{tocify}

Ten Years Later

Chapter

Book

first_page
play_arrow
last_page
00:00
00:00
volume_down_alt volume_up


Chapter XIX. Sword-Thrusts in the Water.


Raoul, on betaking himself to De Guiche, found him conversing with De Wardes and Manicamp. De Wardes, since the affair of the barricade, had treated Raoul as a stranger; they behaved as if they were not acquainted. As Raoul entered, De Guiche walked up to him; and Raoul, as he grasped his friend’s hand, glanced rapidly at his two companions, hoping to be able to read on their faces what was passing in their minds. De Wardes was cold and impenetrable; Manicamp seemed absorbed in the contemplation of some trimming to his dress. De Guiche led Raoul to an adjoining cabinet, and made him sit down, saying, “How well you look!”

“That is singular,” replied Raoul, “for I am far from being in good spirits.”

“It is your case, then, Raoul, as it is my own,—our love affairs do not progress.”

“So much the better, count, as far as you are concerned; the worst news would be good news.”

“In that case do not distress yourself, for, not only am I very unhappy, but, what is more, I see others about me who are happy.”

“Really, I do not understand you,” replied Raoul; “explain yourself.”

“You will soon learn. I have tried, but in vain, to overcome the feeling you saw dawn in me, increase, and take entire possession of me. I have summoned all your advice and my own strength to my aid. I have well weighed the unfortunate affair in which I have embarked; I have sounded its depths; that it is an abyss, I am aware, but it matters little for I shall pursue my own course.”

“This is madness, De Guiche! you cannot advance another step without risking your own ruin to-day, perhaps your life to-morrow.”

“Whatever may happen, I have done with reflections; listen.”

“And you hope to succeed; you believe that Madame will love you?”

“Raoul, I believe nothing; I hope, because hope exists in man, and never abandons him until death.”

“But, admitting that you obtain the happiness you covet, even then, you are more certainly lost than if you had failed in obtaining it.”

“I beseech you, Raoul, not to interrupt me any more; you could never convince me, for I tell you beforehand, I do not wish to be convinced; I have gone so far I cannot recede; I have suffered so much, death itself would be a boon. I no longer love to madness, Raoul, I am being engulfed by a whirlpool of jealousy.”

Raoul struck his hands together with an expression resembling anger. “Well?” said he.

“Well or ill matters little. This is what I claim from you, my friend, my almost brother. During the last three days Madame has been living in a perfect intoxication of gayety. On the first day, I dared not look at her; I hated her for not being as unhappy as myself. The next day I could not bear her out of my sight; and she, Raoul—at least I thought I remarked it—she looked at me, if not with pity, at least with gentleness. But between her looks and mine, a shadow intervened; another’s smile invited hers. Beside her horse another’s always gallops, which is not mine; in her ear another’s caressing voice, not mine, unceasingly vibrates. Raoul, for three days past my brain has been on fire; flame, not blood, courses through my veins. That shadow must be driven away, that smile must be quenched; that voice must be silenced.”

“You wish Monsieur’s death,” exclaimed Raoul.

“No, no, I am not jealous of the husband; I am jealous of the lover.”

“Of the lover?” said Raoul.

“Have you not observed it, you who were formerly so keen-sighted?”

“Are you jealous of the Duke of Buckingham?”

“To the very death.”

“Again jealous?”

“This time the affair will be easy to arrange between us; I have taken the initiative, and have sent him a letter.”

“It was you, then, who wrote to him?”

“How do you know that?”

“I know it, because he told me so. Look at this;” and he handed De Guiche the letter he had received nearly at the same moment as his own. De Guiche read it eagerly, and said, “He is a brave man, and more than that, a gallant man.”

“Most certainly the duke is a gallant man; I need not ask if you wrote to him in a similar style.”

“He will show you my letter when you call on him on my behalf.”

“But that is almost out of the question.”

“What is?”

“That I shall call on him for that purpose.”

“Why so?”

“The duke consults me as you do.”

“I suppose you will give me the preference! Listen to me, Raoul, I wish you to tell his Grace—it is a very simple matter—that to-day, to-morrow, the following day, or any other day he may choose, I will meet him at Vincennes.”

“Reflect, De Guiche.”

“I thought I told you I have reflected.”

“The duke is a stranger here; he is on a mission which renders his person inviolable.... Vincennes is close to the Bastile.”

“The consequences concern me.”

“But the motive for this meeting? What motive do you wish me to assign?”

“Be perfectly easy on that score, he will not ask any. The duke must be as sick of me as I am of him. I implore you, therefore, seek the duke, and if it is necessary to entreat him, to accept my offer, I will do so.”

“That is useless. The duke has already informed me that he wishes to speak to me. The duke is now playing cards with the king. Let us both go there. I will draw him aside in the gallery; you will remain aloof. Two words will be sufficient.”

“That is well arranged. I will take De Wardes to keep me in countenance.”

“Why not Manicamp? De Wardes can join us at any time; we can leave him here.”

“Yes, that is true.”

“He knows nothing?”

“Positively nothing. You continue still on an unfriendly footing, then?”

“Has he not told you anything?”

“Nothing.”

“I do not like the man, and, as I never liked him, the result is, that I am on no worse terms with him to-day than I was yesterday.”

“Let us go, then.”

