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List Of Contents | Contents of Louise de la Valliere, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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straightforward in everything.  Since I have become a bishop, I have
looked for these primeval natures, which make me love truth and hate
intrigue."

D'Artagnan stroked his mustache, but said nothing.

"I saw Porthos and again cultivated his acquaintance; his own time
hanging idly on his hands, his presence recalled my earlier and better
days without engaging me in any present evil.  I sent for Porthos to come
to Vannes.  M. Fouquet, whose regard for me is very great, having learnt
that Porthos and I were attached to each other by old ties of friendship,
promised him increase of rank at the earliest promotion, and that is the
whole secret."

"I shall not abuse your confidence," said D'Artagnan.

"I am sure of that, my dear friend; no one has a finer sense of honor
than yourself."

"I flatter myself that you are right, Aramis."

"And now" - and here the prelate looked searchingly and scrutinizingly at
his friend - "now let us talk of ourselves and for ourselves; will you
become one of M. Fouquet's friends?  Do not interrupt me until you know
what that means."

"Well, I am listening."

"Will you become a marechal of France, peer, duke, and the possessor of a
duchy, with a million of francs?"

"But, my friend," replied D'Artagnan, "what must one do to get all that?"

"Belong to M. Fouquet."

"But I already belong to the king."

"Not exclusively, I suppose."

"Oh! a D'Artagnan cannot be divided."

"You have, I presume, ambitions, as noble hearts like yours have."

"Yes, certainly I have."

"Well?"

"Well!  I wish to be a marechal; the king will make me marechal, duke,
peer; the king will make me all that."

Aramis fixed a searching look upon D'Artagnan.

"Is not the king master?" said D'Artagnan.

"No one disputes it; but Louis XIII. was master also."

"Oh! my dear friend, between Richelieu and Louis XIII. stood no
D'Artagnan," said the musketeer, very quietly.

"There are many stumbling-blocks round the king," said Aramis.

"Not for the king's feet."

"Very likely not; still - "

"One moment, Aramis; I observe that every one thinks of himself, and
never of his poor prince; I will maintain myself maintaining him."

"And if you meet with ingratitude?"

"The weak alone are afraid of that."

"You are quite certain of yourself?"

"I think so."

"Still, the king may some day have no further need for you!"

"On the contrary, I think his need of me will soon be greater than ever;
and hearken, my dear fellow, if it became necessary to arrest a new
Conde, who would do it?  This - this alone in France!" and D'Artagnan
struck his sword, which clanked sullenly on the tesselated floor.

"You are right," said Aramis, turning very pale; and then he rose and
pressed D'Artagnan's hand.

"That is the last summons for supper," said the captain of the
musketeers; "will you excuse me?"

Aramis threw his arm round the musketeer's neck, and said, "A friend like
you is the brightest jewel in the royal crown."  And they immediately
separated.

"I was right," mused D'Artagnan; "there is, indeed, something strangely
serious stirring."

"We must hasten the explosion," breathed the coming cardinal, "for
D'Artagnan has discovered
the existence of a plot."


Chapter X:
Madame and De Guiche.

It will not be forgotten how Comte de Guiche left the queen-mother's
apartments on the day when Louis XIV. presented La Valliere with the
beautiful bracelets he had won in the lottery.  The comte walked to and
fro for some time outside the palace, in the greatest distress, from a
thousand suspicions and anxieties with which his mind was beset.
Presently he stopped and waited on the terrace opposite the grove of
trees, watching for Madame's departure.  More than half an hour passed
away; and as he was at that moment quite alone, the comte could hardly
have had any very diverting ideas at his command.  He drew his tables
from his pocket, and, after hesitating over and over again, determined to
write these words: - "Madame, I implore you to grant me one moment's
conversation.  Do not be alarmed at this request, which contains nothing
in any way opposed to the profound respect with which I subscribe myself,
etc., etc."  He had signed and folded this singular love-letter, when he
suddenly observed several ladies leaving the chateau, and afterwards
several courtiers too; in fact, almost every one that formed the queen's
circle.  He saw La Valliere herself, then Montalais talking with
Malicorne; he watched the departure of the very last of the numerous
guests that had a short time before thronged the queen-mother's cabinet.

Madame herself had not yet passed; she would be obliged, however, to
cross the courtyard in order to enter her own apartments; and, from the
terrace where he was standing, De Guiche could see all that was going on
in the courtyard.  At last he saw Madame leave, attended by a couple of
pages, who were carrying torches before her.  She was walking very
quickly; as soon as she reached the door, she said:

"Let some one go and look for De Guiche: he has to render an account of a
mission he had to discharge for me; if he should be disengaged, request
him to be good enough to come to my apartment."

