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List Of Contents | Contents of Ten Years Later, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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ready.  Madame, already informed, is writing the letter which she is good
enough to do me the honor of intrusting to me.  In the meantime, learning
from Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente that it was likely you would be in
this direction, I came here, and am happy to find you both."

"And both of us very sad, as you see," said Montalais, going to Louise's
assistance, whose countenance was visibly altered.

"Suffering?" responded Raoul, pressing Louise's hand with a tender
curiosity.  "Your hand is like ice."

"It is nothing."

"This coldness does not reach your heart, Louise, does it?" inquired the
young man, with a tender smile.  Louise raised her head hastily, as if
the question had been inspired by some suspicion, and had aroused a
feeling of remorse.

"Oh! you know," she said, with an effort, "that my heart will never be
cold towards a friend like yourself, Monsieur de Bragelonne."

"Thank you, Louise.  I know both your heart and your mind; it is not by
the touch of the hand that one can judge of an affection like yours.  You
know, Louise, how devotedly I love you, with what perfect and unreserved
confidence I reserve my life for you; will you not forgive me, then, for
speaking to you with something like the frankness of a child?"

"Speak, Monsieur Raoul," said Louise, trembling painfully, "I am
listening."

"I cannot part from you, carrying away with me a thought that tortures
me; absurd I know it to be, and yet one which rends my very heart."

"Are you going away, then, for any length of time?" inquired La Valliere,
with faltering utterance, while Montalais turned her head aside.

"No; probably I shall not be absent more than a fortnight."  La Valliere
pressed her hand upon her heart, which felt as though it were breaking.

"It is strange," pursued Raoul, looking at the young girl with a
melancholy expression; "I have often left you when setting off on
adventures fraught with danger.  Then I started joyously enough - my
heart free, my mind intoxicated by thoughts of happiness in store for me,
hopes of which the future was full; and yet I was about to face the
Spanish cannon, or the halberds of the Walloons.  To-day, without the
existence of any danger or uneasiness, and by the sunniest path in the
world, I am going in search of a glorious recompense, which this mark of
the king's favor seems to indicate, for I am, perhaps, going to win
_you_, Louise.  What other favor, more precious than yourself, could the
king confer upon me?  Yet, Louise, in very truth I know not how or why,
but this happiness and this future seem to vanish before my very eyes
like mist - like an idle dream; and I feel here, here at the very bottom
of my heart, a deep-seated grief, a dejection I cannot overcome 
something heavy, passionless, death-like, - resembling a corpse.  Oh!
Louise, too well do I know why; it is because I have never loved you so
truly as now.  God help me!"

At this last exclamation, which issued as it were from a broken heart,
Louise burst into tears, and threw herself into Montalais's arms.  The
latter, although she was not easily moved, felt the tears rush to her
eyes.  Raoul noted only the tears Louise shed; his look, however, did not
penetrate - nay, sought not to penetrate - beyond those tears.  He bent
his knee before her, and tenderly kissed her hand; and it was evident
that in that kiss he poured out his whole heart.

"Rise, rise," said Montalais to him, ready to cry, "for Athenais is
coming."

Raoul rose, brushed his knee with the back of his hand, smiled again upon
Louise, whose eyes were fixed on the ground, and, having pressed
Montalais's hand gratefully, he turned round to salute Mademoiselle de
Tonnay-Charente, the sound of whose silken robe was already heard upon
the gravel walk.  "Has Madame finished her letter?" he inquired, when the
young girl came within reach of his voice.

"Yes, the letter is finished, sealed, and her royal highness is ready to
receive you."

Raoul, at this remark, hardly gave himself time to salute Athenais, cast
one look at Louise, bowed to Montalais, and withdrew in the direction of
the chateau.  As he withdrew he again turned round, but at last, at the
end of the grand walk, it was useless to do so again, as he could no
longer see them.  The three young girls, on their side, had, with widely
different feelings, watched him disappear.

"At last," said Athenais, the first to interrupt the silence, "at last we
are alone, free to talk of yesterday's great affair, and to come to an
understanding upon the conduct it is advisable for us to pursue.
Besides, if you will listen to me," she continued, looking round on all
sides, "I will explain to you, as briefly as possible, in the first
place, our own duty, such as I imagine it to be, and, if you do not
understand a hint, what is Madame's desire on the subject."  And
Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente pronounced these words in such a tone as
to leave no doubt, in her companion's minds, upon the official character
with which she was invested.

"Madame's desire!" exclaimed Montalais and La Valliere together.

