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Ten Years Later

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Chapter XVI. Monsieur Becomes Jealous of the Duke of Buckingham.


While the Comte de la Fere was proceeding on his way to Pairs, accompanied by Raoul, the Palais Royal was the theatre wherein a scene of what Moliere would have called excellent comedy, was being performed. Four days had elapsed since his marriage, and Monsieur, having breakfasted very hurriedly, passed into his ante-chamber, frowning and out of temper. The repast had not been over-agreeable. Madame had had breakfast served in her own apartment, and Monsieur had breakfasted almost alone; the Chevalier de Lorraine and Manicamp were the only persons present at the meal, which lasted three-quarters of an hour without a single syllable having been uttered. Manicamp, who was less intimate with his royal highness than the Chevalier de Lorraine, vainly endeavored to detect, from the expression of the prince’s face, what had made him so ill-humored. The Chevalier de Lorraine, who had no occasion to speculate about anything, inasmuch as he knew all, ate his breakfast with that extraordinary appetite which the troubles of one’s friends but stimulates, and enjoyed at the same time both Monsieur’s ill-humor and the vexation of Manicamp. He seemed delighted, while he went on eating, to detain a prince, who was very impatient to move, still at table. Monsieur at times repented the ascendency which he had permitted the Chevalier de Lorraine to acquire over him, and which exempted the latter from any observance of etiquette towards him. Monsieur was now in one of those moods, but he dreaded as much as he liked the chevalier, and contented himself with nursing his anger without betraying it. Every now and then Monsieur raised his eyes to the ceiling, then lowered them towards the slices of pate which the chevalier was attacking, and finally, not caring to betray the resentment, he gesticulated in a manner which Harlequin might have envied. At last, however, Monsieur could control himself no longer, and at the dessert, rising from the table in excessive wrath, as we have related, he left the Chevalier de Lorraine to finish his breakfast as he pleased. Seeing Monsieur rise from the table, Manicamp, napkin in hand, rose also. Monsieur ran rather than walked, towards the ante-chamber, where, noticing an usher in attendance, he gave him some directions in a low tone of voice. Then, turning back again, but avoiding passing through the breakfast apartment, he crossed several rooms, with the intention of seeking the queen-mother in her oratory, where she usually remained.

It was about ten o’clock in the morning. Anne of Austria was engaged in writing as Monsieur entered. The queen-mother was extremely attached to her son, for he was handsome in person and amiable in disposition. He was, in fact, more affectionate, and it might be, more effeminate than the king. He pleased his mother by those trifling sympathizing attentions all women are glad to receive. Anne of Austria, who would have been rejoiced to have had a daughter, almost found in this, her favorite son, the attentions, solicitude, and playful manners of a child of twelve years of age. All the time he passed with his mother he employed in admiring her arms, in giving his opinion upon her cosmetics, and recipes for compounding essences, in which she was very particular; and then, too, he kissed her hands and cheeks in the most childlike and endearing manner, and had always some sweetmeats to offer her, or some new style of dress to recommend. Anne of Austria loved the king, or rather the regal power in her eldest son; Louis XIV. represented legitimacy by right divine. With the king, her character was that of the queen-mother, with Philip she was simply the mother. The latter knew that, of all places, a mother’s heart is the most compassionate and surest. When quite a child he always fled there for refuge when he and his brother quarreled, often, after having struck him, which constituted the crime of high treason on his part, after certain engagements with hands and nails, in which the king and his rebellious subject indulged in their night-dresses respecting the right to a disputed bed, having their servant Laporte as umpire,—Philip, conqueror, but terrified at victory, used to flee to his mother to obtain reinforcements from her, or at least the assurance of forgiveness, which Louis XIV. granted with difficulty, and after an interval. Anne, from this habit of peaceable intervention, succeeded in arranging the disputes of her sons, and in sharing, at the same time, all their secrets. The king, somewhat jealous of that maternal solicitude which was bestowed particularly on his brother, felt disposed to show towards Anne of Austria more submission and attachment than his character really dictated. Anne of Austria had adopted this line of conduct especially towards the young queen. In this manner she ruled with almost despotic sway over the royal household, and she was already preparing her batteries to govern with the same absolute authority the household of her second son. Anne experienced almost a feeling of pride whenever she saw any one enter her apartment with woe-begone looks, pale cheeks, or red eyes, gathering from appearances that assistance was required either by the weakest or the most rebellious. She was writing, we have said, when Monsieur entered her oratory, not with red eyes or pale cheeks, but restless, out of temper, and annoyed. With an absent air he kissed his mother’s hands, and sat himself down before receiving her permission to do so. Considering the strict rules of etiquette established at the court of Anne of Austria, this forgetfulness of customary civilities was a sign of preoccupation, especially on Philip’s part, who, of his own accord, observed a respect towards her of a somewhat exaggerated character. If, therefore, he so notoriously failed in this regard, there must be a serious cause for it.

“What is the matter, Philip?” inquired Anne of Austria, turning towards her son.

“A good many things,” murmured the prince, in a doleful tone of voice.

“You look like a man who has a great deal to do,” said the queen, laying down her pen. Philip frowned, but did not reply. “Among the various subjects which occupy your mind,” said Anne of Austria, “there must surely be one that absorbs it more than others.”

“One has indeed occupied me more than any other.”

“Well, what is it? I am listening.”

Philip opened his mouth as if to express all the troubles his mind was filled with, and which he seemed to be waiting only for an opportunity of declaring. But he suddenly became silent, and a sigh alone expressed all that his heart was overflowing with.

“Come, Philip, show a little firmness,” said the queen-mother. “When one has to complain of anything, it is generally an individual who is the cause of it. Am I not right?”

“I do not say no, madame.”

“Whom do you wish to speak about? Come, take courage.”

“In fact, madame, what I might possibly have to say must be kept a profound secret; for when a lady is in the case—”

“Ah! you are speaking of Madame, then?” inquired the queen-mother, with a feeling of the liveliest curiosity.

“Yes.”

“Well, then, if you wish to speak of Madame, do not hesitate to do so. I am your mother, and she is no more than a stranger to me. Yet, as she is my daughter-in-law, rest assured I shall be interested, even were it for your own sake alone, in hearing all you may have to say about her.”

“Pray tell me, madame, in your turn, whether you have not remarked something?”

“‘Something’! Philip? Your words almost frighten me, from their want of meaning. What do you mean by ‘something?’”

“Madame is pretty, certainly.”

“No doubt of it.”

“Yet not altogether beautiful.”

“No, but as she grows older, she will probably become strikingly beautiful. You must have remarked the change which a few years have already made in her. Her beauty will improve more and more; she is now only sixteen years of age. At fifteen I was, myself, very thin; but even as she is at present, Madame is very pretty.”

“And consequently others have remarked it.”

“Undoubtedly, for a woman of ordinary rank is noticed—and with still greater reason a princess.”

“She has been well brought up, I suppose?”

“Madame Henriette, her mother, is a woman somewhat cold in manner, slightly pretentious, but full of noble thoughts. The princess’s education may have been neglected, but her principles, I believe, are good. Such at least was the opinion I formed of her when she resided in France; but she afterwards returned to England, and I am ignorant what may have occurred there.”

“What do you mean?”

“Simply that there are some heads naturally giddy, which are easily turned by prosperity.”

“That is the very word, madame. I think the princess rather giddy.”

“We must not exaggerate, Philip; she is clever and witty, and has a certain amount of coquetry very natural in a young woman; but this defect in persons of high rank and position, is a great advantage at a court. A princess who is tinged with coquetry usually forms a brilliant court; her smile stimulates luxury, arouses wit, and even courage; the nobles, too, fight better for a prince whose wife is beautiful.”

“Thank you extremely, madame,” said Philip, with some temper; “you really have drawn some very alarming pictures for me.”

“In what respect?” asked the queen, with pretended simplicity.

“You know, madame,” said Philip, dolefully, “whether I had or had not a very great dislike to getting married.”

“Now, indeed, you alarm me. You have some serious cause of complaint against Madame.”

“I do not precisely say it is serious.”

“In that case, then, throw aside your doleful looks. If you show yourself to others in your present state, people will take you for a very unhappy husband.”

“The fact is,” replied Philip, “I am not altogether satisfied as a husband, and I shall not be sorry if others know it.”

“For shame, Philip.”

“Well, then, madame, I will tell you frankly that I do not understand the life I am required to lead.”

“Explain yourself.”

“My wife does not seem to belong to me; she is always leaving me for some reason or another. In the mornings there are visits, correspondences, and toilettes; in the evenings, balls and concerts.”

“You are jealous, Philip.”

“I! Heaven forbid. Let others act the part of a jealous husband, not I. But I am annoyed.”

“All these things you reproach your wife with are perfectly innocent, and, so long as you have nothing of greater importance—”

“Yet, listen; without being very blamable, a woman can excite a good deal of uneasiness. Certain visitors may be received, certain preferences shown, which expose young women to remark, and which are enough to drive out of their senses even those husbands who are least disposed to be jealous.”

“Ah! now we are coming to the real point at last, and not without some difficulty. You speak of frequent visits, and certain preferences—very good; for the last hour we have been beating about the bush, and at last you have broached the true question.”

“Well then, yes—”

“This is more serious than I thought. It is possible, then, that Madame can have given you grounds for these complaints against her?”

“Precisely so.”

“What, your wife, married only four days ago, prefers some other person to yourself? Take care, Philip, you exaggerate your grievances; in wishing to prove everything, you prove nothing.”

The prince, bewildered by his mother’s serious manner, wished to reply, but he could only stammer out some unintelligible words.

“You draw back, then?” said Anne of Austria. “I prefer that, as it is an acknowledgement of your mistake.”

“No!” exclaimed Philip, “I do not draw back, and I will prove all I asserted. I spoke of preference and of visits, did I not? Well, listen.”

Anne of Austria prepared herself to listen, with that love of gossip which the best woman living and the best mother, were she a queen even, always finds in being mixed up with the petty squabbles of a household.

“Well,” said Philip, “tell me one thing.”

“What is that?”

“Why does my wife retain an English court about her?” said Philip, as he crossed his arms and looked his mother steadily in the face, as if he were convinced that she could not answer the question.

“For a very simple reason,” returned Anne of Austria; “because the English are her countrymen, because they have expended large sums in order to accompany her to France, and because it would hardly be polite —not politic, certainly—to dismiss abruptly those members of the English nobility who have not shrunk from any devotion or sacrifice.”

“A wonderful sacrifice indeed,” returned Philip, “to desert a wretched country to come to a beautiful one, where a greater effect can be produced for a guinea that can be procured elsewhere for four! Extraordinary devotion, really, to travel a hundred leagues in company with a woman one is in love with!”

“In love, Philip! think what you are saying. Who is in love with Madame?”

“The Duke of Buckingham. Perhaps you will defend him, too?”

Anne of Austria blushed and smiled at the same time. The name of the Duke of Buckingham recalled certain recollections of a very tender and melancholy nature. “The Duke of Buckingham?” she murmured.

“Yes; one of those arm-chair soldiers—”

“The Buckinghams are loyal and brave,” said Anne of Austria, courageously.

“This is too bad; my own mother takes the part of my wife’s lover against me,” exclaimed Philip, incensed to such an extent that his weak organization was affected almost to tears.

“Philip, my son,” exclaimed Anne of Austria, “such an expression is unworthy of you. Your wife has no lover; and, had she one, it would not be the Duke of Buckingham. The members of that family, I repeat, are loyal and discreet, and the rights of hospitality are sure to be respected by them.”

“The Duke of Buckingham is an Englishman, madame,” said Philip, “and may I ask if the English so very religiously respect what belongs to princes of France?”

Anne blushed a second time, and turned aside under the pretext of taking her pen from her desk again, but in reality to conceal her confusion from her son. “Really, Philip,” she said, “you seem to discover expressions for the purpose of embarrassing me, and your anger blinds you while it alarms me; reflect a little.”

“There is no need for reflection, madame. I can see with my own eyes.”

“Well, and what do you see?”

“That Buckingham never quits my wife. He presumes to make presents to her, and she ventures to accept them. Yesterday she was talking about sauchets a la violette; well, our French perfumers, you know very well, madame, for you have over and over again asked for it without success—our French perfumers, I say, have never been able to procure this scent. The duke, however, wore about him a sachet a la violette, and I am sure that the one my wife has came from him.”

“Indeed, monsieur,” said Anne of Austria, “you build your pyramids on needle points; be careful. What harm, I ask you, can there be in a man giving to his countrywoman a recipe for a new essence? These strange ideas, I protest, painfully recall your father to me; he who so frequently and so unjustly made me suffer.”

“The Duke of Buckingham’s father was probably more reserved and more respectful than his son,” said Philip, thoughtlessly, not perceiving how deeply he had wounded his mother’s feelings. The queen turned pale, and pressed her clenched hands upon her bosom; but, recovering herself immediately, she said, “You came here with some intention or another, I suppose?”

“Certainly.”

“What was it?”

“I came, madame, intending to complain energetically, and to inform you that I will not submit to such behavior from the Duke of Buckingham.”

“What do you intend to do, then?”

“I shall complain to the king.”

“And what do you expect the king to reply?”

“Very well, then,” said Monsieur, with an expression of stern determination on his countenance, which offered a singular contrast to its usual gentleness. “Very well. I will right myself!”

“What do you call righting yourself?” inquired Anne of Austria, in alarm.

“I will have the Duke of Buckingham quit the princess, I will have him quit France, and I will see that my wishes are intimated to him.”

“You will intimate nothing of the kind, Philip,” said the queen, “for if you act in that manner, and violate hospitality to that extent, I will invoke the severity of the king against you.”

“Do you threaten me, madame?” exclaimed Philip, almost in tears; “do you threaten me in the midst of my complaints?”

“I do not threaten you; I do but place an obstacle in the path of your hasty anger. I maintain, that, to adopt towards the Duke of Buckingham, or any other Englishman, any rigorous measure—to take even a discourteous step towards him, would be to plunge France and England into the most disastrous disagreement. Can it be possible that a prince of the blood, the brother of the king of France, does not know how to hide an injury, even did it exist in reality, where political necessity requires it?” Philip made a movement. “Besides,” continued the queen, “the injury is neither true nor possible, and it is merely a matter of silly jealousy.”

“Madame, I know what I know.”

