Twenty Years After



volume_down_alt volume_up

Twenty Years After



volume_down_alt volume_up

Chapter 37. Cromwell’s Letter.

At the very moment when the queen quitted the convent to go to the Palais Royal, a young man dismounted at the gate of this royal abode and announced to the guards that he had something of importance to communicate to Cardinal Mazarin. Although the cardinal was often tormented by fear, he was more often in need of counsel and information, and he was therefore sufficiently accessible. The true difficulty of being admitted was not to be found at the first door, and even the second was passed easily enough; but at the third watched, besides the guard and the doorkeepers, the faithful Bernouin, a Cerberus whom no speech could soften, no wand, even of gold, could charm.

It was therefore at the third door that those who solicited or were bidden to an audience underwent their formal interrogatory.

The young man having left his horse tied to the gate in the court, mounted the great staircase and addressed the guard in the first chamber.

“Cardinal Mazarin?” said he.

“Pass on,” replied the guard.

The cavalier entered the second hall, which was guarded by the musketeers and doorkeepers.

“Have you a letter of audience?” asked a porter, advancing to the new arrival.

“I have one, but not one from Cardinal Mazarin.”

“Enter, and ask for Monsieur Bernouin,” said the porter, opening the door of the third room. Whether he only held his usual post or whether it was by accident, Monsieur Bernouin was found standing behind the door and must have heard all that had passed.

“You seek me, sir,” said he. “From whom may the letter be you bear to his eminence?”

“From General Oliver Cromwell,” said the new comer. “Be so good as to mention this name to his eminence and to bring me word whether he will receive me--yes or no.”

Saying which, he resumed the proud and sombre bearing peculiar at that time to Puritans. Bernouin cast an inquisitorial glance at the person of the young man and entered the cabinet of the cardinal, to whom he transmitted the messenger’s words.

“A man bringing a letter from Oliver Cromwell?” said Mazarin. “And what kind of a man?”

“A genuine Englishman, your eminence. Hair sandy-red--more red than sandy; gray-blue eyes--more gray than blue; and for the rest, stiff and proud.”

“Let him give in his letter.”

“His eminence asks for the letter,” said Bernouin, passing back into the ante-chamber.

“His eminence cannot see the letter without the bearer of it,” replied the young man; “but to convince you that I am really the bearer of a letter, see, here it is; and kindly add,” continued he, “that I am not a simple messenger, but an envoy extraordinary.”

Bernouin re-entered the cabinet, returning in a few seconds. “Enter, sir,” said he.

The young man appeared on the threshold of the minister’s closet, in one hand holding his hat, in the other the letter. Mazarin rose. “Have you, sir,” asked he, “a letter accrediting you to me?”

“There it is, my lord,” said the young man.

Mazarin took the letter and read it thus:

“Mr. Mordaunt, one of my secretaries, will remit this letter of introduction to His Eminence, the Cardinal Mazarin, in Paris. He is also the bearer of a second confidential epistle for his eminence.

“Oliver Cromwell.”

“Very well, Monsieur Mordaunt,” said Mazarin, “give me this second letter and sit down.”

The young man drew from his pocket a second letter, presented it to the cardinal, and took his seat. The cardinal, however, did not unseal the letter at once, but continued to turn it again and again in his hand; then, in accordance with his usual custom and judging from experience that few people could hide anything from him when he began to question them, fixing his eyes upon them at the same time, he thus addressed the messenger:

“You are very young, Monsieur Mordaunt, for this difficult task of ambassador, in which the oldest diplomatists often fail.”

“My lord, I am twenty-three years of age; but your eminence is mistaken in saying that I am young. I am older than your eminence, although I possess not your wisdom. Years of suffering, in my opinion, count double, and I have suffered for twenty years.”

“Ah, yes, I understand,” said Mazarin; “want of fortune, perhaps. You are poor, are you not?” Then he added to himself: “These English Revolutionists are all beggars and ill-bred.”

“My lord, I ought to have a fortune of six millions, but it has been taken from me.”

“You are not, then, a man of the people?” said Mazarin, astonished.

“If I bore my proper title I should be a lord. If I bore my name you would have heard one of the most illustrious names of England.”

“What is your name, then?” asked Mazarin.

“My name is Mordaunt,” replied the young man, bowing.

Mazarin now understood that Cromwell’s envoy desired to retain his incognito. He was silent for an instant, and during that time he scanned the young man even more attentively than he had done at first. The messenger was unmoved.

“Devil take these Puritans,” said Mazarin aside; “they are carved from granite.” Then he added aloud, “But you have relations left you?”

“I have one remaining. Three times I presented myself to ask his support and three times he ordered his servants to turn me away.”

“Oh, mon Dieu! my dear Mr. Mordaunt,” said Mazarin, hoping by a display of affected pity to catch the young man in a snare, “how extremely your history interests me! You know not, then, anything of your birth--you have never seen your mother?”

“Yes, my lord; she came three times, whilst I was a child, to my nurse’s house; I remember the last time she came as well as if it were to-day.”

“You have a good memory,” said Mazarin.

“Oh! yes, my lord,” said the young man, with such peculiar emphasis that the cardinal felt a shudder run through every vein.

“And who brought you up?” he asked again.

“A French nurse, who sent me away when I was five years old because no one paid her for me, telling me the name of a relation of whom she had heard my mother often speak.”

“What became of you?”

“As I was weeping and begging on the high road, a minister from Kingston took me in, instructed me in the Calvinistic faith, taught me all he knew himself and aided me in my researches after my family.”

“And these researches?”

“Were fruitless; chance did everything.”

“You discovered what had become of your mother?”

“I learned that she had been assassinated by my relation, aided by four friends, but I was already aware that I had been robbed of my wealth and degraded from my nobility by King Charles I.”

“Oh! I now understand why you are in the service of Cromwell; you hate the king.”

“Yes, my lord, I hate him!” said the young man.

Mazarin marked with surprise the diabolical expression with which the young man uttered these words. Just as, ordinarily, faces are colored by blood, his face seemed dyed by hatred and became livid.

“Your history is a terrible one, Mr. Mordaunt, and touches me keenly; but happily for you, you serve an all-powerful master; he ought to aid you in your search; we have so many means of gaining information.”

“My lord, to a well-bred dog it is only necessary to show one end of a track; he is certain to reach the other.”

“But this relation you mentioned--do you wish me to speak to him?” said Mazarin, who was anxious to make a friend about Cromwell’s person.

“Thanks, my lord, I will speak to him myself. He will treat me better the next time I see him.”

“You have the means, then, of touching him?”

“I have the means of making myself feared.”

Mazarin looked at the young man, but at the fire which shot from his glance he bent his head; then, embarrassed how to continue such a conversation, he opened Cromwell’s letter.

The young man’s eyes gradually resumed their dull and glassy appearance and he fell into a profound reverie. After reading the first lines of the letter Mazarin gave a side glance at him to see if he was watching the expression of his face as he read. Observing his indifference, he shrugged his shoulders, saying:

“Send on your business those who do theirs at the same time! Let us see what this letter contains.”

We here present the letter verbatim:

“To his Eminence, Monseigneur le Cardinal Mazarini:

“I have wished, monseigneur, to learn your intentions relating to the existing state of affairs in England. The two kingdoms are so near that France must be interested in our situation, as we are interested in that of France. The English are almost of one mind in contending against the tyranny of Charles and his adherents. Placed by popular confidence at the head of that movement, I can appreciate better than any other its significance and its probable results. I am at present in the midst of war, and am about to deliver a decisive battle against King Charles. I shall gain it, for the hope of the nation and the Spirit of the Lord are with me. This battle won by me, the king will have no further resources in England or in Scotland; and if he is not captured or killed, he will endeavor to pass over into France to recruit soldiers and to refurnish himself with arms and money. France has already received Queen Henrietta, and, unintentionally, doubtless, has maintained a centre of inextinguishable civil war in my country. But Madame Henrietta is a daughter of France and was entitled to the hospitality of France. As to King Charles, the question must be viewed differently; in receiving and aiding him, France will censure the acts of the English nation, and thus so essentially harm England, and especially the well-being of the government, that such a proceeding will be equivalent to pronounced hostilities.”

