The officer bowed and sent away the musketeers into the interior of the palace. But he himself remained an instant under the porch watching the departing Charles II., till he was lost in the turn of the next street. “To him as to his father formerly,” murmured he, “Athos, if he were here, would say with reason, — ‘Salute fallen majesty!’” Then, reascending the staircase: “Oh! the vile service that I follow!” said he at every step. “Oh! my pitiful master! Life thus carried on is no longer tolerable, and it is at length time that I should do something! No more generosity, no more energy! The master has succeeded, the pupil is starved forever. Mordioux! I will not resist. Come, you men,” continued he, entering the ante-chamber, “why are you all looking at me so? Extinguish these torches and return to your posts. Ah! you were guarding me? Yes, you watch over me, do you not, worthy fellows? Brave fools! I am not the Duc de Guise. Begone! They will not assassinate me in the little passage. Besides,” added he, in a low voice, “that would be a resolution, and no resolutions have been formed since Monsieur le Cardinal Richelieu died. Now, with all his faults, that was a man! It is settled: to-morrow I will throw my cassock to the nettles.”
Then, reflecting: “No,” said he, “not yet! I have one great trial to make and I will make it; but that, and I swear it, shall be the last, Mordioux!”
He had not finished speaking when a voice issued from the king’s chamber. “Monsieur le lieutenant!” said this voice.
“Here I am,” replied he.
“The king desires to speak to you.”
“Humph!” said the lieutenant; “perhaps of what I was thinking about.” And he went into the king’s apartment.
As soon as the king saw the officer enter, he dismissed his valet de chambre and his gentleman.
“Who is on duty to-morrow, monsieur?” asked he.
The lieutenant bowed his head with military politeness, and replied, “I am, sire.”
“What! still you?”
“Always I, sire.”
“How can that be, monsieur?”
“Sire, when traveling, the musketeers supply all the posts of your majesty’s household; that is to say, yours, her majesty the queen’s, and monsieur le cardinal’s, the latter of whom borrows of the king the best part, or rather the numerous part, of the royal guard.”
“But in the interims?”
“There are no interims, sire, but for twenty or thirty men who rest out of a hundred and twenty. At the Louvre it is very different, and if I were at the Louvre I should rely upon my brigadier; but, when traveling, sire, no one knows what may happen, and I prefer doing my duty myself.”
“Then you are on guard every day?”
“And every night. Yes, sire.”
“Monsieur, I cannot allow that — I will have you rest.”