The four descended the stairs. De Guiche’s carriage was waiting at the door, and took them to the Palais Royal. As they were going along, Raoul was engaged in devising his scheme of action. The sole depositary of two secrets, he did not despair of concluding some arrangement between the two parties. He knew the influence he exercised over Buckingham, and the ascendency he had acquired over De Guiche, and affairs did not look utterly hopeless. On their arrival in the gallery, dazzling with the blaze of light, where the most beautiful and illustrious women of the court moved to and fro, like stars in their own atmosphere, Raoul could not prevent himself for a moment forgetting De Guiche in order to seek out Louise, who, amidst her companions, like a dove completely fascinated, gazed long and fixedly upon the royal circle, which glittered with jewels and gold. All its members were standing, the king alone being seated. Raoul perceived Buckingham, who was standing a few paces from Monsieur, in a group of French and English, who were admiring his aristocratic carriage and the incomparable magnificence of his costume. Some of the older courtiers remembered having seen his father, but their recollections were not prejudicial to the son.

Buckingham was conversing with Fouquet, who was talking with him aloud about Belle-Isle. “I cannot speak to him at present,” said Raoul.

“Wait, then, and choose your opportunity, but finish everything speedily. I am on thorns.”

“See, our deliverer approaches,” said Raoul, perceiving D’Artagnan, who, magnificently dressed in his new uniform of captain of the musketeers, had just made his entry in the gallery; and he advanced towards D’Artagnan.

“The Comte de la Fere has been looking for you, chevalier,” said Raoul.

“Yes,” replied D’Artagnan, “I have just left him.”

“I thought you would have passed a portion of the evening together.”

“We have arranged to meet again.”

As he answered Raoul, his absent looks were directed on all sides, as if seeking some one in the crowd or looking for something in the room. Suddenly his gaze became fixed, like that of an eagle on its prey. Raoul followed the direction of his glance, and noticed that De Guiche and D’Artagnan saluted each other, but he could not distinguish at whom the captain’s lingering and haughty glance was aimed.

“Chevalier,” said Raoul, “there is no one here but yourself who can render me a service.”

“What is it, my dear vicomte?”

“It is simply to go and interrupt the Duke of Buckingham, to whom I wish to say two words, and, as the duke is conversing with M. Fouquet, you understand that it would not do for me to throw myself into the middle of the conversation.”

“Ah, ah, is M. Fouquet there?” inquired D’Artagnan.

“Do you not see him?”

“Yes, now I do. But do you think I have a greater right than you have?”

“You are a more important personage.”

“Yes, you’re right; I am captain of the musketeers; I have had the post promised me so long, and have enjoyed it for so brief a period, that I am always forgetting my dignity.”

“You will do me this service, will you not?”

“M. Fouquet—the deuce!”

“Are you not on good terms with him?”

“It is rather he who may not be on good terms with me; however, since it must be done some day or another—”

“Stay; I think he is looking at you; or is it likely that it might be—”

“No, no; don’t deceive yourself, it is indeed me for whom this honor is intended.”

“The opportunity is a good one, then?”

“Do you think so?”

“Pray go.”

“Well, I will.”

De Guiche had not removed his eyes from Raoul, who made a sign to him that all was arranged. D’Artagnan walked straight up to the group, and civilly saluted M. Fouquet as well as the others.

“Good evening, M. d’Artagnan; we were speaking of Belle-Isle,” said Fouquet, with that usage of society, and that perfect knowledge of the language of looks, which require half a lifetime thoroughly to acquire, and which some persons, notwithstanding all their study, never attain.

“Of Belle-Ile-en-Mer! Ah!” said D’Artagnan. “It belongs to you, I believe, M. Fouquet?”

“M. Fouquet has just told us that he had presented it to the king,” said Buckingham.

“Do you know Belle-Isle, chevalier?” inquired Fouquet.

“I have only been there once,” replied D’Artagnan, with readiness and good-humor.

“Did you remain there long?”

“Scarcely a day.”

“Did you see much of it while you were there?”

“All that could be seen in a day.”

“A great deal can be seen with observation as keen as yours,” said Fouquet; at which D’Artagnan bowed.

During this Raoul made a sign to Buckingham. “M. Fouquet,” said Buckingham, “I leave the captain with you, he is more learned than I am in bastions, scarps, and counter-scarps, and I will join one of my friends, who has just beckoned me.” Saying this, Buckingham disengaged himself from the group, and advanced towards Raoul, stopping for a moment at the table where the queen-mother, the young queen, and the king were playing together.

“Now, Raoul,” said De Guiche, “there he is; be firm and quick.”

Buckingham, having made some complimentary remark to Madame, continued his way towards Raoul, who advanced to meet him, while De Guiche remained in his place, though he followed him with his eyes. The maneuver was so arranged that the young men met in an open space which was left vacant, between the groups of players and the gallery, where they walked, stopping now and then for the purpose of saying a few words to some of the graver courtiers who were walking there. At the moment when the two lines were about to unite, they were broken by a third. It was Monsieur who advanced towards the Duke of Buckingham. Monsieur had his most engaging smile on his red and perfumed lips.

“My dear duke,” said he, with the most affectionate politeness; “is it really true what I have just been told?”

Buckingham turned round; he had not noticed Monsieur approach; but had merely heard his voice. He started in spite of his command over himself, and a slight pallor overspread his face. “Monseigneur,” he asked, “what has been told you that surprises you so much?”

“That which throws me into despair, and will, in truth, be a real cause of mourning for the whole court.”

“Your highness is very kind, for I perceive that you allude to my departure.”

“Precisely.”

Guiche had overheard the conversation from where he was standing, and started in his turn. “His departure,” he murmured. “What does he say?”

Philip continued with the same gracious air, “I can easily conceive, monsieur, why the king of Great Britain recalls you; we all know that King Charles II., who appreciates true gentlemen, cannot dispense with you. But it cannot be supposed we can let you go without great regret; and I beg you to receive the expression of my own.”

“Believe me, monseigneur,” said the duke, “that if I quit the court of France—”

“Because you are recalled; but, if you suppose the expression of my own wish on the subject might possibly have any influence with the king, I will gladly volunteer to entreat his majesty Charles II. to leave you with us a little while longer.”

“I am overwhelmed, monseigneur, by so much kindness,” replied Buckingham; “but I have received positive commands. My residence in France was limited; I have prolonged it at the risk of displeasing my gracious sovereign. It is only this very day that I recollected I ought to have set off four days ago.”

“Indeed,” said Monsieur.

“Yes; but,” added Buckingham, raising his voice in such a manner that the princess could hear him,—“but I resemble that dweller in the East, who turned mad, and remained so for several days, owing to a delightful dream that he had had, but who one day awoke, if not completely cured, in some respects rational at least. The court of France has its intoxicating properties, which are not unlike this dream, my lord; but at last I wake and leave it. I shall be unable, therefore, to prolong my residence, as your highness has so kindly invited me to do.”

“When do you leave?” inquired Philip, with an expression full of interest.

“To-morrow, monseigneur. My carriages have been ready for three days.”

The Duc d’Orleans made a movement of the head, which seemed to signify, “Since you are determined, duke, there is nothing to be said.” Buckingham returned the gesture, concealing under a smile a contraction of his heart; and then Monsieur moved away in the same direction by which he had approached. At the same moment, however, De Guiche advanced from the opposite direction. Raoul feared that the impatient young man might possibly make the proposition himself, and hurried forth before him.

“No, no, Raoul, all is useless now,” said Guiche, holding both his hands towards the duke, and leading him behind a column. “Forgive me, duke, for what I wrote to you, I was mad; give me back my letter.”

“It is true,” said the duke, “you cannot owe me a grudge any longer now.”

“Forgive me, duke; my friendship, my lasting friendship is yours.”

“There is certainly no reason why you should bear me any ill-will from the moment I leave her never to see her again.”

Raoul heard these words, and comprehending that his presence was now useless between the young men, who had now only friendly words to exchange, withdrew a few paces; a movement which brought him closer to De Wardes, who was conversing with the Chevalier de Lorraine respecting the departure of Buckingham. “A strategic retreat,” said De Wardes.

“Why so?”

“Because the dear duke saves a sword-thrust by it.” At which reply both laughed.

Raoul, indignant, turned round frowningly, flushed with anger and his lip curling with disdain. The Chevalier de Lorraine turned on his heel, but De Wardes remained and waited.

“You will not break yourself of the habit,” said Raoul to De Wardes, “of insulting the absent; yesterday it was M. d’Artagnan, to-day it is the Duke of Buckingham.”

“You know very well, monsieur,” returned De Wardes, “that I sometimes insult those who are present.”

De Wardes was close to Raoul, their shoulders met, their faces approached, as if to mutually inflame each other by the fire of their looks and of their anger. It could be seen that the one was at the height of fury, the other at the end of his patience. Suddenly a voice was heard behind them full of grace and courtesy, saying, “I believe I heard my name pronounced.”

They turned round and saw D’Artagnan, who, with a smiling eye and a cheerful face, had just placed his hand on De Wardes’s shoulder. Raoul stepped back to make room for the musketeer. De Wardes trembled from head to foot, turned pale, but did not move. D’Artagnan, still with the same smile, took the place which Raoul had abandoned to him.

“Thank you, my dear Raoul,” he said. “M. de Wardes, I wish to talk with you. Do not leave us, Raoul; every one can hear what I have to say to M. de Wardes.” His smile immediately faded away, and his glace became cold and sharp as a sword.

“I am at your orders, monsieur,” said De Wardes.

“For a very long time,” resumed D’Artagnan, “I have sought an opportunity of conversing with you; to-day is the first time I have found it. The place is badly chosen, I admit, but you will perhaps have the goodness to accompany me to my apartments, which are on the staircase at the end of this gallery.”

“I follow you, monsieur,” said De Wardes.

“Are you alone here?” said D’Artagnan.

“No; I have M. Manicamp and M. de Guiche, two of my friends.”

“That’s well,” said D’Artagnan; “but two persons are not sufficient; you will be able to find a few others, I trust.”

“Certainly,” said the young man, who did not know what object D’Artagnan had in view. “As many as you please.”

“Are they friends?”

“Yes, monsieur.”

“Real friends?”

“No doubt of it.”

“Very well, get a good supply, then. Do you come, too, Raoul; bring M. de Guiche and the Duke of Buckingham.”

“What a disturbance,” replied De Wardes, attempting to smile. The captain slightly signed to him with his hand, as though to recommend him to be patient, and then led the way to his apartments. 2






Chapter XX. Sword-Thrusts in the Water (concluded).


D’Artagnan’s apartment was not unoccupied; for the Comte de la Fere, seated in the recess of a window, awaited him. “Well,” said he to D’Artagnan, as he saw him enter.

“Well,” said the latter, “M. de Wardes has done me the honor to pay me a visit, in company with some of his own friends, as well as of ours.” In fact, behind the musketeer appeared De Wardes and Manicamp, followed by De Guiche and Buckingham, who looked surprised, not knowing what was expected of them. Raoul was accompanied by two or three gentlemen; and, as he entered, glanced round the room, and perceiving the count, he went and placed himself by his side. D’Artagnan received his visitors with all the courtesy he was capable of; he preserved his unmoved and unconcerned look. All the persons present were men of distinction, occupying posts of honor and credit at the court. After he had apologized to each of them for any inconvenience he might have put them to, he turned towards De Wardes, who, in spite of his customary self-command, could not prevent his face betraying some surprise mingled with not a little uneasiness.

“Now, monsieur,” said D’Artagnan, “since we are no longer within the precincts of the king’s palace, and since we can speak out without failing in respect to propriety, I will inform you why I have taken the liberty to request you to visit me here, and why I have invited these gentlemen to be present at the same time. My friend, the Comte de la Fere, has acquainted me with the injurious reports you are spreading about myself. You have stated that you regard me as your mortal enemy, because I was, so you affirm, that of your father.”

“Perfectly true, monsieur, I have said so,” replied De Wardes, whose pallid face became slightly tinged with color.

“You accuse me, therefore, of a crime, or a fault, or of some mean and cowardly act. Have the goodness to state your charge against me in precise terms.”

“In the presence of witnesses?”

“Most certainly in the presence of witnesses; and you see I have selected them as being experienced in affairs of honor.”

“You do not appreciate my delicacy, monsieur. I have accused you, it is true; but I have kept the nature of the accusation a perfect secret. I entered into no details; but have rested satisfied by expressing my hatred in the presence of those on whom a duty was almost imposed to acquaint you with it. You have not taken the discreetness I have shown into consideration, although you were interested in remaining silent. I can hardly recognize your habitual prudence in that, M. d’Artagnan.”

D’Artagnan, who was quietly biting the corner of his moustache, said, “I have already had the honor to beg you to state the particulars of the grievances you say you have against me.”

“Aloud?”

“Certainly, aloud.”

“In that case, I will speak.”

“Speak, monsieur,” said D’Artagnan, bowing; “we are all listening to you.”

“Well, monsieur, it is not a question of a personal injury towards myself, but one towards my father.”

“That you have already stated.”

“Yes; but there are certain subjects which are only approached with hesitation.”

“If that hesitation, in your case, really does exist, I entreat you to overcome it.”

“Even if it refer to a disgraceful action?”

“Yes; in every and any case.”

Those who were present at this scene had, at first, looked at each other with a good deal of uneasiness. They were reassured, however, when they saw that D’Artagnan manifested no emotion whatever.

De Wardes still maintained the same unbroken silence. “Speak, monsieur,” said the musketeer; “you see you are keeping us waiting.”

“Listen, then:—My father loved a lady of noble birth, and this lady loved my father.” D’Artagnan and Athos exchanged looks. De Wardes continued: “M. d’Artagnan found some letters which indicated a rendezvous, substituted himself, under disguise, for the person who was expected, and took advantage of the darkness.”

“That is perfectly true,” said D’Artagnan.

A slight murmur was heard from those present. “Yes, I was guilty of that dishonorable action. You should have added, monsieur, since you are so impartial, that, at the period when the circumstance which you have just related happened, I was not one-and-twenty years of age.”

A renewed murmur was heard, but this time of astonishment, and almost of doubt.

“It was a most shameful deception, I admit,” said D’Artagnan, “and I have not waited for M. de Wardes’s reproaches to reproach myself for it, and very bitterly, too. Age has, however, made me more reasonable, and, above all, more upright; and this injury has been atoned for by a long and lasting regret. But I appeal to you, gentlemen; this affair took place in 1626, at a period, happily for yourselves, known to you by tradition only, at a period when love was not over-scrupulous, when consciences did not distill, as in the present day, poison and bitterness. We were young soldiers, always fighting, or being attacked, our swords always in our hands, or at least ready to be drawn from their sheaths. Death then always stared us in the face, war hardened us, and the cardinal pressed us sorely. I have repented of it, and more than that—I still repent it, M. de Wardes.”

“I can well understand that, monsieur, for the action itself needed repentance; but you were not the less the cause of that lady’s disgrace. She, of whom you have been speaking, covered with shame, borne down by the affront you brought upon her, fled, quitted France, and no one ever knew what became of her.”

“Stay,” said the Comte de la Fere, stretching his hand towards De Wardes, with a peculiar smile upon his face, “you are mistaken; she was seen; and there are persons even now present, who, having often heard her spoken of, will easily recognize her by the description I am about to give. She was about five-and-twenty years of age, slender in form, of a pale complexion, and fair-haired; she was married in England.”

“Married?” exclaimed De Wardes.

“So, you were not aware she was married? You see we are far better informed than yourself. Do you happen to know she was usually styled ‘My Lady,’ without the addition of any name to that description?”

“Yes, I know that.”

“Good Heavens!” murmured Buckingham.

“Very well, monsieur. That woman, who came from England, returned to England after having thrice attempted M. d’Artagnan’s life. That was but just, you will say, since M. d’Artagnan had insulted her. But that which was not just was, that, when in England, this woman, by her seductions, completely enslaved a young man in the service of Lord de Winter, by name Felton. You change color, my lord,” said Athos, turning to the Duke of Buckingham, “and your eyes kindle with anger and sorrow. Let your Grace finish the recital, then, and tell M. de Wardes who this woman was who placed the knife in the hand of your father’s murderer.”

A cry escaped from the lips of all present. The young duke passed his handkerchief across his forehead, which was covered with perspiration. A dead silence ensued among the spectators.

“You see, M. de Wardes,” said D’Artagnan, whom this recital had impressed more and more, as his own recollection revived as Athos spoke, “you see that my crime did not cause the destruction of any one’s soul, and that the soul in question may fairly be considered to have been altogether lost before my regret. It is, however, an act of conscience on my part. Now this matter is settled, therefore, it remains for me to ask, with the greatest humility, your forgiveness for this shameless action, as most certainly I should have asked it of your father, if he were still alive, and if I had met him after my return to France, subsequent to the death of King Charles I.”

“That is too much, M. d’Artagnan,” exclaimed many voices, with animation.

“No, gentlemen,” said the captain. “And now, M. de Wardes, I hope all is finished between us, and that you will have no further occasion to speak ill of me again. Do you consider it completely settled?”

De Wardes bowed, and muttered to himself inarticulately.