“Whatever you may know, I can only advise you to be patient.”

“I am not patient by disposition, madame.”

The queen rose, full of severity, and with an icy ceremonious manner. “Explain what you really require, monsieur,” she said.

“I do not require anything, madame; I simply express what I desire. If the Duke of Buckingham does not, of his own accord, discontinue his visits to my apartments I shall forbid him entrance.”

“That is a point you will refer to the king,” said Anne of Austria, her heart swelling as she spoke, and her voice trembling with emotion.

“But, madame,” exclaimed Philip, striking his hands together, “act as my mother and not as the queen, since I speak to you as a son; it is simply a matter of a few minutes’ conversation between the duke and myself.”

“It is that very conversation I forbid,” said the queen, resuming her authority, “because it is unworthy of you.”

“Be it so; I will not appear in the matter, but I shall intimate my will to Madame.”

“Oh!” said the queen-mother, with a melancholy arising from reflection, “never tyrannize over a wife—never behave too haughtily or imperiously towards your own. A woman unwillingly convinced, is unconvinced.”

“What is to be done, then?—I will consult my friends about it.”

“Yes, your double-dealing advisers, your Chevalier de Lorraine—your De Wardes. Intrust the conduct of this affair to me. You wish the Duke of Buckingham to leave, do you not?”

“As soon as possible, madame.”

“Send the duke to me, then; smile upon your wife, behave to her, to the king, to every one, as usual. But follow no advice but mine. Alas! I too well know what any household comes to, that is troubled by advisers.”

“You shall be obeyed, madame.”

“And you will be satisfied at the result. Send the duke to me.”

“That will not be difficult.”

“Where do you suppose him to be?”

“At my wife’s door, whose levee he is probably awaiting.”

“Very well,” said Anne of Austria, calmly. “Be good enough to tell the duke that I shall be charmed if he will pay me a visit.”

Philip kissed his mother’s hand, and started off to find the Duke of Buckingham.






Chapter XVII. Forever!


The Duke of Buckingham, obedient to the queen-mother’s invitation, presented himself in her apartments half an hour after the departure of the Duc d’Orleans. When his name was announced by the gentleman-usher in attendance, the queen, who was sitting with her elbow resting on a table, and her head buried in her hands, rose, and smilingly received the graceful and respectful salutation which the duke addressed to her. Anne of Austria was still beautiful. It is well known that at her then somewhat advanced age, her long auburn hair, perfectly formed hands, and bright ruby lips, were still the admiration of all who saw her. On the present occasion, abandoned entirely to a remembrance which evoked all the past in her heart, she looked almost as beautiful as in the days of her youth, when her palace was open to the visits of the Duke of Buckingham’s father, then a young and impassioned man, as well as an unfortunate prince, who lived for her alone, and died with her name upon his lips. Anne of Austria fixed upon Buckingham a look so tender in its expression, that it denoted, not alone the indulgence of maternal affection, but a gentleness of expression like the coquetry of a woman who loves.

“Your majesty,” said Buckingham, respectfully, “desired to speak to me.”

“Yes, duke,” said the queen, in English; “will you be good enough to sit down?”

The favor which Anne of Austria thus extended to the young man, and the welcome sound of the language of a country from which the duke had been estranged since his stay in France, deeply affected him. He immediately conjectured that the queen had a request to make of him. After having abandoned the first few moments to the irrepressible emotions she experienced, the queen resumed the smiling air with which she had received him. “What do you think of France?” she said, in French.

“It is a lovely country, madame,” replied the duke.

“Had you ever seen it before?”

“Once only, madame.”

“But, like all true Englishmen, you prefer England?”

“I prefer my own native land to France,” replied the duke; “but if your majesty were to ask me which of the two cities, London or Pairs, I should prefer as a residence, I should be forced to answer Paris.”

Anne of Austria observed the ardent manner with which these words had been pronounced. “I am told, my lord, you have rich possessions in your own country, and that you live in a splendid and time-honored place.”

“It was my father’s residence,” replied Buckingham, casting down his eyes.

“Those are indeed great advantages and souvenirs,” replied the queen, alluding, in spite of herself, to recollections from which it is impossible voluntarily to detach one’s self.

“In fact,” said the duke, yielding to the melancholy influence of this opening conversation, “sensitive persons live as much in the past or the future, as in the present.”

“That is very true,” said the queen, in a low tone of voice. “It follows, then, my lord,” she added, “that you, who are a man of feeling, will soon quit France in order to shut yourself up with your wealth and your relics of the past.”

Buckingham raised his head and said, “I think not, madame.”

“What do you mean?”

“On the contrary, I think of leaving England in order to take up my residence in France.”

It was now Anne of Austria’s turn to exhibit surprise. “Why?” she said. “Are you not in favor with the new king?”

“Perfectly so, madame, for his majesty’s kindness to me is unbounded.”

“It cannot,” said the queen, “be because your fortune has diminished, for it is said to be enormous.”

“My income, madame, has never been so large.”

“There is some secret cause, then?”

“No, madame,” said Buckingham, eagerly, “there is nothing secret in my reason for this determination. I prefer residence in France; I like a court so distinguished by its refinement and courtesy; I like the amusements, somewhat serious in their nature, which are not the amusements of my own country, and which are met with in France.”

Anne of Austria smiled shrewdly. “Amusements of a serious nature?” she said. “Has your Grace well reflected on their seriousness?” The duke hesitated. “There is no amusement so serious,” continued the queen, “as to prevent a man of your rank—”

“Your majesty seems to insist greatly on that point,” interrupted the duke.

“Do you think so, my lord?”

“If you will forgive me for saying so, it is the second time you have vaunted the attractions of England at the expense of the delight which all experience who live in France.”

Anne of Austria approached the young man, and placing her beautiful hand upon his shoulder, which trembled at the touch, said, “Believe me, monsieur, nothing can equal a residence in one’s own native country. I have very frequently had occasion to regret Spain. I have lived long, my lord, very long for a woman, and I confess to you, that not a year has passed I have not regretted Spain.”

“Not one year, madame?” said the young duke coldly. “Not one of those years when you reigned Queen of Beauty—as you still are, indeed?”

“A truce to flattery, duke, for I am old enough to be your mother.” She emphasized these latter words in a manner, and with a gentleness, which penetrated Buckingham’s heart. “Yes,” she said, “I am old enough to be your mother; and for this reason, I will give you a word of advice.”

“That advice being that I should return to London?” he exclaimed.

“Yes, my lord.”

The duke clasped his hands with a terrified gesture, which could not fail of its effect upon the queen, already disposed to softer feelings by the tenderness of her own recollections. “It must be so,” added the queen.

“What!” he again exclaimed, “am I seriously told that I must leave,—that I must exile myself,—that I am to flee at once?”

“Exile yourself, did you say? One would fancy France was your native country.”

“Madame, the country of those who love is the country of those whom they love.”

“Not another word, my lord; you forget whom you are addressing.”

Buckingham threw himself on his knees. “Madame, you are the source of intelligence, of goodness, and of compassion; you are the first person in this kingdom, not only by your rank, but the first person in the world on account of your angelic attributes. I have said nothing, madame. Have I, indeed, said anything you should answer with such a cruel remark? What have I betrayed?”

“You have betrayed yourself,” said the queen, in a low tone of voice.

“I have said nothing,—I know nothing.”

“You forget you have spoken and thought in the presence of a woman; and besides—”

“Besides,” said the duke, “no one knows you are listening to me.”

“On the contrary, it is known; you have all the defects and all the qualities of youth.”

“I have been betrayed or denounced, then?”

“By whom?”

“By those who, at Le Havre, had, with infernal perspicacity, read my heart like an open book.”

“I do not know whom you mean.”

“M. de Bragelonne, for instance.”

“I know the name without being acquainted with the person to whom it belongs. M. de Bragelonne has said nothing.”

“Who can it be, then? If any one, madame, had had the boldness to notice in me that which I do not myself wish to behold—”

“What would you do, duke?”

“There are secrets which kill those who discover them.”

“He, then, who has discovered your secret, madman that you are, still lives; and, what is more, you will not slay him, for he is armed on all sides,—he is a husband, a jealous man,—he is the second gentleman in France,—he is my son, the Duc du Orleans.”

The duke turned pale as death. “You are very cruel, madame,” he said.

“You see, Buckingham,” said Anne of Austria, sadly, “how you pass from one extreme to another, and fight with shadows, when it would seem so easy to remain at peace with yourself.”

“If we fight, madame, we die on the field of battle,” replied the young man, gently, abandoning himself to the most gloomy depression.

Anne ran towards him and took him by the hand. “Villiers,” she said, in English, with a vehemence of tone which nothing could resist, “what is it you ask? Do you ask a mother to sacrifice her son,—a queen to consent to the dishonor of her house? Child that you are, do not dream of it. What! in order to spare your tears am I to commit these crimes? Villiers! you speak of the dead; the dead, at least, were full of respect and submission; they resigned themselves to an order of exile; they carried their despair away with them in their hearts, like a priceless possession, because the despair was caused by the woman they loved, and because death, thus deceptive, was like a gift of a favor conferred upon them.”

Buckingham rose, his features distorted, and his hands pressed against his heart. “You are right, madame,” he said, “but those of whom you speak had received their order of exile from the lips of the one whom they loved; they were not driven away; they were entreated to leave, and were not laughed at.”

“No,” murmured Anne of Austria, “they were not forgotten. But who says you are driven away, or that you are exiled? Who says that your devotion will not be remembered? I do not speak on any one’s behalf but my own, when I tell you to leave. Do me this kindness,—grant me this favor; let me, for this also, be indebted to one of your name.”

“It is for your sake, then, madame?”

“For mine alone.”

“No one whom I shall leave behind me will venture to mock,—no prince even who shall say, ‘I required it.’”

“Listen to me, duke,” and hereupon the dignified features of the queen assumed a solemn expression. “I swear to you that no one commands in this matter but myself. I swear to you that, not only shall no one either laugh or boast in any way, but no one even shall fail in the respect due to your rank. Rely upon me, duke, as I rely upon you.”

“You do not explain yourself, madame; my heart is full of bitterness, and I am in utter despair; no consolation, however gentle and affectionate, can afford me relief.”

“Do you remember your mother, duke?” replied the queen, with a winning smile.

“Very slightly, madame; yet I remember how she used to cover me with her caresses and her tears whenever I wept.”

“Villiers,” murmured the queen, passing her arm round the young man’s neck, “look upon me as your mother, and believe that no one shall ever make my son weep.”

“I thank you, madame,” said the young man affected and almost suffocated by his emotion; “I feel there is still room in my heart for a gentler and nobler sentiment than love.”

The queen-mother looked at him and pressed his hand. “Go,” she said.

“When must I leave? Command me.”

“At any time that may suit you, my lord,” resumed the queen; “you will choose your own day of departure. Instead, however, of setting off to-day, as you would doubtless wish to do, or to-morrow, as others may have expected, leave the day after to-morrow, in the evening; but announce to-day that it is your wish to leave.”

“My wish?” murmured the young duke.

“Yes, duke.”

“And shall I never return to France?”

Anne of Austria reflected for a moment, seemingly absorbed in sad and serious thought. “It would be a consolation for me,” she said, “if you were to return on the day when I shall be carried to my final resting-place at Saint-Dennis beside the king, my husband.”

“Madame, you are goodness itself; the tide of prosperity is setting in on you; your cup brims over with happiness, and many long years are yet before you.”

“In that case you will not come for some time, then,” said the queen, endeavoring to smile.

“I shall not return,” said Buckingham, “young as I am. Death does not reckon by years; it is impartial; some die young, some reach old age.”

“I will not harbor any sorrowful ideas, duke. Let me comfort you; return in two years. I perceive from your face that the very idea which saddens you so much now, will have disappeared before six months have passed, and will be not only dead but forgotten in the period of absence I have assigned you.”

“I think you judged me better a little while ago, madame,” replied the young man, “when you said that time is powerless against members of the family of Buckingham.”

“Silence,” said the queen, kissing the duke upon the forehead with an affection she could not restrain. “Go, go; spare me and forget yourself no longer. I am the queen; you are the subject of the king of England; King Charles awaits your return. Adieu, Villiers,—farewell.”

“Forever!” replied the young man, and he fled, endeavoring to master his emotions.

Anne leaned her head upon her hands, and then looking at herself in the glass, murmured, “It has been truly said, that a woman who has truly loved is always young, and that the bloom of the girl of twenty years ever lies concealed in some secret cloister of the heart.” 1






Chapter XVIII. King Louis XIV. does not think Mademoiselle de la Valliere either rich enough or pretty enough for a Gentleman of the Rank of the Vicomte de Bragelonne.


Raoul and the Comte de la Fere reached Paris the evening of the same day on which Buckingham had held the conversation with the queen-mother. The count had scarcely arrived, when, through Raoul, he solicited an audience of the king. His majesty had passed a portion of the morning in looking over, with madame and the ladies of the court, various goods of Lyons manufacture, of which he had made his sister-in-law a present. A court dinner had succeeded, then cards, and afterwards, according to his usual custom, the king, leaving the card-tables at eight o’clock, passed into his cabinet in order to work with M. Colbert and M. Fouquet. Raoul entered the ante-chamber at the very moment the two ministers quitted it, and the king, perceiving him through the half-closed door, said, “What do you want, M. de Bragelonne?”

The young man approached: “An audience, sire,” he replied, “for the Comte de la Fere, who has just arrived from Blois, and is most anxious to have an interview with your majesty.”

“I have an hour to spare between cards and supper,” said the king. “Is the Comte de la Fere at hand?”

“He is below, and awaits your majesty’s permission.”

“Let him come up at once,” said the king, and five minutes afterwards Athos entered the presence of Louis XIV. He was received by the king with that gracious kindness of manner which Louis, with a tact beyond his years, reserved for the purpose of gaining those who were not to be conquered by ordinary favors. “Let me hope, comte,” said the king, “that you have come to ask me for something.”

“I will not conceal from your majesty,” replied the comte, “that I am indeed come for that purpose.”

“That is well,” said the king, joyously.

“It is not for myself, sire.”

“So much the worse; but, at least, I will do for your protege what you refuse to permit me to do for you.”

“Your majesty encourages me. I have come to speak on behalf of the Vicomte de Bragelonne.”

“It is the same as if you spoke on your own behalf, comte.”

