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List Of Contents | Contents of Louise de la Valliere, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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fact, he is dying."

"Good heavens! who told you that?"

"Manicamp brought him back just now to the house of a doctor here in
Fontainebleau, and the rumor soon reached us all."

"Brought back!  Poor De Guiche; and how did it happen?"

"Ah! that is the very question, - how did it happen?"

"You say that in a very singular manner, Saint-Aignan.  Give me the
details.  What does he say himself?"

"He says nothing, sire; but others do."

"What others?"

"Those who brought him back, sire."

"Who are they?"

"I do not know, sire; but M. de Manicamp knows.  M. de Manicamp is one of
his friends."

"As everybody is, indeed," said the king.

"Oh! no!" returned Saint-Aignan, "you are mistaken sire; every one is not
precisely a friend of M. de Guiche."

"How do you know that?"

"Does your majesty require me to explain myself?"

"Certainly I do."

"Well, sire, I believe I have heard something said about a quarrel
between two gentlemen."

"When?"

"This very evening, before your majesty's supper was served."

"That can hardly be.  I have issued such stringent and severe ordinances
with respect to duelling, that no one, I presume, would dare to disobey
them."

"In that case, Heaven preserve me from excusing any one!" exclaimed Saint-
Aignan.  "Your majesty commanded me to speak, and I spoke accordingly."

"Tell me, then, in what way the Comte de Guiche has been wounded?"

"Sire, it is said to have been at a boar-hunt."

"This evening?"

"Yes, sire."

"One of his hands shattered, and a hole in his breast.  Who was at the
hunt with M. de Guiche?"

"I do not know, sire; but M. de Manicamp knows, or ought to know."

"You are concealing something from me, Saint-Aignan."

"Nothing, sire, I assure you."

"Then, explain to me how the accident happened; was it a musket that
burst?"

"Very likely, sire.  But yet, on reflection, it could hardly have been
that, for De Guiche's pistol was found close by him still loaded."

"His pistol?  But a man does not go to a boar-hunt with a pistol, I
should think."

"Sire, it is also said that De Guiche's horse was killed and that the
horse is still to be found in the wide open glade in the forest."

"His horse? - Guiche go on horseback to a boar-hunt? - Saint-Aignan, I do
not understand a syllable of what you have been telling me.  Where did
this affair happen?"

"At the Rond-point, in that part of the forest called the Bois-Rochin."

"That will do.  Call M. d'Artagnan."  Saint-Aignan obeyed, and the
musketeer entered.

"Monsieur d'Artagnan," said the king, "you will leave this place by the
little door of the private staircase."

"Yes, sire."

"You will mount your horse."

"Yes, sire."

"And you will proceed to the Rond-point du Bois-Rochin.  Do you know the
spot?"

"Yes, sire.  I have fought there twice."

"What!" exclaimed the king, amazed at the reply.

"Under the edicts, sire, of Cardinal Richelieu," returned D'Artagnan,
with his usual impassability.

"That is very different, monsieur.  You will, therefore, go there, and
will examine the locality very carefully.  A man has been wounded there,
and you will find a horse lying dead.  You will tell me what your opinion
is upon the whole affair."

"Very good, sire."

"As a matter of course, it is your own opinion I require, and not that of
any one else."

"You shall have it in an hour's time, sire."

"I prohibit your speaking with any one, whoever it may be."

"Except with the person who must give me a lantern," said D'Artagnan.

"Oh! that is a matter of course," said the king, laughing at the liberty,
which he tolerated in no one but his captain of the musketeers.
D'Artagnan left by the little staircase.

"Now, let my physician be sent for," said Louis.  Ten minutes afterwards
the king's physician arrived, quite out of breath.

"You will go, monsieur," said the king to him, "and accompany M. de Saint-
Aignan wherever he may take you; you will render me an account of the
state of the person you may see in the house you will be taken to."  The
physician obeyed without a remark, as at that time people began to obey
Louis XIV., and left the room preceding Saint-Aignan.

"Do you, Saint-Aignan, send Manicamp to me, before the physician can
possibly have spoken to him."  And Saint-Aignan left in his turn.


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

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