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Twenty Years After

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Chapter 22. Saint Denis.


The day had begun to break when Athos arose and dressed himself. It was plain, by a paleness still greater than usual, and by those traces which loss of sleep leaves on the face, that he must have passed almost the whole of the night without sleeping. Contrary to the custom of a man so firm and decided, there was this morning in his personal appearance something tardy and irresolute.

He was occupied with the preparations for Raoul’s departure and was seeking to gain time. In the first place he himself furbished a sword, which he drew from its perfumed leather sheath; he examined it to see if its hilt was well guarded and if the blade was firmly attached to the hilt. Then he placed at the bottom of the valise belonging to the young man a small bag of louis, called Olivain, the lackey who had followed him from Blois, and made him pack the valise under his own eyes, watchful to see that everything should be put in which might be useful to a young man entering on his first campaign.

At length, after occupying about an hour in these preparations, he opened the door of the room in which the vicomte slept, and entered.

The sun, already high, penetrated into the room through the window, the curtains of which Raoul had neglected to close on the previous evening. He was still sleeping, his head gracefully reposing on his arm.

Athos approached and hung over the youth in an attitude full of tender melancholy; he looked long on this young man, whose smiling mouth and half closed eyes bespoke soft dreams and lightest slumber, as if his guardian angel watched over him with solicitude and affection. By degrees Athos gave himself up to the charms of his reverie in the proximity of youth, so pure, so fresh. His own youth seemed to reappear, bringing with it all those savoury remembrances, which are like perfumes more than thoughts. Between the past and the present was an ineffable abyss. But imagination has the wings of an angel of light and travels safely through or over the seas where we have been almost shipwrecked, the darkness in which our illusions are lost, the precipice whence our happiness has been hurled and swallowed up. He remembered that all the first part of his life had been embittered by a woman and he thought with alarm of the influence love might assume over so fine, and at the same time so vigorous an organization as that of Raoul.

In recalling all he had been through, he foresaw all that Raoul might suffer; and the expression of the deep and tender compassion which throbbed in his heart was pictured in the moist eye with which he gazed on the young man.

At this moment Raoul awoke, without a cloud on his face without weariness or lassitude; his eyes were fixed on those of Athos and perhaps he comprehended all that passed in the heart of the man who was awaiting his awakening as a lover awaits the awakening of his mistress, for his glance, in return, had all the tenderness of love.

“You are there, sir?” he said, respectfully.

“Yes, Raoul,” replied the count.

“And you did not awaken me?”

“I wished to leave you still to enjoy some moments of sleep, my child; you must be fatigued from yesterday.”

“Oh, sir, how good you are!”

Athos smiled.

“How do you feel this morning?” he inquired.

“Perfectly well; quite rested, sir.”

“You are still growing,” Athos continued, with that charming and paternal interest felt by a grown man for a youth.

“Oh, sir, I beg your pardon!” exclaimed Raoul, ashamed of so much attention; “in an instant I shall be dressed.”

Athos then called Olivain.

“Everything,” said Olivain to Athos, “has been done according to your directions; the horses are waiting.”

“And I was asleep,” cried Raoul, “whilst you, sir, you had the kindness to attend to all these details. Truly, sir, you overwhelm me with benefits!”

“Therefore you love me a little, I hope,” replied Athos, in a tone of emotion.

“Oh, sir! God knows how much I love, revere you.”

“See that you forget nothing,” said Athos, appearing to look about him, that he might hide his emotion.

“No, indeed, sir,” answered Raoul.

The servant then approached Athos and said, hesitatingly:

“Monsieur le vicomte has no sword.”

“‘Tis well,” said Athos, “I will take care of that.”

They went downstairs, Raoul looking every now and then at the count to see if the moment of farewell was at hand, but Athos was silent. When they reached the steps Raoul saw three horses.

“Oh, sir! then you are going with me?”

“I will accompany you a portion of the way,” said Athos.

Joy shone in Raoul’s eyes and he leaped lightly to his saddle.

Athos mounted more slowly, after speaking in a low voice to the lackey, who, instead of following them immediately, returned to their rooms. Raoul, delighted at the count’s companionship, perceived, or affected to perceive nothing of this byplay.

They set out, passing over the Pont Neuf; they pursued their way along the quay then called L’Abreuvoir Pepin, and went along by the walls of the Grand Chatelet. They proceeded to the Rue Saint Denis.

After passing through the Porte Saint Denis, Athos looked at Raoul’s way of riding and observed:

“Take care, Raoul! I have already often told you of this; you must not forget it, for it is a great defect in a rider. See! your horse is tired already, he froths at the mouth, whilst mine looks as if he had only just left the stable. You hold the bit too tight and so make his mouth hard, so that you will not be able to make him manoeuvre quickly. The safety of a cavalier often depends on the prompt obedience of his horse. In a week, remember, you will no longer be performing your manoeuvres for practice, but on a field of battle.”

Then suddenly, in order not to give too uncomfortable an importance to this observation:

“See, Raoul!” he resumed; “what a fine plain for partridge shooting.”

The young man stored in his mind the admonition whilst he admired the delicate tenderness with which it was bestowed.

“I have remarked also another thing,” said Athos, “which is, that in firing off your pistol you hold your arm too far outstretched. This tension lessens the accuracy of the aim. So in twelve times you thrice missed the mark.”

“Which you, sir, struck twelve times,” answered Raoul, smiling.

“Because I bent my arm and rested my hand on my elbow--so; do you understand what I mean?”

“Yes, sir. I have fired since in that manner and have been quite successful.”

“What a cold wind!” resumed Athos; “a wintry blast. Apropos, if you fire--and you will do so, for you are recommended to a young general who is very fond of powder--remember that in single combat, which often takes place in the cavalry, never to fire the first shot. He who fires the first shot rarely hits his man, for he fires with the apprehension of being disarmed, before an armed foe; then, whilst he fires, make your horse rear; that manoeuvre has saved my life several times.”

“I shall do so, if only in gratitude----”

“Eh!” cried Athos, “are not those fellows poachers they have arrested yonder? They are. Then another important thing, Raoul: should you be wounded in a battle, and fall from your horse, if you have any strength left, disentangle yourself from the line that your regiment has formed; otherwise, it may be driven back and you will be trampled to death by the horses. At all events, should you be wounded, write to me that very instant, or get some one at once to write to me. We are judges of wounds, we old soldiers,” Athos added, smiling.

“Thank you, sir,” answered the young man, much moved.

They arrived that very moment at the gate of the town, guarded by two sentinels.

“Here comes a young gentleman,” said one of them, “who seems as if he were going to join the army.”

“How do you make that out?” inquired Athos.

“By his manner, sir, and his age; he’s the second to-day.”

“Has a young man, such as I am, gone through this morning, then?” asked Raoul.

“Faith, yes, with a haughty presence, a fine equipage; such as the son of a noble house would have.”

“He will be my companion on the journey, sir,” cried Raoul. “Alas! he cannot make me forget what I shall have lost!”

Thus talking, they traversed the streets, full of people on account of the fete, and arrived opposite the old cathedral, where first mass was going on.

“Let us alight; Raoul,” said Athos. “Olivain, take care of our horses and give me my sword.”

The two gentlemen then went into the church. Athos gave Raoul some of the holy water. A love as tender as that of a lover for his mistress dwells, undoubtedly, in some paternal hearts toward a son.

Athos said a word to one of the vergers, who bowed and proceeded toward the basement.

“Come, Raoul,” he said, “let us follow this man.”

The verger opened the iron grating that guarded the royal tombs and stood on the topmost step, whilst Athos and Raoul descended. The sepulchral depths of the descent were dimly lighted by a silver lamp on the lowest step; and just below this lamp there was laid, wrapped in a flowing mantle of violet velvet, worked with fleurs-de-lis of gold, a catafalque resting on trestles of oak. The young man, prepared for this scene by the state of his own feelings, which were mournful, and by the majesty of the cathedral which he had passed through, descended in a slow and solemn manner and stood with head uncovered before these mortal spoils of the last king, who was not to be placed by the side of his forefathers until his successor should take his place there; and who appeared to abide on that spot, that he might thus address human pride, so sure to be exalted by the glories of a throne: “Dust of the earth! Here I await thee!”

There was profound silence.

Then Athos raised his hand and pointing to the coffin:

“This temporary sepulture is,” he said, “that of a man who was of feeble mind, yet one whose reign was full of great events; because over this king watched the spirit of another man, even as this lamp keeps vigil over this coffin and illumines it. He whose intellect was thus supreme, Raoul, was the actual sovereign; the other, nothing but a phantom to whom he lent a soul; and yet, so powerful is majesty amongst us, this man has not even the honor of a tomb at the feet of him in whose service his life was worn away. Remember, Raoul, this! If Richelieu made the king, by comparison, seem small, he made royalty great. The Palace of the Louvre contains two things--the king, who must die, and royalty, which never dies. The minister, so feared, so hated by his master, has descended into the tomb, drawing after him the king, whom he would not leave alone on earth, lest his work should be destroyed. So blind were his contemporaries that they regarded the cardinal’s death as a deliverance; and I, even I, opposed the designs of the great man who held the destinies of France within the hollow of his hand. Raoul, learn how to distinguish the king from royalty; the king is but a man; royalty is the gift of God. Whenever you hesitate as to whom you ought to serve, abandon the exterior, the material appearance for the invisible principle, for the invisible principle is everything. Raoul, I seem to read your future destiny as through a cloud. It will be happier, I think, than ours has been. Different in your fate from us, you will have a king without a minister, whom you may serve, love, respect. Should the king prove a tyrant, for power begets tyranny, serve, love, respect royalty, that Divine right, that celestial spark which makes this dust still powerful and holy, so that we--gentlemen, nevertheless, of rank and condition--are as nothing in comparison with the cold corpse there extended.”

“I shall adore God, sir,” said Raoul, “respect royalty and ever serve the king. And if death be my lot, I hope to die for the king, for royalty and for God. Have I, sir, comprehended your instructions?”

Athos smiled.

“Yours is a noble nature.” he said; “here is your sword.”

Raoul bent his knee to the ground.

“It was worn by my father, a loyal gentleman. I have worn it in my turn and it has sometimes not been disgraced when the hilt was in my hand and the sheath at my side. Should your hand still be too weak to use this sword, Raoul, so much the better. You will have the more time to learn to draw it only when it ought to be used.”

“Sir,” replied Raoul, putting the sword to his lips as he received it from the count, “I owe you everything and yet this sword is the most precious gift you have yet made me. I will wear it, I swear to you, as a grateful man should do.”

“‘Tis well; arise, vicomte, embrace me.”

Raoul arose and threw himself with emotion into the count’s arms.

“Adieu,” faltered the count, who felt his heart die away within him; “adieu, and think of me.”

“Oh! for ever and ever!” cried the youth; “oh! I swear to you, sir, should any harm befall me, your name will be the last name that I shall utter, the remembrance of you my last thought.”

Athos hastened upstairs to conceal his emotion, and regained with hurried steps the porch where Olivain was waiting with the horses.

“Olivain,” said Athos, showing the servant Raoul’s shoulder-belt, “tighten the buckle of the sword, it falls too low. You will accompany monsieur le vicomte till Grimaud rejoins you. You know, Raoul, Grimaud is an old and zealous servant; he will follow you.”

“Yes, sir,” answered Raoul.

“Now to horse, that I may see you depart!”

Raoul obeyed.

“Adieu, Raoul,” said the count; “adieu, my dearest boy!”

“Adieu, sir, adieu, my beloved protector.”

Athos waved his hand--he dared not trust himself to speak: and Raoul went away, his head uncovered. Athos remained motionless, looking after him until he turned the corner of the street.

Then the count threw the bridle of his horse into the hands of a peasant, remounted the steps, went into the cathedral, there to kneel down in the darkest corner and pray.


Chapter 23. One of the Forty Methods of Escape of the Duc de Beaufort.


Meanwhile time was passing on for the prisoner, as well as for those who were preparing his escape; only for him it passed more slowly. Unlike other men, who enter with ardor upon a perilous resolution and grow cold as the moment of execution approaches, the Duc de Beaufort, whose buoyant courage had become a proverb, seemed to push time before him and sought most eagerly to hasten the hour of action. In his escape alone, apart from his plans for the future, which, it must be admitted, were for the present sufficiently vague and uncertain, there was a beginning of vengeance which filled his heart. In the first place his escape would be a serious misfortune to Monsieur de Chavigny, whom he hated for the petty persecutions he owed to him. It would be a still worse affair for Mazarin, whom he execrated for the greater offences he had committed. It may be observed that there was a proper proportion in his sentiments toward the governor of the prison and the minister--toward the subordinate and the master.

Then Monsieur de Beaufort, who was so familiar with the interior of the Palais Royal, though he did not know the relations existing between the queen and the cardinal, pictured to himself, in his prison, all that dramatic excitement which would ensue when the rumor should run from the minister’s cabinet to the chamber of Anne of Austria: “Monsieur de Beaufort has escaped!” Whilst saying that to himself, Monsieur de Beaufort smiled pleasantly and imagined himself already outside, breathing the air of the plains and the forests, pressing a strong horse between his knees and crying out in a loud voice, “I am free!”

It is true that on coming to himself he found that he was still within four walls; he saw La Ramee twirling his thumbs ten feet from him, and his guards laughing and drinking in the ante-chamber. The only thing that was pleasant to him in that odious tableau--such is the instability of the human mind--was the sullen face of Grimaud, for whom he had at first conceived such a hatred and who now was all his hope. Grimaud seemed to him an Antinous. It is needless to say that this transformation was visible only to the prisoner’s feverish imagination. Grimaud was still the same, and therefore he retained the entire confidence of his superior, La Ramee, who now relied upon him more than he did upon himself, for, as we have said, La Ramee felt at the bottom of his heart a certain weakness for Monsieur de Beaufort.

And so the good La Ramee made a festivity of the little supper with his prisoner. He had but one fault--he was a gourmand; he had found the pates good, the wine excellent. Now the successor of Pere Marteau had promised him a pate of pheasant instead of a pate of fowl, and Chambertin wine instead of Macon. All this, set off by the presence of that excellent prince, who was so good-natured, who invented so droll tricks against Monsieur de Chavigny and so fine jokes against Mazarin, made for La Ramee the approaching Pentecost one of the four great feasts of the year. He therefore looked forward to six o’clock with as much impatience as the duke himself.

Since daybreak La Ramee had been occupied with the preparations, and trusting no one but himself, he had visited personally the successor of Pere Marteau. The latter had surpassed himself; he showed La Ramee a monstrous pate, ornamented with Monsieur de Beaufort’s coat-of-arms. It was empty as yet, but a pheasant and two partridges were lying near it. La Ramee’s mouth watered and he returned to the duke’s chamber rubbing his hands. To crown his happiness, Monsieur de Chavigny had started on a journey that morning and in his absence La Ramee was deputy-governor of the chateau.

As for Grimaud, he seemed more sullen than ever.

In the course of the forenoon Monsieur de Beaufort had a game of tennis with La Ramee; a sign from Grimaud put him on the alert. Grimaud, going in advance, followed the course which they were to take in the evening. The game was played in an inclosure called the little court of the chateau, a place quite deserted except when Monsieur de Beaufort was playing; and even then the precaution seemed superfluous, the wall was so high.

There were three gates to open before reaching the inclosure, each by a different key. When they arrived Grimaud went carelessly and sat down by a loophole in the wall, letting his legs dangle outside. It was evident that there the rope ladder was to be attached.