“Not altogether so, sire. I am desirous of obtaining from your majesty that which I cannot ask for myself. The vicomte thinks of marrying.”

“He is still very young; but that does not matter. He is an eminently distinguished man; I will choose a wife for him.”

“He has already chosen one, sire, and only awaits your consent.”

“It is only a question, then, of signing the marriage-contract?” Athos bowed. “Has he chose a wife whose fortune and position accord with your own anticipation?”

Athos hesitated for a moment. “His affirmed wife is of good birth, but has no fortune.”

“That is a misfortune we can remedy.”

“You overwhelm me with gratitude, sire; but your majesty will permit me to offer a remark?”

“Do so, comte.”

“Your majesty seems to intimate an intention of giving a marriage-portion to this young lady.”

“Certainly.”

“I should regret, sire, if the step I have taken towards your majesty should be attended by this result.”

“No false delicacy, comte; what is the bride’s name?”

“Mademoiselle de la Baume le Blanc de la Valliere,” said Athos, coldly.

“I seem to know that name,” said the king, as if reflecting; “there was a Marquis de la Valliere.”

“Yes, sire, it is his daughter.”

“But he died, and his widow married again M. de Saint-Remy, I think, steward of the dowager Madame’s household.”

“Your majesty is correctly informed.”

“More than that, the young lady has lately become one of the princess’s maids of honor.”

“Your majesty is better acquainted with her history than am I.”

The king again reflected, and glancing at the comte’s anxious countenance, said: “The young lady does not seem to me to be very pretty, comte.”

“I am not quite sure,” replied Athos.

“I have seen her, but she hardly struck me as being so.”

“She seems to be a good and modest girl, but has little beauty, sire.”

“Beautiful fair hair, however.”

“I think so.”

“And her blue eyes are tolerably good.”

“Yes, sire.”

“With regard to her beauty, then, the match is but an ordinary one. Now for the money side of the question.”

“Fifteen to twenty thousand francs dowry at the very outset, sire; the lovers are disinterested enough; for myself, I care little for money.”

“For superfluity, you mean; but a needful amount is of importance. With fifteen thousand francs, without landed property, a woman cannot live at court. We will make up the deficiency; I will do it for De Bragelonne.” The king again remarked the coldness with which Athos received the remark.

“Let us pass from the question of money to that of rank,” said Louis XIV.; “the daughter of the Marquis de la Valliere, that is well enough; but there is that excellent Saint-Remy, who somewhat damages the credit of the family; and you, comte, are rather particular, I believe, about your own family.”

“Sire, I no longer hold to anything but my devotion to your majesty.”

The king again paused. “A moment, comte. You have surprised me in no little degree from the beginning of your conversation. You came to ask me to authorize a marriage, and you seem greatly disturbed in having to make the request. Nay, pardon me, comte, but I am rarely deceived, young as I am; for while with some persons I place my friendship at the disposal of my understanding, with others I call my distrust to my aid, by which my discernment is increased. I repeat, that you do not prefer your request as though you wished it success.”

“Well, sire, that is true.”

“I do not understand you, then; refuse.”

“Nay, sire; I love De Bragelonne with my whole heart; he is smitten with Mademoiselle de la Valliere, he weaves dreams of bliss for the future; I am not one who is willing to destroy the illusions of youth. This marriage is objectionable to me, but I implore your majesty to consent to it forthwith, and thus make Raoul happy.”

“Tell me, comte, is she in love with him?”

“If your majesty requires me to speak candidly, I do not believe in Mademoiselle de la Valliere’s affection; the delight at being at court, the honor of being in the service of Madame, counteract in her head whatever affection she may happen to have in her heart; it is a marriage similar to many others which already exist at court; but De Bragelonne wishes it, and so let it be.”

“And yet you do not resemble those easy-tempered fathers who volunteer as stepping-stones for their children,” said the king.

“I am determined enough against the viciously disposed, but not so against men of upright character. Raoul is suffering; he is in great distress of mind; his disposition, naturally light and cheerful, has become gloomy and melancholy. I do not wish to deprive your majesty of the services he may be able to render.”

“I understand you,” said the king; “and what is more, I understand your heart, too, comte.”

“There is no occasion, therefore,” replied the comte, “to tell your majesty that my object is to make these children, or rather Raoul, happy.”

“And I, too, as much as yourself, comte, wish to secure M. de Bragelonne’s happiness.”

“I only await your majesty’s signature. Raoul will have the honor of presenting himself before your majesty to receive your consent.”

“You are mistaken, comte,” said the king, firmly; “I have just said that I desire to secure M. de Bragelonne’s happiness, and from the present moment, therefore, I oppose his marriage.”

“But, sire,” exclaimed Athos, “your majesty has promised!”

“Not so, comte, I did not promise you, for it is opposed to my own views.”

“I appreciate your majesty’s considerate and generous intentions on my behalf; but I take the liberty of recalling to you that I undertook to approach you as an ambassador.”

“An ambassador, comte, frequently asks, but does not always obtain what he asks.”

“But, sire, it will be such a blow for De Bragelonne.”

“My hand shall deal the blow; I will speak to the vicomte.”

“Love, sire, is overwhelming in its might.”

“Love can be resisted, comte. I myself can assure you of that.”

“When one has the soul of a king,—your own, for instance, sire.”

“Do not make yourself uneasy on the subject. I have certain views for De Bragelonne. I do not say that he shall not marry Mademoiselle de la Valliere, but I do not wish him to marry so young; I do not wish him to marry her until she has acquired a fortune; and he, on his side, no less deserves favor, such as I wish to confer upon him. In a word, comte, I wish them to wait.”

“Yet once more, sire.”

“Comte, you told me you came here to request a favor.”

“Assuredly, sire.”

“Grant me one, then, instead; let us speak no longer upon this matter. It is probable that, before long, war may be declared. I require men about me who are unfettered. I should hesitate to send under fire a married man, or a father of a family. I should hesitate also, on De Bragelonne’s account, to endow with a fortune, without some sound reason for it, a young girl, a perfect stranger; such an act would sow jealousy amongst my nobility.” Athos bowed, and remained silent.

“Is that all you wished to ask me?” added Louis XIV.

“Absolutely all, sire; and I take my leave of your majesty. Is it, however, necessary that I should inform Raoul?”

“Spare yourself the trouble and annoyance. Tell the vicomte that at my levee to-morrow morning I will speak to him. I shall expect you this evening, comte, to join my card-table.”

“I am in traveling-costume, sire.”

“A day will come, I hope, when you will leave me no more. Before long, comte, the monarchy will be established in such a manner as to enable me to offer a worthy hospitality to men of your merit.”

“Provided, sire, a monarch reigns grandly in the hearts of his subjects, the palace he inhabits matters little, since he is worshipped in a temple.” With these words Athos left the cabinet, and found De Bragelonne, who was awaiting him anxiously.

“Well, monsieur?” said the young man.

“The king, Raoul, is well intentioned towards us both; not, perhaps, in the sense you suppose, but he is kind, and generously disposed to our house.”

“You have bad news to communicate to me, monsieur,” said the young man, turning very pale.

“The king himself will inform you to-morrow morning that it is not bad news.”

“The king has not signed, however?”

“The king wishes himself to settle the terms of the contract, and he desires to make it so grand that he requires time for consideration. Throw the blame rather on your own impatience, than on the king’s good feelings towards you.”

Raoul, in utter consternation, on account of his knowledge of the count’s frankness as well as his diplomacy, remained plunged in dull and gloomy stupor.

“Will you not go with me to my lodgings?” said Athos.

“I beg your pardon, monsieur; I will follow you,” he stammered out, following Athos down the staircase.

“Since I am here,” said Athos, suddenly, “cannot I see M. d’Artagnan?”

“Shall I show you his apartments?” said De Bragelonne.

“Do so.”

“They are on the opposite staircase.”

They altered their course, but on reaching the landing of the grand staircase, Raoul perceived a servant in the Comte de Guiche’s livery, who ran towards him as soon as he heard his voice.

“What is it?” said Raoul.

“This note, monsieur. My master heard of your return and wrote to you without delay; I have been looking for you for the last half-hour.”

Raoul approached Athos as he unsealed the letter, saying, “With your permission, monsieur.”

“Certainly.”

“Dear Raoul,” wrote the Comte de Guiche, “I have an affair in hand which requires immediate attention; I know you have returned; come to me as soon as possible.”

Hardly had he finished reading it, when a servant in the livery of the Duke of Buckingham, turning out of the gallery, recognized Raoul, and approached him respectfully, saying, “From his Grace, monsieur.”

“Well, Raoul, as I see you are already as busy as a general of an army, I shall leave you, and will find M. d’Artagnan myself.”

“You will excuse me, I trust,” said Raoul.

“Yes, yes, I excuse you; adieu, Raoul; you will find me at my apartments until to-morrow; during the day I may set out for Blois, unless I have orders to the contrary.”

“I shall present my respects to you to-morrow, monsieur.”

As soon as Athos had left, Raoul opened Buckingham’s letter.

“Monsieur de Bragelonne,” it ran, “You are, of all the Frenchmen I have known, the one with whom I am most pleased; I am about to put your friendship to the proof. I have received a certain message, written in very good French. As I am an Englishman, I am afraid of not comprehending it very clearly. The letter has a good name attached to it, and that is all I can tell you. Will you be good enough to come and see me? for I am told you have arrived from Blois.

“Your devoted

“VILLIERS, Duke of Buckingham.”

“I am going now to see your master,” said Raoul to De Guiche’s servant, as he dismissed him; “and I shall be with the Duke of Buckingham in an hour,” he added, dismissing with these words the duke’s messenger.