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Chapter 12

Chapter XII:
From Le Havre to Paris.

The next day the _fetes_ took place, accompanied by all the pomp and
animation that the resources of the town and the cheerful disposition of
men's minds could supply. During the last few hours spent in Le Havre,
every preparation for the departure had been made. After Madame had
taken leave of the English fleet, and, once again, had saluted the
country in saluting its flags, she entered her carriage, surrounded by a
brilliant escort. De Guiche had hoped that the Duke of Buckingham would
accompany the admiral to England; but Buckingham succeeded in
demonstrating to the queen that there would be great impropriety in
allowing Madame to proceed to Paris, almost unprotected. As soon as it
had been settled that Buckingham was to accompany Madame, the young duke
selected a corps of gentlemen and officers to form part of his own suite,
so that it was almost an army that now set out towards Paris, scattering
gold, and exciting the liveliest demonstrations as they passed through
the different towns and villages on the route. The weather was very
fine. France is a beautiful country, especially along the route by which
the procession passed. Spring cast its flowers and its perfumed foliage
on their path. Normandy, with its vast variety of vegetation, its blue
skies and silver rivers, displayed itself in all the loveliness of a
paradise to the new sister of the king. _Fetes_ and brilliant displays
received them everywhere along the line of march. De Guiche and
Buckingham forgot everything; De Guiche in his anxiety to prevent any
fresh attempts on the part of the duke, and Buckingham, in his desire to
awaken in the heart of the princess a softer remembrance of the country
to which the recollection of many happy days belonged. But, alas! the
poor duke could perceive that the image of that country so cherished by
himself became, from day to day, more and more effaced in Madame's mind,
in exact proportion as her affection for France became more deeply
engraved on her heart. In fact, it was not difficult to perceive that
his most devoted attention awakened no acknowledgement, and that the
grace with which he rode one of his most fiery horses was thrown away,
for it was only casually and by the merest accident that the princess's
eyes were turned towards him. In vain did he try, in order to fix upon
himself one of those looks, which were thrown carelessly around, or
bestowed elsewhere, to produce in the animal he rode its greatest display
of strength, speed, temper and address; in vain did he, by exciting his
horse almost to madness, spur him, at the risk of dashing himself in
pieces against the trees, or of rolling in the ditches, over the gates
and barriers which they passed, or down the steep declivities of the
hills. Madame, whose attention had been aroused by the noise, turned her
head for a moment to observe the cause of it, and then, slightly smiling,
again entered into conversation with her faithful guardians, Raoul and De
Guiche, who were quietly riding at her carriage doors. Buckingham felt
himself a prey to all the tortures of jealousy; an unknown, unheard of
anguish glided through his veins, and laid siege to his heart; and then,
as if to show that he knew the folly of his conduct, and that he wished
to correct, by the humblest submission, his flights of absurdity, he
mastered his horse, and compelled him, reeking with sweat and flecked
with foam, to champ his bit close beside the carriage, amidst the crowd
of courtiers. Occasionally he obtained a word from Madame as a
recompense, and yet her speech seemed almost a reproach.

"That is well, my lord," she said, "now you are reasonable."

Or from Raoul, "Your Grace is killing your horse."

Buckingham listened patiently to Raoul's remarks, for he instinctively
felt, without having had any proof that such was the case, that Raoul
checked the display of De Guiche's feelings, and that, had it not been
for Raoul, some mad act or proceeding, either of the count, or of
Buckingham himself, would have brought about an open rupture, or a
disturbance - perhaps even exile itself. From the moment of that excited
conversation the two young men had held in front of the tents at Le
Havre, when Raoul made the duke perceive the impropriety of his conduct,
Buckingham felt himself attracted towards Raoul almost in spite of
himself. He often entered into conversation with him, and it was nearly
always to talk to him either of his father or of D'Artagnan, their mutual
friend, in whose praise Buckingham was nearly as enthusiastic as Raoul.
Raoul endeavored, as much as possible, to make the conversation turn upon
this subject in De Wardes's presence, who had, during the whole journey,
been exceedingly annoyed at the superior position taken by Bragelonne,
and especially by his influence over De Guiche. De Wardes had that keen
and merciless penetration most evil natures possess; he had immediately
remarked De Guiche's melancholy, and divined the nature of his regard for
the princess. Instead, however, of treating the subject with the same
reserve which Raoul practiced; instead of regarding with that respect,
which was their due, the obligations and duties of society, De Wardes
resolutely attacked in the count the ever-sounding chord of juvenile
audacity and pride. It happened one evening, during a halt at Mantes,
that while De Guiche and De Wardes were leaning against a barrier,
engaged in conversation, Buckingham and Raoul were also talking together
as they walked up and down. Manicamp was engaged in devoted attendance
on the princess, who already treated him without reserve, on account of
his versatile fancy, his frank courtesy of manner, and conciliatory
disposition.

"Confess," said De Wardes, "that you are really ill, and that your
pedagogue of a friend has not succeeded in curing you."

"I do not understand you," said the count.

"And yet it is easy enough; you are dying of love."

"You are mad, De Wardes."

"Madness it would be, I admit, if Madame were really indifferent to your
martyrdom; but she takes so much notice of it, observes it to such an
extent, that she compromises herself, and I tremble lest, on our arrival
at Paris, M. de Bragelonne may not denounce both of you."

"For shame, De Wardes, again attacking De Bragelonne."

"Come, come, a truce to child's play," replied the count's evil genius,
in an undertone; "you know as well as I do what I mean. Besides, you
must have observed how the princess's glance softens as she looks at you;
- you can tell, by the very inflection of her voice, what pleasure she
takes in listening to you, and can feel how thoroughly she appreciates
the verses you recite to her. You cannot deny, too, that every morning
she tells you how indifferently she slept the previous night."

"True, De Wardes, quite true; but what good is there in your telling me
all that?"

"Is it not important to know the exact position of affairs?"

"No, no; not when I am a witness of things that are enough to drive one
mad."

"Stay, stay," said De Wardes; "look, she calls you, - do you understand?
Profit by the occasion, while your pedagogue is absent."

De Guiche could not resist; an invincible attraction drew him towards the
princess. De Wardes smiled as he saw him withdraw.

"You are mistaken, monsieur," said Raoul, suddenly stepping across the
barrier against which the previous moment the two friends had been
leaning. "The pedagogue is here, and has overheard you."

De Wardes, at the sound of Raoul's voice, which he recognized without
having occasion to look at him, half drew his sword.

"Put up your sword," said Raoul; "you know perfectly well that, until our
journey is at an end, every demonstration of that nature is useless. Why
do you distill into the heart of the man you term your friend all the
bitterness that infects your own? As regards myself, you wish to arouse
a feeling of deep dislike against a man of honor - my father's friend and
my own; and as for the count you wish him to love one who is destined for
your master. Really, monsieur, I should regard you as a coward, and a
traitor too, if I did not, with greater justice, regard you as a madman."

"Monsieur," exclaimed De Wardes, exasperated, "I was deceived, I find, in
terming you a pedagogue. The tone you assume, and the style which is
peculiarly your own, is that of a Jesuit, and not of a gentleman.
Discontinue, I beg, whenever I am present, this style I complain of, and
the tone also. I hate M. d'Artagnan, because he was guilty of a cowardly
act towards my father."

"You lie, monsieur," said Raoul, coolly.

"You give me the lie, monsieur?" exclaimed De Wardes.

"Why not, if what you assert is untrue?"

"You give me the lie, and will not draw your sword?"

"I have resolved, monsieur, not to kill you until Madame shall have been
delivered safely into her husband's hands."

"Kill me! Believe me, monsieur, your schoolmaster's rod does not kill so
easily."

"No," replied Raoul, sternly, "but M. d'Artagnan's sword kills; and, not
only do I possess his sword, but he has himself taught me how to use it;
and with that sword, when a befitting time arrives, I will avenge his
name - a name you have dishonored."

"Take care, monsieur," exclaimed De Wardes; "if you do not immediately
give me satisfaction, I will avail myself of every means to revenge
myself."

"Indeed, monsieur," said Buckingham, suddenly, appearing upon the scene
of action, "that is a threat which savors of assassination, and
therefore, ill becomes a gentleman."

"What did you say, my lord?" said De Wardes, turning round towards him.

"I said, monsieur, that the words you have just spoken are displeasing to
my English ears."

"Very well, monsieur, if what you say is true," exclaimed De Wardes,
thoroughly incensed, "I at least find in you one who will not escape me.
Understand my words as you like."

"I take them in the manner they cannot but be understood," replied
Buckingham, with that haughty tone which characterized him, and which,
even in ordinary conversation, gave a tone of defiance to everything he
said; "M. de Bragelonne is my friend, you insult M. de Bragelonne, and
you shall give me satisfaction for that insult."

De Wardes cast a look upon De Bragelonne, who, faithful to the character
he had assumed, remained calm and unmoved, even after the duke's defiance.

"It would seem that I did not insult M. de Bragelonne, since M. de
Bragelonne, who carries a sword by his side, does not consider himself
insulted."

"At all events you insult someone."

"Yes, I insulted M. d'Artagnan," resumed De Wardes, who had observed that
this was the only means of stinging Raoul, so as to awaken his anger.

"That, then," said Buckingham, "is another matter."

"Precisely so," said De Wardes; "it is the province of M. d'Artagnan's
friends to defend him."

"I am entirely of your opinion," replied the duke, who had regained all
his indifference of manner; "if M. de Bragelonne were offended, I could
not reasonably be expected to espouse his quarrel, since he is himself
here; but when you say that it is a quarrel of M. d'Artagnan - "

"You will of course leave me to deal with the matter," said De Wardes.

"Nay, on the contrary, for I draw my sword," said Buckingham, unsheathing
it as he spoke; "for if M. d'Artagnan injured your father, he rendered,
or at least did all that he could to render, a great service to mine."

De Wardes was thunderstruck.

"M. d'Artagnan," continued Buckingham, "is the bravest gentleman I know.
I shall be delighted, as I owe him many personal obligations, to settle
them with you, by crossing my sword with yours." At the same moment
Buckingham drew his sword from its scabbard, saluted Raoul, and put
himself on guard.

De Wardes advanced a step to meet him.

"Stay, gentlemen," said Raoul, advancing towards them, and placing his
own drawn sword between the combatants, "the affair is hardly worth the
trouble of blood being shed almost in the presence of the princess. M.
de Wardes speaks ill of M. d'Artagnan, with whom he is not even
acquainted."

"What, monsieur," said De Wardes, setting his teeth hard together, and
resting the point of his sword on the toe of his boot, "do you assert
that I do not know M. d'Artagnan?"

"Certainly not; you do not know him," replied Raoul, coldly, "and you are
even not aware where he is to be found."

"Not know where he is?"

"Such must be the case, since you fix your quarrel with him upon
strangers, instead of seeking M. d'Artagnan where he is to be found." De
Wardes turned pale. "Well, monsieur," continued Raoul, "I will tell you
where M. d'Artagnan is: he is now in Paris; when on duty he is to be met
with at the Louvre, - when not on duty, in the Rue des Lombards. M.
d'Artagnan can easily be discovered at either of those two places.
Having, therefore, as you assert, so many causes of complaint against
him, show your courage in seeking him out, and afford him an opportunity
of giving you that satisfaction you seem to ask of every one but of
himself." De Wardes passed his hand across his forehead, which was
covered with perspiration. "For shame, M. de Wardes! so quarrelsome a
disposition is hardly becoming after the publication of the edicts
against duels. Pray think of that; the king will be incensed at our
disobedience, particularly at such a time, - and his majesty will be in
the right."

"Excuses," murmured De Wardes; "mere pretexts."

"Really, M. De Wardes," resumed Raoul, "such remarks are the idlest
bluster. You know very well that the Duke of Buckingham is a man of
undoubted courage, who has already fought ten duels, and will probably
fight eleven. His name alone is significant enough. As far as I am
concerned, you are well aware that I can fight also. I fought at Lens,
at Bleneau, at the Dunes in front of the artillery, a hundred paces in
front of the line, while you - I say this parenthetically - were a
hundred paces behind it. True it is, that on that occasion there was far
too great a concourse of persons present for your courage to be observed,
and on that account perhaps you did not reveal it; while here, it would
be a display, and would excite remark - you wish that others should talk
about you, in what manner you do not care. Do not depend upon me, M. de
Wardes to assist you in your designs, for I shall certainly not afford
you that pleasure."

"Sensibly observed," said Buckingham, putting up his sword, "and I ask
your forgiveness, M. de Bragelonne, for having allowed myself to yield to
a first impulse."

De Wardes, however, on the contrary, perfectly furious, bounded forward
and raised his sword, threateningly, against Raoul, who had scarcely
enough time to put himself in a posture of defense.

"Take care, monsieur," said Bragelonne, tranquilly, "or you will put out
one of my eyes."

"You will not fight, then?" said De Wardes.

