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Ten Years Later

Part 10 out of 21

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"Yes, sire, it is a round sum."

"Amounting to how much?"

"To thirteen millions of livres, sire."

"Thirteen millions!" cried Louis, trembling with joy: "do
you say thirteen millions, Monsieur Colbert?"

"I said thirteen millions, yes, your majesty."

"Of which everybody is ignorant?"

"Of which everybody is ignorant."

"Which are in your hands?"

"In my hands, yes, sire."

"And which I can have?"

"Within two hours, sire."

"But where are they, then?"

"In the cellar of a house which the cardinal possessed in
the city, and which he was so kind as to leave me by a
particular clause of his will."

"You are acquainted with the cardinal's will, then?"

"I have a duplicate of it, signed by his hand."

"A duplicate?"

"Yes, sire, and here it is." Colbert drew the deed quietly
from his pocket and showed it to the king. The king read the
article relative to the donation of the house.

"But," said he, "there is no question here but of the house;
there is nothing said of the money."

"Your pardon, sire, it is in my conscience."

"And Monsieur Mazarin has intrusted it to you?"

"Why not, sire?"

"He! a man mistrustful of everybody?"

"He was not so of me, sire, as your majesty may perceive."

Louis fixed his eyes with admiration upon that vulgar but
expressive face. "You are an honest man, M. Colbert," said
the king.

"That is not a virtue, it is a duty," replied Colbert,
coolly.

"But," added Louis, "does not the money belong to the
family?"

"If this money belonged to the family it would be disposed
of in the testament, as the rest of his fortune is. If this
money belonged to the family, I, who drew up the deed of
donation in favor of your majesty, should have added the sum
of thirteen millions to that of forty millions which was
offered to you."

"How!" exclaimed Louis XIV., "was it you who drew up the
deed of donation?"

"Yes, sire."

"And yet the cardinal was attached to you?" added the king
ingenuously.

"I had assured his eminence you would by no means accept the
gift," said Colbert in that same quiet manner we have
described, and which, even in the common habits of life, had
something solemn in it.

Louis passed his hand over his brow. "Oh! how young I am,"
murmured he, "to have the command of men."

Colbert waited the end of this monologue. He saw Louis raise
his head. "At what hour shall I send the money to your
majesty?" asked he.

"To-night, at eleven o'clock; I desire that no one may know
that I possess this money."

Colbert made no more reply than if the thing had not been
said to him.

"Is the amount in ingots, or coined gold?"

"In coined gold, sire."

"That is well."

"Where shall I send it?"

"To the Louvre. Thank you, M. Colbert."

Colbert bowed and retired. "Thirteen millions!" exclaimed
Louis, as soon as he was alone. "This must be a dream!" Then
he allowed his head to sink between his hands, as if he were
really asleep. But at the end of a moment he arose, and
opening the window violently he bathed his burning brow in
the keen morning air, which brought to his senses the scent
of the trees, and the perfume of flowers. A splendid dawn
was gilding the horizon, and the first rays of the sun
bathed in flame the young king's brow. "This is the dawn of
my reign," murmured Louis XIV. "It's a presage sent by the
Almighty."

CHAPTER 50

The First Day of the Royalty of Louis XIV

In the morning, the news of the death of the cardinal was
spread through the castle, and thence speedily reached the
city. The ministers Fouquet, Lyonne, and Letellier entered
la salle des seances, to hold a council. The king sent for
them immediately. "Messieurs," said he, "as long as monsieur
le cardinal lived, I allowed him to govern my affairs; but
now I mean to govern them myself. You will give me your
advice when I ask it. You may go."

The ministers looked at each other with surprise. If they
concealed a smile it was with a great effort, for they knew
that the prince, brought up in absolute ignorance of
business, by this took upon himself a burden much too heavy
for his strength. Fouquet took leave of his colleagues upon
the stairs, saying: -- "Messieurs! there will be so much
less labor for us."

And he climbed gayly into his carriage. The others, a little
uneasy at the turn things had taken, went back to Paris
together. Towards ten o'clock the king repaired to the
apartment of his mother, with whom he had a long and private
conversation. After dinner, he got into his carriage, and
went straight to the Louvre. There he received much company,
and took a degree of pleasure in remarking the hesitation of
each, and the curiosity of all. Towards evening he ordered
the doors of the Louvre to be closed, with the exception of
one only, which opened on the quay. He placed on duty at
this point two hundred Swiss, who did not speak a word of
French, with orders to admit all who carried packages, but
no others; and by no means to allow any one to go out. At
eleven o'clock precisely, he heard the rolling of a heavy
carriage under the arch, then of another, then of a third;
after which the gate grated upon its hinges to be closed.
Soon after, somebody scratched with his nail at the door of
the cabinet. The king opened it himself, and beheld Colbert,
whose first word was this: -- "The money is in your
majesty's cellar."

The king then descended and went himself to see the barrels
of specie, in gold and silver, which, under the direction of
Colbert, four men had just rolled into a cellar of which the
king had given Colbert the key in the morning. This review
completed, Louis returned to his apartments, followed by
Colbert, who had not apparently warmed with one ray of
personal satisfaction.

"Monsieur," said the king, "what do you wish that I should
give you, as a recompense for this devotedness and probity?"

"Absolutely nothing, sire."

"How nothing? Not even an opportunity of serving me?"

"If your majesty were not to furnish me with that
opportunity, I should not the less serve you. It is
impossible for me not to be the best servant of the king."

"You shall be intendant of the finances, M. Colbert."

"But there is already a superintendent, sire."

"I know that."

"Sire, the superintendent of the finances is the most
powerful man in the kingdom."

"Ah!" cried Louis, coloring, "do you think so?"

"He will crush me in a week, sire. Your majesty gives me a
controle for which strength is indispensable. An intendant
under a superintendent, -- that is inferiority."

"You want support -- you do not reckon upon me?"

"I had the honor of telling your majesty that during the
lifetime of M. de Mazarin, M. Fouquet was the second man in
the kingdom; now M. de Mazarin is dead, M. Fouquet is become
the first."

"Monsieur, I agree to what you told me of all things up to
to-day; but to-morrow, please to remember, I shall no longer
suffer it."

"Then I shall be of no use to your majesty?"

"You are already, since you fear to compromise yourself in
serving me."

"I only fear to be placed so that I cannot serve your
majesty."

"What do you wish, then?"

"I wish your majesty to allow me assistance in the labors of
the office of intendant."

"The post would lose its value."

"It would gain in security."

"Choose your colleagues."

"Messieurs Breteuil, Marin, Harvard."

"To-morrow the ordonnance shall appear.

"Sire, I thank you."

"Is that all you ask?

"No, sire, one thing more."

"What is that?"

"Allow me to compose a chamber of justice."

"What would this chamber of justice do?"

"Try the farmers-general and contractors, who, during ten
years, have been robbing the state."

"Well, but what would you do with them?"

"Hang two or three, and that would make the rest disgorge."

"I cannot commence my reign with executions, Monsieur
Colbert."

"On the contrary, sire, you had better, in order not to have
to end with them."

The king made no reply. "Does your majesty consent?" said
Colbert.

"I will reflect upon it, monsieur."

"It will be too late when reflection may be made."

"Why?"

"Because you have to deal with people stronger than
ourselves, if they are warned."

"Compose that chamber of justice, monsieur."

"I will, sire."

"Is that all?"

"No, sire; there is still another important affair. What
rights does your majesty attach to this office of
intendant?"

"Well -- I do not know -- the customary ones."

"Sire, I desire that this office be invested with the right
of reading the correspondence with England."

"Impossible, monsieur, for that correspondence is kept from
the council; monsieur le cardinal himself carried it on."

"I thought your majesty had this morning declared that there
should no longer be a council?"

"Yes, I said so."

"Let your majesty then have the goodness to read all the
letters yourself, particularly those from England; I hold
strongly to this article."

"Monsieur, you shall have that correspondence, and render me
an account of it."

"Now, sire, what shall I do with respect to the finances?"

"Everything M. Fouquet has not done."

"That is all I ask of your majesty. Thanks, sire, I depart
in peace;" and at these words he took his leave. Louis
watched his departure. Colbert was not yet a hundred paces
from the Louvre when the king received a courier from
England. After having looked at and examined the envelope,
the king broke the seal precipitately, and found a letter
from Charles II. The following is what the English prince
wrote to his royal brother: --

"Your majesty must be rendered very uneasy by the illness of
M. le Cardinal Mazarin; but the excess of danger can only
prove of service to you. The cardinal is given over by his
physician. I thank you for the gracious reply you have made
to my communication touching the Princess Henrietta, my
sister, and, in a week, the princess and her court will set
out for Paris. It is gratifying to me to acknowledge the
fraternal friendship you have evinced towards me, and to
call you, more justly than ever, my brother. It is
gratifying to me, above everything, to prove to your majesty
how much I am interested in all that may please you. You are
having Belle-Isle-en-Mer secretly fortified. That is wrong.
We shall never be at war against each other. That measure
does not make me uneasy, it makes me sad. You are spending
useless millions, tell your ministers so; and rest assured
that I am well informed; render me the same service, my
brother, if occasion offers."

The king rang his bell violently, and his valet de chambre
appeared. "Monsieur Colbert is just gone; he cannot be far
off. Let him be called back!" exclaimed he.

The valet was about to execute the order, when the king
stopped him.

"No," said he, "no, I see the whole scheme of that man.
Belle-Isle belongs to M. Fouquet; Belle-Isle is being
fortified: that is a conspiracy on the part of M. Fouquet.
The discovery of that conspiracy is the ruin of the
superintendent, and that discovery is the result of the
correspondence with England: this is why Colbert wished to
have that correspondence. Oh! but I cannot place all my
dependence upon that man; he has a good head, but I must
have an arm!" Louis, all at once, uttered a joyful cry. "I
had," said he, "a lieutenant of musketeers!"

"Yes, sire -- Monsieur d'Artagnan."

"He quitted the service for a time."

"Yes, sire."

"Let him be found, and be here to-morrow the first thing in
the morning."

The valet de chambre bowed and went out.

"Thirteen millions in my cellar," said the king; "Colbert
carrying my purse and D'Artagnan my sword -- I am king."

CHAPTER 51

A Passion

The day of his arrival, on returning from the Palais Royal,
Athos, as we have seen, went straight to his hotel in the
Rue Saint-Honore. He there found the Vicomte de Bragelonne
waiting for him in his chamber, chatting with Grimaud. It
was not an easy thing to talk with this old servant. Two men
only possessed the secret, Athos and D'Artagnan. The first
succeeded, because Grimaud sought to make him speak himself;
D'Artagnan, on the contrary, because he knew how to make
Grimaud talk. Raoul was occupied in making him describe the
voyage to England, and Grimaud had related it in all its
details, with a limited number of gestures and eight words,
neither more nor less. He had, at first, indicated by an
undulating movement of his hand, that his master and he had
crossed the sea. "Upon some expedition?" Raoul had asked.

Grimaud by bending down his head had answered, "Yes."

"When monsieur le comte incurred much danger?" asked Raoul.

"Neither too much nor too little," was replied by a shrug of
the shoulders.

"But, still, what sort of danger?" insisted Raoul.

Grimaud pointed to the sword; he pointed to the fire and to
a musket that was hanging on the wall.

"Monsieur le comte had an enemy there, then?" cried Raoul.

"Monk," replied Grimaud.

"It is strange," continued Raoul, "that monsieur le comte
persists in considering me a novice, and not allowing me to
partake the honor and danger of his adventure."

Grimaud smiled. It was at this moment Athos came in. The
host was lighting him up the stairs, and Grimaud,
recognizing the step of his master, hastened to meet him,
which cut short the conversation. But Raoul was launched on
the sea of interrogatories, and did not stop. Taking both
hands of the comte, with warm, but respectful tenderness, --
"How is it, monsieur," said he, "that you have set out upon
a dangerous voyage without bidding me adieu, without
commanding the aid of my sword, of myself, who ought to be
your support, now I have the strength; whom you have brought
up like a man? Ah! monsieur, can you expose me to the cruel
trial of never seeing you again?"

"Who told you, Raoul," said the comte, placing his cloak and
hat in the hands of Grimaud, who had unbuckled his sword,
"who told you that my voyage was a dangerous one?"

"I," said Grimaud.

"And why did you do so?" said Athos, sternly.

Grimaud was embarrassed; Raoul came to his assistance, by
answering for him. "It is natural, monsieur that our good
Grimaud should tell me the truth in what concerns you. By
whom should you be loved and supported, if not by me?"

Athos did not reply. He made a friendly motion to Grimaud,
which sent him out of the room, he then seated himself in a
fauteuil, whilst Raoul remained standing before him.

"But is it true," continued Raoul, "that your voyage was an
expedition, and that steel and fire threatened you?"

"Say no more about that, vicomte," said Athos mildly. "I set
out hastily, it is true: but the service of King Charles II.
required a prompt departure. As to your anxiety, I thank you
for it, and I know that I can depend upon you. You have not
wanted for anything, vicomte, in my absence, have you?"

"No, monsieur, thank you."

"I left orders with Blaisois to pay you a hundred pistoles,
if you should stand in need of money."

"Monsieur, I have not seen Blaisois."

"You have been without money, then?"

"Monsieur, I had thirty pistoles left from the sale of the
horses I took in my last campaign, and M. le Prince had the
kindness to allow me to win two hundred pistoles at his
play-table three months ago."

"Do you play? I don't like that, Raoul."

"I never play, monsieur; it was M. le Prince who ordered me
to hold his cards at Chantilly -- one night when a courier
came to him from the king. I won, and M. le Prince commanded
me to take the stakes."

"Is that a practice in the household, Raoul?" asked Athos
with a frown.

"Yes, monsieur; every week M. le Prince affords, upon one
occasion or another, a similar advantage to one of his
gentlemen. There are fifty gentlemen in his highness's
household; it was my turn."

"Very well! You went into Spain, then?"

"Yes, monsieur, I made a very delightful and interesting
journey."

"You have been back a month, have you not?"

"Yes, monsieur."

"And in the course of that month?"

"In that month ---- "

"What have you done?"

"My duty, monsieur."

"Have you not been home, to La Fere?"

Raoul colored. Athos looked at him with a fixed but tranquil
expression.

"You would be wrong not to believe me," said Raoul. "I feel
that I colored, and in spite of myself. The question you did
me the honor to ask me is of a nature to raise in me much
emotion. I color, then, because I am agitated, not because I
meditate a falsehood."

"I know, Raoul, you never lie."

"No, monsieur."

"Besides, my young friend, you would be wrong; what I wanted
to say ---- "

"I know quite well, monsieur. You would ask me if I have not
been to Blois?"

"Exactly so."

"I have not been there; I have not even seen the person to
whom you allude."

