As soon as he was fairly in the net he heard a loud cry, and, turning round, saw at two paces from him, with her hands clasped and her eyes closed, that beautiful fair girl with blue eyes and white shoulders, who, recognizing him, called him Raoul.
He saw her, and divined at once so much love and so much joy in the expression of her countenance, the he sank on his knees in the middle of the chamber, murmuring, on his part, the name of Louise.
“Ah! Montalais! — Montalais!” she sighed, “it is very wicked to deceive me so.”
“Who, I? I have deceived you?”
“Yes; you told me you would go down to inquire the news, and you have brought up monsieur!”
“Well, I was obliged to do so — how else could he have received the letter you wrote him?” And she pointed with her finger to the letter which was still upon the table.
Raoul made a step to take it; Louise, more rapid, although she had sprung forward with a sufficiently remarkable physical hesitation, reached out her hand to stop him. Raoul came in contact with that trembling hand, took it within his own, and carried it so respectfully to his lips, that he might have been said to have deposited a sigh upon it rather than a kiss.
In the meantime, Mademoiselle de Montalais had taken the letter, folded it carefully, as women do, in three folds, and slipped it into her bosom.
“Don’t be afraid, Louise,” said she; “monsieur will no more venture to take it hence than the defunct king Louis XIII. ventured to take billets from the corsage of Mademoiselle de Hautefort.”
Raoul blushed at seeing the smile of the two girls; and he did not remark that the hand of Louise remained in his.
“There!” said Montalais, “you have pardoned me, Louise, for having brought monsieur to you; and you, monsieur, bear me no malice for having followed me to see mademoiselle. Now, then, peace being made, let us chat like old friends. Present me, Louise, to M. de Bragelonne.”
“Monsieur le Vicomte,” said Louise, with her quiet grace and ingenuous smile, “I have the honor to present to you Mademoiselle Aure de Montalais, maid of honor to her royal highness MADAME, and moreover my friend — my excellent friend.”
Raoul bowed ceremoniously.
“And me, Louise,” said he — “will you not present me also to mademoiselle?”
“Oh, she knows you — she knows all!”
This unguarded expression made Montalais laugh and Raoul sigh with happiness, for he interpreted it thus: “She knows all our love.”
“The ceremonies being over, Monsieur le Vicomte,” said Montalais, “take a chair, and tell us quickly the news you bring flying thus.”
“Mademoiselle, it is no longer a secret; the king, on his way to Poitiers, will stop at Blois, to visit his royal highness.”
“The king here!” exclaimed Montalais, clapping her hands. “What! are we going to see the court? Only think, Louise — the real court from Paris! Oh, good heavens! But when will this happen, monsieur?”