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Twenty Years After

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Chapter 55. The Scotchman.


And now our readers must leave the Standard to sail peaceably, not toward London, where D’Artagnan and Porthos believed they were going, but to Durham, whither Mordaunt had been ordered to repair by the letter he had received during his sojourn at Boulogne, and accompany us to the royalist camp, on this side of the Tyne, near Newcastle.

There, placed between two rivers on the borders of Scotland, but still on English soil, the tents of a little army extended. It was midnight. Some Highlanders were listlessly keeping watch. The moon, which was partially obscured by heavy clouds, now and then lit up the muskets of the sentinels, or silvered the walls, the roofs, and the spires of the town that Charles I. had just surrendered to the parliamentary troops, whilst Oxford and Newark still held out for him in the hopes of coming to some arrangement.

At one of the extremities of the camp, near an immense tent, in which the Scottish officers were holding a kind of council, presided over by Lord Leven, their commander, a man attired as a cavalier lay sleeping on the turf, his right hand extended over his sword.

About fifty paces off, another man, also appareled as a cavalier, was talking to a Scotch sentinel, and, though a foreigner, he seemed to understand without much difficulty the answers given in the broad Perthshire dialect.

As the town clock of Newcastle struck one the sleeper awoke, and with all the gestures of a man rousing himself out of deep sleep he looked attentively about him; perceiving that he was alone he rose and making a little circuit passed close to the cavalier who was speaking to the sentinel. The former had no doubt finished his questions, for a moment later he said good-night and carelessly followed the same path taken by the first cavalier.

In the shadow of a tent the former was awaiting him.

“Well, my dear friend?” said he, in as pure French as has ever been uttered between Rouen and Tours.

“Well, my friend, there is not a moment to lose; we must let the king know immediately.”

“Why, what is the matter?”

“It would take too long to tell you, besides, you will hear it all directly and the least word dropped here might ruin all. We must go and find Lord Winter.”

They both set off to the other end of the camp, but as it did not cover more than a surface of five hundred feet they quickly arrived at the tent they were looking for.

“Tony, is your master sleeping?” said one of the two cavaliers to a servant who was lying in the outer compartment, which served as a kind of ante-room.

“No, monsieur le comte,” answered the servant, “I think not; or at least he has not long been so, for he was pacing up and down for more than two hours after he left the king, and the sound of his footsteps has only ceased during the last ten minutes. However, you may look and see,” added the lackey, raising the curtained entrance of the tent.

Lord Winter was seated near an aperture, arranged as a window to let in the night air, his eyes mechanically following the course of the moon, intermittently veiled, as we before observed, by heavy clouds. The two friends approached Winter, who, with his head on his hands, was gazing at the heavens; he did not hear them enter and remained in the same attitude till he felt a hand upon his shoulder.

He turned around, recognized Athos and Aramis and held out his hand to them.

“Have you observed,” said he to them, “what a blood-red color the moon has to-night?”

“No,” replied Athos; “I thought it looked much the same as usual.”

“Look, again, chevalier,” returned Lord Winter.

“I must own,” said Aramis, “I am like the Comte de la Fere--I can see nothing remarkable about it.”

“My lord,” said Athos, “in a position so precarious as ours we must examine the earth and not the heavens. Have you studied our Scotch troops and have you confidence in them?”

“The Scotch?” inquired Winter. “What Scotch?”

“Ours, egad!” exclaimed Athos. “Those in whom the king has confided--Lord Leven’s Highlanders.”

“No,” said Winter, then he paused; “but tell me, can you not perceive the russet tint which marks the heavens?”

“Not the least in the world,” said Aramis and Athos at once.

“Tell me,” continued Winter, always possessed by the same idea, “is there not a tradition in France that Henry IV., the evening before the day he was assassinated, when he was playing at chess with M. de Bassompiere, saw clots of blood upon the chessboard?”

“Yes,” said Athos, “and the marechal has often told me so himself.”

“Then it was so,” murmured Winter, “and the next day Henry IV. was killed.”

“But what has this vision of Henry IV. to do with you, my lord?” inquired Aramis.

“Nothing; and indeed I am mad to trouble you with such things, when your coming to my tent at such an hour announces that you are the bearers of important news.”

“Yes, my lord,” said Athos, “I wish to speak to the king.”

“To the king! but the king is asleep.”

“I have something important to reveal to him.”

“Can it not be put off till to-morrow?”

“He must know it this moment, and perhaps it is already too late.”

“Come, then,” said Lord Winter.

Lord Winter’s tent was pitched by the side of the royal marquee, a kind of corridor communicating between the two. This corridor was guarded, not by a sentinel, but by a confidential servant, through whom, in case of urgency, Charles could communicate instantly with his faithful subject.

“These gentlemen are with me,” said Winter.

The lackey bowed and let them pass. As he had said, on a camp bed, dressed in his black doublet, booted, unbelted, with his felt hat beside him, lay the king, overcome by sleep and fatigue. They advanced, and Athos, who was the first to enter, gazed a moment in silence on that pale and noble face, framed in its long and now untidy, matted hair, the blue veins showing through the transparent temples, his eyes seemingly swollen by tears.

Athos sighed deeply; the sigh woke the king, so lightly did he sleep.

He opened his eyes.

“Ah!” said he, raising himself on his elbow, “is it you, Comte de la Fere?”

“Yes, sire,” replied Athos.

“You watch while I sleep and you have come to bring me some news?”

“Alas, sire,” answered Athos, “your majesty has guessed aright.”

“It is bad news?”

“Yes, sire.”

“Never mind; the messenger is welcome. You never come to me without conferring pleasure. You whose devotion recognizes neither country nor misfortune, you who are sent to me by Henrietta; whatever news you bring, speak out.”

“Sire, Cromwell has arrived this night at Newcastle.”

“Ah!” exclaimed the king, “to fight?”

“No, sire, but to buy your majesty.”

“What did you say?”

“I said, sire, that four hundred thousand pounds are owing to the Scottish army.”

“For unpaid wages; yes, I know it. For the last year my faithful Highlanders have fought for honor alone.”

Athos smiled.

“Well, sir, though honor is a fine thing, they are tired of fighting for it, and to-night they have sold you for two hundred thousand pounds--that is to say, for half what is owing them.”

“Impossible!” cried the king, “the Scotch sell their king for two hundred thousand pounds! And who is the Judas who has concluded this infamous bargain?”

“Lord Leven.”

“Are you certain of it, sir?”

“I heard it with my own ears.”

The king sighed deeply, as if his heart would break, and then buried his face in his hands.

“Oh! the Scotch,” he exclaimed, “the Scotch I called ‘my faithful,’ to whom I trusted myself when I could have fled to Oxford! the Scotch, my brothers! But are you well assured, sir?”

“Lying behind the tent of Lord Leven, I raised it and saw all, heard all!”

“And when is this to be consummated?”

“To-day--this morning; so your majesty must perceive there is no time to lose!”

“To do what? since you say I am sold.”

“To cross the Tyne, reach Scotland and rejoin Lord Montrose, who will not sell you.”

“And what shall I do in Scotland? A war of partisans, unworthy of a king.”

“The example of Robert Bruce will absolve you, sire.”

“No, no! I have fought too long; they have sold me, they shall give me up, and the eternal shame of treble treason shall fall on their heads.”

“Sire,” said Athos, “perhaps a king should act thus, but not a husband and a father. I have come in the name of your wife and daughter and of the children you have still in London, and I say to you, ‘Live, sire,’--it is the will of Heaven.”

The king raised himself, buckled on his belt, and passing his handkerchief over his moist forehead, said:

“Well, what is to be done?”

“Sire, have you in the army one regiment on which you can implicitly rely?”

“Winter,” said the king, “do you believe in the fidelity of yours?”

“Sire, they are but men, and men are become both weak and wicked. I will not answer for them. I would confide my life to them, but I should hesitate ere I trusted them with your majesty’s.”

“Well!” said Athos, “since you have not a regiment, we are three devoted men. It is enough. Let your majesty mount on horseback and place yourself in the midst of us; we will cross the Tyne, reach Scotland, and you will be saved.”

“Is this your counsel also, Winter?” inquired the king.

“Yes, sire.”

“And yours, Monsieur d’Herblay?”

“Yes, sire.”

“As you wish, then. Winter, give the necessary orders.”

Winter then left the tent; in the meantime the king finished his toilet. The first rays of daybreak penetrated the aperture of the tent as Winter re-entered it.

“All is ready, sire,” said he.

“For us, also?” inquired Athos.

“Grimaud and Blaisois are holding your horses, ready saddled.”

“In that case,” exclaimed Athos, “let us not lose an instant, but set off.”

“Come,” added the king.

“Sire,” said Aramis, “will not your majesty acquaint some of your friends of this?”

“Friends!” answered Charles, sadly, “I have but three--one of twenty years, who has never forgotten me, and two of a week’s standing, whom I shall never forget. Come, gentlemen, come!”

The king quitted his tent and found his horse ready waiting for him. It was a chestnut that the king had ridden for three years and of which he was very fond.

The horse neighed with pleasure at seeing him.

“Ah!” said the king, “I was unjust; here is a creature that loves me. You at least will be faithful to me, Arthur.”

The horse, as if it understood these words, bent its red nostrils toward the king’s face, and parting his lips displayed all its teeth, as if with pleasure.

“Yes, yes,” said the king, caressing it with his hand, “yes, my Arthur, thou art a fond and faithful creature.”

After this little scene Charles threw himself into the saddle, and turning to Athos, Aramis and Winter, said:

“Now, gentlemen, I am at your service.”

But Athos was standing with his eyes fixed on a black line which bordered the banks of the Tyne and seemed to extend double the length of the camp.

“What is that line?” cried Athos, whose vision was still rather obscured by the uncertain shades and demi-tints of daybreak. “What is that line? I did not observe it yesterday.”

“It must be the fog rising from the river,” said the king.

“Sire, it is something more opaque than the fog.”

“Indeed!” said Winter, “it appears to me like a bar of red color.”

“It is the enemy, who have made a sortie from Newcastle and are surrounding us!” exclaimed Athos.

“The enemy!” cried the king.

“Yes, the enemy. It is too late. Stop a moment; does not that sunbeam yonder, just by the side of the town, glitter on the Ironsides?”

This was the name given the cuirassiers, whom Cromwell had made his body-guard.

“Ah!” said the king, “we shall soon see whether my Highlanders have betrayed me or not.”

“What are you going to do?” exclaimed Athos.

“To give them the order to charge, and run down these miserable rebels.”

And the king, putting spurs to his horse, set off to the tent of Lord Leven.

“Follow him,” said Athos.

“Come!” exclaimed Aramis.

“Is the king wounded?” cried Lord Winter. “I see spots of blood on the ground.” And he set off to follow the two friends.

He was stopped by Athos.

“Go and call out your regiment,” said he; “I can foresee that we shall have need of it directly.”

Winter turned his horse and the two friends rode on. It had taken but two minutes for the king to reach the tent of the Scottish commander; he dismounted and entered.

The general was there, surrounded by the more prominent chiefs.

“The king!” they exclaimed, as all rose in bewilderment.

Charles was indeed in the midst of them, his hat on his head, his brows bent, striking his boot with his riding whip.

“Yes, gentlemen, the king in person, the king who has come to ask for some account of what has happened.”

“What is the matter, sire?” exclaimed Lord Leven.

“It is this, sir,” said the king, angrily, “that General Cromwell has reached Newcastle; that you knew it and I was not informed of it; that the enemy have left the town and are now closing the passages of the Tyne against us; that our sentinels have seen this movement and I have been left unacquainted with it; that, by an infamous treaty you have sold me for two hundred thousand pounds to Parliament. Of this treaty, at least, I have been warned. This is the matter, gentlemen; answer and exculpate yourselves, for I stand here to accuse you.”

“Sire,” said Lord Leven, with hesitation, “sire, your majesty has been deceived by false reports.”

“My own eyes have seen the enemy extend itself between myself and Scotland; and I can almost say that with my own ears I have heard the clauses of the treaty debated.”

The Scotch chieftains looked at each other in their turn with frowning brows.

“Sire,” murmured Lord Leven, crushed by shame, “sire, we are ready to give you every proof of our fidelity.”

“I ask but one,” said the king; “put the army in battle array and face the enemy.”

“That cannot be, sire,” said the earl.

“How, cannot be? What hinders it?” exclaimed the king.

“Your majesty is well aware that there is a truce between us and the English army.”

“And if there is a truce the English army has broken it by quitting the town, contrary to the agreement which kept it there. Now, I tell you, you must pass with me through this army across to Scotland, and if you refuse you may choose betwixt two names, which the contempt of all honest men will brand you with--you are either cowards or traitors!”

The eyes of the Scotch flashed fire; and, as often happens on such occasions, from shame they passed to effrontery and two heads of clans advanced upon the king.

“Yes,” said they, “we have promised to deliver Scotland and England from him who for the last five-and-twenty years has sucked the blood and gold of Scotland and England. We have promised and we will keep our promise. Charles Stuart, you are our prisoner.”

And both extended their hands as if to seize the king, but before they could touch him with the tips of their fingers, both had fallen, one dead, the other stunned.

Aramis had passed his sword through the body of the first and Athos had knocked down the other with the butt end of his pistol.

Then, as Lord Leven and the other chieftains recoiled before this unexpected rescue, which seemed to come from Heaven for the prince they already thought was their prisoner, Athos and Aramis dragged the king from the perjured assembly into which he had so imprudently ventured, and throwing themselves on horseback all three returned at full gallop to the royal tent.

On their road they perceived Lord Winter marching at the head of his regiment. The king motioned him to accompany them.


Chapter 56. The Avenger.


They all four entered the tent; they had no plan ready--they must think of one.

The king threw himself into an arm-chair. “I am lost,” said he.

“No, sire,” replied Athos. “You are only betrayed.”

The king sighed deeply.

“Betrayed! yes betrayed by the Scotch, amongst whom I was born, whom I have always loved better than the English. Oh, traitors that ye are!”

“Sire,” said Athos, “this is not a moment for recrimination, but a time to show yourself a king and a gentleman. Up, sire! up! for you have here at least three men who will not betray you. Ah! if we had been five!” murmured Athos, thinking of D’Artagnan and Porthos.

“What do you say?” inquired Charles, rising.

“I say, sire, that there is now but one way open. Lord Winter answers for his regiment, or at least very nearly so--we will not split straws about words--let him place himself at the head of his men, we will place ourselves at the side of your majesty, and we will mow a swath through Cromwell’s army and reach Scotland.”

“There is another method,” said Aramis. “Let one of us put on the dress and mount the king’s horse. Whilst they pursue him the king might escape.”

“It is good advice,” said Athos, “and if the king will do one of us the honor we shall be truly grateful to him.”

“What do you think of this counsel, Winter?” asked the king, looking with admiration at these two men, whose chief idea seemed to be how they could take on their shoulders all the dangers that assailed him.

“I think the only chance of saving your majesty has just been proposed by Monsieur d’Herblay. I humbly entreat your majesty to choose quickly, for we have not an instant to lose.”

“But if I accept, it is death, or at least imprisonment, for him who takes my place.”

“He will have had the glory of having saved his king,” cried Winter.

The king looked at his old friend with tears in his eyes; undid the Order of the Saint Esprit which he wore, to honor the two Frenchmen who were with him, and passed it around Winter’s neck, who received on his knees this striking proof of his sovereign’s confidence and friendship.

“It is right,” said Athos; “he has served your majesty longer than we have.”

The king overheard these words and turned around with tears in his eyes.

“Wait a moment, sir,” said he; “I have an order for each of you also.”

He turned to a closet where his own orders were locked up, and took out two ribbons of the Order of the Garter.

“These cannot be for us,” said Athos.

“Why not, sir?” asked Charles.

“Such are for royalty, and we are simple commoners.”

“Speak not of crowns. I shall not find amongst them such great hearts as yours. No, no, you do yourselves injustice; but I am here to do you justice. On your knees, count.”

Athos knelt down and the king passed the ribbon down from left to right as usual, raised his sword, and instead of pronouncing the customary formula, “I make you a knight. Be brave, faithful and loyal,” he said, “You are brave, faithful and loyal. I knight you, monsieur le comte.”

Then turning to Aramis, he said:

“It is now your turn, monsieur le chevalier.”

The same ceremony recommenced, with the same words, whilst Winter unlaced his leather cuirass, that he might disguise himself like the king. Charles, having proceeded with Aramis as with Athos, embraced them both.

“Sire,” said Winter, who in this trying emergency felt all his strength and energy fire up, “we are ready.”

The king looked at the three gentlemen. “Then we must fly!” said he.

“Flying through an army, sire,” said Athos, “in all countries in the world is called charging.”

“Then I shall die, sword in hand,” said Charles. “Monsieur le comte, monsieur le chevalier, if ever I am king----”

“Sire, you have already done us more honor than simple gentlemen could ever aspire to, therefore gratitude is on our side. But we must not lose time. We have already wasted too much.”

The king again shook hands with all three, exchanged hats with Winter and went out.

Winter’s regiment was ranged on some high ground above the camp. The king, followed by the three friends, turned his steps that way. The Scotch camp seemed as if at last awakened; the soldiers had come out of their tents and taken up their station in battle array.

“Do you see that?” said the king. “Perhaps they are penitent and preparing to march.”

“If they are penitent,” said Athos, “let them follow us.”

“Well!” said the king, “what shall we do?”

“Let us examine the enemy’s army.”

At the same instant the eyes of the little group were fixed on the same line which at daybreak they had mistaken for fog and which the morning sun now plainly showed was an army in order of battle. The air was soft and clear, as it generally is at that early hour of the morning. The regiments, the standards, and even the colors of the horses and uniforms were now clearly distinct.

On the summit of a rising ground, a little in advance of the enemy, appeared a short and heavy looking man; this man was surrounded by officers. He turned a spyglass toward the little group amongst which the king stood.

“Does this man know your majesty personally?” inquired Aramis.

Charles smiled.

“That man is Cromwell,” said he.

“Then draw down your hat, sire, that he may not discover the substitution.”

“Ah!” said Athos, “how much time we have lost.”

“Now,” said the king, “give the word and let us start.”

“Will you not give it, sire?” asked Athos.

“No; I make you my lieutenant-general,” said the king.

“Listen, then, Lord Winter. Proceed, sire, I beg. What we are going to say does not concern your majesty.”

The king, smiling, turned a few steps back.

“This is what I propose to do,” said Athos. “We will divide our regiments into two squadrons. You will put yourself at the head of the first. We and his majesty will lead the second. If no obstacle occurs we will both charge together, force the enemy’s line and throw ourselves into the Tyne, which we must cross, either by fording or swimming; if, on the contrary, any repulse should take place, you and your men must fight to the last man, whilst we and the king proceed on our road. Once arrived at the brink of the river, should we even find them three ranks deep, as long as you and your regiment do your duty, we will look to the rest.”

“To horse!” said Lord Winter.

“To horse!” re-echoed Athos; “everything is arranged and decided.”

“Now, gentlemen,” cried the king, “forward! and rally to the old cry of France, ‘Montjoy and St. Denis!’ The war cry of England is too often in the mouths of traitors.”

They mounted--the king on Winter’s horse and Winter on that of the king; then Winter took his place at the head of the first squadron, and the king, with Athos on his right and Aramis on his left, at the head of the second.

The Scotch army stood motionless and silent, seized with shame at sight of these preparations.

Some of the chieftains left the ranks and broke their swords in two.

“There,” said the king, “that consoles me; they are not all traitors.”

At this moment Winter’s voice was raised with the cry of “Forward!”

The first squadron moved off; the second followed, and descended from the plateau. A regiment of cuirassiers, nearly equal as to numbers, issued from behind the hill and came full gallop toward it.

The king pointed this out.

“Sire,” said Athos, “we foresaw this; and if Lord Winter’s men but do their duty, we are saved, instead of lost.”

At this moment they heard above all the galloping and neighing of the horses Winter’s voice crying out:

“Sword in hand!”

At these words every sword was drawn, and glittered in the air like lightning.

“Now, gentlemen,” said the king in his turn, excited by this sight, “come, gentlemen, sword in hand!”

But Aramis and Athos were the only ones to obey this command and the king’s example.

“We are betrayed,” said the king in a low voice.

“Wait a moment,” said Athos, “perhaps they do not recognize your majesty’s voice, and await the order of their captain.”

“Have they not heard that of their colonel? But look! look!” cried the king, drawing up his horse with a sudden jerk, which threw it on its haunches, and seizing the bridle of Athos’s horse.

“Ah, cowards! traitors!” screamed Lord Winter, whose voice they heard, whilst his men, quitting their ranks, dispersed all over the plain.

About fifteen men were ranged around him and awaited the charge of Cromwell’s cuirassiers.

“Let us go and die with them!” said the king.

“Let us go,” said Athos and Aramis.

“All faithful hearts with me!” cried out Winter.

This voice was heard by the two friends, who set off, full gallop.

“No quarter!” cried a voice in French, answering to that of Winter, which made them tremble.

As for Winter, at the sound of that voice he turned pale, and was, as it were, petrified.

It was the voice of a cavalier mounted on a magnificent black horse, who was charging at the head of the English regiment, of which, in his ardor, he was ten steps in advance.

“‘Tis he!” murmured Winter, his eyes glazed and he allowed his sword to fall to his side.

“The king! the king!” cried out several voices, deceived by the blue ribbon and chestnut horse of Winter; “take him alive.”

“No! it is not the king!” exclaimed the cavalier. “Lord Winter, you are not the king; you are my uncle.”

At the same moment Mordaunt, for it was he, leveled his pistol at Winter; it went off and the ball entered the heart of the old cavalier, who with one bound on his saddle fell back into the arms of Athos, murmuring: “He is avenged!”

“Think of my mother!” shouted Mordaunt, as his horse plunged and darted off at full gallop.

“Wretch!” exclaimed Aramis, raising his pistol as he passed by him; but the powder flashed in the pan and it did not go off.

At this moment the whole regiment came up and they fell upon the few men who had held out, surrounding the two Frenchmen. Athos, after making sure that Lord Winter was really dead, let fall the corpse and said:

“Come, Aramis, now for the honor of France!” and the two Englishmen who were nearest to them fell, mortally wounded.

At the same moment a fearful “hurrah!” rent the air and thirty blades glittered about their heads.

Suddenly a man sprang out of the English ranks, fell upon Athos, twined arms of steel around him, and tearing his sword from him, said in his ear:

“Silence! yield--you yield to me, do you not?”

A giant had seized also Aramis’s two wrists, who struggled in vain to release himself from this formidable grasp.

“D’Art----” exclaimed Athos, whilst the Gascon covered his mouth with his hand.

“I am your prisoner,” said Aramis, giving up his sword to Porthos.

“Fire, fire!” cried Mordaunt, returning to the group surrounding the two friends.

“And wherefore fire?” said the colonel; “every one has yielded.”

“It is the son of Milady,” said Athos to D’Artagnan.

“I recognize him.”

“It is the monk,” whispered Porthos to Aramis.

“I know it.”

And now the ranks began to open. D’Artagnan held the bridle of Athos’s horse and Porthos that of Aramis. Both of them attempted to lead his prisoner off the battle-field.

This movement revealed the spot where Winter’s body had fallen. Mordaunt had found it out and was gazing on his dead relative with an expression of malignant hatred.

Athos, though now cool and collected, put his hand to his belt, where his loaded pistols yet remained.

“What are you about?” said D’Artagnan.

“Let me kill him.”

“We are all four lost, if by the least gesture you discover that you recognize him.”

Then turning to the young man he exclaimed:

“A fine prize! a fine prize, friend Mordaunt; we have both myself and Monsieur du Vallon, taken two Knights of the Garter, nothing less.”

“But,” said Mordaunt, looking at Athos and Aramis with bloodshot eyes, “these are Frenchmen, I imagine.”

“I’faith, I don’t know. Are you French, sir?” said he to Athos.

“I am,” replied the latter, gravely.

“Very well, my dear sir, you are the prisoner of a fellow countryman.”

“But the king--where is the king?” exclaimed Athos, anxiously.

D’Artagnan vigorously seized his prisoner’s hand, saying:

“Eh! the king? We have secured him.”

“Yes,” said Aramis, “through an infamous act of treason.”

Porthos pressed his friend’s hand and said to him:

“Yes, sir, all is fair in war, stratagem as well as force; look yonder!”

At this instant the squadron, that ought to have protected Charles’s retreat, was advancing to meet the English regiments. The king, who was entirely surrounded, walked alone in a great empty space. He appeared calm, but it was evidently not without a mighty effort. Drops of perspiration trickled down his face, and from time to time he put a handkerchief to his mouth to wipe away the blood that rilled from it.

“Behold Nebuchadnezzar!” exclaimed an old Puritan soldier, whose eyes flashed at the sight of the man they called the tyrant.

“Do you call him Nebuchadnezzar?” said Mordaunt, with a terrible smile; “no, it is Charles the First, the king, the good King Charles, who despoils his subjects to enrich himself.”

Charles glanced a moment at the insolent creature who uttered this, but did not recognize him. Nevertheless, the calm religious dignity of his countenance abashed Mordaunt.

“Bon jour, messieurs!” said the king to the two gentlemen who were held by D’Artagnan and Porthos. “The day has been unfortunate, but it is not your fault, thank God! But where is my old friend Winter?”

The two gentlemen turned away their heads in silence.

“In Strafford’s company,” said Mordaunt, tauntingly.

Charles shuddered. The demon had known how to wound him. The remembrance of Strafford was a source of lasting remorse to him, the shadow that haunted him by day and night. The king looked around him. He saw a corpse at his feet. It was Winter’s. He uttered not a word, nor shed a tear, but a deadly pallor spread over his face; he knelt down on the ground, raised Winter’s head, and unfastening the Order of the Saint Esprit, placed it on his own breast.

“Lord Winter is killed, then?” inquired D’Artagnan, fixing his eyes on the corpse.

“Yes,” said Athos, “by his own nephew.”

“Come, he was the first of us to go; peace be to him! he was an honest man,” said D’Artagnan.

“Charles Stuart,” said the colonel of the English regiment, approaching the king, who had just put on the insignia of royalty, “do you yield yourself a prisoner?”

“Colonel Tomlison,” said Charles, “kings cannot yield; the man alone submits to force.”

“Your sword.”

The king drew his sword and broke it on his knee.

At this moment a horse without a rider, covered with foam, his nostrils extended and eyes all fire, galloped up, and recognizing his master, stopped and neighed with pleasure; it was Arthur.

The king smiled, patted it with his hand and jumped lightly into the saddle.

“Now, gentlemen,” said he, “conduct me where you will.”

Turning back again, he said, “I thought I saw Winter move; if he still lives, by all you hold most sacred, do not abandon him.”

“Never fear, King Charles,” said Mordaunt, “the bullet pierced his heart.”

“Do not breathe a word nor make the least sign to me or Porthos,” said D’Artagnan to Athos and Aramis, “that you recognize this man, for Milady is not dead; her soul lives in the body of this demon.”

The detachment now moved toward the town with the royal captive; but on the road an aide-de-camp, from Cromwell, sent orders that Colonel Tomlison should conduct him to Holdenby Castle.

At the same time couriers started in every direction over England and Europe to announce that Charles Stuart was the prisoner of Oliver Cromwell.


Chapter 57. Oliver Cromwell.


Have you been to the general?” said Mordaunt to D’Artagnan and Porthos; “you know he sent for you after the action.”

“We want first to put our prisoners in a place of safety,” replied D’Artagnan. “Do you know, sir, these gentlemen are each of them worth fifteen hundred pounds?”

“Oh, be assured,” said Mordaunt, looking at them with an expression he vainly endeavoured to soften, “my soldiers will guard them, and guard them well, I promise you.”

“I shall take better care of them myself,” answered D’Artagnan; “besides, all they require is a good room, with sentinels, or their simple parole that they will not attempt escape. I will go and see about that, and then we shall have the honor of presenting ourselves to the general and receiving his commands for his eminence.”

“You think of starting at once, then?” inquired Mordaunt.

“Our mission is ended, and there is nothing more to detain us now but the good pleasure of the great man to whom we were sent.”

The young man bit his lips and whispered to his sergeant:

“You will follow these men and not lose sight of them; when you have discovered where they lodge, come and await me at the town gate.”

The sergeant made a sign of comprehension.

Instead of following the knot of prisoners that were being taken into the town, Mordaunt turned his steps toward the rising ground from whence Cromwell had witnessed the battle and on which he had just had his tent pitched.

Cromwell had given orders that no one was to be allowed admission; but the sentinel, who knew that Mordaunt was one of the most confidential friends of the general, thought the order did not extend to the young man. Mordaunt, therefore, raised the canvas, and saw Cromwell seated before a table, his head buried in his hands, his back being turned.

Whether he heard Mordaunt or not as he entered, Cromwell did not move. Mordaunt remained standing near the door. At last, after a few moments, Cromwell raised his head, and, as if he divined that some one was there, turned slowly around.

“I said I wished to be alone,” he exclaimed, on seeing the young man.

“They thought this order did not concern me, sir; nevertheless, if you wish it, I am ready to go.”

“Ah! is it you, Mordaunt?” said Cromwell, the cloud passing away from his face; “since you are here, it is well; you may remain.”

“I come to congratulate you.”

“To congratulate me--what for?”

“On the capture of Charles Stuart. You are now master of England.”

“I was much more really so two hours ago.”

“How so, general?”

“Because England had need of me to take the tyrant, and now the tyrant is taken. Have you seen him?”

“Yes, sir.” said Mordaunt.

“What is his bearing?”

Mordaunt hesitated; but it seemed as though he was constrained to tell the truth.

“Calm and dignified,” said he.

“What did he say?”

“Some parting words to his friends.”

“His friends!” murmured Cromwell. “Has he any friends?” Then he added aloud, “Did he make any resistance?”

“No, sir, with the exception of two or three friends every one deserted him; he had no means of resistance.”

“To whom did he give up his sword?”

“He did not give it up; he broke it.”

“He did well; but instead of breaking it, he might have used it to still more advantage.”

There was a momentary pause.

“I heard that the colonel of the regiment that escorted Charles was killed,” said Cromwell, staring very fixedly at Mordaunt.

“Yes, sir.”

“By whom?” inquired Cromwell.

“By me.”

“What was his name?”

“Lord Winter.”

“Your uncle?” exclaimed Cromwell.

“My uncle,” answered Mordaunt; “but traitors to England are no longer members of my family.”

Cromwell observed the young man a moment in silence, then, with that profound melancholy Shakespeare describes so well:

“Mordaunt,” he said, “you are a terrible servant.”

“When the Lord commands,” said Mordaunt, “His commands are not to be disputed. Abraham raised the knife against Isaac, and Isaac was his son.”

“Yes,” said Cromwell, “but the Lord did not suffer that sacrifice to be accomplished.”

“I have looked around me,” said Mordaunt, “and I have seen neither goat nor kid caught among the bushes of the plain.”

Cromwell bowed. “You are strong among the strong, Mordaunt,” he said; “and the Frenchmen, how did they behave?”

“Most fearlessly.”

“Yes, yes,” murmured Cromwell; “the French fight well; and if my glass was good and I mistake not, they were foremost in the fight.”

“They were,” replied Mordaunt.

“After you, however,” said Cromwell.

“It was the fault of their horses, not theirs.”

Another pause.

“And the Scotch?”

“They kept their word and never stirred,” said Mordaunt.

“Wretched men!”

“Their officers wish to see you, sir.”

“I have no time to see them. Are they paid?”

“Yes, to-night.”

“Let them be off and return to their own country, there to hide their shame, if its hills are high enough; I have nothing more to do with them nor they with me. And now go, Mordaunt.”

“Before I go,” said Mordaunt, “I have some questions and a favor to ask you, sir.”

“A favor from me?”

Mordaunt bowed.

“I come to you, my leader, my head, my father, and I ask you, master, are you contented with me?”

Cromwell looked at him with astonishment. The young man remained immovable.

“Yes,” said Cromwell; “you have done, since I knew you, not only your duty, but more than your duty; you have been a faithful friend, a cautious negotiator, a brave soldier.”

“Do you remember, sir it was my idea, the Scotch treaty, for giving up the king?”

“Yes, the idea was yours. I had no such contempt for men before.”

“Was I not a good ambassador in France?”

“Yes, for Mazarin has granted what I desire.”

“Have I not always fought for your glory and interests?”

“Too ardently, perhaps; it is what I have just reproached you for. But what is the meaning of all these questions?”

“To tell you, my lord, that the moment has now arrived when, with a single word, you may recompense all these services.”

“Oh!” said Oliver, with a slight curl of his lip, “I forgot that every service merits some reward and that up to this moment you have not been paid.”

“Sir, I can take my pay at this moment, to the full extent of my wishes.”

“How is that?”

“I have the payment under my hand; I almost possess it.”

“What is it? Have they offered you money? Do you wish a step, or some place in the government?”

“Sir, will you grant me my request?”

“Let us hear what it is, first.”

“Sir, when you have told me to obey an order did I ever answer, ‘Let me see that order’?”

“If, however, your wish should be one impossible to fulfill?”

“When you have cherished a wish and have charged me with its fulfillment, have I ever replied, ‘It is impossible’?”

“But a request preferred with so much preparation----”

“Ah, do not fear, sir,” said Mordaunt, with apparent simplicity: “it will not ruin you.”

“Well, then,” said Cromwell, “I promise, as far as lies in my power, to grant your request; proceed.”

“Sir, two prisoners were taken this morning, will you let me have them?”

“For their ransom? have they then offered a large one?” inquired Cromwell.

“On the contrary, I think they are poor, sir.”

“They are friends of yours, then?”

“Yes, sir,” exclaimed Mordaunt, “they are friends, dear friends of mine, and I would lay down my life for them.”

“Very well, Mordaunt,” exclaimed Cromwell, pleased at having his opinion of the young man raised once more; “I will give them to you; I will not even ask who they are; do as you like with them.”

“Thank you, sir!” exclaimed Mordaunt, “thank you; my life is always at your service, and should I lose it I should still owe you something; thank you; you have indeed repaid me munificently for my services.”

He threw himself at the feet of Cromwell, and in spite of the efforts of the Puritan general, who did not like this almost kingly homage, he took his hand and kissed it.

“What!” said Cromwell, arresting him for a moment as he arose; “is there nothing more you wish? neither gold nor rank?”

“You have given me all you can give me, and from to-day your debt is paid.”

And Mordaunt darted out of the general’s tent, his heart beating and his eyes sparkling with joy.

Cromwell gazed a moment after him.

“He has slain his uncle!” he murmured. “Alas! what are my servants? Possibly this one, who asks nothing or seems to ask nothing, has asked more in the eyes of Heaven than those who tax the country and steal the bread of the poor. Nobody serves me for nothing. Charles, who is my prisoner, may still have friends, but I have none!”

And with a deep sigh he again sank into the reverie that had been interrupted by Mordaunt.