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Louise de la Valliere

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Chapter LXIV. What Took Place at the Louvre During the Supper at the Bastile.


M. de Saint-Aignan had executed the commission with which the king had intrusted him for La Valliere—as we have already seen in one of the preceding chapters; but, whatever his eloquence, he did not succeed in persuading the young girl that she had in the king a protector powerful enough for her under any combination of circumstances, and that she had no need of any one else in the world when the king was on her side. In point of fact, at the very first word which the favorite mentioned of the discovery of the famous secret, Louise, in a passion of tears, abandoned herself in utter despair to a sorrow which would have been far from flattering for the king, if he had been a witness of it from one of the corners of the room. Saint-Aignan, in his character of ambassador, felt almost as greatly offended at it as his master himself would have been, and returned to inform the king what he had seen and heard; and it is thus we find him, in a state of great agitation, in the presence of the king, who was, if possible, in a state of even greater flurry than himself.

“But,” said the king to the courtier, when the latter had finished his report, “what did she decide to do? Shall I at least see her presently before supper? Will she come to me, or shall I be obliged to go to her room?”

“I believe, sire, that if your majesty wishes to see her, you will not only have to take the first step in advance, but will have to go the whole way.”

“That I do not mind. Do you think she has yet a secret fancy for young Bragelonne?” muttered the king between his teeth.

“Oh! sire, that is not possible; for it is you alone, I am convinced, Mademoiselle de la Valliere loves, and that, too, with all her heart. But you know that De Bragelonne belongs to that proud race who play the part of Roman heroes.”

The king smiled feebly; he knew how true the illustration was, for Athos had just left him.

“As for Mademoiselle de la Valliere,” Saint-Aignan continued, “she was brought up under the care of the Dowager Madame, that is to say, in the greatest austerity and formality. This young engaged couple coldly exchanged their little vows in the prim presence of the moon and stars; and now, when they find they have to break those vows asunder, it plays the very deuce with them.”

Saint-Aignan thought to have made the king laugh; but on the contrary, from a mere smile Louis passed to the greatest seriousness of manner. He already began to experience that remorse which the comte had promised D’Artagnan he would inflict upon him. He reflected that, in fact, these young persons had loved and sworn fidelity to each other; that one of the two had kept his word, and that the other was too conscientious not to feel her perjury most bitterly. And his remorse was not unaccompanied; for bitter pangs of jealousy began to beset the king’s heart. He did not say another word, and instead of going to pay a visit to his mother, or the queen, or Madame, in order to amuse himself a little, and make the ladies laugh, as he himself used to say, he threw himself into the huge armchair in which his august father Louis XIII. had passed so many weary days and years in company with Barradat and Cinq-Mars. Saint-Aignan perceived the king was not to be amused at that moment; he tried a last resource, and pronounced Louise’s name, which made the king look up immediately. “What does your majesty intend to do this evening—shall Mademoiselle de la Valliere be informed of your intention to see her?”

“It seems she is already aware of that,” replied the king. “No, no, Saint-Aignan,” he continued, after a moment’s pause, “we will both of us pass our time in thinking, and musing, and dreaming; when Mademoiselle de la Valliere shall have sufficiently regretted what she now regrets, she will deign, perhaps, to give us some news of herself.”

“Ah! sire, is it possible you can so misunderstand her heart, which is so full of devotion?”

The king rose, flushed from vexation and annoyance; he was a prey to jealousy as well as to remorse. Saint-Aignan was just beginning to feel that his position was becoming awkward, when the curtain before the door was raised. The king turned hastily round; his first idea was that a letter from Louise had arrived; but, instead of a letter of love, he only saw his captain of musketeers, standing upright, and perfectly silent in the doorway. “M. d’Artagnan,” he said, “ah! Well, monsieur?”

D’Artagnan looked at Saint-Aignan; the king’s eyes took the same direction as those of his captain; these looks would have been clear to any one, and for a still greater reason they were so for Saint-Aignan. The courtier bowed and quitted the room, leaving the king and D’Artagnan alone.

“Is it done?” inquired the king.

“Yes, sire,” replied the captain of the musketeers, in a grave voice, “it is done.”

The king was unable to say another word. Pride, however, obliged him not to pause at what he had done; whenever a sovereign has adopted a decisive course, even though it be unjust, he is compelled to prove to all witnesses, and particularly to prove it to himself, that he was quite right all through. A good means for effecting that—an almost infallible means, indeed—is, to try and prove his victim to be in the wrong. Louis, brought up by Mazarin and Anne of Austria, knew better than any one else his vocation as a monarch; he therefore endeavored to prove it on the present occasion. After a few moment’s pause, which he had employed in making silently to himself the same reflections which we have just expressed aloud, he said, in an indifferent tone: “What did the comte say?”

“Nothing at all, sire.”

“Surely he did not allow himself to be arrested without saying something?”

“He said he expected to be arrested, sire.”

The king raised his head haughtily. “I presume,” he said, “that M. le Comte de la Fere has not continued to play his obstinate and rebellious part.”

“In the first place, sire, what do you wish to signify by rebellious?” quietly asked the musketeer. “A rebel, in the eyes of the king, is a man who not only allows himself to be shut up in the Bastile, but still more, who opposes those who do not wish to take him there.”

“Who do not wish to take him there!” exclaimed the king. “What do you say, captain! Are you mad?”

“I believe not, sire.”

“You speak of persons who did not wish to arrest M. de la Fere! Who are those persons, may I ask?”

“I should say those whom your majesty intrusted with that duty.”

“But it was you whom I intrusted with it,” exclaimed the king.

“Yes, sire; it was I.”

“And yet you say that, despite my orders, you had the intention of not arresting the man who had insulted me!”

“Yes, sire—that was really my intention. I even proposed to the comte to mount a horse that I had prepared for him at the Barriere de la Conference.”

“And what was your object in getting this horse ready?”

“Why, sire, in order that M. le Comte de la Fere might be able to reach Le Havre, and from that place make his escape to England.”

“You betrayed me, then, monsieur?” cried the king, kindling with a wild pride.

“Exactly so.”

There was nothing to say in answer to statements made in such a tone; the king was astounded at such an obstinate and open resistance on the part of D’Artagnan. “At least you had a reason, Monsieur d’Artagnan, for acting as you did?” said the king, proudly.

“I have always a reason for everything, sire.”

“Your reason cannot be your friendship for the comte, at all events,—the only one that can be of any avail, the only one that could possibly excuse you,—for I placed you perfectly at your ease in that respect.”

“Me, sire?”

“Did I not give you the choice to arrest, or not to arrest M. le Comte de la Fere?”

“Yes, sire, but—”

“But what?” exclaimed the king, impatiently.

“But you warned me, sire, that if I did not arrest him, your captain of the guard should do so.”

“Was I not considerate enough towards you, from the very moment I did not compel you to obey me?”

“To me, sire, you were, but not to my friend, for my friend would be arrested all the same, whether by myself or by the captain of the guards.”

“And this is your devotion, monsieur! a devotion which argues and reasons. You are no soldier, monsieur!”

“I wait for your majesty to tell me what I am.”

“Well, then—you are a Frondeur.”

“And since there is no longer any Fronde, sire, in that case—”

“But if what you say is true—”

“What I say is always true, sire.”

“What have you come to say to me, monsieur?”

“I have come to say to your majesty, ‘Sire, M. de la Fere is in the Bastile.’”

“That is not your fault, it would seem.”

“That is true, sire; but at all events he is there; and since he is there, it is important that your majesty should know it.”

“Ah! Monsieur d’Artagnan, so you set your king at defiance.”

“Sire—”

“Monsieur d’Artagnan! I warn you that you are abusing my patience.”

“On the contrary, sire.”

“What do you mean by ‘on the contrary’?”

“I have come to get myself arrested, too.”

“To get yourself arrested,—you!”

“Of course. My friend will get wearied to death in the Bastile by himself; and I have come to propose to your majesty to permit me to bear him company; if your majesty will but give me the word, I will arrest myself; I shall not need the captain of the guards for that, I assure you.”

The king darted towards the table and seized hold of a pen to write the order for D’Artagnan’s imprisonment. “Pay attention, monsieur, that this is forever,” cried the king, in tones of sternest menace.

“I can quite believe that,” returned the musketeer; “for when you have once done such an act as that, you will never be able to look me in the face again.”

The king dashed down his pen violently. “Leave the room, monsieur!” he said.

“Not so, if it please your majesty.”

“What is that you say?”

“Sire, I came to speak gently and temperately to your majesty; your majesty got into a passion with me; that is a misfortune; but I shall not the less on that account say what I had to say to you.”

“Your resignation, monsieur,—your resignation!” cried the king.

“Sire, you know whether I care about my resignation or not, since at Blois, on the very day when you refused King Charles the million which my friend the Comte de la Fere gave him, I then tendered my resignation to your majesty.”

“Very well, monsieur—do it at once!”

“No, sire; for there is no question of my resignation at the present moment. Your majesty took up your pen just now to send me to the Bastile,—why should you change your intention?”

“D’Artagnan! Gascon that you are! who is king, allow me to ask,—you or myself?”

“You, sire, unfortunately.”

“What do you mean by ‘unfortunately’?”

“Yes, sire; for if it were I—”

“If it were you, you would approve of M. d’Artagnan’s rebellious conduct, I suppose?”

“Certainly.”

“Really!” said the king, shrugging his shoulders.

“And I should tell my captain of the musketeers,” continued D’Artagnan, “I should tell him, looking at him all the while with human eyes, and not with eyes like coals of fire, ‘M. d’Artagnan, I had forgotten that I was the king, for I descended from my throne in order to insult a gentleman.’”

“Monsieur,” said the king, “do you think you can excuse your friend by exceeding him in insolence?”

“Oh! sire! I should go much further than he did,” said D’Artagnan; “and it would be your own fault. I should tell you what he, a man full of the finest sense of delicacy, did not tell you; I should say—‘Sire, you have sacrificed his son, and he defended his son—you sacrificed himself; he addressed you in the name of honor, of religion, of virtue—you repulsed, drove him away, imprisoned him.’ I should be harder than he was, for I should say to you—‘Sire; it is for you to choose. Do you wish to have friends or lackeys—soldiers or slaves—great men or mere puppets? Do you wish men to serve you, or to bend and crouch before you? Do you wish men to love you, or to be afraid of you? If you prefer baseness, intrigue, cowardice, say so at once, sire, and we will leave you,—we who are the only individuals who are left,—nay, I will say more, the only models of the valor of former times; we who have done our duty, and have exceeded, perhaps, in courage and in merit, the men already great for posterity. Choose, sire! and that, too, without delay. Whatever relics remain to you of the great nobility, guard them with a jealous eye; you will never be deficient in courtiers. Delay not—and send me to the Bastile with my friend; for, if you did not know how to listen to the Comte de la Fere, whose voice is the sweetest and noblest in all the world when honor is the theme; if you do not know how to listen to D’Artagnan, the frankest and honestest voice of sincerity, you are a bad king, and to-morrow will be a poor king. And learn from me, sire, that bad kings are hated by their people, and poor kings are driven ignominiously away.’ That is what I had to say to you, sire; you were wrong to drive me to say it.”

The king threw himself back in his chair, cold as death, and as livid as a corpse. Had a thunderbolt fallen at his feet, he could not have been more astonished; he seemed as if his respiration had utterly ceased, and that he was at the point of death. The honest voice of sincerity, as D’Artagnan had called it, had pierced through his heart like a sword-blade.

D’Artagnan had said all he had to say. Comprehending the king’s anger, he drew his sword, and, approaching Louis XIV. respectfully, he placed it on the table. But the king, with a furious gesture, thrust aside the sword, which fell on the ground and rolled to D’Artagnan’s feet. Notwithstanding the perfect mastery which D’Artagnan exercised over himself, he, too, in his turn, became pale, and, trembling with indignation, said: “A king may disgrace a soldier,—he may exile him, and may even condemn him to death; but were he a hundred times a king, he has no right to insult him by casting a dishonor upon his sword! Sire, a king of France has never repulsed with contempt the sword of a man such as I am! Stained with disgrace as this sword now is, it has henceforth no other sheath than either your heart or my own! I choose my own, sire; and you have to thank Heaven and my own patience that I do so.” Then snatching up his sword, he cried, “My blood be upon your head!” and, with a rapid gesture, he placed the hilt upon the floor and directed the point of the blade towards his breast. The king, however, with a movement far more rapid than that of D’Artagnan, threw his right arm around the musketeer’s neck, and with his left hand seized hold of the blade by the middle, and returned it silently to the scabbard. D’Artagnan, upright, pale, and still trembling, let the king do all to the very end. Louis, overcome and softened by gentler feelings, returned to the table, took a pen in his hand, wrote a few lines, signed them, and then held it out to D’Artagnan.

“What is this paper, sire?” inquired the captain.

“An order for M. d’Artagnan to set the Comte de la Fere at liberty immediately.”

D’Artagnan seized the king’s hand, and imprinted a kiss upon it; he then folded the order, placed it in his belt, and quitted the room. Neither the king nor the captain had uttered a syllable.

“Oh, human heart! thou guide and director of kings,” murmured Louis, when alone, “when shall I learn to read in your inmost recesses, as in the leaves of a book! Oh, I am not a bad king—nor am I a poor king; I am but still a child, when all is said and done.”






Chapter LXV. Political Rivals.


D’Artagnan had promised M. de Baisemeaux to return in time for dessert, and he kept his word. They had just reached the finer and more delicate class of wines and liqueurs with which the governor’s cellar had the reputation of being most admirably stocked, when the silver spurs of the captain resounded in the corridor, and he himself appeared at the threshold. Athos and Aramis had played a close game; neither of the two had been able to gain the slightest advantage over the other. They had supped, talked a good deal about the Bastile, of the last journey to Fontainebleau, of the intended fete that M. Fouquet was about to give at Vaux; they had generalized on every possible subject; and no one, excepting Baisemeaux, had in the slightest degree alluded to private matters. D’Artagnan arrived in the very midst of the conversation, still pale and much disturbed by his interview with the king. Baisemeaux hastened to give him a chair; D’Artagnan accepted a glass of wine, and set it down empty. Athos and Aramis both remarked his emotion; as for Baisemeaux, he saw nothing more than the captain of the king’s musketeers, to whom he endeavored to show every possible attention. But, although Aramis had remarked his emotion, he had not been able to guess the cause of it. Athos alone believed he had detected it. For him, D’Artagnan’s return, and particularly the manner in which he, usually so impassible, seemed overcome, signified, “I have just asked the king something which the king has refused me.” Thoroughly convinced that his conjecture was correct, Athos smiled, rose from the table, and made a sign to D’Artagnan, as if to remind him that they had something else to do than to sup together. D’Artagnan immediately understood him, and replied by another sign. Aramis and Baisemeaux watched this silent dialogue, and looked inquiringly at each other. Athos felt that he was called upon to give an explanation of what was passing.

“The truth is, my friend,” said the Comte de la Fere, with a smile, “that you, Aramis, have been supping with a state criminal, and you, Monsieur de Baisemeaux, with your prisoner.”

Baisemeaux uttered an exclamation of surprise, and almost of delight; for he was exceedingly proud and vain of his fortress, and for his own individual profit, the more prisoners he had, the happier he was, and the higher in rank the prisoners happened to be, the prouder he felt. Aramis assumed the expression of countenance he thought the position justified, and said, “Well, dear Athos, forgive me, but I almost suspected what has happened. Some prank of Raoul and La Valliere, I suppose?”

“Alas!” said Baisemeaux.

“And,” continued Aramis, “you, a high and powerful nobleman as you are, forgetful that courtiers now exist—you have been to the king, I suppose, and told him what you thought of his conduct?”

“Yes, you have guessed right.”

“So that,” said Baisemeaux, trembling at having supped so familiarly with a man who had fallen into disgrace with the king; “so that, monsieur le comte—”

“So that, my dear governor,” said Athos, “my friend D’Artagnan will communicate to you the contents of the paper which I perceived just peeping out of his belt, and which assuredly can be nothing else than the order for my incarceration.”

Baisemeaux held out his hand with his accustomed eagerness. D’Artagnan drew two papers from his belt, and presented one of them to the governor, who unfolded it, and then read, in a low tone of voice, looking at Athos over the paper, as he did so, and pausing from time to time: “‘Order to detain, in my chateau of the Bastile, Monsieur le Comte de la Fere.’ Oh, monsieur! this is indeed a very melancholy day for me.”

“You will have a patient prisoner, monsieur,” said Athos, in his calm, soft voice.

“A prisoner, too, who will not remain a month with you, my dear governor,” said Aramis; while Baisemeaux, still holding the order in his hand, transcribed it upon the prison registry.

“Not a day, or rather not even a night,” said D’Artagnan, displaying the second order of the king, “for now, dear M. de Baisemeaux, you will have the goodness to transcribe also this order for setting the comte immediately at liberty.”

“Ah!” said Aramis, “it is a labor that you have deprived me of, D’Artagnan;” and he pressed the musketeer’s hand in a significant manner, at the same moment as that of Athos.

“What!” said the latter in astonishment, “the king sets me at liberty!”

“Read, my dear friend,” returned D’Artagnan.

Athos took the order and read it. “It is quite true,” he said.

“Are you sorry for it?” asked D’Artagnan.

“Oh, no, on the contrary. I wish the king no harm; and the greatest evil or misfortune that any one can wish kings, is that they should commit an act of injustice. But you have had a difficult and painful task, I know. Tell me, have you not, D’Artagnan?”

“I? not at all,” said the musketeer, laughing: “the king does everything I wish him to do.”

Aramis looked fixedly at D’Artagnan, and saw that he was not speaking the truth. But Baisemeaux had eyes for nothing but D’Artagnan, so great was his admiration for a man who seemed to make the king do all he wished.

“And does the king exile Athos?” inquired Aramis.

“No, not precisely; the king did not explain himself upon that subject,” replied D’Artagnan; “but I think the comte could not well do better unless, indeed, he wishes particularly to thank the king—”

“No, indeed,” replied Athos, smiling.

“Well, then, I think,” resumed D’Artagnan, “that the comte cannot do better than to retire to his own chateau. However, my dear Athos, you have only to speak, to tell me what you want. If any particular place of residence is more agreeable to you than another, I am influential enough, perhaps, to obtain it for you.”

“No, thank you,” said Athos; “nothing can be more agreeable to me, my dear friend, than to return to my solitude beneath my noble trees on the banks of the Loire. If Heaven be the overruling physician of the evils of the mind, nature is a sovereign remedy. And so, monsieur,” continued Athos, turning again towards Baisemeaux, “I am now free, I suppose?”

“Yes, monsieur le comte, I think so—at least, I hope so,” said the governor, turning over and over the two papers in question, “unless, however, M. d’Artagnan has a third order to give me.”

“No, my dear Baisemeaux, no,” said the musketeer; “the second is quite enough: we will stop there—if you please.”

“Ah! monsieur le comte,” said Baisemeaux addressing Athos, “you do not know what you are losing. I should have placed you among the thirty-franc prisoners, like the generals—what am I saying?—I mean among the fifty-francs, like the princes, and you would have supped every evening as you have done to-night.”

“Allow me, monsieur,” said Athos, “to prefer my own simpler fare.” And then, turning to D’Artagnan, he said, “Let us go, my dear friend. Shall I have that greatest of all pleasures for me—that of having you as my companion?”

“To the city gate only,” replied D’Artagnan, “after which I will tell you what I told the king: ‘I am on duty.’”

“And you, my dear Aramis,” said Athos, smiling; “will you accompany me? La Fere is on the road to Vannes.”

“Thank you, my dear friend,” said Aramis, “but I have an appointment in Paris this evening, and I cannot leave without very serious interests suffering by my absence.”

“In that case,” said Athos, “I must say adieu, and take my leave of you. My dear Monsieur de Baisemeaux, I have to thank you exceedingly for your kind and friendly disposition towards me, and particularly for the enjoyable specimen you have given me of the ordinary fare of the Bastile.” And, having embraced Aramis, and shaken hands with M. de Baisemeaux, and having received best wishes for a pleasant journey from them both, Athos set off with D’Artagnan.

Whilst the denouement of the scene of the Palais Royal was taking place at the Bastile, let us relate what was going on at the lodgings of Athos and Bragelonne. Grimaud, as we have seen, had accompanied his master to Paris; and, as we have said, he was present when Athos went out; he had observed D’Artagnan gnaw the corners of his mustache; he had seen his master get into the carriage; he had narrowly examined both their countenances, and he had known them both for a sufficiently long period to read and understand, through the mask of their impassibility, that something serious was the matter. As soon as Athos had gone, he began to reflect; he then, and then only, remembered the strange manner in which Athos had taken leave of him, the embarrassment—imperceptible as it would have been to any but himself—of the master whose ideas were, to him, so clear and defined, and the expression of whose wishes was so precise. He knew that Athos had taken nothing with him but the clothes he had on him at the time; and yet he seemed to fancy that Athos had not left for an hour merely; or even for a day. A long absence was signified by the manner in which he pronounced the word “Adieu.” All these circumstances recurred to his mind, with feelings of deep affection for Athos, with that horror of isolation and solitude which invariably besets the minds of those who love; and all these combined rendered poor Grimaud very melancholy, and particularly uneasy. Without being able to account to himself for what he did since his master’s departure, he wandered about the room, seeking, as it were, for some traces of him, like a faithful dog, who is not exactly uneasy about his absent master, but at least is restless. Only as, in addition to the instinct of the animal, Grimaud subjoined the reasoning faculties of the man, Grimaud therefore felt uneasy and restless too. Not having found any indication which could serve as a guide, and having neither seen nor discovered anything which could satisfy his doubts, Grimaud began to wonder what could possibly have happened. Besides, imagination is the resource, or rather the plague of gentle and affectionate hearts. In fact, never does a feeling heart represent its absent friend to itself as being happy or cheerful. Never does the dove that wings its flight in search of adventures inspire anything but terror at home.

Grimaud soon passed from uneasiness to terror; he carefully went over, in his own mind, everything that had taken place: D’Artagnan’s letter to Athos, the letter which had seemed to distress Athos so much after he had read it; then Raoul’s visit to Athos, which resulted in Athos desiring him (Grimaud) to get his various orders and his court dress ready to put on; then his interview with the king, at the end of which Athos had returned home so unusually gloomy; then the explanation between the father and the son, at the termination of which Athos had embraced Raoul with such sadness of expression, while Raoul himself went away equally weary and melancholy; and finally, D’Artagnan’s arrival, biting, as if he were vexed, the end of his mustache, and leaving again in the carriage, accompanied by the Comte de la Fere. All this composed a drama in five acts very clearly, particularly for so analytical an observer as Grimaud.

The first step he took was to search in his master’s coat for M. d’Artagnan’s letter; he found the letter still there, and its contents were found to run as follows:

“MY DEAR FRIEND,—Raoul has been to ask me for some particulars about the conduct of Mademoiselle de la Valliere, during our young friend’s residence in London. I am a poor captain of musketeers, and I am sickened to death every day by hearing all the scandal of the barracks and bedside conversations. If I had told Raoul all I believe, I know the poor fellow would have died of it; but I am in the king’s service, and cannot relate all I hear about the king’s affairs. If your heart tells you to do it, set off at once; the matter concerns you more than it does myself, and almost as much as Raoul.”

Grimaud tore, not a handful, but a finger-and-thumbful of hair out of his head; he would have done more if his head of hair had been in a more flourishing condition.

“Yes,” he said, “that is the key of the whole enigma. The young girl has been playing her pranks; what people say about her and the king is true, then; our young master has been deceived; he ought to know it. Monsieur le comte has been to see the king, and has told him a piece of his mind; and then the king sent M. d’Artagnan to arrange the affair. Ah! gracious goodness!” continued Grimaud, “monsieur le comte, I now remember, returned without his sword.”

This discovery made the perspiration break out all over poor Grimaud’s face. He did not waste any more time in useless conjecture, but clapped his hat on his head, and ran to Raoul’s lodgings.

Raoul, after Louise had left him, had mastered his grief, if not his affection; and, compelled to look forward on that perilous road over which madness and revulsion were hurrying him, he had seen, from the very first glance, his father exposed to the royal obstinacy, since Athos had himself been the first to oppose any resistance to the royal will. At this moment, from a very natural sequence of feeling, the unhappy young man remembered the mysterious signs which Athos had made, and the unexpected visit of D’Artagnan; the result of the conflict between a sovereign and a subject revealed itself to his terrified vision. As D’Artagnan was on duty, that is, a fixture at his post without the possibility of leaving it, it was certainly not likely that he had come to pay Athos a visit merely for the pleasure of seeing him. He must have come to say something to him. This something in the midst of such painful conjectures must have been the news of either a misfortune or a danger. Raoul trembled at having been so selfish as to have forgotten his father for his affection; at having, in a word, passed his time in idle dreams, or in an indulgence of despair, at a time when a necessity existed for repelling such an imminent attack on Athos. The very idea nearly drove him frantic; he buckled on his sword and ran towards his father’s lodgings. On his way there he encountered Grimaud, who, having set off from the opposite pole, was running with equal eagerness in search of the truth. The two men embraced each other most warmly.

“Grimaud,” exclaimed Raoul, “is the comte well?”

“Have you seen him?”

“No; where is he?”

“I am trying to find out.”

“And M. d’Artagnan?”

“Went out with him.”

“When?”

“Ten minutes after you did.”

“In what way did they go out?”

“In a carriage.”

“Where did they go?”

“I have no idea at all.”

“Did my father take any money with him?”

“No.”

“Or his sword?”

“No.”

“I have an idea, Grimaud, that M. d’Artagnan came in order to—”

“Arrest monsieur le comte, do you not think, monsieur?”

“Yes, Grimaud.”

“I could have sworn it.”

“What road did they take?”

“The way leading towards the quay.”

“To the Bastile, then?”

“Yes, yes.”

“Quick, quick; let us run.”

“Yes, let us not lose a moment.”

“But where are we to go?” said Raoul, overwhelmed.

“We will go to M. d’Artagnan’s first, we may perhaps learn something there.”

“No; if they keep me in ignorance at my father’s, they will do the same everywhere. Let us go to—Oh, good heavens! why, I must be mad to-day, Grimaud; I have forgotten M. du Vallon, who is waiting for and expecting me still.”

“Where is he, then?”

“At the Minimes of Vincennes.”

“Thank goodness, that is on the same side as the Bastile. I will run and saddle the horses, and we will go at once,” said Grimaud.

“Do, my friend, do.”






Chapter LXVI. In Which Porthos Is Convinced without Having Understood Anything.


The good and worthy Porthos, faithful to all the laws of ancient chivalry, had determined to wait for M. de Saint-Aignan until sunset; and as Saint-Aignan did not come, as Raoul had forgotten to communicate with his second, and as he found that waiting so long was very wearisome, Porthos had desired one of the gate-keepers to fetch him a few bottles of good wine and a good joint of meat,—so that, at least, he might pass away the time by means of a glass or two and a mouthful of something to eat. He had just finished when Raoul arrived, escorted by Grimaud, both of them riding at full speed. As soon as Porthos saw the two cavaliers riding at such a pace along the road, he did not for a moment doubt but that they were the men he was expecting, and he rose from the grass upon which he had been indolently reclining and began to stretch his legs and arms, saying, “See what it is to have good habits. The fellow has finished by coming, after all. If I had gone away he would have found no one here and would have taken advantage of that.” He then threw himself into a martial attitude, and drew himself up to the full height of his gigantic stature. But instead of Saint-Aignan, he only saw Raoul, who, with the most despairing gestures, accosted him by crying out, “Pray forgive me, my dear friend, I am most wretched.”

“Raoul!” cried Porthos, surprised.

“You have been angry with me?” said Raoul, embracing Porthos.

“I? What for?”

“For having forgotten you. But I assure you my head seems utterly lost. If you only knew!”

“You have killed him?”

“Who?”

“Saint-Aignan; or, if that is not the case, what is the matter?”

“The matter is, that Monsieur le Comte de la Fere has by this time been arrested.”

Porthos gave a start that would have thrown down a wall.

“Arrested!” he cried out; “by whom?”

“By D’Artagnan.”

“It is impossible,” said Porthos.

“My dear friend, it is perfectly true.”

Porthos turned towards Grimaud, as if he needed a second confirmation of the intelligence.

Grimaud nodded his head. “And where have they taken him?”

“Probably to the Bastile.”

“What makes you think that?”

“As we came along we questioned some persons, who saw the carriage pass; and others who saw it enter the Bastile.”

“Oh!” muttered Porthos.

“What do you intend to do?” inquired Raoul.

“I? Nothing; only I will not have Athos remain at the Bastile.”

“Do you know,” said Raoul, advancing nearer to Porthos, “that the arrest was made by order of the king?”

Porthos looked at the young man, as if to say, “What does that matter to me?” This dumb language seemed so eloquent of meaning to Raoul that he did not ask any other question. He mounted his horse again; and Porthos, assisted by Grimaud, had already done the same.

“Let us arrange our plan of action,” said Raoul.

“Yes,” returned Porthos, “that is the best thing we can do.”

Raoul sighed deeply, and then paused suddenly.

“What is the matter?” asked Porthos; “are you faint?”

“No, only I feel how utterly helpless our position is. Can we three pretend to go and take the Bastile?”

“Well, if D’Artagnan were only here,” replied Porthos, “I am not so very certain we would fail.”

Raoul could not resist a feeling of admiration at the sight of such perfect confidence, heroic in its simplicity. These were truly the celebrated men who, by three or four, attacked armies and assaulted castles! Men who had terrified death itself, who had survived the wrecks of a tempestuous age, and still stood, stronger than the most robust of the young.

“Monsieur,” said he to Porthos, “you have just given me an idea; we absolutely must see M. d’Artagnan.”

“Undoubtedly.”

“He ought by this time to have returned home, after having taken my father to the Bastile. Let us go to his house.”

“First inquire at the Bastile,” said Grimaud, who was in the habit of speaking little, but that to the purpose.

Accordingly, they hastened towards the fortress, when one of those chances which Heaven bestows on men of strong will caused Grimaud suddenly to perceive the carriage, which was entering by the great gate of the drawbridge. This was the moment that D’Artagnan was, as we have seen, returning from his visit to the king. In vain was it that Raoul urged on his horse in order to join the carriage, and to see whom it contained. The horses had already gained the other side of the great gate, which again closed, while one of the sentries struck the nose of Raoul’s horse with his musket; Raoul turned about, only too happy to find he had ascertained something respecting the carriage which had contained his father.

“We have him,” said Grimaud.

“If we wait a little it is certain he will leave; don’t you think so, my friend?”

“Unless, indeed, D’Artagnan also be a prisoner,” replied Porthos, “in which case everything is lost.”

Raoul returned no answer, for any hypothesis was admissible. He instructed Grimaud to lead the horses to the little street Jean-Beausire, so as to give rise to less suspicion, and himself with his piercing gaze watched for the exit either of D’Artagnan or the carriage. Nor had he decided wrongly; for twenty minutes had not elapsed before the gate reopened and the carriage reappeared. A dazzling of the eyes prevented Raoul from distinguishing what figures occupied the interior. Grimaud averred that he had seen two persons, and that one of them was his master. Porthos kept looking at Raoul and Grimaud by turns, in the hope of understanding their idea.

“It is clear,” said Grimaud, “that if the comte is in the carriage, either he is set at liberty or they are taking him to another prison.”

“We shall soon see that by the road he takes,” answered Porthos.

“If he is set at liberty,” said Grimaud, “they will conduct him home.”

“True,” rejoined Porthos.

“The carriage does not take that way,” cried Raoul; and indeed the horses were just disappearing down the Faubourg St. Antoine.

“Let us hasten,” said Porthos; “we will attack the carriage on the road and tell Athos to flee.”

“Rebellion,” murmured Raoul.

Porthos darted a second glance at Raoul, quite worthy of the first. Raoul replied only by spurring the flanks of his steed. In a few moments the three cavaliers had overtaken the carriage, and followed it so closely that their horses’ breath moistened the back of it. D’Artagnan, whose senses were ever on the alert, heard the trot of the horses, at the moment when Raoul was telling Porthos to pass the chariot, so as to see who was the person accompanying Athos. Porthos complied, but could not see anything, for the blinds were lowered. Rage and impatience were gaining mastery over Raoul. He had just noticed the mystery preserved by Athos’s companion, and determined on proceeding to extremities. On his part D’Artagnan had perfectly recognized Porthos, and Raoul also, from under the blinds, and had communicated to the comte the result of his observation. They were desirous only of seeing whether Raoul and Porthos would push the affair to the uttermost. And this they speedily did, for Raoul, presenting his pistol, threw himself on the leader, commanding the coachmen to stop. Porthos seized the coachman, and dragged him from his seat. Grimaud already had hold of the carriage door. Raoul threw open his arms, exclaiming, “M. le comte! M. le comte!”

“Ah! is it you, Raoul?” said Athos, intoxicated with joy.

“Not bad, indeed!” added D’Artagnan, with a burst of laughter, and they both embraced the young man and Porthos, who had taken possession of them.

“My brave Porthos! best of friends,” cried Athos, “it is still the same old way with you.”

“He is still only twenty,” said D’Artagnan, “brave Porthos!”

“Confound it,” answered Porthos, slightly confused, “we thought that you were being arrested.”

“While,” rejoined Athos, “the matter in question was nothing but my taking a drive in M. d’Artagnan’s carriage.”

“But we followed you from the Bastile,” returned Raoul, with a tone of suspicion and reproach.

“Where we had been to take supper with our friend M. Baisemeaux. Do you recollect Baisemeaux, Porthos?”

“Very well, indeed.”

“And there we saw Aramis.”

“In the Bastile?”

“At supper.”

“Ah!” said Porthos, again breathing freely.

“He gave us a thousand messages to you.”

“And where is M. le comte going?” asked Grimaud, already recompensed by a smile from his master.

“We were going home to Blois.”

“How can that be?”

“At once?” said Raoul.

“Yes, right forward.”

“Without any luggage?”

“Oh! Raoul would have been instructed to forward me mine, or to bring it with him on his return, if he returns.”

“If nothing detains him longer in Paris,” said D’Artagnan, with a glance firm and cutting as steel, and as painful (for it reopened the poor young fellow’s wounds), “he will do well to follow you, Athos.”

“There is nothing to keep me any longer in Paris,” said Raoul.

“Then we will go immediately.”

“And M. d’Artagnan?”

“Oh! as for me, I was only accompanying Athos as far as the barrier, and I return with Porthos.”

“Very good,” said the latter.

“Come, my son,” added the comte, gently passing his arm around Raoul’s neck to draw him into the carriage, and again embracing him. “Grimaud,” continued the comte, “you will return quietly to Paris with your horse and M. du Vallon’s, for Raoul and I will mount here and give up the carriage to these two gentlemen to return to Paris in; and then, as soon as you arrive, you will take my clothes and letters and forward the whole to me at home.”

“But,” observed Raoul, who was anxious to make the comte converse, “when you return to Paris, there will not be a single thing there for you—which will be very inconvenient.”

“I think it will be a very long time, Raoul, ere I return to Paris. The last sojourn we have made there has not been of a nature to encourage me to repeat it.”

Raoul hung down his head and said not a word more. Athos descended from the carriage and mounted the horse which had brought Porthos, and which seemed no little pleased at the exchange. Then they embraced, and clasped each other’s hands, and interchanged a thousand pledges of eternal friendship. Porthos promised to spend a month with Athos at the first opportunity. D’Artagnan engaged to take advantage of his first leave of absence; and then, having embraced Raoul for the last time: “To you, my boy,” said he, “I will write.” Coming from D’Artagnan, who he knew wrote very seldom, these words expressed everything. Raoul was moved even to tears. He tore himself away from the musketeer and departed.

D’Artagnan rejoined Porthos in the carriage: “Well,” said he, “my dear friend, what a day we have had!”

“Indeed we have,” answered Porthos.

“You must be quite worn out.”

“Not quite; however, I shall retire early to rest, so as to be ready for to-morrow.”

“And wherefore?”

“Why! to complete what I have begun.”

“You make me shudder, my friend, you seem to me quite angry. What the devil have you begun which is not finished?”

“Listen; Raoul has not fought, but I must fight!”

“With whom? with the king?”

“How!” exclaimed Porthos, astounded, “with the king?”

“Yes, I say, you great baby, with the king.”

“I assure you it is with M. Saint-Aignan.”

“Look now, this is what I mean; you draw your sword against the king in fighting with this gentleman.”

“Ah!” said Porthos, staring; “are you sure of it?”

“Indeed I am.”

“What in the world are we to do, then?”

“We must try and make a good supper, Porthos. The captain of the musketeers keeps a tolerable table. There you will see the handsome Saint-Aignan, and will drink his health.”

“I?” cried Porthos, horrified.

“What!” said D’Artagnan, “you refuse to drink the king’s health?”

“But, body alive! I am not talking to you about the king at all; I am speaking of M. de Saint-Aignan.”

“But when I repeat that it is the same thing?”

“Ah, well, well!” said Porthos, overcome.

“You understand, don’t you?”

“No,” answered Porthos, “but ‘tis all the same.”






Chapter LXVII. M. de Baisemeaux’s “Society.”


The reader has not forgotten that, on quitting the Bastile, D’Artagnan and the Comte de la Fere had left Aramis in close confabulation with Baisemeaux. When once these two guests had departed, Baisemeaux did not in the least perceive that the conversation suffered by their absence. He used to think that wine after supper, and that of the Bastile in particular, was excellent, and that it was a stimulation quite sufficient to make any honest man talkative. But he little knew his Greatness, who was never more impenetrable than at dessert. His Greatness, however, perfectly understood M. de Baisemeaux, when he reckoned on making the governor discourse by the means which the latter regarded as efficacious. The conversation, therefore, without flagging in appearance, flagged in reality; for Baisemeaux not only had it nearly all to himself, but further, kept speaking only of that singular event, the incarceration of Athos, followed by so prompt an order to set him again at liberty. Nor, moreover, had Baisemeaux failed to observe that the two orders of arrest and of liberation, were both in the king’s hand. But then, the king would not take the trouble to write similar orders except under pressing circumstances. All this was very interesting, and, above all, very puzzling to Baisemeaux; but as, on the other hand, all this was very clear to Aramis, the latter did not attach to the occurrence the same importance as did the worthy governor. Besides, Aramis rarely put himself out of the way for anything, and he had not yet told M. de Baisemeaux for what reason he had now done so. And so at the very climax of Baisemeaux’s dissertation, Aramis suddenly interrupted him.

“Tell me, my dear Baisemeaux,” said he, “have you never had any other diversions at the Bastile than those at which I assisted during the two or three visits I have had the honor to pay you?”

This address was so unexpected that the governor, like a vane which suddenly receives an impulsion opposed to that of the wind, was quite dumbfounded at it. “Diversions!” said he; “but I take them continually, monseigneur.”

“Oh, to be sure! And these diversions?”

“Are of every kind.”

“Visits, no doubt?”

“No, not visits. Visits are not frequent at the Bastile.”

“What, are visits rare, then?”

“Very much so.”

“Even on the part of your society?”

“What do you term my society—the prisoners?”

“Oh, no!—your prisoners, indeed! I know well it is you who visit them, and not they you. By your society, I mean, my dear Baisemeaux, the society of which you are a member.”

Baisemeaux looked fixedly at Aramis, and then, as if the idea which had flashed across his mind were impossible, “Oh,” he said, “I have very little society at present. If I must own it to you, dear M. d’Herblay, the fact is, to stay at the Bastile appears, for the most part, distressing and distasteful to persons of the gay world. As for the ladies, it is never without a certain dread, which costs me infinite trouble to allay, that they succeed in reaching my quarters. And, indeed, how should they avoid trembling a little, poor things, when they see those gloomy dungeons, and reflect that they are inhabited by prisoners who—” And in proportion as the eyes of Baisemeaux concentrated their gaze on the face of Aramis, the worthy governor’s tongue faltered more and more until it ended by stopping altogether.

“No, you don’t understand me, my dear M. Baisemeaux; you don’t understand me. I do not at all mean to speak of society in general, but of a particular society—of the society, in a word—to which you are affiliated.”

Baisemeaux nearly dropped the glass of muscat which he was in the act of raising to his lips. “Affiliated,” cried he, “affiliated!”

“Yes, affiliated, undoubtedly,” repeated Aramis, with the greatest self-possession. “Are you not a member of a secret society, my dear M. Baisemeaux?”

“Secret?”

“Secret or mysterious.”

“Oh, M. d’Herblay!”

“Consider, now, don’t deny it.”

“But believe me.”

“I believe what I know.”

“I swear to you.”

“Listen to me, my dear M. Baisemeaux; I say yes, you say no; one of us two necessarily says what is true, and the other, it inevitably follows, what is false.”

“Well, and then?”

“Well, we shall come to an understanding presently.”

“Let us see,” said Baisemeaux; “let us see.”

“Now drink your glass of muscat, dear Monsieur de Baisemeaux,” said Aramis. “What the devil! you look quite scared.”

“No, no; not the least in the world; oh, no.”

“Drink then.” Baisemeaux drank, but he swallowed the wrong way.

“Well,” resumed Aramis, “if, I say, you are not a member of a secret or mysterious society, which you like to call it—the epithet is of no consequence—if, I say, you are not a member of a society similar to that I wish to designate, well, then, you will not understand a word of what I am going to say. That is all.”

“Oh! be sure beforehand that I shall not understand anything.”

“Well, well!”

“Try, now; let us see!”

“That is what I am going to do.”

“If, on the contrary, you are one of the members of this society, you will immediately answer me—yes or no.”

“Begin your questions,” continued Baisemeaux, trembling.

“You will agree, dear Monsieur de Baisemeaux,” continued Aramis, with the same impassibility, “that it is evident a man cannot be a member of a society, it is evident that he cannot enjoy the advantages it offers to the affiliated, without being himself bound to certain little services.”

“In short,” stammered Baisemeaux, “that would be intelligible, if—”

“Well,” resumed Aramis, “there is in the society of which I speak, and of which, as it seems you are not a member—”

“Allow me,” said Baisemeaux. “I should not like to say absolutely.”

“There is an engagement entered into by all the governors and captains of fortresses affiliated to the order.” Baisemeaux grew pale.

“Now the engagement,” continued Aramis firmly, “is of this nature.”

Baisemeaux rose, manifesting unspeakable emotion: “Go on, dear M. d’Herblay: go on,” said he.

Aramis then spoke, or rather recited the following paragraph, in the same tone as if he had been reading it from a book: “The aforesaid captain or governor of a fortress shall allow to enter, when need shall arise, and on demand of the prisoner, a confessor affiliated to the order.” He stopped. Baisemeaux was quite distressing to look at, being so wretchedly pale and trembling. “Is not that the text of the agreement?” quietly asked Aramis.

“Monseigneur!” began Baisemeaux.

“Ah! well, you begin to understand, I think.”

“Monseigneur,” cried Baisemeaux, “do not trifle so with my unhappy mind! I find myself as nothing in your hands, if you have the malignant desire to draw from me the little secrets of my administration.”

“Oh! by no means; pray undeceive yourself, dear M. Baisemeaux; it is not the little secrets of your administration, but those of your conscience that I aim at.”

“Well, then, my conscience be it, dear M. d’Herblay. But have some consideration for the situation I am in, which is no ordinary one.”

“It is no ordinary one, my dear monsieur,” continued the inflexible Aramis, “if you are a member of this society; but it is a quite natural one if free from all engagement. You are answerable only to the king.”

“Well, monsieur, well! I obey only the king, and whom else would you have a French nobleman obey?”

Aramis did not yield an inch, but with that silvery voice of his continued: “It is very pleasant,” said he, “for a French nobleman, for a prelate of France, to hear a man of your mark express himself so loyally, dear De Baisemeaux, and having heard you to believe no more than you do.”

“Have you doubted, monsieur?”

“I? oh, no!”

“And so you doubt no longer?”

“I have no longer any doubt that such a man as you, monsieur,” said Aramis, gravely, “does not faithfully serve the masters whom he voluntarily chose for himself.”

“Masters!” cried Baisemeaux.

“Yes, masters, I said.”

“Monsieur d’Herblay, you are still jesting, are you not?”

“Oh, yes! I understand that it is a more difficult position to have several masters than one; but the embarrassment is owing to you, my dear Baisemeaux, and I am not the cause of it.”

“Certainly not,” returned the unfortunate governor, more embarrassed than ever; “but what are you doing? You are leaving the table?”

“Assuredly.”

“Are you going?”

“Yes, I am going.”

“But you are behaving very strangely towards me, monseigneur.”

“I am behaving strangely—how do you make that out?”

“Have you sworn, then, to put me to the torture?”

“No, I should be sorry to do so.”

“Remain, then.”

“I cannot.”

“And why?”

“Because I have no longer anything to do here; and, indeed, I have duties to fulfil elsewhere.”

“Duties, so late as this?”

“Yes; understand me now, my dear De Baisemeaux: they told me at the place whence I came, ‘The aforesaid governor or captain will allow to enter, as need shall arise, on the prisoner’s demand, a confessor affiliated with the order.’ I came; you do not know what I mean, and so I shall return to tell them that they are mistaken, and that they must send me elsewhere.”

“What! you are—” cried Baisemeaux, looking at Aramis almost in terror.

“The confessor affiliated to the order,” said Aramis, without changing his voice.

But, gentle as the words were, they had the same effect on the unhappy governor as a clap of thunder. Baisemeaux became livid, and it seemed to him as if Aramis’s beaming eyes were two forks of flame, piercing to the very bottom of his soul. “The confessor!” murmured he; “you, monseigneur, the confessor of the order!”

“Yes, I; but we have nothing to unravel together, seeing that you are not one of the affiliated.”

“Monseigneur!”

“And I understand that, not being so, you refuse to comply with its command.”

“Monseigneur, I beseech you, condescend to hear me.”

“And wherefore?”

“Monseigneur, I do not say that I have nothing to do with the society.”

“Ah! ah!”

“I say not that I refuse to obey.”

“Nevertheless, M. de Baisemeaux, what has passed wears very much the air of resistance.”

“Oh, no! monseigneur, no; I only wished to be certain.”

“To be certain of what?” said Aramis, in a tone of supreme contempt.

“Of nothing at all, monseigneur.” Baisemeaux lowered his voice, and bending before the prelate, said, “I am at all times and in all places at the disposal of my superiors, but—”

“Very good. I like you better thus, monsieur,” said Aramis, as he resumed his seat, and put out his glass to Baisemeaux, whose hand trembled so that he could not fill it. “You were saying ‘but’—” continued Aramis.

“But,” replied the unhappy man, “having received no notice, I was very far from expecting it.”

“Does not the Gospel say, ‘Watch, for the moment is known only of God?’ Do not the rules of the order say, ‘Watch, for that which I will, you ought always to will also.’ And what pretext will serve you now that you did not expect the confessor, M. de Baisemeaux?”

“Because, monseigneur, there is at present in the Bastile no prisoner ill.”

Aramis shrugged his shoulders. “What do you know about that?” said he.

“But, nevertheless, it appears to me—”

“M. de Baisemeaux,” said Aramis, turning round in his chair, “here is your servant, who wishes to speak with you;” and at this moment, De Baisemeaux’s servant appeared at the threshold of the door.

“What is it?” asked Baisemeaux, sharply.

“Monsieur,” said the man, “they are bringing you the doctor’s return.”

Aramis looked at De Baisemeaux with a calm and confident eye.

“Well,” said he, “let the messenger enter.”

The messenger entered, saluted, and handed in the report. Baisemeaux ran his eye over it, and raising his head, said in surprise, “No. 12 is ill!”

“How was it, then,” said Aramis, carelessly, “that you told me everybody was well in your hotel, M. de Baisemeaux?” And he emptied his glass without removing his eyes from Baisemeaux.

The governor then made a sign to the messenger, and when he had quitted the room, said, still trembling, “I think that there is in the article, ‘on the prisoner’s demand.’”

“Yes, it is so,” answered Aramis. “But see what it is they want with you now.”

And that moment a sergeant put his head in at the door. “What do you want now?” cried Baisemeaux. “Can you not leave me in peace for ten minutes?”

“Monsieur,” said the sergeant, “the sick man, No. 12, has commissioned the turnkey to request you to send him a confessor.”

Baisemeaux very nearly sank on the floor; but Aramis disdained to reassure him, just as he had disdained to terrify him. “What must I answer?” inquired Baisemeaux.

“Just what you please,” replied Aramis, compressing his lips; “that is your business. I am not the governor of the Bastile.”

“Tell the prisoner,” cried Baisemeaux, quickly,—“tell the prisoner that his request is granted.” The sergeant left the room. “Oh! monseigneur, monseigneur,” murmured Baisemeaux, “how could I have suspected!—how could I have foreseen this!”

“Who requested you to suspect, and who besought you to foresee?” contemptuously answered Aramis. “The order suspects; the order knows; the order foresees—is that not enough?”

“What is it you command?” added Baisemeaux.

“I?—nothing at all. I am nothing but a poor priest, a simple confessor. Have I your orders to go and see the sufferer?”

“Oh, monseigneur, I do not order; I pray you to go.”

“‘Tis well; conduct me to him.”

End of Louise de la Valliere. 

The last text in the D’Artagnan Romances series is