Part 06 - The Man in the Iron Mask Audiobook by Alexandre Dumas (Chs 30-35)

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CHAPTER XXX. The Inventory of M. de Beaufort.
To have talked of D'Artagnan with Planchet, to have seen Planchet quit Paris to bury
himself in his country retreat, had been for Athos and his son like a last farewell
to the noise of the capital--to their life of former days.
What, in fact, did these men leave behind them--one of whom had exhausted the past
age in glory, and the other, the present age in misfortune?
Evidently neither of them had anything to ask of his contemporaries.
They had only to pay a visit to M. de Beaufort, and arrange with him the
particulars of departure.
The duke was lodged magnificently in Paris.
He had one of those superb establishments pertaining to great fortunes, the like of
which certain old men remembered to have seen in all their glory in the times of
wasteful liberality of Henry III.'s reign.
Then, really, several great nobles were richer than the king.
They knew it, used it, and never deprived themselves of the pleasure of humiliating
his royal majesty when they had an opportunity.
It was this egotistical aristocracy Richelieu had constrained to contribute,
with its blood, its purse, and its duties, to what was from his time styled the king's
From Louis XI.--that terrible mower-down of the great--to Richelieu, how many families
had raised their heads!
How many, from Richelieu to Louis XIV., had bowed their heads, never to raise them
But M. de Beaufort was born a prince, and of a blood which is not shed upon
scaffolds, unless by the decree of peoples,--a prince who had kept up a grand
style of living.
How did he maintain his horses, his people, and his table?
Nobody knew; himself less than others.
Only there were then privileges for the sons of kings, to whom nobody refused to
become a creditor, whether from respect or the persuasion that they would some day be
Athos and Raoul found the mansion of the duke in as much confusion as that of
The duke, likewise, was making his inventory; that is to say, he was
distributing to his friends everything of value he had in his house.
Owing nearly two millions--an enormous amount in those days--M. de Beaufort had
calculated that he could not set out for Africa without a good round sum, and, in
order to find that sum, he was distributing
to his old creditors plate, arms, jewels, and furniture, which was more magnificent
in selling it, and brought him back double.
In fact, how could a man to whom ten thousand livres were owing, refuse to carry
away a present worth six thousand, enhanced in estimation from having belonged to a
descendant of Henry IV.?
And how, after having carried away that present, could he refuse ten thousand
livres more to this generous noble? This, then, was what had happened.
The duke had no longer a dwelling-house-- that had become useless to an admiral whose
place of residence is his ship; he had no longer need of superfluous arms, when he
was placed amidst his cannons; no more
jewels, which the sea might rob him of; but he had three or four hundred thousand
crowns fresh in his coffers.
And throughout the house there was a joyous movement of people who believed they were
plundering monseigneur.
The prince had, in a supreme degree, the art of making happy the creditors most to
be pitied.
Every distressed man, every empty purse, found in him patience and sympathy for his
position. To some he said, "I wish I had what you
have; I would give it you."
And to others, "I have but this silver ewer; it is worth at least five hundred
livres,--take it."
The effect of which was--so truly is courtesy a current payment--that the prince
constantly found means to renew his creditors.
This time he used no ceremony; it might be called a general pillage.
He gave up everything.
The Oriental fable of the poor Arab who carried away from the pillage of palace a
kettle at the bottom of which was concealed a bag of gold, and whom everybody allowed
to pass without jealousy,--this fable had become a truth in the prince's mansion.
Many contractors paid themselves upon the offices of the duke.
Thus, the provision department, who plundered the clothes-presses and the
harness-rooms, attached very little value to things which tailors and saddlers set
great store by.
Anxious to carry home to their wives presents given them by monseigneur, many
were seen bounding joyously along, under the weight of earthen jars and bottles,
gloriously stamped with the arms of the prince.
M. de Beaufort finished by giving away his horses and the hay from his lofts.
He made more than thirty happy with kitchen utensils; and thirty more with the contents
of his cellar.
Still further; all these people went away with the conviction that M. de Beaufort
only acted in this manner to prepare for a new fortune concealed beneath the Arabs'
They repeated to each other, while pillaging his hotel, that he was sent to
Gigelli by the king to reconstruct his lost fortunes; that the treasures of Africa
would be equally divided between the
admiral and the king of France; that these treasures consisted in mines of diamonds,
or other fabulous stones; the gold and silver mines of Mount Atlas did not even
obtain the honor of being named.
In addition to the mines to be worked-- which could not be begun till after the
campaign--there would be the booty made by the army.
M. de Beaufort would lay his hands on all the riches pirates had robbed Christendom
of since the battle of Lepanto. The number of millions from these sources
defied calculation.
Why, then, should he, who was going in quest of such treasure, set any store by
the poor utensils of his past life?
And reciprocally, why should they spare the property of him who spared it so little
himself? Such was the position of affairs.
Athos, with his piercing practiced glance, saw what was going on at once.
He found the admiral of France a little exalted, for he was rising from a table of
fifty covers, at which the guests had drunk long and deeply to the prosperity of the
expedition; at the conclusion of which
repast, the remains, with the dessert, had been given to the servants, and the empty
dishes and plates to the curious.
The prince was intoxicated with his ruin and his popularity at one and the same
time. He had drunk his old wine to the health of
his wine of the future.
When he saw Athos and Raoul: "There is my aide-de-camp being brought to
me!" he cried. "Come hither, comte; come hither, vicomte."
Athos tried to find a passage through the heaps of linen and plate.
"Ah! step over, step over!" said the duke, offering a full glass to Athos.
The latter drank it; Raoul scarcely moistened his lips.
"Here is your commission," said the prince to Raoul.
"I had prepared it, reckoning upon you.
You will go before me as far as Antibes." "Yes, monseigneur."
"Here is the order." And De Beaufort gave Raoul the order.
"Do you know anything of the sea?"
"Yes, monseigneur; I have traveled with M. le Prince."
"That is well.
All these barges and lighters must be in attendance to form an escort and carry my
provisions. The army must be prepared to embark in a
fortnight at the very latest."
"That shall be done, monseigneur." "The present order gives you the right to
visit and search all the isles along the coast; you will there make the enrolments
and levies you may want for me."
"Yes, monsieur le duc." "And you are an active man, and will work
freely, you will spend much money." "I hope not, monseigneur."
"But I am sure you will.
My intendant has prepared the orders of a thousand livres, drawn upon the cities of
the south; he will give you a hundred of them.
Now, dear vicomte, be gone."
Athos interrupted the prince. "Keep your money, monseigneur; war is to be
waged among the Arabs with gold as well as lead."
"I wish to try the contrary," replied the duke; "and then you are acquainted with my
ideas upon the expedition--plenty of noise, plenty of fire, and, if so it must be, I
shall disappear in the smoke."
Having spoken thus, M. de Beaufort began to laugh; but his mirth was not reciprocated
by Athos and Raoul. He perceived this at once.
"Ah," said he, with the courteous egotism of his rank and age, "you are such people
as a man should not see after dinner; you are cold, stiff, and dry when I am all
fire, suppleness, and wine.
No, devil take me! I should always see you fasting, vicomte,
and you, comte, if you wear such a face as that, you shall see me no more."
He said this, pressing the hand of Athos, who replied with a smile, "Monseigneur, do
not talk so grandly because you happen to have plenty of money.
I predict that within a month you will be dry, stiff, and cold, in presence of your
strong-box, and that then, having Raoul at your elbow, fasting, you will be surprised
to see him gay, animated, and generous,
because he will have some new crowns to offer you."
"God grant it may be so!" cried the delighted duke.
"Comte, stay with me!"
"No, I shall go with Raoul; the mission with which you charge him is a troublesome
and difficult one. Alone it would be too much for him to
You do not observe, monseigneur, you have given him command of the first order."
"Bah!" "And in your naval arrangements, too."
"That may be true.
But one finds that such fine young fellows as your son generally do all that is
required of them."
"Monseigneur, I believe you will find nowhere so much zeal and intelligence, so
much real bravery, as in Raoul; but if he failed to arrange your embarkation, you
would only meet the fate that you deserve."
"Humph! you are scolding me, then." "Monseigneur, to provision a fleet, to
assemble a flotilla, to enroll your maritime force, would take an admiral a
Raoul is a cavalry officer, and you allow him a fortnight!"
"I tell you he will do it." "He may; but I will go and help him."
"To be sure you will; I reckoned upon you, and still further believe that when we are
once at Toulon you will not let him depart alone."
"Oh!" said Athos, shaking his head.
"Patience! patience!" "Monseigneur, permit us to take our leave."
"Begone, then, and may my good luck attend you."
"Adieu! monseigneur; and may your own good luck attend you likewise."
"Here is an expedition admirably commenced!" said Athos to his son.
"No provisions--no store flotilla!
What can be done, thus?" "Humph!" murmured Raoul; "if all are going
to do as I am, provisions will not be wanted."
"Monsieur," replied Athos, sternly, "do not be unjust and senseless in your egotism, or
your grief, whichever you please to call it.
If you set out for this war solely with the intention of getting killed therein, you
stand in need of nobody, and it was scarcely worth while to recommend you to M.
de Beaufort.
But when you have been introduced to the prime commandant--when you have accepted
the responsibility of a post in his army, the question is no longer about you, but
about all those poor soldiers, who, as well
as you, have hearts and bodies, who will weep for their country and endure all the
necessities of their condition.
Remember, Raoul, that officers are ministers as useful to the world as
priests, and that they ought to have more charity."
"Monsieur, I know it and have practiced it; I would have continued to do so still, but-
"You forget also that you are of a country that is proud of its military glory; go and
die if you like, but do not die without honor and without advantage to France.
Cheer up, Raoul! do not let my words grieve you; I love you, and wish to see you
"I love your reproaches, monsieur," said the young man, mildly; "they alone may cure
me, because they prove to me that some one loves me still."
"And now, Raoul, let us be off; the weather is so fine, the heavens so clear, those
heavens which we always find above our heads, which you will see more clear still
at Gigelli, and which will speak to you of me there, as they speak to me here of God."
The two gentlemen, after having agreed on this point, talked over the wild freaks of
the duke, convinced that France would be served in a very incomplete manner, as
regarded both spirit and practice, in the
ensuing expedition; and having summed up the ducal policy under the one word vanity,
they set forward, in obedience rather to their will than destiny.
The sacrifice was half accomplished.
CHAPTER XXXI. The Silver Dish.
The journey passed off pretty well. Athos and his son traversed France at the
rate of fifteen leagues per day; sometimes more, sometimes less, according to the
intensity of Raoul's grief.
It took them a fortnight to reach Toulon, and they lost all traces of D'Artagnan at
They were forced to believe that the captain of the musketeers was desirous of
preserving an incognito on his route, for Athos derived from his inquiries an
assurance that such a cavalier as he
described had exchanged his horse for a well-closed carriage on quitting Avignon.
Raoul was much affected at not meeting with D'Artagnan.
His affectionate heart longed to take a farewell and received consolation from that
heart of steel.
Athos knew from experience that D'Artagnan became impenetrable when engaged in any
serious affair, whether on his own account or on the service of the king.
He even feared to offend his friend, or thwart him by too pressing inquiries.
And yet when Raoul commenced his labor of classing the flotilla, and got together the
chalands and lighters to send them to Toulon, one of the fishermen told the comte
that his boat had been laid up to refit
since a trip he had made on account of a gentleman who was in great haste to embark.
Athos, believing that this man was telling a falsehood in order to be left at liberty
to fish, and so gain more money when all his companions were gone, insisted upon
having the details.
The fisherman informed him that six days previously, a man had come in the night to
hire his boat, for the purpose of visiting the island of St. Honnorat.
The price was agreed upon, but the gentleman had arrived with an immense
carriage case, which he insisted upon embarking, in spite of the many
difficulties that opposed the operation.
The fisherman wished to retract. He had even threatened, but his threats had
procured him nothing but a shower of blows from the gentleman's cane, which fell upon
his shoulders sharp and long.
Swearing and grumbling, he had recourse to the syndic of his brotherhood at Antibes,
who administer justice among themselves and protect each other; but the gentleman had
exhibited a certain paper, at sight of
which the syndic, bowing to the very ground, enjoined obedience from the
fisherman, and abused him for having been refractory.
They then departed with the freight.
"But all this does not tell us," said Athos, "how you injured your boat."
"This is the way.
I was steering towards St. Honnorat as the gentleman desired me; but he changed his
mind, and pretended that I could not pass to the south of the abbey."
"And why not?"
"Because, monsieur, there is in front of the square tower of the Benedictines,
towards the southern point, the bank of the Moines."
"A rock?" asked Athos.
"Level with the water, but below water; a dangerous passage, yet one I have cleared a
thousand times; the gentleman required me to land him at Sainte-Marguerite's."
"Well, monsieur!" cried the fisherman, with his Provencal accent, "a man is a sailor,
or he is not; he knows his course, or he is nothing but a fresh-water lubber.
I was obstinate, and wished to try the channel.
The gentleman took me by the collar, and told me quietly he would strangle me.
My mate armed himself with a hatchet, and so did I.
We had the affront of the night before to pay him out for.
But the gentleman drew his sword, and used it in such an astonishingly rapid manner,
that we neither of us could get near him.
I was about to hurl my hatchet at his head, and I had a right to do so, hadn't I,
monsieur? for a sailor aboard is master, as a citizen is in his chamber; I was going,
then, in self-defense, to cut the gentleman
in two, when, all at once--believe me or not, monsieur--the great carriage case
opened of itself, I don't know how, and there came out of it a sort of a phantom,
his head covered with a black helmet and a
black mask, something terrible to look upon, which came towards me threatening
with its fist." "And that was--" said Athos.
"That was the devil, monsieur; for the gentleman, with great glee, cried out, on
seeing him: 'Ah! thank you, monseigneur!'" "A most strange story!" murmured the comte,
looking at Raoul.
"And what did you do?" asked the latter of the fisherman.
"You must know, monsieur, that two poor men, such as we are, could be no match for
two gentlemen; but when one of them turned out to be the devil, we had no earthly
My companion and I did not stop to consult one another; we made but one jump into the
sea, for we were within seven or eight hundred feet of the shore."
"Well, and then?"
"Why, and then, monseigneur, as there was a little wind from the southwest, the boat
drifted into the sands of Sainte- Marguerite's."
"Oh!--but the travelers?"
"Bah! you need not be uneasy about them!
It was pretty plain that one was the devil, and protected the other; for when we
recovered the boat, after she got afloat again, instead of finding these two
creatures injured by the shock, we found
nothing, not even the carriage or the case."
"Very strange! very strange!" repeated the comte.
"But after that, what did you do, my friend?"
"I made my complaint to the governor of Sainte-Marguerite's, who brought my finger
under my nose by telling me if I plagued him with such silly stories he would have
me flogged."
"What! did the governor himself say so?"
"Yes, monsieur; and yet my boat was injured, seriously injured, for the prow is
left upon the point of Sainte-Marguerite's, and the carpenter asks a hundred and twenty
livres to repair it."
"Very well," replied Raoul; "you will be exempted from the service.
"We will go to Sainte-Marguerite's, shall we?" said the comte to Bragelonne, as the
man walked away.
"Yes, monsieur, for there is something to be cleared up; that man does not seem to me
to have told the truth." "Nor to me either, Raoul.
The story of the masked man and the carriage having disappeared, may be told to
conceal some violence these fellows have committed upon their passengers in the open
sea, to punish him for his persistence in embarking."
"I formed the same suspicion; the carriage was more likely to contain property than a
"We shall see to that, Raoul. The gentleman very much resembles
D'Artagnan; I recognize his methods of proceeding.
Alas! we are no longer the young invincibles of former days.
Who knows whether the hatchet or the iron bar of this miserable coaster has not
succeeded in doing that which the best blades of Europe, balls, and bullets have
not been able to do in forty years?"
That same day they set out for Sainte- Marguerite's, on board a chasse-maree come
from Toulon under orders. The impression they experienced on landing
was a singularly pleasing one.
The island seemed loaded with flowers and fruits.
In its cultivated part it served as a garden for the governor.
Orange, pomegranate, and fig trees bent beneath the weight of their golden or
purple fruits.
All round this garden, in the uncultivated parts, red partridges ran about in conveys
among the brambles and tufts of junipers, and at every step of the comte and Raoul a
terrified rabbit quitted his thyme and heath to scuttle away to the burrow.
In fact, this fortunate isle was uninhabited.
Flat, offering nothing but a tiny bay for the convenience of embarkation, and under
the protection of the governor, who went shares with them, smugglers made use of it
as a provisional entrepot, at the expense
of not killing the game or devastating the garden.
With this compromise, the governor was in a situation to be satisfied with a garrison
of eight men to guard his fortress, in which twelve cannons accumulated coats of
moldy green.
The governor was a sort of happy farmer, harvesting wines, figs, oil, and oranges,
preserving his citrons and cedrates in the sun of his casemates.
The fortress, encircled by a deep ditch, its only guardian, arose like three heads
upon turrets connected with each other by terraces covered with moss.
Athos and Raoul wandered for some time round the fences of the garden without
finding any one to introduce them to the governor.
They ended by making their own way into the garden.
It was at the hottest time of the day. Each living thing sought its shelter under
grass or stone.
The heavens spread their fiery veils as if to stifle all noises, to envelop all
existences; the rabbit under the broom, the fly under the leaf, slept as the wave did
beneath the heavens.
Athos saw nothing living but a soldier, upon the terrace beneath the second and
third court, who was carrying a basket of provisions on his head.
This man returned almost immediately without his basket, and disappeared in the
shade of his sentry-box.
Athos supposed he must have been carrying dinner to some one, and, after having done
so, returned to dine himself.
All at once they heard some one call out, and raising their heads, perceived in the
frame of the bars of the window something of a white color, like a hand that was
waved backwards and forwards--something
shining, like a polished weapon struck by the rays of the sun.
And before they were able to ascertain what it was, a luminous train, accompanied by a
hissing sound in the air, called their attention from the donjon to the ground.
A second dull noise was heard from the ditch, and Raoul ran to pick up a silver
plate which was rolling along the dry sand.
The hand that had thrown this plate made a sign to the two gentlemen, and then
Athos and Raoul, approaching each other, commenced an attentive examination of the
dusty plate, and they discovered, in characters traced upon the bottom of it
with the point of a knife, this inscription:
"I am the brother of the king of France--a prisoner to-day--a madman to-morrow.
French gentlemen and Christians, pray to God for the soul and the reason of the son
of your old rulers."
The plate fell from the hands of Athos whilst Raoul was endeavoring to make out
the meaning of these dismal words. At the same moment they heard a cry from
the top of the donjon.
Quick as lightning Raoul bent down his head, and forced down that of his father
likewise. A musket-barrel glittered from the crest of
the wall.
A white smoke floated like a plume from the mouth of the musket, and a ball was
flattened against a stone within six inches of the two gentlemen.
"Cordieu!" cried Athos.
"What, are people assassinated here? Come down, cowards as you are!"
"Yes, come down!" cried Raoul, furiously shaking his fist at the castle.
One of the assailants--he who was about to fire--replied to these cries by an
exclamation of surprise; and, as his companion, who wished to continue the
attack, had re-seized his loaded musket, he
who had cried out threw up the weapon, and the ball flew into the air.
Athos and Raoul, seeing them disappear from the platform, expected they would come down
to them, and waited with a firm demeanor.
Five minutes had not elapsed, when a stroke upon a drum called the eight soldiers of
the garrison to arms, and they showed themselves on the other side of the ditch
with their muskets in hand.
At the head of these men was an officer, whom Athos and Raoul recognized as the one
who had fired the first musket. The man ordered the soldiers to "make
"We are going to be shot!" cried Raoul; "but, sword in hand, at least, let us leap
the ditch! We shall kill at least two of these
scoundrels, when their muskets are empty."
And, suiting the action to the word, Raoul was springing forward, followed by Athos,
when a well-known voice resounded behind them, "Athos!
"D'Artagnan!" replied the two gentlemen. "Recover arms!
Mordioux!" cried the captain to the soldiers.
"I was sure I could not be mistaken!"
"What is the meaning of this?" asked Athos. "What! were we to be shot without warning?"
"It was I who was going to shoot you, and if the governor missed you, I should not
have missed you, my dear friends.
How fortunate it is that I am accustomed to take a long aim, instead of firing at the
instant I raise my weapon! I thought I recognized you.
Ah! my dear friends, how fortunate!"
And D'Artagnan wiped his brow, for he had run fast, and emotion with him was not
feigned. "How!" said Athos.
"And is the gentleman who fired at us the governor of the fortress?"
"In person." "And why did he fire at us?
What have we done to him?"
"Pardieu! You received what the prisoner threw to
you?" "That is true."
"That plate--the prisoner has written something on it, has he not?"
"Yes." "Good heavens!
I was afraid he had."
And D'Artagnan, with all the marks of mortal disquietude, seized the plate, to
read the inscription. When he had read it, a fearful pallor
spread across his countenance.
"Oh! good heavens!" repeated he. "Silence!--Here is the governor."
"And what will he do to us? Is it our fault?"
"It is true, then?" said Athos, in a subdued voice.
"It is true?" "Silence!
I tell you--silence!
If he only believes you can read; if he only suspects you have understood; I love
you, my dear friends, I would willingly be killed for you, but--"
"But--" said Athos and Raoul.
"But I could not save you from perpetual imprisonment if I saved you from death.
Silence, then! Silence again!"
The governor came up, having crossed the ditch upon a plank bridge.
"Well!" said he to D'Artagnan, "what stops us?"
"You are Spaniards--you do not understand a word of French," said the captain, eagerly,
to his friends in a low voice.
"Well!" replied he, addressing the governor, "I was right; these gentlemen are
two Spanish captains with whom I was acquainted at Ypres, last year; they don't
know a word of French."
"Ah!" said the governor, sharply. "And yet they were trying to read the
inscription on the plate."
D'Artagnan took it out of his hands, effacing the characters with the point of
his sword. "How!" cried the governor, "what are you
I cannot read them now!"
"It is a state secret," replied D'Artagnan, bluntly; "and as you know that, according
to the king's orders, it is under the penalty of death any one should penetrate
it, I will, if you like, allow you to read
it, and have you shot immediately afterwards."
During this apostrophe--half serious, half ironical--Athos and Raoul preserved the
coolest, most unconcerned silence.
"But, is it possible," said the governor, "that these gentlemen do not comprehend at
least some words?" "Suppose they do!
If they do understand a few spoken words, it does not follow that they should
understand what is written. They cannot even read Spanish.
A noble Spaniard, remember, ought never to know how to read."
The governor was obliged to be satisfied with these explanations, but he was still
"Invite these gentlemen to come to the fortress," said he.
"That I will willingly do. I was about to propose it to you."
The fact is, the captain had quite another idea, and would have wished his friends a
hundred leagues off. But he was obliged to make the best of it.
He addressed the two gentlemen in Spanish, giving them a polite invitation, which they
They all turned towards the entrance of the fort, and, the incident being at an end,
the eight soldiers returned to their delightful leisure, for a moment disturbed
by this unexpected adventure.
CHAPTER XXXII. Captive and Jailers.
When they had entered the fort, and whilst the governor was making some preparations
for the reception of his guests, "Come," said Athos, "let us have a word of
explanation whilst we are alone."
"It is simply this," replied the musketeer. "I have conducted hither a prisoner, who
the king commands shall not be seen.
You came here, he has thrown something to you through the lattice of his window; I
was at dinner with the governor, I saw the object thrown, and I saw Raoul pick it up.
It does not take long to understand this.
I understood it, and I thought you in intelligence with my prisoner.
And then--" "And then--you commanded us to be shot."
"Ma foi!
I admit it; but, if I was the first to seize a musket, fortunately, I was the last
to take aim at you."
"If you had killed me, D'Artagnan, I should have had the good fortune to die for the
royal house of France, and it would be an honor to die by your hand--you, its noblest
and most loyal defender."
"What the devil, Athos, do you mean by the royal house?" stammered D'Artagnan.
"You don't mean that you, a well-informed and sensible man, can place any faith in
the nonsense written by an idiot?"
"I do believe in it." "With so much the more reason, my dear
chevalier, from your having orders to kill all those who do believe in it," said
"That is because," replied the captain of the musketeers--"because every calumny,
however absurd it may be, has the almost certain chance of becoming popular."
"No, D'Artagnan," replied Athos, promptly; "but because the king is not willing that
the secret of his family should transpire among the people, and cover with shame the
executioners of the son of Louis XIII."
"Do not talk in such a childish manner, Athos, or I shall begin to think you have
lost your senses.
Besides, explain to me how it is possible Louis XIII. should have a son in the Isle
of Sainte-Marguerite." "A son whom you have brought hither masked,
in a fishing-boat," said Athos.
"Why not?" D'Artagnan was brought to a pause.
"Oh!" said he; "whence do you know that a fishing-boat--?"
"Brought you to Sainte-Marguerite's with the carriage containing the prisoner--with
a prisoner whom you styled monseigneur. Oh! I am acquainted with all that," resumed
the comte.
D'Artagnan bit his mustache.
"If it were true," said he, "that I had brought hither in a boat and with a
carriage a masked prisoner, nothing proves that this prisoner must be a prince--a
prince of the house of France."
"Ask Aramis such riddles," replied Athos, coolly.
"Aramis," cried the musketeer, quite at a stand.
"Have you seen Aramis?"
"After his discomfiture at Vaux, yes; I have seen Aramis, a fugitive, pursued,
bewildered, ruined; and Aramis has told me enough to make me believe in the complaints
this unfortunate young prince cut upon the bottom of the plate."
D'Artagnan's head sunk on his breast in some confusion.
"This is the way," said he, "in which God turns to nothing that which men call
A fine secret must that be of which twelve or fifteen persons hold the tattered
Athos, cursed be the chance which has brought you face to face with me in this
affair! for now--"
"Well," said Athos, with his customary mild severity, "is your secret lost because I
know it? Consult your memory, my friend.
Have I not borne secrets heavier than this?"
"You have never borne one so dangerous," replied D'Artagnan, in a tone of sadness.
"I have something like a sinister idea that all who are concerned with this secret will
die, and die unhappily." "The will of God be done!" said Athos, "but
here is your governor."
D'Artagnan and his friends immediately resumed their parts.
The governor, suspicious and hard, behaved towards D'Artagnan with a politeness almost
amounting to obsequiousness.
With respect to the travelers, he contented himself with offering good cheer, and never
taking his eye from them.
Athos and Raoul observed that he often tried to embarrass them by sudden attacks,
or to catch them off their guard; but neither the one nor the other gave him the
least advantage.
What D'Artagnan had said was probable, if the governor did not believe it to be quite
true. They rose from the table to repose awhile.
"What is this man's name?
I don't like the looks of him," said Athos to D'Artagnan in Spanish.
"De Saint-Mars," replied the captain. "He is, then, I suppose, the prince's
"Eh! how can I tell? I may be kept at Sainte-Marguerite
forever." "Oh! no, not you!"
"My friend, I am in the situation of a man who finds a treasure in the midst of a
He would like to carry it away, but he cannot; he would like to leave it, but he
dares not.
The king will not dare to recall me, for no one else would serve him as faithfully as I
do; he regrets not having me near him, from being aware that no one would be of so much
service near his person as myself.
But it will happen as it may please God." "But," observed Raoul, "your not being
certain proves that your situation here is provisional, and you will return to Paris?"
"Ask these gentlemen," interrupted the governor, "what was their purpose in coming
to Saint-Marguerite?"
"They came from learning there was a convent of Benedictines at Sainte-Honnorat
which is considered curious; and from being told there was excellent shooting in the
"That is quite at their service, as well as yours," replied Saint-Mars.
D'Artagnan politely thanked him. "When will they depart?" added the
"To-morrow," replied D'Artagnan. M. de Saint-Mars went to make his rounds,
and left D'Artagnan alone with the pretended Spaniards.
"Oh!" exclaimed the musketeer, "here is a life and a society that suits me very
little. I command this man, and he bores me,
Come, let us have a shot or two at the rabbits; the walk will be beautiful, and
not fatiguing.
The whole island is but a league and a half in length, with the breadth of a league; a
real park. Let us try to amuse ourselves."
"As you please, D'Artagnan; not for the sake of amusing ourselves, but to gain an
opportunity for talking freely."
D'Artagnan made a sign to a soldier, who brought the gentlemen some guns, and then
returned to the fort.
"And now," said the musketeer, "answer me the question put to you by that black-
looking Saint-Mars: what did you come to do at the Lerin Isles?"
"To bid you farewell."
"Bid me farewell! What do you mean by that?
Is Raoul going anywhere?" "Yes."
"Then I will lay a wager it is with M. de Beaufort."
"With M. de Beaufort it is, my dear friend. You always guess correctly."
"From habit."
Whilst the two friends were commencing their conversation, Raoul, with his head
hanging down and his heart oppressed, seated himself on a mossy rock, his gun
across his knees, looking at the sea--
looking at the heavens, and listening to the voice of his soul; he allowed the
sportsmen to attain a considerable distance from him.
D'Artagnan remarked his absence.
"He has not recovered the blow?" said he to Athos.
"He is struck to death." "Oh! your fears exaggerate, I hope.
Raoul is of a tempered nature.
Around all hearts as noble as his, there is a second envelope that forms a cuirass.
The first bleeds, the second resists." "No," replied Athos, "Raoul will die of
"Mordioux!" said D'Artagnan, in a melancholy tone.
And he did not add a word to this exclamation.
Then, a minute after, "Why do you let him go?"
"Because he insists on going." "And why do you not go with him?"
"Because I could not bear to see him die."
D'Artagnan looked his friend earnestly in the face.
"You know one thing," continued the comte, leaning upon the arm of the captain; "you
know that in the course of my life I have been afraid of but few things.
I have an incessant gnawing, insurmountable fear that an hour will come in which I
shall hold the dead body of that boy in my arms."
"Oh!" murmured D'Artagnan; "oh!"
"He will die, I know, I have a perfect conviction of that; but I would not see him
"How is this, Athos? you come and place yourself in the presence of the bravest
man, you say you have ever seen, of your own D'Artagnan, of that man without an
equal, as you formerly called him, and you
come and tell him, with your arms folded, that you are afraid of witnessing the death
of your son, you who have seen all that can be seen in this world!
Why have you this fear, Athos?
Man upon this earth must expect everything, and ought to face everything."
"Listen to me, my friend.
After having worn myself out upon this earth of which you speak, I have preserved
but two religions: that of life, friendship, my duty as a father--that of
eternity, love, and respect for God.
Now, I have within me the revelation that if God should decree that my friend or my
son should render up his last sigh in my presence--oh! no, I cannot even tell you,
"Speak, speak, tell me!" "I am strong against everything, except
against the death of those I love. For that only there is no remedy.
He who dies, gains; he who sees others die, loses.
No, this is it--to know that I should no more meet on earth him whom I now behold
with joy; to know that there would nowhere be a D'Artagnan any more, nowhere again be
a Raoul, oh!
I am old, look you, I have no longer courage; I pray God to spare me in my
weakness; but if he struck me so plainly and in that fashion, I should curse him.
A Christian gentleman ought not to curse his God, D'Artagnan; it is enough to once
have cursed a king!" "Humph!" sighed D'Artagnan, a little
confused by this violent tempest of grief.
"Let me speak to him, Athos. Who knows?"
"Try, if you please, but I am convinced you will not succeed."
"I will not attempt to console him.
I will serve him." "You will?"
"Doubtless, I will. Do you think this would be the first time a
woman had repented of an infidelity?
I will go to him, I tell you." Athos shook his head, and continued his
walk alone, D'Artagnan, cutting across the brambles, rejoined Raoul and held out his
hand to him.
"Well, Raoul! You have something to say to me?"
"I have a kindness to ask of you," replied Bragelonne.
"Ask it, then."
"You will some day return to France?" "I hope so."
"Ought I to write to Mademoiselle de la Valliere?"
"No, you must not."
"But I have many things to say to her." "Go and say them to her, then."
"Pray, what virtue do you attribute to a letter, which your speech might not
possess?" "Perhaps you are right."
"She loves the king," said D'Artagnan, bluntly; "and she is an honest girl."
Raoul started.
"And you, you whom she abandons, she, perhaps, loves better than she does the
king, but after another fashion." "D'Artagnan, do you believe she loves the
"To idolatry. Her heart is inaccessible to any other
feeling. You might continue to live near her, and
would be her best friend."
"Ah!" exclaimed Raoul, with a passionate burst of repugnance at such a hideous hope.
"Will you do so?" "It would be base."
"That is a very absurd word, which would lead me to think slightly of your
Please to understand, Raoul, that it is never base to do that which is imposed upon
us by a superior force. If your heart says to you, 'Go there, or
die,' why go, Raoul.
Was she base or brave, she whom you loved, in preferring the king to you, the king
whom her heart commanded her imperiously to prefer to you?
No, she was the bravest of women.
Do, then, as she has done. Oblige yourself.
Do you know one thing of which I am sure, Raoul?"
"What is that?"
"Why, that by seeing her closely with the eyes of a jealous man--"
"Well?" "Well! you would cease to love her."
"Then I am decided, my dear D'Artagnan."
"To set off to see her again?" "No; to set off that I may never see her
again. I wish to love her forever."
"Ha! I must confess," replied the musketeer, "that is a conclusion which I
was far from expecting." "This is what I wish, my friend.
You will see her again, and you will give her a letter which, if you think proper,
will explain to her, as to yourself, what is passing in my heart.
Read it; I drew it up last night.
Something told me I should see you to-day." He held the letter out, and D'Artagnan
read: "MADEMOISELLE,--You are not wrong in my
eyes in not loving me.
You have only been guilty of one fault towards me, that of having left me to
believe you loved me. This error will cost me my life.
I pardon you, but I cannot pardon myself.
It is said that happy lovers are deaf to the sorrows of rejected lovers.
It will not be so with you, who did not love me, save with anxiety.
I am sure that if I had persisted in endeavoring to change that friendship into
love, you would have yielded out of a fear of bringing about my death, or lessening
the esteem I had for you.
It is much more delightful to me to die, knowing that you are free and satisfied.
How much, then, will you love me, when you will no longer fear either my presence or
You will love me, because, however charming a new love may appear to you, God has not
made me in anything inferior to him you have chosen, and because my devotedness, my
sacrifice, and my painful end will assure
me, in your eyes, a certain superiority over him.
I have allowed to escape, in the candid credulity of my heart, the treasure I
Many people tell me that you loved me enough to lead me to hope you would have
loved me much.
That idea takes from my mind all bitterness, and leads me only to blame
You will accept this last farewell, and you will bless me for having taken refuge in
the inviolable asylum where hatred is extinguished, and where all love endures
Adieu, mademoiselle. If your happiness could be purchased by the
last drop of my blood, I would shed that drop.
I willingly make the sacrifice of it to my misery!
"RAOUL, VICOTME DE BRAGELONNE." "The letter reads very well," said the
"I have only one fault to find with it." "Tell me what that is!" said Raoul.
"Why, it is that it tells everything, except the thing which exhales, like a
mortal poison from your eyes and from your heart; except the senseless love which
still consumes you."
Raoul grew paler, but remained silent. "Why did you not write simply these words:
"'MADEMOISELLE,--Instead of cursing you, I love you and I die.'"
"That is true," exclaimed Raoul, with a sinister kind of joy.
And tearing the letter he had just taken back, he wrote the following words upon a
leaf of his tablets:
"To procure the happiness of once more telling you I love you, I commit the
baseness of writing to you; and to punish myself for that baseness, I die."
And he signed it.
"You will give her these tablets, captain, will you not?"
"When?" asked the latter.
"On the day," said Bragelonne, pointing to the last sentence, "on the day when you can
place a date under these words." And he sprang away quickly to join Athos,
who was returning with slow steps.
As they re-entered the fort, the sea rose with that rapid, gusty vehemence which
characterizes the Mediterranean; the ill- humor of the element became a tempest.
Something shapeless, and tossed about violently by the waves, appeared just off
the coast. "What is that?" said Athos,--"a wrecked
"No, it is not a boat," said D'Artagnan. "Pardon me," said Raoul, "there is a bark
gaining the port rapidly."
"Yes, there is a bark in the creek, which is prudently seeking shelter here; but that
which Athos points to in the sand is not a boat at all--it has run aground."
"Yes, yes, I see it."
"It is the carriage, which I threw into the sea after landing the prisoner."
"Well!" said Athos, "if you take my advice, D'Artagnan, you will burn that carriage, in
order that no vestige of it may remain, without which the fishermen of Antibes, who
have believed they had to do with the
devil, will endeavor to prove that your prisoner was but a man."
"Your advice is good, Athos, and I will this night have it carried out, or rather,
I will carry it out myself; but let us go in, for the rain falls heavily, and the
lightning is terrific."
As they were passing over the ramparts to a gallery of which D'Artagnan had the key,
they saw M. de Saint-Mars directing his steps towards the chamber inhabited by the
Upon a sign from D'Artagnan, they concealed themselves in an angle of the staircase.
"What is it?" said Athos. "You will see.
The prisoner is returning from chapel."
And they saw, by the red flashes of lightning against the violet fog which the
wind stamped upon the bank-ward sky, they saw pass gravely, at six paces behind the
governor, a man clothed in black and masked
by a vizor of polished steel, soldered to a helmet of the same nature, which altogether
enveloped the whole of his head.
The fire of the heavens cast red reflections on the polished surface, and
these reflections, flying off capriciously, seemed to be angry looks launched by the
unfortunate, instead of imprecations.
In the middle of the gallery, the prisoner stopped for a moment, to contemplate the
infinite horizon, to respire the sulphurous perfumes of the tempest, to drink in
thirstily the hot rain, and to breathe a sigh resembling a smothered groan.
"Come on, monsieur," said Saint-Mars, sharply, to the prisoner, for he already
became uneasy at seeing him look so long beyond the walls.
"Monsieur, come on!"
"Say monseigneur!" cried Athos, from his corner, with a voice so solemn and
terrible, that the governor trembled from head to foot.
Athos insisted upon respect being paid to fallen majesty.
The prisoner turned round. "Who spoke?" asked Saint-Mars.
"It was I," replied D'Artagnan, showing himself promptly.
"You know that is the order."
"Call me neither monsieur nor monseigneur," said the prisoner in his turn, in a voice
that penetrated to the very soul of Raoul; "call me ACCURSED!"
He passed on, and the iron door croaked after him.
"There goes a truly unfortunate man!" murmured the musketeer in a hollow whisper,
pointing out to Raoul the chamber inhabited by the prince.
Scarcely had D'Artagnan re-entered his apartment with his two friends, when one of
the soldiers of the fort came to inform him that the governor was seeking him.
The bark which Raoul had perceived at sea, and which appeared so eager to gain the
port, came to Sainte-Marguerite with an important dispatch for the captain of the
On opening it, D'Artagnan recognized the writing of the king: "I should think," said
Louis XIV., "you will have completed the execution of my orders, Monsieur
d'Artagnan; return, then, immediately to Paris, and join me at the Louvre."
"There is the end of my exile!" cried the musketeer with joy; "God be praised, I am
no longer a jailer!"
And he showed the letter to Athos. "So, then, you must leave us?" replied the
latter, in a melancholy tone.
"Yes, but to meet again, dear friend, seeing that Raoul is old enough now to go
alone with M. de Beaufort, and will prefer his father going back in company with M.
d'Artagnan, to forcing him to travel two
hundred leagues solitarily to reach home at La Fere; will you not, Raoul?"
"Certainly," stammered the latter, with an expression of tender regret.
"No, no, my friend," interrupted Athos, "I will never quit Raoul till the day his
vessel disappears on the horizon. As long as he remains in France he shall
not be separated from me."
"As you please, dear friend; but we will, at least, leave Sainte-Marguerite together;
take advantage of the bark that will convey me back to Antibes."
"With all my heart; we cannot too soon be at a distance from this fort, and from the
spectacle that shocked us so just now."
The three friends quitted the little isle, after paying their respects to the
governor, and by the last flashes of the departing tempest they took their farewell
of the white walls of the fort.
D'Artagnan parted from his friend that same night, after having seen fire set to the
carriage upon the shore by the orders of Saint-Mars, according to the advice the
captain had given him.
Before getting on horseback, and after leaving the arms of Athos: "My friends,"
said he, "you bear too much resemblance to two soldiers who are abandoning their post.
Something warns me that Raoul will require being supported by you in his rank.
Will you allow me to ask permission to go over into Africa with a hundred good
The king will not refuse me, and I will take you with me."
"Monsieur d'Artagnan," replied Raoul, pressing his hand with emotion, "thanks for
that offer, which would give us more than we wish, either monsieur le comte or I.
I, who am young, stand in need of labor of mind and fatigue of body; monsieur le comte
wants the profoundest repose. You are his best friend.
I recommend him to your care.
In watching over him, you are holding both our souls in your hands."
"I must go; my horse is all in a fret," said D'Artagnan, with whom the most
manifest sign of a lively emotion was the change of ideas in conversation.
"Come, comte, how many days longer has Raoul to stay here?"
"Three days at most." "And how long will it take you to reach
"Oh! a considerable time," replied Athos. "I shall not like the idea of being
separated too quickly from Raoul. Time will travel too fast of itself to
require me to aid it by distance.
I shall only make half-stages." "And why so, my friend?
Nothing is more dull than traveling slowly; and hostelry life does not become a man
like you."
"My friend, I came hither on post-horses; but I wish to purchase two animals of a
superior kind.
Now, to take them home fresh, it would not be prudent to make them travel more than
seven or eight leagues a day." "Where is Grimaud?"
"He arrived yesterday morning with Raoul's appointments; and I have left him to
sleep." "That is, never to come back again,"
D'Artagnan suffered to escape him.
"Till we meet again, then, dear Athos--and if you are diligent, I shall embrace you
the sooner." So saying, he put his foot in the stirrup,
which Raoul held.
"Farewell!" said the young man, embracing him.
"Farewell!" said D'Artagnan, as he got into his saddle.
His horse made a movement which divided the cavalier from his friends.
This scene had taken place in front of the house chosen by Athos, near the gates of
Antibes, whither D'Artagnan, after his supper, had ordered his horses to be
The road began to branch off there, white and undulating in the vapors of the night.
The horse eagerly respired the salt, sharp perfume of the marshes.
D'Artagnan put him to a trot; and Athos and Raoul sadly turned towards the house.
All at once they heard the rapid approach of a horse's steps, and first believed it
to be one of those singular repercussions which deceive the ear at every turn in a
But it was really the return of the horseman.
They uttered a cry of joyous surprise; and the captain, springing to the ground like a
young man, seized within his arms the two beloved heads of Athos and Raoul.
