“Oh! — Raoul!” exclaimed Louise, who had made the same movement as her friend, and, becoming pale as death, sunk back beside her unfinished letter.
“Now, he is a clever lover, upon my word!” cried Montalais; “he arrives just at the proper moment.”
“Come in, come in, I implore you!” murmured Louise.
“Bah! he does not know me. Let me see what he has come here for.”
Mademoiselle de Montalais was right; the young cavalier was goodly to look upon.
He was a young man of from twenty-four to twenty-five years of age, tall and slender, wearing gracefully the picturesque military costume of the period. His large boots contained a foot which Mademoiselle de Montalais might not have disowned if she had been transformed into a man. With one of his delicate but nervous hands he checked his horse in the middle of the court, and with the other raised his hat, whose long plumes shaded his at once serious and ingenuous countenance.
The guards, roused by the steps of the horse, awoke, and were on foot in a minute. The young man waited till one of them was close to his saddle-bow: then, stooping towards him, in a clear, distinct voice, which was perfectly audible at the window where the two girls were concealed, “A message for his royal highness,” he said.
“Ah, ah!” cried the soldier. “Officer, a messenger!”
But this brave guard knew very well that no officer would appear, seeing that the only one who could have appeared dwelt at the other side of the castle, in an apartment looking into the gardens. So he hastened to add: “The officer, monsieur, is on his rounds; but, in his absence, M. de Saint-Remy, the maitre d’hotel, shall be informed.”
“M. de Saint-Remy?” repeated the cavalier, slightly blushing.
“Do you know him?”
“Why, yes; but request him, if you please, that my visit be announced to his royal highness as soon as possible.”
“It appears to be pressing,” said the guard, as if speaking to himself, but really in the hope of obtaining an answer.
The messenger made an affirmative sign with his head.
“In that case,” said the guard, “I will go and seek the maitre d’hotel myself.”
The young man, in the meantime, dismounted; and whilst the others were making their remarks upon the fine horse the cavalier rode, the soldier returned.
“Your pardon, young gentleman; but your name, if you please?”
“The Vicomte de Bragelonne, on the part of his highness M. le Prince de Conde.”
The soldier made a profound bow, and, as if the name of the conqueror of Rocroi and Lens had given him wings, he stepped lightly up the steps leading to the ante-chamber.
M. de Bragelonne had not had time to fasten his horse to the iron bars of the perron, when M. de Saint-Remy came running, out of breath, supporting his capacious body with one hand, whilst with the other he cut the air as a fisherman cleaves the waves with his oar.