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Twenty Years After

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Chapter 49. Misfortune refreshes the Memory.


Anne of Austria returned to her oratory, furious.

“What!” she cried, wringing her beautiful hands, “What! the people have seen Monsieur de Conde, a prince of the blood royal, arrested by my mother-in-law, Maria de Medicis; they saw my mother-in-law, their former regent, expelled by the cardinal; they saw Monsieur de Vendome, that is to say, the son of Henry IV., a prisoner at Vincennes; and whilst these great personages were imprisoned, insulted and threatened, they said nothing; and now for a Broussel--good God! what, then, is to become of royalty?”

The queen unconsciously touched here upon the exciting question. The people had made no demonstration for the princes, but they had risen for Broussel; they were taking the part of a plebeian and in defending Broussel they instinctively felt they were defending themselves.

During this time Mazarin walked up and down the study, glancing from time to time at his beautiful Venetian mirror, starred in every direction. “Ah!” he said, “it is sad, I know well, to be forced to yield thus; but, pshaw! we shall have our revenge. What matters it about Broussel--it is a name, not a thing.”

Mazarin, clever politician as he was, was for once mistaken; Broussel was a thing, not a name.

The next morning, therefore, when Broussel made his entrance into Paris in a large carriage, having his son Louvieres at his side and Friquet behind the vehicle, the people threw themselves in his way and cries of “Long live Broussel!” “Long live our father!” resounded from all parts and was death to Mazarin’s ears; and the cardinal’s spies brought bad news from every direction, which greatly agitated the minister, but was calmly received by the queen. The latter seemed to be maturing in her mind some great stroke, a fact which increased the uneasiness of the cardinal, who knew the proud princess and dreaded much the determination of Anne of Austria.

The coadjutor returned to parliament more a monarch than king, queen, and cardinal, all three together. By his advice a decree from parliament summoned the citizens to lay down their arms and demolish the barricades. They now knew that it required but one hour to take up arms again and one night to reconstruct the barricades.

Rochefort had returned to the Chevalier d’Humieres his fifty horsemen, less two, missing at roll call. But the chevalier was himself at heart a Frondist and would hear nothing said of compensation.

The mendicant had gone to his old place on the steps of Saint Eustache and was again distributing holy water with one hand and asking alms with the other. No one could suspect that those two hands had been engaged with others in drawing out from the social edifice the keystone of royalty.

Louvieres was proud and satisfied; he had taken revenge on Mazarin and had aided in his father’s deliverance from prison. His name had been mentioned as a name of terror at the Palais Royal. Laughingly he said to the councillor, restored to his family:

“Do you think, father, that if now I should ask for a company the queen would give it to me?”

D’Artagnan profited by this interval of calm to send away Raoul, whom he had great difficulty in keeping shut up during the riot, and who wished positively to strike a blow for one party or the other. Raoul had offered some opposition at first; but D’Artagnan made use of the Comte de la Fere’s name, and after paying a visit to Madame de Chevreuse, Raoul started to rejoin the army.

Rochefort alone was dissatisfied with the termination of affairs. He had written to the Duc de Beaufort to come and the duke was about to arrive, and he would find Paris tranquil. He went to the coadjutor to consult with him whether it would not be better to send word to the duke to stop on the road, but Gondy reflected for a moment, and then said:

“Let him continue his journey.”

“All is not then over?” asked Rochefort.

“My dear count, we have only just begun.”

“What induces you to think so?”

“The knowledge that I have of the queen’s heart; she will not rest contented beaten.”

“Is she, then, preparing for a stroke?”

“I hope so.”

“Come, let us see what you know.”

“I know that she has written to the prince to return in haste from the army.”

“Ah! ha!” said Rochefort, “you are right. We must let Monsieur de Beaufort come.”

In fact, the evening after this conversation the report was circulated that the Prince de Conde had arrived. It was a very simple, natural circumstance and yet it created a profound sensation. It was said that Madame de Longueville, for whom the prince had more than a brother’s affection and in whom he had confided, had been indiscreet. His confidence had unveiled the sinister project of the queen.

Even on the night of the prince’s return, some citizens, bolder than the rest, such as the sheriffs, captains and the quartermaster, went from house to house among their friends, saying:

“Why do we not take the king and place him in the Hotel de Ville? It is a shame to leave him to be educated by our enemies, who will give him evil counsel; whereas, brought up by the coadjutor, for instance, he would imbibe national principles and love his people.”

That night the question was secretly agitated and on the morrow the gray and black cloaks, the patrols of armed shop-people, and the bands of mendicants reappeared.

The queen had passed the night in lonely conference with the prince, who had entered the oratory at midnight and did not leave till five o’clock in the morning.

At five o’clock Anne went to the cardinal’s room. If she had not yet taken any repose, he at least was already up. Six days had already passed out of the ten he had asked from Mordaunt; he was therefore occupied in revising his reply to Cromwell, when some one knocked gently at the door of communication with the queen’s apartments. Anne of Austria alone was permitted to enter by that door. The cardinal therefore rose to open it.

