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Twenty Years After

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Chapter 88. Shows how with Threat and Pen more is effected than by the Sword.


D’Artagnan knew his part well; he was aware that opportunity has a forelock only for him who will take it and he was not a man to let it go by him without seizing it. He soon arranged a prompt and certain manner of traveling, by sending relays of horses to Chantilly, so that he might be in Paris in five or six hours. But before setting out he reflected that for a lad of intelligence and experience he was in a singular predicament, since he was proceeding toward uncertainty and leaving certainty behind him.

“In fact,” he said, as he was about to mount and start on his dangerous mission, “Athos, for generosity, is a hero of romance; Porthos has an excellent disposition, but is easily influenced; Aramis has a hieroglyphic countenance, always illegible. What will come out of those three elements when I am no longer present to combine them? The deliverance of the cardinal, perhaps. Now, the deliverance of the cardinal would be the ruin of our hopes; and our hopes are thus far the only recompense we have for labors in comparison with which those of Hercules were pygmean.”

He went to find Aramis.

“You, my dear Chevalier d’Herblay,” he said, “are the Fronde incarnate. Mistrust Athos, therefore, who will not prosecute the affairs of any one, even his own. Mistrust Porthos, especially, who, to please the count whom he regards as God on earth, will assist him in contriving Mazarin’s escape, if Mazarin has the wit to weep or play the chivalric.”

Aramis smiled; his smile was at once cunning and resolute.

“Fear nothing,” he said; “I have my conditions to impose. My private ambition tends only to the profit of him who has justice on his side.”

“Good!” thought D’Artagnan: “in this direction I am satisfied.” He pressed Aramis’s hand and went in search of Porthos.

“Friend,” he said, “you have worked so hard with me toward building up our fortune, that, at the moment when we are about to reap the fruits of our labours, it would be a ridiculous piece of silliness in you to allow yourself to be controlled by Aramis, whose cunning you know--a cunning which, we may say between ourselves, is not always without egotism; or by Athos, a noble and disinterested man, but blase, who, desiring nothing further for himself, doesn’t sympathize with the desires of others. What should you say if either of these two friends proposed to you to let Mazarin go?”

“Why, I should say that we had too much trouble in taking him to let him off so easily.”

“Bravo, Porthos! and you would be right, my friend; for in losing him you would lose your barony, which you have in your grasp, to say nothing of the fact that, were he once out of this, Mazarin would have you hanged.”

“Do you think so?”

“I am sure of it.”

“Then I would kill him rather than let him go.”

“And you would act rightly. There is no question, you understand, provided we secure our own interests, of securing those of the Frondeurs; who, besides, don’t understand political matters as we old soldiers do.”

“Never fear, dear friend,” said Porthos. “I shall see you through the window as you mount your horse; I shall follow you with my eyes as long as you are in sight; then I shall place myself at the cardinal’s door--a door with glass windows. I shall see everything, and at the least suspicious sign I shall begin to exterminate.”

“Bravo!” thought D’Artagnan; “on this side I think the cardinal will be well guarded.” He pressed the hand of the lord of Pierrefonds and went in search of Athos.

“My dear Athos,” he said, “I am going away. I have only one thing to say to you. You know Anne of Austria; the captivity of Mazarin alone guarantees my life; if you let him go I am a dead man.”

“I needed nothing less than that consideration, my dear D’Artagnan, to persuade myself to adopt the role of jailer. I give you my word that you will find the cardinal where you leave him.”

“This reassures me more than all the royal signatures,” thought D’Artagnan. “Now that I have the word of Athos I can set out.”

D’Artagnan started alone on his journey, without other escort than his sword, and with a simple passport from Mazarin to secure his admission to the queen’s presence. Six hours after he left Pierrefonds he was at Saint Germain.

The disappearance of Mazarin was not as yet generally known. Anne of Austria was informed of it and concealed her uneasiness from every one. In the chamber of D’Artagnan and Porthos the two soldiers had been found bound and gagged. On recovering the use of their limbs and tongues they could, of course, tell nothing but what they knew--that they had been seized, stripped and bound. But as to what had been done by Porthos and D’Artagnan afterward they were as ignorant as all the inhabitants of the chateau.

Bernouin alone knew a little more than the others. Bernouin, seeing that his master did not return and hearing the stroke of midnight, had made an examination of the orangery. The first door, barricaded with furniture, had aroused in him certain suspicions, but without communicating his suspicions to any one he had patiently worked his way into the midst of all that confusion. Then he came to the corridor, all the doors of which he found open; so, too, was the door of Athos’s chamber and that of the park. From the latter point it was easy to follow tracks on the snow. He saw that these tracks tended toward the wall; on the other side he found similar tracks, then footprints of horses and then signs of a troop of cavalry which had moved away in the direction of Enghien. He could no longer cherish any doubt that the cardinal had been carried off by the three prisoners, since the prisoners had disappeared at the same time; and he had hastened to Saint Germain to warn the queen of that disappearance.

Anne had enforced the utmost secrecy and had disclosed the event to no one except the Prince de Conde, who had sent five or six hundred horsemen into the environs of Saint Germain with orders to bring in any suspicious person who was going away from Rueil, in whatsoever direction it might be.

Now, since D’Artagnan did not constitute a body of horsemen, since he was alone, since he was not going away from Rueil and was going to Saint Germain, no one paid any attention to him and his journey was not obstructed in any way.

On entering the courtyard of the old chateau the first person seen by our ambassador was Maitre Bernouin in person, who, standing on the threshold, awaited news of his vanished master.