At this moment Mazarin became very uneasy at the turn which the letter was taking and paused to glance under his eyes at the young man. The latter continued in thought. Mazarin resumed his reading:

“It is important, therefore, monseigneur, that I should be informed as to the intentions of France. The interests of that kingdom and those of England, though taking now diverse directions, are very nearly the same. England needs tranquillity at home, in order to consummate the expulsion of her king; France needs tranquillity to establish on solid foundations the throne of her young monarch. You need, as much as we do, that interior condition of repose which, thanks to the energy of our government, we are about to attain.

“Your quarrels with the parliament, your noisy dissensions with the princes, who fight for you to-day and to-morrow will fight against you, the popular following directed by the coadjutor, President Blancmesnil, and Councillor Broussel--all that disorder, in short, which pervades the several departments of the state, must lead you to view with uneasiness the possibility of a foreign war; for in that event England, exalted by the enthusiasm of new ideas, will ally herself with Spain, already seeking that alliance. I have therefore believed, monseigneur, knowing your prudence and your personal relation to the events of the present time, that you will choose to hold your forces concentrated in the interior of the French kingdom and leave to her own the new government of England. That neutrality consists simply in excluding King Charles from the territory of France and in refraining from helping him--a stranger to your country--with arms, with money or with troops.

“My letter is private and confidential, and for that reason I send it to you by a man who shares my most intimate counsels. It anticipates, through a sentiment which your eminence will appreciate, measures to be taken after the events. Oliver Cromwell considered it more expedient to declare himself to a mind as intelligent as Mazarin’s than to a queen admirable for firmness, without doubt, but too much guided by vain prejudices of birth and of divine right.

“Farewell, monseigneur; should I not receive a reply in the space of fifteen days, I shall presume my letter will have miscarried.

“Oliver Cromwell.”

“Mr. Mordaunt,” said the cardinal, raising his voice, as if to arouse the dreamer, “my reply to this letter will be more satisfactory to General Cromwell if I am convinced that all are ignorant of my having given one; go, therefore, and await it at Boulogne-sur-Mer, and promise me to set out to-morrow morning.”

“I promise, my lord,” replied Mordaunt; “but how many days does your eminence expect me to await your reply?”

“If you do not receive it in ten days you can leave.”

Mordaunt bowed.

“That is not all, sir,” continued Mazarin; “your private adventures have touched me to the quick; besides, the letter from Mr. Cromwell makes you an important person as ambassador; come, tell me, what can I do for you?”

Mordaunt reflected a moment and, after some hesitation, was about to speak, when Bernouin entered hastily and bending down to the ear of the cardinal, whispered:

“My lord, the Queen Henrietta Maria, accompanied by an English noble, is entering the Palais Royal at this moment.”

Mazarin made a bound from his chair, which did not escape the attention of the young man and suppressed the confidence he was about to make.

“Sir,” said the cardinal, “you have heard me? I fix on Boulogne because I presume that every town in France is indifferent to you; if you prefer another, name it; but you can easily conceive that, surrounded as I am by influences I can only muzzle by discretion, I desire your presence in Paris to be unknown.”

“I go, sir,” said Mordaunt, advancing a few steps to the door by which he had entered.

“No, not that way, I beg, sir,” quickly exclaimed the cardinal, “be so good as to pass by yonder gallery, by which you can regain the hall. I do not wish you to be seen leaving; our interview must be kept secret.”

Mordaunt followed Bernouin, who led him through the adjacent chamber and left him with a doorkeeper, showing him the way out.

Chapter 38. Henrietta Maria and Mazarin.

The cardinal rose, and advanced in haste to receive the queen of England. He showed the more respect to this queen, deprived of every mark of pomp and stripped of followers, as he felt some self-reproach for his own want of heart and his avarice. But supplicants for favor know how to accommodate the expression of their features, and the daughter of Henry IV. smiled as she advanced to meet a man she hated and despised.

“Ah!” said Mazarin to himself, “what a sweet face; does she come to borrow money of me?”

And he threw an uneasy glance at his strong box; he even turned inside the bevel of the magnificent diamond ring, the brilliancy of which drew every eye upon his hand, which indeed was white and handsome.

“Your eminence,” said the august visitor, “it was my first intention to speak of the matters that have brought me here to the queen, my sister, but I have reflected that political affairs are more especially the concern of men.”

“Madame,” said Mazarin, “your majesty overwhelms me with flattering distinction.”

“He is very gracious,” thought the queen; “can he have guessed my errand?”

“Give,” continued the cardinal, “your commands to the most respectful of your servants.”

“Alas, sir,” replied the queen, “I have lost the habit of commanding and have adopted instead that of making petitions. I am here to petition you, too happy should my prayer be favorably heard.”

“I am listening, madame, with the greatest interest,” said Mazarin.

“Your eminence, it concerns the war which the king, my husband, is now sustaining against his rebellious subjects. You are perhaps ignorant that they are fighting in England,” added she, with a melancholy smile, “and that in a short time they will fight in a much more decided fashion than they have done hitherto.”

“I am completely ignorant of it, madame,” said the cardinal, accompanying his words with a slight shrug of the shoulders; “alas, our own wars quite absorb the time and the mind of a poor, incapable, infirm old minister like me.”

“Well, then, your eminence,” said the queen, “I must inform you that Charles I., my husband, is on the eve of a decisive engagement. In case of a check” (Mazarin made a slight movement), “one must foresee everything; in the case of a check, he desires to retire into France and to live here as a private individual. What do you say to this project?”

The cardinal had listened without permitting a single fibre of his face to betray what he felt, and his smile remained as it ever was--false and flattering; and when the queen finished speaking, he said:

“Do you think, madame, that France, agitated and disturbed as it is, would be a safe retreat for a dethroned king? How will the crown, which is scarce firmly set on the head of Louis XIV., support a double weight?”

“The weight was not so heavy when I was in peril,” interrupted the queen, with a sad smile, “and I ask no more for my husband than has been done for me; you see that we are very humble monarchs, sir.”

“Oh, you, madame,” the cardinal hastened to say, in order to cut short the explanation he foresaw was coming, “with regard to you, that is another thing. A daughter of Henry IV., of that great, that sublime sovereign----”

“All which does not prevent you refusing hospitality to his son-in-law, sir! Nevertheless, you ought to remember that that great, that sublime monarch, when proscribed at one time, as my husband may be, demanded aid from England and England accorded it to him; and it is but just to say that Queen Elizabeth was not his niece.”

“Peccato!” said Mazarin, writhing beneath this simple eloquence, “your majesty does not understand me; you judge my intentions wrongly, and that is partly because, doubtless, I explain myself in French.”

“Speak Italian, sir. Ere the cardinal, your predecessor, sent our mother, Marie de Medicis, to die in exile, she taught us that language. If anything yet remains of that great, that sublime king, Henry, of whom you have just spoken, he would be much surprised at so little pity for his family being united to such a profound admiration of himself.”

The perspiration stood in large drops on Mazarin’s brow.

“That admiration is, on the contrary, so great, so real, madame,” returned Mazarin, without noticing the change of language offered to him by the queen, “that if the king, Charles I.--whom Heaven protect from evil!--came into France, I would offer him my house--my own house; but, alas! it would be but an unsafe retreat. Some day the people will burn that house, as they burned that of the Marechal d’Ancre. Poor Concino Concini! And yet he but desired the good of the people.”

“Yes, my lord, like yourself!” said the queen, ironically.

Mazarin pretended not to understand the double meaning of his own sentence, but continued to compassionate the fate of Concino Concini.

“Well then, your eminence,” said the queen, becoming impatient, “what is your answer?”

“Madame,” cried Mazarin, more and more moved, “will your majesty permit me to give you counsel?”

“Speak, sir,” replied the queen; “the counsels of so prudent a man as yourself ought certainly to be available.”

“Madame, believe me, the king ought to defend himself to the last.”

“He has done so, sir, and this last battle, which he encounters with resources much inferior to those of the enemy, proves that he will not yield without a struggle; but in case he is beaten?”

“Well, madame, in that case, my advice--I know that I am very bold to offer advice to your majesty--my advice is that the king should not leave his kingdom. Absent kings are very soon forgotten; if he passes over into France his cause is lost.”

“But,” persisted the queen, “if such be your advice and you have his interest at heart, send him help of men and money, for I can do nothing for him; I have sold even to my last diamond to aid him. If I had had a single ornament left, I should have bought wood this winter to make a fire for my daughter and myself.”

“Oh, madame,” said Mazarin, “your majesty knows not what you ask. On the day when foreign succor follows in the train of a king to replace him on his throne, it is an avowal that he no longer possesses the help and love of his own subjects.”

“To the point, sir,” said the queen, “to the point, and answer me, yes or no; if the king persists in remaining in England will you send him succor? If he comes to France will you accord him hospitality? What do you intend to do? Speak.”

“Madame,” said the cardinal, affecting an effusive frankness of speech, “I shall convince your majesty, I trust, of my devotion to you and my desire to terminate an affair which you have so much at heart. After which your majesty will, I think, no longer doubt my zeal in your behalf.”

The queen bit her lips and moved impatiently on her chair.

“Well, what do you propose to do?” she, said at length; “come, speak.”

“I will go this instant and consult the queen, and we will refer the affair at once to parliament.”

“With which you are at war--is it not so? You will charge Broussel to report it. Enough, sir, enough. I understand you or rather, I am wrong. Go to the parliament, for it was from this parliament, the enemy of monarchs, that the daughter of the great, the sublime Henry IV., whom you so much admire, received the only relief this winter which prevented her from dying of hunger and cold!”

And with these words Henrietta rose in majestic indignation, whilst the cardinal, raising his hands clasped toward her, exclaimed, “Ah, madame, madame, how little you know me, mon Dieu!”

But Queen Henrietta, without even turning toward him who made these hypocritical pretensions, crossed the cabinet, opened the door for herself and passing through the midst of the cardinal’s numerous guards, courtiers eager to pay homage, the luxurious show of a competing royalty, she went and took the hand of De Winter, who stood apart in isolation. Poor queen, already fallen! Though all bowed before her, as etiquette required, she had now but a single arm on which she could lean.

“It signifies little,” said Mazarin, when he was alone. “It gave me pain and it was an ungracious part to play, but I have said nothing either to the one or to the other. Bernouin!”

Bernouin entered.

“See if the young man with the black doublet and the short hair, who was with me just now, is still in the palace.”

Bernouin went out and soon returned with Comminges, who was on guard.

“Your eminence,” said Comminges, “as I was re-conducting the young man for whom you have asked, he approached the glass door of the gallery, and gazed intently upon some object, doubtless the picture by Raphael, which is opposite the door. He reflected for a second and then descended the stairs. I believe I saw him mount a gray horse and leave the palace court. But is not your eminence going to the queen?”

“For what purpose?”

“Monsieur de Guitant, my uncle, has just told me that her majesty had received news of the army.”

“It is well; I will go.”

Comminges had seen rightly, and Mordaunt had really acted as he had related. In crossing the gallery parallel to the large glass gallery, he perceived De Winter, who was waiting until the queen had finished her negotiation.

At this sight the young man stopped short, not in admiration of Raphael’s picture, but as if fascinated at the sight of some terrible object. His eyes dilated and a shudder ran through his body. One would have said that he longed to break through the wall of glass which separated him from his enemy; for if Comminges had seen with what an expression of hatred the eyes of this young man were fixed upon De Winter, he would not have doubted for an instant that the Englishman was his eternal foe.

But he stopped, doubtless to reflect; for instead of allowing his first impulse, which had been to go straight to Lord de Winter, to carry him away, he leisurely descended the staircase, left the palace with his head down, mounted his horse, which he reined in at the corner of the Rue Richelieu, and with his eyes fixed on the gate, waited until the queen’s carriage had left the court.

He had not long to wait, for the queen scarcely remained a quarter of an hour with Mazarin, but this quarter of an hour of expectation appeared a century to him. At last the heavy machine, which was called a chariot in those days, came out, rumbling against the gates, and De Winter, still on horseback, bent again to the door to converse with her majesty.

The horses started on a trot and took the road to the Louvre, which they entered. Before leaving the convent of the Carmelites, Henrietta had desired her daughter to attend her at the palace, which she had inhabited for a long time and which she had only left because their poverty seemed to them more difficult to bear in gilded chambers.

Mordaunt followed the carriage, and when he had watched it drive beneath the sombre arches he went and stationed himself under a wall over which the shadow was extended, and remained motionless, amidst the moldings of Jean Goujon, like a bas-relievo, representing an equestrian statue.

Chapter 39. How, sometimes, the Unhappy mistake Chance for Providence.

Well, madame,” said De Winter, when the queen had dismissed her attendants.

“Well, my lord, what I foresaw has come to pass.”

“What? does the cardinal refuse to receive the king? France refuse hospitality to an unfortunate prince? Ay, but it is for the first time, madame!”

“I did not say France, my lord; I said the cardinal, and the cardinal is not even a Frenchman.”

“But did you see the queen?”

“It is useless,” replied Henrietta, “the queen will not say yes when the cardinal says no. Are you not aware that this Italian directs everything, both indoors and out? And moreover, I should not be surprised had we been forestalled by Cromwell. He was embarrassed whilst speaking to me and yet quite firm in his determination to refuse. Then did you not observe the agitation in the Palais Royal, the passing to and fro of busy people? Can they have received any news, my lord?”

“Not from England, madame. I made such haste that I am certain of not having been forestalled. I set out three days ago, passing miraculously through the Puritan army, and I took post horses with my servant Tony; the horses upon which we were mounted were bought in Paris. Besides, the king, I am certain, awaits your majesty’s reply before risking anything.”

“You will tell him, my lord,” resumed the queen, despairingly, “that I can do nothing; that I have suffered as much as himself--more than he has--obliged as I am to eat the bread of exile and to ask hospitality from false friends who smile at my tears; and as regards his royal person, he must sacrifice it generously and die like a king. I shall go and die by his side.”

“Madame, madame,” exclaimed De Winter, “your majesty abandons yourself to despair; and yet, perhaps, there still remains some hope.”

“No friends left, my lord; no other friends left in the wide world but yourself! Oh, God!” exclaimed the poor queen, raising her eyes to Heaven, “have You indeed taken back all the generous hearts that once existed in the world?”

“I hope not, madame,” replied De Winter, thoughtfully; “I once spoke to you of four men.”

“What can be done with four?”

“Four devoted, resolute men can do much, assure yourself, madame; and those of whom I speak performed great things at one time.”

“And where are these four men?”

“Ah, that is what I do not know. It is twenty years since I saw them, and yet whenever I have seen the king in danger I have thought of them.”

“And these men were your friends?”

“One of them held my life in his hands and gave it to me. I know not whether he is still my friend, but since that time I have remained his.”

“And these men are in France, my lord?”

“I believe so.”

“Tell me their names; perhaps I may have heard them mentioned and might be able to aid you in finding them.”

“One of them was called the Chevalier d’Artagnan.”

“Ah, my lord, if I mistake not, the Chevalier d’Artagnan is lieutenant of royal guards; but take care, for I fear that this man is entirely devoted to the cardinal.”

“That would be a misfortune,” said De Winter, “and I shall begin to think that we are really doomed.”

“But the others,” said the queen, who clung to this last hope as a shipwrecked man clings to the hull of his vessel. “The others, my lord!”

“The second--I heard his name by chance; for before fighting us, these four gentlemen told us their names; the second was called the Comte de la Fere. As for the two others, I had so much the habit of calling them by nicknames that I have forgotten their real ones.”

“Oh, mon Dieu, it is a matter of the greatest urgency to find them out,” said the queen, “since you think these worthy gentlemen might be so useful to the king.”

“Oh, yes,” said De Winter, “for they are the same men. Listen, madame, and recall your remembrances. Have you never heard that Queen Anne of Austria was once saved from the greatest danger ever incurred by a queen?”

“Yes, at the time of her relations with Monsieur de Buckingham; it had to do in some way with certain studs and diamonds.”

“Well, it was that affair, madame; these men are the ones who saved her; and I smile with pity when I reflect that if the names of those gentlemen are unknown to you it is because the queen has forgotten them, who ought to have made them the first noblemen of the realm.”

“Well, then, my lord, they must be found; but what can four men, or rather three men do--for I tell you, you must not count on Monsieur d’Artagnan.”

“It will be one valiant sword the less, but there will remain still three, without reckoning my own; now four devoted men around the king to protect him from his enemies, to be at his side in battle, to aid him with counsel, to escort him in flight, are sufficient, not to make the king a conqueror, but to save him if conquered; and whatever Mazarin may say, once on the shores of France your royal husband may find as many retreats and asylums as the seabird finds in a storm.”

“Seek, then, my lord, seek these gentlemen; and if they will consent to go with you to England, I will give to each a duchy the day that we reascend the throne, besides as much gold as would pave Whitehall. Seek them, my lord, and find them, I conjure you.”

“I will search for them, madame,” said De Winter “and doubtless I shall find them; but time fails me. Has your majesty forgotten that the king expects your reply and awaits it in agony?”

“Then indeed we are lost!” cried the queen, in the fullness of a broken heart.

At this moment the door opened and the young Henrietta appeared; then the queen, with that wonderful strength which is the privilege of parents, repressed her tears and motioned to De Winter to change the subject.

But that act of self-control, effective as it was, did not escape the eyes of the young princess. She stopped on the threshold, breathed a sigh, and addressing the queen:

“Why, then, do you always weep, mother, when I am away from you?” she said.

The queen smiled, but instead of answering:

“See, De Winter,” she said, “I have at least gained one thing in being only half a queen; and that is that my children call me ‘mother’ instead of ‘madame.’”

Then turning toward her daughter:

“What do you want, Henrietta?” she demanded.

“My mother,” replied the young princess, “a cavalier has just entered the Louvre and wishes to present his respects to your majesty; he arrives from the army and has, he says, a letter to remit to you, on the part of the Marechal de Grammont, I think.”

“Ah!” said the queen to De Winter, “he is one of my faithful adherents; but do you not observe, my dear lord, that we are so poorly served that it is left to my daughter to fill the office of doorkeeper?”

“Madame, have pity on me,” exclaimed De Winter; “you wring my heart!”

“And who is this cavalier, Henrietta?” asked the queen.

“I saw him from the window, madame; he is a young man that appears scarce sixteen years of age, and is called the Viscount de Bragelonne.”

The queen, smiling, made a sign with her head; the young princess opened the door and Raoul appeared on the threshold.

Advancing a few steps toward the queen, he knelt down.

“Madame,” said he, “I bear to your majesty a letter from my friend the Count de Guiche, who told me he had the honor of being your servant; this letter contains important news and the expression of his respect.”

At the name of the Count de Guiche a blush spread over the cheeks of the young princess and the queen glanced at her with some degree of severity.

“You told me that the letter was from the Marechal de Grammont, Henrietta!” said the queen.

“I thought so, madame,” stammered the young girl.

“It is my fault, madame,” said Raoul. “I did announce myself, in truth, as coming on the part of the Marechal de Grammont; but being wounded in the right arm he was unable to write and therefore the Count de Guiche acted as his secretary.”

“There has been fighting, then?” asked the queen, motioning to Raoul to rise.

“Yes, madame,” said the young man.

At this announcement of a battle having taken place, the princess opened her mouth as though to ask a question of interest; but her lips closed again without articulating a word, while the color gradually faded from her cheeks.

The queen saw this, and doubtless her maternal heart translated the emotion, for addressing Raoul again:

“And no evil has happened to the young Count de Guiche?” she asked; “for not only is he our servant, as you say, sir, but more--he is one of our friends.”

“No, madame,” replied Raoul; “on the contrary, he gained great glory and had the honor of being embraced by his highness, the prince, on the field of battle.”

The young princess clapped her hands; and then, ashamed of having been betrayed into such a demonstration of joy, she half turned away and bent over a vase of roses, as if to inhale their odor.

“Let us see,” said the queen, “what the count says.” And she opened the letter and read:

“Madame,--Being unable to have the honor of writing to you myself, by reason of a wound I have received in my right hand, I have commanded my son, the Count de Guiche, who, with his father, is equally your humble servant, to write to tell you that we have just gained the battle of Lens, and that this victory cannot fail to give great power to Cardinal Mazarin and to the queen over the affairs of Europe. If her majesty will have faith in my counsels she ought to profit by this event to address at this moment, in favor of her august husband, the court of France. The Vicomte de Bragelonne, who will have the honor of remitting this letter to your majesty, is the friend of my son, who owes to him his life; he is a gentleman in whom your majesty may confide entirely, in case your majesty may have some verbal or written order to remit to me.

“I have the honor to be, with respect, etc.,

“Marechal de Grammont.”

At the moment mention occurred of his having rendered a service to the count, Raoul could not help turning his glance toward the young princess, and then he saw in her eyes an expression of infinite gratitude to the young man; he no longer doubted that the daughter of King Charles I. loved his friend.

“The battle of Lens gained!” said the queen; “they are lucky here indeed; they can gain battles! Yes, the Marechal de Grammont is right; this will change the aspect of French affairs, but I much fear it will do nothing for English, even if it does not harm them. This is recent news, sir,” continued she, “and I thank you for having made such haste to bring it to me; without this letter I should not have heard till to-morrow, perhaps after to-morrow--the last of all Paris.”

“Madame,” said Raoul, “the Louvre is but the second palace this news has reached; it is as yet unknown to all, and I had sworn to the Count de Guiche to remit this letter to your majesty before even I should embrace my guardian.”

“Your guardian! is he, too, a Bragelonne?” asked Lord de Winter. “I once knew a Bragelonne--is he still alive?”

“No, sir, he is dead; and I believe it is from him my guardian, whose near relation he was, inherited the estate from which I take my name.”

“And your guardian, sir,” asked the queen, who could not help feeling some interest in the handsome young man before her, “what is his name?”

“The Comte de la Fere, madame,” replied the young man, bowing.

De Winter made a gesture of surprise and the queen turned to him with a start of joy.

“The Comte de la Fere!” she cried. “Have you not mentioned that name to me?”

As for De Winter he could scarcely believe that he had heard aright. “The Comte de la Fere!” he cried in his turn. “Oh, sir, reply, I entreat you--is not the Comte de la Fere a noble whom I remember, handsome and brave, a musketeer under Louis XIII., who must be now about forty-seven or forty-eight years of age?”

“Yes, sir, you are right in every particular!”

“And who served under an assumed name?”

“Under the name of Athos. Latterly I heard his friend, Monsieur d’Artagnan, give him that name.”

“That is it, madame, that is the same. God be praised! And he is in Paris?” continued he, addressing Raoul; then turning to the queen: “We may still hope. Providence has declared for us, since I have found this brave man again in so miraculous a manner. And, sir, where does he reside, pray?”

“The Comte de la Fere lodges in the Rue Guenegaud, Hotel du Grand Roi Charlemagne.”

“Thanks, sir. Inform this dear friend that he may remain within, that I shall go and see him immediately.”

“Sir, I obey with pleasure, if her majesty will permit me to depart.”

“Go, Monsieur de Bragelonne,” said the queen, “and rest assured of our affection.”

Raoul bent respectfully before the two princesses, and bowing to De Winter, departed.

The queen and De Winter continued to converse for some time in low voices, in order that the young princess should not overhear them; but the precaution was needless: she was in deep converse with her own thoughts.

Then, when De Winter rose to take leave:

“Listen, my lord,” said the queen; “I have preserved this diamond cross which came from my mother, and this order of St. Michael which came from my husband. They are worth about fifty thousand pounds. I had sworn to die of hunger rather than part with these precious pledges; but now that this ornament may be useful to him or his defenders, everything must be sacrificed. Take them, and if you need money for your expedition, sell them fearlessly, my lord. But should you find the means of retaining them, remember, my lord, that I shall esteem you as having rendered the greatest service that a gentleman can render to a queen; and in the day of my prosperity he who brings me this order and this cross shall be blessed by me and my children.”

“Madame,” replied De Winter, “your majesty will be served by a man devoted to you. I hasten to deposit these two objects in a safe place, nor should I accept them if the resources of our ancient fortune were left to us, but our estates are confiscated, our ready money is exhausted, and we are reduced to turn to service everything we possess. In an hour hence I shall be with the Comte de la Fere, and to-morrow your majesty shall have a definite reply.”

The queen tendered her hand to Lord de Winter, who, kissing it respectfully, went out and traversed alone and unconducted those large, dark and deserted apartments, brushing away tears which, blase as he was by fifty years spent as a courtier, he could not withhold at the spectacle of royal distress so dignified, yet so intense.