List Of Contents | Contents of The Vicomte de Bragelonne, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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willing, then, Louis, that she to whom you have said 'I love you,' should
belong to another than to her king, to her master, to her lover?  Oh!
courage, Louis! courage!  One word, a single word!  Say 'I will!' and all
my life is enchained to yours, and all my heart is yours forever."

The king made no reply.  Mary then looked at him as Dido looked at Aeneas
in the Elysian fields, fierce and disdainful.

"Farewell, then," said she; "farewell life! love! heaven!"

And she took a step away.  The king detained her, seizing her hand, which
he pressed to his lips, and despair prevailing over the resolution he
appeared to have inwardly formed, he let fall upon that beautiful hand a
burning tear of regret, which made Mary start, so really had that tear
burnt her.  She saw the humid eyes of the king, his pale brow, his
convulsed lips, and cried, with an accent that cannot be described, -

"Oh, sire! you are a king, you weep, and yet I depart!"

As his sole reply, the king hid his face in his handkerchief.  The
officer uttered something so like a roar that it frightened the horses.
Mademoiselle de Mancini, quite indignant, quitted the king's arm, hastily
entered the carriage, crying to the coachman, "Go on, go on, and quick!"

The coachman obeyed, flogging his mules, and the heavy carriage rocked
upon its creaking axle, whilst the king of France, alone, cast down,
annihilated, did not dare to look either behind or before him.


Chapter XIV:
In which the King and the Lieutenant each give Proofs of Memory.

When the king, like all the people in the world who are in love, had long
and attentively watched disappear in the distance the carriage which bore
away his mistress; when he had turned and turned again a hundred times to
the same side and had at length succeeded in somewhat calming the
agitation of his heart and thoughts, he recollected that he was not
alone.  The officer still held the horse by the bridle, and had not lost
all hope of seeing the king recover his resolution.  He had still the
resource of mounting and riding after the carriage; they would have lost
nothing by waiting a little.  But the imagination of the lieutenant of
the musketeers was too rich and too brilliant; it left far behind it that
of the king, who took care not to allow himself to be carried away to
such excess.  He contented himself with approaching the officer, and in
a doleful voice, "Come," said he, "let us be gone; all is ended.  To
horse!"

The officer imitated this carriage, this slowness, this sadness, and
leisurely mounted his horse.  The king pushed on sharply, the
lieutenant followed him.  At the bridge Louis turned around for the last
time.  The lieutenant, patient as a god who has eternity behind and
before him, still hoped for a return of energy.  But it was groundless,
nothing appeared.  Louis gained the street which led to the castle, and
entered as seven was striking.  When the king had returned, and the
musketeer, who saw everything, had seen a corner of the tapestry over
the cardinal's window lifted up, he breathed a profound sigh, like a man
unloosed from the tightest bonds, and said in a low voice:

"Now then, my officer, I hope that it is over."

The king summoned his gentleman.  "Please to understand I shall receive
nobody before two o'clock," said he.

"Sire," replied the gentleman, "there is, however, some one who requests
admittance."

"Who is that?"

"Your lieutenant of musketeers."

"He who accompanied me?"

"Yes, sire."

"Ah," said the king, "let him come in."

The officer entered.  The king made a sign, and the gentleman and the
valet retired.  Louis followed them with his eyes until they had shut the
door, and when the tapestries had fallen behind them, - "You remind me by
your presence, monsieur, of something I had forgotten to recommend to
you, that is to say, the most absolute discretion."

"Oh! sire, why does your majesty give yourself the trouble of making me
such a recommendation?  It is plain you do not know me."

"Yes, monsieur, that is true.  I know that you are discreet; but as I
had prescribed nothing - "

The officer bowed.  "Has your majesty nothing else to say to me?"

"No, monsieur; you may retire."

"Shall I obtain permission not to do so till I have spoken to the king,
sire?"

"What do you have to say to me?  Explain yourself, monsieur."

"Sire, a thing without importance to you, but which interests me
greatly.  Pardon me, then, for speaking of it.  Without urgency, without
necessity, I never would have done it, and I would have disappeared, mute
and insignificant as I always have been."

"How!  Disappeared!  I do not understand you, monsieur."

"Sire, in a word," said the officer, "I am come to ask for my discharge
from your majesty's service."

The king made a movement of surprise, but the officer remained as
motionless as a statue.

"Your discharge - yours, monsieur? and for how long a time, I pray?"

"Why, forever, sire."

"What, you are desirous of quitting my service, monsieur?" said Louis,
with an expression that revealed something more than surprise.

"Sire, I regret to say that I am."

"Impossible!"

"It is so, however, sire.  I am getting old; I have worn harness now
thirty-five years; my poor shoulders are tired; I feel that I must give
place to the young.  I don't belong to this age; I have still one foot in
the old one; it results that everything is strange in my eyes, everything
astonishes and bewilders me.  In short, I have the honor to ask your
majesty for my discharge."

"Monsieur," said the king, looking at the officer, who wore his uniform
with an ease that would have caused envy in a young man, "you are
stronger and more vigorous than I am."

"Oh!" replied the officer, with an air of false modesty, "your majesty
says so because I still have a good eye and a tolerably firm foot 
because I can still ride a horse, and my mustache is black; but, sire,
vanity of vanities all that - illusions all that - appearance, smoke,
sire!  I have still a youthful air, it is true, but I feel old, and
within six months I am certain I shall be broken down, gouty, impotent.
Therefore, then, sire - "

"Monsieur," interrupted the king, "remember your words of yesterday.  You
said to me in this very place where you now are, that you were endowed
with the best health of any man in France; that fatigue was unknown to
you! that you did not mind spending whole days and nights at your post.
Did you tell me that, monsieur, or not?  Try and recall, monsieur."

The officer sighed.  "Sire," said he, "old age is boastful; and it is
pardonable for old men to praise themselves when others no longer do it.
It is very possible I said that; but the fact is, sire, I am very much
fatigued, an request permission to retire."

"Monsieur," said the king, advancing towards the officer with a gesture
full of majesty, "you are not assigning me the true reason.  You wish to
quit my service, it may be true, but you disguise from me the motive of
your retreat."

"Sire, believe that - "

"I believe what I see, monsieur; I see a vigorous, energetic man, full of
presence of mind, the best soldier in France, perhaps; and this personage
cannot persuade me the least in the world that he stands in need of rest."

"Ah! sire," said the lieutenant, with bitterness, "what praise!  Indeed,
your majesty confounds me!  Energetic, vigorous, brave, intelligent, the
best soldier in the army!  But, sire, your majesty exaggerates my small
portion of merit to such a point, that however good an opinion I may have
of myself, I do not recognize myself; in truth I do not.  If I were vain
enough to believe only half of your majesty's words, I should consider
myself a valuable, indispensable man.  I should say that a servant
possessed of such brilliant qualities was a treasure beyond all price.
Now, sire, I have been all my life - I feel bound to say it - except at
the present time, appreciated, in my opinion, much below my value.  I
therefore repeat, your majesty exaggerates."

The king knitted his brow, for he saw a bitter raillery beneath the words
of the officer.  "Come, monsieur," said he, "let us meet the question
frankly.  Are you dissatisfied with my service, say?  No evasions; speak
boldly, frankly - I command you to do so."

The officer, who had been twisting his hat about in his hands, with an
embarrassed air, for several minutes, raised his head at these words.
"Oh! sire," said he, "that puts me a little more at my ease.  To a
question put so frankly, I will reply frankly.  To tell the truth is a
good thing, as much from the pleasure one feels in relieving one's heart,
as on account of the rarity of the fact.  I will speak the truth, then,
to my king, at the same time imploring him to excuse the frankness of an
old soldier."

Louis looked at his officer with anxiety, which he manifested by the
agitation of his gesture.  "Well, then, speak," said he, "for I am
impatient to hear the truths you have to tell me."

The officer threw his hat upon a table, and his countenance, always so
intelligent and martial, assumed, all at once, a strange character of
grandeur and solemnity.  "Sire," said he, "I quit the king's service
because I am dissatisfied.  The valet, in these times, can approach his
master as respectfully as I do, can give him an account of his labor,
bring back his tools, return the funds that have been intrusted to him,
and say 'Master, my day's work is done.  Pay me, if you please, and let
us part.'"

"Monsieur! monsieur!" exclaimed the king, crimson with rage.

"Ah! sire," replied the officer, bending his knee for a moment, "never
was servant more respectful than I am before your majesty; only you
commanded me to tell the truth.  Now I have begun to tell it, it must
come out, even if you command me to hold my tongue."

There was so much resolution expressed in the deep-sunk muscles of the
officer's countenance, that Louis XIV. had no occasion to tell him to
continue; he continued, therefore, whilst the king looked at him with a
curiosity mingled with admiration.

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