at liberty, takes his farewell of you." And without waiting longer, the captain sprang from the terrace down the staircase, where he had picked up the fragments of Gourville's letter. Five minutes after, he was at the hostelry, where, according to the custom of all great officers who have lodgings at the castle, he had taken what was called his city-chamber. But when he arrived there, instead of throwing off his sword and cloak, he took his pistols, put his money into a large leather purse, sent for his horses from the castle- stables, and gave orders that would ensure their reaching Vannes during the night. Everything went on according to his wishes. At eight o'clock in the evening, he was putting his foot in the stirrup, when M. de Gesvres appeared, at the head of twelve guards, in front of the hostelry. D'Artagnan saw all from the corner of his eye; he could not fail seeing thirteen men and thirteen horses. But he feigned not to observe anything, and was about to put his horse in motion. Gesvres rode up to him. "Monsieur d'Artagnan!" said he, aloud. "Ah, Monsieur de Gesvres! good evening!" "One would say you were getting on horseback." "More than that, - I am mounted, - as you see." "It is fortunate I have met with you." "Were you looking for me, then?" "_Mon Dieu!_ yes." "On the part of the king, I will wager?" "Yes." "As I, three days ago, went in search of M. Fouquet?" "Oh!" "Nonsense! It is of no use being over-delicate with me; that is all labor lost. Tell me at once you are come to arrest me." "To arrest you? - Good heavens! no." "Why do you come to accost me with twelve horsemen at your heels, then?" "I am making my round." "That isn't bad! And so you pick me up in your round, eh?" "I don't pick you up; I meet with you, and I beg you to come with me." "Where?" "To the king." "Good!" said D'Artagnan, with a bantering air; "the king is disengaged." "For Heaven's sake, captain," said M. de Gesvres, in a low voice to the musketeer, "do not compromise yourself! these men hear you." D'Artagnan laughed aloud, and replied: "March! People who are arrested are placed between the six first guards and the six last." "But as I am not arresting you," said M. de Gesvres, "you will march behind, with me, if you please." "Well," said D'Artagnan, "that is very polite, duke, and you are right in being so; for if ever I had had to make my rounds near your _chambre-de- ville_, I should have been courteous to you, I assure you, on the word of a gentleman! Now, one favor more; what does the king want with me?" "Oh, the king is furious!" "Very well! the king, who has thought it worth while to be angry, may take the trouble to grow calm again; that is all. I shan't die of that, I will swear." "No, but - " "But - I shall be sent to keep company with unfortunate M. Fouquet. _Mordioux!_ That is a gallant man, a worthy man! We shall live very sociably together, I will be sworn." "Here we are at our place of destination," said the duke. "Captain, for Heaven's sake be calm with the king!" "Ah! ah! you are playing the brave man with me, duke!" said D'Artagnan, throwing one of his defiant glances over Gesvres. "I have been told that you are ambitious of uniting your guards with my musketeers. This strikes me as a splendid opportunity." "I will take exceeding good care not to avail myself of it, captain." "And why not, pray?" "Oh, for many reasons - in the first place, for this: if I were to succeed you in the musketeers after having arrested you - " "Ah! then you admit you have arrested me?" "No, I _don't_." "Say met me, then. So, you were saying _if_ you were to succeed me after having arrested me?" "Your musketeers, at the first exercise with ball cartridges, would fire _my_ way, by mistake." "Oh, as to that I won't say; for the fellows _do_ love me a little." Gesvres made D'Artagnan pass in first, and took him straight to the cabinet where Louis was waiting for his captain of the musketeers, and placed himself behind his colleague in the ante-chamber. The king could be heard distinctly, speaking aloud to Colbert in the same cabinet where Colbert might have heard, a few days before, the king speaking aloud with M. d'Artagnan. The guards remained as a mounted picket before the principal gate; and the report was quickly spread throughout the city that monsieur le capitaine of the musketeers had been arrested by order of the king. Then these men were seen to be in motion, and as in the good old times of Louis XIII. and M. de Treville, groups were formed, and staircases were filled; vague murmurs, issuing from the court below, came rolling to the upper stories, like the distant moaning of the waves. M. de Gesvres became uneasy. He looked at his guards, who, after being interrogated by the musketeers who had just got among their ranks, began to shun them with a manifestation of innocence. D'Artagnan was certainly less disturbed by all this than M. de Gesvres, the captain of the guards. As soon as he entered, he seated himself on the ledge of a window whence with his eagle glance he saw all that was going on without the least emotion. No step of the progressive fermentation which had shown itself at the report of his arrest escaped him. He foresaw the very moment the explosion would take place; and we know that his previsions were in general correct. "It would be very whimsical," thought he, "if, this evening, my praetorians should make me king of France. How I should laugh!" But, at the height, all was stopped. Guards, musketeers, officers, soldiers, murmurs, uneasiness, dispersed, vanished, died away; there was an end of menace and sedition. One word had calmed the waves. The king had desired Brienne to say, "Hush, messieurs! you disturb the king." D'Artagnan sighed. "All is over!" said he; "the musketeers of the present day are not those of his majesty Louis XIII. All is over!" "Monsieur d'Artagnan, you are wanted in the ante-chamber of the king," proclaimed an usher. Chapter LIII: King Louis XIV. The king was seated in his cabinet, with his back turned towards the door of entrance. In front of him was a mirror, in which, while turning over his papers, he could see at a glance those who came in. He did not take any notice of the entrance of D'Artagnan, but spread above his letters and plans the large silk cloth he used to conceal his secrets from the importunate. D'Artagnan understood this by-play, and kept in the background; so that at the end of a minute the king, who heard nothing, and saw nothing save from the corner of his eye, was obliged to cry, "Is not M. d'Artagnan there?" "I am here, sire," replied the musketeer, advancing. "Well, monsieur," said the king, fixing his pellucid eyes on D'Artagnan, "what have you to say to me?" "I, sire!" replied the latter, who watched the first blow of his adversary to make a good retort; "I have nothing to say to your majesty, unless it be that you have caused me to be arrested, and here I am." The king was going to reply that he had not had D'Artagnan arrested, but any such sentence appeared too much like an excuse, and he was silent. D'Artagnan likewise preserved an obstinate silence. "Monsieur," at length resumed the king, "what did I charge you to go and do at Belle-Isle? Tell me, if you please." The king while uttering these words looked intently at his captain. Here D'Artagnan was fortunate; the king seemed to place the game in his hands. "I believe," replied he, "that your majesty does me the honor to ask what I went to Belle-Isle to accomplish?" "Yes, monsieur." "Well! sire, I know nothing about it; it is not of me that question should be asked, but of that infinite number of officers of all kinds, to whom have been given innumerable orders of all kinds, whilst to me, head of the expedition, nothing precise was said or stated in any form whatever." The king was hurt: he showed it by his reply. "Monsieur," said he, "orders have only been given to such as were judged faithful." "And, therefore, I have been astonished, sire," retorted the musketeer, "that a captain like myself, who ranks with a marechal of France, should have found himself under the orders of five or six lieutenants or majors, good to make spies of, possibly, but not at all fit to conduct a warlike expedition. It was upon this subject I came to demand an explanation of your majesty, when I found the door closed against me, which, the final insult offered to a brave man, has led me to quit your majesty's service." "Monsieur," replied the king, "you still believe that you are living in an age when kings were, as you complain of having been, under the orders and at the discretion of their inferiors. You seem to forget that a king owes an account of his actions to none but God." "I forget nothing, sire," said the musketeer, wounded by this lesson. "Besides, I do not see in what an honest man, when he asks of his king how he has ill-served him, offends him." "You have ill-served me, monsieur, by siding with my enemies against me." "Who are your enemies, sire?" "The men I sent you to fight." "Two men the enemies of the whole of your majesty's army! That is incredible." "You have no power to judge of my will." "But I have to judge of my own friendships, sire." "He who serves his friends does not serve his master." "I so well understand this, sire, that I have respectfully offered your majesty my resignation." "And I have accepted it, monsieur," said the king. "Before being separated from you I was willing to prove to you that I know how to keep my word." "Your majesty has kept more than your word, for your majesty has had me arrested," said D'Artagnan, with his cold, bantering air; "you did not promise me that, sire." The king would not condescend to perceive the pleasantry, and continued, seriously, "You see, monsieur, to what grave steps your disobedience forces me." "My disobedience!" cried D'Artagnan, red with anger.