“And what do you do, sire?”
“Your majesty may do so, because you are young; but I, sire, have not time to wait; old age is at my door, and death is behind it, looking into the very depths of my house. Your majesty is beginning life, its future is full of hope and fortune; but I, sire, I am on the other side of the horizon, and we are so far from each other, that I should never have time to wait till your majesty came up to me.”
Louis made another turn in his apartment, still wiping the moisture from his brow, in a manner that would have terrified his physicians, if his physicians had witnessed the state his majesty was in.
“It is very well, monsieur,” said Louis XIV., in a sharp voice; “you are desirous of having your discharge, and you shall have it. You offer me your resignation of the rank of lieutenant of the musketeers?”
“I deposit it humbly at your majesty’s feet, sire.”
“That is sufficient. I will order your pension.”
“I shall have a thousand obligations to your majesty.”
“Monsieur,” said the king, with a violent effort, “I think you are losing a good master.”
“And I am sure of it, sire.”
“Shall you ever find such another?”
“Oh, sire! I know that your majesty is alone in the world; therefore will I never again take service with any other king upon earth, and will never again have other master than myself.”
“You say so?”
“I swear so, your majesty.”
“I shall remember that word, monsieur.”
“And you know I have a good memory,” said the king.
“Yes, sire; and yet I should desire that that memory should fail your majesty in this instance, in order that you might forget all the miseries I have been forced to spread before your eyes. Your majesty is so much above the poor and the mean, that I hope — "
“My majesty, monsieur, will act like the sun, which looks upon all, great and small, rich and poor, giving luster to some, warmth to others, and life to all. Adieu, Monsieur d’Artagnan — adieu: you are free.”
And the king, with a hoarse sob, which was lost in his throat, passed quickly into the next room. D’Artagnan took up his hat from the table on which he had thrown in, and went out.
D’Artagnan had not reached the bottom of the staircase, when the king called his gentleman. “I have a commission to give you, monsieur,” said he.
“I am at your majesty’s commands.”
“Wait, then.” And the young king began to write the following letter, which cost him more than one sigh, although, at the same time, something like a feeling of triumph glittered in his eyes: