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Twenty Years After

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Chapter 76. The Ambassadors.


The two friends rode rapidly down the declivity of the Faubourg, but on arriving at the bottom were surprised to find that the streets of Paris had become rivers, and the open places lakes; after the great rains which fell in January the Seine had overflowed its banks and the river inundated half the capital. The two gentlemen were obliged, therefore, to get off their horses and take a boat; and in that strange manner they approached the Louvre.

Night had closed in, and Paris, seen thus, by the light of lanterns flickering on the pools of water, crowded with ferry-boats of every kind, including those that glittered with the armed patrols, with the watchword, passing from post to post--Paris presented such an aspect as to strongly seize the senses of Aramis, a man most susceptible to warlike impressions.

They reached the queen’s apartments, but were compelled to stop in the ante-chamber, since her majesty was at that moment giving audience to gentlemen bringing her news from England.

“We, too,” said Athos, to the footman who had given him that answer, “not only bring news from England, but have just come from there.”

“What? then, are your names, gentlemen?”

“The Comte de la Fere and the Chevalier d’Herblay,” said Aramis.

“Ah! in that case, gentlemen,” said the footman, on hearing the names which the queen had so often pronounced with hope, “in that case it is another thing, and I think her majesty will pardon me for not keeping you here a moment. Please follow me,” and he went on before, followed by Athos and Aramis.

On arriving at the door of the room where the queen was receiving he made a sign for them to wait and opening the door:

“Madame,” he said, “I hope your majesty will forgive me for disobeying your orders, when you learn that the gentlemen I have come to announce are the Comte de la Fere and the Chevalier d’Herblay.”

On hearing those two names the queen uttered a cry of joy, which the two gentlemen heard.

“Poor queen!” murmured Athos.

“Oh, let them come in! let them come in,” cried the young princess, bounding to the door.

The poor child was constant in her attendance on her mother and sought by her filial attentions to make her forget the absence of her two sons and her other daughter.

“Come in, gentlemen,” repeated the princess, opening the door herself.

The queen was seated on a fauteuil and before her were standing two or three gentlemen, and among them the Duc de Chatillon, the brother of the nobleman killed eight or nine years previously in a duel on account of Madame de Longueville, on the Place Royale. All these gentlemen had been noticed by Athos and Aramis in the guardhouse, and when the two friends were announced they started and exchanged some words in a low tone. “Well, sirs!” cried the queen, on perceiving the two friends, “you have come, faithful friends! But the royal couriers have been more expeditious than you, and here are Monsieur de Flamarens and Monsieur de Chatillon, who bring me from Her Majesty the Queen Anne of Austria, the very latest intelligence.”

Aramis and Athos were astounded by the calmness, even the gayety of the queen’s manner.

“Go on with your recital, sirs,” said the queen, turning to the Duc de Chatillon. “You said that His Majesty, King Charles, my august consort, had been condemned to death by a majority of his subjects!”

“Yes, madame,” Chatillon stammered out.

Athos and Aramis were more and more astonished.

“And that being conducted to the scaffold,” resumed the queen--“oh, my lord! oh, my king!--and that being led to the scaffold he had been saved by an indignant people.”

“Just so madame,” replied Chatillon, in so low a voice that though the two friends were listening eagerly they could hardly hear this affirmation.

The queen clasped her hands in enthusiastic gratitude, whilst her daughter threw her arms around her mother’s neck and kissed her--her own eyes streaming with tears.

“Now, madame, nothing remains to me except to proffer my respectful homage,” said Chatillon, who felt confused and ashamed beneath the stern gaze of Athos.

“One moment, yes,” answered the queen. “One moment--I beg--for here are the Chevalier d’Herblay and the Comte de la Fere, just arrived from London, and they can give you, as eye-witnesses, such details as you can convey to the queen, my royal sister. Speak, gentlemen, speak--I am listening; conceal nothing, gloss over nothing. Since his majesty still lives, since the honor of the throne is safe, everything else is a matter of indifference to me.”

Athos turned pale and laid his hand on his heart.

“Well!” exclaimed the queen, who remarked this movement and his paleness. “Speak, sir! I beg you to do so.”

“I beg you to excuse me, madame; I wish to add nothing to the recital of these gentlemen until they perceive themselves that they have perhaps been mistaken.”

“Mistaken!” cried the queen, almost suffocated by emotion; “mistaken! what has happened, then?”

“Sir,” interposed Monsieur de Flamarens to Athos, “if we are mistaken the error has originated with the queen. I do not suppose you will have the presumption to set it to rights--that would be to accuse Her Majesty, Queen Anne, of falsehood.”

“With the queen, sir?” replied Athos, in his calm, vibrating voice.

“Yes,” murmured Flamarens, lowering his eyes.

Athos sighed deeply.

“Or rather, sir,” said Aramis, with his peculiar irritating politeness, “the error of the person who was with you when we met you in the guardroom; for if the Comte de la Fere and I are not mistaken, we saw you in the company of a third gentleman.”

Chatillon and Flamarens started.

“Explain yourself, count!” cried the queen, whose anxiety grew greater every moment. “On your brow I read despair--your lips falter ere you announce some terrible tidings--your hands tremble. Oh, my God! my God! what has happened?”

“Lord!” ejaculated the young princess, falling on her knees, “have mercy on us!”

“Sir,” said Chatillon, “if you bring bad tidings it will be cruel in you to announce them to the queen.”

Aramis went so close to Chatillon as almost to touch him.

“Sir,” said he, with compressed lips and flashing eyes, “you have not the presumption to instruct the Comte de la Fere and myself what we ought to say here?”

During this brief altercation Athos, with his hands on his heart, his head bent low, approached the queen and in a voice of deepest sorrow said:

“Madame, princes--who by nature are above other men--receive from Heaven courage to support greater misfortunes than those of lower rank, for their hearts are elevated as their fortunes. We ought not, therefore, I think, to act toward a queen so illustrious as your majesty as we should act toward a woman of our lowlier condition. Queen, destined as you are to endure every sorrow on this earth, hear the result of our unhappy mission.”

Athos, kneeling down before the queen, trembling and very cold, drew from his bosom, inclosed in the same case, the order set in diamonds which the queen had given to Lord de Winter and the wedding ring which Charles I. before his death had placed in the hands of Aramis. Since the moment he had first received these two mementoes Athos had never parted with them.

He opened the case and offered them to the queen with deep and silent anguish.

The queen stretched out her hand, seized the ring, pressed it convulsively to her lips--and without being able to breathe a sigh, to give vent to a sob, she extended her arms, became deadly pale, and fell senseless in the arms of her attendants and her daughter.

Athos kissed the hem of the robe of the widowed queen and rising, with a dignity that made a deep impression on those around:

“I, the Comte de la Fere, a gentleman who has never deceived any human being, swear before God and before this unhappy queen, that all that was possible to save the king of England was done whilst we were on English ground. Now, chevalier,” he added, turning to Aramis, “let us go. Our duty is fulfilled.”

“Not yet.” said Aramis; “we have still a word to say to these gentlemen.”

And turning to Chatillon: “Sir, be so good as not to go away without giving me an opportunity to tell you something I cannot say before the queen.”

Chatillon bowed in token of assent and they all went out, stopping at the window of a gallery on the ground floor.

“Sir,” said Aramis, “you allowed yourself just now to treat us in a most extraordinary manner. That would not be endurable in any case, and is still less so on the part of those who came to bring the queen the message of a liar.”

“Sir!” cried De Chatillon.

“What have you done with Monsieur de Bruy? Has he by any possibility gone to change his face which was too like that of Monsieur de Mazarin? There is an abundance of Italian masks at the Palais Royal, from harlequin even to pantaloon.”

“Chevalier! chevalier!” said Athos.

“Leave me alone,” said Aramis impatiently. “You know well that I don’t like to leave things half finished.”

“Conclude, then, sir,” answered De Chatillon, with as much hauteur as Aramis.

“Gentlemen,” resumed Aramis, “any one but the Comte de la Fere and myself would have had you arrested--for we have friends in Paris--but we are contented with another course. Come and converse with us for just five minutes, sword in hand, upon this deserted terrace.”

“One moment, gentlemen,” cried Flamarens. “I know well that the proposition is tempting, but at present it is impossible to accept it.”

“And why not?” said Aramis, in his tone of raillery. “Is it Mazarin’s proximity that makes you so prudent?”

“Oh, you hear that, Flamarens!” said Chatillon. “Not to reply would be a blot on my name and my honor.”

“That is my opinion,” said Aramis.

“You will not reply, however, and these gentlemen, I am sure, will presently be of my opinion.”

Aramis shook his head with a motion of indescribable insolence.

Chatillon saw the motion and put his hand to his sword.

“Willingly,” replied De Chatillon.

“Duke,” said Flamarens, “you forget that to-morrow you are to command an expedition of the greatest importance, projected by the prince, assented to by the queen. Until to-morrow evening you are not at your own disposal.”

“Let it be then the day after to-morrow,” said Aramis.

“To-morrow, rather,” said De Chatillon, “if you will take the trouble of coming so far as the gates of Charenton.”

“How can you doubt it, sir? For the pleasure of a meeting with you I would go to the end of the world.”

“Very well, to-morrow, sir.”

“I shall rely on it. Are you going to rejoin your cardinal? Swear first, on your honor, not to inform him of our return.”

“Conditions?”

“Why not?”

“Because it is for victors to make conditions, and you are not yet victors, gentlemen.”

“Then let us draw on the spot. It is all one to us--to us who do not command to-morrow’s expedition.”

Chatillon and Flamarens looked at each other. There was such irony in the words and in the bearing of Aramis that the duke had great difficulty in bridling his anger, but at a word from Flamarens he restrained himself and contented himself with saying:

“You promise, sir--that’s agreed--that I shall find you to-morrow at Charenton?”

“Oh, don’t be afraid, sir,” replied Aramis; and the two gentlemen shortly afterward left the Louvre.

“For what reason is all this fume and fury?” asked Athos. “What have they done to you?”

“They--did you not see what they did?”

“No.”

“They laughed when we swore that we had done our duty in England. Now, if they believed us, they laughed in order to insult us; if they did not believe it they insulted us all the more. However, I’m glad not to fight them until to-morrow. I hope we shall have something better to do to-night than to draw the sword.”

“What have we to do?”

“Egad! to take Mazarin.”

Athos curled his lip with disdain.

“These undertakings do not suit me, as you know, Aramis.”

“Why?”

“Because it is taking people unawares.”

“Really, Athos, you would make a singular general. You would fight only by broad daylight, warn your foe before an attack, and never attempt anything by night lest you should be accused of taking advantage of the darkness.”

Athos smiled.

“You know one cannot change his nature,” he said. “Besides, do you know what is our situation, and whether Mazarin’s arrest wouldn’t be rather an encumbrance than an advantage?”

“Say at once you disapprove of my proposal.”

“I think you ought to do nothing, since you exacted a promise from these gentlemen not to let Mazarin know that we were in France.”

“I have entered into no engagement and consider myself quite free. Come, come.”

“Where?”

“Either to seek the Duc de Beaufort or the Duc de Bouillon, and to tell them about this.”

“Yes, but on one condition--that we begin by the coadjutor. He is a priest, learned in cases of conscience, and we will tell him ours.”

It was then agreed that they were to go first to Monsieur de Bouillon, as his house came first; but first of all Athos begged that he might go to the Hotel du Grand Charlemagne, to see Raoul.

They re-entered the boat which had brought them to the Louvre and thence proceeded to the Halles; and taking up Grimaud and Blaisois, they went on foot to the Rue Guenegaud.

But Raoul was not at the Hotel du Grand Charlemagne. He had received a message from the prince, to whom he had hastened with Olivain the instant he had received it.


Chapter 77. The three Lieutenants of the Generalissimo.


The night was dark, but still the town resounded with those noises that disclose a city in a state of siege. Athos and Aramis did not proceed a hundred steps without being stopped by sentinels placed before the barricades, who demanded the watchword; and on their saying that they were going to Monsieur de Bouillon on a mission of importance a guide was given them under pretext of conducting them, but in fact as a spy over their movements.

On arriving at the Hotel de Bouillon they came across a little troop of three cavaliers, who seemed to know every possible password; for they walked without either guide or escort, and on arriving at the barricades had nothing to do but to speak to those who guarded them, who instantly let them pass with evident deference, due probably to their high birth.

On seeing them Athos and Aramis stood still.

“Oh!” cried Aramis, “do you see, count?”

“Yes,” said Athos.

“Who do these three cavaliers appear to you to be?”

“What do you think, Aramis?”

“Why, they are our men.”

“You are not mistaken; I recognize Monsieur de Flamarens.”

“And I, Monsieur de Chatillon.”

“As to the cavalier in the brown cloak----”

“It is the cardinal.”

“In person.”

“How the devil do they venture so near the Hotel de Bouillon?”

Athos smiled, but did not reply. Five minutes afterward they knocked at the prince’s door.

This door was guarded by a sentinel and there was also a guard placed in the courtyard, ready to obey the orders of the Prince de Conti’s lieutenant.

Monsieur de Bouillon had the gout, but notwithstanding his illness, which had prevented his mounting on horseback for the last month---that is, since Paris had been besieged--he was ready to receive the Comte de la Fere and the Chevalier d’Herblay.

He was in bed, but surrounded with all the paraphernalia of war. Everywhere were swords, pistols, cuirasses, and arquebuses, and it was plain that as soon as his gout was better Monsieur de Bouillon would give a pretty tangle to the enemies of the parliament to unravel. Meanwhile, to his great regret, as he said, he was obliged to keep his bed.

“Ah, gentlemen,” he cried, as the two friends entered, “you are very happy! you can ride, you can go and come and fight for the cause of the people. But I, as you see, am nailed to my bed--ah! this demon, gout--this demon, gout!”

“My lord,” said Athos, “we are just arrived from England and our first concern is to inquire after your health.”

“Thanks, gentlemen, thanks! As you see, my health is but indifferent. But you come from England. And King Charles is well, as I have just heard?”

“He is dead, my lord!” said Aramis.

“Pooh!” said the duke, too much astonished to believe it true.

“Dead on the scaffold; condemned by parliament.”

“Impossible!”

“And executed in our presence.”

“What, then, has Monsieur de Flamarens been telling me?”

“Monsieur de Flamarens?”

“Yes, he has just gone out.”

Athos smiled. “With two companions?” he said.

“With two companions, yes,” replied the duke. Then he added with a certain uneasiness, “Did you meet them?”

“Why, yes, I think so--in the street,” said Athos; and he looked smilingly at Aramis, who looked at him with an expression of surprise.

“The devil take this gout!” cried Monsieur de Bouillon, evidently ill at ease.

“My lord,” said Athos, “we admire your devotion to the cause you have espoused, in remaining at the head of the army whilst so ill, in so much pain.”

“One must,” replied Monsieur de Bouillon, “sacrifice one’s comfort to the public good; but I confess to you I am now almost exhausted. My spirit is willing, my head is clear, but this demon, the gout, o’ercrows me. I confess, if the court would do justice to my claims and give the head of my house the title of prince, and if my brother De Turenne were reinstated in his command I would return to my estates and leave the court and parliament to settle things between themselves as they might.”

“You are perfectly right, my lord.”

“You think so? At this very moment the court is making overtures to me; hitherto I have repulsed them; but since such men as you assure me that I am wrong in doing so, I’ve a good mind to follow your advice and to accept a proposition made to me by the Duc de Chatillon just now.”

“Accept it, my lord, accept it,” said Aramis.

“Faith! yes. I am even sorry that this evening I almost repulsed--but there will be a conference to-morrow and we shall see.”

The two friends saluted the duke.

“Go, gentlemen,” he said; “you must be much fatigued after your voyage. Poor King Charles! But, after all, he was somewhat to blame in all that business and we may console ourselves with the reflection that France has no cause of reproach in the matter and did all she could to serve him.”

“Oh! as to that,” said Aramis, “we are witnesses. Mazarin especially----”

“Yes, do you know, I am very glad to hear you give that testimony; the cardinal has some good in him, and if he were not a foreigner--well, he would be more justly estimated. Oh! the devil take this gout!”

Athos and Aramis took their leave, but even in the ante-chamber they could still hear the duke’s cries; he was evidently suffering the tortures of the damned.

When they reached the street, Aramis said:

“Well, Athos, what do you think?”

“Of whom?”

“Pardieu! of Monsieur de Bouillon.”

“My friend, I think that he is much troubled with gout.”

“You noticed that I didn’t breathe a word as to the purpose of our visit?”

“You did well; you would have caused him an access of his disease. Let us go to Monsieur de Beaufort.”

The two friends went to the Hotel de Vendome. It was ten o’clock when they arrived. The Hotel de Vendome was not less guarded than the Hotel de Bouillon, and presented as warlike an appearance. There were sentinels, a guard in the court, stacks of arms, and horses saddled. Two horsemen going out as Athos and Aramis entered were obliged to give place to them.

“Ah! ah! gentlemen,” said Aramis, “decidedly it is a night for meetings. We shall be very unfortunate if, after meeting so often this evening, we should not succeed in meeting to-morrow.”

“Oh, as to that, sir,” replied Chatillon (for it was he who, with Flamarens, was leaving the Duc de Beaufort), “you may be assured; for if we meet by night without seeking each other, much more shall we meet by day when wishing it.”

“I hope that is true,” said Aramis.

“As for me, I am sure of it,” said the duke.

De Flamarens and De Chatillon continued on their way and Athos and Aramis dismounted.

Hardly had they given the bridles of their horses to their lackeys and rid themselves of their cloaks when a man approached them, and after looking at them for an instant by the doubtful light of the lantern hung in the centre of the courtyard he uttered an exclamation of joy and ran to embrace them.

“Comte de la Fere!” the man cried out; “Chevalier d’Herblay! How does it happen that you are in Paris?”

“Rochefort!” cried the two friends.

“Yes! we arrived four or five days ago from the Vendomois, as you know, and we are going to give Mazarin something to do. You are still with us, I presume?”

“More than ever. And the duke?”

“Furious against the cardinal. You know his success--our dear duke? He is really king of Paris; he can’t go out without being mobbed by his admirers.”

“Ah! so much the better! Can we have the honor of seeing his highness?”

“I shall be proud to present you,” and Rochefort walked on. Every door was opened to him. Monsieur de Beaufort was at supper, but he rose quickly on hearing the two friends announced.

“Ah!” he cried, “by Jove! you’re welcome, sirs. You are coming to sup with me, are you not? Boisgoli, tell Noirmont that I have two guests. You know Noirmont, do you not? The successor of Father Marteau who makes the excellent pies you know of. Boisgoli, let him send one of his best, but not such a one as he made for La Ramee. Thank God! we don’t want either rope ladders or gag-pears now.”

“My lord,” said Athos, “do not let us disturb you. We came merely to inquire after your health and to take your orders.”

“As to my health, since it has stood five years of prison, with Monsieur de Chavigny to boot, ‘tis excellent! As to my orders, since every one gives his own commands in our party, I shall end, if this goes on, by giving none at all.”

“In short, my lord,” said Athos, glancing at Aramis, “your highness is discontented with your party?”

“Discontented, sir! say my highness is furious! To such a degree, I assure you, though I would not say so to others, that if the queen, acknowledging the injuries she has done me, would recall my mother and give me the reversion of the admiralty, which belonged to my father and was promised me at his death, well! it would not be long before I should be training dogs to say that there were greater traitors in France than the Cardinal Mazarin!”

At this Athos and Aramis could not help exchanging not only a look but a smile; and had they not known it for a fact, this would have told them that De Chatillon and De Flamarens had been there.

“My lord,” said Athos, “we are satisfied; we came here only to express our loyalty and to say that we are at your lordship’s service and his most faithful servants.”

“My most faithful friends, gentlemen, my most faithful friends; you have proved it. And if ever I am reconciled with the court I shall prove to you, I hope, that I remain your friend, as well as that of--what the devil are their names--D’Artagnan and Porthos?”

“D’Artagnan and Porthos.”

“Ah, yes. You understand, then, Comte de la Fere, you understand, Chevalier d’Herblay, that I am altogether and always at your service.”

Athos and Aramis bowed and went out.

“My dear Athos,” cried Aramis, “I think you consented to accompany me only to give me a lesson--God forgive me!”

“Wait a little, Aramis; it will be time for you to perceive my motive when we have paid our visit to the coadjutor.”

“Let us then go to the archiepiscopal palace,” said Aramis.

They directed their horses to the city. On arriving at the cradle from which Paris sprang they found it inundated with water, and it was again necessary to take a boat. The palace rose from the bosom of the water, and to see the number of boats around it one would have fancied one’s self not in Paris, but in Venice. Some of these boats were dark and mysterious, others noisy and lighted up with torches. The friends slid in through this congestion of embarkation and landed in their turn. The palace was surrounded with water, but a kind of staircase had been fixed to the lower walls; and the only difference was, that instead of entering by the doors, people entered by the windows.

Thus did Athos and Aramis make their appearance in the ante-chamber, where about a dozen noblemen were collected in waiting.

“Good heavens!” said Aramis to Athos, “does the coadjutor intend to indulge himself in the pleasure of making us cool our hearts off in his ante-chamber?”

“My dear friend, we must take people as we find them. The coadjutor is at this moment one of the seven kings of Paris, and has a court. Let us send in our names, and if he does not send us a suitable message we will leave him to his own affairs or those of France. Let us call one of these lackeys, with a demi-pistole in the left hand.”

“Exactly so,” cried Aramis. “Ah! if I’m not mistaken here’s Bazin. Come here, fellow.”

Bazin, who was crossing the ante-chamber majestically in his clerical dress, turned around to see who the impertinent gentleman was who thus addressed him; but seeing his friends he went up to them quickly and expressed delight at seeing them.

“A truce to compliments,” said Aramis; “we want to see the coadjutor, and instantly, as we are in haste.”

“Certainly, sir--it is not such lords as you are who are allowed to wait in the ante-chamber, only just now he has a secret conference with Monsieur de Bruy.”

“De Bruy!” cried the friends, “‘tis then useless our seeing monsieur the coadjutor this evening,” said Aramis, “so we give it up.”

And they hastened to quit the palace, followed by Bazin, who was lavish of bows and compliments.

“Well,” said Athos, when Aramis and he were in the boat again, “are you beginning to be convinced that we should have done a bad turn to all these people in arresting Mazarin?”

“You are wisdom incarnate, Athos,” Aramis replied.

What had especially been observed by the two friends was the little interest taken by the court of France in the terrible events which had occurred in England, which they thought should have arrested the attention of all Europe.

In fact, aside from a poor widow and a royal orphan who wept in the corner of the Louvre, no one appeared to be aware that Charles I. had ever lived and that he had perished on the scaffold.

The two friends made an appointment for ten o’clock on the following day; for though the night was well advanced when they reached the door of the hotel, Aramis said that he had certain important visits to make and left Athos to enter alone.

At ten o’clock the next day they met again. Athos had been out since six o’clock.

“Well, have you any news?” Athos asked.

“Nothing. No one has seen D’Artagnan and Porthos has not appeared. Have you anything?”

“Nothing.”

“The devil!” said Aramis.

“In fact,” said Athos, “this delay is not natural; they took the shortest route and should have arrived before we did.”

“Add to that D’Artagnan’s rapidity in action and that he is not the man to lose an hour, knowing that we were expecting him.”

“He expected, you will remember, to be here on the fifth.”

“And here we are at the ninth. This evening the margin of possible delay expires.”

“What do you think should be done,” asked Athos, “if we have no news of them to-night?”

“Pardieu! we must go and look for them.”

“All right,” said Athos.

“But Raoul?” said Aramis.

A light cloud passed over the count’s face.

“Raoul gives me much uneasiness,” he said. “He received yesterday a message from the Prince de Conde; he went to meet him at Saint Cloud and has not returned.”

“Have you seen Madame de Chevreuse?”

“She was not at home. And you, Aramis, you were going, I think, to visit Madame de Longueville.”

“I did go there.”

“Well?”

“She was no longer there, but she had left her new address.”

“Where was she?”

“Guess; I give you a thousand chances.”

“How should I know where the most beautiful and active of the Frondists was at midnight? for I presume it was when you left me that you went to visit her.”

“At the Hotel de Ville, my dear fellow.”

“What! at the Hotel de Ville? Has she, then, been appointed provost of merchants?”

“No; but she has become queen of Paris, ad interim, and since she could not venture at once to establish herself in the Palais Royal or the Tuileries, she is installed at the Hotel de Ville, where she is on the point of giving an heir or an heiress to that dear duke.”

“You didn’t tell me of that, Aramis.”

“Really? It was my forgetfulness then; pardon me.”

“Now,” asked Athos, “what are we to do with ourselves till evening? Here we are without occupation, it seems to me.”

“You forget, my friend, that we have work cut out for us in the direction of Charenton; I hope to see Monsieur de Chatillon, whom I’ve hated for a long time, there.”

“Why have you hated him?”

“Because he is the brother of Coligny.”

“Ah, true! he who presumed to be a rival of yours, for which he was severely punished; that ought to satisfy you.”

“‘Yes, but it does not; I am rancorous--the only stigma that proves me to be a churchman. Do you understand? You understand that you are in no way obliged to go with me.”

