hours spent in Le Havre, every preparation for the departure had been made. After Madame had taken leave of the English fleet, and, once again, had saluted the country in saluting its flags, she entered her carriage, surrounded by a brilliant escort. De Guiche had hoped that the Duke of Buckingham would accompany the admiral to England; but Buckingham succeeded in demonstrating to the queen that there would be great impropriety in allowing Madame to proceed to Paris, almost unprotected. As soon as it had been settled that Buckingham was to accompany Madame, the young duke selected a corps of gentlemen and officers to form part of his own suite, so that it was almost an army that now set out towards Paris, scattering gold, and exciting the liveliest demonstrations as they passed through the different towns and villages on the route. The weather was very fine. France is a beautiful country, especially along the route by which the procession passed. Spring cast its flowers and its perfumed foliage on their path. Normandy, with its vast variety of vegetation, its blue skies and silver rivers, displayed itself in all the loveliness of a paradise to the new sister of the king. Fetes and brilliant displays received them everywhere along the line of march. De Guiche and Buckingham forgot everything; De Guiche in his anxiety to prevent any fresh attempts on the part of the duke, and Buckingham, in his desire to awaken in the heart of the princess a softer remembrance of the country to which the recollection of many happy days belonged. But, alas! the poor duke could perceive that the image of that country so cherished by himself became, from day to day, more and more effaced in Madame’s mind, in exact proportion as her affection for France became more deeply engraved on her heart. In fact, it was not difficult to perceive that his most devoted attention awakened no acknowledgement, and that the grace with which he rode one of his most fiery horses was thrown away, for it was only casually and by the merest accident that the princess’s eyes were turned towards him. In vain did he try, in order to fix upon himself one of those looks, which were thrown carelessly around, or bestowed elsewhere, to produce in the animal he rode its greatest display of strength, speed, temper and address; in vain did he, by exciting his horse almost to madness, spur him, at the risk of dashing himself in pieces against the trees, or of rolling in the ditches, over the gates and barriers which they passed, or down the steep declivities of the hills. Madame, whose attention had been aroused by the noise, turned her head for a moment to observe the cause of it, and then, slightly smiling, again entered into conversation with her faithful guardians, Raoul and De Guiche, who were quietly riding at her carriage doors. Buckingham felt himself a prey to all the tortures of jealousy; an unknown, unheard of anguish glided through his veins, and laid siege to his heart; and then, as if to show that he knew the folly of his conduct, and that he wished to correct, by the humblest submission, his flights of absurdity, he mastered his horse, and compelled him, reeking with sweat and flecked with foam, to champ his bit close beside the carriage, amidst the crowd of courtiers. Occasionally he obtained a word from Madame as a recompense, and yet her speech seemed almost a reproach.

“That is well, my lord,” she said, “now you are reasonable.”

Or from Raoul, “Your Grace is killing your horse.”

Buckingham listened patiently to Raoul’s remarks, for he instinctively felt, without having had any proof that such was the case, that Raoul checked the display of De Guiche’s feelings, and that, had it not been for Raoul, some mad act or proceeding, either of the count, or of Buckingham himself, would have brought about an open rupture, or a disturbance—perhaps even exile itself. From the moment of that excited conversation the two young men had held in front of the tents at Le Havre, when Raoul made the duke perceive the impropriety of his conduct, Buckingham felt himself attracted towards Raoul almost in spite of himself. He often entered into conversation with him, and it was nearly always to talk to him either of his father or of D’Artagnan, their mutual friend, in whose praise Buckingham was nearly as enthusiastic as Raoul. Raoul endeavored, as much as possible, to make the conversation turn upon this subject in De Wardes’s presence, who had, during the whole journey, been exceedingly annoyed at the superior position taken by Bragelonne, and especially by his influence over De Guiche. De Wardes had that keen and merciless penetration most evil natures possess; he had immediately remarked De Guiche’s melancholy, and divined the nature of his regard for the princess. Instead, however, of treating the subject with the same reserve which Raoul practiced; instead of regarding with that respect, which was their due, the obligations and duties of society, De Wardes resolutely attacked in the count the ever-sounding chord of juvenile audacity and pride. It happened one evening, during a halt at Mantes, that while De Guiche and De Wardes were leaning against a barrier, engaged in conversation, Buckingham and Raoul were also talking together as they walked up and down. Manicamp was engaged in devoted attendance on the princess, who already treated him without reserve, on account of his versatile fancy, his frank courtesy of manner, and conciliatory disposition.

“Confess,” said De Wardes, “that you are really ill, and that your pedagogue of a friend has not succeeded in curing you.”

“I do not understand you,” said the count.

“And yet it is easy enough; you are dying of love.”

“You are mad, De Wardes.”

“Madness it would be, I admit, if Madame were really indifferent to your martyrdom; but she takes so much notice of it, observes it to such an extent, that she compromises herself, and I tremble lest, on our arrival at Paris, M. de Bragelonne may not denounce both of you.”

“For shame, De Wardes, again attacking De Bragelonne.”

“Come, come, a truce to child’s play,” replied the count’s evil genius, in an undertone; “you know as well as I do what I mean. Besides, you must have observed how the princess’s glance softens as she looks at you;—you can tell, by the very inflection of her voice, what pleasure she takes in listening to you, and can feel how thoroughly she appreciates the verses you recite to her. You cannot deny, too, that every morning she tells you how indifferently she slept the previous night.”

“True, De Wardes, quite true; but what good is there in your telling me all that?”

“Is it not important to know the exact position of affairs?”

“No, no; not when I am a witness of things that are enough to drive one mad.”

“Stay, stay,” said De Wardes; “look, she calls you,—do you understand? Profit by the occasion, while your pedagogue is absent.”

De Guiche could not resist; an invincible attraction drew him towards the princess. De Wardes smiled as he saw him withdraw.

“You are mistaken, monsieur,” said Raoul, suddenly stepping across the barrier against which the previous moment the two friends had been leaning. “The pedagogue is here, and has overheard you.”

De Wardes, at the sound of Raoul’s voice, which he recognized without having occasion to look at him, half drew his sword.

“Put up your sword,” said Raoul; “you know perfectly well that, until our journey is at an end, every demonstration of that nature is useless. Why do you distill into the heart of the man you term your friend all the bitterness that infects your own? As regards myself, you wish to arouse a feeling of deep dislike against a man of honor—my father’s friend and my own; and as for the count you wish him to love one who is destined for your master. Really, monsieur, I should regard you as a coward, and a traitor too, if I did not, with greater justice, regard you as a madman.”

“Monsieur,” exclaimed De Wardes, exasperated, “I was deceived, I find, in terming you a pedagogue. The tone you assume, and the style which is peculiarly your own, is that of a Jesuit, and not of a gentleman. Discontinue, I beg, whenever I am present, this style I complain of, and the tone also. I hate M. d’Artagnan, because he was guilty of a cowardly act towards my father.”

“You lie, monsieur,” said Raoul, coolly.

“You give me the lie, monsieur?” exclaimed De Wardes.

“Why not, if what you assert is untrue?”

“You give me the lie, and will not draw your sword?”

“I have resolved, monsieur, not to kill you until Madame shall have been delivered safely into her husband’s hands.”

“Kill me! Believe me, monsieur, your schoolmaster’s rod does not kill so easily.”

“No,” replied Raoul, sternly, “but M. d’Artagnan’s sword kills; and, not only do I possess his sword, but he has himself taught me how to use it; and with that sword, when a befitting time arrives, I will avenge his name—a name you have dishonored.”

“Take care, monsieur,” exclaimed De Wardes; “if you do not immediately give me satisfaction, I will avail myself of every means to revenge myself.”

“Indeed, monsieur,” said Buckingham, suddenly, appearing upon the scene of action, “that is a threat which savors of assassination, and therefore, ill becomes a gentleman.”

“What did you say, my lord?” said De Wardes, turning round towards him.

“I said, monsieur, that the words you have just spoken are displeasing to my English ears.”

“Very well, monsieur, if what you say is true,” exclaimed De Wardes, thoroughly incensed, “I at least find in you one who will not escape me. Understand my words as you like.”

“I take them in the manner they cannot but be understood,” replied Buckingham, with that haughty tone which characterized him, and which, even in ordinary conversation, gave a tone of defiance to everything he said; “M. de Bragelonne is my friend, you insult M. de Bragelonne, and you shall give me satisfaction for that insult.”

De Wardes cast a look upon De Bragelonne, who, faithful to the character he had assumed, remained calm and unmoved, even after the duke’s defiance.

“It would seem that I did not insult M. de Bragelonne, since M. de Bragelonne, who carries a sword by his side, does not consider himself insulted.”

“At all events you insult someone.”

“Yes, I insulted M. d’Artagnan,” resumed De Wardes, who had observed that this was the only means of stinging Raoul, so as to awaken his anger.

“That, then,” said Buckingham, “is another matter.”

“Precisely so,” said De Wardes; “it is the province of M. d’Artagnan’s friends to defend him.”

“I am entirely of your opinion,” replied the duke, who had regained all his indifference of manner; “if M. de Bragelonne were offended, I could not reasonably be expected to espouse his quarrel, since he is himself here; but when you say that it is a quarrel of M. d’Artagnan—”

“You will of course leave me to deal with the matter,” said De Wardes.

“Nay, on the contrary, for I draw my sword,” said Buckingham, unsheathing it as he spoke; “for if M. d’Artagnan injured your father, he rendered, or at least did all that he could to render, a great service to mine.”

De Wardes was thunderstruck.

“M. d’Artagnan,” continued Buckingham, “is the bravest gentleman I know. I shall be delighted, as I owe him many personal obligations, to settle them with you, by crossing my sword with yours.” At the same moment Buckingham drew his sword from its scabbard, saluted Raoul, and put himself on guard.

De Wardes advanced a step to meet him.

“Stay, gentlemen,” said Raoul, advancing towards them, and placing his own drawn sword between the combatants, “the affair is hardly worth the trouble of blood being shed almost in the presence of the princess. M. de Wardes speaks ill of M. d’Artagnan, with whom he is not even acquainted.”

“What, monsieur,” said De Wardes, setting his teeth hard together, and resting the point of his sword on the toe of his boot, “do you assert that I do not know M. d’Artagnan?”

“Certainly not; you do not know him,” replied Raoul, coldly, “and you are even not aware where he is to be found.”

“Not know where he is?”

“Such must be the case, since you fix your quarrel with him upon strangers, instead of seeking M. d’Artagnan where he is to be found.” De Wardes turned pale. “Well, monsieur,” continued Raoul, “I will tell you where M. d’Artagnan is: he is now in Paris; when on duty he is to be met with at the Louvre,—when not on duty, in the Rue des Lombards. M. d’Artagnan can easily be discovered at either of those two places. Having, therefore, as you assert, so many causes of complaint against him, show your courage in seeking him out, and afford him an opportunity of giving you that satisfaction you seem to ask of every one but of himself.” De Wardes passed his hand across his forehead, which was covered with perspiration. “For shame, M. de Wardes! so quarrelsome a disposition is hardly becoming after the publication of the edicts against duels. Pray think of that; the king will be incensed at our disobedience, particularly at such a time,—and his majesty will be in the right.”

“Excuses,” murmured De Wardes; “mere pretexts.”

“Really, M. De Wardes,” resumed Raoul, “such remarks are the idlest bluster. You know very well that the Duke of Buckingham is a man of undoubted courage, who has already fought ten duels, and will probably fight eleven. His name alone is significant enough. As far as I am concerned, you are well aware that I can fight also. I fought at Lens, at Bleneau, at the Dunes in front of the artillery, a hundred paces in front of the line, while you—I say this parenthetically—were a hundred paces behind it. True it is, that on that occasion there was far too great a concourse of persons present for your courage to be observed, and on that account perhaps you did not reveal it; while here, it would be a display, and would excite remark—you wish that others should talk about you, in what manner you do not care. Do not depend upon me, M. de Wardes to assist you in your designs, for I shall certainly not afford you that pleasure.”

“Sensibly observed,” said Buckingham, putting up his sword, “and I ask your forgiveness, M. de Bragelonne, for having allowed myself to yield to a first impulse.”

De Wardes, however, on the contrary, perfectly furious, bounded forward and raised his sword, threateningly, against Raoul, who had scarcely enough time to put himself in a posture of defense.

“Take care, monsieur,” said Bragelonne, tranquilly, “or you will put out one of my eyes.”

“You will not fight, then?” said De Wardes.

“Not at this moment; but this I promise to do; immediately on our arrival at Paris I will conduct you to M. d’Artagnan, to whom you shall detail all the causes of complaint you have against him. M d’Artagnan will solicit the king’s permission to measure swords with you. The king will yield his consent, and when you shall have received the sword-thrust in due course, you will consider, in a calmer frame of mind, the precepts of the Gospel, which enjoin forgetfulness of injuries.”

“Ah!” exclaimed De Wardes, furious at this imperturbable coolness, “one can clearly see you are half a bastard, M. de Bragelonne.”

Raoul became as pale as death; his eyes flashed lightning, causing De Wardes involuntarily to fall back. Buckingham, also, who had perceived their expression, threw himself between the two adversaries, whom he had expected to see precipitate themselves on each other. De Wardes had reserved this injury for the last; he clasped his sword firmly in his hand, and awaited the encounter. “You are right, monsieur,” said Raoul, mastering his emotion, “I am only acquainted with my father’s name; but I know too well that the Comte de la Fere is too upright and honorable a man to allow me to fear for a single moment that there is, as you insinuate, any stain upon my birth. My ignorance, therefore, of my mother’s name is a misfortune for me, and not a reproach. You are deficient in loyalty of conduct; you are wanting in courtesy, in reproaching me with misfortune. It matters little, however, the insult has been given, and I consider myself insulted accordingly. It is quite understood, then, that after you shall have received satisfaction from M. d’Artagnan, you will settle your quarrel with me.”

“I admire your prudence, monsieur,” replied De Wardes with a bitter smile; “a little while ago you promised me a sword-thrust from M. d’Artagnan, and now, after I shall have received his, you offer me one from yourself.”

“Do not disturb yourself,” replied Raoul, with concentrated anger; “in all affairs of that nature, M. d’Artagnan is exceedingly skillful, and I will beg him as a favor to treat you as he did your father; in other words, to spare your life at least, so as to leave me the pleasure, after your recovery, of killing you outright; for you have the heart of a viper, M. de Wardes, and in very truth, too many precautions cannot be taken against you.”

“I shall take my precautions against you,” said De Wardes, “be assured of it.”

“Allow me, monsieur,” said Buckingham, “to translate your remark by a piece of advice I am about to give M. de Bragelonne; M. de Bragelonne, wear a cuirass.”

De Wardes clenched his hands. “Ah!” said he, “you two gentlemen intend to wait until you have taken that precaution before you measure your swords against mine.”

“Very well, monsieur,” said Raoul, “since you positively will have it so, let us settle the affair now.” And, drawing his sword, he advanced towards De Wardes.

“What are you going to do?” said Buckingham.

“Be easy,” said Raoul, “it will not be very long.”

De Wardes placed himself on his guard; their swords crossed. De Wardes flew upon Raoul with such impetuosity, that at the first clashing of the steel blades Buckingham clearly saw that Raoul was only trifling with his adversary. Buckingham stepped aside, and watched the combat. Raoul was as calm as if he were handling a foil instead of a sword; having retreated a step, he parried three or four fierce thrusts which De Wardes made at him, caught the sword of the latter with within his own, and sent it flying twenty paces the other side of the barrier. Then as De Wardes stood disarmed and astounded at his defeat, Raoul sheathed his sword, seized him by the collar and the waist band, and hurled his adversary to the other end of the barrier, trembling, and mad with rage.

“We shall meet again,” murmured De Wardes, rising from the ground and picking up his sword.

“I have done nothing for the last hour,” said Raoul, rising from the ground, “but say the same thing.” Then, turning towards the duke, he said, “I entreat you to be silent about this affair; I am ashamed to have gone so far, but my anger carried me away, and I ask your forgiveness for it;—forget it, too.”

“Dear viscount,” said the duke, pressing with his own the vigorous and valiant hand of his companion, “allow me, on the contrary, to remember it, and to look after your safety; that man is dangerous,—he will kill you.”

“My father,” replied Raoul, “lived for twenty years under the menace of a much more formidable enemy, and he still lives.”

“Your father had good friends, viscount.”

“Yes,” sighed Raoul, “such friends, indeed, that none are now left like them.”

“Do not say that, I beg, at the very moment I offer you my friendship;” and Buckingham opened his arms to embrace Raoul, who delightedly received the proffered alliance. “In my family,” added Buckingham, “you are aware, M. de Bragelonne, we die to save our friends.”

“I know it well, duke,” replied Raoul.