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Louise de la Valliere

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Chapter VII. How Porthos, Truchen, and Planchet Parted with Each Other on Friendly Terms, Thanks to D’Artagnan.


There was good living in Planchet’s house. Porthos broke a ladder and two cherry-trees, stripped the raspberry-bushes, and was only unable to succeed in reaching the strawberry-beds on account, as he said, of his belt. Truchen, who had become quite sociable with the giant, said that it was not the belt so much as his corporation; and Porthos, in a state of the highest delight, embraced Truchen, who gathered him a pailful of the strawberries, and made him eat them out of her hands. D’Artagnan, who arrived in the midst of these little innocent flirtations, scolded Porthos for his indolence, and silently pitied Planchet. Porthos breakfasted with a very good appetite, and when he had finished, he said, looking at Truchen, “I could make myself very happy here.” Truchen smiled at his remark, and so did Planchet, but not without embarrassment.

D’Artagnan then addressed Porthos: “You must not let the delights of Capua make you forget the real object of our journey to Fontainebleau.”

“My presentation to the king?”

“Certainly. I am going to take a turn in the town to get everything ready for that. Do not think of leaving the house, I beg.”

“Oh, no!” exclaimed Porthos.

Planchet looked at D’Artagnan nervously.

“Will you be away long?” he inquired.

“No, my friend; and this very evening I will release you from two troublesome guests.”

“Oh! Monsieur d’Artagnan! can you say—”

“No, no; you are a noble-hearted fellow, but your house is very small. Such a house, with half a dozen acres of land, would be fit for a king, and make him very happy, too. But you were not born a great lord.”

“No more was M. Porthos,” murmured Planchet.

“But he has become so, my good fellow; his income has been a hundred thousand francs a year for the last twenty years, and for the last fifty years Porthos has been the owner of a couple of fists and a backbone, which are not to be matched throughout the whole realm of France. Porthos is a man of the very greatest consequence compared to you, and... well, I need say no more, for I know you are an intelligent fellow.”

“No, no, monsieur, explain what you mean.”

“Look at your orchard, how stripped it is, how empty your larder, your bedstead broken, your cellar almost exhausted, look too... at Madame Truchen—”

“Oh! my goodness gracious!” said Planchet.

“Madame Truchen is an excellent person,” continued D’Artagnan, “but keep her for yourself, do you understand?” and he slapped him on the shoulder.

Planchet at this moment perceived Porthos and Truchen sitting close together in an arbor; Truchen, with a grace of manner peculiarly Flemish, was making a pair of earrings for Porthos out of a double cherry, while Porthos was laughing as amorously as Samson in the company of Delilah. Planchet pressed D’Artagnan’s hand, and ran towards the arbor. We must do Porthos the justice to say that he did not move as they approached, and, very likely, he did not think he was doing any harm. Nor indeed did Truchen move either, which rather put Planchet out; but he, too, had been so accustomed to see fashionable folk in his shop, that he found no difficulty in putting a good countenance on what seemed disagreeable or rude. Planchet seized Porthos by the arm, and proposed to go and look at the horses, but Porthos pretended he was tired. Planchet then suggested that the Baron du Vallon should taste some noyeau of his own manufacture, which was not to be equaled anywhere; an offer the baron immediately accepted; and, in this way, Planchet managed to engage his enemy’s attention during the whole of the day, by dint of sacrificing his cellar, in preference to his amour propre. Two hours afterwards D’Artagnan returned.

“Everything is arranged,” he said; “I saw his majesty at the very moment he was setting off for the chase; the king expects us this evening.”

“The king expects me!” cried Porthos, drawing himself up. It is a sad thing to have to confess, but a man’s heart is like an ocean billow; for, from that very moment Porthos ceased to look at Madame Truchen in that touching manner which had so softened her heart. Planchet encouraged these ambitious leanings as best as he could. He talked over, or rather gave exaggerated accounts of all the splendors of the last reign, its battles, sieges, and grand court ceremonies. He spoke of the luxurious display which the English made; the prizes the three brave companions carried off; and how D’Artagnan, who at the beginning had been the humblest of the four, finished by becoming the leader. He fired Porthos with a generous feeling of enthusiasm by reminding him of his early youth now passed away; he boasted as much as he could of the moral life this great lord had led, and how religiously he respected the ties of friendship; he was eloquent, and skillful in his choice of subjects. He tickled Porthos, frightened Truchen, and made D’Artagnan think. At six o’clock, the musketeer ordered the horses to be brought round, and told Porthos to get ready. He thanked Planchet for his kind hospitality, whispered a few words about a post he might succeed in obtaining for him at court, which immediately raised Planchet in Truchen’s estimation, where the poor grocer—so good, so generous, so devoted—had become much lowered ever since the appearance and comparison with him of the two great gentlemen. Such, however, is a woman’s nature; they are anxious to possess what they have not got, and disdain it as soon as it is acquired. After having rendered this service to his friend Planchet, D’Artagnan said in a low tone of voice to Porthos: “That is a very beautiful ring you have on your finger.”

“It is worth three hundred pistoles,” said Porthos.

“Madame Truchen will remember you better if you leave her that ring,” replied D’Artagnan, a suggestion which Porthos seemed to hesitate to adopt.

“You think it is not beautiful enough, perhaps,” said the musketeer. “I understand your feelings; a great lord such as you would not think of accepting the hospitality of an old servant without paying him most handsomely for it: but I am sure that Planchet is too good-hearted a fellow to remember that you have an income of a hundred thousand francs a year.”

“I have more than half a mind,” said Porthos, flattered by the remark, “to make Madame Truchen a present of my little farm at Bracieux; it has twelve acres.”

“It is too much, my good Porthos, too much just at present... Keep it for a future occasion.” He then took the ring off Porthos’s finger, and approaching Truchen, said to her:—“Madame, monsieur le baron hardly knows how to entreat you, out of your regard for him, to accept this little ring. M. du Vallon is one of the most generous and discreet men of my acquaintance. He wished to offer you a farm that he has at Bracieux, but I dissuaded him from it.”

“Oh!” said Truchen, looking eagerly at the diamond.

“Monsieur le baron!” exclaimed Planchet, quite overcome.

“My good friend,” stammered out Porthos, delighted at having been so well represented by D’Artagnan. These several exclamations, uttered at the same moment, made quite a pathetic winding-up of a day which might have finished in a very ridiculous manner. But D’Artagnan was there, and, on every occasion, wheresoever D’Artagnan exercised any control, matters ended only just in the very way he wished and willed. There were general embracings; Truchen, whom the baron’s munificence had restored to her proper position, very timidly, and blushing all the while, presented her forehead to the great lord with whom she had been on such very pretty terms the evening before. Planchet himself was overcome by a feeling of genuine humility. Still, in the same generosity of disposition, Porthos would have emptied his pockets into the hands of the cook and of Celestin; but D’Artagnan stopped him.

“No,” he said, “it is now my turn.” And he gave one pistole to the woman and two to the man; and the benedictions which were showered down upon them would have rejoiced the heart of Harpagon himself, and have rendered even him a prodigal.

D’Artagnan made Planchet lead them to the chateau, and introduced Porthos into his own apartment, where he arrived safely without having been perceived by those he was afraid of meeting.






Chapter VIII. The Presentation of Porthos at Court.


At seven o’clock the same evening, the king gave an audience to an ambassador from the United Provinces, in the grand reception-room. The audience lasted a quarter of an hour. His majesty afterwards received those who had been recently presented, together with a few ladies, who paid their respects first. In one corner of the salon, concealed behind a column, Porthos and D’Artagnan were conversing together, waiting until their turn arrived.

“Have you heard the news?” inquired the musketeer of his friend.

“No!”

“Well, look, then.” Porthos raised himself on tiptoe, and saw M. Fouquet in full court dress, leading Aramis towards the king.

“Aramis!” said Porthos.

“Presented to the king by M. Fouquet.”

“Ah!” ejaculated Porthos.

“For having fortified Belle-Isle,” continued D’Artagnan.

“And I?”

“You—oh, you! as I have already had the honor of telling you, are the good-natured, kind-hearted Porthos; and so they begged you to take care of Saint-Mande a little.”

“Ah!” repeated Porthos.

“But, happily, I was there,” said D’Artagnan, “and presently it will be my turn.”

At this moment Fouquet addressed the king.

“Sire,” he said, “I have a favor to solicit of your majesty. M. d’Herblay is not ambitious, but he knows when he can be of service. Your majesty needs a representative at Rome, who would be able to exercise a powerful influence there; may I request a cardinal’s hat for M. d’Herblay?” The king started. “I do not often solicit anything of your majesty,” said Fouquet.

“That is a reason, certainly,” replied the king, who always expressed any hesitation he might have in that manner, and to which remark there was nothing to say in reply.

Fouquet and Aramis looked at each other. The king resumed: “M. d’Herblay can serve us equally well in France; an archbishopric, for instance.”

“Sire,” objected Fouquet, with a grace of manner peculiarly his own, “your majesty overwhelms M. d’Herblay; the archbishopric may, in your majesty’s extreme kindness, be conferred in addition to the hat; the one does not exclude the other.”

The king admired the readiness which he displayed, and smiled, saying: “D’Artagnan himself could not have answered better.” He had no sooner pronounced the name than D’Artagnan appeared.

“Did your majesty call me?” he said.

Aramis and Fouquet drew back a step, as if they were about to retire.

“Will your majesty allow me,” said D’Artagnan quickly, as he led forward Porthos, “to present to your majesty M. le Baron du Vallon, one of the bravest gentlemen of France?”

As soon as Aramis saw Porthos, he turned as pale as death, while Fouquet clenched his hands under his ruffles. D’Artagnan smiled blandly at both of them, while Porthos bowed, visibly overcome before the royal presence.

“Porthos here?” murmured Fouquet in Aramis’s ear.

“Hush! deep treachery at work,” hissed the latter.

“Sire,” said D’Artagnan, “it is more than six years ago I ought to have presented M. du Vallon to your majesty; but certain men resemble stars, they move not one inch unless their satellites accompany them. The Pleiades are never disunited, and that is the reason I have selected, for the purpose of presenting him to you, the very moment when you would see M. d’Herblay by his side.”

Aramis almost lost countenance. He looked at D’Artagnan with a proud, haughty air, as though willing to accept the defiance the latter seemed to throw down.

“Ah! these gentlemen are good friends, then?” said the king.

“Excellent friends, sire; the one can answer for the other. Ask M. de Vannes now in what manner Belle-Isle was fortified?” Fouquet moved back a step.

“Belle-Isle,” said Aramis, coldly, “was fortified by that gentleman,” and he indicated Porthos with his hand, who bowed a second time. Louis could not withhold his admiration, though at the same time his suspicions were aroused.

“Yes,” said D’Artagnan, “but ask monsieur le baron whose assistance he had in carrying the works out?”

“Aramis’s,” said Porthos, frankly; and he pointed to the bishop.

“What the deuce does all this mean?” thought the bishop, “and what sort of a termination are we to expect to this comedy?”

“What!” exclaimed the king, “is the cardinal’s, I mean this bishop’s, name Aramis?”

“His nom de guerre,” said D’Artagnan.

“My nickname,” said Aramis.

“A truce to modesty!” exclaimed D’Artagnan; “beneath the priest’s robe, sire, is concealed the most brilliant officer, a gentleman of the most unparalleled intrepidity, and the wisest theologian in your kingdom.”

Louis raised his head. “And an engineer, also, it appears,” he said, admiring Aramis’s calm, imperturbable self-possession.

“An engineer for a particular purpose, sire,” said the latter.

“My companion in the musketeers, sire,” said D’Artagnan, with great warmth of manner, “the man who has more than a hundred times aided your father’s ministers by his advice—M. d’Herblay, in a word, who, with M. du Vallon, myself, and M. le Comte de la Fere, who is known to your majesty, formed that quartette which was a good deal talked about during the late king’s reign, and during your majesty’s minority.”

“And who fortified Belle-Isle?” the king repeated, in a significant tone.

Aramis advanced and bowed: “In order to serve the son as I served the father.”

D’Artagnan looked very narrowly at Aramis while he uttered these words, which displayed so much true respect, so much warm devotion, such entire frankness and sincerity, that even he, D’Artagnan, the eternal doubter, he, the almost infallible in judgment, was deceived by it. “A man who lies cannot speak in such a tone as that,” he said.

Louis was overcome by it. “In that case,” he said to Fouquet, who anxiously awaited the result of this proof, “the cardinal’s hat is promised. Monsieur d’Herblay, I pledge you my honor that the first promotion shall be yours. Thank M. Fouquet for it.” Colbert overheard these words; they stung him to the quick, and he left the salon abruptly. “And you, Monsieur du Vallon,” said the king, “what have you to ask? I am truly pleased to have it in my power to acknowledge the services of those who were faithful to my father.”

“Sire—” began Porthos, but he was unable to proceed with what he was going to say.

“Sire,” exclaimed D’Artagnan, “this worthy gentleman is utterly overpowered by your majesty’s presence, he who so valiantly sustained the looks and the fire of a thousand foes. But, knowing what his thoughts are, I—who am more accustomed to gaze upon the sun—can translate them: he needs nothing, absolutely nothing; his sole desire is to have the happiness of gazing upon your majesty for a quarter of an hour.”

“You shall sup with me this evening,” said the king, saluting Porthos with a gracious smile.

Porthos became crimson from delight and pride. The king dismissed him, and D’Artagnan pushed him into the adjoining apartment, after he had embraced him warmly.

“Sit next to me at table,” said Porthos in his ear.

“Yes, my friend.”

“Aramis is annoyed with me, I think.”

“Aramis has never liked you so much as he does now. Fancy, it was I who was the means of his getting the cardinal’s hat.”

“Of course,” said Porthos. “By the by, does the king like his guests to eat much at his table?”

“It is a compliment to himself if you do,” said D’Artagnan, “for he himself possesses a royal appetite.”






Chapter IX. Explanations.


Aramis cleverly managed to effect a diversion for the purpose of finding D’Artagnan and Porthos. He came up to the latter, behind one of the columns, and, as he pressed his hand, said, “So you have escaped from my prison?”

“Do not scold him,” said D’Artagnan; “it was I, dear Aramis, who set him free.”

“Ah! my friend,” replied Aramis, looking at Porthos, “could you not have waited with a little more patience?”

D’Artagnan came to the assistance of Porthos, who already began to breathe hard, in sore perplexity.

“You see, you members of the Church are great politicians; we mere soldiers come at once to the point. The facts are these: I went to pay Baisemeaux a visit—”

Aramis pricked up his ears at this announcement.

“Stay!” said Porthos; “you make me remember that I have a letter from Baisemeaux for you, Aramis.” And Porthos held out the bishop the letter we have already seen. Aramis begged to be allowed to read it, and read it without D’Artagnan feeling in the slightest degree embarrassed by the circumstance that he was so well acquainted with the contents of it. Besides, Aramis’s face was so impenetrable, that D’Artagnan could not but admire him more than ever; after he had read it, he put the letter into his pocket with the calmest possible air.

“You were saying, captain?” he observed.

