Chapter 83 - Havre
This brilliant and animated company, the members of which were inspired by various feelings, arrived at Havre four days after their departure from Paris. It was about five o'clock in the afternoon, and no intelligence had yet been received of Madame. They were soon engaged in quest of apartments; but the greatest confusion immediately ensued among the masters, and violent quarrels among their attendants. In the midst of this disorder, the Comte de Guiche fancied he recognized Manicamp. It was, indeed, Manicamp himself; but as Malicorne had taken possession of his very best costume, he had not been able to get any other than a suit of violet velvet trimmed with silver. Guiche recognized him as much by his dress as by his features, for he had very frequently seen Manicamp in his violet suit, which was his last resource. Manicamp presented himself to the count under an arch of torches, which set in a blaze, rather than illuminated, the gate by which Havre is entered, and which is situated close to the tower of Francis I. The count, remarking the woe-begone expression of Manicamp's face, could not resist laughing. "Well, my poor Manicamp," he exclaimed, "how violet you look; are you in mourning?"
"Yes," replied Manicamp; "I am in mourning."
"For whom, or for what?"
"For my blue-and-gold suit, which has disappeared, and in the place of which I could find nothing but this; and I was even obliged to economize from compulsion, in order to get possession of it."
"It is singular you should be astonished at that, since you leave me without any money."
"At all events, here you are, and that is the principal thing."
"By the most horrible roads."
"Where are you lodging?"
"I am not lodging anywhere."
De Guiche began to laugh. "Well," said he, "where do you intend to lodge?"
"In the same place you do."
"But I don't know, myself."
"What do you mean by saying you don't know?"
"Certainly, how is it likely I should know where I should stay?"
"Have you not retained an hotel?"
"Yes, you or the prince."
"Neither of us has thought of it. Havre is of considerable size, I suppose; and provided I can get a stable for a dozen horses, and a suitable house in a good quarter - - "
"Certainly, there are some very excellent houses."
"Well then - - "
"But not for us."
"What do you mean by saying not for us? - for whom, then?"
"For the English, of course."
"For the English?"
"Yes; the houses are all taken."
"By the Duke of Buckingham."
"I beg your pardon?" said Guiche, whose attention this name had awakened.
"Yes, by the Duke of Buckingham. His Grace was preceded by a courier, who arrived here three days ago, and immediately retained all the houses fit for habitation the town possesses."
"Come, come, Manicamp, let us understand each other."
"Well, what I have told you is clear enough, it seems to me."
"But surely Buckingham does not occupy the whole of Havre?"
"He certainly does not occupy it, since he has not yet arrived; but, once disembarked, he will occupy it."
"It is quite clear you are not acquainted with the English; they have a perfect rage for monopolizing everything."
"That may be; but a man who has the whole of one house, is satisfied with it, and does not require two."
"Yes, but two men?"
"Be it so; for two men, two houses, or four or six, or ten, if you like; but there are a hundred houses at Havre."
"Yes, and all the hundred are let."
"What an obstinate fellow you are. I tell you Buckingham has hired all the houses surrounding the one which the queen dowager of England and the princess her daughter will inhabit."
"He is singular enough, indeed," said De Wardes, caressing his horse's neck.
"Such is the case, however, monsieur."
"You are quite sure of it, Monsieur de Manicamp?" and as he put this question, he looked slyly at De Guiche, as though to interrogate him upon the degree of confidence to be placed in his friend's state of mind. During this discussion the night had closed in, and the torches, pages, attendants, squires, horses, and carriages, blocked up the gate and the open place; the torches were reflected in the channel, which the rising tide was gradually filling, while on the other side of the jetty might be noticed groups of curious lookers-on, consisting of sailors and townspeople, who seemed anxious to miss nothing of the spectacle. Amidst all this hesitation of purpose, Bragelonne, as though a perfect stranger to the scene, remained on his horse somewhat in the rear of Guiche, and watched the rays of light reflected on the water, inhaling with rapture the sea breezes, and listening to the waves which noisily broke upon the shore and on the beach, tossing the spray into the air with a noise that echoed in the distance. "But," exclaimed De Guiche, "what is Buckingham's motive for providing such a supply of lodgings?"
"Yes, yes," said De Wardes; "what reason has he?"
"A very excellent one," replied Manicamp.
"You know what it is, then?"
"I fancy I do."
"Tell us then."
"Bend your head down towards me."
"What! may it not be spoken except in private?"
"You shall judge of that yourself."
"Very well." De Guiche bent down.
"Love," said Manicamp.
"I do not understand you at all."
"Say rather, you cannot understand me yet."
"Very well; it is quite certain, count, that his royal highness will be the most unfortunate of husbands."
"What do you mean?"
"The Duke of Buckingham - - "
"It is a name of ill omen to the princes of the house of France."
"And so the duke is madly in love with Madame, so the rumor runs, and will have no one approach her but himself."
De Guiche colored. "Thank you, thank you," said he to Manicamp, grasping his hand. Then, recovering himself, added, "Whatever you do, Manicamp, be careful that this project of Buckingham's is not made known to any Frenchman here; for, if so, many a sword would be unsheathed in this country that does not fear English steel."
"But after all," said Manicamp, "I have had no satisfactory proof given me of the love in question, and it may be no more than an idle tale."
"No, no," said De Guiche, "it must be the truth;" and despite his command over himself, he clenched his teeth.
"Well," said Manicamp, "after all, what does it matter to you? What does it matter to me whether the prince is to be what the late king was? Buckingham the father for the queen, Buckingham the son for the princess."
"It is a fact, or at least, everybody says so."
"Silence!" cried the count.
"But why, silence?" said De Wardes, "it is a highly creditable circumstance for the French nation. Are not you of my opinion, Monsieur de Bragelonne?"
"To what circumstance do you allude?" inquired De Bragelonne with an abstracted air.
"That the English should render homage to the beauty of our queens and our princesses."
"Forgive me, but I have not been paying attention to what has passed; will you oblige me by explaining,
"There is no doubt it was necessary that Buckingham the father should come to Paris in order that his majesty, King Louis XIII., should perceive that his wife was one of the most beautiful women of the French court; and it seems necessary, at the present time, that Buckingham the son should consecrate, by the devotion of his worship, the beauty of a princess who has French blood in her veins. The fact of having inspired a passion on the other side of the Channel will henceforth confer a title to beauty on this."
"Sir," replied De Bragelonne, "I do not like to hear such matters treated so lightly. Gentlemen like ourselves should be careful guardians of the honor of our queens and our princesses. If we jest at them, what will our servants do?"
"How am I to understand that?" said De Wardes, whose ears tingled at the remark.
"In any way you choose, monsieur," replied De Bragelonne, coldly.
"Bragelonne, Bragelonne," murmured De Guiche.
"M. de Wardes," exclaimed Manicamp, noticing that the young man had spurred his horse close to the side of Raoul.
"Gentlemen, gentlemen," said De Guiche, "do not set such an example in public, in the street too. De Wardes, you are wrong."
"Wrong; in what way, may I ask?"
"You are wrong, monsieur, because you are always speaking ill of someone or something," replied Raoul with undisturbed composure.
"Be indulgent, Raoul," said De Guiche, in an undertone.
"Pray do not think of fighting, gentlemen!" said Manicamp, "before you have rested yourselves; for in that case you will not be able to do much."
"Come," said De Guiche, "forward, gentlemen!" and breaking through the horses and attendants, he cleared the way for himself towards the center of the square, through the crowd, followed by the whole cavalcade. A large gateway looking out upon a courtyard was open; Guiche entered the courtyard, and Bragelonne, De Wardes, Manicamp, and three or four other gentlemen, followed him. A sort of council of war was held, and the means to be employed for saving the dignity of the embassy were deliberated upon. Bragelonne was of opinion that the right of priority should be respected, while De Wardes suggested that the town should be sacked. This latter proposition appearing to Manicamp rather premature, he proposed instead that they should first rest themselves. This was the wisest thing to do, but, unhappily, to follow his advice, two things were wanting; namely, a house and beds. De Guiche reflected for awhile, and then said aloud, "Let him who loves me, follow me!"
"The attendants also?" inquired a page who had approached the group.
"Every one," exclaimed the impetuous young man. "Manicamp, show us the way to the house. destined for her Royal Highness's residence."
Without in any way divining the count's project, his friends followed him, accompanied by a crowd of people whose acclamations and delight seemed a happy omen for the success of that project with which they were yet unacquainted. The wind was blowing strongly from the harbor, and moaning in fitful gusts.