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Chapter 19

Chapter XIX:
Sword-Thrusts in the Water.

Raoul, on betaking himself to De Guiche, found him conversing with De
Wardes and Manicamp. De Wardes, since the affair of the barricade, had
treated Raoul as a stranger; they behaved as if they were not
acquainted. As Raoul entered, De Guiche walked up to him; and Raoul, as
he grasped his friend's hand, glanced rapidly at his two companions,
hoping to be able to read on their faces what was passing in their
minds. De Wardes was cold and impenetrable; Manicamp seemed absorbed in
the contemplation of some trimming to his dress. De Guiche led Raoul to
an adjoining cabinet, and made him sit down, saying, "How well you look!"

"That is singular," replied Raoul, "for I am far from being in good
spirits."

"It is your case, then, Raoul, as it is my own, - our love affairs do not
progress."

"So much the better, count, as far as _you_ are concerned; the worst news
would be good news."

"In that case do not distress yourself, for, not only am I very unhappy,
but, what is more, I see others about me who are happy."

"Really, I do not understand you," replied Raoul; "explain yourself."

"You will soon learn. I have tried, but in vain, to overcome the feeling
you saw dawn in me, increase, and take entire possession of me. I have
summoned all your advice and my own strength to my aid. I have well
weighed the unfortunate affair in which I have embarked; I have sounded
its depths; that it is an abyss, I am aware, but it matters little for
_I_ shall pursue my own course."

"This is madness, De Guiche! you cannot advance another step without
risking your own ruin to-day, perhaps your life to-morrow."

"Whatever may happen, I have done with reflections; listen."

"And you hope to succeed; you believe that Madame will love you?"

"Raoul, I believe nothing; I hope, because hope exists in man, and never
abandons him until death."

"But, admitting that you obtain the happiness you covet, even then, you
are more certainly lost than if you had failed in obtaining it."

"I beseech you, Raoul, not to interrupt me any more; you could never
convince me, for I tell you beforehand, I do not wish to be convinced; I
have gone so far I cannot recede; I have suffered so much, death itself
would be a boon. I no longer love to madness, Raoul, I am being engulfed
by a whirlpool of jealousy."

Raoul struck his hands together with an expression resembling anger.
"Well?" said he.

"Well or ill matters little. This is what I claim from you, my friend,
my almost brother. During the last three days Madame has been living in
a perfect intoxication of gayety. On the first day, I dared not look at
her; I hated her for not being as unhappy as myself. The next day I
could not bear her out of my sight; and she, Raoul - at least I thought I
remarked it - she looked at me, if not with pity, at least with
gentleness. But between her looks and mine, a shadow intervened;
another's smile invited hers. Beside her horse another's always gallops,
which is not mine; in her ear another's caressing voice, not mine,
unceasingly vibrates. Raoul, for three days past my brain has been on
fire; flame, not blood, courses through my veins. That shadow must be
driven away, that smile must be quenched; that voice must be silenced."

"You wish Monsieur's death," exclaimed Raoul.

"No, no, I am not jealous of the husband; I am jealous of the lover."

"Of the lover?" said Raoul.

"Have you not observed it, you who were formerly so keen-sighted?"

"Are you jealous of the Duke of Buckingham?"

"To the very death."

"Again jealous?"

"This time the affair will be easy to arrange between us; I have taken
the initiative, and have sent him a letter."

"It was you, then, who wrote to him?"

"How do you know that?"

"I know it, because he told me so. Look at this;" and he handed De
Guiche the letter he had received nearly at the same moment as his own.
De Guiche read it eagerly, and said, "He is a brave man, and more than
that, a gallant man."

"Most certainly the duke is a gallant man; I need not ask if you wrote to
him in a similar style."

"He will show you my letter when you call on him on my behalf."

"But that is almost out of the question."

"What is?"

"That I shall call on him for that purpose."

"Why so?"

"The duke consults me as you do."

"I suppose you will give _me_ the preference! Listen to me, Raoul, I
wish you to tell his Grace - it is a very simple matter - that to-day,
to-morrow, the following day, or any other day he may choose, I will meet
him at Vincennes."