At the sight of D’Artagnan, who entered the courtyard on horseback, Bernouin rubbed his eyes and thought he must be mistaken. But D’Artagnan made a friendly sign to him with his head, dismounted, and throwing his bridle to a lackey who was passing, he approached the valet-de-chambre with a smile on his lips.

“Monsieur d’Artagnan!” cried the latter, like a man who has the nightmare and talks in his sleep, “Monsieur d’Artagnan!”

“Himself, Monsieur Bernouin.”

“And why have you come here?”

“To bring news of Monsieur de Mazarin--the freshest news there is.”

“What has become of him, then?”

“He is as well as you and I.”

“Nothing bad has happened to him, then?”

“Absolutely nothing. He felt the need of making a trip in the Ile de France, and begged us--the Comte de la Fere and Monsieur du Vallon--to accompany him. We were too devoted servants to refuse him a request of that sort. We set out last evening and here we are.”

“Here you are.”

“His eminence had something to communicate to her majesty, something secret and private--a mission that could be confided only to a sure man--and so has sent me to Saint Germain. And therefore, my dear Monsieur Bernouin, if you wish to do what will be pleasing to your master, announce to her majesty that I have come, and tell her with what purpose.”

Whether he spoke seriously or in jest, since it was evident that under existing circumstances D’Artagnan was the only man who could relieve the queen’s uneasiness, Bernouin went without hesitation to announce to her this strange embassy; and as he had foreseen, the queen gave orders to introduce Monsieur d’Artagnan at once.

D’Artagnan approached the sovereign with every mark of profound respect, and having fallen on his knees presented to her the cardinal’s letter

It was, however, merely a letter of introduction. The queen read it, recognized the writing, and, since there were no details in it of what had occurred, asked for particulars. D’Artagnan related everything with that simple and ingenuous air which he knew how to assume on occasions. The queen, as he went on, looked at him with increasing astonishment. She could not comprehend how a man could conceive such an enterprise and still less how he could have the audacity to disclose it to her whose interest and almost duty it was to punish him.

“How, sir!” she cried, as D’Artagnan finished, “you dare to tell me the details of your crime--to give me an account of your treason!”

“Pardon, madame, but I think that either I have expressed myself badly or your majesty has imperfectly understood me. There is here no question of crime or treason. Monsieur de Mazarin held us in prison, Monsieur du Vallon and myself, because we could not believe that he had sent us to England to quietly look on while they cut off the head of Charles I., brother-in-law of the late king, your husband, the consort of Madame Henrietta, your sister and your guest, and because we did all that we could do to save the life of the royal martyr. We were then convinced, my friend and I, that there was some error of which we were the victims, and that an explanation was called for between his eminence and ourselves. Now, that an explanation may bear fruit, it is necessary that it should be quietly conducted, far from noise and interruption. We have therefore taken away monsieur le cardinal to my friend’s chateau and there we have come to an understanding. Well, madame, it proved to be as we had supposed; there was a mistake. Monsieur de Mazarin had thought that we had rendered service to General Cromwell, instead of King Charles, which would have been a disgrace, rebounding from us to him, and from him to your majesty--a dishonor which would have tainted the royalty of your illustrious son. We were able to prove the contrary, and that proof we are ready to give to your majesty, calling in support of it the august widow weeping in the Louvre, where your royal munificence has provided for her a home. That proof satisfied him so completely that, as a sign of satisfaction, he has sent me, as your majesty may see, to consider with you what reparation should be made to gentlemen unjustly treated and wrongfully persecuted.”

“I listen to you, and I wonder at you, sir,” said the queen. “In fact, I have rarely seen such excess of impudence.”

“Your majesty, on your side,” said D’Artagnan, “is as much mistaken as to our intentions as the Cardinal Mazarin has always been.”

“You are in error, sir,” answered the queen. “I am so little mistaken that in ten minutes you shall be arrested, and in an hour I shall set off at the head of my army to release my minister.”

“I am sure your majesty will not commit such an act of imprudence, first, because it would be useless and would produce the most disastrous results. Before he could be possibly set free the cardinal would be dead; and indeed, so convinced is he of this, that he entreated me, should I find your majesty disposed to act in this way, to do all I could to induce you to change your resolution.”

“Well, then, I will content myself with arresting you!”

“Madame, the possibility of my arrest has been foreseen, and should I not have returned by to-morrow, at a certain hour the next day the cardinal will be brought to Paris and delivered to the parliament.”

“It is evident, sir, that your position has kept you out of relation to men and affairs; otherwise you would know that since we left Paris monsieur le cardinal has returned thither five or six times; that he has there met De Beaufort, De Bouillon, the coadjutor and D’Elbeuf and that not one of them had any desire to arrest him.”

“Your pardon, madame, I know all that. And therefore my friends will conduct monsieur le cardinal neither to De Beaufort, nor to De Bouillon, nor to the coadjutor, nor to D’Elbeuf. These gentlemen wage war on private account, and in buying them up, by granting them what they wished, monsieur le cardinal has made a good bargain. He will be delivered to the parliament, members of which can, of course, be bought, but even Monsieur de Mazarin is not rich enough to buy the whole body.”

“I think,” returned Anne of Austria, fixing upon him a glance, which in any woman’s face would have expressed disdain, but in a queen’s, spread terror to those she looked upon, “nay, I perceive you dare to threaten the mother of your sovereign.”

