The Vicomte de Bragelonne Or Ten Years Later being the completion of "The Three Musketeers" And "Twenty Years After"

#Fiction #Historical
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Excerpt CHAPTER I. SHOWING WHAT NEITHER THE NAIAD NOR DRYAD HAD ANTICIPATED. Saint-Aignan stopped at the foot of the staircase which led to the entresol, where the maids of honor were lodged, and to the first floor, where Madame's apartments were situated. Then, by means of one of the servants who was passing, he sent to apprise Malicorne, who was still with Monsieur. After having waited ten minutes, Malicorne arrived, looking full of suspicion and importance. The king drew back toward the darkest part of the vestibule. Saint-Aignan, on the contrary, advanced to meet him, but at the first words, indicating his wish, Malicorne drew back abruptly. "Oh! oh!" he said, "you want me to introduce you into the rooms of the maids of honor?" "Yes." "You know very well that I cannot do anything of the kind, without being made acquainted with your object." "Unfortunately, my dear Monsieur Malicorne, it is quite impossible for me to give you any explanation: you must therefore confide in me as in a friend who got you out of a great difficulty yesterday, and who now begs you to draw him out of one to-day." "Yet, I told you, monsieur, what my object was; that my object was not to sleep out in the open air, and any man might express the same wish, while you, however, admit nothing." "Believe me, my dear Monsieur Malicorne," Saint-Aignan persisted, "that if I were permitted to explain myself, I would do so." "In that case, my dear monsieur, it is impossible for me to allow you to enter Mademoiselle de Montalais's apartment." "Why so?" "You know why better than any one else, since you caught me on the wall paying my addresses to Mademoiselle de Montalais; it would, therefore, be an excess of kindness, on my part, you will admit, since I am paying my attentions to her, to open the door of her room to you." "But who told you it was on her account I asked you for the key?" "For whom, then?" "She does not lodge there alone, I suppose?" "No, certainly; for Mademoiselle de la Valliere shares her rooms with her; but, really, you have nothing more to do with Mademoiselle de la Valliere than with Mademoiselle de Montalais, and there are only two men to whom I would give this key; to M. de Bragelonne, if he begged me to give it him, and to the king if he ordered me to do so." "In that case, give me the key, monsieur, I order you to do so," said the king, advancing from the obscurity, and partially opening his cloak. "Mademoiselle de Montalais will step down to talk with you, while we go upstairs to Mademoiselle de la Valliere, for, in fact, it is she only whom we require." "The king," exclaimed Malicorne, bowing down to the very ground. "Yes, the king," said Louis, smiling, "the king, who is as pleased with your resistance as with your capitulation. Rise, monsieur, and render us the service we request of you." "I obey your majesty," said Malicorne, leading the way up the staircase. "Get Mademoiselle de Montalais to come down," said the king, "and do not breathe a word to her of my visit." Malicorne bowed in sign of obedience, and proceeded up the staircase. But the king, after a hasty reflection, followed him, and that, too, with such rapidity, that although Malicorne was already more than half-way up the staircase, the king reached the room at the same moment he did. He then observed by the door which remained half-opened behind Malicorne, La Valliere, sitting in an armchair with her head thrown back, and in the opposite corner Montalais, who, in her dressing-gown, was standing before a looking-glass, engaged in arranging her hair, and parleying all the while with Malicorne. The king hurriedly opened the door, and entered the room. Montalais called out at the noise made by the opening of the door, and, recognizing the king, made her escape. La Valliere rose from her seat, like a dead person who had been galvanized, and then fell back again in her armchair. The king advanced slowly toward her. "You wished for an audience, I believe," he said, coldly; "I am ready to hear you. Speak." Saint-Aignan, faithful to his character of being deaf, blind, and dumb, had stationed himself in a corner of the door, upon a stool which he fortuitously found there. Concealed by the tapestry which covered the doorway, and leaning his back against the wall, he could in this way listen without been seen; resigning himself to the post of a good watch-dog, who patiently waits and watches without ever getting in his master's way. La Valliere, terror-stricken at the king's irritated aspect, again rose a second time, and assuming a posture of humility and entreaty, murmured, "Forgive me, sire." "What need is there for my forgiveness?" asked Louis. "Sire, I have been guilty of a great fault; nay, more than a great fault, a great crime." "You?" "Sire, I have offended your majesty." "Not the slightest degree in the world," replied Louis XIV. "I implore you, sire, not to maintain toward me that terrible seriousness of manner which reveals your majesty's just anger. I feel I have offended you, sire; but I wish to explain to you how it was that I have not offended you of my own accord." "In the first place," said the king, "in what way can you possibly have offended me? I cannot perceive how. Surely not on account of a young girl's harmless and very innocent jest? You turned the credulity of a young man into ridicule—it was very natural to do so; any other woman in your place would have done the same." "Oh! your majesty overwhelms me by your remark." "Why so?" "Because if I had been the author of the jest, it would not have been innocent." "Well! is that all you had to say to me in soliciting an audience?" said the king, as though about to turn away. Thereupon, La Valliere, in an abrupt and broken voice, her eyes dried up by the fire of her tears, made a step toward the king, and said, "Did your majesty hear everything?" "Everything, what?" "Everything I said beneath the royal oak." "I did not lose a syllable." "And when your majesty heard me, you were able to think I had abused your credulity." "Credulity; yes, indeed you have selected the very word." "And your majesty did not suppose that a poor girl like myself might possibly be compelled to submit to the will of others." "Forgive me," returned the king; "but I shall never be able to understand that she, who of her own free will could express herself so unreservedly beneath the royal oak, would allow herself to be influenced to such an extent by the direction of others." "But the threat held out against me, sire." "Threat!...
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