insinuations, that the queen, so clear-sighted in matters of gallantry, had, if not guessed, at least suspected, his weakness for Madame. Of all his auxiliaries, Anne of Austria would be the most important to secure; of all his enemies, Anne of Austria would prove most dangerous. Louis, therefore, changed his maneuvers. He complained of Madame, absolved Monsieur, listened to what his mother had to say of De Guiche, as he had previously listened to what she had to say of Buckingham, and then, when he saw that she thought she had gained a complete victory over him, he left her. The whole of the court, that is to say, all the favorites and more intimate associates, and they were numerous, since there were already five masters, were assembled in the evening for the repetition of the ballet. This interval had been occupied by poor De Guiche in receiving visits; among the number was one which he hoped and feared nearly to an equal extent. It was that of the Chevalier de Lorraine. About three o'clock in the afternoon the chevalier entered De Guiche's rooms. His looks were of the most reassuring character. "Monsieur," said he to De Guiche, "was in an excellent humor, and no none could say that the slightest cloud had passed across the conjugal sky. Besides, Monsieur was not one to bear ill-feeling." For a long time past, during his residence at the court, the Chevalier de Lorraine had decided, that of Louis XIII.'s two sons, Monsieur was the one who had inherited the father's character - an uncertain, irresolute character; impulsively good, indifferently disposed at bottom; but certainly a cipher for his friends. He especially cheered De Guiche, by pointing out to him that Madame would, before long, succeed in governing her husband, and that, consequently, that man would govern Monsieur who should succeed in influencing Madame. To this, De Guiche full of mistrust and presence of mind, replied, "Yes, chevalier; but I believe Madame to be a very dangerous person." "In what respect?" "She has perceived that Monsieur is not very passionately inclined towards women." "Quite true," said the Chevalier de Lorraine, laughing. "In that case, Madame will choose the first one who approaches, in order to make him the object of her preference, and to bring back her husband by jealousy." "Deep! deep!" exclaimed the chevalier. "But true," replied De Guiche. Neither the one nor the other expressed his real thought. De Guiche, at the very moment he thus attacked Madame's character, mentally asked her forgiveness from the bottom of his heart. The chevalier, while admiring De Guiche's penetration, was leading him, blindfolded, to the brink of the precipice. De Guiche then questioned him more directly upon the effect produced by the scene of the morning, and upon the still more serious effect produced by the scene at dinner. "But I have already told you they are all laughing at it," replied the Chevalier de Lorraine, "and Monsieur himself at the head of them." "Yet," hazarded De Guiche, "I have heard that the king paid Madame a visit." "Yes, precisely so. Madame was the only one who did not laugh, and the king went to her in order to make her laugh, too." "So that - " "So that nothing is altered in the arrangements of the day," said the chevalier. "And is there a repetition of the ballet this evening?" "Certainly." "Are you sure?" "Quite," returned the chevalier. At this moment of the conversation between the two young men, Raoul entered, looking full of anxiety. As soon as the chevalier, who had a secret dislike for him, as for every other noble character, perceived him enter, he rose from his seat. "What do you advise me to do, then?" inquired De Guiche of the chevalier. "I advise you to go to sleep in perfect tranquillity, my dear count." "And my advice, De Guiche," said Raoul, "is the very opposite." "What is that?" "To mount your horse and set off at once for one of your estates; on your arrival, follow the chevalier's advice, if you like; and, what is more, you can sleep there as long and as tranquilly as you please." "What! set off!" exclaimed the chevalier, feigning surprise; "why should De Guiche set off?" "Because, and you cannot be ignorant of it - you particularly so – because every one is talking about the scene which has passed between Monsieur and De Guiche." De Guiche turned pale. "Not at all," replied the chevalier, "not at all; and you have been wrongly informed, M. de Bragelonne." "I have been perfectly well informed, on the contrary, monsieur," replied Raoul, "and the advice I give De Guiche is that of a friend." During this discussion, De Guiche, somewhat shaken, looked alternately first at one and then at the other of his advisers. He inwardly felt that a game, important in all its consequences for the rest of his life, was being played at that moment. "Is it not fact," said the chevalier, putting the question to the count himself, "is it not fact, De Guiche, that the scene was not so tempestuous as