“Madame,” replied D’Artagnan, “I threaten simply and solely because I am obliged to do so. Believe me, madame, as true a thing as it is that a heart beats in this bosom--a heart devoted to you--believe that you have been the idol of our lives; that we have, as you well know--good Heaven!--risked our lives twenty times for your majesty. Have you, then, madame, no compassion for your servants who for twenty years have vegetated in obscurity, without betraying in a single sigh the solemn and sacred secrets they have had the honor to share with you? Look at me, madame--at me, whom you accuse of speaking loud and threateningly. What am I? A poor officer, without fortune, without protection, without a future, unless the eye of my queen, which I have sought so long, rests on me for a moment. Look at the Comte de la Fere, a type of nobility, a flower of chivalry. He has taken part against his queen, or rather, against her minister. He has not been unreasonably exacting, it seems to me. Look at Monsieur du Vallon, that faithful soul, that arm of steel, who for twenty years has awaited the word from your lips which will make him in rank what he is in sentiment and in courage. Consider, in short, your people who love you and who yet are famished, who have no other wish than to bless you, and who, nevertheless--no, I am wrong, your subjects, madame, will never curse you; say one word to them and all will be ended--peace succeed war, joy tears, and happiness to misfortune!”

Anne of Austria looked with wonderment on the warlike countenance of D’Artagnan, which betrayed a singular expression of deep feeling.

“Why did you not say all this before you took action, sir?” she said.

“Because, madame, it was necessary to prove to your majesty one thing of which you doubted---that is, that we still possess amongst us some valor and are worthy of some consideration at your hands.”

“And that valor would shrink from no undertaking, according to what I see.”

“It has hesitated at nothing in the past; why, then, should it be less daring in the future?”

“Then, in case of my refusal, this valor, should a struggle occur, will even go the length of carrying me off in the midst of my court, to deliver me into the hands of the Fronde, as you propose to deliver my minister?”

“We have not thought about it yet, madame,” answered D’Artagnan, with that Gascon effrontery which had in him the appearance of naivete; “but if we four had resolved upon it we should do it most certainly.”

“I ought,” muttered Anne to herself, “by this time to remember that these men are giants.”

“Alas, madame!” exclaimed D’Artagnan, “this proves to me that not till to-day has your majesty had a just idea of us.”

“Perhaps,” said Anne; “but that idea, if at last I have it----”

“Your majesty will do us justice. In doing us justice you will no longer treat us as men of vulgar stamp. You will see in me an ambassador worthy of the high interests he is authorized to discuss with his sovereign.”

“Where is the treaty?”

“Here it is.”

Anne of Austria cast her eyes upon the treaty that D’Artagnan presented to her.

“I do not see here,” she said, “anything but general conditions; the interests of the Prince de Conti or of the Ducs de Beaufort, de Bouillon and d’Elbeuf and of the coadjutor, are herein consulted; but with regard to yours?”

“We do ourselves justice, madame, even in assuming the high position that we have. We do not think ourselves worthy to stand near such great names.”

“But you, I presume, have decided to assert your pretensions viva voce?”

“I believe you, madame, to be a great and powerful queen, and that it will be unworthy of your power and greatness if you do not recompense the arms which will bring back his eminence to Saint Germain.”

“It is my intention so to do; come, let us hear you. Speak.”

“He who has negotiated these matters (forgive me if I begin by speaking of myself, but I must claim that importance which has been given to me, not assumed by me) he who has arranged matters for the return of the cardinal, ought, it appears to me, in order that his reward may not be unworthy of your majesty, to be made commandant of the guards--an appointment something like that of captain of the musketeers.”

“‘Tis the appointment Monsieur de Treville held, you ask of me.”

“The place, madame, is vacant, and although ‘tis a year since Monsieur de Treville has left it, it has not been filled.”

“But it is one of the principal military appointments in the king’s household.”

“Monsieur de Treville was but a younger son of a simple Gascon family, like me, madame; he occupied that post for twenty years.”

“You have an answer ready for everything,” replied the queen, and she took from her bureau a document, which she filled up and signed.

“Undoubtedly, madame,” said D’Artagnan, taking the document and bowing, “this is a noble reward; but everything in the world is unstable, and the man who happened to fall into disgrace with your majesty might lose this office to-morrow.”

“What more do you want?” asked the queen, coloring, as she found that she had to deal with a mind as subtle as her own.

“A hundred thousand francs for this poor captain of musketeers, to be paid whenever his services shall no longer be acceptable to your majesty.”

Anne hesitated.

“To think of the Parisians,” soliloquized D’Artagnan, “offering only the other day, by an edict of the parliament, six hundred thousand francs to any man soever who would deliver up the cardinal to them, dead or alive--if alive, in order to hang him; if dead, to deny him the rites of Christian burial!”

“Come,” said Anne, “‘tis reasonable, since you only ask from a queen the sixth of what the parliament has proposed;” and she signed an order for a hundred thousand francs.

“Now, then,” she said, “what next?”

“Madame, my friend Du Vallon is rich and has therefore nothing in the way of fortune to desire; but I think I remember that there was a question between him and Monsieur Mazarin as to making his estate a barony. Nay, it must have been a promise.”

“A country clown,” said Anne of Austria, “people will laugh.”

“Let them,” answered D’Artagnan. “But I am sure of one thing--that those who laugh at him in his presence will never laugh a second time.”

“Here goes the barony.” said the queen; she signed a patent.

“Now there remains the chevalier, or the Abbe d’Herblay, as your majesty pleases.”

“Does he wish to be a bishop?”

“No, madame, something easier to grant.”

“What?”

“It is that the king should deign to stand godfather to the son of Madame de Longueville.”

The queen smiled.

“Monsieur de Longueville is of royal blood, madame,” said D’Artagnan.

“Yes,” said the queen; “but his son?”

“His son, madame, must be, since the husband of the son’s mother is.”

“And your friend has nothing more to ask for Madame de Longueville?”

“No, madame, for I presume that the king, standing godfather to him, could do no less than present him with five hundred thousand francs, giving his father, also, the government of Normandy.”

“As to the government of Normandy,” replied the queen, “I think I can promise; but with regard to the present, the cardinal is always telling me there is no more money in the royal coffers.”

“We shall search for some, madame, and I think we can find a little, and if your majesty approves, we will seek for some together.”

“What next?”

“What next, madame?”

“Yes.”

“That is all.”

“Haven’t you, then, a fourth companion?”

“Yes, madame, the Comte de la Fere.”

“What does he ask?”

“Nothing.”

“There is in the world, then, one man who, having the power to ask, asks--nothing!”

“There is the Comte de la Fere, madame. The Comte de la Fere is not a man.”

“What is he, then?”

“The Comte de la Fere is a demi-god.”

“Has he not a son, a young man, a relative, a nephew, of whom Comminges spoke to me as being a brave boy, and who, with Monsieur de Chatillon, brought the standards from Lens?”

“He has, as your majesty has said, a ward, who is called the Vicomte de Bragelonne.”

“If that young man should be appointed to a regiment what would his guardian say?”

“Perhaps he would accept.”

“Perhaps?”

“Yes, if your majesty herself should beg him to accept.”

“He must be indeed a strange man. Well, we will reflect and perhaps we will beg him. Are you satisfied, sir?”

“There is one thing the queen has not signed--her assent to the treaty.”

“Of what use to-day? I will sign it to-morrow.”

“I can assure her majesty that if she does not sign to-day she will not have time to sign to-morrow. Consent, then, I beg you, madame, to write at the bottom of this schedule, which has been drawn up by Mazarin, as you see:

“‘I consent to ratify the treaty proposed by the Parisians.’”

Anne was caught, she could not draw back--she signed; but scarcely had she done so when pride burst forth and she began to weep.

D’Artagnan started on seeing these tears. Since that period of history queens have shed tears, like other women.

The Gascon shook his head, these tears from royalty melted his heart.

“Madame,” he said, kneeling, “look upon the unhappy man at your feet. He begs you to believe that at a gesture of your majesty everything will be possible to him. He has faith in himself; he has faith in his friends; he wishes also to have faith in his queen. And in proof that he fears nothing, that he counts on nothing, he will restore Monsieur de Mazarin to your majesty without conditions. Behold, madame! here are the august signatures of your majesty’s hand; if you think you are right in giving them to me, you shall do so, but from this very moment you are free from any obligation to keep them.”

And D’Artagnan, full of splendid pride and manly intrepidity, placed in Anne’s hands, in a bundle, the papers that he had one by one won from her with so much difficulty.

There are moments--for if everything is not good, everything in this world is not bad--in which the most rigid and the coldest soul is softened by the tears of strong emotion, heart-arraigning sentiment: one of these momentary impulses actuated Anne. D’Artagnan, when he gave way to his own feelings--which were in accordance with those of the queen--had accomplished more than the most astute diplomacy could have attempted. He was therefore instantly recompensed, either for his address or for his sensibility, whichever it might be termed.

“You were right, sir,” said Anne. “I misunderstood you. There are the acts signed; I deliver them to you without compulsion. Go and bring me back the cardinal as soon as possible.”

“Madame,” faltered D’Artagnan, “‘tis twenty years ago--I have a good memory--since I had the honor behind a piece of tapestry in the Hotel de Ville, of kissing one of those lovely hands.”

“There is the other,” replied the queen; “and that the left hand should not be less liberal than the right,” she drew from her finger a diamond similar to the one formerly given to him, “take and keep this ring in remembrance of me.

“Madame,” said D’Artagnan, rising, “I have only one thing more to wish, which is, that the next thing you ask from me, shall be--my life.”

And with this conclusion--a way peculiar to himself--he rose and left the room.

“I never rightly understood those men,” said the queen, as she watched him retiring from her presence; “and it is now too late, for in a year the king will be of age.”

In twenty-four hours D’Artagnan and Porthos conducted Mazarin to the queen; and the one received his commission, the other his patent of nobility.

On the same day the Treaty of Paris was signed, and it was everywhere announced that the cardinal had shut himself up for three days in order to draw it up with the greatest care.

Here is what each of the parties concerned gained by that treaty:

Monsieur de Conti received Damvilliers, and having made his proofs as general, he succeeded in remaining a soldier, instead of being made cardinal. Moreover, something had been said of a marriage with Mazarin’s niece. The idea was welcomed by the prince, to whom it was of little importance whom he married, so long as he married some one.

The Duc de Beaufort made his entrance at court, receiving ample reparation for the wrongs he had suffered, and all the honor due to his rank. Full pardon was accorded to those who had aided in his escape. He received also the office of admiral, which had been held by his father, the Duc de Vendome and an indemnity for his houses and castles, demolished by the Parliament of Bretagne.

The Duc de Bouillon received domains of a value equal to that of his principality of Sedan, and the title of prince, granted to him and to those belonging to his house.

The Duc de Longueville gained the government of Pont-de-l’Arche, five hundred thousand francs for his wife and the honor of seeing her son held at the baptismal font by the young king and Henrietta of England.

Aramis stipulated that Bazin should officiate at that ceremony and that Planchet should furnish the christening sugar plums.

