List Of Contents | Contents of The Vicomte de Bragelonne, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

been doing since your discharge?"

"Making my fortune, sire."

"The expression is crude, Monsieur d'Artagnan."

"Your majesty takes it in bad part, certainly.  I entertain nothing but
the profoundest respect for the king; and if I have been impolite, which
might be excused by my long sojourn in camps and barracks, your majesty
is too much above me to be offended at a word that innocently escapes
from a soldier."

"In fact, I know you performed a brilliant action in England, monsieur.
I only regret that you have broken your promise."

"I!" cried D'Artagnan.

"Doubtless.  You engaged your word not to serve any other prince on
quitting my service.  Now it was for King Charles II. that you undertook
the marvelous carrying off of M. Monk."

"Pardon me, sire; it was for myself."

"And did you succeed?"

"Like the captains of the fifteenth century, _coups-de-main_ and

"What do you call succeeding? - a fortune?"

"A hundred thousand crowns, sire, which I now possess - that is, in one
week three times as much money as I ever had in fifty years."

"It is a handsome sum.  But you are ambitious, I perceive."

"I, sire?  The quarter of that would be a treasure; and I swear to you I
have no thought of augmenting it."

"What! you contemplate remaining idle?"

"Yes, sire."

"You mean to drop the sword?"

"That I have already done."

"Impossible, Monsieur d'Artagnan," said Louis, firmly.

"But, sire - "


"And why, sire?"

"Because it is _my_ wish you should not!" said the young prince, in a
voice so stern and imperious that D'Artagnan evinced surprise and even

"Will your majesty allow me one word of reply?" said he.


"I formed that resolution when I was poor and destitute."

"So be it.  Go on."

"Now, when by my energy I have acquired a comfortable means of
subsistence, would your majesty despoil me of my liberty?  Your majesty
would condemn me to the lowest, when I have gained the highest?"

"Who gave you permission, monsieur, to fathom my designs, or to reckon
with me?" replied Louis, in a voice almost angry; "who told you what I
shall do or what you will yourself do?"

"Sire," said the musketeer, quietly, "as far as I see, freedom is not the
order of the conversation, as it was on the day we came to an explanation
at Blois."

"No, monsieur; everything is changed."

"I tender your majesty my sincere compliments upon that, but - "

"But you don't believe it?"

"I am not a great statesman, and yet I have my eye upon affairs; it
seldom fails; now, I do not see exactly as your majesty does, sire.  The
reign of Mazarin is over, but that of the financiers is begun.  They have
the money; your majesty will not often see much of it.  To live under the
paw of these hungry wolves is hard for a man who reckoned upon

At this moment someone scratched at the door of the cabinet; the king
raised his head proudly.  "Your pardon, Monsieur d'Artagnan," said he;
"it is M. Colbert, who comes to make me a report.  Come in, M. Colbert."

D'Artagnan drew back.  Colbert entered with papers in his hand, and went
up to the king.  There can be little doubt that the Gascon did not lose
the opportunity of applying his keen, quick glance to the new figure
which presented itself.

"Is the inquiry made?"

"Yes, sire."

"And the opinion of the inquisitors?"

"Is that the accused merit confiscation and death."

"Ah! ah!" said the king, without changing countenance, and casting an
oblique look at D'Artagnan.  "And your own opinion, M. Colbert?" said he.

Colbert looked at D'Artagnan is his turn.  That imposing countenance
checked the words upon his lips.  Louis perceived this.  "Do not disturb
yourself," said he; "it is M. d'Artagnan, - do you not know M. d'Artagnan

These two men looked at each other - D'Artagnan, with eyes open and
bright as the day - Colbert, with his half closed, and dim.  The frank
intrepidity of the financier annoyed the other; the circumspection of the
financier disgusted the soldier.  "Ah! ah! this is the gentleman who made
that brilliant stroke in England," said Colbert.  And he bowed slightly
to D'Artagnan.

"Ah! ah!" said the Gascon, "this is the gentleman who clipped off the
lace from the uniform of the Swiss!  A praiseworthy piece of economy."

The financier thought to pierce the musketeer; but the musketeer ran the
financier through.

"Monsieur d'Artagnan," resumed the king, who had not remarked all the
shades of which Mazarin would have missed not one, "this concerns the
farmers of the revenue who have robbed me, whom I am hanging, and whose
death-warrants I am about to sign."

"Oh! oh!" said D'Artagnan, starting.

"What did you say?"

"Oh! nothing, sire.  This is no business of mine."

The king had already taken up the pen, and was applying it to the paper.
"Sire," said Colbert in a subdued voice, "I beg to warn your majesty,
that if an example be necessary, there will be difficulty in the
execution of your orders."

"What do you say?" said Louis.

"You must not conceal from yourself," continued Colbert quietly, "that
attacking the farmers-general is attacking the superintendence.  The two
unfortunate guilty men in question are the particular friends of a
powerful personage, and the punishment, which otherwise might be
comfortably confined to the Chatlet, will doubtless be a signal for

Louis colored and turned towards D'Artagnan, who took a slight bite at
his mustache, not without a smile of pity for the financier, and for the
king who had to listen to him so long.  But Louis seized the pen, and
with a movement so rapid that his hand shook, he affixed his signature at
the bottom of the two papers presented by Colbert, - then looking the
latter in the face, - "Monsieur Colbert," said he, "when you speak to me
on business, exclude more frequently the word difficulty from your
reasonings and opinions; as to the word impossibility, never pronounce

Colbert bowed, much humiliated at having to undergo such a lesson before
the musketeer; he was about to go out, but, jealous to repair his check:
"I forgot to announce to your majesty," said he, "that the confiscations
amount to the sum of five millions of livres."

"That's pretty well!" thought D'Artagnan.

"Which makes in my coffers?" said the king.

"Eighteen millions of livres, sire," replied Colbert, bowing.

"_Mordioux!_" growled D'Artagnan, "that's glorious!"

"Monsieur Colbert," added the king, "you will, if you please, go through
the gallery where M. Lyonne is waiting, and will tell him to bring hither
what he has drawn up - by my order."

"Directly, sire; if your majesty wants me no more this evening?"

"No, monsieur: good-night!"  And Colbert went out.

"Now, let us return to our affair, M. d'Artagnan," said the king, as if
nothing had happened.  "You see that, with respect to money, there is
already a notable change."

"Something to the tune of from zero to eighteen millions," replied the
musketeer gayly.  "Ah! that was what your majesty wanted the day King
Charles II. came to Blois.  The two states would not have been embroiled
to-day; for I must say, that there also I see another stumbling-block."

"Well, in the first place," replied Louis, "you are unjust, monsieur;
for, if Providence had made me able to give my brother the million that
day, you would not have quitted my service, and, consequently, you would
not have made your fortune, as you told me just now you have done.  But,
in addition to this, I have had another piece of good fortune; and my
difference with Great Britain need not alarm you."

A _valet de chambre_ interrupted the king by announcing M. Lyonne.  "Come
in, monsieur," said the king; "you are punctual; that is like a good
servant.  Let us see your letter to my brother Charles II."

D'Artagnan pricked up his ears.  "A moment, monsieur," said Louis
carelessly to the Gascon; "I must expedite to London my consent to the
marriage of my brother, M. le Duc d'Anjou, with the Princess Henrietta

"He is knocking me about, it seems," murmured D'Artagnan, whilst the king
signed the letter, and dismissed M. de Lyonne; "but _ma foi!_ the more he
knocks me about in this manner, the better I like it."

The king followed M. de Lyonne with his eyes, till the door was closed
behind him; he even made three steps, as if he would follow the minister;
but, after these three steps, stopping, passing, and coming back to the
musketeer, - "Now, monsieur," said he, "let us hasten to terminate our
affair.  You told me the other day, at Blois, that you were not rich?"

"But I am now, sire."

"Yes, but that does not concern me; you have your own money, not mine;
_that_ does not enter into my account."

"I do not well understand what your majesty means."

"Then, instead of leaving you to draw out words, speak spontaneously.
Should you be satisfied with twenty thousand livres a year as a fixed

"But, sire" said D'Artagnan, opening his eyes to the utmost.

"Would you be satisfied with four horses furnished and kept, and with a
supplement of funds such as you might require, according to occasions and
needs, or would you prefer a fixed sum which would be, for example, forty
thousand livres?  Answer."

"Sire, your majesty - "

"Yes, you are surprised; that is natural, and I expected it.  Answer me,
come! or I shall think you have no longer that rapidity of judgment I
have so much admired in you."

"It is certain, sire, that twenty thousand livres a year make a handsome
sum; but - "

"No buts!  Yes or no, is it an honorable indemnity?"

"Oh! very certainly."

"You will be satisfied with it?  That is well.  It will be better to
reckon the extra expenses separately; you can arrange that with Colbert.
 Now let us pass to something more important."

"But, sire, I told your majesty - "

"That you wanted rest, I know you did: only I replied that I would not
allow it - I am master, I suppose?"

"Yes, sire."

"That is well.  You were formerly in the way of becoming captain of the

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: