“Ah, monsieur!” said the king, forgetting all royal etiquette and throwing his arms around the neck of Athos, “you prove to me that there is a God in heaven, and that this God sometimes sends messengers to the unfortunate who groan on the earth.”
Athos, exceedingly moved by this burst of feeling of the young man, thanked him with profound respect, and approached the window. “Grimaud!” cried he, “bring out my horses.”
“What, now — immediately!” said the king. “Ah, monsieur, you are indeed a wonderful man!”
“Sire,” said Athos, “I know nothing more pressing than your majesty’s
service. Besides,” added he, smiling, “it is a habit contracted long since, in the service of the queen your aunt, and of the king your father. How is it possible for me to lose it at the moment your majesty’s service calls for it?”
“What a man!” murmured the king.
Then, after a moment’s reflection, — “But no, count, I cannot expose you to such privations. I have no means of rewarding such services.”
“Bah!” said Athos, laughing. “Your majesty is joking; have you not a million? Ah! why am I not possessed of half such a sum! I would already have raised a regiment. But, thank God! I have still a few rolls of gold and some family diamonds left. Your majesty will, I hope, deign to share with a devoted servant.”
“With a friend — yes, count, but on condition that, in his turn, that friend will share with me hereafter!”
“Sire!” said Athos, opening a casket, form which he drew both gold and jewels, “you see, sire, we are too rich. Fortunately, there are four of us, in the event of our meeting with thieves.”
Joy made the blood rush to the pale cheeks of Charles II., as he saw Athos’s two horses, led by Grimaud, already booted for the journey, advance towards the porch.
“Blaisois, this letter for the Vicomte de Bragelonne. For everybody else I am gone to Paris. I confide the house to you, Blaisois.” Blaisois bowed, shook hands with Grimaud, and shut the gate.
Two hours had scarcely elapsed since the departure of the master of the house, who, in Blaisois’s sight, had taken the road to Paris, when a horseman, mounted on a good pied horse, stopped before the gate, and with a sonorous “hola!” called the stable-boys, who, with the gardeners, had formed a circle round Blaisois, the historian-in-ordinary to the household of the chateau. This “hola,” doubtless well known to Master Blaisois, made him turn his head and exclaim — “Monsieur d’Artagnan! run quickly, you chaps, and open the gate.”
A swarm of eight brisk lads flew to the gate, which was opened as if it had been made of feathers; and every one loaded him with attentions, for they knew the welcome this friend was accustomed to receive from their master; and for such remarks the eye of the valet may always be depended upon.