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 7

Chapter VII:
The Portrait of Madame.

The discussion was becoming full of bitterness. De Guiche perfectly
understood the whole matter, for there was in Bragelonne's face a look
instinctively hostile, while in that of De Wardes there was something
like a determination to offend. Without inquiring into the different
feelings which actuated his two friends, De Guiche resolved to ward off
the blow which he felt was on the point of being dealt by one of them,
and perhaps by both. "Gentlemen," he said, "we must take our leave of
each other, I must pay a visit to Monsieur. You, De Wardes, will
accompany me to the Louvre, and you, Raoul, will remain here master of
the house; and as all that is done here is under your advice, you will
bestow the last glance upon my preparations for departure."

Raoul, with the air of one who neither seeks nor fears a quarrel, bowed
his head in token of assent, and seated himself upon a bench in the sun.
"That is well," said De Guiche, "remain where you are, Raoul, and tell
them to show you the two horses I have just purchased; you will give me
your opinion, for I only bought them on condition that you ratified the
purchase. By the by, I have to beg your pardon for having omitted to
inquire after the Comte de la Fere." While pronouncing these latter
words, he closely observed De Wardes, in order to perceive what effect
the name of Raoul's father would produce upon him. "I thank you,"
answered the young man, "the count is very well." A gleam of deep hatred
passed into De Wardes's eyes. De Guiche, who appeared not to notice the
foreboding expression, went up to Raoul, and grasping him by the hand,
said, - "It is agreed, then, Bragelonne, is it not, that you will rejoin
us in the courtyard of the Palais Royal?" He then signed to De Wardes to
follow him, who had been engaged in balancing himself first on one foot,
then on the other. "We are going," said he, "come, M. Malicorne." This
name made Raoul start; for it seemed that he had already heard it
pronounced before, but he could not remember on what occasion. While
trying to recall it half-dreamily, yet half-irritated at his conversation
with De Wardes, the three young men set out on their way towards the
Palais Royal, where Monsieur was residing. Malicorne learned two things;
the first, that the young men had something to say to each other; and the
second, that he ought not to walk in the same line with them; and
therefore he walked behind. "Are you mad?" said De Guiche to his
companion, as soon as they had left the Hotel de Grammont; "you attack M.
d'Artagnan, and that, too, before Raoul."

"Well," said De Wardes, "what then?"

"What do you mean by 'what then?'"

"Certainly, is there any prohibition against attacking M. d'Artagnan?"

"But you know very well that M. d'Artagnan was one of those celebrated
and terrible four men who were called the musketeers."

"That they may be; but I do not perceive why, on that account, I should
be forbidden to hate M. d'Artagnan."

"What cause has he given you?"

"Me! personally, none."

"Why hate him, therefore?"

"Ask my dead father that question."

"Really, my dear De Wardes, you surprise me. M. d'Artagnan is not one to
leave unsettled any _enmity_ he may have to arrange, without completely
clearing his account. Your father, I have heard, carried matters with a
high hand. Moreover, there are no enmities so bitter that they cannot be
washed away by blood, by a good sword-thrust loyally given."

"Listen to me, my dear De Guiche, this inveterate dislike existed between
my father and M. d'Artagnan, and when I was quite a child, he acquainted
me with the reason for it, and, as forming part of my inheritance, I
regard it as a particular legacy bestowed upon me."

"And does this hatred concern M. d'Artagnan alone?"

"As for that, M. d'Artagnan was so intimately associated with his three
friends, that some portion of the full measure of my hatred falls to
their lot, and that hatred is of such a nature, whenever the opportunity
occurs, they shall have no occasion to complain of their allowance."

De Guiche had kept his eyes fixed on De Wardes, and shuddered at the
bitter manner in which the young man smiled. Something like a
presentiment flashed across his mind; he knew that the time had passed
away for _grands coups entre gentilshommes_; but that the feeling of
hatred treasured up in the mind, instead of being diffused abroad, was
still hatred all the same; that a smile was sometimes as full of meaning
as a threat; and, in a word, that to the fathers who had hated with their
hearts and fought with their arms, would now succeed the sons, who would
indeed hate with their hearts, but would no longer combat their enemies
save by means of intrigue or treachery. As, therefore, it certainly was
not Raoul whom he could suspect either of intrigue or treachery, it was
on Raoul's account that De Guiche trembled. However, while these gloomy
forebodings cast a shade of anxiety over De Guiche's countenance, De
Wardes had resumed the entire mastery over himself.

"At all events," he observed, "I have no personal ill-will towards M. de
Bragelonne; I do not know him even."

"In any case," said De Guiche, with a certain amount of severity in his
tone of voice, "do not forget one circumstance, that Raoul is my most
intimate friend;" a remark at which De Wardes bowed.

The conversation terminated there, although De Guiche tried his utmost to
draw out his secret from him; but, doubtless, De Wardes had determined to
say nothing further, and he remained impenetrable. De Guiche therefore
promised himself a more satisfactory result with Raoul. In the meantime
they had reached the Palais Royal, which was surrounded by a crowd of
lookers-on. The household belonging to Monsieur awaited his command to
mount their horses, in order to form part of the escort of the
ambassadors, to whom had been intrusted the care of bringing the young
princess to Paris. The brilliant display of horses, arms, and rich
liveries, afforded some compensation in those times, thanks to the kindly
feelings of the people, and to the traditions of deep devotion to their
sovereigns, for the enormous expenses charged upon the taxes. Mazarin
had said: "Let them sing, provided they pay;" while Louis XIV.'s remark
was, "Let them look." Sight had replaced the voice; the people could
still look but they were no longer allowed to sing. De Guiche left De
Wardes and Malicorne at the bottom of the grand staircase, while he
himself, who shared the favor and good graces of Monsieur with the
Chevalier de Lorraine, who always smiled at him most affectionately,
though he could not endure him, went straight to the prince's apartments,
whom he found engaged in admiring himself in the glass, and rouging his
face. In a corner of the cabinet, the Chevalier de Lorraine was extended
full length upon some cushions, having just had his long hair curled,
with which he was playing in the same manner a woman would have done.
The prince turned round as the count entered, and perceiving who it was,
said: "Ah! is that you, De Guiche; come here and tell me the truth."

"You know, my lord, it is one of my defects to speak the truth."

"You will hardly believe, De Guiche, how that wicked chevalier has
annoyed me."

The chevalier shrugged his shoulders.

"Why, he pretends," continued the prince, "that Mademoiselle Henrietta is
better looking as a woman than I am as a man."

"Do not forget, my lord," said De Guiche, frowning slightly, "you require
me to speak the truth."

"Certainly," said the prince, tremblingly.

"Well, and I shall tell it you."

"Do not be in a hurry, Guiche," exclaimed the prince, "you have plenty of
time; look at me attentively, and try to recollect Madame. Besides, her
portrait is here. Look at it." And he held out to him a miniature of
the finest possible execution. De Guiche took it, and looked at it for a
long time attentively.

"Upon my honor, my lord, this is indeed a most lovely face."

"But look at me, count, look at me," said the prince, endeavoring to
direct upon himself the attention of the count, who was completely
absorbed in contemplation of the portrait.

"It is wonderful," murmured Guiche.

"Really one would imagine you had never seen the young lady before."

"It is true, my lord, I have seen her but it was five years ago; there is
a great difference between a child twelve years old, and a girl of
seventeen."

"Well, what is your opinion?"

"My opinion is that the portrait must be flattering, my lord."

"Of that," said the prince triumphantly, "there can be no doubt; but let
us suppose that it is not, what would your opinion be?"

"My lord, that your highness is exceedingly happy to have so charming a
bride."

The Chevalier de Lorraine burst out laughing. The prince understood how
severe towards himself this opinion of the Comte de Guiche was, and he
looked somewhat displeased, saying, "My friends are not over indulgent."
De Guiche looked at the portrait again, and, after lengthened
contemplation, returned it with apparent unwillingness, saying, "Most
decidedly, my lord, I should rather prefer to look ten times at your
highness, than to look at Madame once again." It seemed as if the
chevalier had detected some mystery in these words, which were
incomprehensible to the prince, for he exclaimed: "Very well, get married
yourself." Monsieur continued painting himself, and when he had
finished, looked at the portrait again once more, turned to admire
himself in the glass, and smiled, and no doubt was satisfied with the
comparison. "You are very kind to have come," he said to Guiche, "I
feared you would leave without bidding me adieu."

"Your highness knows me too well to believe me capable of so great a
disrespect."

"Besides, I suppose you have something to ask from me before leaving
Paris?"

"Your highness has indeed guessed correctly, for I have a request to
make."

"Very good, what is it?"

The Chevalier de Lorraine immediately displayed the greatest attention,
for he regarded every favor conferred upon another as a robbery committed
against himself. And, as Guiche hesitated, the prince said: "If it be
money, nothing could be more fortunate, for I am in funds; the
superintendent of the finances has sent me 500,000 pistoles."

"I thank your highness; but is not an affair of money."

"What is it, then? Tell me."

"The appointment of a maid of honor."

"Oh! oh! Guiche, what a protector you have become of young ladies," said
the prince, "you never speak of any one else now."

The Chevalier de Lorraine smiled, for he knew very well that nothing
displeased the prince more than to show any interest in ladies. "My
lord," said the comte, "it is not I who am directly interested in the
lady of whom I have just spoken; I am acting on behalf of one of my
friends."

"Ah! that is different; what is the name of the young lady in whom your
friend is so interested?"

"Mlle. de la Baume le Blanc de la Valliere; she is already maid of honor
to the dowager princess."

"Why, she is lame," said the Chevalier de Lorraine, stretching himself on
his cushions.

"Lame," repeated the prince, "and Madame to have her constantly before
her eyes? Most certainly not; it may be dangerous for her when in an
interesting condition."

The Chevalier de Lorraine burst out laughing.

"Chevalier," said Guiche, "your conduct is ungenerous; while I am
soliciting a favor, you do me all the mischief you can."

"Forgive me, comte," said the Chevalier de Lorraine, somewhat uneasy at
the tone in which Guiche had made his remark, "but I had no intention of
doing so, and I begin to believe that I have mistaken one young lady for
another."

"There is no doubt of it, monsieur; and I do not hesitate to declare that
such is the case."

"Do you attach much importance to it, Guiche?" inquired the prince.

"I do, my lord."

"Well, you shall have it; but ask me for no more appointments, for there
are none to give away."

"Ah!" exclaimed the chevalier, "midday already, that is the hour fixed
for the departure."

"You dismiss me, monsieur?" inquired Guiche.

"Really, count, you treat me very ill to-day," replied the chevalier.

"For heaven's sake, count, for heaven's sake, chevalier," said Monsieur,
"do you not see how you are distressing me?"

"Your highness's signature?" said Guiche.

"Take a blank appointment from that drawer, and give it to me." Guiche
handed the prince the document indicated, and at the same time presented
him with a pen already dipped in ink; whereupon the prince signed.
"Here," he said, returning him the appointment, "but I give it on one
condition."

"Name it."

"That you make friends with the chevalier."

"Willingly," said Guiche. And he held out his hand to the chevalier with
an indifference amounting to contempt.

"Adieu, count," said the chevalier, without seeming in any way to have
noticed the count's slight; "adieu, and bring us back a princess who will
not talk with her own portrait too much."

"Yes, set off and lose no time. By the by, who will accompany you?"

"Bragelonne and De Wardes."

"Both excellent and fearless companions."

"Too fearless," said the chevalier; "endeavor to bring them both back,
count."

"A bad heart, bad!" murmured De Guiche; "he scents mischief everywhere,
and sooner than anything else." And taking leave of the prince, he
quitted the apartment. As soon as he reached the vestibule, he waved in
the air the paper which the prince had signed. Malicorne hurried
forward, and received it, trembling with delight. When, however, he held
in his hand, Guiche observed that he still awaited something further.

"Patience, monsieur," he said; "the Chevalier de Lorraine was there, and
I feared an utter failure if I asked too much at once. Wait until I
return. Adieu."

"Adieu, monsieur le comte; a thousand thanks," said Malicorne.

"Send Manicamp to me. By the way, monsieur, is it true that Mlle. de la
Valliere is lame?" As he said this, he noticed that Bragelonne, who had
just at that moment entered the courtyard, turned suddenly pale. The
poor lover had heard the remark, which, however, was not the case with
Malicorne, for he was already beyond the reach of the count's voice.

"Why is Louise's name spoken of here," said Raoul to himself; "oh! let
not De Wardes, who stands smiling yonder, even say a word about her in my
presence."

"Now, gentlemen," exclaimed the Comte de Guiche, "prepare to start."

At this moment the prince, who had complete his toilette, appeared at the
window, and was immediately saluted by the acclamations of all who
composed the escort, and ten minutes afterwards, banners, scarfs, and
feathers were fluttering and waving in the air, as the cavalcade galloped
away.

Alexandre Dumas pere