Chapter 59: After the Storm

  1. 58: King and Nobility
  2. Louise de la Valliere
  3. 60: Heu! Miser!

Our readers will doubtless 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. Our claim, as narrator, being that we unfold events in exact logical sequence, we hold ourselves ready to answer that question.

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 De Saint-Aignan and himself. He finished by saying that the message which the King had sent to his favorite would not probably occasion more than a short delay, and that De Saint-Aignan, as soon as he could leave the King, would not lose a moment in accepting the invitation which Raoul had sent him.

But Raoul, less credulous than his old friend, had concluded, from Porthos’s recital, that if De Saint-Aignan was going to the King, De Saint-Aignan would tell the King everything, and that the King would therefore forbid De 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 De Saint-Aignan would come there; and had urged Porthos not to remain there more than an hour or an hour and a half. Porthos, however, formally refused to assent to that, 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 had proceeded at once straight to the apartments of Athos, who had been in Paris during the last two days, and had 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, Viscount, whenever he is suffering; tell me, therefore, what it is that brings you now.”

The young man bowed, and began his recital; more than once in the course of it his tears choked his utterance; and a sob checked in his throat compelled him to pause in his narration. However, he finished at last. Athos most probably already knew how matters stood, as we have just now said that 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 the rumors; I do not believe in the existence of what you fear, although I do not deny that persons most entitled to the fullest credit have already conversed with me on the subject. In my heart and soul I think it impossible that the King could be guilty of such an outrage upon 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 the Count; 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; what occurred in the interview with the King 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 quite convinced now?”

“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 count, “I told the King, believe me, all that you yourself could possibly have said; 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-”

“Finish, Monsieur!”

“And with reference to revenge; for I fear that you think of avenging your wrongs.”

“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 wise exhortations. So 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 so you no longer think of seeking a quarrel with M. de Saint-Aignan?”

“No, Monsieur. I sent him a challenge. If he accepts it, I will maintain it; if he does not take it up, I will leave it where it is.”

“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 been bowed beneath his own sorrows and those of others.

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

“And so, Monsieur the Count, you are quite satisfied that the misfortune is without a remedy?” inquired the young man.

Athos shook his head. “Poor boy!” he murmured.

“You think that I still hope,” said Raoul, “and you pity me. Oh, it is indeed a horrible suffering for me to despise, as I ought to do, her whom I have loved so devotedly. If I but had some real cause of complaint against her, I should be happy, and should be able to forgive her.”

Athos looked at his son with a sorrowful air. The few words which 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 of Raoul.

The musketeer entered the room with a vague smile upon his lips. Raoul paused. Athos walked towards his friend with an expression of face which did not escape Bragelonne. D’Artagnan answered Athos’s look by a simple movement of the eyelid; and then, advancing toward Raoul, whom he took by the hand, he said, addressing both father and son, “Well, you are trying to console the boy, it seems.”

“And you, kind and good as usual, are 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 also.”

“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 effect was far 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 count was about to give me the details of his interview with the King. You will allow the count to continue?” added the young man, as with his eyes fixed on the musketeer he seemed to search the depths of his heart.

“His interview with the King?” said d’Artagnan, in a tone so natural and unassumed that there was no reason to doubt his astonishment. “You have seen the King then, Athos?”

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

“Ah, indeed! you were ignorant, then, that the count had seen his Majesty?” inquired Raoul, half reassured.

“My faith, yes! entirely.”

“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, M. 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 desired 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 well, 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, d’Artagnan embraced him as if he were his own child. Athos did the like; only, it was very apparent that the father’s kiss was more tender and his embrace closer than those of the friend.

The young man again looked at his companions, endeavoring with the utmost strength of his intelligence to read what was in their minds; 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 Raoul, in his soft and 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, new consolations,” said d’Artagnan, pushing him gently towards the door.

Raoul, observing the perfect composure which marked every gesture of his two friends, quitted the count’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 in his cloak, in order to conceal from the passers-by in the streets his gloomy face, he started out to return to his own rooms, as he had promised Porthos.

The two friends watched the young man as he walked away with a feeling akin to pity; only, each expressed it in a very different way.

“Poor Raoul!” said Athos, sighing deeply.

“Poor Raoul!” said d’Artagnan, shrugging his shoulders.

  1. 58: King and Nobility
  2. Louise de la Valliere
  3. 60: Heu! Miser!