“I was saying,” continued the musketeer, “that I had gone to pay Baisemeaux a visit on his majesty’s service.”

“On his majesty’s service?” said Aramis.

“Yes,” said D’Artagnan, “and, naturally enough, we talked about you and our friends. I must say that Baisemeaux received me coldly; so I soon took my leave of him. As I was returning, a soldier accosted me, and said (no doubt as he recognized me, notwithstanding I was in private clothes), ‘Captain, will you be good enough to read me the name written on this envelope?’ and I read, ‘To Monsieur du Vallon, at M. Fouquet’s house, Saint-Mande.’ The deuce, I said to myself, Porthos has not returned, then, as I fancied, to Bell-Isle, or to Pierrefonds, but is at M. Fouquet’s house, at Saint-Mande; and as M. Fouquet is not at Saint-Mande, Porthos must be quite alone, or, at all events, with Aramis; I will go and see Porthos, and I accordingly went to see Porthos.”

“Very good,” said Aramis, thoughtfully.

“You never told me that,” said Porthos.

“I had no time, my friend.”

“And you brought back Porthos with you to Fontainebleau?”

“Yes, to Planchet’s house.”

“Does Planchet live at Fontainebleau?” inquired Aramis.

“Yes, near the cemetery,” said Porthos, thoughtlessly.

“What do you mean by ‘near the cemetery?’” said Aramis, suspiciously.

“Come,” thought the musketeer, “since there is to be a squabble, let us take advantage of it.”

“Yes, the cemetery,” said Porthos. “Planchet is a very excellent fellow, who makes very excellent preserves; but his house has windows which look out upon the cemetery. And a confoundedly melancholy prospect it is! So this morning—”

“This morning?” said Aramis, more and more excited.

D’Artagnan turned his back to them, and walked to the window, where he began to play a march upon one of the panes of glass.

“Yes, this morning we saw a man buried there.”

“Ah!”

“Very depressing, was it not? I should never be able to live in a house where burials can always be seen from the window. D’Artagnan, on the contrary, seems to like it very much.”

“So D’Artagnan saw it as well?”

“Not simply saw it; he literally never took his eyes off the whole time.”

Aramis started, and turned to look at the musketeer, but the latter was engaged in earnest conversation with Saint-Aignan. Aramis continued to question Porthos, and when he had squeezed all the juice out of this enormous lemon, he threw the peel aside. He turned towards his friend D’Artagnan, and clapping him on the shoulder, when Saint-Aignan had left him, the king’s supper having been announced, said, “D’Artagnan.”

“Yes, my dear fellow,” he replied.

“We do not sup with his majesty, I believe?”

“Well?—we do.”

“Can you give me ten minutes’ conversation?”

“Twenty, if you like. His majesty will take quite that time to get properly seated at table.”

“Where shall we talk, then?”

“Here, upon these seats if you like; the king has left, we can sit down, and the apartment is empty.”

“Let us sit down, then.”

They sat down, and Aramis took one of D’Artagnan’s hands in his.

“Tell me, candidly, my dear friend, whether you have not counseled Porthos to distrust me a little?”

“I admit, I have, but not as you understand it. I saw that Porthos was bored to death, and I wished, by presenting him to the king, to do for him, and for you, what you would never do for yourselves.”

“What is that?”

“Speak in your own praise.”

“And you have done it most nobly; I thank you.”

“And I brought the cardinal’s hat a little nearer, just as it seemed to be retreating from you.”

“Ah! I admit that,” said Aramis, with a singular smile, “you are, indeed, not to be matched for making your friends’ fortunes for them.”

“You see, then, that I only acted with the view of making Porthos’s fortune for him.”

“I meant to have done that myself; but your arm reaches farther than ours.”

It was now D’Artagnan’s turn to smile.

“Come,” said Aramis, “we ought to deal truthfully with each other. Do you still love me, D’Artagnan?”