He held them long embraced thus, without speaking a word, or suffering the sigh
which was bursting his breast to escape him.
Then, as rapidly as he had come back, he set off again, with a sharp application of
his spurs to the sides of his fiery horse. "Alas!" said the comte, in a low voice,
"alas! alas!"
"An evil omen!" on his side, said D'Artagnan to himself, making up for lost
time. "I could not smile upon them.
An evil omen!"
The next day Grimaud was on foot again. The service commanded by M. de Beaufort was
happily accomplished.
The flotilla, sent to Toulon by the exertions of Raoul, had set out, dragging
after it in little nutshells, almost invisible, the wives and friends of the
fishermen and smugglers put in requisition for the service of the fleet.
The time, so short, which remained for father and son to live together, appeared
to go by with double rapidity, like some swift stream that flows towards eternity.
Athos and Raoul returned to Toulon, which began to be filled with the noise of
carriages, with the noise of arms, the noise of neighing horses.
The trumpeters sounded their spirited marches; the drummers signalized their
strength; the streets were overflowing with soldiers, servants, and tradespeople.
The Duc de Beaufort was everywhere, superintending the embarkation with the
zeal and interest of a good captain.
He encouraged the humblest of his companions; he scolded his lieutenants,
even those of the highest rank. Artillery, provisions, baggage, he insisted
upon seeing all himself.
He examined the equipment of every soldier; assured himself of the health and soundness
of every horse.
It was plain that, light, boastful, egotistical, in his hotel, the gentleman
became the soldier again--the high noble, a captain--in face of the responsibility he
had accepted.
And yet, it must be admitted that, whatever was the care with which he presided over
the preparations for departure, it was easy to perceive careless precipitation, and the
absence of all the precaution that make the
French soldier the first soldier in the world, because, in that world, he is the
one most abandoned to his own physical and moral resources.
All things having satisfied, or appearing to have satisfied, the admiral, he paid his
compliments to Raoul, and gave the last orders for sailing, which was ordered the
next morning at daybreak.
He invited the comte had his son to dine with him; but they, under a pretext of
service, kept themselves apart.
Gaining their hostelry, situated under the trees of the great Place, they took their
repast in haste, and Athos led Raoul to the rocks which dominate the city, vast gray
mountains, whence the view is infinite and
embraces a liquid horizon which appears, so remote is it, on a level with the rocks
themselves. The night was fine, as it always is in
these happy climes.
The moon, rising behind the rocks, unrolled a silver sheet on the cerulean carpet of
the sea.
In the roadsteads maneuvered silently the vessels which had just taken their rank to
facilitate the embarkation.
The sea, loaded with phosphoric light, opened beneath the hulls of the barks that
transported the baggage and munitions; every dip of the prow plowed up this gulf
of white flames; from every oar dropped liquid diamonds.
The sailors, rejoicing in the largesses of the admiral, were heard murmuring their
slow and artless songs.
Sometimes the grinding of the chains was mixed with the dull noise of shot falling
into the holds.
Such harmonies, such a spectacle, oppress the heart like fear, and dilate it like
hope. All this life speaks of death.
Athos had seated himself with his son, upon the moss, among the brambles of the
Around their heads passed and repassed large bats, carried along by the fearful
whirl of their blind chase.
The feet of Raoul were over the edge of the cliff, bathed in that void which is peopled
by vertigo, and provokes to self- annihilation.
When the moon had risen to its fullest height, caressing with light the
neighboring peaks, when the watery mirror was illumined in its full extent, and the
little red fires had made their openings in
the black masses of every ship, Athos, collecting all his ideas and all his
courage, said:
"God has made all these things that we see, Raoul; He has made us also,--poor atoms
mixed up with this monstrous universe.
We shine like those fires and those stars; we sigh like those waves; we suffer like
those great ships, which are worn out in plowing the waves, in obeying the wind that
urges them towards an end, as the breath of God blows us towards a port.
Everything likes to live, Raoul; and everything seems beautiful to living
"Monsieur," said Raoul, "we have before us a beautiful spectacle!"
"How good D'Artagnan is!" interrupted Athos, suddenly, "and what a rare good
fortune it is to be supported during a whole life by such a friend as he is!
That is what you have missed, Raoul."
"A friend!" cried Raoul, "I have wanted a friend!"
"M. de Guiche is an agreeable companion," resumed the comte, coldly, "but I believe,
in the times in which you live, men are more engaged in their own interests and
their own pleasures than they were in ours.
You have sought a secluded life; that is a great happiness, but you have lost your
strength thereby.
We four, more weaned from those delicate abstractions that constitute your joy,
furnished much more resistance when misfortune presented itself."
"I have not interrupted you, monsieur, to tell you that I had a friend, and that that
friend is M. de Guiche. Certes, he is good and generous, and
moreover he loves me.
But I have lived under the guardianship of another friendship, monsieur, as precious
and as strong as that of which you speak, since it is yours."
"I have not been a friend for you, Raoul," said Athos.
"Eh! monsieur, and in what respect not?"
"Because I have given you reason to think that life has but one face, because, sad
and severe, alas!
I have always cut off for you, without, God knows, wishing to do so, the joyous buds
that spring incessantly from the fair tree of youth; so that at this moment I repent
of not having made of you a more expansive, dissipated, animated man."
"I know why you say that, monsieur.
No, it is not you who have made me what I am; it was love, which took me at the time
when children only have inclinations; it is the constancy natural to my character,
which with other creatures is but habit.
I believed that I should always be as I was; I thought God had cast me in a path
quite clear, quite straight, bordered with fruits and flowers.
I had ever watching over me your vigilance and strength.
I believed myself to be vigilant and strong.
Nothing prepared me; I fell once, and that once deprived me of courage for the whole
of my life. It is quite true that I wrecked myself.
Oh, no, monsieur! you are nothing in my past but happiness--in my future but hope!
No, I have no reproach to make against life such as you made it for me; I bless you,
and I love you ardently."
"My dear Raoul, your words do me good. They prove to me that you will act a little
for me in the time to come." "I shall only act for you, monsieur."
"Raoul, what I have never hitherto done with respect to you, I will henceforward
do. I will be your friend, not your father.
We will live in expanding ourselves, instead of living and holding ourselves
prisoners, when you come back. And that will be soon, will it not?"
"Certainly, monsieur, for such an expedition cannot last long."
"Soon, then, Raoul, soon, instead of living moderately on my income, I will give you
the capital of my estates.
It will suffice for launching you into the world till my death; and you will give me,
I hope, before that time, the consolation of not seeing my race extinct."
"I will do all you may command," said Raoul, much agitated.
"It is not necessary, Raoul, that your duty as aide-de-camp should lead you into too
hazardous enterprises.
You have gone through your ordeal; you are known to be a true man under fire.
Remember that war with Arabs is a war of snares, ambuscades, and assassinations."
"So it is said, monsieur."
"There is never much glory in falling in an ambuscade.
It is a death which always implies a little rashness or want of foresight.
Often, indeed, he who falls in one meets with but little pity.
Those who are not pitied, Raoul, have died to little purpose.
Still further, the conqueror laughs, and we Frenchmen ought not to allow stupid
infidels to triumph over our faults. Do you clearly understand what I am saying
to you, Raoul?
God forbid I should encourage you to avoid encounters."
"I am naturally prudent, monsieur, and I have very good fortune," said Raoul, with a
smile which chilled the heart of his poor father; "for," the young man hastened to
add, "in twenty combats through which I
have been, I have only received one scratch."
"There is in addition," said Athos, "the climate to be dreaded: that is an ugly end,
to die of fever!
King Saint-Louis prayed God to send him an arrow or the plague, rather than the
fever." "Oh, monsieur! with sobriety, with
reasonable exercise--"
"I have already obtained from M. de Beaufort a promise that his dispatches
shall be sent off every fortnight to France.
You, as his aide-de-camp, will be charged with expediting them, and will be sure not
to forget me." "No, monsieur," said Raoul, almost choked
with emotion.
"Besides, Raoul, as you are a good Christian, and I am one also, we ought to
reckon upon a more special protection of God and His guardian angels.
Promise me that if anything evil should happen to you, on any occasion, you will
think of me at once." "First and at once!
Oh! yes, monsieur."
"And will call upon me?" "Instantly."
"You dream of me sometimes, do you not, Raoul?"
"Every night, monsieur.
During my early youth I saw you in my dreams, calm and mild, with one hand
stretched out over my head, and that it was which made me sleep so soundly--formerly."
"We love each other too dearly," said the comte, "that from this moment, in which we
separate, a portion of both our souls should not travel with one and the other of
us, and should not dwell wherever we may dwell.
Whenever you may be sad, Raoul, I feel that my heart will be dissolved in sadness; and
when you smile on thinking of me, be assured you will send me, from however
remote a distance, a vital scintillation of your joy."
"I will not promise you to be joyous," replied the young man; "but you may be
certain that I will never pass an hour without thinking of you, not one hour, I
swear, unless I shall be dead."
Athos could contain himself no longer; he threw his arm round the neck of his son,
and held him embraced with all the power of his heart.
The moon began to be now eclipsed by twilight; a golden band surrounded the
horizon, announcing the approach of the day.
Athos threw his cloak over the shoulders of Raoul, and led him back to the city, where
burdens and porters were already in motion, like a vast ant-hill.
At the extremity of the plateau which Athos and Bragelonne were quitting, they saw a
dark shadow moving uneasily backwards and forwards, as if in indecision or ashamed to
be seen.
It was Grimaud, who in his anxiety had tracked his master, and was there awaiting
him. "Oh! my good Grimaud," cried Raoul, "what
do you want?
You are come to tell us it is time to be gone, have you not?"
"Alone?" said Grimaud, addressing Athos and pointing to Raoul in a tone of reproach,
which showed to what an extent the old man was troubled.
"Oh! you are right!" cried the comte.
"No, Raoul shall not go alone; no, he shall not be left alone in a strange land without
some friendly hand to support him, some friendly heart to recall to him all he
"I?" said Grimaud. "You, yes, you!" cried Raoul, touched to
the inmost heart. "Alas!" said Athos, "you are very old, my
good Grimaud."
"So much the better," replied the latter, with an inexpressible depth of feeling and
intelligence. "But the embarkation is begun," said Raoul,
"and you are not prepared."
"Yes," said Grimaud, showing the keys of his trunks, mixed with those of his young
"But," again objected Raoul, "you cannot leave monsieur le comte thus alone;
monsieur le comte, whom you have never quitted?"
Grimaud turned his diamond eyes upon Athos and Raoul, as if to measure the strength of
both. The comte uttered not a word.
"Monsieur le comte prefers my going," said Grimaud.
"I do," said Athos, by an inclination of the head.
At that moment the drums suddenly rolled, and the clarions filled the air with their
inspiring notes. The regiments destined for the expedition
began to debouch from the city.
They advanced to the number of five, each composed of forty companies.
Royals marched first, distinguished by their white uniform, faced with blue.
The ordonnance colors, quartered cross- wise, violet and dead leaf, with a
sprinkling of golden fleurs-de-lis, left the white-colored flag, with its fleur-de-
lised cross, to dominate the whole.
Musketeers at the wings, with their forked sticks and their muskets on their
shoulders; pikemen in the center, with their lances, fourteen feet in length,
marched gayly towards the transports, which carried them in detail to the ships.
The regiments of Picardy, Navarre, Normandy, and Royal Vaisseau, followed
M. de Beaufort had known well how to select his troops.
He himself was seen closing the march with his staff--it would take a full hour before
he could reach the sea.
Raoul with Athos turned his steps slowly towards the beach, in order to take his
place when the prince embarked.
Grimaud, boiling with the ardor of a young man, superintended the embarkation of
Raoul's baggage in the admiral's vessel.
Athos, with his arm passed through that of the son he was about to lose, absorbed in
melancholy meditation, was deaf to every noise around him.
An officer came quickly towards them to inform Raoul that M. de Beaufort was
anxious to have him by his side.
"Have the kindness to tell the prince," said Raoul, "that I request he will allow
me this hour to enjoy the company of my father."
"No, no," said Athos, "an aide-de-camp ought not thus to quit his general.
Please to tell the prince, monsieur, that the vicomte will join him immediately."
The officer set off at a gallop.
"Whether we part here or part there," added the comte, "it is no less a separation."
He carefully brushed the dust from his son's coat, and passed his hand over his
hair as they walked along.
"But, Raoul," said he, "you want money. M. de Beaufort's train will be splendid,
and I am certain it will be agreeable to you to purchase horses and arms, which are
very dear things in Africa.
Now, as you are not actually in the service of the king or M. de Beaufort, and are
simply a volunteer, you must not reckon upon either pay or largesse.
But I should not like you to want for anything at Gigelli.
Here are two hundred pistoles; if you would please me, Raoul, spend them."
Raoul pressed the hand of his father, and, at the turning of a street, they saw M. de
Beaufort, mounted on a magnificent white genet, which responded by graceful curvets
to the applause of the women of the city.
The duke called Raoul, and held out his hand to the comte.
He spoke to him for some time, with such a kindly expression that the heart of the
poor father even felt a little comforted.
It was, however, evident to both father and son that their walk amounted to nothing
less than a punishment.
There was a terrible moment--that at which, on quitting the sands of the shore, the
soldiers and sailors exchanged the last kisses with their families and friends; a
supreme moment, in which, notwithstanding
the clearness of the heavens, the warmth of the sun, of the perfumes of the air, and
the rich life that was circulating in their veins, everything appeared black,
everything bitter, everything created
doubts of Providence, nay, at the most, of God.
It was customary for the admiral and his suite to embark last; the cannon waited to
announce, with its formidable voice, that the leader had placed his foot on board his
Athos, forgetful of both the admiral and the fleet, and of his own dignity as a
strong man, opened his arms to his son, and pressed him convulsively to his heart.
"Accompany us on board," said the duke, very much affected; "you will gain a good
half-hour." "No," said Athos, "my farewell has been
spoken, I do not wish to voice a second."
"Then, vicomte, embark--embark quickly!" added the prince, wishing to spare the
tears of these two men, whose hearts were bursting.
And paternally, tenderly, very much as Porthos might have done, he took Raoul in
his arms and placed him in the boat, the oars of which, at a signal, immediately
were dipped in the waves.
He himself, forgetful of ceremony, jumped into his boat, and pushed it off with a
vigorous foot. "Adieu!" cried Raoul.
Athos replied only by a sign, but he felt something burning on his hand: it was the
respectful kiss of Grimaud--the last farewell of the faithful dog.
This kiss given, Grimaud jumped from the step of the mole upon the stem of a two-
oared yawl, which had just been taken in tow by a chaland served by twelve galley-
Athos seated himself on the mole, stunned, deaf, abandoned.
Every instant took from him one of the features, one of the shades of the pale
face of his son.
With his arms hanging down, his eyes fixed, his mouth open, he remained confounded with
Raoul--in one same look, in one same thought, in one same stupor.
The sea, by degrees, carried away boats and faces to that distance at which men become
nothing but points,--loves, nothing but remembrances.
Athos saw his son ascend the ladder of the admiral's ship, he saw him lean upon the
rail of the deck, and place himself in such a manner as to be always an object in the
eye of his father.
In vain the cannon thundered, in vain from the ship sounded the long and lordly
tumult, responded to by immense acclamations from the shore; in vain did
the noise deafen the ear of the father, the
smoke obscured the cherished object of his aspirations.
Raoul appeared to him to the last moment; and the imperceptible atom, passing from
black to pale, from pale to white, from white to nothing, disappeared for Athos--
disappeared very long after, to all the
eyes of the spectators, had disappeared both gallant ships and swelling sails.
Towards midday, when the sun devoured space, and scarcely the tops of the masts
dominated the incandescent limit of the sea, Athos perceived a soft aerial shadow
rise, and vanish as soon as seen.
This was the smoke of a cannon, which M. de Beaufort ordered to be fired as a last
salute to the coast of France.
The point was buried in its turn beneath the sky, and Athos returned with slow and
painful step to his deserted hostelry.
D'Artagnan had not been able to hide his feelings from his friends so much as he
would have wished.
The stoical soldier, the impassive man-at- arms, overcome by fear and sad
presentiments, had yielded, for a few moments, to human weakness.
When, therefore, he had silenced his heart and calmed the agitation of his nerves,
turning towards his lackey, a silent servant, always listening, in order to obey
the more promptly:
"Rabaud," said he, "mind, we must travel thirty leagues a day."
"At your pleasure, captain," replied Rabaud.
And from that moment, D'Artagnan, accommodating his action to the pace of the
horse, like a true centaur, gave up his thoughts to nothing--that is to say, to
He asked himself why the king had sent for him back; why the Iron Mask had thrown the
silver plate at the feet of Raoul.
As to the first subject, the reply was negative; he knew right well that the
king's calling him was from necessity.
He still further knew that Louis XIV. must experience an imperious desire for a
private conversation with one whom the possession of such a secret placed on a
level with the highest powers of the kingdom.
But as to saying exactly what the king's wish was, D'Artagnan found himself
completely at a loss.
The musketeer had no doubts, either, upon the reason which had urged the unfortunate
Philippe to reveal his character and birth.
Philippe, buried forever beneath a mask of steel, exiled to a country where the men
seemed little more than slaves of the elements; Philippe, deprived even of the
society of D'Artagnan, who had loaded him
with honors and delicate attentions, had nothing more to see than odious specters in
this world, and, despair beginning to devour him, he poured himself forth in
complaints, in the belief that his
revelations would raise up some avenger for him.
The manner in which the musketeer had been near killing his two best friends, the
destiny which had so strangely brought Athos to participate in the great state
secret, the farewell of Raoul, the
obscurity of the future which threatened to end in a melancholy death; all this threw
D'Artagnan incessantly back on lamentable predictions and forebodings, which the
rapidity of his pace did not dissipate, as it used formerly to do.
D'Artagnan passed from these considerations to the remembrance of the proscribed
Porthos and Aramis.
He saw them both, fugitives, tracked, ruined--laborious architects of fortunes
they had lost; and as the king called for his man of execution in hours of vengeance
and malice, D'Artagnan trembled at the very
idea of receiving some commission that would make his very soul bleed.
Sometimes, ascending hills, when the winded horse breathed hard from his red nostrils,
and heaved his flanks, the captain, left to more freedom of thought, reflected on the
prodigious genius of Aramis, a genius of
acumen and intrigue, a match to which the Fronde and the civil war had produced but
Soldier, priest, diplomatist; gallant, avaricious, cunning; Aramis had never taken
the good things of this life except as stepping-stones to rise to giddier ends.
Generous in spirit, if not lofty in heart, he never did ill but for the sake of
shining even yet more brilliantly.
Towards the end of his career, at the moment of reaching the goal, like the
patrician Fuscus, he had made a false step upon a plank, and had fallen into the sea.
But Porthos, good, harmless Porthos!
To see Porthos hungry, to see Mousqueton without gold lace, imprisoned, perhaps; to
see Pierrefonds, Bracieux, razed to the very stones, dishonored even to the
timber,--these were so many poignant griefs
for D'Artagnan, and every time that one of these griefs struck him, he bounded like a
horse at the sting of a gadfly beneath the vaults of foliage where he has sought shady
shelter from the burning sun.
Never was the man of spirit subjected to ennui, if his body was exposed to fatigue;
never did the man of healthy body fail to find life light, if he had something to
engage his mind.
D'Artagnan, riding fast, thinking as constantly, alighted from his horse in
Pairs, fresh and tender in his muscles as the athlete preparing for the gymnasium.
The king did not expect him so soon, and had just departed for the chase towards
D'Artagnan, instead of riding after the king, as he would formerly have done, took
off his boots, had a bath, and waited till his majesty should return dusty and tired.
He occupied the interval of five hours in taking, as people say, the air of the
house, and in arming himself against all ill chances.
He learned that the king, during the last fortnight, had been gloomy; that the queen-
mother was ill and much depressed; that Monsieur, the king's brother, was
exhibiting a devotional turn; that Madame
had the vapors; and that M. de Guiche was gone to one of his estates.
He learned that M. Colbert was radiant; that M. Fouquet consulted a fresh physician
every day, who still did not cure him, and that his principal complaint was one which
physicians do not usually cure, unless they are political physicians.
The king, D'Artagnan was told, behaved in the kindest manner to M. Fouquet, and did
not allow him to be ever out of his sight; but the surintendant, touched to the heart,
like one of those fine trees a worm has
punctured, was declining daily, in spite of the royal smile, that sun of court trees.
D'Artagnan learned that Mademoiselle de la Valliere had become indispensable to the
king; that the king, during his sporting excursions, if he did not take her with
him, wrote to her frequently, no longer
verses, but, which was much worse, prose, and that whole pages at a time.
Thus, as the political Pleiad of the day said, the first king in the world was seen
descending from his horse with an ardor beyond compare, and on the crown of his hat
scrawling bombastic phrases, which M. de
Saint-Aignan, aide-de-camp in perpetuity, carried to La Valliere at the risk of
foundering his horses.
During this time, deer and pheasants were left to the free enjoyment of their nature,
hunted so lazily that, it was said, the art of venery ran great risk of degenerating at
the court of France.
D'Artagnan then thought of the wishes of poor Raoul, of that desponding letter
destined for a woman who passed her life in hoping, and as D'Artagnan loved to
philosophize a little occasionally, he
resolved to profit by the absence of the king to have a minute's talk with
Mademoiselle de la Valliere.
This was a very easy affair; while the king was hunting, Louise was walking with some
other ladies in one of the galleries of the Palais Royal, exactly where the captain of
the musketeers had some guards to inspect.
D'Artagnan did not doubt that, if he could but open the conversation on Raoul, Louise
might give him grounds for writing a consolatory letter to the poor exile; and
hope, or at least consolation for Raoul, in
the state of heart in which he had left him, was the sun, was life to two men, who
were very dear to our captain.
He directed his course, therefore, to the spot where he knew he should find
Mademoiselle de la Valliere. D'Artagnan found La Valliere the center of
the circle.
In her apparent solitude, the king's favorite received, like a queen, more,
perhaps, than the queen, a homage of which Madame had been so proud, when all the
king's looks were directed to her and commanded the looks of the courtiers.
D'Artagnan, although no squire of dames, received, nevertheless, civilities and
attentions from the ladies; he was polite, as a brave man always is, and his terrible
reputation had conciliated as much
friendship among the men as admiration among the women.
On seeing him enter, therefore, they immediately accosted him; and, as is not
unfrequently the case with fair ladies, opened the attack by questions.
"Where had he been?
What had become of him so long? Why had they not seen him as usual make his
fine horse curvet in such beautiful style, to the delight and astonishment of the
curious from the king's balcony?"
He replied that he had just come from the land of oranges.
This set all the ladies laughing.
Those were times in which everybody traveled, but in which, notwithstanding, a
journey of a hundred leagues was a problem often solved by death.
"From the land of oranges?" cried Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente.
"From Spain?" "Eh! eh!" said the musketeer.
"From Malta?" echoed Montalais.
"Ma foi! You are coming very near, ladies."
"Is it an island?" asked La Valliere.
"Mademoiselle," said D'Artagnan; "I will not give you the trouble of seeking any
further; I come from the country where M. de Beaufort is, at this moment, embarking
for Algiers."
"Have you seen the army?" asked several warlike fair ones.
"As plainly as I see you," replied D'Artagnan.
"And the fleet?"
"Yes, I saw everything."
"Have we any of us any friends there?" said Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente, coldly,
but in a manner to attract attention to a question that was not without its
calculated aim.
"Why," replied D'Artagnan, "yes; there were M. de la Guillotiere, M. de Manchy, M. de
Bragelonne--" La Valliere became pale.
"M. de Bragelonne!" cried the perfidious Athenais.
"Eh, what!--is he gone to the wars?--he!" Montalais trod on her toe, but all in vain.
"Do you know what my opinion is?" continued she, addressing D'Artagnan.
"No, mademoiselle; but I should like very much to know it."
"My opinion is, then, that all the men who go to this war are desperate, desponding
men, whom love has treated ill; and who go to try if they cannot find jet-complexioned
women more kind than fair ones have been."
Some of the ladies laughed; La Valliere was evidently confused; Montalais coughed loud
enough to waken the dead.
"Mademoiselle," interrupted D'Artagnan, "you are in error when you speak of black
women at Gigelli; the women there have not jet faces; it is true they are not white--
they are yellow."
"Yellow!" exclaimed the bevy of fair beauties.
"Eh! do not disparage it. I have never seen a finer color to match
with black eyes and a coral mouth."
"So much the better for M. de Bragelonne," said Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente, with
persistent malice. "He will make amends for his loss.
Poor fellow!"
A profound silence followed these words; and D'Artagnan had time to observe and
reflect that women--mild doves--treat each other more cruelly than tigers.
But making La Valliere pale did not satisfy Athenais; she determined to make her blush
Resuming the conversation without pause, "Do you know, Louise," said she, "that
there is a great sin on your conscience?"
"What sin, mademoiselle?" stammered the unfortunate girl, looking round her for
support, without finding it.
"Eh!--why," continued Athenais, "the poor young man was affianced to you; he loved
you; you cast him off."
"Well, that is a right which every honest woman has," said Montalais, in an affected
"When we know we cannot constitute the happiness of a man, it is much better to
cast him off."
"Cast him off! or refuse him!--that's all very well," said Athenais, "but that is not
the sin Mademoiselle de la Valliere has to reproach herself with.
The actual sin is sending poor Bragelonne to the wars; and to wars in which death is
so very likely to be met with." Louise pressed her hand over her icy brow.
"And if he dies," continued her pitiless tormentor, "you will have killed him.
That is the sin."
Louise, half-dead, caught at the arm of the captain of the musketeers, whose face
betrayed unusual emotion.
"You wished to speak with me, Monsieur d'Artagnan," said she, in a voice broken by
anger and pain. "What had you to say to me?"
D'Artagnan made several steps along the gallery, holding Louise on his arm; then,
when they were far enough removed from the others--"What I had to say to you,
mademoiselle," replied he, "Mademoiselle de
Tonnay-Charente has just expressed; roughly and unkindly, it is true but still in its
She uttered a faint cry; pierced to the heart by this new wound, she went her way,
like one of those poor birds which, struck unto death, seek the shade of the thicket
in which to die.
She disappeared at one door, at the moment the king was entering by another.
The first glance of the king was directed towards the empty seat of his mistress.
Not perceiving La Valliere, a frown came over his brow; but as soon as he saw
D'Artagnan, who bowed to him--"Ah! monsieur!" cried he, "you have been
I am much pleased with you." This was the superlative expression of
royal satisfaction.
Many men would have been ready to lay down their lives for such a speech from the
The maids of honor and the courtiers, who had formed a respectful circle round the
king on his entrance, drew back, on observing he wished to speak privately with
his captain of the musketeers.
The king led the way out of the gallery, after having again, with his eyes, sought
everywhere for La Valliere, whose absence he could not account for.
The moment they were out of the reach of curious ears, "Well!
Monsieur d'Artagnan," said he, "the prisoner?"
"Is in his prison, sire."
"What did he say on the road?" "Nothing, sire."
"What did he do?"
"There was a moment at which the fisherman- -who took me in his boat to Sainte-
Marguerite--revolted, and did his best to kill me.
The--the prisoner defended me instead of attempting to fly."
The king became pale. "Enough!" said he; and D'Artagnan bowed.
Louis walked about his cabinet with hasty steps.
"Were you at Antibes," said he, "when Monsieur de Beaufort came there?"
"No, sire; I was setting off when monsieur le duc arrived."
"Ah!" which was followed by a fresh silence.
"Whom did you see there?"
"A great many persons," said D'Artagnan, coolly.
The king perceived he was unwilling to speak.
"I have sent for you, monsieur le capitaine, to desire you to go and prepare
my lodgings at Nantes." "At Nantes!" cried D'Artagnan.
"In Bretagne."
"Yes, sire, it is in Bretagne. Will you majesty make so long a journey as
to Nantes?" "The States are assembled there," replied
the king.
"I have two demands to make of them: I wish to be there."
"When shall I set out?" said the captain.
"This evening--to-morrow--to-morrow evening; for you must stand in need of
rest." "I have rested, sire."
"That is well.
Then between this and to-morrow evening, when you please."
D'Artagnan bowed as if to take his leave; but, perceiving the king very much
embarrassed, "Will you majesty," said he, stepping two paces forward, "take the court
with you?"
"Certainly I shall." "Then you majesty will, doubtless, want the
musketeers?" And the eye of the king sank beneath the
penetrating glance of the captain.
"Take a brigade of them," replied Louis. "Is that all?
Has your majesty no other orders to give me?"
"I am all attention, sire."
"At the castle of Nantes, which I hear is very ill arranged, you will adopt the
practice of placing musketeers at the door of each of the principal dignitaries I
shall take with me."
"Of the principal?" "Yes."
"For instance, at the door of M. de Lyonne?"
"And that of M. Letellier?" "Yes."
"Of M. de Brienne?" "Yes."
"And of monsieur le surintendant?"
"Without doubt." "Very well, sire.
By to-morrow I shall have set out." "Oh, yes; but one more word, Monsieur
At Nantes you will meet with M. le Duc de Gesvres, captain of the guards.
Be sure that your musketeers are placed before his guards arrive.
Precedence always belongs to the first comer."
"Yes, sire." "And if M. de Gesvres should question you?"
"Question me, sire!
Is it likely that M. de Gesvres should question me?"
And the musketeer, turning cavalierly on his heel, disappeared.
"To Nantes!" said he to himself, as he descended from the stairs.
"Why did he not dare to say, from thence to Belle-Isle?"
As he reached the great gates, one of M. Brienne's clerks came running after him,
exclaiming, "Monsieur d'Artagnan! I beg your pardon--"
"What is the matter, Monsieur Ariste?"
"The king has desired me to give you this order."
"Upon your cash-box?" asked the musketeer. "No, monsieur; on that of M. Fouquet."
D'Artagnan was surprised, but he took the order, which was in the king's own writing,
and was for two hundred pistoles.
"What!" thought he, after having politely thanked M. Brienne's clerk, "M. Fouquet is
to pay for the journey, then! Mordioux! that is a bit of pure Louis XI.
Why was not this order on the chest of M. Colbert?
He would have paid it with such joy."
And D'Artagnan, faithful to his principle of never letting an order at sight get
cold, went straight to the house of M. Fouquet, to receive his two hundred
CHAPTER XXXV. The Last Supper.
The superintendent had no doubt received advice of the approaching departure, for he
was giving a farewell dinner to his friends.
From the bottom to the top of the house, the hurry of the servants bearing dishes,
and the diligence of the registres, denoted an approaching change in offices and
D'Artagnan, with his order in his hand, presented himself at the offices, when he
was told it was too late to pay cash, the chest was closed.
He only replied: "On the king's service."
The clerk, a little put out by the serious air of the captain, replied, that "that was
a very respectable reason, but that the customs of the house were respectable
likewise; and that, in consequence, he begged the bearer to call again next day."
D'Artagnan asked if he could not see M. Fouquet.
The clerk replied that M. le surintendant did not interfere with such details, and
rudely closed the outer door in the captain's face.
But the latter had foreseen this stroke, and placed his boot between the door and
the door-case, so that the lock did not catch, and the clerk was still nose to nose
with his interlocutor.
This made him change his tone, and say, with terrified politeness, "If monsieur
wishes to speak to M. le surintendant, he must go to the ante-chambers; these are the
offices, where monseigneur never comes."
"Oh! very well! Where are they?" replied D'Artagnan.
"On the other side of the court," said the clerk, delighted to be free.
D'Artagnan crossed the court, and fell in with a crowd of servants.
"Monseigneur sees nobody at this hour," he was answered by a fellow carrying a vermeil
dish, in which were three pheasants and twelve quails.
"Tell him," said the captain, laying hold of the servant by the end of his dish,
"that I am M. d'Artagnan, captain of his majesty's musketeers."
The fellow uttered a cry of surprise, and disappeared; D'Artagnan following him
He arrived just in time to meet M. Pelisson in the ante-chamber: the latter, a little
pale, came hastily out of the dining-room to learn what was the matter.
