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List Of Contents | Contents of Louise de la Valliere, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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Wardes, at the same time, showing by his looks and by a movement of his
head that he perfectly understood him.  There was nothing in these signs
to enable strangers to suppose they were otherwise than upon the most
friendly footing.  De Guiche could therefore turn away from him, and wait
until he was at liberty.  He had not long to wait; for De Wardes, freed
from his questioners, approached De Guiche, and after a fresh salutation,
they walked side by side together.

"You have made a good impression since your return, my dear De Wardes,"
said the comte.

"Excellent, as you see."

"And your spirits are just as lively as ever?"

"Better."

"And a very great happiness, too."

"Why not?  Everything is so ridiculous in this world, everything so
absurd around us."

"You are right."

"You are of my opinion, then?"

"I should think so!  And what news do you bring us from yonder?"

"I?  None at all.  I have come to look for news here."

"But, tell me, you surely must have seen some people at Boulogne, one of
our friends, for instance; it is no great time ago."

"Some people - one of our friends - "

"Your memory is short."

"Ah! true; Bragelonne, you mean."

"Exactly so."

"Who was on his way to fulfil a mission, with which he was intrusted to
King Charles II."

"Precisely.  Well, then, did he not tell you, or did not you tell him - "

"I do not precisely know what I told him, I must confess: but I do know
what I did _not_ tell him."  De Wardes was _finesse_ itself.  He
perfectly well knew from De Guiche's tone and manner, which was cold and
dignified, that the conversation was about to assume a disagreeable
turn.  He resolved to let it take what course it pleased, and to keep
strictly on his guard.

"May I ask you what you did not tell him?" inquired De Guiche.

"All about La Valliere."

"La Valliere...  What is it? and what was that strange circumstance you
seem to have known over yonder, which Bragelonne, who was here on the
spot, was not acquainted with?"

"Do you really ask me that in a serious manner?"

"Nothing more so."

"What! you, a member of the court, living in Madame's household, a friend
of Monsieur's, a guest at their table, the favorite of our lovely
princess?"

Guiche colored violently from anger.  "What princess are you alluding
to?" he said.

"I am only acquainted with one, my dear fellow.  I am speaking of Madame
herself.  Are you devoted to
another princess, then?  Come, tell me."

De Guiche was on the point of launching out, but he saw the drift of the
remark.  A quarrel was imminent between the two young men.  De Wardes
wished the quarrel to be only in Madame's name, while De Guiche would not
accept it except on La Valliere's account.  From this moment, it became a
series of feigned attacks, which would have continued until one of the
two had been touched home.  De Guiche therefore resumed all the self-
possession he could command.

"There is not the slightest question in the world of Madame in this
matter, my dear De Wardes." said Guiche, "but simply of what you were
talking about just now."

"What was I saying?"

"That you had concealed certain things from Bragelonne."

"Certain things which you know as well as I do," replied De Wardes.

"No, upon my honor."

"Nonsense."

"If you tell me what they are, I shall know, but not otherwise, I swear."

"What!  I who have just arrived from a distance of sixty leagues, and you
who have not stirred from this place, who have witnessed with your own
eyes that which rumor informed me of at Calais!  Do you now tell me
seriously that you do not know what it is about?  Oh! comte, this is
hardly charitable of you."

"As you like, De Wardes; but I again repeat, I know nothing."

"You are truly discreet - well! - perhaps it is very prudent of you."

"And so you will not tell me anything, will not tell me any more than you
told Bragelonne?"

"You are pretending to be deaf, I see.  I am convinced that Madame could
not possibly have more command over herself than _you_ have."

"Double hypocrite," murmured Guiche to himself, "you are again returning
to the old subject."

"Very well, then," continued De Wardes, "since we find it so difficult to
understand each other about
La Valliere and Bragelonne let us speak about
your own affairs."

"Nay," said De Guiche, "I have no affairs of my own to talk about.  You
have not said anything about me, I suppose, to Bragelonne, which you
cannot repeat to my face?"

"No; but understand me, Guiche, that however much I may be ignorant of
certain matters, I am quite as conversant with others.  If, for instance,
we were conversing about the intimacies of the Duke of Buckingham at
Paris, as I did during my journey with the duke, I could tell you a great
many interesting circumstances.  Would you like me to mention them?"

