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List Of Contents | Contents of The Vicomte de Bragelonne, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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made by his spurs in these immense _salons_.

As soon as he had disappeared in the interior of the palace, the window
of the court was repeopled, and an animated whispering betrayed the
emotion of the two girls.  They soon appeared to have formed a
resolution, for one of the two faces disappeared from the window.  This
was the brunette; the other remained behind the balcony, concealed by
the flowers, watching attentively through the branches the _perron_ by
which M. de Bragelonne had entered the castle.

In the meantime the object of so much laudable curiosity continued his
route, following the steps of the _maitre d'hotel_.  The noise of quick
steps, an odor of wine and viands, a clinking of crystal and plates,
warned them that they were coming to the end of their course.

The pages, valets and officers, assembled in the office which led up to
the refectory, welcomed the newcomer with the proverbial politeness of
the country; some of them were acquainted with Raoul, and all knew that
he came from Paris.  It might be said that his arrival for a moment
suspended the service.  In fact, a page, who was pouring out wine for his
royal highness, on hearing the jingling of spurs in the next chamber,
turned round like a child, without perceiving that he was continuing to
pour out, not into the glass, but upon the tablecloth.

Madame, who was not so preoccupied as her glorious spouse was, remarked
this distraction of the page.

"Well?" exclaimed she.

"Well!" repeated Monsieur; "what is going on then?"

M. de Saint-Remy, who had just introduced his head through the doorway,
took advantage of the moment.

"Why am I to be disturbed?" said Gaston, helping himself to a thick slice
of one of the largest salmon that had ever ascended the Loire to be
captured between Paimboeuf and Saint-Nazaire.

"There is a messenger from Paris.  Oh! but after monseigneur has
breakfasted will do; there is plenty of time."

"From Paris!" cried the prince, letting his fork fall.  "A messenger
from Paris, do you say?  And on whose part does this messenger come?"

"On the part of M. le Prince," said the _maitre d'hotel_ promptly.

Every one knows that the Prince de Conde was so called.

"A messenger from M. le Prince!" said Gaston, with an inquietude that
escaped none of the assistants, and consequently redoubled the general
curiosity.

Monsieur, perhaps, fancied himself brought back again to the happy times
when the opening of a door gave him an emotion, in which every letter
might contain a state secret, - in which every message was connected
with a dark and complicated intrigue.  Perhaps, likewise, that great name
of M. le Prince expanded itself, beneath the roofs of Blois, to the
proportions of a phantom.

Monsieur pushed away his plate.

"Shall I tell the envoy to wait?" asked M. de Saint-Remy.

A glance from Madame emboldened Gaston, who replied: "No, no! let him
come in at once, on the contrary.  _A propos_, who is he?"

"A gentleman of this country, M. le Vicomte de Bragelonne."

"Ah, very well!  Introduce him, Saint-Remy - introduce him."

And when he had let fall these words, with his accustomed gravity,
Monsieur turned his eyes, in a certain manner, upon the people of his
suite, so that all, pages, officers, and equerries, quitted the service,
knives and goblets, and made towards the second chamber door a retreat as
rapid as it was disorderly.

This little army had dispersed in two files when Raoul de Bragelonne,
preceded by M. de Saint-Remy, entered the refectory.

The short interval of solitude which this retreat had left him, permitted
Monsieur the time to assume a diplomatic countenance.  He did not turn
round, but waited till the _maitre d'hotel_ should bring the messenger
face to face with him.

Raoul stopped even with the lower end of the table, so as to be exactly
between Monsieur and Madame.  From this place he made a profound bow to
Monsieur, and a very humble one to Madame; then, drawing himself up into
military pose, he waited for Monsieur to address him.

On his part the prince waited till the doors were hermetically closed; he
would not turn round to ascertain the fact, as that would have been
derogatory to his dignity, but he listened with all his ears for the
noise of the lock, which would promise him at least an appearance of
secrecy.

The doors being closed, Monsieur raised his eyes towards the vicomte, and
said, "It appears that you come from Paris, monsieur?"

"This minute, monseigneur."

"How is the king?"

"His majesty is in perfect health, monseigneur."

"And my sister-in-law?"

"Her majesty the queen-mother still suffers from the complaint in her
chest, but for the last month she has been rather better."

"Somebody told me you came on the part of M. le Prince.  They must have
been mistaken, surely?"

"No, monseigneur; M. le Prince has charged me to convey this letter to
your royal highness, and I am to wait for an answer to it."

Raoul had been a little annoyed by this cold and cautious reception, and
his voice insensibly sank to a low key.

The prince forgot that he was the cause of this apparent mystery, and his
fears returned.

He received the letter from the Prince de Conde with a haggard look,
unsealed it as he would have unsealed a suspicious packet, and in order
to read it so that no one should remark the effects of it upon his
countenance, he turned round.

Madame followed, with an anxiety almost equal to that of the prince,
every maneuver of her august husband.

Raoul, impassible, and a little disengaged by the attention of his hosts,
looked from his place through the open window at the gardens and the
statues which peopled them.

"Well!" cried Monsieur, all at once, with a cheerful smile; "here is an
agreeable surprise, and a charming letter from M. le Prince.  Look,
Madame!"

The table was too large to allow the arm of the prince to reach the hand
of Madame; Raoul sprang forward to be their intermediary, and did it
with so good a grace as to procure a flattering acknowledgement from the
princess.

"You know the contents of this letter, no doubt?" said Gaston to Raoul.

"Yes, monseigneur; M. le Prince at first gave me the message verbally,
but upon reflection his highness took up his pen."

"It is beautiful writing," said Madame, "but I cannot read it."

"Will you read it to Madame, M. de Bragelonne?" said the duke.

"Yes; read it, if you please, monsieur."

Raoul began to read, Monsieur giving again all his attention.  The letter
was conceived in these terms:

"MONSEIGNEUR - The king is about to set out for the frontiers.  You are
aware the marriage of his majesty is concluded upon.  The king has done
me the honor to appoint me his _marechal-des-logis_ for this journey, and
as I knew with what joy his majesty would pass a day at Blois, I venture
to ask your royal highness's permission to mark the house you inhabit as
our quarters.  If, however, the suddenness of this request should create
to your royal highness any embarrassment, I entreat you to say so by the
messenger I send, a gentleman of my suite, M. le Vicomte de Bragelonne.
My itinerary will depend on your royal highness's determination, and
instead of passing through Blois, we shall come through Vendome or
Romorantin.  I venture to hope that your royal highness will be pleased
with my arrangement, it being the expression of my boundless desire to
make myself agreeable to you."

"Nothing can be more gracious toward us," said Madame, who had more than
once consulted the looks of her husband during the reading of the
letter.  "The king here!" exclaimed she, in a rather louder tone than
would have been necessary to preserve secrecy.

"Monsieur," said his royal highness in his turn, "you will offer my
thanks to M. de Conde, and express to him my gratitude for the honor he
has done me."  Raoul bowed.

"On what day will his majesty arrive?" continued the prince.

"The king, monseigneur, will in all probability arrive this evening."

"But how, then, could he have known my reply if it had been in the
negative?"

"I was desired, monseigneur, to return in all haste to Beaugency, to give
counter-orders to the courier, who was himself to go back immediately
with counter-orders to M. le Prince."

"His majesty is at Orleans, then?"

"Much nearer, monseigneur; his majesty must by this time have arrived at
Meung."

"Does the court accompany him?"

"Yes, monseigneur."

"_A propos_, I forgot to ask you after M. le Cardinal."

"His eminence appears to enjoy good health, monseigneur."

"His nieces accompany him, no doubt?"

"No, monseigneur; his eminence has ordered the Mesdemoiselles de Mancini
to set out for Brouage.  They will follow the left bank of the Loire,
while the court will come by the right.

"What!  Mademoiselle Mary de Mancini quit the court in that manner?"
asked Monsieur, his reserve beginning to diminish.

"Mademoiselle Mary de Mancini in particular," replied Raoul discreetly.

A fugitive smile, an imperceptible vestige of his ancient spirit of
intrigue, shot across the pale face of the prince.

"Thanks, M. de Bragelonne," then said Monsieur.  "You would, perhaps, not
be willing to carry M. le Prince the commission with which I would charge
you, and that is, that his messenger has been very agreeable to me; but I
will tell him so myself."

Raoul bowed his thanks to Monsieur for the honor he had done him.

Monsieur made a sign to Madame, who struck a bell which was placed at her
right hand; M. de Saint-Remy entered, and the room was soon filled with
people.

"Messieurs," said the prince, "his majesty is about to pay me the honor of
passing a day at Blois; I depend on the king, my nephew, not having to
repent of the favor he does my house."

"_Vive le Roi!_" cried all the officers of the household with frantic
enthusiasm, and M. de Saint-Remy louder than the rest.

Gaston hung down his head with evident chagrin.  He had all his life been
obliged to hear, or rather to undergo, this cry of "_Vive le Roi!_" which
passed over him.  For a long time, being unaccustomed to hear it, his ear

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