“I trust also,” said D’Artagnan, approaching the young man closely, “that you will no longer speak ill of any one, as it seems you have the unfortunate habit of doing; for a man so puritanically conscientious as you are, who can reproach an old soldier for a youthful freak five-and-thirty years after it happened, will allow me to ask whether you, who advocate such excessive purity of conscience, will undertake on your side to do nothing contrary either to conscience or the principle of honor. And now, listen attentively to what I am going to say, M. de Wardes, in conclusion. Take care that no tale, with which your name may be associated, reaches my ear.”

“Monsieur,” said De Wardes, “it is useless threatening to no purpose.”

“I have not yet finished, M. de Wardes, and you must listen to me still further.” The circle of listeners, full of eager curiosity, drew closer. “You spoke just now of the honor of a woman, and of the honor of your father. We were glad to hear you speak in that manner; for it is pleasing to think that such a sentiment of delicacy and rectitude, and which did not exist, it seems, in our minds, lives in our children; and it is delightful, too, to see a young man, at an age when men from habit become the destroyers of the honor of women, respect and defend it.”

De Wardes bit his lip and clenched his hands, evidently much disturbed to learn how this discourse, the commencement of which was announced in so threatening a manner, would terminate.

“How did it happen, then, that you allowed yourself to say to M. de Bragelonne that he did not know who his mother was?”

Raoul’s eyes flashed, as, darting forward, he exclaimed,—“Chevalier, this is a personal affair of my own!” At which exclamation, a smile, full of malice, passed across De Wardes’s face.

D’Artagnan put Raoul aside, saying,—“Do not interrupt me, young man.” And looking at De Wardes in an authoritative manner, he continued:—“I am now dealing with a matter which cannot be settled by means of the sword. I discuss it before men of honor, all of whom have more than once had their swords in their hands in affairs of honor. I selected them expressly. These gentlemen well know that every secret for which men fight ceases to be a secret. I again put my question to M. de Wardes. What was the subject of conversation when you offended this young man, in offending his father and mother at the same time?”

“It seems to me,” returned De Wardes, “that liberty of speech is allowed, when it is supported by every means which a man of courage has at his disposal.”

“Tell me what the means are by which a man of courage can sustain a slanderous expression.”

“The sword.”

“You fail, not only in logic, in your argument, but in religion and honor. You expose the lives of many others, without referring to your own, which seems to be full of hazard. Besides, fashions pass away, monsieur, and the fashion of duelling has passed away, without referring in any way to the edicts of his majesty which forbid it. Therefore, in order to be consistent with your own chivalrous notions, you will at once apologize to M. de Bragelonne; you will tell him how much you regret having spoken so lightly, and that the nobility and purity of his race are inscribed, not in his heart alone, but still more in every action of his life. You will do and say this, M. de Wardes, as I, an old officer, did and said just now to your boy’s moustache.”

“And if I refuse?” inquired De Wardes.

“In that case the result will be—”

“That which you think you will prevent,” said De Wardes, laughing; “the result will be that your conciliatory address will end in a violation of the king’s prohibition.”

“Not so,” said the captain, “you are quite mistaken.”

“What will be the result, then?”

“The result will be that I shall go to the king, with whom I am on tolerably good terms, to whom I have been happy enough to render certain services, dating from a period when you were not born, and who, at my request, has just sent me an order in blank for M. Baisemeaux de Montlezun, governor of the Bastile; and I shall say to the king: ‘Sire, a man has in a most cowardly way insulted M. de Bragelonne by insulting his mother; I have written this man’s name upon the lettre de cachet which your majesty has been kind enough to give me, so that M. de Wardes is in the Bastile for three years.” And D’Artagnan, drawing the order signed by the king from his pocket, held it towards De Wardes.

Remarking that the young man was not quite convinced, and received the warning as an idle threat, he shrugged his shoulders and walked leisurely towards the table, upon which lay a writing-case and a pen, the length of which would have terrified the topographical Porthos. De Wardes then saw that nothing could well be more seriously intended than the threat in question, for the Bastile, even at that period, was already held in dread. He advanced a step towards Raoul, and, in an almost unintelligible voice, said,—“I offer my apologies in the terms which M. d’Artagnan just now dictated, and which I am forced to make to you.”

“One moment, monsieur,” said the musketeer, with the greatest tranquillity, “you mistake the terms of the apology. I did not say, ‘and which I am forced to make’; I said, ‘and which my conscience induces me to make.’ This latter expression, believe me, is better than the former; and it will be far preferable, since it will be the most truthful expression of your own sentiments.”

“I subscribe to it,” said De Wardes; “but submit, gentlemen, that a thrust of the sword through the body, as was the custom formerly, was far better than tyranny like this.”

“No, monsieur,” replied Buckingham; “for the sword-thrust, when received, was no indication that a particular person was right or wrong; it only showed that he was more or less skillful in the use of the weapon.”

“Monsieur!” exclaimed De Wardes.

“There, now,” interrupted D’Artagnan, “you are going to say something very rude, and I am rendering a service by stopping you in time.”

“Is that all, monsieur?” inquired De Wardes.

“Absolutely everything,” replied D’Artagnan; “and these gentlemen, as well as myself, are quite satisfied with you.”

“Believe me, monsieur, that your reconciliations are not successful.”

“In what way?”

“Because, as we are now about to separate, I would wager that M. de Bragelonne and myself are greater enemies than ever.”

“You are deceived, monsieur, as far as I am concerned,” returned Raoul; “for I do not retain the slightest animosity in my heart against you.”

This last blow overwhelmed De Wardes. He cast his eyes around him like a man bewildered. D’Artagnan saluted most courteously the gentlemen who had been present at the explanation; and every one, on leaving the room, shook hands with him; but not one hand was held out towards De Wardes. “Oh!” exclaimed the young man, “can I not find some one on whom to wreak my vengeance?”

“You can, monsieur, for I am here,” whispered a voice full of menace in his ear.

De Wardes turned round, and saw the Duke of Buckingham, who, having probably remained behind with that intention, had just approached him. “You, monsieur?” exclaimed De Wardes.

“Yes, I! I am no subject of the king of France; I am not going to remain on the territory, since I am about setting off for England. I have accumulated in my heart such a mass of despair and rage, that I, too, like yourself, need to revenge myself upon some one. I approve M. d’Artagnan’s principles profoundly, but I am not bound to apply them to you. I am an Englishman, and, in my turn, I propose to you what you proposed to others to no purpose. Since you, therefore, are so terribly incensed, take me as a remedy. In thirty-four hours’ time I shall be at Calais. Come with me; the journey will appear shorter if together, than if alone. We will fight, when we get there, upon the sands which are covered by the rising tide, and which form part of the French territory during six hours of the day, but belong to the territory of Heaven during the other six.”

“I accept willingly,” said De Wardes.

“I assure you,” said the duke, “that if you kill me, you will be rendering me an infinite service.”

“I will do my utmost to make myself agreeable to you, duke,” said De Wardes.

“It is agreed, then, that I carry you off with me?”

“I shall be at your commands. I needed some real danger and some mortal risk to run, to tranquilize me.”

“In that case, I think you have met with what you are looking for. Farewell, M. de Wardes; to-morrow morning, my valet will tell you the exact hour of our departure; we can travel together like two excellent friends. I generally travel as fast as I can. Adieu.”

Buckingham saluted De Wardes, and returned towards the king’s apartments; De Wardes, irritated beyond measure, left the Palais Royal, and hurried through the streets homeward to the house where he lodged.






Chapter XXI. Baisemeaux de Montlezun.


After the austere lesson administered to De Wardes, Athos and D’Artagnan together descended the staircase which led to the courtyard of the Palais Royal. “You perceive,” said Athos to D’Artagnan, “that Raoul cannot, sooner or later, avoid a duel with De Wardes, for De Wardes is as brave as he is vicious and wicked.”

“I know such fellows well,” replied D’Artagnan; “I had an affair with the father. I assure you that, although at that time I had good muscles and a sort of brute courage—I assure you that the father did me some mischief. But you should have seen how I fought it out with him. Ah, Athos, such encounters never take place in these times! I had a hand which could never remain at rest, a hand like quicksilver,—you knew its quality, for you have seen me at work. My sword was no longer than a piece of steel; it was a serpent that assumed every form and every length, seeking where it might thrust its head; in other words, where it might fix its bite. I advanced half a dozen paces, then three, and then, body to body, I pressed my antagonist closely, then I darted back again ten paces. No human power could resist that ferocious ardor. Well, De Wardes the father, with the bravery of his race, with his dogged courage, occupied a good deal of my time; and my fingers, at the end of the engagement, were, I well remember, tired enough.”

“It is, then, as I said,” resumed Athos, “the son will always be looking out for Raoul, and will end by meeting him; and Raoul can easily be found when he is sought for.”

“Agreed; but Raoul calculates well; he bears no grudge against De Wardes,—he has said so; he will wait until he is provoked, and in that case his position is a good one. The king will not be able to get out of temper about the matter; besides we shall know how to pacify his majesty. But why so full of these fears and anxieties? You don’t easily get alarmed.”

“I will tell you what makes me anxious; Raoul is to see the king to-morrow, when his majesty will inform him of his wishes respecting a certain marriage. Raoul, loving as he does, will get out of temper, and once in an angry mood, if he were to meet De Wardes, the shell would explode.”

“We will prevent the explosion.”

“Not I,” said Athos, “for I must return to Blois. All this gilded elegance of the court, all these intrigues, sicken me. I am no longer a young man who can make terms with the meanness of the day. I have read in the Great Book many things too beautiful and too comprehensive to longer take any interest in the trifling phrases which these men whisper among themselves when they wish to deceive others. In one word, I am weary of Paris wherever and whenever you are not with me; and as I cannot have you with me always, I wish to return to Blois.”

“How wrong you are, Athos; how you gainsay your origin and the destiny of your noble nature. Men of your stamp are created to continue, to the very last moment, in full possession of their great faculties. Look at my sword, a Spanish blade, the one I wore at La Rochelle; it served me for thirty years without fail; one day in the winter it fell upon the marble floor on the Louvre and was broken. I had a hunting-knife made of it which will last a hundred years yet. You, Athos, with your loyalty, your frankness, your cool courage, and your sound information, are the very man kings need to warn and direct them. Remain here; Monsieur Fouquet will not last as long as my Spanish blade.”

“Is it possible,” said Athos, smiling, “that my friend, D’Artagnan, who, after having raised me to the skies, making me an object of worship, casts me down from the top of Olympus, and hurls me to the ground? I have more exalted ambition, D’Artagnan. To be a minister—to be a slave,—never! Am I not still greater? I am nothing. I remember having heard you occasionally call me ‘the great Athos’; I defy you, therefore, if I were minister, to continue to bestow that title upon me. No, no; I do not yield myself in this manner.”

“We will not speak of it any more, then; renounce everything, even the brotherly feeling which unites us.”

“It is almost cruel what you say.”

D’Artagnan pressed Athos’s hand warmly. “No, no; renounce everything without fear. Raoul can get on without you. I am at Paris.”

“In that case I shall return to Blois. We will take leave of each other to-night; to-morrow at daybreak I shall be on my horse again.”

“You cannot return to your hotel alone; why did you not bring Grimaud with you?”

“Grimaud takes his rest now; he goes to bed early, for my poor old servant gets easily fatigued. He came from Blois with me, and I compelled him to remain within doors; for if, in retracing the forty leagues which separate us from Blois, he needed to draw breath even, he would die without a murmur. But I don’t want to lose Grimaud.”

“You shall have one of my musketeers to carry a torch for you. Hola! some one there,” called out D’Artagnan, leaning over the gilded balustrade. The heads of seven or eight musketeers appeared. “I wish some gentleman, who is so disposed, to escort the Comte de la Fere,” cried D’Artagnan.

“Thank you for your readiness, gentlemen,” said Athos; “I regret to have occasion to trouble you in this manner.”

“I would willingly escort the Comte de la Fere,” said some one, “if I had not to speak to Monsieur d’Artagnan.”

“Who is that?” said D’Artagnan, looking into the darkness.

“I, Monsieur d’Artagnan.”

“Heaven forgive me, if that is not Monsieur Baisemeaux’s voice.”

“It is, monsieur.”

“What are you doing in the courtyard, my dear Baisemeaux?”

“I am waiting your orders, my dear Monsieur d’Artagnan.”

“Wretch that I am,” thought D’Artagnan; “true, you have been told, I suppose, that some one was to be arrested, and have come yourself, instead of sending an officer?”

“I came because I had occasion to speak to you.”

“You did not send to me?”

“I waited until you were disengaged,” said Monsieur Baisemeaux, timidly.

“I leave you, D’Artagnan,” said Athos.

“Not before I have present Monsieur Baisemeaux de Montlezun, the governor of the Bastile.”

Baisemeaux and Athos saluted each other.

“Surely you must know each other,” said D’Artagnan.

“I have an indistinct recollection of Monsieur Baisemeaux,” said Athos.

“You remember, my dear, Baisemeaux, the king’s guardsman with whom we used formerly to have such delightful meetings in the cardinal’s time?”

“Perfectly,” said Athos, taking leave of him with affability.

“Monsieur le Comte de la Fere, whose nom de guerre was Athos,” whispered D’Artagnan to Baisemeaux.

“Yes, yes, a brave man, one of the celebrated four.”

“Precisely so. But, my dear Baisemeaux, shall we talk now?”

“If you please.”

“In the first place, as for the orders—there are none. The king does not intend to arrest the person in question.

“So much the worse,” said Baisemeaux with a sigh.

“What do you mean by so much the worse?” exclaimed D’Artagnan, laughing.

“No doubt of it,” returned the governor, “my prisoners are my income.”

“I beg your pardon, I did not see it in that light.”

“And so there are no orders,” repeated Baisemeaux with a sigh. “What an admirable situation yours is, captain,” he continued, after a pause; “captain-lieutenant of the musketeers.”

“Oh, it is good enough; but I don’t see why you should envy me; you, governor of the Bastile, the first castle in France.”

“I am well aware of that,” said Baisemeaux, in a sorrowful tone of voice.

“You say that like a man confessing his sins. I would willingly exchange my profits for yours.”

“Don’t speak of profits to me, if you wish to save me the bitterest anguish of mind.”

“Why do you look first on one side and then on the other, as if you were afraid of being arrested yourself, you whose business it is to arrest others?”

“I was looking to see whether any one could see or listen to us; it would be safer to confer more in private, if you would grant me such a favor.”

“Baisemeaux, you seem to forget we are acquaintances of five and thirty years’ standing. Don’t assume such sanctified airs; make yourself quite comfortable; I don’t eat governors of the Bastile raw.”

“Heaven be praised!”

“Come into the courtyard with me; it’s a beautiful moonlit night; we will walk up and down, arm in arm, under the trees, while you tell me your pitiful tale.” He drew the doleful governor into the courtyard, took him by the arm as he had said, and, in his rough, good-humored way, cried: “Out with it, rattle away, Baisemeaux; what have you got to say?”

“It’s a long story.”

“You prefer your own lamentations, then; my opinion is, it will be longer than ever. I’ll wager you are making fifty thousand francs out of your pigeons in the Bastile.”

“Would to heaven that were the case, M. d’Artagnan.”

“You surprise me, Baisemeaux; just look at you, acting the anchorite. I should like to show you your face in a glass, and you would see how plump and florid-looking you are, as fat and round as a cheese, with eyes like lighted coals; and if it were not for that ugly wrinkle you try to cultivate on your forehead, you would hardly look fifty years old, and you are sixty, if I am not mistaken.”

“All quite true.”

“Of course I knew it was true, as true as the fifty thousand francs profit you make;” at which remark Baisemeaux stamped on the ground.

“Well, well,” said D’Artagnan, “I will add up your accounts for you: you were captain of M. Mazarin’s guards; and twelve thousand francs a year would in twelve years amount to one hundred and forty thousand francs.”

“Twelve thousand francs! Are you mad?” cried Baisemeaux; “the old miser gave me no more than six thousand, and the expenses of the post amounted to six thousand five hundred francs. M. Colbert, who deducted the other six thousand francs, condescended to allow me to take fifty thousand francs as a gratification; so that, if it were not for my little estate at Montlezun, which brings me in twelve thousand francs a year, I could not have met my engagements.”

“Well, then, how about the fifty thousand francs from the Bastile? There, I trust, you are boarded and lodged, and get your six thousand francs salary besides.”

“Admitted!”

“Whether the year be good or bad, there are fifty prisoners, who, on the average, bring you in a thousand francs a year each.”

“I don’t deny it.”

“Well, there is at once an income of fifty thousand francs; you have held the post three years, and must have received in that time one hundred and fifty thousand francs.”

“You forget one circumstance, dear M. d’Artagnan.”

“What is that?”

“That while you received your appointment as captain from the king himself, I received mine as governor from Messieurs Tremblay and Louviere.”

“Quite right, and Tremblay was not a man to let you have the post for nothing.”

“Nor Louviere either: the result was, that I gave seventy-five thousand francs to Tremblay as his share.”

“Very agreeable that! and to Louviere?”

“The very same.”

“Money down?”

“No: that would have been impossible. The king did not wish, or rather M. Mazarin did not wish, to have the appearance of removing those two gentlemen, who had sprung from the barricades; he permitted them, therefore, to make certain extravagant conditions for their retirement.”

“What were those conditions?”

“Tremble... three years’ income for the good-will.”

“The deuce! so that the one hundred and fifty thousand francs have passed into their hands.”

“Precisely so.”

“And beyond that?”

“A sum of one hundred and fifty thousand francs, or fifteen thousand pistoles, whichever you please, in three payments.”

“Exorbitant.”

“Yes, but that is not all.”

“What besides?”

“In default of the fulfillment by me of any one of those conditions, those gentlemen enter upon their functions again. The king has been induced to sign that.”

“It is monstrous, incredible!”

“Such is the fact, however.”

“I do indeed pity you, Baisemeaux. But why, in the name of fortune, did M. Mazarin grant you this pretended favor? It would have been far better to have refused you altogether.”

“Certainly, but he was strongly persuaded to do so by my protector.”

“Who is he?”

“One of your own friends, indeed; M. d’Herblay.”

“M. d’Herblay! Aramis!”

“Just so; he has been very kind towards me.”

“Kind! to make you enter into such a bargain!”

“Listen! I wished to leave the cardinal’s service. M. d’Herblay spoke on my behalf to Louviere and Tremblay—they objected; I wished to have the appointment very much, for I knew what it could be made to produce; in my distress I confided in M. d’Herblay, and he offered to become my surety for the different payments.”

“You astound me! Aramis became your surety?”

“Like a man of honor; he procured the signature; Tremblay and Louviere resigned their appointments; I have paid every year twenty-five thousand francs to these two gentlemen; on the thirty-first of May, every year, M. d’Herblay himself comes to the Bastile, and brings me five thousand pistoles to distribute between my crocodiles.”

“You owe Aramis one hundred and fifty thousand francs, then?”

“That is the very thing which is the cause of my despair, for I only owe him one hundred thousand.”

“I don’t quite understand you.”

“He came and settled with the vampires only two years. To-day, however, is the thirty-first of May, and he has not been yet, and to-morrow, at midday, the payment falls due; if, therefore, I don’t pay to-morrow, those gentlemen can, by the terms of the contract, break off the bargain; I shall be stripped of everything; I shall have worked for three years, and given two hundred and fifty thousand francs for nothing, absolutely for nothing at all, dear M. d’Artagnan.”

“This is very strange,” murmured D’Artagnan.

“You can now imagine that I may well have wrinkles on my forehead, can you not?”

“Yes, indeed!”

“And you can imagine, too, that notwithstanding I may be as round as a cheese, with a complexion like an apple, and my eyes like coals on fire, I may almost be afraid that I shall not have a cheese or an apple left me to eat, and that my eyes will be left me only to weep with.”

“It is really a very grievous affair.”

“I have come to you, M. d’Artagnan, for you are the only man who can get me out of my trouble.”

“In what way?”

“You are acquainted with the Abbe d’Herblay, and you know that he is a somewhat mysterious gentleman.”

“Yes.”

“Well, you can, perhaps, give me the address of his presbytery, for I have been to Noisy-le-Sec, and he is no longer there.”

“I should think not, indeed. He is Bishop of Vannes.”

“What! Vannes in Bretagne?”

“Yes.”

The little man began to tear his hair, saying, “How can I get to Vannes from here by midday to-morrow? I am a lost man.”

“Your despair quite distresses me.”

“Vannes, Vannes!” cried Baisemeaux.

“But listen; a bishop is not always a resident. M. d’Herblay may not possibly be so far away as you fear.”

“Pray tell me his address.”

“I really don’t know it.”

“In that case I am lost. I will go and throw myself at the king’s feet.”

“But, Baisemeaux, I can hardly believe what you tell me; besides, since the Bastile is capable of producing fifty thousand francs a year, why have you not tried to screw one hundred thousand out of it?”

“Because I am an honest man, M. d’Artagnan, and because my prisoners are fed like ambassadors.”

“Well, you’re in a fair way to get out of your difficulties; give yourself a good attack of indigestion with your excellent living, and put yourself out of the way between this and midday to-morrow.”

“How can you be hard-hearted enough to laugh?”

“Nay, you really afflict me. Come, Baisemeaux, if you can pledge me your word of honor, do so, that you will not open your lips to any one about what I am going to say to you.”

“Never, never!”

“You wish to put your hands on Aramis?”

“At any cost!”

“Well, go and see where M. Fouquet is.”

“Why, what connection can there be—”

“How stupid you are! Don’t you know that Vannes is in the diocese of Belle-Isle, or Belle-Isle in the diocese of Vannes? Belle-Isle belongs to M. Fouquet, and M. Fouquet nominated M. d’Herblay to that bishopric!”

“I see, I see; you restore me to life again.”

“So much the better. Go and tell M. Fouquet very simply that you wish to speak to M. d’Herblay.”

“Of course, of course,” exclaimed Baisemeaux, delightedly.

“But,” said D’Artagnan, checking him by a severe look, “your word of honor?”

“I give you my sacred word of honor,” replied the little man, about to set off running.

“Where are you going?”

“To M. Fouquet’s house.”

“It is useless doing that; M. Fouquet is playing at cards with the king. All you can do is to pay M. Fouquet a visit early to-morrow morning.”

“I will do so. Thank you.”

“Good luck attend you,” said D’Artagnan.

“Thank you.”

“This is a strange affair,” murmured D’Artagnan, as he slowly ascended the staircase after he had left Baisemeaux. “What possible interest can Aramis have in obliging Baisemeaux in this manner? Well, I suppose we shall learn some day or another.”