The Vicomte de Bragelonne
Alexandre Dumas, Pere
Part 9 out of 13
"It will be too late when reflection may be made."
"Because you have to deal with people stronger than ourselves, if they
"Compose that chamber of justice, monsieur."
"I will, sire."
"Is that all?"
"No, sire; there is still another important affair. What rights does
your majesty attach to this office of intendant?"
"Well - I do not know - the customary ones."
"Sire, I desire that this office be invested with the right of reading
the correspondence with England."
"Impossible, monsieur, for that correspondence is kept from the council;
monsieur le cardinal himself carried it on."
"I thought your majesty had this morning declared that there should no
longer be a council?"
"Yes, I said so."
"Let your majesty then have the goodness to read all the letters
yourself, particularly those from England; I hold strongly to this
"Monsieur, you shall have that correspondence, and render me an account
"Now, sire, what shall I do with respect to the finances?"
"Everything M. Fouquet has _not_ done."
"That is all I ask of your majesty. Thanks, sire, I depart in peace;"
and at these words he took his leave. Louis watched his departure.
Colbert was not yet a hundred paces from the Louvre when the king
received a courier from England. After having looked at and examined
the envelope, the king broke the seal precipitately, and found a letter
from Charles II. The following is what the English prince wrote to his
royal brother: -
"Your majesty must be rendered very uneasy by the illness of M. le
Cardinal Mazarin; but the excess of danger can only prove of service to
you. The cardinal is given over by his physician. I thank you for the
gracious reply you have made to my communication touching the Princess
Henrietta, my sister, and, in a week, the princess and her court will set
out for Paris. It is gratifying to me to acknowledge the fraternal
friendship you have evinced towards me, and to call you, more justly than
ever, my brother. It is gratifying to me, above everything, to prove to
your majesty how much I am interested in all that may please you. You
are wrong in having Belle-Ile-en-Mer secretly fortified. That is wrong.
We shall never be at war against each other. That measure does not make
me uneasy, it makes me sad. You are spending useless millions; tell your
ministers so; and rest assured that I am well informed; render me the
same service, my brother, if occasion offers."
The king rang his bell violently, and his _valet de chambre_ appeared.
"Monsieur Colbert is just gone; he cannot be far off. Let him be called
back!" exclaimed he.
The valet was about to execute the order, when the king stopped him.
"No," said he, "no; I see the whole scheme of that man. Belle-Isle
belongs to M. Fouquet; Belle-Isle is being fortified: that is a
conspiracy on the part of M. Fouquet. The discovery of that conspiracy
is the ruin of the superintendent, and that discovery is the result of
the correspondence with England: this is why Colbert wished to have that
correspondence. Oh! but I cannot place all my dependence upon that man;
he has a good head, but I must have an arm!" Louis, all at once, uttered
a joyful cry. "I had," said he, "a lieutenant of musketeers!"
"Yes, sire - Monsieur d'Artagnan."
"He quitted the service for a time."
"Let him be found, and be here to-morrow the first thing in the morning."
The _valet de chambre_ bowed and went out.
"Thirteen millions in my cellar," said the king; "Colbert carrying my
purse and D'Artagnan my sword - _I am king_."
The day of his arrival, on returning from the Palais Royal, Athos, as we
have seen, went straight to his hotel in the Rue Saint-Honore. He there
found the Vicomte de Bragelonne waiting for him in his chamber, chatting
with Grimaud. It was not an easy thing to talk with this old servant.
Two men only possessed the secret, Athos and D'Artagnan. The first
succeeded, because Grimaud sought to make him speak himself; D'Artagnan,
on the contrary, because he knew how to make Grimaud talk. Raoul was
occupied in making him describe the voyage to England, and Grimaud had
related it in all its details, with a limited number of gestures and
eight words, neither more nor less. He had, at first, indicated by an
undulating movement of his hand, that his master and he had crossed the
sea. "Upon some expedition?" Raoul had asked.
Grimaud by bending down his head had answered, "Yes."
"When monsieur le comte incurred much danger?" asked Raoul.
"Neither too much nor too little," was replied by a shrug of the
"But still, what sort of danger?" insisted Raoul.
Grimaud pointed to the sword; he pointed to the fire and to a musket that
was hanging on the wall.
"Monsieur le comte had an enemy there, then?" cried Raoul.
"Monk," replied Grimaud.
"It is strange," continued Raoul, "that monsieur le comte persists in
considering me a novice, and not allowing me to partake the honor and
danger of his adventure."
Grimaud smiled. It was at this moment Athos came in. The host was
lighting him up the stairs, and Grimaud, recognizing the step of his
master, hastened to meet him, which cut short the conversation. But
Raoul was launched on the sea of interrogatories, and did not stop.
Taking both hands of the comte, with warm, but respectful tenderness, -
"How is it, monsieur," said he, "that you have set out upon a dangerous
voyage without bidding me adieu, without commanding the aid of my sword,
of myself, who ought to be your support, now I have the strength; whom
you have brought up like a man? Ah! monsieur, can you expose me to the
cruel trial of never seeing you again?"
"Who told you, Raoul," said the comte, placing his cloak and hat in the
hands of Grimaud, who had unbuckled his sword, "who told you that my
voyage was a dangerous one?"
"I," said Grimaud.
"And why did you do so?" said Athos, sternly.
Grimaud was embarrassed; Raoul came to his assistance, by answering for
him. "It is natural, monsieur, that our good Grimaud should tell me the
truth in what concerns you. By whom should you be loved an supported, if
not by me?"
Athos did not reply. He made a friendly motion to Grimaud, which sent
him out of the room; he then seated himself in a _fauteuil_, whilst Raoul
remained standing before him.
"But it is true," continued Raoul, "that your voyage was an expedition,
and that steel and fire threatened you?"
"Say no more about that, vicomte," said Athos, mildly. "I set out
hastily, it is true: but the service of King Charles II. required a
prompt departure. As to your anxiety, I thank you for it, and I know
that I can depend on you. You have not wanted for anything, vicomte, in
my absence, have you?"
"No, monsieur, thank you."
"I left orders with Blaisois to pay you a hundred pistoles, if you should
stand in need of money."
"Monsieur, I have not seen Blaisois."
"You have been without money, then?"
"Monsieur, I had thirty pistoles left from the sale of the horses I took
in my last campaign, and M. le Prince had the kindness to allow me to win
two hundred pistoles at his play-table three months ago."
"Do you play? I don't like that, Raoul."
"I never play, monsieur; it was M. le Prince who ordered me to hold his
cards at Chantilly - one night when a courier came to him from the king.
I won, and M. le Prince commanded me to take the stakes."
"Is that a practice in the household, Raoul?" asked Athos with a frown.
"Yes, monsieur; every week M. le Prince affords, upon one occasion or
another, a similar advantage to one of his gentlemen. There are fifty
gentlemen in his highness's household; it was my turn."
"Very well! You went into Spain, then?"
"Yes, monsieur, I made a very delightful and interesting journey."
"You have been back a month, have you not?"
"And in the course of that month?"
"In that month - "
"What have you done?"
"My duty, monsieur."
"Have you not been home, to La Fere?"
Raoul colored. Athos looked at him with a fixed but tranquil expression.
"You would be wrong not to believe me," said Raoul. "I feel that I
colored, and in spite of myself. The question you did me the honor to
ask me is of a nature to raise in me much emotion. I color, then,
because I am agitated, not because I meditate a falsehood."
"I know, Raoul, you never lie."
"Besides, my young friend, you would be wrong; what I wanted to say - "
"I know quite well, monsieur. You would ask me if I have not been to
"I have not been there; I have not even seen the person to whom you
Raoul's voice trembled as he pronounced these words. Athos, a sovereign
judge in all matters of delicacy, immediately added, "Raoul, you answer
me with a painful feeling; you are unhappy."
"Very, monsieur; you have forbidden me to go to Blois, or to see
Mademoiselle de la Valliere again." Here the young man stopped. That
dear name, so delightful to pronounce, made his heart bleed, although so
sweet upon his lips.
"And I have acted rightly, Raoul." Athos hastened to reply. "I am
neither an unjust nor a barbarous father; I respect true love; but I look
forward for you to a future - an immense future. A new reign is about to
break upon us like a fresh dawn. War calls upon a young king full of
chivalric spirit. What is wanting to assist this heroic ardor is a
battalion of young and free lieutenants who would rush to the fight with
enthusiasm, and fall, crying: '_Vive le Roi!_' instead of 'Adieu, my dear
wife.' You understand that, Raoul. However brutal my reasoning may
appear, I conjure you, then, to believe me, and to turn away your
thoughts from those early days of youth in which you took up this habit
of love - days of effeminate carelessness, which soften the heart and
render it incapable of consuming those strong bitter draughts called
glory and adversity. Therefore, Raoul, I repeat to you, you should see
in my counsel only the desire of being useful to you, only the ambition
of seeing you prosper. I believe you capable of becoming a remarkable
man. March alone, and you will march better, and more quickly."
"You have commanded, monsieur," replied Raoul, "and I obey."
"Commanded!" cried Athos. "Is it thus you reply to me? I have commanded
you! Oh! you distort my words as you misconceive my intentions. I do
not command you; I request you."
"No, monsieur, you have commanded," said Raoul, persistently; "had you
requested me, your request is even more effective than your order. I
have not seen Mademoiselle de la Valliere again."
"But you are unhappy! you are unhappy!" insisted Athos.
Raoul made no reply.
"I find you pale; I find you dull. The sentiment is strong, then?"
"It is a passion," replied Raoul.
"No - a habit."
"Monsieur, you know I have traveled much, that I have passed two years
far away from her. A habit would yield to an absence of two years, I
believe; whereas, on my return, I loved not more, that was impossible,
but as much. Mademoiselle de la Valliere is for me the one lady above
all others; but you are for me a god upon earth - to you I sacrifice
"You are wrong," said Athos; "I have no longer any right over you. Age
has emancipated you; you no longer even stand in need of my consent.
Besides, I will not refuse my consent after what you have told me. Marry
Mademoiselle de la Valliere, if you like."
Raoul was startled, but suddenly: "You are very kind, monsieur," said he;
"and your concession excites my warmest gratitude, but I will not accept
"Then you now refuse?"
"I will not oppose you in anything, Raoul."
"But you have at the bottom of your heart an idea against this marriage:
it is not your choice."
"That is true."
"That is sufficient to make me resist: I will wait."
"Beware, Raoul! What you are now saying is serious."
"I know it is, monsieur; as I said, I will wait."
"Until I die?" said Athos, much agitated.
"Oh! monsieur," cried Raoul, with tears in his eyes, "is it possible that
you should wound my heart thus? I have never given you cause of
"Dear boy, that is true," murmured Athos, pressing his lips violently
together to conceal the emotion of which he was no longer master. "No, I
will no longer afflict you; only I do not comprehend what you mean by
waiting. Will you wait till you love no longer?"
"Ah! for that! - no, monsieur. I will wait till you change your opinion."
"I should wish to put the matter to a test, Raoul; I should like to see
if Mademoiselle de la Valliere will wait as you do."
"I hope so, monsieur."
"But, take care, Raoul! suppose she did not wait? Ah, you are young, so
confiding, so loyal! Women are changeable."
"You have never spoken ill to me of women, monsieur; you have never had
to complain of them; why should you doubt of Mademoiselle de la Valliere?"
"That is true," said Athos, casting down his eyes; "I have never spoken
ill to you of women; I have never had to complain of them; Mademoiselle
de la Valliere never gave birth to a suspicion; but when we are looking
forward, we must go even to exceptions, even to improbabilities! _If_, I
say, Mademoiselle de la Valliere should not wait for you?"
"If she turned her eyes another way."
"If she looked favorably upon another, do you mean, monsieur?" said
Raoul, pale with agony.
"Well, monsieur, I would kill him," said Raoul, simply, "and all the men
whom Mademoiselle de la Valliere should choose, until one of them had
killed me, or Mademoiselle de la Valliere had restored me her heart."
Athos started. "I thought," resumed he, in an agitated voice, "that you
called my just now your god, your law in this world."
"Oh!" said Raoul, trembling, "you would forbid me the duel?"
"Suppose I _did_ forbid it, Raoul?"
"You would not forbid me to hope, monsieur; consequently you would not
forbid me to die."
Athos raised his eyes toward the vicomte. He had pronounced these words
with the most melancholy look. "Enough," said Athos, after a long
silence, "enough of this subject, upon which we both go too far. Live as
well as you are able, Raoul, perform your duties, love Mademoiselle de la
Valliere; in a word, act like a man, since you have attained the age of a
man; only do not forget that I love you tenderly, and that you profess to
"Ah! monsieur le comte!" cried Raoul, pressing the hand of Athos to his
"Enough, dear boy, leave me; I want rest. _A propos_, M. d'Artagnan has
returned from England with me; you owe him a visit."
"I will pay it, monsieur, with great pleasure. I love Monsieur
"You are right in doing so; he is a worthy man and a brave cavalier."
"Who loves you dearly."
"I am sure of that. Do you know his address?"
"At the Louvre, I suppose, or wherever the king is. Does he not command
"No; at present M. d'Artagnan is absent on leave; he is resting for
awhile. Do not, therefore, seek him at the posts of his service. You
will hear of him at the house of a certain Planchet."
"His former lackey?"
"Exactly; turned grocer."
"I know; Rue des Lombards?"
"Somewhere thereabouts, or Rue des Arcis."
"I will find it, monsieur - I will find it."
"You will say a thousand kind things to him, on my part, and ask him to
come and dine with me before I set out for La Fere."
"Monsieur, I see you wear an order I never saw you wear before; accept my
"The Fleece! - that is true. A bauble, my boy, which no longer amuses an
old child like myself. Good-night, Raoul!"
Raoul did not meet with D'Artagnan the next day, as he had hoped. He
only met with Planchet, whose joy was great at seeing the young man
again, and who contrived to pay him two or three little soldierly
compliments, savoring very little of the grocer's shop. But as Raoul was
returning the next day from Vincennes at the head of fifty dragoons
confided to him by Monsieur le Prince, he perceived, in La Place
Baudoyer, a man with his nose in the air, examining a house as we examine
a horse we have a fancy to buy. This man, dressed in a citizen costume
buttoned up like a military _pourpoint_, a very small hat on his
head, but a long shagreen-mounted sword by his side, turned his head as
soon as he heard the steps of the horses, and left off looking at the
house to look at the dragoons. It was simply M. d'Artagnan; D'Artagnan
on foot; D'Artagnan with his hands behind him, passing a little review
upon the dragoons, after having reviewed the buildings. Not a man, not a
tag, not a horse's hoof escaped his inspection. Raoul rode at the side
of his troop; D'Artagnan perceived him the last. "Eh!" said he, "Eh!
"I was not mistaken!" cried Raoul, turning his horse towards him.
"Mistaken - no! Good-day to you," replied the ex-musketeer; whilst Raoul
eagerly pressed the hand of his old friend. "Take care, Raoul," said
D'Artagnan, "the second horse of the fifth rank will lose a shoe before
he gets to the Pont Marie; he has only two nails left in his off fore-
"Wait a minute, I will come back," said Raoul.
"Can you quit your detachment?"
"The cornet is there to take my place."
"Then you will come and dine with me?"
"Most willingly, Monsieur d'Artagnan."
"Be quick, then; leave your horse, or make them give me one."
"I prefer coming back on foot with you."
Raoul hastened to give notice to the cornet, who took his post; he then
dismounted, gave his horse to one of the dragoons, and with great delight
seized the arm of M. d'Artagnan, who had watched him during all these
little evolutions with the satisfaction of a connoisseur.
"What, do you come from Vincennes?" said he.
"Yes, monsieur le chevalier."
"And the cardinal?"
"Is very ill; it is even reported he is dead."
"Are you on good terms with M. Fouquet?" asked D'Artagnan, with a
disdainful movement of the shoulders, proving that the death of Mazarin
did not affect him beyond measure.
"With M. Fouquet?" said Raoul; "I do not know him."
"So much the worse! so much the worse! for a new king always seeks to get
good men in his employment."
"Oh! the king means no harm," replied the young man.
"I say nothing about the crown," cried D'Artagnan; "I am speaking of the
king - the king, that is M. Fouquet, if the cardinal is dead. You must
contrive to stand well with M. Fouquet, if you do not wish to molder away
all your life as I have moldered. It is true you have, fortunately,
"M. le Prince, for instance."
"Worn out! worn out!"
"M. le Comte de la Fere?"
"Athos! Oh! that's different; yes, Athos - and if you have any wish to
make your way in England, you cannot apply to a better person; I can even
say, without too much vanity, that I myself have some credit at the court
of Charles II. There is a king - God speed him!"
"Ah!" cried Raoul, with the natural curiosity of well-born young people,
while listening to experience and courage.
"Yes, a king who amuses himself, it is true, but who has had a sword in
his hand, and can appreciate useful men. Athos is on good terms with
Charles II. Take service there, and leave these scoundrels of
contractors and farmers-general, who steal as well with French hands as
others have done with Italian hands; leave the little snivelling king,
who is going to give us another reign of Francis II. Do you know
anything of history, Raoul?"
"Yes, monsieur le chevalier."
"Do you know, then, that Francis II. had always the earache?"
"No, I did not know that."
"That Charles IV. had always the headache?"
"And Henry III. had always the stomach-ache?"
Raoul began to laugh.
"Well, my dear friend, Louis XIV. always has the heart-ache; it is
deplorable to see a king sighing from morning till night without saying
once in the course of the day, _ventre-saint-gris! corboef!_ or anything
to rouse one."
"Was that the reason why you quitted the service, monsieur le chevalier?"
"But you yourself, M. d'Artagnan, are throwing the handle after the axe;
you will not make a fortune."
"Who? I?" replied D'Artagnan, in a careless tone; "I am settled - I had
some family property."
Raoul looked at him. The poverty of D'Artagnan was proverbial. A
Gascon, he exceeded in ill-luck all the gasconnades of France and
Navarre; Raoul had a hundred times heard Job and D'Artagnan named
together, as the twins Romulus and Remus. D'Artagnan caught Raoul's look
"And has not your father told you I have been in England?"
"Yes, monsieur le chevalier."
"And that I there met with a very lucky chance?"
"No, monsieur, I did not know that."
"Yes, a very worthy friend of mine, a great nobleman, the viceroy of
Scotland and Ireland, has endowed me with an inheritance."
"And a good one, too."
"Then you are rich?"
"Receive my sincere congratulation."
"Thank you! Look, that is my house."
"Place de Greve?"
"Yes; don't you like this quarter?"
"On the contrary, the look-out over the water is pleasant. Oh! what a
pretty old house!"
"The sign Notre Dame; it is an old _cabaret_, which I have transformed
into a private house in two days."
"But the _cabaret_ is still open?"
"And where do you lodge, then?"
"I? I lodge with Planchet."
"You said, just now, 'This is my house.'"
"I said so, because, in fact, it is my house. I have bought it."
"Ah!" said Raoul.
"At ten years' purchase, my dear Raoul; a superb affair; I bought the
house for thirty thousand livres; it has a garden which opens to the Rue
de la Mortillerie; the _cabaret_ lets for a thousand livres, with the
first story; the garret, or second floor, for five hundred livres."
"Five hundred livres for a garret? Why, it is not habitable."
"Therefore no one inhabits it; only, you see, this garret has two windows
which look out upon the Place."
"Well, then, every time anybody is broken on the wheel or hung,
quartered, or burnt, these two windows let for twenty pistoles."
"Oh!" said Raoul, with horror.
"It is disgusting, is it not?" said D'Artagnan.
"Oh!" repeated Raoul.
"It is disgusting, but so it is. These Parisian cockneys are sometimes
real anthropophagi. I cannot conceive how men, Christians, can make such
"That is true."
"As for myself," continued D'Artagnan, "if I inhabited that house, on
days of execution I would shut it up to the very keyholes; but I do not
"And you let the garret for five hundred livres?"
"To the ferocious _cabaretier_, who sub-lets it. I said, then, fifteen
"The natural interest of money," said Raoul, - "five per cent."
"Exactly so. I then have left the side of the house at the back, store-
rooms, and cellars, inundated every winter, two hundred livres; and the
garden, which is very fine, well planted, well shaded under the walls and
the portal of Saint-Gervais-Saint-Protais, thirteen hundred livres."
"Thirteen hundred livres! why, that is royal!"
"This is the whole history. I strongly suspect some canon of the parish
(these canons are all rich as Croesus) - I suspect some canon of having
hired the garden to take his pleasure in. The tenant has given the name
of M. Godard. That is either a false name or a real name; if true, he is
a canon; if false, he is some unknown; but of what consequence is it to
me? he always pays in advance. I had also an idea just now, when I met
you, of buying a house in the Place Baudoyer, the back premises of which
join my garden, and would make a magnificent property. Your dragoons
interrupted my calculations. But come, let us take the Rue de la
Vannerie: that will lead us straight to M. Planchet's." D'Artagnan
mended his pace, and conducted Raoul to Planchet's dwelling, a chamber of
which the grocer had given up to his old master. Planchet was out, but
the dinner was ready. There was a remains of military regularity and
punctuality preserved in the grocer's household. D'Artagnan returned to
the subject of Raoul's future.
"Your father brings you up rather strictly?" said he.
"Justly, monsieur le chevalier."
"Oh, yes, I know Athos is just; but close, perhaps?"
"A royal hand, Monsieur d'Artagnan."
"Well, never want, my boy! If ever you stand in need of a few pistoles,
the old musketeer is at hand."
"My dear Monsieur d'Artagnan!"
"Do you play a little?"
"Successful with the ladies, then? - Oh! my little Aramis! That, my dear
friend, costs even more than play. It is true we fight when we lose;
that is a compensation. Bah! that little sniveller, the king, makes
winners give him his revenge. What a reign! my poor Raoul, what a
reign! When we think that, in my time, the musketeers were besieged in
their houses like Hector and Priam in the city of Troy; and the women
wept, and then the walls laughed, and then five hundred beggarly fellows
clapped their hands and cried, 'Kill! kill!' when not one musketeer was
hurt. _Mordioux!_ you will never see anything like that."
"You are very hard upon the king, my dear Monsieur d'Artagnan and yet you
scarcely know him."
"I! Listen, Raoul. Day by day, hour by hour, - take note of my words, -
I will predict what he will do. The cardinal being dead, he will fret;
very well, that is the least silly thing he will do, particularly if he
does not shed a tear."
"Why, then he will get M. Fouquet to allow him a pension, and will go and
compose verses at Fontainebleau, upon some Mancini or other, whose eyes
the queen will scratch out. She is a Spaniard, you see, - this queen of
ours; and she has, for mother-in-law, Madame Anne of Austria. I know
something of the Spaniards of the house of Austria."
"Well, after having torn the silver lace from the uniforms of his Swiss,
because lace is too expensive, he will dismount his musketeers, because
oats and hay of a horse cost five sols a day."
"Oh! do not say that."
"Of what consequence is it to _me?_ I am no longer a musketeer, am I?
Let them be on horseback, let them be on foot, let them carry a larding-
pin, a spit, a sword, or nothing - what is it to _me?_"
"My dear Monsieur d'Artagnan, I beseech you speak no more ill of the
king. I am almost in his service, and my father would be very angry with
me for having heard, even from your mouth, words injurious to his
"Your father, eh! He is a knight in every bad cause. _Pardieu!_ yes,
your father is a brave man, a Caesar, it is true - but a man without
"Now, my dear chevalier," exclaimed Raoul, laughing, "are you going to
speak ill of my father, of him you call the great Athos? Truly you are
in a bad vein to-day; riches render you as sour as poverty renders other
"_Pardieu!_ you are right. I am a rascal and in my dotage; I am an
unhappy wretch grown old; a tent-cord untwisted, a pierced cuirass, a
boot without a sole, a spur without a rowel ; - but do me the pleasure to
add one thing."
"What is that, my dear Monsieur d'Artagnan?"
"Simply say: 'Mazarin was a pitiful wretch.'"
"Perhaps he is dead."
"More the reason - I say _was_; if I did not hope that he was dead, I
would entreat you to say: 'Mazarin is a pitiful wretch.' Come, say so,
say so, for love of me."
"Well, I will."
"Mazarin was a pitiful wretch," said Raoul, smiling at the musketeer, who
roared with laughter, as in his best days.
"A moment," said the latter; "you have spoken my first proposition, here
is the conclusion of it, - repeat, Raoul, repeat: 'But I regret Mazarin.'"
"You will not say it? Well, then, I will say it twice for you."
"But you would regret Mazarin?"
And they were still laughing and discussing this profession of
principles, when one of the shop-boys entered. "A letter, monsieur,"
said he, "for M. d'Artagnan."
"Thank you; give it me," cried the musketeer,
"The handwriting of monsieur le comte," said Raoul.
"Yes, yes." And D'Artagnan broke the seal.
"Dear friend," said Athos, "a person has just been here to beg me to seek
for you, on the part of the king."
"Seek me!" said D'Artagnan, letting the paper fall upon the table. Raoul
picked it up, and continued to read aloud: -
"Make haste. His majesty is very anxious to speak to you, and expects
you at the Louvre."
"Expects me?" again repeated the musketeer.
"He, he, he!" laughed Raoul.
"Oh, oh!" replied D'Artagnan. "What the devil can this mean?"
The first moment of surprise over, D'Artagnan reperused Athos's note.
"It is strange," said he, "that the king should send for me."
"Why so?" said Raoul; "do you not think, monsieur, that the king must
regret such a servant as you?"
"Oh, oh!" cried the officer, laughing with all his might; "you are poking
fun at me, Master Raoul. If the king had regretted me, he would not have
let me leave him. No, no; I see in it something better, or worse, if you
"Worse! What can that be, monsieur le chevalier?"
"You are young, you are a boy, you are admirable. Oh, how I should like
to be as you are! To be but twenty-four, with an unfortunate brow, under
which the brain is void of everything but women, love, and good
intentions. Oh, Raoul, as long as you have not received the smiles of
kings, the confidence of queens; as long as you have not had two
cardinals killed under you, the one a tiger, the other a fox; as long as
you have not - But what is the good of all this trifling? We must part,
"How you say the word! What a serious face!"
"Eh! but the occasion is worthy of it. Listen to me. I have a very good
recommendation to tender you."
"I am all attention, Monsieur d'Artagnan."
"You will go and inform your father of my departure."
"_Pardieu!_ You will tell him I am gone into England; and that I am
living in my little country-house."
"In England, you! - And the king's orders?"
"You get more and more silly: do you imagine that I am going to the
Louvre, to place myself at the disposal of that little crowned wolf-cub?"
"The king a wolf-cub? Why, monsieur le chevalier, you are mad!"
"On the contrary, I never was so sane. You do not know what he wants to
do with me, this worthy son of _Louis le Juste!_ - But, _mordioux!_ that
is policy. He wishes to ensconce me snugly in the Bastile - purely and
simply, look you!"
"What for?" cried Raoul, terrified at what he heard.
"On account of what I told him one day at Blois. I was warm; he
"You told him what?"
"That he was mean, cowardly, and silly."
"Good God!" cried Raoul, "is it possible that such words should have
issued from your mouth?"
"Perhaps I don't give the letter of my speech, but I give the sense of
"But did not the king have you arrested immediately?"
"By whom? It was I who commanded the musketeers; he must have commanded
me to convey myself to prison; I would never have consented: I would have
resisted myself. And then I went into England - no more D'Artagnan.
Now, the cardinal is dead, or nearly so, they learn that I am in Paris,
and they lay their hands on me."
"The cardinal was your protector?"
"The cardinal knew me; he knew certain particularities of me; I also knew
some of his; we appreciated each other mutually. And then, on rendering
his soul to the devil, he would recommend Anne of Austria to make me the
inhabitant of a safe place. Go, then, and find your father, relate the
fact to him - and adieu!"
"My dear Monsieur d'Artagnan," said Raoul, very much agitated, after
having looked out the window, "you cannot even fly!"
"Because there is below an officer of the Swiss guards waiting for you."
"Well, he will arrest you."
D'Artagnan broke into a Homeric laugh.
"Oh! I know very well that you will resist, that you will fight, even; I
know very well that you will prove the conqueror; but that amounts to
rebellion, and you are an officer yourself, knowing what discipline is."
"Devil of a boy, how logical that is!" grumbled D'Artagnan.
"You approve of it, do you not?"
"Yes, instead of passing into the street, where that idiot is waiting for
me, I will slip quietly out at the back. I have a horse in the stable,
and a good one. I will ride him to death; my means permit me to do so,
and by killing one horse after another, I shall arrive at Boulogne in
eleven hours; I know the road. Only tell your father one thing."
"What is that?"
"That is - that the thing he knows about is placed at Planchet's house,
except a fifth, and that - "
"But, my dear D'Artagnan, rest assured that if you fly, two things will
be said of you."
"What are they, my dear friend?"
"The first, that you have been afraid."
"Ah! and who will dare to say that?"
"The king first."
"Well! but he will tell the truth, - I am afraid."
"The second, that you knew yourself guilty."
"Guilty of what?"
"Why, of the crimes they wish to impute to you."
"That is true again. So, then, you advise me to go and get myself made a
prisoner in the Bastile?"
"M. le Comte de la Fere would advise you just as I do."
"_Pardieu!_ I know he would," said D'Artagnan thoughtfully. "You are
right, I shall not escape. But if they cast me into the Bastile?"
"We will get you out again," said Raoul, with a quiet, calm air.
"_Mordioux!_ You said that after a brave fashion, Raoul," said
D'Artagnan, seizing his hand; "that savors of Athos, distinctly. Well, I
will go, then. Do not forget my last word."
"Except a fifth," said Raoul.
"Yes, you are a fine boy! and I wish you to add one thing to that last
"It is that if you cannot get me out of the Bastile, and I remain there –
Oh! that will be so, and I shall be a detestable prisoner; I, who have
been a passable man, - in that case, I give three-fifths to you, and the
fourth to your father."
"_Mordioux!_ If you will have some masses said for me, you are welcome."
That being said, D'Artagnan took his belt from the hook, girded on his
sword, took a hat the feather of which was fresh, and held his hand out
to Raoul, who threw himself into his arms. When in the shop, he cast a
quick glance at the shop-lads, who looked upon the scene with a pride
mingled with some inquietude; then plunging his hands into a chest of
currants, he went straight to the officer who was waiting for him at the
"Those features! Can it be you, Monsieur de Friedisch?" cried
D'Artagnan, gayly. "Eh! eh! what, do we arrest our friends?"
"Arrest!" whispered the lads among themselves.
"Ja, it is I, Monsieur d'Artagnan! Good-day to you!" said the Swiss, in
his mountain _patois_.
"Must I give you up my sword? I warn you that it is long and heavy; you
had better let me wear if to the Louvre: I feel quite lost in the streets
without a sword, and you would be more at a loss that I should, with two."
"The king has given me no orders about it," replied the Swiss, "so keep
"Well, that is very polite on the part of the king. Let us go, at once."
Monsieur Friedisch was not a talker, and D'Artagnan had too many things
to think about to say much. From Planchet's shop to the Louvre was not
far, - they arrived in ten minutes. It was a dark night. M. de
Friedisch wanted to enter by the wicket. "No," said D'Artagnan, "you
would lose time by that; take the little staircase."
The Swiss did as D'Artagnan advised, and conducted him to the vestibule
of the king's cabinet. When arrived there, he bowed to his prisoner,
and, without saying anything, returned to his post. D'Artagnan had not
had time to ask why his sword was not taken from him, when the door of
the cabinet opened, and a _valet de chambre_ called, "M. d'Artagnan!"
The musketeer assumed his parade carriage, and entered, with his large
eyes wide open, his brow calm, his moustache stiff. The king was seated
at a table writing. He did not disturb himself when the step of the
musketeer resounded on the floor; he did not even turn his head.
D'Artagnan advanced as far as the middle of the room, and seeing that the
king paid no attention to him, and suspecting, besides, that this was
nothing but affectation, a sort of tormenting preamble to the explanation
that was preparing, he turned his back on the prince, and began to
examine the frescoes on the cornices, and the cracks in the ceiling.
This maneuver was accompanied by a little tacit monologue. "Ah! you want
to humble me, do you? - you, whom I have seen so young - you, whom I have
saved as I would my own child, - you, whom I have served as I would a God
- that is to say, for nothing. Wait awhile! wait awhile! you shall see
what a man can do who has suffered the air of the fire of the Huguenots,
under the beard of monsieur le cardinal - the true cardinal." At this
moment Louis turned round.
"Ah! are you there, Monsieur d'Artagnan?" said he.
D'Artagnan saw the movement and imitated it. "Yes, sire," said he.
"Very well; have the goodness to wait till I have cast this up."
D'Artagnan made no reply; he only bowed. "That is polite enough,"
thought he; "I have nothing to say."
Louis made a violent dash with his pen, and threw it angrily away.
"Ah! go on, work yourself up!" thought the musketeer; "you will put me at
my ease. You shall find I did not empty the bag, the other day, at
Louis rose from his seat, passed his hand over his brow, then, stopping
opposite to D'Artagnan, he looked at him with an air at once imperious
and kind, "What the devil does he want with me? I wish he would begin!"
thought the musketeer.
"Monsieur," said the king, "you know, without doubt, that monsieur le
cardinal is dead?"
"I suspected so, sire."
"You know that, consequently, I am master in my own kingdom?"
"That is not a thing that dates from the death of monsieur le cardinal,
sire; a man is always master in his own house, when he wishes to be so."
"Yes; but do you not remember all you said to me at Blois?"
"Now we come to it," thought D'Artagnan; "I was not deceived. Well, so
much the better, it is a sign that my scent is tolerably keen yet."
"You do not answer me," said Louis.
"Sire, I think I recollect."
"You only think?"
"It is so long ago."
"If you do not remember, I do. You said to me, - listen with attention."
"Ah! I shall listen with all my ears, sire; for it is very likely the
conversation will turn in a fashion very interesting to me."
Louis once more looked at the musketeer. The latter smoothed the feather
of his hat, then his mustache, and waited bravely. Louis XIV. continued:
"You quitted my service, monsieur, after having told me the whole truth?"
"That is, after having declared to me all you thought to be true, with
regard to my mode of thinking and acting. That is always a merit. You
began by telling me that you had served my family thirty years, and were
"I said so; yes, sire."
"And you afterwards admitted that that fatigue was a pretext, and that
discontent was the real cause."
"I was discontented, in fact; but that discontent has never betrayed
itself, that I know of, and if, like a man of heart, I have spoken out
before your majesty, I have not even thought of the matter before anybody
"Do not excuse yourself, D'Artagnan, but continue to listen to me. When
making me the reproach that you were discontented, you received in reply
a promise: - 'Wait.' - Is that not true?"
"Yes, sire, as true as what I told you."
"You answered me, 'Hereafter! No, now, immediately.' Do not excuse
yourself, I tell you. It was natural, but you had no charity for your
poor prince, Monsieur d'Artagnan."
"Sire! - charity for a king, on the part of a poor soldier!"
"You understand me very well; you knew that I stood in need of it; you
knew very well that I was not master; you knew very well that my hope was
in the future. Now, you answered me when I spoke of the future, 'My
discharge, - and that directly.'"
"That is true," murmured D'Artagnan, biting his mustache.
"You did not flatter me when I was in distress," added Louis.
"But," said D'Artagnan, raising his head nobly, "if I did not flatter
your majesty when poor, neither did I betray you. I have shed my blood
for nothing; I have watched like a dog at a door, knowing full well that
neither bread nor bone would be thrown to me. I, although poor likewise,
asked nothing of your majesty but the discharge you speak of."
"I know you are a brave man, but I was a young man, and you ought to have
had some indulgence for me. What had you to reproach the king with? –
that he left King Charles II. without assistance? - let us say further –
that he did not marry Mademoiselle de Mancini?" When saying these words,
the king fixed upon the musketeer a searching look.
"Ah! ah!" thought the latter, "he is doing far more than remembering, he
divines. The devil!"
"Your sentence," continued Louis, "fell upon the king and fell upon the
man. But, Monsieur d'Artagnan, that weakness, for you considered it a
weakness?" - D'Artagnan made no reply - "you reproached me also with
regard to monsieur, the defunct cardinal. Now, monsieur le cardinal, did
he not bring me up, did he not support me? - elevating himself and
supporting himself at the same time, I admit; but the benefit was
discharged. As an ingrate or an egotist, would you, then, have better
loved or served me?"
"We will say no more about it, monsieur; it would only create in you too
many regrets, and me too much pain."
D'Artagnan was not convinced. The young king, in adopting a tone of
_hauteur_ with him, did not forward his purpose.
"You have since reflected?" resumed Louis.
"Upon what, sire?" asked D'Artagnan, politely.
"Why, upon all that I have said to you, monsieur."
"Yes, sire, no doubt - "
"And you have only waited for an opportunity of retracting your words?"
"You hesitate, it seems."
"I do not understand what your majesty did me the honor to say to me."
Louis's brow became cloudy.
"Have the goodness to excuse me, sire; my understanding is particularly
thick; things do not penetrate it without difficulty; but it is true,
once they get in, they remain there."
"Yes, yes; you appear to have a memory."
"Almost as good a one as your majesty's."
"Then give me quickly one solution. My time is valuable. What have you
been doing since your discharge?"
"Making my fortune, sire."
"The expression is crude, Monsieur d'Artagnan."
"Your majesty takes it in bad part, certainly. I entertain nothing but
the profoundest respect for the king; and if I have been impolite, which
might be excused by my long sojourn in camps and barracks, your majesty
is too much above me to be offended at a word that innocently escapes
from a soldier."
"In fact, I know you performed a brilliant action in England, monsieur.
I only regret that you have broken your promise."
"I!" cried D'Artagnan.
"Doubtless. You engaged your word not to serve any other prince on
quitting my service. Now it was for King Charles II. that you undertook
the marvelous carrying off of M. Monk."
"Pardon me, sire; it was for myself."
"And did you succeed?"
"Like the captains of the fifteenth century, _coups-de-main_ and
"What do you call succeeding? - a fortune?"
"A hundred thousand crowns, sire, which I now possess - that is, in one
week three times as much money as I ever had in fifty years."
"It is a handsome sum. But you are ambitious, I perceive."
"I, sire? The quarter of that would be a treasure; and I swear to you I
have no thought of augmenting it."
"What! you contemplate remaining idle?"
"You mean to drop the sword?"
"That I have already done."
"Impossible, Monsieur d'Artagnan," said Louis, firmly.
"But, sire - "
"And why, sire?"
"Because it is _my_ wish you should not!" said the young prince, in a
voice so stern and imperious that D'Artagnan evinced surprise and even
"Will your majesty allow me one word of reply?" said he.
"I formed that resolution when I was poor and destitute."
"So be it. Go on."
"Now, when by my energy I have acquired a comfortable means of
subsistence, would your majesty despoil me of my liberty? Your majesty
would condemn me to the lowest, when I have gained the highest?"
"Who gave you permission, monsieur, to fathom my designs, or to reckon
with me?" replied Louis, in a voice almost angry; "who told you what I
shall do or what you will yourself do?"
"Sire," said the musketeer, quietly, "as far as I see, freedom is not the
order of the conversation, as it was on the day we came to an explanation
"No, monsieur; everything is changed."
"I tender your majesty my sincere compliments upon that, but - "
"But you don't believe it?"
"I am not a great statesman, and yet I have my eye upon affairs; it
seldom fails; now, I do not see exactly as your majesty does, sire. The
reign of Mazarin is over, but that of the financiers is begun. They have
the money; your majesty will not often see much of it. To live under the
paw of these hungry wolves is hard for a man who reckoned upon
At this moment someone scratched at the door of the cabinet; the king
raised his head proudly. "Your pardon, Monsieur d'Artagnan," said he;
"it is M. Colbert, who comes to make me a report. Come in, M. Colbert."
D'Artagnan drew back. Colbert entered with papers in his hand, and went
up to the king. There can be little doubt that the Gascon did not lose
the opportunity of applying his keen, quick glance to the new figure
which presented itself.
"Is the inquiry made?"
"And the opinion of the inquisitors?"
"Is that the accused merit confiscation and death."
"Ah! ah!" said the king, without changing countenance, and casting an
oblique look at D'Artagnan. "And your own opinion, M. Colbert?" said he.
Colbert looked at D'Artagnan is his turn. That imposing countenance
checked the words upon his lips. Louis perceived this. "Do not disturb
yourself," said he; "it is M. d'Artagnan, - do you not know M. d'Artagnan
These two men looked at each other - D'Artagnan, with eyes open and
bright as the day - Colbert, with his half closed, and dim. The frank
intrepidity of the financier annoyed the other; the circumspection of the
financier disgusted the soldier. "Ah! ah! this is the gentleman who made
that brilliant stroke in England," said Colbert. And he bowed slightly
"Ah! ah!" said the Gascon, "this is the gentleman who clipped off the
lace from the uniform of the Swiss! A praiseworthy piece of economy."
The financier thought to pierce the musketeer; but the musketeer ran the
"Monsieur d'Artagnan," resumed the king, who had not remarked all the
shades of which Mazarin would have missed not one, "this concerns the
farmers of the revenue who have robbed me, whom I am hanging, and whose
death-warrants I am about to sign."
"Oh! oh!" said D'Artagnan, starting.
"What did you say?"
"Oh! nothing, sire. This is no business of mine."
The king had already taken up the pen, and was applying it to the paper.
"Sire," said Colbert in a subdued voice, "I beg to warn your majesty,
that if an example be necessary, there will be difficulty in the
execution of your orders."
"What do you say?" said Louis.
"You must not conceal from yourself," continued Colbert quietly, "that
attacking the farmers-general is attacking the superintendence. The two
unfortunate guilty men in question are the particular friends of a
powerful personage, and the punishment, which otherwise might be
comfortably confined to the Chatlet, will doubtless be a signal for
Louis colored and turned towards D'Artagnan, who took a slight bite at
his mustache, not without a smile of pity for the financier, and for the
king who had to listen to him so long. But Louis seized the pen, and
with a movement so rapid that his hand shook, he affixed his signature at
the bottom of the two papers presented by Colbert, - then looking the
latter in the face, - "Monsieur Colbert," said he, "when you speak to me
on business, exclude more frequently the word difficulty from your
reasonings and opinions; as to the word impossibility, never pronounce
Colbert bowed, much humiliated at having to undergo such a lesson before
the musketeer; he was about to go out, but, jealous to repair his check:
"I forgot to announce to your majesty," said he, "that the confiscations
amount to the sum of five millions of livres."
"That's pretty well!" thought D'Artagnan.
"Which makes in my coffers?" said the king.
"Eighteen millions of livres, sire," replied Colbert, bowing.
"_Mordioux!_" growled D'Artagnan, "that's glorious!"
"Monsieur Colbert," added the king, "you will, if you please, go through
the gallery where M. Lyonne is waiting, and will tell him to bring hither
what he has drawn up - by my order."
"Directly, sire; if your majesty wants me no more this evening?"
"No, monsieur: good-night!" And Colbert went out.
"Now, let us return to our affair, M. d'Artagnan," said the king, as if
nothing had happened. "You see that, with respect to money, there is
already a notable change."
"Something to the tune of from zero to eighteen millions," replied the
musketeer gayly. "Ah! that was what your majesty wanted the day King
Charles II. came to Blois. The two states would not have been embroiled
to-day; for I must say, that there also I see another stumbling-block."
"Well, in the first place," replied Louis, "you are unjust, monsieur;
for, if Providence had made me able to give my brother the million that
day, you would not have quitted my service, and, consequently, you would
not have made your fortune, as you told me just now you have done. But,
in addition to this, I have had another piece of good fortune; and my
difference with Great Britain need not alarm you."
A _valet de chambre_ interrupted the king by announcing M. Lyonne. "Come
in, monsieur," said the king; "you are punctual; that is like a good
servant. Let us see your letter to my brother Charles II."
D'Artagnan pricked up his ears. "A moment, monsieur," said Louis
carelessly to the Gascon; "I must expedite to London my consent to the
marriage of my brother, M. le Duc d'Anjou, with the Princess Henrietta
"He is knocking me about, it seems," murmured D'Artagnan, whilst the king
signed the letter, and dismissed M. de Lyonne; "but _ma foi!_ the more he
knocks me about in this manner, the better I like it."
The king followed M. de Lyonne with his eyes, till the door was closed
behind him; he even made three steps, as if he would follow the minister;
but, after these three steps, stopping, passing, and coming back to the
musketeer, - "Now, monsieur," said he, "let us hasten to terminate our
affair. You told me the other day, at Blois, that you were not rich?"
"But I am now, sire."
"Yes, but that does not concern me; you have your own money, not mine;
_that_ does not enter into my account."
"I do not well understand what your majesty means."
"Then, instead of leaving you to draw out words, speak spontaneously.
Should you be satisfied with twenty thousand livres a year as a fixed
"But, sire" said D'Artagnan, opening his eyes to the utmost.
"Would you be satisfied with four horses furnished and kept, and with a
supplement of funds such as you might require, according to occasions and
needs, or would you prefer a fixed sum which would be, for example, forty
thousand livres? Answer."
"Sire, your majesty - "
"Yes, you are surprised; that is natural, and I expected it. Answer me,
come! or I shall think you have no longer that rapidity of judgment I
have so much admired in you."
"It is certain, sire, that twenty thousand livres a year make a handsome
sum; but - "
"No buts! Yes or no, is it an honorable indemnity?"
"Oh! very certainly."
"You will be satisfied with it? That is well. It will be better to
reckon the extra expenses separately; you can arrange that with Colbert.
Now let us pass to something more important."
"But, sire, I told your majesty - "
"That you wanted rest, I know you did: only I replied that I would not
allow it - I am master, I suppose?"
"That is well. You were formerly in the way of becoming captain of the
"Well, here is your commission signed. I place it in this drawer. The
day on which you return from a certain expedition which I have to confide
to you, on that day you may yourself take the commission from the
drawer." D'Artagnan still hesitated, and hung down his head. "Come,
monsieur," said the king, "one would believe, to look at you, that you
did not know that at the court of the most Christian king, the captain-
general of the musketeers takes precedence of the marechals of France."
"Sire, I know he does."
"Then, am I to think you do put no faith in my word?"
"Oh! sire, never - never dream of such a thing."
"I have wished to prove to you, that you, so good a servant, had lost a
good master; am I anything like the master that will suit you?"
"I begin to think you are, sire."
"Then, monsieur, you will resume your functions. Your company is quite
disorganized since your departure, and the men go about drinking and
rioting in the _cabarets_, where they fight, in spite of my edicts, and
those of my father. You will reorganize the service as soon as possible."
"You will not again quit my person."
"Very well, sire."
"You will march with me to the army, you will encamp round my tent."
"Then, sire," said D'Artagnan, "if it is only to impose upon me a service
like that, your majesty need not give me twenty thousand livres a year.
I shall not earn them."
"I desire that you shall keep open house; I desire that you should keep a
liberal table; I desire that my captain of musketeers should be a
"And I," said D'Artagnan, bluntly; "I do not like easily found money; I
like money won! Your majesty gives me an idle trade, which the first
comer would perform for four thousand livres."
Louis XIV. began to laugh. "You are a true Gascon, Monsieur d'Artagnan;
you will draw my heart's secret from me."
"Bah! has your majesty a secret, then?"
"Well! then I accept the twenty thousand livres, for I will keep that
secret, and discretion is above all price, in these times. Will your
majesty speak now?"
"Boot yourself, Monsieur d'Artagnan, and to horse!"
"Within two days."
"That is well, sire: for I have my affairs to settle before I set out;
particularly if it is likely there should be any blows stirring."
"That _may_ happen."
"We can receive them! But, sire, you have addressed yourself to avarice,
to ambition; you have addressed yourself to the heart of M. d'Artagnan,
but you have forgotten one thing."
"What is that?"
"You have said nothing to his vanity; when shall I be a knight of the
"Does that interest you?"
"Why, yes, sire. My friend Athos is quite covered with orders, and that
"You shall be a knight of my order a month after you have taken your
commission of captain."
"Ah! ah!" said the officer, thoughtfully, "after the expedition."
"Where is your majesty going to send me?"
"Are you acquainted with Bretagne?"
"Have you any friends there?"
"In Bretagne? No, _ma foi!_"
"So much the better. Do you know anything about fortifications?"
"I believe I do, sire," said D'Artagnan, smiling.
"That is to say you can readily distinguish a fortress from a simple
fortification, such as is allowed to _chatelains_ or vassals?"
"I distinguish a fort from a rampart as I distinguish a cuirass from a
raised pie-crust, sire. Is that sufficient?"
"Yes, monsieur. You will set out, then."
"Absolutely alone. That is to say, you must not even take a lackey with
"May I ask your majesty for what reason?"
"Because, monsieur, it will be necessary to disguise yourself sometimes,
as the servant of a good family. Your face is very well known in France,
"And then, sire?"
"And then you will travel slowly through Bretagne, and will examine the
fortifications of that country."
"Yes, and the isles; commencing by Belle-Ile-en-Mer."
"Ah! which belongs to M. Fouquet!" said D'Artagnan, in a serious tone,
raising his intelligent eye to Louis XIV.
"I fancy you are right, monsieur, and that Bell-Isle does belong to M.
Fouquet, in fact."
"Then your majesty wishes me to ascertain if Belle-Isle is a strong
"If the fortifications of it are new or old?"
"And if the vassals of M. Fouquet are sufficiently numerous to form a
"That is what I want to know; you have placed your finger on the
"And if they are not fortifying, sire?"
"You will travel about Bretagne, listening and judging."
"Then I am a king's spy?" said D'Artagnan, bluntly, twisting his
"Your pardon sire; I spy on your majesty's account."
"You start on a voyage of discovery, monsieur. Would you march at the
head of your musketeers, with your sword in your hand, to observe any
spot whatever, or an enemy's position?"
At this word D'Artagnan started.
"Do you," continued the king, "imagine yourself to be a spy?"
"No, no," said D'Artagnan, but pensively; "the thing changes its face
when one observes an enemy: one is but a soldier. And if they are
fortifying Belle-Isle?" added he, quickly.
"You will take an exact plan of the fortifications."
"Will they permit me to enter?"
"That does not concern me; that is _your_ affair. Did you not understand
that I reserved for you a supplement of twenty thousand livres per annum,
if you wished it?"
"Yes, sire; but if they are not fortifying?"
"You will return quietly, without fatiguing your horse."
"Sire, I am ready."
"You will begin to-morrow by going to monsieur le surintendant's to take
the first quarter of the pension I give you. Do you know M. Fouquet?"
"Very little, sire; but I beg your majesty to observe that I don't think
it immediately necessary that I _should_ know him."
"Your pardon, monsieur; for he will refuse you the money I wish you to
take; and it is that refusal I look for."
"Ah!" said D'Artagnan. "Then, sire?"
"The money being refused, you will go and seek it at M. Colbert's. _A
propos_, have you a good horse?"
"An excellent one, sire."
"How much did it cost you?"
"A hundred and fifty pistoles."
"I will buy it of you. Here is a note for two hundred pistoles."
"But I want a horse for my journey, sire."
"Well, and you take mine from me."
"Not at all. On the contrary, I give it you. Only as it is now mine and
not yours, I am sure you will not spare it."
"Your majesty is in a hurry, then?"
"A great hurry."
"Then what compels me to wait two days?"
"Reasons known to myself."
"That's a different affair. The horse may make up the two days, in the
eight he has to travel; and then there is the post."
"No, no, the post compromises, Monsieur d'Artagnan. Begone and do not
forget you are my servant."
"Sire, it is not my duty to forget it! At what hour to-morrow shall I
take my leave of your majesty?"
"Whence do you lodge?"
"I must henceforward lodge at the Louvre."
"That must not be now - keep your lodgings in the city: I will pay for
them. As to your departure, it must take place at night; you must set
out without being seen by any one, or, if you are seen, it must not be
known that you belong to me. Keep your mouth shut, monsieur."
"Your majesty spoils all you have said by that single word."
"I asked where you lodged, for I cannot always send to M. le Comte de la
Fere to seek you."
"I lodge with M. Planchet, a grocer, Rue des Lombards, at the sign of the
"Go out but little, show yourself less, and await my orders."
"And yet, sire, I must go for the money."
"That is true, but when going to the superintendence, where so many
people are constantly going, you must mingle with the crowd."
"I want the notes, sire, for the money."
"Here they are." The king signed them, and D'Artagnan looked on, to
assure himself of their regularity.
"Adieu! Monsieur d'Artagnan," added the king; "I think you have
perfectly understood me."
"I? I understand that your majesty sends me to Belle-Ile-en-Mer, that
"To learn how M. Fouquet's works are going on; that is all."
"Very well: I admit you may be taken."
"And I do not admit it," replied the Gascon, boldly.
"I admit you may be killed," continued the king.
"That is not probable, sire."
"In the first case, you must not speak; in the second there must be no
papers found upon you."
D'Artagnan shrugged his shoulders without ceremony, and took leave of the
king, saying to himself: - "The English shower continues - let us remain
under the spout!"
The Houses of M. Fouquet.
Whilst D'Artagnan was returning to Planchet's house, his head aching and
bewildered with all that had happened to him, there was passing a scene
of quite a different character, and which, nevertheless, is not foreign
to the conversation our musketeer had just had with the king; only this
scene took place out of Paris, in a house possessed by the superintendent
Fouquet in the village of Saint-Mande. The minister had just arrived at
this country-house, followed by his principal clerk, who carried an
enormous portfolio full of papers to be examined, and others waiting for
signature. As it might be about five o'clock in the afternoon, the
masters had dined: supper was being prepared for twenty subaltern
guests. The superintendent did not stop: on alighting from his carriage,
he, at the same bound, sprang through the doorway, traversed the
apartments and gained his cabinet, where he declared he would shut
himself up to work, commanding that he should not be disturbed for
anything but an order from the king. As soon as this order was given,
Fouquet shut himself up, and two footmen were placed as sentinels at his
door. Then Fouquet pushed a bolt which displaced a panel that walled up
the entrance, and prevented everything that passed in this apartment from
being either seen or heard. But, against all probability, it was only
for the sake of shutting himself up that Fouquet shut himself up thus,
for he went straight to a bureau, seated himself at it, opened the
portfolio, and began to make a choice amongst the enormous mass of papers
it contained. It was not more than ten minutes after he had entered, and
taken all the precautions we have described, when the repeated noise of
several slight equal knocks struck his ear, and appeared to fix his
utmost attention. Fouquet raised his head, turned his ear, and listened.
The strokes continued. Then the worker arose with a slight movement of
impatience and walked straight up to a glass behind which the blows were
struck by a hand, or by some invisible mechanism. It was a large glass
let into a panel. Three other glasses, exactly similar to it, completed
the symmetry of the apartment. Nothing distinguished that one from the
others. Without doubt, these reiterated knocks were a signal; for, at
the moment Fouquet approached the glass listening, the same noise was
renewed, and in the same measure. "Oh! oh!" murmured the _intendant_,
with surprise, "who is yonder? I did not expect anybody to-day." And
without doubt, to respond to the signal, he pulled out a gilded nail near
the glass, and shook it thrice. Then returning to his place, and seating
himself again, "_Ma foi!_ let them wait," said he. And plunging again
into the ocean of papers unrolled before him, he appeared to think of
nothing now but work. In fact, with incredible rapidity and marvelous
lucidity, Fouquet deciphered the largest papers and most complicated
writings, correcting them, annotating them with a pen moved as if by a
fever, and the work melting under his hands, signatures, figures,
references, became multiplied as if ten clerks - that is to say, a
hundred fingers and ten brains had performed the duties, instead of the
five fingers and single brain of this man. From time to time, only,
Fouquet, absorbed by his work, raised his head to cast a furtive glance
upon a clock placed before him. The reason of this was, Fouquet set
himself a task, and when this task was once set, in one hour's work he,
by himself, did what another would not have accomplished in a day; always
certain, consequently, provided he was not disturbed, of arriving at the
close in the time his devouring activity had fixed. But in the midst of
his ardent labor, the soft strokes upon the little bell placed behind the
glass sounded again, hasty, and, consequently, more urgent.
"The lady appears to be impatient," said Fouquet. "Humph! a calm! That
must be the comtesse; but, no, the comtesse is gone to Rambouillet for
three days. The presidente, then? Oh! no, the presidente would not
assume such grand airs; she would ring very humbly, then she would wait
my good pleasure. The greatest certainty is, that I do not know who it
can be, but that I know who it cannot be. And since it is not you,
marquise, since it cannot be you, deuce take the rest!" And he went on
with his work in spite of the reiterated appeals of the bell. At the end
of a quarter of an hour, however, impatience prevailed over Fouquet in
his turn: he might be said to consume, rather than to complete the rest
of his work; he thrust his papers into his portfolio, and giving a glance
at the mirror, whilst the taps continued faster than ever: "Oh! oh!" said
he, "whence comes all this racket? What has happened, and who can the
Ariadne be who expects me so impatiently. Let us see!"
He then applied the tip of his finger to the nail parallel to the one he
had drawn. Immediately the glass moved like a folding-door and
discovered a secret closet, rather deep, into which the superintendent
disappeared as if going into a vast box. When there, he touched another
spring, which opened, not a board, but a block of the wall, and he went
out by that opening, leaving the door to shut of itself. Then Fouquet
descended about a score of steps which sank, winding, underground, and
came to a long, subterranean passage, lighted by imperceptible
loopholes. The walls of this vault were covered with slabs or tiles, and
the floor with carpeting. This passage was under the street itself,
which separated Fouquet's house from the Park of Vincennes. At the end
of the passage ascended a winding staircase parallel with that by which
Fouquet had entered. He mounted these other stairs, entered by means of
a spring placed in a closet similar to that in his cabinet, and from this
closet an untenanted chamber furnished with the utmost elegance. As soon
as he entered, he examined carefully whether the glass closed without
leaving any trace, and, doubtless satisfied with his observation, he
opened by means of a small gold key the triple fastenings of a door in
front of him. This time the door opened upon a handsome cabinet,
sumptuously furnished, in which was seated upon cushions a lady of
surpassing beauty, who at the sound of the lock sprang towards Fouquet.
"Ah! good heavens!" cried the latter, starting back with astonishment.
"Madame la Marquise de Belliere, you here?"
"Yes," murmured la marquise. "Yes; it is I, monsieur."
"Marquise! dear marquise!" added Fouquet, ready to prostrate himself.
"Ah! my God! how did you come here? And I, to keep you waiting!"
"A long time, monsieur; yes, a very long time!"
"I am happy in thinking this waiting has appeared long to you, marquise!"
"Oh! an eternity, monsieur; oh! I rang more than twenty times. Did you
not hear me?"
"Marquise, you are pale, you tremble."
"Did you not hear, then, that you were summoned?"
"Oh, yes; I heard plainly enough, madame; but I could not come. After
your rigors and your refusals, how could I dream it was you? If I could
have had any suspicion of the happiness that awaited me, believe me,
madame, I would have quitted everything to fall at your feet, as I do at
"Are we quite alone, monsieur?" asked the marquise, looking round the
"Oh, yes, madame, I can assure you of that."
"Really?" said the marquise, in a melancholy tone.
"You sigh!" said Fouquet.
"What mysteries! what precautions!" said the marquise, with a slight
bitterness of expression; "and how evident it is that you fear the least
suspicion of your amours to escape."
"Would you prefer their being made public?"
"Oh, no; you act like a delicate man," said the marquise, smiling.
"Come, dear marquise, punish me not with reproaches, I implore you."
"Reproaches! Have I a right to make you any?"
"No, unfortunately, no; but tell me, you, who during a year I have loved
without return or hope - "
"You are mistaken - without hope it is true, but not without return."
"What! for me, of my love! there is but one proof, and that proof I still
"I am here to bring it, monsieur."
Fouquet wished to clasp her in his arms, but she disengaged herself with
"You persist in deceiving yourself, monsieur, and will never accept of me
the only thing I am willing to give you - devotion."
"Ah, then, you do not love me? Devotion is but a virtue, love is a
"Listen to me, I implore you: I should not have come hither without a
serious motive: you are well assured of that, are you not?"
"The motive is of very little consequence, so that you are but here - so
that I see you - so that I speak to you!"
"You are right; the principal thing is that I am here without any one
having seen me, and that I can speak to you." - Fouquet sank on his knees
before her. "Speak! speak, madame!" said he, "I listen to you."
The marquise looked at Fouquet, on his knees at her feet, and there was
in the looks of the woman a strange mixture of love and melancholy.
"Oh!" at length murmured she, "would that I were she who has the right of
seeing you every minute, of speaking to you every instant! would that I
were she who might watch over you, she who would have no need of
mysterious springs to summon and cause to appear, like a sylph, the man
she loves, to look at him for an hour, and then see him disappear in the
darkness of a mystery, still more strange at his going out than at his
coming in. Oh! that would be to live like a happy woman!"
"Do you happen, marquise," said Fouquet, smiling, "to be speaking of my
"Yes, certainly, of her I spoke."
"Well, you need not envy her lot, marquise; of all the women with whom I
have had any relations, Madame Fouquet is the one I see the least of, and
who has the least intercourse with me."
"At least, monsieur, she is not reduced to place, as I have done, her
hand upon the ornament of a glass to call you to her; at least you do not
reply to her by the mysterious, alarming sound of a bell, the spring of
which comes from I don't know where; at least you have not forbidden her
to endeavor to discover the secret of these communications under pain of
breaking off forever your connections with her, as you have forbidden all
who come here before me, and who will come after me."
"Dear marquise, how unjust you are, and how little do you know what you
are doing in thus exclaiming against mystery; it is with mystery alone we
can love without trouble; it is with love without trouble alone that we
can be happy. But let us return to ourselves, to that devotion of which
you were speaking, or rather let me labor under a pleasing delusion, and
believe this devotion is love."
"Just now," repeated the marquise, passing over her eyes a hand that
might have been a model for the graceful contours of antiquity; "just now
I was prepared to speak, my ideas were clear and bold; now I am quite
confused, quite troubled; I fear I bring you bad news."
"If it is to that bad news I owe your presence, marquise, welcome be even
that bad news! or rather, marquise, since you allow that I am not quite
indifferent to you, let me hear nothing of the bad news, but speak of
"No, no, on the contrary, demand it of me; require me to tell it to you
instantly, and not to allow myself to be turned aside by any feeling
whatever. Fouquet, my friend! it is of immense importance."
"You astonish me, marquise; I will even say you almost frighten me. You,
so serious, so collected; you who know the world we live in so well. Is
it, then, important?"
"Oh! very important."
"In the first place, how did you come here?"
"You shall know that presently; but first to something of more
"Speak, marquise, speak! I implore you, have pity on my impatience."
"Do you know that Colbert is made intendant of the finances?"
"Bah! Colbert, little Colbert."
"Yes, Colbert, _little_ Colbert."
"Well! what do you see so terrific in that, dear marquise? little Colbert
is intendant; that is astonishing I confess, but is not terrible."
"Do you think the king has given, without pressing motive, such a place
to one you call a little _cuistre?_"
"In the first place, is it positively true that the king has given it to
"It is so said."
"Ay, but who says so?"
"Everybody, that's nobody; mention some one likely to be well informed
who says so."
"Ah! now you begin to frighten me in earnest," said Fouquet, laughing;
"if any one is well informed, or ought to be well informed, it is the
person you name."
"Do not speak ill of poor Marguerite, Monsieur Fouquet, for she still
"Bah! indeed? That is scarcely credible. I thought little Colbert, as
you said just now, had passed over that love, and left the impression
upon it of a spot of ink or a stain of grease."
"Fouquet! Fouquet! Is this the way you always treat the poor creatures
"Why, you surely are not going to undertake the defense of Madame Vanel?"
"Yes, I will undertake it; for, I repeat, she loves you still, and the
proof is she saves you."
"But your interposition, marquise; that is very cunning on her part. No
angel could be more agreeable to me, or could lead me more certainly to
salvation. But, let me ask you, do you know Marguerite?"
"She was my convent friend."
"And you say that she has informed you that Monsieur Colbert was named
"Yes, she did."
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