D'Artagnan smiled.
"There is nothing unpleasant, Monsieur Pelisson; only a little order to receive
the money for."
"Ah!" said Fouquet's friend, breathing more freely; and he took the captain by the
hand, and, dragging him behind him, led him into the dining-room, where a number of
friends surrounded the surintendant, placed
in the center, and buried in the cushions of a fauteuil.
There were assembled all the Epicureans who so lately at Vaux had done the honors of
the mansion of wit and money in aid of M. Fouquet.
Joyous friends, for the most part faithful, they had not fled their protector at the
approach of the storm, and, in spite of the threatening heavens, in spite of the
trembling earth, they remained there,
smiling, cheerful, as devoted in misfortune as they had been in prosperity.
On the left of the surintendant sat Madame de Belliere; on his right was Madame
Fouquet; as if braving the laws of the world, and putting all vulgar reasons of
propriety to silence, the two protecting
angels of this man united to offer, at the moment of the crisis, the support of their
twined arms.
Madame de Belliere was pale, trembling, and full of respectful attentions for madame la
surintendante, who, with one hand on her husband's, was looking anxiously towards
the door by which Pelisson had gone out to bring D'Artagnan.
The captain entered at first full of courtesy, and afterwards of admiration,
when, with his infallible glance, he had divined as well as taken in the expression
of every face.
Fouquet raised himself up in his chair. "Pardon me, Monsieur d'Artagnan," said he,
"if I did not myself receive you when coming in the king's name."
And he pronounced the last words with a sort of melancholy firmness, which filled
the hearts of all his friends with terror.
"Monseigneur," replied D'Artagnan, "I only come to you in the king's name to demand
payment of an order for two hundred pistoles."
The clouds passed from every brow but that of Fouquet, which still remained overcast.
"Ah! then," said he, "perhaps you also are setting out for Nantes?"
"I do not know whither I am setting out, monseigneur."
"But," said Madame Fouquet, recovered from her fright, "you are not going so soon,
monsieur le capitaine, as not to do us the honor to take a seat with us?"
"Madame, I should esteem that a great honor done me, but I am so pressed for time,
that, you see, I have been obliged to permit myself to interrupt your repast to
procure payment of my note."
"The reply to which shall be gold," said Fouquet, making a sign to his intendant,
who went out with the order D'Artagnan handed him.
"Oh!" said the latter, "I was not uneasy about the payment; the house is good."
A painful smile passed over the pale features of Fouquet.
"Are you in pain?" asked Madame de Belliere.
"Do you feel your attack coming on?" asked Madame Fouquet.
"Neither, thank you both," said Fouquet.
"Your attack?" said D'Artagnan, in his turn; "are you unwell, monseigneur?"
"I have a tertian fever, which seized me after the fete at Vaux."
"Caught cold in the grottos, at night, perhaps?"
"No, no; nothing but agitation, that was all."
"The too much heart you displayed in your reception of the king," said La Fontaine,
quietly, without suspicion that he was uttering a sacrilege.
"We cannot devote too much heart to the reception of our king," said Fouquet,
mildly, to his poet.
"Monsieur meant to say the too great ardor," interrupted D'Artagnan, with
perfect frankness and much amenity. "The fact is, monseigneur, that hospitality
was never practiced as at Vaux."
Madame Fouquet permitted her countenance to show clearly that if Fouquet had conducted
himself well towards the king, the king had hardly done the like to the minister.
But D'Artagnan knew the terrible secret.
He alone with Fouquet knew it; those two men had not, the one the courage to
complain, the other the right to accuse.
The captain, to whom the two hundred pistoles were brought, was about to take
his leave, when Fouquet, rising, took a glass of wine, and ordered one to be given
to D'Artagnan.
"Monsieur," said he, "to the health of the king, whatever may happen."
"And to your health, monseigneur, whatever may happen," said D'Artagnan.
He bowed, with these words of evil omen, to all the company, who rose as soon as they
heard the sound of his spurs and boots at the bottom of the stairs.
"I, for a moment, thought it was I and not my money he wanted," said Fouquet,
endeavoring to laugh. "You!" cried his friends; "and what for, in
the name of Heaven!"
"Oh! do not deceive yourselves, my dear brothers in Epicurus," said the
superintendent; "I do not wish to make a comparison between the most humble sinner
on the earth, and the God we adore, but
remember, he gave one day to his friends a repast which is called the Last Supper, and
which was nothing but a farewell dinner, like that which we are making at this
A painful cry of denial arose from all parts of the table.
"Shut the doors," said Fouquet, and the servants disappeared.
"My friends," continued Fouquet, lowering his voice, "what was I formerly?
What am I now? Consult among yourselves and reply.
A man like me sinks when he does not continue to rise.
What shall we say, then, when he really sinks?
I have no more money, no more credit; I have no longer anything but powerful
enemies, and powerless friends." "Quick!" cried Pelisson.
"Since you explain yourself with such frankness, it is our duty to be frank,
likewise. Yes, you are ruined--yes, you are hastening
to your ruin--stop.
And, in the first place, what money have we left?"
"Seven hundred thousand livres," said the intendant.
"Bread," murmured Madame Fouquet.
"Relays," said Pelisson, "relays, and fly!" "Whither?"
"To Switzerland--to Savoy--but fly!"
"If monseigneur flies," said Madame Belliere, "it will be said that he was
guilty--was afraid." "More than that, it will be said that I
have carried away twenty millions with me."
"We will draw up memoirs to justify you," said La Fontaine.
"Fly!" "I will remain," said Fouquet.
"And, besides, does not everything serve me?"
"You have Belle-Isle," cried the Abbe Fouquet.
"And I am naturally going there, when going to Nantes," replied the superintendent.
"Patience, then, patience!" "Before arriving at Nantes, what a
distance!" said Madame Fouquet.
"Yes, I know that well," replied Fouquet. "But what is to be done there?
The king summons me to the States.
I know well it is for the purpose of ruining me; but to refuse to go would be to
evince uneasiness." "Well, I have discovered the means of
reconciling everything," cried Pelisson.
"You are going to set out for Nantes." Fouquet looked at him with an air of
"But with friends; but in your own carriage as far as Orleans; in your own barge as far
as Nantes; always ready to defend yourself, if you are attacked; to escape, if you are
In fact, you will carry your money against all chances; and, whilst flying, you will
only have obeyed the king; then, reaching the sea, when you like, you will embark for
Belle-Isle, and from Belle-Isle you will
shoot out wherever it may please you, like the eagle that leaps into space when it has
been driven from its eyrie." A general assent followed Pelisson's words.
"Yes, do so," said Madame Fouquet to her husband.
"Do so," said Madame de Belliere. "Do it! do it!" cried all his friends.
"I will do so," replied Fouquet.
"This very evening?" "In an hour?"
"With seven hundred thousand livres you can lay the foundation of another fortune,"
said the Abbe Fouquet. "What is there to prevent our arming
corsairs at Belle-Isle?"
"And, if necessary, we will go and discover a new world," added La Fontaine,
intoxicated with fresh projects and enthusiasm.
A knock at the door interrupted this concert of joy and hope.
"A courier from the king," said the master of the ceremonies.
A profound silence immediately ensued, as if the message brought by this courier was
nothing but a reply to all the projects given birth to a moment before.
Every one waited to see what the master would do.
His brow was streaming with perspiration, and he was really suffering from his fever
at that instant.
He passed into his cabinet, to receive the king's message.
There prevailed, as we have said, such a silence in the chambers, and throughout the
attendance, that from the dining-room could be heard the voice of Fouquet, saying,
"That is well, monsieur."
This voice was, however, broken by fatigue, and trembled with emotion.
An instant after, Fouquet called Gourville, who crossed the gallery amidst the
universal expectation.
At length, he himself re-appeared among his guests; but it was no longer the same pale,
spiritless countenance they had beheld when he left them; from pale he had become
livid; and from spiritless, annihilated.
A breathing, living specter, he advanced with his arms stretched out, his mouth
parched, like a shade that comes to salute the friends of former days.
On seeing him thus, every one cried out, and every one rushed towards Fouquet.
The latter, looking at Pelisson, leaned upon his wife, and pressed the icy hand of
the Marquise de Belliere.
"Well," said he, in a voice which had nothing human in it.
"What has happened, my God!" said some one to him.
Fouquet opened his right hand, which was clenched, but glistening with perspiration,
and displayed a paper, upon which Pelisson cast a terrified glance.
He read the following lines, written by the king's hand:
"'DEAR AND WELL-BELOVED MONSIEUR FOUQUET,-- Give us, upon that which you have left of
ours, the sum of seven hundred thousand livres, of which we stand in need to
prepare for our departure.
"'And, as we know your health is not good, we pray God to restore you, and to have you
in His holy keeping. "'LOUIS.
"'The present letter is to serve as a receipt.'"
A murmur of terror circulated through the apartment.
"Well," cried Pelisson, in his turn, "you have received that letter?"
"Received it, yes!" "What will you do, then?"
"Nothing, since I have received it."
"But--" "If I have received it, Pelisson, I have
paid it," said the surintendant, with a simplicity that went to the heart of all
"You have paid it!" cried Madame Fouquet. "Then we are ruined!"
"Come, no useless words," interrupted Pelisson.
"Next to money, life.
Monseigneur, to horse! to horse!" "What, leave us!" at once cried both the
women, wild with grief. "Eh! monseigneur, in saving yourself, you
save us all.
To horse!" "But he cannot hold himself on.
Look at him." "Oh! if he takes time to reflect--" said
the intrepid Pelisson.
"He is right," murmured Fouquet. "Monseigneur!
Monseigneur!" cried Gourville, rushing up the stairs, four steps at once.
"Well! what?" "I escorted, as you desired, the king's
courier with the money." "Yes."
"Well! when I arrived at the Palais Royal, I saw--"
"Take breath, my poor friend, take breath; you are suffocating."
"What did you see?" cried the impatient friends.
"I saw the musketeers mounting on horseback," said Gourville.
"There, then!" cried every voice at once; "there, then! is there an instant to be
Madame Fouquet rushed downstairs, calling for her horses; Madame de Belliere flew
after her, catching her in her arms, and saying: "Madame, in the name of his safety,
do not betray anything, do not manifest alarm."
Pelisson ran to have the horses put to the carriages.
And, in the meantime, Gourville gathered in his hat all that the weeping friends were
able to throw into it of gold and silver-- the last offering, the pious alms made to
misery by poverty.
The surintendant, dragged along by some, carried by others, was shut up in his
carriage. Gourville took the reins, and mounted the
Pelisson supported Madame Fouquet, who had fainted.
Madame de Belliere had more strength, and was well paid for it; she received
Fouquet's last kiss.
Pelisson easily explained this precipitate departure by saying that an order from the
king had summoned the minister to Nantes.