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Twenty Years After

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Chapter 4. Anne of Austria at the Age of Forty-six.


When left alone with Bernouin, Mazarin was for some minutes lost in thought. He had gained much information, but not enough. Mazarin was a cheat at the card-table. This is a detail preserved to us by Brienne. He called it using his advantages. He now determined not to begin the game with D’Artagnan till he knew completely all his adversary’s cards.

“My lord, have you any commands?” asked Bernouin.

“Yes, yes,” replied Mazarin. “Light me; I am going to the queen.”

Bernouin took up a candlestick and led the way.

There was a secret communication between the cardinal’s apartments and those of the queen; and through this corridor* Mazarin passed whenever he wished to visit Anne of Austria.

*This secret passage is still to be seen in the Palais Royal.
In the bedroom in which this passage ended, Bernouin encountered Madame de Beauvais, like himself intrusted with the secret of these subterranean love affairs; and Madame de Beauvais undertook to prepare Anne of Austria, who was in her oratory with the young king, Louis XIV., to receive the cardinal.

Anne, reclining in a large easy-chair, her head supported by her hand, her elbow resting on a table, was looking at her son, who was turning over the leaves of a large book filled with pictures. This celebrated woman fully understood the art of being dull with dignity. It was her practice to pass hours either in her oratory or in her room, without either reading or praying.

When Madame de Beauvais appeared at the door and announced the cardinal, the child, who had been absorbed in the pages of Quintus Curtius, enlivened as they were by engravings of Alexander’s feats of arms, frowned and looked at his mother.

“Why,” he said, “does he enter without first asking for an audience?”

Anne colored slightly.

“The prime minister,” she said, “is obliged in these unsettled days to inform the queen of all that is happening from time to time, without exciting the curiosity or remarks of the court.”

“But Richelieu never came in this manner,” said the pertinacious boy.

“How can you remember what Monsieur de Richelieu did? You were too young to know about such things.”

“I do not remember what he did, but I have inquired and I have been told all about it.”

“And who told you about it?” asked Anne of Austria, with a movement of impatience.

“I know that I ought never to name the persons who answer my questions,” answered the child, “for if I do I shall learn nothing further.”

At this very moment Mazarin entered. The king rose immediately, took his book, closed it and went to lay it down on the table, near which he continued standing, in order that Mazarin might be obliged to stand also.

Mazarin contemplated these proceedings with a thoughtful glance. They explained what had occurred that evening.

He bowed respectfully to the king, who gave him a somewhat cavalier reception, but a look from his mother reproved him for the hatred which, from his infancy, Louis XIV. had entertained toward Mazarin, and he endeavored to receive the minister’s homage with civility.

Anne of Austria sought to read in Mazarin’s face the occasion of this unexpected visit, since the cardinal usually came to her apartment only after every one had retired.

The minister made a slight sign with his head, whereupon the queen said to Madame Beauvais:

“It is time for the king to go to bed; call Laporte.”

The queen had several times already told her son that he ought to go to bed, and several times Louis had coaxingly insisted on staying where he was; but now he made no reply, but turned pale and bit his lips with anger.

In a few minutes Laporte came into the room. The child went directly to him without kissing his mother.

“Well, Louis,” said Anne, “why do you not kiss me?”

“I thought you were angry with me, madame; you sent me away.”

“I do not send you away, but you have had the small-pox and I am afraid that sitting up late may tire you.”

“You had no fears of my being tired when you ordered me to go to the palace to-day to pass the odious decrees which have raised the people to rebellion.”

“Sire!” interposed Laporte, in order to turn the subject, “to whom does your majesty wish me to give the candle?”

“To any one, Laporte,” the child said; and then added in a loud voice, “to any one except Mancini.”

Now Mancini was a nephew of Mazarin’s and was as much hated by Louis as the cardinal himself, although placed near his person by the minister.

And the king went out of the room without either embracing his mother or even bowing to the cardinal.

“Good,” said Mazarin, “I am glad to see that his majesty has been brought up with a hatred of dissimulation.”

“Why do you say that?” asked the queen, almost timidly.

“Why, it seems to me that the way in which he left us needs no explanation. Besides, his majesty takes no pains to conceal how little affection he has for me. That, however, does not hinder me from being entirely devoted to his service, as I am to that of your majesty.”

“I ask your pardon for him, cardinal,” said the queen; “he is a child, not yet able to understand his obligations to you.”

The cardinal smiled.

“But,” continued the queen, “you have doubtless come for some important purpose. What is it, then?”

Mazarin sank into a chair with the deepest melancholy painted on his countenance.

“It is likely,” he replied, “that we shall soon be obliged to separate, unless you love me well enough to follow me to Italy.”

“Why,” cried the queen; “how is that?”

“Because, as they say in the opera of ‘Thisbe,’ ‘The whole world conspires to break our bonds.’”

“You jest, sir!” answered the queen, endeavoring to assume something of her former dignity.

“Alas! I do not, madame,” rejoined Mazarin. “Mark well what I say. The whole world conspires to break our bonds. Now as you are one of the whole world, I mean to say that you also are deserting me.”

“Cardinal!”

“Heavens! did I not see you the other day smile on the Duke of Orleans? or rather at what he said?”

“And what was he saying?”

“He said this, madame: ‘Mazarin is a stumbling-block. Send him away and all will then be well.’”

“What do you wish me to do?”

“Oh, madame! you are the queen!”

“Queen, forsooth! when I am at the mercy of every scribbler in the Palais Royal who covers waste paper with nonsense, or of every country squire in the kingdom.”

“Nevertheless, you have still the power of banishing from your presence those whom you do not like!”

“That is to say, whom you do not like,” returned the queen.

“I! persons whom I do not like!”

“Yes, indeed. Who sent away Madame de Chevreuse after she had been persecuted twelve years under the last reign?”

“A woman of intrigue, who wanted to keep up against me the spirit of cabal she had raised against M. de Richelieu.”

“Who dismissed Madame de Hautefort, that friend so loyal that she refused the favor of the king that she might remain in mine?”

“A prude, who told you every night, as she undressed you, that it was a sin to love a priest, just as if one were a priest because one happens to be a cardinal.”

“Who ordered Monsieur de Beaufort to be arrested?”

“An incendiary the burden of whose song was his intention to assassinate me.”

“You see, cardinal,” replied the queen, “that your enemies are mine.”

“That is not enough madame, it is necessary that your friends should be also mine.”

“My friends, monsieur?” The queen shook her head. “Alas, I have them no longer!”

“How is it that you have no friends in your prosperity when you had many in adversity?”

“It is because in my prosperity I forgot those old friends, monsieur; because I have acted like Queen Marie de Medicis, who, returning from her first exile, treated with contempt all those who had suffered for her and, being proscribed a second time, died at Cologne abandoned by every one, even by her own son.”

“Well, let us see,” said Mazarin; “isn’t there still time to repair the evil? Search among your friends, your oldest friends.”

“What do you mean, monsieur?”

“Nothing else than I say--search.”

“Alas, I look around me in vain! I have no influence with any one. Monsieur is, as usual, led by his favorite; yesterday it was Choisy, to-day it is La Riviere, to-morrow it will be some one else. Monsieur le Prince is led by the coadjutor, who is led by Madame de Guemenee.”

“Therefore, madame, I ask you to look, not among your friends of to-day, but among those of other times.”

“Among my friends of other times?” said the queen.

“Yes, among your friends of other times; among those who aided you to contend against the Duc de Richelieu and even to conquer him.”

“What is he aiming at?” murmured the queen, looking uneasily at the cardinal.

“Yes,” continued his eminence; “under certain circumstances, with that strong and shrewd mind your majesty possesses, aided by your friends, you were able to repel the attacks of that adversary.”

“I!” said the queen. “I suffered, that is all.”

“Yes,” said Mazarin, “as women suffer in avenging themselves. Come, let us come to the point. Do you know Monsieur de Rochefort?”

“One of my bitterest enemies--the faithful friend of Cardinal Richelieu.”

“I know that, and we sent him to the Bastile,” said Mazarin.

“Is he at liberty?” asked the queen.

“No; still there, but I only speak of him in order that I may introduce the name of another man. Do you know Monsieur d’Artagnan?” he added, looking steadfastly at the queen.

Anne of Austria received the blow with a beating heart.

“Has the Gascon been indiscreet?” she murmured to herself, then said aloud:

“D’Artagnan! stop an instant, the name seems certainly familiar. D’Artagnan! there was a musketeer who was in love with one of my women. Poor young creature! she was poisoned on my account.”

“That’s all you know of him?” asked Mazarin.

The queen looked at him, surprised.

“You seem, sir,” she remarked, “to be making me undergo a course of cross-examination.”

“Which you answer according to your fancy,” replied Mazarin.

“Tell me your wishes and I will comply with them.”

The queen spoke with some impatience.

“Well, madame,” said Mazarin, bowing, “I desire that you give me a share in your friends, as I have shared with you the little industry and talent that Heaven has given me. The circumstances are grave and it will be necessary to act promptly.”

“Still!” said the queen. “I thought that we were finally quit of Monsieur de Beaufort.”

“Yes, you saw only the torrent that threatened to overturn everything and you gave no attention to the still water. There is, however, a proverb current in France relating to water which is quiet.”

“Continue,” said the queen.

“Well, then, madame, not a day passes in which I do not suffer affronts from your princes and your lordly servants, all of them automata who do not perceive that I wind up the spring that makes them move, nor do they see that beneath my quiet demeanor lies the still scorn of an injured, irritated man, who has sworn to himself to master them one of these days. We have arrested Monsieur de Beaufort, but he is the least dangerous among them. There is the Prince de Conde----”

“The hero of Rocroy. Do you think of him?”

“Yes, madame, often and often, but pazienza, as we say in Italy; next, after Monsieur de Conde, comes the Duke of Orleans.”

“What are you saying? The first prince of the blood, the king’s uncle!”

“No! not the first prince of the blood, not the king’s uncle, but the base conspirator, the soul of every cabal, who pretends to lead the brave people who are weak enough to believe in the honor of a prince of the blood--not the prince nearest to the throne, not the king’s uncle, I repeat, but the murderer of Chalais, of Montmorency and of Cinq-Mars, who is playing now the same game he played long ago and who thinks that he will win the game because he has a new adversary--instead of a man who threatened, a man who smiles. But he is mistaken; I shall not leave so near the queen that source of discord with which the deceased cardinal so often caused the anger of the king to rage above the boiling point.”

Anne blushed and buried her face in her hands.

“What am I to do?” she said, bowed down beneath the voice of her tyrant.

“Endeavor to remember the names of those faithful servants who crossed the Channel, in spite of Monsieur de Richelieu, tracking the roads along which they passed by their blood, to bring back to your majesty certain jewels given by you to Buckingham.”

Anne arose, full of majesty, and as if touched by a spring, and looking at the cardinal with the haughty dignity which in the days of her youth had made her so powerful: “You are insulting me!” she said.

“I wish,” continued Mazarin, finishing, as it were, the speech this sudden movement of the queen had cut; “I wish, in fact, that you should now do for your husband what you formerly did for your lover.”

“Again that accusation!” cried the queen. “I thought that calumny was stifled or extinct; you have spared me till now, but since you speak of it, once for all, I tell you----”

“Madame, I do not ask you to tell me,” said Mazarin, astounded by this returning courage.

“I will tell you all,” replied Anne. “Listen: there were in truth, at that epoch, four devoted hearts, four loyal spirits, four faithful swords, who saved more than my life--my honor----”

“Ah! you confess it!” exclaimed Mazarin.

“Is it only the guilty whose honor is at the sport of others, sir? and cannot women be dishonored by appearances? Yes, appearances were against me and I was about to suffer dishonor. However, I swear I was not guilty, I swear it by----”

The queen looked around her for some sacred object by which she could swear, and taking out of a cupboard hidden in the tapestry, a small coffer of rosewood set in silver, and laying it on the altar:

“I swear,” she said, “by these sacred relics that Buckingham was not my lover.”

“What relics are those by which you swear?” asked Mazarin, smiling. “I am incredulous.”

The queen untied from around her throat a small golden key which hung there, and presented it to the cardinal.

“Open, sir,” she said, “and look for yourself.”

Mazarin opened the coffer; a knife, covered with rust, and two letters, one of which was stained with blood, alone met his gaze.

“What are these things?” he asked.

“What are these things?” replied Anne, with queen-like dignity, extending toward the open coffer an arm, despite the lapse of years, still beautiful. “These two letters are the only ones I ever wrote to him. This knife is the knife with which Felton stabbed him. Read the letters and see if I have lied or spoken the truth.”

But Mazarin, notwithstanding this permission, instead of reading the letters, took the knife which the dying Buckingham had snatched out of the wound and sent by Laporte to the queen. The blade was red, for the blood had become rust; after a momentary examination during which the queen became as white as the cloth which covered the altar on which she was leaning, he put it back into the coffer with an involuntary shudder.

“It is well, madame, I believe your oath.”

“No, no, read,” exclaimed the queen, indignantly; “read, I command you, for I am resolved that everything shall be finished to-night and never will I recur to this subject again. Do you think,” she said, with a ghastly smile, “that I shall be inclined to reopen this coffer to answer any future accusations?”

Mazarin, overcome by this determination, read the two letters. In one the queen asked for the ornaments back again. This letter had been conveyed by D’Artagnan and had arrived in time. The other was that which Laporte had placed in the hands of the Duke of Buckingham, warning him that he was about to be assassinated; that communication had arrived too late.

“It is well, madame,” said Mazarin; “nothing can gainsay such testimony.”

“Sir,” replied the queen, closing the coffer and leaning her hand upon it, “if there is anything to be said, it is that I have always been ungrateful to the brave men who saved me--that I have given nothing to that gallant officer, D’Artagnan, you were speaking of just now, but my hand to kiss and this diamond.”

As she spoke she extended her beautiful hand to the cardinal and showed him a superb diamond which sparkled on her finger.

“It appears,” she resumed, “that he sold it---he sold it in order to save me another time--to be able to send a messenger to the duke to warn him of his danger--he sold it to Monsieur des Essarts, on whose finger I remarked it. I bought it from him, but it belongs to D’Artagnan. Give it back to him, sir, and since you have such a man in your service, make him useful.”

“Thank you, madame,” said Mazarin. “I will profit by the advice.”

“And now,” added the queen, her voice broken by her emotion, “have you any other question to ask me?”

“Nothing,”--the cardinal spoke in his most conciliatory manner--“except to beg of you to forgive my unworthy suspicions. I love you so tenderly that I cannot help being jealous, even of the past.”

A smile, which was indefinable, passed over the lips of the queen.

“Since you have no further interrogations to make, leave me, I beseech you,” she said. “I wish, after such a scene, to be alone.”

Mazarin bent low before her.

“I will retire, madame. Do you permit me to return?”

“Yes, to-morrow.”

The cardinal took the queen’s hand and pressed it with an air of gallantry to his lips.

Scarcely had he left her when the queen went into her son’s room, and inquired from Laporte if the king was in bed. Laporte pointed to the child, who was asleep.

Anne ascended the steps side of the bed and softly kissed the placid forehead of her son; then she retired as silently as she had come, merely saying to Laporte:

“Try, my dear Laporte, to make the king more courteous to Monsieur le Cardinal, to whom both he and I are under such important obligations.”


Chapter 5. The Gascon and the Italian.


Meanwhile the cardinal returned to his own room; and after asking Bernouin, who stood at the door, whether anything had occurred during his absence, and being answered in the negative, he desired that he might be left alone.

When he was alone he opened the door of the corridor and then that of the ante-chamber. There D’Artagnan was asleep upon a bench.

The cardinal went up to him and touched his shoulder. D’Artagnan started, awakened himself, and as he awoke, stood up exactly like a soldier under arms.

“Here I am,” said he. “Who calls me?”

“I,” said Mazarin, with his most smiling expression.

“I ask pardon of your eminence,” said D’Artagnan, “but I was so fatigued----”

“Don’t ask my pardon, monsieur,” said Mazarin, “for you fatigued yourself in my service.”

D’Artagnan admired Mazarin’s gracious manner. “Ah,” said he, between his teeth, “is there truth in the proverb that fortune comes while one sleeps?”

“Follow me, monsieur,” said Mazarin.

“Come, come,” murmured D’Artagnan, “Rochefort has kept his promise, but where in the devil is he?” And he searched the cabinet even to the smallest recesses, but there was no sign of Rochefort.

“Monsieur d’Artagnan,” said the cardinal, sitting down on a fauteuil, “you have always seemed to me to be a brave and honorable man.”

“Possibly,” thought D’Artagnan, “but he has taken a long time to let me know his thoughts;” nevertheless, he bowed to the very ground in gratitude for Mazarin’s compliment.

“Well,” continued Mazarin, “the time has come to put to use your talents and your valor.”

There was a sudden gleam of joy in the officer’s eyes, which vanished immediately, for he knew nothing of Mazarin’s purpose.

“Order, my lord,” he said; “I am ready to obey your eminence.”

“Monsieur d’Artagnan,” continued the cardinal, “you performed sundry superb exploits in the last reign.”

“Your eminence is too good to remember such trifles in my favor. It is true I fought with tolerable success.”

“I don’t speak of your warlike exploits, monsieur,” said Mazarin; “although they gained you much reputation, they were surpassed by others.”

D’Artagnan pretended astonishment.

“Well, you do not reply?” resumed Mazarin.

“I am waiting, my lord, till you tell me of what exploits you speak.”

“I speak of the adventure--Eh, you know well what I mean.”

“Alas, no, my lord!” replied D’Artagnan, surprised.

“You are discreet--so much the better. I speak of that adventure in behalf of the queen, of the ornaments, of the journey you made with three of your friends.”

“Aha!” thought the Gascon; “is this a snare or not? Let me be on my guard.”

And he assumed a look of stupidity which Mendori or Bellerose, two of the first actors of the day, might have envied.

“Bravo!” cried Mazarin; “they told me that you were the man I wanted. Come, let us see what you will do for me.”

“Everything that your eminence may please to command me,” was the reply.

“You will do for me what you have done for the queen?”

“Certainly,” D’Artagnan said to himself, “he wishes to make me speak out. He’s not more cunning than De Richelieu was! Devil take him!” Then he said aloud:

“The queen, my lord? I don’t comprehend.”

“You don’t comprehend that I want you and your three friends to be of use to me?”

“Which of my friends, my lord?”

“Your three friends--the friends of former days.”

“Of former days, my lord! In former days I had not only three friends, I had thirty; at two-and-twenty one calls every man one’s friend.”

“Well, sir,” returned Mazarin, “prudence is a fine thing, but to-day you might regret having been too prudent.”

“My lord, Pythagoras made his disciples keep silence for five years that they might learn to hold their tongues.”

“But you have been silent for twenty years, sir. Speak, now the queen herself releases you from your promise.”

“The queen!” said D’Artagnan, with an astonishment which this time was not pretended.

“Yes, the queen! And as a proof of what I say she commanded me to show you this diamond, which she thinks you know.”

And so saying, Mazarin extended his hand to the officer, who sighed as he recognized the ring so gracefully given to him by the queen on the night of the ball at the Hotel de Ville and which she had repurchased from Monsieur des Essarts.

“‘Tis true. I remember well that diamond, which belonged to the queen.”

“You see, then, that I speak to you in the queen’s name. Answer me without acting as if you were on the stage; your interests are concerned in your so doing.”

“Faith, my lord, it is very necessary for me to make my fortune, your eminence has so long forgotten me.”

“We need only a week to amend all that. Come, you are accounted for, you are here, but where are your friends?”

“I do not know, my lord. We have parted company this long time; all three have left the service.”

“Where can you find them, then?”

“Wherever they are, that’s my business.”

“Well, now, what are your conditions, if I employ you?”

“Money, my lord, as much money as what you wish me to undertake will require. I remember too well how sometimes we were stopped for want of money, and but for that diamond, which I was obliged to sell, we should have remained on the road.”

“The devil he does! Money! and a large sum!” said Mazarin. “Pray, are you aware that the king has no money in his treasury?”

“Do then as I did, my lord. Sell the crown diamonds. Trust me, don’t let us try to do things cheaply. Great undertakings come poorly off with paltry means.”

“Well,” returned Mazarin, “we will satisfy you.”

“Richelieu,” thought D’Artagnan, “would have given me five hundred pistoles in advance.”

“You will then be at my service?” asked Mazarin.

“Yes, if my friends agree.”

“But if they refuse can I count on you?”

“I have never accomplished anything alone,” said D’Artagnan, shaking his head.

“Go, then, and find them.”

“What shall I say to them by way of inducement to serve your eminence?”

“You know them better than I. Adapt your promises to their respective characters.”

“What shall I promise?”

“That if they serve me as well as they served the queen my gratitude shall be magnificent.”

“But what are we to do?”

“Make your mind easy; when the time for action comes you shall be put in full possession of what I require from you; wait till that time arrives and find out your friends.”

“My lord, perhaps they are not in Paris. It is even probable that I shall have to make a journey. I am only a lieutenant of musketeers, very poor, and journeys cost money.

“My intention,” said Mazarin, “is not that you go with a great following; my plans require secrecy, and would be jeopardized by a too extravagant equipment.”

“Still, my lord, I can’t travel on my pay, for it is now three months behind; and I can’t travel on my savings, for in my twenty-two years of service I have accumulated nothing but debts.”

Mazarin remained some moments in deep thought, as if he were fighting with himself; then, going to a large cupboard closed with a triple lock, he took from it a bag of silver, and weighing it twice in his hands before he gave it to D’Artagnan:

“Take this,” he said with a sigh, “‘tis merely for your journey.”

“If these are Spanish doubloons, or even gold crowns,” thought D’Artagnan, “we shall yet be able to do business together.” He saluted the cardinal and plunged the bag into the depths of an immense pocket.

“Well, then, all is settled; you are to set off,” said the cardinal.

“Yes, my lord.”

“Apropos, what are the names of your friends?”

“The Count de la Fere, formerly styled Athos; Monsieur du Vallon, whom we used to call Porthos; the Chevalier d’Herblay, now the Abbe d’Herblay, whom we styled Aramis----”

The cardinal smiled.

“Younger sons,” he said, “who enlisted in the musketeers under feigned names in order not to lower their family names. Long swords but light purses. Was that it?”

“If, God willing, these swords should be devoted to the service of your eminence,” said D’Artagnan, “I shall venture to express a wish, which is, that in its turn the purse of your eminence may become light and theirs heavy--for with these three men your eminence may rouse all Europe if you like.”

“These Gascons,” said the cardinal, laughing, “almost beat the Italians in effrontery.”

“At all events,” answered D’Artagnan, with a smile almost as crafty as the cardinal’s, “they beat them when they draw their swords.”

He then withdrew, and as he passed into the courtyard he stopped near a lamp and dived eagerly into the bag of money.

“Crown pieces only--silver pieces! I suspected it. Ah! Mazarin! Mazarin! thou hast no confidence in me! so much the worse for thee, for harm may come of it!”

Meanwhile the cardinal was rubbing his hands in great satisfaction.

“A hundred pistoles! a hundred pistoles! for a hundred pistoles I have discovered a secret for which Richelieu would have paid twenty thousand crowns; without reckoning the value of that diamond”--he cast a complacent look at the ring, which he had kept, instead of restoring to D’Artagnan--“which is worth, at least, ten thousand francs.”

He returned to his room, and after depositing the ring in a casket filled with brilliants of every sort, for the cardinal was a connoisseur in precious stones, he called to Bernouin to undress him, regardless of the noises of gun-fire that, though it was now near midnight, continued to resound through Paris.

In the meantime D’Artagnan took his way toward the Rue Tiquetonne, where he lived at the Hotel de la Chevrette.

We will explain in a few words how D’Artagnan had been led to choose that place of residence.


Chapter 6. D’Artagnan in his Fortieth Year.


Years have elapsed, many events have happened, alas! since, in our romance of “The Three Musketeers,” we took leave of D’Artagnan at No. 12 Rue des Fossoyeurs. D’Artagnan had not failed in his career, but circumstances had been adverse to him. So long as he was surrounded by his friends he retained his youth and the poetry of his character. He was one of those fine, ingenuous natures which assimilate themselves easily to the dispositions of others. Athos imparted to him his greatness of soul, Porthos his enthusiasm, Aramis his elegance. Had D’Artagnan continued his intimacy with these three men he would have become a superior character. Athos was the first to leave him, in order that he might retire to a little property he had inherited near Blois; Porthos, the second, to marry an attorney’s wife; and lastly, Aramis, the third, to take orders and become an abbe. From that day D’Artagnan felt lonely and powerless, without courage to pursue a career in which he could only distinguish himself on condition that each of his three companions should endow him with one of the gifts each had received from Heaven.

Notwithstanding his commission in the musketeers, D’Artagnan felt completely solitary. For a time the delightful remembrance of Madame Bonancieux left on his character a certain poetic tinge, perishable indeed; for like all other recollections in this world, these impressions were, by degrees, effaced. A garrison life is fatal even to the most aristocratic organization; and imperceptibly, D’Artagnan, always in the camp, always on horseback, always in garrison, became (I know not how in the present age one would express it) a typical trooper. His early refinement of character was not only not lost, it grew even greater than ever; but it was now applied to the little, instead of to the great things of life--to the martial condition of the soldier--comprised under the head of a good lodging, a rich table, a congenial hostess. These important advantages D’Artagnan found to his own taste in the Rue Tiquetonne at the sign of the Roe.

From the time D’Artagnan took quarters in that hotel, the mistress of the house, a pretty and fresh looking Flemish woman, twenty-five or twenty-six years old, had been singularly interested in him; and after certain love passages, much obstructed by an inconvenient husband to whom a dozen times D’Artagnan had made a pretence of passing a sword through his body, that husband had disappeared one fine morning, after furtively selling certain choice lots of wine, carrying away with him money and jewels. He was thought to be dead; his wife, especially, who cherished the pleasing idea that she was a widow, stoutly maintained that death had taken him. Therefore, after the connection had continued three years, carefully fostered by D’Artagnan, who found his bed and his mistress more agreeable every year, each doing credit to the other, the mistress conceived the extraordinary desire of becoming a wife and proposed to D’Artagnan that he should marry her.

“Ah, fie!” D’Artagnan replied. “Bigamy, my dear! Come now, you don’t really wish it?”

“But he is dead; I am sure of it.”

“He was a very contrary fellow and might come back on purpose to have us hanged.”

“All right; if he comes back you will kill him, you are so skillful and so brave.”

“Peste! my darling! another way of getting hanged.”

“So you refuse my request?”

“To be sure I do--furiously!”

The pretty landlady was desolate. She would have taken D’Artagnan not only as her husband, but as her God, he was so handsome and had so fierce a mustache.

Then along toward the fourth year came the expedition of Franche-Comte. D’Artagnan was assigned to it and made his preparations to depart. There were then great griefs, tears without end and solemn promises to remain faithful--all of course on the part of the hostess. D’Artagnan was too grand to promise anything; he purposed only to do all that he could to increase the glory of his name.

As to that, we know D’Artagnan’s courage; he exposed himself freely to danger and while charging at the head of his company he received a ball through the chest which laid him prostrate on the field of battle. He had been seen falling from his horse and had not been seen to rise; every one, therefore, believed him to be dead, especially those to whom his death would give promotion. One believes readily what he wishes to believe. Now in the army, from the division-generals who desire the death of the general-in-chief, to the soldiers who desire the death of the corporals, all desire some one’s death.

But D’Artagnan was not a man to let himself be killed like that. After he had remained through the heat of the day unconscious on the battle-field, the cool freshness of the night brought him to himself. He gained a village, knocked at the door of the finest house and was received as the wounded are always and everywhere received in France. He was petted, tended, cured; and one fine morning, in better health than ever before, he set out for France. Once in France he turned his course toward Paris, and reaching Paris went straight to Rue Tiquetonne.

But D’Artagnan found in his chamber the personal equipment of a man, complete, except for the sword, arranged along the wall.

“He has returned,” said he. “So much the worse, and so much the better!”

It need not be said that D’Artagnan was still thinking of the husband. He made inquiries and discovered that the servants were new and that the mistress had gone for a walk.

“Alone?” asked D’Artagnan.

“With monsieur.”

“Monsieur has returned, then?”

“Of course,” naively replied the servant.

“If I had any money,” said D’Artagnan to himself, “I would go away; but I have none. I must stay and follow the advice of my hostess, while thwarting the conjugal designs of this inopportune apparition.”

He had just completed this monologue--which proves that in momentous circumstances nothing is more natural than the monologue--when the servant-maid, watching at the door, suddenly cried out:

“Ah! see! here is madame returning with monsieur.”

D’Artagnan looked out and at the corner of Rue Montmartre saw the hostess coming along hanging to the arm of an enormous Swiss, who tiptoed in his walk with a magnificent air which pleasantly reminded him of his old friend Porthos.

“Is that monsieur?” said D’Artagnan to himself. “Oh! oh! he has grown a good deal, it seems to me.” And he sat down in the hall, choosing a conspicuous place.

The hostess, as she entered, saw D’Artagnan and uttered a little cry, whereupon D’Artagnan, judging that he had been recognized, rose, ran to her and embraced her tenderly. The Swiss, with an air of stupefaction, looked at the hostess, who turned pale.

“Ah, it is you, monsieur! What do you want of me?” she asked, in great distress.

“Is monsieur your cousin? Is monsieur your brother?” said D’Artagnan, not in the slightest degree embarrassed in the role he was playing. And without waiting for her reply he threw himself into the arms of the Helvetian, who received him with great coldness.

“Who is that man?” he asked.

The hostess replied only by gasps.

“Who is that Swiss?” asked D’Artagnan.

“Monsieur is going to marry me,” replied the hostess, between two gasps.

“Your husband, then, is at last dead?”

“How does that concern you?” replied the Swiss.

“It concerns me much,” said D’Artagnan, “since you cannot marry madame without my consent and since----”

“And since?” asked the Swiss.

“And since--I do not give it,” said the musketeer.

The Swiss became as purple as a peony. He wore his elegant uniform, D’Artagnan was wrapped in a sort of gray cloak; the Swiss was six feet high, D’Artagnan was hardly more than five; the Swiss considered himself on his own ground and regarded D’Artagnan as an intruder.

“Will you go away from here?” demanded the Swiss, stamping violently, like a man who begins to be seriously angry.

“I? By no means!” said D’Artagnan.

“Some one must go for help,” said a lad, who could not comprehend that this little man should make a stand against that other man, who was so large.

D’Artagnan, with a sudden accession of wrath, seized the lad by the ear and led him apart, with the injunction:

“Stay you where you are and don’t you stir, or I will pull this ear off. As for you, illustrious descendant of William Tell, you will straightway get together your clothes which are in my room and which annoy me, and go out quickly to another lodging.”

The Swiss began to laugh boisterously. “I go out?” he said. “And why?”

“Ah, very well!” said D’Artagnan; “I see that you understand French. Come then, and take a turn with me and I will explain.”

The hostess, who knew D’Artagnan’s skill with the sword, began to weep and tear her hair. D’Artagnan turned toward her, saying, “Then send him away, madame.”

“Pooh!” said the Swiss, who had needed a little time to take in D’Artagnan’s proposal, “pooh! who are you, in the first place, to ask me to take a turn with you?”

“I am lieutenant in his majesty’s musketeers,” said D’Artagnan, “and consequently your superior in everything; only, as the question now is not of rank, but of quarters--you know the custom--come and seek for yours; the first to return will recover his chamber.”

D’Artagnan led away the Swiss in spite of lamentations on the part of the hostess, who in reality found her heart inclining toward her former lover, though she would not have been sorry to give a lesson to that haughty musketeer who had affronted her by the refusal of her hand.

It was night when the two adversaries reached the field of battle. D’Artagnan politely begged the Swiss to yield to him the disputed chamber; the Swiss refused by shaking his head, and drew his sword.

“Then you will lie here,” said D’Artagnan. “It is a wretched bed, but that is not my fault, and it is you who have chosen it.” With these words he drew in his turn and crossed swords with his adversary.

He had to contend against a strong wrist, but his agility was superior to all force. The Swiss received two wounds and was not aware of it, by reason of the cold; but suddenly feebleness, occasioned by loss of blood, obliged him to sit down.

“There!” said D’Artagnan, “what did I tell you? Fortunately, you won’t be laid up more than a fortnight. Remain here and I will send you your clothes by the boy. Good-by! Oh, by the way, you’d better take lodging in the Rue Montorgueil at the Chat Qui Pelote. You will be well fed there, if the hostess remains the same. Adieu.”

Thereupon he returned in a lively mood to his room and sent to the Swiss the things that belonged to him. The boy found him sitting where D’Artagnan had left him, still overwhelmed by the coolness of his adversary.

The boy, the hostess, and all the house had the same regard for D’Artagnan that one would have for Hercules should he return to earth to repeat his twelve labors.

But when he was alone with the hostess he said: “Now, pretty Madeleine, you know the difference between a Swiss and a gentleman. As for you, you have acted like a barmaid. So much the worse for you, for by such conduct you have lost my esteem and my patronage. I have driven away the Swiss to humiliate you, but I shall lodge here no longer. I will not sleep where I must scorn. Ho, there, boy! Have my valise carried to the Muid d’Amour, Rue des Bourdonnais. Adieu, madame.”

In saying these words D’Artagnan appeared at the same time majestic and grieved. The hostess threw herself at his feet, asked his pardon and held him back with a sweet violence. What more need be said? The spit turned, the stove roared, the pretty Madeleine wept; D’Artagnan felt himself invaded by hunger, cold and love. He pardoned, and having pardoned he remained.

And this explains how D’Artagnan had quarters in the Rue Tiquetonne, at the Hotel de la Chevrette.

D’Artagnan then returned home in thoughtful mood, finding a somewhat lively pleasure in carrying Mazarin’s bag of money and thinking of that fine diamond which he had once called his own and which he had seen on the minister’s finger that night.

“Should that diamond ever fall into my hands again,” he reflected, “I would turn it at once into money; I would buy with the proceeds certain lands around my father’s chateau, which is a pretty place, well enough, but with no land to it at all, except a garden about the size of the Cemetery des Innocents; and I should wait in all my glory till some rich heiress, attracted by my good looks, rode along to marry me. Then I should like to have three sons; I should make the first a nobleman, like Athos; the second a good soldier, like Porthos; the third an excellent abbe, like Aramis. Faith! that would be a far better life than I lead now; but Monsieur Mazarin is a mean wretch, who won’t dispossess himself of his diamond in my favor.”

On entering the Rue Tiquetonne he heard a tremendous noise and found a dense crowd near the house.

“Oho!” said he, “is the hotel on fire?” On approaching the hotel of the Roe he found, however, that it was in front of the next house the mob was collected. The people were shouting and running about with torches. By the light of one of these torches D’Artagnan perceived men in uniform.

He asked what was going on.

He was told that twenty citizens, headed by one man, had attacked a carriage which was escorted by a troop of the cardinal’s bodyguard; but a reinforcement having come up, the assailants had been put to flight and the leader had taken refuge in the hotel next to his lodgings; the house was now being searched.

In his youth D’Artagnan had often headed the bourgeoisie against the military, but he was cured of all those hot-headed propensities; besides, he had the cardinal’s hundred pistoles in his pocket, so he went into the hotel without a word. There he found Madeleine alarmed for his safety and anxious to tell him all the events of the evening, but he cut her short by ordering her to put his supper in his room and give him with it a bottle of good Burgundy.

He took his key and candle and went upstairs to his bedroom. He had been contented, for the convenience of the house, to lodge in the fourth story; and truth obliges us even to confess that his chamber was just above the gutter and below the roof. His first care on entering it was to lock up in an old bureau with a new lock his bag of money, and then as soon as supper was ready he sent away the waiter who brought it up and sat down to table.

Not to reflect on what had passed, as one might fancy. No, D’Artagnan considered that things are never well done when they are not reserved to their proper time. He was hungry; he supped, he went to bed. Neither was he one of those who think that the necessary silence of the night brings counsel with it. In the night he slept, but in the morning, refreshed and calm, he was inspired with his clearest views of everything. It was long since he had any reason for his morning’s inspiration, but he always slept all night long. At daybreak he awoke and took a turn around his room.

“In ‘43,” he said, “just before the death of the late cardinal, I received a letter from Athos. Where was I then? Let me see. Oh! at the siege of Besancon I was in the trenches. He told me--let me think--what was it? That he was living on a small estate--but where? I was just reading the name of the place when the wind blew my letter away, I suppose to the Spaniards; there’s no use in thinking any more about Athos. Let me see: with regard to Porthos, I received a letter from him, too. He invited me to a hunting party on his property in the month of September, 1646. Unluckily, as I was then in Bearn, on account of my father’s death, the letter followed me there. I had left Bearn when it arrived and I never received it until the month of April, 1647; and as the invitation was for September, 1646, I couldn’t accept it. Let me look for this letter; it must be with my title deeds.”

D’Artagnan opened an old casket which stood in a corner of the room, and which was full of parchments referring to an estate during a period of two hundred years lost to his family. He uttered an exclamation of delight, for the large handwriting of Porthos was discernible, and underneath some lines traced by his worthy spouse.

D’Artagnan eagerly searched for the heading of this letter; it was dated from the Chateau du Vallon.

Porthos had forgotten that any other address was necessary; in his pride he fancied that every one must know the Chateau du Vallon.

“Devil take the vain fellow,” said D’Artagnan. “However, I had better find him out first, since he can’t want money. Athos must have become an idiot by this time from drinking. Aramis must have worn himself to a shadow of his former self by constant genuflexion.”

He cast his eyes again on the letter. There was a postscript:

“I write by the same courier to our worthy friend Aramis in his convent.”

“In his convent! What convent? There are about two hundred in Paris and three thousand in France; and then, perhaps, on entering the convent he changed his name. Ah! if I were but learned in theology I should recollect what it was he used to dispute about with the curate of Montdidier and the superior of the Jesuits, when we were at Crevecoeur; I should know what doctrine he leans to and I should glean from that what saint he has adopted as his patron.

“Well, suppose I go back to the cardinal and ask him for a passport into all the convents one can find, even into the nunneries? It would be a curious idea, and maybe I should find my friend under the name of Achilles. But, no! I should lose myself in the cardinal’s opinion. Great people only thank you for doing the impossible; what’s possible, they say, they can effect themselves, and they are right. But let us wait a little and reflect. I received a letter from him, the dear fellow, in which he even asked me for some small service, which, in fact, I rendered him. Yes, yes; but now what did I do with that letter?”

D’Artagnan thought a moment and then went to the wardrobe in which hung his old clothes. He looked for his doublet of the year 1648 and as he had orderly habits, he found it hanging on its nail. He felt in the pocket and drew from it a paper; it was the letter of Aramis:

“Monsieur D’Artagnan: You know that I have had a quarrel with a certain gentleman, who has given me an appointment for this evening in the Place Royale. As I am of the church, and the affair might injure me if I should share it with any other than a sure friend like you, I write to beg that you will serve me as second.

“You will enter by the Rue Neuve Sainte Catherine; under the second lamp on the right you will find your adversary. I shall be with mine under the third.

“Wholly yours,

“Aramis.”

D’Artagnan tried to recall his remembrances. He had gone to the rendezvous, had encountered there the adversary indicated, whose name he had never known, had given him a pretty sword-stroke on the arm, then had gone toward Aramis, who at the same time came to meet him, having already finished his affair. “It is over,” Aramis had said. “I think I have killed the insolent fellow. But, dear friend, if you ever need me you know that I am entirely devoted to you.” Thereupon Aramis had given him a clasp of the hand and had disappeared under the arcades.

So, then, he no more knew where Aramis was than where Athos and Porthos were, and the affair was becoming a matter of great perplexity, when he fancied he heard a pane of glass break in his room window. He thought directly of his bag and rushed from the inner room where he was sleeping. He was not mistaken; as he entered his bedroom a man was getting in by the window.

“Ah! you scoundrel!” cried D’Artagnan, taking the man for a thief and seizing his sword.

“Sir!” cried the man, “in the name of Heaven put your sword back into the sheath and don’t kill me unheard. I’m no thief, but an honest citizen, well off in the world, with a house of my own. My name is--ah! but surely you are Monsieur d’Artagnan?”

“And thou--Planchet!” cried the lieutenant.

“At your service, sir,” said Planchet, overwhelmed with joy; “if I were still capable of serving you.”

“Perhaps so,” replied D’Artagnan. “But why the devil dost thou run about the tops of houses at seven o’clock of the morning in the month of January?”

“Sir,” said Planchet, “you must know; but, perhaps you ought not to know----”

“Tell us what,” returned D’Artagnan, “but first put a napkin against the window and draw the curtains.”

“Sir,” said the prudent Planchet, “in the first place, are you on good terms with Monsieur de Rochefort?”

“Perfectly; one of my dearest friends.”

“Ah! so much the better!”

“But what has De Rochefort to do with this manner you have of invading my room?”

“Ah, sir! I must first tell you that Monsieur de Rochefort is----”

Planchet hesitated.

“Egad, I know where he is,” said D’Artagnan. “He’s in the Bastile.”

“That is to say, he was there,” replied Planchet. “But in returning thither last night, when fortunately you did not accompany him, as his carriage was crossing the Rue de la Ferronnerie his guards insulted the people, who began to abuse them. The prisoner thought this a good opportunity for escape; he called out his name and cried for help. I was there. I heard the name of Rochefort. I remembered him well. I said in a loud voice that he was a prisoner, a friend of the Duc de Beaufort, who called for help. The people were infuriated; they stopped the horses and cut the escort to pieces, whilst I opened the doors of the carriage and Monsieur de Rochefort jumped out and soon was lost amongst the crowd. At this moment a patrol passed by. I was obliged to sound a retreat toward the Rue Tiquetonne; I was pursued and took refuge in the house next to this, where I have been concealed between two mattresses. This morning I ventured to run along the gutters and----”

“Well,” interrupted D’Artagnan, “I am delighted that De Rochefort is free, but as for thee, if thou shouldst fall into the hands of the king’s servants they will hang thee without mercy. Nevertheless, I promise thee thou shalt be hidden here, though I risk by concealing thee neither more nor less than my lieutenancy, if it was found out that I gave one rebel an asylum.”

“Ah! sir, you know well I would risk my life for you.”

“Thou mayst add that thou hast risked it, Planchet. I have not forgotten all I owe thee. Sit down there and eat in security. I see thee cast expressive glances at the remains of my supper.”

“Yes, sir; for all I’ve had since yesterday was a slice of bread and butter, with preserves on it. Although I don’t despise sweet things in proper time and place, I found the supper rather light.”

“Poor fellow!” said D’Artagnan. “Well, come; set to.”

“Ah, sir, you are going to save my life a second time!” cried Planchet.

And he seated himself at the table and ate as he did in the merry days of the Rue des Fossoyeurs, whilst D’Artagnan walked to and fro and thought how he could make use of Planchet under present circumstances. While he turned this over in his mind Planchet did his best to make up for lost time at table. At last he uttered a sigh of satisfaction and paused, as if he had partially appeased his hunger.

“Come,” said D’Artagnan, who thought that it was now a convenient time to begin his interrogations, “dost thou know where Athos is?”

“No, sir,” replied Planchet.

“The devil thou dost not! Dost know where Porthos is?”

“No--not at all.”

“And Aramis?”

“Not in the least.”

“The devil! the devil! the devil!”

“But, sir,” said Planchet, with a look of shrewdness, “I know where Bazin is.”

“Where is he?”

“At Notre Dame.”

“What has he to do at Notre Dame?”

“He is beadle.”

“Bazin beadle at Notre Dame! He must know where his master is!”

“Without a doubt he must.”

D’Artagnan thought for a moment, then took his sword and put on his cloak to go out.

“Sir,” said Planchet, in a mournful tone, “do you abandon me thus to my fate? Think, if I am found out here, the people of the house, who have not seen me enter it, will take me for a thief.”

“True,” said D’Artagnan. “Let’s see. Canst thou speak any patois?”

“I can do something better than that, sir, I can speak Flemish.”

“Where the devil didst thou learn it?”

“In Artois, where I fought for years. Listen, sir. Goeden morgen, mynheer, eth teen begeeray le weeten the ge sond heets omstand.”

“Which means?”

“Good-day, sir! I am anxious to know the state of your health.”

“He calls that a language! But never mind, that will do capitally.”

D’Artagnan opened the door and called out to a waiter to desire Madeleine to come upstairs.

When the landlady made her appearance she expressed much astonishment at seeing Planchet.

“My dear landlady,” said D’Artagnan, “I beg to introduce to you your brother, who is arrived from Flanders and whom I am going to take into my service.”

“My brother?”

“Wish your sister good-morning, Master Peter.”

“Wilkom, suster,” said Planchet.

“Goeden day, broder,” replied the astonished landlady.

“This is the case,” said D’Artagnan; “this is your brother, Madeleine; you don’t know him perhaps, but I know him; he has arrived from Amsterdam. You must dress him up during my absence. When I return, which will be in about an hour, you must offer him to me as a servant, and upon your recommendation, though he doesn’t speak a word of French, I take him into my service. You understand?”

“That is to say, I guess your wishes, and that is all that’s necessary,” said Madeleine.

“You are a precious creature, my pretty hostess, and I am much obliged to you.”

The next moment D’Artagnan was on his way to Notre Dame.