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The Man in the Iron Mask

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Chapter XXVIII. Preparations for Departure.


Athos lost no more time in combating this immutable resolution. He gave all his attention to preparing, during the two days the duke had granted him, the proper appointments for Raoul. This labor chiefly concerned Grimaud, who immediately applied himself to it with the good-will and intelligence we know he possessed. Athos gave this worthy servant orders to take the route to Paris when the equipments should be ready; and, not to expose himself to the danger of keeping the duke waiting, or delaying Raoul, so that the duke should perceive his absence, he himself, the day after the visit of M. de Beaufort, set off for Paris with his son.

For the poor young man it was an emotion easily to be understood, thus to return to Paris amongst all the people who had known and loved him. Every face recalled a pang to him who had suffered so much; to him who had loved so much, some circumstance of his unhappy love. Raoul, on approaching Paris, felt as if he were dying. Once in Paris, he really existed no longer. When he reached Guiche’s residence, he was informed that Guiche was with Monsieur. Raoul took the road to the Luxembourg, and when arrived, without suspecting that he was going to the place where La Valliere had lived, he heard so much music and respired so many perfumes, he heard so much joyous laughter, and saw so many dancing shadows, that if it had not been for a charitable woman, who perceived him so dejected and pale beneath a doorway, he would have remained there a few minutes, and then would have gone away, never to return. But, as we have said, in the first ante-chamber he had stopped, solely for the sake of not mixing himself with all those happy beings he felt were moving around him in the adjacent salons. And as one of Monsieur’s servants, recognizing him, had asked him if he wished to see Monsieur or Madame, Raoul had scarcely answered him, but had sunk down upon a bench near the velvet doorway, looking at a clock, which had stopped for nearly an hour. The servant had passed on, and another, better acquainted with him, had come up, and interrogated Raoul whether he should inform M. de Guiche of his being there. This name did not even arouse the recollections of Raoul. The persistent servant went on to relate that De Guiche had just invented a new game of lottery, and was teaching it to the ladies. Raoul, opening his large eyes, like the absent man in Theophrastus, made no answer, but his sadness increased two shades. With his head hanging down, his limbs relaxed, his mouth half open for the escape of his sighs, Raoul remained, thus forgotten, in the ante-chamber, when all at once a lady’s robe passed, rubbing against the doors of a side salon, which opened on the gallery. A lady, young, pretty, and gay, scolding an officer of the household, entered by that way, and expressed herself with much vivacity. The officer replied in calm but firm sentences; it was rather a little love pet than a quarrel of courtiers, and was terminated by a kiss on the fingers of the lady. Suddenly, on perceiving Raoul, the lady became silent, and pushing away the officer:

“Make your escape, Malicorne,” said she; “I did not think there was any one here. I shall curse you, if they have either heard or seen us!”

Malicorne hastened away. The young lady advanced behind Raoul, and stretching her joyous face over him as he lay:

“Monsieur is a gallant man,” said she, “and no doubt—”

She here interrupted herself by uttering a cry. “Raoul!” said she, blushing.

“Mademoiselle de Montalais!” said Raoul, paler than death.

He rose unsteadily, and tried to make his way across the slippery mosaic of the floor; but she had comprehended that savage and cruel grief; she felt that in the flight of Raoul there was an accusation of herself. A woman, ever vigilant, she did not think she ought to let the opportunity slip of making good her justification; but Raoul, though stopped by her in the middle of the gallery, did not seem disposed to surrender without a combat. He took it up in a tone so cold and embarrassed, that if they had been thus surprised, the whole court would have no doubt about the proceedings of Mademoiselle de Montalais.

“Ah! monsieur,” said she with disdain, “what you are doing is very unworthy of a gentleman. My heart inclines me to speak to you; you compromise me by a reception almost uncivil; you are wrong, monsieur; and you confound your friends with enemies. Farewell!”

Raoul had sworn never to speak of Louise, never even to look at those who might have seen Louise; he was going into another world, that he might never meet with anything Louise had seen, or even touched. But after the first shock of his pride, after having had a glimpse of Montalais, the companion of Louise—Montalais, who reminded him of the turret of Blois and the joys of youth—all his reason faded away.

“Pardon me, mademoiselle; it enters not, it cannot enter into my thoughts to be uncivil.”

“Do you wish to speak to me?” said she, with the smile of former days. “Well! come somewhere else; for we may be surprised.”

“Oh!” said he.

She looked at the clock, doubtingly, then, having reflected:

“In my apartment,” said she, “we shall have an hour to ourselves.” And taking her course, lighter than a fairy, she ran up to her chamber, followed by Raoul. Shutting the door, and placing in the hands of her cameriste the mantle she had held upon her arm:

“You were seeking M. de Guiche, were you not?” said she to Raoul.

“Yes, mademoiselle.”

“I will go and ask him to come up here, presently, after I have spoken to you.”

“Do so, mademoiselle.”

“Are you angry with me?”

Raoul looked at her for a moment, then, casting down his eyes, “Yes,” said he.

“You think I was concerned in the plot which brought about the rupture, do you not?”

“Rupture!” said he, with bitterness. “Oh! mademoiselle, there can be no rupture where there has been no love.”

“You are in error,” replied Montalais; “Louise did love you.”

Raoul started.

“Not with love, I know; but she liked you, and you ought to have married her before you set out for London.”

Raoul broke into a sinister laugh, which made Montalais shudder.

“You tell me that very much at your ease, mademoiselle. Do people marry whom they like? You forget that the king then kept for himself as his mistress her of whom we are speaking.”

“Listen,” said the young woman, pressing the hands of Raoul in her own, “you were wrong in every way; a man of your age ought never to leave a woman of hers alone.”

“There is no longer any faith in the world, then,” said Raoul.

“No, vicomte,” said Montalais, quietly. “Nevertheless, let me tell you that, if, instead of loving Louise coldly and philosophically, you had endeavored to awaken her to love—”

“Enough, I pray you, mademoiselle,” said Raoul. “I feel as though you are all, of both sexes, of a different age from me. You can laugh, and you can banter agreeably. I, mademoiselle, I loved Mademoiselle de—” Raoul could not pronounce her name,—“I loved her well! I put my faith in her—now I am quits by loving her no longer.”

“Oh, vicomte!” said Montalais, pointing to his reflection in a looking-glass.

“I know what you mean, mademoiselle; I am much altered, am I not? Well! Do you know why? Because my face is the mirror of my heart, the outer surface changed to match the mind within.”

“You are consoled, then?” said Montalais, sharply.

“No, I shall never be consoled.”

“I don’t understand you, M. de Bragelonne.”

“I care but little for that. I do not quite understand myself.”

“You have not even tried to speak to Louise?”

“Who! I?” exclaimed the young man, with eyes flashing fire; “I!—Why do you not advise me to marry her? Perhaps the king would consent now.” And he rose from his chair full of anger.

“I see,” said Montalais, “that you are not cured, and that Louise has one enemy the more.”

“One enemy the more!”

“Yes; favorites are but little beloved at the court of France.”

“Oh! while she has her lover to protect her, is not that enough? She has chosen him of such a quality that her enemies cannot prevail against her.” But, stopping all at once, “And then she has you for a friend, mademoiselle,” added he, with a shade of irony which did not glide off the cuirass.

“Who! I?—Oh, no! I am no longer one of those whom Mademoiselle de la Valliere condescends to look upon; but—”

This but, so big with menace and with storm; this but, which made the heart of Raoul beat, such griefs did it presage for her whom lately he loved so dearly; this terrible but, so significant in a woman like Montalais, was interrupted by a moderately loud noise heard by the speakers proceeding from the alcove behind the wainscoting. Montalais turned to listen, and Raoul was already rising, when a lady entered the room quietly by the secret door, which she closed after her.

“Madame!” exclaimed Raoul, on recognizing the sister-in-law of the king.

“Stupid wretch!” murmured Montalais, throwing herself, but too late, before the princess, “I have been mistaken in an hour!” She had, however, time to warn the princess, who was walking towards Raoul.

“M. de Bragelonne, Madame,” and at these words the princess drew back, uttering a cry in her turn.

“Your royal highness,” said Montalais, with volubility, “is kind enough to think of this lottery, and—”

The princess began to lose countenance. Raoul hastened his departure, without divining all, but he felt that he was in the way. Madame was preparing a word of transition to recover herself, when a closet opened in front of the alcove, and M. de Guiche issued, all radiant, also from that closet. The palest of the four, we must admit, was still Raoul. The princess, however, was near fainting, and was obliged to lean upon the foot of the bed for support. No one ventured to support her. This scene occupied several minutes of terrible suspense. But Raoul broke it. He went up to the count, whose inexpressible emotion made his knees tremble, and taking his hand, “Dear count,” said he, “tell Madame I am too unhappy not to merit pardon; tell her also that I have loved in the course of my life, and that the horror of the treachery that has been practiced on me renders me inexorable towards all other treachery that may be committed around me. This is why, mademoiselle,” said he, smiling to Montalais, “I never would divulge the secret of the visits of my friend to your apartment. Obtain from Madame—from Madame, who is so clement and so generous,—obtain her pardon for you whom she has just surprised also. You are both free, love each other, be happy!”

The princess felt for a moment a despair that cannot be described; it was repugnant to her, notwithstanding the exquisite delicacy which Raoul had exhibited, to feel herself at the mercy of one who had discovered such an indiscretion. It was equally repugnant to her to accept the evasion offered by this delicate deception. Agitated, nervous, she struggled against the double stings of these two troubles. Raoul comprehended her position, and came once more to her aid. Bending his knee before her: “Madame!” said he, in a low voice, “in two days I shall be far from Paris; in a fortnight I shall be far from France, where I shall never be seen again.”

“Are you going away, then?” said she, with great delight.

“With M. de Beaufort.”

“Into Africa!” cried De Guiche, in his turn. “You, Raoul—oh! my friend—into Africa, where everybody dies!”

And forgetting everything, forgetting that that forgetfulness itself compromised the princess more eloquently than his presence, “Ingrate!” said he, “and you have not even consulted me!” And he embraced him; during which time Montalais had led away Madame, and disappeared herself.

Raoul passed his hand over his brow, and said, with a smile, “I have been dreaming!” Then warmly to Guiche, who by degrees absorbed him, “My friend,” said he, “I conceal nothing from you, who are the elected of my heart. I am going to seek death in yonder country; your secret will not remain in my breast more than a year.”

“Oh, Raoul! a man!”

“Do you know what is my thought, count? This is it—I shall live more vividly, being buried beneath the earth, than I have lived for this month past. We are Christians, my friend, and if such sufferings were to continue, I would not be answerable for the safety of my soul.”

De Guiche was anxious to raise objections.

“Not one word more on my account,” said Raoul; “but advice to you, dear friend; what I am going to say to you is of much greater importance.”

“What is that?”

“Without doubt you risk much more than I do, because you love.”

“Oh!”

“It is a joy so sweet to me to be able to speak to you thus! Well, then, De Guiche, beware of Montalais.”

“What! of that kind friend?”

“She was the friend of—her you know of. She ruined her by pride.”

“You are mistaken.”

“And now, when she has ruined her, she would ravish from her the only thing that renders that woman excusable in my eyes.”

“What is that?”

“Her love.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I mean that there is a plot formed against her who is the mistress of the king—a plot formed in the very house of Madame.”

“Can you think so?”

“I am certain of it.”

“By Montalais?”

“Take her as the least dangerous of the enemies I dread for—the other!”

“Explain yourself clearly, my friend; and if I can understand you—”

“In two words. Madame has been long jealous of the king.”

“I know she has—”

“Oh! fear nothing—you are beloved—you are beloved, count; do you feel the value of these three words? They signify that you can raise your head, that you can sleep tranquilly, that you can thank God every minute of you life. You are beloved; that signifies that you may hear everything, even the counsel of a friend who wishes to preserve your happiness. You are beloved, De Guiche, you are beloved! You do not endure those atrocious nights, those nights without end, which, with arid eye and fainting heart, others pass through who are destined to die. You will live long, if you act like the miser who, bit by bit, crumb by crumb, collects and heaps up diamonds and gold. You are beloved!—allow me to tell you what you must do that you may be beloved forever.”

De Guiche contemplated for some time this unfortunate young man, half mad with despair, till there passed through his heart something like remorse at his own happiness. Raoul suppressed his feverish excitement, to assume the voice and countenance of an impassible man.

“They will make her, whose name I should wish still to be able to pronounce—they will make her suffer. Swear to me that you will not second them in anything—but that you will defend her when possible, as I would have done myself.”

“I swear I will,” replied De Guiche.

“And,” continued Raoul, “some day, when you shall have rendered her a great service—some day when she shall thank you, promise me to say these words to her—‘I have done you this kindness, madame, at the warm request of M. de Bragelonne, whom you so deeply injured.’”

“I swear I will,” murmured De Guiche.

“That is all. Adieu! I set out to-morrow, or the day after, for Toulon. If you have a few hours to spare, give them to me.”

“All! all!” cried the young man.

“Thank you!”

“And what are you going to do now?”

“I am going to meet M. le comte at Planchet’s residence, where we hope to find M. d’Artagnan.”

“M. d’Artagnan?”

“Yes, I wish to embrace him before my departure. He is a brave man, who loves me dearly. Farewell, my friend; you are expected, no doubt; you will find me, when you wish, at the lodgings of the comte. Farewell!”

The two young men embraced. Those who chanced to see them both thus, would not have hesitated to say, pointing to Raoul, “That is the happy man!”






Chapter XXIX. Planchet’s Inventory.


Athos, during the visit made to the Luxembourg by Raoul, had gone to Planchet’s residence to inquire after D’Artagnan. The comte, on arriving at the Rue des Lombards, found the shop of the grocer in great confusion; but it was not the encumberment of a lucky sale, or that of an arrival of goods. Planchet was not enthroned, as usual, on sacks and barrels. No. A young man with a pen behind his ear, and another with an account-book in his hand, were setting down a number of figures, whilst a third counted and weighed. An inventory was being taken. Athos, who had no knowledge of commercial matters, felt himself a little embarrassed by material obstacles and the majesty of those who were thus employed. He saw several customers sent away, and asked himself whether he, who came to buy nothing, would not be more properly deemed importunate. He therefore asked very politely if he could see M. Planchet. The reply, quite carelessly given, was that M. Planchet was packing his trunks. These words surprised Athos. “What! his trunks?” said he; “is M. Planchet going away?”

“Yes, monsieur, directly.”

“Then, if you please, inform him that M. le Comte de la Fere desires to speak to him for a moment.”

At the mention of the comte’s name, one of the young men, no doubt accustomed to hear it pronounced with respect, immediately went to inform Planchet. It was at this moment that Raoul, after his painful scene with Montalais and De Guiche, arrived at the grocer’s house. Planchet left his job directly he received the comte’s message.

“Ah! monsieur le comte!” exclaimed he, “how glad I am to see you! What good star brings you here?”

“My dear Planchet,” said Athos, pressing the hand of his son, whose sad look he silently observed,—“we are come to learn of you—But in what confusion do I find you! You are as white as a miller; where have you been rummaging?”

“Ah, diable! take care, monsieur; don’t come near me till I have well shaken myself.”

“What for? Flour or dust only whiten.”

“No, no; what you see on my arms is arsenic.”

“Arsenic?”

“Yes; I am taking my precautions against rats.”

“Ay, I suppose in an establishment like this, rats play a conspicuous part.”

“It is not with this establishment I concern myself, monsieur le comte. The rats have robbed me of more here than they will ever rob me of again.”

“What do you mean?”

“Why, you may have observed, monsieur, my inventory is being taken.”

“Are you leaving trade, then?”

“Eh! mon Dieu! yes. I have disposed of my business to one of my young men.”

“Bah! you are rich, then, I suppose?”

“Monsieur, I have taken a dislike to the city; I don’t know whether it is because I am growing old, and as M. d’Artagnan one day said, when we grow old we more often think of the adventures of our youth; but for some time past I have felt myself attracted towards the country and gardening. I was a countryman formerly.” And Planchet marked this confession with a rather pretentious laugh for a man making profession of humility.

Athos made a gesture of approval, and then added: “You are going to buy an estate, then?”

“I have bought one, monsieur.”

“Ah! that is still better.”

“A little house at Fontainebleau, with something like twenty acres of land round it.”

“Very well, Planchet! Accept my compliments on your acquisition.”

“But, monsieur, we are not comfortable here; the cursed dust makes you cough. Corbleu! I do not wish to poison the most worthy gentleman in the kingdom.”

Athos did not smile at this little pleasantry which Planchet had aimed at him, in order to try his strength in mundane facetiousness.

“Yes,” said Athos, “let us have a little talk by ourselves—in your own room, for example. You have a room, have you not?”

“Certainly, monsieur le comte.”

“Upstairs, perhaps?” And Athos, seeing Planchet a little embarrassed, wished to relieve him by going first.

“It is—but—” said Planchet, hesitating.

Athos was mistaken in the cause of this hesitation, and, attributing it to a fear the grocer might have of offering humble hospitality, “Never mind, never mind,” said he, still going up, “the dwelling of a tradesman in this quarter is not expected to be a palace. Come on.”

Raoul nimbly preceded him, and entered first. Two cries were heard simultaneously—we may say three. One of these cries dominated the others; it emanated from a woman. Another proceeded from the mouth of Raoul; it was an exclamation of surprise. He had no sooner uttered it than he shut the door sharply. The third was from fright; it came from Planchet.

“I ask your pardon!” added he; “madame is dressing.”

Raoul had, no doubt, seen that what Planchet said was true, for he turned round to go downstairs again.

“Madame—” said Athos. “Oh! pardon me, Planchet, I did not know that you had upstairs—”

“It is Truchen,” added Planchet, blushing a little.

“It is whoever you please, my good Planchet; but pardon my rudeness.”

“No, no; go up now, gentlemen.”

“We will do no such thing,” said Athos.

“Oh! madame, having notice, has had time—”

“No, Planchet; farewell!”

“Eh, gentlemen! you would not disoblige me by thus standing on the staircase, or by going away without having sat down.”

“If we had known you had a lady upstairs,” replied Athos, with his customary coolness, “we would have asked permission to pay our respects to her.”

Planchet was so disconcerted by this little extravagance, that he forced the passage, and himself opened the door to admit the comte and his son. Truchen was quite dressed: in the costume of the shopkeeper’s wife, rich yet coquettish; German eyes attacking French eyes. She left the apartment after two courtesies, and went down into the shop—but not without having listened at the door, to know what Planchet’s gentlemen visitors would say of her. Athos suspected that, and therefore turned the conversation accordingly. Planchet, on his part, was burning to give explanations, which Athos avoided. But, as certain tenacities are stronger than others, Athos was forced to hear Planchet recite his idyls of felicity, translated into a language more chaste than that of Longus. So Planchet related how Truchen had charmed the years of his advancing age, and brought good luck to his business, as Ruth did to Boaz.

“You want nothing now, then, but heirs to your property.”

“If I had one he would have three hundred thousand livres,” said Planchet.

“Humph! you must have one, then,” said Athos, phlegmatically, “if only to prevent your little fortune being lost.”

This word little fortune placed Planchet in his rank, like the voice of the sergeant when Planchet was but a piqueur in the regiment of Piedmont, in which Rochefort had placed him. Athos perceived that the grocer would marry Truchen, and, in spite of fate, establish a family. This appeared the more evident to him when he learned that the young man to whom Planchet was selling the business was her cousin. Having heard all that was necessary of the happy prospects of the retiring grocer, “What is M. d’Artagnan about?” said he; “he is not at the Louvre.”

“Ah! monsieur le comte, Monsieur d’Artagnan has disappeared.”

“Disappeared!” said Athos, in surprise.

“Oh! monsieur, we know what that means.”

“But I do not know.”

“Whenever M. d’Artagnan disappears it is always for some mission or some great affair.”

“Has he said anything to you about it?”

“Never.”

“You were acquainted with his departure for England formerly, were you not?”

“On account of the speculation.” said Planchet, heedlessly.

“The speculation!”

“I mean—” interrupted Planchet, quite confused.

“Well, well; neither your affairs nor those of your master are in question; the interest we take in him alone has induced me to apply to you. Since the captain of the musketeers is not here, and as we cannot learn from you where we are likely to find M. d’Artagnan, we will take our leave of you. Au revoir, Planchet, au revoir. Let us be gone, Raoul.”

“Monsieur le comte, I wish I were able to tell you—”

“Oh, not at all; I am not the man to reproach a servant with discretion.”

This word “servant” struck rudely on the ears of the demi-millionnaire Planchet, but natural respect and bonhomie prevailed over pride. “There is nothing indiscreet in telling you, monsieur le comte, M. d’Artagnan came here the other day—”

“Aha?”

“And remained several hours consulting a geographical chart.”

“You are right, then, my friend; say no more about it.”

“And the chart is there as a proof,” added Planchet, who went to fetch from the neighboring wall, where it was suspended by a twist, forming a triangle with the bar of the window to which it was fastened, the plan consulted by the captain on his last visit to Planchet. This plan, which he brought to the comte, was a map of France, upon which the practiced eye of that gentleman discovered an itinerary, marked out with small pins; wherever a pin was missing, a hole denoted its having been there. Athos, by following with his eye the pins and holes, saw that D’Artagnan had taken the direction of the south, and gone as far as the Mediterranean, towards Toulon. It was near Cannes that the marks and the punctured places ceased. The Comte de la Fere puzzled his brains for some time, to divine what the musketeer could be going to do at Cannes, and what motive could have led him to examine the banks of the Var. The reflections of Athos suggested nothing. His accustomed perspicacity was at fault. Raoul’s researches were not more successful than his father’s.

“Never mind,” said the young man to the comte, who silently, and with his finger, had made him understand the route of D’Artagnan; “we must confess that there is a Providence always occupied in connecting our destiny with that of M. d’Artagnan. There he is on the coast of Cannes, and you, monsieur, will, at least, conduct me as far as Toulon. Be assured that we shall meet with him more easily upon our route than on this map.”

Then, taking leave of Planchet, who was scolding his shopmen, even the cousin of Truchen, his successor, the gentlemen set out to pay a visit to M. de Beaufort. On leaving the grocer’s shop, they saw a coach, the future depository of the charms of Mademoiselle Truchen and Planchet’s bags of crowns.

“Every one journeys towards happiness by the route he chooses,” said Raoul, in a melancholy tone.

“Road to Fontainebleau!” cried Planchet to his coachman.






Chapter XXX. The Inventory of M. de Beaufort.


To have talked of D’Artagnan with Planchet, to have seen Planchet quit Paris to bury himself in his country retreat, had been for Athos and his son like a last farewell to the noise of the capital—to their life of former days. What, in fact, did these men leave behind them—one of whom had exhausted the past age in glory, and the other, the present age in misfortune? Evidently neither of them had anything to ask of his contemporaries. They had only to pay a visit to M. de Beaufort, and arrange with him the particulars of departure. The duke was lodged magnificently in Paris. He had one of those superb establishments pertaining to great fortunes, the like of which certain old men remembered to have seen in all their glory in the times of wasteful liberality of Henry III.‘s reign. Then, really, several great nobles were richer than the king. They knew it, used it, and never deprived themselves of the pleasure of humiliating his royal majesty when they had an opportunity. It was this egotistical aristocracy Richelieu had constrained to contribute, with its blood, its purse, and its duties, to what was from his time styled the king’s service. From Louis XI.—that terrible mower-down of the great—to Richelieu, how many families had raised their heads! How many, from Richelieu to Louis XIV., had bowed their heads, never to raise them again! But M. de Beaufort was born a prince, and of a blood which is not shed upon scaffolds, unless by the decree of peoples,—a prince who had kept up a grand style of living. How did he maintain his horses, his people, and his table? Nobody knew; himself less than others. Only there were then privileges for the sons of kings, to whom nobody refused to become a creditor, whether from respect or the persuasion that they would some day be paid.

Athos and Raoul found the mansion of the duke in as much confusion as that of Planchet. The duke, likewise, was making his inventory; that is to say, he was distributing to his friends everything of value he had in his house. Owing nearly two millions—an enormous amount in those days—M. de Beaufort had calculated that he could not set out for Africa without a good round sum, and, in order to find that sum, he was distributing to his old creditors plate, arms, jewels, and furniture, which was more magnificent in selling it, and brought him back double. In fact, how could a man to whom ten thousand livres were owing, refuse to carry away a present worth six thousand, enhanced in estimation from having belonged to a descendant of Henry IV.? And how, after having carried away that present, could he refuse ten thousand livres more to this generous noble? This, then, was what had happened. The duke had no longer a dwelling-house—that had become useless to an admiral whose place of residence is his ship; he had no longer need of superfluous arms, when he was placed amidst his cannons; no more jewels, which the sea might rob him of; but he had three or four hundred thousand crowns fresh in his coffers. And throughout the house there was a joyous movement of people who believed they were plundering monseigneur. The prince had, in a supreme degree, the art of making happy the creditors most to be pitied. Every distressed man, every empty purse, found in him patience and sympathy for his position. To some he said, “I wish I had what you have; I would give it you.” And to others, “I have but this silver ewer; it is worth at least five hundred livres,—take it.” The effect of which was—so truly is courtesy a current payment—that the prince constantly found means to renew his creditors. This time he used no ceremony; it might be called a general pillage. He gave up everything. The Oriental fable of the poor Arab who carried away from the pillage of palace a kettle at the bottom of which was concealed a bag of gold, and whom everybody allowed to pass without jealousy,—this fable had become a truth in the prince’s mansion. Many contractors paid themselves upon the offices of the duke. Thus, the provision department, who plundered the clothes-presses and the harness-rooms, attached very little value to things which tailors and saddlers set great store by. Anxious to carry home to their wives presents given them by monseigneur, many were seen bounding joyously along, under the weight of earthen jars and bottles, gloriously stamped with the arms of the prince. M. de Beaufort finished by giving away his horses and the hay from his lofts. He made more than thirty happy with kitchen utensils; and thirty more with the contents of his cellar. Still further; all these people went away with the conviction that M. de Beaufort only acted in this manner to prepare for a new fortune concealed beneath the Arabs’ tents. They repeated to each other, while pillaging his hotel, that he was sent to Gigelli by the king to reconstruct his lost fortunes; that the treasures of Africa would be equally divided between the admiral and the king of France; that these treasures consisted in mines of diamonds, or other fabulous stones; the gold and silver mines of Mount Atlas did not even obtain the honor of being named. In addition to the mines to be worked—which could not be begun till after the campaign—there would be the booty made by the army. M. de Beaufort would lay his hands on all the riches pirates had robbed Christendom of since the battle of Lepanto. The number of millions from these sources defied calculation. Why, then, should he, who was going in quest of such treasure, set any store by the poor utensils of his past life? And reciprocally, why should they spare the property of him who spared it so little himself?

Such was the position of affairs. Athos, with his piercing practiced glance, saw what was going on at once. He found the admiral of France a little exalted, for he was rising from a table of fifty covers, at which the guests had drunk long and deeply to the prosperity of the expedition; at the conclusion of which repast, the remains, with the dessert, had been given to the servants, and the empty dishes and plates to the curious. The prince was intoxicated with his ruin and his popularity at one and the same time. He had drunk his old wine to the health of his wine of the future. When he saw Athos and Raoul:

“There is my aide-de-camp being brought to me!” he cried. “Come hither, comte; come hither, vicomte.”

Athos tried to find a passage through the heaps of linen and plate.

“Ah! step over, step over!” said the duke, offering a full glass to Athos. The latter drank it; Raoul scarcely moistened his lips.

“Here is your commission,” said the prince to Raoul. “I had prepared it, reckoning upon you. You will go before me as far as Antibes.”

“Yes, monseigneur.”

“Here is the order.” And De Beaufort gave Raoul the order. “Do you know anything of the sea?”

“Yes, monseigneur; I have traveled with M. le Prince.”

“That is well. All these barges and lighters must be in attendance to form an escort and carry my provisions. The army must be prepared to embark in a fortnight at the very latest.”

“That shall be done, monseigneur.”

“The present order gives you the right to visit and search all the isles along the coast; you will there make the enrolments and levies you may want for me.”

“Yes, monsieur le duc.”

“And you are an active man, and will work freely, you will spend much money.”

“I hope not, monseigneur.”

“But I am sure you will. My intendant has prepared the orders of a thousand livres, drawn upon the cities of the south; he will give you a hundred of them. Now, dear vicomte, be gone.”

Athos interrupted the prince. “Keep your money, monseigneur; war is to be waged among the Arabs with gold as well as lead.”

“I wish to try the contrary,” replied the duke; “and then you are acquainted with my ideas upon the expedition—plenty of noise, plenty of fire, and, if so it must be, I shall disappear in the smoke.” Having spoken thus, M. de Beaufort began to laugh; but his mirth was not reciprocated by Athos and Raoul. He perceived this at once. “Ah,” said he, with the courteous egotism of his rank and age, “you are such people as a man should not see after dinner; you are cold, stiff, and dry when I am all fire, suppleness, and wine. No, devil take me! I should always see you fasting, vicomte, and you, comte, if you wear such a face as that, you shall see me no more.”

He said this, pressing the hand of Athos, who replied with a smile, “Monseigneur, do not talk so grandly because you happen to have plenty of money. I predict that within a month you will be dry, stiff, and cold, in presence of your strong-box, and that then, having Raoul at your elbow, fasting, you will be surprised to see him gay, animated, and generous, because he will have some new crowns to offer you.”

“God grant it may be so!” cried the delighted duke. “Comte, stay with me!”

“No, I shall go with Raoul; the mission with which you charge him is a troublesome and difficult one. Alone it would be too much for him to execute. You do not observe, monseigneur, you have given him command of the first order.”

“Bah!”

“And in your naval arrangements, too.”

“That may be true. But one finds that such fine young fellows as your son generally do all that is required of them.”

“Monseigneur, I believe you will find nowhere so much zeal and intelligence, so much real bravery, as in Raoul; but if he failed to arrange your embarkation, you would only meet the fate that you deserve.”

“Humph! you are scolding me, then.”

“Monseigneur, to provision a fleet, to assemble a flotilla, to enroll your maritime force, would take an admiral a year. Raoul is a cavalry officer, and you allow him a fortnight!”

“I tell you he will do it.”

“He may; but I will go and help him.”

“To be sure you will; I reckoned upon you, and still further believe that when we are once at Toulon you will not let him depart alone.”

“Oh!” said Athos, shaking his head.

“Patience! patience!”

“Monseigneur, permit us to take our leave.”

“Begone, then, and may my good luck attend you.”

“Adieu! monseigneur; and may your own good luck attend you likewise.”

“Here is an expedition admirably commenced!” said Athos to his son. “No provisions—no store flotilla! What can be done, thus?”

“Humph!” murmured Raoul; “if all are going to do as I am, provisions will not be wanted.”

“Monsieur,” replied Athos, sternly, “do not be unjust and senseless in your egotism, or your grief, whichever you please to call it. If you set out for this war solely with the intention of getting killed therein, you stand in need of nobody, and it was scarcely worth while to recommend you to M. de Beaufort. But when you have been introduced to the prime commandant—when you have accepted the responsibility of a post in his army, the question is no longer about you, but about all those poor soldiers, who, as well as you, have hearts and bodies, who will weep for their country and endure all the necessities of their condition. Remember, Raoul, that officers are ministers as useful to the world as priests, and that they ought to have more charity.”

“Monsieur, I know it and have practiced it; I would have continued to do so still, but—”

“You forget also that you are of a country that is proud of its military glory; go and die if you like, but do not die without honor and without advantage to France. Cheer up, Raoul! do not let my words grieve you; I love you, and wish to see you perfect.”

“I love your reproaches, monsieur,” said the young man, mildly; “they alone may cure me, because they prove to me that some one loves me still.”

“And now, Raoul, let us be off; the weather is so fine, the heavens so clear, those heavens which we always find above our heads, which you will see more clear still at Gigelli, and which will speak to you of me there, as they speak to me here of God.”

The two gentlemen, after having agreed on this point, talked over the wild freaks of the duke, convinced that France would be served in a very incomplete manner, as regarded both spirit and practice, in the ensuing expedition; and having summed up the ducal policy under the one word vanity, they set forward, in obedience rather to their will than destiny. The sacrifice was half accomplished.