This manoeuvre, transparent to the Duc de Beaufort, was quite unintelligible to La Ramee.

The game at tennis, which, upon a sign from Grimaud, Monsieur de Beaufort had consented to play, began in the afternoon. The duke was in full strength and beat La Ramee completely.

Four of the guards, who were constantly near the prisoner, assisted in picking up the tennis balls. When the game was over, the duke, laughing at La Ramee for his bad play, offered these men two louis d’or to go and drink his health, with their four other comrades.

The guards asked permission of La Ramee, who gave it to them, but not till the evening, however; until then he had business and the prisoner was not to be left alone.

Six o’clock came and, although they were not to sit down to table until seven o’clock, dinner was ready and served up. Upon a sideboard appeared the colossal pie with the duke’s arms on it, and seemingly cooked to a turn, as far as one could judge by the golden color which illuminated the crust.

The rest of the dinner was to come.

Every one was impatient, La Ramee to sit down to table, the guards to go and drink, the duke to escape.

Grimaud alone was calm as ever. One might have fancied that Athos had educated him with the express forethought of such a great event.

There were moments when, looking at Grimaud, the duke asked himself if he was not dreaming and if that marble figure was really at his service and would grow animated when the moment came for action.

La Ramee sent away the guards, desiring them to drink to the duke’s health, and as soon as they were gone shut all the doors, put the keys in his pocket and showed the table to the prince with an air that signified:

“Whenever my lord pleases.”

The prince looked at Grimaud, Grimaud looked at the clock; it was hardly a quarter-past six. The escape was fixed to take place at seven o’clock; there was therefore three-quarters of an hour to wait.

The duke, in order to pass away another quarter of an hour, pretended to be reading something that interested him and muttered that he wished they would allow him to finish his chapter. La Ramee went up to him and looked over his shoulder to see what sort of a book it was that had so singular an influence over the prisoner as to make him put off taking his dinner.

It was “Caesar’s Commentaries,” which La Ramee had lent him, contrary to the orders of the governor; and La Ramee resolved never again to disobey these injunctions.

Meantime he uncorked the bottles and went to smell if the pie was good.

At half-past six the duke arose and said very gravely:

“Certainly, Caesar was the greatest man of ancient times.”

“You think so, my lord?” answered La Ramee.

“Yes.”

“Well, as for me, I prefer Hannibal.”

“And why, pray, Master La Ramee?” asked the duke.

“Because he left no Commentaries,” replied La Ramee, with his coarse laugh.

The duke vouchsafed no reply, but sitting down at the table made a sign that La Ramee should seat himself opposite. There is nothing so expressive as the face of an epicure who finds himself before a well spread table, so La Ramee, when receiving his plate of soup from Grimaud, presented a type of perfect bliss.

The duke smiled.

“Zounds!” he said; “I don’t suppose there is a more contented man at this moment in all the kingdom than yourself!”

“You are right, my lord duke,” answered the officer; “I don’t know any pleasanter sight on earth than a well covered table; and when, added to that, he who does the honors is the grandson of Henry IV., you will, my lord duke, easily comprehend that the honor fairly doubles the pleasure one enjoys.”

The duke, in his turn, bowed, and an imperceptible smile appeared on the face of Grimaud, who kept behind La Ramee.

“My dear La Ramee,” said the duke, “you are the only man to turn such faultless compliments.”

“No, my lord duke,” replied La Ramee, in the fullness of his heart; “I say what I think; there is no compliment in what I say to you----”

“Then you are attached to me?” asked the duke.

“To own the truth, I should be inconsolable if you were to leave Vincennes.”

“A droll way of showing your affliction.” The duke meant to say “affection.”

“But, my lord,” returned La Ramee, “what would you do if you got out? Every folly you committed would embroil you with the court and they would put you into the Bastile, instead of Vincennes. Now, Monsieur de Chavigny is not amiable, I allow, but Monsieur du Tremblay is considerably worse.”

“Indeed!” exclaimed the duke, who from time to time looked at the clock, the fingers of which seemed to move with sickening slowness.

“But what can you expect from the brother of a capuchin monk, brought up in the school of Cardinal Richelieu? Ah, my lord, it is a great happiness that the queen, who always wished you well, had a fancy to send you here, where there’s a promenade and a tennis court, good air, and a good table.”

“In short,” answered the duke, “if I comprehend you aright, La Ramee, I am ungrateful for having ever thought of leaving this place?”

“Oh! my lord duke, ‘tis the height of ingratitude; but your highness has never seriously thought of it?”

“Yes,” returned the duke, “I must confess I sometimes think of it.”

“Still by one of your forty methods, your highness?”

“Yes, yes, indeed.”

“My lord,” said La Ramee, “now we are quite at our ease and enjoying ourselves, pray tell me one of those forty ways invented by your highness.”

“Willingly,” answered the duke, “give me the pie!”

“I am listening,” said La Ramee, leaning back in his armchair and raising his glass of Madeira to his lips, and winking his eye that he might see the sun through the rich liquid that he was about to taste.

The duke glanced at the clock. In ten minutes it would strike seven.

Grimaud placed the pie before the duke, who took a knife with a silver blade to raise the upper crust; but La Ramee, who was afraid of any harm happening to this fine work of art, passed his knife, which had an iron blade, to the duke.

“Thank you, La Ramee,” said the prisoner.

“Well, my lord! this famous invention of yours?”

“Must I tell you,” replied the duke, “on what I most reckon and what I determine to try first?”

“Yes, that’s the thing, my lord!” cried his custodian, gaily.

“Well, I should hope, in the first instance, to have for keeper an honest fellow like you.”

“And you have me, my lord. Well?”

“Having, then, a keeper like La Ramee, I should try also to have introduced to him by some friend or other a man who would be devoted to me, who would assist me in my flight.”

“Come, come,” said La Ramee, “that’s not a bad idea.”

“Capital, isn’t it? for instance, the former servingman of some brave gentleman, an enemy himself to Mazarin, as every gentleman ought to be.”

“Hush! don’t let us talk politics, my lord.”

“Then my keeper would begin to trust this man and to depend upon him, and I should have news from those without the prison walls.”

“Ah, yes! but how can the news be brought to you?”

“Nothing easier; in a game of tennis, for example.”

“In a game of tennis?” asked La Ramee, giving more serious attention to the duke’s words.

“Yes; see, I send a ball into the moat; a man is there who picks it up; the ball contains a letter. Instead of returning the ball to me when I call for it from the top of the wall, he throws me another; that other ball contains a letter. Thus we have exchanged ideas and no one has seen us do it.”

“The devil it does! The devil it does!” said La Ramee, scratching his head; “you are in the wrong to tell me that, my lord. I shall have to watch the men who pick up balls.”

The duke smiled.

“But,” resumed La Ramee, “that is only a way of corresponding.”

“And that is a great deal, it seems to me.”

“But not enough.”

“Pardon me; for instance, I say to my friends, Be on a certain day, on a certain hour, at the other side of the moat with two horses.”

“Well, what then?” La Ramee began to be uneasy; “unless the horses have wings to mount the ramparts and come and fetch you.”

“That’s not needed. I have,” replied the duke, “a way of descending from the ramparts.”

“What?”

“A rope ladder.”

“Yes, but,” answered La Ramee, trying to laugh, “a ladder of ropes can’t be sent around a ball, like a letter.”

“No, but it may be sent in something else.”

“In something else--in something else? In what?”

“In a pate, for example.”

“In a pate?” said La Ramee.

“Yes. Let us suppose one thing,” replied the duke “let us suppose, for instance, that my maitre d’hotel, Noirmont, has purchased the shop of Pere Marteau----”

“Well?” said La Ramee, shuddering.

“Well, La Ramee, who is a gourmand, sees his pates, thinks them more attractive than those of Pere Marteau and proposes to me that I shall try them. I consent on condition that La Ramee tries them with me. That we may be more at our ease, La Ramee removes the guards, keeping only Grimaud to wait on us. Grimaud is the man whom a friend has sent to second me in everything. The moment for my escape is fixed--seven o’clock. Well, at a few minutes to seven----”

“At a few minutes to seven?” cried La Ramee, cold sweat upon his brow.

“At a few minutes to seven,” returned the duke (suiting the action to the words), “I raise the crust of the pie; I find in it two poniards, a ladder of rope, and a gag. I point one of the poniards at La Ramee’s breast and I say to him, ‘My friend, I am sorry for it, but if thou stirrest, if thou utterest one cry, thou art a dead man!’”

The duke, in pronouncing these words, suited, as we have said, the action to the words. He was standing near the officer and he directed the point of the poniard in such a manner, close to La Ramee’s heart, that there could be no doubt in the mind of that individual as to his determination. Meanwhile, Grimaud, still mute as ever, drew from the pie the other poniard, the rope ladder and the gag.

La Ramee followed all these objects with his eyes, his alarm every moment increasing.

“Oh, my lord,” he cried, with an expression of stupefaction in his face; “you haven’t the heart to kill me!”

“No; not if thou dost not oppose my flight.”

“But, my lord, if I allow you to escape I am a ruined man.”

“I will compensate thee for the loss of thy place.”

“You are determined to leave the chateau?”

“By Heaven and earth! This night I am determined to be free.”

“And if I defend myself, or call, or cry out?”

“I will kill thee, on the honor of a gentleman.”

At this moment the clock struck.

“Seven o’clock!” said Grimaud, who had not spoken a word.

La Ramee made one movement, in order to satisfy his conscience. The duke frowned, the officer felt the point of the poniard, which, having penetrated through his clothes, was close to his heart.

“Let us dispatch,” said the duke.

“My lord, one last favor.”

“What? speak, make haste.”

“Bind my arms, my lord, fast.”

“Why bind thee?”

“That I may not be considered as your accomplice.”

“Your hands?” asked Grimaud.

“Not before me, behind me.”

“But with what?” asked the duke.

“With your belt, my lord!” replied La Ramee.

The duke undid his belt and gave it to Grimaud, who tied La Ramee in such a way as to satisfy him.

“Your feet, too,” said Grimaud.

La Ramee stretched out his legs, Grimaud took a table-cloth, tore it into strips and tied La Ramee’s feet together.

“Now, my lord,” said the poor man, “let me have the poire d’angoisse. I ask for it; without it I should be tried in a court of justice because I did not raise the alarm. Thrust it into my mouth, my lord, thrust it in.”