The Duc d’Elbeuf obtained payment of certain sums due to his wife, one hundred thousand francs for his eldest son and twenty-five thousand for each of the three others.

The coadjutor alone obtained nothing. They promised, indeed, to negotiate with the pope for a cardinal’s hat for him; but he knew how little reliance should be placed on such promises, made by the queen and Mazarin. Quite contrary to the lot of Monsieur de Conti, unable to be cardinal, he was obliged to remain a soldier.

And therefore, when all Paris was rejoicing in the expected return of the king, appointed for the next day, Gondy alone, in the midst of the general happiness, was dissatisfied; he sent for the two men whom he was wont to summon when in especially bad humor. Those two men were the Count de Rochefort and the mendicant of Saint Eustache. They came with their usual promptness, and the coadjutor spent with them a part of the night.


Chapter 89. Difficult for Kings to return to the Capitals of their Kingdoms.


Whilst D’Artagnan and Porthos were engaged in conducting the cardinal to Saint Germain, Athos and Aramis returned to Paris.

Each had his own particular visit to make.

Aramis rushed to the Hotel de Ville, where Madame de Longueville was sojourning. The duchess loudly lamented the announcement of peace. War had made her a queen; peace brought her abdication. She declared that she would never assent to the treaty and that she wished eternal war.

But when Aramis had presented that peace to her in a true light--that is to say, with all its advantages; when he had pointed out to her, in exchange for the precarious and contested royalty of Paris, the viceroyalty of Font-de-l’Arche, in other words, of all Normandy; when he had rung in her ears the five hundred thousand francs promised by the cardinal; when he had dazzled her eyes with the honor bestowed on her by the king in holding her child at the baptismal font, Madame de Longueville contended no longer, except as is the custom with pretty women to contend, and defended herself only to surrender at last.

Aramis made a presence of believing in the reality of her opposition and was unwilling to deprive himself in his own view of the credit of her conversion.

“Madame,” he said, “you have wished to conquer the prince your brother--that is to say, the greatest captain of the age; and when women of genius wish anything they always succeed in attaining it. You have succeeded; the prince is beaten, since he can no longer fight. Now attach him to our party. Withdraw him gently from the queen, whom he does not like, from Mazarin, whom he despises. The Fronde is a comedy, of which the first act only is played. Let us wait for a denouement--for the day when the prince, thanks to you, shall have turned against the court.”

Madame de Longueville was persuaded. This Frondist duchess trusted so confidently to the power of her fine eyes, that she could not doubt their influence even over Monsieur de Conde; and the chronicles of the time aver that her confidence was justified.

Athos, on quitting Aramis, went to Madame de Chevreuse. Here was another frondeuse to persuade, and she was even less open to conviction than her younger rival. There had been no stipulation in her favor. Monsieur de Chevreuse had not been appointed governor of a province, and if the queen should consent to be godmother it could be only of her grandson or granddaughter. At the first announcement of peace Madame de Chevreuse frowned, and in spite of all the logic of Athos to show her that a prolonged war would have been impracticable, contended in favor of hostilities.

“My fair friend,” said Athos, “allow me to tell you that everybody is tired of war. You will get yourself exiled, as you did in the time of Louis XIII. Believe me, we have passed the time of success in intrigue, and your fine eyes are not destined to be eclipsed by regretting Paris, where there will always be two queens as long as you are there.”

“Oh,” cried the duchess, “I cannot make war alone, but I can avenge myself on that ungrateful queen and most ambitious favorite-on the honor of a duchess, I will avenge myself.”

“Madame,” replied Athos, “do not injure the Vicomte de Bragelonne--do not ruin his prospects. Alas! excuse my weakness! There are moments when a man grows young again in his children.”

The duchess smiled, half tenderly, half ironically.

“Count,” she said, “you are, I fear, gained over to the court. I suppose you have a blue ribbon in your pocket?”

“Yes, madame; I have that of the Garter, which King Charles I. gave me some days before he died.”

“Come, I am growing an old woman!” said the duchess, pensively.

Athos took her hand and kissed it. She sighed, as she looked at him.

“Count,” she said, “Bragelonne must be a charming place. You are a man of taste. You have water--woods--flowers there?”

She sighed again and leaned her charming head, gracefully reclined, on her hand, still beautiful in form and color.

“Madame!” exclaimed Athos, “what were you saying just now about growing old? Never have I seen you look so young, so beautiful!”

The duchess shook her head.

“Does Monsieur de Bragelonne remain in Paris?” she inquired.

“What think you of it?” inquired Athos.

“Leave him with me,” replied the duchess.

“No, madame; if you have forgotten the history of Oedipus, I, at least, remember it.”

“Really, sir, you are delightful, and I should like to spend a month at Bragelonne.”

“Are you not afraid of making people envious of me, duchess?” replied Athos.

“No, I shall go incognito, count, under the name of Marie Michon.”

“You are adorable, madame.”

“But do not keep Raoul with you.”

“Why not?”

“Because he is in love.”

“He! he is quite a child!”

“And ‘tis a child he loves.”

Athos became thoughtful.

“You are right, duchess. This singular passion for a child of seven may some day make him very unhappy. There is to be war in Flanders. He shall go thither.”

“And at his return you will send him to me. I will arm him against love.”

“Alas, madame!” exclaimed Athos, “to-day love is like war--the breastplate is becoming useless.”

Raoul entered at this moment; he came to announce that the solemn entrance of the king, queen, and her ministers was to take place on the ensuing day.

The next day, in fact, at daybreak, the court made preparations to quit Saint Germain.

Meanwhile, the queen every hour had been sending for D’Artagnan.

“I hear,” she said, “that Paris is not quiet. I am afraid for the king’s safety; place yourself close to the coach door on the right.”

“Reassure yourself, madame, I will answer for the king’s safety.”

As he left the queen’s presence Bernouin summoned him to the cardinal.

“Sir,” said Mazarin to him “an emeute is spoken of in Paris. I shall be on the king’s left and as I am the chief person threatened, remain at the coach door to the left.”

“Your eminence may be perfectly easy,” replied D’Artagnan; “they will not touch a hair of your head.”

“Deuce take it!” he thought to himself, “how can I take care of both? Ah! plague on’t, I will guard the king and Porthos shall guard the cardinal.”

This arrangement pleased every one. The queen had confidence in the courage of D’Artagnan, which she knew, and the cardinal in the strength of Porthos, which he had experienced.

The royal procession set out for Paris. Guitant and Comminges, at the head of the guards, marched first; then came the royal carriage, with D’Artagnan on one side, Porthos on the other; then the musketeers, for two and twenty years staunch friends of D’Artagnan. During twenty he had been lieutenant, their captain since the night before.

The cortege proceeded to Notre Dame, where a Te Deum was chanted. All Paris were in the streets. The Swiss were drawn up along the road, but as the road was long, they were placed at six or eight feet distant from each other and one deep only. This force was therefore wholly insufficient, and from time to time the line was broken through by the people and was formed again with difficulty. Whenever this occurred, although it proceeded only from goodwill and a desire to see the king and queen, Anne looked at D’Artagnan anxiously.

Mazarin, who had dispensed a thousand louis to make the people cry “Long live Mazarin,” and who had accordingly no confidence in acclamations bought at twenty pistoles each, kept one eye on Porthos; but that gigantic body-guard replied to the look with his great bass voice, “Be tranquil, my lord,” and Mazarin became more and more composed.

At the Palais Royal, the crowd, which had flowed in from the adjacent street was still greater; like an impetuous mob, a wave of human beings came to meet the carriage and rolled tumultuously into the Rue Saint Honore.

When the procession reached the palace, loud cries of “Long live their majesties!” resounded. Mazarin leaned out of the window. One or two shouts of “Long live the cardinal” saluted his shadow; but instantly hisses and yells stifled them remorselessly. Mazarin turned pale and shrank back in the coach.

“Low-born fellows!” ejaculated Porthos.

D’Artagnan said nothing, but twirled his mustache with a peculiar gesture which showed that his fine Gascon humor was awake.

Anne of Austria bent down and whispered in the young king’s ear:

“Say something gracious to Monsieur d’Artagnan, my son.”

The young king leaned toward the door.

“I have not said good-morning to you, Monsieur d’Artagnan,” he said; “nevertheless, I have remarked you. It was you who were behind my bed-curtains that night the Parisians wished to see me asleep.”

“And if the king permits me,” returned the Gascon, “I shall be near him always when there is danger to be encountered.”

“Sir,” said Mazarin to Porthos, “what would you do if the crowd fell upon us?”

“Kill as many as I could, my lord.”

“Hem! brave as you are and strong as you are, you could not kill them all.”

“‘Tis true,” answered Porthos, rising on his saddle, in order that he might appraise the immense crowd, “there are a lot of them.”

“I think I should like the other fellow better than this one,” said Mazarin to himself, and he threw himself back in his carriage.

The queen and her minister, more especially the latter, had reason to feel anxious. The crowd, whilst preserving an appearance of respect and even of affection for the king and queen regent, began to be tumultuous. Reports were whispered about, like certain sounds which announce, as they whistle from wave to wave, the coming storm--and when they pass athwart a multitude, presage an emeute.

D’Artagnan turned toward the musketeers and made a sign imperceptible to the crowd, but very easily understood by that chosen regiment, the flower of the army.

The ranks closed firmly in and a kind of majestic tremor ran from man to man.

At the Barriere des Sergents the procession was obliged to stop. Comminges left the head of the escort and went to the queen’s carriage. Anne questioned D’Artagnan by a look. He answered in the same language.

“Proceed,” she said.

Comminges returned to his post. An effort was made and the living barrier was violently broken through.

Some complaints arose from the crowd and were addressed this time to the king as well as the minister.

“Onward!” cried D’Artagnan, in a loud voice.

“Onward!” cried Porthos.

But as if the multitude had waited only for this demonstration to burst out, all the sentiments of hostility that possessed it exploded simultaneously. Cries of “Down with Mazarin!” “Death to the cardinal!” resounded on all sides.

At the same time through the streets of Grenelle, Saint Honore, and Du Coq, a double stream of people broke the feeble hedge of Swiss guards and came like a whirlwind even to the very legs of Porthos’s horse and that of D’Artagnan.

This new eruption was more dangerous than the others, being composed of armed men. It was plain that it was not the chance combination of those who had collected a number of the malcontents at the same spot, but a concerted organized attack.

Each of these mobs was led by a chief, one of whom appeared to belong, not to the people, but to the honorable corporation of mendicants, and the other, notwithstanding his affected imitation of the people, might easily be discerned to be a gentleman. Both were evidently stimulated by the same impulse.

There was a shock which was perceived even in the royal carriage. Myriads of hoarse cries, forming one vast uproar, were heard, mingled with guns firing.

“Ho! Musketeers!” cried D’Artagnan.

The escort divided into two files. One of them passed around to the right of the carriage, the other to the left. One went to support D’Artagnan, the other Porthos. Then came a skirmish, the more terrible because it had no definite object; the more melancholy, because those engaged in it knew not for whom they were fighting. Like all popular movements, the shock given by the rush of this mob was formidable. The musketeers, few in number, not being able, in the midst of this crowd, to make their horses wheel around, began to give way. D’Artagnan offered to lower the blinds of the royal carriage, but the young king stretched out his arm, saying:

“No, sir! I wish to see everything.”

“If your majesty wishes to look out--well, then, look!” replied D’Artagnan. And turning with that fury which made him so formidable, he rushed toward the chief of the insurgents, a man who, with a huge sword in his hand, was trying to hew a passage to the coach door through the musketeers.

“Make room!” cried D’Artagnan. “Zounds! give way!”

At these words the man with a pistol and sword raised his head, but it was too late. The blow was sped by D’Artagnan; the rapier had pierced his bosom.

“Ah! confound it!” cried the Gascon, trying in vain, too late, to retract the thrust. “What the devil are you doing here, count?”

“Accomplishing my destiny,” replied Rochefort, falling on one knee. “I have already got up again after three stabs from you, I shall never rise after this fourth.”

“Count!” said D’Artagnan, with some degree of emotion, “I struck without knowing that it was you. I am sorry, if you die, that you should die with sentiments of hatred toward me.”

Rochefort extended his hand to D’Artagnan, who took it. The count wished to speak, but a gush of blood stifled him. He stiffened in the last convulsions of death and expired.

“Back, people!” cried D’Artagnan, “your leader is dead; you have no longer any business here.”

Indeed, as if De Rochefort had been the very soul of the attack, the crowd who had followed and obeyed him took to flight on seeing him fall. D’Artagnan charged, with a party of musketeers, up the Rue du Coq, and the portion of the mob he assailed disappeared like smoke, dispersing near the Place Saint Germain-l’Auxerrois and taking the direction of the quays.

D’Artagnan returned to help Porthos, if Porthos needed help; but Porthos, for his part, had done his work as conscientiously as D’Artagnan. The left of the carriage was as well cleared as the right, and they drew up the blind of the window which Mazarin, less heroic than the king, had taken the precaution to lower.

Porthos looked very melancholy.

“What a devil of a face you have, Porthos! and what a strange air for a victor!”

“But you,” answered Porthos, “seem to me agitated.”

“There’s a reason! Zounds! I have just killed an old friend.”

“Indeed!” replied Porthos, “who?”

“That poor Count de Rochefort.”

“Well! exactly like me! I have just killed a man whose face is not unknown to me. Unluckily, I hit him on the head and immediately his face was covered with blood.”

“And he said nothing as he died?”

“Yes; he exclaimed, ‘Oh!’”

“I suppose,” answered D’Artagnan, laughing, “if he only said that, it did not enlighten you much.”

“Well, sir!” cried the queen.

“Madame, the passage is quite clear and your majesty can continue your road.”

In fact, the procession arrived, in safety at Notre Dame, at the front gate of which all the clergy, with the coadjutor at their head, awaited the king, the queen and the minister, for whose happy return they chanted a Te Deum.

As the service was drawing to a close a boy entered the church in great excitement, ran to the sacristy, dressed himself quickly in the choir robes, and cleaving, thanks to that uniform, the crowd that filled the temple, approached Bazin, who, clad in his blue robe, was standing gravely in his place at the entrance to the choir.

Bazin felt some one pulling his sleeve. He lowered to earth his eyes, beatifically raised to Heaven, and recognized Friquet.

“Well, you rascal, what is it? How do you dare to disturb me in the exercise of my functions?” asked the beadle.

“Monsieur Bazin,” said Friquet, “Monsieur Maillard--you know who he is, he gives holy water at Saint Eustache----”

“Well, go on.”

“Well, he received in the scrimmage a sword stroke on the head. That great giant who was there gave it to him.”

“In that case,” said Bazin, “he must be pretty sick.”

“So sick that he is dying, and he wants to confess to the coadjutor, who, they say, has power to remit great sins.”

“And does he imagine that the coadjutor will put himself out for him?”

“To be sure; the coadjutor has promised.”

“Who told you that?”

“Monsieur Maillard himself.”

“You have seen him, then?”

“Certainly; I was there when he fell.”

“What were you doing there?”

“I was shouting, ‘Down with Mazarin!’ ‘Death to the cardinal!’ ‘The Italian to the gallows!’ Isn’t that what you would have me shout?”

“Be quiet, you rascal!” said Bazin, looking uneasily around.

“So that he told me, that poor Monsieur Maillard, ‘Go find the coadjutor, Friquet, and if you bring him to me you shall be my heir.’ Say, then, Father Bazin--the heir of Monsieur Maillard, the giver of holy water at Saint Eustache! Hey! I shall have nothing to do but to fold my arms! All the same, I should like to do him that service--what do you say to it?”

“I will tell the coadjutor,” said Bazin.

In fact, he slowly and respectfully approached the prelate and spoke to him privately a few words, to which the latter responded by an affirmative sign. He then returned with the same slow step and said:

“Go and tell the dying man that he must be patient. Monseigneur will be with him in an hour.”

“Good!” said Friquet, “my fortune is made.”

“By the way,” said Bazin, “where was he carried?”

“To the tower Saint Jacques la Boucherie;” and delighted with the success of his embassy, Friquet started off at the top of his speed.

When the Te Deum was over, the coadjutor, without stopping to change his priestly dress, took his way toward that old tower which he knew so well. He arrived in time. Though sinking from moment to moment, the wounded man was not yet dead. The door was opened to the coadjutor of the room in which the mendicant was suffering.

