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Louise de la Valliere

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Chapter XVI. Showing in What Way D’Artagnan Discharged the Mission with Which the King Had Intrusted Him.


While the king was engaged in making these last-mentioned arrangements in order to ascertain the truth, D’Artagnan, without losing a second, ran to the stable, took down the lantern, saddled his horse himself, and proceeded towards the place his majesty had indicated. According to the promise he had made, he had not accosted any one; and, as we have observed, he had carried his scruples so far as to do without the assistance of the stable-helpers altogether. D’Artagnan was one of those who in moments of difficulty pride themselves on increasing their own value. By dint of hard galloping, he in less than five minutes reached the wood, fastened his horse to the first tree he came to, and penetrated to the broad open space on foot. He then began to inspect most carefully, on foot and with his lantern in his hand, the whole surface of the Rond-point, went forward, turned back again, measured, examined, and after half an hour’s minute inspection, he returned silently to where he had left his horse, and pursued his way in deep reflection and at a foot-pace to Fontainebleau. Louis was waiting in his cabinet; he was alone, and with a pencil was scribbling on paper certain lines which D’Artagnan at the first glance recognized as unequal and very much touched up. The conclusion he arrived at was, that they must be verses. The king raised his head and perceived D’Artagnan. “Well, monsieur,” he said, “do you bring me any news?”

“Yes, sire.”

“What have you seen?”

“As far as probability goes, sire—” D’Artagnan began to reply.

“It was certainty I requested of you.”

“I will approach it as near as I possibly can. The weather was very well adapted for investigations of the character I have just made; it has been raining this evening, and the roads were wet and muddy—”

“Well, the result, M. d’Artagnan?”

“Sire, your majesty told me that there was a horse lying dead in the cross-road of the Bois-Rochin, and I began, therefore, by studying the roads. I say the roads, because the center of the cross-road is reached by four separate roads. The one that I myself took was the only one that presented any fresh traces. Two horses had followed it side by side; their eight feet were marked very distinctly in the clay. One of the riders was more impatient than the other, for the footprints of the one were invariably in advance of the other about half a horse’s length.”

“Are you quite sure they were traveling together?” said the king.

“Yes sire. The horses are two rather large animals of equal pace,—horses well used to maneuvers of all kinds, for they wheeled round the barrier of the Rond-point together.”

“Well—and after?”

“The two cavaliers paused there for a minute, no doubt to arrange the conditions of the engagement; the horses grew restless and impatient. One of the riders spoke, while the other listened and seemed to have contented himself by simply answering. His horse pawed the ground, which proves that his attention was so taken up by listening that he let the bridle fall from his hand.”

“A hostile meeting did take place then?”

“Undoubtedly.”

“Continue; you are a very accurate observer.”

“One of the two cavaliers remained where he was standing, the one, in fact, who had been listening; the other crossed the open space, and at first placed himself directly opposite to his adversary. The one who had remained stationary traversed the Rond-point at a gallop, about two-thirds of its length, thinking that by this means he would gain upon his opponent; but the latter had followed the circumference of the wood.”

“You are ignorant of their names, I suppose?”

“Completely so, sire. Only he who followed the circumference of the wood was mounted on a black horse.”

“How do you know that?”

“I found a few hairs of his tail among the brambles which bordered the sides of the ditch.”

“Go on.”

“As for the other horse, there can be no trouble in describing him, since he was left dead on the field of battle.”

“What was the cause of his death?”

“A ball which had passed through his brain.”

“Was the ball that of a pistol or a gun?”

“It was a pistol-bullet, sire. Besides, the manner in which the horse was wounded explained to me the tactics of the man who had killed it. He had followed the circumference of the wood in order to take his adversary in flank. Moreover, I followed his foot-tracks on the grass.”

“The tracks of the black horse, do you mean?”

“Yes, sire.”

“Go on, Monsieur d’Artagnan.”

“As your majesty now perceives the position of the two adversaries, I will, for a moment, leave the cavalier who had remained stationary for the one who started off at a gallop.”

“Do so.”

“The horse of the cavalier who rode at full speed was killed on the spot.”

“How do you know that?”

“The cavalier had not time even to throw himself off his horse, and so fell with it. I observed the impression of his leg, which, with a great effort, he was enabled to extricate from under the horse. The spur, pressed down by the weight of the animal, had plowed up the ground.”

“Very good; and what did he do as soon as he rose up again?”

“He walked straight up to his adversary.”

“Who still remained upon the verge of the forest?”

“Yes, sire. Then, having reached a favorable distance, he stopped firmly, for the impression of both his heels are left in the ground quite close to each other, fired, and missed his adversary.”

“How do you know he did not hit him?”

“I found a hat with a ball through it.”

“Ah, a proof, then!” exclaimed the king.

“Insufficient, sire,” replied D’Artagnan, coldly; “it is a hat without any letters indicating its ownership, without arms; a red feather, as all hats have; the lace, even, had nothing particular in it.”

“Did the man with the hat through which the bullet had passed fire a second time?”

“Oh, sire, he had already fired twice.”

“How did you ascertain that?”

“I found the waddings of the pistol.”

“And what became of the bullet which did not kill the horse?”

“It cut in two the feather of the hat belonging to him against whom it was directed, and broke a small birch at the other end of the open glade.”

“In that case, then, the man on the black horse was disarmed, whilst his adversary had still one more shot to fire?”

“Sire, while the dismounted rider was extricating himself from his horse, the other was reloading his pistol. Only, he was much agitated while he was loading it, and his hand trembled greatly.”

“How do you know that?”

“Half the charge fell to the ground, and he threw the ramrod aside, not having time to replace it in the pistol.”

“Monsieur d’Artagnan, this is marvellous you tell me.”

“It is only close observation, sire, and the commonest highwayman could tell as much.”

“The whole scene is before me from the manner in which you relate it.”

“I have, in fact, reconstructed it in my own mind, with merely a few alterations.”

“And now,” said the king, “let us return to the dismounted cavalier. You were saying that he walked towards his adversary while the latter was loading his pistol.”

“Yes; but at the very moment he himself was taking aim, the other fired.”

“Oh!” said the king; “and the shot?”

“The shot told terribly, sire; the dismounted cavalier fell upon his face, after having staggered forward three or four paces.”

“Where was he hit?”

“In two places; in the first place, in his right hand, and then, by the same bullet, in his chest.”

“But how could you ascertain that?” inquired the king, full of admiration.

“By a very simple means; the butt end of the pistol was covered with blood, and the trace of the bullet could be observed, with fragments of a broken ring. The wounded man, in all probability, had the ring-finger and the little finger carried off.”

“As far as the hand goes, I have nothing to say; but the chest?”

“Sire, there were two small pools of blood, at a distance of about two feet and a half from each other. At one of these pools of blood the grass was torn up by the clenched hand; at the other, the grass was simply pressed down by the weight of the body.”

“Poor De Guiche!” exclaimed the king.

“Ah! it was M. de Guiche, then?” said the musketeer, quietly. “I suspected it, but did not venture to mention it to your majesty.”

“And what made you suspect it?”

“I recognized the De Gramont arms upon the holsters of the dead horse.”

“And you think he is seriously wounded?”

“Very seriously, since he fell immediately, and remained a long time in the same place; however, he was able to walk, as he left the spot, supported by two friends.”

“You met him returning, then?”

“No; but I observed the footprints of three men; the one on the right and the one on the left walked freely and easily, but the one in the middle dragged his feet as he walked; besides, he left traces of blood at every step he took.”

“Now, monsieur, since you saw the combat so distinctly that not a single detail seems to have escaped you, tell me something about De Guiche’s adversary.”

“Oh, sire, I do not know him.”

“And yet you see everything very clearly.”

“Yes, sire, I see everything; but I do not tell all I see; and, since the poor devil has escaped, your majesty will permit me to say that I do not intend to denounce him.”

“And yet he is guilty, since he has fought a duel, monsieur.”

“Not guilty in my eyes, sire,” said D’Artagnan, coldly.

“Monsieur!” exclaimed the king, “are you aware of what you are saying?”

“Perfectly, sire; but, according to my notions, a man who fights a duel is a brave man; such, at least, is my own opinion; but your majesty may have another, it is but natural, for you are master here.”

“Monsieur d’Artagnan, I ordered you, however—”

D’Artagnan interrupted the king by a respectful gesture. “You ordered me, sire, to gather what particulars I could, respecting a hostile meeting that had taken place; those particulars you have. If you order me to arrest M. de Guiche’s adversary, I will do so; but do not order me to denounce him to you, for in that case I will not obey.”

“Very well! Arrest him, then.”

“Give me his name, sire.”

The king stamped his foot angrily; but after a moment’s reflection, he said, “You are right—ten times, twenty times, a hundred times right.”

“That is my opinion, sire: I am happy that, this time, it accords with your majesty’s.”

“One word more. Who assisted Guiche?”

“I do not know, sire.”

“But you speak of two men. There was a person present, then, as second.”

“There was no second, sire. Nay, more than that, when M. de Guiche fell, his adversary fled without giving him any assistance.”

“The miserable coward!” exclaimed the king.

“The consequence of your ordinances, sire. If a man has fought well, and fairly, and has already escaped one chance of death, he naturally wishes to escape a second. M. de Bouteville cannot be forgotten very easily.”

“And so, men turn cowards.”

“No, they become prudent.”

“And he has fled, then, you say?”

“Yes; and as fast as his horse could possibly carry him.”

“In what direction?”

“In the direction of the chateau.”

“Well, and after that?”

“Afterwards, as I have had the honor of telling your majesty, two men on foot arrived, who carried M. de Guiche back with them.”

“What proof have you that these men arrived after the combat?”

“A very evident proof, sire; at the moment the encounter took place, the rain had just ceased, the ground had not had time to imbibe the moisture, and was, consequently, soaked; the footsteps sank in the ground; but while M. de Guiche was lying there in a fainting condition, the ground became firm again, and the footsteps made a less sensible impression.”

Louis clapped his hands together in sign of admiration. “Monsieur d’Artagnan,” he said, “you are positively the cleverest man in my kingdom.”

“The identical thing M. de Richelieu thought, and M. de Mazarin said, sire.”

“And now, it remains for us to see if your sagacity is at fault.”

“Oh! sire, a man may be mistaken; humanum est errare,” said the musketeer, philosophically. 1

“In that case, you are not human, Monsieur d’Artagnan, for I believe you are never mistaken.”

“Your majesty said that we were going to see whether such was the case, or not.”

“Yes.”

“In what way, may I venture to ask?”

“I have sent for M. de Manicamp, and M. de Manicamp is coming.”

“And M. de Manicamp knows the secret?”

“De Guiche has no secrets from M. de Manicamp.”

D’Artagnan shook his head. “No one was present at the combat, I repeat; and unless M. de Manicamp was one of the two men who brought him back—”

“Hush!” said the king, “he is coming; remain, and listen attentively.”

“Very good, sire.”

And, at the very same moment, Manicamp and Saint-Aignan appeared at the threshold of the door.






Chapter XVII. The Encounter.


The king signified with an imperious gesture, first to the musketeer, then to Saint-Aignan, “On your lives, not a word.” D’Artagnan withdrew, like a sentinel, to a corner of the room; Saint-Aignan, in his character of a favorite, leaned over the back of the king’s chair. Manicamp, with his right foot properly advanced, a smile upon his lips, and his white and well-formed hands gracefully disposed, advanced to make his reverence to the king, who returned the salutation by a bow. “Good evening, M. de Manicamp,” he said.

“Your majesty did me the honor to send for me,” said Manicamp.

“Yes, in order to learn from you all the details of the unfortunate accident which has befallen the Comte de Guiche.”

“Oh! sire, it is grievous indeed.”

“You were there?”

“Not precisely, sire.”

“But you arrived on the scene of the accident, a few minutes after it took place?”

“Sire, about half an hour afterwards.”

“And where did the accident happen?”

“I believe, sire, the place is called the Rond-point du Bois-Rochin.”

“Oh! the rendezvous of the hunt.”

“The very spot, sire.”

“Good; give me all the details you are acquainted with, respecting this unhappy affair, Monsieur de Manicamp.”

“Perhaps your majesty has already been informed of them, and I fear to fatigue you with useless repetition.”

“No, do not be afraid of that.”

Manicamp looked round him; he saw only D’Artagnan leaning with his back against the wainscot—D’Artagnan, calm, kind, and good-natured as usual—and Saint-Aignan whom he had accompanied, and who still leaned over the king’s armchair with an expression of countenance equally full of good feeling. He determined, therefore, to speak out. “Your majesty is perfectly aware,” he said, “that accidents are very frequent in hunting.”

“In hunting, do you say?”

“I mean, sire, when an animal is brought to bay.”

“Ah, ah!” said the king, “it was when the animal was brought to bay, then, that the accident happened?”

“Alas! sire, unhappily it was.”

The king paused for a moment before he said: “What animal was being hunted?”

“A wild boar, sire.”

“And what could possibly have possessed De Guiche to go to a wild boar-hunt by himself; that is but a clownish idea of sport, only fit for that class of people who, unlike the Marechal de Gramont, have no dogs and huntsmen, to hunt as gentlemen should do.”

Manicamp shrugged his shoulders. “Youth is very rash,” he said, sententiously.

“Well, go on,” said the king.

“At all events,” continued Manicamp, not venturing to be too precipitate and hasty, and letting his words fall very slowly one by one, “at all events, sire, poor De Guiche went hunting—all alone.”

“Quite alone? indeed?—What a sportsman! And is not M. de Guiche aware that the wild boar always stands at bay?”

“That is the very thing that really happened, sire.”

“He had some idea, then, of the beast being there?”

“Yes, sire, some peasants had seen it among their potatoes.” 2

“And what kind of animal was it?”

“A short, thick beast.”

“You may as well tell me, monsieur, that De Guiche had some idea of committing suicide; for I have seen him hunt, and he is an active and vigorous hunter. Whenever he fires at an animal brought to bay and held in check by the dogs, he takes every possible precaution, and yet he fires with a carbine, and on this occasion he seems to have faced the boar with pistols only.”

Manicamp started.

“A costly pair of pistols, excellent weapons to fight a duel with a man and not a wild boar. What an absurdity!”

“There are some things, sire, which are difficult of explanation.”

“You are quite right, and the event which we are now discussing is certainly one of them. Go on.”

During the recital, Saint-Aignan, who probably would have made a sign to Manicamp to be careful what he was about, found that the king’s glance was constantly fixed upon himself, so that it was utterly impossible to communicate with Manicamp in any way. As for D’Artagnan, the statue of Silence at Athens was far more noisy and far more expressive than he. Manicamp, therefore, was obliged to continue in the same way he had begun, and so contrived to get more and more entangled in his explanation. “Sire,” he said, “this is probably how the affair happened. Guiche was waiting to receive the boar as it rushed towards him.”

“On foot or on horseback?” inquired the king.

“On horseback. He fired upon the brute and missed his aim, and then it dashed upon him.”

“And the horse was killed.”

“Ah! your majesty knows that, then.”

“I have been told that a horse has been found lying dead in the cross-roads of the Bois-Rochin, and I presume it was De Guiche’s horse.”

“Perfectly true, sire, it was his.”

“Well, so much for the horse, and now for De Guiche?”

“De Guiche, once down, was attacked and worried by the wild boar, and wounded in the hand and in the chest.”

“It is a horrible accident, but it must be admitted it was De Guiche’s own fault. How could he possibly have gone to hunt such an animal merely armed with pistols; he must have forgotten the fable of Adonis?”

Manicamp rubbed his ear in seeming perplexity. “Very true,” he said, “it was very imprudent.”

“Can you explain it, Monsieur Manicamp?”

“Sire, what is written is written!”

“Ah! you are a fatalist.”

Manicamp looked very uncomfortable and ill at ease.

“I am angry with you, Monsieur Manicamp,” continued the king.

“With me, sire?”

“Yes. How was it that you, who are De Guiche’s intimate friend, and who know that he is subject to such acts of folly, did not stop him in time?”

Manicamp no longer knew what to do; the tone in which the king spoke was anything but that of a credulous man. On the other hand, it did not indicate any particular severity, nor did he seem to care very much about the cross-examination. There was more of raillery in it than menace. “And you say, then,” continued the king, “that it was positively De Guiche’s horse that was found dead?”

“Quite positive, sire.”

“Did that astonish you?”

“No, sire; for your majesty will remember that, at the last hunt, M. de Saint-Maure had a horse killed under him, and in the same way.”

“Yes, but that one was ripped open.”

“Of course, sire.”

“Had Guiche’s horse been ripped open like M. de Saint-Maure’s horse, I should not have been astonished.”

Manicamp opened his eyes very wide.

“Am I mistaken,” resumed the king, “was it not in the frontal bone that De Guiche’s horse was struck? You must admit, Monsieur de Manicamp, that that is a very singular place for a wild boar to attack.”

“You are aware, sire, that the horse is a very intelligent animal, and he doubtless endeavoured to defend himself.”

“But a horse defends himself with his heels and not with his head.”

“In that case, the terrified horse may have slipped or fallen down,” said Manicamp, “and the boar, you understand sire, the boar—”

“Oh! I understand that perfectly, as far as the horse is concerned; but how about his rider?”

“Well! that, too, is simple enough; the boar left the horse and attacked the rider; and, as I have already had the honor of informing your majesty, shattered De Guiche’s hand at the very moment he was about to discharge his second pistol at him, and then, with a gouge of his tusk, made that terrible hole in his chest.”

“Nothing is more likely; really, Monsieur de Manicamp, you are wrong in placing so little confidence in your own eloquence, and you can tell a story most admirably.”

“Your majesty is exceedingly kind,” said Manicamp, saluting him in the most embarrassed manner.

“From this day henceforth, I will prohibit any gentleman attached to my court going out to a similar encounter. Really, one might just as well permit duelling.”

Manicamp started, and moved as if he were about to withdraw. “Is your majesty satisfied?”

“Delighted; but do not withdraw yet, Monsieur de Manicamp,” said Louis, “I have something to say to you.”

“Well, well!” thought D’Artagnan, “there is another who is not up to the mark;” and he uttered a sigh which might signify, “Oh! the men of our stamp, where are they now?”

At this moment an usher lifted up the curtain before the door, and announced the king’s physician.

“Ah!” exclaimed Louis, “here comes Monsieur Valot, who has just been to see M. de Guiche. We shall now hear news of the man maltreated by the boar.”

Manicamp felt more uncomfortable than ever.

“In this way, at least,” added the king, “our conscience will be quite clear.” And he looked at D’Artagnan, who did not seem in the slightest degree discomposed.






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.