Louise de la Valliere
Showing in What Way D'Artagnan Discharged the Mission with Which the King
Had Intrusted Him.
While the king was engaged in making these last-mentioned arrangements in
order to ascertain the truth, D'Artagnan, without losing a second, ran to the
stable, took down the lantern, saddled his horse himself, and proceeded towards
the place his majesty had indicated. According to the promise he had made, he
had not accosted any one; and, as we have observed, he had carried his
scruples so far as to do without the assistance of the stable-helpers altogether.
D'Artagnan was one of those who in moments of difficulty pride themselves on
increasing their own value. By dint of hard galloping, he in less than five minutes
reached the wood, fastened his horse to the first tree he came to, and penetrated
to the broad open space on foot. He then began to inspect most carefully, on foot
and with his lantern in his hand, the whole surface of the Rond-point, went
forward, turned back again, measured, examined, and after half an hour's minute
inspection, he returned silently to where he had left his horse, and pursued his
way in deep reflection and at a foot- pace to Fontainebleau. Louis was waiting in
his cabinet; he was alone, and with a pencil was scribbling on paper certain lines
which D'Artagnan at the first glance recognized as unequal and very much
touched up. The conclusion he arrived at was, that they must be verses. The king
raised his head and perceived D'Artagnan. "Well, monsieur," he said, "do you
bring me any news?"
"What have you seen?"
"As far as probability goes, sire - " D'Artagnan began to reply.
"It was certainty I requested of you."
"I will approach it as near as I possibly can. The weather was very well adapted
for investigations of the character I have just made; it has been raining this
evening, and the roads were wet and muddy - "
"Well, the result, M. d'Artagnan?"
"Sire, your majesty told me that there was a horse lying dead in the cross-road of
the Bois-Rochin, and I began, therefore, by studying the roads. I say the roads,
because the center of the cross-road is reached by four separate roads. The one
that I myself took was the only one that presented any fresh traces. Two horses
had followed it side by side; their eight feet were marked very distinctly in the
clay. One of the riders was more impatient than the other, for the footprints of the
one were invariably in advance of the other about half a horse's length."
"Are you quite sure they were traveling together?" said the king.
"Yes sire. The horses are two rather large animals of equal pace, - horses well
used to maneuvers of all kinds, for they wheeled round the barrier of the Rond-
"Well - and after?"
"The two cavaliers paused there for a minute, no doubt to arrange the conditions
of the engagement; the horses grew restless and impatient. One of the riders