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Chapter 59

Chapter LIX:
After the Storm.

Our readers will doubtlessly have been asking themselves how it happened
that Athos, of whom not a word has been said for some time past, arrived
so very opportunely at court. We will, without delay, endeavor to
satisfy their curiosity.

Porthos, faithful to his duty as an arranger of affairs, had, immediately
after leaving the Palais Royal, set off to join Raoul at the Minimes in
the Bois de Vincennes, and had related everything, even to the smallest
details, which had passed between Saint-Aignan and himself. He finished
by saying that the message which the king had sent to his favorite would
probably not occasion more than a short delay, and that Saint-Aignan, as
soon as he could leave the king, would not lose a moment in accepting the
invitation Raoul had sent him.

But Raoul, less credulous than his old friend, had concluded from
Porthos's recital that if Saint-Aignan was going to the king, Saint-
Aignan would tell the king everything, and that the king would most
assuredly forbid Saint-Aignan to obey the summons he had received to the
hostile meeting. The consequence of his reflections was, that he had
left Porthos to remain at the place appointed for the meeting, in the
very improbable case that Saint-Aignan would come there; having
endeavored to make Porthos promise that he would not remain there more
than an hour or an hour and a half at the very longest. Porthos,
however, formally refused to do anything of the kind, but, on the
contrary, installed himself in the Minimes as if he were going to take
root there, making Raoul promise that when he had been to see his father,
he would return to his own apartments, in order that Porthos's servant
might know where to find him in case M. de Saint-Aignan should happen to
come to the rendezvous.

Bragelonne had left Vincennes, and proceeded at once straight to the
apartments of Athos, who had been in Paris during the last two days, the
comte having been already informed of what had taken place, by a letter
from D'Artagnan. Raoul arrived at his father's; Athos, after having held
out his hand to him, and embraced him most affectionately, made a sign
for him to sit down.

"I know you come to me as a man would go to a friend, vicomte, whenever
he is suffering; tell me, therefore, what is it that brings you now."

The young man bowed, and began his recital; more than once in the course
of it his tears almost choked his utterance, and a sob, checked in his
throat, compelled him to suspend his narrative for a few minutes. Athos
most probably already knew how matters stood, as we have just now said
D'Artagnan had already written to him; but, preserving until the
conclusion that calm, unruffled composure of manner which constituted the
almost superhuman side of his character, he replied, "Raoul, I do not
believe there is a word of truth in these rumors; I do not believe in the
existence of what you fear, although I do not deny that persons best
entitled to the fullest credit have already conversed with me on the
subject. In my heart and soul I think it utterly impossible that the
king could be guilty of such an outrage on a gentleman. I will answer
for the king, therefore, and will soon bring you back the proof of what I
say."

Raoul, wavering like a drunken man between what he had seen with his own
eyes and the imperturbable faith he had in a man who had never told a
falsehood, bowed and simply answered, "Go, then, monsieur le comte; I
will await your return." And he sat down, burying his face in his
hands. Athos dressed, and then left him, in order to wait upon the king;
the result of that interview is already known to our readers.

When he returned to his lodgings, Raoul, pale and dejected, had not
quitted his attitude of despair. At the sound, however, of the opening
doors, and of his father's footsteps as he approached him, the young man
raised his head. Athos's face was very pale, his head uncovered, and his
manner full of seriousness; he gave his cloak and hat to the lackey,
dismissed him with a gesture, and sat down near Raoul.

"Well, monsieur," inquired the young man, "are you convinced yet?"

"I am, Raoul; the king loves Mademoiselle de la Valliere."

"He confesses it, then?" cried Raoul.

"Yes," replied Athos.

"And she?"

"I have not seen her."

"No; but the king spoke to you about her. What did he say?"

"He says that she loves him."

"Oh, you see - you see, monsieur!" said the young man, with a gesture of
despair.

"Raoul," resumed the comte, "I told the king, believe me, all that you
yourself could possibly have urged, and I believe I did so in becoming
language, though sufficiently firm."

"And what did you say to him, monsieur?"

"I told him, Raoul, that everything was now at an end between him and
ourselves; that you would never serve him again. I told him that I, too,
should remain aloof. Nothing further remains for me, then, but to be
satisfied of one thing."

"What is that, monsieur?"

"Whether you have determined to adopt any steps."

"Any steps? Regarding what?"

"With reference to your disappointed affection, and - your ideas of
vengeance."

"Oh, monsieur, with regard to my affection, I shall, perhaps, some day or
other, succeed in tearing it from my heart; I trust I shall do so, aided
by Heaven's merciful help, and your own wise exhortations. As far as
vengeance is concerned, it occurred to me only when under the influence
of an evil thought, for I could not revenge myself upon the one who is
actually guilty; I have, therefore, already renounced every idea of
revenge."

"And you no longer think of seeking a quarrel with M. de Saint-Aignan?"

"No, monsieur; I sent him a challenge: if M. de Saint-Aignan accepts it,
I will maintain it; if he does not take it up, I will leave things as
they are."

"And La Valliere?"

"You cannot, I know, have seriously thought that I should dream of
revenging myself upon a woman!" replied Raoul, with a smile so sad that a
tear started even to the eyes of his father, who had so many times in the
course of his life bowed beneath his own sorrows and those of others.