Raoul's voice trembled as he pronounced these words. Athos,
a sovereign judge in all matters of delicacy, immediately
added, "Raoul, you answer with a painful feeling; you are
unhappy."

"Very, monsieur; you have forbidden me to go to Blois, or to
see Mademoiselle de la Valliere again." Here the young man
stopped. That dear name, so delightful to pronounce, made
his heart bleed, although so sweet upon his lips.

"And I have acted rightly, Raoul," Athos hastened to reply.
"I am neither an unjust nor a barbarous father; I respect
true love; but I look forward for you to a future -- an
immense future. A new reign is about to break upon us like a
fresh dawn. War calls upon a young king full of chivalric
spirit. What is wanting to assist this heroic ardor is a
battalion of young and free lieutenants who would rush to
the fight with enthusiasm and fall, crying: `Vive le Roi!'
instead of `Adieu, my dear wife.' You understand that,
Raoul. However brutal my reasoning may appear, I conjure
you, then, to believe me, and to turn away your thoughts
from those early days of youth in which you took up this
habit of love -- days of effeminate carelessness, which
soften the heart and render it incapable of consuming those
strong, bitter draughts called glory and adversity.
Therefore, Raoul, I repeat to you, you should see in my
counsel only the desire of being useful to you, only the
ambition of seeing you prosper. I believe you capable of
becoming a remarkable man. March alone, and you will march
better, and more quickly."

"You have commanded, monsieur," replied Raoul, "and I obey."

"Commanded!" cried Athos. "Is it thus you reply to me? I
have commanded you! Oh! you distort my words as you
misconceive my intentions. I do not command you; I request
you."

"No, monsieur, you have commanded," said Raoul,
persistently; "had you only requested me, your request is
even more effective than your order. I have not seen
Mademoiselle de la Valliere again."

"But you are unhappy! you are unhappy!" insisted Athos.

Raoul made no reply.

"I find you pale; I find you dull. The sentiment is strong,
then?"

"It is a passion," replied Raoul.

"No -- a habit."

"Monsieur, you know I have traveled much, that I have passed
two years far away from her. A habit would yield to an
absence of two years, I believe; whereas, on my return, I
loved, not more, that was impossible, but as much.
Mademoiselle de la Valliere is for me the one lady above all
others; but you are for me a god upon earth -- to you I
sacrifice everything."

"You are wrong," said Athos; "I have no longer any right
over you. Age has emancipated you; you no longer even stand
in need of my consent. Besides, I will not refuse my consent
after what you have told me. Marry Mademoiselle de la
Valliere, if you like."

Raoul was startled, but suddenly: "You are very kind,
monsieur," said he, "and your concession excites my warmest
gratitude, but I will not accept it."

"Then you now refuse?"

"Yes, monsieur."

"I will not oppose you in anything, Raoul."

"But you have at the bottom of your heart an idea against
this marriage: it is not your choice."

"That is true."

"That is sufficient to make me resist: I will wait."

"Beware, Raoul! What you are now saying is serious."

"I know it is, monsieur; as I said, I will wait."

"Until I die?" said Athos, much agitated.

"Oh! monsieur," cried Raoul, with tears in his eyes, "is it
possible that you should wound my heart thus? I have never
given you cause of complaint!"

"Dear boy, that is true," murmured Athos, pressing his lips
violently together to conceal the emotion of which he was no
longer master. "No, I will no longer afflict you; only I do
not comprehend what you mean by waiting. Will you wait till
you love no longer?"

"Ah! for that! -- no, monsieur. I will wait till you change
your opinion."

"I should wish to put the matter to a test, Raoul; I should
like to see if Mademoiselle de la Valliere will wait as you
do."

"I hope so, monsieur."

"But take care, Raoul! suppose she did not wait? Ah, you are
so young, so confiding, so loyal! Women are changeable."

"You have never spoken ill to me of women, monsieur; you
have never had to complain of them; why should you doubt of
Mademoiselle de la Valliere?"

"That is true," said Athos, casting down his eyes; "I have
never spoken ill to you of women; I have never had to
complain of them; Mademoiselle de la Valliere never gave
birth to a suspicion; but when we are looking forward, we
must go even to exceptions, even to improbabilities! If, I
say, Mademoiselle de la Valliere should not wait for you?"

"How, monsieur?"

"If she turned her eyes another way."

"If she looked favorably upon another, do you mean,
monsieur?" said Raoul, pale with agony.

"Exactly."

"Well, monsieur, I would kill him," said Raoul, simply, "and
all the men whom Mademoiselle de la Valliere should choose,
until one of them had killed me, or Mademoiselle de la
Valliere had restored me her heart."

Athos started. "I thought," resumed he, in an agitated
voice, "that you called me just now your god, your law in
this world."

"Oh!" said Raoul, trembling, "you would forbid me the duel?"

"Suppose I did forbid it, Raoul?"

"You would forbid me to hope, monsieur; consequently you
would not forbid me to die."

Athos raised his eyes toward the vicomte. He had pronounced
these words with the most melancholy inflection, accompanied
by the most melancholy look. "Enough,"said Athos, after a
long silence, "enough of this subject, upon which we both go
too far. Live as well as you are able, Raoul, perform your
duties, love Mademoiselle de; la Valliere; in a word, act
like a man, since you have attained the age of a man; only
do not forget that I love you tenderly, and that you profess
to love me."

"Ah! monsieur le comte!" cried Raoul, pressing the hand of
Athos to his heart.

"Enough, dear boy, leave me; I want rest. A propos, M.
d'Artagnan has returned from England with me; you owe him a
visit."

"I will pay it, monsieur, with great pleasure. I love
Monsieur d'Artagnan exceedingly."

"You are right in doing so; he is a worthy man and a brave
cavalier."

"Who loves you dearly."

"I am sure of that. Do you know his address?"

"At the Louvre, I suppose, or wherever the king is. Does he
not command the musketeers?"

"No; at present M. d'Artagnan is absent on leave; he is
resting for awhile. Do not, therefore, seek him at the posts
of his service. You will hear of him at the house of a
certain Planchet."

"His former lackey?"

"Exactly, turned grocer."

"I know; Rue des Lombards?"

"Somewhere thereabouts, or Rue des Arcis."

"I will find it, monsieur, -- I will find it."

"You will say a thousand kind things to him, on my part, and
ask him to come and dine with me before I set out for La
Fere."

"Yes, monsieur."

"Good-night, Raoul!"

"Monsieur, I see you wear an order I never saw you wear
before; accept my compliments!"

"The Fleece! that is true. A bauble, my boy, which no longer
amuses an old child like myself. Goodnight, Raoul!"

CHAPTER 52

D'Artagnan's Lesson

Raoul did not meet with D'Artagnan the next day, as he had
hoped. He only met with Planchet, whose joy was great at
seeing the young man again, and who contrived to pay him two
or three little soldierly compliments, savoring very little
of the grocer's shop. But as Raoul was returning the next
day from Vincennes, at the head of fifty dragoons confided
to him by Monsieur le Prince, he perceived, in La Place
Baudoyer, a man with his nose in the air, examining a house
as we examine a horse we have a fancy to buy. This man,
dressed in citizen costume buttoned up like a military
pourpoint, a very small hat on his head, but a long
shagreen-mounted sword by his side, turned his head as soon
as he heard the steps of the horses, and left off looking at
the house to look at the dragoons. It was simply M.
d'Artagnan; D'Artagnan on foot; D'Artagnan with his hands
behind him, passing a little review upon the dragoons, after
having reviewed the buildings. Not a man, not a tag, not a
horse's hoof escaped his inspection. Raoul rode at the side
of his troop; D'Artagnan perceived him the last. "Eh!" said
he, "Eh! Mordioux!"

"I was not mistaken!" cried Raoul, turning his horse towards
him.

"Mistaken -- no! Good-day to you," replied the ex-musketeer;
whilst Raoul eagerly pressed the hand of his old friend.
"Take care, Raoul," said D'Artagnan, "the second horse of
the fifth rank will lose a shoe before he gets to the Pont
Marie; he has only two nails left in his off fore-foot."

"Wait a minute, I will come back," said Raoul.

"Can you quit your detachment?"

"The cornet is there to take my place."

"Then you will come and dine with me?"

"Most willingly, Monsieur d'Artagnan."

"Be quick, then; leave your horse, or make them give me
one."

"I prefer coming back on foot with you."

Raoul hastened to give notice to the cornet, who took his
post; he then dismounted, gave his horse to one of the
dragoons, and with great delight seized the arm of M.
d'Artagnan, who had watched him during all these little
evolutions with the satisfaction of a connoisseur.

"What, do you come from Vincennes?" said he.

"Yes, monsieur le chevalier."

"And the cardinal?"

"Is very ill, it is even reported he is dead.'

"Are you on good terms with M. Fouquet?" asked D'Artagnan,
with a disdainful movement of the shoulders, proving that
the death of Mazarin did not affect him beyond measure.

"With M. Fouquet?" said Raoul " I do not know him."

"So much the worse! so much the worse! for a new king always
seeks to get good men in his employment."

"Oh! the king means no harm," replied the young man.

"I say nothing about the crown," cried D'Artagnan; "I am
speaking of the king -- the king, that is M. Fouquet, if the
cardinal is dead. You must contrive to stand well with M.
Fouquet, if you do not wish to molder away all your life as
I have moldered. It is true you have, fortunately, other
protectors."

"M. le Prince, for instance."

"Worn out! worn out!"

"M. le Comte de la Fere?"

"Athos! Oh! that's different; yes, Athos -- and if you have
any wish to make your way in England, you cannot apply to a
better person; I can even say, without too much vanity, that
I myself have some credit at the court of Charles II. There
is a king -- God speed him!"

"Ah!" cried Raoul, with the natural curiosity of well-born
young people, while listening to experience and courage.

"Yes, a king who amuses himself, it is true, but who has had
a sword in his hand, and can appreciate useful men. Athos is
on good terms with Charles II. Take service there, and leave
these scoundrels of contractors and farmers-general, who
steal as well with French hands as others have done with
Italian hands; leave the little snivelling king, who is
going to give us another reign of Francis II. Do you know
anything of history, Raoul?"

"Yes, monsieur le chevalier."

"Do you know, then, that Francis II. had always the
earache?"

"No, I did not know that."

"That Charles IV. had always the headache?"

"Indeed!"

"And Henry III. always the stomach-ache?"

Raoul began to laugh.

"Well, my dear friend, Louis XIV. always has the heartache;
it is deplorable to see a king sighing from morning till
night without saying once in course of the day,
ventre-saint-gris! corboeuf! or anything to rouse one."

"Was that the reason why you quitted the service, monsieur
le chevalier?"

"Yes."

"But you yourself, M. d'Artagnan, are throwing the handle
after the axe; you will not make a fortune."

"Who? I?" replied D'Artagnan, in a careless tone; "I am
settled -- I had some family property."

Raoul looked at him. The poverty of D'Artagnan was
proverbial. A Gascon, he exceeded in ill-luck all the
gasconnades of France and Navarre; Raoul had a hundred times
heard Job and D'Artagnan named together, as the twins
Romulus and Remus. D'Artagnan caught Raoul's look of
astonishment.

"And has not your father told you I have been in England?"

"Yes, monsieur le chevalier."

"And that I there met with a very lucky chance?"

"No, monsieur, I did not know that."

"Yes, a very worthy friend of mine, a great nobleman, the
viceroy of Scotland and Ireland, has endowed me with an
inheritance."

"An inheritance?"

"And a good one, too."

"Then you are rich?"

"Bah!"

"Receive my sincere congratulation."

"Thank you! Look, that is my house."

"Place de Greve?"

"Yes, don't you like this quarter?"

"On the contrary, the look-out over the water is pleasant.
Oh! what a pretty old house!"

"The sign Notre Dame; it is an old cabaret, which I have
transformed into a private house in two days."

"But the cabaret is still open?"

"Pardieu!"

"And where do you lodge, then?

"I? I lodge with Planchet."

"You said, just now, `This is my house.'"

"I said so, because, in fact, it is my house. I have bought
it."

"Ah!" said Raoul.

"At ten years' purchase, my dear Raoul; a superb affair, I
bought the house for thirty thousand livres; it has a garden
which opens to the Rue de la Mortillerie; the cabaret lets
for a thousand livres, with the first story; the garret, or
second floor, for five hundred livres."

"Indeed!"

"Yes, indeed."

"Five hundred livres for a garret? Why, it is not
habitable."

"Therefore no one inhabits it, only, you see this garret has
two windows which look out upon the Place."

"Yes, monsieur."

"Well, then, every time anybody is broken on the wheel or
hung, quartered, or burnt, these two windows let for twenty
pistoles."

"Oh!" said Raoul, with horror.

"It is disgusting, is it not?" said D'Artagnan.

"Oh!" repeated Raoul.

"It is disgusting, but so it is. These Parisian cockneys are
sometimes real anthropophagi. I cannot conceive how men,
Christians, can make such speculations."

"That is true."

"As for myself," continued D'Artagnan, "if I inhabited that
house, on days of execution I would shut it up to the very
keyholes; but I do not inhabit it."

"And you let the garret for five hundred livres?"

"To the ferocious cabaretier, who sub-lets it. I said, then,
fifteen hundred livres."

"The natural interest of money," said Raoul, -- "five per
cent."

"Exactly so. I then have left the side of the house at the
back, store-rooms, and cellars, inundated every winter, two
hundred livres; and the garden, which is very fine, well
planted, well shaded under the walls and the portal of
Saint-Gervais-Saint-Protais, thirteen hundred livres."

"Thirteen hundred livres! why, that is royal!"

"This is the whole history. I strongly suspect some canon of
the parish (these canons are all as rich as Croesus) -- I
suspect some canon of having hired the garden to take his
pleasure in. The tenant has given the name of M. Godard.
That is either a false name or a real name; if true, he is a
canon; if false, he is some unknown; but of what consequence
is it to me? he always pays in advance. I had also an idea
just now, when I met you, of buying a house in the Place
Baudoyer, the back premises of which join my garden, and
would make a magnificent property. Your dragoons interrupted
my calculations. But come, let us take the Rue de la
Vannerie: that will lead us straight to M. Planchet's."
D'Artagnan mended his pace, and conducted Raoul to
Planchet's dwelling, a chamber of which the grocer had given
up to his old master. Planchet was out, but the dinner was
ready. There was a remains of military regularity and
punctuality preserved in the grocer's household. D'Artagnan
returned to the subject of Raoul's future.

"Your father brings you up rather strictly?" said he.

"Justly, monsieur le chevalier."

"Oh, yes, I know Athos is just, but close, perhaps?"

"A royal hand, Monsieur d'Artagnan."

"Well, never want, my boy! If ever you stand in need of a
few pistoles, the old musketeer is at hand."

"My dear Monsieur d'Artagnan!"

"Do you play a little?"

"Never."

"Successful with the ladies, then? -- Oh, my little Aramis!
That, my dear friend, costs even more than play. It is true
we fight when we lose, that is a compensation. Bah! that
little sniveller, the king, makes winners give him his
revenge. What a reign! my poor Raoul, what a reign! When we
think that, in my time, the musketeers were besieged in
their houses like Hector and Priam in the city of Troy, and
the women wept, and then the walls laughed, and then five
hundred beggarly fellows clapped their hands, and cried,
`Kill! kill!' when not one musketeer was hurt. Mordioux! you
will never see anything like that."

"You are very hard upon the king, my dear Monsieur
d'Artagnan; and yet you scarcely know him."

"I! Listen, Raoul. Day by day, hour by hour, -- take note of
my words, -- I will predict what he will do. The cardinal
being dead, he will fret; very well, that is the least silly
thing he will do, particularly if he does not shed a tear."

"And then?"

"Why then he will get M. Fouquet to allow him a pension, and
will go and compose verses at Fontainebleau, upon some
Mancini or other, whose eyes the queen will scratch out. She
is a Spaniard, you see, -- this queen of ours, and she has,
for mother-in-law, Madame Anne of Austria. I know something
of the Spaniards of the house of Austria."

"And next?"

"Well, after having torn off the silver lace from the
uniforms of his Swiss, because lace is too expensive, he
will dismount the musketeers, because the oats and hay of a
horse cost five sols a day."

"Oh! do not say that."

"Of what consequence is it to me? I am no longer a
musketeer, am I? Let them be on horseback, let them be on
foot, let them carry a larding-pin, a spit, a sword, or
nothing -- what is it to me?"

"My dear Monsieur d'Artagnan, I beseech you speak no more
ill of the king. I am almost in his service, and my father
would be very angry with me for having heard, even from your
mouth, words injurious to his majesty."

"Your father, eh? He is a knight in every bad cause.
Pardieu! yes, your father is a brave man, a Caesar, it is
true -- but a man without perception."

"Now, my dear chevalier," exclaimed Raoul, laughing, "are
you going to speak ill of my father, of him you call the
great Athos. Truly you are in a bad vein to-day; riches
render you as sour as poverty renders other people."

"Pardieu! you are right. I am a rascal and in my dotage; I
am an unhappy wretch grown old; a tent-cord untwisted, a
pierced cuirass, a boot without a sole, a spur without a
rowel; -- but do me the pleasure to add one thing."

"What is that, my dear Monsieur d'Artagnan?"

"Simply say: `Mazarin was a pitiful wretch.'"

"Perhaps he is dead."

"More the reason -- I say was; if I did not hope that he was
dead, I would entreat you to say: `Mazarin is a pitiful
wretch.' Come, say so, say so, for love of me."

"Well, I will."

"Say it!"

"Mazarin was a pitiful wretch," said Raoul, smiling at the
musketeer, who roared with laughter, as in his best days.

"A moment," said the latter; "you have spoken my first
proposition, here is the conclusion of it, -- repeat, Raoul,
repeat: `But I regret Mazarin.'"

"Chevalier!"

"You will not say it? Well, then, I will say it twice for
you."

"But you would regret Mazarin?"

And they were still laughing and discussing this profession
of principles, when one of the shop-boys entered. "A letter,
monsieur," said he, "for M. d'Artagnan."

"Thank you; give it me," cried the musketeer.

"The handwriting of monsieur le comte," said Raoul.

"Yes, yes." And D'Artagnan broke the seal.

"Dear friend," said Athos, "a person has just been here to
beg me to seek for you, on the part of the king."

"Seek me!" said D'Artagnan, letting the paper fall upon the
table. Raoul picked it up, and continued to read aloud: --

"Make haste. His majesty is very anxious to speak to you,
and expects you at the Louvre."

"Expects me?" again repeated the musketeer.

"He, he, he!" laughed Raoul.

"Oh, oh!" replied D'Artagnan. "What the devil can this
mean?"

CHAPTER 53

The King

The first moment of surprise over, D'Artagnan reperused
Athos's note. "It is strange," said he, "that the king
should send for me."

"Why so?" said Raoul; "do you not think, monsieur, that the
king must regret such a servant as you?"

"Oh, oh!" cried the officer, laughing with all his might;
"you are poking fun at me, Master Raoul. If the king had
regretted me, he would not have let me leave him. No, no; I
see in it something better, or worse, if you like."

"Worse! What can that be, monsieur le chevalier?"

"You are young, you are a boy, you are admirable. Oh, how I
should like to be as you are! To be but twenty-four, with an
unfurrowed brow, under which the brain is void of everything
but women, love, and good intentions. Oh, Raoul, as long as
you have not received the smiles of kings, the confidence of
queens; as long as you have not had two cardinals killed
under you, the one a tiger, the other a fox, as long as you
have not -- But what is the good of all this trifling? We
must part, Raoul."

"How you say the word! What a serious face!"

"Eh! but the occasion is worthy of it. Listen to me. I have
a very good recommendation to tender you."

"I am all attention, Monsieur d'Artagnan."

"You will go and inform your father of my departure."

"Your departure?"

"Pardieu! You will tell him that I am gone into England; and
that I am living in my little country-house."

"In England, you! -- And the king's orders?"

"You get more and more silly: do you imagine that I am going
to the Louvre, to place myself at the disposal of that
little crowned wolf-cub?"

"The king a wolf-cub? Why, monsieur le chevalier, you are
mad!"

"On the contrary, I never was so sane. You do not know what
he wants to do with me, this worthy son of Louis le Juste!
-- But, Mordioux! that is policy. He wishes to ensconce me
snugly in the Bastile -- purely and simply, look you!"

"What for?" cried Raoul, terrified at what he heard.

"On account of what I told him one day at Blois. I was warm;
he remembers it."

"You told him what?"

"That he was mean, cowardly, and silly."

"Good God!" cried Raoul, "is it possible that such words
should have issued from your mouth?"

"Perhaps I don't give the letter of my speech, but I give
the sense of it."

"But did not the king have you arrested immediately?"

"By whom? It was I who commanded the musketeers; he must
have commanded me to convey myself to prison; I would never
have consented: I would have resisted myself. And then I
went into England -- no more D'Artagnan. Now, the cardinal
is dead, or nearly so, they learn that I am in Paris, and
they lay their hands on me."

"The cardinal was your protector?"

"The cardinal knew me; he knew certain particularities of
me; I also knew some of his; we appreciated each other
mutually. And then, on rendering his soul to the devil, he
would recommend Anne of Austria to make me the inhabitant of
a safe place. Go then, and find your father, relate the fact
to him -- and adieu!"

"My dear Monsieur d'Artagnan," said Raoul, very much
agitated, after having looked out at the window, "you cannot
even fly!"

"Why not?"

"Because there is below an officer of the Swiss guards
waiting for you."

"Well!"

"Well, he will arrest you."

D'Artagnan broke into a Homeric laugh.

"Oh! I know very well that you will resist, that you will
fight, even; I know very well that you will prove the
conqueror; but that amounts to rebellion, and you are an
officer yourself, knowing what discipline is."

"Devil of a boy, how logical that is!" grumbled D'Artagnan.

"You approve of it. do you not?"

"Yes, instead of passing into the street, where that idiot
is waiting for me, I will slip quietly out at the back. I
have a horse in the stable, and a good one. I will ride him
to death; my means permit me to do so, and by killing one
horse after another, I shall arrive at Boulogne in eleven
hours; I know the road. Only tell your father one thing."

