Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 13

Chapter XIII:
An Account of what the Chevalier de Lorraine Thought of Madame.

Nothing further interrupted the journey. Under a pretext that was little
remarked, M. de Wardes went forward in advance of the others. He took
Manicamp with him, for his equable and dreamy disposition acted as a
counterpoise to his own. It is a subject of remark, that quarrelsome and
restless characters invariably seek the companionship of gentle, timorous
dispositions, as if the former sought, in the contrast, a repose for
their own ill-humor, and the latter a protection for their weakness.
Buckingham and Bragelonne, admitting De Guiche into their friendship, in
concert with him, sang the praises of the princess during the whole of
the journey. Bragelonne, had, however, insisted that their three voices
should be in concert, instead of singing in solo parts, as De Guiche and
his rival seemed to have acquired a dangerous habit of doing. This style
of harmony pleased the queen-mother exceedingly, but it was not perhaps
so agreeable to the young princess, who was an incarnation of coquetry,
and who, without any fear as far as her own voice was concerned, sought
opportunities of so perilously distinguishing herself. She possessed one
of those fearless and incautious dispositions that find gratification in
an excess of sensitiveness of feeling, and for whom, also, danger has a
certain fascination. And so her glances, her smiles, her toilette, an
inexhaustible armory of weapons of offense, were showered on the three
young men with overwhelming force; and, from her well-stored arsenal
issued glances, kindly recognitions, and a thousand other little charming
attentions which were intended to strike at long range the gentlemen who
formed the escort, the townspeople, the officers of the different cities
she passed through, pages, populace, and servants; it was wholesale
slaughter, a general devastation. By the time Madame arrived at Paris,
she had reduced to slavery about a hundred thousand lovers: and brought
in her train to Paris half a dozen men who were almost mad about her, and
two who were, indeed, literally out of their minds. Raoul was the only
person who divined the power of this woman's attraction, and as his heart
was already engaged, he arrived in the capital full of indifference and
distrust. Occasionally during the journey he conversed with the queen of
England respecting the power of fascination which Madame possessed, and
the mother, whom so many misfortunes and deceptions had taught
experience, replied: "Henrietta was sure to be illustrious in one way or
another, whether born in a palace or born in obscurity; for she is a
woman of great imagination, capricious and self-willed." De Wardes and
Manicamp, in their self-assumed character of courtiers, had announced the
princess's arrival. The procession was met at Nanterre by a brilliant
escort of cavaliers and carriages. It was Monsieur himself, followed by
the Chevalier de Lorraine and by his favorites, the latter being
themselves followed by a portion of the king's military household, who
had arrived to meet his affianced bride. At St. Germain, the princess
and her mother had changed their heavy traveling carriage, somewhat
impaired by the journey, for a light, richly decorated chariot drawn by
six horses with white and gold harness. Seated in this open carriage, as
though upon a throne, and beneath a parasol of embroidered silk, fringed
with feathers, sat the young and lovely princess, on whose beaming face
were reflected the softened rose-tints which suited her delicate skin to
perfection. Monsieur, on reaching the carriage, was struck by her
beauty; he showed his admiration in so marked a manner that the Chevalier
de Lorraine shrugged his shoulders as he listened to his compliments,
while Buckingham and De Guiche were almost heart-broken. After the usual
courtesies had been rendered, and the ceremony completed, the procession
slowly resumed the road to Paris. The presentations had been carelessly
made, and Buckingham, with the rest of the English gentlemen, had been
introduced to Monsieur, from whom they had received but very indifferent
attention. But, during their progress, as he observed that the duke
devoted himself with his accustomed eagerness to the carriage-door, he
asked the Chevalier de Lorraine, his inseparable companion, "Who is that
cavalier?"

"He was presented to your highness a short while ago; it is the handsome
Duke of Buckingham."

"Ah, yes, I remember."

"Madame's knight," added the favorite, with an inflection of the voice
which envious minds can alone give to the simplest phrases.

"What do you say?" replied the prince.

"I said 'Madame's knight'."

"Has she a recognized knight, then?"

"One would think you can judge of that for yourself; look, only, how they
are laughing and flirting. All three of them."

