Part 3 out of 21
here is a proof of what I said."
And Mazarin drew from under his bolster the paper covered
with figures, which he presented to the king, who turned
away his eyes, his vexation was so deep.
"Therefore, as it is a million you want, sire, and that
million is not set down here, it is forty-six millions your
majesty stands in need of. Well I don't think that any Jews
in the world would lend such a sum, even upon the crown of
The king, clenching his hands beneath his ruffles, pushed
away his chair.
"So it must be then!" said he, "my brother the king of
England will die of hunger."
"Sire," replied Mazarin, in the same tone, "remember this
proverb, which I give you as the expression of the soundest
policy: `Rejoice at being poor when your neighbor is poor
Louis meditated for a few moments, with an inquisitive
glance directed to the paper, one end of which remained
under the bolster.
"Then," said he, "it is impossible to comply with my demand
for money, my lord cardinal, is it?"
"Remember, this will secure me a future enemy, if he succeed
in recovering his crown without my assistance."
"If your majesty only fears that, you may be quite at ease,"
replied Mazarin, eagerly.
"Very well, I say no more about it," exclaimed Louis XIV.
"Have I at least convinced you, sire?" placing his hand upon
that of the young king.
"If there be anything else, ask it, sire, I shall be most
happy to grant it to you, having refused this."
"Anything else, my lord?"
"Why yes, am I not devoted body and soul to your majesty?
Hola! Bernouin! -- lights and guards for his majesty! His
majesty is returning to his own chamber."
"Not yet, monsieur: since you place your good-will at my
disposal, I will take advantage of it."
"For yourself, sire?" asked the cardinal, hoping that his
niece was at length about to be named.
"No, monsieur, not for myself," replied Louis, "but still
for my brother Charles."
The brow of Mazarin again became clouded, and he grumbled a
few words that the king could not catch.
Instead of the hesitation with which he had accosted the
cardinal a quarter of an hour before, there might be read in
the eyes of the young king that will against which a
struggle might be maintained, and which might be crushed by
its own impotence, but which, at least, would preserve, like
a wound in the depth of the heart, the remembrance of its
"This time, my lord cardinal, we have to deal with something
more easily found than a million."
"Do you think so, sire?" said Mazarin, looking at the king
with that penetrating eye which was accustomed to read to
the bottom of hearts.
"Yes, I think so; and when you know the object of my request
"And do you think I do not know it, sire?"
"You know what remains for me to say to you?"
"Listen, sire; these are King Charles's own words ---- "
"Listen. `And if that miserly, beggarly Italian,' said he
"My lord cardinal!"
"That is the sense, if not the words. Eh! Good heavens! I
wish him no ill on that account, one is biased by his
passions. He said to you: `If that vile Italian refuses the
million we ask of him, sire, -- if we are forced, for want
of money, to renounce diplomacy, well, then, we will ask him
to grant us five hundred gentlemen.'"
The king started, for the cardinal was only mistaken in the
"Is not that it, sire?" cried the minister, with a
triumphant accent. "And then he added some fine words: he
said, `I have friends on the other side of the channel, and
these friends only want a leader and a banner. When they see
me, when they behold the banner of France, they will rally
round me, for they will comprehend that I have your support.
The colors of the French uniform will be worth as much to me
as the million M. de Mazarin refuses us,' -- for he was
pretty well assured I should refuse him that million. -- `I
shall conquer with these five hundred gentlemen, sire, and
all the honor will be yours.' Now, that is what he said, or
to that purpose, was it not? -- turning those plain words
into brilliant metaphors and pompous images, for they are
fine talkers in that family! The father talked even on the
The perspiration of shame stood upon the brow of Louis. He
felt that it was inconsistent with his dignity to hear his
brother thus insulted, but he did not yet know how to act
with him to whom every one yielded, even his mother. At last
he made an effort.
"But," said he, "my lord cardinal, it is not five hundred
men, it is only two hundred."
"Well, but you see I guessed what he wanted."
"I never denied that you had a penetrating eye, and that was
why I thought you would not refuse my brother Charles a
thing so simple and so easy to grant him as what I ask of
you in his name, my lord cardinal, or rather in my own."
"Sire," said Mazarin, "I have studied policy thirty years;
first, under the auspices of M. le Cardinal de Richelieu;
and then alone. This policy has not always been over-honest,
it must be allowed, but it has never been unskillful. Now
that which is proposed to your majesty is dishonest and
unskillful at the same time."
"Sire, you entered into a treaty with Cromwell."
"Yes, and in that very treaty Cromwell signed his name above
"Why did you sign yours so low down, sire? Cromwell found a
good place, and he took it; that was his custom. I return,
then, to M. Cromwell. You have a treaty with him, that is to
say, with England, since when you signed that treaty M.
Cromwell was England."
"M. Cromwell is dead."
"Do you think so, sire?"
"No doubt he is, since his son Richard has succeeded him,
and has abdicated."
"Yes, that is it exactly. Richard inherited after the death
of his father, and England at the abdication of Richard. The
treaty formed part of the inheritance, whether in the hands
of M. Richard or in the hands of England. The treaty is,
then, still as good, as valid as ever. Why should you evade
it, sire? What is changed? Charles wants to-day what we were
not willing to grant him ten years ago; but that was
foreseen and provided against. You are the ally of England,
sire, and not of Charles II. It was doubtless wrong, from a
family point of view, to sign a treaty with a man who had
cut off the head of the king your father's brother-in-law,
and to contract an alliance with a parliament which they
call yonder the Rump Parliament; it was unbecoming, I
acknowledge, but it was not unskillful from a political
point of view, since, thanks to that treaty, I saved your
majesty, then a minor, the trouble and danger of a foreign
war, which the Fronde -- you remember the Fronde sire?" --
the young king hung his head -- "which the Fronde might have
fatally complicated. And thus I prove to your majesty that
to change our plan now; without warning our allies, would be
at once unskillful and dishonest. We should make war with
the aggression on our side, we should make it, deserving to
have it made against us, and we should have the appearance
of fearing it whilst provoking it, for a permission granted
to five hundred men, to two hundred men, to fifty men, to
ten men, is still a permission. One Frenchman, that is the
nation; one uniform, that is the army. Suppose, sire, for
example, that, sooner or later, you should have war with
Holland, which, sooner or later, will certainly happen; or
with Spain, which will perhaps ensue if your marriage fails"
(Mazarin stole a furtive glance at the king), "and there are
a thousand causes that might yet make your marriage fail, --
well, would you approve of England's sending to the United
Provinces or to Spain a regiment, a company, a squadron
even, of English gentlemen? Would you think that they kept
within the limits of their treaty of alliance?"
Louis listened; it seemed so strange to him that Mazarin
should invoke good faith, and he the author of so many
political tricks, called Mazarinades. "And yet," said the
king, "without any manifest authorization, I cannot prevent
gentlemen of my states from passing over into England, if
such should be their good pleasure."
"You should compel them to return, sire, or at least protest
against their presence as enemies in an allied country."
"But come, my lord cardinal, you who are so profound a
genius, try if you cannot find means to assist this poor
king, without compromising ourselves."
"And that is exactly what I am not willing to do, my dear
sire," said Mazarin. "If England were to act exactly
according to my wishes, she could not act better than she
does; if I directed the policy of England from this place, I
should not direct it otherwise. Governed as she is governed,
England is an eternal nest of contention for all Europe.
Holland protects Charles II., let Holland do so; they will
quarrel, they will fight. They are the only two maritime
powers. Let them destroy each other's navies, we can
construct ours with the wrecks of their vessels; when we
shall save our money to buy nails."
"Oh, how paltry and mean is all this that you are telling
me, monsieur le cardinal!"
"Yes, but nevertheless it is true, sire; you must confess
that. Still further. Suppose I admit, for a moment, the
possibility of breaking your word, and evading the treaty --
such a thing sometimes happens, but that is when some great
interest is to be promoted by it, or when the treaty is
found to be too troublesome -- well, you will authorize the
engagement asked of you: France -- her banner, which is the
same thing -- will cross the Straits and will fight; France
will be conquered."
"Ma foi! we have a pretty general to fight under this
Charles II.! Worcester gave us good proofs of that."
"But he will no longer have to deal with Cromwell,
"But he will have to deal with Monk, who is quite as
dangerous. The brave brewer of whom we are speaking was a
visionary; he had moments of exaltation, of inflation,
during which he ran over like an over-filled cask; and from
the chinks there always escaped some drops of his thoughts,
and by the sample the whole of his thought was to be made
out. Cromwell has thus allowed us more than ten times to
penetrate into his very soul, when one would have conceived
that soul to be enveloped in triple brass, as Horace has it.