"Her _ultimatum_," replied Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente,
diplomatically.

"But," murmured La Valliere, "does Madame know, then - "

"Madame knows more about the matter than we said, even," said Athenais,
in a formal, precise manner.  "Therefore let us come to a proper
understanding."

"Yes, indeed," said Montalais, "and I am listening in breathless
attention."

"Gracious heavens!" murmured Louise, trembling, "shall I ever survive
this cruel evening?"

"Oh! do not frighten yourself in that manner," said Athenais; "we have
found a remedy."  So, seating herself between her two companions, and
taking each of them by the hand, which she held in her own, she began.
The first words were hardly spoke, when they heard a horse galloping away
over the stones of the public high-road, outside the gates of the chateau.


Chapter LV:
Happy as a Prince.

At the very moment he was about entering the chateau, Bragelonne met De
Guiche.  But before having been met by Raoul, De Guiche had met Manicamp,
who had met Malicorne.  How was it that Malicorne had met Manicamp?
Nothing more simple, for he had awaited his return from mass, where he
had accompanied M. de Saint-Aignan.  When they met, they congratulated
each other upon their good fortune, and Manicamp availed himself of the
circumstance to ask his friend if he had not a few crowns still remaining
at the bottom of his pocket.  The latter, without expressing any surprise
at the question, which he perhaps expected, answered that every pocket
which is always being drawn upon without anything ever being put in it,
resembles those wells which supply water during the winter, but which
gardeners render useless by exhausting during the summer; that his,
Malicorne's, pocket certainly was deep, and that there would be a
pleasure in drawing on it in times of plenty, but that, unhappily, abuse
had produced barrenness.  To this remark, Manicamp, deep in thought, had
replied, "Quite true!"

"The question, then, is how to fill it?" Malicorne added.

"Of course; but in what way?"

"Nothing easier, my dear Monsieur Manicamp."

"So much the better.  How?"

"A post in Monsieur's household, and the pocket is full again."

"You have the post?"

"That is, I have the promise of being nominated."

"Well!"

"Yes; but the promise of nomination, without the post itself, is like a
purse with no money in it."

"Quite true," Manicamp replied a second time.

"Let us try for the post, then," the candidate had persisted.

"My dear fellow," sighed Manicamp, "an appointment in his royal
highness's household is one of the gravest difficulties of our position."

"Oh! oh!"

"There is no question that, at the present moment, we cannot ask Monsieur
for anything."

"Why so?"
"Because we are not on good terms with him."

"A great absurdity, too," said Malicorne, promptly.

"Bah! and if we were to show Madame any attention," said Manicamp,
"frankly speaking, do you think we should please Monsieur?"

"Precisely; if we show Madame any attention, and do it adroitly, Monsieur
ought to adore us."

"Hum!"

"Either that or we are great fools.  Make haste, therefore, M. Manicamp,
you who are so able a politician, and make M. de Guiche and his royal
highness friendly again."

"Tell me, what did M. de Saint-Aignan tell you, Malicorne?"

"Tell me? nothing; he asked me several questions, and that was all."

"Well, was he less discreet, then, with me."

"What did he tell you?"

"That the king is passionately in love with Mademoiselle de la Valliere."

"We knew that already," replied Malicorne, ironically; "and everybody
talks about it loud enough for all to know it; but in the meantime, do
what I advise you; speak to M. de Guiche, and endeavor to get him to make
advances to Monsieur.  Deuce take it! he owes his royal highness that, at
least."

"But we must see De Guiche, then?"

"There does not seem to be any great difficulty in that; try to see him
in the same way I tried to see you; wait for him; you know that he is
naturally very fond of walking."

"Yes; but whereabouts does he walk?"

"What a question to ask!  Do you not know that he is in love with Madame?"

"So it is said."

"Very well; you will find him walking about on the side of the chateau
where her apartments are."

"Stay, my dear Malicorne, you were not mistaken, for here he is coming."

"Why should I be mistaken?  Have you ever noticed that I am in the habit
of making a mistake?  Come, we only need to understand each other.  Are
you in want of money?"

"Ah!" exclaimed Manicamp, mournfully.

"Well, I want my appointment.  Let Malicorne have the appointment, and
Manicamp shall have the money.  There is no greater difficulty in the way
than that."

"Very well; in that case make yourself easy.  I will do my best."

"Do."

De Guiche approached, Malicorne stepped aside, and Manicamp caught hold
of De Guiche, who was thoughtful and melancholy.  "Tell me, my dear
comte, what rhyme you were trying to find," said Manicamp.  "I have an

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