"What is that?"

"That is -- that the thing he knows about is placed at
Planchet's house, except a fifth, and that ---- "

"But, my dear M. d'Artagnan, rest assured that if you fly,
two things will be said of you."

"What are they, my dear friend?"

"The first, that you have been afraid."

"Ah! and who will dare to say that?"

"The king first."

"Well! but he will tell the truth, -- I am afraid."

"The second, that you knew yourself guilty."

"Guilty of what?"

"Why, of the crimes they wish to impute to you."

"That is true again. So, then, you advise me to go and get
myself made a prisoner in the Bastile?"

"M. le Comte de la Fere would advise you just as I do."

"Pardieu! I know he would," said D'Artagnan thoughtfully.
"You are right, I shall not escape. But if they cast me into
the Bastile?"

"We will get you out again," said Raoul, with a quiet, calm
air.

"Mordioux! You said that after a brave fashion, Raoul," said
D'Artagnan, seizing his hand, "that savors of Athos,
distinctly. Well, I will go, then. Do not forget my last
word."

"Except a fifth," said Raoul.

"Yes, you are a fine boy! and I wish you to add one thing to
that last word."

"Speak, chevalier!"

"It is that if you cannot get me out of the Bastile, and I
remain there -- oh! that will be so, and I shall be a
detestable prisoner; I, who have been a passable man, -- in
that case, I give three-fifths to you, and the fourth to
your father."

"Chevalier!"

"Mordioux! If you will have some masses said for me, you are
welcome."

That being said, D'Artagnan took his belt from the hook,
girded on his sword, took a hat the feather of which was
fresh, and held his hand out to Raoul, who threw himself
into his arms. When in the shop, he cast a quick glance at
the shop-lads, who looked upon the scene with a pride
mingled with some inquietude; then plunging his hands into a
chest of currants, he went straight to the officer who was
waiting for him at the door.

"Those features! Can it be you, Monsieur de Friedisch?"
cried D'Artagnan, gayly. "Eh! eh! what, do we arrest our
friends?"

"Arrest!" whispered the lads among themselves.

"Yes, it is I, Monsieur d'Artagnan! Good-day to you!" said
the Swiss, in his mountain patois.

"Must I give you up my sword? I warn you, that it is long
and heavy; you had better let me wear it to the Louvre: I
feel quite lost in the streets without a sword, and you
would be more at a loss than I should, with two."

"The king has given no orders about it," replied the Swiss,
"so keep your sword."

"Well, that is very polite on the part of the king. Let us
go, at once."

Monsieur Friedisch was not a talker, and D'Artagnan had too
many things to think about to say much. From Planchet's shop
to the Louvre was not far -- they arrived in ten minutes. It
was a dark night. M. de Friedisch wanted to enter by the
wicket. "No," said D'Artagnan, "you would lose time by that;
take the little staircase."

The Swiss did as D'Artagnan advised, and conducted him to
the vestibule of the king's cabinet. When arrived there, he
bowed to his prisoner, and, without saying anything,
returned to his post. D'Artagnan had not had time to ask why
his sword was not taken from him, when the door of the
cabinet opened, and a valet de chambre called "M.
D'Artagnan!" The musketeer assumed his parade carriage and
entered, with his large eyes wide open, his brow calm, his
mustache stiff. The king was seated at a table writing. He
did not disturb himself when the step of the musketeer
resounded on the floor; he did not even turn his head.
D'Artagnan advanced as far as the middle of the room, and
seeing that the king paid no attention to him, and
suspecting, besides, that this was nothing but affectation,
a sort of tormenting preamble to the explanation that was
preparing, he turned his back on the prince, and began to
examine the frescoes on the cornices, and the cracks in the
ceiling. This maneuver was accompanied by a little tacit
monologue. "Ah! you want to humble me, do you? -- you, whom
I have seen so young -- you, whom I have served as I would
my own child, -- you, whom I have served as I would a God --
that is to say, for nothing. Wait awhile! wait awhile! you
shall see what a man can do who has snuffed the air of the
fire of the Huguenots, under the beard of monsieur le
cardinal -- the true cardinal." At this moment Louis turned
round.

"Ah! are you there, Monsieur d'Artagnan?" said he.

D'Artagnan saw the movement and imitated it. "Yes, sire,"
said he.

"Very well; have the goodness to wait till I have cast this
up."

D'Artagnan made no reply; he only bowed. "That is polite
enough," thought he; "I have nothing to say."

Louis made a violent dash with his pen, and threw it angrily
away.

"Ah! go on, work yourself up!" thought the musketeer; "you
will put me at my ease. You shall find I did not empty the
bag, the other day, at Blois."

Louis rose from his seat, passed his hand over his brow,
then, stopping opposite to D'Artagnan, he looked at him with
an air at once imperious and kind. "What the devil does he
want with me? I wish he would begin!" thought the musketeer.

"Monsieur," said the king, "you know, without doubt, that
monsieur le cardinal is dead?"

"I suspected so, sire."

"You know that, consequently, I am master in my own
kingdom?"

"That is not a thing that dates from the death of monsieur
le cardinal, sire; a man is always master in his own house,
when he wishes to be so."

"Yes; but do you remember all you said to me at Blois?"

"Now we come to it," thought D'Artagnan, "I was not
deceived. Well, so much the better, it is a sign that my
scent is tolerably keen yet."

"You do not answer me," said Louis.

"Sire, I think I recollect."

"You only think?"

"It is so long ago."

"If you do not remember, I do. You said to me, -- listen
with attention."

"Ah! I shall listen with all my ears, sire; for it is very
likely the conversation will turn in a fashion very
interesting to me."

Louis once more looked at the musketeer, The latter smoothed
the feather of his hat, then his mustache, and waited
bravely. Louis XIV. continued: "You quitted my service,
monsieur, after having told me the whole truth?"

"Yes, sire."

"That is, after having declared to me all you thought to be
true, with regard to my mode of thinking and acting. That is
always a merit. You began by telling me that you had served
my family thirty years, and were fatigued."

"I said so; yes, sire."

"And you afterwards admitted that that fatigue was a
pretext, and that discontent was the real cause."

"I was discontented, in fact, but that discontent has never
betrayed itself, that I know of, and if, like a man of
heart, I have spoken out before your majesty, I have not
even thought of the matter, before anybody else."

"Do not excuse yourself, D'Artagnan, but continue to listen
to me. When making me the reproach that you were
discontented, you received in reply a promise: -- `Wait.' --
Is not that true?"

"Yes, sire, as true as what I told you."

"You answered me, `Hereafter! No, now, immediately.' Do not
excuse yourself, I tell you. It was natural, but you had no
charity for your poor prince, Monsieur d'Artagnan."

"Sire! charity for a king, on the part of a poor soldier!"

"You understand me very well; you knew that I stood in need
of it; you knew very well that I was not master; you knew
very well that my hope was in the future. Now, you answered
me when I spoke of that future, `My discharge, -- and that
directly.'"

"That is true," murmured D'Artagnan, biting his mustache.

"You did not flatter me when I was in distress," added
Louis.

"But," said D'Artagnan, raising his head nobly, "if I did
not flatter your majesty when poor, neither did I betray
you. I have shed my blood for nothing; I have watched like a
dog at a door, knowing full well that neither bread nor bone
would be thrown to me. I, although poor likewise, asked
nothing of your majesty but the discharge you speak of."

"I know you are a brave man, but I was a young man, and you
ought to have had some indulgence for me. What had you to
reproach the king with? -- that he left King Charles II.
without assistance? -- let us say further -- that he did not
marry Mademoiselle de Mancini?" When saying these words, the
king fixed upon the musketeer a searching look.

"Ah! ah!" thought the latter, "he is doing far more than
remembering, he divines. The devil!"

"Your sentence," continued Louis, "fell upon the king and
fell upon the man. But, Monsieur d'Artagnan, that weakness,
for you considered it a weakness?" -- D'Artagnan made no
reply -- "you reproached me also with regard to monsieur,
the defunct cardinal. Now, monsieur le cardinal, did he not
bring me up, did he not support me? -- elevating himself and
supporting himself at the same time, I admit; but the
benefit was discharged. As an ingrate or an egotist, would
you, then, have better loved or served me?"

"Sire!"

"We will say no more about it, monsieur; it would only
create in you too many regrets, and me too much pain."

D'Artagnan was not convinced. The young king, in adopting a
tone of hauteur with him, did not forward his purpose.

"You have since reflected?" resumed Louis.

"Upon what, sire?" asked D'Artagnan, politely.

"Why, upon all that I have said to you, monsieur."

"Yes, sire, no doubt ---- "

"And you have only waited for an opportunity of retracting
your words?"

"Sire!"

"You hesitate, it seems."

"I do not understand what your majesty did me the honor to
say to me."

Louis's brow became cloudy.

"Have the goodness to excuse me, sire; my understanding is
particularly thick; things do not penetrate it without
difficulty; but it is true, when once they get in, they
remain there."

"Yes, yes; you appear to have a memory."

"Almost as good a one as your majesty's."

"Then give me quickly one solution. My time is valuable.
What have you been doing since your discharge?"

"Making my fortune, sire."

"The expression is crude, Monsieur d'Artagnan."

"Your majesty takes it in bad part, certainly. I entertain
nothing but the profoundest respect for the king; and if I
have been impolite, which might be excused by my long
sojourn in camps and barracks, your majesty is too much
above me to be offended at a word that innocently escapes
from a soldier."

"In fact, I know you performed a brilliant action in
England, monsieur. I only regret that you have broken your
promise."

"I!" cried D'Artagnan.

"Doubtless. You engaged your word not to serve any other
prince on quitting my service. Now it was for King Charles
II. that you undertook the marvelous carrying off of M.
Monk."

"Pardon me, sire, it was for myself."

"And did you succeed?"

"Like the captains of the fifteenth century, coups-de-main
and adventures."

"What do you call succeeding? -- a fortune?"

"A hundred thousand crowns, sire, which I now possess --
that is, in one week three times as much money as I ever had
in fifty years."

"It is a handsome sum. But you are ambitious, I perceive."

"I, sire? The quarter of that would be a treasure; and I
swear to you I have no thought of augmenting it."

"What! you contemplate remaining idle?"

"Yes, sire."

"You mean to drop the sword?"

"That I have already done."

"Impossible, Monsieur d'Artagnan," said Louis, firmly.

"But, sire ---- "

"Well?"

"And why, sire?"

"Because it is my wish you should not!" said the young
prince, in a voice so stern and imperious that D'Artagnan
evinced surprise and even uneasiness.

"Will your majesty allow me one word of reply?" said he.

"Speak."

"I formed that resolution when I was poor and destitute."

"So be it. Go on."

"Now, when by my energy I have acquired a comfortable means
of subsistence, would your majesty despoil me of my liberty?
Your majesty would condemn me to the lowest, when I have
gained the highest?"

"Who gave you permission, monsieur to fathom my designs, or
to reckon with me?" replied Louis, in a voice almost angry;
"who told you what I shall do or what you will yourself do?"

"Sire," said the musketeer, quietly, "as far as I see,
freedom is not the order of the conversation, as it was on
the day we came to an explanation at Blois."

"No, monsieur; everything is changed."

"I tender your majesty my sincere compliments upon that, but
---- "

"But you don't believe it?"

"I am not a great statesman, and yet I have my eye upon
affairs; it seldom fails; now, I do not see exactly as your
majesty does, sire. The reign of Mazarin is over, but that
of the financiers is begun. They have the money; your
majesty will not often see much of it. To live under the paw
of these hungry wolves is hard for a man who reckoned upon
independence."

At this moment some one scratched at the door of the
cabinet; the king raised his head proudly. "Your pardon,
Monsieur d'Artagnan," said he; "it is M. Colbert, who comes
to make me a report. Come in M. Colbert."

D'Artagnan drew back. Colbert entered with papers in his
hand, and went up to the king. There can be little doubt
that the Gascon did not lose the opportunity of applying his
keen, quick glance to the new figure which presented itself.

"Is the inquiry made?"

"Yes, sire."

"And the opinion of the inquisitors?"

"Is that the accused merit confiscation and death."

"Ah! ah!" said the king, without changing countenance, and
casting an oblique look at D'Artagnan. "And your own
opinion, M. Colbert?" said he.

Colbert looked at D'Artagnan in his turn. That imposing
countenance checked the words upon his lips. Louis perceived
this. "Do not disturb yourself," said he; "it is M.
d'Artagnan, -- do you not know M. d'Artagnan again?"

These two men looked at each other -- D'Artagnan, with eyes
open and bright as the day -- Colbert, with his half closed,
and dim. The frank intrepidity of the one annoyed the other;
the circumspection of the financier disgusted the soldier.
"Ah! ah! this is the gentleman who made that brilliant
stroke in England," said Colbert. And he bowed slightly to
D'Artagnan.

"Ah! ah!" said the Gascon, "this is the gentleman who
clipped off the lace from the uniform of the Swiss! A
praiseworthy piece of economy."

The financier thought to pierce the musketeer; but the
musketeer ran the financier through.

"Monsieur d'Artagnan," resumed the king, who had not
remarked all the shades of which Mazarin would have missed
not one, "this concerns the farmers of the revenue who have
robbed me, whom I am hanging, and whose death-warrants I am
about to sign."

"Oh! oh!" said D'Artagnan, starting.

"What did you say?"

"Oh! nothing, sire. This is no business of mine."

The king had already taken up the pen, and was applying it
to the paper. "Sire," said Colbert in a subdued voice, "I
beg to warn your majesty, that if an example be necessary,
there will be difficulty in the execution of your orders."

"What do you say?" said Louis.

"You must not conceal from yourself," continued Colbert
quietly, "that attacking the farmers-general is attacking
the superintendence. The two unfortunate guilty men in
question are the particular friends of a powerful personage,
and the punishment, which otherwise might be comfortably
confined to the Chatelet will doubtless be a signal for
disturbances!"

Louis colored and turned towards D'Artagnan, who took a
slight bite at his mustache, not without a smile of pity for
the financier, and for the king who had to listen to him so
long. But Louis seized the pen, and with a movement so
rapid, that his hand shook, he affixed his signature at the
bottom of the two papers presented by Colbert, -- then
looking the latter in the face, -- "Monsieur Colbert'" said
he, "when you speak to me on business, exclude more
frequently the word difficulty from your reasonings and
opinions; as to the word impossibility, never pronounce it."

Colbert bowed, much humiliated at having to undergo such a
lesson before the musketeer; he was about to go out, but,
jealous to repair his check: "I forgot to announce to your
majesty," said he, "that the confiscations amount to the sum
of five millions of livres."

"That's pretty well!" thought D'Artagnan.

"Which makes in my coffers?" said the king.

