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40. A TERRIBLE VISION

The cardinal leaned his elbow on his manuscript, his cheek
upon his hand, and looked intently at the young man for a
moment. No one had a more searching eye than the Cardinal
de Richelieu, and d'Artagnan felt this glance run through
his veins like a fever.

He however kept a good countenance, holding his hat in his
hand and awaiting the good pleasure of his Eminence, without
too much assurance, but also without too much humility.

"Monsieur," said the cardinal, "are you a d'Artagnan from
Bearn?"

"Yes, monseigneur," replied the young man.

"There are several branches of the d'Artagnans at Tarbes and
in its environs," said the cardinal; "to which do you
belong?"

"I am the son of him who served in the Religious Wars under
the great King Henry, the father of his gracious Majesty."

"That is well. It is you who set out seven or eight months
ago from your country to seek your fortune in the capital?"

"Yes, monseigneur."

"You came through Meung, where something befell you. I
don't very well know what, but still something."

"Monseigneur," said d'Artagnan, "this was what happened to
me--"

"Never mind, never mind!" resumed the cardinal, with a smile
which indicated that he knew the story as well as he who
wished to relate it. "You were recommended to Monsieur de
Treville, were you not?"

"Yes, monseigneur; but in that unfortunate affair at
Meung--"

"The letter was lost," replied his Eminence; "yes, I know
that. But Monsieur de Treville is a skilled physiognomist,
who knows men at first sight; and he placed you in the
company of his brother-in-law, Monsieur Dessessart, leaving
you to hope that one day or other you should enter the
Musketeers."

"Monseigneur is correctly informed," said d'Artagnan.

"Since that time many things have happened to you. You were
walking one day behind the Chartreux, when it would have
been better if you had been elsewhere. Then you took with
your friends a journey to the waters of Forges; they stopped
on the road, but you continued yours. That is all very
simple: you had business in England."

"Monseigneur," said d'Artagnan, quite confused, "I went--"

"Hunting at Windsor, or elsewhere--that concerns nobody. I
know, because it is my office to know everything. On your
return you were received by an august personage, and I
perceive with pleasure that you preserve the souvenir she
gave you."

D'Artagnan placed his hand upon the queen's diamond, which
he wore, and quickly turned the stone inward; but it was too
late.

"The day after that, you received a visit from Cavois,"
resumed the cardinal. "He went to desire you to come to the
palace. You have not returned that visit, and you were
wrong."

"Monseigneur, I feared I had incurred disgrace with your
Eminence."

"How could that be, monsieur? Could you incur my
displeasure by having followed the orders of your superiors
with more intelligence and courage than another would have
done? It is the people who do not obey that I punish, and
not those who, like you, obey--but too well. As a proof,
remember the date of the day on which I had you bidden to
come to me, and seek in your memory for what happened to you
that very night."

That was the very evening when the abduction of Mme.
Bonacieux took place. D'Artagnan trembled; and he likewise
recollected that during the past half hour the poor woman
had passed close to him, without doubt carried away by the
same power that had caused her disappearance.

"In short," continued the cardinal, "as I have heard nothing
of you for some time past, I wished to know what you were
doing. Besides, you owe me some thanks. You must yourself
have remarked how much you have been considered in all the
circumstances."

D'Artagnan bowed with respect.

"That," continued the cardinal, "arose not only from a
feeling of natural equity, but likewise from a plan I have
marked out with respect to you."

D'Artagnan became more and more astonished.

"I wished to explain this plan to you on the day you
received my first invitation; but you did not come.
Fortunately, nothing is lost by this delay, and you are now
about to hear it. Sit down there, before me, d'Artagnan;
you are gentleman enough not to listen standing." And the
cardinal pointed with his finger to a chair for the young
man, who was so astonished at what was passing that he
awaited a second sign from his interlocutor before he
obeyed.

"You are brave, Monsieur d'Artagnan," continued his
Eminence; "you are prudent, which is still better. I like
men of head and heart. Don't be afraid," said he, smiling.
"By men of heart I mean men of courage. But young as you
are, and scarcely entering into the world, you have powerful
enemies; if you do not take great heed, they will destroy
you."

"Alas, monseigneur!" replied the young man, "very easily, no
doubt, for they are strong and well supported, while I am
alone."

"Yes, that's true; but alone as you are, you have done much
already, and will do still more, I don't doubt. Yet you
have need, I believe, to be guided in the adventurous career
you have undertaken; for, if I mistake not, you came to
Paris with the ambitious idea of making your fortune."

"I am at the age of extravagant hopes, monseigneur," said
d'Artagnan.

