List Of Contents | Contents of Ten Years Later, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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the remarks, annoyances, perhaps even calumnies, that might follow?
Alas! you well know that the court has no indulgence for this sort of
peccadillo.  But we have now been walking for some time, shall we be long
before we reach it?"

"About fifty or sixty paces further; turn to the left, Madame, if you
please."

"And you are sure of Montalais?" said Madame.

"Oh, certainly."

"Will she do what you ask her?"

"Everything.  She will be delighted."

"And La Valliere - " ventured the princess.

"Ah, there will be some difficulty with her, Madame; she would scorn to
tell a falsehood."

"Yet, when it is in her interest to do so - "

"I am afraid that that would not make the slightest difference in her
ideas."

"Yes, yes," said Madame.  "I have been already told that; she is one of
those overnice and affectedly particular people who place heaven in the
foreground in order to conceal themselves behind it.  But if she refuses
to tell a falsehood, - as she will expose herself to the jests of the
whole court, as she will have annoyed the king by a confession as
ridiculous as it was immodest, - Mademoiselle la Baume le Blanc de la
Valliere will think it but proper I should send her back again to her
pigeons in the country, in order that, in Touraine yonder, or in Le
Blaisois, - I know not where it may be, - she may at her ease study
sentiment and pastoral life combined."

These words were uttered with a vehemence and harshness that terrified
Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente; and the consequence was, that, as far as
she was concerned, she promised to tell as many falsehoods as might be
necessary.  It was in this frame of mind that Madame and her companion
reached the precincts of the royal oak.

"Here we are," said Tonnay-Charente.

"We shall soon learn if one can overhear," replied Madame.

"Hush!" whispered the young girl, holding Madame back with a hurried
gesture, entirely forgetful of her companion's rank.  Madame stopped.

"You see that you can hear," said Athenais.

"How?"

"Listen."

Madame held her breath; and, in fact, the following words pronounced by a
gentle and melancholy voice, floated towards them:

"I tell you, vicomte, I tell you I love her madly; I tell you I love her
to distraction."

Madame started at the voice; and, beneath her hood, a bright joyous smile
illumined her features.  It was she who now held back her companion, and
with a light step leading her some twenty paces away, that is to say, out
of the reach of the voice, she said, "Remain here, my dear Athenais, and
let no one surprise us.  I think it must be you they are conversing
about."

"Me, Madame?"

"Yes, you - or rather your adventure.  I will go and listen; if we were
both there, we should be discovered.  Or, stay! - go and fetch Montalais,
and then return and wait for me with her at the entrance of the forest."
And then, as Athenais hesitated, she again said "Go!" in a voice which
did not admit of reply.  Athenais thereupon arranged her dress so as to
prevent its rustling being heard; and, by a path beyond the group of
trees, she regained the flower-garden.  As for Madame, she concealed
herself in the thicket, leaning her back against a gigantic chestnut-
tree, one of the branches of which had been cut in such a manner as to
form a seat, and waited there, full of anxiety and apprehension.  "Now,"
she said, "since one can hear from this place, let us listen to what M.
de Bragelonne and that other madly-in-love fool, the Comte de Guiche,
have to say about me."


Chapter XLV:
In Which Madame Acquires a Proof that Listeners Hear What Is Said.

There was a moment's silence, as if the mysterious sounds of night were
hushed to listen, at the same time as Madame, to the youthful passionate
disclosures of De Guiche.

Raoul was about to speak.  He leaned indolently against the trunk of the
large oak, and replied in his sweet and musical voice, "Alas, my dear De
Guiche, it is a great misfortune."

"Yes," cried the latter, "great indeed."

"You do not understand me, De Guiche.  I say that it is a great
misfortune for you, not merely loving, but not knowing how to conceal
your love."

"What do you mean?" said De Guiche.

"Yes, you do not perceive one thing; namely, that it is no longer to the
only friend you have, - in other words, - to a man who would rather die
than betray you; you do not perceive, I say, that it is no longer to your
only friend that you confide your passion, but to the first person that
approaches you."

"Are you mad, Bragelonne," exclaimed De Guiche, "to say such a thing to
me?"

"The fact stands thus, however."

"Impossible!  How, in what manner can I have ever been indiscreet to such
an extent?"

"I mean, that your eyes, your looks, your sighs, proclaim, in spite of
yourself, that exaggerated feeling which leads and hurries a man beyond
his own control.  In such a case he ceases to be master of himself; he is
a prey to a mad passion, that makes him confide his grief to the trees,
or to the air, from the very moment he has no longer any living being in
reach of his voice.  Besides, remember this: it very rarely happens that
there is not always some one present to hear, especially the very things
which ought _not_ to be heard."  De Guiche uttered a deep sigh.  "Nay,"
continued Bragelonne, "you distress me; since your return here, you have
a thousand times, and in a thousand different ways, confessed your love
for her; and yet, had you not said one word, your return alone would have
been a terrible indiscretion.  I persist, then, in drawing this
conclusion; that if you do not place a better watch over yourself than
you have hitherto done, one day or other something will happen that will
cause an explosion.  Who will save you then?  Answer me.  Who will save
her? for, innocent as she will be of your affection, your affection will
be an accusation against her in the hands of her enemies."

"Alas!" murmured De Guiche; and a deep sigh accompanied the exclamation.

"That is not answering me, De Guiche."

"Yes, yes."

"Well, what reply have you to make?"

"This, that when the day arrives I shall be no more a living being than I
feel myself now."

"I do not understand you."

"So many vicissitudes have worn me out.  At present, I am no more a
thinking, acting being; at present, the most worthless of men is better
than I am; my remaining strength is exhausted, my latest-formed
resolutions have vanished, and I abandon myself to my fate.  When a man
is out campaigning, as we have been together, and he sets off alone and
unaccompanied for a skirmish, it sometimes happens that he may meet with
a party of five or six foragers, and although alone, he defends himself;
afterwards, five or six others arrive unexpectedly, his anger is aroused
and he persists; but if six, eight, or ten others should still be met
with, he either sets spurs to his horse, if he should still happen to
retain one, or lets himself be slain to save an ignominious flight.
Such, indeed, is my own case: first, I had to struggle against myself;
afterwards, against Buckingham; now, since the king is in the field, I
will not contend against the king, nor even, I wish you to understand,
will the king retire; nor even against the nature of that woman.  Still I
do not deceive myself; having devoted myself to the service of such a
love, I will lose my life in it."

"It is not the lady you ought to reproach," replied Raoul; "it is
yourself."

"Why so?"

"You know the princess's character, - somewhat giddy, easily captivated
by novelty, susceptible to flattery, whether it come from a blind person
or a child, and yet you allow your passion for her to eat your very life
away.  Look at her, - love her, if you will, - for no one whose heart is
not engaged elsewhere can see her without loving her.  Yet, while you
love her, respect, in the first place, her husband's rank, then herself,
and lastly, your own safety."

"Thanks, Raoul."

"What for?"

"Because, seeing how much I suffer through this woman, you endeavor to
console me, because you tell me all the good of her you think, and
perhaps even that which you do not think."

"Oh," said Raoul, "there you are wrong, comte; what I think I do not
always say, but in that case I say nothing; but when I speak, I know not
how to feign or to deceive; and whoever listens to me may believe me."

During this conversation, Madame, her head stretched forward with eager
ear and dilated glance, endeavoring to penetrate the obscurity, thirstily
drank in the faintest sound of their voices.

"Oh, I know her better than you do, then!" exclaimed Guiche.  "She is not
merely giddy, but frivolous; she is not only attracted by novelty, she is
utterly oblivious, and is without faith; she is not simply susceptible to
flattery, she is a practiced and cruel coquette.  A thorough coquette!
yes, yes, I am sure of it.  Believe me, Bragelonne, I am suffering all
the torments of hell; brave, passionately fond of danger, I meet a danger
greater than my strength and my courage.  But, believe me, Raoul, I
reserve for myself a victory which shall cost her floods of tears."

"A victory," he asked, "and of what kind?"

"Of what kind, you ask?"

"Yes."

"One day I will accost her, and will address her thus: 'I was young 
madly in love, I possessed, however, sufficient respect to throw myself
at your feet, and to prostrate myself in the dust, if your looks had not
raised me to your hand.  I fancied I understood your looks, I rose, and
then, without having done anything more towards you than love you yet
more devotedly, if that were possible - you, a woman without heart,
faith, or love, in very wantonness, dashed me down again from sheer
caprice.  You are unworthy, princess of the royal blood though you may
be, of the love of a man of honor; I offer my life as a sacrifice for
having loved you too tenderly, and I die despairing you.'"

"Oh!" cried Raoul, terrified at the accents of profound truth which De
Guiche's words betrayed, "I was right in saying you were mad, Guiche."

"Yes, yes," exclaimed De Guiche, following out his own idea; "since there

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