Make your own free website on Tripod.com

List Of Contents | Contents of Ten Years Later, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

have to reproach yourself with, but I will repair the mischief as far as
you are concerned.  I will but fasten my cloak, and shall then be ready
to serve you, not only as a guide, but as your introducer, too."


Chapter XIV:
A Surprise for Raoul.

Madame's marriage was celebrated in the chapel of the Palais Royal, in
the presence of a crowd of courtiers, who had been most scrupulously
selected.  However, notwithstanding the marked favor which an invitation
indicated, Raoul, faithful to his promise to Malicorne, who was so
anxious to witness the ceremony, obtained admission for him.  After he
had fulfilled this engagement, Raoul approached De Guiche, who, as if in
contrast with his magnificent costume, exhibited a countenance so utterly
dejected, that the Duke of Buckingham was the only one present who could
contend with him as far as pallor and discomfiture were concerned.

"Take care, count," said Raoul, approaching his friend, and preparing to
support him at the moment the archbishop blessed the married couple.  In
fact, the Prince of Conde was attentively scrutinizing these two images
of desolation, standing like caryatides on either side of the nave of the
church.  The count, after that, kept a more careful watch over himself.

At the termination of the ceremony, the king and queen passed onward
towards the grand reception-room, where Madame and her suite were to be
presented to them.  It was remarked that the king, who had seemed more
than surprised at his sister-in-law's appearance, was most flattering in
his compliments to her.  Again, it was remarked that the queen-mother,
fixing a long and thoughtful gaze upon Buckingham, leaned towards Madame
de Motteville as though to ask her, "Do you not see how much he resembles
his father?" and finally it was remarked that Monsieur watched everybody,
and seemed quite discontented.  After the reception of the princess and
ambassadors, Monsieur solicited the king's permission to present to him
as well as to Madame the persons belonging to their new household.

"Are you aware, vicomte," inquired the Prince de Conde of Raoul, "whether
the household has been selected by a person of taste, and whether there
are any faces worth looking at?"

"I have not the slightest idea, monseigneur," replied Raoul.

"You affect ignorance, surely."

"In what way, monseigneur?"

"You are a friend of De Guiche, who is one of the friends of the prince."

"That may be so, monseigneur; but the matter having no interest whatever
for me, I have never questioned De Guiche on the subject; and De Guiche,
on his part, never having been questioned, did not communicate any
particulars to me."

"But Manicamp?"

"It is true I saw Manicamp at Le Havre, and during the journey here, but
I was no more inquisitive with him than I had been towards De Guiche.
Besides, is it likely that Manicamp should know anything of such matters?
for he is a person of only secondary importance."

"My dear vicomte, do you not know better than that?" said the prince;
"why, it is these persons of secondary importance, who, on such
occasions, have all the influence; and the truth is, that nearly
everything has been done through Manicamp's presentations to De Guiche,
and through De Guiche to Monsieur."

"I assure you, monseigneur, I was ignorant of that," said Raoul, "and
what your highness does me the honor to impart is perfectly new to me."

"I will most readily believe you, although it seems incredible; besides
we shall not have long to wait.  See, the flying squadron is advancing,
as good Queen Catherine used to say.  Ah! ah! what pretty faces!"

A bevy of young girls at this moment entered the _salon_, conducted by
Madame de Navailles, and to Manicamp's credit be it said, if indeed he
had taken that part in their selection which the Prince de Conde assigned
him, it was a display calculated to dazzle those who, like the prince,
could appreciate every character and style of beauty.  A young, fair-
complexioned girl, from twenty to one-and-twenty years of age, and whose
large blue eyes flashed, as she opened them, in the most dazzling manner,
walked at the head of the band and was the first presented.

"Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente," said Madame de Navailles to Monsieur,
who, as he saluted his wife, repeated "Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente."

"Ah! ah!" said the Prince de Conde to Raoul, "she is presentable enough."

"Yes," said Raoul, "but has she not a somewhat haughty style?"

"Bah! we know these airs very well, vicomte; three months hence she will
be tame enough.  But look, there, indeed, is a pretty face."

"Yes," said Raoul, "and one I am acquainted with."

"Mademoiselle Aure de Montalais," said Madame de Navailles.  The name and
Christian name were carefully repeated by Monsieur.

"Great heavens!" exclaimed Raoul, fixing his bewildered gaze upon the
entrance doorway.

"What's the matter?" inquired the prince; "was it Mademoiselle Aure de
Montalais who made you utter such a 'Great heavens'?"

"No, monseigneur, no," replied Raoul, pale and trembling.

"Well, then, if it be not Mademoiselle Aure de Montalais, it is that
pretty _blonde_ who follows her.  What beautiful eyes!  She is rather
thin, but has fascinations without number."

"Mademoiselle de la Baume le Blanc de la Valliere!" said Madame de
Navailles; and, as this name resounded through his whole being, a cloud
seemed to rise from his breast to his eyes, so that he neither saw nor
heard anything more; and the prince, finding him nothing more than a mere
echo which remained silent under his railleries, moved forward to inspect
somewhat closer the beautiful girls whom his first glance had already
particularized.

"Louise here!  Louise a maid of honor to Madame!" murmured Raoul, and his
eyes, which did not suffice to satisfy his reason, wandered from Louise
to Montalais.  The latter had already emancipated herself from her
assumed timidity, which she only needed for the presentation and for her
reverences.

Mademoiselle de Montalais, from the corner of the room to which she had
retired, was looking with no slight confidence at the different persons
present; and, having discovered Raoul, she amused herself with the
profound astonishment which her own and her friend's presence there
caused the unhappy lover.  Her waggish and malicious look, which Raoul
tried to avoid meeting, and which yet he sought inquiringly from time to
time, placed him on the rack.  As for Louise, whether from natural
timidity, or some other reason for which Raoul could not account, she
kept her eyes constantly cast down; intimidated, dazzled, and with
impeded respiration, she withdrew herself as much as possible aside,
unaffected even by the nudges Montalais gave her with her elbow.  The
whole scene was a perfect enigma for Raoul, the key to which he would
have given anything to obtain.  But no one was there who could assist
him, not even Malicorne; who, a little uneasy at finding himself in the
presence of so many persons of good birth, and not a little discouraged
by Montalais's bantering glances, had described a circle, and by degrees
succeeded in getting a few paces from the prince, behind the group of
maids of honor, and nearly within reach of Mademoiselle Aure's voice, she
being the planet around which he, as her attendant satellite, seemed
constrained to gravitate.  As he recovered his self-possession, Raoul
fancied he recognized voices on his right hand side that were familiar to
him, and he perceived De Wardes, De Guiche, and the Chevalier de Lorraine
conversing together.  It is true they were talking in tones so low, that
the sound of their words could hardly be heard in the vast apartment.  To
speak in that manner from any particular place without bending down, or
turning round, or looking at the person with whom one may be engaged in
conversation, is a talent that cannot be immediately acquired by
newcomers.  Long study is needed for such conversations, which, without a
look, gesture, or movement of the head, seem like the conversation of a
group of statues.  In fact, the king's and queen's grand assemblies,
while their majesties were speaking, and while every one present seemed
to be listening in the midst of the most profound silence, some of these
noiseless conversations took place, in which adulation was not the
prevailing feature.  But Raoul was one among others exceedingly clever in
this art, so much a matter of etiquette, that from the movement of the
lips, he was often able to guess the sense of the words.

"Who is that Montalais?" inquired De Wardes, "and that La Valliere?  What
country-town have we had sent here?"

"Montalais?" said the chevalier, - "oh, I know her; she is a good sort of
girl, whom we shall find amusing enough.  La Valliere is a charming girl,
slightly lame."

"Ah! bah!" said De Wardes.

"Do not be absurd, De Wardes, there are some very characteristic and
ingenious Latin axioms about lame ladies."

"Gentlemen, gentlemen," said De Guiche, looking at Raoul with uneasiness,
"be a little careful, I entreat you."

But the uneasiness of the count, in appearance at least, was not needed.
Raoul had preserved the firmest and most indifferent countenance,
although he had not lost a word that passed.  He seemed to keep an
account of the insolence and license of the two speakers in order to
settle matters with them at the earliest opportunity.

De Wardes seemed to guess what was passing in his mind, and continued:

"Who are these young ladies' lovers?"

"Montalais's lover?" said the chevalier.

"Yes, Montalais first."

"You, I, or De Guiche, - whoever likes, in fact."

"And the other?"

"Mademoiselle de la Valliere?"

"Yes."

"Take care, gentlemen," exclaimed De Guiche, anxious to put a stop to the
chevalier's reply; "take care, Madame is listening to us."

Raoul had thrust his hand up to the wrist into his _justaucorps_ in great
agitation.  But the very malignity which he saw was excited against these
poor girls made him take a serious resolution.  "Poor Louise," he
thought, "has come here only with an honorable object in view, and under

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >



Other sites:

db3nf.com screen-capture.net floresca.net simonova.net flora-source.com flora-source.com sourcecentral.com sourcecentral.com geocities.com