"Eighteen millions of livres, sire," replied Colbert,
bowing.

"Mordioux!" growled D'Artagnan, "that's glorious!"

"Monsieur Colbert," added the king, "you will, if you
please, go through the gallery where M. Lyonne is waiting,
and will tell him to bring hither what he has drawn up -- by
my order."

"Directly, sire; if your majesty wants me no more this
evening?"

"No, monsieur: good-night!" And Colbert went out.

"Now, let us return to our affair, M. d'Artagnan," said the
king, as if nothing had happened. "You see that, with
respect to money, there is already a notable change."

"Something to the tune of from zero to eighteen millions,"
replied the musketeer, gayly. "Ah! that was what your
majesty wanted the day King Charles II. came to Blois. The
two states would not have been embroiled to-day; for I must
say, that there also I see another stumbling-block."

"Well, in the first place," replied Louis, "you are unjust,
monsieur; for, if Providence had made me able to give my
brother the million that day, you would not have quitted my
service, and, consequently, you would not have made your
fortune, as you told me just now you have done. But, in
addition to this, I have had another piece of good fortune;
and my difference with Great Britain need not alarm you."

A valet de chambre interrupted the king by announcing M.
Lyonne. "Come in, monsieur," said the king; "you are
punctual; that is like a good servant. Let us see your
letter to my brother Charles II."

D'Artagnan pricked up his ears. "A moment, monsieur," said
Louis, carelessly to the Gascon, "I must expedite to London
my consent to the marriage of my brother, M. le Duc d'Anjou,
with the Princess Henrietta Stuart."

"He is knocking me about, it seems," murmured D'Artagnan,
whilst the king signed the letter, and dismissed M. de
Lyonne, "but, ma foi! the more he knocks me about in this
manner, the better I like it."

The king followed M. de Lyonne with his eyes, till the door
was closed behind him; he even made three steps, as if he
would follow the minister, but, after these three steps,
stopping, pausing, and coming back to the musketeer, --
"Now, monsieur," said he, "let us hasten to terminate our
affair. You told me the other day, at Blois, that you were
not rich?"

"But I am now, sire."

"Yes, but that does not concern me; you have your own money,
not mine; that does not enter into my account."

"I do not well understand what your majesty means."

"Then, instead of leaving you to draw out words, speak,
spontaneously. Should you be satisfied with twenty thousand
livres a year as a fixed income?"

"But, sire," said D'Artagnan, opening his eyes to the
utmost.

"Would you be satisfied with four horses furnished and kept,
and with a supplement of funds such as you might require,
according to occasions and needs, or would you prefer a
fixed sum which would be, for example, forty thousand
livres? Answer."

"Sire, your majesty ---- "

"Yes, you are surprised; that is natural, and I expected it.
Answer me, come! or I shall think you have no longer that
rapidity of judgment I have so much admired in you."

"It is certain, sire, that twenty thousand livres a year
make a handsome sum; but ---- "

"No buts! Yes or no, is it an honorable indemnity?"

"Oh! very certainly."

"You will be satisfied with it? That is well. It will be
better to reckon the extra expenses separately; you can
arrange that with Colbert. Now let us pass to something more
important."

"But, sire, I told your majesty ---- "

"That you wanted rest, I know you did: only I replied that I
would not allow it -- I am master, I suppose?"

"Yes, sire."

"That is well. You were formerly in the way of becoming
captain of the musketeers?"

"Yes, sire."

"Well, here is your commission signed. I place it in this
drawer. The day on which you shall return from a certain
expedition which I have to confide to you, on that day you
may yourself take the commission from the drawer."
D'Artagnan still hesitated, and hung down his head. "Come,
monsieur," said the king, "one would believe, to look at
you, that you did not know that at the court of the most
Christian king, the captain-general of the musketeers takes
precedence of the marechals of France."

"Sire, I know he does.

"Then, am I to think you do put no faith in my word?"

"Oh! sire, never -- never dream of such a thing."

"I have wished to prove to you, that you, so good a servant,
had lost a good master; am I anything like the master that
will suit you?"

"I begin to think you are, sire."

"Then, monsieur, you will resume your functions. Your
company is quite disorganized since your departure and the
men go about drinking and rioting in the cabarets where they
fight, in spite of my edicts, and those of my father. You
will reorganize the service as soon as possible."

"Yes, sire."

"You will not again quit my person."

"Very well, sire,"

"You will march with me to the army, you will encamp round
my tent."

"Then, sire," said D'Artagnan, "if it is only to impose upon
me a service like that, your majesty need not give me twenty
thousand livres a year. I shall not earn them."

"I desire that you shall keep open house; I desire that you
should keep a liberal table; I desire that my captain of
musketeers should be a personage."

"And I," said D'Artagnan, bluntly; "I do not like easily
found money; I like money won! Your majesty gives me an idle
trade, which the first comer would perform for four thousand
livres."

Louis XIV. began to laugh. "You are a true Gascon, Monsieur
d'Artagnan; you will draw my heart's secret from me."

"Bah! has your majesty a secret, then?"

"Yes, monsieur."

"Well! then I accept the twenty thousand livres, for I will
keep that secret, and discretion is above all price, in
these times. Will your majesty speak now?"

"Boot yourself, Monsieur d'Artagnan, and to horse!"

"Directly, sire."

"Within two days."

"That is well, sire: for I have my affairs to settle before
I set out; particularly if it is likely there should be any
blows stirring."

"That may happen."

"We can receive them! But, sire, you have addressed yourself
to avarice, to ambition; you have addressed yourself to the
heart of M. d'Artagnan, but you have forgotten one thing."

"What is that?"

"You have said nothing to his vanity, when shall I be a
knight of the king's orders?"

"Does that interest you?"

"Why, yes, sire. My friend Athos is quite covered with
orders, and that dazzles me."

"You shall be a knight of my order a month after you have
taken your commission of captain."

"Ah! ah!" said the officer, thoughtfully, "after the
expedition."

"Precisely."

"Where is your majesty going to send me?"

"Are you"acquainted with Bretagne?"

"Have you any friends there?"

"In Bretagne? No, ma foi!"

"So much the better. Do you know anything about
fortifications?"

"I believe I do, sire," said D'Artagnan, smiling.

"That is to say you can readily distinguish a fortress from
a simple fortification, such as is allowed to chatelains or
vassals?"

"I distinguish a fort from a rampart as I distinguish a
cuirass from a raised pie-crust, sire. Is that sufficient?"

"Yes, monsieur. You will set out then."

"For Bretagne?"

"Yes."

"Alone?"

"Absolutely alone. That is to say, you must not even take a
lackey with you."

"May I ask your majesty for what reason?"

"Because, monsieur, it will be necessary to disguise
yourself sometimes, as the servant of a good family. Your
face is very well known in France, M. d'Artagnan."

"And then, sire?"

"And then you will travel slowly through Bretagne, and will
examine carefully the fortifications of that country."

"The coasts?"

"Yes, and the isles, commencing by Belle-Isle-en-Mer."

"Ah! which belongs to M. Fouquet!" said D'Artagnan, in a
serious tone, raising his intelligent eye to Louis XIV.

"I fancy you are right, monsieur, and that Belle-Isle does
belong to M. Fouquet, in fact."

"Then your majesty wishes me to ascertain if Belle-Isle is a
strong place?"

"Yes."

"If the fortifications of it are new or old?"

"Precisely."

"And if the vassals of M. Fouquet are sufficiently numerous
to form a garrison?"

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