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List Of Contents | Contents of Louise de la Valliere, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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arrested all the same, whether by myself or by the captain of the guards."

"And this is your devotion, monsieur! a devotion which argues and
reasons.  You are no soldier, monsieur!"

"I wait for your majesty to tell me what I am."

"Well, then - you are a Frondeur."

"And since there is no longer any Fronde, sire, in that case - "

"But if what you say is true - "

"What I say is always true, sire."

"What have you come to say to me, monsieur?"

"I have come to say to your majesty, 'Sire, M. de la Fere is in the
Bastile.'"

"That is not your fault, it would seem."

"That is true, sire; but at all events he is there; and since he is
there, it is important that your majesty should know it."

"Ah!  Monsieur d'Artagnan, so you set your king at defiance."

"Sire - "

"Monsieur d'Artagnan!  I warn you that you are abusing my patience."

"On the contrary, sire."

"What do you mean by 'on the contrary'?"

"I have come to get myself arrested, too."

"To get yourself arrested, - you!"

"Of course.  My friend will get wearied to death in the Bastile by
himself; and I have come to propose to your majesty to permit me to bear
him company; if your majesty will but give me the word, I will arrest
myself; I shall not need the captain of the guards for that, I assure
you."

The king darted towards the table and seized hold of a pen to write the
order for D'Artagnan's imprisonment.  "Pay attention, monsieur, that this
is forever," cried the king, in tones of sternest menace.

"I can quite believe that," returned the musketeer; "for when you have
once done such an act as that, you will never be able to look me in the
face again."

The king dashed down his pen violently.  "Leave the room, monsieur!" he
said.

"Not so, if it please your majesty."

"What is that you say?"

"Sire, I came to speak gently and temperately to your majesty; your
majesty got into a passion with me; that is a misfortune; but I shall not
the less on that account say what I had to say to you."

"Your resignation, monsieur, - your resignation!" cried the king.

"Sire, you know whether I care about my resignation or not, since at
Blois, on the very day when you refused King Charles the million which my
friend the Comte de la Fere gave him, I then tendered my resignation to
your majesty."

"Very well, monsieur - do it at once!"

"No, sire; for there is no question of my resignation at the present
moment.  Your majesty took up your pen just now to send me to the
Bastile, - why should you change your intention?"

"D'Artagnan!  Gascon that you are! who is king, allow me to ask, - you or
myself?"

"You, sire, unfortunately."

"What do you mean by 'unfortunately'?"

"Yes, sire; for if it were I - "

"If it were you, you would approve of M. d'Artagnan's rebellious conduct,
I suppose?"

"Certainly."

"Really!" said the king, shrugging his shoulders.

"And I should tell my captain of the musketeers," continued D'Artagnan,
"I should tell him, looking at him all the while with human eyes, and not
with eyes like coals of fire, 'M. d'Artagnan, I had forgotten that I was
the king, for I descended from my throne in order to insult a gentleman.'"

"Monsieur," said the king, "do you think you can excuse your friend by
exceeding him in insolence?"

"Oh! sire!  I should go much further than he did," said D'Artagnan; "and
it would be your own fault.  I should tell you what he, a man full of the
finest sense of delicacy, did not tell you; I should say - 'Sire, you
have sacrificed his son, and he defended his son - you sacrificed
himself; he addressed you in the name of honor, of religion, of virtue 
you repulsed, drove him away, imprisoned him.'  I should be harder than
he was, for I should say to you - 'Sire; it is for you to choose.  Do you
wish to have friends or lackeys - soldiers or slaves - great men or mere
puppets?  Do you wish men to serve you, or to bend and crouch before
you?  Do you wish men to love you, or to be afraid of you?  If you prefer
baseness, intrigue, cowardice, say so at once, sire, and we will leave
you, - we who are the only individuals who are left, - nay, I will say
more, the only models of the valor of former times; we who have done our
duty, and have exceeded, perhaps, in courage and in merit, the men
already great for posterity.  Choose, sire! and that, too, without
delay.  Whatever relics remain to you of the great nobility, guard them
with a jealous eye; you will never be deficient in courtiers.  Delay not
- and send me to the Bastile with my friend; for, if you did not know how
to listen to the Comte de la Fere, whose voice is the sweetest and
noblest in all the world when honor is the theme; if you do not know how
to listen to D'Artagnan, the frankest and honestest voice of sincerity,
you are a bad king, and to-morrow will be a poor king.  And learn from
me, sire, that bad kings are hated by their people, and poor kings are
driven ignominiously away.'  That is what I had to say to you, sire; you
were wrong to drive me to say it."

The king threw himself back in his chair, cold as death, and as livid as
a corpse.  Had a thunderbolt fallen at his feet, he could not have been
more astonished; he seemed as if his respiration had utterly ceased, and
that he was at the point of death.  The honest voice of sincerity, as
D'Artagnan had called it, had pierced through his heart like a sword-
blade.

D'Artagnan had said all he had to say.  Comprehending the king's anger,
he drew his sword, and, approaching Louis XIV. respectfully, he placed it
on the table.  But the king, with a furious gesture, thrust aside the
sword, which fell on the ground and rolled to D'Artagnan's feet.
Notwithstanding the perfect mastery which D'Artagnan exercised over
himself, he, too, in his turn, became pale, and, trembling with
indignation, said: "A king may disgrace a soldier, - he may exile him,
and may even condemn him to death; but were he a hundred times a king, he
has no right to insult him by casting a dishonor upon his sword!  Sire, a
king of France has never repulsed with contempt the sword of a man such
as I am!  Stained with disgrace as this sword now is, it has henceforth
no other sheath than either your heart or my own!  I choose my own, sire;
and you have to thank Heaven and my own patience that I do so."  Then
snatching up his sword, he cried, "My blood be upon your head!" and, with
a rapid gesture, he placed the hilt upon the floor and directed the point
of the blade towards his breast.  The king, however, with a movement far
more rapid than that of D'Artagnan, threw his right arm around the
musketeer's neck, and with his left hand seized hold of the blade by the
middle, and returned it silently to the scabbard.  D'Artagnan, upright,
pale, and still trembling, let the king do all to the very end.  Louis,
overcome and softened by gentler feelings, returned to the table, took a
pen in his hand, wrote a few lines, signed them, and then held it out
to D'Artagnan.

"What is this paper, sire?" inquired the captain.

"An order for M. d'Artagnan to set the Comte de la Fere at liberty
immediately."

D'Artagnan seized the king's hand, and imprinted a kiss upon it; he then
folded the order, placed it in his belt, and quitted the room. Neither
the king nor the captain had uttered a syllable.

"Oh, human heart! thou guide and director of kings," murmured Louis, when
alone, "when shall I learn to read in your inmost recesses, as in the
leaves of a book!  Oh, I am not a bad king - nor am I poor king; I am but
still a child, when all is said and done."


Chapter LXV:
Political Rivals.

D'Artagnan had promised M. de Baisemeaux to return in time for dessert,
and he kept his word.  They had just reached the finer and more delicate
class of wines and liqueurs with which the governor's cellar had the
reputation of being most admirably stocked, when the silver spurs of the
captain resounded in the corridor, and he himself appeared at the
threshold.  Athos and Aramis had played a close game; neither of the two
had been able to gain the slightest advantage over the other.  They had
supped, talked a good deal about the Bastile, of the last journey to
Fontainebleau, of the intended _fete_ that M. Fouquet was about to give
at Vaux; they had generalized on every possible subject; and no one,
excepting Baisemeaux, had in the slightest degree alluded to private
matters.  D'Artagnan arrived in the very midst of the conversation, still
pale and much disturbed by his interview with the king.  Baisemeaux
hastened to give him a chair; D'Artagnan accepted a glass of wine, and
set it down empty.  Athos and Aramis both remarked his emotion; as for
Baisemeaux, he saw nothing more than the captain of the king's
musketeers, to whom he endeavored to show every possible attention.  But,
although Aramis had remarked his emotion, he had not been able to guess
the cause of it.  Athos alone believed he had detected it.  For him,
D'Artagnan's return, and particularly the manner in which he, usually so
impassible, seemed overcome, signified, "I have just asked the king
something which the king has refused me."  Thoroughly convinced that his
conjecture was correct, Athos smiled, rose from the table, and made a
sign to D'Artagnan, as if to remind him that they had something else to
do than to sup together.  D'Artagnan immediately understood him, and
replied by another sign.  Aramis and Baisemeaux watched this silent
dialogue, and looked inquiringly at each other.  Athos felt that he was
called upon to give an explanation of what was passing.

"The truth is, my friend," said the Comte de la Fere, with a smile, "that
you, Aramis, have been supping with a state criminal, and you, Monsieur
de Baisemeaux, with your prisoner."

Baisemeaux uttered an exclamation of surprise, and almost of delight; for
he was exceedingly proud and vain of his fortress, and for his own
individual profit, the more prisoners he had, the happier he was, and the
higher in rank the prisoners happened to be, the prouder he felt.  Aramis
assumed the expression of countenance he thought the position justified,

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