“What is that, my dear Monsieur d’Artagnan?”
“Simply say: ‘Mazarin was a pitiful wretch.’”
“Perhaps he is dead.”
“More the reason — I say was; if I did not hope that he was dead, I would entreat you to say: ‘Mazarin is a pitiful wretch.’ Come, say so, say so, for love of me.”
“Well, I will.”
“Mazarin was a pitiful wretch,” said Raoul, smiling at the musketeer, who roared with laughter, as in his best days.
“A moment,” said the latter; “you have spoken my first proposition, here is the conclusion of it, — repeat, Raoul, repeat: ‘But I regret Mazarin.’”
“You will not say it? Well, then, I will say it twice for you.”
“But you would regret Mazarin?”
And they were still laughing and discussing this profession of principles, when one of the shop-boys entered. “A letter, monsieur,” said he, “for M. d’Artagnan.”
“Thank you; give it me,” cried the musketeer,
“The handwriting of monsieur le comte,” said Raoul.
“Yes, yes.” And D’Artagnan broke the seal.
“Dear friend,” said Athos, “a person has just been here to beg me to seek for you, on the part of the king.”
“Seek me!” said D’Artagnan, letting the paper fall upon the table. Raoul picked it up, and continued to read aloud: —
“Make haste. His majesty is very anxious to speak to you, and expects you at the Louvre.”
“Expects me?” again repeated the musketeer.
“He, he, he!” laughed Raoul.
“Oh, oh!” replied D’Artagnan. “What the devil can this mean?”
The first moment of surprise over, D’Artagnan reperused Athos’s note. “It is strange,” said he, “that the king should send for me.”
“Why so?” said Raoul; “do you not think, monsieur, that the king must regret such a servant as you?”
“Oh, oh!” cried the officer, laughing with all his might; “you are poking fun at me, Master Raoul. If the king had regretted me, he would not have let me leave him. No, no; I see in it something better, or worse, if you like.”
“Worse! What can that be, monsieur le chevalier?”
“You are young, you are a boy, you are admirable. Oh, how I should like to be as you are! To be but twenty-four, with an unfortunate brow, under which the brain is void of everything but women, love, and good intentions. Oh, Raoul, as long as you have not received the smiles of kings, the confidence of queens; as long as you have not had two cardinals killed under you, the one a tiger, the other a fox; as long as you have not — But what is the good of all this trifling? We must part, Raoul.”
“How you say the word! What a serious face!”
“Eh! but the occasion is worthy of it. Listen to me. I have a very good recommendation to tender you.”