Ten Years Later



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Chapter XIII. An Account of what the Chevalier de Lorraine Thought of Madame.

Nothing further interrupted the journey. Under a pretext that was little remarked, M. de Wardes went forward in advance of the others. He took Manicamp with him, for his equable and dreamy disposition acted as a counterpoise to his own. It is a subject of remark, that quarrelsome and restless characters invariably seek the companionship of gentle, timorous dispositions, as if the former sought, in the contrast, a repose for their own ill-humor, and the latter a protection for their weakness. Buckingham and Bragelonne, admitting De Guiche into their friendship, in concert with him, sang the praises of the princess during the whole of the journey. Bragelonne, had, however, insisted that their three voices should be in concert, instead of singing in solo parts, as De Guiche and his rival seemed to have acquired a dangerous habit of doing. This style of harmony pleased the queen-mother exceedingly, but it was not perhaps so agreeable to the young princess, who was an incarnation of coquetry, and who, without any fear as far as her own voice was concerned, sought opportunities of so perilously distinguishing herself. She possessed one of those fearless and incautious dispositions that find gratification in an excess of sensitiveness of feeling, and for whom, also, danger has a certain fascination. And so her glances, her smiles, her toilette, an inexhaustible armory of weapons of offense, were showered on the three young men with overwhelming force; and, from her well-stored arsenal issued glances, kindly recognitions, and a thousand other little charming attentions which were intended to strike at long range the gentlemen who formed the escort, the townspeople, the officers of the different cities she passed through, pages, populace, and servants; it was wholesale slaughter, a general devastation. By the time Madame arrived at Paris, she had reduced to slavery about a hundred thousand lovers: and brought in her train to Paris half a dozen men who were almost mad about her, and two who were, indeed, literally out of their minds. Raoul was the only person who divined the power of this woman’s attraction, and as his heart was already engaged, he arrived in the capital full of indifference and distrust. Occasionally during the journey he conversed with the queen of England respecting the power of fascination which Madame possessed, and the mother, whom so many misfortunes and deceptions had taught experience, replied: “Henrietta was sure to be illustrious in one way or another, whether born in a palace or born in obscurity; for she is a woman of great imagination, capricious and self-willed.” De Wardes and Manicamp, in their self-assumed character of courtiers, had announced the princess’s arrival. The procession was met at Nanterre by a brilliant escort of cavaliers and carriages. It was Monsieur himself, followed by the Chevalier de Lorraine and by his favorites, the latter being themselves followed by a portion of the king’s military household, who had arrived to meet his affianced bride. At St. Germain, the princess and her mother had changed their heavy traveling carriage, somewhat impaired by the journey, for a light, richly decorated chariot drawn by six horses with white and gold harness. Seated in this open carriage, as though upon a throne, and beneath a parasol of embroidered silk, fringed with feathers, sat the young and lovely princess, on whose beaming face were reflected the softened rose-tints which suited her delicate skin to perfection. Monsieur, on reaching the carriage, was struck by her beauty; he showed his admiration in so marked a manner that the Chevalier de Lorraine shrugged his shoulders as he listened to his compliments, while Buckingham and De Guiche were almost heart-broken. After the usual courtesies had been rendered, and the ceremony completed, the procession slowly resumed the road to Paris. The presentations had been carelessly made, and Buckingham, with the rest of the English gentlemen, had been introduced to Monsieur, from whom they had received but very indifferent attention. But, during their progress, as he observed that the duke devoted himself with his accustomed eagerness to the carriage-door, he asked the Chevalier de Lorraine, his inseparable companion, “Who is that cavalier?”

“He was presented to your highness a short while ago; it is the handsome Duke of Buckingham.”

“Ah, yes, I remember.”

“Madame’s knight,” added the favorite, with an inflection of the voice which envious minds can alone give to the simplest phrases.

“What do you say?” replied the prince.

“I said ‘Madame’s knight’.”

“Has she a recognized knight, then?”

“One would think you can judge of that for yourself; look, only, how they are laughing and flirting. All three of them.”

“What do you mean by all three?”

“Do you not see that De Guiche is one of the party?”

“Yes, I see. But what does that prove?”

“That Madame has two admirers instead of one.”

“You poison the simplest thing!”

“I poison nothing. Ah! your royal highness’s mind is perverted. The honors of the kingdom of France are being paid to your wife and you are not satisfied.”

The Duke of Orleans dreaded the satirical humor of the Chevalier de Lorraine whenever it reached a certain degree of bitterness, and he changed the conversation abruptly. “The princess is pretty,” said he, very negligently, as if he were speaking of a stranger.

“Yes,” replied the chevalier, in the same tone.

“You say ‘yes’ like a ‘no’. She has very beautiful black eyes.”

“Yes, but small.”

“That is so, but they are brilliant. She is tall, and of a good figure.”

“I fancy she stoops a little, my lord.”

“I do not deny it. She has a noble appearance.”

“Yes, but her face is thin.”

“I thought her teeth beautiful.”

“They can easily be seen, for her mouth is large enough. Decidedly, I was wrong, my lord; you are certainly handsomer than your wife.”

“But do you think me as handsome as Buckingham?”

