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Henri de Ceredigion
Chapter Six: The Giving of the Gifts / Chapitre Six: Le Don des Dons
For the next hour the table was filled with conversation about life as a Musketeer accompanied by compliments to Henri for the meal that was being served and as the last of the croque Madames was polished off by Athos with a “Farewell and Adieu to you ladies of Paris”, the Captain stood up and read from a scroll that he had in his pocket.
“I hereby announce” he read, “that Cadet Henri has fulfilled his requirement as ordered by His Majesty to serve us a meal. Now, it is time for the gifts!”
Henri stood up, bowed and went into his room where he returned a few moments later with five gift-wrapped boxes and placed them by their respective owners.
The Captain was the first to unwrap his gift and as he took off the lid he smiled as he pulled out a cushion.
“I remember you telling me” said Henri, “that your devotion to their Majesties was getting a little tiresome on your knees, so I thought why not cushion those devotions and don’t worry, I haven’t stolen the Woolsack from the House of Peers in England!”
The Captain laughed with such volume that Henri could never remember such an occasion and as he wiped a tear from his eye, Henri gestured to Athos to open his present. It was the smallest of the gifts which didn’t impress Athos all that much, neither did the small square that he took out of it either. Holding it aloft, he looked at it quizzically.
That” Henri said, “is gum from the gum trees of Asia, it is said to be able to be chewed forever and a day and not lose its flavour”.
Athos seemed a little doubtful, but broke a piece off and started to chew. The scowl on his face, changed into a beaming smile as he took the rest of the gum and thrust it into his mouth and chewed as if all of Christendom depended on it.
Next was Aramis and as he opened his box, his face lit up with delight as he took out a bottle that had a spray on the top and as he squirted it on his hand he breathed the scent and exclaimed “This feels like the spirit of my homeland and me. I can smell the flowers of home, the air and the trees of the place that I call home. Monsieur, allow me to doff my hat!” which he did and Henri nodded back and told Planchet to open his gift.
As Planchet peered in, he took out a mirror and said “But master, I already have a mirror!”
“There’s a note on the back of it” said the Captain and as Planchet turned the mirror around he read the note.
“Planchet” it read, “this mirror is a reflective device and on reflection, you are the best gift a man could have. Love Henri!”
Planchet looked at his master who nodded and smiled and with that he picked up his master and hugged him so tightly that Porthos jested “Two Titans, anyone?” which was met by laughter from all.
That just left the original Titan to open his present and as he opened his box, his face fell. He tuned the box upside down and a key fell out. He picked it up and looked to Henri and said “Is this it? A key?”
Henri nodded and replied, “Yes, that is a key to the cupboard over there” and pointed to a cupboard on the ground. Porthos got off his chair and walked over and opened the cupboard and roared with delight as he picked up the anvil with one hand and started lifting it over his head.
“That should keep those guardsmen busy!” chuckled Henri as Porthos placed the anvil on the table.
After the meal had ended and Planchet and Henri had washed up, the Captain stood up and unrolled another scroll.
“Gentlemen” he read, “this scroll is deemed to be proof that Henri had fulfilled our wishes. Captain, we therefore consent that our thanks be placed upon Henri” and with that he drew his sword and said “Henri, take a knee!”
As Henri approached the Captain, Athos, Porthos, Aramis and Planchet all stood up and watched as Henri knelt down.
“This world is an uncertain realm” the Captain said, “filled with danger. Honour has been undermined by the pursuit of power. Freedom oppressed by the strong over the weak. But there are those who oppose these forces, who dedicate themselves to truth, honour and freedom. You are already a Musketeer cadet and have proven to be one of these men”. He then patted the sword onto Henri’s shoulder, then the other shoulder and at the same time said “Arise, Henri De Ceredigion” and then added “Musketeer!” before patting the sword on the head.
All the strength in Henri’s legs deserted him and as Planchet helped him up, he stared in disbelief at the Captain who smiled and said “Henri, this is their Majesties present to you. For all your courage and bravery this past year, even though you have yet to complete your formal training, you can now call yourself a Musketeer, my lad!”
Henri was so shocked that as soon as Planchet let him go, he collapsed to the ground and could only whisper “Thank you” before he passed out.
As he came to, Aramis waving his perfume under his nose, Henri shook his head as the Captain presented him with a box. Regaining his composure, he opened the box and gasped as he took out an orange cape, yellow baldric and a golden feather.
“Attach these to your uniform, Henri” said the Captain, “and call yourself Musketeer!”
Henri dashed off and returned minutes later with his uniform now adorned by the gifts given to him. As he turned around, everyone applauded and Henri bowed and as he did he whispered “My parents, I have fulfilled my destiny” and with that stood up and drew his sword.
Athos, Porthos, Aramis and the Captain all drew theirs and as Planchet watched on, with a tear in his eye, they all bellowed…
“ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL!”
To which Henri added as the first bells started to ring to signify the arrival of Christmas
“AND TO ALL A JOYEUX NOEL!”