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Chapter 18

Chapter XVIII:
The Physician.

M. Valot entered. The position of the different persons present was
precisely the same: the king was seated, Saint-Aignan leaning over the
back of his armchair, D'Artagnan with his back against the wall, and
Manicamp still standing.

"Well, M. Valot," said the king, "did you obey my directions?"

"With the greatest alacrity, sire."

"You went to the doctor's house in Fontainebleau?"

"Yes, sire."

"And you found M. de Guiche there?"

"I did, sire."

"What state was he in? - speak unreservedly."

"In a very sad state indeed, sire."

"The wild boar did not quite devour him, however?"

"Devour whom?"

"De Guiche."

"What wild boar?"

"The boar that wounded him."

"M. de Guiche wounded by a boar?"

"So it is said, at least."

"By a poacher, rather, or by a jealous husband, or an ill-used lover,
who, in order to be revenged, fired upon him."

"What is it that you say, Monsieur Valot? Were not M. de Guiche's wounds
produced by defending himself against a wild boar?"

"M. de Guiche's wounds are the result of a pistol-bullet that broke his
ring-finger and the little finger of the right hand, and afterwards
buried itself in the intercostal muscles of the chest."

"A bullet! Are you sure Monsieur de Guiche was wounded by a _bullet?_"
exclaimed the king, pretending to look much surprised.

"Indeed, I am, sire; so sure, in fact, that here it is." And he
presented to the king a half-flattened bullet, which the king looked at,
but did not touch.

"Did he have that in his chest, poor fellow?" he asked.

"Not precisely. The ball did not penetrate, but was flattened, as you
see, either upon the trigger of the pistol or upon the right side of the
breast-bone."

"Good heavens!" said the king, seriously, "you said nothing to me about
this, Monsieur de Manicamp."

"Sire - "

"What does all this mean, then, this invention about hunting a wild boar
at nightfall? Come, speak, monsieur."

"Sire - "

"It seems, then, that you are right," said the king, turning round
towards his captain of musketeers, "and that a duel actually took place."

The king possessed, to a greater extent than any one else, the faculty
enjoyed by the great in power or position, of compromising and dividing
those beneath him. Manicamp darted a look full of reproaches at the
musketeer. D'Artagnan understood the look at once, and not wishing to
remain beneath the weight of such an accusation, advanced a step forward,
and said: "Sire, your majesty commanded me to go and explore the place
where the cross-roads meet in the Bois-Rochin, and to report to you,
according to my own ideas, what had taken place there. I submitted my
observations to you, but without denouncing any one. It was your majesty
yourself who was the first to name the Comte de Guiche."

"Well, monsieur, well," said the king, haughtily; "you have done your
duty, and I am satisfied with you. But you, Monsieur de Manicamp, have
failed in yours, for you have told me a falsehood."

"A falsehood, sire. The expression is a hard one."

"Find a more accurate, then."

"Sire, I will not attempt to do so. I have already been unfortunate
enough to displease your majesty, and it will, in every respect, be far
better for me to accept most humbly any reproaches you may think proper
to address to me."

"You are right, monsieur, whoever conceals the truth from me, risks my
displeasure."

"Sometimes, sire, one is ignorant of the truth."

"No further falsehood, monsieur, or I double the punishment."

Manicamp bowed and turned pale. D'Artagnan again made another step
forward, determined to interfere, if the still increasing anger of the
king attained certain limits.

"You see, monsieur," continued the king, "that it is useless to deny the
thing any longer. M. de Guiche has fought a duel."

"I do not deny it, sire, and it would have been truly generous on your
majesty's part not to have forced me to tell a falsehood."

"Forced? Who forced you?"

"Sire, M. de Guiche is my friend. Your majesty has forbidden duels under
pain of death. A falsehood might save my friend's life, and I told it."

"Good!" murmured D'Artagnan, "an excellent fellow, upon my word."

"Instead of telling a falsehood, monsieur, you should have prevented him
from fighting," said the king.

"Oh! sire, your majesty, who is the most accomplished gentleman in
France, knows quite as well as any of us other gentlemen that we have
never considered M. de Bouteville dishonored for having suffered death on
the Place de Greve. That which does in truth dishonor a man is to avoid
meeting his enemy - not to avoid meeting his executioner!"

"Well, monsieur, that may be so," said Louis XIV.; "I am desirous of
suggesting a means of your repairing all."

"If it be a means of which a gentleman may avail himself, I shall most
eagerly seize the opportunity."

"The name of M. de Guiche's adversary?"

"Oh, oh!" murmured D'Artagnan, "are we going to take Louis XIII. as a
model?"

"Sire!" said Manicamp, with an accent of reproach.

"You will not name him, then?" said the king.

"Sire, I do not know him."

"Bravo!" murmured D'Artagnan.

"Monsieur de Manicamp, hand your sword to the captain."

Manicamp bowed very gracefully, unbuckled his sword, smiling as he did
so, and handed it for the musketeer to take. But Saint-Aignan advanced
hurriedly between him and D'Artagnan. "Sire," he said, "will your
majesty permit me to say a word?"

"Do so," said the king, delighted, perhaps, at the bottom of his heart,
for some one to step between him and the wrath he felt he had carried him
too far.

"Manicamp, you are a brave man, and the king will appreciate your
conduct; but to wish to serve your friends too well, is to destroy them.
Manicamp, you know the name the king asks you for?"

"It is perfectly true - I do know it."

"You will give it up then?"

"If I felt I ought to have mentioned it, I should have already done so."

"Then I will tell it, for I am not so extremely sensitive on such points
of honor as you are."

"You are at liberty to do so, but it seems to me, however - "

"Oh! a truce to magnanimity; I will not permit you to go to the Bastile
in that way. Do you speak; or I will."

Manicamp was keen-witted enough, and perfectly understood that he had
done quite sufficient to produce a good opinion of his conduct; it was
now only a question of persevering in such a manner as to regain the good
graces of the king. "Speak, monsieur," he said to Saint-Aignan; "I have
on my own behalf done all that my conscience told me to do; and it must
have been very importunate," he added, turning towards the king, "since
its mandates led me to disobey your majesty's commands; but your majesty
will forgive me, I hope, when you learn that I was anxious to preserve
the honor of a lady."

"Of a lady?" said the king, with some uneasiness.

"Yes, sire."

"A lady was the cause of this duel?"

Manicamp bowed.

"If the position of the lady in question warrants it," he said, "I shall
not complain of your having acted with so much circumspection; on the
contrary, indeed."

"Sire, everything which concerns your majesty's household, or the
household of your majesty's brother, is of importance in my eyes."

"In my brother's household," repeated Louis XIV., with a slight
hesitation. "The cause of the duel was a lady belonging to my brother's
household, do you say?"

"Or to Madame's."

"Ah! to Madame's?"

"Yes, sire."

"Well - and this lady?"

"Is one of the maids of honor of her royal highness Madame la Duchesse
d'Orleans."

"For whom M. de Guiche fought - do you say?"

"Yes, sire, and, this time, I tell no falsehood."

Louis seemed restless and anxious. "Gentlemen," he said, turning towards
the spectators of this scene, "will you have the goodness to retire for a
moment. I wish to be alone with M. de Manicamp; I know he has some
important communication to make for his own justification, and which he
will not venture before witnesses.... Put up your sword, M. de Manicamp."

Manicamp returned his sword to his belt.

"The fellow decidedly has his wits about him," murmured the musketeer,
taking Saint-Aignan by the arm, and withdrawing with him.

"He will get out of it," said the latter in D'Artagnan's ear.

"And with honor, too, comte."

Manicamp cast a glance of recognition at Saint-Aignan and the captain,
which luckily passed unnoticed by the king.

"Come, come," said D'Artagnan, as he left the room, "I had an indifferent
opinion of the new generation. Well, I was mistaken after all. There is
some good in them, I perceive."

Valot preceded the favorite and the captain, leaving the king and
Manicamp alone in the cabinet.

Alexandre Dumas pere