“Come, now,” said Athos, “you are joking.”

“In that case, my dear friend, if you are resolved to accompany me there is no time to lose; the drum beats; I observed cannon on the road; I saw the citizens in order of battle on the Place of the Hotel de Ville; certainly the fight will be in the direction of Charenton, as the Duc de Chatillon said.”

“I supposed,” said Athos, “that last night’s conferences would modify those warlike arrangements.”

“No doubt; but they will fight, none the less, if only to mask the conferences.”

“Poor creatures!” said Athos, “who are going to be killed, in order that Monsieur de Bouillon may have his estate at Sedan restored to him, that the reversion of the admiralty may be given to the Duc de Beaufort, and that the coadjutor may be made a cardinal.”

“Come, come, dear Athos, confess that you would not be so philosophical if your Raoul were to be involved in this affair.”

“Perhaps you speak the truth, Aramis.”

“Well, let us go, then, where the fighting is, for that is the most likely place to meet with D’Artagnan, Porthos, and possibly even Raoul. Stop, there are a fine body of citizens passing; quite attractive, by Jupiter! and their captain--see! he has the true military style.”

“What, ho!” said Grimaud.

“What?” asked Athos.

“Planchet, sir.”

“Lieutenant yesterday,” said Aramis, “captain to-day, colonel, doubtless, to-morrow; in a fortnight the fellow will be marshal of France.”

“Question him about the fight,” said Athos.

Planchet, prouder than ever of his new duties, deigned to explain to the two gentlemen that he was ordered to take up his position on the Place Royale with two hundred men, forming the rear of the army of Paris, and to march on Charenton when necessary.

“This day will be a warm one,” said Planchet, in a warlike tone.

“No doubt,” said Aramis, “but it is far from here to the enemy.”

“Sir, the distance will be diminished,” said a subordinate.

Aramis saluted, then turning toward Athos:

“I don’t care to camp on the Place Royale with all these people,” he said. “Shall we go forward? We shall see better what is going on.”

“And then Monsieur de Chatillon will not come to the Place Royale to look for you. Come, then, my friend, we will go forward.”

“Haven’t you something to say to Monsieur de Flamarens on your own account?”

“My friend,” said Athos, “I have made a resolution never to draw my sword save when it is absolutely necessary.”

“And how long ago was that?”

“When I last drew my poniard.”

“Ah! Good! another souvenir of Monsieur Mordaunt. Well, my friend, nothing now is lacking except that you should feel remorse for having killed that fellow.”

“Hush!” said Athos, putting a finger on his lips, with the sad smile peculiar to him; “let us talk no more of Mordaunt--it will bring bad luck.” And Athos set forward toward Charenton, followed closely by Aramis.


Chapter 78. The Battle of Charenton.


As Athos and Aramis proceeded, and passed different companies on the road, they became aware that they were arriving near the field of battle.

“Ah! my friend!” cried Athos, suddenly, “where have you brought us? I fancy I perceive around us faces of different officers in the royal army; is not that the Duc de Chatillon himself coming toward us with his brigadiers?”

“Good-day, sirs,” said the duke, advancing; “you are puzzled by what you see here, but one word will explain everything. There is now a truce and a conference. The prince, Monsieur de Retz, the Duc de Beaufort, the Duc de Bouillon, are talking over public affairs. Now one of two things must happen: either matters will not be arranged, or they will be arranged, in which last case I shall be relieved of my command and we shall still meet again.”

“Sir,” said Aramis, “you speak to the point. Allow me to ask you a question: Where are the plenipotentiaries?”

“At Charenton, in the second house on the right on entering from the direction of Paris.”

“And was this conference arranged beforehand?”

“No, gentlemen, it seems to be the result of certain propositions which Mazarin made last night to the Parisians.”

Athos and Aramis exchanged smiles; for they well knew what those propositions were, to whom they had been made and who had made them.

“And that house in which the plenipotentiaries are,” asked Athos, “belongs to----”

“To Monsieur de Chanleu, who commands your troops at Charenton. I say your troops, for I presume that you gentlemen are Frondeurs?”

“Yes, almost,” said Aramis.

“We are for the king and the princes,” added Athos.

“We must understand each other,” said the duke. “The king is with us and his generals are the Duke of Orleans and the Prince de Conde, although I must add ‘tis almost impossible now to know to which party any one belongs.”

“Yes,” answered Athos, “but his right place is in our ranks, with the Prince de Conti, De Beaufort, D’Elbeuf, and De Bouillon; but, sir, supposing that the conference is broken off--are you going to try to take Charenton?”

“Such are my orders.”

“Sir, since you command the cavalry----”

“Pardon me, I am commander-in-chief.”

“So much the better. You must know all your officers--I mean those more distinguished.”

“Why, yes, very nearly.”

“Will you then kindly tell me if you have in your command the Chevalier d’Artagnan, lieutenant in the musketeers?”

“No, sir, he is not with us; he left Paris more than six weeks ago and is believed to have gone on a mission to England.”

“I knew that, but I supposed he had returned.”

“No, sir; no one has seen him. I can answer positively on that point, for the musketeers belong to our forces and Monsieur de Cambon, the substitute for Monsieur d’Artagnan, still holds his place.”

The two friends looked at each other.

“You see,” said Athos.

“It is strange,” said Aramis.

“It is absolutely certain that some misfortune has happened to them on the way.”

“If we have no news of them this evening, to-morrow we must start.”

Athos nodded affirmatively, then turning:

“And Monsieur de Bragelonne, a young man fifteen years of age, attached to the Prince de Conde--has he the honor of being known to you?” diffident in allowing the sarcastic Aramis to perceive how strong were his paternal feelings.

“Yes, surely, he came with the prince; a charming young man; he is one of your friends then, monsieur le comte?”

“Yes, sir,” answered Athos, agitated; “so much so that I wish to see him if possible.”

“Quite possible, sir; do me the favor to accompany me and I will conduct you to headquarters.”

“Halloo, there!” cried Aramis, turning around; “what a noise behind us!”

“A body of cavaliers is coming toward us,” said Chatillon.

“I recognize the coadjutor by his Frondist hat.”

“And I the Duc de Beaufort by his white plume of ostrich feathers.”

“They are coming, full gallop; the prince is with them--ah! he is leaving them!”

“They are beating the rappel!” cried Chatillon; “we must discover what is going on.”

In fact, they saw the soldiers running to their arms; the trumpets sounded; the drums beat; the Duc de Beaufort drew his sword. On his side the prince sounded a rappel and all the officers of the royalist army, mingling momentarily with the Parisian troops, ran to him.

“Gentlemen,” cried Chatillon, “the truce is broken, that is evident; they are going to fight; go, then, into Charenton, for I shall begin in a short time--there’s a signal from the prince!”

The cornet of a troop had in fact just raised the standard of the prince.

“Farewell, till the next time we meet,” cried Chatillon, and he set off, full gallop.

Athos and Aramis turned also and went to salute the coadjutor and the Duc de Beaufort. As to the Duc de Bouillon, he had such a fit of gout as obliged him to return to Paris in a litter; but his place was well filled by the Duc d’Elbeuf and his four sons, ranged around him like a staff. Meantime, between Charenton and the royal army was left a space which looked ready to serve as a last resting place for the dead.

“Gentlemen,” cried the coadjutor, tightening his sash, which he wore, after the fashion of the ancient military prelates, over his archiepiscopal simar, “there’s the enemy approaching. Let us save them half of their journey.”

And without caring whether he were followed or not he set off; his regiment, which bore the name of the regiment of Corinth, from the name of his archbishopric, darted after him and began the fight. Monsieur de Beaufort sent his cavalry, toward Etampes and Monsieur de Chanleu, who defended the place, was ready to resist an assault, or if the enemy were repulsed, to attempt a sortie.

The battle soon became general and the coadjutor performed miracles of valor. His proper vocation had always been the sword and he was delighted whenever he could draw it from the scabbard, no matter for whom or against whom.

Chanleu, whose fire at one time repulsed the royal regiment, thought that the moment was come to pursue it; but it was reformed and led again to the charge by the Duc de Chatillon in person. This charge was so fierce, so skillfully conducted, that Chanleu was almost surrounded. He commanded a retreat, which began, step by step, foot by foot; unhappily, in an instant he fell, mortally wounded. De Chatillon saw him fall and announced it in a loud voice to his men, which raised their spirits and completely disheartened their enemies, so that every man thought only of his own safety and tried to gain the trenches, where the coadjutor was trying to reform his disorganized regiment.

Suddenly a squadron of cavalry galloped up to encounter the royal troops, who were entering, pele-mele, the intrenchments with the fugitives. Athos and Aramis charged at the head of their squadrons; Aramis with sword and pistol in his hands, Athos with his sword in his scabbard, his pistol in his saddle-bags; calm and cool as if on the parade, except that his noble and beautiful countenance became sad as he saw slaughtered so many men who were sacrificed on the one side to the obstinacy of royalty and on the other to the personal rancor of the princes. Aramis, on the contrary, struck right and left and was almost delirious with excitement. His bright eyes kindled, and his mouth, so finely formed, assumed a wicked smile; every blow he aimed was sure, and his pistol finished the deed--annihilated the wounded wretch who tried to rise again.

On the opposite side two cavaliers, one covered with a gilt cuirass, the other wearing simply a buff doublet, from which fell the sleeves of a vest of blue velvet, charged in front. The cavalier in the gilt cuirass fell upon Aramis and struck a blow that Aramis parried with his wonted skill.

“Ah! ‘tis you, Monsieur de Chatillon,” cried the chevalier; “welcome to you--I expected you.”

“I hope I have not made you wait too long, sir,” said the duke; “at all events, here I am.”

“Monsieur de Chatillon,” cried Aramis, taking from his saddle-bags a second pistol, “I think if your pistols have been discharged you are a dead man.”

“Thank God, sir, they are not!”

And the duke, pointing his pistol at Aramis, fired. But Aramis bent his head the instant he saw the duke’s finger press the trigger and the ball passed without touching him.

“Oh! you’ve missed me,” cried Aramis, “but I swear to Heaven! I will not miss you.”

“If I give you time!” cried the duke, spurring on his horse and rushing upon him with his drawn sword.