De Guiche passed his hand across his forehead, which was covered in
perspiration.  "No, no," he said, "a hundred times no!  I have no
curiosity for matters which do not concern me.  The Duke of Buckingham is
for me nothing more than a simple acquaintance, whilst Raoul is an
intimate friend.  I have not the slightest curiosity to learn what
happened to the duke, while I have, on the contrary, the greatest
interest in all that happened to Raoul."

"In Paris?"

"Yes, in Paris, or Boulogne.  You understand I am on the spot; if
anything should happen, I am here to meet it; whilst Raoul is absent, and
has only myself to represent him; so, Raoul's affairs before my own."

"But he will return?"

"Not, however, until his mission is completed.  In the meantime, you
understand, evil reports cannot be permitted to circulate about him
without my looking into them."

"And for a better reason still, that he will remain some time in London,"
said De Wardes, chuckling.

"You think so," said De Guiche, simply.

"Think so, indeed! do you suppose he was sent to London for no other
purpose than to go there and return again immediately?  No, no; he was
sent to London to remain there."

"Ah!  De Wardes," said De Guiche, grasping De Wardes's hand, "that is a
very serious suspicion concerning Bragelonne, which completely confirms
what he wrote to me from Boulogne."

De Wardes resumed his former coldness of manner: his love of raillery had
led him too far, and by his own imprudence, he had laid himself open to
attack.

"Well, tell me, what did he write to you about?" he inquired.

"He told me that you had artfully insinuated some injurious remarks
against La Valliere, and that you had seemed to laugh at his great
confidence in that young girl."

"Well, it is perfectly true I did so," said De Wardes, "and I was quite
ready, at the time, to hear from the Vicomte de Bragelonne that which
every man expects from another whenever anything may have been said to
displease him.  In the same way, for instance, if I were seeking a
quarrel with you, I should tell you that Madame after having shown the
greatest preference for the Duke of Buckingham, is at this moment
supposed to have sent the handsome duke away for your benefit."

"Oh! that would not wound me in the slightest degree, my dear De Wardes,"
said De Guiche, smiling, notwithstanding the shiver that ran through his
whole frame.  "Why, such a favor would be too great a happiness."

"I admit that, but if I absolutely wished to quarrel with you, I should
try and invent a falsehood, perhaps, and speak to you about a certain
arbor, where you and that illustrious princess were together - I should
speak also of certain gratifications, of certain kissings of the hand;
and you who are so secret on all occasions, so hasty, so punctilious - "

"Well," said De Guiche, interrupting him, with a smile upon his lips,
although he almost felt as if he were going to die; "I swear I should not
care for that, nor should I in any way contradict you; for you must know,
my dear marquis, that for all matters which concern myself I am a block
of ice; but it is a very different thing when an absent friend is
concerned, a friend, who, on leaving, confided his interests to my safe-
keeping; for such a friend, De Wardes, believe me, I am like fire itself."

"I understand you, Monsieur de Guiche.  In spite of what you say, there
cannot be any question between us, just now, either of Bragelonne or of
this insignificant girl, whose name is La Valliere."

At this moment some of the younger courtiers were crossing the apartment,
and having already heard the few words which had just been pronounced,
were able also to hear those which were about to follow.  De Wardes
observed this, and continued aloud: - "Oh! if La Valliere were a coquette
like Madame, whose innocent flirtations, I am sure, were, first of all,
the cause of the Duke of Buckingham being sent back to England, and
afterwards were the reason of  your being sent into exile; for you will
not deny, I suppose, that Madame's pretty ways really had a certain
influence over you?"

The courtiers drew nearer to the speakers, Saint-Aignan at their head,
and then Manicamp.

"But, my dear fellow, whose fault was that?" said De Guiche, laughing.
"I am a vain, conceited fellow, I know, and everybody else knows it too.
I took seriously that which was only intended as a jest, and got myself
exiled for my pains.  But I saw my error.  I overcame my vanity, and I
obtained my recall, by making the _amende honorable_, and by promising
myself to overcome this defect; and the consequence is, that I am so
thoroughly cured, that I now laugh at the very thing which, three or four
days ago, would have almost broken my heart.  But Raoul is in love, and
is loved in return; he cannot laugh at the reports which disturb his
happiness - reports which you seem to have undertaken to interpret, when
you know, marquis, as I do, as these gentlemen do, as every one does in
fact, that all such reports are pure calumny."

"Calumny!" exclaimed De Wardes, furious at seeing himself caught in the
snare by De Guiche's coolness of temper.

"Certainly - calumny.  Look at this letter from him, in which he tell me
you have spoken ill of Mademoiselle de la Valliere; and where he asks me,

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