“Yes, Tréville, yes,” said the king in a melancholy tone; “and it is very sad, believe me, to see thus two parties in France, two heads to royalty. But all this will come to an end, Tréville, will come to an end. You say, then, that the guards sought a quarrel with the musketeers?”

“I say that it is probable that things did happen thus, but I will not swear to it, sire. You know how difficult it is to discover the truth; and unless a man be endowed with that admirable instinct which causes Louis XIII to be termed the Just—”

“You are right, Tréville. But they were not alone, your musketeers; they had a youth with them?”

“Yes, sire, and one wounded man; so that three of the king’s musketeers—one of whom was wounded—and a youth not only maintained their ground against five of the most terrible of his Eminence’s guards, but absolutely brought four of them to the earth.”

“Why, this is a victory!” cried the king, glowing with delight, “a complete victory!”

“Yes, sire; as complete as that of the Bridge of Cé.”

“Four men, one of them wounded, and a youth, say you?”

“One scarcely a grown man, but who, however, behaved himself so admirably on this occasion that I will take the liberty of recommending him to your Majesty.”

“What is his name?”

“D’Artagnan, sire; he is the son of one of my oldest friends—the son of a man who served under your father of glorious memory in the civil war.”

“And you say that this young man behaved himself well? Tell me how, De Tréville, you know how I delight in accounts of war and fights.”

And Louis XIII twirled his moustache proudly and placed his hand upon his hip.

“Sire,” resumed Tréville, “as I told you, M. d’Artagnan is little more than a boy, and as he has not the honour of being a musketeer, he was dressed as a private citizen. The guards of the cardinal, perceiving his youth, and still more that he did not belong to the corps, urged him to retire before they made the attack.”

“So you may plainly see, Tréville,” interrupted the king, “it was they who attacked?”

“That is true, sire; there can be no more doubt on that head. They called upon him, then, to retire, but he answered that he was a musketeer at heart, entirely devoted to your Majesty, and that he would therefore remain with the musketeers.”

“Brave young man!” murmured the king.“Well, he did remain with them; and your Majesty has in him so firm a champion that it was he who gave Jussac the terrible sword-thrust which has made the cardinal so angry.”

“He who wounded Jussac!” cried the king—“he, a boy! Tréville, that’s impossible!”

“It is as I have the honour to relate it to your Majesty.”

“Jussac, one of the first swordsmen in the kingdom?”

“Well, sire, for once he found his master.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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