"Why not Manicamp? De Wardes can join us at any time; we can leave him here." "Yes, that is true." "He knows nothing?" "Positively nothing. You continue still on an unfriendly footing, then?" "Has he not told you anything?" "Nothing." "I do not like the man, and, as I _never_ liked him, the result is, that I am on no worse terms with him to-day than I was yesterday." "Let us go, then." The four descended the stairs. De Guiche's carriage was waiting at the door, and took them to the Palais Royal. As they were going along, Raoul was engaged in devising his scheme of action. The sole depositary of two secrets, he did not despair of concluding some arrangement between the two parties. He knew the influence he exercised over Buckingham, and the ascendency he had acquired over De Guiche, and affairs did not look utterly hopeless. On their arrival in the gallery, dazzling with the blaze of light, where the most beautiful and illustrious women of the court moved to and fro, like stars in their own atmosphere, Raoul could not prevent himself for a moment forgetting De Guiche in order to seek out Louise, who, amidst her companions, like a dove completely fascinated, gazed long and fixedly upon the royal circle, which glittered with jewels and gold. All its members were standing, the king alone being seated. Raoul perceived Buckingham, who was standing a few paces from Monsieur, in a group of French and English, who were admiring his aristocratic carriage and the incomparable magnificence of his costume. Some of the older courtiers remembered having seen his father, but their recollections were not prejudicial to the son. Buckingham was conversing with Fouquet, who was talking with him aloud about Belle-Isle. "I cannot speak to him at present," said Raoul. "Wait, then, and choose your opportunity, but finish everything speedily. I am on thorns." "See, our deliverer approaches," said Raoul, perceiving D'Artagnan, who, magnificently dressed in his new uniform of captain of the musketeers, had just made his entry in the gallery; and he advanced towards D'Artagnan. "The Comte de la Fere has been looking for you, chevalier," said Raoul. "Yes," replied D'Artagnan, "I have just left him." "I thought you would have passed a portion of the evening together." "We have arranged to meet again." As he answered Raoul, his absent looks were directed on all sides, as if seeking some one in the crowd or looking for something in the room. Suddenly his gaze became fixed, like that of an eagle on its prey. Raoul followed the direction of his glance, and noticed that De Guiche and D'Artagnan saluted each other, but he could not distinguish at whom the captain's lingering and haughty glance was aimed. "Chevalier," said Raoul, "there is no one here but yourself who can render me a service." "What is it, my dear vicomte?" "It is simply to go and interrupt the Duke of Buckingham, to whom I wish to say two words, and, as the duke is conversing with M. Fouquet, you understand that it would not do for _me_ to throw myself into the middle of the conversation." "Ah, ah, is M. Fouquet there?" inquired D'Artagnan. "Do you not see him?" "Yes, now I do. But do you think I have a greater right than you have?" "You are a more important personage." "Yes, you're right; I am captain of the musketeers; I have had the post promised me so long, and have enjoyed it for so brief a period, that I am always forgetting my dignity." "You will do me this service, will you not?" "M. Fouquet - the deuce!" "Are you not on good terms with him?" "It is rather he who may not be on good terms with me; however, since it must be done some day or another - " "Stay; I think he is looking at you; or is it likely that it might be - " "No, no; don't deceive yourself, it is indeed me for whom this honor is intended." "The opportunity is a good one, then?" "Do you think so?" "Pray go." "Well, I will." De Guiche had not removed his eyes from Raoul, who made a sign to him that all was arranged. D'Artagnan walked straight up to the group, and civilly saluted M. Fouquet as well as the others. "Good evening, M. d'Artagnan; we were speaking of Belle-Isle," said Fouquet, with that usage of society, and that perfect knowledge of the language of looks, which require half a lifetime thoroughly to acquire, and which some persons, notwithstanding all their study, never attain. "Of Belle-Ile-en-Mer! Ah!" said D'Artagnan. "It belongs to you, I believe, M. Fouquet?" "M. Fouquet has just told us that he had presented it to the king," said Buckingham. "Do you know Belle-Isle, chevalier?" inquired Fouquet. "I have only been there once," replied D'Artagnan, with readiness and good-humor. "Did you remain there long?" "Scarcely a day." "Did you see much of it while you were there?" "All that could be seen in a day." "A great deal can be seen with observation as keen as yours," said Fouquet; at which D'Artagnan bowed. During this Raoul made a sign to Buckingham. "M. Fouquet," said Buckingham, "I leave the captain with you, he is more learned than I am in bastions, scarps, and counter-scarps, and I will join one of my friends, who has just beckoned me." Saying this, Buckingham disengaged himself from the group, and advanced towards Raoul, stopping for a moment at the table where the queen-mother, the young queen, and the king were playing together. "Now, Raoul," said De Guiche, "there he is; be firm and quick." Buckingham, having made some complimentary remark to Madame, continued his way towards Raoul, who advanced to meet him, while De Guiche remained in his place, though he followed him with his eyes. The maneuver was so arranged that the young men met in an open space which was left vacant, between the groups of players and the gallery, where they walked, stopping now and then for the purpose of saying a few words to some of the graver courtiers who were walking there. At the moment when the two lines were about to unite, they were broken by a third. It was Monsieur who advanced towards the Duke of Buckingham. Monsieur had his most engaging smile on his red and perfumed lips. "My dear duke," said he, with the most affectionate politeness; "is it really true what I have just been told?" Buckingham turned round; he had not noticed Monsieur approach; but had merely heard his voice. He started in spite of his command over himself, and a slight pallor overspread his face. "Monseigneur," he asked, "what has been told you that surprises you so much?" "That which throws me into despair, and will, in truth, be a real cause of mourning for the whole court." "Your highness is very kind, for I perceive that you allude to my departure." "Precisely." Guiche had overheard the conversation from where he was standing, and started in his turn. "His departure," he murmured. "What does he say?" Philip continued with the same gracious air, "I can easily conceive, monsieur, why the king of Great Britain recalls you; we all know that King Charles II., who appreciates true gentlemen, cannot dispense with you. But it cannot be supposed we can let you go without great regret; and I beg you to receive the expression of my own." "Believe me, monseigneur," said the duke, "that if I quit the court of France - " "Because you are recalled; but, if you suppose the expression of my own wish on the subject might possibly have any influence with the king, I will gladly volunteer to entreat his majesty Charles II. to leave you with us a little while longer." "I am overwhelmed, monseigneur, by so much kindness," replied Buckingham; "but I have received positive commands. My residence in France was limited; I have prolonged it at the risk of displeasing my gracious sovereign. It is only this very day that I recollected I ought to have set off four days ago." "Indeed," said Monsieur. "Yes; but," added Buckingham, raising his voice in such a manner that the princess could hear him, - "but I resemble that dweller in the East, who turned mad, and remained so for several days, owing to a delightful dream that he had had, but who one day awoke, if not completely cured, in some respects rational at least. The court of France has its intoxicating properties, which are not unlike this dream, my lord; but at last I wake and leave it. I shall be unable, therefore, to prolong my residence, as your highness has so kindly invited me to do." "When do you leave?" inquired Philip, with an expression full of interest. "To-morrow, monseigneur. My carriages have been ready for three days." The Duc d'Orleans made a movement of the head, which seemed to signify, "Since you are determined, duke, there is nothing to be said." Buckingham returned the gesture, concealing under a smile a contraction of his heart; and then Monsieur moved away in the same direction by which he had approached. At the same moment, however, De Guiche advanced from the opposite direction. Raoul feared that the impatient young man might possibly make the proposition himself, and hurried forth before him. "No, no, Raoul, all is useless now," said Guiche, holding both his hands towards the duke, and leading him behind a column. "Forgive me, duke, for what I wrote to you, I was mad; give me back my letter." "It is true," said the duke, "you cannot owe me a grudge any longer now." "Forgive me, duke; my friendship, my lasting friendship is yours." "There is certainly no reason why you should bear me any ill-will from the moment I leave her never to see her again." Raoul heard these words, and comprehending that his presence was now useless between the young men, who had now only friendly words to exchange, withdrew a few paces; a movement which brought him closer to De Wardes, who was conversing with the Chevalier de Lorraine respecting the departure of Buckingham. "A strategic retreat," said De Wardes. "Why so?" "Because the dear duke saves a sword-thrust by it." At which reply both laughed.
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