Chapter 64: What Took Place at the Louvre During the Supper at the Bastille

  1. 63: Three Guests at Supper
  2. Louise de la Valliere
  3. 65: Political Rivals

M. De Saint-Aignan had executed the commission with which the King had intrusted him for La Valliere, as we have already seen in one of the preceding chapters; but whatever his eloquence might have been, he did not succeed in persuading the young girl that she had in the King a protector powerful enough for her under any combination of circumstances, and that she had no need of any one else in the world when the King was on her side. In point of fact, at the very first word which the favorite mentioned of the discovery of the famous secret, Louise, in a passion of tears, abandoned herself in utter despair to a sorrow which would have been far from flattering for the King, if he had been a witness of it from a corner of the room. De Saint-Aignan, in his character of ambassador, felt greatly offended at it, as his master himself would have been, and returned to announce to the King what he had seen and heard. It is there that we now find him, in a state of great agitation, in the presence of the King, still more agitated than he.

“But,” said the King to the courtier, when the latter had finished his report, “what did she decide to do? Shall I, at least, see her presently before supper? Will she come to me, or shall I be obliged to go to her room?”

“I believe, Sire, that if your Majesty wishes to see her, you will not only have to take the first step in advance, but will have to go the whole way.”

“Nothing for me! Does that Bragelonne still possess her heart?” muttered the King between his teeth.

“Oh, Sire, that is not possible; for it is you alone whom Mademoiselle de la Valliere loves, and that, too, with all her heart. But you know that De Bragelonne belongs to that proud race who play the part of Roman heroes.”

The King smiled feebly; he knew how true the illustration was, for Athos had just left him.

“As for Mademoiselle de la Valliere,” De Saint-Aignan continued, “she was brought up under the care of the Dowager Madame; that is to say, in austere retirement. This engaged young couple coldly exchanged their little vows in the presence of the moon and the stars; and now, when they find they have to break those vows, it plays the very deuce with them.”

De Saint-Aignan thought he should have made the King laugh; but on the contrary, from a mere smile Louis passed to the greatest seriousness of manner. He already began to experience that remorse which the count had promised d’Artagnan he would inflict upon him. He reflected that, in fact, these young persons had loved and sworn fidelity to each other; that one of the two had kept his word, and that the other was too conscientious not to feel her perjury most bitterly; and with remorse, jealousy sharply pricked the King’s heart. He did not say another word; and instead of going to pay a visit to his mother or the Queen or Madame, in order to amuse himself a little and make the ladies laugh, as he himself used to say, he threw himself into the huge arm-chair in which his august father, Louis XIII, had passed so many weary days and years in company with Baradas and Cinq-Mars.

De Saint-Aignan perceived that the King was not to be amused at that moment; he tried a last resource, and pronounced Louise’s name, which made the King look up immediately. “What does your Majesty intend to do this evening? Shall Mademoiselle de la Valliere be informed of your intention to see her?”

“It seems she is already aware of that,” replied the King. “No, no, Saint-Aignan,” he continued, after a moment’s pause; “we will both of us pass our time in dreaming. When Mademoiselle de la Valliere shall have sufficiently regretted what she now regrets, she will deign, perhaps, to give us some news of herself.”

“Ah, Sire, is it possible you can so misunderstand that devoted heart?”

The King rose, flushed with vexation; he was a prey to jealousy in its turn. De Saint-Aignan was just beginning to feel that his position was becoming awkward, when the curtain before the door was raised. The King turned hastily round. His first idea was that a letter from Louise had arrived; but instead of a letter of love, he saw only his captain of Musketeers standing upright and silent in the doorway. “M. d’Artagnan!” he said. “Ah! well, Monsieur?”

D’Artagnan looked at De Saint-Aignan; Louis’s eyes took the same direction as those of his captain. These looks would have been clear to any one, and they were especially so to De Saint-Aignan. The courtier bowed and quitted the room, leaving the King and d’Artagnan alone.

“Is it done?” inquired the King.

“Yes, Sire,” replied the captain of the Musketeers, in a grave voice, “it is done!”

The King was unable to say another word. Pride, however, obliged him not to pause there. Whenever a sovereign has adopted a decisive course, even though it be unjust, he is compelled to prove to all witnesses, and particularly to himself, that he was quite right in so adopting it. A good means for effecting that- an almost infallible means, indeed- is to try to prove his victim to be in the wrong. Louis, brought up by Mazarin and Anne of Austria, knew better than any one else his vocation as a monarch; he therefore endeavored to prove it on the present occasion. After a few moments’ pause, which he had employed in making silently to himself the same reflections which we have just expressed aloud, he said in an indifferent tone, “What did the count say?”

“Nothing at all, Sire.”

“Surely he did not allow himself to be arrested without saying something?”

“He said he expected to be arrested, Sire.”

The King raised his head haughtily. “I presume,” he said, “that M. le Comte de la Fere has not continued to play his obstinate and rebellious part?”

“In the first place, Sire, what do you term rebellious?” quietly asked the musketeer. “Is that man a rebel, in the eyes of the King, who not only allows himself to be shut up in the Bastille, but who even opposes those who do not wish to take him there?”

“Who do not wish to take him there!” exclaimed the King. “What do you say, Captain? Are you mad?”

“I believe not, Sire.”

“You speak of persons who did not wish to arrest M. de la Fere?”

“Yes, Sire.”

“And who are they?”

“Those whom your Majesty intrusted with that duty, apparently.”

“But it is you whom I intrusted with it,” exclaimed the King.

“Yes, Sire; it is I.”

“And you say that, despite my orders, you had the intention of not arresting the man who had insulted me!”

“Yes, Sire, that was really my intention. I even proposed to the count to mount a horse that I had had prepared for him at the Barriere de la Conferénce.”

“And what was your object in getting this horse ready?”

“Why, Sire, in order that M. le Comte de la Fere might be able to reach Havre, and from that place make his escape to England.”

“You betrayed me then, Monsieur?” cried the King, kindling with a wild pride.

“Exactly so.”

There was nothing to say in answer to statements made in such a tone; the King was astounded at such an obstinate and open resistance on the part of d’Artagnan. “At least you had a reason, M. d’Artagnan, for acting as you did?” said the King, proudly.

“I have always a reason, Sire.”

“Your reason cannot be your friendship for the count, at all events,- the only one that can be of any avail, the only one that could possibly excuse you,- for I placed you entirely at your ease in that respect.”

“Me, Sire?”

“Did I not give you the choice to arrest or not to arrest M. le Comte de la Fere?”

“Yes, Sire; but-”

“But what?” exclaimed the King, impatiently.

“But you warned me, Sire, that if I did not arrest him, your captain of the Guards should do so.”

“Was I not considerate enough towards you when I did not compel you to obey me?”

“To me, Sire, you were, but not to my friend; for my friend would be arrested all the same, whether by myself or by the captain of the Guards.”

“And this is your devotion, Monsieur,- a devotion which argues and reasons! You are no soldier, Monsieur!”

“I wait for your Majesty to tell me what I am.”

“Well, then,- you are a Frondeur.”

“And since there is no longer any Fronde, Sire, in that case-”

“But if what you say is true-”

“What I say is always true, Sire.”

“What have you come to say to me, Monsieur?”

“I have come to say to your Majesty: Sire, M. de la Fere is in the Bastille.”

“That is not your fault, it would seem.”

“That is true, Sire. But, at all events, he is there; and since he is there, it is important that your Majesty should know it.”

“Ah, M. d’Artagnan, so you set your King at defiance!”


“M. d’Artagnan, I warn you that you are abusing my patience.”

“On the contrary, Sire.”

“What do you mean by ‘on the contrary’?”

“I have come to get myself arrested too.”

“To get yourself arrested,- you!”

“Of course. My friend will be lonely down there; and I have come to propose to your Majesty to permit me to bear him company. If your Majesty will but give the word, I will arrest myself; I shall not need the captain of the Guards for that, I assure you.”

The King darted towards the table and seized a pen to write the order for d’Artagnan’s imprisonment. “Pay attention, Monsieur, that this is forever!” cried the King, in a tone of stern menace.

“I can quite believe that,” returned the musketeer; “for when you have once done such an act as that, you will never be able to look me in the face again.”

The King dashed down his pen violently. “Leave the room, Monsieur!” he said.

“Oh, not so, Sire, if it please your Majesty!”

“How, not so?”

“Sire, I came to speak temperately to your Majesty. Your Majesty got into a passion with me: that is a misfortune; but I shall not the less on that account say what I had to say to you.”

“Your resignation, Monsieur,- your resignation!” cried the King.

“Sire, you know whether I care about my resignation or not, since at Blois, on the day when you refused King Charles the million which my friend the Comte de la Fere gave him, I tendered my resignation to your Majesty.”

“Very well, then, do it at once!”

“No, Sire; for there is no question of my resignation at the present moment. Your Majesty took up your pen just now to send me to the Bastille,- why should you change your intention?”

“D’Artagnan! Gascon that you are! who is the King, allow me to ask,- you or myself?”

“You, Sire, unfortunately.”

“What do you mean by ‘unfortunately’?”

“Yes, Sire; for if it were I-”

“If it were you, you would approve of M. d’Artagnan’s rebellious conduct, I suppose?”


“Really?” said the King, shrugging his shoulders.

“And I should tell my captain of the Musketeers,” continued d’Artagnan,- “I should tell him, looking at him all the while with human eyes and not with eyes like coals of fire, ‘M. d’Artagnan, I have forgotten that I am King; I have descended from my throne to insult a gentleman.’”

“Monsieur!” cried the King, “do you think you can excuse your friend by exceeding him in insolence?”

“Oh, Sire! I shall go much further than he did,” said d’Artagnan; “and it will be your own fault. I shall tell you what he, a man full of delicacy, did not tell you; I shall say: ‘Sire, you sacrificed his son, and he defended his son; you sacrificed him; he addressed you in the name of honor, of religion, of virtue,- you repulsed, pursued, imprisoned him.’ I shall be harder than he was, for I shall say to you: ‘Sire, choose! Do you wish to have friends or lackeys, soldiers or slaves, great men or puppets? Do you wish men to serve you or to crouch before you? Do you wish men to love you or to fear you? If you prefer baseness, intrigue, cowardice,- oh! say it, Sire! We will leave you,- we who are the only surviving illustrations, nay, I will say more, the only models of the valor of former times; we who have done our duty, and have exceeded, perhaps, in courage and in merit the men already great for posterity. Choose, Sire, and without delay! Whatever remains to you of the grand nobility, guard it with a jealous eye; of courtiers you will always have enough. Delay not- and send me to the Bastille with my friend; for if you have not known how to listen to the Comte de la Fere, that is to say, to the most sweet and noble voice of honor; if you do not know how to listen to d’Artagnan, that is to say, to the most candid and rough voice of sincerity,- you are a bad king, and to-morrow will be a poor king. Now, bad kings are hated; poor kings are driven away.’ That is what I had to say to you, Sire; you are wrong to have driven me to it.”

The King threw himself back in his chair, cold and livid. Had a thunderbolt fallen at his feet, he could not have been more astonished; he appeared as if his respiration had ceased, and as if he were at the point of death. That rough voice of sincerity, as d’Artagnan had called it, had pierced through his heart like a sword-blade.

D’Artagnan had said all that he had to say. Comprehending the King’s anger, he drew his sword, and approaching Louis XIV respectfully, placed it on the table. But the King, with a furious gesture, thrust aside the sword, which fell on the ground and rolled to d’Artagnan’s feet. Notwithstanding his mastery over himself, d’Artagnan too, in his turn, became pale and trembled with indignation. “A king,” he said, “may disgrace a soldier,- he may exile him, and may even condemn him to death; but were he a hundred times a king, he has no right to insult him by casting dishonor on his sword! Sire, a king of France has never repulsed with contempt the sword of a man such as I am! Stained with disgrace as this sword now is, it has henceforth no other sheath than either your heart or my own. I choose my own, Sire; give thanks for it to God, and my patience.” Then snatching up his sword, he cried, “My blood be upon your head!” and with a rapid gesture he placed the hilt upon the floor and directed the point of the blade towards his breast. The King, however, with a movement still more rapid than that of d’Artagnan, threw his right arm round the musketeer’s neck, and with his left hand seized hold of the blade by the middle, and returned it silently to the scabbard. D’Artagnan, upright, pale, and still trembling, suffered the King to do all, without aiding him, to the very end. Then Louis, overcome, returned to the table, took a pen, wrote a few lines, signed them, and offered the paper to d’Artagnan.

“What is this paper, Sire?” inquired the captain.

“An order for M. d’Artagnan to set the Comte de la Fere at liberty immediately.”

D’Artagnan seized the King’s hand and kissed it; he then folded the order, placed it in his belt, and quitted the room. Neither the King nor the captain spoke a word.

“Oh, human heart, director of kings!” murmured Louis, when alone; “when shall I learn to read in your recesses, as in the leaves of a book? No, I am not a bad king, nor am I a poor king; but I am still a child.”

  1. 63: Three Guests at Supper
  2. Louise de la Valliere
  3. 65: Political Rivals