the Vicomte de Bragelonne seems to think, and who, moreover, was not himself there?" "Whether tempestuous or not," persisted Raoul, "it is not precisely of the scene itself that I am speaking, but of the consequences that may ensue. I know that Monsieur has threatened, I know that Madame has been in tears." "Madame in tears!" exclaimed De Guiche, imprudently clasping his hands. "Ah!" said the chevalier, laughing, "this is indeed a circumstance I was not acquainted with. You are decidedly better informed than I am, Monsieur de Bragelonne." "And it is because I am better informed than yourself, chevalier, that I insist upon De Guiche leaving." "No, no; I regret to differ from you, vicomte; but his departure is unnecessary. Why, indeed, should he leave? tell us why." "The king!" "The king!" exclaimed De Guiche. "Yes; I tell you the king has taken up the affair." "Bah!" said the chevalier, "the king likes De Guiche, and particularly his father; reflect, that, if the count were to leave, it would be an admission that he had done something which merited rebuke." "Why so?" "No doubt of it; when one runs away, it is either from guilt or fear." "Sometimes, because a man is offended; often because he is wrongfully accused," said Bragelonne. "We will assign as a reason for his departure, that he feels hurt and injured - nothing will be easier; we will say that we both did our utmost to keep him, and you, at least, will not be speaking otherwise than the truth. Come, De Guiche, you are innocent, and, being so, the scene of to-day must have wounded you. So set off." "No, De Guiche, remain where you are," said the chevalier; "precisely as M. de Bragelonne has put it, because you are innocent. Once more, forgive me, vicomte; but my opinion is the very opposite to your own." "And you are at perfect liberty to maintain it, monsieur; but be assured that the exile which De Guiche will voluntarily impose upon himself will be of short duration. He can terminate it whenever he pleases, and returning from his voluntary exile, he will meet with smiles from all lips; while, on the contrary, the anger of the king may now draw down a storm upon his head, the end of which no one can foresee." The chevalier smiled, and muttered to himself, "That is the very thing I wish." And at the same time he shrugged his shoulders, a movement which did not escape the count, who dreaded, if he quitted the court, to seem to yield to a feeling of fear. "No, no; I have decided, Bragelonne; I stay." "I prophesy, then," said Raoul, sadly, "that misfortune will befall you, De Guiche." "I, too, am a prophet, but not a prophet of evil; on the contrary, count, I say to you, 'remain.'" "Are you sure," inquired De Guiche, "that the repetition of the ballet still takes place?" "Quite sure." "Well, you see, Raoul," continued De Guiche, endeavoring to smile, "you see, the court is not so very sorrowful, or so readily disposed for internal dissensions, when dancing is carried on with such assiduity. Come, acknowledge that," said the count to Raoul, who shook his head, saying, "I have nothing to add." "But," inquired the chevalier, curious to learn whence Raoul had obtained his information, the exactitude of which he was inwardly forced to admit, "since you say you are well informed, vicomte, how can you be better informed than myself, who am one of the prince's most intimate companions?" "To such a declaration I submit. You certainly ought to be perfectly well informed, I admit; and, as a man of honor is incapable of saying anything but what he knows to be true, or of speaking otherwise than what he thinks, I will say no more, but confess myself defeated, and leave you in possession of the field of battle." Whereupon Raoul, who now seemed only to care to be left quiet, threw himself upon a couch, whilst the count summoned his servants to aid him in dressing. The chevalier, finding that time was passing away, wished to leave; but he feared, too, that Raoul, left alone with De Guiche, might yet influence him to change his mind. He therefore made use of his last resource. "Madame," he said, "will be brilliant; she appears to-day in her costume of Pomona." "Yes, that is so," exclaimed the count. "And she has just given directions in consequence," continued the chevalier. "You know, Monsieur de Bragelonne, that the king is to appear as Spring." "It will be admirable," said De Guiche; "and that is a better reason for me to remain than any you have yet given, because I am to appear as Autumn, and shall have to dance with Madame. I cannot absent myself without the king's orders, since my departure would interrupt the ballet." "I," said the chevalier, "am to be only a simple _egypan_; true, it is, I am a bad dancer, and my legs are not well made. Gentlemen, adieu. Do not forget the basket of fruit, which you are to offer to Pomona, count." "Rest assured," said De Guiche, delightedly, "I shall forget nothing."
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