Chapter 55: The Change of Residence, the Trap-door, and the Portrait

  1. 54: Porthos’s Plan of Action
  2. Louise de la Valliere
  3. 56: Rival Politics

Porthos, to his great delight intrusted with this mission, which made him feel young again, took half an hour less than his usual time to put on his court suit. To show that he was a man acquainted with the usages of the highest society, he had begun by sending his lackey to inquire if M. de Saint-Aignan were at home, and received, in answer, that M. le Comte de Saint-Aignan had had the honor of accompanying the King to St. Germain, as well as the whole court, but that Monsieur the Count had just at that moment returned. Immediately upon this reply, Porthos made haste, and reached De Saint-Aignan’s apartments just as the latter was having his boots taken off.

The expedition had been delightful. The King, who was in love more than ever and of course happier than ever, had behaved in the most charming manner to every one. Nothing could possibly equal his kindness. M. de Saint-Aignan, it may be remembered, was a poet, and fancied that he had proved that he was so under too many memorable circumstances to allow the title to be disputed by any one. An indefatigable rhymester, he had during the whole of the journey overwhelmed with quatrains, sextains and madrigals, first the King, and then La Valliere. The King was, on his side, in a similarly poetical mood, and had made a distich; while La Valliere, like all women who are in love, had composed two sonnets. As one may see, then, the day had not been a bad one for Apollo; and therefore, as soon as he had returned to Paris, De Saint-Aignan, who knew beforehand that his verses would be extensively circulated in court circles, occupied himself, with a little more attention than he had been able to bestow during the excursion, with the composition as well as with the idea itself. Consequently, with all the tenderness of a father about to start his children in life, he candidly asked himself whether the public would find these fruits of his imagination sufficiently elegant and graceful; and in order to make his mind easy on the subject, M. de Saint-Aignan recited to himself the madrigal he had composed, and which he had repeated from memory to the King, and which he had promised to write out for him on his return,-

“Iris, vos yeux malins ne disent pas toujours
Ce que votre pensee a votre coeur confie;
Iris, pourquoi faut-il que je passe ma vie
A plus aimer vos yeux qui m’ont joue ces tours?”

This madrigal, graceful as it was, failed to satisfy De Saint-Aignan when it had passed from oral delivery to the written form of poetry. Many had thought it charming,- its author first of all; but on second view it was not so pleasing. So De Saint-Aignan, sitting at his table, with one leg crossed over the other, and rubbing his brow, repeated,-

“Iris, vos yeux malins ne disent pas toujours-

“Oh! as to that, now,” he murmured, “that is irreproachable. I might even add that it is somewhat in the manner of Ronsard or Malherbe, which makes me proud. Unhappily, it is not so with the second line. There is good reason for the saying that the easiest line to make is the first.” And he continued:-

“Ce que votre pensee a votre coeur confie-.

Ah, there is the ‘thought’ confiding in the ‘heart’! Why should not the heart confide with as good reason in the thought? In faith, for my part, I see nothing to hinder. Where the devil have I been, to bring together these two hemistiches? Now, the third is good,-

Iris, pourquoi faut-il que je passe ma vie-

although the rhyme is not strong,- vie and confie. My faith! the Abbé Boyer, who is a great poet, has, like me, made a rhyme of vie and confie in the tragedy of ‘Oropaste, or the False Tonaxare’; without reckoning that M. Corneille did not scruple to do so in his tragedy of ‘Sophonisbe.’ Good, then, for vie and confie! Yes; but the line is impertinent. I remember now that the King bit his nail at that moment. In fact, it gives him the appearance of saying to Mademoiselle de la Valliere, ‘How does it happen that I am captivated by you?’ It would have been better, I think, to say,-

Que benis soient les dieux qui condamnent ma vie-

Condamnent! ah! well, yes, there is a compliment!- the King condemned to La Valliere- no!” Then he repeated:-

”Mais benis soient les dieux qui- destinent ma vie.

Not bad, although destinent ma vie is weak; but, good Heavens! everything can’t be strong in a quatrain. A plus aimer vos yeux,- in loving more whom, what? Obscurity. But obscurity is nothing; since La Valliere and the King have understood me, every one will understand me. Yes; but here is something melancholy,- the last hemistich: qui m’ont joue ces tours. The plural necessitated by the rhyme! And then to call the modesty of La Valliere a trick,- that is not happy! I shall be a byword to all my quill-driving acquaintances. They will say that my poems are verses in the grand-seigneur style; and if the King hears it said that I am a bad poet, he will take it into his head to believe it.”

While confiding these words to his heart and engaging his heart in these thoughts, the count was undressing himself. He had just taken off his coat, and was putting on his dressing-gown, when he was informed that M. le Baron du Vallon de Bracieux de Pierrefonds was waiting to be received.

“Eh!” he said, “what does that bunch of names mean? I don’t know him.”

“It is the same gentleman,” replied the lackey, “who had the honor of dining with you, Monseigneur, at the King’s table, when his Majesty was staying at Fontainebleau.”

“With the King, at Fontainebleau?” cried De Saint-Aignan. “Eh! quick, quick! introduce that gentleman.”

The lackey hastened to obey. Porthos entered. M. de Saint-Aignan had an excellent recollection of persons, and at the first glance he recognized the gentleman from the country who enjoyed so singular a reputation, and whom the King had received so favorably at Fontainebleau, in spite of the smiles of some of those who were present. He therefore advanced towards Porthos with all outward signs of good-will, which Porthos thought but natural, considering that he himself, whenever he called upon an adversary, hoisted the standard of the most refined politeness. De Saint-Aignan desired the servant to give Porthos a chair; and the latter, who saw nothing unusual in this act of politeness, sat down gravely, and coughed.

The ordinary courtesies having been exchanged between the two gentlemen, the count, since to him the visit was paid, said, “May I ask, Monsieur the Baron, to what happy circumstance I owe the favor of your visit?”

“The very thing I am about to have the honor of explaining to you, Monsieur the Count; but, I beg your pardon-”

“What is the matter, Monsieur?” inquired De Saint-Aignan.

“I regret to say that I have broken your chair.”

“Not at all, Monsieur,” said De Saint-Aignan; “not at all.”

“It is the fact, though, Monsieur the Count; I have broken it,- so much so, indeed, that if I remain in it I shall fall down, which would be an exceedingly disagreeable position for me in the discharge of the very serious mission which has been intrusted to me with regard to yourself.”

Porthos rose; and but just in time, for the chair had given way several inches. De Saint-Aignan looked about him for something more solid for his guest to sit upon.

“Modern articles of furniture,” said Porthos, while the count was looking about, “are constructed in a ridiculously light manner. In my early days, when I used to sit down with far more energy than now, I do not remember ever to have broken a chair, except in taverns, with my arms.” De Saint-Aignan smiled at this remark. “But,” said Porthos, as he settled himself on a couch, which creaked but did not give way beneath his weight, “that unfortunately has nothing whatever to do with my present visit.”

“Why unfortunately? Are you the bearer of a message of ill omen, Monsieur the Baron?”

“Of ill omen,- for a gentleman? Certainly not, Monsieur the Count,” replied Porthos, nobly. “I have simply come to say that you have seriously offended a friend of mine.”

“I, Monsieur?” exclaimed De Saint-Aignan,- “I have offended a friend of yours, do you say? May I ask his name?”

“M. Raoul de Bragelonne.”

“I have offended M. Raoul de Bragelonne!” cried De Saint-Aignan. “I really assure you, Monsieur, that it is quite impossible; for M. de Bragelonne, whom I know but very slightly,- nay, whom I know hardly at all,- is in England; and as I have not seen him for a long time past, I cannot possibly have offended him.”

“M. de Bragelonne is in Paris, Monsieur the Count,” said Porthos, perfectly unmoved; “and I repeat, it is quite certain you have offended him, since he himself told me you had. Yes, Monsieur, you have seriously offended him, mortally offended him, I repeat.”

“It is impossible, Monsieur the Baron, I swear,- quite impossible.”

“Besides,” added Porthos, “you cannot be ignorant of the circumstance, since M. de Bragelonne informed me that he had already apprised you of it by a note.”

“I give you my word of honor, Monsieur, that I have received no note whatever.”

“This is most extraordinary,” replied Porthos.

“I will convince you,” said De Saint-Aignan, “that I have received nothing in any way from him”; and he rang the bell. “Basque,” he said to the servant who entered, “how many letters or notes were sent here during my absence?”

“Three, Monsieur the Count,- a note from M. de Fiesque, one from Madame de Laferte, and a letter from M. de las Fuentes.”

“Is that all?”

“Yes, Monsieur the Count.”

“Speak the truth before this gentleman,- the truth, you understand! I will take care you are not blamed.”

“There was a note, also, from- from-”

“Well, from whom?”

“From Mademoiselle de la Val-”

“That is quite sufficient,” interrupted Porthos. “I believe you, Monsieur the Count.”

De Saint-Aignan dismissed the valet and followed him to the door in order to close it after him; and when he had done so, looking straight before him, he happened to see in the keyhole of the adjoining apartment the paper which Bragelonne had slipped in there as he left. “What is this?” he said.

Porthos, who was sitting with his back to the room, turned round. “Oh, oh!” he said.

“A note in the keyhole!” exclaimed De Saint-Aignan.

“That is not unlikely to be the one we want, Monsieur the Count,” said Porthos.

De Saint-Aignan took out the paper. “A note from M. de Bragelonne!” he exclaimed.

“You see, Monsieur, I was right. Oh, when I say a thing-”

“Brought here by M. de Bragelonne himself,” the count murmured, turning pale. “This is infamous! How could he possibly have come here?” and the count rang again.

“Who has been here during my absence with the King?”

“No one, Monsieur.”

“That is impossible. Some one must have been here.”

“No one could possibly have entered, Monsieur; since I kept the keys in my own pocket.”

“And yet I find this letter in that lock yonder. Some one must have put it there; it could not have come alone.”

Basque opened his arms, as if signifying the most absolute ignorance on the subject.

“Probably it was M. de Bragelonne himself who placed it there,” said Porthos.

“In that case he must have entered here.”

“Without doubt, Monsieur.”

“How could that have been, since I have the key in my own pocket?” returned Basque, perseveringly.

De Saint-Aignan crumpled up the letter in his hand, after having read it.

“There is something mysterious about this,” he murmured, absorbed in thought.

Porthos left him to his reflections; but after a while returned to the mission he had undertaken. “Shall we return to our little affair?” he said, addressing De Saint-Aignan, as soon as the lackey had disappeared.

“I think I can now understand it, from this note which has arrived here in so singular a manner. M. de Bragelonne says that a friend will call.”

“I am his friend, and am the one he alludes to.”

“For the purpose of giving me a challenge?”


“And he complains that I have offended him?”

“Mortally so.”

“In what way, may I ask?- for his conduct is so mysterious that it at least needs some explanation.”

“Monsieur,” replied Porthos, “my friend cannot but be right; and so far as his conduct is concerned, if it be mysterious, as you say, you have only yourself to blame for it.”

Porthos pronounced these words with an amount of confidence which for a man who was unaccustomed to his ways must have indicated an infinity of sense.

“Mystery? Be it so; but what is the mystery about?” said De Saint-Aignan.

“You will think it best, perhaps,” Porthos replied, with a low bow, “that I do not enter into particulars, and for excellent reasons.”

“Oh, I perfectly understand you! We will touch very lightly upon it, then. So speak, Monsieur; I am listening.”

“In the first place, Monsieur,” said Porthos, “you have changed your apartments.”

“Yes, that is quite true.”

“You admit it, then,” said Porthos, with an air of satisfaction.

“Admit it? of course I admit it. Why should I not admit it, do you suppose?”

“You have admitted it. Very good,” said Porthos, lifting up one finger.

“But how can my having moved my lodgings have done M. de Bragelonne any harm? Have the goodness to tell me that, for I positively do not comprehend a word of what you are saying.”

Porthos stopped him, and then said with great gravity: “Monsieur, this is the first of M. de Bragelonne’s complaints against you. If he makes a complaint, it is because he feels himself insulted.”

De Saint-Aignan began to beat his foot impatiently on the floor. “This looks like a bad quarrel,” he said.

“No one can possibly have a bad quarrel with the Vicomte de Bragelonne,” returned Porthos; “but, at all events, you have nothing to add on the subject of your changing your apartments, I suppose?”

“Nothing. And what is the next point?”

“Ah, the next! You will observe, Monsieur, that the one I have already mentioned is a most serious injury, to which you have given no answer, or rather have answered very indifferently. So, Monsieur, you change your lodgings; that offends M. de Bragelonne, and you do not attempt to excuse yourself? Very well!”

“What!” cried De Saint-Aignan, who was irritated by the coolness of his visitor,- “what! Am I to consult M. de Bragelonne whether I am to move or not? You can hardly be serious, Monsieur.”

“Absolutely necessary, Monsieur; but, under any circumstances, you will admit that it is nothing in comparison with the second ground of complaint.”

“Well, what is that?”

Porthos assumed a very serious expression as he said, “How about the trap-door, Monsieur?”

De Saint-Aignan turned exceedingly pale. He pushed back his chair so abruptly that Porthos, simple as he was, perceived that the blow had told. “The trap-door?” murmured De Saint-Aignan.

“Yes, Monsieur, explain that if you can,” said Porthos, shaking his head.

De Saint-Aignan held down his head. “Oh, I have been betrayed,” he murmured; “everything is known!”

“Everything,” replied Porthos, who knew nothing.

“You see me overwhelmed,” pursued De Saint-Aignan,- “overwhelmed to such a degree that I hardly know what I am about.”

“A guilty conscience, Monsieur! Your affair is a bad one.”


“And when the public shall learn all about it, and will judge-”

“Oh, Monsieur!” exclaimed the count, hurriedly, “such a secret ought not to be known, even by one’s confessor!”

“That we will think about,” said Porthos; “the secret will not go far, in fact.”

“But, Monsieur,” returned De Saint-Aignan, “is M. de Bragelonne, in penetrating the secret, aware of the danger to which he exposes himself and others?”

“M. de Bragelonne incurs no danger, Monsieur, nor does he fear any either,- as you, if it please Heaven, will find out very soon.”

“This fellow is a perfect madman,” thought De Saint-Aignan. “What, in Heaven’s name, does he want?” He then said aloud: “Come, Monsieur, let us hush up this affair.”

“You forget the portrait!” said Porthos, in a voice of thunder, which made the count’s blood freeze in his veins.

As the portrait in question was La Valliere’s portrait, and as no mistake could any longer exist on the subject, De Saint-Aignan’s eyes were completely opened. “Ah,” he exclaimed,- “ah, Monsieur, I remember now that M. de Bragelonne was engaged to be married to her.”

Porthos assumed an imposing air- all the majesty of ignorance, in fact- as he said: “It matters nothing whatever to me, nor to yourself indeed, whether or not my friend was, as you say, engaged to be married. I am even astonished that you should have made use of so indiscreet a remark. It may possibly do your cause harm, Monsieur.”

“Monsieur,” replied De Saint-Aignan, “you are the incarnation of intelligence, delicacy, and loyalty of feeling united. I see the whole matter now clearly enough.”

“So much the better,” said Porthos.

“And,” pursued De Saint-Aignan, “you have made me comprehend it in the most ingenious and the most delicate manner possible. Thank you, Monsieur, thank you.” Porthos drew himself up. “Only, now that I know everything, permit me to explain-”

Porthos shook his head as a man who does not wish to hear; but De Saint-Aignan continued: “I am in despair, I assure you, at all that has happened; but how would you have acted in my place? Come, between ourselves, tell me what would you have done?”

Porthos raised his head. “There is no question at all of what I should have done, young man; you have now,” he said, “been made acquainted with the three causes of complaint against you, I believe?”

“As for the first, my change of rooms,- and I now address myself to you, as a man of honor and of great intelligence,- could I, when the desire of so august a personage was so urgently expressed that I should move, ought I to have disobeyed?”

Porthos was about to speak, but De Saint-Aignan did not give him time to answer. “Ah! my frankness, I see, convinces you,” he said, interpreting the movement in his own interest. “You perceive that I am right?”

Porthos did not reply. De Saint-Aignan continued: “I pass to that unfortunate trap-door,” placing his hand on Porthos’s arm,- “that trap-door, the occasion and the means of so much unhappiness, and which was constructed for- you know what. Well, then, in plain truth, do you suppose that it was I who, of my own accord, in such a place too, had that trap-door made? Oh, no! you do not believe it; and here, again, you feel, you guess, you understand the influence of a will superior to my own. You can conceive the infatuation,- I do not speak of love, that madness irresistible! But, thank Heaven! happily the affair is with a man who has so much sensitiveness of feeling. If it were not so, indeed, what an amount of misery and scandal would fall upon her, poor girl! and upon him- whom I will not name.”