"What do you mean by _all three?_"

"Do you not see that De Guiche is one of the party?"

"Yes, I see. But what does that prove?"

"That Madame has two admirers instead of one."

"You poison the simplest thing!"

"I poison nothing. Ah! your royal highness's mind is perverted. The
honors of the kingdom of France are being paid to your wife and you are
not satisfied."

The Duke of Orleans dreaded the satirical humor of the Chevalier de
Lorraine whenever it reached a certain degree of bitterness, and he
changed the conversation abruptly. "The princess is pretty," said he,
very negligently, as if he were speaking of a stranger.

"Yes," replied the chevalier, in the same tone.

"You say 'yes' like a 'no'. She has very beautiful black eyes."

"Yes, but small."

"That is so, but they are brilliant. She is tall, and of a good figure."

"I fancy she stoops a little, my lord."

"I do not deny it. She has a noble appearance."

"Yes, but her face is thin."

"I thought her teeth beautiful."

"They can easily be seen, for her mouth is large enough. Decidedly, I
was wrong, my lord; you are certainly handsomer than your wife."

"But do you think me as handsome as Buckingham?"

"Certainly, and he thinks so, too; for look, my lord, he is redoubling
his attentions to Madame to prevent your effacing the impression he has
made."

Monsieur made a movement of impatience, but as he noticed a smile of
triumph pass across the chevalier's lips, he drew up his horse to a foot-
pace. "Why," said he, "should I occupy myself any longer about my
cousin? Do I not already know her? Were we not brought up together?
Did I not see her at the Louvre when she was quite a child?"

"A great change has taken place in her since then, prince. At the period
you allude to, she was somewhat less brilliant, and scarcely so proud,
either. One evening, particularly, you may remember, my lord, the king
refused to dance with her, because he thought her plain and badly
dressed!"

These words made the Duke of Orleans frown. It was by no means
flattering for him to marry a princess of whom, when young, the king had
not thought much. He would probably have retorted, but at this moment De
Guiche quitted the carriage to join the prince. He had remarked the
prince and the chevalier together, and full of anxious attention he
seemed to try and guess the nature of the remarks which they had just
exchanged. The chevalier, whether he had some treacherous object in
view, or from imprudence, did not take the trouble to dissimulate.
"Count," he said, "you're a man of excellent taste."

"Thank you for the compliment," replied De Guiche; "but why do you say
that?"

"Well I appeal to his highness."

"No doubt of it," said Monsieur; "and Guiche knows perfectly well that I
regard him as a most finished cavalier."

"Well, since that is decided, I resume. You have been in the princess's
society, count, for the last eight days, have you not?"

"Yes," replied De Guiche, coloring in spite of himself.

"Well then, tell us frankly, what do you think of her personal
appearance?"

"Of her personal appearance?" returned De Guiche, stupefied.

"Yes; of her appearance, of her mind, of herself, in fact."

Astounded by this question, De Guiche hesitated answering.

"Come, come, De Guiche," resumed the chevalier, laughingly, "tell us your
opinion frankly; the prince commands it."

"Yes, yes," said the prince, "be frank."

De Guiche stammered out a few unintelligible words.

"I am perfectly well aware," returned Monsieur, "that the subject is a
delicate one, but you know you can tell me everything. What do you think
of her?"

In order to avoid betraying his real thoughts, De Guiche had recourse to
the only defense which a man taken by surprise really has, and
accordingly told an untruth. "I do not find Madame," he said, "either
good or bad looking, yet rather good than bad looking."

"What! count," exclaimed the chevalier, "you who went into such ecstasies
and uttered so many exclamations at the sight of her portrait."

De Guiche colored violently. Very fortunately, his horse, which was
slightly restive, enabled him by a sudden plunge to conceal his
agitation. "What portrait?" he murmured, joining them again. The
chevalier had not taken his eyes off him.

"Yes, the portrait. Was not the miniature a good likeness?"

"I do not remember. I had forgotten the portrait; it quite escaped my
recollection."

"And yet it made a very marked impression upon you," said the chevalier.

"That is not unlikely."

"Is she witty, at all events?" inquired the duke.

"I believe so, my lord."

"Is M. de Buckingham witty, too?" said the chevalier.

"I do not know."

"My own opinion is that he must be," replied the chevalier, "for he makes
Madame laugh, and she seems to take no little pleasure in his society,
which never happens to a clever woman when in the company of a simpleton."

"Of course, then, he must be clever," said De Guiche, simply.

At this moment Raoul opportunely arrived, seeing how De Guiche was
pressed by his dangerous questioner, to whom he addressed a remark, and
in that way changed the conversation. The _entree_ was brilliant and
joyous.

The king, in honor of his brother, had directed that the festivities
should be on a scale of the greatest possible magnificence. Madame and
her mother alighted at the Louvre, where, during their exile they had so
gloomily submitted to obscurity, misery, and privations of every
description. That palace, which had been so inhospitable a residence for
the unhappy daughter of Henry IV., the naked walls, the uneven floorings,
the ceilings matted with cobwebs, the vast dilapidated chimney-places,
the cold hearths on which the charity extended to them by parliament
hardly permitted a fire to glow, was completely altered in appearance.
The richest hangings and the thickest carpets, glistening flagstones, and
pictures, with their richly gilded frames; in every direction could be
seen candelabra, mirrors, and furniture and fittings of the most
sumptuous character; in every direction, also, were guards of the
proudest military bearing, with floating plumes, crowds of attendants and
courtiers in the ante-chambers and upon the staircases. In the
courtyards, where the grass had formerly been allowed to luxuriate, as if
the ungrateful Mazarin had thought it a good idea to let the Parisians
perceive the solitude and disorder were, with misery and despair, the fit
accompaniments of fallen monarchy; the immense courtyards, formerly
silent and desolate, were now thronged with courtiers whose horses were
pacing and prancing to and fro. The carriages were filled with young and
beautiful women, who awaited the opportunity of saluting, as she passed,
the daughter of that daughter of France who, during her widowhood and
exile, had sometimes gone without wood for her fire, and bread for her
table, whom the meanest attendant at the chateau had treated with
indifference and contempt. And so, the Madame Henriette once more
returned to the Louvre, with her heart more swollen with bitter
recollections than her daughter's, whose disposition was fickle and
forgetful, with triumph and delight. She knew but too well this
brilliant reception was paid to the happy mother of a king restored to
his throne, a throne second to none in Europe, while the worse than
indifferent reception she had before met with was paid to her, the
daughter of Henry IV., as a punishment for having been unfortunate.
After the princess had been installed in their apartments and had rested,
the gentlemen who had formed their escort, having, in like manner,
recovered from their fatigue, they resumed their accustomed habits and
occupations. Raoul began by setting off to see his father, who had left
for Blois. He then tried to see M. d'Artagnan, who, however, being
engaged in the organization of a military household for the king, could
not be found anywhere. Bragelonne next sought out De Guiche, but the
count was occupied in a long conference with his tailors and with
Manicamp, which consumed his whole time. With the Duke of Buckingham he
fared still worse, for the duke was purchasing horses after horses,
diamonds upon diamonds. He monopolized every embroiderer, jeweler, and
tailor that Paris could boast of. Between De Guiche and himself a
vigorous contest ensued, invariably a courteous one, in which, in order
to insure success, the duke was ready to spend a million; while the
Marechal de Gramont had only allowed his son sixty thousand francs. So
Buckingham laughed and spent his money. Guiche groaned in despair, and
would have shown it more violently, had it not been for the advice De
Bragelonne gave him.

"A million!" repeated De Guiche daily; "I must submit. Why will not the
marechal advance me a portion of my patrimony?"

"Because you would throw it away," said Raoul.

"What can that matter to him? If I am to die of it, I shall die of it,
and then I shall need nothing further."

"But what need is there to die?" said Raoul.

"I do not wish to be conquered in elegance by an Englishman."

"My dear count," said Manicamp, "elegance is not a costly commodity, it
is only a very difficult accomplishment."

"Yes, but difficult things cost a good deal of money, and I have only got
sixty thousand francs."

"A very embarrassing state of things, truly," said De Wardes; "even if
you spent as much as Buckingham, there is only nine hundred and forty
thousand francs difference."

"Where am I to find them?"

"Get into debt."

"I am in debt already."

"A greater reason for getting further."

Advice like this resulted in De Guiche becoming excited to such an extent
that he committed extravagances where Buckingham only incurred expenses.
The rumor of this extravagant profuseness delighted the hearts of all the
shopkeepers in Paris; from the hotel of the Duke of Buckingham to that of
the Comte de Gramont nothing but miracles was attempted. While all this
was going on, Madame was resting herself, and Bragelonne was engaged in
writing to Mademoiselle de la Valliere. He had already dispatched four
letters, and not an answer to any one of them had been received, when, on
the very morning fixed for the marriage ceremony, which was to take place
in the chapel at the Palais Royal, Raoul, who was dressing, heard his
valet announce M. de Malicorne. "What can this Malicorne want with me?"
thought Raoul; and then said to his valet, "Let him wait."

"It is a gentleman from Blois," said the valet.

"Admit him at once," said Raoul, eagerly.

Malicorne entered as brilliant as a star, and wearing a superb sword at
his side. After having saluted Raoul most gracefully, he said: "M. de
Bragelonne, I am the bearer of a thousand compliments from a lady to you."

Raoul colored. "From a lady," said he, "from a lady of Blois?"

"Yes, monsieur; from Mademoiselle de Montalais."

"Thank you, monsieur; I recollect you now," said Raoul. "And what does
Mademoiselle de Montalais require of me."

Malicorne drew four letters from his pocket, which he offered to Raoul.

"My own letters, is it possible?" he said, turning pale; "my letters, and
the seals unbroken?"

"Monsieur, your letters did not find at Blois the person to whom they
were addressed, and so they are now returned to you."

"Mademoiselle de la Valliere has left Blois, then?" exclaimed Raoul.

"Eight days ago."

"Where is she, then?"

"In Paris."

"How is it known that these letters were from me?"

"Mademoiselle de Montalais recognized your handwriting and your seal,"
said Malicorne.

Raoul colored and smiled. "Mademoiselle de Montalais is exceedingly
amiable," he said; "she is always kind and charming."

"Always, monsieur."

"Surely she could have given me some precise information about
Mademoiselle de la Valliere. I never could find her in this immense
city."

Malicorne drew another packet from his pocket. "You may possibly find in
this letter what you are anxious to learn."

Raoul hurriedly broke the seal. The writing was that of Mademoiselle
Aure, and inclosed were these words: - "Paris, Palais Royal. The day of
the nuptial blessing."

"What does this mean?" inquired Raoul of Malicorne; "you probably know?"

"I do, monsieur."

"For pity's sake, tell me, then."

"Impossible, monsieur."

"Why so?"

"Because Mademoiselle Aure has forbidden me to do so."

Raoul looked at his strange visitor, and remained silent; - "At least,
tell me whether it is fortunate or unfortunate."

"That you will see."

"You are very severe in your reservations."

"Will you grant me one favor, monsieur?" said Malicorne.

"In exchange for that you refuse me?"

"Precisely."

"What is it?"

"I have the greatest desire to see the ceremony, and I have no ticket to
admit me, in spite of all the steps I have taken to secure one. Could
you get me admitted?"

"Certainly."

"Do me this kindness, then, I entreat."

"Most willingly, monsieur; come with me."

"I am exceedingly indebted to you, monsieur," said Malicorne.

"I thought you were a friend of M. de Manicamp."

"I am, monsieur; but this morning I was with him as he was dressing, and
I let a bottle of blacking fall over his new dress, and he flew at me
sword in hand, so that I was obliged to make my escape. That is the
reason I could not ask him for a ticket. He wanted to kill me."

"I can well believe it," laughed Raoul. "I know Manicamp is capable of
killing a man who has been unfortunate enough to commit the crime you
have to reproach yourself with, but I will repair the mischief as far as
you are concerned. I will but fasten my cloak, and shall then be ready
to serve you, not only as a guide, but as your introducer, too."

Alexandre Dumas pere