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

instinctively, that there could be no sympathy between himself and the
favorite of Charles II.  The queen-mother, with greater experience and
calmer judgment, perceived the exact position of affairs, and, as she
discerned its danger, was prepared to meet it, whenever the proper moment
should arrive.  Quiet had been everywhere restored, except in
Buckingham's heart; he, in his impatience, addressed himself to the
princess, in a low tone of voice: "For Heaven's sake, madame, I implore
you to hasten your disembarkation.  Do you not perceive how that insolent
Duke of Norfolk is killing me with his attentions and devotions to you?"

Henrietta heard this remark; she smiled, and without turning her head
towards him, but giving only to the tone of her voice that inflection of
gentle reproach, and languid impertinence, which women and princesses so
well know how to assume, she murmured, "I have already hinted, my lord,
that you must have taken leave of your senses."

Not a single detail escaped Raoul's attention; he heard both Buckingham's
entreaty and the princess's reply; he remarked Buckingham retire, heard
his deep sigh, and saw him pass a hand over his face.  He understood
everything, and trembled as he reflected on the position of affairs, and
the state of the minds of those about him.  At last the admiral, with
studied delay, gave the last orders for the departure of the boats.
Buckingham heard the directions given with such an exhibition of delight
that a stranger would really imagine the young man's reason was
affected.  As the Duke of Norfolk gave his commands, a large boat or
barge, decked with flags, and capable of holding about twenty rowers and
fifteen passengers, was slowly lowered from the side of the admiral's
vessel.  The barge was carpeted with velvet and decorated with coverings
embroidered with the arms of England, and with garlands of flowers; for,
at that time, ornamentation was by no means forgotten in these political
pageants.  No sooner was this really royal boat afloat, and the rowers
with oars uplifted, awaiting, like soldiers presenting arms, the
embarkation of the princess, than Buckingham ran forward to the ladder in
order to take his place.  His progress was, however, arrested by the
queen.  "My lord," she said, "it is hardly becoming that you should allow
my daughter and myself to land without having previously ascertained that
our apartments are properly prepared.  I beg your lordship to be good
enough to precede us ashore, and to give directions that everything be in
proper order on our arrival."

This was a fresh disappointment for the duke, and, still more so, since
it was so unexpected.  He hesitated, colored violently, but could not
reply.  He had thought he might be able to keep near Madame during the
passage to the shore, and, by this means, to enjoy to the very last
moment the brief period fortune still reserved for him.  The order,
however, was explicit; and the admiral, who heard it given, immediately
called out, "Launch the ship's gig."  His directions were executed with
that celerity which distinguishes every maneuver on board a man-of-war.

Buckingham, in utter hopelessness, cast a look of despair at the
princess, of supplication towards the queen, and directed a glance full
of anger towards the admiral.  The princess pretended not to notice him,
while the queen turned aside her head, and the admiral laughed outright,
at the sound of which Buckingham seemed ready to spring upon him.  The
queen-mother rose, and with a tone of authority said, "Pray set off, sir."

The young duke hesitated, looked around him, and with a last effort, half-
choked by contending emotions, said, "And you, gentlemen, M. de Guiche
and M. de Bragelonne, do not you accompany me?"

De Guiche bowed and said, "Both M. de Bragelonne and myself await her
majesty's orders; whatever the commands she imposes on us, we shall obey
them."  Saying this, he looked towards the princess, who cast down her

"Your grace will remember," said the queen, "that M. de Guiche is here to
represent Monsieur; it is he who will do the honors of France, as you
have done those of England; his presence cannot be dispensed with;
besides, we owe him this slight favor for the courage he displayed in
venturing to seek us in such a terrible stress of weather."

Buckingham opened his lips, as if he were about to speak, but, whether
thoughts or expressions failed him, not a syllable escaped them, and
turning away, as though out of his mind, he leapt from the vessel into
the boat.  The sailors were just in time to catch hold of him to steady
themselves; for his weight and the rebound had almost upset the boat.

"His grace cannot be in his senses," said the admiral aloud to Raoul.

"I am uneasy on the Duke's account," replied Bragelonne.

While the boat was advancing towards the shore, the duke kept his eyes
immovably fixed on the admiral's ship, like a miser torn away from his
coffers, or a mother separated from her child, about to be lead away to
death.  No one, however, acknowledged his signals, his frowns, or his
pitiful gestures.  In very anguish of mind, he sank down in the boat,
burying his hands in his hair, whilst the boat, impelled by the exertions
of the merry sailors, flew over the waves.  On his arrival he was in such
a state of apathy, that, had he not been received at the harbor by the
messenger whom he had directed to precede him, he would hardly have had
strength to ask his way.  Having once, however, reached the house which
had been set apart for him, he shut himself up, like Achilles in his
tent.  The barge bearing the princess quitted the admiral's vessel at the
very moment Buckingham landed.  It was followed by another boat filled
with officers, courtiers, and zealous friends.  Great numbers of the
inhabitants of Le Havre, having embarked in fishing-cobles and boats of
every description, set off to meet the royal barge.  The cannon from the
forts fired salutes, which were returned by the flagship and the two
other vessels, and the flashes from the open mouths of the cannon floated
in white fumes over the waves, and disappeared in the clear blue sky.

The princess landed at the decorated quay.  Bands of gay music greeted
her arrival, and accompanied her every step she took.  During the time
she was passing through the center of town, and treading beneath her
delicate feet the richest carpets and the gayest flowers, which had been
strewn upon the ground, De Guiche and Raoul, escaping from their English
friends, hurried through the town and hastened rapidly towards the place
intended for the residence of Madame.

"Let us hurry forward," said Raoul to De Guiche, "for if I read
Buckingham's character aright, he will create some disturbance, when he
learns the result of our deliberations of yesterday."

"Never fear," said De Guiche, "De Wardes is there, who is determination
itself, while Manicamp is the very personification of the artless

De Guiche was not, however, the less diligent on that account, and five
minutes afterwards they were within sight of the Hotel de Ville.  The
first thing which struck them was the number of people assembled in the
square.  "Excellent," said De Guiche; "our apartments, I see, are

In fact, in front of the Hotel de Ville, upon the wide open space before
it, eight tents had been raised, surmounted by the flags of France and
England united.  The hotel was surrounded by tents, as by a girdle of
variegated colors; ten pages and a dozen mounted troopers, for an escort,
mounted guard before the tents.  It had a singularly curious effect,
almost fairy-like in its appearance.  These tents had been constructed
during the night-time.  Fitted up, within and without, with the richest
materials that De Guiche had been able to procure in Le Havre, they
completely encircled the Hotel de Ville.  The only passage which led to
the steps of the hotel, and which was not inclosed by the silken
barricade, was guarded by two tents, resembling two pavilions, the
doorways of both of which opened towards the entrance.  These two tents
were destined for De Guiche and Raoul; in whose absence they were
intended to be occupied, that of De Guiche by De Wardes, and that of
Raoul by Manicamp.  Surrounding these two tents, and the six others, a
hundred officers, gentlemen, and pages, dazzling in their display of silk
and gold, thronged like bees buzzing about a hive.  Every one of them,
their swords by their sides, was ready to obey the slightest sign either
of De Guiche or Bragelonne, the leaders of the embassy.

At the very moment the two young men appeared at the end of one of the
streets leading to the square, they perceived, crossing the square at
full gallop, a young man on horseback, whose costume was of surprising
richness.  He pushed hastily thorough the crowd of curious lookers-on,
and, at the sight of these unexpected erections, uttered a cry of anger
and dismay.  It was Buckingham, who had awakened from his stupor, in
order to adorn himself with a costume perfectly dazzling from its beauty,
and to await the arrival of the princess and the queen-mother at the
Hotel de Ville.  At the entrance to the tents, the soldiers barred his
passage, and his further progress was arrested.  Buckingham, hopelessly
infuriated, raised his whip; but his arm was seized by a couple of
officers.  Of the two guardians of the tent, only one was there.  De
Wardes was in the interior of the Hotel de Ville, engaging in attending
to the execution of some orders by De Guiche.  At the noise made by
Buckingham, Manicamp, who was indolently reclining upon the cushions at
the doorway of one of the tents, rose with his usual indifference, and,
perceiving that the disturbance continued, made his appearance from
underneath the curtains.  "What is the matter?" he said, in a gentle tone
of voice, "and who is making this disturbance?"

It so happened, that, at the moment he began to speak, silence had just
been restored, and, although his voice was very soft and gentle in its
touch, every one heard his question.  Buckingham turned round, and looked

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: