Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook
Pages (PDF): 616
Publication Date: 1847-1850
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The fourth book in The D’Artagnan Romances. D'Artagnan, a young swordsman intent on joining the king's musketeers, becomes embroiled in court intrigues, international politics, and ill-fated affairs between royal lovers. Louis XIV is well past the age where he should rule, but the ailing Cardinal Mazarin refuses to relinquish the reins of power. Meanwhile, Charles II, a king without a country, travels to Europe seeking aid from his fellow monarchs.
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The reader guesses beforehand whom the usher preceded in announcing the courier from Bretagne. This messenger was easily recognized. It was D'Artagnan, his clothes dusty, his face inflamed, his hair dripping with sweat, his legs stiff; he lifted his feet painfully at every step, on which resounded the clink of his blood–stained spurs. He perceived in the doorway he was passing through, the superintendent coming out. Fouquet bowed with a smile to him who, an hour before, was bringing him ruin and death. D'Artagnan found in his goodness of heart, and in his inexhaustible vigor of body, enough presence of mind to remember the kind reception of this man; he bowed then, also, much more from benevolence and compassion, than from respect. He felt upon his lips the word which had so many times been repeated to the Duc de Guise: "Fly." But to pronounce that word would have been to betray his cause; to speak that word in the cabinet of the king, and before an usher, would have been to ruin himself gratuitously, and could save nobody. D'Artagnan then, contented himself with bowing to Fouquet and entered. At this moment the king floated between the joy the last words of Fouquet had given him, and his pleasure at the return of D'Artagnan. Without being a courtier, D'Artagnan had a glance as sure and as rapid as if he had been one. He read, on his entrance, devouring humiliation on the countenance of Colbert. He even heard the king say these words to him:—
"Ah! Monsieur Colbert; you have then nine hundred thousand livres at the intendance?" Colbert, suffocated, bowed but made no reply. All this scene entered into the mind of D'Artagnan, by the eyes and ears, at once.
The first word of Louis to his musketeer, as if he wished it to contrast with what he was saying at the moment, was a kind "good day." His second was to send away Colbert. The latter left the king's cabinet, pallid and tottering, whilst D'Artagnan twisted up the ends of his mustache.
"I love to see one of my servants in this disorder," said the king, admiring the martial stains upon the clothes of his envoy.
"I thought, sire, my presence at the Louvre was sufficiently urgent to excuse my presenting myself thus before you."
"You bring me great news, then, monsieur?"
"Sire, the thing is this, in two words: Belle–Isle is fortified, admirably fortified; Belle–Isle has a double enceinte, a citadel, two detached forts; its ports contain three corsairs; and the side batteries only await their cannon."
"I know all that, monsieur," replied the king.
"What! your majesty knows all that?" replied the musketeer, stupefied.
"I have the plan of the fortifications of Belle–Isle," said the king.
"Your majesty has the plan?"
"Here it is."
"It is really correct, sire: I saw a similar one on the spot."
D'Artagnan's brow became clouded.
"Ah! I understand all. Your majesty did not trust to me alone, but sent some other person," said he in a reproachful tone.
"Of what importance is the manner, monsieur, in which I have learnt what I know, so that I know it?"
"Sire, sire," said the musketeer, without seeking even to conceal his dissatisfaction; "but I must be permitted to say to your majesty, that it is not worth while to make me use such speed, to risk twenty times the breaking of my neck, to salute me on my arrival with such intelligence. Sire, when people are not trusted, or are deemed insufficient, they should scarcely be employed." And D'Artagnan, with a movement perfectly military, stamped with his foot, and left upon the floor dust stained with blood. The king looked at him, inwardly enjoying his first triumph.
"Monsieur," said he, at the expiration of a minute, "not only is Belle–Isle known to me, but, still further, Belle–Isle is mine."
"That is well! that is well, sire, I ask but one thing more," replied D'Artagnan.—"My discharge."
"What! your discharge?"
"Without doubt I am too proud to eat the bread of the king without earning it, or rather by gaining it badly.—My discharge, sire!"
"I ask for my discharge, or I will take it."
"You are angry, monsieur?"
"I have reason, mordioux! Thirty–two hours in the saddle, I ride day and night, I perform prodigies of speed, I arrive stiff as the corpse of a man who has been hung—and another arrives before me! Come, sire, I am a fool!—My discharge, sire!"
"Monsieur d'Artagnan," said Louis, leaning his white hand upon the dusty arm of the musketeer, "what I tell you will not at all affect that which I promised you. A king's word given must be kept." And the king going straight to his table, opened a drawer, and took out a folded paper. "Here is your commission of captain of musketeers; you have won it, Monsieur d'Artagnan."