"Not at this moment; but this I promise to do; immediately on our arrival
at Paris I will conduct you to M. d'Artagnan, to whom you shall detail
all the causes of complaint you have against him. M d'Artagnan will
solicit the king's permission to measure swords with you. The king will
yield his consent, and when you shall have received the sword-thrust in
due course, you will consider, in a calmer frame of mind, the precepts of
the Gospel, which enjoin forgetfulness of injuries."

"Ah!" exclaimed De Wardes, furious at this imperturbable coolness, "one
can clearly see you are half a bastard, M. de Bragelonne."

Raoul became as pale as death; his eyes flashed lightning, causing De
Wardes involuntarily to fall back. Buckingham, also, who had perceived
their expression, threw himself between the two adversaries, whom he had
expected to see precipitate themselves on each other. De Wardes had
reserved this injury for the last; he clasped his sword firmly in his
hand, and awaited the encounter. "You are right, monsieur," said Raoul,
mastering his emotion, "I am only acquainted with my father's name; but I
know too well that the Comte de la Fere is too upright and honorable a
man to allow me to fear for a single moment that there is, as you
insinuate, any stain upon my birth. My ignorance, therefore, of my
mother's name is a misfortune for me, and not a reproach. You are
deficient in loyalty of conduct; you are wanting in courtesy, in
reproaching me with misfortune. It matters little, however, the insult
has been given, and I consider myself insulted accordingly. It is quite
understood, then, that after you shall have received satisfaction from M.
d'Artagnan, you will settle your quarrel with me."

"I admire your prudence, monsieur," replied De Wardes with a bitter
smile; "a little while ago you promised me a sword-thrust from M.
d'Artagnan, and now, after I shall have received his, you offer me one
from yourself."

"Do not disturb yourself," replied Raoul, with concentrated anger; "in
all affairs of that nature, M. d'Artagnan is exceedingly skillful, and I
will beg him as a favor to treat you as he did your father; in other
words, to spare your life at least, so as to leave me the pleasure, after
your recovery, of killing you outright; for you have the heart of a
viper, M. de Wardes, and in very truth, too many precautions cannot be
taken against you."

"I shall take my precautions against you," said De Wardes, "be assured of
it."

"Allow me, monsieur," said Buckingham, "to translate your remark by a
piece of advice I am about to give M. de Bragelonne; M. de Bragelonne,
wear a cuirass."

De Wardes clenched his hands. "Ah!" said he, "you two gentlemen intend
to wait until you have taken that precaution before you measure your
swords against mine."

"Very well, monsieur," said Raoul, "since you positively will have it so,
let us settle the affair now." And, drawing his sword, he advanced
towards De Wardes.

"What are you going to do?" said Buckingham.

"Be easy," said Raoul, "it will not be very long."

De Wardes placed himself on his guard; their swords crossed. De Wardes
flew upon Raoul with such impetuosity, that at the first clashing of the
steel blades Buckingham clearly saw that Raoul was only trifling with his
adversary. Buckingham stepped aside, and watched the combat. Raoul was
as calm as if he were handling a foil instead of a sword; having
retreated a step, he parried three or four fierce thrusts which De Wardes
made at him, caught the sword of the latter with within his own, and sent
it flying twenty paces the other side of the barrier. Then as De Wardes
stood disarmed and astounded at his defeat, Raoul sheathed his sword,
seized him by the collar and the waist band, and hurled his adversary to
the other end of the barrier, trembling, and mad with rage.

"We shall meet again," murmured De Wardes, rising from the ground and
picking up his sword.

"I have done nothing for the last hour," said Raoul, rising from the
ground, "but say the same thing." Then, turning towards the duke, he
said, "I entreat you to be silent about this affair; I am ashamed to have
gone so far, but my anger carried me away, and I ask your forgiveness for
it; - forget it, too."

"Dear viscount," said the duke, pressing with his own the vigorous and
valiant hand of his companion, "allow me, on the contrary, to remember
it, and to look after your safety; that man is dangerous, - he will kill
you."

"My father," replied Raoul, "lived for twenty years under the menace of a
much more formidable enemy, and he still lives."

"Your father had good friends, viscount."

"Yes," sighed Raoul, "such friends, indeed, that none are now left like
them."

"Do not say that, I beg, at the very moment I offer you my friendship;"
and Buckingham opened his arms to embrace Raoul, who delightedly received
the proffered alliance. "In my family," added Buckingham, "you are
aware, M. de Bragelonne, we die to save our friends."

"I know it well, duke," replied Raoul.

Alexandre Dumas pere