List Of Contents | Contents of The Vicomte de Bragelonne, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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had had rest, and now a younger, more vivacious, and more brilliant
royalty rose up before him, like a new and more painful provocation.

Madame perfectly understood the sufferings of that timid, gloomy heart;
she rose from the table, Monsieur imitated her mechanically, and all the
domestics, with a buzzing like that of several bee-hives, surrounded
Raoul for the purpose of questioning him.

Madame saw this movement, and called M. de Saint-Remy.

"This is not the time for gossiping, but working," said she, with the
tone of an angry housekeeper.

M. de Saint-Remy hastened to break the circle formed by the officers
round Raoul, so that the latter was able to gain the ante-chamber.

"Care will be taken of that gentleman, I hope," added Madame, addressing
M. de Saint-Remy.

The worthy man immediately hastened after Raoul.  "Madame desires
refreshments to be offered to you," said he; "and there is, besides, a
lodging for you in the castle."

"Thanks, M. de Saint-Remy," replied Raoul; "but you know how anxious I
must be to pay my duty to M. le Comte, my father."

"That is true, that is true, Monsieur Raoul; present him, at the same
time, my humble respects, if you please."

Raoul thus once more got rid of the old gentleman, and pursued his way.
As he was passing under the porch, leading his horse by the bridle, a
soft voice called him from the depths of an obscure path.

"Monsieur Raoul!" said the voice.

The young man turned round, surprised, and saw a dark complexioned girl,
who, with a finger on her lip, held out her other hand to him.  This
young lady was an utter stranger.


Chapter III:
The Interview.

Raoul made one step towards the girl who thus called him.

"But my horse, madame?" said he.

"Oh! you are terribly embarrassed!  Go yonder way - there is a shed in
the outer court: fasten your horse, and return quickly!"

"I obey, madame."

Raoul was not four minutes in performing what he had been directed to do;
he returned to the little door, where, in the gloom, he found his
mysterious conductress waiting for  him, on the first steps of a winding
staircase.

"Are you brave enough to follow me, monsieur knight errant?" asked the
girl, laughing at the momentary hesitation Raoul had manifested.

The latter replied by springing up the dark staircase after her.  They
thus climbed up three stories, he behind her, touching with his hands,
when he felt for the banister, a silk dress which rubbed against each
side of the staircase.  At every false step made by Raoul, his
conductress cried, "Hush!" and held out to him a soft perfumed hand.

"One would mount thus to the belfry of the castle without being conscious
of fatigue," said Raoul.

"All of which means, monsieur, that you are very much perplexed, very
tired, and very uneasy.  But be of good cheer, monsieur; here we are, at
our destination."

The girl threw open a door, which immediately, without any transition,
filled with a flood of light the landing of the staircase, at the top of
which Raoul appeared, holding fast by the balustrade.

The girl continued to walk on - he followed her; she entered a chamber 
he did the same.

As soon as he was fairly in the net he heard a loud cry, and, turning
round, saw at two paces from him, with her hands clasped and her eyes
closed, that beautiful fair girl with blue eyes and white shoulders,
who, recognizing him, called him Raoul.

He saw her, and divined at once so much love and so much joy in the
expression of her countenance, the he sank on his knees in the middle of
the chamber, murmuring, on his part, the name of Louise.

"Ah!  Montalais! - Montalais!" she sighed, "it is very wicked to deceive
me so."

"Who, I?  I have deceived you?"

"Yes; you told me you would go down to inquire the news, and you have
brought up monsieur!"

"Well, I was obliged to do so - how else could he have received the
letter you wrote him?"  And she pointed with her finger to the letter
which was still upon the table.

Raoul made a step to take it; Louise, more rapid, although she had sprung
forward with a sufficiently remarkable physical hesitation, reached out
her hand to stop him.  Raoul came in contact with that trembling hand,
took it within his own, and carried it so respectfully to his lips, that
he might have been said to have deposited a sigh upon it rather than a
kiss.

In the meantime, Mademoiselle de Montalais had taken the letter, folded
it carefully, as women do, in three folds, and slipped it into her bosom.

"Don't be afraid, Louise," said she; "monsieur will no more venture to
take it hence than the defunct king Louis XIII. ventured to take billets
from the corsage of Mademoiselle de Hautefort."

Raoul blushed at seeing the smile of the two girls; and he did not remark
that the hand of Louise remained in his.

"There!" said Montalais, "you have pardoned me, Louise, for having
brought monsieur to you; and you, monsieur, bear me no malice for having
followed me to see mademoiselle.  Now, then, peace being made, let us
chat like old friends.  Present me, Louise, to M. de Bragelonne."

"Monsieur le Vicomte," said Louise, with her quiet grace and ingenuous
smile, "I have the honor to present to you Mademoiselle Aure de
Montalais, maid of honor to her royal highness MADAME, and moreover my
friend - my excellent friend."

Raoul bowed ceremoniously.

"And me, Louise," said he - "will you not present me also to
mademoiselle?"

"Oh, she knows you - she knows all!"

This unguarded expression made Montalais laugh and Raoul sigh with
happiness, for he interpreted it thus: "_She knows all our love_."

"The ceremonies being over, Monsieur le Vicomte," said Montalais, "take a
chair, and tell us quickly the news you bring flying thus."

"Mademoiselle, it is no longer a secret; the king, on his way to
Poitiers, will stop at Blois, to visit his royal highness."

"The king here!" exclaimed Montalais, clapping her hands.  "What! are we
going to see the court?  Only think, Louise - the real court from Paris!
Oh, good heavens!  But when will this happen, monsieur?"

"Perhaps this evening, mademoiselle; at latest, to-morrow."

Montalais lifted her shoulders in a sigh of vexation.

"No time to get ready!  No time to prepare a single dress!  We are as far
behind the fashions as the Poles.  We shall look like portraits from the
time of Henry IV.  Ah, monsieur! this is sad news you bring us!"

"But, mesdemoiselles, you will be still beautiful!"

"That's no news!  Yes, we shall always be beautiful, because nature has
made us passable; but we shall be ridiculous, because the fashion will
have forgotten us.  Alas! ridiculous!  I shall be thought ridiculous - I!"

"And by whom?" said Louise, innocently.

"By whom?  You are a strange girl, my dear.  Is that a question to put to
me?  I mean everybody; I mean the courtiers, the nobles; I mean the king."

"Pardon me, my good friend; but as here every one is accustomed to see us
as we are - "

"Granted; but that is about to change, and we shall be ridiculous, even
for Blois; for close to us will be seen the fashions from Paris, and they
will perceive that we are in the fashion of Blois!  It is enough to make
one despair!"

"Console yourself, mademoiselle."

"Well, so let it be!  After all, so much the worse for those who do not
find me to their taste!" said Montalais, philosophically.

"They would be very difficult to please," replied Raoul, faithful to his
regular system of gallantry.

"Thank you,  Monsieur le Vicomte.  We were saying, then, that the king is
coming to Blois?"

"With all the court."

"Mesdemoiselles de Mancini, will they be with them?"

"No, certainly not."

"But as the king, it is said, cannot do without Mademoiselle Mary?"

"Mademoiselle, the king must do without her.  M. le Cardinal will have it
so.  He has exiled his nieces to Brouage."

"He! - the hypocrite!"

"Hush!" said Louise, pressing a finger on her friend's rosy lips.

"Bah! nobody can hear me.  I say that old Mazarino Mazarini is a
hypocrite, who burns impatiently to make his niece Queen of France."

"That cannot be, mademoiselle, since M. le Cardinal, on the contrary, had
brought about the marriage of his majesty with the Infanta Maria Theresa."

Montalais looked Raoul full in the face, and said, "And do you Parisians
believe in these tales?  Well! we are a little more knowing than you, at
Blois."

"Mademoiselle, if the king goes beyond Poitiers and sets out for Spain;
if the articles of the marriage contract are agreed upon by Don Luis de
Haro and his eminence, you must plainly perceive that it is not child's
play."

"All very fine! but the king is king, I suppose?"

"No doubt, mademoiselle; but the cardinal is the cardinal."

"The king is not a man, then!  And he does not love Mary Mancini?"

"He adores her."

"Well, he will marry her then.  We shall have war with Spain.  M. Mazarin
will spend a few of the millions he has put away; our gentlemen will
perform prodigies of valor in their encounters with the proud Castilians,
and many of them will return crowned with laurels, to be recrowned by us
with myrtles.  Now, that is my view of politics."

"Montalais, you are wild!" said Louise, "and every exaggeration attracts
you as light does a moth."

"Louise, you are so extremely reasonable, that you will never know how to
love."

"Oh!" said Louise, in a tone of tender reproach, "don't you see,
Montalais?  The queen-mother desires to marry her son to the Infanta;
would you wish him to disobey his mother?  Is it for a royal heart like
his to set such a bad example?  When parents forbid love, love must be
banished."

And Louise sighed: Raoul cast down his eyes, with an expression of
constraint.  Montalais, on her part, laughed aloud.

"Well, I have no parents!" said she.

"You are acquainted, without doubt, with the state of health of M. le
Comte de la Fere?" said Louise, after breathing that sigh which had
revealed so many griefs in its eloquent utterance.

"No, mademoiselle," replied Raoul, "I have not let paid my respects to my

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