De Guiche remained silent, hidden in the shade; but as soon as Madame had
withdrawn, he darted from the terrace down the steps and assumed a most
indifferent air, so that the pages who were hurrying towards his rooms
might meet him.

"Ah! it is Madame, then, who is seeking me!" he said to himself, quite
overcome; and he crushed in his hand the now worse than useless letter.

"M. le comte," said one of the pages, approaching him, "we are indeed
most fortunate in meeting you."

"Why so, messieurs?"

"A command from Madame."

"From Madame!" said De Guiche, looking surprised.

"Yes, M. le comte, her royal highness has been asking for you; she
expects to hear, she told us, the result of a commission you had to
execute for her.  Are you at liberty?"

"I am quite at her royal highness's orders."

"Will you have the goodness to follow us, then?"

When De Guiche entered the princess's apartments, he found her pale and
agitated.  Montalais was standing at the door, evidently uneasy about
what was passing in her mistress's mind.  De Guiche appeared.

"Ah! is that you, Monsieur de Guiche?" said Madame; "come in, I beg.
Mademoiselle de Montalais, I do not require your attendance any longer."

Montalais, more puzzled than ever, courtesied and withdrew.  De Guiche
and the princess were left alone.  The come had every advantage in his
favor; it was Madame who had summoned him to a rendezvous.  But how was
it possible for the comte to make use of this advantage?  Madame was so
whimsical, and her disposition so changeable.  She soon allowed this to
be perceived, for, suddenly, opening the conversation, she said: "Well!
have you nothing to say to me?"

He imagined she must have guessed his thoughts; he fancied (for those who
are in love are thus constituted, being as credulous and blind as poets
or prophets), he fancied she knew how ardent was his desire to see her,
and also the subject uppermost in his mind.

"Yes, Madame," he said, "and I think it very singular."

"The affair of the bracelets," she exclaimed, eagerly, "you mean that, I
suppose?"

"Yes, Madame."

"And you think the king is in love; do you not?"

Guiche looked at her for some time; her eyes sank under his gaze, which
seemed to read her very heart.

"I think," he said, "that the king may possibly have had an idea of
annoying some one; were it not for that, the king would hardly show
himself so earnest in his attentions as he is; he would not run the risk
of compromising, from mere thoughtlessness of disposition, a young girl
against whom no one has been hitherto able to say a word."

"Indeed! the bold, shameless girl," said the princess, haughtily.

"I can positively assure your royal highness," said De Guiche, with a
firmness marked by great respect, "that Mademoiselle de la Valliere is
beloved by a man who merits every respect, for he is a brave and
honorable gentleman."

"Bragelonne?"

"My friend; yes, Madame."

"Well, and though he is your friend, what does that matter to the king?"

"The king knows that Bragelonne is affianced to Mademoiselle de la
Valliere; and as Raoul has served the king most valiantly, the king will
not inflict an irreparable injury upon him."

Madame began to laugh in a manner that produced a sinister impression
upon De Guiche.

"I repeat, Madame, I do not believe the king is in love with Mademoiselle
de la Valliere; and the proof that I do not believe it is, that I was
about to ask you whose _amour propre_ it is likely the king is desirous
of wounding?  You, who are well acquainted with the whole court, can
perhaps assist me in ascertaining that; and assuredly, with greater
certainty, since it is everywhere said that your royal highness is on
very friendly terms with the king."

Madame bit her lips, and, unable to assign any good and sufficient
reasons, changed the conversation.  "Prove to me," she said, fixing on
him one of those looks in which the whole soul seems to pass into the
eyes, "prove to me, I say, that you intended to interrogate me at the
very moment I sent for you."

De Guiche gravely drew from his pocket the now crumpled note that he had
written, and showed it to her.

"Sympathy," she said.

"Yes," said the comte, with an indescribable tenderness of tone,
"sympathy.  I have explained to you how and why I sought you; you,
however, have yet to tell me, Madame, why you sent for me."

"True," replied the princess.  She hesitated, and then suddenly
exclaimed, "Those bracelets will drive me mad."

"You expected the king would offer them to you," replied De Guiche.

"Why not?"

"But before you, Madame, before you, his sister-in-law, was there not the
queen herself to whom the king should have offered them?"

"Before La Valliere," cried the princess, wounded to the quick, "could he
not have presented them to me?  Was there not the whole court, indeed, to
choose from?"

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