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List Of Contents | Contents of The Vicomte de Bragelonne, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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musketeers?"

"Yes, sire."

"Well, here is your commission signed.  I place it in this drawer.  The
day on which you return from a certain expedition which I have to confide
to you, on that day you may yourself take the commission from the
drawer."  D'Artagnan still hesitated, and hung down his head.  "Come,
monsieur," said the king, "one would believe, to look at you, that you
did not know that at the court of the most Christian king, the captain-
general of the musketeers takes precedence of the marechals of France."

"Sire, I know he does."

"Then, am I to think you do put no faith in my word?"

"Oh! sire, never - never dream of such a thing."

"I have wished to prove to you, that you, so good a servant, had lost a
good master; am I anything like the master that will suit you?"

"I begin to think you are, sire."

"Then, monsieur, you will resume your functions.  Your company is quite
disorganized since your departure, and the men go about drinking and
rioting in the _cabarets_, where they fight, in spite of my edicts, and
those of my father.  You will reorganize the service as soon as possible."

"Yes, sire."

"You will not again quit my person."

"Very well, sire."

"You will march with me to the army, you will encamp round my tent."

"Then, sire," said D'Artagnan, "if it is only to impose upon me a service
like that, your majesty need not give me twenty thousand livres a year.
I shall not earn them."

"I desire that you shall keep open house; I desire that you should keep a
liberal table; I desire that my captain of musketeers should be a
personage."

"And I," said D'Artagnan, bluntly; "I do not like easily found money; I
like money won!  Your majesty gives me an idle trade, which the first
comer would perform for four thousand livres."

Louis XIV. began to laugh.  "You are a true Gascon, Monsieur d'Artagnan;
you will draw my heart's secret from me."

"Bah! has your majesty a secret, then?"

"Yes, monsieur."

"Well! then I accept the twenty thousand livres, for I will keep that
secret, and discretion is above all price, in these times.  Will your
majesty speak now?"

"Boot yourself, Monsieur d'Artagnan, and to horse!"

"Directly, sire."

"Within two days."

"That is well, sire: for I have my affairs to settle before I set out;
particularly if it is likely there should be any blows stirring."

"That _may_ happen."

"We can receive them!  But, sire, you have addressed yourself to avarice,
to ambition; you have addressed yourself to the heart of M. d'Artagnan,
but you have forgotten one thing."

"What is that?"

"You have said nothing to his vanity; when shall I be a knight of the
king's orders?"

"Does that interest you?"

"Why, yes, sire.  My friend Athos is quite covered with orders, and that
dazzles me."

"You shall be a knight of my order a month after you have taken your
commission of captain."

"Ah! ah!" said the officer, thoughtfully, "after the expedition."

"Precisely."

"Where is your majesty going to send me?"

"Are you acquainted with Bretagne?"

"No, sire."

"Have you any friends there?"

"In Bretagne?  No, _ma foi!_"

"So much the better.  Do you know anything about fortifications?"

"I believe I do, sire," said D'Artagnan, smiling.

"That is to say you can readily distinguish a fortress from a simple
fortification, such as is allowed to _chatelains_ or vassals?"

"I distinguish a fort from a rampart as I distinguish a cuirass from a
raised pie-crust, sire.  Is that sufficient?"

"Yes, monsieur.  You will set out, then."

"For Bretagne?"

"Yes."

"Alone?"

"Absolutely alone.  That is to say, you must not even take a lackey with
you."

"May I ask your majesty for what reason?"

"Because, monsieur, it will be necessary to disguise yourself sometimes,
as the servant of a good family.  Your face is very well known in France,
M. d'Artagnan."

"And then, sire?"

"And then you will travel slowly through Bretagne, and will examine the
fortifications of that country."

"The coasts?"

"Yes, and the isles; commencing by Belle-Ile-en-Mer."

"Ah! which belongs to M. Fouquet!" said D'Artagnan, in a serious tone,
raising his intelligent eye to Louis XIV.

"I fancy you are right, monsieur, and that Bell-Isle does belong to M.
Fouquet, in fact."

"Then your majesty wishes me to ascertain if Belle-Isle is a strong
place?"

"Yes."

"If the fortifications of it are new or old?"

"Precisely."

"And if the vassals of M. Fouquet are sufficiently numerous to form a
garrison?"

"That is what I want to know; you have placed your finger on the
question."

"And if they are not fortifying, sire?"

"You will travel about Bretagne, listening and judging."

"Then  I am a king's spy?" said D'Artagnan, bluntly, twisting his
mustache.

"No, monsieur."

"Your pardon sire; I spy on your majesty's account."

"You start on a voyage of discovery, monsieur.  Would you march at the
head of your musketeers, with your sword in your hand, to observe any
spot whatever, or an enemy's position?"

At this word D'Artagnan started.

"Do you," continued the king, "imagine yourself to be a spy?"

"No, no," said D'Artagnan, but pensively; "the thing changes its face
when one observes an enemy: one is but a soldier.  And if they are
fortifying Belle-Isle?" added he, quickly.

"You will take an exact plan of the fortifications."

"Will they permit me to enter?"

"That does not concern me; that is _your_ affair.  Did you not understand
that I reserved for you a supplement of twenty thousand livres per annum,
if you wished it?"

"Yes, sire; but if they are not fortifying?"

"You will return quietly, without fatiguing your horse."

"Sire, I am ready."

"You will begin to-morrow by going to monsieur le surintendant's to take
the first quarter of the pension I give you.  Do you know M. Fouquet?"

"Very little, sire; but I beg your majesty to observe that I don't think
it immediately necessary that I _should_ know him."

"Your pardon, monsieur; for he will refuse you the money I wish you to
take; and it is that refusal I look for."

"Ah!" said D'Artagnan.  "Then, sire?"

"The money being refused, you will go and seek it at M. Colbert's.  _A
propos_, have you a good horse?"

"An excellent one, sire."

"How much did it cost you?"

"A hundred and fifty pistoles."

"I will buy it of you.  Here is a note for two hundred pistoles."

"But I want a horse for my journey, sire."

"Well!"

"Well, and you take mine from me."

"Not at all.  On the contrary, I give it you.  Only as it is now mine and
not yours, I am sure you will not spare it."

"Your majesty is in a hurry, then?"

"A great hurry."

"Then what compels me to wait two days?"

"Reasons known to myself."

"That's a different affair.  The horse may make up the two days, in the
eight he has to travel; and then there is the post."

"No, no, the post compromises, Monsieur d'Artagnan.  Begone and do not
forget you are my servant."

"Sire, it is not my duty to forget it!  At what hour to-morrow shall I
take my leave of your majesty?"

"Whence do you lodge?"

"I must henceforward lodge at the Louvre."

"That must not be now - keep your lodgings in the city: I will pay for
them.  As to your departure, it must take place at night; you must set
out without being seen by any one, or, if you are seen, it must not be
known that you belong to me.  Keep your mouth shut, monsieur."

"Your majesty spoils all you have said by that single word."

"I asked where you lodged, for I cannot always send to M. le Comte de la
Fere to seek you."

"I lodge with M. Planchet, a grocer, Rue des Lombards, at the sign of the
Pilon d'Or."

"Go out but little, show yourself less, and await my orders."

"And yet, sire, I must go for the money."

"That is true, but when going to the superintendence, where so many
people are constantly going, you must mingle with the crowd."

"I want the notes, sire, for the money."

"Here they are."  The king signed them, and D'Artagnan looked on, to
assure himself of their regularity.

"Adieu!  Monsieur d'Artagnan," added the king; "I think you have
perfectly understood me."

"I?  I understand that your majesty sends me to Belle-Ile-en-Mer, that
is all."

"To learn?"

"To learn how M. Fouquet's works are going on; that is all."

"Very well: I admit you may be taken."

"And I do not admit it," replied the Gascon, boldly.

"I admit you may be killed," continued the king.

"That is not probable, sire."

"In the first case, you must not speak; in the second there must be no
papers found upon you."

D'Artagnan shrugged his shoulders without ceremony, and took leave of the
king, saying to himself: - "The English shower continues - let us remain
under the spout!"


Chapter LIV:
The Houses of M. Fouquet.

Whilst D'Artagnan was returning to Planchet's house, his head aching and
bewildered with all that had happened to him, there was passing a scene
of quite a different character, and which, nevertheless, is not foreign
to the conversation our musketeer had just had with the king; only this
scene took place out of Paris, in a house possessed by the superintendent
Fouquet in the village of Saint-Mande.  The minister had just arrived at
this country-house, followed by his principal clerk, who carried an
enormous portfolio full of papers to be examined, and others waiting for
signature.  As it might be about five o'clock in the afternoon, the
masters had dined: supper was being prepared for twenty subaltern
guests.  The superintendent did not stop: on alighting from his carriage,
he, at the same bound, sprang through the doorway, traversed the
apartments and gained his cabinet, where he declared he would shut
himself up to work, commanding that he should not be disturbed for
anything but an order from the king.  As soon as this order was given,
Fouquet shut himself up, and two footmen were placed as sentinels at his
door.  Then Fouquet pushed a bolt which displaced a panel that walled up
the entrance, and prevented everything that passed in this apartment from

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