deserves favor, such as I wish to confer upon him. In a word, comte, I wish them to wait." "Yet once more, sire." "Comte, you told me you came here to request a favor." "Assuredly, sire." "Grant me one, then, instead; let us speak no longer upon this matter. It is probable that, before long, war may be declared. I require men about me who are unfettered. I should hesitate to send under fire a married man, or a father of a family. I should hesitate also, on De Bragelonne's account, to endow with a fortune, without some sound reason for it, a young girl, a perfect stranger; such an act would sow jealousy amongst my nobility." Athos bowed, and remained silent. "Is that all you wished to ask me?" added Louis XIV. "Absolutely all, sire; and I take my leave of your majesty. Is it, however, necessary that I should inform Raoul?" "Spare yourself the trouble and annoyance. Tell the vicomte that at my _levee_ to-morrow morning I will speak to him. I shall expect you this evening, comte, to join my card-table." "I am in traveling-costume, sire." "A day will come, I hope, when you will leave me no more. Before long, comte, the monarchy will be established in such a manner as to enable me to offer a worthy hospitality to men of your merit." "Provided, sire, a monarch reigns grandly in the hearts of his subjects, the palace he inhabits matters little, since he is worshipped in a temple." With these words Athos left the cabinet, and found De Bragelonne, who was awaiting him anxiously. "Well, monsieur?" said the young man. "The king, Raoul, is well intentioned towards us both; not, perhaps, in the sense you suppose, but he is kind, and generously disposed to our house." "You have bad news to communicate to me, monsieur," said the young man, turning very pale. "The king himself will inform you to-morrow morning that it is not bad news." "The king has not signed, however?" "The king wishes himself to settle the terms of the contract, and he desires to make it so grand that he requires time for consideration. Throw the blame rather on your own impatience, than on the king's good feelings towards you." Raoul, in utter consternation, on account of his knowledge of the count's frankness as well as his diplomacy, remained plunged in dull and gloomy stupor. "Will you not go with me to my lodgings?" said Athos. "I beg your pardon, monsieur; I will follow you," he stammered out, following Athos down the staircase. "Since I am here," said Athos, suddenly, "cannot I see M. d'Artagnan?" "Shall I show you his apartments?" said De Bragelonne. "Do so." "They are on the opposite staircase." They altered their course, but on reaching the landing of the grand staircase, Raoul perceived a servant in the Comte de Guiche's livery, who ran towards him as soon as he heard his voice. "What is it?" said Raoul. "This note, monsieur. My master heard of your return and wrote to you without delay; I have been looking for you for the last half-hour." Raoul approached Athos as he unsealed the letter, saying, "With your permission, monsieur." "Certainly." "Dear Raoul," wrote the Comte de Guiche, "I have an affair in hand which requires immediate attention; I know you have returned; come to me as soon as possible." Hardly had he finished reading it, when a servant in the livery of the Duke of Buckingham, turning out of the gallery, recognized Raoul, and approached him respectfully, saying, "From his Grace, monsieur." "Well, Raoul, as I see you are already as busy as a general of an army, I shall leave you, and will find M. d'Artagnan myself." "You will excuse me, I trust," said Raoul. "Yes, yes, I excuse you; adieu, Raoul; you will find me at my apartments until to-morrow; during the day I may set out for Blois, unless I have orders to the contrary." "I shall present my respects to you to-morrow, monsieur." As soon as Athos had left, Raoul opened Buckingham's letter. "Monsieur de Bragelonne," it ran, "You are, of all the Frenchmen I have known, the one with whom I am most pleased; I am about to put your friendship to the proof. I have received a certain message, written in very good French. As I am an Englishman, I am afraid of not comprehending it very clearly. The letter has a good name attached to it, and that is all I can tell you. Will you be good enough to come and see me? for I am told you have arrived from Blois. "Your devoted "VILLIERS, Duke of Buckingham." "I am going now to see your master," said Raoul to De Guiche's servant, as he dismissed him; "and I shall be with the Duke of Buckingham in an hour," he added, dismissing with these words the duke's messenger. Chapter XIX: Sword-Thrusts in the Water. Raoul, on betaking himself to De Guiche, found him conversing with De Wardes and Manicamp. De Wardes, since the affair of the barricade, had treated Raoul as a stranger; they behaved as if they were not acquainted. As Raoul entered, De Guiche walked up to him; and Raoul, as he grasped his friend's hand, glanced rapidly at his two companions, hoping to be able to read on their faces what was passing in their minds. De Wardes was cold and impenetrable; Manicamp seemed absorbed in the contemplation of some trimming to his dress. De Guiche led Raoul to an adjoining cabinet, and made him sit down, saying, "How well you look!" "That is singular," replied Raoul, "for I am far from being in good spirits." "It is your case, then, Raoul, as it is my own, - our love affairs do not progress." "So much the better, count, as far as _you_ are concerned; the worst news would be good news." "In that case do not distress yourself, for, not only am I very unhappy, but, what is more, I see others about me who are happy." "Really, I do not understand you," replied Raoul; "explain yourself." "You will soon learn. I have tried, but in vain, to overcome the feeling you saw dawn in me, increase, and take entire possession of me. I have summoned all your advice and my own strength to my aid. I have well weighed the unfortunate affair in which I have embarked; I have sounded its depths; that it is an abyss, I am aware, but it matters little for _I_ shall pursue my own course." "This is madness, De Guiche! you cannot advance another step without risking your own ruin to-day, perhaps your life to-morrow." "Whatever may happen, I have done with reflections; listen." "And you hope to succeed; you believe that Madame will love you?" "Raoul, I believe nothing; I hope, because hope exists in man, and never abandons him until death." "But, admitting that you obtain the happiness you covet, even then, you are more certainly lost than if you had failed in obtaining it." "I beseech you, Raoul, not to interrupt me any more; you could never convince me, for I tell you beforehand, I do not wish to be convinced; I have gone so far I cannot recede; I have suffered so much, death itself would be a boon. I no longer love to madness, Raoul, I am being engulfed by a whirlpool of jealousy." Raoul struck his hands together with an expression resembling anger. "Well?" said he. "Well or ill matters little. This is what I claim from you, my friend, my almost brother. During the last three days Madame has been living in a perfect intoxication of gayety. On the first day, I dared not look at her; I hated her for not being as unhappy as myself. The next day I could not bear her out of my sight; and she, Raoul - at least I thought I remarked it - she looked at me, if not with pity, at least with gentleness. But between her looks and mine, a shadow intervened; another's smile invited hers. Beside her horse another's always gallops, which is not mine; in her ear another's caressing voice, not mine, unceasingly vibrates. Raoul, for three days past my brain has been on fire; flame, not blood, courses through my veins. That shadow must be driven away, that smile must be quenched; that voice must be silenced." "You wish Monsieur's death," exclaimed Raoul. "No, no, I am not jealous of the husband; I am jealous of the lover." "Of the lover?" said Raoul. "Have you not observed it, you who were formerly so keen-sighted?" "Are you jealous of the Duke of Buckingham?" "To the very death." "Again jealous?" "This time the affair will be easy to arrange between us; I have taken the initiative, and have sent him a letter." "It was you, then, who wrote to him?" "How do you know that?" "I know it, because he told me so. Look at this;" and he handed De Guiche the letter he had received nearly at the same moment as his own. De Guiche read it eagerly, and said, "He is a brave man, and more than that, a gallant man." "Most certainly the duke is a gallant man; I need not ask if you wrote to him in a similar style." "He will show you my letter when you call on him on my behalf." "But that is almost out of the question." "What is?" "That I shall call on him for that purpose." "Why so?" "The duke consults me as you do." "I suppose you will give _me_ the preference! Listen to me, Raoul, I wish you to tell his Grace - it is a very simple matter - that to-day, to-morrow, the following day, or any other day he may choose, I will meet him at Vincennes." "Reflect, De Guiche." "I thought I told you I have reflected." "The duke is a stranger here; he is on a mission which renders his person inviolable.... Vincennes is close to the Bastile." "The consequences concern _me_." "But the motive for this meeting? What motive do you wish me to assign?" "Be perfectly easy on that score, he will not ask any. The duke must be as sick of me as I am of him. I implore you, therefore, seek the duke, and if it is necessary to entreat him, to accept my offer, I will do so." "That is useless. The duke has already informed me that he wishes to speak to me. The duke is now playing cards with the king. Let us both go there. I will draw him aside in the gallery; you will remain aloof. Two words will be sufficient." "That is well arranged. I will take De Wardes to keep me in countenance."
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