"There are no extravagant hopes but for fools, monsieur, and you
are a man of understanding. Now, what would you say to an
ensign's commission in my Guards, and a company after the
campaign?"

"Ah, monseigneur."

"You accept it, do you not?"

"Monseigneur," replied d'Artagnan, with an embarrassed air.

"How? You refuse?" cried the cardinal, with astonishment.

"I am in his Majesty's Guards, monseigneur, and I have no
reason to be dissatisfied."

"But it appears to me that my Guards--mine--are also his
Majesty's Guards; and whoever serves in a French corps
serves the king."

"Monseigneur, your Eminence has ill understood my words."

"You want a pretext, do you not? I comprehend. Well, you
have this excuse: advancement, the opening campaign, the
opportunity which I offer you--so much for the world. As
regards yourself, the need of protection; for it is fit you
should know, Monsieur d'Artagnan, that I have received heavy
and serious complaints against you. You do not consecrate
your days and nights wholly to the king's service."

D'Artagnan colored.

"In fact," said the cardinal, placing his hand upon a bundle
of papers, "I have here a whole pile which concerns you. I
know you to be a man of resolution; and your services, well
directed, instead of leading you to ill, might be very
advantageous to you. Come; reflect, and decide."

"Your goodness confounds me, monseigneur," replied
d'Artagnan, "and I am conscious of a greatness of soul in
your Eminence that makes me mean as an earthworm; but since
Monseigneur permits me to speak freely--"

D'Artagnan paused.

"Yes; speak."

"Then, I will presume to say that all my friends are in the
king's Musketeers and Guards, and that by an inconceivable
fatality my enemies are in the service of your Eminence; I
should, therefore, be ill received here and ill regarded
there if I accepted what Monseigneur offers me."

"Do you happen to entertain the haughty idea that I have not
yet made you an offer equal to your value?" asked the
cardinal, with a smile of disdain.

"Monseigneur, your Eminence is a hundred times too kind to
me; and on the contrary, I think I have not proved myself
worthy of your goodness. The siege of La Rochelle is about
to be resumed, monseigneur. I shall serve under the eye of
your Eminence, and if I have the good fortune to conduct
myself at the siege in such a manner as merits your
attention, then I shall at least leave behind me some
brilliant action to justify the protection with which you
honor me. Everything is best in its time, monseigneur.
Hereafter, perhaps, I shall have the right of giving myself;
at present I shall appear to sell myself."

"That is to say, you refuse to serve me, monsieur," said the
cardinal, with a tone of vexation, through which, however,
might be seen a sort of esteem; "remain free, then, and
guard your hatreds and your sympathies."

"Monseigneur--"

"Well, well," said the cardinal, "I don't wish you any ill;
but you must be aware that it is quite trouble enough to
defend and recompense our friends. We owe nothing to our
enemies; and let me give you a piece of advice; take care of
yourself, Monsieur d'Artagnan, for from the moment I
withdraw my hand from behind you, I would not give an obolus
for your life."

"I will try to do so, monseigneur," replied the Gascon, with
a noble confidence.

"Remember at a later period and at a certain moment, if any
mischance should happen to you," said Richelieu,
significantly, "that it was I who came to seek you, and that
I did all in my power to prevent this misfortune befalling
you."

"I shall entertain, whatever may happen," said d'Artagnan,
placing his hand upon his breast and bowing, "an eternal
gratitude toward your Eminence for that which you now do for
me."

"Well, let it be, then, as you have said, Monsieur
d'Artagnan; we shall see each other again after the
campaign. I will have my eye upon you, for I shall be
there," replied the cardinal, pointing with his finger to a
magnificent suit of armor he was to wear, "and on our
return, well--we will settle our account!"

"Young man," said Richelieu, "if I shall be able to say to
you at another time what I have said to you today, I promise
you to do so."

This last expression of Richelieu's conveyed a terrible
doubt; it alarmed d'Artagnan more than a menace would have
done, for it was a warning. The cardinal, then, was seeking
to preserve him from some misfortune which threatened him.
He opened his mouth to reply, but with a haughty gesture the
cardinal dismissed him.

D'Artagnan went out, but at the door his heart almost failed
him, and he felt inclined to return. Then the noble and
severe countenance of Athos crossed his mind; if he made the
compact with the cardinal which he required, Athos would no
more give him his hand--Athos would renounce him.

It was this fear that restrained him, so powerful is the
influence of a truly great character on all that surrounds
it.

D'Artagnan descended by the staircase at which he had
entered, and found Athos and the four Musketeers waiting his
appearance, and beginning to grow uneasy. With a word,
d'Artagnan reassured them; and Planchet ran to inform the
other sentinels that it was useless to keep guard longer, as
his master had come out safe from the Palais-Cardinal.

Returned home with Athos, Aramis and Porthos inquired
eagerly the cause of the strange interview; but d'Artagnan
confined himself to telling them that M. de Richelieu had
sent for him to propose to him to enter into his guards with
the rank of ensign, and that he had refused.

"And you were right," cried Aramis and Porthos, with one
voice.

Athos fell into a profound reverie and answered nothing.
But when they were alone he said, "You have done that which
you ought to have done, d'Artagnan; but perhaps you have
been wrong."

D'Artagnan sighed deeply, for this voice responded to a
secret voice of his soul, which told him that great
misfortunes awaited him.

The whole of the next day was spent in preparations for
departure. D'Artagnan went to take leave of M. de Treville.
At that time it was believed that the separation of the
Musketeers and the Guards would be but momentary, the king
holding his Parliament that very day and proposing to set
out the day after. M. de Treville contented himself with
asking d'Artagnan if he could do anything for him, but
d'Artagnan answered that he was supplied with all he wanted.

That night brought together all those comrades of the Guards
of M. Dessessart and the company of Musketeers of M. de
Treville who had been accustomed to associate together.
They were parting to meet again when it pleased God, and if
it pleased God. That night, then, was somewhat riotous, as
may be imagined. In such cases extreme preoccupation is
only to be combated by extreme carelessness.

At the first sound of the morning trumpet the friends
separated; the Musketeers hastening to the hotel of M. de
Treville, the Guards to that of M. Dessessart. Each of the
captains then led his company to the Louvre, where the king
held his review.

The king was dull and appeared ill, which detracted a little
from his usual lofty bearing. In fact, the evening before,
a fever had seized him in the midst of the Parliament, while
he was holding his Bed of Justice. He had, not the less,
decided upon setting out that same evening; and in spite of
the remonstrances that had been offered to him, he persisted
in having the review, hoping by setting it at defiance to
conquer the disease which began to lay hold upon him.

The review over, the Guards set forward alone on their
march, the Musketeers waiting for the king, which allowed
Porthos time to go and take a turn in his superb equipment
in the Rue aux Ours.

The procurator's wife saw him pass in his new uniform and on
his fine horse. She loved Porthos too dearly to allow him
to part thus; she made him a sign to dismount and come to
her. Porthos was magnificent; his spurs jingled, his
cuirass glittered, his sword knocked proudly against his
ample limbs. This time the clerks evinced no inclination to
laugh, such a real ear clipper did Porthos appear.

The Musketeer was introduced to M. Coquenard, whose little
gray eyes sparkled with anger at seeing his cousin all
blazing new. Nevertheless, one thing afforded him inward
consolation; it was expected by everybody that the campaign
would be a severe one. He whispered a hope to himself that
this beloved relative might be killed in the field.

Porthos paid his compliments to M. Coquenard and bade him
farewell. M. Coquenard wished him all sorts of
prosperities. As to Mme. Coquenard, she could not restrain
her tears; but no evil impressions were taken from her grief
as she was known to be very much attached to her relatives,
about whom she was constantly having serious disputes with
her husband.

But the real adieux were made in Mme. Coquenard's chamber;
they were heartrending.

As long as the procurator's wife could follow him with her
eyes, she waved her handkerchief to him, leaning so far out
of the window as to lead people to believe she wished to
precipitate herself. Porthos received all these attentions
like a man accustomed to such demonstrations, only on
turning the corner of the street he lifted his hat
gracefully, and waved it to her as a sign of adieu.

On his part Aramis wrote a long letter. To whom? Nobody
knew. Kitty, who was to set out that evening for Tours, was
waiting in the next chamber.

Athos sipped the last bottle of his Spanish wine.

In the meantime d'Artagnan was defiling with his company.
Arriving at the Faubourg St. Antoine, he turned round to
look gaily at the Bastille; but as it was the Bastille alone
he looked at, he did not observe Milady, who, mounted upon a
light chestnut horse, designated him with her finger to two
ill-looking men who came close up to the ranks to take
notice of him. To a look of interrogation which they made,
Milady replied by a sign that it was he. Then, certain that
there could be no mistake in the execution of her orders,
she started her horse and disappeared.

The two men followed the company, and on leaving the
aubourg St. Antoine, mounted two horses properly equipped,
which a servant without livery had waiting for them.





The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Category:
General Fiction

Romance Literatures
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