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List Of Contents | Contents of The Vicomte de Bragelonne, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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prevailing over the orchestra, the singing and the buzz of the
promenaders, the cardinal and the queen-mother looked at each other
with surprise.

Louis XIV., pale, but resolved, supported as he was by that intuition of
his own thought which he had found in the mind of the officer of
musketeers, and which he had just manifested by the order given, arose
from his chair, and took a step towards the door.

"Are you going, my son?" said the queen, whilst Mazarin satisfied himself
with interrogating by a look which might have appeared mild if it had not
been so piercing.

"Yes, madame," replied the king; "I am fatigued, and, besides, wish to
write this evening."

A smile stole over the lips of the minister, who appeared, by a bend of
the head, to give the king permission.

Monsieur and Madame hastened to give orders to the officers who presented
themselves.

The king bowed, crossed the hall, and gained the door, where a hedge of
twenty musketeers awaited him.  At the extremity of this hedge stood the
officer, impassible, with his drawn sword in his hand.  The king passed,
and all the crowd stood on tip-toe, to have one more look at him.

Ten musketeers, opening the crowd of the ante-chambers and the steps,
made way for his majesty.  The other ten surrounded the king and
Monsieur, who had insisted upon accompanying his majesty.  The domestics
walked behind.  This little _cortege_ escorted the king to the chamber
destined for him.  The apartment was the same that had been occupied by
Henry III. during his sojourn in the States.

Monsieur had given his orders.  The musketeers, led by their officer,
took possession of the little passage by which one wing of the castle
communicates with the other.  This passage was commenced by a small
square ante-chamber, dark even in the finest days.  Monsieur stopped
Louis XIV.

"You are passing now, sire," said he, "the very spot where the Duc de
Guise received the first stab of the poniard."

The king was ignorant of all historical matters; he had heard of the
fact, but he knew nothing of the localities or the details.

"Ah!" said he with a shudder.

And he stopped.  The rest, both behind and before him, stopped likewise.

"The duc, sire," continued Gaston, "was nearly were I stand: he was
walking in the same direction as your majesty; M. de Loignac was exactly
where your lieutenant of musketeers is; M. de Saint-Maline and his
majesty's ordinaries were behind him and around him.  It was here that he
was struck."

The king turned towards his officer, and saw something like a cloud pass
over his martial and daring countenance.

"Yes, from behind!" murmured the lieutenant, with a gesture of supreme
disdain.  And he endeavored to resume the march, as if ill at ease at
being between walls formerly defiled by treachery.

But the king, who appeared to wish to be informed, was disposed to give
another look at this dismal spot.

Gaston perceived his nephew's desire.

"Look, sire," said he, taking a flambeaux from the hands of M. de Saint-
Remy, "this is where he fell.  There was a bed there, the curtains of
which he tore with catching at them."

"Why does the floor seem hollowed out at this spot?" asked Louis.

"Because it was here the blood flowed," replied Gaston; "the blood
penetrated deeply into the oak, and it was only by cutting it out that
they succeeded in making it disappear.  And even then," added Gaston,
pointing the flambeaux to the spot, "even then this red stain resisted
all the attempts made to destroy it."

Louis XIV. raised his head.  Perhaps he was thinking of that bloody trace
that had once been shown him at the Louvre, and which, as a pendant to
that of Blois, had been made there one day by the king his father with
the blood of Concini.

"Let us go on," said he.

The march was resumed promptly; for emotion, no doubt, had given to the
voice of the young prince a tone of command which was not customary with
him.  When he arrived at the apartment destined for the king, which
communicated not only with the little passage we have passed through, but
further with the great staircase leading to the court, -

"Will your majesty," said Gaston, "condescend to occupy this apartment,
all unworthy as it is to receive you?"

"Uncle," replied the young king, "I render you my thanks for your cordial
hospitality."

Gaston bowed to his nephew, embraced him, and then went out.

Of the twenty musketeers who had accompanied the king, ten reconducted
Monsieur to the reception-rooms, which were not yet empty,
notwithstanding the king had retired.

The ten others were posted by their officer, who himself explored, in
five minutes, all the localities, with that cold and certain glance which
not even habit gives unless that glance belongs to genius.

Then, when all were placed, he chose as his headquarters the ante-
chamber, in which he found a large _fauteuil_, a lamp, some wine, some
water, and some dry bread.

He refreshed his lamp, drank half a glass of wine, curled his lip with a
smile full of expression, installed himself in his large armchair, and
made preparations for sleeping.


Chapter IX:
In which the Unknown of the Hostelry of Les Medici loses his Incognito.

This officer, who was sleeping, or preparing to sleep, was,
notwithstanding his careless air, charged with a serious responsibility.

Lieutenant of the king's musketeers, he commanded all the company which
came from Paris, and that company consisted of a hundred and twenty men;
but, with the exception of the twenty of whom we have spoken, the other
hundred were engaged in guarding the queen-mother, and more particularly
the cardinal.

Monsignor Giulio Mazarini economized the traveling expenses of his
guards; he consequently used the king's, and that largely, since he took
fifty of them for himself - a peculiarity which would not have failed to
strike any one unacquainted with the usages of that court.

That which would still further have appeared, if not inconvenient, at
least extraordinary, to a stranger, was, that the side of the castle
destined for monsieur le cardinal was brilliant, light and cheerful.  The
musketeers there mounted guard before every door, and allowed no one to
enter, except the couriers, who, even while he was traveling, followed
the cardinal for the carrying on of his correspondence.

Twenty men were on duty with the queen-mother; thirty rested, in order to
relieve their companions the next day.

On the king's side, on the contrary, were darkness, silence, and
solitude.  When once the doors were closed, there was no longer an
appearance of royalty.  All the servitors had by degrees retired.
Monsieur le Prince had sent to know if his majesty required his
attendance; and on the customary "_No_" of the lieutenant of musketeers,
who was habituated to the question and the reply, all appeared to sink
into the arms of sleep, as if in the dwelling of a good citizen.

And yet it was possible to hear from the side of the house occupied by
the young king the music of the banquet, and to see the windows of the
great hall richly illuminated.

Ten minutes after his installation in his apartment, Louis XIV. had been
able to learn, by movement much more distinguished than marked his own
leaving, the departure of the cardinal, who, in his turn, sought his
bedroom, accompanied by a large escort of ladies and gentlemen.

Besides, to perceive this movement, he had nothing to do but look out at
his window, the shutters of which had not been closed.

His eminence crossed the court, conducted by Monsieur, who himself held a
flambeau; then followed the queen-mother, to whom Madame familiarly gave
her arm; and both walked chatting away, like two old friends.

Behind these two couples filed nobles, ladies, pages and officers; the
flambeaux gleamed over the whole court, like the moving reflections of a
conflagration.  Then the noise of steps and voices became lost in the
upper floors of the castle.

No one was then thinking of the king, who, leaning on his elbow at his
window, had sadly seen pass away all that light, and heard that noise die
off - no, not one, if it was not that unknown of the hostelry _des
Medici_, whom we have seen go out, enveloped in his cloak.

He had come straight up to the castle, and had, with his melancholy
countenance, wandered round and round the palace, from which the people
had not yet departed; and finding that on one guarded the great entrance,
or the porch, seeing that the soldiers of Monsieur were fraternizing with
the royal soldiers - that is to say, swallowing Beaugency at discretion,
or rather indiscretion - the unknown penetrated through the crowd, then
ascended to the court, and came to the landing of the staircase leading
to the cardinal's apartment.

What, according to all probability, induced him to direct his steps that
way, was the splendor of the flambeaux, and the busy air of the pages and
domestics.  But he was stopped short by a presented musket and the cry of
the sentinel.

"Where are you going, my friend?" asked the soldier.

"I am going to the king's apartment," replied the unknown, haughtily, but
tranquilly.

The soldier called one of his eminence's officers, who, in the tone in
which a youth in office directs a solicitor to a minister, let fall these
words: "The other staircase, in front."

And the officer, without further notice of the unknown, resumed his
interrupted conversation.

The stranger, without reply, directed his steps towards the staircase
pointed out to him.  On this side there was no noise, there were no more
flambeaux.

Obscurity, through which a sentinel glided like a shadow; silence, which
permitted him to hear the sound of his own footsteps, accompanied with
the jingling of his spurs upon the stone slabs.

This guard was one of the twenty musketeers appointed for attendance upon
the king, and who mounted guard with the stiffness and consciousness of a
statue.

"Who goes there?" said the guard.

"A friend," replied the unknown.

"What do you want?"

"To speak to the king."

"Do you, my dear monsieur?  That's not very likely."

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