“Certainly, and he thinks so, too; for look, my lord, he is redoubling his attentions to Madame to prevent your effacing the impression he has made.”

Monsieur made a movement of impatience, but as he noticed a smile of triumph pass across the chevalier’s lips, he drew up his horse to a foot-pace. “Why,” said he, “should I occupy myself any longer about my cousin? Do I not already know her? Were we not brought up together? Did I not see her at the Louvre when she was quite a child?”

“A great change has taken place in her since then, prince. At the period you allude to, she was somewhat less brilliant, and scarcely so proud, either. One evening, particularly, you may remember, my lord, the king refused to dance with her, because he thought her plain and badly dressed!”

These words made the Duke of Orleans frown. It was by no means flattering for him to marry a princess of whom, when young, the king had not thought much. He would probably have retorted, but at this moment De Guiche quitted the carriage to join the prince. He had remarked the prince and the chevalier together, and full of anxious attention he seemed to try and guess the nature of the remarks which they had just exchanged. The chevalier, whether he had some treacherous object in view, or from imprudence, did not take the trouble to dissimulate. “Count,” he said, “you’re a man of excellent taste.”

“Thank you for the compliment,” replied De Guiche; “but why do you say that?”

“Well I appeal to his highness.”

“No doubt of it,” said Monsieur; “and Guiche knows perfectly well that I regard him as a most finished cavalier.”

“Well, since that is decided, I resume. You have been in the princess’s society, count, for the last eight days, have you not?”

“Yes,” replied De Guiche, coloring in spite of himself.

“Well then, tell us frankly, what do you think of her personal appearance?”

“Of her personal appearance?” returned De Guiche, stupefied.

“Yes; of her appearance, of her mind, of herself, in fact.”

Astounded by this question, De Guiche hesitated answering.

“Come, come, De Guiche,” resumed the chevalier, laughingly, “tell us your opinion frankly; the prince commands it.”

“Yes, yes,” said the prince, “be frank.”

De Guiche stammered out a few unintelligible words.

“I am perfectly well aware,” returned Monsieur, “that the subject is a delicate one, but you know you can tell me everything. What do you think of her?”

In order to avoid betraying his real thoughts, De Guiche had recourse to the only defense which a man taken by surprise really has, and accordingly told an untruth. “I do not find Madame,” he said, “either good or bad looking, yet rather good than bad looking.”

“What! count,” exclaimed the chevalier, “you who went into such ecstasies and uttered so many exclamations at the sight of her portrait.”

De Guiche colored violently. Very fortunately, his horse, which was slightly restive, enabled him by a sudden plunge to conceal his agitation. “What portrait?” he murmured, joining them again. The chevalier had not taken his eyes off him.

“Yes, the portrait. Was not the miniature a good likeness?”

“I do not remember. I had forgotten the portrait; it quite escaped my recollection.”

“And yet it made a very marked impression upon you,” said the chevalier.

“That is not unlikely.”

“Is she witty, at all events?” inquired the duke.

“I believe so, my lord.”

“Is M. de Buckingham witty, too?” said the chevalier.

“I do not know.”

“My own opinion is that he must be,” replied the chevalier, “for he makes Madame laugh, and she seems to take no little pleasure in his society, which never happens to a clever woman when in the company of a simpleton.”

“Of course, then, he must be clever,” said De Guiche, simply.

At this moment Raoul opportunely arrived, seeing how De Guiche was pressed by his dangerous questioner, to whom he addressed a remark, and in that way changed the conversation. The entree was brilliant and joyous.

The king, in honor of his brother, had directed that the festivities should be on a scale of the greatest possible magnificence. Madame and her mother alighted at the Louvre, where, during their exile they had so gloomily submitted to obscurity, misery, and privations of every description. That palace, which had been so inhospitable a residence for the unhappy daughter of Henry IV., the naked walls, the uneven floorings, the ceilings matted with cobwebs, the vast dilapidated chimney-places, the cold hearths on which the charity extended to them by parliament hardly permitted a fire to glow, was completely altered in appearance. The richest hangings and the thickest carpets, glistening flagstones, and pictures, with their richly gilded frames; in every direction could be seen candelabra, mirrors, and furniture and fittings of the most sumptuous character; in every direction, also, were guards of the proudest military bearing, with floating plumes, crowds of attendants and courtiers in the ante-chambers and upon the staircases. In the courtyards, where the grass had formerly been allowed to luxuriate, as if the ungrateful Mazarin had thought it a good idea to let the Parisians perceive the solitude and disorder were, with misery and despair, the fit accompaniments of fallen monarchy; the immense courtyards, formerly silent and desolate, were now thronged with courtiers whose horses were pacing and prancing to and fro. The carriages were filled with young and beautiful women, who awaited the opportunity of saluting, as she passed, the daughter of that daughter of France who, during her widowhood and exile, had sometimes gone without wood for her fire, and bread for her table, whom the meanest attendant at the chateau had treated with indifference and contempt. And so, the Madame Henriette once more returned to the Louvre, with her heart more swollen with bitter recollections than her daughter’s, whose disposition was fickle and forgetful, with triumph and delight. She knew but too well this brilliant reception was paid to the happy mother of a king restored to his throne, a throne second to none in Europe, while the worse than indifferent reception she had before met with was paid to her, the daughter of Henry IV., as a punishment for having been unfortunate. After the princess had been installed in their apartments and had rested, the gentlemen who had formed their escort, having, in like manner, recovered from their fatigue, they resumed their accustomed habits and occupations. Raoul began by setting off to see his father, who had left for Blois. He then tried to see M. d’Artagnan, who, however, being engaged in the organization of a military household for the king, could not be found anywhere. Bragelonne next sought out De Guiche, but the count was occupied in a long conference with his tailors and with Manicamp, which consumed his whole time. With the Duke of Buckingham he fared still worse, for the duke was purchasing horses after horses, diamonds upon diamonds. He monopolized every embroiderer, jeweler, and tailor that Paris could boast of. Between De Guiche and himself a vigorous contest ensued, invariably a courteous one, in which, in order to insure success, the duke was ready to spend a million; while the Marechal de Gramont had only allowed his son sixty thousand francs. So Buckingham laughed and spent his money. Guiche groaned in despair, and would have shown it more violently, had it not been for the advice De Bragelonne gave him.