Grimaud prepared to comply with this request, when the officer made a sign as if he had something to say.

“Speak,” said the duke.

“Now, my lord, do not forget, if any harm happens to me on your account, that I have a wife and four children.”

“Rest assured; put the gag in, Grimaud.”

In a second La Ramee was gagged and laid prostrate. Two or three chairs were thrown down as if there had been a struggle. Grimaud then took from the pocket of the officer all the keys it contained and first opened the door of the room in which they were, then shut it and double-locked it, and both he and the duke proceeded rapidly down the gallery which led to the little inclosure. At last they reached the tennis court. It was completely deserted. No sentinels, no one at any of the windows. The duke ran to the rampart and perceived on the other side of the ditch, three cavaliers with two riding horses. The duke exchanged a signal with them. It was indeed for him that they were there.

Grimaud, meantime, undid the means of escape.

This was not, however, a rope ladder, but a ball of silk cord, with a narrow board which was to pass between the legs, the ball to unwind itself by the weight of the person who sat astride upon the board.

“Go!” said the duke.

“First, my lord?” inquired Grimaud.

“Certainly. If I am caught, I risk nothing but being taken back again to prison. If they catch thee, thou wilt be hung.”

“True,” replied Grimaud.

And instantly, Grimaud, sitting upon the board as if on horseback, commenced his perilous descent.

The duke followed him with his eyes, with involuntary terror. He had gone down about three-quarters of the length of the wall when the cord broke. Grimaud fell--precipitated into the moat.

The duke uttered a cry, but Grimaud did not give a single moan. He must have been dreadfully hurt, for he did not stir from the place where he fell.

Immediately one of the men who were waiting slipped down into the moat, tied under Grimaud’s shoulders the end of a cord, and the remaining two, who held the other end, drew Grimaud to them.

“Descend, my lord,” said the man in the moat. “There are only fifteen feet more from the top down here, and the grass is soft.”

The duke had already begun to descend. His task was the more difficult, as there was no board to support him. He was obliged to let himself down by his hands and from a height of fifty feet. But as we have said he was active, strong, and full of presence of mind. In less than five minutes he arrived at the end of the cord. He was then only fifteen feet from the ground, as the gentlemen below had told him. He let go the rope and fell upon his feet, without receiving any injury.

He instantly began to climb up the slope of the moat, on the top of which he met De Rochefort. The other two gentlemen were unknown to him. Grimaud, in a swoon, was tied securely to a horse.

“Gentlemen,” said the duke, “I will thank you later; now we have not a moment to lose. On, then! on! those who love me, follow me!”

And he jumped on his horse and set off at full gallop, snuffing the fresh air in his triumph and shouting out, with an expression of face which it would be impossible to describe:

“Free! free! free!”


Chapter 24. The timely Arrival of D’Artagnan in Paris.


At Blois, D’Artagnan received the money paid to him by Mazarin for any future service he might render the cardinal.

From Blois to Paris was a journey of four days for ordinary travelers, but D’Artagnan arrived on the third day at the Barriere Saint Denis. In turning the corner of the Rue Montmartre, in order to reach the Rue Tiquetonne and the Hotel de la Chevrette, where he had appointed Porthos to meet him, he saw at one of the windows of the hotel, that friend himself dressed in a sky-blue waistcoat, embroidered with silver, and gaping, till he showed every one of his white teeth; whilst the people passing by admiringly gazed at this gentleman, so handsome and so rich, who seemed to weary of his riches and his greatness.

D’Artagnan and Planchet had hardly turned the corner when Porthos recognized them.

“Eh! D’Artagnan!” he cried. “Thank God you have come!”

“Eh! good-day, dear friend!” replied D’Artagnan.

Porthos came down at once to the threshold of the hotel.

“Ah, my dear friend!” he cried, “what bad stabling for my horses here.”

“Indeed!” said D’Artagnan; “I am most unhappy to hear it, on account of those fine animals.”

“And I, also--I was also wretchedly off,” he answered, moving backward and forward as he spoke; “and had it not been for the hostess,” he added, with his air of vulgar self-complacency, “who is very agreeable and understands a joke, I should have got a lodging elsewhere.”

The pretty Madeleine, who had approached during this colloquy, stepped back and turned pale as death on hearing Porthos’s words, for she thought the scene with the Swiss was about to be repeated. But to her great surprise D’Artagnan remained perfectly calm, and instead of being angry he laughed, and said to Porthos:

“Yes, I understand, the air of La Rue Tiquetonne is not like that of Pierrefonds; but console yourself, I will soon conduct you to one much better.”

“When will you do that?”

“Immediately, I hope.”

“Ah! so much the better!”

To that exclamation of Porthos’s succeeded a groaning, low and profound, which seemed to come from behind a door. D’Artagnan, who had just dismounted, then saw, outlined against the wall, the enormous stomach of Mousqueton, whose down-drawn mouth emitted sounds of distress.

“And you, too, my poor Monsieur Mouston, are out of place in this poor hotel, are you not?” asked D’Artagnan, in that rallying tone which may indicate either compassion or mockery.

“He finds the cooking detestable,” replied Porthos.

“Why, then, doesn’t he attend to it himself, as at Chantilly?”

“Ah, monsieur, I have not here, as I had there, the ponds of monsieur le prince, where I could catch those beautiful carp, nor the forests of his highness to provide me with partridges. As for the cellar, I have searched every part and poor stuff I found.”

“Monsieur Mouston,” said D’Artagnan, “I should indeed condole with you had I not at this moment something very pressing to attend to.”

Then taking Porthos aside:

“My dear Du Vallon,” he said, “here you are in full dress most fortunately, for I am going to take you to the cardinal’s.”

“Gracious me! really!” exclaimed Porthos, opening his great wondering eyes.

“Yes, my friend.”

“A presentation? indeed!”

“Does that alarm you?”

“No, but it agitates me.”

“Oh! don’t be distressed; you have to deal with a cardinal of another kind. This one will not oppress you by his dignity.”

“‘Tis the same thing--you understand me, D’Artagnan--a court.”

“There’s no court now. Alas!”

“The queen!”

“I was going to say, there’s no longer a queen. The queen! Rest assured, we shall not see her.”

“And you say that we are going from here to the Palais Royal?”

“Immediately. Only, that there may be no delay, I shall borrow one of your horses.”

“Certainly; all the four are at your service.”

“Oh, I need only one of them for the time being.”

“Shall we take our valets?”

“Yes, you may as well take Mousqueton. As to Planchet, he has certain reasons for not going to court.”

“And what are they?”

“Oh, he doesn’t stand well with his eminence.”

“Mouston,” said Porthos, “saddle Vulcan and Bayard.”

“And for myself, monsieur, shall I saddle Rustaud?”

“No, take a more stylish horse, Phoebus or Superbe; we are going with some ceremony.”

“Ah,” said Mousqueton, breathing more freely, “you are only going, then, to make a visit?”

“Oh! yes, of course, Mouston; nothing else. But to avoid risk, put the pistols in the holsters. You will find mine on my saddle, already loaded.”

Mouston breathed a sigh; he couldn’t understand visits of ceremony made under arms.

“Indeed,” said Porthos, looking complacently at his old lackey as he went away, “you are right, D’Artagnan; Mouston will do; Mouston has a very fine appearance.”

D’Artagnan smiled.

“But you, my friend--are you not going to change your dress?”

“No, I shall go as I am. This traveling dress will serve to show the cardinal my haste to obey his commands.”

They set out on Vulcan and Bayard, followed by Mousqueton on Phoebus, and arrived at the Palais Royal at about a quarter to seven. The streets were crowded, for it was the day of Pentecost, and the crowd looked in wonder at these two cavaliers; one as fresh as if he had come out of a bandbox, the other so covered with dust that he looked as if he had but just come off a field of battle.

Mousqueton also attracted attention; and as the romance of Don Quixote was then the fashion, they said that he was Sancho, who, after having lost one master, had found two.

On reaching the palace, D’Artagnan sent to his eminence the letter in which he had been ordered to return without delay. He was soon ordered to the presence of the cardinal.

“Courage!” he whispered to Porthos, as they proceeded. “Do not be intimidated. Believe me, the eye of the eagle is closed forever. We have only the vulture to deal with. Hold yourself as bolt upright as on the day of the bastion of St. Gervais, and do not bow too low to this Italian; that might give him a poor idea of you.”

“Good!” answered Porthos. “Good!”

Mazarin was in his study, working at a list of pensions and benefices, of which he was trying to reduce the number. He saw D’Artagnan and Porthos enter with internal pleasure, yet showed no joy in his countenance.

“Ah! you, is it? Monsieur le lieutenant, you have been very prompt. ‘Tis well. Welcome to ye.”

“Thanks, my lord. Here I am at your eminence’s service, as well as Monsieur du Vallon, one of my old friends, who used to conceal his nobility under the name of Porthos.”

Porthos bowed to the cardinal.

“A magnificent cavalier,” remarked Mazarin.

Porthos turned his head to the right and to the left, and drew himself up with a movement full of dignity.

“The best swordsman in the kingdom, my lord,” said D’Artagnan.

Porthos bowed to his friend.

Mazarin was as fond of fine soldiers as, in later times, Frederick of Prussia used to be. He admired the strong hands, the broad shoulders and the steady eye of Porthos. He seemed to see before him the salvation of his administration and of the kingdom, sculptured in flesh and bone. He remembered that the old association of musketeers was composed of four persons.

“And your two other friends?” he asked.

Porthos opened his mouth, thinking it a good opportunity to put in a word in his turn; D’Artagnan checked him by a glance from the corner of his eye.

“They are prevented at this moment, but will join us later.”

Mazarin coughed a little.

“And this gentleman, being disengaged, takes to the service willingly?” he asked.

“Yes, my lord, and from pure devotion to the cause, for Monsieur de Bracieux is rich.”

“Rich!” said Mazarin, whom that single word always inspired with a great respect.

“Fifty thousand francs a year,” said Porthos.

These were the first words he had spoken.

“From pure zeal?” resumed Mazarin, with his artful smile; “from pure zeal and devotion then?”

“My lord has, perhaps, no faith in those words?” said D’Artagnan.

“Have you, Monsieur le Gascon?” asked Mazarin, supporting his elbows on his desk and his chin on his hands.

“I,” replied the Gascon, “I believe in devotion as a word at one’s baptism, for instance, which naturally comes before one’s proper name; every one is naturally more or less devout, certainly; but there should be at the end of one’s devotion something to gain.”

“And your friend, for instance; what does he expect to have at the end of his devotion?”

“Well, my lord, my friend has three magnificent estates: that of Vallon, at Corbeil; that of Bracieux, in the Soissonais; and that of Pierrefonds, in the Valois. Now, my lord, he would like to have one of his three estates erected into a barony.”

“Only that?” said Mazarin, his eyes twinkling with joy on seeing that he could pay for Porthos’s devotion without opening his purse; “only that? That can be managed.”

“I shall be baron!” explained Porthos, stepping forward.

“I told you so,” said D’Artagnan, checking him with his hand; “and now his eminence confirms it.”

“And you, Monsieur D’Artagnan, what do you want?”

“My lord,” said D’Artagnan, “it is twenty years since Cardinal de Richelieu made me lieutenant.”

“Yes, and you would be gratified if Cardinal Mazarin should make you captain.”

D’Artagnan bowed.

“Well, that is not impossible. We will see, gentlemen, we will see. Now, Monsieur de Vallon,” said Mazarin, “what service do you prefer, in the town or in the country?”

Porthos opened his mouth to reply.

“My lord,” said D’Artagnan, “Monsieur de Vallon is like me, he prefers service extraordinary--that is to say, enterprises that are considered mad and impossible.”

That boastfulness was not displeasing to Mazarin; he fell into meditation.

“And yet,” he said, “I must admit that I sent for you to appoint you to quiet service; I have certain apprehensions--well, what is the meaning of that?”

In fact, a great noise was heard in the ante-chamber; at the same time the door of the study was burst open and a man, covered with dust, rushed into it, exclaiming:

“My lord the cardinal! my lord the cardinal!”

Mazarin thought that some one was going to assassinate him and he drew back, pushing his chair on the castors. D’Artagnan and Porthos moved so as to plant themselves between the person entering and the cardinal.

“Well, sir,” exclaimed Mazarin, “what’s the matter? and why do you rush in here, as if you were about to penetrate a crowded market-place?”

“My lord,” replied the messenger, “I wish to speak to your eminence in secret. I am Monsieur du Poins, an officer in the guards, on duty at the donjon of Vincennes.”

Mazarin, perceiving by the paleness and agitation of the messenger that he had something of importance to say, made a sign that D’Artagnan and Porthos should give place.

D’Artagnan and Porthos withdrew to a corner of the cabinet.

“Speak, monsieur, speak at once!” said Mazarin “What is the matter?”

“The matter is, my lord, that the Duc de Beaufort has contrived to escape from the Chateau of Vincennes.”

Mazarin uttered a cry and became paler than the man who had brought the news. He fell back, almost fainting, in his chair.

“Escaped? Monsieur de Beaufort escaped?”

“My lord, I saw him run off from the top of the terrace.”

“And you did not fire on him?”

“He was out of range.”

“Monsieur de Chavigny--where was he?”

“Absent.”

“And La Ramee?”

“Was found locked up in the prisoner’s room, a gag in his mouth and a poniard near him.”

“But the man who was under him?”

“Was an accomplice of the duke’s and escaped along with him.”

Mazarin groaned.

“My lord,” said D’Artagnan, advancing toward the cardinal, “it seems to me that your eminence is losing precious time. It may still be possible to overtake the prisoner. France is large; the nearest frontier is sixty leagues distant.”

“And who is to pursue him?” cried Mazarin.

“I, pardieu!”

“And you would arrest him?”

“Why not?”

“You would arrest the Duc de Beaufort, armed, in the field?”

“If your eminence should order me to arrest the devil, I would seize him by the horns and would bring him in.”

“So would I,” said Porthos.

“So would you!” said Mazarin, looking with astonishment at those two men. “But the duke will not yield himself without a furious battle.”

“Very well,” said D’Artagnan, his eyes aflame, “battle! It is a long time since we have had a battle, eh, Porthos?”

“Battle!” cried Porthos.

“And you think you can catch him?”

“Yes, if we are better mounted than he.”

“Go then, take what guards you find here, and pursue him.”

“You command us, my lord, to do so?”

“And I sign my orders,” said Mazarin, taking a piece of paper and writing some lines; “Monsieur du Vallon, your barony is on the back of the Duc de Beaufort’s horse; you have nothing to do but to overtake it. As for you, my dear lieutenant, I promise you nothing; but if you bring him back to me, dead or alive, you may ask all you wish.”

“To horse, Porthos!” said D’Artagnan, taking his friend by the hand.

“Here I am,” smiled Porthos, with his sublime composure.

They descended the great staircase, taking with them all the guards they found on their road, and crying out, “To arms! To arms!” and immediately put spur to horse, which set off along the Rue Saint Honore with the speed of the whirlwind.

“Well, baron, I promise you some good exercise!” said the Gascon.

“Yes, my captain.”

As they went, the citizens, awakened, left their doors and the street dogs followed the cavaliers, barking. At the corner of the Cimetiere Saint Jean, D’Artagnan upset a man; it was too insignificant an occurrence to delay people so eager to get on. The troop continued its course as though their steeds had wings.

Alas! there are no unimportant events in this world and we shall see that this apparently slight incident came near endangering the monarchy.