He held out his hand to Raoul, which the latter seized most eagerly.

"And so, monsieur le comte, you are quite satisfied that the misfortune
is one beyond all remedy?" inquired the young man.

"Poor boy!" he murmured.

"You think that I still live in hope," said Raoul, "and you pity me. Oh,
it is indeed horrible suffering for me to despise, as I am bound to do,
the one I have loved so devotedly. If I had but some real cause of
complaint against her, I should be happy, I should be able to forgive
her."

Athos looked at his son with a profoundly sorrowful air, for the words
Raoul had just pronounced seemed to have issued out of his own heart. At
this moment the servant announced M. d'Artagnan. This name sounded very
differently to the ears of Athos and Raoul. The musketeer entered the
room with a vague smile on his lips. Raoul paused. Athos walked towards
his friend with an expression of face that did not escape Bragelonne.
D'Artagnan answered Athos's look by an imperceptible movement of the
eyelid; and then, advancing towards Raoul, whom he took by the hand, he
said, addressing both father and son, "Well, you are trying to console
this poor boy, it seems."

"And you, kind and good as usual, have come to help me in my difficult
task."

As he said this, Athos pressed D'Artagnan's hand between both his own.
Raoul fancied he observed in this pressure something beyond the sense his
mere words conveyed.

"Yes," replied the musketeer, smoothing his mustache with the hand that
Athos had left free, "yes, I have come too."

"You are most welcome, chevalier; not for the consolation you bring with
you, but on your own account. I am already consoled," said Raoul; and he
attempted to smile, but the effort was more sad than any tears D'Artagnan
had ever seen shed.

"That is all well and good, then," said D'Artagnan.

"Only," continued Raoul, "you have arrived just as the comte was about to
give me the details of his interview with the king. You will allow the
comte to continue?" added the young man, as, with his eyes fixed on the
musketeer, he seemed to read the very depths of his heart.

"His interview with the king?" said D'Artagnan, in a tone so natural and
unassumed that there was no means of suspecting that his astonishment was
feigned. "You have seen the king, then, Athos?"

Athos smiled as he said, "Yes, I have seen him."

"Ah, indeed; you were unaware, then, that the comte had seen his
majesty?" inquired Raoul, half reassured.

"Yes, indeed, quite so."

"In that case, I am less uneasy," said Raoul.

"Uneasy - and about what?" inquired Athos.

"Forgive me, monsieur," said Raoul, "but knowing so well the regard and
affection you have for me, I was afraid you might possibly have expressed
somewhat plainly to his majesty my own sufferings and your indignation,
and that the king had consequently - "

"And that the king had consequently?" repeated D'Artagnan; "well, go on,
finish what you were going to say."

"I have now to ask you to forgive me, Monsieur d'Artagnan," said Raoul.
"For a moment, and I cannot help confessing it, I trembled lest you had
come here, not as M. d'Artagnan, but as captain of the musketeers."

"You are mad, my poor boy," cried D'Artagnan, with a burst of laughter,
in which an exact observer might perhaps have wished to have heard a
little more frankness.

"So much the better," said Raoul.

"Yes, mad; and do you know what I would advise you to do?"

"Tell me, monsieur, for the advice is sure to be good, as it comes from
you."

"Very good, then; I advise you, after your long journey from England,
after your visit to M. de Guiche, after your visit to Madame, after your
visit to Porthos, after your journey to Vincennes, I advise you, I say,
to take a few hours' rest; go and lie down, sleep for a dozen hours, and
when you wake up, go and ride one of my horses until you have tired him
to death."

And drawing Raoul towards him, he embraced him as he would have done his
own child. Athos did the like; only it was very visible that the kiss
was still more affectionate, and the pressure of his lips even warmer
with the father than with the friend. The young man again looked at both
his companions, endeavoring to penetrate their real meaning or their real
feelings with the utmost strength of his intelligence; but his look was
powerless upon the smiling countenance of the musketeer or upon the calm
and composed features of the Comte de la Fere. "Where are you going,
Raoul?" inquired the latter, seeing that Bragelonne was preparing to go
out.

"To my own apartments," replied the latter, in his soft, sad voice.

"We shall be sure to find you there, then, if we should have anything to
say to you?"

"Yes, monsieur; but do you suppose it likely you will have something to
say to me?"

"How can I tell?" said Athos.

"Yes, something fresh to console you with," said D'Artagnan, pushing him
towards the door.

Raoul, observing the perfect composure which marked every gesture of his
two friends, quitted the comte's room, carrying away with him nothing but
the individual feeling of his own particular distress.

"Thank Heaven," he said, "since that is the case, I need only think of
myself."

And wrapping himself up in his cloak, in order to conceal from the
passers-by in the streets his gloomy and sorrowful face, he quitted them,
for the purpose of returning to his own rooms, as he had promised
Porthos. The two friends watched the young man as he walked away with a
feeling of genuine disinterested pity; only each expressed it in a
different way.

"Poor Raoul!" said Athos, sighing deeply.

"Poor Raoul!" said D'Artagnan, shrugging his shoulders.

Alexandre Dumas pere