“A million!” repeated De Guiche daily; “I must submit. Why will not the marechal advance me a portion of my patrimony?”

“Because you would throw it away,” said Raoul.

“What can that matter to him? If I am to die of it, I shall die of it, and then I shall need nothing further.”

“But what need is there to die?” said Raoul.

“I do not wish to be conquered in elegance by an Englishman.”

“My dear count,” said Manicamp, “elegance is not a costly commodity, it is only a very difficult accomplishment.”

“Yes, but difficult things cost a good deal of money, and I have only got sixty thousand francs.”

“A very embarrassing state of things, truly,” said De Wardes; “even if you spent as much as Buckingham, there is only nine hundred and forty thousand francs difference.”

“Where am I to find them?”

“Get into debt.”

“I am in debt already.”

“A greater reason for getting further.”

Advice like this resulted in De Guiche becoming excited to such an extent that he committed extravagances where Buckingham only incurred expenses. The rumor of this extravagant profuseness delighted the hearts of all the shopkeepers in Paris; from the hotel of the Duke of Buckingham to that of the Comte de Gramont nothing but miracles was attempted. While all this was going on, Madame was resting herself, and Bragelonne was engaged in writing to Mademoiselle de la Valliere. He had already dispatched four letters, and not an answer to any one of them had been received, when, on the very morning fixed for the marriage ceremony, which was to take place in the chapel at the Palais Royal, Raoul, who was dressing, heard his valet announce M. de Malicorne. “What can this Malicorne want with me?” thought Raoul; and then said to his valet, “Let him wait.”

“It is a gentleman from Blois,” said the valet.

“Admit him at once,” said Raoul, eagerly.

Malicorne entered as brilliant as a star, and wearing a superb sword at his side. After having saluted Raoul most gracefully, he said: “M. de Bragelonne, I am the bearer of a thousand compliments from a lady to you.”

Raoul colored. “From a lady,” said he, “from a lady of Blois?”

“Yes, monsieur; from Mademoiselle de Montalais.”

“Thank you, monsieur; I recollect you now,” said Raoul. “And what does Mademoiselle de Montalais require of me.”

Malicorne drew four letters from his pocket, which he offered to Raoul.

“My own letters, is it possible?” he said, turning pale; “my letters, and the seals unbroken?”

“Monsieur, your letters did not find at Blois the person to whom they were addressed, and so they are now returned to you.”

“Mademoiselle de la Valliere has left Blois, then?” exclaimed Raoul.

“Eight days ago.”

“Where is she, then?”

“In Paris.”

“How is it known that these letters were from me?”

“Mademoiselle de Montalais recognized your handwriting and your seal,” said Malicorne.

Raoul colored and smiled. “Mademoiselle de Montalais is exceedingly amiable,” he said; “she is always kind and charming.”

“Always, monsieur.”

“Surely she could have given me some precise information about Mademoiselle de la Valliere. I never could find her in this immense city.”

Malicorne drew another packet from his pocket. “You may possibly find in this letter what you are anxious to learn.”

Raoul hurriedly broke the seal. The writing was that of Mademoiselle Aure, and inclosed were these words:—“Paris, Palais Royal. The day of the nuptial blessing.”

“What does this mean?” inquired Raoul of Malicorne; “you probably know?”

“I do, monsieur.”

“For pity’s sake, tell me, then.”

“Impossible, monsieur.”

“Why so?”

“Because Mademoiselle Aure has forbidden me to do so.”

Raoul looked at his strange visitor, and remained silent;—“At least, tell me whether it is fortunate or unfortunate.”

“That you will see.”

“You are very severe in your reservations.”

“Will you grant me one favor, monsieur?” said Malicorne.

“In exchange for that you refuse me?”


“What is it?”

“I have the greatest desire to see the ceremony, and I have no ticket to admit me, in spite of all the steps I have taken to secure one. Could you get me admitted?”


“Do me this kindness, then, I entreat.”

“Most willingly, monsieur; come with me.”

“I am exceedingly indebted to you, monsieur,” said Malicorne.

“I thought you were a friend of M. de Manicamp.”

“I am, monsieur; but this morning I was with him as he was dressing, and I let a bottle of blacking fall over his new dress, and he flew at me sword in hand, so that I was obliged to make my escape. That is the reason I could not ask him for a ticket. He wanted to kill me.”

“I can well believe it,” laughed Raoul. “I know Manicamp is capable of killing a man who has been unfortunate enough to commit the crime you have to reproach yourself with, but I will repair the mischief as far as you are concerned. I will but fasten my cloak, and shall then be ready to serve you, not only as a guide, but as your introducer, too.”

Chapter XIV. A Surprise for Raoul.

Madame’s marriage was celebrated in the chapel of the Palais Royal, in the presence of a crowd of courtiers, who had been most scrupulously selected. However, notwithstanding the marked favor which an invitation indicated, Raoul, faithful to his promise to Malicorne, who was so anxious to witness the ceremony, obtained admission for him. After he had fulfilled this engagement, Raoul approached De Guiche, who, as if in contrast with his magnificent costume, exhibited a countenance so utterly dejected, that the Duke of Buckingham was the only one present who could contend with him as far as pallor and discomfiture were concerned.

“Take care, count,” said Raoul, approaching his friend, and preparing to support him at the moment the archbishop blessed the married couple. In fact, the Prince of Conde was attentively scrutinizing these two images of desolation, standing like caryatides on either side of the nave of the church. The count, after that, kept a more careful watch over himself.

At the termination of the ceremony, the king and queen passed onward towards the grand reception-room, where Madame and her suite were to be presented to them. It was remarked that the king, who had seemed more than surprised at his sister-in-law’s appearance, was most flattering in his compliments to her. Again, it was remarked that the queen-mother, fixing a long and thoughtful gaze upon Buckingham, leaned towards Madame de Motteville as though to ask her, “Do you not see how much he resembles his father?” and finally it was remarked that Monsieur watched everybody, and seemed quite discontented. After the reception of the princess and ambassadors, Monsieur solicited the king’s permission to present to him as well as to Madame the persons belonging to their new household.

“Are you aware, vicomte,” inquired the Prince de Conde of Raoul, “whether the household has been selected by a person of taste, and whether there are any faces worth looking at?”

“I have not the slightest idea, monseigneur,” replied Raoul.

“You affect ignorance, surely.”

“In what way, monseigneur?”

“You are a friend of De Guiche, who is one of the friends of the prince.”

“That may be so, monseigneur; but the matter having no interest whatever for me, I have never questioned De Guiche on the subject; and De Guiche, on his part, never having been questioned, did not communicate any particulars to me.”

“But Manicamp?”

“It is true I saw Manicamp at Le Havre, and during the journey here, but I was no more inquisitive with him than I had been towards De Guiche. Besides, is it likely that Manicamp should know anything of such matters? for he is a person of only secondary importance.”

“My dear vicomte, do you not know better than that?” said the prince; “why, it is these persons of secondary importance, who, on such occasions, have all the influence; and the truth is, that nearly everything has been done through Manicamp’s presentations to De Guiche, and through De Guiche to Monsieur.”

“I assure you, monseigneur, I was ignorant of that,” said Raoul, “and what your highness does me the honor to impart is perfectly new to me.”

“I will most readily believe you, although it seems incredible; besides we shall not have long to wait. See, the flying squadron is advancing, as good Queen Catherine used to say. Ah! ah! what pretty faces!”

A bevy of young girls at this moment entered the salon, conducted by Madame de Navailles, and to Manicamp’s credit be it said, if indeed he had taken that part in their selection which the Prince de Conde assigned him, it was a display calculated to dazzle those who, like the prince, could appreciate every character and style of beauty. A young, fair-complexioned girl, from twenty to one-and-twenty years of age, and whose large blue eyes flashed, as she opened them, in the most dazzling manner, walked at the head of the band and was the first presented.

“Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente,” said Madame de Navailles to Monsieur, who, as he saluted his wife, repeated “Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente.”

“Ah! ah!” said the Prince de Conde to Raoul, “she is presentable enough.”

“Yes,” said Raoul, “but has she not a somewhat haughty style?”

“Bah! we know these airs very well, vicomte; three months hence she will be tame enough. But look, there, indeed, is a pretty face.”

“Yes,” said Raoul, “and one I am acquainted with.”

“Mademoiselle Aure de Montalais,” said Madame de Navailles. The name and Christian name were carefully repeated by Monsieur.

“Great heavens!” exclaimed Raoul, fixing his bewildered gaze upon the entrance doorway.

“What’s the matter?” inquired the prince; “was it Mademoiselle Aure de Montalais who made you utter such a ‘Great heavens’?”

“No, monseigneur, no,” replied Raoul, pale and trembling.

“Well, then, if it be not Mademoiselle Aure de Montalais, it is that pretty blonde who follows her. What beautiful eyes! She is rather thin, but has fascinations without number.”

“Mademoiselle de la Baume le Blanc de la Valliere!” said Madame de Navailles; and, as this name resounded through his whole being, a cloud seemed to rise from his breast to his eyes, so that he neither saw nor heard anything more; and the prince, finding him nothing more than a mere echo which remained silent under his railleries, moved forward to inspect somewhat closer the beautiful girls whom his first glance had already particularized.

“Louise here! Louise a maid of honor to Madame!” murmured Raoul, and his eyes, which did not suffice to satisfy his reason, wandered from Louise to Montalais. The latter had already emancipated herself from her assumed timidity, which she only needed for the presentation and for her reverences.

Mademoiselle de Montalais, from the corner of the room to which she had retired, was looking with no slight confidence at the different persons present; and, having discovered Raoul, she amused herself with the profound astonishment which her own and her friend’s presence there caused the unhappy lover. Her waggish and malicious look, which Raoul tried to avoid meeting, and which yet he sought inquiringly from time to time, placed him on the rack. As for Louise, whether from natural timidity, or some other reason for which Raoul could not account, she kept her eyes constantly cast down; intimidated, dazzled, and with impeded respiration, she withdrew herself as much as possible aside, unaffected even by the nudges Montalais gave her with her elbow. The whole scene was a perfect enigma for Raoul, the key to which he would have given anything to obtain. But no one was there who could assist him, not even Malicorne; who, a little uneasy at finding himself in the presence of so many persons of good birth, and not a little discouraged by Montalais’s bantering glances, had described a circle, and by degrees succeeded in getting a few paces from the prince, behind the group of maids of honor, and nearly within reach of Mademoiselle Aure’s voice, she being the planet around which he, as her attendant satellite, seemed constrained to gravitate. As he recovered his self-possession, Raoul fancied he recognized voices on his right hand side that were familiar to him, and he perceived De Wardes, De Guiche, and the Chevalier de Lorraine conversing together. It is true they were talking in tones so low, that the sound of their words could hardly be heard in the vast apartment. To speak in that manner from any particular place without bending down, or turning round, or looking at the person with whom one may be engaged in conversation, is a talent that cannot be immediately acquired by newcomers. Long study is needed for such conversations, which, without a look, gesture, or movement of the head, seem like the conversation of a group of statues. In fact, the king’s and queen’s grand assemblies, while their majesties were speaking, and while every one present seemed to be listening in the midst of the most profound silence, some of these noiseless conversations took place, in which adulation was not the prevailing feature. But Raoul was one among others exceedingly clever in this art, so much a matter of etiquette, that from the movement of the lips, he was often able to guess the sense of the words.

“Who is that Montalais?” inquired De Wardes, “and that La Valliere? What country-town have we had sent here?”

“Montalais?” said the chevalier,—“oh, I know her; she is a good sort of girl, whom we shall find amusing enough. La Valliere is a charming girl, slightly lame.”

“Ah! bah!” said De Wardes.

“Do not be absurd, De Wardes, there are some very characteristic and ingenious Latin axioms about lame ladies.”

“Gentlemen, gentlemen,” said De Guiche, looking at Raoul with uneasiness, “be a little careful, I entreat you.”

But the uneasiness of the count, in appearance at least, was not needed. Raoul had preserved the firmest and most indifferent countenance, although he had not lost a word that passed. He seemed to keep an account of the insolence and license of the two speakers in order to settle matters with them at the earliest opportunity.

De Wardes seemed to guess what was passing in his mind, and continued:

“Who are these young ladies’ lovers?”

“Montalais’s lover?” said the chevalier.

“Yes, Montalais first.”

“You, I, or De Guiche,—whoever likes, in fact.”

“And the other?”

“Mademoiselle de la Valliere?”


“Take care, gentlemen,” exclaimed De Guiche, anxious to put a stop to the chevalier’s reply; “take care, Madame is listening to us.”

Raoul had thrust his hand up to the wrist into his justaucorps in great agitation. But the very malignity which he saw was excited against these poor girls made him take a serious resolution. “Poor Louise,” he thought, “has come here only with an honorable object in view, and under honorable protection; and I must learn what that object is which she has in view, and who it is that protects her.” And following Malicorne’s maneuver, he made his way toward the group of the maids of honor. The presentations were soon over. The king, who had done nothing but look at and admire Madame, shortly afterwards left the reception-room, accompanied by the two queens. The Chevalier de Lorraine resumed his place beside Monsieur, and, as he accompanied him, insinuated a few drops of the venom he had collected during the last hour, while looking at some of the faces in the court, and suspecting that some of their hearts might be happy. A few of the persons present followed the king as he quitted the apartment; but such of the courtiers as assumed an independence of character, and professed a gallantry of disposition, began to approach the ladies of the court. The prince paid his compliments to Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente, Buckingham devoted himself to Madame Chalais and Mademoiselle de Lafayette, whom Madame already distinguished by her notice, and whom she held in high regard. As for the Comte de Guiche, who had abandoned Monsieur as soon as he could approach Madame alone, he conversed, with great animation, with Madame de Valentinois, and with Mademoiselle de Crequy and de Chatillon.

Amid these varied political, and amorous interests, Malicorne was anxious to gain Montalais’s attention; but the latter preferred talking with Raoul, even if it were only to amuse herself with his innumerable questions and his astonishment. Raoul had gone directly to Mademoiselle de la Valliere, and had saluted her with the profoundest respect, at which Louise blushed, and could not say a word. Montalais, however, hurried to her assistance.

“Well, monsieur le vicomte, here we are, you see.”

“I do, indeed, see you,” said Raoul smiling, “and it is exactly because you are here that I wish to ask for some explanation.”

Malicorne approached the group with his most fascinating smile.

“Go away, Malicorne; really you are exceedingly indiscreet.” At this remark Malicorne bit his lips and retired a few steps, without making any reply. His smile, however, changed its expression, and from its former frankness, became mocking in its expression.

“You wished for an explanation, M. Raoul?” inquired Montalais.

“It is surely worth one, I think; Mademoiselle de la Valliere is a maid of honor to Madame!”

“Why should she not be a maid of honor, as well as myself?” inquired Montalais.

“Pray accept my compliments, young ladies,” said Raoul, who fancied he perceived they were not disposed to answer him in a direct manner.

“Your remark was not made in a very complimentary manner, vicomte.”


“Certainly; I appeal to Louise.”

“M. de Bragelonne probably thinks the position is above my condition,” said Louise, hesitatingly.

“Assuredly not,” replied Raoul, eagerly, “you know very well that such is not my feeling; were you called upon to occupy a queen’s throne, I should not be surprised; how much greater reason, then, such a position as this? The only circumstance that amazes me is, that I should have learned it only to-day, and that by the merest accident.”

“That is true,” replied Montalais, with her usual giddiness; “you know nothing about it, and there is no reason you should. M. de Bragelonne had written several letters to you, but your mother was the only person who remained behind at Blois, and it was necessary to prevent these letters from falling into her hands; I intercepted them, and returned them to M. Raoul, so that he believed you were still at Blois while you were here in Paris, and had no idea whatever, indeed, how high you had risen in rank.”

“Did you not inform M. Raoul, as I begged you to do?”

“Why should I? to give him opportunity of making some of his severe remarks and moral reflections, and to undo what we have had so much trouble in effecting? Certainly not.”

“Am I so very severe, then?” said Raoul, inquiringly.

“Besides,” said Montalais, “it is sufficient to say that it suited me. I was about setting off for Paris—you were away; Louise was weeping her eyes out; interpret that as you please; I begged a friend, a protector of mine, who had obtained the appointment for me, to solicit one for Louise; the appointment arrived. Louise left in order to get her costume prepared; as I had my own ready, I remained behind; I received your letters, and returned them to you, adding a few words, promising you a surprise. Your surprise is before you, monsieur, and seems to be a fair one enough; you have nothing more to ask. Come, M. Malicorne, it is now time to leave these young people together: they have many things to talk about; give me your hand; I trust that you appreciate the honor conferred upon you, M. Malicorne.”

“Forgive me,” said Raoul, arresting the giddy girl, and giving to his voice an intonation, the gravity of which contrasted with that of Montalais; “forgive me, but may I inquire the name of the protector you speak of; for if protection be extended towards you, Mademoiselle de Montalais,—for which, indeed, so many reasons exist,” added Raoul, bowing, “I do not see that the same reasons exist why Mademoiselle de la Valliere should be similarly cared for.”

“But, M. Raoul,” said Louise, innocently, “there is no difference in the matter, and I do not see why I should not tell it you myself; it was M. Malicorne who obtained it for me.”

Raoul remained for a moment almost stupefied, asking himself if they were trifling with him; he then turned round to interrogate Malicorne, but he had been hurried away by Montalais, and was already at some distance from them. Mademoiselle de la Valliere attempted to follow her friend, but Raoul, with gentle authority, detained her.

“Louise, one word, I beg.”

“But, M. Raoul,” said Louise, blushing, “we are alone. Every one has left. They will become anxious, and will be looking for us.”

“Fear nothing,” said the young man, smiling, “we are neither of us of sufficient importance for our absence to be remarked.”

“But I have my duty to perform, M. Raoul.”

“Do not be alarmed, I am acquainted with these usages of the court; you will not be on duty until to-morrow; a few minutes are at your disposal, which will enable you to give me the information I am about to have the honor to ask you for.”

“How serious you are, M. Raoul!” said Louise.

“Because the circumstances are serious. Are you listening?”

“I am listening; I would only repeat, monsieur, that we are quite alone.”

“You are right,” said Raoul, and, offering her his hand, he led the young girl into the gallery adjoining the reception-room, the windows of which looked out upon the courtyard. Every one hurried towards the middle window, which had a balcony outside, from which all the details of the slow and formal preparations for departure could be seen. Raoul opened one of the side windows, and then, being alone with Louise, said to her: “You know, Louise, that from my childhood I have regarded you as my sister, as one who has been the confidante of all my troubles, to whom I have entrusted all my hopes.”

“Yes, M. Raoul,” she answered softly; “yes, M. Raoul, I know that.”

“You used, on your side, to show the same friendship towards me, and had the same confidence in me; why have you not, on this occasion, been my friend,—why have you shown suspicion of me?”

Mademoiselle de la Valliere did not answer. “I fondly thought you loved me,” said Raoul, whose voice became more and more agitated; “I fondly thought you consented to all the plans we had, together, laid down for our own happiness, at the time when we wandered up and down the walks of Cour-Cheverny, under the avenue of poplar trees leading to Blois. You do not answer me, Louise. Is it possible,” he inquired, breathing with difficulty, “that you no longer love me?”

“I did not say so,” replied Louise, softly.

“Oh! tell me the truth, I implore you. All my hopes in life are centered in you. I chose you for your gentle and simple tastes. Do not suffer yourself to be dazzled, Louise, now that you are in the midst of a court where all that is pure too soon becomes corrupt—where all that is young too soon grows old. Louise, close your ears, so as not to hear what may be said; shut your eyes, so as not to see the examples before you; shut your lips, that you may not inhale the corrupting influences about you. Without falsehood or subterfuge, Louise, am I to believe what Mademoiselle de Montalais stated? Louise, did you come to Paris because I was no longer at Blois?”

La Valliere blushed and concealed her face in her hands.

“Yes, it was so, then!” exclaimed Raoul, delightedly; “that was, then, your reason for coming here. I love you as I never yet loved you. Thanks, Louise, for this devotion; but measures must be taken to place you beyond all insult, to shield you from every lure. Louise, a maid of honor, in the court of a young princess in these days of free manners and inconstant affections—a maid of honor is placed as an object of attack without having any means of defence afforded her; this state of things cannot continue; you must be married in order to be respected.”


“Yes, here is my hand, Louise; will you place yours within it?”

“But your father?”

“My father leaves me perfectly free.”


“I understand your scruples, Louise; I will consult my father.”

“Reflect, M. Raoul; wait.”

“Wait! it is impossible. Reflect, Louise, when you are concerned! it would be insulting,—give me your hand, dear Louise; I am my own master. My father will consent, I know; give me your hand, do not keep me waiting thus. One word in answer, one word only; if not, I shall begin to think that, in order to change you forever, nothing more was needed than a single step in the palace, a single breath of favor, a smile from the queen, a look from the king.”

Raoul had no sooner pronounced this latter word, than La Valliere became as pale as death, no doubt from fear at seeing the young man excite himself. With a movement as rapid as thought, she placed both her hands in those of Raoul, and then fled, without adding a syllable; disappearing without casting a look behind her. Raoul felt his whole frame tremble at the contact of her hand; he received the compact as a solemn bargain wrung by affection from her child-like timidity.

Chapter XV. The Consent of Athos.

Raoul quitted the Palais Royal full of ideas that admitted no delay in execution. He mounted his horse in the courtyard, and followed the road to Blois, while the marriage festivities of Monsieur and the princess of England were being celebrated with exceeding animation by the courtiers, but to the despair of De Guiche and Buckingham. Raoul lost no time on the road, and in sixteen hours he arrived at Blois. As he traveled along, he marshaled his arguments in the most becoming manner. Fever is an argument that cannot be answered, and Raoul had an attack. Athos was in his study, making additions to his memoirs, when Raoul entered, accompanied by Grimaud. Keen-sighted and penetrating, a mere glance at his son told him that something extraordinary had befallen him.

“You seem to come on a matter of importance,” said he to Raoul, after he had embraced him, pointing to a seat.

“Yes, monsieur,” replied the young man; “and I entreat you to give me the same kind attention that has never yet failed me.”

“Speak, Raoul.”

“I present the case to you, monsieur, free from all preface, for that would be unworthy of you. Mademoiselle de la Valliere is in Paris as one of Madame’s maids of honor. I have pondered deeply on the matter; I love Mademoiselle de la Valliere above everything; and it is not proper to leave her in a position where her reputation, her virtue even, may be assailed. It is my wish, therefore, to marry her, monsieur, and I have come to solicit your consent to my marriage.”

While this communication was being made to him, Athos maintained the profoundest silence and reserve. Raoul, who had begun his address with an assumption of self-possession, finished it by allowing a manifest emotion to escape him at every word. Athos fixed upon Bragelonne a searching look, overshadowed indeed by a slight sadness.

“You have reflected well upon it?” he inquired.

“Yes, monsieur.”

“I believe you are already acquainted with my views respecting this alliance?”

“Yes, monsieur,” replied Raoul, in a low tone of voice; “but you added, that if I persisted—”

“You do persist, then?”

Raoul stammered out an almost unintelligible assent.

“Your passion,” continued Athos, tranquilly, “must indeed be very great, since, notwithstanding my dislike to this union, you persist in wanting it.”

Raoul passed his hand trembling across his forehead to remove the perspiration that collected there. Athos looked at him, and his heart was touched by pity. He rose and said,—

“It is no matter. My own personal feelings are not to be taken into consideration since yours are concerned; I am ready to give it. Tell me what you want.”

“Your kind indulgence, first of all, monsieur,” said Raoul, taking hold of his hand.

“You have mistaken my feelings, Raoul, I have more than mere indulgence for you in my heart.”

Raoul kissed as devotedly as a lover could have done the hand he held in his own.

“Come, come,” said Athos, “I am quite ready; what do you wish me to sign?”

“Nothing whatever, monsieur, only it would be very kind if you would take the trouble to write to the king, to whom I belong, and solicit his majesty’s permission for me to marry Mademoiselle de la Valliere.”

“Well thought, Raoul! After, or rather before myself, you have a master to consult, that master being the king; it is loyal in you to submit yourself voluntarily to this double proof; I will grant your request without delay, Raoul.”

The count approached the window, and leaning out, called to Grimaud, who showed his head from an arbor covered with jasmine, which he was occupied in trimming.

“My horses, Grimaud,” continued the count.

“Why this order, monsieur?” inquired Raoul.

“We shall set off in a few hours.”


“For Paris.”

“Paris, monsieur?”

“Is not the king at Paris?”


“Well, ought we not to go there?”

“Yes, monsieur,” said Raoul, almost alarmed by this kind condescension. “I do not ask you to put yourself to such inconvenience, and a letter merely—”

“You mistake my position, Raoul; it is not respectful that a simple gentleman, such as I am, should write to his sovereign. I wish to speak, I ought to speak, to the king, and I will do so. We will go together, Raoul.”

“You overpower me with your kindness, monsieur.”

“How do you think his majesty is affected?”

“Towards me, monsieur?”


“Excellently well disposed.”

“You know that to be so?” continued the count.

“The king has himself told me so.”

“On what occasion?”

“Upon the recommendation of M. d’Artagnan, I believe, and on account of an affair in the Place de Greve, when I had the honor to draw my sword in the king’s service. I have reason to believe that, vanity apart, I stand well with his majesty.”

“So much the better.”

“But I entreat you, monsieur,” pursued Raoul, “not to maintain towards me your present grave and serious manner. Do not make me bitterly regret having listened to a feeling stronger than anything else.”

“That is the second time you have said so, Raoul; it was quite unnecessary; you require my formal consent, and you have it. We need talk no more on the subject, therefore. Come and see my new plantations, Raoul.”

The young man knew very well, that, after the expression of his father’s wish, no opportunity of discussion was left him. He bowed his head, and followed his father into the garden. Athos slowly pointed out to him the grafts, the cuttings, and the avenues he was planting. This perfect repose of manner disconcerted Raoul extremely; the affection with which his own heart was filled seemed so great that the whole world could hardly contain it. How, then, could his father’s heart remain void, and closed to its influence? Bragelonne, therefore, collecting all his courage, suddenly exclaimed,—

“It is impossible, monsieur, you can have any reason to reject Mademoiselle de la Valliere! In Heaven’s name, she is so good, so gentle and pure, that your mind, so perfect in its penetration, ought to appreciate her accordingly. Does any secret repugnance, or any hereditary dislike, exist between you and her family?”

“Look, Raoul, at that beautiful lily of the valley,” said Athos; “observe how the shade and the damp situation suit it, particularly the shadow which that sycamore-tree casts over it, so that the warmth, and not the blazing heat of the sun, filters through its leaves.”

Raoul stopped, bit his lips, and then, with the blood mantling in his face, he said, courageously,—“One word of explanation, I beg, monsieur. You cannot forget that your son is a man.”

“In that case,” replied Athos, drawing himself up with sternness, “prove to me that you are a man, for you do not show yourself a son. I begged you to wait the opportunity of forming an illustrious alliance. I would have obtained a wife for you from the first ranks of the rich nobility. I wish you to be distinguished by the splendor which glory and fortune confer, for nobility of descent you have already.”

“Monsieur,” exclaimed Raoul, carried away by a first impulse. “I was reproached the other day for not knowing who my mother was.”

Athos turned pale; then, knitting his brows like the greatest of all the heathen deities:—“I am waiting to learn the reply you made,” he demanded, in an imperious manner.

“Forgive me! oh, forgive me,” murmured the young man, sinking at once from the lofty tone he had assumed.

“What was your reply, monsieur?” inquired the count, stamping his feet upon the ground.

“Monsieur, my sword was in my hand immediately, my adversary placed himself on guard, I struck his sword over the palisade, and threw him after it.”

“Why did you suffer him to live?”

“The king has prohibited duelling, and, at the moment, I was an ambassador of the king.”

“Very well,” said Athos, “but all the greater reason I should see his majesty.”

“What do you intend to ask him?”

“Authority to draw my sword against the man who has inflicted this injury upon me.”

“If I did not act as I ought to have done, I beg you to forgive me.”

“Did I reproach you, Raoul?”

“Still, the permission you are going to ask from the king?”

“I will implore his majesty to sign your marriage-contract, but on one condition.”

“Are conditions necessary with me, monsieur? Command, and you shall be obeyed.”

“On the condition, I repeat,” continued Athos; “that you tell me the name of the man who spoke of your mother in that way.”

“What need is there that you should know his name; the offense was directed against myself, and the permission once obtained from his majesty, to revenge it is my affair.”

“Tell me his name, monsieur.”

“I will not allow you to expose yourself.”

“Do you take me for a Don Diego? His name, I say.”

“You insist upon it?”

“I demand it.”

“The Vicomte de Wardes.”

“Very well,” said Athos, tranquilly, “I know him. But our horses are ready, I see; and, instead of delaying our departure for a couple of hours, we will set off at once. Come, monsieur.”