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List Of Contents | Contents of Louise de la Valliere, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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said the young girl.

"He is wrong, then."

"Do you assume to know, my lord, that _I_ am wrong?"

"Yes."

"Whom is it that he loves, then?" exclaimed the young girl.

"He loves a lady who is unworthy of him," said Buckingham, with that
calm, collected manner peculiar to Englishmen.

Miss Grafton uttered a cry, which, together with the remark that
Buckingham had that moment made, spread of De Bragelonne's features a
deadly paleness, arising from the sudden surprise, and also from a vague
fear of impending misfortune.  "My lord," he exclaimed, "you have just
pronounced words which compel me, without a moment's delay, to seek their
explanation in Paris."

"You will remain here," said Buckingham, "because you have no right to
leave; and no one has the right to quit the service of the king for that
of any woman, even were she as worthy of being loved as Mary Grafton is."

"You will tell me all, then?"

"I will, on condition that you will remain."

"I will remain, if you will promise to speak openly and without reserve."

Thus far had their conversation proceeded, and Buckingham, in all
probability, was on the point of revealing, not indeed all that had taken
place, but at least all he was aware of, when one of the king's
attendants appeared at the end of the terrace, and advanced towards the
summer-house where the king was sitting with Lucy Stewart.  A courier
followed him, covered with dust from head to foot, and who seemed as if
he had but a few moments before dismounted from his horse.

"The courier from France!  Madame's courier!" exclaimed Raoul,
recognizing the princess's livery; and while the attendant and the
courier advanced towards the king, Buckingham and Miss Grafton exchanged
a look full of intelligence with each other.


Chapter XXXVIII:
The Courier from Madame.

Charles II. was busily engaged in proving, or in endeavoring to prove, to
Miss Stewart that she was the only person for whom he cared at all, and
consequently was avowing to her an affection similar to that which his
ancestor Henry IV. had entertained for Gabrielle.  Unfortunately for
Charles II., he had hit upon an unlucky day, the very day Miss Stewart
had taken it into her head to make him jealous, and therefore, instead of
being touched by his offer, as the king had hoped, she laughed heartily.

"Oh! sire, sire," she cried, laughing all the while; "if I were to be
unfortunate enough to ask you for a proof of the affection you possess,
how easy it would be to see that you are telling a falsehood."

"Nay, listen to me," said Charles, "you know my cartoons by Raphael; you
know whether I care for them or not; the whole world envies me their
possession, as you well know also; my father commissioned Van Dyck to
purchase them.  Would you like me to send them to your house this very
day?"

"Oh, no!" replied the young girl; "pray keep them yourself, sire; my
house is far too small to accommodate such visitors."

"In that case you shall have Hampton Court to put the cartoons in."

"Be less generous, sire, and learn to love a little while longer, that is
all I have to ask you."

"I shall never cease to love you; is not that enough?"

"You are smiling, sire."

"Do you wish me to weep?"

"No; but I should like to see you a  little more melancholy."

"Thank Heaven, I have been so long enough; fourteen years of exile,
poverty, and misery, I think I may well regard it as a debt discharged;
besides, melancholy makes people look so plain."

"Far from that - for look at the young Frenchman."

"What! the Vicomte de Bragelonne? are you smitten too?  By Heaven, they
will all grow mad over him one after the other; but he, on the contrary,
has a reason for being melancholy."

"Why so?"

"Oh, indeed! you wish me to betray state secrets, do you?"

"If I wish it, you must do so, for you told me you were quite ready to do
everything I wished."

"Well, then, he is bored in his own country.  Does that satisfy you?"

"Bored?"

"Yes, a proof that he is a simpleton; I allow him to fall in love with
Miss Mary Grafton, and he feels bored.  Can you believe it?"

"Very good; it seems, then, that if you were to find Miss Lucy Stewart
indifferent to you, you would console yourself by falling in love with
Miss Mary Grafton."

"I don't say that; in the first place, you know that Mary Grafton does
not care for me; besides, a man can only console himself for a lost
affection by the discovery of a new one.  Again, however, I repeat, the
question is not of myself, but of that young man.  One might almost be
tempted to call the girl he has left behind him a Helen - a Helen before
the little ceremony she went through with Paris, of course."

"He has left some one, then?"

"That is to say, some one has left _him_."

"Poor fellow! so much the worse!"

"Why do you mean by 'so much the worse'?"

"Why not? why did he leave?"

"Do you think it was of his own wish or will that he left?"

"Was he obliged to leave, then?"

"He left Paris under orders, my dear Stewart; and prepare to be surprised
- by express orders of the king."

"Ah! I begin to see, now."

"At least say nothing at all about it."

"You know very well that I am just as discreet as anybody else.  And so
the king sent him away?"

"Yes."

"And during his absence he takes his sweetheart from him?"

"Yes; and, will you believe it? the silly fellow, instead of thanking the
king, is making himself miserable."

"What! thank the king for depriving him of the woman he loves!  Really,
sire, yours is a most ungallant speech."

"But, pray understand me.  If she whom the king had run off with was
either a Miss Grafton or a Miss Stewart, I should not be of his opinion;
nay, I should even think him not half wretched enough; but she is a
little, thin, lame thing.  Deuce take such fidelity as that!  Surely, one
can hardly understand how a man can refuse a girl who is rich for one who
is poverty itself - a girl who loves him for one who deceives and betrays
him."

"Do you think that Mary seriously wishes to please the vicomte, sire?"

"I do, indeed."

"Very good! the vicomte will settle down in England, for Mary has a clear
head, and when she fixes her mind upon anything, she does so thoroughly."

"Take care, my dear Miss Stewart; if the vicomte has any idea of adopting
our country, he has not long to do so, for it was only the day before
yesterday that he again asked me for permission to leave."

"Which you refused him, I suppose?"

"I should think so, indeed; my royal brother is far too anxious for his
absence; and, for myself, my _amour propre_ is enlisted on his side, for
I will never have it said that I had held out as a bait to this young man
the noblest and gentlest creature in England - "

"You are very gallant, sire," said Miss Stewart, with a pretty pout.

"I do not allude to Miss Stewart, for she is worthy of a king's devotion;
and since she has captivated me I trust that no one else will be caught
by her; I say, therefore, finally, that the attention I have shown this
young man will not have been thrown away; he will stay with us here, he
will marry here, or I am very much mistaken."

"And I hope that when he is once married and settled, instead of being
angry with your majesty, he will be grateful to you, for every one tries
his utmost to please him; even the Duke of Buckingham, whose brilliancy,
which is incredible, seems to pale before that of this young Frenchman."

"Including Miss Stewart even, who calls him the most finished gentleman
she ever saw."

"Stay, sire; you have spoken quite enough, and quite highly enough, of
Miss Grafton, to overlook what I may have said about De Bragelonne.  But,
by the by, sire, your kindness for some time past astonishes me: you
think of those who are absent, you forgive those who have done you a
wrong, in fact, you are as nearly as possible, perfect.  How does it
happen - "

"It is because you allow yourself to be loved," he said, beginning to
laugh.

"Oh! there must be some other reason."

"Well, I am doing all I can to oblige my brother, Louis XIV."

"Nay, I must have another reason."

"Well, then, the true motive is that Buckingham strongly recommended the
young man to me, saying: 'Sire, I begin by yielding up all claim to Miss
Grafton; I pray you follow my example.'"

"The duke is, indeed, a true gentleman."

"Oh! of course, of course; it is Buckingham's turn now, I suppose, to
turn your head.  You seem determined to cross me in everything to-day."

At this moment some one rapped at the door.

"Who is it who presumes to interrupt us?" exclaimed Charles, impatiently.

"Really, sire, you are extremely vain with your 'who is it who presumes?'
and in order to punish you for it - "

She went to the door and opened it.

"It is a courier from France," said Miss Stewart.

"A courier from France!" exclaimed Charles; "from my sister, perhaps?"

"Yes, sire," said the usher, "a special messenger."

"Let him come in at once," said Charles.

"You have a letter for me," said the king to the courier as he entered,
"from the Duchess of Orleans?"

"Yes, sire," replied the courier, "and so urgent in its nature that I
have only been twenty-six hours in bringing it to your majesty, and yet I
lost three-quarters of an hour at Calais."

"Your zeal shall not be forgotten," said the king, as he opened the
letter.  When he had read it he burst out laughing, and exclaimed, "Upon
my word, I am at a loss to understand anything about it."  He then read
the letter a second time, Miss Stewart assuming a manner marked by the
greatest reserve, and doing her utmost to restrain her ardent curiosity.

"Francis," said the king to his valet, "see that this excellent fellow is
well taken care of and sleeps soundly, and that on waking to-morrow he
finds a purse of fifty sovereigns by his bedside."

"Sire!" said the courier, amazed.

"Begone, begone; my sister was perfectly right in desiring you to use the
utmost diligence; the affair was most pressing."  And he again began to
laugh louder than ever.  The courier, the valet, and Miss Stewart hardly

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