“Oh, in about two hours; the King has been up all night.”
D’Artagnan took his hat again, bowed to M. de Gesvres, and returned to his own apartments. He came back at half-past nine, and was told that the King was at breakfast. “That will just suit me,” said d’Artagnan; “I will talk to the King while he is eating.”
M. de Brienne reminded d’Artagnan that the King would not receive any one during his repasts.
“But,” said d’Artagnan, looking askant at De Brienne, “you do not know, perhaps, Monsieur, that I have the privilege of entree anywhere and at any hour.”
De Brienne took the hand of the captain kindly and said, “Not at Nantes, dear M. d’Artagnan; the King in this journey has changed everything.”
D’Artagnan, a little softened, asked about what o’clock the King would have finished his breakfast.
“We don’t know.”
“How! don’t know,- what does that mean? You don’t know how much time the King devotes to eating? It is generally an hour; and if we admit that the air of the Loire gives an additional appetite, we will extend it to an hour and a half; that is enough, I think. I will wait where I am.”
“Oh, dear M. d’Artagnan, the order is not to allow any person to remain in this corridor; I am on guard for that purpose.”
D’Artagnan felt his anger mounting a second time to his brain. He went out quickly, for fear of complicating the affair by a display of ill-humor. As soon as he was out he began to reflect. “The King,” said he, “will not receive me,- that is evident. The young man is angry; he is afraid of the words I may speak to him. Yes; but in the mean time Belle-Isle is besieged, and my two friends will be taken or killed. Poor Porthos! As to Aramis, he is always full of resources, and I am quite easy on his account. But no, no; Porthos is not yet an invalid, and Aramis is not yet in his dotage. The one with his arm, the other with his imagination, will find work for his Majesty’s soldiers. Who knows if these brave men may not get up for the edification of his Most Christian Majesty a little bastion of St. Gervais? I don’t despair of it; they have cannon and a garrison. And yet,” continued d’Artagnan, “I don’t know whether it would not be better to stop the combat. For myself alone, I will not put up with either surly looks or treason on the part of the King; but for my friends, rebuffs, insults,- I may submit to everything. Shall I go to M. Colbert? Now, there is a man whom I must acquire the habit of terrifying. I will go to M. Colbert”; and d’Artagnan set forward bravely to find M. Colbert. He was informed that M. Colbert was working with the King at the Castle of Nantes. “Good!” cried he; “the times are returned in which I measured my steps from M. de Treville to the cardinal, from the cardinal to the Queen, from the Queen to Louis XIII. Truly is it said that men in growing old become children again! To the castle, then!” He returned thither. M. de Lyonne was coming out. He gave d’Artagnan both hands, but told him that the King had been busy all the preceding evening and all night, and that orders had been given that no one should be admitted.
“Not even the captain who takes the order?” cried d’Artagnan. “I think that he is rather too strong.”
“Not even he,” said M. de Lyonne.
“Since that is the case,” replied d’Artagnan, wounded to the heart,- “since the captain of the Musketeers, who has always entered the King’s chamber, is no longer allowed to enter it, his cabinet, or his salle a manger,- either the King is dead or his captain is in disgrace. In either case he can no longer want him; have the kindness, then, M. de Lyonne, who are in favor, to return and tell the King plainly that I send him my resignation.”
“D’Artagnan, beware of what you are doing!”
“For friendship’s sake, go!” and he pushed him gently towards the cabinet.
“Well, I will go,” said De Lyonne.
D’Artagnan waited, walking about the corridor. De Lyonne returned. “Well, what did the King say?” exclaimed d’Artagnan.
“He simply answered that it was good,” replied De Lyonne.
“That it was good!” said the captain, with an explosion. “That is to say that he accepts it? Good! Now, then, I am free! I am only a plain citizen, M. de Lyonne. I have the pleasure of bidding you good-by! Farewell, castle, corridor, antechamber! a citizen about to breathe at liberty takes his farewell of you.”
And without waiting longer, the captain sprang from the terrace down the staircase where he had picked up the fragments of Gourville’s letter. Five minutes after, he was at the hostelry where, according to the custom of all great officers who have lodgings at the castle, he had taken what was called his city chamber. But when arrived there, instead of throwing off his sword and cloak, he took his pistols, put his money into a large leather purse, sent for his horses from the castle stables, and gave orders for reaching Vannes during the night. Everything went on according to his wishes. At eight o’clock in the evening he was putting his foot in the stirrup, when M. de Gesvres appeared at the head of twelve guards in front of the hostelry. D’Artagnan saw all from the corner of his eye,- he could not fail to see those thirteen men and thirteen horses; but he feigned not to observe anything, and was about to put his horse in motion.
De Gesvres rode up to him. “M. d’Artagnan,” said he, aloud.
“Ah, M. de Gesvres, good-evening!” “One would say you were getting on horseback.”
“More than that, I am mounted, as you see.”
“It is fortunate I have met you.”
“Were you looking for me, then?”
“Mon Dieu! yes.”
“On the part of the King, I will wager?”
“As I three days ago went in search of M. Fouquet?”
“Nonsense! It is of no use being delicate with me,- that is all labor lost; tell me at once you are come to arrest me.”
“To arrest you? Good heavens! no.”
“Why do you come to accost me with twelve horsemen at your heels, then?”
“I am making my round.”
“That isn’t bad! And so you pick me up in your round, eh?”
“I don’t pick you up; I meet you, and I beg you to come with me.”
“To the King.”
“Good!” said d’Artagnan, with a bantering air; “the King has nothing to do at last!”
“For Heaven’s sake, Captain,” said M. de Gesvres, in a low voice to the musketeer, “do not compromise yourself! these men hear you.”
D’Artagnan laughed aloud, and replied, “March! Persons who are arrested are placed between the first six guards and the last six.”
“But as I do not arrest you,” said M. de Gesvres, “you will march behind with me, if you please.”
“Well,” said d’Artagnan, “that is very polite, Duke; and you are right in being so,- for if ever I had had to make my rounds near your chambre de ville, I should have been courteous to you, I assure you, by the faith of a gentleman! Now, one favor more: what does the King want with me?”
“Oh, the King is furious!”
“Very well! the King, who has taken the trouble to be furious, may take the trouble of getting calm again; that is all of that. I sha’n’t die of that, I will swear.”
“But- I shall be sent to keep company with poor M. Fouquet. Mordioux! That is a gallant man, a worthy man! We shall live very sociably together, I assure you.”
“Here we are at our place of destination,” said the duke. “Captain, for Heaven’s sake be calm with the King!”
“Ah, ah! you are playing the brave man with me, Duke!” said d’Artagnan, throwing one of his defiant glances over De Gesvres. “I have been told that you are ambitious of uniting your Guards with my Musketeers. This strikes me as a capital opportunity.”
“God forbid that I should avail myself of it, Captain.”
“And why not?”
“Oh, for many reasons,- in the first place, for this: if I were to succeed you in the Musketeers after having arrested you-”
“Ah! then you admit you have arrested me?”
“No, I don’t.”
“Say met me, then. So, you were saying, if you were to succeed me after having arrested me-”
“Your Musketeers, at the first exercise with ball cartridges, would all fire towards me, by mistake.”
“Ah! as to that I won’t say,- for the fellows do love me a little.”
De Gesvres made d’Artagnan pass in first, and took him straight to the cabinet where the King was waiting for his captain of the Musketeers, and placed himself behind his colleague in the antechamber. The King could be heard distinctly, speaking aloud to Colbert, in the same cabinet where Colbert might have heard, a few days before, the King speaking aloud with M. d’Artagnan. The guards remained as a mounted picket before the principal gate; and the report was quickly spread through the city that Monsieur the Captain of the Musketeers had just been arrested by order of the King. Then these men were seen to be in motion, as in the good old times of Louis XIII and M. de Treville; groups were formed, the staircases were filled; vague murmurs, issuing from the courts below, came rolling up to the upper stories, like the hoarse moanings of the tide-waves. M. de Gesvres became very uneasy. He looked at his guards, who after being interrogated by the musketeers who had just got among their ranks, began to shun them with a manifestation of uneasiness. D’Artagnan was certainly less disturbed than M. de Gesvres, the captain of the Guards. As soon as he entered, he had seated himself on the ledge of a window, whence, with his eagle glance, he saw without the least emotion all that was going on. None of the progress of the fermentation which had manifested itself at the report of his arrest had escaped him. He foresaw the moment when the explosion would take place, and we know that his previsions were pretty correct.
“It would be very odd,” thought he, “if this evening my praetorians should make me King of France. How I should laugh!” But at the height all was stopped. Guards, musketeers, officers, soldiers, murmurs, and disturbance, all dispersed, vanished, died away; no more tempest, no more menace, no more sedition. One word had calmed the waves. The King had just said by the mouth of De Brienne, “Hush, Messieurs! you disturb the King.”
D’Artagnan sighed. “All is over!” said he; “the Musketeers of the present day are not those of his Majesty Louis XIII. All is over!”
“M. d’Artagnan to the King’s apartment!” cried an usher.
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