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List Of Contents | Contents of Louise de la Valliere, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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added a few congratulatory words accompanied by vague sympathizing
expressions.  I could not understand the one any more than the other.  I
was bewildered by my own thoughts, and tormented by a mistrust of this
man, - a mistrust which, you know better than any one else, I have never
been able to overcome.  As soon as he left, my perceptions seemed to
become clearer.  It is hardly possible that a man of De Wardes's
character should not have communicated something of his own malicious
nature to the statements he made to me.  It is not unlikely, therefore,
that in the strange hints De Wardes threw out in my presence, there may
be a mysterious signification, which I might have some difficulty in
applying either to myself or to some one with whom you are acquainted.
Being compelled to leave as soon as possible, in obedience to the king's
commands, the idea did not occur to me of running after De Wardes in
order to ask him to explain his reserve; but I have dispatched a courier
to you with this letter, which will explain in detail my various doubts.
I regard you as myself; you have reflected and observed; it will be for
you to act.  M. de Wardes will arrive very shortly; endeavor to learn
what he meant, if you do not already know.  M. de Wardes, moreover,
pretended that the Duke of Buckingham left Paris on the very best of
terms with Madame.  This was an affair which would have unhesitatingly
made me draw my sword, had I not felt that I was under the necessity of
dispatching the king's mission before undertaking any quarrel
whatsoever.  Burn this letter, which Olivain will hand you.  Whatever
Olivain says, you may confidently rely on.  Will you have the goodness,
my dear comte, to recall me to the remembrance of Mademoiselle de la
Valliere, whose hands I kiss with the greatest respect.
"Your devoted

"P. S. - If anything serious should happen - we should be prepared for
everything, dispatch a courier to me with this one single word, 'come,'
and I will be in Paris within six and thirty hours after the receipt of
your letter."

De Guiche sighed, folded up the letter a third time, and, instead of
burning it, as Raoul had recommended him to do, placed it in his pocket.
He felt it needed reading over and over again.

"How much distress of mind, yet what sublime confidence, he shows!"
murmured the comte; "he has poured out his whole soul in this letter.  He
says nothing of the Comte de la Fere, and speaks of his respect for
Louise.  He cautions me on my own account, and entreats me on his.  Ah!"
continued De Guiche, with a threatening gesture, "you interfere in my
affairs, Monsieur de Wardes, do you?  Very well, then; I will shortly
occupy myself with yours.  As for you, poor Raoul, - you who intrust your
heart to my keeping, be assured I will watch over it."

With this promise, De Guiche begged Malicorne to come immediately to his
apartments, if possible.  Malicorne acknowledged the invitation with an
activity which was the first result of his conversation with Montalais.
And while De Guiche, who thought that his motive was undiscovered, cross-
examined Malicorne, the latter, who appeared to be working in the dark,
soon guessed his questioner's motives.  The consequence was, that, after
a quarter of an hour's conversation, during which De Guiche thought he
had ascertained the whole truth with regard to La Valliere and the king,
he had learned absolutely nothing more than his own eyes had already
acquainted him with, while Malicorne learned, or guessed, that Raoul, who
was absent, was fast becoming suspicious, and that De Guiche intended to
watch over the treasure of the Hesperides.  Malicorne accepted the office
of dragon.  De Guiche fancied he had done everything for his friend, and
soon began to think of nothing but his personal affairs.  The next
evening, De Wardes's return and first appearance at the king's reception
were announced.  When that visit had been paid, the convalescent waited
on Monsieur; De Guiche taking care, however, to be at Monsieur's
apartments before the visit took place.

Chapter XII:
How De Wardes Was Received at Court.

Monsieur had received De Wardes with that marked favor light and
frivolous minds bestow on every novelty that comes in their way.  De
Wardes, who had been absent for a month, was like fresh fruit to him.  To
treat him with marked kindness was an infidelity to old friends, and
there is always something fascinating in that; moreover, it was a sort of
reparation to De Wardes himself.  Nothing, consequently, could exceed the
favorable notice Monsieur took of him.  The Chevalier de Lorraine, who
feared this rival but a little, but who respected a character and
disposition only too parallel to his own in every particular, with the
addition of a bull-dog courage he did not himself possess, received De
Wardes with a greater display of regard and affection than even Monsieur
had done.  De Guiche, as we have said, was there also, but kept in the
background, waiting very patiently until all these interchanges were
over.  De Wardes, while talking to the others, and even to Monsieur
himself, had not for a moment lost sight of De Guiche, who, he
instinctively felt, was there on his account.  As soon as he had finished
with the others, he went up to De Guiche.  They exchanged the most
courteous compliments, after which De Wardes returned to Monsieur and the
other gentlemen.

In the midst of these congratulations Madame was announced.  She had been
informed of De Wardes's arrival, and knowing all the details of his
voyage and duel, she was not sorry to be present at the remarks she knew
would be made, without delay, by one who, she felt assured, was her
personal enemy.  Two or three of her ladies accompanied her.  De Wardes
saluted Madame in the most graceful and respectful manner, and, as a
commencement of hostilities, announced, in the first place, that he could
furnish the Duke of Buckingham's friends with the latest news about him.
This was a direct answer to the coldness with which Madame had received
him.  The attack was a vigorous one, and Madame felt the blow, but
without appearing to have even noticed it.  He rapidly cast a glance at
Monsieur and at De Guiche, - the former colored, and the latter turned
very pale.  Madame alone preserved an unmoved countenance; but, as she
knew how many unpleasant thoughts and feelings her enemy could awaken in
the two persons who were listening to him, she smilingly bent forward
towards the traveler, as if to listen to the news he had brought - but he
was speaking of other matters.  Madame was brave, even to imprudence; if
she were to retreat, it would be inviting an attack; so, after the first
disagreeable impression had
passed away, she returned to the charge.

"Have you suffered much from your wounds, Monsieur de Wardes?" she
inquired, "for we have been told that you had the misfortune to get

It was now De Wardes's turn to wince; he bit his lips, and replied, "No,
Madame, hardly at all."

"Indeed! and yet in this terribly hot weather - "

"The sea-breezes were very fresh and cool, Madame, and then I had one

"Indeed!  What was it?"

"The knowledge that my adversary's sufferings were still greater than my

"Ah! you mean he was more seriously wounded than you were; I was not
aware of that," said the princess, with utter indifference.

"Oh, Madame, you are mistaken, or rather you pretend to misunderstand my
remark.  I did not say that he was a greater sufferer in body than
myself; but his heart was very seriously affected."

De Guiche comprehended instinctively from what direction the struggle was
approaching; he ventured to
make a sign to Madame, as if entreating her
to retire from the contest.  But she, without acknowledging De Guiche's
gesture, without pretending to have noticed it even, and still smiling,

"Is it possible," she said, "that the Duke of Buckingham's heart was
touched?  I had no idea, until now, that a heart-wound could be cured."

"Alas!  Madame," replied De Wardes, politely, "every woman believes that;
and it is this belief that gives them that superiority to man which
confidence begets."

"You misunderstand altogether, dearest," said the prince, impatiently;
"M. de Wardes means that the Duke of Buckingham's heart had been touched,
not by the sword, but by something sharper."

"Ah! very good, very good!" exclaimed Madame.  "It is a jest of M. de
Wardes's.  Very good; but I should like to know if the Duke of Buckingham
would appreciate the jest.  It is, indeed, a very great pity he is not
here, M. de Wardes."

The young man's eyes seemed to flash fire.  "Oh!" he said, as he clenched
his teeth, "there is nothing I should like better."

De Guiche did not move.  Madame seemed to expect that he would come to
her assistance.  Monsieur hesitated.  The Chevalier de Lorraine advanced
and continued the conversation.

"Madame," he said, "De Wardes knows perfectly well that for a
Buckingham's heart to be touched is nothing new, and what he has said has
already taken place."

"Instead of an ally, I have two enemies," murmured Madame; "two
determined enemies, and in league with each other."  And she changed the
conversation.  To change the conversation is, as every one knows, a right
possessed by princes which etiquette requires all to respect.  The
remainder of the conversation was moderate enough in tone; the principal
actors had rehearsed their parts.  Madame withdrew easily, and Monsieur,
who wished to question her on several matters, offered her his hand on
leaving.  The chevalier was seriously afraid that an understanding might
be established between the husband and wife if he were to leave them
quietly together.  He therefore made his way to Monsieur's apartments, in
order to surprise him on his return, and to destroy with a few words all
the good impressions Madame might have been able to sow in his heart.  De
Guiche advanced towards De Wardes, who was surrounded by a large number
of persons, and thereby indicated his wish to converse with him; De

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