The queen was in a morning gown, but it became her still; for, like Diana of Poictiers and Ninon, Anne of Austria enjoyed the privilege of remaining ever beautiful; nevertheless, this morning she looked handsomer than usual, for her eyes had all the sparkle inward satisfaction adds to expression.

“What is the matter, madame?” said Mazarin, uneasily. “You seem secretly elated.”

“Yes, Giulio,” she said, “proud and happy; for I have found the means of strangling this hydra.”

“You are a great politician, my queen,” said Mazarin; “let us hear the means.” And he hid what he had written by sliding the letter under a folio of blank paper.

“You know,” said the queen, “that they want to take the king away from me?”

“Alas! yes, and to hang me.”

“They shall not have the king.”

“Nor hang me.”

“Listen. I want to carry off my son from them, with yourself. I wish that this event, which on the day it is known will completely change the aspect of affairs, should be accomplished without the knowledge of any others but yourself, myself, and a third person.”

“And who is this third person?”

“Monsieur le Prince.”

“He has come, then, as they told me?”

“Last evening.”

“And you have seen him?”

“He has just left me.”

“And will he aid this project?”

“The plan is his own.”

“And Paris?”

“He will starve it out and force it to surrender at discretion.”

“The plan is not wanting in grandeur; I see but one impediment.”

“What is it?”

“Impossibility.”

“A senseless word. Nothing is impossible.”

“On paper.”

“In execution. We have money?”

“A little,” said Mazarin, trembling, lest Anne should ask to draw upon his purse.

“Troops?”

“Five or six thousand men.”

“Courage?”

“Plenty.”

“Then the thing is easy. Oh! do think of it, Giulio! Paris, this odious Paris, waking up one morning without queen or king, surrounded, besieged, famished--having for its sole resource its stupid parliament and their coadjutor with crooked limbs!”

“Charming! charming!” said Mazarin. “I can imagine the effect, I do not see the means.”

“I will find the means myself.”

“You are aware it will be war, civil war, furious, devouring, implacable?”

“Oh! yes, yes, war,” said Anne of Austria. “Yes, I will reduce this rebellious city to ashes. I will extinguish the fire with blood! I will perpetuate the crime and punishment by making a frightful example. Paris!; I--I detest, I loathe it!”

“Very fine, Anne. You are now sanguinary; but take care. We are not in the time of Malatesta and Castruccio Castracani. You will get yourself decapitated, my beautiful queen, and that would be a pity.”

“You laugh.”

“Faintly. It is dangerous to go to war with a nation. Look at your brother monarch, Charles I. He is badly off, very badly.”

“We are in France, and I am Spanish.”

“So much the worse; I had much rather you were French and myself also; they would hate us both less.”

“Nevertheless, you consent?”

“Yes, if the thing be possible.”

“It is; it is I who tell you so; make preparations for departure.”

“I! I am always prepared to go, only, as you know, I never do go, and perhaps shall go this time as little as before.”

“In short, if I go, will you go too?”

“I will try.”

“You torment me, Giulio, with your fears; and what are you afraid of, then?”

“Of many things.”

“What are they?”

Mazarin’s face, smiling as it was, became clouded.

“Anne,” said he, “you are but a woman and as a woman you may insult men at your ease, knowing that you can do it with impunity. You accuse me of fear; I have not so much as you have, since I do not fly as you do. Against whom do they cry out? is it against you or against myself? Whom would they hang, yourself or me? Well, I can weather the storm--I, whom, notwithstanding, you tax with fear--not with bravado, that is not my way; but I am firm. Imitate me. Make less hubbub and think more deeply. You cry very loud, you end by doing nothing; you talk of flying----”

Mazarin shrugged his shoulders and taking the queen’s hand led her to the window.

“Look!” he said.

“Well?” said the queen, blinded by her obstinacy.

“Well, what do you see from this window? If I am not mistaken those are citizens, helmeted and mailed, armed with good muskets, as in the time of the League, and whose eyes are so intently fixed on this window that they will see you if you raise that curtain much; and now come to the other side--what do you see? Creatures of the people, armed with halberds, guarding your doors. You will see the same at every opening from this palace to which I should lead you. Your doors are guarded, the airholes of your cellars are guarded, and I could say to you, as that good La Ramee said to me of the Duc de Beaufort, you must be either bird or mouse to get out.”

“He did get out, nevertheless.”

“Do you think of escaping in the same way?”

“I am a prisoner, then?”

“Parbleu!” said Mazarin, “I have been proving it to you this last hour.”

And he quietly resumed his dispatch at the place where he had been interrupted.

Anne, trembling with anger and scarlet with humiliation, left the room, shutting the door violently after her. Mazarin did not even turn around. When once more in her own apartment Anne fell into a chair and wept; then suddenly struck with an idea:

“I am saved!” she exclaimed, rising; “oh, yes! yes! I know a man who will find the means of taking me from Paris, a man I have too long forgotten.” Then falling into a reverie, she added, however, with an expression of joy, “Ungrateful woman that I am, for twenty years I have forgotten this man, whom I ought to have made a marechal of France. My mother-in-law expended gold, caresses, dignities on Concini, who ruined her; the king made Vitry marechal of France for an assassination: while I have left in obscurity, in poverty, the noble D’Artagnan, who saved me!”

And running to a table, on which were paper, pens and ink, she hastily began to write.


Chapter 50. The Interview.


It had been D’Artagnan’s practice, ever since the riots, to sleep in the same room as Porthos, and on this eventful morning he was still there, sleeping, and dreaming that a yellow cloud had overspread the sky and was raining gold pieces into his hat, which he held out till it was overflowing with pistoles. As for Porthos, he dreamed that the panels of his carriage were not capacious enough to contain the armorial bearings he had ordered to be painted on them. They were both aroused at seven o’clock by the entrance of an unliveried servant, who brought a letter for D’Artagnan.

“From whom?” asked the Gascon.

“From the queen,” replied the servant.

“Ho!” said Porthos, raising himself in his bed; “what does she say?”

D’Artagnan requested the servant to wait in the next room and when the door was closed he sprang up from his bed and read rapidly, whilst Porthos looked at him with starting eyes, not daring to ask a single question.

“Friend Porthos,” said D’Artagnan, handing the letter to him, “this time, at least, you are sure of your title of baron, and I of my captaincy. Read for yourself and judge.”

Porthos took the letter and with a trembling voice read the following words:

“The queen wishes to speak to Monsieur d’Artagnan, who must follow the bearer.”

“Well!” exclaimed Porthos; “I see nothing in that very extraordinary.”

“But I see much that is very extraordinary in it,” replied D’Artagnan. “It is evident, by their sending for me, that matters are becoming complicated. Just reflect a little what an agitation the queen’s mind must be in for her to have remembered me after twenty years.”

“It is true,” said Porthos.

“Sharpen your sword, baron, load your pistols, and give some corn to the horses, for I will answer for it, something lightning-like will happen ere to-morrow.”

“But, stop; do you think it can be a trap that they are laying for us?” suggested Porthos, incessantly thinking how his greatness must be irksome to inferior people.

“If it is a snare,” replied D’Artagnan, “I shall scent it out, be assured. If Mazarin is an Italian, I am a Gascon.”

And D’Artagnan dressed himself in an instant.

Whilst Porthos, still in bed, was hooking on his cloak for him, a second knock at the door was heard.

“Come in,” exclaimed D’Artagnan; and another servant entered.

“From His Eminence, Cardinal Mazarin,” presenting a letter.

D’Artagnan looked at Porthos.

“A complicated affair,” said Porthos; “where will you begin?”

“It is arranged capitally; his eminence expects me in half an hour.”

“Good.”

“My friend,” said D’Artagnan, turning to the servant, “tell his eminence that in half an hour I shall be at his command.”

“It is very fortunate,” resumed the Gascon, when the valet had retired, “that he did not meet the other one.”

“Do you not think that they have sent for you, both for the same thing?”

“I do not think it, I am certain of it.”

“Quick, quick, D’Artagnan. Remember that the queen awaits you, and after the queen, the cardinal, and after the cardinal, myself.”

D’Artagnan summoned Anne of Austria’s servant and signified that he was ready to follow him into the queen’s presence.

The servant conducted him by the Rue des Petits Champs and turning to the left entered the little garden gate leading into the Rue Richelieu; then they gained the private staircase and D’Artagnan was ushered into the oratory. A certain emotion, for which he could not account, made the lieutenant’s heart beat: he had no longer the assurance of youth; experience had taught him the importance of past events. Formerly he would have approached the queen as a young man who bends before a woman; but now it was a different thing; he answered her summons as an humble soldier obeys an illustrious general.

The silence of the oratory was at last disturbed by the slight rustling of silk, and D’Artagnan started when he perceived the tapestry raised by a white hand, which, by its form, its color and its beauty he recognized as that royal hand which had one day been presented to him to kiss. The queen entered.

“It is you, Monsieur d’Artagnan,” she said, fixing a gaze full of melancholy interest on the countenance of the officer, “and I know you well. Look at me well in your turn. I am the queen; do you recognize me?”

“No, madame,” replied D’Artagnan.

“But are you no longer aware,” continued Anne, giving that sweet expression to her voice which she could do at will, “that in former days the queen had once need of a young, brave and devoted cavalier--that she found this cavalier--and that, although he might have thought that she had forgotten him, she had kept a place for him in the depths of her heart?”

“No, madame, I was ignorant of that,” said the musketeer.

“So much the worse, sir,” said Anne of Austria; “so much the worse, at least for the queen, for to-day she has need of the same courage and the same devotion.”

“What!” exclaimed D’Artagnan, “does the queen, surrounded as she is by such devoted servants, such wise counselors, men, in short, so great by merit or position--does she deign to cast her eyes on an obscure soldier?”

Anne understood this covert reproach and was more moved than irritated by it. She had many a time felt humiliated by the self-sacrifice and disinterestedness shown by the Gascon gentleman. She had allowed herself to be exceeded in generosity.

“All that you tell me of those by whom I am surrounded, Monsieur d’Artagnan, is doubtless true,” said the queen, “but I have confidence in you alone. I know that you belong to the cardinal, but belong to me as well, and I will take upon myself the making of your fortune. Come, will you do to-day what formerly the gentleman you do not know did for the queen?”

“I will do everything your majesty commands,” replied D’Artagnan.

The queen reflected for a moment and then, seeing the cautious demeanor of the musketeer:

“Perhaps you like repose?” she said.

“I do not know, for I have never had it, madame.”

“Have you any friends?”

“I had three, two of whom have left Paris, to go I know not where. One alone is left to me, but he is one of those known, I believe, to the cavalier of whom your majesty did me the honor to speak.”

“Very good,” said the queen; “you and your friend are worth an army.”

“What am I to do, madame?”

“Return at five o’clock and I will tell you; but do not breathe to a living soul, sir, the rendezvous which I give you.”

“No, madame.”

“Swear it upon the cross.”

“Madame, I have never been false to my word; when I say I will not do a thing, I mean it.”

The queen, although astonished at this language, to which she was not accustomed from her courtiers, argued from it a happy omen of the zeal with which D’Artagnan would serve her in the accomplishment of her project. It was one of the Gascon’s artifices to hide his deep cunning occasionally under an appearance of rough loyalty.

“Has the queen any further commands for me now?” asked D’Artagnan.

“No, sir,” replied Anne of Austria, “and you may retire until the time that I mentioned to you.”

D’Artagnan bowed and went out.

“Diable!” he exclaimed when the door was shut, “they seem to have the greatest need of me just now.”

Then, as the half hour had already glided by, he crossed the gallery and knocked at the cardinal’s door.

Bernouin introduced him.

“I come for your commands, my lord,” he said.

And according to his custom D’Artagnan glanced rapidly around and remarked that Mazarin had a sealed letter before him. But it was so placed on the desk that he could not see to whom it was addressed.

“You come from the queen?” said Mazarin, looking fixedly at D’Artagnan.

“I! my lord--who told you that?”

“Nobody, but I know it.”

“I regret infinitely to tell you, my lord, that you are mistaken,” replied the Gascon, impudently, firm to the promise he had just made to Anne of Austria.

“I opened the door of the ante-room myself and I saw you enter at the end of the corridor.”

“Because I was shown up the private stairs.”

“How so?”

“I know not; it must have been a mistake.”

Mazarin was aware that it was not easy to make D’Artagnan reveal anything he was desirous of hiding, so he gave up, for the time, the discovery of the mystery the Gascon was concealing.

“Let us speak of my affairs,” said Mazarin, “since you will tell me naught of yours. Are you fond of traveling?”

“My life has been passed on the high road.”

“Would anything retain you particularly in Paris?”

“Nothing but an order from a superior would retain me in Paris.”

“Very well. Here is a letter, which must be taken to its address.”

“To its address, my lord? But it has none.”

In fact, the side of the letter opposite the seal was blank.

“I must tell you,” resumed Mazarin, “that it is in a double envelope.”

“I understand; and I am to take off the first one when I have reached a certain place?”

“Just so, take it and go. You have a friend, Monsieur du Vallon, whom I like much; let him accompany you.”

“The devil!” said D’Artagnan to himself. “He knows that we overheard his conversation yesterday and he wants to get us away from Paris.”

“Do you hesitate?” asked Mazarin.

“No, my lord, and I will set out at once. There is one thing only which I must request.”

“What is it? Speak.”

“That your eminence will go at once to the queen.”

“What for?”

“Merely to say these words: ‘I am going to send Monsieur d’Artagnan away and I wish him to set out directly.’”

“I told you,” said Mazarin, “that you had seen the queen.”

“I had the honor of saying to your eminence that there had been some mistake.”

“What is the meaning of that?”

“May I venture to repeat my prayer to your eminence?”

“Very well; I will go. Wait here for me.” And looking attentively around him, to see if he had left any of his keys in his closets, Mazarin went out. Ten minutes elapsed, during which D’Artagnan made every effort to read through the first envelope what was written on the second. But he did not succeed.

Mazarin returned, pale, and evidently thoughtful. He seated himself at his desk and D’Artagnan proceeded to examine his face, as he had just examined the letter he held, but the envelope which covered his countenance appeared as impenetrable as that which covered the letter.

“Ah!” thought the Gascon; “he looks displeased. Can it be with me? He meditates. Is it about sending me to the Bastile? All very fine, my lord, but at the very first hint you give of such a thing I will strangle you and become Frondist. I should be carried home in triumph like Monsieur Broussel and Athos would proclaim me the French Brutus. It would be exceedingly droll.”

The Gascon, with his vivid imagination, had already seen the advantage to be derived from his situation. Mazarin gave, however, no order of the kind, but on the contrary began to be insinuating.

“You were right,” he said, “my dear Monsieur d’Artagnan, and you cannot set out yet. I beg you to return me that dispatch.”

D’Artagnan obeyed, and Mazarin ascertained that the seal was intact.

“I shall want you this evening,” he said “Return in two hours.”

“My lord,” said D’Artagnan, “I have an appointment in two hours which I cannot miss.”

“Do not be uneasy,” said Mazarin; “it is the same.”

“Good!” thought D’Artagnan; “I fancied it was so.”

“Return, then, at five o’clock and bring that worthy Monsieur du Vallon with you. Only, leave him in the ante-room, as I wish to speak to you alone.”

D’Artagnan bowed, and thought: “Both at the same hour; both commands alike; both at the Palais Royal. Monsieur de Gondy would pay a hundred thousand francs for such a secret!”

“You are thoughtful,” said Mazarin, uneasily.

“Yes, I was thinking whether we ought to come armed or not.”

“Armed to the teeth!” replied Mazarin.

“Very well, my lord; it shall be so.”

D’Artagnan saluted, went out and hastened to repeat to his friend Mazarin’s flattering promises, which gave Porthos an indescribable happiness.


Chapter 51. The Flight.


When D’Artagnan returned to the Palais Royal at five o’clock, it presented, in spite of the excitement which reigned in the town, a spectacle of the greatest rejoicing. Nor was that surprising. The queen had restored Broussel and Blancmesnil to the people and had therefore nothing to fear, since the people had nothing more just then to ask for. The return, also, of the conqueror of Lens was the pretext for giving a grand banquet. The princes and princesses were invited and their carriages had crowded the court since noon; then after dinner the queen was to have a play in her apartment. Anne of Austria had never appeared more brilliant than on that day--radiant with grace and wit. Mazarin disappeared as they rose from table. He found D’Artagnan waiting for him already at his post in the ante-room.

The cardinal advanced to him with a smile and taking him by the hand led him into his study.

“My dear M. d’Artagnan,” said the minister, sitting down, “I am about to give you the greatest proof of confidence that a minister can give an officer.”

“I hope,” said D’Artagnan, bowing, “that you give it, my lord, without hesitation and with the conviction that I am worthy of it.”

“More worthy than any one in Paris my dear friend; therefore I apply to you. We are about to leave this evening,” continued Mazarin. “My dear M. d’Artagnan, the welfare of the state is deposited in your hands.” He paused.

“Explain yourself, my lord, I am listening.”

“The queen has resolved to make a little excursion with the king to Saint Germain.”

“Aha!” said D’Artagnan, “that is to say, the queen wishes to leave Paris.”

“A woman’s caprice--you understand.”

“Yes, I understand perfectly,” said D’Artagnan.

“It was for this she summoned you this morning and that she told you to return at five o’clock.”

“Was it worth while to wish me to swear this morning that I would mention the appointment to no one?” muttered D’Artagnan. “Oh, women! women! whether queens or not, they are always the same.”

“Do you disapprove of this journey, my dear M. d’Artagnan?” asked Mazarin, anxiously.

“I, my lord?” said D’Artagnan; “why should I?”

“Because you shrug your shoulders.”

“It is a way I have of speaking to myself. I neither approve nor disapprove, my lord; I merely await your commands.”

“Good; it is you, accordingly, that I have pitched upon to conduct the king and the queen to Saint Germain.”

“Liar!” thought D’Artagnan.

“You see, therefore,” continued the cardinal, perceiving D’Artagnan’s composure, “that, as I have told you, the welfare of the state is placed in your hands.”

“Yes, my lord, and I feel the whole responsibility of such a charge.”

“You accept, however?”

“I always accept.”

“Do you think the thing possible?”

“Everything is possible.”

“Shall you be attacked on the road?”

“Probably.”

“And what will you do in that case?”

“I shall pass through those who attack me.”

“And suppose you cannot pass through them?”

“So much the worse for them; I shall pass over them.”

“And you will place the king and queen in safety also, at Saint Germain?”

“Yes.”

“On your life?”

“On my life.”

“You are a hero, my friend,” said Mazarin, gazing at the musketeer with admiration.

D’Artagnan smiled.

“And I?” asked Mazarin, after a moment’s silence.

“How? and you, my lord?”

“If I wish to leave?”

“That would be much more difficult.”

“Why so?”

“Your eminence might be recognized.”

“Even under this disguise?” asked Mazarin, raising a cloak which covered an arm-chair, upon which lay a complete dress for an officer, of pearl-gray and red, entirely embroidered with silver.

“If your eminence is disguised it will be almost easy.”

“Ah!” said Mazarin, breathing more freely.

“But it will be necessary for your eminence to do what the other day you declared you should have done in our place--cry, ‘Down with Mazarin!’”

“I will: ‘Down with Mazarin’”

“In French, in good French, my lord, take care of your accent; they killed six thousand Angevins in Sicily because they pronounced Italian badly. Take care that the French do not take their revenge on you for the Sicilian vespers.”

“I will do my best.”

“The streets are full of armed men,” continued D’Artagnan. “Are you sure that no one is aware of the queen’s project?”

Mazarin reflected.

“This affair would give a fine opportunity for a traitor, my lord; the chance of being attacked would be an excuse for everything.”

Mazarin shuddered, but he reflected that a man who had the least intention to betray would not warn first.

“And therefore,” added he, quietly, “I have not confidence in every one; the proof of which is, that I have fixed upon you to escort me.”

“Shall you not go with the queen?”

“No,” replied Mazarin.

“Then you will start after the queen?”

“No,” said Mazarin again.

“Ah!” said D’Artagnan, who began to understand.

“Yes,” continued the cardinal. “I have my plan. With the queen I double her risk; after the queen her departure would double mine; then, the court once safe, I might be forgotten. The great are often ungrateful.”

“Very true,” said D’Artagnan, fixing his eyes, in spite of himself, on the queen’s diamond, which Mazarin wore on his finger. Mazarin followed the direction of his eyes and gently turned the hoop of the ring inside.

“I wish,” he said, with his cunning smile, “to prevent them from being ungrateful to me.”

“It is but Christian charity,” replied D’Artagnan, “not to lead one’s neighbors into temptation.”

“It is exactly for that reason,” said Mazarin, “that I wish to start before them.”

D’Artagnan smiled--he was just the man to understand the astute Italian. Mazarin saw the smile and profited by the moment.

“You will begin, therefore, by taking me first out of Paris, will you not, my dear M. d’Artagnan?”

“A difficult commission, my lord,” replied D’Artagnan, resuming his serious manner.

“But,” said Mazarin, “you did not make so many difficulties with regard to the king and queen.”

“The king and the queen are my king and queen,” replied the musketeer, “my life is theirs and I must give it for them. If they ask it what have I to say?”

“That is true,” murmured Mazarin, in a low tone, “but as thy life is not mine I suppose I must buy it, must I not?” and sighing deeply he began to turn the hoop of his ring outside again. D’Artagnan smiled. These two men met at one point and that was, cunning; had they been actuated equally by courage, the one would have done great things for the other.

“But, also,” said Mazarin, “you must understand that if I ask this service from you it is with the intention of being grateful.”

“Is it still only an intention, your eminence?” asked D’Artagnan.

“Stay,” said Mazarin, drawing the ring from his finger, “my dear D’Artagnan, there is a diamond which belonged to you formerly, it is but just it should return to you; take it, I pray.”

D’Artagnan spared Mazarin the trouble of insisting, and after looking to see if the stone was the same and assuring himself of the purity of its water, he took it and passed it on his finger with indescribable pleasure.

“I valued it much,” said Mazarin, giving a last look at it; “nevertheless, I give it to you with great pleasure.”

“And I, my lord,” said D’Artagnan, “accept it as it is given. Come, let us speak of your little affairs. You wish to leave before everybody and at what hour?”

“At ten o’clock.”

“And the queen, at what time is it her wish to start?”

“At midnight.”

“Then it is possible. I can get you out of Paris and leave you beyond the barriere, and can return for her.”

“Capital; but how will you get me out of Paris?”

“Oh! as to that, you must leave it to me.”

“I give you absolute power, therefore; take as large an escort as you like.”

D’Artagnan shook his head.

“It seems to me, however,” said Mazarin, “the safest method.”

“Yes, for you, my lord, but not for the queen; you must leave it to me and give me the entire direction of the undertaking.”

“Nevertheless----”

“Or find some one else,” continued D’Artagnan, turning his back.

“Oh!” muttered Mazarin, “I do believe he is going off with the diamond! M. d’Artagnan, my dear M. d’Artagnan,” he called out in a coaxing voice, “will you answer for everything?”

“I will answer for nothing. I will do my best.”

“Well, then, let us go--I must trust to you.”

“It is very fortunate,” said D’Artagnan to himself.

“You will be here at half-past nine.”

“And I shall find your eminence ready?”

“Certainly, quite ready.”

“Well, then, it is a settled thing; and now, my lord, will you obtain for me an audience with the queen?”

“For what purpose?”

“I wish to receive her majesty’s commands from her own lips.”

“She desired me to give them to you.”

“She may have forgotten something.”

“You really wish to see her?”

“It is indispensable, my lord.”

Mazarin hesitated for one instant, but D’Artagnan was firm.

“Come, then,” said the minister; “I will conduct you to her, but remember, not one word of our conversation.”

“What has passed between us concerns ourselves alone, my lord,” replied D’Artagnan.

“Swear to be mute.”

“I never swear, my lord, I say yes or no; and, as I am a gentleman, I keep my word.”

“Come, then, I see that I must trust unreservedly to you.”

“Believe me, my lord, it will be your best plan.”

“Come,” said Mazarin, conducting D’Artagnan into the queen’s oratory and desiring him to wait there. He did not wait long, for in five minutes the queen entered in full gala costume. Thus dressed she scarcely appeared thirty-five years of age. She was still exceedingly handsome.

“It is you, Monsieur D’Artagnan,” she said, smiling graciously; “I thank you for having insisted on seeing me.”

“I ought to ask your majesty’s pardon, but I wished to receive your commands from your own mouth.”

“Do you accept the commission which I have intrusted to you?”

“With gratitude.”

“Very well, be here at midnight.”

“I will not fail.”

“Monsieur d’Artagnan,” continued the queen, “I know your disinterestedness too well to speak of my own gratitude at such a moment, but I swear to you that I shall not forget this second service as I forgot the first.”

“Your majesty is free to forget or to remember, as it pleases you; and I know not what you mean,” said D’Artagnan, bowing.

“Go, sir,” said the queen, with her most bewitching smile, “go and return at midnight.”

And D’Artagnan retired, but as he passed out he glanced at the curtain through which the queen had entered and at the bottom of the tapestry he remarked the tip of a velvet slipper.

“Good,” thought he; “Mazarin has been listening to discover whether I betrayed him. In truth, that Italian puppet does not deserve the services of an honest man.”

D’Artagnan was not less exact to his appointment and at half-past nine o’clock he entered the ante-room.

He found the cardinal dressed as an officer, and he looked very well in that costume, which, as we have already said, he wore elegantly; only he was very pale and trembled slightly.

“Quite alone?” he asked.

“Yes, my lord.”

“And that worthy Monsieur du Vallon, are we not to enjoy his society?”

“Certainly, my lord; he is waiting in his carriage at the gate of the garden of the Palais Royal.”

“And we start in his carriage, then?”

“Yes, my lord.”

“And with us no other escort but you two?”

“Is it not enough? One of us would suffice.”

“Really, my dear Monsieur d’Artagnan,” said the cardinal, “your coolness startles me.”

“I should have thought, on the contrary, that it ought to have inspired you with confidence.”

“And Bernouin--do I not take him with me?”

“There is no room for him, he will rejoin your eminence.”

“Let us go,” said Mazarin, “since everything must be done as you wish.”

“My lord, there is time to draw back,” said D’Artagnan, “and your eminence is perfectly free.”

“Not at all, not at all,” said Mazarin; “let us be off.”

And so they descended the private stair, Mazarin leaning on the arm of D’Artagnan a hand the musketeer felt trembling. At last, after crossing the courts of the Palais Royal, where there still remained some of the conveyances of late guests, they entered the garden and reached the little gate. Mazarin attempted to open it by a key which he took from his pocket, but with such shaking fingers that he could not find the keyhole.

“Give it to me,” said D’Artagnan, who when the gate was open deposited the key in his pocket, reckoning upon returning by that gate.

The steps were already down and the door open. Mousqueton stood at the door and Porthos was inside the carriage.

“Mount, my lord,” said D’Artagnan to Mazarin, who sprang into the carriage without waiting for a second bidding. D’Artagnan followed him, and Mousqueton, having closed the door, mounted behind the carriage with many groans. He had made some difficulties about going, under pretext that he still suffered from his wound, but D’Artagnan had said to him:

“Remain if you like, my dear Monsieur Mouston, but I warn you that Paris will be burnt down to-night;” upon which Mousqueton had declared, without asking anything further, that he was ready to follow his master and Monsieur d’Artagnan to the end of the world.

The carriage started at a measured pace, without betraying by the slightest sign that it contained people in a hurry. The cardinal wiped his forehead with his handkerchief and looked around him. On his left was Porthos, whilst D’Artagnan was on his right; each guarded a door and served as a rampart to him on either side. Before him, on the front seat, lay two pairs of pistols--one in front of Porthos and the other of D’Artagnan. About a hundred paces from the Palais Royal a patrol stopped the carriage.

“Who goes?” asked the captain.

“Mazarin!” replied D’Artagnan, bursting into a laugh. The cardinal’s hair stood on end. But the joke appeared an excellent one to the citizens, who, seeing the conveyance without escort and unarmed, would never have believed in the possibility of so great an imprudence.

“A good journey to ye,” they cried, allowing it to pass.

“Hem!” said D’Artagnan, “what does my lord think of that reply?”

“Man of talent!” cried Mazarin.

“In truth,” said Porthos, “I understand; but now----”

About the middle of the Rue des Petits Champs they were stopped by a second patrol.

“Who goes there?” inquired the captain of the patrol.

“Keep back, my lord,” said D’Artagnan. And Mazarin buried himself so far behind the two friends that he disappeared, completely hidden between them.

“Who goes there?” cried the same voice, impatiently whilst D’Artagnan perceived that they had rushed to the horses’ heads. But putting his head out of the carriage:

“Eh! Planchet,” said he.

The chief approached, and it was indeed Planchet; D’Artagnan had recognized the voice of his old servant.

“How, sir!” said Planchet, “is it you?”

“Eh! mon Dieu! yes, my good friend, this worthy Porthos has just received a sword wound and I am taking him to his country house at Saint Cloud.”

“Oh! really,” said Planchet.

“Porthos,” said D’Artagnan, “if you can still speak, say a word, my dear Porthos, to this good Planchet.”

“Planchet, my friend,” said Porthos, in a melancholy voice, “I am very ill; should you meet a doctor you will do me a favor by sending him to me.”

“Oh! good Heaven,” said Planchet, “what a misfortune! and how did it happen?”

“I will tell you all about it,” replied Mousqueton.

Porthos uttered a deep groan.

“Make way for us, Planchet,” said D’Artagnan in a whisper to him, “or he will not arrive alive; the lungs are attacked, my friend.”

Planchet shook his head with the air of a man who says, “In that case things look ill.” Then he exclaimed, turning to his men:

“Let them pass; they are friends.”

The carriage resumed its course, and Mazarin, who had held his breath, ventured to breathe again.

“Bricconi!” muttered he.

A few steps in advance of the gate of Saint Honore they met a third troop; this latter party was composed of ill-looking fellows, who resembled bandits more than anything else; they were the men of the beggar of Saint Eustache.

“Attention, Porthos!” cried D’Artagnan.

Porthos placed his hand on the pistols.

“What is it?” asked Mazarin.

“My lord, I think we are in bad company.”

A man advanced to the door with a kind of scythe in his hand. “Qui vive?” he asked.

“Eh, rascal!” said D’Artagnan, “do you not recognize his highness the prince’s carriage?”

“Prince or not,” said the man, “open. We are here to guard the gate, and no one whom we do not know shall pass.”

“What is to be done?” said Porthos.

“Pardieu! pass,” replied D’Artagnan.

“But how?” asked Mazarin.

“Through or over; coachman, gallop on.”

The coachman raised his whip.

“Not a step further,” said the man, who appeared to be the captain, “or I will hamstring your horses.”

“Peste!” said Porthos, “it would be a pity; animals which cost me a hundred pistoles each.”

“I will pay you two hundred for them,” said Mazarin.

“Yes, but when once they are hamstrung, our necks will be strung next.”

“If one of them comes to my side,” asked Porthos, “must I kill him?”

“Yes, by a blow of your fist, if you can; we will not fire but at the last extremity.”

“I can do it,” said Porthos.

“Come and open, then!” cried D’Artagnan to the man with the scythe, taking one of the pistols up by the muzzle and preparing to strike with the handle. And as the man approached, D’Artagnan, in order to have more freedom for his actions, leaned half out of the door; his eyes were fixed upon those of the mendicant, which were lighted up by a lantern. Without doubt he recognized D’Artagnan, for he became deadly pale; doubtless the musketeer knew him, for his hair stood up on his head.

“Monsieur d’Artagnan!” he cried, falling back a step; “it is Monsieur d’Artagnan! let him pass.”

D’Artagnan was perhaps about to reply, when a blow, similar to that of a mallet falling on the head of an ox, was heard. The noise was caused by Porthos, who had just knocked down his man.

D’Artagnan turned around and saw the unfortunate man upon his back about four paces off.

“‘Sdeath!” cried he to the coachman. “Spur your horses! whip! get on!”

The coachman bestowed a heavy blow of the whip upon his horses; the noble animals bounded forward; then cries of men who were knocked down were heard; then a double concussion was felt, and two of the wheels seemed to pass over a round and flexible body. There was a moment’s silence, then the carriage cleared the gate.

“To Cours la Reine!” cried D’Artagnan to the coachman; then turning to Mazarin he said, “Now, my lord, you can say five paters and five aves, in thanks to Heaven for your deliverance. You are safe--you are free.”

Mazarin replied only by a groan; he could not believe in such a miracle. Five minutes later the carriage stopped, having reached Cours la Reine.

“Is my lord pleased with his escort?” asked D’Artagnan.

“Enchanted, monsieur,” said Mazarin, venturing his head out of one of the windows; “and now do as much for the queen.”

“It will not be so difficult,” replied D’Artagnan, springing to the ground. “Monsieur du Vallon, I commend his eminence to your care.”

“Be quite at ease,” said Porthos, holding out his hand, which D’Artagnan took and shook in his.

“Oh!” cried Porthos, as if in pain.

D’Artagnan looked with surprise at his friend.

“What is the matter, then?” he asked.

“I think I have sprained my wrist,’ said Porthos.

“The devil! why, you strike like a blind or a deaf man.”

“It was necessary; my man was going to fire a pistol at me; but you--how did you get rid of yours?”

“Oh, mine,” replied D’Artagnan, “was not a man.”

“What was it then?”

“It was an apparition.”

“And----”

“I charmed it away.”

Without further explanation D’Artagnan took the pistols which were upon the front seat, placed them in his belt, wrapped himself in his cloak, and not wishing to enter by the same gate as that through which they had left, he took his way toward the Richelieu gate.