The cardinal leaned his elbow on his manuscript, his cheek upon his hand, an_ooked intently at the young man for a moment. No one had a more searching ey_han the Cardinal de Richelieu, and d'Artagnan felt this glance run throug_is veins like a fever.
He however kept a good countenance, holding his hat in his hand and awaitin_he good pleasure of his Eminence, without too much assurance, but als_ithout 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 Kin_enry, the father of his gracious Majesty."
"That is well. It is you who set out seven or eight months ago from you_ountry to seek your fortune in the capital?"
"You came through Meung, where something befell you. I don't very well kno_hat, but still something."
"Monseigneur," said d'Artagnan, "this was what happened to me—"
"Never mind, never mind!" resumed the cardinal, with a smile which indicate_hat he knew the story as well as he who wished to relate it. "You wer_ecommended 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 Monsieu_e Treville is a skilled physiognomist, who knows men at first sight; and h_laced you in the company of his brother-in-law, Monsieur Dessessart, leavin_ou 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 da_ehind the Chartreux, when it would have been better if you had bee_lsewhere. 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 i_y office to know everything. On your return you were received by an augus_ersonage, and I perceive with pleasure that you preserve the souvenir sh_ave you."
D'Artagnan placed his hand upon the queen's diamond, which he wore, an_uickly 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 tha_isit, 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 havin_ollowed the orders of your superiors with more intelligence and courage tha_nother would have done? It is the people who do not obey that I punish, an_ot those who, like you, obey—but too well. As a proof, remember the date o_he day on which I had you bidden to come to me, and seek in your memory fo_hat 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 hal_our the poor woman had passed close to him, without doubt carried away by th_ame power that had caused her disappearance.
"In short," continued the cardinal, "as I have heard nothing of you for som_ime past, I wished to know what you were doing. Besides, you owe me som_hanks. You must yourself have remarked how much you have been considered i_ll the circumstances."
D'Artagnan bowed with respect.
"That," continued the cardinal, "arose not only from a feeling of natura_quity, 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 firs_nvitation; 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; yo_re gentleman enough not to listen standing." And the cardinal pointed wit_is finger to a chair for the young man, who was so astonished at what wa_assing that he awaited a second sign from his interlocutor before he obeyed.
"You are brave, Monsieur d'Artagnan," continued his Eminence; "you ar_rudent, which is still better. I like men of head and heart. Don't b_fraid," said he, smiling. "By men of heart I mean men of courage. But youn_s 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 the_re strong and well supported, while I am alone."
"Yes, that's true; but alone as you are, you have done much already, and wil_o still more, I don't doubt. Yet you have need, I believe, to be guided i_he adventurous career you have undertaken; for, if I mistake not, you came t_aris 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 o_nderstanding. Now, what would you say to an ensign's commission in my Guards, and a company after the campaign?"
"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 b_issatisfied."
"But it appears to me that my Guards—mine—are also his Majesty's Guards; an_hoever 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 muc_or the world. As regards yourself, the need of protection; for it is fit yo_hould know, Monsieur d'Artagnan, that I have received heavy and seriou_omplaints against you. You do not consecrate your days and nights wholly t_he king's service."
"In fact," said the cardinal, placing his hand upon a bundle of papers, "_ave here a whole pile which concerns you. I know you to be a man o_esolution; 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 a_onscious of a greatness of soul in your Eminence that makes me mean as a_arthworm; but since Monseigneur permits me to speak freely—"
"Then, I will presume to say that all my friends are in the king's Musketeer_nd Guards, and that by an inconceivable fatality my enemies are in th_ervice of your Eminence; I should, therefore, be ill received here and il_egarded there if I accepted what Monseigneur offers me."
"Do you happen to entertain the haughty idea that I have not yet made you a_ffer 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 th_ontrary, I think I have not proved myself worthy of your goodness. The sieg_f La Rochelle is about to be resumed, monseigneur. I shall serve under th_ye of your Eminence, and if I have the good fortune to conduct myself at th_iege in such a manner as merits your attention, then I shall at least leav_ehind me some brilliant action to justify the protection with which you hono_e. Everything is best in its time, monseigneur. Hereafter, perhaps, I shal_ave 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 _one of vexation, through which, however, might be seen a sort of esteem;
"remain free, then, and guard your hatreds and your sympathies."
"Well, well," said the cardinal, "I don't wish you any ill; but you must b_ware that it is quite trouble enough to defend and recompense our friends. W_we nothing to our enemies; and let me give you a piece of advice; take car_f yourself, Monsieur d'Artagnan, for from the moment I withdraw my hand fro_ehind you, I would not give an obolus for your life."
"I will try to do so, monseigneur," replied the Gascon, with a nobl_onfidence.
"Remember at a later period and at a certain moment, if any mischance shoul_appen to you," said Richelieu, significantly, "that it was I who came to see_ou, 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 han_pon his breast and bowing, "an eternal gratitude toward your Eminence fo_hat which you now do for me."
"Well, let it be, then, as you have said, Monsieur d'Artagnan; we shall se_ach other again after the campaign. I will have my eye upon you, for I shal_e there," replied the cardinal, pointing with his finger to a magnificen_uit of armor he was to wear, "and on our return, well—we will settle ou_ccount!"
"Young man," said Richelieu, "if I shall be able to say to you at another tim_hat I have said to you today, I promise you to do so."
This last expression of Richelieu's conveyed a terrible doubt; it alarme_'Artagnan more than a menace would have done, for it was a warning. Th_ardinal, then, was seeking to preserve him from some misfortune whic_hreatened him. He opened his mouth to reply, but with a haughty gesture th_ardinal dismissed him.
D'Artagnan went out, but at the door his heart almost failed him, and he fel_nclined to return. Then the noble and severe countenance of Athos crossed hi_ind; if he made the compact with the cardinal which he required, Athos woul_o more give him his hand—Athos would renounce him.
It was this fear that restrained him, so powerful is the influence of a trul_reat character on all that surrounds it.
D'Artagnan descended by the staircase at which he had entered, and found Atho_nd the four Musketeers waiting his appearance, and beginning to grow uneasy.
With a word, d'Artagnan reassured them; and Planchet ran to inform the othe_entinels that it was useless to keep guard longer, as his master had come ou_afe from the Palais-Cardinal.
Returned home with Athos, Aramis and Porthos inquired eagerly the cause of th_trange interview; but d'Artagnan confined himself to telling them that M. d_ichelieu had sent for him to propose to him to enter into his guards with th_ank 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 wer_lone 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 hi_oul, which told him that great misfortunes awaited him.
The whole of the next day was spent in preparations for departure. D'Artagna_ent to take leave of M. de Treville. At that time it was believed that th_eparation of the Musketeers and the Guards would be but momentary, the kin_olding 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 d_nything for him, but d'Artagnan answered that he was supplied with all h_anted.
That night brought together all those comrades of the Guards of M. Dessessar_nd the company of Musketeers of M. de Treville who had been accustomed t_ssociate together. They were parting to meet again when it pleased God, an_f it pleased God. That night, then, was somewhat riotous, as may be imagined.
In such cases extreme preoccupation is only to be combated by extrem_arelessness.
At the first sound of the morning trumpet the friends separated; th_usketeers 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 th_ing held his review.
The king was dull and appeared ill, which detracted a little from his usua_ofty bearing. In fact, the evening before, a fever had seized him in th_idst of the Parliament, while he was holding his Bed of Justice. He had, no_he less, decided upon setting out that same evening; and in spite of th_emonstrances 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 la_old upon him.
The review over, the Guards set forward alone on their march, the Musketeer_aiting for the king, which allowed Porthos time to go and take a turn in hi_uperb 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 t_ismount and come to her. Porthos was magnificent; his spurs jingled, hi_uirass glittered, his sword knocked proudly against his ample limbs. Thi_ime the clerks evinced no inclination to laugh, such a real ear clipper di_orthos appear.
The Musketeer was introduced to M. Coquenard, whose little gray eyes sparkle_ith anger at seeing his cousin all blazing new. Nevertheless, one thin_fforded him inward consolation; it was expected by everybody that th_ampaign would be a severe one. He whispered a hope to himself that thi_eloved 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, sh_ould not restrain her tears; but no evil impressions were taken from he_rief as she was known to be very much attached to her relatives, about who_he was constantly having serious disputes with her husband.
But the real adieux were made in Mme. Coquenard's chamber; they wer_eartrending.
As long as the procurator's wife could follow him with her eyes, she waved he_andkerchief to him, leaning so far out of the window as to lead people t_elieve she wished to precipitate herself. Porthos received all thes_ttentions like a man accustomed to such demonstrations, only on turning th_orner of the street he lifted his hat gracefully, and waved it to her as _ign of adieu.
On his part Aramis wrote a long letter. To whom? Nobody knew. Kitty, who wa_o 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 th_aubourg St. Antoine, he turned round to look gaily at the Bastille; but as i_as the Bastille alone he looked at, he did not observe Milady, who, mounte_pon a light chestnut horse, designated him with her finger to two ill-lookin_en who came close up to the ranks to take notice of him. To a look o_nterrogation 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, sh_tarted her horse and disappeared.
The two men followed the company, and on leaving the Faubourg St. Antoine, mounted two horses properly equipped, which a servant without livery ha_aiting for them.