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List Of Contents | Contents of Louise de la Valliere, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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on his return.  All the time he was committing these words to memory, the
comte was engaged in undressing himself more completely.  He had just
taken off his coat, and was putting on his dressing-gown, when he was
informed that Monsieur le Baron du Vallon de Bracieux de Pierrefonds was
waiting to be received.

"Eh!" he said, "what does that bunch of names mean?  I don't know
anything about him."

"It is the same gentleman," replied the lackey, "who had the honor of
dining with you, monseigneur, at the king's table, when his majesty was
staying at Fontainebleau."

"Introduce him, then, at once," cried Saint-Aignan.

Porthos, in a few minutes, entered the room.  M. de Saint-Aignan had an
excellent recollection of persons, and, at the first glance, he
recognized the gentleman from the country, who enjoyed so singular a
reputation, and whom the king had received so favorably at Fontainebleau,
in spite of the smiles of some of those who were present.  He therefore
advanced towards Porthos with all the outward signs of consideration of
manner which Porthos thought but natural, considering that he himself,
whenever he called upon an adversary, hoisted a standard of the most
refined politeness.  Saint-Aignan desired the servant to give Porthos a
chair; and the latter, who saw nothing unusual in this act of politeness,
sat down gravely and coughed.  The ordinary courtesies having been
exchanged between the two gentlemen, the comte, to whom the visit was
paid, said, "May I ask, monsieur le baron, to what happy circumstance I
am indebted for the favor of a visit from you?"

"The very thing I am about to have the honor of explaining to you,
monsieur le comte; but, I beg your pardon - "

"What is the matter, monsieur?" inquired Saint-Aignan.

"I regret to say that I have broken your chair."

"Not at all, monsieur," said Saint-Aignan; "not at all."

"It is the fact, though, monsieur le comte; I have broken it - so much
so, indeed, that if I do not move, I shall fall down, which would be an
exceedingly disagreeable position for me in the discharge of the very
serious mission which has been intrusted to me with regard to yourself."

Porthos rose; and but just in time, for the chair had given way several
inches.  Saint-Aignan looked about him for something more solid for his
guest to sit upon.

"Modern articles of furniture," said Porthos, while the comte was looking
about, "are constructed in a ridiculously flimsy manner.  In my early
days, when I used to sit down with far more energy than is now the case,
I do not remember ever to have broken a chair, except in taverns, with my
arms."

Saint-Aignan smiled at this remark.  "But," said Porthos, as he settled
himself down on a couch, which creaked, but did not give way beneath his
weight, "that unfortunately has nothing whatever to do with my present
visit."

"Why unfortunately?  Are you the bearer of a message of ill-omen,
monsieur le baron?"

"Of ill-omen - for a gentleman?  Certainly not, monsieur le comte,"
replied Porthos, nobly.  "I have simply come to say that you have
seriously insulted a friend of mine."

"I, monsieur?" exclaimed Saint-Aignan - "I have insulted a friend of
yours, do you say?  May I ask his name?"

"M. Raoul de Bragelonne."

"I have insulted M. Raoul de Bragelonne!" cried Saint-Aignan.  "I really
assure you, monsieur, that it is quite impossible; for M. de Bragelonne,
whom I know but very slightly, - nay, whom I know hardly at all - is in
England, and, as I have not seen him for a long time past, I cannot
possibly have insulted him."

"M. de Bragelonne is in Paris, monsieur le comte," said Porthos,
perfectly unmoved; "and I repeat, it is quite certain you have insulted
him, since he himself told me you had.  Yes, monsieur, you have seriously
insulted him, mortally insulted him, I repeat."

"It is impossible, monsieur le baron, I swear, quite impossible."

"Besides," added Porthos, "you cannot be ignorant of the circumstance,
since M. de Bragelonne informed me that he had already apprised you of it
by a note."

"I give you my word of honor, monsieur, that I have received no note
whatever."

"This is most extraordinary," replied Porthos.

"I will convince you," said Saint-Aignan, "that  have received nothing in
any way from him."  And he rang the bell.  "Basque," he said to the
servant who entered, "how many letters have or notes were sent here
during my absence?"

"Three, monsieur le comte - a note from M. de Fiesque, one from Madame de
Laferte, and a letter from M. de las Fuentes."

"Is that all?"

"Yes, monsieur le comte."

"Speak the truth before this gentleman - the truth, you understand.  I
will take care you are not blamed."

"There was a note, also, from - from - "

"Well, from whom?"

"From Mademoiselle - de - "

"Out with it!"

"De Laval."

"That is quite sufficient," interrupted Porthos.  "I believe you,
monsieur le comte."

Saint-Aignan dismissed the valet, and followed him to the door, in order
to close it after him; and when he had done so, looking straight before
him, he happened to see in the keyhole of the adjoining apartment the
paper which Bragelonne had slipped in there as he left.  "What is this?"
he said.

Porthos, who was sitting with his back to the room, turned round.  "Aha!"
he said.

"A note in the keyhole!" exclaimed Saint-Aignan.

"That is not unlikely to be the missing letter, monsieur le comte," said
Porthos.

Saint-Aignan took out the paper.  "A note from M. de Bragelonne!" he
exclaimed.

"You see, monsieur, I was right.  Oh, when I say a thing - "

"Brought here by M. de Bragelonne himself," the comte murmured, turning
pale.  "This is infamous!  How could he possibly have come here?"  And
the comte rang again.

"Who has been here during my absence with the king?"

"No one, monsieur."

"That is impossible!  Some one must have been here."

"No one could possibly have entered, monsieur, since the keys have never
left my pocket."

"And yet I find the letter in yonder lock; some one must have put it
there; it could not have come here of its own accord."

Basque opened his arms as if signifying the most absolute ignorance on
the subject.

"Probably it was M. de Bragelonne himself who placed it there," said
Porthos.

"In that case he must have entered here."

"How could that have been, since I have the key in my own pocket?"
returned Basque, perseveringly.

Saint-Aignan crumpled the letter in his palm, after having read it.
"There is something mysterious about this," he murmured, absorbed in
thought.  Porthos left him to his reflections; but after a while returned
to the mission he had undertaken.

"Shall we return to our little affair?" Porthos resumed, addressing Saint-
Aignan after a brief pause.

"I think I can now understand it, from this note, which has arrived here
in so singular a manner.  Monsieur de Bragelonne says that a friend will
call."

"I am his friend.  I am the person he alludes to."

"For the purpose of giving me a challenge?"

"Precisely."

"And he complains that I have insulted him?"

"Mortally."

"In what way, may I ask; for his conduct is so mysterious, that, at
least, it needs some explanation?"

"Monsieur," replied Porthos, "my friend cannot but be right; and, as far
as his conduct is concerned, if it be mysterious, as you say, you have
only yourself to blame for it."  Porthos pronounced these words with an
amount of confidence which, for a man who was unaccustomed to his ways,
must have revealed an infinity of sense.

"Mystery, so be it; but what is all the mystery about?" said Saint-Aignan.

"You will think it the best, perhaps," Porthos replied, with a low bow,
"if I do not enter in to particulars."

"Oh, I perfectly understand.  We will touch very lightly upon it, then,
so speak, monsieur, I am listening."

"In the first place, monsieur," said Porthos, "you have changed your
apartments."

"Yes, that is quite true," said Saint-Aignan.

"You admit it," said Porthos, with an air of satisfaction.

"Admit it! of course I admit it.  Why should I not admit it, do you
suppose?"

"You have admitted it.  Very good," said Porthos, lifting up one finger.

"But how can my having moved my lodgings have done M. de Bragelonne any
harm?  Have the goodness to tell me that, for I positively do not
comprehend a word of what you are saying."

Porthos stopped him, and then said, with great gravity, "Monsieur, this
is the first of M. de Bragelonne's complaints against you.  If he makes a
complaint, it is because he feels himself insulted."

Saint-Aignan began to beat his foot impatiently on the ground.  "This
looks like a spurious quarrel," he said.

"No one can possibly have a spurious quarrel with the Vicomte de
Bragelonne," returned Porthos; "but, at all events, you have nothing to
add on the subject of your changing your apartments, I suppose?"

"Nothing.  And what is the next point?"

"Ah, the next!  You will observe, monsieur, that the one I have already
mentioned is a most serious injury, to which you have given no answer, or
rather, have answered very indifferently.  Is it possible, monsieur, that
you have changed your lodgings?  M. de Bragelonne feels insulted at your
having done so, and you do not attempt to excuse yourself."

"What!" cried Saint-Aignan, who was getting annoyed at the perfect
coolness of his visitor - "what! am I to consult M. de Bragelonne whether
I am to move or not?  You can hardly be serious, monsieur."

"I am.  And it is absolutely necessary, monsieur; but under any
circumstances, you will admit that it is nothing in comparison with the
second ground of complaint."

"Well, what is that?"

Porthos assumed a very solemn expression as he said: "How about the trap-
door, monsieur?"

Saint-Aignan turned exceedingly pale.  He pushed back his chair so
abruptly, that Porthos, simple as he was, perceived that the blow had
told.  "The trap-door," murmured Saint-Aignan.

"Yes, monsieur, explain that if you can," said Porthos, shaking his head.

Saint-Aignan held down his head, as he murmured: "I have been betrayed,

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