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Chapter 50

Chapter L:
In Which the Author Thinks It Is High Time to Return to the Vicomte de
Bragelonne.

Our readers will have observed in this story, the adventures of the new
and of the past generation being detailed, as it were, side by side. He
will have noticed in the former, the reflection of the glory of earlier
years, the experience of the bitter things of this world; in the former,
also, that peace which takes possession of the heart, and that healing of
the scars which were formerly deep and painful wounds. In the latter,
the conflicts of love and vanity; bitter disappointments, ineffable
delights; life instead of memory. If, therefore, any variety has been
presented to the reader in the different episodes of this tale, it is to
be attributed to the numerous shades of color which are presented on this
double tablet, where two pictures are seen side by side, mingling and
harmonizing their severe and pleasing tones. The repose of the emotions
of one is found in harmonious contrast with the fiery sentiments of the
other. After having talked reason with older heads, one loves to talk
nonsense with youth. Therefore, if the threads of the story do not seem
very intimately to connect the chapter we are now writing with the one we
have just written, we do not intend to give ourselves any more thought or
trouble about it than Ruysdael took in painting an autumn sky, after
having finished a spring-time scene. We accordingly resume Raoul de
Bragelonne's story at the very place where our last sketch left him.

In a state of frenzy and dismay, or rather without power or will of his
own, - hardly knowing what he was doing, - he fled swiftly, after the
scene in La Valliere's chamber, that strange exclusion, Louise's grief,
Montalais's terror, the king's wrath - all seemed to indicate some
misfortune. But what? He had arrived from London because he had been
told of the existence of a danger; and almost on his arrival this
appearance of danger was manifest. Was not this sufficient for a lover?
Certainly it was, but it was insufficient for a pure and upright heart
such as his. And yet Raoul did not seek for explanations in the very
quarter where more jealous or less timid lovers would have done. He did
not go straightaway to his mistress, and say, "Louise, is it true that
you love me no longer? Is it true that you love another?" Full of
courage, full of friendship as he was full of love; a religious observer
of his word, and believing blindly the word of others, Raoul said within
himself, "Guiche wrote to put me on my guard, Guiche knows something; I
will go and ask Guiche what he knows, and tell him what I have seen."
The journey was not a long one. Guiche, who had been brought from
Fontainebleau to Paris within the last two days, was beginning to recover
from his wounds, and to walk about a little in his room. He uttered a
cry of joy as he saw Raoul, with the eagerness of friendship, enter the
apartment. Raoul was unable to refrain from a cry of grief, when he saw
De Guiche, so pale, so thin, so melancholy. A very few words, and a
simple gesture which De Guiche made to put aside Raoul's arm, were
sufficient to inform the latter of the truth.

"Ah! so it is," said Raoul, seating himself beside his friend; "one loves
and dies."

"No, no, not dies," replied Guiche, smiling, "since I am now recovering,
and since, too, I can press you in my arms."

"Ah! I understand."

"And I understand you, too. You fancy I am unhappy, Raoul?"

"Alas!"

"No; I am the happiest of men. My body suffers, but not my mind or my
heart. If you only knew - Oh! I am, indeed, the very happiest of men."

"So much the better," said Raoul; "so much the better, provided it lasts."

"It is over. I have had enough happiness to last me to my dying day,
Raoul."

"I have no doubt you have had; but she - "

"Listen; I love her, because - but you are not listening to me."

"I beg your pardon."

"Your mind is preoccupied."

"Yes, your health, in the first place - "

"It is not that, I know."

"My dear friend, you would be wrong. I think, to ask me any questions
_you_ of all persons in the world;" and he laid so much weight upon the
"you," that he completely enlightened his friend upon the nature of the
evil, and the difficulty of remedying it.

"You say that, Raoul, on account of what I wrote to you."

"Certainly. We will talk over that matter a little, when you have
finished telling me of all your own pleasures and your pains."

"My dear friend, I am entirely at your service."

"Thank you; I have hurried, I have flown here; I came in half the time
the government couriers usually take. Now, tell me, my dear friend, what
did you want?"

"Nothing whatever, but to make you come."

"Well, then, I am here."

"All is quite right, then."

"There must have been something else, I suppose?"

"No, indeed."

"De Guiche!"

"Upon my honor!"

"You cannot possibly have crushed all my hopes so violently, or have
exposed me to being disgraced by the king for my return, which is in
disobedience of his orders - you cannot, I say, have planted jealousy in
my heart, merely to say to me, 'It is all right, be perfectly easy.'"

"I do not say to you, Raoul, 'Be perfectly easy;' but pray understand me;
I never will, nor can I, indeed, tell you anything else."

"What sort of person do you take me for?"

"What do you mean?"

"If you know anything, why conceal it from me? If you do not know
anything, why did you write so warningly?"

"True, true, I was very wrong, and I regret having done so, Raoul. It
seems nothing to write to a friend and say 'Come;' but to have this
friend face to face, to feel him tremble, and breathlessly and anxiously
wait to hear what one hardly dare tell him, is very difficult."

"Dare! I have courage enough, if you have not," exclaimed Raoul, in
despair.

"See how unjust you are, and how soon you forget you have to do with a
poor wounded fellow such as your unhappy friend is. So, calm yourself,
Raoul. I said to you, 'Come' - you are here, so ask me nothing further."

"Your object in telling me to come was your hope that I should see with
my own eyes, was it not? Nay, do not hesitate, for I have seen all."

"Oh!" exclaimed De Guiche.

"Or at least I thought - "

"There, now, you see you are not sure. But if you have any doubt, my
poor friend, what remains for me to do?"

"I saw Louise much agitated - Montalais in a state of bewilderment - the
king - "

"The king?"

"Yes. You turn your head aside. The danger is there, the evil is there;
tell me, is it not so, is it not the king?"

"I say nothing."

"Oh! you say a thousand times more than nothing. Give me facts, for
pity's sake, give me proofs. My friend, the only friend I have, speak
tell me all. My heart is crushed, wounded to death; I am dying from
despair."

"If that really be so, as I see it is, indeed, dear Raoul," replied De
Guiche, "you relieve me from my difficulty, and I will tell you all,
perfectly sure that I can tell you nothing but what is consoling,
compared to the despair from which I see you suffering."

"Go on, - go on; I am listening."

"Well, then, I can only tell you what you might learn from every one you
meet."

"From every one, do you say? It is talked about, then!"

"Before you say people talk about it, learn what it is that people have
to talk about. I assure you solemnly, that people only talk about what
may, in truth, be very innocent; perhaps a walk - "

"Ah! a walk with the king?"

"Yes, certainly, a walk with the king; and I believe the king has already
very frequently before taken walks with ladies, without on that account
- "

"You would not have written to me, shall I say again, if there had been
nothing unusual in this promenade."

"I know that while the storm lasted, it would have been far better if the
king had taken shelter somewhere else, than to have remained with his
head uncovered before La Valliere; but the king is so very courteous and
polite."

"Oh! De Guiche, De Guiche, you are killing me!"

"Do not let us talk any more, then."

"Nay, let us continue. This walk was followed by others, I suppose?"

"No - I mean yes: there was the adventure of the oak, I think. But I
know nothing about the matter at all." Raoul rose; De Guiche endeavored
to imitate him, notwithstanding his weakness. "Well, I will not add
another word: I have said either too much or not enough. Let others give
you further information if they will, or if they can; my duty was to warn
you, and _that_ I have done. Watch over your own affairs now, yourself."

"Question others! Alas! you are no true friend to speak to me in that
manner," said the young man, in utter distress. "The first man I meet
may be either evilly disposed or a fool, - if the former, he will tell me
a lie to make me suffer more than I do now; if the latter, he will do
worse still. Ah! De Guiche, De Guiche, before two hours are over, I
shall have been told ten falsehoods, and shall have as many duels on my
hands. Save me, then; is it not best to know the worst always?"

"But I know nothing, I tell you; I was wounded, attacked by fever: out
of my senses; and I have only a very faint recollection of it all. But
there is on reason why we should search very far, when the very man we
want is close at hand. Is not D'Artagnan your friend?"

"Oh! true, true!"

"Got to him, then. He will be able to throw sufficient light upon the
subject." At this moment a lackey entered the room. "What is it?" said
De Guiche.

"Some one is waiting for monseigneur in the Cabinet des Porcelaines."

"Very well. Will you excuse me, my dear Raoul? I am so proud since I have
been able to walk again."

"I would offer you my arm, De Guiche, if I did not guess that the person
in question is a lady."

"I believe so," said De Guiche, smiling as he quitted Raoul.

Raoul remained motionless, absorbed in grief, overwhelmed, like the miner
upon whom a vault has just fallen in, who, wounded, his life-blood
welling fast, his thoughts confused, endeavors to recover himself, to
save his life and to retain his reason. A few minutes were all Raoul
needed to dissipate the bewildering sensations occasioned by these two
revelations. He had already recovered the thread of his ideas, when,
suddenly, through the door, he fancied he recognized Montalais's voice in
the Cabinet des Porcelaines. "She!" he cried. "Yes, it is indeed her
voice! She will be able to tell me the whole truth; but shall I question
her here? She conceals herself even from me; she is coming, no doubt,
from Madame. I will see her in her own apartment. She will explain her
alarm, her flight, the strange manner in which I was driven out; she will
tell me all that - after M. d'Artagnan, who knows everything, shall have
given me a fresh strength and courage. Madame, a coquette I fear, and
yet a coquette who is herself in love, has her moments of kindness; a
coquette who is as capricious and uncertain as life or death, but who
tells De Guiche that he is the happiest of men. He at least is lying on
roses." And so he hastily quitted the comte's apartments, reproaching
himself as he went for having talked of nothing but his own affairs to De
Guiche, and soon reached D'Artagnan's quarters.

Alexandre Dumas pere