Aramis awaited him with that terrible smile which was peculiar to him on such occasions, and Athos, who saw the duke advancing toward Aramis with the rapidity of lightning, was just going to cry out, “Fire! fire, then!” when the shot was fired. De Chatillon opened his arms and fell back on the crupper of his horse.

The ball had entered his breast through a notch in the cuirass.

“I am a dead man,” he said, and fell from his horse to the ground.

“I told you this, I am now grieved I have kept my word. Can I be of any use to you?”

Chatillon made a sign with his hand and Aramis was about to dismount when he received a violent shock; ‘twas a thrust from a sword, but his cuirass turned aside the blow.

He turned around and seized his new antagonist by the wrist, when he started back, exclaiming, “Raoul!”

“Raoul?” cried Athos.

The young man recognized at the same instant the voices of his father and the Chevalier d’Herblay; two officers in the Parisian forces rushed at that instant on Raoul, but Aramis protected him with his sword.

“My prisoner!” he cried.

Athos took his son’s horse by the bridle and led him forth out of the melee.

At this crisis of the battle, the prince, who had been seconding De Chatillon in the second line, appeared in the midst of the fight; his eagle eye made him known and his blows proclaimed the hero.

On seeing him, the regiment of Corinth, which the coadjutor had not been able to reorganize in spite of all his efforts, threw itself into the midst of the Parisian forces, put them into confusion and re-entered Charenton flying. The coadjutor, dragged along with his fugitive forces, passed near the group formed by Athos, Raoul and Aramis. Aramis could not in his jealousy avoid being pleased at the coadjutor’s misfortune, and was about to utter some bon mot more witty than correct, when Athos stopped him.

“On, on!” he cried, “this is no moment for compliments; or rather, back, for the battle seems to be lost by the Frondeurs.”

“It is a matter of indifference to me,” said Aramis; “I came here only to meet De Chatillon; I have met him, I am contented; ‘tis something to have met De Chatillon in a duel!”

“And besides, we have a prisoner,” said Athos, pointing to Raoul.

The three cavaliers continued their road on full gallop.

“What were you doing in the battle, my friend?” inquired Athos of the youth; “‘twas not your right place, I think, as you were not equipped for an engagement!”

“I had no intention of fighting to-day, sir; I was charged, indeed, with a mission to the cardinal and had set out for Rueil, when, seeing Monsieur de Chatillon charge, an invincible desire possessed me to charge at his side. It was then that he told me two cavaliers of the Parisian army were seeking me and named the Comte de la Fere.”

“What! you knew we were there and yet wished to kill your friend the chevalier?”

“I did not recognize the chevalier in armor, sir!” said Raoul, blushing; “though I might have known him by his skill and coolness in danger.”

“Thank you for the compliment, my young friend,” replied Aramis, “we can see from whom you learned courtesy. Then you were going to Rueil?”

“Yes! I have a despatch from the prince to his eminence.”

“You must still deliver it,” said Athos.

“No false generosity, count! the fate of our friends, to say nothing of our own, is perhaps in that very despatch.”

“This young man must not, however, fail in his duty,” said Athos.

“In the first place, count, this youth is our prisoner; you seem to forget that. What I propose to do is fair in war; the vanquished must not be dainty in the choice of means. Give me the despatch, Raoul.”

The young man hesitated and looked at Athos as if seeking to read in his eyes a rule of conduct.

“Give him the despatch, Raoul! you are the chevalier’s prisoner.”

Raoul gave it up reluctantly; Aramis instantly seized and read it.

“You,” he said, “you, who are so trusting, read and reflect that there is something in this letter important for us to see.”

Athos took the letter, frowning, but an idea that he should find something in this letter about D’Artagnan conquered his unwillingness to read it.

“My lord, I shall send this evening to your eminence in order to reinforce the troop of Monsieur de Comminges, the ten men you demand. They are good soldiers, fit to confront the two violent adversaries whose address and resolution your eminence is fearful of.”

“Oh!” cried Athos.

“Well,” said Aramis, “what think you about these two enemies whom it requires, besides Comminges’s troop, ten good soldiers to confront; are they not as like as two drops of water to D’Artagnan and Porthos?”

“We’ll search Paris all day long,” said Athos, “and if we have no news this evening we will return to the road to Picardy; and I feel no doubt that, thanks to D’Artagnan’s ready invention, we shall then find some clew which will solve our doubts.”

“Yes, let us search Paris and especially inquire of Planchet if he has yet heard from his former master.”

“That poor Planchet! You speak of him very much at your ease, Aramis; he has probably been killed. All those fighting citizens went out to battle and they have been massacred.”

It was, then, with a sentiment of uneasiness whether Planchet, who alone could give them information, was alive or dead, that the friends returned to the Place Royale; to their great surprise they found the citizens still encamped there, drinking and bantering each other, although, doubtless, mourned by their families, who thought they were at Charenton in the thickest of the fighting.

Athos and Aramis again questioned Planchet, but he had seen nothing of D’Artagnan; they wished to take Planchet with them, but he could not leave his troop, who at five o’clock returned home, saying that they were returning from the battle, whereas they had never lost sight of the bronze equestrian statue of Louis XIII.