"Reflect, De Guiche."

"I thought I told you I have reflected."

"The duke is a stranger here; he is on a mission which renders his person
inviolable.... Vincennes is close to the Bastile."

"The consequences concern _me_."

"But the motive for this meeting? What motive do you wish me to assign?"

"Be perfectly easy on that score, he will not ask any. The duke must be
as sick of me as I am of him. I implore you, therefore, seek the duke,
and if it is necessary to entreat him, to accept my offer, I will do so."

"That is useless. The duke has already informed me that he wishes to
speak to me. The duke is now playing cards with the king. Let us both
go there. I will draw him aside in the gallery; you will remain aloof.
Two words will be sufficient."

"That is well arranged. I will take De Wardes to keep me in countenance."

"Why not Manicamp? De Wardes can join us at any time; we can leave him
here."

"Yes, that is true."

"He knows nothing?"

"Positively nothing. You continue still on an unfriendly footing, then?"

"Has he not told you anything?"

"Nothing."

"I do not like the man, and, as I _never_ liked him, the result is, that
I am on no worse terms with him to-day than I was yesterday."

"Let us go, then."

The four descended the stairs. De Guiche's carriage was waiting at the
door, and took them to the Palais Royal. As they were going along, Raoul
was engaged in devising his scheme of action. The sole depositary of two
secrets, he did not despair of concluding some arrangement between the
two parties. He knew the influence he exercised over Buckingham, and the
ascendency he had acquired over De Guiche, and affairs did not look
utterly hopeless. On their arrival in the gallery, dazzling with the
blaze of light, where the most beautiful and illustrious women of the
court moved to and fro, like stars in their own atmosphere, Raoul could
not prevent himself for a moment forgetting De Guiche in order to seek
out Louise, who, amidst her companions, like a dove completely
fascinated, gazed long and fixedly upon the royal circle, which glittered
with jewels and gold. All its members were standing, the king alone
being seated. Raoul perceived Buckingham, who was standing a few paces
from Monsieur, in a group of French and English, who were admiring his
aristocratic carriage and the incomparable magnificence of his costume.
Some of the older courtiers remembered having seen his father, but their
recollections were not prejudicial to the son.

Buckingham was conversing with Fouquet, who was talking with him aloud
about Belle-Isle. "I cannot speak to him at present," said Raoul.

"Wait, then, and choose your opportunity, but finish everything
speedily. I am on thorns."

"See, our deliverer approaches," said Raoul, perceiving D'Artagnan, who,
magnificently dressed in his new uniform of captain of the musketeers,
had just made his entry in the gallery; and he advanced towards
D'Artagnan.

"The Comte de la Fere has been looking for you, chevalier," said Raoul.

"Yes," replied D'Artagnan, "I have just left him."

"I thought you would have passed a portion of the evening together."

"We have arranged to meet again."

As he answered Raoul, his absent looks were directed on all sides, as if
seeking some one in the crowd or looking for something in the room.
Suddenly his gaze became fixed, like that of an eagle on its prey. Raoul
followed the direction of his glance, and noticed that De Guiche and
D'Artagnan saluted each other, but he could not distinguish at whom the
captain's lingering and haughty glance was aimed.

"Chevalier," said Raoul, "there is no one here but yourself who can
render me a service."

"What is it, my dear vicomte?"

"It is simply to go and interrupt the Duke of Buckingham, to whom I wish
to say two words, and, as the duke is conversing with M. Fouquet, you
understand that it would not do for _me_ to throw myself into the middle
of the conversation."

"Ah, ah, is M. Fouquet there?" inquired D'Artagnan.

"Do you not see him?"

"Yes, now I do. But do you think I have a greater right than you have?"

"You are a more important personage."

"Yes, you're right; I am captain of the musketeers; I have had the post
promised me so long, and have enjoyed it for so brief a period, that I am
always forgetting my dignity."

"You will do me this service, will you not?"

"M. Fouquet - the deuce!"

"Are you not on good terms with him?"

"It is rather he who may not be on good terms with me; however, since it
must be done some day or another - "

"Stay; I think he is looking at you; or is it likely that it might be - "

"No, no; don't deceive yourself, it is indeed me for whom this honor is
intended."

"The opportunity is a good one, then?"

"Do you think so?"

"Pray go."

"Well, I will."

De Guiche had not removed his eyes from Raoul, who made a sign to him
that all was arranged. D'Artagnan walked straight up to the group, and
civilly saluted M. Fouquet as well as the others.

"Good evening, M. d'Artagnan; we were speaking of Belle-Isle," said
Fouquet, with that usage of society, and that perfect knowledge of the
language of looks, which require half a lifetime thoroughly to acquire,
and which some persons, notwithstanding all their study, never attain.

"Of Belle-Ile-en-Mer! Ah!" said D'Artagnan. "It belongs to you, I
believe, M. Fouquet?"

"M. Fouquet has just told us that he had presented it to the king," said
Buckingham.

"Do you know Belle-Isle, chevalier?" inquired Fouquet.

"I have only been there once," replied D'Artagnan, with readiness and
good-humor.

"Did you remain there long?"

"Scarcely a day."

"Did you see much of it while you were there?"

"All that could be seen in a day."

"A great deal can be seen with observation as keen as yours," said
Fouquet; at which D'Artagnan bowed.

During this Raoul made a sign to Buckingham. "M. Fouquet," said
Buckingham, "I leave the captain with you, he is more learned than I am
in bastions, scarps, and counter-scarps, and I will join one of my
friends, who has just beckoned me." Saying this, Buckingham disengaged
himself from the group, and advanced towards Raoul, stopping for a moment
at the table where the queen-mother, the young queen, and the king were
playing together.

"Now, Raoul," said De Guiche, "there he is; be firm and quick."

Buckingham, having made some complimentary remark to Madame, continued
his way towards Raoul, who advanced to meet him, while De Guiche remained
in his place, though he followed him with his eyes. The maneuver was so
arranged that the young men met in an open space which was left vacant,
between the groups of players and the gallery, where they walked,
stopping now and then for the purpose of saying a few words to some of
the graver courtiers who were walking there. At the moment when the two
lines were about to unite, they were broken by a third. It was Monsieur
who advanced towards the Duke of Buckingham. Monsieur had his most
engaging smile on his red and perfumed lips.

"My dear duke," said he, with the most affectionate politeness; "is it
really true what I have just been told?"

Buckingham turned round; he had not noticed Monsieur approach; but had
merely heard his voice. He started in spite of his command over himself,
and a slight pallor overspread his face. "Monseigneur," he asked, "what
has been told you that surprises you so much?"

"That which throws me into despair, and will, in truth, be a real cause
of mourning for the whole court."

"Your highness is very kind, for I perceive that you allude to my
departure."

"Precisely."

Guiche had overheard the conversation from where he was standing, and
started in his turn. "His departure," he murmured. "What does he say?"

Philip continued with the same gracious air, "I can easily conceive,
monsieur, why the king of Great Britain recalls you; we all know that
King Charles II., who appreciates true gentlemen, cannot dispense with
you. But it cannot be supposed we can let you go without great regret;
and I beg you to receive the expression of my own."

"Believe me, monseigneur," said the duke, "that if I quit the court of
France - "

"Because you are recalled; but, if you suppose the expression of my own
wish on the subject might possibly have any influence with the king, I
will gladly volunteer to entreat his majesty Charles II. to leave you
with us a little while longer."

"I am overwhelmed, monseigneur, by so much kindness," replied Buckingham;
"but I have received positive commands. My residence in France was
limited; I have prolonged it at the risk of displeasing my gracious
sovereign. It is only this very day that I recollected I ought to have
set off four days ago."

"Indeed," said Monsieur.

"Yes; but," added Buckingham, raising his voice in such a manner that the
princess could hear him, - "but I resemble that dweller in the East, who
turned mad, and remained so for several days, owing to a delightful dream
that he had had, but who one day awoke, if not completely cured, in some
respects rational at least. The court of France has its intoxicating
properties, which are not unlike this dream, my lord; but at last I wake
and leave it. I shall be unable, therefore, to prolong my residence, as
your highness has so kindly invited me to do."

"When do you leave?" inquired Philip, with an expression full of interest.

"To-morrow, monseigneur. My carriages have been ready for three days."

The Duc d'Orleans made a movement of the head, which seemed to signify,
"Since you are determined, duke, there is nothing to be said."
Buckingham returned the gesture, concealing under a smile a contraction
of his heart; and then Monsieur moved away in the same direction by which
he had approached. At the same moment, however, De Guiche advanced from
the opposite direction. Raoul feared that the impatient young man might
possibly make the proposition himself, and hurried forth before him.

"No, no, Raoul, all is useless now," said Guiche, holding both his hands
towards the duke, and leading him behind a column. "Forgive me, duke,
for what I wrote to you, I was mad; give me back my letter."

"It is true," said the duke, "you cannot owe me a grudge any longer now."

"Forgive me, duke; my friendship, my lasting friendship is yours."

"There is certainly no reason why you should bear me any ill-will from
the moment I leave her never to see her again."

Raoul heard these words, and comprehending that his presence was now
useless between the young men, who had now only friendly words to
exchange, withdrew a few paces; a movement which brought him closer to De
Wardes, who was conversing with the Chevalier de Lorraine respecting the
departure of Buckingham. "A strategic retreat," said De Wardes.

"Why so?"

"Because the dear duke saves a sword-thrust by it." At which reply both
laughed.

Raoul, indignant, turned round frowningly, flushed with anger and his lip
curling with disdain. The Chevalier de Lorraine turned on his heel, but
De Wardes remained and waited.

"You will not break yourself of the habit," said Raoul to De Wardes, "of
insulting the absent; yesterday it was M. d'Artagnan, to-day it is the
Duke of Buckingham."

"You know very well, monsieur," returned De Wardes, "that I sometimes
insult those who are present."

De Wardes was close to Raoul, their shoulders met, their faces
approached, as if to mutually inflame each other by the fire of their
looks and of their anger. It could be seen that the one was at the
height of fury, the other at the end of his patience. Suddenly a voice
was heard behind them full of grace and courtesy, saying, "I believe I
heard my name pronounced."

They turned round and saw D'Artagnan, who, with a smiling eye and a
cheerful face, had just placed his hand on De Wardes's shoulder. Raoul
stepped back to make room for the musketeer. De Wardes trembled from
head to foot, turned pale, but did not move. D'Artagnan, still with the
same smile, took the place which Raoul had abandoned to him.

"Thank you, my dear Raoul," he said. "M. de Wardes, I wish to talk with
you. Do not leave us, Raoul; every one can hear what I have to say to M.
de Wardes." His smile immediately faded away, and his glace became cold
and sharp as a sword.

"I am at your orders, monsieur," said De Wardes.

"For a very long time," resumed D'Artagnan, "I have sought an opportunity
of conversing with you; to-day is the first time I have found it. The
place is badly chosen, I admit, but you will perhaps have the goodness to
accompany me to my apartments, which are on the staircase at the end of
this gallery."

"I follow you, monsieur," said De Wardes.

"Are you alone here?" said D'Artagnan.

"No; I have M. Manicamp and M. de Guiche, two of my friends."

"That's well," said D'Artagnan; "but two persons are not sufficient; you
will be able to find a few others, I trust."

"Certainly," said the young man, who did not know what object D'Artagnan
had in view. "As many as you please."

"Are they friends?"

"Yes, monsieur."

"Real friends?"

"No doubt of it."

"Very well, get a good supply, then. Do you come, too, Raoul; bring M.
de Guiche and the Duke of Buckingham."

"What a disturbance," replied De Wardes, attempting to smile. The
captain slightly signed to him with his hand, as though to recommend him
to be patient, and then led the way to his apartments.

Alexandre Dumas pere