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Twenty Years After

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Chapter 28. The Place Royale.


They proceeded silently to the centre of the Place, but as at this very moment the moon had just emerged from behind a cloud, they thought they might be observed if they remained on that spot and therefore regained the shade of the lime-trees.

There were benches here and there; the four gentlemen stopped near them; at a sign from Athos, Porthos and D’Artagnan sat down, the two others stood in front of them.

After a few minutes of silent embarrassment, Athos spoke.

“Gentlemen,” he said, “our presence here is the best proof of former friendship; not one of us has failed the others at this rendezvous; not one has, therefore, to reproach himself.”

“Hear me, count,” replied D’Artagnan; “instead of making compliments to each other, let us explain our conduct to each other, like men of right and honest hearts.”

“I wish for nothing more; have you any cause of complaint against me or Monsieur d’Herblay? If so, speak out,” answered Athos.

“I have,” replied D’Artagnan. “When I saw you at your chateau at Bragelonne, I made certain proposals to you which you perfectly understood; instead of answering me as a friend, you played with me as a child; the friendship, therefore, that you boast of was not broken yesterday by the shock of swords, but by your dissimulation at your castle.”

“D’Artagnan!” said Athos, reproachfully.

“You asked for candor and you have it. You ask what I have against you; I tell you. And I have the same sincerity to show you, if you wish, Monsieur d’Herblay; I acted in a similar way to you and you also deceived me.”

“Really, monsieur, you say strange things,” said Aramis. “You came seeking me to make to me certain proposals, but did you make them? No, you sounded me, nothing more. Very well what did I say to you? that Mazarin was contemptible and that I wouldn’t serve Mazarin. But that is all. Did I tell you that I wouldn’t serve any other? On the contrary, I gave you to understand, I think, that I adhered to the princes. We even joked very pleasantly, if I remember rightly, on the very probable contingency of your being charged by the cardinal with my arrest. Were you a party man? There is no doubt of that. Well, why should not we, too, belong to a party? You had your secret and we had ours; we didn’t exchange them. So much the better; it proves that we know how to keep our secrets.”

“I do not reproach you, monsieur,” said D’Artagnan; “‘tis only because Monsieur de la Fere has spoken of friendship that I question your conduct.”

“And what do you find in it that is worthy of blame?” asked Aramis, haughtily.

The blood mounted instantly to the temples of D’Artagnan, who arose, and replied:

“I consider it worthy conduct of a pupil of Jesuits.”

On seeing D’Artagnan rise, Porthos rose also; these four men were therefore all standing at the same time, with a menacing aspect, opposite to each other.

Upon hearing D’Artagnan’s reply, Aramis seemed about to draw his sword, when Athos prevented him.

“D’Artagnan,” he said, “you are here to-night, still infuriated by yesterday’s adventure. I believed your heart noble enough to enable a friendship of twenty years to overcome an affront of a quarter of an hour. Come, do you really think you have anything to say against me? Say it then; if I am in fault I will avow the error.”

The grave and harmonious tones of that beloved voice seemed to have still its ancient influence, whilst that of Aramis, which had become harsh and tuneless in his moments of ill-humor, irritated him. He answered therefore:

“I think, monsieur le comte, that you had something to communicate to me at your chateau of Bragelonne, and that gentleman”--he pointed to Aramis--“had also something to tell me when I was in his convent. At that time I was not concerned in the adventure, in the course of which you have so successfully estopped me! However, because I was prudent you must not take me for a fool. If I had wished to widen the breach between those whom Monsieur d’Herblay chooses to receive with a rope ladder and those whom he receives with a wooden ladder, I could have spoken out.”

“What are you meddling with?” cried Aramis, pale with anger, suspecting that D’Artagnan had acted as a spy on him and had seen him with Madame de Longueville.

“I never meddle save with what concerns me, and I know how to make believe that I haven’t seen what does not concern me; but I hate hypocrites, and among that number I place musketeers who are abbes and abbes who are musketeers; and,” he added, turning to Porthos “here’s a gentleman who’s of the same opinion as myself.”

Porthos, who had not spoken one word, answered merely by a word and a gesture.

He said “yes” and he put his hand on his sword.

Aramis started back and drew his. D’Artagnan bent forward, ready either to attack or to stand on his defense.

Athos at that moment extended his hand with the air of supreme command which characterized him alone, drew out his sword and the scabbard at the same time, broke the blade in the sheath on his knee and threw the pieces to his right. Then turning to Aramis:

“Aramis,” he said, “break your sword.”

Aramis hesitated.

“It must be done,” said Athos; then in a lower and more gentle voice, he added. “I wish it.”

Then Aramis, paler than before, but subdued by these words, snapped the serpent blade between his hands, and then folding his arms, stood trembling with rage.

These proceedings made D’Artagnan and Porthos draw back. D’Artagnan did not draw his sword; Porthos put his back into the sheath.

“Never!” exclaimed Athos, raising his right hand to Heaven, “never! I swear before God, who seeth us, and who, in the darkness of this night heareth us, never shall my sword cross yours, never my eye express a glance of anger, nor my heart a throb of hatred, at you. We lived together, we loved, we hated together; we shed, we mingled our blood together, and too probably, I may still add, that there may be yet a bond between us closer even than that of friendship; perhaps there may be the bond of crime; for we four, we once did condemn, judge and slay a human being whom we had not any right to cut off from this world, although apparently fitter for hell than for this life. D’Artagnan, I have always loved you as my son; Porthos, we slept six years side by side; Aramis is your brother as well as mine, and Aramis has once loved you, as I love you now and as I have ever loved you. What can Cardinal Mazarin be to us, to four men who compelled such a man as Richelieu to act as we pleased? What is such or such a prince to us, who fixed the diadem upon a great queen’s head? D’Artagnan, I ask your pardon for having yesterday crossed swords with you; Aramis does the same to Porthos; now hate me if you can; but for my own part, I shall ever, even if you do hate me, retain esteem and friendship for you. I repeat my words, Aramis, and then, if you desire it, and if they desire it, let us separate forever from our old friends.”

There was a solemn, though momentary silence, which was broken by Aramis.

“I swear,” he said, with a calm brow and kindly glance, but in a voice still trembling with recent emotion, “I swear that I no longer bear animosity to those who were once my friends. I regret that I ever crossed swords with you, Porthos; I swear not only that it shall never again be pointed at your breast, but that in the bottom of my heart there will never in future be the slightest hostile sentiment; now, Athos, come.”

Athos was about to retire.

“Oh! no! no! do not go away!” exclaimed D’Artagnan, impelled by one of those irresistible impulses which showed the nobility of his nature, the native brightness of his character; “I swear that I would give the last drop of my blood and the last fragment of my limbs to preserve the friendship of such a friend as you, Athos--of such a man as you, Aramis.” And he threw himself into the arms of Athos.

“My son!” exclaimed Athos, pressing him in his arms.

“And as for me,” said Porthos, “I swear nothing, but I’m choked. Forsooth! If I were obliged to fight against you, I think I should allow myself to be pierced through and through, for I never loved any one but you in the wide world;” and honest Porthos burst into tears as he embraced Athos.

“My friends,” said Athos, “this is what I expected from such hearts as yours. Yes, I have said it and I now repeat it: our destinies are irrevocably united, although we now pursue divergent roads. I respect your convictions, and whilst we fight for opposite sides, let us remain friends. Ministers, princes, kings, will pass away like mountain torrents; civil war, like a forest flame; but we--we shall remain; I have a presentiment that we shall.”

“Yes,” replied D’Artagnan, “let us still be musketeers, and let us retain as our battle-standard that famous napkin of the bastion St. Gervais, on which the great cardinal had three fleurs-de-lis embroidered.”

“Be it so,” cried Aramis. “Cardinalists or Frondeurs, what matters it? Let us meet again as capital seconds in a duel, devoted friends in business, merry companions in our ancient pleasures.”

“And whenever,” added Athos, “we meet in battle, at this word, ‘Place Royale!’ let us put our swords into our left hands and shake hands with the right, even in the very lust and music of the hottest carnage.”

“You speak charmingly,” said Porthos.

“And are the first of men!” added D’Artagnan. “You excel us all.”

Athos smiled with ineffable pleasure.

“‘Tis then all settled. Gentlemen, your hands; are we not pretty good Christians?”

“Egad!” said D’Artagnan, “by Heaven! yes.”

“We should be so on this occasion, if only to be faithful to our oath,” said Aramis.

“Ah, I’m ready to do what you will,” cried Porthos; “even to swear by Mahomet. Devil take me if I’ve ever been so happy as at this moment.”

And he wiped his eyes, still moist.

“Has not one of you a cross?” asked Athos.

Aramis smiled and drew from his vest a cross of diamonds, which was hung around his neck by a chain of pearls. “Here is one,” he said.

“Well,” resumed Athos, “swear on this cross, which, in spite of its magnificent material, is still a cross; swear to be united in spite of everything, and forever, and may this oath bind us to each other, and even, also, our descendants! Does this oath satisfy you?”

“Yes,” said they all, with one accord.

“Ah, traitor!” muttered D’Artagnan, leaning toward Aramis and whispering in his ear, “you have made us swear on the crucifix of a Frondeuse.”


Chapter 29. The Ferry across the Oise.


We hope that the reader has not quite forgotten the young traveler whom we left on the road to Flanders.

In losing sight of his guardian, whom he had quitted, gazing after him in front of the royal basilican, Raoul spurred on his horse, in order not only to escape from his own melancholy reflections, but also to hide from Olivain the emotion his face might betray.

One hour’s rapid progress, however, sufficed to disperse the gloomy fancies that had clouded the young man’s bright anticipations; and the hitherto unfelt pleasure of freedom--a pleasure which is sweet even to those who have never known dependence--seemed to Raoul to gild not only Heaven and earth, but especially that blue but dim horizon of life we call the future.

Nevertheless, after several attempts at conversation with Olivain he foresaw that many days passed thus would prove exceedingly dull; and the count’s agreeable voice, his gentle and persuasive eloquence, recurred to his mind at the various towns through which they journeyed and about which he had no longer any one to give him those interesting details which he would have drawn from Athos, the most amusing and the best informed of guides. Another recollection contributed also to sadden Raoul: on their arrival at Sonores he had perceived, hidden behind a screen of poplars, a little chateau which so vividly recalled that of La Valliere to his mind that he halted for nearly ten minutes to gaze at it, and resumed his journey with a sigh too abstracted even to reply to Olivain’s respectful inquiry about the cause of so much fixed attention. The aspect of external objects is often a mysterious guide communicating with the fibres of memory, which in spite of us will arouse them at times; this thread, like that of Ariadne, when once unraveled will conduct one through a labyrinth of thought, in which one loses one’s self in endeavoring to follow that phantom of the past which is called recollection.

Now the sight of this chateau had taken Raoul back fifty leagues westward and had caused him to review his life from the moment when he had taken leave of little Louise to that in which he had seen her for the first time; and every branch of oak, every gilded weathercock on roof of slates, reminded him that, instead of returning to the friends of his childhood, every instant estranged him further and that perhaps he had even left them forever.

With a full heart and burning head he desired Olivain to lead on the horses to a wayside inn, which he observed within gunshot range, a little in advance of the place they had reached.

As for himself, he dismounted and remained under a beautiful group of chestnuts in flower, amidst which were murmuring a multitude of happy bees, and bade Olivain send the host to him with writing paper and ink, to be placed on a table which he found there, conveniently ready. Olivain obeyed and continued on his way, whilst Raoul remained sitting, with his elbow leaning on the table, from time to time gently shaking the flowers from his head, which fell upon him like snow, and gazing vaguely on the charming landscape spread out before him, dotted over with green fields and groups of trees. Raoul had been there about ten minutes, during five of which he was lost in reverie, when there appeared within the circle comprised in his rolling gaze a man with a rubicund face, who, with a napkin around his body, another under his arm, and a white cap upon his head, approached him, holding paper, pen and ink in hand.

“Ha! ha!” laughed the apparition, “every gentleman seems to have the same fancy, for not a quarter of an hour ago a young lad, well mounted like you, as tall as you and of about your age, halted before this clump of trees and had this table and this chair brought here, and dined here, with an old gentleman who seemed to be his tutor, upon a pie, of which they haven’t left a mouthful, and two bottles of Macon wine, of which they haven’t left a drop, but fortunately we have still some of the same wine and some of the same pies left, and if your worship will but give your orders----”

“No, friend,” replied Raoul, smiling, “I am obliged to you, but at this moment I want nothing but the things for which I have asked--only I shall be very glad if the ink prove black and the pen good; upon these conditions I will pay for the pen the price of the bottle, and for the ink the price of the pie.”

“Very well, sir,” said the host, “I’ll give the pie and the bottle of wine to your servant, and in this way you will have the pen and ink into the bargain.”

“Do as you like,” said Raoul, who was beginning his apprenticeship with that particular class of society, who, when there were robbers on the highroads, were connected with them, and who, since highwaymen no longer exist, have advantageously and aptly filled their vacant place.

The host, his mind at ease about his bill, placed pen, ink and paper upon the table. By a lucky chance the pen was tolerably good and Raoul began to write. The host remained standing in front of him, looking with a kind of involuntary admiration at his handsome face, combining both gravity and sweetness of expression. Beauty has always been and always will be all-powerful.

“He’s not a guest like the other one here just now,” observed mine host to Olivain, who had rejoined his master to see if he wanted anything, “and your young master has no appetite.”

“My master had appetite enough three days ago, but what can one do? he lost it the day before yesterday.”

And Olivain and the host took their way together toward the inn, Olivain, according to the custom of serving-men well pleased with their place, relating to the tavern-keeper all that he could say in favor of the young gentleman; whilst Raoul wrote on thus:

“Sir,--After a four hours’ march I stop to write to you, for I miss you every moment, and I am always on the point of turning my head as if to reply when you speak to me. I was so bewildered by your departure and so overcome with grief at our separation, that I am sure I was able to but very feebly express all the affection and gratitude I feel toward you. You will forgive me, sir, for your heart is of such a generous nature that you can well understand all that has passed in mine. I entreat you to write to me, for you form a part of my existence, and, if I may venture to tell you so, I also feel anxious. It seemed to me as if you were yourself preparing for some dangerous undertaking, about which I did not dare to question you, since you told me nothing. I have, therefore, as you see, great need of hearing from you. Now that you are no longer beside me I am afraid every moment of erring. You sustained me powerfully, sir, and I protest to you that to-day I feel very lonely. Will you have the goodness, sir, should you receive news from Blois, to send me a few lines about my little friend Mademoiselle de la Valliere, about whose health, when we left, so much anxiety was felt? You can understand, honored and dear guardian, how precious and indispensable to me is the remembrance of the years that I have passed with you. I hope that you will sometimes, too, think of me, and if at certain hours you should miss me, if you should feel any slight regret at my absence, I shall be overwhelmed with joy at the thought that you appreciate my affection for and my devotion to yourself, and that I have been able to prove them to you whilst I had the happiness of living with you.”

After finishing this letter Raoul felt more composed; he looked well around him to see if Olivain and the host might not be watching him, whilst he impressed a kiss upon the paper, a mute and touching caress, which the heart of Athos might well divine on opening the letter.

During this time Olivain had finished his bottle and eaten his pie; the horses were also refreshed. Raoul motioned to the host to approach, threw a crown upon the table, mounted his horse, and posted his letter at Senlis. The rest that had been thus afforded to men and horses enabled them to continue their journey at a good round pace. At Verberie, Raoul desired Olivain to make some inquiry about the young man who was preceding them; he had been observed to pass only three-quarters of an hour previously, but he was well mounted, as the tavern-keeper had already said, and rode at a rapid pace.

“Let us try and overtake this gentleman,” said Raoul to Olivain; “like ourselves he is on his way to join the army and may prove agreeable company.”

It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when Raoul arrived at Compiegne; there he dined heartily and again inquired about the young gentleman who was in advance of them. He had stopped, like Raoul, at the Hotel of the Bell and Bottle, the best at Compiegne; and had started again on his journey, saying that he should sleep at Noyon.

“Well, let us sleep at Noyon,” said Raoul.

“Sir,” replied Olivain, respectfully, “allow me to remark that we have already much fatigued the horses this morning. I think it would be well to sleep here and to start again very early to-morrow. Eighteen leagues is enough for the first stage.”

“The Comte de la Fere wished me to hasten on,” replied Raoul, “that I might rejoin the prince on the morning of the fourth day; let us push on, then, to Noyon; it will be a stage similar to those we traveled from Blois to Paris. We shall arrive at eight o’clock. The horses will have a long night’s rest, and at five o’clock to-morrow morning we can be again on the road.”

Olivain dared offer no opposition to this determination but he followed his master, grumbling.

“Go on, go on,” said he, between his teeth, “expend your ardor the first day; to-morrow, instead of journeying twenty leagues, you will travel ten, the day after to-morrow, five, and in three days you will be in bed. There you must rest; young people are such braggarts.”

It was easy to see that Olivain had not been taught in the school of the Planchets and the Grimauds. Raoul really felt tired, but he was desirous of testing his strength, and, brought up in the principles of Athos and certain of having heard him speak a thousand times of stages of twenty-five leagues, he did not wish to fall far short of his model. D’Artagnan, that man of iron, who seemed to be made of nerve and muscle only, had struck him with admiration. Therefore, in spite of Olivain’s remarks, he continued to urge his steed more and more, and following a pleasant little path, leading to a ferry, and which he had been assured shortened the journey by the distance of one league, he arrived at the summit of a hill and perceived the river flowing before him. A little troop of men on horseback were waiting on the edge of the stream, ready to embark. Raoul did not doubt this was the gentleman and his escort; he called out to him, but they were too distant to be heard; then, in spite of the weariness of his beast, he made it gallop but the rising ground soon deprived him of all sight of the travelers, and when he had again attained a new height, the ferryboat had left the shore and was making for the opposite bank. Raoul, seeing that he could not arrive in time to cross the ferry with the travelers, halted to wait for Olivain. At this moment a shriek was heard that seemed to come from the river. Raoul turned toward the side whence the cry had sounded, and shaded his eyes from the glare of the setting sun with his hand.

“Olivain!” he exclaimed, “what do I see below there?”

A second scream, more piercing than the first, now sounded.

“Oh, sir!” cried Olivain, “the rope which holds the ferryboat has broken and the boat is drifting. But what do I see in the water--something struggling?”

“Oh, yes,” exclaimed Raoul, fixing his glance on one point in the stream, splendidly illumined by the setting sun, “a horse, a rider!”

“They are sinking!” cried Olivain in his turn.

It was true, and Raoul was convinced that some accident had happened and that a man was drowning; he gave his horse its head, struck his spurs into its sides, and the animal, urged by pain and feeling that he had space open before him, bounded over a kind of paling which inclosed the landing place, and fell into the river, scattering to a distance waves of white froth.

“Ah, sir!” cried Olivain, “what are you doing? Good God!”

Raoul was directing his horse toward the unhappy man in danger. This was, in fact, a custom familiar to him. Having been brought up on the banks of the Loire, he might have been said to have been cradled on its waves; a hundred times he had crossed it on horseback, a thousand times had swum across. Athos, foreseeing the period when he should make a soldier of the viscount, had inured him to all kinds of arduous undertakings.

“Oh, heavens!” continued Olivain, in despair, “what would the count say if he only saw you now!”

“The count would do as I do,” replied Raoul, urging his horse vigorously forward.

“But I--but I,” cried Olivain, pale and disconsolate rushing about on the shore, “how shall I cross?”

“Leap, coward!” cried Raoul, swimming on; then addressing the traveler, who was struggling twenty yards in front of him: “Courage, sir!” said he, “courage! we are coming to your aid.”

Olivain advanced, retired, then made his horse rear--turned it and then, struck to the core by shame, leaped, as Raoul had done, only repeating:

“I am a dead man! we are lost!”

In the meantime, the ferryboat had floated away, carried down by the stream, and the shrieks of those whom it contained resounded more and more. A man with gray hair had thrown himself from the boat into the river and was swimming vigorously toward the person who was drowning; but being obliged to go against the current he advanced but slowly. Raoul continued his way and was visibly gaining ground; but the horse and its rider, of whom he did not lose sight, were evidently sinking. The nostrils of the horse were no longer above water, and the rider, who had lost the reins in struggling, fell with his head back and his arms extended. One moment longer and all would disappear.

“Courage!” cried Raoul, “courage!”

“Too late!” murmured the young man, “too late!”

The water closed above his head and stifled his voice.

Raoul sprang from his horse, to which he left the charge of its own preservation, and in three or four strokes was at the gentleman’s side; he seized the horse at once by the curb and raised its head above water; the animal began to breathe again and, as if he comprehended that they had come to his aid, redoubled his efforts. Raoul at the same time seized one of the young man’s hands and placed it on the mane, which it grasped with the tenacity of a drowning man. Thus, sure that the rider would not release his hold, Raoul now only directed his attention to the horse, which he guided to the opposite bank, helping it to cut through the water and encouraging it with words.

All at once the horse stumbled against a ridge and then placed its foot on the sand.

“Saved!” exclaimed the man with gray hair, who also touched bottom.

“Saved!” mechanically repeated the young gentleman, releasing the mane and sliding from the saddle into Raoul’s arms; Raoul was but ten yards from the shore; there he bore the fainting man, and laying him down upon the grass, unfastened the buttons of his collar and unhooked his doublet. A moment later the gray-headed man was beside him. Olivain managed in his turn to land, after crossing himself repeatedly; and the people in the ferryboat guided themselves as well as they were able toward the bank, with the aid of a pole which chanced to be in the boat.

Thanks to the attentions of Raoul and the man who accompanied the young gentleman, the color gradually returned to the pale cheeks of the dying man, who opened his eyes, at first entirely bewildered, but who soon fixed his gaze upon the person who had saved him.

“Ah, sir,” he exclaimed, “it was you! Without you I was a dead man--thrice dead.”

“But one recovers, sir, as you perceive,” replied Raoul, “and we have but had a little bath.”

“Oh! sir, what gratitude I feel!” exclaimed the man with gray hair.

“Ah, there you are, my good D’Arminges; I have given you a great fright, have I not? but it is your own fault. You were my tutor, why did you not teach me to swim?”

“Oh, monsieur le comte,” replied the old man, “had any misfortune happened to you, I should never have dared to show myself to the marshal again.”

“But how did the accident happen?” asked Raoul.

“Oh, sir, in the most natural way possible,” replied he to whom they had given the title of count. “We were about a third of the way across the river when the cord of the ferryboat broke. Alarmed by the cries and gestures of the boatmen, my horse sprang into the water. I cannot swim, and dared not throw myself into the river. Instead of aiding the movements of my horse, I paralyzed them; and I was just going to drown myself with the best grace in the world, when you arrived just in time to pull me out of the water; therefore, sir, if you will agree, henceforward we are friends until death.”

“Sir,” replied Raoul, bowing, “I am entirely at your service, I assure you.”

“I am called the Count de Guiche,” continued the young man; “my father is the Marechal de Grammont; and now that you know who I am, do me the honor to inform me who you are.”

“I am the Viscount de Bragelonne,” answered Raoul, blushing at being unable to name his father, as the Count de Guiche had done.

“Viscount, your countenance, your goodness and your courage incline me toward you; my gratitude is already due. Shake hands--I crave your friendship.”

“Sir,” said Raoul, returning the count’s pressure of the hand, “I like you already, from my heart; pray regard me as a devoted friend, I beseech you.”

“And now, where are you going, viscount?” inquired De Guiche.

“To join the army, under the prince, count.”

“And I, too!” exclaimed the young man, in a transport of joy. “Oh, so much the better, we will fire the first shot together.”

“It is well; be friends,” said the tutor; “young as you both are, you were perhaps born under the same star and were destined to meet. And now,” continued he, “you must change your clothes; your servants, to whom I gave directions the moment they had left the ferryboat, ought to be already at the inn. Linen and wine are both being warmed; come.”

The young men had no objection to this proposition; on the contrary, they thought it very timely.

They mounted again at once, whilst looks of admiration passed between them. They were indeed two elegant horsemen, with figures slight and upright, noble faces, bright and proud looks, loyal and intelligent smiles.

De Guiche might have been about eighteen years of age, but he was scarcely taller than Raoul, who was only fifteen.


Chapter 30. Skirmishing.


The halt at Noyon was but brief, every one there being wrapped in profound sleep. Raoul had desired to be awakened should Grimaud arrive, but Grimaud did not arrive. Doubtless, too, the horses on their part appreciated the eight hours of repose and the abundant stabling which was granted them. The Count de Guiche was awakened at five o’clock in the morning by Raoul, who came to wish him good-day. They breakfasted in haste, and at six o’clock had already gone ten miles.

The young count’s conversation was most interesting to Raoul, therefore he listened much, whilst the count talked well and long. Brought up in Paris, where Raoul had been but once; at the court, which Raoul had never seen; his follies as page; two duels, which he had already found the means of fighting, in spite of the edicts against them and, more especially, in spite of his tutor’s vigilance--these things excited the greatest curiosity in Raoul. Raoul had only been at M. Scarron’s house; he named to Guiche the people whom he had seen there. Guiche knew everybody--Madame de Neuillan, Mademoiselle d’Aubigne, Mademoiselle de Scudery, Mademoiselle Paulet, Madame de Chevreuse. He criticised everybody humorously. Raoul trembled, lest he should laugh among the rest at Madame de Chevreuse, for whom he entertained deep and genuine sympathy, but either instinctively, or from affection for the duchess, he said everything in her favor. His praises increased Raoul’s friendship twofold. Then came the question of gallantry and love affairs. Under this head, also, Bragelonne had much more to hear than to tell. He listened attentively and fancied that he discovered through three or four rather frivolous adventures, that the count, like himself, had a secret to hide in the depths of his heart.

De Guiche, as we have said before, had been educated at the court, and the intrigues of this court were not unknown to him. It was the same court of which Raoul had so often heard the Comte de la Fere speak, except that its aspect had much changed since the period when Athos had himself been part of it; therefore everything which the Count de Guiche related was new to his traveling companion. The young count, witty and caustic, passed all the world in review; the queen herself was not spared, and Cardinal Mazarin came in for his share of ridicule.

The day passed away as rapidly as an hour. The count’s tutor, a man of the world and a bon vivant, up to his eyes in learning, as his pupil described him, often recalled the profound erudition, the witty and caustic satire of Athos to Raoul; but as regarded grace, delicacy, and nobility of external appearance, no one in these points was to be compared to the Comte de la Fere.

The horses, which were more kindly used than on the previous day, stopped at Arras at four o’clock in the evening. They were approaching the scene of war; and as bands of Spaniards sometimes took advantage of the night to make expeditions even as far as the neighborhood of Arras, they determined to remain in the town until the morrow. The French army held all between Pont-a-Marc as far as Valenciennes, falling back upon Douai. The prince was said to be in person at Bethune.

The enemy’s army extended from Cassel to Courtray; and as there was no species of violence or pillage it did not commit, the poor people on the frontier quitted their isolated dwellings and fled for refuge into the strong cities which held out a shelter to them. Arras was encumbered with fugitives. An approaching battle was much spoken of, the prince having manoeuvred, until that movement, only in order to await a reinforcement that had just reached him.

The young men congratulated themselves on having arrived so opportunely. The evening was employed in discussing the war; the grooms polished their arms; the young men loaded the pistols in case of a skirmish, and they awoke in despair, having both dreamed that they had arrived too late to participate in the battle. In the morning it was rumored that Prince de Conde had evacuated Bethune and fallen back on Carvin, leaving, however, a strong garrison in the former city.

But as there was nothing positively certain in this report, the young warriors decided to continue their way toward Bethune, free on the road to diverge to the right and march to Carvin if necessary.

The count’s tutor was well acquainted with the country; he consequently proposed to take a crossroad, which lay between that of Lens and that of Bethune. They obtained information at Ablain, and a statement of their route was left for Grimaud. About seven o’clock in the morning they set out. De Guiche, who was young and impulsive, said to Raoul, “Here we are, three masters and three servants. Our valets are well armed and yours seems to be tough enough.”

“I have never seen him put to the test,” replied Raoul, “but he is a Breton, which promises something.”

“Yes, yes,” resumed De Guiche; “I am sure he can fire a musket when required. On my side I have two sure men, who have been in action with my father. We therefore represent six fighting men; if we should meet a little troop of enemies, equal or even superior in number to our own, shall we charge them, Raoul?”

“Certainly, sir,” replied the viscount.

“Holloa! young people--stop there!” said the tutor, joining in the conversation. “Zounds! how you manoeuvre my instructions, count! You seem to forget the orders I received to conduct you safe and sound to his highness the prince! Once with the army you may be killed at your good pleasure; but until that time, I warn you that in my capacity of general of the army I shall order a retreat and turn my back on the first red coat we come across.” De Guiche and Raoul glanced at each other, smiling.

They arrived at Ablain without accident. There they inquired and learned that the prince had in reality quitted Bethune and stationed himself between Cambria and La Venthie. Therefore, leaving directions at every place for Grimaud, they took a crossroad which conducted the little troop by the bank of a small stream flowing into the Lys. The country was beautiful, intersected by valleys as green as the emerald. Here and there they passed little copses crossing the path which they were following. In anticipation of some ambuscade in each of these little woods the tutor placed his two servants at the head of the band, thus forming the advance guard. Himself and the two young men represented the body of the army, whilst Olivain, with his rifle upon his knee and his eyes upon the watch, protected the rear.

They had observed for some time before them, on the horizon, a rather thick wood; and when they had arrived at a distance of a hundred steps from it, Monsieur d’Arminges took his usual precautions and sent on in advance the count’s two grooms. The servants had just disappeared under the trees, followed by the tutor, and the young men were laughing and talking about a hundred yards off. Olivain was at the same distance in the rear, when suddenly there resounded five or six musket-shots. The tutor cried halt; the young men obeyed, pulling up their steeds, and at the same moment the two valets were seen returning at a gallop.

The young men, impatient to learn the cause of the firing, spurred on toward the servants. The tutor followed them.

“Were you stopped?” eagerly inquired the two youths.

“No,” replied the servants, “it is even probable that we have not been seen; the shots were fired about a hundred paces in advance of us, in the thickest part of the wood, and we returned to ask your advice.”

“My advice is this,” said Monsieur d’Arminges, “and if needs be, my will, that we beat a retreat. There may be an ambuscade concealed in this wood.”

“Did you see nothing there?” asked the count.

“I thought I saw,” said one of the servants, “horsemen dressed in yellow, creeping along the bed of the stream.

“That’s it,” said the tutor. “We have fallen in with a party of Spaniards. Come back, sirs, back.”

The two youths looked at each other, and at this moment a pistol-shot and cries for help were heard. Another glance between the young men convinced them both that neither had any wish to go back, and as the tutor had already turned his horse’s head, they both spurred forward, Raoul crying: “Follow me, Olivain!” and the Count de Guiche: “Follow, Urban and Planchet!” And before the tutor could recover from his surprise they had both disappeared into the forest. Whilst they spurred their steeds they held their pistols ready also. In five minutes they arrived at the spot whence the noise had proceeded, and then restraining their horses, they advanced cautiously.

“Hush,” whispered De Guiche, “these are cavaliers.”

“Yes, three on horseback and three who have dismounted.”

“Can you see what they are doing?”

“Yes, they appear to be searching a wounded or dead man.”

“It is some cowardly assassination,” said De Guiche.

“They are soldiers, though,” resumed De Bragelonne.

“Yes, skirmishers; that is to say, highway robbers.”

“At them!” cried Raoul. “At them!” echoed De Guiche.

“Oh! gentlemen! gentlemen! in the name of Heaven!” cried the poor tutor.

But he was not listened to, and his cries only served to arouse the attention of the Spaniards.

The men on horseback at once rushed at the two youths, leaving the three others to complete the plunder of the dead or wounded travelers; for on approaching nearer, instead of one extended figure, the young men discovered two. De Guiche fired the first shot at ten paces and missed his man; and the Spaniard, who had advanced to meet Raoul, aimed in his turn, and Raoul felt a pain in the left arm, similar to that of a blow from a whip. He let off his fire at but four paces. Struck in the breast and extending his arms, the Spaniard fell back on the crupper, and the terrified horse, turning around, carried him off.

Raoul at this moment perceived the muzzle of a gun pointed at him, and remembering the recommendation of Athos, he, with the rapidity of lightning, made his horse rear as the shot was fired. His horse bounded to one side, losing its footing, and fell, entangling Raoul’s leg under its body. The Spaniard sprang forward and seized the gun by its muzzle, in order to strike Raoul on the head with the butt. In the position in which Raoul lay, unfortunately, he could neither draw his sword from the scabbard, nor his pistols from their holsters. The butt end of the musket hovered over his head, and he could scarcely restrain himself from closing his eyes, when with one bound Guiche reached the Spaniard and placed a pistol at his throat. “Yield!” he cried, “or you are a dead man!” The musket fell from the soldier’s hands, who yielded on the instant. Guiche summoned one of his grooms, and delivering the prisoner into his charge, with orders to shoot him through the head if he attempted to escape, he leaped from his horse and approached Raoul.

“Faith, sir,” said Raoul, smiling, although his pallor betrayed the excitement consequent on a first affair, “you are in a great hurry to pay your debts and have not been long under any obligation to me. Without your aid,” continued he, repeating the count’s words “I should have been a dead man--thrice dead.”

“My antagonist took flight,” replied De Guiche “and left me at liberty to come to your assistance. But are you seriously wounded? I see you are covered with blood!”

“I believe,” said Raoul, “that I have got something like a scratch on the arm. If you will help me to drag myself from under my horse I hope nothing need prevent us continuing our journey.”

Monsieur d’Arminges and Olivain had already dismounted and were attempting to raise the struggling horse. At last Raoul succeeded in drawing his foot from the stirrup and his leg from under the animal, and in a second he was on his feet again.

“Nothing broken?” asked De Guiche.

“Faith, no, thank Heaven!” replied Raoul; “but what has become of the poor wretches whom these scoundrels were murdering?”

“I fear we arrived too late. They have killed them, I think, and taken flight, carrying off their booty. My servants are examining the bodies.”

“Let us go and see whether they are quite dead, or if they can still be helped,” suggested Raoul. “Olivain, we have come into possession of two horses, but I have lost my own. Take for yourself the better of the two and give me yours.”

They approached the spot where the unfortunate victims lay.