was in the presence of the Regent himself, who sat writing in a little room about big enough to make a cage for a bird. Yet, in spite of the way in which his Highness spent his evenings and nights, and also of his supper parties and other dissipations, he did as much work in that little cabinet as any other twelve men in France.
Because he was a very perfect gentleman—no matter what his faults were (he answered for them to his Maker but a little while after I met him)—he treated me exactly as though I were his equal, and bade me be seated while he read the letter calmly; then, looking up at me, he said—
"I knew something of this before. Even my beloved Parisians know of it—how they have learnt it Heaven alone can say. Still it is known. Alberoni was to leave Madrid in forty-eight hours from the time of receiving notice. But—"
Here he paused, and seemed to be reflecting deeply. Then he said aloud, though more to himself than to me, "I wonder, if he has got the will?"
It not being my place to speak, I said nothing, waiting to receive orders from him. And a moment later he again addressed me.
"You mousquetaires have always the best of horses and are proud of them. I know; I know. I have seen you riding races against each other at Versailles and Marly. And, for endurance, they will carry you far, both well and swiftly, in spite of your weight and trappings. Is it not so?"
"It is so, monseigneur," I answered, somewhat wonderingly, and not quite understanding what way this talk tended.
"How fast can you go? Say—a picked number of you—ten—twenty—go for two days?"
"A long way, monseigneur. Perhaps, allowing for rest for the animals, nearer forty than thirty leagues."
"So! Nearer forty than thirty leagues. 'Tis well."