It was more than a year since Raoul had been to visit his father. He had passed the whole time in the household of M. le Prince. In fact, after all the commotions of the Fronde, of the early period of which we formerly attempted to give a sketch, Louis de Conde had made a public, solemn and frank reconciliation with the court. During all the time that the rupture between the king and the prince had lasted, the prince, who had long entertained a great regard for Bragelonne, had in vain offered him advantages of the most dazzling kind for a young man. The Comte de la Fere, still faithful to his principles of loyalty, and royalty, one day developed before his son in the vaults of Saint Denis, — the Comte de la Fere, in the name of his son, had always declined them. Moreover, instead of following M. de Conde in his rebellion, the vicomte had followed M. de Turenne, fighting for the king. Then when M. de Turenne, in his turn, had appeared to abandon the royal cause, he had quitted M. de Turenne, as he had quitted M. de Conde. It resulted from this invariable line of conduct, that, as Conde and Turenne had never been conquerors of each other but under the standard of the king, Raoul, however young, had ten victories inscribed on his list of services, and not one defeat from which his bravery or conscience had to suffer.
Raoul, therefore, had, in compliance with the wish of his father, served obstinately and passively the fortunes of Louis XIV., in spite of the tergiversations which were endemic, and, it might be said, inevitable, at that period.
M. de Conde; on being restored to favor, had at once availed himself of all the privileges of the amnesty to ask for many things back again which had been granted to him before, and among others, Raoul. M. de la Fere, with his invariable good sense, had immediately sent him again to the prince.
A year, then, had passed away since the separation of the father and son; a few letters had softened, but not removed, the pain of absence. We have seen that Raoul had left at Blois another love in addition to filial love. But let us do him this justice — if it had not been for chance and Mademoiselle de Montalais, two great temptations, Raoul, after delivering his message, would have galloped off towards his father’s house, turning his head round, perhaps, but without stopping for a single instant, even if Louise had held out her arms to him.
So the first part of the journey was given by Raoul to regretting the past which he had been forced to quit so quickly, that is to say, his lady-love; and the other part to the friend he was about to join, so much too slowly for his wishes.
Raoul found the garden-gate open, and rode straight in, without regarding the long arms, raised in anger, of an old man dressed in a jacket of violet-colored wool, and a large cap of faded velvet.
The old man, who was weeding with his hands a bed of dwarf roses and arguerites, was indignant at seeing a horse thus traversing his sanded and nicely-raked walks. He even ventured a vigorous “Humph!” which made the cavalier turn round. Then there was a change of scene; for no sooner had he caught sight of Raoul’s face, than the old man sprang up and set off in the direction of the house, amidst interrupted growlings, which appeared to be paroxysms of wild delight.