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List Of Contents | Contents of Louise de la Valliere, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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redeeming, by a whole day of voluptuousness, every minute which had been
formerly passed in anguish and misery.  It was not the soft green sward
of Hampton Court - so soft that it almost resembled the richest velvet in
the thickness of its texture - nor was it the beds of flowers, with their
variegated hues which encircled the foot of every tree with rose-trees
many feet in height, embracing most lovingly their trunks - nor even the
enormous lime-trees, whose branches swept the earth like willows,
offering a ready concealment for love or reflection beneath the shade of
their foliage - it was none of these things for which Charles II. loved
his palace of Hampton Court.  Perhaps it might have been that beautiful
sheet of water, which the cool breeze rippled like the wavy undulations
of Cleopatra's hair, waters bedecked with cresses and white water-lilies,
whose chaste bulbs coyly unfolding themselves beneath the sun's warm
rays, reveal the golden gems which lie concealed within their milky
petals - murmuring waters, on the bosom of which black swans majestically
floated, and the graceful water-fowl, with their tender broods covered
with silken down, darted restlessly in every direction, in pursuit of the
insects among the reeds, or the fogs in their mossy retreats.  Perhaps it
might have been the enormous hollies, with their dark and tender green
foliage; or the bridges uniting the banks of the canals in their embrace;
or the fawns browsing in the endless avenues of the park; or the
innumerable birds that hopped about the gardens, or flew from branch to
branch, amidst the emerald foliage.

It might well have been any of these charms - for Hampton Court had them
all; and possessed, too, almost forests of white roses, which climbed and
trailed along the lofty trellises, showering down upon the ground their
snowy leaves rich with soft perfumery.  But no, what Charles II. most
loved in Hampton Court were the charming figures who, when midday was
past, flitted to and fro along the broad terraces of the gardens; like
Louis XIV., he had their wealth of beauties painted for his gallery by
one of the great artists of the period - an artist who well knew the
secret of transferring to canvas the rays of light which escaped from
beaming eyes heavy laden with love and love's delights.

The day of our arrival at Hampton Court is almost as clear and bright as
a summer's day in France; the atmosphere is heavy with the delicious
perfume of geraniums, sweet-peas, seringas, and heliotrope scattered in
profusion around.  It is past midday, and the king, having dined after
his return from hunting, paid a visit to Lady Castlemaine, the lady who
was reputed at the time to hold his heart in bondage; and this proof of
his devotion discharged, he was readily permitted to pursue his
infidelities until evening arrived.  Love and amusement ruled the entire
court; it was the period when ladies would seriously interrogate their
ruder companions as to their opinions upon a foot more or less
captivating, according to whether it wore a pink or lilac silk stocking 
for it was the period when Charles II. had declared that there was no
hope of safety for a woman who wore green silk stockings, because Miss
Lucy Stewart wore them of that color.  While the king is endeavoring in
all directions to inculcate others with his preferences on this point, we
will ourselves bend our steps towards an avenue of beech-trees opposite
the terrace, and listen to the conversation of a young girl in a dark-
colored dress, who is walking with another of about her own age dressed
in blue.  They crossed a beautiful lawn, from the center of which sprang
a fountain, with the figure of a siren executed in bronze, and strolled
on, talking as they went, towards the terrace, along which, looking out
upon the park and interspersed at frequent intervals, were erected summer-
houses, diverse in form and ornament; these summer-houses were nearly all
occupied; the two young women passed on, the one blushing deeply, while
the other seemed dreamily silent.  At last, having reached the end of the
terrace which looks on the river, and finding there a cool retreat, they
sat down close to each other.

"Where are we going?" said the younger to her companion.

"My dear, we are going where you yourself led the way."

"I?"

"Yes, you; to the extremity of the palace, towards that seat yonder,
where the young Frenchman is seated, wasting his time in sighs and
lamentations."

Miss Mary Grafton hurriedly said, "No, no; I am not going there."

"Why not?"

"Let us go back, Lucy."

"Nay, on the contrary, let us go on, and have an explanation."

"What about?"

"About how it happens that the Vicomte de Bragelonne always accompanies
you in all your walks, as you invariably accompany him in his."

"And you conclude either that he loves me, or that I love him?"

"Why not? - he is a most agreeable and charming companion. - No one hears
me, I hope," said Lucy Stewart, as she turned round with a smile, which
indicated, moreover, that her uneasiness on the subject was not extreme.

"No, no," said Mary, "the king is engaged in his summer-house with the
Duke of Buckingham."

"Oh! _a propos_ of the duke, Mary, it seems he has shown you great
attention since his return from France; how is your own heart in that
direction?"

Mary Grafton shrugged her shoulders with seeming indifference.

"Well, well, I will ask Bragelonne about it," said Stewart, laughing;
"let us go and find him at once."

"What for?"

"I wish to speak to him."

"Not yet, one word before you do: come, come, you who know so many of the
king's secrets, tell me why M. de Bragelonne is in England?"

"Because he was sent as an envoy from one sovereign to another."

"That may be; but, seriously, although politics do not much concern us,
we know enough to be satisfied that M. de Bragelonne has no mission of
serious import here."

"Well, then, listen," said Stewart, with assumed gravity, "for your sake
I am going to betray a state secret.  Shall I tell you the nature of the
letter which King Louis XIV. gave M. de Bragelonne for King Charles II.?
I will; these are the very words: 'My brother, the bearer of this is a
gentleman attached to my court, and the son of one whom you regard most
warmly.  Treat him kindly, I beg, and try and make him like England.'"

"Did it say that!"

"Word for word - or something very like it.  I will not answer for the
form, but the substance I am sure of."

"Well, and what conclusion do you, or rather what conclusion does the
king, draw from that?"

"That the king of France has his own reasons for removing M. de
Bragelonne, and for getting him married anywhere else than in France."

"So that, then, in consequence of this letter - "

"King Charles received M. de Bragelonne, as you are aware, in the most
distinguished and friendly manner; the handsomest apartments in Whitehall
were allotted to him; and as you are the most valuable and precious
person in his court, inasmuch as you have rejected his heart, - nay, do
not blush, - he wished you to take a fancy to this Frenchman, and he was
desirous to confer upon him so costly a prize.  And this is the reason
why you, the heiress of three hundred thousand pounds, a future duchess,
so beautiful, so good, have been thrown in Bragelonne's way, in all the
promenades and parties of pleasure to which he was invited.  In fact it
was a plot, - a kind of conspiracy."

Mary Grafton smiled with that charming expression which was habitual to
her, and pressing her companion's arm, said: "Thank the king, Lucy."

"Yes, yes, but the Duke of Buckingham is jealous, so take care."

Hardly had she pronounced these words, when the duke appeared from one of
the pavilions on the terrace, and, approaching the two girls, with a
smile, said, "You are mistaken, Miss Lucy; I am not jealous; and the
proof, Miss Mary, is yonder, in the person of M. de Bragelonne himself,
who ought to be the cause of my jealousy, but who is dreaming in pensive
solitude.  Poor fellow!  Allow me to leave you for a few minutes, while I
avail myself of those few minutes to converse with Miss Lucy Stewart, to
whom I have something to say."  And then, bowing to Lucy, he added, "Will
you do me the honor to accept my hand, in order that I may lead you to
the king, who is waiting for us?"  With these words, Buckingham, still
smiling, took Miss Stewart's hand, and led her away.  When by herself,
Mary Grafton, her head gently inclined towards her shoulder, with that
indolent gracefulness of action which distinguishes young English girls,
remained for a moment with her eyes fixed on Raoul, but as if uncertain
what to do.  At last, after first blushing violently, and then turning
deadly pale, thus revealing the internal combat which assailed her heart,
she seemed to make up her mind to adopt a decided course, and with a
tolerably firm step, advanced towards the seat on which Raoul was
reclining, buried in the profoundest meditation, as we have already
said.  The sound of Miss Mary's steps, though they could hardly be heard
upon the green sward, awakened Raoul from his musing attitude; he turned
round, perceived the young girl, and walked forward to meet the companion
whom his happy destiny had thrown in his way.

"I have been sent to you, monsieur," said Mary Grafton; "will you take
care of me?"

"To whom is my gratitude due, for so great a happiness?" inquired Raoul.

"To the Duke of Buckingham," replied Mary, affecting a gayety she did not
really feel.

"To the Duke of Buckingham, do you say? - he who so passionately seeks
your charming society!  Am I really to believe you are serious,
mademoiselle?"

"The fact is, monsieur, you perceive, that everything seems to conspire
to make us pass the best, or rather the longest, part of our days
together.  Yesterday it was the king who desired me to beg you to seat
yourself next to me at dinner; to-day, it is the Duke of Buckingham who
begs me to come and place myself near you on this seat."

"And he has gone away in order to leave us together?" asked Raoul, with

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