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Chapter 15

Chapter XV:
The Consent of Athos.

Raoul quitted the Palais Royal full of ideas that admitted no delay in
execution. He mounted his horse in the courtyard, and followed the road
to Blois, while the marriage festivities of Monsieur and the princess of
England were being celebrated with exceeding animation by the courtiers,
but to the despair of De Guiche and Buckingham. Raoul lost no time on
the road, and in sixteen hours he arrived at Blois. As he traveled
along, he marshaled his arguments in the most becoming manner. Fever is
an argument that cannot be answered, and Raoul had an attack. Athos was
in his study, making additions to his memoirs, when Raoul entered,
accompanied by Grimaud. Keen-sighted and penetrating, a mere glance at
his son told him that something extraordinary had befallen him.

"You seem to come on a matter of importance," said he to Raoul, after he
had embraced him, pointing to a seat.

"Yes, monsieur," replied the young man; "and I entreat you to give me the
same kind attention that has never yet failed me."

"Speak, Raoul."

"I present the case to you, monsieur, free from all preface, for that
would be unworthy of you. Mademoiselle de la Valliere is in Paris as one
of Madame's maids of honor. I have pondered deeply on the matter; I love
Mademoiselle de la Valliere above everything; and it is not proper to
leave her in a position where her reputation, her virtue even, may be
assailed. It is my wish, therefore, to marry her, monsieur, and I have
come to solicit your consent to my marriage."

While this communication was being made to him, Athos maintained the
profoundest silence and reserve. Raoul, who had begun his address with
an assumption of self-possession, finished it by allowing a manifest
emotion to escape him at every word. Athos fixed upon Bragelonne a
searching look, overshadowed indeed by a slight sadness.

"You have reflected well upon it?" he inquired.

"Yes, monsieur."

"I believe you are already acquainted with my views respecting this
alliance?"

"Yes, monsieur," replied Raoul, in a low tone of voice; "but you added,
that if I persisted - "

"You do persist, then?"

Raoul stammered out an almost unintelligible assent.

"Your passion," continued Athos, tranquilly, "must indeed be very great,
since, notwithstanding my dislike to this union, you persist in wanting
it."

Raoul passed his hand trembling across his forehead to remove the
perspiration that collected there. Athos looked at him, and his heart
was touched by pity. He rose and said, -

"It is no matter. My own personal feelings are not to be taken into
consideration since yours are concerned; I am ready to give it. Tell me
what you want."

"Your kind indulgence, first of all, monsieur," said Raoul, taking hold
of his hand.

"You have mistaken my feelings, Raoul, I have more than mere indulgence
for you in my heart."

Raoul kissed as devotedly as a lover could have done the hand he held in
his own.

"Come, come," said Athos, "I am quite ready; what do you wish me to sign?"

"Nothing whatever, monsieur, only it would be very kind if you would take
the trouble to write to the king, to whom I belong, and solicit his
majesty's permission for me to marry Mademoiselle de la Valliere."

"Well thought, Raoul! After, or rather before myself, you have a master
to consult, that master being the king; it is loyal in you to submit
yourself voluntarily to this double proof; I will grant your request
without delay, Raoul."

The count approached the window, and leaning out, called to Grimaud, who
showed his head from an arbor covered with jasmine, which he was occupied
in trimming.

"My horses, Grimaud," continued the count.

"Why this order, monsieur?" inquired Raoul.

"We shall set off in a few hours."

"Whither?"

"For Paris."

"Paris, monsieur?"

"Is not the king at Paris?"

"Certainly."

"Well, ought we not to go there?"

"Yes, monsieur," said Raoul, almost alarmed by this kind condescension.
"I do not ask you to put yourself to such inconvenience, and a letter
merely - "

"You mistake my position, Raoul; it is not respectful that a simple
gentleman, such as I am, should write to his sovereign. I wish to speak,
I ought to speak, to the king, and I will do so. We will go together,
Raoul."

"You overpower me with your kindness, monsieur."

"How do you think his majesty is affected?"

"Towards me, monsieur?"

"Yes."

"Excellently well disposed."

"You _know_ that to be so?" continued the count.

"The king has himself told me so."

"On what occasion?"

"Upon the recommendation of M. d'Artagnan, I believe, and on account of
an affair in the Place de Greve, when I had the honor to draw my sword in
the king's service. I have reason to believe that, vanity apart, I stand
well with his majesty."

"So much the better."

"But I entreat you, monsieur," pursued Raoul, "not to maintain towards me
your present grave and serious manner. Do not make me bitterly regret
having listened to a feeling stronger than anything else."

"That is the second time you have said so, Raoul; it was quite
unnecessary; you require my formal consent, and you have it. We need
talk no more on the subject, therefore. Come and see my new plantations,
Raoul."

The young man knew very well, that, after the expression of his father's
wish, no opportunity of discussion was left him. He bowed his head, and
followed his father into the garden. Athos slowly pointed out to him the
grafts, the cuttings, and the avenues he was planting. This perfect
repose of manner disconcerted Raoul extremely; the affection with which
his own heart was filled seemed so great that the whole world could
hardly contain it. How, then, could his father's heart remain void, and
closed to its influence? Bragelonne, therefore, collecting all his
courage, suddenly exclaimed, -

"It is impossible, monsieur, you can have any reason to reject
Mademoiselle de la Valliere! In Heaven's name, she is so good, so gentle
and pure, that your mind, so perfect in its penetration, ought to
appreciate her accordingly. Does any secret repugnance, or any
hereditary dislike, exist between you and her family?"

"Look, Raoul, at that beautiful lily of the valley," said Athos; "observe
how the shade and the damp situation suit it, particularly the shadow
which that sycamore-tree casts over it, so that the warmth, and not the
blazing heat of the sun, filters through its leaves."

Raoul stopped, bit his lips, and then, with the blood mantling in his
face, he said, courageously, - "One word of explanation, I beg,
monsieur. You cannot forget that your son is a man."

"In that case," replied Athos, drawing himself up with sternness, "prove
to me that you are a man, for you do not show yourself a son. I begged
you to wait the opportunity of forming an illustrious alliance. I would
have obtained a wife for you from the first ranks of the rich nobility.
I wish you to be distinguished by the splendor which glory and fortune
confer, for nobility of descent you have already."

"Monsieur," exclaimed Raoul, carried away by a first impulse. "I was
reproached the other day for not knowing who my mother was."

Athos turned pale; then, knitting his brows like the greatest of all the
heathen deities: - "I am waiting to learn the reply you made," he
demanded, in an imperious manner.

"Forgive me! oh, forgive me," murmured the young man, sinking at once
from the lofty tone he had assumed.

"What was your reply, monsieur?" inquired the count, stamping his feet
upon the ground.

"Monsieur, my sword was in my hand immediately, my adversary placed
himself on guard, I struck his sword over the palisade, and threw him
after it."

"Why did you suffer him to live?"

"The king has prohibited duelling, and, at the moment, I was an
ambassador of the king."

"Very well," said Athos, "but all the greater reason I should see his
majesty."

"What do you intend to ask him?"

"Authority to draw my sword against the man who has inflicted this injury
upon me."

"If I did not act as I ought to have done, I beg you to forgive me."

"Did I reproach you, Raoul?"

"Still, the permission you are going to ask from the king?"

"I will implore his majesty to sign your marriage-contract, but on one
condition."

"Are conditions necessary with me, monsieur? Command, and you shall be
obeyed."

"On the condition, I repeat," continued Athos; "that you tell me the name
of the man who spoke of your mother in that way."

"What need is there that you should know his name; the offense was
directed against myself, and the permission once obtained from his
majesty, to revenge it is my affair."

"Tell me his name, monsieur."

"I will not allow you to expose yourself."

"Do you take me for a Don Diego? His name, I say."

"You insist upon it?"

"I demand it."

"The Vicomte de Wardes."

"Very well," said Athos, tranquilly, "I know him. But our horses are
ready, I see; and, instead of delaying our departure for a couple of
hours, we will set off at once. Come, monsieur."

Alexandre Dumas pere