Porthos, confused and bewildered by the eloquence and gestures of De Saint-Aignan, made a thousand efforts to stem this torrent of words, of which, by the by, he did not understand a single one; he remained upright and motionless on his seat, and that was all he could do.

De Saint-Aignan continued, and gave a new inflection to his voice, and an increasing vehemence to his gesture: “As for the portrait,- for I readily believe the portrait is the principal cause of complaint,- tell me candidly if you think me to blame? Who was it that wished to have her portrait? Was it I? Who is in love with her? Is it I? Who desires her? Who has won her? Is it I? No, a thousand times no! I know M. de Bragelonne must be in a state of despair; I know these misfortunes are most cruel. But I, too, am suffering as well; and yet there is no possibility of offering any resistance. If he struggles, he will be derided; if he resists, he is lost. You will tell me, I know, that despair is madness; but you are reasonable,- you have understood me. I perceive by your serious, thoughtful, embarrassed air, even, that the importance of the situation in which we are placed has not escaped you. Return, therefore, to M. de Bragelonne; thank him- as I have indeed reason to thank him- for having chosen as an intermediary a man of your merit. Believe me that I shall, on my side, preserve an eternal gratitude for the man who has so ingeniously, so cleverly corrected the misunderstanding between us. And since ill-luck would have it that the secret should be known to four instead of to three, why, this secret, which might make the most ambitious man’s fortune, I am delighted to share with you, Monsieur; from the bottom of my heart I am delighted at it. From this very moment you can make use of me as you please; I place myself entirely at your mercy. What can I possibly do for you? What can I solicit, nay, require even? Speak, Monsieur, speak!”

According to the familiarly friendly fashion of that period, De Saint-Aignan threw his arms round Porthos, and clasped him tenderly in his embrace. Porthos allowed him to do this with the most complete indifference.

“Speak!” resumed De Saint-Aignan; what do you require?”

“Monsieur,” said Porthos, “I have a horse below; be good enough to mount him. He is a very good one, and will play you no tricks.”

“Mount on horseback! What for?” inquired De Saint-Aignan, with no little curiosity.

“To accompany me where M. de Bragelonne is awaiting us.”

“Ah! he wishes to speak to me, I suppose? I can well believe that; he wishes to have the details, very likely. Alas! it is a very delicate matter; but at the present moment I cannot, for the King is waiting for me.”

“The King will wait,” said Porthos.

“But where is M. de Bragelonne expecting me?”

“At the Minimes, at Vincennes.”

“Ah, indeed! but we are going to laugh over the affair when we get there?”

“I don’t think it likely,- not I, at least”; and the face of Porthos assumed a stern hardness of expression. “The Minimes is a rendezvous for duels.”

“Very well; what, then, have I to do at the Minimes?”

Porthos slowly drew his sword, and said, “That is the length of my friend’s sword.”

“Why, the man is mad!” cried De Saint-Aignan.

The color mounted to Porthos’s face, as he replied: “If I had not the honor of being in your own apartment, Monsieur, and of representing M. de Bragelonne’s interests, I would throw you out of the window. It will be merely a pleasure postponed, and you will lose nothing by waiting. Will you come to the Minimes, Monsieur?”


“Will you go thither of your own free will?”


“I will carry you if you do not come. Take care!”

“Basque!” cried M. de Saint-Aignan. As soon as Basque appeared, he said, “The King wishes to see Monsieur the Count.”

“That is very different,” said Porthos; “the King’s service before everything else. We will wait there until this evening, Monsieur.” And saluting De Saint-Aignan with his usual courtesy, Porthos left the room, delighted at having arranged another affair.

De Saint-Aignan looked after him as he left; and then hastily putting on his coat again, he ran off, arranging his dress as he went along, muttering to himself: “The Minimes! the Minimes! We will see how the King will like this challenge; for it is for him, after all, pardieu!”

  1. 54: Porthos’s Plan of Action
  2. Louise de la Valliere
  3. 56: Rival Politics