“The same as I used to do,” replied D’Artagnan, without compromising himself too much by this reply.

“In that case, thanks; and now, for the most perfect frankness,” said Aramis; “you visited Belle-Isle on behalf of the king?”

“Pardieu!”

“You wished to deprive us of the pleasure of offering Bell-Isle completely fortified to the king.”

“But before I could deprive you of that pleasure, I ought to have been made acquainted with your intention of doing so.”

“You came to Belle-Isle without knowing anything?”

“Of you! yes. How the devil could I imagine that Aramis had become so clever an engineer as to be able to fortify like Polybius, or Archimedes?”

“True. And yet you smelt me out over yonder?”

“Oh! yes.”

“And Porthos, too?”

“I did not divine that Aramis was an engineer. I was only able to guess that Porthos might have become one. There is a saying, one becomes an orator, one is born a poet; but it has never been said, one is born Porthos, and one becomes an engineer.”

“Your wit is always amusing,” said Aramis, coldly.

“Well, I will go on.”

“Do. When you found out our secret, you made all the haste you could to communicate it to the king.”

“I certainly made as much haste as I could, since I saw that you were making still more. When a man weighing two hundred and fifty pounds, as Porthos does, rides post; when a gouty prelate—I beg your pardon, but you yourself told me you were so—when a prelate scours the highway—I naturally suppose that my two friends, who did not wish to be communicative with me, had certain matters of the highest importance to conceal from me, and so I made as much haste as my leanness and the absence of gout would allow.”

“Did it not occur to you, my dear friend, that you might be rendering Porthos and myself a very sad service?”

“Yes, I thought it not unlikely; but you and Porthos made me play a very ridiculous part at Belle-Isle.”

“I beg your pardon,” said Aramis.

“Excuse me,” said D’Artagnan.

“So that,” pursued Aramis, “you now know everything?”

“No, indeed.”

“You know I was obliged to inform M. Fouquet of what had happened, in order that he would be able to anticipate what you might have to tell the king?”

“That is rather obscure.”

“Not at all: M. Fouquet has his enemies—you will admit that, I suppose.”

“Certainly.”

“And one in particular.”

“A dangerous one?”

“A mortal enemy. Well, in order to counteract that man’s influence, it was necessary that M. Fouquet should give the king a proof of his great devotion to him, and of his readiness to make the greatest sacrifices. He surprised his majesty by offering him Belle-Isle. If you had been the first to reach Paris, the surprise would have been destroyed, it would have looked as if we had yielded to fear.”

“I understand.”

“That is the whole mystery,” said Aramis, satisfied that he had at last quite convinced the musketeer.

“Only,” said the latter, “it would have been more simple to have taken me aside, and said to me, ‘My dear D’Artagnan, we are fortifying Belle-Isle, and intend to offer it to the king. Tell us frankly, for whom you are acting. Are you a friend of M. Colbert, or of M. Fouquet?’ Perhaps I should not have answered you, but you would have added,—‘Are you my friend?’ I should have said ‘Yes.’” Aramis hung down his head. “In this way,” continued D’Artagnan, “you would have paralyzed my movements, and I should have gone to the king, and said, ‘Sire, M. Fouquet is fortifying Belle-Isle, and exceedingly well, too; but here is a note, which the governor of Belle-Isle gave me for your majesty;’ or, ‘M. Fouquet is about to wait upon your majesty to explain his intentions with regard to it.’ I should not have been placed in an absurd position; you would have enjoyed the surprise so long planned, and we should not have had any occasion to look askant at each other when we met.”

“While, on the contrary,” replied Aramis, “you have acted altogether as one friendly to M. Colbert. And you really are a friend of his, I suppose?”

“Certainly not, indeed!” exclaimed the captain. “M. Colbert is a mean fellow, and I hate him as I used to hate Mazarin, but without fearing him.”

“Well, then,” said Aramis, “I love M. Fouquet, and his interests are mine. You know my position. I have no property or means whatever. M. Fouquet gave me several livings, a bishopric as well; M. Fouquet has served and obliged me like the generous-hearted man he is, and I know the world sufficiently well to appreciate a kindness when I meet with one. M. Fouquet has won my regard, and I have devoted myself to his service.”

“You could not possibly do better. You will find him a very liberal master.”

Aramis bit his lips; and then said, “The best a man could possibly have.” He then paused for a minute, D’Artagnan taking good care not to interrupt him.

“I suppose you know how Porthos got mixed up in all this?”

“No,” said D’Artagnan; “I am curious, of course, but I never question a friend when he wishes to keep a secret from me.”

“Well, then, I will tell you.”

“It is hardly worth the trouble, if the confidence is to bind me in any way.”

“Oh! do not be afraid.; there is no man whom I love better than Porthos, because he is so simple-minded and good-natured. Porthos is so straightforward in everything. Since I have become a bishop, I have looked for these primeval natures, which make me love truth and hate intrigue.”

D’Artagnan stroked his mustache, but said nothing.

“I saw Porthos and again cultivated his acquaintance; his own time hanging idly on his hands, his presence recalled my earlier and better days without engaging me in any present evil. I sent for Porthos to come to Vannes. M. Fouquet, whose regard for me is very great, having learnt that Porthos and I were attached to each other by old ties of friendship, promised him increase of rank at the earliest promotion, and that is the whole secret.”

“I shall not abuse your confidence,” said D’Artagnan.

“I am sure of that, my dear friend; no one has a finer sense of honor than yourself.”

“I flatter myself that you are right, Aramis.”

“And now”—and here the prelate looked searchingly and scrutinizingly at his friend—“now let us talk of ourselves and for ourselves; will you become one of M. Fouquet’s friends? Do not interrupt me until you know what that means.”

“Well, I am listening.”

“Will you become a marechal of France, peer, duke, and the possessor of a duchy, with a million of francs?”

“But, my friend,” replied D’Artagnan, “what must one do to get all that?”

“Belong to M. Fouquet.”

“But I already belong to the king.”

“Not exclusively, I suppose.”

“Oh! a D’Artagnan cannot be divided.”

“You have, I presume, ambitions, as noble hearts like yours have.”

“Yes, certainly I have.”

“Well?”

“Well! I wish to be a marechal; the king will make me marechal, duke, peer; the king will make me all that.”

Aramis fixed a searching look upon D’Artagnan.

“Is not the king master?” said D’Artagnan.

“No one disputes it; but Louis XIII. was master also.”

“Oh! my dear friend, between Richelieu and Louis XIII. stood no D’Artagnan,” said the musketeer, very quietly.

“There are many stumbling-blocks round the king,” said Aramis.

“Not for the king’s feet.”

“Very likely not; still—”

“One moment, Aramis; I observe that every one thinks of himself, and never of his poor prince; I will maintain myself maintaining him.”

“And if you meet with ingratitude?”

“The weak alone are afraid of that.”

“You are quite certain of yourself?”

“I think so.”

“Still, the king may some day have no further need for you!”

“On the contrary, I think his need of me will soon be greater than ever; and hearken, my dear fellow, if it became necessary to arrest a new Conde, who would do it? This—this alone in France!” and D’Artagnan struck his sword, which clanked sullenly on the tesselated floor.

“You are right,” said Aramis, turning very pale; and then he rose and pressed D’Artagnan’s hand.

“That is the last summons for supper,” said the captain of the musketeers; “will you excuse me?”

Aramis threw his arm round the musketeer’s neck, and said, “A friend like you is the brightest jewel in the royal crown.” And they immediately separated.

“I was right,” mused D’Artagnan; “there is, indeed, something strangely serious stirring.”

“We must hasten the explosion,” breathed the coming cardinal, “for D’Artagnan has discovered the existence of a plot.”