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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