A moment later Friquet went out, carrying in his hand a large leather bag; he opened it as soon as he was outside the chamber and to his great astonishment found it full of gold. The mendicant had kept his word and made Friquet his heir.

“Ah! Mother Nanette!” cried Friquet, suffocating; “ah! Mother Nanette!”

He could say no more; but though he hadn’t strength to speak he had enough for action. He rushed headlong to the street, and like the Greek from Marathon who fell in the square at Athens, with his laurel in his hand, Friquet reached Councillor Broussel’s threshold, and then fell exhausted, scattering on the floor the louis disgorged by his leather bag.

Mother Nanette began by picking up the louis; then she picked up Friquet.

In the meantime the cortege returned to the Palais Royal.

“That Monsieur d’Artagnan is a very brave man, mother,” said the young king.

“Yes, my son; and he rendered very important services to your father. Treat him kindly, therefore, in the future.”

“Captain,” said the young king to D’Artagnan, on descending from the carriage, “the queen has charged me to invite you to dinner to-day--you and your friend the Baron du Vallon.”

That was a great honor for D’Artagnan and for Porthos. Porthos was delighted; and yet during the entire repast he seemed to be preoccupied.

“What was the matter with you, baron?” D’Artagnan said to him as they descended the staircase of the Palais Royal. “You seemed at dinner to be anxious about something.”

“I was trying,” said Porthos, “to recall where I had seen that mendicant whom I must have killed.”

“And you couldn’t remember?”

“No.”

“Well, search, my friend, search; and when you have found, you will tell me, will you not?”

“Pardieu!” said Porthos.


Chapter 90. Conclusion.


On going home, the two friends found a letter from Athos, who desired them to meet him at the Grand Charlemagne on the following day.

The friends went to bed early, but neither of them slept. When we arrive at the summit of our wishes, success has usually the power to drive away sleep on the first night after the fulfilment of long cherished hopes.

The next day at the appointed hour they went to see Athos and found him and Aramis in traveling costume.

“What!” cried Porthos, “are we all going away, then? I also have made my preparations this morning.”

“Oh, heavens! yes,” said Aramis. “There’s nothing to do in Paris now there’s no Fronde. The Duchess de Longueville has invited me to pass a few days in Normandy, and has deputed me, while her son is being baptized, to go and prepare her residence at Rouen; after which, if nothing new occurs, I shall go and bury myself in my convent at Noisy-le-Sec.”

“And I,” said Athos, “am returning to Bragelonne. You know, dear D’Artagnan, I am nothing more than a good honest country gentleman. Raoul has no fortune other than I possess, poor child! and I must take care of it for him, since I only lend him my name.”

“And Raoul--what shall you do with him?”

“I leave him with you, my friend. War has broken out in Flanders. You shall take him with you there. I am afraid that remaining at Blois would be dangerous to his youthful mind. Take him and teach him to be as brave and loyal as you are yourself.”

“Then,” replied D’Artagnan, “though I shall not have you, Athos, at all events I shall have that dear fair-haired head by me; and though he’s but a boy, yet, since your soul lives again in him, dear Athos, I shall always fancy that you are near me, sustaining and encouraging me.”

The four friends embraced with tears in their eyes.

Then they departed, without knowing whether they would ever see each other again.

D’Artagnan returned to the Rue Tiquetonne with Porthos, still possessed by the wish to find out who the man was that he had killed. On arriving at the Hotel de la Chevrette they found the baron’s equipage all ready and Mousqueton on his saddle.

“Come, D’Artagnan,” said Porthos, “bid adieu to your sword and go with me to Pierrefonds, to Bracieux, or to Du Vallon. We will grow old together and talk of our companions.”

“No!” replied D’Artagnan, “deuce take it, the campaign is going to begin; I wish to be there, I expect to get something by it.”

“What do you expect to get?”

“Why, I expect to be made Marechal of France!”

“Ha! ha!” cried Porthos, who was not completely taken in by D’Artagnan’s Gasconades.

“Come my brother, go with me,” added D’Artagnan, “and I will see that you are made a duke!”

“No,” answered Porthos, “Mouston has no desire to fight; besides, they have erected a triumphal arch for me to enter my barony, which will kill my neighbors with envy.”

“To that I can say nothing,” returned D’Artagnan, who knew the vanity of the new baron. “Then, here’s to our next merry meeting!”

“Adieu, dear captain,” said Porthos, “I shall always be happy to welcome you to my barony.”

“Yes, yes, when the campaign is over,” replied the Gascon.

“His honor’s equipage is waiting,” said Mousqueton.

The two friends, after a cordial pressure of the hands, separated. D’Artagnan was standing at the door looking after Porthos with a mournful gaze, when the baron, after walking scarcely more than twenty paces, returned--stood still--struck his forehead with his finger and exclaimed:

“I recollect!”

“What?” inquired D’Artagnan.

“Who the beggar was that I killed.”

“Ah! indeed! and who was he?”

“‘Twas that low fellow, Bonacieux.”

And Porthos, enchanted at having relieved his mind, rejoined Mousqueton and they disappeared around an angle of the street. D’Artagnan stood for an instant, mute, pensive and motionless; then, as he went in, he saw the fair Madeleine, his hostess, standing on the threshold.

“Madeleine,” said the Gascon, “give me your apartment on the first floor; now that I am a captain in the royal musketeers I must make an appearance; nevertheless, reserve my old room on the fifth story for me; one never knows what may happen.”

End of Twenty Years After.

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