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Twenty Years After

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Chapter 73. Fatality.


Scarcely had D’Artagnan uttered these words when a ringing and sudden noise was heard resounding through the felucca, which had now become dim in the obscurity of the night.

“That, you may be sure,” said the Gascon, “means something.”

They then at the same instant perceived a large lantern carried on a pole appear on the deck, defining the forms of shadows behind it.

Suddenly a terrible cry, a cry of despair, was wafted through space; and as if the shrieks of anguish had driven away the clouds, the veil which hid the moon was cleated away and the gray sails and dark shrouds of the felucca were plainly visible beneath the silvery light.

Shadows ran, as if bewildered, to and fro on the vessel, and mournful cries accompanied these delirious walkers. In the midst of these screams they saw Mordaunt upon the poop with a torch in hand.

The agitated figures, apparently wild with terror, consisted of Groslow, who at the hour fixed by Mordaunt had collected his men and the sailors. Mordaunt, after having listened at the door of the cabin to hear if the musketeers were still asleep, had gone down into the cellar, convinced by their silence that they were all in a deep slumber. Then he had run to the train, impetuous as a man who is excited by revenge, and full of confidence, as are those whom God blinds, he had set fire to the wick of nitre.

All this while Groslow and his men were assembled on deck.

“Haul up the cable and draw the boat to us,” said Groslow.

One of the sailors got down the side of the ship, seized the cable, and drew it; it came without the least resistance.

“The cable is cut!” he cried, “no boat!”

“How! no boat!” exclaimed Groslow; “it is impossible.”

“‘Tis true, however,” answered the sailor; “there’s nothing in the wake of the ship; besides, here’s the end of the cable.”

“What’s the matter?” cried Mordaunt, who, coming up out of the hatchway, rushed to the stern, waving his torch.

“Only that our enemies have escaped; they have cut the cord and gone off with the boat.”

Mordaunt bounded with one step to the cabin and kicked open the door.

“Empty!” he exclaimed; “the infernal demons!”

“We must pursue them,” said Groslow, “they can’t be gone far, and we will sink them, passing over them.”

“Yes, but the fire,” ejaculated Mordaunt; “I have lighted it.”

“Ten thousand devils!” cried Groslow, rushing to the hatchway; “perhaps there is still time to save us.”

Mordaunt answered only by a terrible laugh, threw his torch into the sea and plunged in after it. The instant Groslow put his foot upon the hatchway steps the ship opened like the crater of a volcano. A burst of flame rose toward the skies with an explosion like that of a hundred cannon; the air burned, ignited by flaming embers, then the frightful lightning disappeared, the brands sank, one after another, into the abyss, where they were extinguished, and save for a slight vibration in the air, after a few minutes had elapsed one would have thought that nothing had happened.

Only--the felucca had disappeared from the surface of the sea and Groslow and his three sailors were consumed.

The four friends saw all this--not a single detail of this fearful scene escaped them. At one moment, bathed as they were in a flood of brilliant light, which illumined the sea for the space of a league, they might each be seen, each by his own peculiar attitude and manner expressing the awe which, even in their hearts of bronze, they could not help experiencing. Soon a torrent of vivid sparks fell around them--then, at last, the volcano was extinguished--then all was dark and still--the floating bark and heaving ocean.

They sat silent and dejected.

“By Heaven!” at last said Athos, the first to speak, “by this time, I think, all must be over.”

“Here, my lords! save me! help!” cried a voice, whose mournful accents, reaching the four friends, seemed to proceed from some phantom of the ocean.

All looked around; Athos himself stared.

“‘Tis he! it is his voice!”

All still remained silent, the eyes of all were turned in the direction where the vessel had disappeared, endeavoring in vain to penetrate the darkness. After a minute or two they were able to distinguish a man, who approached them, swimming vigorously.

Athos extended his arm toward him, pointing him out to his companions.

“Yes, yes, I see him well enough,” said D’Artagnan.

“He--again!” cried Porthos, who was breathing like a blacksmith’s bellows; “why, he is made of iron.”

“Oh, my God!” muttered Athos.

Aramis and D’Artagnan whispered to each other.

Mordaunt made several strokes more, and raising his arm in sign of distress above the waves: “Pity, pity on me, gentlemen, in Heaven’s name! my strength is failing me; I am dying.”

The voice that implored aid was so piteous that it awakened pity in the heart of Athos.

“Poor fellow!” he exclaimed.

“Indeed!” said D’Artagnan, “monsters have only to complain to gain your sympathy. I believe he’s swimming toward us. Does he think we are going to take him in? Row, Porthos, row.” And setting the example he plowed his oar into the sea; two strokes took the bark on twenty fathoms further.

“Oh! you will not abandon me! You will not leave me to perish! You will not be pitiless!” cried Mordaunt.

“Ah! ah!” said Porthos to Mordaunt, “I think we have you now, my hero! and there are no doors by which you can escape this time but those of hell.”

“Oh! Porthos!” murmured the Comte de la Fere.

“Oh, pray, for mercy’s sake, don’t fly from me. For pity’s sake!” cried the young man, whose agony-drawn breath at times, when his head went under water, under the wave, exhaled and made the icy waters bubble.

D’Artagnan, however, who had consulted with Aramis, spoke to the poor wretch. “Go away,” he said; “your repentance is too recent to inspire confidence. See! the vessel in which you wished to fry us is still smoking; and the situation in which you are is a bed of roses compared to that in which you wished to place us and in which you have placed Monsieur Groslow and his companions.”

“Sir!” replied Mordaunt, in a tone of deep despair, “my penitence is sincere. Gentlemen, I am young, scarcely twenty-three years old. I was drawn on by a very natural resentment to avenge my mother. You would have done what I did.”

Mordaunt wanted now only two or three fathoms to reach the boat, for the approach of death seemed to give him supernatural strength.

“Alas!” he said, “I am then to die? You are going to kill the son, as you killed the mother! Surely, if I am culpable and if I ask for pardon, I ought to be forgiven.”

Then, as if his strength failed him, he seemed unable to sustain himself above the water and a wave passed over his head, which drowned his voice.

“Oh! this is torture to me,” cried Athos.

Mordaunt reappeared.

“For my part,” said D’Artagnan, “I say this must come to an end; murderer, as you were, of your uncle! executioner, as you were, of King Charles! incendiary! I recommend you to sink forthwith to the bottom of the sea; and if you come another fathom nearer, I’ll stave your wicked head in with this oar.”

“D’Artagnan! D’Artagnan!” cried Athos, “my son, I entreat you; the wretch is dying, and it is horrible to let a man die without extending a hand to save him. I cannot resist doing so; he must live.”

“Zounds!” replied D’Artagnan, “why don’t you give yourself up directly, feet and hands bound, to that wretch? Ah! Comte de la Fere, you wish to perish by his hands! I, your son, as you call me--I will not let you!”

‘Twas the first time D’Artagnan had ever refused a request from Athos.

Aramis calmly drew his sword, which he had carried between his teeth as he swam.

“If he lays his hand on the boat’s edge I will cut it off, regicide that he is.”

“And I,” said Porthos. “Wait.”

“What are you going to do?” asked Aramis.

“Throw myself in the water and strangle him.”

“Oh, gentlemen!” cried Athos, “be men! be Christians! See! death is depicted on his face! Ah! do not bring on me the horrors of remorse! Grant me this poor wretch’s life. I will bless you--I----”

“I am dying!” cried Mordaunt, “come to me! come to me!”

D’Artagnan began to be touched. The boat at this moment turned around, and the dying man was by that turn brought nearer Athos.

“Monsieur the Comte de la Fere,” he cried, “I supplicate you! pity me! I call on you--where are you? I see you no longer--I am dying--help me! help me!”

“Here I am, sir!” said Athos, leaning and stretching out his arm to Mordaunt with that air of dignity and nobility of soul habitual to him; “here I am, take my hand and jump into our boat.”

Mordaunt made a last effort--rose--seized the hand thus extended to him and grasped it with the vehemence of despair.

“That’s right,” said Athos; “put your other hand here.” And he offered him his shoulder as another stay and support, so that his head almost touched that of Mordaunt; and these two mortal enemies were in as close an embrace as if they had been brothers.

“Now, sir,” said the count, “you are safe--calm yourself.”

“Ah! my mother,” cried Mordaunt, with eyes on fire with a look of hate impossible to paint, “I can only offer thee one victim, but it shall at any rate be the one thou wouldst thyself have chosen!”

And whilst D’Artagnan uttered a cry, Porthos raised the oar, and Aramis sought a place to strike, a frightful shake given to the boat precipitated Athos into the sea; whilst Mordaunt, with a shout of triumph, grasped the neck of his victim, and in order to paralyze his movements, twined arms and legs around the musketeer. For an instant, without an exclamation, without a cry for help, Athos tried to sustain himself on the surface of the waters, but the weight dragged him down; he disappeared by degrees; soon nothing was to be seen except his long, floating hair; then both men disappeared and the bubbling of the water, which, in its turn, was soon effaced, alone indicated the spot where these two had sunk.

Mute with horror, the three friends had remained open-mouthed, their eyes dilated, their arms extended like statues, and, motionless as they were, the beating of their hearts was audible. Porthos was the first who came to himself. He tore his hair.

“Oh!” he cried, “Athos! Athos! thou man of noble heart; woe is me! I have let thee perish!”

At this instant, in the midst of the silver circle illumined by the light of the moon the same whirlpool which had been made by the sinking men was again obvious, and first were seen, rising above the waves, a wisp of hair, then a pale face with open eyes, yet, nevertheless, the eyes of death; then a body, which, after rising of itself even to the waist above the sea, turned gently on its back, according to the caprice of the waves, and floated.

In the bosom of this corpse was plunged a poniard, the gold hilt of which shone in the moonbeams.

“Mordaunt! Mordaunt!” cried the three friends; “‘tis Mordaunt!”

“But Athos!” exclaimed D’Artagnan.

Suddenly the boat leaned on one side beneath a new and unexpected weight and Grimaud uttered a shout of joy; every one turned around and beheld Athos, livid, his eyes dim and his hands trembling, supporting himself on the edge of the boat. Eight vigorous arms lifted him up immediately and laid him in the boat, where directly Athos was warmed and reanimated, reviving with the caresses and cares of his friends, who were intoxicated with joy.

“You are not hurt?” asked D’Artagnan.

“No,” replied Athos; “and he----”

“Oh, he! now we may say at last, thank Heaven! he is really dead. Look!” and D’Artagnan, obliging Athos to look in the direction he pointed, showed him the body of Mordaunt floating on its back, which, sometimes submerged, sometimes rising, seemed still to pursue the four friends with looks of insult and mortal hatred.

At last he sank. Athos had followed him with a glance in which the deepest melancholy and pity were expressed.

“Bravo! Athos!” cried Aramis, with an emotion very rare in him.

“A capital blow you gave!” cried Porthos.

“I have a son. I wished to live,” said Athos.

“In short,” said D’Artagnan, “this has been the will of God.”

“It was not I who killed him,” said Athos in a soft, low tone, “‘twas destiny.”


Chapter 74. How Mousqueton had a Narrow Escape of being eaten.


Adeep silence reigned for a long time in the boat after the fearful scene described.

The moon, which had shone for a short time, disappeared behind the clouds; every object was again plunged in the obscurity that is so awful in the deserts and still more so in that liquid desert, the ocean, and nothing was heard save the whistling of the west wind driving along the tops of the crested billows.

Porthos was the first to speak.

“I have seen,” he said, “many dreadful things, but nothing that ever agitated me so much as what I have just witnessed. Nevertheless, even in my present state of perturbation, I protest that I feel happy. I have a hundred pounds’ weight less upon my chest. I breathe more freely.” In fact, Porthos breathed so loud as to do credit to the free play of his powerful lungs.

“For my part,” observed Aramis, “I cannot say the same as you do, Porthos. I am still terrified to such a degree that I scarcely believe my eyes. I look around the boat, expecting every moment to see that poor wretch holding between his hands the poniard plunged into his heart.”

“Oh! I feel easy,” replied Porthos. “The poniard was pointed at the sixth rib and buried up to the hilt in his body. I do not reproach you, Athos, for what you have done. On the contrary, when one aims a blow that is the regulation way to strike. So now, I breathe again--I am happy!”

“Don’t be in haste to celebrate a victory, Porthos,” interposed D’Artagnan; “never have we incurred a greater danger than we are now encountering. Men may subdue men--they cannot overcome the elements. We are now on the sea, at night, without any pilot, in a frail bark; should a blast of wind upset the boat we are lost.”

Mousqueton heaved a deep sigh.

“You are ungrateful, D’Artagnan,” said Athos; “yes, ungrateful to Providence, to whom we owe our safety in the most miraculous manner. Let us sail before the wind, and unless it changes we shall be drifted either to Calais or Boulogne. Should our bark be upset we are five of us good swimmers, able enough to turn it over again, or if not, to hold on by it. Now we are on the very road which all the vessels between Dover and Calais take, ‘tis impossible but that we should meet with a fisherman who will pick us up.”

“But should we not find any fisherman and should the wind shift to the north?”

“That,” said Athos, “would be quite another thing; and we should nevermore see land until we were upon the other side of the Atlantic.”

“Which implies that we may die of hunger,” said Aramis.

“‘Tis more than possible,” answered the Comte de la Fere.

Mousqueton sighed again, more deeply than before.

“What is the matter? what ails you?” asked Porthos.

“I am cold, sir,” said Mousqueton.

“Impossible! your body is covered with a coating of fat which preserves it from the cold air.”

“Ah! sir, ‘tis this very coating of fat that makes me shiver.”

“How is that, Mousqueton?

“Alas! your honor, in the library of the Chateau of Bracieux there are a lot of books of travels.”

“What then?”

“Amongst them the voyages of Jean Mocquet in the time of Henry IV.”

“Well?”

“In these books, your honor, ‘tis told how hungry voyagers, drifting out to sea, have a bad habit of eating each other and beginning with----”

“The fattest among them!” cried D’Artagnan, unable in spite of the gravity of the occasion to help laughing.

“Yes, sir,” answered Mousqueton; “but permit me to say I see nothing laughable in it. However,” he added, turning to Porthos, “I should not regret dying, sir, were I sure that by doing so I might still be useful to you.”

“Mouston,” replied Porthos, much affected, “should we ever see my castle of Pierrefonds again you shall have as your own and for your descendants the vineyard that surrounds the farm.”

“And you should call it ‘Devotion,’” added Aramis; “the vineyard of self-sacrifice, to transmit to latest ages the recollection of your devotion to your master.”

“Chevalier,” said D’Artagnan, laughing, “you could eat a piece of Mouston, couldn’t you, especially after two or three days of fasting?”

“Oh, no,” replied Aramis, “I should much prefer Blaisois; we haven’t known him so long.”

One may readily conceive that during these jokes which were intended chiefly to divert Athos from the scene which had just taken place, the servants, with the exception of Grimaud, were not silent. Suddenly Mousqueton uttered a cry of delight, taking from beneath one of the benches a bottle of wine; and on looking more closely in the same place he discovered a dozen similar bottles, bread, and a monster junk of salted beef.

“Oh, sir!” he cried, passing the bottle to Porthos, “we are saved--the bark is supplied with provisions.”

This intelligence restored every one save Athos to gayety.

“Zounds!” exclaimed Porthos, “‘tis astonishing how empty violent agitation makes the stomach.”

And he drank off half a bottle at a draught and bit great mouthfuls of the bread and meat.

“Now,” said Athos, “sleep, or try to sleep, my friends, and I will watch.”

In a few moments, notwithstanding their wet clothes, the icy blast that blew and the previous scene of terror, these hardy adventurers, with their iron frames, inured to every hardship, threw themselves down, intending to profit by the advice of Athos, who sat at the helm, pensively wakeful, guiding the little bark the way it was to go, his eyes fixed on the heavens, as if he sought to verify not only the road to France, but the benign aspect of protecting Providence. After some hours of repose the sleepers were aroused by Athos.

Dawn was shedding its pallid, placid glimmer on the purple ocean, when at the distance of a musket shot from them was seen a dark gray mass, above which gleamed a triangular sail; then masters and servants joined in a fervent cry to the crew of that vessel to hear them and to save.

“A bark!” all cried together.

It was, in fact, a small craft from Dunkirk bound for Boulogne.

A quarter of an hour afterward the rowboat of this craft took them all aboard. Grimaud tendered twenty guineas to the captain, and at nine o’clock in the morning, having a fair wind, our Frenchmen set foot on their native land.

“Egad! how strong one feels here!” said Porthos, almost burying his large feet in the sands. “Zounds! I could defy a nation!”

“Be quiet, Porthos,” said D’Artagnan, “we are observed.”

“We are admired, i’faith,” answered Porthos.

“These people who are looking at us are only merchants,” said Athos, “and are looking more at the cargo than at us.”

“I shall not trust to that,” said the lieutenant, “and I shall make for the Dunes* as soon as possible.”

* Sandy hills about Dunkirk, from which it derives its name.
The party followed him and soon disappeared with him behind the hillocks of sand unobserved. Here, after a short conference, they proposed to separate.

“And why separate?” asked Athos.

“Because,” answered the Gascon, “we were sent, Porthos and I, by Cardinal Mazarin to fight for Cromwell; instead of fighting for Cromwell we have served Charles I.--not the same thing by any means. In returning with the Comte de la Fere and Monsieur d’Herblay our crime would be confirmed. We have circumvented Cromwell, Mordaunt, and the sea, but we shall find a certain difficulty in circumventing Mazarin.”

“You forget,” replied Athos, “that we consider ourselves your prisoners and not free from the engagement we entered into.”

“Truly, Athos,” interrupted D’Artagnan, “I am vexed that such a man as you are should talk nonsense which schoolboys would be ashamed of. Chevalier,” he continued, addressing Aramis, who, leaning proudly on his sword, seemed to agree with his companion, “Chevalier, Porthos and I run no risk; besides, should any ill-luck happen to two of us, will it not be much better that the other two should be spared to assist those who may be apprehended? Besides, who knows whether, divided, we may not obtain a pardon--you from the queen, we from Mazarin--which, were we all four together, would never be granted. Come, Athos and Aramis, go to the right; Porthos, come with me to the left; these gentlemen should file off into Normandy, whilst we, by the nearest road, reach Paris.”

He then gave his friends minute directions as to their route.

“Ah! my dear friend,” exclaimed Athos, “how I should admire the resources of your mind did I not stop to adore those of your heart.”

And he gave him his hand.

“Isn’t this fox a genius, Athos?” asked the Gascon. “No! he knows how to crunch fowls, to dodge the huntsman and to find his way home by day or by night, that’s all. Well, is all said?”

“All.”

“Then let’s count our money and divide it. Ah! hurrah! there’s the sun! A merry morning to you, Sunshine. ‘Tis a long time since I saw thee!”

“Come, come, D’Artagnan,” said Athos, “do not affect to be strong-minded; there are tears in your eyes. Let us be open with each other and sincere.”

“What!” cried the Gascon, “do you think, Athos, we can take leave, calmly, of two friends at a time not free from danger to you and Aramis?”

“No,” answered Athos; “embrace me, my son.”

“Zounds!” said Porthos, sobbing, “I believe I’m crying; but how foolish all this is!”

Then they embraced. At that moment their fraternal bond of union was closer than ever, and when they parted, each to take the route agreed on, they turned back to utter affectionate expressions, which the echoes of the Dunes repeated. At last they lost sight of each other.

“Sacrebleu! D’Artagnan,” said Porthos, “I must out with it at once, for I can’t keep to myself anything I have against you; I haven’t been able to recognize you in this matter.”

“Why not?” said D’Artagnan, with his wise smile.

“Because if, as you say, Athos and Aramis are in real danger, this is not the time to abandon them. For my part, I confess to you that I was all ready to follow them and am still ready to rejoin them, in spite of all the Mazarins in the world.”

“You would be right, Porthos, but for one thing, which may change the current of your ideas; and that is, that it is not those gentlemen who are in the greatest danger, it is ourselves; it is not to abandon them that we have separated, but to avoid compromising them.”

“Really?” said Porthos, opening his eyes in astonishment.

“Yes, no doubt. If they are arrested they will only be put in the Bastile; if we are arrested it is a matter of the Place de Greve.”

“Oh! oh!” said Porthos, “there is quite a gap between that fate and the baronial coronet you promised me, D’Artagnan.”

“Bah! perhaps not so great as you think, Porthos; you know the proverb, ‘All roads lead to Rome.’”

“But how is it that we are incurring greater risks than Athos and Aramis?” asked Porthos.

“Because they have but fulfilled the mission confided to them by Queen Henrietta and we have betrayed that confided to us by Mazarin; because, going hence as emissaries to Cromwell, we became partisans of King Charles; because, instead of helping cut off the royal head condemned by those fellows called Mazarin, Cromwell, Joyce, Bridge, Fairfax, etc., we very nearly succeeded in saving it.”

“Upon my word that is true,” said Porthos; “but how can you suppose, my dear friend, that in the midst of his great preoccupations General Cromwell has had time to think----”

“Cromwell thinks of everything; Cromwell has time for everything; and believe me, dear friend, we ought not to lose our time--it is precious. We shall not be safe till we have seen Mazarin, and then----”

“The devil!” said Porthos; “what can we say to Mazarin?”

“Leave that to me--I have my plan. He laughs best who laughs last. Cromwell is mighty, Mazarin is tricky, but I would rather have to do with them than with the late Monsieur Mordaunt.”

“Ah!” said Porthos, “it is very pleasant to be able to say ‘the late Monsieur Mordaunt.’”

“My faith, yes,” said D’Artagnan. “But we must be going.”

The two immediately started across country toward the road to Paris, followed by Mousqueton, who, after being too cold all night, at the end of a quarter of an hour found himself too warm.


Chapter 75. The Return.


During the six weeks that Athos and Aramis had been absent from France, the Parisians, finding themselves one morning without either queen or king, were greatly annoyed at being thus deserted, and the absence of Mazarin, a thing so long desired, did not compensate for that of the two august fugitives.

The first feeling that pervaded Paris on hearing of the flight to Saint Germain, was that sort of affright which seizes children when they awake in the night and find themselves alone. A deputation was therefore sent to the queen to entreat her to return to Paris; but she not only declined to receive the deputies, but sent an intimation by Chancellor Seguier, implying that if the parliament did not humble itself before her majesty by negativing all the questions that had been the cause of the quarrel, Paris would be besieged the very next day.

This threatening answer, unluckily for the court, produced quite a different effect to that which was intended. It wounded the pride of the parliament, which, supported by the citizens, replied by declaring that Cardinal Mazarin was the cause of all the discontent; denounced him as the enemy both of the king and the state, and ordered him to retire from the court that same day and from France within a week afterward; enjoining, in case of disobedience on his part, all the subjects of the king to pursue and take him.

Mazarin being thus placed beyond the pale of the protection of the law, preparations on both sides were commenced--by the queen, to attack Paris, by the citizens, to defend it. The latter were occupied in breaking up the pavement and stretching chains across the streets, when, headed by the coadjutor, appeared the Prince de Conti (the brother of the Prince de Conde) and the Duc de Longueville, his brother-in-law. This unexpected band of auxiliaries arrived in Paris on the tenth of January and the Prince of Conti was named, but not until after a stormy discussion, generalissimo of the army of the king, out of Paris.

As for the Duc de Beaufort, he arrived from Vendome, according to the annals of the day, bringing with him his high bearing and his long and beautiful hair, qualifications which gained him the sovereignty of the marketplaces.

The Parisian army had organized with the promptness characteristic of the bourgeois whenever they are moved by any sentiment whatever to disguise themselves as soldiers. On the nineteenth the impromptu army had attempted a sortie, more to assure itself and others of its actual existence than with any more serious intention. They carried a banner, on which could be read this strange device: “We are seeking our king.”

The next following days were occupied in trivial movements which resulted only in the carrying off of a few herds of cattle and the burning of two or three houses.

That was still the situation of affairs up to the early days of February. On the first day of that month our four companions had landed at Boulogne, and, in two parties, had set out for Paris. Toward the end of the fourth day of the journey Athos and Aramis reached Nanterre, which place they cautiously passed by on the outskirts, fearing that they might encounter some troop from the queen’s army.

It was against his will that Athos took these precautions, but Aramis had very judiciously reminded him that they had no right to be imprudent, that they had been charged by King Charles with a supreme and sacred mission, which, received at the foot of the scaffold, could be accomplished only at the feet of Queen Henrietta. Upon that, Athos yielded.

On reaching the capital Athos and Aramis found it in arms. The sentinel at the gate refused even to let them pass, and called his sergeant.

The sergeant, with the air of importance which such people assume when they are clad with military dignity, said:

“Who are you, gentlemen?”

“Two gentlemen.”

“And where do you come from?”

“From London.”

“And what are you going to do in Paris?”

“We are going with a mission to Her Majesty, the Queen of England.”

“Ah, every one seems to be going to see the queen of England. We have already at the station three gentlemen whose passports are under examination, who are on their way to her majesty. Where are your passports?”

“We have none; we left England, ignorant of the state of politics here, having left Paris before the departure of the king.”

“Ah!” said the sergeant, with a cunning smile, “you are Mazarinists, who are sent as spies.”

“My dear friend,” here Athos spoke, “rest assured, if we were Mazarinists we should come well prepared with every sort of passport. In your situation distrust those who are well provided with every formality.”

“Enter the guardroom,” said the sergeant; “we will lay your case before the commandant of the post.”

The guardroom was filled with citizens and common people, some playing, some drinking, some talking. In a corner, almost hidden from view, were three gentlemen, who had preceded Athos and Aramis, and an officer was examining their passports. The first impulse of these three, and of those who last entered, was to cast an inquiring glance at each other. The first arrivals wore long cloaks, in whose drapery they were carefully enveloped; one of them, shorter than the rest, remained pertinaciously in the background.

When the sergeant on entering the room announced that in all probability he was bringing in two Mazarinists, it appeared to be the unanimous opinion of the officers on guard that they ought not to pass.

“Be it so,” said Athos; “yet it is probable, on the contrary, that we shall enter, because we seem to have to do with sensible people. There seems to be only one thing to do, which is, to send our names to Her Majesty the Queen of England, and if she engages to answer for us I presume we shall be allowed to enter.”

On hearing these words the shortest of the other three men seemed more attentive than ever to what was going on, wrapping his cloak around him more carefully than before.

“Merciful goodness!” whispered Aramis to Athos, “did you see?”

“What?” asked Athos.

“The face of the shortest of those three gentlemen?”

“No.”

“He looked to me--but ‘tis impossible.”

At this instant the sergeant, who had been for his orders, returned, and pointing to the three gentlemen in cloaks, said:

“The passports are in order; let these three gentlemen pass.”

The three gentlemen bowed and hastened to take advantage of this permission.

Aramis looked after them, and as the last of them passed close to him he pressed the hand of Athos.

“What is the matter with you, my friend?” asked the latter.

“I have--doubtless I am dreaming; tell me, sir,” he said to the sergeant, “do you know those three gentlemen who are just gone out?”

“Only by their passports; they are three Frondists, who are gone to rejoin the Duc de Longueville.”

“‘Tis strange,” said Aramis, almost involuntarily; “I fancied that I recognized Mazarin himself.”

The sergeant burst into a fit of laughter.

“He!” he cried; “he venture himself amongst us, to be hung! Not so foolish as all that.”

“Ah!” muttered Athos, “I may be mistaken, I haven’t the unerring eye of D’Artagnan.”

“Who is speaking of Monsieur D’Artagnan?” asked an officer who appeared at that moment upon the threshold of the room.

“What!” cried Aramis and Athos, “what! Planchet!”

“Planchet,” added Grimaud; “Planchet, with a gorget, indeed!”

“Ah, gentlemen!” cried Planchet, “so you are back again in Paris. Oh, how happy you make us! no doubt you come to join the princes!”

“As thou seest, Planchet,” said Aramis, whilst Athos smiled on seeing what important rank was held in the city militia by the former comrade of Mousqueton, Bazin and Grimaud.

“And Monsieur d’Artagnan, of whom you spoke just now, Monsieur d’Herblay; may I ask if you have any news of him?”

“We parted from him four days ago and we have reason to believe that he has reached Paris before us.”

“No, sir; I am sure he hasn’t yet arrived. But then he may have stopped at Saint Germain.”

“I don’t think so; we appointed to meet at La Chevrette.”

“I was there this very day.”

“And had the pretty Madeleine no news?” asked Aramis, smiling.

“No, sir, and it must be admitted that she seemed very anxious.”

“In fact,” said Aramis, “there is no time lost and we made our journey quickly. Permit me, then, my dear Athos, without inquiring further about our friend, to pay my respects to M. Planchet.”

“Ah, monsieur le chevalier,” said Planchet, bowing.

“Lieutenant?” asked Aramis.

“Lieutenant, with a promise of becoming captain.”

“‘Tis capital; and pray, how did you acquire all these honors?”

“In the first place, gentlemen, you know that I was the means of Monsieur de Rochefort’s escape; well, I was very near being hung by Mazarin and that made me more popular than ever.”

“So, owing to your popularity----”

“No; thanks to something better. You know, gentlemen, that I served the Piedmont regiment and had the honor of being a sergeant?”

“Yes.”

“Well, one day when no one could drill a mob of citizens, who began to march, some with the right foot, others with the left, I succeeded, I did, in making them all begin with the same foot, and I was made lieutenant on the spot.”

“So I presume,” said Athos, “that you have a large number of the nobles with you?”

“Certainly. There are the Prince de Conti, the Duc de Longueville, the Duc de Beaufort, the Duc de Bouillon, the Marechal de la Mothe, the Marquis de Sevigne, and I don’t know who, for my part.”

“And the Vicomte Raoul de Bragelonne?” inquired Athos, in a tremulous voice. “D’Artagnan told me that he had recommended him to your care, in parting.”

“Yes, count; nor have I lost sight of him for a single instant since.”

“Then,” said Athos in a tone of delight, “he is well? no accident has happened to him?”

“None, sir.”

“And he lives?”

“Still at the Hotel of the Great Charlemagne.”

“And passes his time?”

“Sometimes with the queen of England, sometimes with Madame de Chevreuse. He and the Count de Guiche are like each other’s shadows.”

“Thanks, Planchet, thanks!” cried Athos, extending his hand to the lieutenant.

“Oh, sir!” Planchet only touched the tips of the count’s fingers.

“Well, what are you doing, count--to a former lackey?

“My friend,” said Athos, “he has given me news of Raoul.”

“And now, gentlemen,” said Planchet, who had not heard what they were saying, “what do you intend to do?”

“Re-enter Paris, if you will let us, my good Planchet.”

“Let you, sir? Now, as ever, I am nothing but your servant.” Then turning to his men:

“Allow these gentlemen to pass,” he said; “they are friends of the Duc de Beaufort.”

“Long live the Duc de Beaufort!” cried the sentinels.

The sergeant drew near to Planchet.

“What! without passports?” he murmured.

“Without passports,” said Planchet.

“Take notice, captain,” he continued, giving Planchet his expected title, “take notice that one of the three men who just now went out from here told me privately to distrust these gentlemen.”

“And I,” said Planchet, with dignity, “I know them and I answer for them.”

As he said this, he pressed Grimaud’s hand, who seemed honored by the distinction.

“Farewell till we meet again,” said Aramis, as they took leave of Planchet; “if anything happens to us we shall blame you for it.”

“Sir,” said Planchet, “I am in all things at your service.”

“That fellow is no fool,” said Aramis, as he got on his horse.

“How should he be?” replied Athos, whilst mounting also, “seeing he was used so long to brush your hats.”