This page contains affiliate links. As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases.
Language:
Forms:
Published:
  • 1847
Collection:
Buy it on Amazon Listen via Audible FREE Audible 30 days

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 France.”

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 likewise.'”

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?”

“Absolutely, sire.”

“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.

“Perfectly.”

“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.

CHAPTER 11

Mazarin’s Policy

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 defeat.

“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 —- “

“Oh, impossible!”

“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 number.

“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 scaffold.”

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.”

“Dishonest, monsieur!”

“Sire, you entered into a treaty with Cromwell.”

“Yes, and in that very treaty Cromwell signed his name above mine.”

“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.”

“Why so?”

“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, monsieur.”

“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 velvet cap.”

“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 despair.”

“But convinced, and that is all I desire, sire,” replied Mazarin.

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.

CHAPTER 12

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, sire.”

“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.”

“I?”

“Yourself.”

“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?'”

“Monsieur!”

“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, he returned.

“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 last.”

“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 me.”

“From your majesty’s stables?”

“No, one of your musketeers’ horses.”

“Very well, sire. Is that all?”

“And you will accompany me.”

“Alone?”

“Alone.”

“Shall I come to seek your majesty, or shall I wait?”

“You will wait for me.”

“Where, sire?”

“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 subdued voice.

“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 to-day.”

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.

CHAPTER 13

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 wait here.”

“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 cardinal.”

“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 two.

“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 meet her?”

“How can I help it? To my prayers, to my supplications, to my tears, I received no answer but reasons of state.”

“Well, well?”

“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 that expression.

“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 despair.”

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 disdainful.

“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 described, —

“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.

CHAPTER 14

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 horse!”

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?”

“Yes, sire.”

“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 know me.”

“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 me?”

“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, I pray?”

“Why, forever, sire.”

“What, you are desirous of quitting my service, monsieur?” said Louis, with an expression that revealed something more than surprise.

“Sire, I regret to say that I am.”

“Impossible!”

“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 exaggerates.”

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 admiration.

“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 chair.

“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 then.”

“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.”

“Well!”

“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 stopped there.”

“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, coldly.

“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?”

“I wait.”

“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.”

D’Artagnan bowed.

“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 went out.

CHAPTER 15

The Proscribed

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 eminence.”

“A letter! Ah! we expected one after the little journey of the morning.”

“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 presume.”

“I don’t know, but he sighed frequently whilst he was writing.”

“‘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, monsieur.”

“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 love.”

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 of Lazarus.

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 his grief.

CHAPTER 16

“Remember!”

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 traveling.

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, think you?”

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?”

“Certainly.”

“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 scaffold.”

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 to come.”

“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, sire?”

“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 that extremity.”

“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 to heaven.”

“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 employed.”

“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.