But Monk! Oh, sire, God defend you from ever having anything
to transact politically with Monk. It is he who has given
me, in one year, all the gray hairs I have. Monk is no
fanatic; unfortunately he is a politician; he does not
overflow, he keeps close together. For ten years he has had
his eyes fixed upon one object, and nobody has yet been able
to ascertain what. Every morning, as Louis XI. advised, he
burns his nightcap. Therefore, on the day when this plan
slowly and solitarily ripened, shall break forth, it will
break forthwith all the conditions of success which always
accompany an unforeseen event. That is Monk, sire, of whom
perhaps, you have never heard -- of whom, perhaps, you did
not even know the name before your brother Charles II., who
knows what he is, pronounced it before you. He is a marvel
of depth and tenacity, the two only things against which
intelligence and ardor are blunted. Sire, I had ardor when I
was young, I always was intelligent. I may safely boast of
it, because I am reproached with it. I have done very well
with these two qualities, since, from the son of a fisherman
of Piscina, I have become prime minister to the king of
France; and in that position your majesty will perhaps
acknowledge I have rendered some service to the throne of
your majesty. Well, sire, if I had met with Monk on my way,
instead of Monsieur de Beaufort, Monsieur de Retz, or
Monsieur le Prince -- well, we should have been ruined. If
you engage yourself rashly, sire, you will fall into the
talons of this politic soldier. The casque of Monk, sire, is
an iron coffer, in the recesses of which he shuts up his
thoughts, and no one has the key of it. Therefore, near him,
or rather before him, I bow, sire, for I have nothing but a
"What do you think Monk wishes to do, then?"
"Eh! sire, if I knew that, I would not tell you to mistrust
him, for I should be stronger than he; but with him, I am
afraid to guess -- to guess! -- you understand my word? --
for if I thought I had guessed, I should stop at an idea,
and, in spite of myself, should pursue that idea. Since that
man has been in power yonder, I am like one of the damned in
Dante whose neck Satan has twisted, and who walk forward
looking behind them. I am traveling towards Madrid, but I
never lose sight of London. To guess, with that devil of a
man, is to deceive one's self, and to deceive one's self is
to ruin one's self. God keep me from ever seeking to guess
what he aims at; I confine myself to watching what he does,
and that is well enough. Now I believe -- you observe the
meaning of the word I believe? -- I believe, with respect to
Monk, ties one to nothing -- I believe that he has a strong
inclination to succeed Cromwell. Your Charles II. has
already caused proposals to be made to him by ten persons;
he has satisfied himself with driving these ten meddlers
from his presence, without saying anything to them but,
`Begone, or I will have you hung.' That man is a sepulcher!
At this moment Monk is affecting devotion to the Rump
Parliament; of this devotion, observe, I am not the dupe.
Monk has no wish to be assassinated, -- an assassination
would stop him in the midst of his operations, and his work
must be accomplished; -- so I believe -- but do not believe,
what I believe, sire: for I say I believe from habit -- I
believe that Monk is keeping on friendly terms with the
parliament till the day comes for dispersing it. You are
asked for swords, but they are to fight against Monk. God
preserve you from fighting against Monk sire; for Monk would
beat us, and I should never console myself after being
beaten by Monk. I should say to myself, Monk has foreseen
that victory ten years. For God's sake, sire, out of
friendship for you, if not out of consideration for himself,
let Charles II. keep quiet. Your majesty will give him a
little income here; give him one of your chateaux. Yes, yes
-- wait awhile. But I forgot the treaty -- that famous
treaty of which we were just now speaking. Your majesty has
not even the right to give him a chateau."
"How is that?"
"Yes, yes, your majesty is bound not to grant hospitality to
King Charles, and to compel him to leave France even. It was
on this account we forced him to quit you, and yet here he
is again. Sire, I hope you will give your brother to
understand that he cannot remain with us; that it is
impossible he should be allowed to compromise us, or I
myself ---- "
"Enough, my lord," said Louis XIV, rising. "In refusing me a
million, perhaps you may be right; your millions are your
own. In refusing me two hundred gentlemen, you are still
further in the right; for you are prime minister, and you
have, in the eyes of France, the responsibility of peace and
war. But that you should pretend to prevent me, who am king,
from extending my hospitality to the grandson of Henry IV.,
to my cousin-german, to the companion of my childhood --
there your power stops, and there begins my will."
"Sire," said Mazarin, delighted at being let off so cheaply,
and who had, besides, only fought so earnestly to arrive at
that, -- "sire, I shall always bend before the will of my
king. Let my king, then, keep near him, or in one of his
chateaux, the king of England; let Mazarin know it, but let
not the minister know it."
"Good-night, my lord," said Louis XIV., "I go away in
"But convinced, and that is all I desire, sire," replied
The king made no answer, and retired quite pensive,
convinced, not of all Mazarin had told him, but of one thing
which he took care not to mention to him; and that was, that
it was necessary for him to study seriously both his own
affairs and those of Europe, for he found them very
difficult and very obscure. Louis found the king of England
seated in the same place where he had left him. On
perceiving him, the English prince arose; but at the first
glance he saw discouragement written in dark letters upon
his cousin's brow. Then, speaking first, as if to facilitate
the painful avowal that Louis had to make to him, --
"Whatever it may be," said he, "I shall never forget all the
kindness, all the friendship you have exhibited towards me."
"Alas!" replied Louis, in a melancholy tone, "only barren
good-will, my brother."
Charles II. became extremely pale; he passed his cold hand
over his brow, and struggled for a few instants against a
faintness that made him tremble. "I understand," said he at
last; "no more hope!"
Louis seized the hand of Charles II. "Wait, my brother,"
said he; "precipitate nothing, everything may change; hasty
resolutions ruin all causes, add another year of trial, I
implore you, to the years you have already undergone. You
have, to induce you to act now rather than at another time,
neither occasion nor opportunity. Come with me, my brother;
I will give you one of my residences, whichever you prefer,
to inhabit. I, with you, will keep my eyes upon events; we
will prepare. Come, then, my brother, have courage!"
Charles II. withdrew his hand from that of the king, and
drawing back, to salute him with more ceremony, "With all my
heart, thanks!" replied he, "sire; but I have prayed without
success to the greatest king on earth; now I will go and ask
a miracle of God." And he went out without being willing to
hear any more, his head carried loftily, his hand trembling,
with a painful contraction of his noble countenance, and
that profound gloom which, finding no more hope in the world
of men, appeared to go beyond it, and ask it in worlds
unknown. The officer of musketeers, on seeing him pass by
thus pale, bowed almost to his knees as he saluted him. He
then took a flambeau, called two musketeers, and descended
the deserted staircase with the unfortunate king, holding in
his left hand his hat, the plume of which swept the steps.
Arrived at the door, the musketeer asked the king which way
he was going, that he might direct the musketeers.
"Monsieur," replied Charles II., in a subdued voice, "you
who have known my father, say, did you ever pray for him? If
you have done so, do not forget me in your prayers. Now, I
am going alone, and beg of you not to accompany me, or have
me accompanied any further."
The officer bowed and sent away the musketeers into the
interior of the palace. But he himself remained an instant
under the porch watching the departing Charles II., till he
was lost in the turn of the next street. "To him as to his
father formerly," murmured he, "Athos, if he were here,
would say with reason, -- `Salute fallen majesty!'" Then,
reascending the staircase: "Oh! the vile service that I
follow!" said he at every step. "Oh! my pitiful master! Life
thus carried on is no longer tolerable, and it is at length
time that I should do something! No more generosity, no more
energy! The master has succeeded, the pupil is starved
forever. Mordioux! I will not resist. Come, you men,"
continued he, entering the ante-chamber, "why are you all
looking at me so? Extinguish these torches and return to
your posts. Ah! you were guarding me? Yes, you watch over
me, do you not, worthy fellows? Brave fools! I am not the
Duc de Guise. Begone! They will not assassinate me in the
little passage. Besides," added he, in a low voice, "that
would be a resolution, and no resolutions have been formed
since Monsieur le Cardinal de Richelieu died. Now, with all
his faults, that was a man! It is settled: to-morrow I will
throw my cassock to the nettles."
Then, reflecting: "No," said he, "not yet! I have one great
trial to make and I will make it; but that, and I swear it,
shall be the last, Mordioux!"
He had not finished speaking when a voice issued from the
king's chamber. "Monsieur le lieutenant!" said this voice.
"Here am I," replied he.
"The king desires to speak to you."
"Humph!" said the lieutenant; "perhaps of what I was
thinking about." And he went into the king's apartment.
The King and the Lieutenant
As soon as the king saw the officer enter, he dismissed his
valet de chambre and his gentleman. "Who is on duty
to-morrow, monsieur?" asked he.
The lieutenant bowed his head with military politeness and
replied, "I am, sire."
"What! still you?"
"Always I, sire."
"How can that be, monsieur?"
"Sire, when traveling, the musketeers supply all the posts
of your majesty's household; that is to say, yours, her
majesty the queen's, and monsieur le cardinal's, the latter
of whom borrows of the king the best part, or rather the
most numerous part, of the royal guard."
"But in the interims?"
"There are no interims, sire, but for twenty or thirty men
who rest out of a hundred and twenty. At the Louvre it is
very different, and if I were at the Louvre I should rely
upon my brigadier; but, when traveling, sire, no one knows
what may happen, and I prefer doing my duty myself."
"Then you are on guard every day?"
"And every night. Yes, sire."
"Monsieur, I cannot allow that -- I will have you rest."
"That is very kind, sire, but I will not."
"What do you say?" said the king who did not at first
comprehend the full meaning of this reply.
"I say, sire, that I will not expose myself to the chance of
a fault. If the devil had a trick to play on me, you
understand, sire, as he knows the man with whom he has to
deal, he would choose the moment when I should not be there.
My duty and the peace of my conscience before everything,
"But such duty will kill you, monsieur."
"Eh! sire, I have performed it for thirty years, and in all
France and Navarre there is not a man in better health than
I am. Moreover, I entreat you, sire, not to trouble yourself
about me. That would appear very strange to me, seeing that
I am not accustomed to it."
The king cut short the conversation by a fresh question.
"Shall you be here, then, to-morrow morning?"
"As at present? yes, sire."
The king walked several times up and down his chamber; it
was very plain that he burned with a desire to speak, but
that he was restrained by some fear or other. The
lieutenant, standing motionless, hat in hand, watched him
making these evolutions, and, whilst looking at him,
grumbled to himself, biting his mustache:
"He has not half a crown worth of resolution! Parole
d'honneur! I would lay a wager he does not speak at all!"
The king continued to walk about, casting from time to time
a side glance at the lieutenant. "He is the very image of
his father," continued the latter, in his secret soliloquy,
"he is at once proud, avaricious, and timid. The devil take
his master, say I."
The king stopped. "Lieutenant," said he.
"I am here, sire."
"Why did you cry out this evening, down below in the salons
-- `The king's service! His majesty's musketeers!'"
"Because you gave me the order, sire."
"Indeed, I did not say a word, monsieur."
"Sire, an order is given by a sign, by a gesture, by a
glance, as intelligibly, as freely, and as clearly as by
word of mouth. A servant who has nothing but ears is not
half a good servant."
"Your eyes are very penetrating, then, monsieur."
"How is that, sire?"
"Because they see what is not."
"My eyes are good, though, sire, although they have served
their master long and much: when they have anything to see,
they seldom miss the opportunity. Now, this evening, they
saw that your majesty colored with endeavoring to conceal
the inclination to yawn, that your majesty looked with
eloquent supplications, first at his eminence, and then at
her majesty, the queen-mother, and at length to the entrance
door, and they so thoroughly remarked all I have said, that
they saw your majesty's lips articulate these words: `Who
will get me out of this?'"
"Or something to this effect, sire -- `My musketeers!' I
could then no longer hesitate. That look was for me -- the
order was for me. I cried out instantly, `His Majesty's
musketeers!' And, besides, that was shown to be true, sire,
not only by your majesty's not saying I was wrong, but
proving I was right by going out at once."
The king turned away to smile; then, after a few seconds, he
again fixed his limpid eye upon that countenance, so
intelligent, so bold, and so firm, that it might have been
said to be the proud and energetic profile of the eagle
facing the sun. "That is all very well," said he, after a
short silence, during which he endeavored, in vain, to make
his officer lower his eyes.
But seeing the king said no more, the latter pirouetted on
his heels, and took three steps towards the door, muttering,
"He will not speak! Mordioux! he will not speak!"
"Thank you, monsieur," said the king at last.
"Humph!" continued the lieutenant; "there was only wanting
that. Blamed for having been less of a fool than another
might have been." And he went to the door, allowing his
spurs to jingle in true military style. But when he was on
the threshold, feeling that the king's desire drew him back,
"Has your majesty told me all?" asked he, in a tone we
cannot describe, but which, without appearing to solicit the
royal confidence, contained so much persuasive frankness,
that the king immediately replied:
"Yes, but draw near, monsieur."
"Now then," murmured the officer, "he is coming to it at
"Listen to me."
"I shall not lose a word, sire."
"You will mount on horseback to-morrow, at about half-past
four in the morning, and you will have a horse saddled for
"From your majesty's stables?"
"No, one of your musketeers' horses."
"Very well, sire. Is that all?"
"And you will accompany me."
"Shall I come to seek your majesty, or shall I wait?"
"You will wait for me."
"At the little park-gate."
The lieutenant bowed, understanding that the king had told
him all he had to say. In fact, the king dismissed him with
a gracious wave of the hand. The officer left the chamber of
the king, and returned to place himself philosophically in
his fauteuil, where, far from sleeping, as might have been
expected, considering how late it was, he began to reflect
more deeply than he had ever reflected before. The result of
these reflections was not so melancholy as the preceding
ones had been.
"Come, he has begun," said he. "Love urges him on, and he
goes forward -- he goes forward! The king is nobody in his
own palace; but the man perhaps may prove to be worth
something. Well, we shall see to-morrow morning. Oh! oh!"
cried he, all at once starting up, "that is a gigantic idea,
mordioux! and perhaps my fortune depends, at least, upon
that idea!" After this exclamation, the officer arose and
marched, with his hands in the pockets of his justacorps,
about the immense ante-chamber that served him as an
apartment. The wax-light flamed furiously under the effects
of a fresh breeze which stole in through the chinks of the
door and the window, and cut the salle diagonally. It threw
out a reddish, unequal light, sometimes brilliant, sometimes
dull, and the tall shadow of the lieutenant was seen
marching on the wall, in profile, like a figure by Callot,
with his long sword and feathered hat.
"Certainly!" said he, "I am mistaken if Mazarin is not
laying a snare for this amorous boy. Mazarin, this evening,
gave an address, and made an appointment as complacently as
M. Dangeau himself could have done -- I heard him, and I
know the meaning of his words. `To-morrow morning,' said he,
`they will pass opposite the bridge of Blois. Mordioux! that
is clear enough, and particularly for a lover. That is the
cause of this embarrassment; that is the cause of this
hesitation; that is the cause of this order -- `Monsieur the
lieutenant of my musketeers, be on horseback to-morrow at
four o'clock in the morning.' Which is as clear as if he had
said, -- `Monsieur the lieutenant of my musketeers,
to-morrow, at four, at the bridge of Blois -- do you
understand?' Here is a state secret, then, which I, humble
as I am, have in my possession, while it is in action. And
how do I get it? Because I have good eyes, as his majesty
just now said. They say he loves this little Italian doll
furiously. They say he threw himself at his mother's feet,
to beg her to allow him to marry her. They say the queen
went so far as to consult the court of Rome, whether such a
marriage, contracted against her will, would be valid. Oh,
if I were but twenty-five! If I had by my side those I no
longer have! If I did not despise the whole world most
profoundly, I would embroil Mazarin with the queen-mother,
France with Spain, and I would make a queen after my own
fashion. But let that pass." And the lieutenant snapped his
fingers in disdain.
"This miserable Italian -- this poor creature -- this sordid
wretch -- who has just refused the king of England a
million, would not perhaps give me a thousand pistoles for
the news I could carry him. Mordioux! I am falling into
second childhood -- I am becoming stupid indeed! The idea of
Mazarin giving anything! ha! ha! ha!" and he laughed in a
"Well, let us go to sleep -- let us go to sleep; and the
sooner the better. My mind is wearied with my evening's
work, and will see things to-morrow more clearly than
And upon this recommendation, made to himself, he folded his
cloak around him, looking with contempt upon his royal
neighbor. Five minutes after this he was asleep, with his
hands clenched and his lips apart, giving escape, not to his
secret, but to a sonorous sound, which rose and spread
freely beneath the majestic roof of the ante-chamber.
Mary de Mancini
The sun had scarcely shed its first beams on the majestic
trees of the park and the lofty turrets of the castle, when
the young king, who had been awake more than two hours,
possessed by the sleeplessness of love, opened his shutters
himself, and cast an inquiring look into the courts of the
sleeping palace. He saw that it was the hour agreed upon:
the great court clock pointed to a quarter past four. He did
not disturb his valet de chambre, who was sleeping soundly
at some distance; he dressed himself, and the valet, in a
great fright sprang up, thinking he had been deficient in
his duty; but the king sent him back again, commanding him
to preserve the most absolute silence. He then descended the
little staircase, went out at a lateral door, and perceived
at the end of the wall a mounted horseman holding another
horse by the bridle. This horseman could not be recognized
in his cloak and slouched hat. As to the horse, saddled like
that of a rich citizen, it offered nothing remarkable to the
most experienced eye. Louis took the bridle: the officer
held the stirrup without dismounting, and asked his
majesty's orders in a low voice.
"Follow me," replied the king.
The officer put his horse to the trot, behind that of his
master, and they descended the hill towards the bridge. When
they reached the other side of the Loire, --
"Monsieur," said the king, "you will please to ride on till
you see a carriage coming; then return and inform me. I will
"Will your majesty deign to give me some description of the
carriage I am charged to discover?"
"A carriage in which you will see two ladies, and probably
their attendants likewise."
"Sire, I should not wish to make a mistake; is there no
other sign by which I may know this carriage?"
"It will bear, in all probability, the arms of monsieur le
"That is sufficient, sire," replied the officer, fully
instructed in the object of his search. He put his horse to
the trot, and rode sharply on in the direction pointed out
by the king. But he had scarcely gone five hundred paces
when he saw four mules and then a carriage, loom up from
behind a little hill. Behind this carriage came another. It
required only one glance to assure him that these were the
equipages he was in search of; he therefore turned his
bridle, and rode back to the king.
"Sire," said he, "here are the carriages. The first, as you
said, contains two ladies with their femmes de chambre; the
second contains the footmen, provisions, and necessaries."
"That is well," replied the king in an agitated voice.
"Please to go and tell those ladies that a cavalier of the
court wishes to pay his respects to them alone."
The officer set off at a gallop. "Mordioux!" said he, as he
rode on, "here is a new and an honorable employment, I hope!
I complained of being nobody. I am the king's confidant:
that is enough to make a musketeer burst with pride."
He approached the carriage, and delivered his message
gallantly and intelligently. There were two ladies in the
carriage: one of great beauty, although rather thin; the
other less favored by nature, but lively, graceful, and
uniting in the delicate lines of her brow all the signs of a
strong will. Her eyes, animated and piercing in particular,
spoke more eloquently than all the amorous phrases in
fashion in those days of gallantry. It was to her D'Artagnan
addressed himself, without fear of being mistaken, although
the other was, as we have said, the more handsome of the
"Madame," said he, "I am the lieutenant of the musketeers,
and there is on the road a horseman who awaits you, and is
desirous of paying his respects to you."
At these words, the effect of which he watched closely, the
lady with the black eyes uttered a cry of joy, leant out of
the carriage window, and seeing the cavalier approaching,
held out her arms, exclaiming:
"Ah, my dear sire!" and the tears gushed from her eyes.
The coachman stopped his team; the women rose in confusion
from the back of the carriage, and the second lady made a
slight curtsey, terminated by the most ironical smile that
jealousy ever imparted to the lips of woman.
"Marie? dear Marie?" cried the king, taking the hand of the
black-eyed lady in both his. And opening the heavy door
himself, he drew her out of the carriage with so much ardor,
that she was in his arms before she touched the ground. The
lieutenant, posted on the other side of the carriage, saw
and heard all without being observed.
The king offered his arm to Mademoiselle de Mancini, and
made a sign to the coachman and lackeys to proceed. It was
nearly six o'clock; the road was fresh and pleasant; tall
trees with their foliage still inclosed in the golden down
of their buds let the dew of morning filter from their
trembling branches like liquid diamonds; the grass was
bursting at the foot of the hedges; the swallows, having
returned since only a few days, described their graceful
curves between the heavens and the water; a breeze, laden
with the perfumes of the blossoming woods, sighed along the
road, and wrinkled the surface of the waters of the river;
all these beauties of the day, all these perfumes of the
plants, all these aspirations of the earth towards heaven,
intoxicated the two lovers, walking side by side, leaning
upon each other, eyes fixed upon eyes, hand clasping hand,
and who, lingering as by a common desire, did not dare to
speak they had so much to say.
The officer saw that the king's horse, in wandering this way
and that, annoyed Mademoiselle de Mancini. He took advantage
of the pretext of securing the horse to draw near them, and
dismounting, walked between the two horses he led; he did
not lose a single word or gesture of the lovers. It was
Mademoiselle de Mancini who at length began.
"Ah, my dear sire!" said she, "you do not abandon me, then?"
"No, Marie," replied the king; "you see I do not."
"I had so often been told, though, that as soon as we should
be separated you would no longer think of me."
"Dear Marie, is it then to-day only that you have discovered
we are surrounded by people interested in deceiving us?"
"But, then, sire, this journey, this alliance with Spain?
They are going to marry you off!"
Louis hung his head. At the same time the officer could see
the eyes of Marie de Mancini shine in the sun with the
brilliancy of a dagger starting from its sheath. "And you
have done nothing in favor of our love?" asked the girl,
after a silence of a moment.
"Ah! mademoiselle, how could you believe that? I threw
myself at the feet of my mother; I begged her, I implored
her; I told her all my hopes of happiness were in you, I
even threatened ---- "
"Well?" asked Marie, eagerly.
"Well? the queen-mother wrote to the court of Rome, and
received as answer, that a marriage between us would have no
validity, and would be dissolved by the holy father. At
length, finding there was no hope for us, I requested to
have my marriage with the infanta at least delayed."
"And yet that does not prevent your being on the road to
"How can I help it? To my prayers, to my supplications, to
my tears, I received no answer but reasons of state."
"Well, what is to be done, mademoiselle, when so many wills
are leagued against me?"
It was now Marie's turn to hang her head. "Then I must bid
you adieu for ever," said she. "You know that I am being
exiled; you know that I am going to be buried alive; you
know still more that they want to marry me off, too."
Louis became very pale, and placed his hand upon his heart.
"If I had thought that my life only had, been at stake, I
have been so persecuted that I might have yielded; but I
thought yours was concerned, my dear sire, and I stood out
for the sake of preserving your happiness. "
"Oh, yes! my happiness, my treasure!" murmured the king,
more gallantly than passionately, perhaps.
"The cardinal might have yielded," said Marie, "if you had
addressed yourself to him, if you had pressed him. For the
cardinal to call the king of France his nephew! do you not
perceive, sire? He would have made war even for that honor;
the cardinal, assured of governing alone, under the double
pretext of having brought up the king and given his niece to
him in marriage -- the cardinal would have fought all
antagonists, overcome all obstacles. Oh, sire! I can answer
for that. I am a woman, and I see clearly into everything
where love is concerned."
These words produced a strange effect upon the king. Instead
of heightening his passion, they cooled it. He stopped, and
said hastily, --
"What is to be said, mademoiselle? Everything has failed."
"Except your will, I trust, my dear sire?"
"Alas!" said the king, coloring, "have I a will?"
"Oh!" said Mademoiselle de Mancini mournfully, wounded by
"The king has no will but that which policy dictates, but
that which reasons of state impose upon him."
"Oh! it is because you have no love," cried Mary; "if you
loved, sire, you would have a will."
On pronouncing these words, Mary raised her eyes to her
lover, whom she saw more pale and more cast down than an
exile who is about to quit his native land forever. "Accuse
me," murmured the king, "but do not say I do not love you."
A long silence followed these words, which the young king
had pronounced with a perfectly true and profound feeling.
"I am unable to think that to-morrow, and after to-morrow, I
shall see you no more; I cannot think that I am going to end
my sad days at a distance from Paris; that the lips of an
old man, of an unknown, should touch that hand which you
hold within yours; no, in truth, I cannot think of all that,
my dear sire, without having my poor heart burst with
And Marie de Mancini did shed floods of tears. On his part,
the king, much affected, carried his handkerchief to his
mouth, and stifled a sob.
"See," said she, "the carriages have stopped, my sister
waits for me, the time is come; what you are about to decide
upon will be decided for life. Oh, sire! you are willing,
then, that I should lose you? You are willing, then, Louis,
that she to whom you have said `I love you,' should belong
to another than to her king; to her master, to her lover?
Oh! courage, Louis! courage! One word, a single word! Say `I
will!' and all my life is enchained to yours, and all my
heart is yours forever."
The king made no reply. Mary then looked at him as Dido
looked at AEneas in the Elysian fields, fierce and
"Farewell, then," said she; "farewell life! love! heaven!"
And she took a step away. The king detained her, seized her
hand, which he pressed to his lips, and despair prevailing
over the resolution he appeared to have inwardly formed, he
let fall upon that beautiful hand a burning tear of regret,
which made Mary start, so really had that tear burnt her.
She saw the humid eyes of the king, his pale brow, his
convulsed lips, and cried, with an accent that cannot be
"Oh, sire! you are a king, you weep, and yet I depart!"
As his sole reply, the king hid his face in his
handkerchief. The officer uttered something so like a roar
that it frightened the horses. Mademoiselle de Mancini,
quite indignant, quitted the king's arm, hastily entered the
carriage, crying to the coachman, "Go on, go on, and quick!"
The coachman obeyed, flogged his mules, and the heavy
carriage rocked upon its creaking axle, whilst the king of
France, alone, cast down, annihilated, did not dare to look
either behind or before him.
In which the King and the Lieutenant each give Proofs of Memory
When the king, like all the people in the world who are in
love, had long and attentively watched disappear in the
distance the carriage which bore away his mistress; when he
had turned and turned again a hundred times to the same side
and had at length succeeded in somewhat calming the
agitation of his heart and thoughts, he recollected that he
was not alone. The officer still held the horse by the
bridle, and had not lost all hope of seeing the king recover
his resolution. He had still the resource of mounting and
riding after the carriage; they would have lost nothing by
waiting a little. But the imagination of the lieutenant of
the musketeers was too rich and too brilliant; it left far
behind it that of the king, who took care not to allow
himself to be carried away to any such excess. He contented
himself with approaching the officer, and in a doleful
voice, "Come," said he, "let us be gone; all is ended. To
The officer imitated this carriage, this slowness, this
sadness, and leisurely mounted his horse. The king pushed on
sharply, the lieutenant followed him. At the bridge Louis
turned around for the last time. The lieutenant, patient as
a god who has eternity behind and before him, still hoped
for a return of energy. But it was groundless, nothing
appeared. Louis gained the street which led to the castle,
and entered as seven was striking. When the king had
returned, and the musketeer, who saw everything, had seen a
corner of the tapestry over the cardinal's window lifted up,
he breathed a profound sigh, like a man unloosed from the
tightest bounds, and said in a low voice:
"Now, then, my officer, I hope that it is over."
The king summoned his gentleman. "Please to understand I
shall receive nobody before two o'clock," said he.
"Sire," replied the gentleman, "there is, however, some one
who requests admittance."
"Who is that?"
"Your lieutenant of musketeers."
"He who accompanied me?"
"Ah," said the king, "let him come in."
The officer entered. The king made a sign, and the gentleman
and the valet retired. Louis followed them with his eyes
until they had shut the door, and when the tapestries had
fallen behind them, -- "You remind me by your presence,
monsieur, of something I had forgotten to recommend to you,
that is to say, the most absolute discretion."
"Oh! sire, why does your majesty give yourself the trouble
of making me such a recommendation? It is plain you do not
"Yes, monsieur, that is true. I know that you are discreet;
but as I had prescribed nothing ---- "
The officer bowed. "Has your majesty nothing else to say to
"No, monsieur; you may retire."
"Shall I obtain permission not to do so till I have spoken
to the king, sire?"
"What have you to say to me? Explain yourself, monsieur."
"Sire, a thing without importance to you, but which
interests me greatly. Pardon me, then, for speaking of it.
Without urgency, without necessity, I never would have done
it, and I would have disappeared, mute and insignificant as
I always have been."
"How! Disappeared! I do not understand you, monsieur."
"Sire, in a word," said the officer, "I am come to ask for
my discharge from your majesty's service."
The king made a movement of surprise, but the officer
remained as motionless as a statue.
"Your discharge -- yours, monsieur? and for how long a time,
"Why, forever, sire."
"What, you are desirous of quitting my service, monsieur?"
said Louis, with an expression that revealed something more
"Sire, I regret to say that I am."
"It is so, however, sire. I am getting old; I have worn
harness now thirty-five years; my poor shoulders are tired;
I feel that I must give place to the young. I don't belong
to this age; I have still one foot in the old one; it
results that everything is strange in my eyes, everything
astonishes and bewilders me. In short, I have the honor to
ask your majesty for my discharge."
"Monsieur," said the king, looking at the officer, who wore
his uniform with an ease that would have caused envy in a
young man, "you are stronger and more vigorous than I am."
"Oh!" replied the officer, with an air of false modesty,
"your majesty says so because I still have a good eye and a
tolerably firm foot -- because I can still ride a horse, and
my mustache is black; but, sire, vanity of vanities all that
-- illusions all that -- appearance, smoke, sire! I have
still a youthful air, it is true, but I feel old, and within
six months I am certain I shall be broken down, gouty,
impotent. Therefore, then sire ---- "
"Monsieur," interrupted the king, "remember your words of
yesterday. You said to me in this very place where you now
are, that you were endowed with the best health of any man
in France; that fatigue was unknown to you! that you did not
mind spending whole days and nights at your post. Did you
tell me that, monsieur, or not? Try and recall, monsieur."
The officer sighed. "Sire," said he, "old age is boastful;
and it is pardonable for old men to praise themselves when
others no longer do it. It is very possible I said that; but
the fact is, sire, I am very much fatigued, and request
permission to retire."
"Monsieur," said the king, advancing towards the officer
with a gesture full of majesty, "you are not assigning me
the true reason. You wish to quit my service, it may be
true, but you disguise from me the motive of your retreat."
"Sire, believe that ---- "
"I believe what I see, monsieur; I see a vigorous, energetic
man, full of presence of mind, the best soldier in France,
perhaps; and this personage cannot persuade me the least in
the world that you stand in need of rest."
"Ah! sire," said the lieutenant, with bitterness, "what
praise! Indeed, your majesty confounds me! Energetic,
vigorous, brave, intelligent, the best soldier in the army!
But, sire, your majesty exaggerates my small portion of
merit to such a point, that however good an opinion I may
have of myself, I do not recognize myself; in truth I do
not. If I were vain enough to believe only half of your
majesty's words, I should consider myself a valuable,
indispensable man. I should say that a servant possessed of
such brilliant qualities was a treasure beyond all price.
Now, sire, I have been all my life -- I feel bound to say it
-- except at the present time, appreciated, in my opinion,
much below my value. I therefore repeat, your majesty
The king knitted his brow, for he saw a bitter raillery
beneath the words of the officer. "Come, monsieur," said he,
"let us meet the question frankly. Are you dissatisfied with
my service, say? No evasions; speak boldly, frankly -- I
command you to do so."
The officer, who had been twisting his hat about in his
hands, with an embarrassed air, for several minutes, raised
his head at these words. "Oh! sire," said he, "that puts me
a little more at my ease. To a question put so frankly, I
will reply frankly. To tell the truth is a good thing, as
much from the pleasure one feels in relieving one's heart,
as on account of the rarity of the fact. I will speak the
truth, then, to my king, at the same time imploring him to
excuse the frankness of an old soldier."
Louis looked at his officer with anxiety, which he
manifested by the agitation of his gesture. "Well, then
speak," said he, "for I am impatient to hear the truths you
have to tell me."
The officer threw his hat upon a table, and his countenance,
always so intelligent and martial, assumed, all at once, a
strange character of grandeur and solemnity. "Sire," said
he, "I quit the king's service because I am dissatisfied.
The valet, in these times, can approach his master as
respectfully as I do, can give him an account of his labor,
bring back his tools, return the funds that have been
intrusted to him, and say, `Master, my day's work is done.
Pay me, if you please, and let us part.'"
"Monsieur! monsieur!" exclaimed the king, crimson with rage.
"Ah! sire," replied the officer, bending his knee for a
moment, "never was servant more respectful than I am before
your majesty; only you commanded me to tell the truth. Now I
have begun to tell it, it must come out, even if you command
me to hold my tongue."
There was so much resolution expressed in the deep-sunk
muscles of the officer's countenance, that Louis XIV. had no
occasion to tell him to continue; he continued, therefore,
whilst the king looked at him with a curiosity mingled with
"Sire, I have, as I have said, now served the house of
France thirty-five years; few people have worn out so many
swords in that service as I have, and the swords I speak of
were good swords, too, sire. I was a boy, ignorant of
everything except courage, when the king your father guessed
that there was a man in me. I was a man, sire, when the
Cardinal de Richelieu, who was a judge of manhood,
discovered an enemy in me. Sire, the history of that enmity
between the ant and the lion may be read from the first to
the last line, in the secret archives of your family. If
ever you feel an inclination to know it, do so, sire; the
history is worth the trouble -- it is I who tell you so. You
will there read that the lion, fatigued, harassed, out of
breath, at length cried for quarter, and the justice must be
rendered him to say that he gave as much as he required. Oh!
those were glorious times, sire, strewed over with battles
like one of Tasso's or Ariosto's epics. The wonders of those
times, to which the people of ours would refuse belief, were
every-day occurrences. For five years together, I was a hero
every day; at least, so I was told by persons of judgment;
and that is a long period for heroism, trust me, sire, a
period of five years. Nevertheless, I have faith in what
these people told me, for they were good judges. They were
named M. de Richelieu, M. de Buckingham, M. de Beaufort, M.
de Retz, a mighty genius himself in street warfare, -- in
short, the king, Louis XIII., and even the queen, your noble
mother, who one day condescended to say, `Thank you.' I
don't know what service I had had the good fortune to render
her. Pardon me, sire, for speaking so boldly; but what I
relate to you, as I have already had the honor to tell your
majesty, is history."
The king bit his lips, and threw himself violently on a
"I appear importunate to your majesty," said the lieutenant.
"Eh! sire, that is the fate of truth; she is a stern
companion; she bristles all over with steel; she wounds
those whom she attacks, and sometimes him who speaks her."
"No, monsieur," replied the king; "I bade you speak -- speak
"After the service of the king and the cardinal came the
service of the regency, sire; I fought pretty well in the
Fronde -- much less, though, than the first time. The men
began to diminish in stature. I have, nevertheless, led your
majesty's musketeers on some perilous occasions, which stand
upon the orders of the day of the company. Mine was a
beautiful luck at that time. I was the favorite of M. de
Mazarin. Lieutenant here! lieutenant there! lieutenant to
the right! lieutenant to the left! There was not a buffet
dealt in France, of which your humble servant did not have
the dealing; but soon France was not enough. The cardinal
sent me to England on Cromwell's account; another gentleman
who was not over gentle, I assure you, sire. I had the honor
of knowing him, and I was well able to appreciate him. A
great deal was promised me on account of that mission. So,
as I did much more than I had been bidden to do, I was
generously paid, for I was at length appointed captain of
the musketeers, that is to say, the most envied position in
court, which takes precedence over the marshals of France,
and justly, for who says captain of the musketeers says the
flower of chivalry and king of the brave."
"Captain, monsieur!" interrupted the king, "you make a
mistake. Lieutenant, you mean."
"Not at all, sire -- I make no mistake; your majesty may
rely upon me in that respect. Monsieur le cardinal gave me
the commission himself."
"But M. de Mazarin, as you know better than anybody, does
not often give, and sometimes takes back what he has given;
he took it back again as soon as peace was made and he was
no longer in want of me. Certainly I was not worthy to
replace M. de Treville, of illustrious memory; but they had
promised me, and they had given me; they ought to have
"Is that what dissatisfies you, monsieur? Well I shall make
inquiries. I love justice; and your claim, though made in
military fashion, does not displease me."
"Oh, sire!" said the officer, "your majesty has ill
understood me; I no longer claim anything now."
"Excess of delicacy, monsieur; but I will keep my eye upon
your affairs, and later ---- "
"Oh, sire! what a word! -- later! Thirty years have I lived
upon that promising word, which has been pronounced by so
many great personages, and which your mouth has, in its
turn, just pronounced. Later -- that is how I have received
a score of wounds, and how I have reached fifty-four years
of age without ever having had a louis in my purse, and
without ever having met with a protector on my way, -- I who
have protected so many people! So I change my formula, sire;
and when any one says to me `Later,' I reply `Now.' It is
rest that I solicit, sire. That may be easily granted me.
That will cost nobody anything."
"I did not look for this language, monsieur, particularly
from a man who has always lived among the great. You forget
you are speaking to the king, to a gentleman who is, I
suppose, of as good a house as yourself; and when I say
later, I mean a certainty."
"I do not at all doubt it, sire, but this is the end of the
terrible truth I had to tell you. If I were to see upon that
table a marshal's stick, the sword of constable, the crown
of Poland, instead of later, I swear to you, sire, that I
should still say Now! Oh, excuse me, sire! I am from the
country of your grandfather, Henry IV. I do not speak often;
but when I do speak, I speak all."
"The future of my reign has little temptation for you,
monsieur, it appears," said Louis, haughtily.
"Forgetfulness, forgetfulness everywhere!" cried the
officer, with a noble air; "the master has forgotten the
servant, so that the servant is reduced to forget his
master. I live in unfortunate times, sire. I see youth full
of discouragement and fear, I see it timid and despoiled,
when it ought to be rich and powerful. I yesterday evening,
for example, open the door to a king of England, whose
father, humble as I am, I was near saving, if God had not
been against me -- God, who inspired His elect, Cromwell! I
open, I said, the door, that is to say, the palace of one
brother to another brother, and I see -- stop, sire, that is
a load on my heart! -- I see the minister of that king drive
away the proscribed prince, and humiliate his master by
condemning to want another king, his equal. Then I see my
prince, who is young, handsome, and brave, who has courage
in his heart, and lightning in his eye, -- I see him tremble
before a priest, who laughs at him behind the curtain of his
alcove, where he digests all the gold of France, which he
afterwards stuffs into secret coffers. Yes -- I understand
your looks, sire. I am bold to madness; but what is to be
said? I am an old man, and I tell you here, sire, to you, my
king, things which I would cram down the throat of any one
who should dare to pronounce them before me. You have
commanded me to pour out the bottom of my heart before you,
sire, and I cast at the feet of your majesty the pent-up
indignation of thirty years, as I would pour out all my
blood, if your majesty commanded me to do so."
The king, without speaking a word, wiped the drops of cold
and abundant perspiration which trickled from his temples.
The moment of silence which followed this vehement outbreak
represented for him who had spoken, and for him who had
listened, ages of suffering.
"Monsieur," said the king at length, "you spoke the word
forgetfulness. I have heard nothing but that word; I will
reply, then, to it alone. Others have perhaps been able to
forget, but I have not, and the proof is, that I remember
that one day of riot, that one day when the furious people,
raging and roaring as the sea, invaded the royal palace;
that one day when I feigned sleep in my bed, one man alone,
naked sword in hand, concealed behind my curtain, watched
over my life, ready to risk his own for me, as he had before
risked it twenty times for the lives of my family. Was not
the gentleman, whose name I then demanded, called M.
d'Artagnan? say, monsieur."
"Your majesty has a good memory," replied the officer,
"You see, then," continued the king, "if I have such
remembrances of my childhood, what an amount I may gather in
the age of reason."
"Your majesty has been richly endowed by God," said the
officer, in the same tone.
"Come, Monsieur d'Artagnan," continued Louis, with feverish
agitation, "ought you not to be as patient as I am? Ought
you not to do as I do? Come!"
"And what do you do, sire?"
"Your majesty may do so, because you are young; but I, sire,
have not time to wait; old age is at my door, and death is
behind it, looking into the very depths of my house. Your
majesty is beginning life, its future is full of hope and
fortune; but I, sire, I am on the other side of the horizon,
and we are so far from each other, that I should never have
time to wait till your majesty came up to me."
Louis made another turn in his apartment, still wiping the
moisture from his brow, in a manner that would have
terrified his physicians, if his physicians had witnessed
the state his majesty was in.
"It is very well, monsieur," said Louis XIV., in a sharp
voice; "you are desirous of having your discharge, and you
shall have it. You offer me your resignation of the rank of
lieutenant of the musketeers?"
"I deposit it humbly at your majesty's feet, sire."
"That is sufficient. I will order your pension."
"I shall have a thousand obligations to your majesty."
"Monsieur," said the king, with a violent effort, "I think
you are losing a good master."
"And I am sure of it, sire."
"Shall you ever find such another?"
"Oh, sire! I know that your majesty is alone in the world;
therefore will I never again take service with any king upon
earth, and will never again have other master than myself."
"You say so?"
"I swear so, your majesty."
"I shall remember that word, monsieur."
"And you know I have a good memory," said the king.
"Yes, sire, and yet I should desire that that memory should
fail your majesty in this instance, in order that you might
forget all the miseries I have been forced to spread before
your eyes. Your majesty is so much above the poor and the
mean that I hope ---- "
"My majesty, monsieur, will act like the sun, which looks
upon all, great and small, rich and poor, giving luster to
some, warmth to others, and life to all. Adieu Monsieur
d'Artagnan -- adieu: you are free."
And the king, with a hoarse sob, which was lost in his
throat, passed quickly into the next room. D'Artagnan took
up his hat from the table upon which he had thrown it, and
D'Artagnan had not reached the bottom of the staircase, when
the king called his gentleman. "I have a commission to give
you, monsieur," said he.
"I am at your majesty's commands."
"Wait, then." And the young king began to write the
following letter, which cost him more than one sigh,
although, at the same time, something like a feeling of
triumph glittered in his eyes:
"My Lord Cardinal, -- Thanks to your good counsels and,
above all, thanks to your firmness, I have succeeded in
overcoming a weakness unworthy of a king. You have too ably
arranged my destiny to allow gratitude not to stop me at the
moment when I was about to destroy your work. I felt I was
wrong to wish to make my life turn from the course you had
marked out for it. Certainly it would have been a misfortune
to France and my family if a misunderstanding had taken
place between me and my minister. This, however, would
certainly have happened if I had made your niece my wife. I
am perfectly aware of this, and will henceforth oppose
nothing to the accomplishment of my destiny. I am prepared,
then, to wed the infanta, Maria Theresa. You may at once
open the conference. -- Your affectionate Louis."
The king, after reperusing the letter, sealed it himself.
"This letter for my lord cardinal," said he.
The gentleman took it. At Mazarin's door he found Bernouin
waiting with anxiety.
"Well?" asked the minister's valet de chambre.
