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List Of Contents | Contents of The Vicomte de Bragelonne, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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the stables of _les Medici_ were not less hospitable than its refectory.

The king mounted his horse; his old servant did the same, and both set
out towards Paris, without meeting a single person on their road, in the
streets or the faubourgs of the city.  For the prince the blow was the
more severe, as it was a fresh exile.  The unfortunates cling to the
smallest hopes, as the happy do to the greatest good; and when they are
obliged to quit the place where that hope has soothed their hearts, they
experience the mortal regret which the banished man feels when he places
his foot upon the vessel which is to bear him into exile.  It appears
that the heart already wounded so many times suffers from the least
scratch; it appears that it considers as a good the momentary absence of
evil, which is nothing but the absence of pain; and that God, into the
most terrible misfortunes, has thrown hope as the drop of water which the
rich sinner in hell entreated of Lazarus.

For one instant even the hope of Charles II. had been more than a
fugitive joy; - that was when he found himself so kindly welcomed by his
brother king; then it had taken a form that had become a reality; then,
all at once, the refusal of Mazarin had reduced the fictitious reality to
the state of a dream.  This promise of Louis XIV., so soon retracted, had
been nothing but a mockery; a mockery like his crown - like his scepter 
like his friends - like all that had surrounded his royal childhood, and
which had abandoned his proscribed youth.  Mockery! everything was a
mockery for Charles II. except the cold, black repose promised by death.

Such were the ideas of the unfortunate prince while sitting listlessly
upon his horse, to which he abandoned the reins: he rode slowly along
beneath the warm May sun, in which the somber misanthropy of the exile
perceived a last insult to his grief.

Chapter XVI:

A horseman going rapidly along the road leading towards Blois, which he
had left nearly half an hour before, passed the two travelers, and,
though apparently in haste, raised his hat as he passed them.  The king
scarcely observed this young man, who was about twenty-five years of age,
and who, turning round several times, made friendly signals to a man
standing before the gate of a handsome white-and-red house; that is to
say, built of brick and stone, with a slated roof, situated on the left
hand of the road the prince was traveling.

This man, old, tall, and thin, with white hair, - we speak of the one
standing by the gate; - this man replied to the farewell signals of the
young one by signs of parting as tender as could have been made by a
father.  The young man disappeared at the first turn of the road,
bordered by fine trees, and the old man was preparing to return to the
house, when the two travelers, arriving in front of the gate, attracted
his attention.

The king, as we have said, was riding with his head cast down, his arms
inert, leaving his horse to go what pace he liked, whilst Parry, behind
him, the better to imbibe the genial influence of the sun, had taken off
his hat, and was looking about right and left.  His eyes encountered
those of the old man leaning against the gate; the latter, as if struck
by some strange spectacle, uttered an exclamation, and made one step
towards the two travelers.  From Parry his eyes immediately turned
towards the king, upon whom they rested for an instant.  This
examination, however rapid, was instantly reflected in a visible manner
upon the features of the tall old man.  For scarcely had he recognized
the younger of the travelers - and we said recognized, for nothing but a
perfect recognition could have explained such an act - scarcely, we say,
had he recognized the younger of the two travelers, than he clapped his
hands together, with respectful surprise, and, raising his hat from his
head, bowed so profoundly that it might have been said he was kneeling.
This demonstration, however absent, or rather, however absorbed was the
king in his reflections, attracted his attention instantly; and checking
his horse and turning towards Parry, he exclaimed, "Good God, Parry, who
is that man who salutes me in such a marked manner?  Can he know me,
think you?"

Parry, much agitated and very pale, had already turned his horse towards
the gate.  "Ah, sire!" said he, stopping suddenly at five or six paces'
distance from the still bending old man: "sire, I am seized with
astonishment, for I think I recognize that brave man.  Yes, it must be
he!  Will your majesty permit me to speak to him?"


"Can it be you, Monsieur Grimaud?" asked Parry.

"Yes, it is I," replied the tall old man, drawing himself up, but without
losing his respectful demeanor.

"Sire," then said Parry, "I was not deceived.  This good man is the
servant of the Comte de la Fere, and the Comte de la Fere, if you
remember, is the worthy gentleman of whom I have so often spoken to your
majesty that the remembrance of him must remain, not only in your mind,
but in your heart."

"He who assisted my father at his last moments?" asked Charles, evidently
affected at the remembrance.

"The same, sire."

"Alas!" said Charles; and then addressing Grimaud, whose penetrating
and intelligent eyes seemed to search and divine his thoughts. - "My
friend," said he, "does your master, Monsieur le Comte de la Fere, live
in this neighborhood?"

"There," replied Grimaud, pointing with his outstretched arm to the white-
and-red house behind the gate.

"And is Monsieur le Comte de la Fere at home at present?"

"At the back, under the chestnut trees."

"Parry," said the king, "I will not miss this opportunity, so precious
for me, to thank the gentleman to whom our house is indebted for such a
noble example of devotedness and generosity.  Hold my horse, my friend,
if you please."  And, throwing the bridle to Grimaud, the king entered
the abode of Athos, quite alone, as one equal enters the dwelling of
another.  Charles had been informed by the concise explanation of
Grimaud, - "At the back, under the chestnut trees;" he left, therefore,
the house on the left, and went straight down the path indicated.  The
thing was easy; the tops of those noble trees, already covered with
leaves and flowers, rose above all the rest.

On arriving under the lozenges, by turns luminous and dark, which
checkered the ground of this path according as the trees were more or
less in leaf, the young prince perceived a gentleman walking with his
arms behind him, apparently plunged in a deep meditation.  Without doubt,
he had often had this gentleman described to himself, for, without
hesitating, Charles II. walked straight up to him.  At the sound of his
footsteps, the Comte de la Fere raised his head, and seeing an unknown
man of noble and elegant carriage coming towards him, he raised his hat
and waited.  At some paces from him, Charles II. likewise took off his
hat.  Then, as if in reply to the comte's mute interrogation, -

"Monsieur le Comte," said he, "I come to discharge a debt towards you.  I
have, for a long time, had the expression of a profound gratitude to
bring you.  I am Charles II., son of Charles Stuart, who reigned in
England, and died on the scaffold."

On hearing this illustrious name, Athos felt a kind of shudder creep
through his veins, but at the sight of the young prince standing
uncovered before him, and stretching out his hand towards him, two tears,
for an instant, dimmed his brilliant eyes.  He bent respectfully, but the
prince took him by the hand.

"See how unfortunate I am, my lord count; it is only due to chance that I
have met with you.  Alas!  I ought to have people around me whom I love
and honor, whereas I am reduced to preserve their services in my heart,
and their names in my memory: so that if your servant had not recognized
mine, I should have passed by your door as by that of a stranger."

"It is but too true," said Athos, replying with his voice to the first
part of the king's speech, and with a bow to the second; "it is but too
true, indeed, that your majesty has seen many evil days."

"And the worst, alas!" replied Charles, "are perhaps still to come."

"Sire, let us hope."

"Count, count," continued Charles, shaking his head, "I entertained hope
till last night, and that of a good Christian, I swear."

Athos looked at the king as if to interrogate him.

"Oh, the history is soon related," said Charles.  "Proscribed, despoiled,
disdained, I resolved, in spite of all my repugnance, to tempt fortune
one last time.  Is it not written above, that, for our family, all good
fortune and all bad fortune shall eternally come from France?  You know
something of that, monsieur, - you, who are one of the Frenchmen whom my
unfortunate father found at the foot of his scaffold, on the day of his
death, after having found them at his right hand on the day of battle."

"Sire," said Athos modestly, "I was not alone.  My companions and I did,
under the circumstances, our duty as gentlemen, and that was all.  Your
majesty was about to do me the honor to relate - "

"That is true, I had the protection, - pardon my hesitation, count, but,
for a Stuart, you, who understand everything, you will comprehend that
the word is hard to pronounce; - I had, I say, the protection of my
cousin the stadtholder of Holland; but without the intervention, or at
least without the authorization of France, the stadtholder would not take
the initiative.  I came, then, to ask this authorization of the king of
France, who has refused me."

"The king has refused you, sire!"

"Oh, not he; all justice must be rendered to my younger brother Louis;
but Monsieur de Mazarin - "

Athos bit his lips.

"You perhaps think I should have expected this refusal?" said the king,
who had noticed the movement.

"That was, in truth, my thought, sire," replied Athos, respectfully; "I
know that Italian of old."

"Then I determined to come to the test, and know at once the last word of
my destiny.  I told my brother Louis, that, not to compromise either

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