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List Of Contents | Contents of The Vicomte de Bragelonne, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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"Sire, I have, as I have said, now served the house of France thirty-five
years; few people have worn out so many swords in that service as I have,
and the swords I speak of were good swords, too, sire.  I was a boy,
ignorant of everything except courage, when the king your father guessed
that there was a man in me.  I was a man, sire, when the Cardinal de
Richelieu, who was a judge of manhood, discovered an enemy in me.  Sire,
the history of that enmity between the ant and the lion may be read from
the first to the last line, in the secret archives of your family.  If
ever you feel an inclination to know it, do so, sire; the history is
worth the trouble - it is I who tell you so.  You will there read that
the lion, fatigued, harassed, out of breath, at length cried for quarter,
and the justice must be rendered him to say, that he gave as much as he
required.  Oh! those were glorious times, sire, strewed over with battles
like one of Tasso's or Ariosto's epics.  The wonders of those times, to
which the people of ours would refuse belief, were every-day
occurrences.  For five years together, I was a hero every day; at least,
so I was told by persons of judgment; and that is a long period for
heroism, trust me, sire, a period of five years.  Nevertheless, I have
faith in what these people told me, for the were good judges.  They were
named M. de Richelieu, M. de Buckingham, M. de Beaufort, M. de Retz, a
mighty genius himself in street warfare, - in short, the king, Louis
XIII., and even the queen, your noble mother, who one day condescended to
say, '_Thank you_.'  I don't know what service I had had the good fortune
to render her.  Pardon me, sire, for speaking so boldly; but what I
relate to you, as I have already had the honor to tell your majesty, is
history."
The king bit his lips, and threw himself violently on a chair.

"I appear importunate to your majesty," said the lieutenant.  "Eh! sire,
that is the fate of truth; she is a stern companion; she bristles all
over with steel; she wounds those whom she attacks, and sometimes him who
speaks her."

"No, monsieur," replied the king: "I bade you speak - speak then."

"After the service of the king and the cardinal, came the service of the
regency, sire; I fought pretty well in the Fronde - much less, though,
than the first time.  The men began to diminish in stature.  I have,
nevertheless, led your majesty's musketeers on some perilous occasions,
which stand upon the orders of the day of the company.  Mine was a
beautiful luck at that time.  I was the favorite of M. de Mazarin.
Lieutenant here! lieutenant there! lieutenant to the right! lieutenant to
the left!  There was not a buffet dealt in France, of which your humble
servant did not have the dealing; but soon France was not enough.  The
cardinal sent me to England on Cromwell's account; another gentleman who
was not over gentle, I assure you, sire.  I had the honor of knowing him,
and I was well able to appreciate him.  A great deal was promised me on
account of that mission.  So, as I did much more than I had been bidden
to do, I was generously paid, for I was at length appointed captain of
the musketeers; that is to say, the most envied position in court, which
takes precedence over the marshals of France, and justly; for who says
captain of the musketeers says the flower of chivalry and king of the
brave."

"Captain, monsieur!" interrupted the king; "you make a mistake.
Lieutenant, you mean."

"Not at all, sire - I make no mistake; your majesty may rely upon me in
that respect.  Monsieur le cardinal gave me the commission himself."

"Well!"

"But M. de Mazarin, as you know better than anybody, does not often give,
and sometimes takes back what he has given; he took it back again as soon
as peace was made and he was no longer in want of me.  Certainly I was
not worthy to replace M. de Treville, of illustrious memory; but they
had promised me, and they had given me; they ought to have stopped there."

"Is that what dissatisfies you monsieur?  Well, I shall make inquiries.
I love justice; and your claim, though made in military fashion, does not
displease me."

"Oh, sire!" said the officer, "your majesty has ill understood me; I no
longer claim anything now."

"Excess of delicacy, monsieur; but I will keep my eye upon your affairs,
and later - "

"Oh, sire! what a word! - later!  Thirty years have I lived upon that
promising word, which has been pronounced by so many great personages,
and which your mouth has, in its turn, just pronounced.  Later - that is
how I have received a score of wounds, and how I have reached fifty-four
years of age without ever having had a louis in my purse, and without
ever having met with a protector on my way, - I who have protected so
many people!  So I change my formula, sire; and when any one says to me
'Later,' I reply '_Now_.'  It is rest that I solicit, sire.  That may be
easily granted me.  That will cost nobody anything."

"I did not look for this language, monsieur, particularly from a man who
has always lived among the great.  You forget you are speaking to the
king, to a gentleman who is, I suppose, as of good a house as yourself;
and when I say later, I mean a certainty."

"I do not at all doubt it, sire; but this is the end of the terrible
truth I had to tell you.  If I were to see upon that table a _marshal's_
stick, the sword of constable, the crown of Poland, instead of later, I
swear to you, sire, that I should still say _Now!_  Oh, excuse me, sire!
I am from the country of your grandfather, Henry IV.  I do not speak
often: but when I do speak, I speak all."

"The future of my reign has little temptation for you, monsieur, it
appears," said Louis, haughtily.

"Forgetfulness, forgetfulness everywhere!" cried the officer, with a
noble air; "the master has forgotten the servant, so the servant is
reduced to forget his master.  I live in unfortunate times, sire.  I see
youth full of discouragement and fear, I see it timid and despoiled, when
it ought to be rich and powerful.  I yesterday evening, for example, open
the door to a king of England, whose father, humble as I am, I was near
saving, if God had not been against me - God, who inspired His elect,
Cromwell!  I open, I said, the door, that is to say, the palace of one
brother to another brother, and I see - stop, sire, that is a load on my
heart! - I see the minister of that king drive away the proscribed
prince, and humiliate his master by condemning to want another king, his
equal.  Then I see my prince, who is young, handsome and brave, who has
courage in his heart and lightening in his eye, - I see him tremble
before a priest, who laughs at him behind the curtain of his alcove,
where he digests all the gold of France, which he afterwards stuffs into
secret coffers.  Yes - I understand your looks, sire.  I am bold to
madness; but what is to be said?  I am an old man, and I tell you here,
sire, to you, my king, things which I would cram down the throat of any
one who should dare to pronounce them before me.  You have commanded me,
to pour out the bottom of my heart before you, sire, and I cast at the
feet of your majesty the pent-up indignation of thirty years, as I would
pour out all my blood, if your majesty commanded me to do so."

The king, without speaking a word, wiped the drops of cold and abundant
perspiration which trickled from his temples.  The moment of silence
which followed this vehement outbreak represented for him who had spoken,
and for him who had listened, ages of suffering.

"Monsieur," said the king at length, "you spoke the word forgetfulness.
I have heard nothing but that word; I will reply, then, to it alone.
Others have perhaps been able to forget, but I have not, and the proof
is, that I remember that one day of riot, that one day when the furious
people, raging and roaring as the sea, invaded the royal palace; that one
day when I feigned sleep in my bed, one man alone, naked sword in hand,
concealed behind my curtain, watched over my life, ready to risk his own
for me, as he had before risked it twenty times for the lives of my
family.  Was not the gentleman, whose name I then demanded, called M.
d'Artagnan? say, monsieur."

"Your majesty has a good memory," replied the officer, coldly.

"You see, then," continued the king, "if I have such remembrances of my
childhood, what an amount I may gather in the age of reason."

"Your majesty has been richly endowed by God," said the officer, in the
same tone.

"Come, Monsieur d'Artagnan," continued Louis, with feverish agitation,
"ought you not to be patient as I am?  Ought you not to do as I do?
Come!"

"And what do you do, sire?"

"I wait."

"Your majesty may do so, because you are young; but I, sire, have not
time to wait; old age is at my door, and death is behind it, looking into
the very depths of my house.  Your majesty is beginning life, its future
is full of hope and fortune; but I, sire, I am on the other side of the
horizon, and we are so far from each other, that I should never have time
to wait till your majesty came up to me."

Louis made another turn in his apartment, still wiping the moisture from
his brow, in a manner that would have terrified his physicians, if his
physicians had witnessed the state his majesty was in.

"It is very well, monsieur," said Louis XIV., in a sharp voice; "you are
desirous of having your discharge, and you shall have it.  You offer me
your resignation of the rank of lieutenant of the musketeers?"

"I deposit it humbly at your majesty's feet, sire."

"That is sufficient.  I will order your pension."

"I shall have a thousand obligations to your majesty."

"Monsieur," said the king, with a violent effort, "I think you are losing
a good master."

"And I am sure of it, sire."

"Shall you ever find such another?"

"Oh, sire!  I know that your majesty is alone in the world; therefore
will I never again take service with any other king upon earth, and will
never again have other master than myself."

"You say so?"

"I swear so, your majesty."

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