"Monsieur," said the gentleman, "here is a letter for his
"A letter! Ah! we expected one after the little journey of
"Oh! you know, then, that his majesty ---- "
"As first minister, it belongs to the duties of our charge
to know everything. And his majesty prays and implores, I
"I don't know, but he sighed frequently whilst he was
"'Yes, yes, yes; we understand all that; people sigh
sometimes from happiness as well as from grief, monsieur."
"And yet the king did not look very happy when he returned,
"You did not see clearly. Besides, you only saw his majesty
on his return, for he was only accompanied by the lieutenant
of the guards. But I had his eminence's telescope, I looked
through it when he was tired, and I am sure they both wept."
"Well! was it for happiness they wept?"
"No, but for love, and they vowed to each other a thousand
tendernesses, which the king asks no better than to keep.
Now this letter is a beginning of the execution."
"And what does his eminence think of this love, which is, by
the bye, no secret to anybody?"
Bernouin took the gentleman by the arm, and whilst ascending
the staircase, -- "In confidence," said he, in a low voice,
"his eminence looks for success in the affair. I know very
well we shall have war with Spain; but, bah! war will please
the nobles. My lord cardinal, besides, can endow his niece
royally, nay, more than royally. There will be money,
festivities, and fireworks -- everybody will be delighted."
"Well, for my part," replied the gentleman, shaking his
head, "it appears to me that this letter is very light to
contain all that."
"My friend," replied Bernouin, "I am certain of what I tell
you. M. d'Artagnan related all that passed to me."
"Ay, ay! and what did he tell you? Let us hear."
"I accosted him by asking him, on the part of the cardinal,
if there were any news, without discovering my designs,
observe, for M. d'Artagnan is a cunning hand. `My dear
Monsieur Bernouin,' he replied, `the king is madly in love
with Mademoiselle de Mancini, that is all I have to tell
you.' And then I asked him `Do you think, to such a degree
that it will urge him to act contrary to the designs of his
eminence?' `Ah! don't ask me,' said he; `I think the king
capable of anything; he has a will of iron, and what he
wills he wills in earnest. If he takes it into his head to
marry Mademoiselle de Mancini, he will marry her, depend
upon it.' And thereupon he left me and went straight to the
stables, took a horse, saddled it himself, jumped upon its
back, and set off as if the devil were at his heels."
"So that you believe, then ---- "
"I believe that monsieur the lieutenant of the guards knew
more than he was willing to say."
"In your opinion, then, M. d'Artagnan ---- "
"Is gone, according to all probability, after the exiles, to
carry out all that can facilitate the success of the king's
Chatting thus, the two confidants arrived at the door of his
eminence's apartment. His eminence's gout had left him; he
was walking about his chamber in a state of great anxiety,
listening at doors and looking out of windows. Bernouin
entered, followed by the gentleman, who had orders from the
king to place the letter in the hands of the cardinal
himself. Mazarin took the letter, but before opening it, he
got up a ready smile, a smile of circumstance, able to throw
a veil over emotions of whatever sort they might be. So
prepared, whatever was the impression received from the
letter, no reflection of that impression was allowed to
transpire upon his countenance.
"Well," said he, when he had read and reread the letter,
"very well, monsieur. Inform the king that I thank him for
his obedience to the wishes of the queen-mother, and that I
will do everything for the accomplishment of his will."
The gentlemen left the room. The door had scarcely closed
before the cardinal, who had no mask for Bernouin, took off
that which had so recently covered his face, and with a most
dismal expression, -- "Call M. de Brienne," said he. Five
minutes afterward the secretary entered.
"Monsieur," said Mazarin, "I have just rendered a great
service to the monarchy, the greatest I have ever rendered
it. You will carry this letter, which proves it, to her
majesty the queen-mother, and when she shall have returned
it to you, you will lodge it in portfolio B., which is
filled with documents and papers relative to my ministry."
Brienne went as desired, and, as the letter was unsealed,
did not fail to read it on his way. There is likewise no
doubt that Bernouin, who was on good terms with everybody,
approached so near to the secretary as to be able to read
the letter over his shoulder; so that the news spread with
such activity through the castle, that Mazarin might have
feared it would reach the ears of the queen-mother before M.
de Brienne could convey Louis XIV.'s letter to her. A moment
after orders were given for departure, and M. de Conde
having been to pay his respects to the king on his pretended
rising, inscribed the city of Poitiers upon his tablets, as
the place of sojourn and rest for their majesties.
Thus in a few instants was unraveled an intrigue which had
covertly occupied all the diplomacies of Europe. It had
nothing, however, very clear as a result, but to make a poor
lieutenant of musketeers lose his commission and his
fortune. It is true, that in exchange he gained his liberty.
We shall soon know how M. d'Artagnan profited by this. For
the moment, if the reader will permit us, we shall return to
the hostelry of les Medici, of which one of the windows
opened at the very moment the orders were given for the
departure of the king.
The window that opened was that of one of the rooms of
Charles II. The unfortunate prince had passed the night in
bitter reflections, his head resting on his hands, and his
elbows on the table, whilst Parry, infirm and old, wearied
in body and in mind, had fallen asleep in a corner. A
singular fortune was that of this faithful servant, who saw
beginning for the second generation the fearful series of
misfortunes which had weighed so heavily on the first. When
Charles II. had well thought over the fresh defeat he had
experienced, when he perfectly comprehended the complete
isolation into which he had just fallen, on seeing his fresh
hope left behind him, he was seized as with a vertigo, and
sank back in the large armchair in which he was seated. Then
God took pity on the unhappy prince, and sent to console him
sleep, the innocent brother of death. He did not wake till
half-past six, that is to say, till the sun shone brightly
into his chamber, and Parry, motionless with fear of waking
him, was observing with profound grief the eyes of the young
man already red with wakefulness, and his cheeks pale with
suffering and privations.
At length the noise of some heavy carts descending towards
the Loire awakened Charles. He arose, looked around him like
a man who has forgotten everything, perceived Parry, shook
him by the hand, and commanded him to settle the reckoning
with Master Cropole. Master Cropole, being called upon to
settle his account with Parry, acquitted himself, it must be
allowed, like an honest man; he only made his customary
remark, that the two travelers had eaten nothing, which had
the double disadvantage of being humiliating for his
kitchen, and of forcing him to ask payment for a repast not
consumed, but not the less lost. Parry had nothing to say to
the contrary, and paid.
"I hope," said the king, "it has not been the same with the
horses. I don't see that they have eaten at your expense,
and it would be a misfortune for travelers like us, who have
a long journey to make, to have our horses fail us."
But Cropole, at this doubt, assumed his majestic air, and
replied that the stables of les Medici were not less
hospitable than its refectory.
The king mounted his horse; his old servant did the same,
and both set out towards Paris, without meeting a single
person on their road, in the streets or the faubourgs of the
city. For the prince the blow was the more severe, as it was
a fresh exile. The unfortunates cling to the smallest hopes,
as the happy do to the greatest good; and when they are
obliged to quit the place where that hope has soothed their
hearts, they experience the mortal regret which the banished
man feels when he places his foot upon the vessel which is
to bear him into exile. It appears that the heart already
wounded so many times suffers from the least scratch; it
appears that it considers as a good the momentary absence of
evil, which is nothing but the absence of pain; and that
God, into the most terrible misfortunes, has thrown hope as
the drop of water which the rich bad man in hell entreated
For one instant even the hope of Charles II. had been more
than a fugitive joy; -- that was when he found himself so
kindly welcomed by his brother king; then it had taken a
form that had become a reality; then, all at once, the
refusal of Mazarin had reduced the fictitious reality to the
state of a dream. This promise of Louis XIV., so soon
retracted, had been nothing but a mockery; a mockery like
his crown -- like his scepter -- like his friends -- like
all that had surrounded his royal childhood, and which had
abandoned his proscribed youth. Mockery! everything was a
mockery for Charles II. except the cold, black repose
promised by death.
Such were the ideas of the unfortunate prince while sitting
listlessly upon his horse, to which he abandoned the reins;
he rode slowly along beneath the warm May sun, in which the
somber misanthropy of the exile perceived a last insult to
A horseman was going rapidly along the road leading towards
Blois, which he had left nearly half an hour before, passed
the two travelers, and, though apparently in haste, raised
his hat as he passed them. The king scarcely observed this
young man, who was about twenty-five years of age, and who,
turning round several times, made friendly signals to a man
standing before the gate of a handsome white-and-red house;
that is to say, built of brick and stone, with a slated
roof, situated on the left hand of the road the prince was
This man, old, tall, and thin, with white hair, -- we speak
of the one standing by the gate; -- this man replied to the
farewell signals of the young one by signs of parting as
tender as could have been made by a father, The young man
disappeared at the first turn of the road, bordered by fine
trees, and the old man was preparing to return to the house,
when the two travelers, arriving in front of the gate,
attracted his attention.
The king, we have said, was riding with his head cast down,
his arms inert, leaving his horse to go what pace he liked,
whilst Parry, behind him, the better to imbibe the genial
influence of the sun, had taken off his hat, and was looking
about right and left. His eyes encountered those of the old
man leaning against the gate; the latter, as if struck by
some strange spectacle, uttered an exclamation, and made one
step towards the two travelers. From Parry his eyes
immediately turned towards the king, upon whom they rested
for an instant. This exclamation, however rapid, was
instantly reflected in a visible manner upon the features of
the tall old man. For scarcely had he recognized the younger
of the travelers -- and we say recognized, for nothing but a
perfect recognition could have explained such an act --
scarcely, we say, had he recognized the younger of the two
travelers, than he clapped his hands together, with
respectful surprise, and, raising his hat from his head,
bowed so profoundly that it might have been said he was
kneeling. This demonstration, however absent, or rather,
however absorbed was the king in his reflections, attracted
his attention instantly; and checking his horse and turning
towards Parry, he exclaimed, "Good God, Parry, who is that
man who salutes me in such a marked manner? Can he know me,
Parry, much agitated and very pale, had already turned his
horse towards the gate. "Ah, sire!" said he, stopping
suddenly at five of six paces' distance from the still
bending man: "sire, I am seized with astonishment, for I
think I recognize that brave man. Yes, it must be he! Will
your majesty permit me to speak to him?"
"Can it be you, Monsieur Grimaud?" asked Parry.
"Yes, it is I," replied the tall old man, drawing himself
up, but without losing his respectful demeanor.
"Sire," then said Parry, "I was not deceived. This good man
is the servant of the Comte de la Fere, and the Comte de la
Fere, if you remember, is the worthy gentleman of whom I
have so often spoken to your majesty that the remembrance of
him must remain, not only in your mind, but in your heart."
"He who assisted my father at his last moments?" asked
Charles, evidently affected at the remembrance.
"The same, sire."
"Alas!" said Charles; and then addressing Grimaud, whose
penetrating and intelligent eyes seemed to search and divine
his thoughts, -- "My friend," said he, "does your master,
Monsieur le Comte de la Fere, live in this neighborhood?"
"There," replied Grimaud, pointing with his outstretched arm
to the white-and-red house behind the gate.
"And is Monsieur le Comte de la Fere at home at present?"
"At the back, under the chestnut trees."
"Parry," said the king, "I will not miss this opportunity,
so precious for me, to thank the gentleman to whom our house
is indebted for such a noble example of devotedness and
generosity. Hold my horse, my friend, if you please." And,
throwing the bridle to Grimaud, the king entered the abode
of Athos, quite alone, as one equal enters the dwelling of
another. Charles had been informed by the concise
explanation of Grimaud, -- "At the back, under the chestnut
trees;" he left, therefore, the house on the left, and went
straight down the path indicated. The thing was easy; the
tops of those noble trees, already covered with leaves and
flowers, rose above all the rest.
On arriving under the lozenges, by turns luminous and dark,
which checkered the ground of this path according as the
trees were more or less in leaf, the young prince perceived
a gentleman walking with his arms behind him, apparently
plunged in a deep meditation. Without doubt, he had often
had this gentleman described to him, for, without
hesitating, Charles II. walked straight up to him. At the
sound of his footsteps, the Comte de la Fere raised his
head, and seeing an unknown man of noble and elegant
carriage coming towards him, he raised his hat and waited.
At some paces from him, Charles II. likewise took off his
hat. Then, as if in reply to the comte's mute interrogation,
"Monsieur le Comte," said he," I come to discharge a duty
towards you. I have, for a long time, had the expression of
a profound gratitude to bring you. I am Charles II., son of
Charles Stuart, who reigned in England, and died on the
On hearing this illustrious name, Athos felt a kind of
shudder creep through his veins, but at the sight of the
young prince standing uncovered before him, and stretching
out his hand towards him, two tears, for an instant, dimmed
his brilliant eyes. He bent respectfully, but the prince
took him by the hand.
"See how unfortunate I am, my lord count; it is only due to
chance that I have met with you. Alas! I ought to have
people around me whom I love and honor, whereas I am reduced
to preserve their services in my heart, and their names in
my memory: so that if your servant had not recognized mine,
I should have passed by your door as by that of a stranger."
"It is but too true," said Athos, replying with his voice to
the first part of the king's speech, and with a bow to the
second; "it is but too true, indeed, that your majesty has
seen many evil days."
"And the worst, alas!" replied Charles, "are perhaps still
"Sire, let us hope."
"Count, count," continued Charles, shaking his head, "I
entertained hope till last night, and that of a good
Christian, I swear."
Athos looked at the king as if to interrogate him.
"Oh, the history is soon related," said Charles.
"Proscribed, despoiled, disdained, I resolved, in spite of
all my repugnance, to tempt fortune one last time. Is it not
written above, that, for our family, all good fortune and
all bad fortune shall eternally come from France? You know
something of that, monsieur, -- you, who are one of the
Frenchmen whom my unfortunate father found at the foot of
his scaffold, on the day of his death, after having found
them at his right hand on the day of battle."
"Sire," said Athos modestly, "I was not alone. My companions
and I did, under the circumstances, our duty as gentlemen,
and that was all. Your majesty was about to do me the honor
to relate ---- "
"That is true. I had the protection, -- pardon my
hesitation, count, but, for a Stuart, you, who understand
everything, you will comprehend that the word is hard to
pronounce; -- I had, I say, the protection of my cousin the
stadtholder of Holland; but without the intervention, or at
least without the authorization of France, the stadtholder
would not take the initiative. I came, then, to ask this
authorization of the king of France, who has refused me."
"The king has refused you, sire!"
"Oh, not he; all justice must be rendered to my younger
brother Louis; but Monsieur de Mazarin ---- "
Athos bit his lips.
"You perhaps think I should have expected this refusal?"
said the king, who had noticed the movement.
"That was, in truth, my thought, sire," replied Athos,
respectfully, "I know that Italian of old."
"Then I determined to come to the test, and know at once the
last word of my destiny. I told my brother Louis, that, not
to compromise either France or Holland, I would tempt
fortune myself in person, as I had already done, with two
hundred gentlemen, if he would give them to me, and a
million, if he would lend it me."
"Well, monsieur, I am suffering at this moment something
strange, and that is, the satisfaction of despair. There is
in certain souls, -- and I have just discovered that mine is
of the number, -- a real satisfaction in the assurance that
all is lost, and the time is come to yield."
"Oh, I hope," said Athos, "that your majesty is not come to
"To say so, my lord count, to endeavor to revive hope in my
heart, you must have ill understood what I have just told
you. I came to Blois to ask of my brother Louis the alms of
a million, with which I had the hopes of re-establishing my
affairs; and my brother Louis has refused me. You see, then,
plainly, that all is lost."
"Will your majesty permit me to express a contrary opinion?"
"How is that, count? Do you think my heart of so low an
order that I do not know how to face my position?"
"Sire, I have always seen that it was in desperate positions
that suddenly the great turns of fortune have taken place."
"Thank you, count, it is some comfort to meet with a heart
like yours, that is to say, sufficiently trustful in God and
in monarchy, never to despair of a royal fortune, however
low it may be fallen. Unfortunately, my dear count, your
words are like those remedies they call `sovereign,' and
which, though able to cure curable wounds or diseases, fail
against death. Thank you for your perseverance in consoling
me, count, thanks for your devoted remembrance, but I know
in what I must trust -- nothing will save me now. And see,
my friend, I was so convinced, that I was taking the route
of exile with my old Parry; I was returning to devour my
poignant griefs in the little hermitage offered me by
Holland. There, believe me, count, all will soon be over,
and death will come quickly, it is called so often by this
body, eaten up by its soul, and by this soul, which aspires
"Your majesty has a mother, a sister, and brothers; your
majesty is the head of the family, and ought, therefore, to
ask a long life of God, instead of imploring Him for a
prompt death. Your majesty is an exile, a fugitive, but you
have right on your side; you ought to aspire to combats,
dangers, business, and not to rest in heavens."
"Count," said Charles II., with a smile of indescribable
sadness, "have you ever heard of a king who reconquered his
kingdom with one servant of the age of Parry, and with three
hundred crowns which that servant carried in his purse?"
"No, sire; but I have heard -- and that more than once --
that a dethroned king has recovered his kingdom with a firm
will, perseverance, some friends, and a million skillfully
"But you cannot have understood me. The million I asked of
my brother Louis was refused me."
"Sire," said Athos, "will your majesty grant me a few
minutes, and listen attentively to what remains for me to
say to you?"
Charles II. looked earnestly at Athos. "Willingly,
monsieur," said he.