Make your own free website on

List Of Contents | Contents of Ten Years Later, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

"Unknown? yes, monsieur," said Malicorne, smiling in his turn.

"Very good.  I will speak to Monsieur about it.  By the by, she is of
gentle birth?"

"She belongs to a very good family and is maid of honor to Madame."

"That's well.  Will you accompany me to Monsieur?"

"Most certainly, if I may be permitted the honor."

"Have you your carriage?"

"No; I came here on horseback."

"Dressed as you are?"

"No, monsieur; I posted from Orleans, and I changed my traveling suit for
the one I have on, in order to present myself to you."

"True, you already told me you had come from Orleans;" saying which he
crumpled Manicamp's letter in his hand, and thrust it in his pocket.

"I beg your pardon," said Malicorne, timidly; "but I do not think you
have read all."

"Not read all, do you say?"

"No; there were two letters in the same envelope."

"Oh! are you sure?"

"Quite sure."

"Let us look, then," said the count, as he opened the letter again.

"Ah! you are right," he said opening the paper which he had not yet read.

"I suspected it," he continued - "another application for an appointment
under Monsieur.  This Manicamp is a regular vampire: - he is carrying on
a trade in it."

"No, monsieur le comte, he wishes to make a present of it."

"To whom?"

"To myself, monsieur."

"Why did you not say so at once, my dear M. Mauvaisecorne?"

"Malicorne, monsieur le comte."

"Forgive me; it is that Latin that bothers me - that terrible mine of
etymologies.  Why the deuce are young men of family taught Latin?  _Mala_
and _mauvaise_ - you understand it is the same thing.  You will forgive
me, I trust, M. de Malicorne."

"Your kindness affects me much, monsieur: but it is a reason why I should
make you acquainted with one circumstance without any delay."

"What is it?"

"That I was not born a gentleman.  I am not without courage, and not
altogether deficient in ability; but my name is Malicorne simply."

"You appear to me, monsieur!" exclaimed the count, looking at the astute
face of his companion, "to be a most agreeable man.  Your face pleases
me, M. Malicorne, and you must possess some indisputably excellent
qualities to have pleased that egotistical Manicamp.  Be candid and tell
me whether you are not some saint descended upon the earth."

"Why so?"

"For the simple reason that he makes you a present of anything.  Did you
not say that he intended to make you a present of some appointment in the
king's household?"

"I beg your pardon, count; but, if I succeed in obtaining the
appointment, you, and not he, will have bestowed it on me."

"Besides he will not have given it to you for nothing, I suppose.  Stay,
I have it; - there is a Malicorne at Orleans who lends money to the

"I think that must be my father, monsieur."

"Ah! the prince has the father, and that terrible dragon of a Manicamp
has the son.  Take care, monsieur, I know him.  He will fleece you

"The only difference is, that I lend without interest," said Malicorne, smiling.

"I was correct in saying you were either a saint or very much resembled
one.  M. Malicorne, you shall have the post you want, or I will forfeit
my name."

"Ah! monsieur le comte, what a debt of gratitude shall I not owe you?" said
Malicorne, transported.

"Let us go to the prince, my dear M. Malicorne."  And De Guiche proceeded
toward the door, desiring Malicorne to follow him.  At the very moment
they were about to cross the threshold, a young man appeared on the other
side.  He was from twenty-four to twenty-five years of age, of pale
complexion, bright eyes and brown hair and eyebrows.  "Good-day," said
he, suddenly, almost pushing De Guiche back into the courtyard again.

"Is that you, De Wardes? - What! and booted, spurred and whip in hand,

"The most befitting costume for a man about to set off for Le Havre.
There will be no one left in Paris to-morrow."  And hereupon he saluted
Malicorne with great ceremony, whose handsome dress gave him the
appearance of a prince.

"M. Malicorne," said De Guiche to his friend.  De Wardes bowed.

"M. de Wardes," said Guiche to Malicorne, who bowed in return.  "By the
by, De Wardes," continued De Guiche, "you who are so well acquainted with
these matters, can you tell us, probably, what appointments are still
vacant at the court; or rather in the prince's household?"

"In the prince's household," said De Wardes looking up with an air of
consideration, "let me see - the appointment of the master of the horse
is vacant, I believe."

"Oh," said Malicorne, "there is no question of such a post as that,
monsieur; my ambition is not nearly so exalted,"

De Wardes had a more penetrating observation than De Guiche, and fathomed
Malicorne immediately.  "The fact is," he said, looking at him from head
to foot, "a man must be either a duke or a peer to fill that post."

"All I solicit," said Malicorne, "is a very humble appointment; I am of
little importance, and I do not rank myself above my position."

"M. Malicorne, whom you see here," said De Guiche to De Wardes, "is a
very excellent fellow, whose only misfortune is that of not being of
gentle birth.  As far as I am concerned, you know, I attach little value
to those who have but gentle birth to boast of."

"Assuredly," said De Wardes; "but will you allow me to remark, my dear
count, that, without rank of some sort, one can hardly hope to belong to
his royal highness's household?"

"You are right," said the count, "court etiquette is absolute.  The
devil! - we never so much as gave it a thought."

"Alas! a sad misfortune for me, monsieur le comte," said Malicorne, changing

"Yet not without remedy, I hope," returned De Guiche.

"The remedy is found easily enough," exclaimed De Wardes; "you can be
created a gentleman.  His Eminence, the Cardinal Mazarin, did nothing
else from morning till night."

"Hush, hush, De Wardes," said the count; "no jests of that kind; it ill
becomes us to turn such matters into ridicule.  Letters of nobility, it
is true, are purchasable; but that is a sufficient misfortune without
the nobles themselves laughing at it."

"Upon my word, De Guiche, you're quite a Puritan, as the English say."

At this moment the Vicomte de Bragelonne was announced by one of the
servants in the courtyard, in precisely the same manner as he would have
done in a room.

"Come here, my dear Raoul.  What! you, too, booted and spurred?  You are
setting off, then?"

Bragelonne approached the group of young men, and saluted them with that
quiet and serious manner peculiar to him.  His salutation was principally
addressed to De Wardes, with whom he was unacquainted, and whose
features, on his perceiving Raoul, had assumed a strange sternness of
expression.  "I have come, De Guiche," he said, "to ask your
companionship.  We set off for Le Havre, I presume."

"This is admirable - delightful.  We shall have a most enjoyable
journey.  M. Malicorne, M. Bragelonne - ah!  M. de Wardes, let me present
you."  The young men saluted each other in a restrained manner.  Their
very natures seemed, from the beginning, disposed to take exception to
each other.  De Wardes was pliant, subtle, full of dissimulation; Raoul
was calm, grave, and upright.  "Decide between us - between De Wardes and
myself, Raoul."

"Upon what subject?"

"Upon the subject of noble birth."

"Who can be better informed on that subject than a De Gramont?"

"No compliments; it is your opinion I ask."

"At least, inform me of the subject under discussion."

"De Wardes asserts that the distribution of titles is abused; I, on the
contrary, maintain that a title is useless to the man on whom it is

"And you are correct," said Bragelonne, quietly.

"But, monsieur le vicomte," interrupted De Wardes, with a kind of
obstinacy, "I affirm that it is I who am correct."

"What was your opinion, monsieur?"

"I was saying that everything is done in France at the present moment, to
humiliate men of family."

"And by whom?"

"By the king himself.  He surrounds himself with people who cannot show
four quarterings."

"Nonsense," said De Guiche, "where could you possibly have seen that, De

"One example will suffice," he returned, directing his look fully upon

"State it then."

"Do you know who has just been nominated captain-general of the
musketeers? - an appointment more valuable than a peerage; for it gives
precedence over all the marechals of France."

Raoul's color mounted in his face; for he saw the object De Wardes had in
view.  "No; who has been appointed?  In any case it must have been very
recently, for the appointment was vacant eight days ago; a proof of which
is, that the king refused Monsieur, who solicited the post for one of his

"Well, the king refused it to Monsieur's _protege_, in order to bestow it
upon the Chevalier d'Artagnan, a younger brother of some Gascon family,
who has been trailing his sword in the ante-chambers during the last
thirty years."

"Forgive me if I interrupt you," said Raoul, darting a glance full of
severity at De Wardes; "but you give me the impression of being
unacquainted with the gentleman of whom you are speaking."

"I not acquainted with M. d'Artagnan?  Can you tell me, monsieur, who
does _not_ know him?"

"Those who _do_ know him, monsieur," replied Raoul, with still greater
calmness and sternness of manner, "are in the habit of saying, that if he
is not as good a gentleman as the king - which is not his fault - he is
the equal of all the kings of the earth in courage and loyalty.  Such is
my opinion, monsieur; and I thank heaven I have known M. d'Artagnan from
my birth."

De Wardes was about to reply, when De Guiche interrupted him.

Chapter VII:
The Portrait of Madame.

The discussion was becoming full of bitterness.  De Guiche perfectly
understood the whole matter, for there was in Bragelonne's face a look
instinctively hostile, while in that of De Wardes there was something
like a determination to offend.  Without inquiring into the different

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: