Part 09 - The Man in the Iron Mask Audiobook by Alexandre Dumas (Chs 51-58)

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CHAPTER LI. Porthos's Epitaph.
Aramis, silent and sad as ice, trembling like a timid child, arose shivering from
the stone. A Christian does not walk on tombs.
But, though capable of standing, he was not capable of walking.
It might be said that something of dead Porthos had just died within him.
His Bretons surrounded him; Aramis yielded to their kind exertions, and the three
sailors, lifting him up, carried him to the canoe.
Then, having laid him down upon the bench near the rudder, they took to their oars,
preferring this to hoisting sail, which might betray them.
On all that leveled surface of the ancient grotto of Locmaria, one single hillock
attracted their eyes.
Aramis never removed his from it; and, at a distance out in the sea, in proportion as
the shore receded, that menacing proud mass of rock seemed to draw itself up, as
formerly Porthos used to draw himself up,
raising a smiling, yet invincible head towards heaven, like that of his dear old
honest valiant friend, the strongest of the four, yet the first dead.
Strange destiny of these men of brass!
The most simple of heart allied to the most crafty; strength of body guided by subtlety
of mind; and in the decisive moment, when vigor alone could save mind and body, a
stone, a rock, a vile material weight,
triumphed over manly strength, and falling upon the body, drove out the mind.
Worthy Porthos! born to help other men, always ready to sacrifice himself for the
safety of the weak, as if God had only given him strength for that purpose; when
dying he only thought he was carrying out
the conditions of his compact with Aramis, a compact, however, which Aramis alone had
drawn up, and which Porthos had only known to suffer by its terrible solidarity.
Noble Porthos! of what good now are thy chateaux overflowing with sumptuous
furniture, forests overflowing with game, lakes overflowing with fish, cellars
overflowing with wealth!
Of what service to thee now thy lackeys in brilliant liveries, and in the midst of
them Mousqueton, proud of the power delegated by thee!
Oh, noble Porthos! careful heaper-up of treasure, was it worth while to labor to
sweeten and gild life, to come upon a desert shore, surrounded by the cries of
seagulls, and lay thyself, with broken bones, beneath a torpid stone?
Was it worth while, in short, noble Porthos, to heap so much gold, and not have
even the distich of a poor poet engraven upon thy monument?
Valiant Porthos! he still, without doubt, sleeps, lost, forgotten, beneath the rock
the shepherds of the heath take for the gigantic abode of a dolmen.
And so many twining branches, so many mosses, bent by the bitter wind of ocean,
so many lichens solder thy sepulcher to earth, that no passers-by will imagine such
a block of granite could ever have been supported by the shoulders of one man.
Aramis, still pale, still icy-cold, his heart upon his lips, looked, even till,
with the last ray of daylight, the shore faded on the horizon.
Not a word escaped him, not a sigh rose from his deep breast.
The superstitious Bretons looked upon him, trembling.
Such silence was not that of a man, it was the silence of a statue.
In the meantime, with the first gray lines that lighted up the heavens, the canoe
hoisted its little sail, which, swelling with the kisses of the breeze, and carrying
them rapidly from the coast, made bravest
way towards Spain, across the dreaded Gulf of Gascony, so rife with storms.
But scarcely half an hour after the sail had been hoisted, the rowers became
inactive, reclining on their benches, and, making an eye-shade with their hands,
pointed out to each other a white spot
which appeared on the horizon as motionless as a gull rocked by the viewless
respiration of the waves.
But that which might have appeared motionless to ordinary eyes was moving at a
quick rate to the experienced eye of the sailor; that which appeared stationary upon
the ocean was cutting a rapid way through it.
For some time, seeing the profound torpor in which their master was plunged, they did
not dare to rouse him, and satisfied themselves with exchanging their
conjectures in whispers.
Aramis, in fact, so vigilant, so active-- Aramis, whose eye, like that of the lynx,
watched without ceasing, and saw better by night than by day--Aramis seemed to sleep
in this despair of soul.
An hour passed thus, during which daylight gradually disappeared, but during which
also the sail in view gained so swiftly on the bark, that Goenne, one of the three
sailors, ventured to say aloud:
"Monseigneur, we are being chased!" Aramis made no reply; the ship still gained
upon them.
Then, of their own accord, two of the sailors, by the direction of the patron
Yves, lowered the sail, in order that that single point upon the surface of the waters
should cease to be a guide to the eye of the enemy pursuing them.
On the part of the ship in sight, on the contrary, two more small sails were run up
at the extremities of the masts.
Unfortunately, it was the time of the finest and longest days of the year, and
the moon, in all her brilliancy, succeeded inauspicious daylight.
The balancelle, which was pursuing the little bark before the wind, had then still
half an hour of twilight, and a whole night almost as light as day.
"Monseigneur! monseigneur! we are lost!" said the captain.
"Look! they see us plainly, though we have lowered sail."
"That is not to be wondered at," murmured one of the sailors, "since they say that,
by the aid of the devil, the Paris-folk have fabricated instruments with which they
see as well at a distance as near, by night as well as by day."
Aramis took a telescope from the bottom of the boat, focussed it silently, and passing
it to the sailor, "Here," said he, "look!"
The sailor hesitated. "Don't be alarmed," said the bishop, "there
is no sin in it; and if there is any sin, I will take it on myself."
The sailor lifted the glass to his eye, and uttered a cry.
He believed that the vessel, which appeared to be distant about cannon-shot, had at a
single bound cleared the whole distance.
But, on withdrawing the instrument from his eye, he saw that, except the way which the
balancelle had been able to make during that brief instant, it was still at the
same distance.
"So," murmured the sailor, "they can see us as we see them."
"They see us," said Aramis, and sank again into impassibility.
"What!--they see us!" said Yves.
"Impossible!" "Well, captain, look yourself," said the
sailor. And he passed him the glass.
"Monseigneur assures me that the devil has nothing to do with this?" asked Yves.
Aramis shrugged his shoulders. The skipper lifted the glass to his eye.
"Oh! monseigneur," said he, "it is a miracle--there they are; it seems as if I
were going to touch them. Twenty-five men at least!
I see the captain forward. He holds a glass like this, and is looking
at us.
Ah! he turns round, and gives an order; they are rolling a piece of cannon forward-
-they are loading it--pointing it. Misericorde! they are firing at us!"
And by a mechanical movement, the skipper put aside the telescope, and the pursuing
ship, relegated to the horizon, appeared again in its true aspect.
The vessel was still at the distance of nearly a league, but the maneuver sighted
thus was not less real.
A light cloud of smoke appeared beneath the sails, more blue than they, and spreading
like a flower opening; then, at about a mile from the little canoe, they saw the
ball take the crown off two or three waves,
dig a white furrow in the sea, and disappear at the end of it, as inoffensive
as the stone with which, in play, a boy makes ducks and drakes.
It was at once a menace and a warning.
"What is to be done?" asked the patron. "They will sink us!" said Goenne, "give us
absolution, monseigneur!" And the sailors fell on their knees before
"You forget that they can see you," said he.
"That is true!" said the sailors, ashamed of their weakness.
"Give us your orders, monseigneur, we are prepared to die for you."
"Let us wait," said Aramis. "How--let us wait?"
"Yes; do you not see, as you just now said, that if we endeavor to fly, they will sink
"But, perhaps," the patron ventured to say, "perhaps under cover of night, we could
escape them."
"Oh!" said Aramis, "they have, no doubt, Greek fire with which to lighten their own
course and ours likewise."
At the same moment, as if the vessel was responsive to the appeal of Aramis, a
second cloud of smoke mounted slowly to the heavens, and from the bosom of that cloud
sparkled an arrow of flame, which described
a parabola like a rainbow, and fell into the sea, where it continued to burn,
illuminating a space of a quarter of a league in diameter.
The Bretons looked at each other in terror.
"You see plainly," said Aramis, "it will be better to wait for them."
The oars dropped from the hands of the sailors, and the bark, ceasing to make way,
rocked motionless upon the summits of the waves.
Night came on, but still the ship drew nearer.
It might be imagined it redoubled its speed with darkness.
From time to time, as a vulture rears its head out of its nest, the formidable Greek
fire darted from its sides, and cast its flame upon the ocean like an incandescent
At last it came within musket-shot. All the men were on deck, arms in hand; the
cannoniers were at their guns, the matches burning.
It might be thought they were about to board a frigate and to fight a crew
superior in number to their own, not to attempt the capture of a canoe manned by
four people.
"Surrender!" cried the commander of the balancelle, with the aid of his speaking-
trumpet. The sailors looked at Aramis.
Aramis made a sign with his head.
Yves waved a white cloth at the end of a gaff.
This was like striking their flag. The pursuer came on like a race-horse.
It launched a fresh Greek fire, which fell within twenty paces of the little canoe,
and threw a light upon them as white as sunshine.
"At the first sign of resistance," cried the commander of the balancelle, "fire!"
The soldiers brought their muskets to the present.
"Did we not say we surrendered?" said Yves.
"Alive, alive, captain!" cried one excited soldier, "they must be taken alive."
"Well, yes--living," said the captain.
Then turning towards the Bretons, "Your lives are safe, my friends!" cried he, "all
but the Chevalier d'Herblay." Aramis stared imperceptibly.
For an instant his eye was fixed upon the depths of the ocean, illumined by the last
flashes of the Greek fire, which ran along the sides of the waves, played on the
crests like plumes, and rendered still
darker and more terrible the gulfs they covered.
"Do you hear, monseigneur?" said the sailors.
"What are your orders?" "Accept!"
"But you, monseigneur?"
Aramis leaned still more forward, and dipped the ends of his long white fingers
in the green limpid waters of the sea, to which he turned with smiles as to a friend.
"Accept!" repeated he.
"We accept," repeated the sailors; "but what security have we?"
"The word of a gentleman," said the officer.
"By my rank and by my name I swear that all except M. le Chevalier d'Herblay shall have
their lives spared.
I am lieutenant of the king's frigate the 'Pomona,' and my name is Louis Constant de
With a rapid gesture, Aramis--already bent over the side of the bark towards the sea--
drew himself up, and with a flashing eye, and a smile upon his lips, "Throw out the
ladder, messieurs," said he, as if the command had belonged to him.
He was obeyed.
When Aramis, seizing the rope ladder, walked straight up to the commander, with a
firm step, looked at him earnestly, made a sign to him with his hand, a mysterious and
unknown sign at sight of which the officer
turned pale, trembled, and bowed his head, the sailors were profoundly astonished.
Without a word Aramis then raised his hand to the eyes of the commander and showed him
the collet of a ring he wore on the ring- finger of his left hand.
And while making this sign Aramis, draped in cold and haughty majesty, had the air of
an emperor giving his hand to be kissed.
The commandant, who for a moment had raised his head, bowed a second time with marks of
the most profound respect.
Then stretching his hand out, in his turn, towards the poop, that is to say, towards
his own cabin, he drew back to allow Aramis to go first.
The three Bretons, who had come on board after their bishop, looked at each other,
stupefied. The crew were awed to silence.
Five minutes after, the commander called the second lieutenant, who returned
immediately, ordering the head to be put towards Corunna.
Whilst this order was being executed, Aramis reappeared upon the deck, and took a
seat near the bastingage.
Night had fallen; the moon had not yet risen, yet Aramis looked incessantly
towards Belle-Isle.
Yves then approached the captain, who had returned to take his post in the stern, and
said, in a low and humble voice, "What course are we to follow, captain?"
"We take what course monseigneur pleases," replied the officer.
Aramis passed the night leaning upon the bastingage.
Yves, on approaching him next morning, remarked that "the night must have been a
very damp one, for the wood on which the bishop's head had rested was soaked with
Who knows?--that dew was, it may be, the first tears that had ever fallen from the
eyes of Aramis! What epitaph would have been worth that,
good Porthos?
CHAPTER LII. M. de Gesvres's Round.
D'Artagnan was little used to resistance like that he had just experienced.
He returned, profoundly irritated, to Nantes.
Irritation, with this vigorous man, usually vented itself in impetuous attack, which
few people, hitherto, were they king, were they giants, had been able to resist.
Trembling with rage, he went straight to the castle, and asked an audience with the
It might be about seven o'clock in the morning, and, since his arrival at Nantes,
the king had been an early riser.
But on arriving at the corridor with which we are acquainted, D'Artagnan found M. de
Gesvres, who stopped him politely, telling him not to speak too loud and disturb the
"Is the king asleep?" said D'Artagnan. "Well, I will let him sleep.
But about what o'clock do you suppose he will rise?"
"Oh! in about two hours; his majesty has been up all night."
D'Artagnan took his hat again, bowed to M. de Gesvres, and returned to his own
He came back at half-past nine, and was told that the king was at breakfast.
"That will just suit me," said D'Artagnan. "I will talk to the king while he is
M. de Brienne reminded D'Artagnan that the king would not see any one at meal-time.
"But," said D'Artagnan, looking askant at Brienne, "you do not know, perhaps,
monsieur, that I have the privilege of entree anywhere--and at any hour."
Brienne took the captain's hand kindly, and said, "Not at Nantes, dear Monsieur
d'Artagnan. The king, in this journey, has changed
D'Artagnan, a little softened, asked about what o'clock the king would have finished
his breakfast. "We don't know."
"Eh?--don't know!
What does that mean? You don't know how much time the king
devotes to eating?
It is generally an hour; and, if we admit that the air of the Loire gives an
additional appetite, we will extend it to an hour and a half; that is enough, I
I will wait where I am." "Oh! dear Monsieur d'Artagnan, the order of
the day is not to allow any person to remain in this corridor; I am on guard for
that particular purpose."
D'Artagnan felt his anger mounting to his brain a second time.
He went out quickly, for fear of complicating the affair by a display of
premature ill-humor.
As soon as he was out he began to reflect. "The king," said he, "will not receive me,
that is evident.
The young man is angry; he is afraid, beforehand, of the words that I may speak
to him.
Yes; but in the meantime Belle-Isle is besieged, and my two friends by now
probably taken or killed. Poor Porthos!
As to Master Aramis, he is always full of resources, and I am easy on his account.
But, no, no; Porthos is not yet an invalid, nor is Aramis in his dotage.
The one with his arm, the other with his imagination, will find work for his
majesty's soldiers.
Who knows if these brave men may not get up for the edification of his most Christian
majesty a little bastion of Saint-Gervais! I don't despair of it.
They have cannon and a garrison.
And yet," continued D'Artagnan, "I don't know whether it would not be better to stop
the combat.
For myself alone I will not put up with either surly looks or insults from the
king; but for my friends I must put up with everything.
Shall I go to M. Colbert?
Now, there is a man I must acquire the habit of terrifying.
I will go to M. Colbert."
And D'Artagnan set forward bravely to find M. Colbert, but was informed that he was
working with the king, at the castle of Nantes.
"Good!" cried he, "the times have come again in which I measured my steps from De
Treville to the cardinal, from the cardinal to the queen, from the queen to Louis XIII.
Truly is it said that men, in growing old, become children again!--To the castle,
then!" He returned thither.
M. de Lyonne was coming out.
He gave D'Artagnan both hands, but told him that the king had been busy all the
preceding evening and all night, and that orders had been given that no one should be
"Not even the captain who takes the order?" cried D'Artagnan.
"I think that is rather too strong." "Not even he," said M. de Lyonne.
"Since that is the case," replied D'Artagnan, wounded to the heart; "since
the captain of the musketeers, who has always entered the king's chamber, is no
longer allowed to enter it, his cabinet, or
his salle-a-manger, either the king is dead, or his captain is in disgrace.
Do me the favor, then, M. de Lyonne, who are in favor, to return and tell the king,
plainly, I send him my resignation."
"D'Artagnan, beware of what you are doing!" "For friendship's sake, go!" and he pushed
him gently towards the cabinet. "Well, I will go," said Lyonne.
D'Artagnan waited, walking about the corridor in no enviable mood.
Lyonne returned. "Well, what did the king say?" exclaimed
"He simply answered, ''Tis well,'" replied Lyonne.
"That it was well!" said the captain, with an explosion.
"That is to say, that he accepts it?
Good! Now, then, I am free!
I am only a plain citizen, M. de Lyonne. I have the pleasure of bidding you good-
Farewell, castle, corridor, ante-chamber! a bourgeois, about to breathe at liberty,
takes his farewell of you."
And without waiting longer, the captain sprang from the terrace down the staircase,
where he had picked up the fragments of Gourville's letter.
Five minutes after, he was at the hostelry, where, according to the custom of all great
officers who have lodgings at the castle, he had taken what was called his city-
But when he arrived there, instead of throwing off his sword and cloak, he took
his pistols, put his money into a large leather purse, sent for his horses from the
castle-stables, and gave orders that would
ensure their reaching Vannes during the night.
Everything went on according to his wishes.
At eight o'clock in the evening, he was putting his foot in the stirrup, when M. de
Gesvres appeared, at the head of twelve guards, in front of the hostelry.
D'Artagnan saw all from the corner of his eye; he could not fail seeing thirteen men
and thirteen horses. But he feigned not to observe anything, and
was about to put his horse in motion.
Gesvres rode up to him. "Monsieur d'Artagnan!" said he, aloud.
"Ah, Monsieur de Gesvres! good evening!" "One would say you were getting on
"More than that,--I am mounted,--as you see."
"It is fortunate I have met with you." "Were you looking for me, then?"
"Mon Dieu! yes."
"On the part of the king, I will wager?" "Yes."
"As I, three days ago, went in search of M. Fouquet?"
"Nonsense! It is of no use being over-delicate with
me; that is all labor lost. Tell me at once you are come to arrest me."
"To arrest you?--Good heavens! no."
"Why do you come to accost me with twelve horsemen at your heels, then?"
"I am making my round." "That isn't bad!
And so you pick me up in your round, eh?"
"I don't pick you up; I meet with you, and I beg you to come with me."
"Where?" "To the king."
"Good!" said D'Artagnan, with a bantering air; "the king is disengaged."
"For Heaven's sake, captain," said M. de Gesvres, in a low voice to the musketeer,
"do not compromise yourself! these men hear you."
D'Artagnan laughed aloud, and replied:
"March! People who are arrested are placed between
the six first guards and the six last."
"But as I am not arresting you," said M. de Gesvres, "you will march behind, with me,
if you please."
"Well," said D'Artagnan, "that is very polite, duke, and you are right in being
so; for if ever I had had to make my rounds near your chambre-de-ville, I should have
been courteous to you, I assure you, on the word of a gentleman!
Now, one favor more; what does the king want with me?"
"Oh, the king is furious!"
"Very well! the king, who has thought it worth while to be angry, may take the
trouble to grow calm again; that is all. I shan't die of that, I will swear."
"No, but--"
"But--I shall be sent to keep company with unfortunate M. Fouquet.
Mordioux! That is a gallant man, a worthy man!
We shall live very sociably together, I will be sworn."
"Here we are at our place of destination," said the duke.
"Captain, for Heaven's sake be calm with the king!"
"Ah! ah! you are playing the brave man with me, duke!" said D'Artagnan, throwing one of
his defiant glances over Gesvres.
"I have been told that you are ambitious of uniting your guards with my musketeers.
This strikes me as a splendid opportunity." "I will take exceeding good care not to
avail myself of it, captain."
"And why not, pray?" "Oh, for many reasons--in the first place,
for this: if I were to succeed you in the musketeers after having arrested you--"
"Ah! then you admit you have arrested me?"
"No, I don't." "Say met me, then.
So, you were saying if you were to succeed me after having arrested me?"
"Your musketeers, at the first exercise with ball cartridges, would fire my way, by
mistake." "Oh, as to that I won't say; for the
fellows do love me a little."
Gesvres made D'Artagnan pass in first, and took him straight to the cabinet where
Louis was waiting for his captain of the musketeers, and placed himself behind his
colleague in the ante-chamber.
The king could be heard distinctly, speaking aloud to Colbert in the same
cabinet where Colbert might have heard, a few days before, the king speaking aloud
with M. d'Artagnan.
The guards remained as a mounted picket before the principal gate; and the report
was quickly spread throughout the city that monsieur le capitaine of the musketeers had
been arrested by order of the king.
Then these men were seen to be in motion, and as in the good old times of Louis XIII.
and M. de Treville, groups were formed, and staircases were filled; vague murmurs,
issuing from the court below, came rolling
to the upper stories, like the distant moaning of the waves.
M. de Gesvres became uneasy.
He looked at his guards, who, after being interrogated by the musketeers who had just
got among their ranks, began to shun them with a manifestation of innocence.
D'Artagnan was certainly less disturbed by all this than M. de Gesvres, the captain of
the guards.
As soon as he entered, he seated himself on the ledge of a window whence with his eagle
glance he saw all that was going on without the least emotion.
No step of the progressive fermentation which had shown itself at the report of his
arrest escaped him.
He foresaw the very moment the explosion would take place; and we know that his
previsions were in general correct.
"It would be very whimsical," thought he, "if, this evening, my praetorians should
make me king of France. How I should laugh!"
But, at the height, all was stopped.
Guards, musketeers, officers, soldiers, murmurs, uneasiness, dispersed, vanished,
died away; there was an end of menace and sedition.
One word had calmed the waves.
The king had desired Brienne to say, "Hush, messieurs! you disturb the king."
D'Artagnan sighed.
"All is over!" said he; "the musketeers of the present day are not those of his
majesty Louis XIII. All is over!"
"Monsieur d'Artagnan, you are wanted in the ante-chamber of the king," proclaimed an
The king was seated in his cabinet, with his back turned towards the door of
In front of him was a mirror, in which, while turning over his papers, he could see
at a glance those who came in.
He did not take any notice of the entrance of D'Artagnan, but spread above his letters
and plans the large silk cloth he used to conceal his secrets from the importunate.
D'Artagnan understood this by-play, and kept in the background; so that at the end
of a minute the king, who heard nothing, and saw nothing save from the corner of his
eye, was obliged to cry, "Is not M. d'Artagnan there?"
"I am here, sire," replied the musketeer, advancing.
"Well, monsieur," said the king, fixing his pellucid eyes on D'Artagnan, "what have you
to say to me?"
"I, sire!" replied the latter, who watched the first blow of his adversary to make a
good retort; "I have nothing to say to your majesty, unless it be that you have caused
me to be arrested, and here I am."
The king was going to reply that he had not had D'Artagnan arrested, but any such
sentence appeared too much like an excuse, and he was silent.
D'Artagnan likewise preserved an obstinate silence.
"Monsieur," at length resumed the king, "what did I charge you to go and do at
Tell me, if you please." The king while uttering these words looked
intently at his captain. Here D'Artagnan was fortunate; the king
seemed to place the game in his hands.
"I believe," replied he, "that your majesty does me the honor to ask what I went to
Belle-Isle to accomplish?" "Yes, monsieur."
"Well! sire, I know nothing about it; it is not of me that question should be asked,
but of that infinite number of officers of all kinds, to whom have been given
innumerable orders of all kinds, whilst to
me, head of the expedition, nothing precise was said or stated in any form whatever."
The king was hurt: he showed it by his reply.
"Monsieur," said he, "orders have only been given to such as were judged faithful."
"And, therefore, I have been astonished, sire," retorted the musketeer, "that a
captain like myself, who ranks with a marechal of France, should have found
himself under the orders of five or six
lieutenants or majors, good to make spies of, possibly, but not at all fit to conduct
a warlike expedition.
It was upon this subject I came to demand an explanation of your majesty, when I
found the door closed against me, which, the final insult offered to a brave man,
has led me to quit your majesty's service."
"Monsieur," replied the king, "you still believe that you are living in an age when
kings were, as you complain of having been, under the orders and at the discretion of
their inferiors.
You seem to forget that a king owes an account of his actions to none but God."
"I forget nothing, sire," said the musketeer, wounded by this lesson.
"Besides, I do not see in what an honest man, when he asks of his king how he has
ill-served him, offends him." "You have ill-served me, monsieur, by
siding with my enemies against me."
"Who are your enemies, sire?" "The men I sent you to fight."
"Two men the enemies of the whole of your majesty's army!
That is incredible."
"You have no power to judge of my will." "But I have to judge of my own friendships,
sire." "He who serves his friends does not serve
his master."
"I so well understand this, sire, that I have respectfully offered your majesty my
resignation." "And I have accepted it, monsieur," said
the king.
"Before being separated from you I was willing to prove to you that I know how to
keep my word."
"Your majesty has kept more than your word, for your majesty has had me arrested," said
D'Artagnan, with his cold, bantering air; "you did not promise me that, sire."
The king would not condescend to perceive the pleasantry, and continued, seriously,
"You see, monsieur, to what grave steps your disobedience forces me."
"My disobedience!" cried D'Artagnan, red with anger.
"It is the mildest term that I can find," pursued the king.
"My idea was to take and punish rebels; was I bound to inquire whether these rebels
were your friends or not?" "But I was," replied D'Artagnan.
"It was a cruelty on your majesty's part to send me to capture my friends and lead them
to your gibbets."
"It was a trial I had to make, monsieur, of pretended servants, who eat my bread and
should defend my person. The trial has succeeded ill, Monsieur
"For one bad servant your majesty loses," said the musketeer, with bitterness, "there
are ten who, on that same day, go through a like ordeal.
Listen to me, sire; I am not accustomed to that service.
Mine is a rebel sword when I am required to do ill.
It was ill to send me in pursuit of two men whose lives M. Fouquet, your majesty's
preserver, implored you to save. Still further, these men were my friends.
They did not attack your majesty, they succumbed to your blind anger.
Besides, why were they not allowed to escape?
What crime had they committed?
I admit you may contest with me the right of judging their conduct.
But why suspect me before the action? Why surround me with spies?
Why disgrace me before the army?
Why me, in whom till now you showed the most entire confidence--who for thirty
years have been attached to your person, and have given you a thousand proofs of my
devotion--for it must be said, now that I
am accused--why reduce me to see three thousand of the king's soldiers march in
battle against two men?"
"One would say you have forgotten what these men have done to me!" said the king,
in a hollow voice, "and that it was no merit of theirs I was not lost."
"Sire, one would imagine you forget that I was there."
"Enough, Monsieur d'Artagnan, enough of these dominating interests which arise to
keep the sun itself from my interests.
I am founding a state in which there shall be but one master, as I promised you; the
moment is at hand for me to keep my promise.
You wish to be, according to your tastes or private friendships, free to destroy my
plans and save my enemies? I will thwart you or will drop you--seek a
more compliant master.
I know full well that another king would not conduct himself as I do, and would
allow himself to be dominated by you, at the risk of sending you some day to keep
company with M. Fouquet and the rest; but I
have an excellent memory, and for me, services are sacred titles to gratitude, to
You shall only have this lesson, Monsieur d'Artagnan, as the punishment of your want
of discipline, and I will not imitate my predecessors in anger, not having imitated
them in favor.
And, then, other reasons make me act mildly towards you; in the first place, because
you are a man of sense, a man of excellent sense, a man of heart, and that you will be
a capital servant to him who shall have
mastered you; secondly, because you will cease to have any motives for
insubordination. Your friends are now destroyed or ruined by
These supports on which your capricious mind instinctively relied I have caused to
disappear. At this moment, my soldiers have taken or
killed the rebels of Belle-Isle."
D'Artagnan became pale. "Taken or killed!" cried he.
"Oh! sire, if you thought what you tell, if you were sure you were telling me the
truth, I should forget all that is just, all that is magnanimous in your words, to
call you a barbarous king, and an unnatural man.
But I pardon you these words," said he, smiling with pride; "I pardon them to a
young prince who does not know, who cannot comprehend what such men as M. d'Herblay,
M. du Vallon, and myself are.
Taken or killed! Ah! Ah! sire! tell me, if the news is true,
how much has it cost you in men and money. We will then reckon if the game has been
worth the stakes."
As he spoke thus, the king went up to him in great anger, and said, "Monsieur
d'Artagnan, your replies are those of a rebel!
Tell me, if you please, who is king of France?
Do you know any other?"
"Sire," replied the captain of the musketeers, coldly, "I very well remember
that one morning at Vaux you addressed that question to many people who did not answer
to it, whilst I, on my part, did answer to it.
If I recognized my king on that day, when the thing was not easy, I think it would be
useless to ask the question of me now, when your majesty and I are alone."
At these words Louis cast down his eyes.
It appeared to him that the shade of the unfortunate Philippe passed between
D'Artagnan and himself, to evoke the remembrance of that terrible adventure.
Almost at the same moment an officer entered and placed a dispatch in the hands
of the king, who, in his turn, changed color, while reading it.
"Monsieur," said he, "what I learn here you would know later; it is better I should
tell you, and that you should learn it from the mouth of your king.
A battle has taken place at Belle-Isle."
"Is it possible?" said D'Artagnan, with a calm air, though his heart was beating fast
enough to choke him. "Well, sire?"
"Well, monsieur--and I have lost a hundred and ten men."
A beam of joy and pride shone in the eyes of D'Artagnan.
"And the rebels?" said he.
"The rebels have fled," said the king. D'Artagnan could not restrain a cry of
"Only," added the king, "I have a fleet which closely blockades Belle-Isle, and I
am certain not a bark can escape."
"So that," said the musketeer, brought back to his dismal idea, "if these two gentlemen
are taken--" "They will be hanged," said the king,
"And do they know it?" replied D'Artagnan, repressing his trembling.
"They know it, because you must have told them yourself; and all the country knows
"Then, sire, they will never be taken alive, I will answer for that."
"Ah!" said the king, negligently, and taking up his letter again.
"Very well, they will be dead, then, Monsieur d'Artagnan, and that will come to
the same thing, since I should only take them to have them hanged."
D'Artagnan wiped the sweat which flowed from his brow.
"I have told you," pursued Louis XIV., "that I would one day be an affectionate,
generous, and constant master.
You are now the only man of former times worthy of my anger or my friendship.
I will not spare you either sentiment, according to your conduct.
Could you serve a king, Monsieur d'Artagnan, who should have a hundred
kings, his equals, in the kingdom? Could I, tell me, do with such weak
instruments the great things I meditate?
Did you ever see an artist effect great works with an unworthy tool?
Far from us, monsieur, the old leaven of feudal abuse!
The Fronde, which threatened to ruin monarchy, has emancipated it.
I am master at home, Captain d'Artagnan, and I shall have servants who, lacking,
perhaps, your genius, will carry devotion and obedience to the verge of heroism.
Of what consequence, I ask you, of what consequence is it that God has given no
sense to arms and legs? It is to the head he has given genius, and
the head, you know, the rest obey.
I am the head." D'Artagnan started.
Louis XIV. continued as if he had seen nothing, although this emotion had not by
any means escaped him.
"Now, let us conclude between us two the bargain I promised to make with you one day
when you found me in a very strange predicament at Blois.
Do me justice, monsieur, when you admit I do not make any one pay for the tears of
shame that I then shed. Look around you; lofty heads have bowed.
Bow yours, or choose such exile as will suit you.
Perhaps, when reflecting upon it, you will find your king has a generous heart, who
reckons sufficiently upon your loyalty to allow you to leave him dissatisfied, when
you possess a great state secret.
You are a brave man; I know you to be so. Why have you judged me prematurely?
Judge me from this day forward, D'Artagnan, and be as severe as you please."
D'Artagnan remained bewildered, mute, undecided for the first time in his life.
At last he had found an adversary worthy of him.
This was no longer trick, it was calculation; no longer violence, but
strength; no longer passion, but will; no longer boasting, but council.
This young man who had brought down a Fouquet, and could do without a D'Artagnan,
deranged the somewhat headstrong calculations of the musketeer.
"Come, let us see what stops you?" said the king, kindly.
"You have given in your resignation; shall I refuse to accept it?
I admit that it may be hard for such an old captain to recover lost good-humor."
"Oh!" replied D'Artagnan, in a melancholy tone, "that is not my most serious care.
I hesitate to take back my resignation because I am old in comparison with you,
and have habits difficult to abandon.
Henceforward, you must have courtiers who know how to amuse you--madmen who will get
themselves killed to carry out what you call your great works.
Great they will be, I feel--but, if by chance I should not think them so?
I have seen war, sire, I have seen peace; I have served Richelieu and Mazarin; I have
been scorched with your father, at the fire of Rochelle; riddled with sword-thrusts
like a sieve, having grown a new skin ten times, as serpents do.
After affronts and injustices, I have a command which was formerly something,
because it gave the bearer the right of speaking as he liked to his king.
But your captain of the musketeers will henceforward be an officer guarding the
outer doors.
Truly, sire, if that is to be my employment from this time, seize the opportunity of
our being on good terms, to take it from me.
Do not imagine that I bear malice; no, you have tamed me, as you say; but it must be
confessed that in taming me you have lowered me; by bowing me you have convicted
me of weakness.
If you knew how well it suits me to carry my head high, and what a pitiful mien I
shall have while scenting the dust of your carpets!
Oh! sire, I regret sincerely, and you will regret as I do, the old days when the king
of France saw in every vestibule those insolent gentlemen, lean, always swearing--
cross-grained mastiffs, who could bite
mortally in the hour of danger or of battle.
These men were the best of courtiers to the hand which fed them--they would lick it;
but for the hand that struck them, oh! the bite that followed!
A little gold on the lace of their cloaks, a slender stomach in their hauts-de-
chausses, a little sparkling of gray in their dry hair, and you will behold the
handsome dukes and peers, the haughty marechaux of France.
But why should I tell you all this?
The king is master; he wills that I should make verses, he wills that I should polish
the mosaics of his ante-chambers with satin shoes.
Mordioux! that is difficult, but I have got over greater difficulties.
I will do it. Why should I do it?
Because I love money?--I have enough.
Because I am ambitious?--my career is almost at an end.
Because I love the court?
No. I will remain here because I have been accustomed for thirty years to go and take
the orderly word of the king, and to have said to me 'Good evening, D'Artagnan,' with
a smile I did not beg for.
That smile I will beg for! Are you content, sire?"
And D'Artagnan bowed his silver head, upon which the smiling king placed his white
hand with pride.
"Thanks, my old servant, my faithful friend," said he.
"As, reckoning from this day, I have no longer any enemies in France, it remains
with me to send you to a foreign field to gather your marshal's baton.
Depend upon me for finding you an opportunity.
In the meanwhile, eat of my very best bread, and sleep in absolute tranquillity."
"That is all kind and well!" said D'Artagnan, much agitated.
"But those poor men at Belle-Isle? One of them, in particular--so good! so
brave! so true!"
"Do you ask their pardon of me?" "Upon my knees, sire!"
"Well! then, go and take it to them, if it be still in time.
But do you answer for them?"
"With my life, sire." "Go, then.
To-morrow I set out for Paris. Return by that time, for I do not wish you
to leave me in the future."
"Be assured of that, sire," said D'Artagnan, kissing the royal hand.
And with a heart swelling with joy, he rushed out of the castle on his way to
CHAPTER LIV. M. Fouquet's Friends.
The king had returned to Paris, and with him D'Artagnan, who, in twenty-four hours,
having made with greatest care all possible inquiries at Belle-Isle, succeeded in
learning nothing of the secret so well kept
by the heavy rock of Locmaria, which had fallen on the heroic Porthos.
The captain of the musketeers only knew what those two valiant men--these two
friends, whose defense he had so nobly taken up, whose lives he had so earnestly
endeavored to save--aided by three faithful
Bretons, had accomplished against a whole army.
He had seen, spread on the neighboring heath, the human remains which had stained
with clouted blood the scattered stones among the flowering broom.
He learned also that a bark had been seen far out at sea, and that, like a bird of
prey, a royal vessel had pursued, overtaken, and devoured the poor little
bird that was flying with such palpitating wings.
But there D'Artagnan's certainties ended. The field of supposition was thrown open.
Now, what could he conjecture?
The vessel had not returned.
It is true that a brisk wind had prevailed for three days; but the corvette was known
to be a good sailer and solid in its timbers; it had no need to fear a gale of
wind, and it ought, according to the
calculation of D'Artagnan, to have either returned to Brest, or come back to the
mouth of the Loire.
Such was the news, ambiguous, it is true, but in some degree reassuring to him
personally, which D'Artagnan brought to Louis XIV., when the king, followed by all
the court, returned to Paris.
Louis, satisfied with his success--Louis, more mild and affable as he felt himself
more powerful--had not ceased for an instant to ride beside the carriage door of
Mademoiselle de la Valliere.
Everybody was anxious to amuse the two queens, so as to make them forget this
abandonment by son and husband. Everything breathed the future, the past
was nothing to anybody.
Only that past was like a painful bleeding wound to the hearts of certain tender and
devoted spirits. Scarcely was the king reinstalled in Paris,
when he received a touching proof of this.
Louis XIV. had just risen and taken his first repast when his captain of the
musketeers presented himself before him. D'Artagnan was pale and looked unhappy.
The king, at the first glance, perceived the change in a countenance generally so
unconcerned. "What is the matter, D'Artagnan?" said he.
"Sire, a great misfortune has happened to me."
"Good heavens! what is that?" "Sire, I have lost one of my friends, M. du
Vallon, in the affair of Belle-Isle."
And, while speaking these words, D'Artagnan fixed his falcon eye upon Louis XIV., to
catch the first feeling that would show itself.
"I knew it," replied the king, quietly.
"You knew it, and did not tell me!" cried the musketeer.
"To what good? Your grief, my friend, was so well worthy
of respect.
It was my duty to treat it gently. To have informed you of this misfortune,
which I knew would pain you so greatly, D'Artagnan, would have been, in your eyes,
to have triumphed over you.
Yes, I knew that M. du Vallon had buried himself beneath the rocks of Locmaria; I
knew that M. d'Herblay had taken one of my vessels with its crew, and had compelled it
to convey him to Bayonne.
But I was willing you should learn these matters in a direct manner, in order that
you might be convinced my friends are with me respected and sacred; that always in me
the man will sacrifice himself to subjects,
whilst the king is so often found to sacrifice men to majesty and power."
"But, sire, how could you know?" "How do you yourself know, D'Artagnan?"
"By this letter, sire, which M. d'Herblay, free and out of danger, writes me from
"Look here," said the king, drawing from a casket placed upon the table closet to the
seat upon which D'Artagnan was leaning, "here is a letter copied exactly from that
of M. d'Herblay.
Here is the very letter, which Colbert placed in my hands a week before you
received yours. I am well served, you may perceive."
"Yes, sire," murmured the musketeer, "you were the only man whose star was equal to
the task of dominating the fortune and strength of my two friends.
You have used your power, sire, you will not abuse it, will you?"
"D'Artagnan," said the king, with a smile beaming with kindness, "I could have M.
d'Herblay carried off from the territories of the king of Spain, and brought here,
alive, to inflict justice upon him.
But, D'Artagnan, be assured I will not yield to this first and natural impulse.
He is free--let him continue free."
"Oh, sire! you will not always remain so clement, so noble, so generous as you have
shown yourself with respect to me and M. d'Herblay; you will have about you
counselors who will cure you of that weakness."
"No, D'Artagnan, you are mistaken when you accuse my council of urging me to pursue
rigorous measures.
The advice to spare M. d'Herblay comes from Colbert himself."
"Oh, sire!" said D'Artagnan, extremely surprised.
"As for you," continued the king, with a kindness very uncommon to him, "I have
several pieces of good news to announce to you; but you shall know them, my dear
captain, the moment I have made my accounts all straight.
I have said that I wish to make, and would make, your fortune; that promise will soon
become reality."
"A thousand times thanks, sire! I can wait.
But I implore you, whilst I go and practice patience, that your majesty will deign to
notice those poor people who have for so long a time besieged your ante-chamber, and
come humbly to lay a petition at your feet."
"Who are they?" "Enemies of your majesty."
The king raised his head.
"Friends of M. Fouquet," added D'Artagnan. "Their names?"
"M. Gourville, M. Pelisson, and a poet, M. Jean de la Fontaine."
The king took a moment to reflect.
"What do they want?" "I do not know."
"How do they appear?" "In great affliction."
"What do they say?"
"Nothing." "What do they do?"
"They weep." "Let them come in," said the king, with a
serious brow.
D'Artagnan turned rapidly on his heel, raised the tapestry which closed the
entrance to the royal chamber, and directing his voice to the adjoining room,
cried, "Enter."
The three men D'Artagnan had named immediately appeared at the door of the
cabinet in which were the king and his captain.
A profound silence prevailed in their passage.
The courtiers, at the approach of the friends of the unfortunate superintendent
of finances, drew back, as if fearful of being affected by contagion with disgrace
and misfortune.
D'Artagnan, with a quick step, came forward to take by the hand the unhappy men who
stood trembling at the door of the cabinet; he led them in front of the king's
fauteuil, who, having placed himself in the
embrasure of a window, awaited the moment of presentation, and was preparing himself
to give the supplicants a rigorously diplomatic reception.
The first of the friends of Fouquet's to advance was Pelisson.
He did not weep, but his tears were only restrained that the king might better hear
his voice and prayer.
Gourville bit his lips to check his tears, out of respect for the king.
La Fontaine buried his face in his handkerchief, and the only signs of life he
gave were the convulsive motions of his shoulders, raised by his sobs.
The king preserved his dignity.
His countenance was impassible. He even maintained the frown which appeared
when D'Artagnan announced his enemies.
He made a gesture which signified, "Speak;" and he remained standing, with his eyes
fixed searchingly on these desponding men. Pelisson bowed to the ground, and La
Fontaine knelt as people do in churches.
This dismal silence, disturbed only by sighs and groans, began to excite in the
king, not compassion, but impatience. "Monsieur Pelisson," said he, in a sharp,
dry tone.
"Monsieur Gourville, and you, Monsieur--" and he did not name La Fontaine, "I cannot,
without sensible displeasure, see you come to plead for one of the greatest criminals
it is the duty of justice to punish.
A king does not allow himself to soften save at the tears of the innocent, the
remorse of the guilty.
I have no faith either in the remorse of M. Fouquet or the tears of his friends,
because the one is tainted to the very heart, and the others ought to dread
offending me in my own palace.
For these reasons, I beg you, Monsieur Pelisson, Monsieur Gourville, and you,
Monsieur--, to say nothing that will not plainly proclaim the respect you have for
my will."
"Sire," replied Pelisson, trembling at these words, "we are come to say nothing to
your majesty that is not the most profound expression of the most sincere respect and
love that are due to a king from all his subjects.
Your majesty's justice is redoubtable; every one must yield to the sentences it
We respectfully bow before it. Far from us the idea of coming to defend
him who has had the misfortune to offend your majesty.
He who has incurred your displeasure may be a friend of ours, but he is an enemy to the
state. We abandon him, but with tears, to the
severity of the king."
"Besides," interrupted the king, calmed by that supplicating voice, and those
persuasive words, "my parliament will decide.
I do not strike without first having weighed the crime; my justice does not
wield the sword without employing first a pair of scales."
"Therefore we have every confidence in that impartiality of the king, and hope to make
our feeble voices heard, with the consent of your majesty, when the hour for
defending an accused friend strikes."
"In that case, messieurs, what do you ask of me?" said the king, with his most
imposing air. "Sire," continued Pelisson, "the accused
has a wife and family.
The little property he had was scarcely sufficient to pay his debts, and Madame
Fouquet, since her husband's captivity, is abandoned by everybody.
The hand of your majesty strikes like the hand of God.
When the Lord sends the curse of leprosy or pestilence into a family, every one flies
and shuns the abode of the leprous or plague-stricken.
Sometimes, but very rarely, a generous physician alone ventures to approach the
ill-reputed threshold, passes it with courage, and risks his life to combat
He is the last resource of the dying, the chosen instrument of heavenly mercy.
Sire, we supplicate you, with clasped hands and bended knees, as a divinity is
Madame Fouquet has no longer any friends, no longer any means of support; she weeps
in her deserted home, abandoned by all those who besieged its doors in the hour of
prosperity; she has neither credit nor hope left.
At least, the unhappy wretch upon whom your anger falls receives from you, however
culpable he may be, his daily bread though moistened by his tears.
As much afflicted, more destitute than her husband, Madame Fouquet--the lady who had
the honor to receive your majesty at her table--Madame Fouquet, the wife of the
ancient superintendent of your majesty's
finances, Madame Fouquet has no longer bread."
Here the mortal silence which had chained the breath of Pelisson's two friends was
broken by an outburst of sobs; and D'Artagnan, whose chest heaved at hearing
this humble prayer, turned round towards
the angle of the cabinet to bite his mustache and conceal a groan.
The king had preserved his eye dry and his countenance severe; but the blood had
mounted to his cheeks, and the firmness of his look was visibly diminished.
"What do you wish?" said he, in an agitated voice.
"We come humbly to ask your majesty," replied Pelisson, upon whom emotion was
fast gaining, "to permit us, without incurring the displeasure of your majesty,
to lend to Madame Fouquet two thousand
pistoles collected among the old friends of her husband, in order that the widow may
not stand in need of the necessaries of life."
At the word widow, pronounced by Pelisson whilst Fouquet was still alive, the king
turned very pale;--his pride disappeared; pity rose from his heart to his lips; he
cast a softened look upon the men who knelt sobbing at his feet.
"God forbid," said he, "that I should confound the innocent with the guilty.
They know me but ill who doubt my mercy towards the weak.
I strike none but the arrogant.
Do, messieurs, do all that your hearts counsel you to assuage the grief of Madame
Fouquet. Go, messieurs--go!"
The three now rose in silence with dry eyes.
The tears had been scorched away by contact with their burning cheeks and eyelids.
They had not the strength to address their thanks to the king, who himself cut short
their solemn reverences by entrenching himself suddenly behind the fauteuil.
D'Artagnan remained alone with the king.
"Well," said he, approaching the young prince, who interrogated him with his look.
"Well, my master!
If you had not the device which belongs to your sun, I would recommend you one which
M. Conrart might translate into eclectic Latin, 'Calm with the lowly; stormy with
the strong.'"
The king smiled, and passed into the next apartment, after having said to D'Artagnan,
"I give you the leave of absence you must want to put the affairs of your friend, the
late M. du Vallon, in order."
CHAPTER LV. Porthos's Will.
At Pierrefonds everything was in mourning. The courts were deserted--the stables
closed--the parterres neglected.
In the basins, the fountains, formerly so jubilantly fresh and noisy, had stopped of
Along the roads around the chateau came a few grave personages mounted on mules or
country nags. These were rural neighbors, cures and
bailiffs of adjacent estates.
All these people entered the chateau silently, handed their horses to a
melancholy-looking groom, and directed their steps, conducted by a huntsman in
black, to the great dining-room, where Mousqueton received them at the door.
Mousqueton had become so thin in two days that his clothes moved upon him like an
ill-fitting scabbard in which the sword- blade dances at each motion.
His face, composed of red and white, like that of the Madonna of Vandyke, was
furrowed by two silver rivulets which had dug their beds in his cheeks, as full
formerly as they had become flabby since his grief began.
At each fresh arrival, Mousqueton found fresh tears, and it was pitiful to see him
press his throat with his fat hand to keep from bursting into sobs and lamentations.
All these visits were for the purpose of hearing the reading of Porthos's will,
announced for that day, and at which all the covetous friends of the dead man were
anxious to be present, as he had left no relations behind him.
The visitors took their places as they arrived, and the great room had just been
closed when the clock struck twelve, the hour fixed for the reading of the important
Porthos's procureur--and that was naturally the successor of Master Coquenard--
commenced by slowly unfolding the vast parchment upon which the powerful hand of
Porthos had traced his sovereign will.
The seal broken--the spectacles put on--the preliminary cough having sounded--every one
pricked up his ears.
Mousqueton had squatted himself in a corner, the better to weep and the better
to hear.
All at once the folding-doors of the great room, which had been shut, were thrown open
as if by magic, and a warlike figure appeared upon the threshold, resplendent in
the full light of the sun.
This was D'Artagnan, who had come alone to the gate, and finding nobody to hold his
stirrup, had tied his horse to the knocker and announced himself.
The splendor of daylight invading the room, the murmur of all present, and, more than
all, the instinct of the faithful dog, drew Mousqueton from his reverie; he raised his
head, recognized the old friend of his
master, and, screaming with grief, he embraced his knees, watering the floor with
his tears.
D'Artagnan raised the poor intendant, embraced him as if he had been a brother,
and, having nobly saluted the assembly, who all bowed as they whispered to each other
his name, he went and took his seat at the
extremity of the great carved oak hall, still holding by the hand poor Mousqueton,
who was suffocating with excess of woe, and sank upon the steps.
Then the procureur, who, like the rest, was considerably agitated, commenced.
Porthos, after a profession of faith of the most Christian character, asked pardon of
his enemies for all the injuries he might have done them.
At this paragraph, a ray of inexpressible pride beamed from the eyes of D'Artagnan.
He recalled to his mind the old soldier; all those enemies of Porthos brought to
earth by his valiant hand; he reckoned up the numbers of them, and said to himself
that Porthos had acted wisely, not to
enumerate his enemies or the injuries done to them, or the task would have been too
much for the reader. Then came the following schedule of his
extensive lands:
"I possess at this present time, by the grace of God--
"1. The domain of Pierrefonds, lands, woods, meadows, waters, and forests,
surrounded by good walls.
"2. The domain of Bracieux, chateaux, forests, plowed lands, forming three farms.
"3. The little estate Du Vallon, so named because it is in the valley."
(Brave Porthos!)
"4. Fifty farms in Touraine, amounting to five hundred acres.
"5. Three mills upon the Cher, bringing in six hundred livres each.
"6. Three fish-pools in Berry, producing two hundred livres a year.
"As to my personal or movable property, so called because it can be moved, as is so
well explained by my learned friend the bishop of Vannes--" (D'Artagnan shuddered
at the dismal remembrance attached to that
name)--the procureur continued imperturbably--"they consist--"
"1. In goods which I cannot detail here for want of room, and which furnish all my
chateaux or houses, but of which the list is drawn up by my intendant."
Every one turned his eyes towards Mousqueton, who was still lost in grief.
"2. In twenty horses for saddle and draught, which I have particularly at my
chateau of Pierrefonds, and which are called--Bayard, Roland, Charlemagne, Pepin,
Dunois, La Hire, Ogier, Samson, Milo,
Nimrod, Urganda, Armida, Flastrade, Dalilah, Rebecca, Yolande, Finette,
Grisette, Lisette, and Musette.
"3. In sixty dogs, forming six packs, divided as follows: the first, for the
stag; the second, for the wolf; the third, for the wild boar; the fourth, for the
hare; and the two others, for setters and protection.
"4. In arms for war and the chase contained in my gallery of arms.
"5. My wines of Anjou, selected for Athos, who liked them formerly; my wines of
Burgundy, Champagne, Bordeaux, and Spain, stocking eight cellars and twelve vaults,
in my various houses.
"6. My pictures and statues, which are said to be of great value, and which are
sufficiently numerous to fatigue the sight.
"7. My library, consisting of six thousand volumes, quite new, and have never been
"8. My silver plate, which is perhaps a little worn, but which ought to weigh from
a thousand to twelve hundred pounds, for I had great trouble in lifting the coffer
that contained it and could not carry it more than six times round my chamber.
"9. All these objects, in addition to the table and house linen, are divided in the
residences I liked the best."
Here the reader stopped to take breath. Every one sighed, coughed, and redoubled
his attention. The procureur resumed:
"I have lived without having any children, and it is probable I never shall have any,
which to me is a cutting grief.
And yet I am mistaken, for I have a son, in common with my other friends; that is, M.
Raoul Auguste Jules de Bragelonne, the true son of M. le Comte de la Fere.
"This young nobleman appears to me extremely worthy to succeed the valiant
gentleman of whom I am the friend and very humble servant."
Here a sharp sound interrupted the reader.
It was D'Artagnan's sword, which, slipping from his baldric, had fallen on the
sonorous flooring.
Every one turned his eyes that way, and saw that a large tear had rolled from the thick
lid of D'Artagnan, half-way down to his aquiline nose, the luminous edge of which
shone like a little crescent moon.
"This is why," continued the procureur, "I have left all my property, movable, or
immovable, comprised in the above enumerations, to M. le Vicomte Raoul
Auguste Jules de Bragelonne, son of M. le
Comte de la Fere, to console him for the grief he seems to suffer, and enable him to
add more luster to his already glorious name."
A vague murmur ran through the auditory.
The procureur continued, seconded by the flashing eye of D'Artagnan, which, glancing
over the assembly, quickly restored the interrupted silence:
"On condition that M. le Vicomte de Bragelonne do give to M. le Chevalier
d'Artagnan, captain of the king's musketeers, whatever the said Chevalier
d'Artagnan may demand of my property.
On condition that M. le Vicomte de Bragelonne do pay a good pension to M. le
Chevalier d'Herblay, my friend, if he should need it in exile.
I leave to my intendant Mousqueton all of my clothes, of city, war, or chase, to the
number of forty-seven suits, in the assurance that he will wear them till they
are worn out, for the love of and in remembrance of his master.
Moreover, I bequeath to M. le Vicomte de Bragelonne my old servant and faithful
friend Mousqueton, already named, providing that the said vicomte shall so act that
Mousqueton shall declare, when dying, he has never ceased to be happy."
On hearing these words, Mousqueton bowed, pale and trembling; his shoulders shook
convulsively; his countenance, compressed by a frightful grief, appeared from between
his icy hands, and the spectators saw him
stagger and hesitate, as if, though wishing to leave the hall, he did not know the way.
"Mousqueton, my good friend," said D'Artagnan, "go and make your preparations.
I will take you with me to Athos's house, whither I shall go on leaving Pierrefonds."
Mousqueton made no reply. He scarcely breathed, as if everything in
that hall would from that time be foreign.
He opened the door, and slowly disappeared.
The procureur finished his reading, after which the greater part of those who had
come to hear the last will of Porthos dispersed by degrees, many disappointed,
but all penetrated with respect.
As for D'Artagnan, thus left alone, after having received the formal compliments of
the procureur, he was lost in admiration of the wisdom of the testator, who had so
judiciously bestowed his wealth upon the
most necessitous and the most worthy, with a delicacy that neither nobleman nor
courtier could have displayed more kindly.
When Porthos enjoined Raoul de Bragelonne to give D'Artagnan all that he would ask,
he knew well, our worthy Porthos, that D'Artagnan would ask or take nothing; and
in case he did demand anything, none but himself could say what.
Porthos left a pension to Aramis, who, if he should be inclined to ask too much, was
checked by the example of D'Artagnan; and that word exile, thrown out by the
testator, without apparent intention, was
it not the mildest, most exquisite criticism upon that conduct of Aramis which
had brought about the death of Porthos? But there was no mention of Athos in the
testament of the dead.
Could the latter for a moment suppose that the son would not offer the best part to
the father?
The rough mind of Porthos had fathomed all these causes, seized all these shades more
clearly than law, better than custom, with more propriety than taste.
"Porthos had indeed a heart," said D'Artagnan to himself with a sigh.
As he made this reflection, he fancied he hard a groan in the room above him; and he
thought immediately of poor Mousqueton, whom he felt it was a pleasing duty to
divert from his grief.
For this purpose he left the hall hastily to seek the worthy intendant, as he had not
He ascended the staircase leading to the first story, and perceived, in Porthos's
own chamber, a heap of clothes of all colors and materials, upon which Mousqueton
had laid himself down after heaping them all on the floor together.
It was the legacy of the faithful friend.
Those clothes were truly his own; they had been given to him; the hand of Mousqueton
was stretched over these relics, which he was kissing with his lips, with all his
face, and covered with his body.
D'Artagnan approached to console the poor fellow.
"My God!" said he, "he does not stir--he has fainted!"
But D'Artagnan was mistaken.
Mousqueton was dead! Dead, like the dog who, having lost his
master, crawls back to die upon his cloak.
CHAPTER LVI. The Old Age of Athos.
While these affairs were separating forever the four musketeers, formerly bound
together in a manner that seemed indissoluble, Athos, left alone after the
departure of Raoul, began to pay his
tribute to that foretaste of death which is called the absence of those we love.
Back in his house at Blois, no longer having even Grimaud to receive a poor smile
as he passed through the parterre, Athos daily felt the decline of vigor of a nature
which for so long a time had seemed impregnable.
Age, which had been kept back by the presence of the beloved object, arrived
with that cortege of pains and inconveniences, which grows by geometrical
Athos had no longer his son to induce him to walk firmly, with head erect, as a good
example; he had no longer, in those brilliant eyes of the young man, an ever-
ardent focus at which to kindle anew the fire of his looks.
And then, must it be said, that nature, exquisite in tenderness and reserve, no
longer finding anything to understand its feelings, gave itself up to grief with all
the warmth of common natures when they yield to joy.
The Comte de la Fere, who had remained a young man to his sixty-second year; the
warrior who had preserved his strength in spite of fatigue; his freshness of mind in
spite of misfortune, his mild serenity of
soul and body in spite of Milady, in spite of Mazarin, in spite of La Valliere; Athos
had become an old man in a week, from the moment at which he lost the comfort of his
later youth.
Still handsome, though bent, noble, but sad, he sought, since his solitude, the
deeper glades where sunshine scarcely penetrated.
He discontinued all the mighty exercises he had enjoyed through life, when Raoul was no
longer with him.
The servants, accustomed to see him stirring with the dawn at all seasons, were
astonished to hear seven o'clock strike before their master quitted his bed.
Athos remained in bed with a book under his pillow--but he did not sleep, neither did
he read.
Remaining in bed that he might no longer have to carry his body, he allowed his soul
and spirit to wander from their envelope and return to his son, or to God.
His people were sometimes terrified to see him, for hours together, absorbed in silent
reverie, mute and insensible; he no longer heard the timid step of the servant who
came to the door of his chamber to watch the sleeping or waking of his master.
It often occurred that he forgot the day had half passed away, that the hours for
the two first meals were gone by.
Then he was awakened. He rose, descended to his shady walk, then
came out a little into the sun, as though to partake of its warmth for a minute in
memory of his absent child.
And then the dismal monotonous walk recommenced, until, exhausted, he regained
the chamber and his bed, his domicile by choice.
For several days the comte did not speak a single word.
He refused to receive the visits that were paid him, and during the night he was seen
to relight his lamp and pass long hours in writing, or examining parchments.
Athos wrote one of these letters to Vannes, another to Fontainebleau; they remained
without answers.
We know why: Aramis had quitted France, and D'Artagnan was traveling from Nantes to
Paris, from Paris to Pierrefonds.
His valet de chambre observed that he shortened his walk every day by several
The great alley of limes soon became too long for feet that used to traverse it
formerly a hundred times a day.
The comte walked feebly as far as the middle trees, seated himself upon a mossy
bank that sloped towards a sidewalk, and there waited the return of his strength, or
rather the return of night.
Very shortly a hundred steps exhausted him.
At length Athos refused to rise at all; he declined all nourishment, and his terrified
people, although he did not complain, although he wore a smile upon his lips,
although he continued to speak with his
sweet voice--his people went to Blois in search of the ancient physician of the late
Monsieur, and brought him to the Comte de la Fere in such a fashion that he could see
the comte without being himself seen.
For this purpose, they placed him in a closet adjoining the chamber of the
patient, and implored him not to show himself, for fear of displeasing their
master, who had not asked for a physician.
The doctor obeyed. Athos was a sort of model for the gentlemen
of the country; the Blaisois boasted of possessing this sacred relic of French
Athos was a great seigneur compared with such nobles as the king improvised by
touching with his artificial scepter the parched-up trunks of the heraldic trees of
the province.
People respected Athos, we say, and they loved him.
The physician could not bear to see his people weep, to see flock round him the
poor of the canton, to whom Athos had so often given life and consolation by his
kind words and his charities.
He examined, therefore, from the depths of his hiding-place, the nature of that
mysterious malady which bent and aged more mortally every day a man but lately so full
of life and a desire to live.
He remarked upon the cheeks of Athos the hectic hue of fever, which feeds upon
itself; slow fever, pitiless, born in a fold of the heart, sheltering itself behind
that rampart, growing from the suffering it
engenders, at once cause and effect of a perilous situation.
The comte spoke to nobody; he did not even talk to himself.
His thought feared noise; it approached to that degree of over-excitement which
borders upon ecstasy.
Man thus absorbed, though he does not yet belong to God, already appertains no longer
to the earth.
The doctor remained for several hours studying this painful struggle of the will
against superior power; he was terrified at seeing those eyes always fixed, ever
directed on some invisible object; was
terrified at the monotonous beating of that heart from which never a sigh arose to vary
the melancholy state; for often pain becomes the hope of the physician.
Half a day passed away thus.
The doctor formed his resolution like a brave man; he issued suddenly from his
place of retreat, and went straight up to Athos, who beheld him without evincing more
surprise than if he had understood nothing of the apparition.
"Monsieur le comte, I crave your pardon," said the doctor, coming up to the patient
with open arms; "but I have a reproach to make you--you shall hear me."
And he seated himself by the pillow of Athos, who had great trouble in rousing
himself from his preoccupation. "What is the matter, doctor?" asked the
comte, after a silence.
"The matter is, you are ill, monsieur, and have had no advice."
"I! ill!" said Athos, smiling. "Fever, consumption, weakness, decay,
monsieur le comte!"
"Weakness!" replied Athos; "is it possible? I do not get up."
"Come, come! monsieur le comte, no subterfuges; you are a good Christian?"
"I hope so," said Athos.
"Is it your wish to kill yourself?" "Never, doctor."
"Well! monsieur, you are in a fair way of doing so.
Thus to remain is suicide.
Get well! monsieur le comte, get well!" "Of what?
Find the disease first.
For my part, I never knew myself better; never did the sky appear more blue to me;
never did I take more care of my flowers." "You have a hidden grief."
"Concealed!--not at all; the absence of my son, doctor; that is my malady, and I do
not conceal it."
"Monsieur le comte, your son lives, he is strong, he has all the future before him--
the future of men of merit, of his race; live for him--"
"But I do live, doctor; oh! be satisfied of that," added he, with a melancholy smile;
"for as long as Raoul lives, it will be plainly known, for as long as he lives, I
shall live."
"What do you say?" "A very simple thing.
At this moment, doctor, I leave life suspended within me.
A forgetful, dissipated, indifferent life would be beyond my strength, now I have no
longer Raoul with me.
You do not ask the lamp to burn when the match has not illumed the flame; do not ask
me to live amidst noise and merriment. I vegetate, I prepare myself, I wait.
Look, doctor; remember those soldiers we have so often seen together at the ports,
where they were waiting to embark; lying down, indifferent, half on one element,
half on the other; they were neither at the
place where the sea was going to carry them, nor at the place the earth was going
to lose them; baggage prepared, minds on the stretch, arms stacked--they waited.
I repeat it, the word is the one which paints my present life.
Lying down like the soldiers, my ear on the stretch for the report that may reach me, I
wish to be ready to set out at the first summons.
Who will make me that summons? life or death?
God or Raoul?
My baggage is packed, my soul is prepared, I await the signal--I wait, doctor, I
The doctor knew the temper of that mind; he appreciated the strength of that body; he
reflected for the moment, told himself that words were useless, remedies absurd, and
left the chateau, exhorting Athos's servants not to quit him for a moment.
The doctor being gone, Athos evinced neither anger nor vexation at having been
He did not even desire that all letters that came should be brought to him
He knew very well that every distraction which should arise would be a joy, a hope,
which his servants would have paid with their blood to procure him.
Sleep had become rare.
By intense thinking, Athos forgot himself, for a few hours at most, in a reverie most
profound, more obscure than other people would have called a dream.
The momentary repose which this forgetfulness thus gave the body, still
further fatigued the soul, for Athos lived a double life during these wanderings of
his understanding.
One night, he dreamt that Raoul was dressing himself in a tent, to go upon an
expedition commanded by M. de Beaufort in person.
The young man was sad; he clasped his cuirass slowly, and slowly he girded on his
sword. "What is the matter?" asked his father,
"What afflicts me is the death of Porthos, ever so dear a friend," replied Raoul.
"I suffer here the grief you soon will feel at home."
And the vision disappeared with the slumber of Athos.
At daybreak one of his servants entered his master's apartment, and gave him a letter
which came from Spain.
"The writing of Aramis," thought the comte; and he read.
"Porthos is dead!" cried he, after the first lines.
"Oh! Raoul, Raoul! thanks! thou keepest thy promise, thou warnest me!"
And Athos, seized with a mortal sweat, fainted in his bed, without any other cause
than weakness.
CHAPTER LVII. Athos's Vision.
When this fainting of Athos had ceased, the comte, almost ashamed of having given way
before this superior natural event, dressed himself and ordered his horse, determined
to ride to Blois, to open more certain
correspondences with either Africa, D'Artagnan, or Aramis.
In fact, this letter from Aramis informed the Comte de la Fere of the bad success of
the expedition of Belle-Isle.
It gave him sufficient details of the death of Porthos to move the tender and devoted
heart of Athos to its innermost fibers. Athos wished to go and pay his friend
Porthos a last visit.
To render this honor to his companion in arms, he meant to send to D'Artagnan, to
prevail upon him to recommence the painful voyage to Belle-Isle, to accomplish in his
company that sad pilgrimage to the tomb of
the giant he had so much loved, then to return to his dwelling to obey that secret
influence which was conducting him to eternity by a mysterious road.
But scarcely had his joyous servants dressed their master, whom they saw with
pleasure preparing for a journey which might dissipate his melancholy; scarcely
had the comte's gentlest horse been saddled
and brought to the door, when the father of Raoul felt his head become confused, his
legs give way, and he clearly perceived the impossibility of going one step further.
He ordered himself to be carried into the sun; they laid him upon his bed of moss
where he passed a full hour before he could recover his spirits.
Nothing could be more natural than this weakness after then inert repose of the
latter days.
Athos took a bouillon, to give him strength, and bathed his dried lips in a
glassful of the wine he loved the best-- that old Anjou wine mentioned by Porthos in
his admirable will.
Then, refreshed, free in mind, he had his horse brought again; but only with the aid
of his servants was he able painfully to climb into the saddle.
He did not go a hundred paces; a shivering seized him again at the turning of the
road. "This is very strange!" said he to his
valet de chambre, who accompanied him.
"Let us stop, monsieur--I conjure you!" replied the faithful servant; "how pale you
are getting!"
"That will not prevent my pursuing my route, now I have once started," replied
the comte. And he gave his horse his head again.
But suddenly, the animal, instead of obeying the thought of his master, stopped.
A movement, of which Athos was unconscious, had checked the bit.
"Something," said Athos, "wills that I should go no further.
Support me," added he, stretching out his arms; "quick! come closer!
I feel my muscles relax--I shall fall from my horse."
The valet had seen the movement made by his master at the moment he received the order.
He went up to him quickly, received the comte in his arms, and as they were not yet
sufficiently distant from the house for the servants, who had remained at the door to
watch their master's departure, not to
perceive the disorder in the usually regular proceeding of the comte, the valet
called his comrades by gestures and voice, and all hastened to his assistance.
Athos had gone but a few steps on his return, when he felt himself better again.
His strength seemed to revive and with it the desire to go to Blois.
He made his horse turn round: but, at the animal's first steps, he sunk again into a
state of torpor and anguish. "Well! decidedly," said he, "it is willed
that I should stay at home."
His people flocked around him; they lifted him from his horse, and carried him as
quickly as possible into the house. Everything was prepared in his chamber, and
they put him to bed.
"You will be sure to remember," said he, disposing himself to sleep, "that I expect
letters from Africa this very day."
"Monsieur will no doubt hear with pleasure that Blaisois's son is gone on horseback,
to gain an hour over the courier of Blois," replied his valet de chambre.
"Thank you," replied Athos, with his placid smile.
The comte fell asleep, but his disturbed slumber resembled torture rather than
The servant who watched him saw several times the expression of internal suffering
shadowed on his features. Perhaps Athos was dreaming.
The day passed away.
Blaisois's son returned; the courier had brought no news.
The comte reckoned the minutes with despair; he shuddered when those minutes
made an hour.
The idea that he was forgotten seized him once, and brought on a fearful pang of the
Everybody in the house had given up all hopes of the courier--his hour had long
Four times the express sent to Blois had repeated his journey, and there was nothing
to the address of the comte. Athos knew that the courier only arrived
once a week.
Here, then, was a delay of eight mortal days to be endured.
He commenced the night in this painful persuasion.
All that a sick man, irritated by suffering, can add of melancholy
suppositions to probabilities already gloomy, Athos heaped up during the early
hours of this dismal night.
The fever rose: it invaded the chest, where the fire soon caught, according to the
expression of the physician, who had been brought back from Blois by Blaisois at his
last journey.
Soon it gained the head. The physician made two successive
bleedings, which dislodged it for the time, but left the patient very weak, and without
power of action in anything but his brain.
And yet this redoubtable fever had ceased. It besieged with its last palpitations the
tense extremities; it ended by yielding as midnight struck.
The physician, seeing the incontestable improvement, returned to Blois, after
having ordered some prescriptions, and declared that the comte was saved.
Then commenced for Athos a strange, indefinable state.
Free to think, his mind turned towards Raoul, that beloved son.
His imagination penetrated the fields of Africa in the environs of Gigelli, where M.
de Beaufort must have landed with his army.
A waste of gray rocks, rendered green in certain parts by the waters of the sea,
when it lashed the shore in storms and tempest.
Beyond, the shore, strewed over with these rocks like gravestones, ascended, in form
of an amphitheater among mastic-trees and cactus, a sort of small town, full of
smoke, confused noises, and terrified movements.
All of a sudden, from the bosom of this smoke arose a flame, which succeeded,
creeping along the houses, in covering the entire surface of the town, and increased
by degrees, uniting in its red and angry
vortices tears, screams, and supplicating arms outstretched to Heaven.
There was, for a moment, a frightful pele- mele of timbers falling to pieces, of
swords broken, of stones calcined, trees burnt and disappearing.
It was a strange thing that in this chaos, in which Athos distinguished raised arms,
in which he heard cries, sobs, and groans, he did not see one human figure.
The cannon thundered at a distance, musketry madly barked, the sea moaned,
flocks made their escape, bounding over the verdant slope.
But not a soldier to apply the match to the batteries of cannon, not a sailor to assist
in maneuvering the fleet, not a shepherd in charge of the flocks.
After the ruin of the village, the destruction of the forts which dominated
it, a ruin and destruction magically wrought without the co-operation of a
single human being, the flames were
extinguished, the smoke began to subside, then diminished in intensity, paled and
disappeared entirely. Night then came over the scene; night dark
upon the earth, brilliant in the firmament.
The large blazing stars which spangled the African sky glittered and gleamed without
illuminating anything.
A long silence ensued, which gave, for a moment, repose to the troubled imagination
of Athos; and as he felt that that which he saw was not terminated, he applied more
attentively the eyes of his understanding
on the strange spectacle which his imagination had presented.
This spectacle was soon continued for him.
A mild pale moon rose behind the declivities of the coast, streaking at
first the undulating ripples of the sea, which appeared to have calmed after the
roaring it had sent forth during the vision
of Athos--the moon, we say, shed its diamonds and opals upon the briers and
bushes of the hills.
The gray rocks, so many silent and attentive phantoms, appeared to raise their
heads to examine likewise the field of battle by the light of the moon, and Athos
perceived that the field, empty during the combat, was now strewn with fallen bodies.
An inexpressible shudder of fear and horror seized his soul as he recognized the white
and blue uniforms of the soldiers of Picardy, with their long pikes and blue
handles, and muskets marked with the fleur- de-lis on the butts.
When he saw all the gaping wounds, looking up to the bright heavens as if to demand
back of them the souls to which they had opened a passage,--when he saw the
slaughtered horses, stiff, their tongues
hanging out at one side of their mouths, sleeping in the shiny blood congealed
around them, staining their furniture and their manes,--when he saw the white horse
of M. de Beaufort, with his head beaten to
pieces, in the first ranks of the dead, Athos passed a cold hand over his brow,
which he was astonished not to find burning.
He was convinced by this touch that he was present, as a spectator, without delirium's
dreadful aid, the day after the battle fought upon the shores of Gigelli by the
army of the expedition, which he had seen
leave the coast of France and disappear upon the dim horizon, and of which he had
saluted with thought and gesture the last cannon-shot fired by the duke as a signal
of farewell to his country.
Who can paint the mortal agony with which his soul followed, like a vigilant eye,
these effigies of clay-cold soldiers, and examined them, one after the other, to see
if Raoul slept among them?
Who can express the intoxication of joy with which Athos bowed before God, and
thanked Him for not having seen him he sought with so much fear among the dead?
In fact, fallen in their ranks, stiff, icy, the dead, still recognizable with ease,
seemed to turn with complacency towards the Comte de la Fere, to be the better seen by
him, during his sad review.
But yet, he was astonished, while viewing all these bodies, not to perceive the
To such a point did the illusion extend, that this vision was for him a real voyage
made by the father into Africa, to obtain more exact information respecting his son.
Fatigued, therefore, with having traversed seas and continents, he sought repose under
one of the tents sheltered behind a rock, on the top of which floated the white
fleur-de-lised pennon.
He looked for a soldier to conduct him to the tent of M. de Beaufort.
Then, while his eye was wandering over the plain, turning on all sides, he saw a white
form appear behind the scented myrtles.
This figure was clothed in the costume of an officer; it held in its hand a broken
sword; it advanced slowly towards Athos, who, stopping short and fixing his eyes
upon it, neither spoke nor moved, but
wished to open his arms, because in this silent officer he had already recognized
Raoul. The comte attempted to utter a cry, but it
was stifled in his throat.
Raoul, with a gesture, directed him to be silent, placing his finger on his lips and
drawing back by degrees, without Athos being able to see his legs move.
The comte, still paler than Raoul, followed his son, painfully traversing briers and
bushes, stones and ditches, Raoul not appearing to touch the earth, no obstacle
seeming to impede the lightness of his march.
The comte, whom the inequalities of the path fatigued, soon stopped, exhausted.
Raoul still continued to beckon him to follow him.
The tender father, to whom love restored strength, made a last effort, and climbed
the mountain after the young man, who attracted him by gesture and by smile.
At length he gained the crest of the hill, and saw, thrown out in black, upon the
horizon whitened by the moon, the aerial form of Raoul.
Athos reached forth his hand to get closer to his beloved son upon the plateau, and
the latter also stretched out his; but suddenly, as if the young man had been
drawn away in his own despite, still
retreating, he left the earth, and Athos saw the clear blue sky shine between the
feet of his child and the ground of the hill.
Raoul rose insensibly into the void, smiling, still calling with gesture:--he
departed towards heaven. Athos uttered a cry of tenderness and
He looked below again. He saw a camp destroyed, and all those
white bodies of the royal army, like so many motionless atoms.
And, then, raising his head, he saw the figure of his son still beckoning him to
climb the mystic void.
CHAPTER LVIII. The Angel of Death.
Athos was at this part of his marvelous vision, when the charm was suddenly broken
by a great noise rising from the outer gates.
A horse was heard galloping over the hard gravel of the great alley, and the sound of
noisy and animated conversations ascended to the chamber in which the comte was
Athos did not stir from the place he occupied; he scarcely turned his head
towards the door to ascertain the sooner what these noises could be.
A heavy step ascended the stairs; the horse, which had recently galloped,
departed slowly towards the stables. Great hesitation appeared in the steps,
which by degrees approached the chamber.
A door was opened, and Athos, turning a little towards the part of the room the
noise came from, cried, in a weak voice: "It is a courier from Africa, is it not?"
"No, monsieur le comte," replied a voice which made the father of Raoul start
upright in his bed. "Grimaud!" murmured he.
And the sweat began to pour down his face.
Grimaud appeared in the doorway.
It was no longer the Grimaud we have seen, still young with courage and devotion, when
he jumped the first into the boat destined to convey Raoul de Bragelonne to the
vessels of the royal fleet.
'Twas now a stern and pale old man, his clothes covered with dust, and hair
whitened by old age.
He trembled whilst leaning against the door-frame, and was near falling on seeing,
by the light of the lamps, the countenance of his master.
These two men who had lived so long together in a community of intelligence,
and whose eyes, accustomed to economize expressions, knew how to say so many things
silently--these two old friends, one as
noble as the other in heart, if they were unequal in fortune and birth, remained
tongue-tied whilst looking at each other.
By the exchange of a single glance they had just read to the bottom of each other's
The old servitor bore upon his countenance the impression of a grief already old, the
outward token of a grim familiarity with woe.
He appeared to have no longer in use more than a single version of his thoughts.
As formerly he was accustomed not to speak much, he was now accustomed not to smile at
Athos read at a glance all these shades upon the visage of his faithful servant,
and in the same tone he would have employed to speak to Raoul in his dream:
"Grimaud," said he, "Raoul is dead.
Is it not so?" Behind Grimaud the other servants listened
breathlessly, with their eyes fixed upon the bed of their sick master.
They heard the terrible question, and a heart-breaking silence followed.
"Yes," replied the old man, heaving the monosyllable from his chest with a hoarse,
broken sigh.
Then arose voices of lamentation, which groaned without measure, and filled with
regrets and prayers the chamber where the agonized father sought with his eyes the
portrait of his son.
This was for Athos like the transition which led to his dream.
Without uttering a cry, without shedding a tear, patient, mild, resigned as a martyr,
he raised his eyes towards Heaven, in order there to see again, rising above the
mountain of Gigelli, the beloved shade that
was leaving him at the moment of Grimaud's arrival.
Without doubt, while looking towards the heavens, resuming his marvelous dream, he
repassed by the same road by which the vision, at once so terrible and sweet, had
led him before; for after having gently
closed his eyes, he reopened them and began to smile: he had just seen Raoul, who had
smiled upon him.
With his hands joined upon his breast, his face turned towards the window, bathed by
the fresh air of night, which brought upon its wings the aroma of the flowers and the
woods, Athos entered, never again to come
out of it, into the contemplation of that paradise which the living never see.
God willed, no doubt, to open to this elect the treasures of eternal beatitude, at this
hour when other men tremble with the idea of being severely received by the Lord, and
cling to this life they know, in the dread
of the other life of which they get but merest glimpses by the dismal murky torch
of death.
Athos was spirit-guided by the pure serene soul of his son, which aspired to be like
the paternal soul.
Everything for this just man was melody and perfume in the rough road souls take to
return to the celestial country.
After an hour of this ecstasy, Athos softly raised his hands as white as wax; the smile
did not quit his lips, and he murmured low, so low as scarcely to be audible, these
three words addressed to God or to Raoul:
"HERE I AM!" And his hands fell slowly, as though he
himself had laid them on the bed. Death had been kind and mild to this noble
It had spared him the tortures of the agony, convulsions of the last departure;
had opened with an indulgent finger the gates of eternity to that noble soul.
God had no doubt ordered it thus that the pious remembrance of this death should
remain in the hearts of those present, and in the memory of other men--a death which
caused to be loved the passage from this
life to the other by those whose existence upon this earth leads them not to dread the
last judgment.
Athos preserved, even in the eternal sleep, that placid and sincere smile--an ornament
which was to accompany him to the tomb.
The quietude and calm of his fine features made his servants for a long time doubt
whether he had really quitted life.
The comte's people wished to remove Grimaud, who, from a distance, devoured the
face now quickly growing marble-pale, and did not approach, from pious fear of
bringing to him the breath of death.
But Grimaud, fatigued as he was, refused to leave the room.
He sat himself down upon the threshold, watching his master with the vigilance of a
sentinel, jealous to receive either his first waking look or his last dying sigh.
The noises all were quiet in the house-- every one respected the slumber of their
But Grimaud, by anxiously listening, perceived that the comte no longer
He raised himself with his hands leaning on the ground, looked to see if there did not
appear some motion in the body of his master.
Fear seized him; he rose completely up, and, at the very moment, heard some one
coming up the stairs.
A noise of spurs knocking against a sword-- a warlike sound familiar to his ears--
stopped him as he was going towards the bed of Athos.
A voice more sonorous than brass or steel resounded within three paces of him.
"Athos! Athos! my friend!" cried this voice,
agitated even to tears.
"Monsieur le Chevalier d'Artagnan," faltered out Grimaud.
"Where is he? Where is he?" continued the musketeer.
Grimaud seized his arm in his bony fingers, and pointed to the bed, upon the sheets of
which the livid tints of death already showed.
A choked respiration, the opposite to a sharp cry, swelled the throat of
He advanced on tip-toe, trembling, frightened at the noise his feet made on
the floor, his heart rent by a nameless agony.
He placed his ear to the breast of Athos, his face to the comte's mouth.
Neither noise, nor breath! D'Artagnan drew back.
Grimaud, who had followed him with his eyes, and for whom each of his movements
had been a revelation, came timidly; seated himself at the foot of the bed, and glued
his lips to the sheet which was raised by the stiffened feet of his master.
Then large drops began to flow from his red eyes.
This old man in invincible despair, who wept, bent doubled without uttering a word,
presented the most touching spectacle that D'Artagnan, in a life so filled with
emotion, had ever met with.
The captain resumed standing in contemplation before that smiling dead man,
who seemed to have burnished his last thought, to give his best friend, the man
he had loved next to Raoul, a gracious welcome even beyond life.
And for reply to that exalted flattery of hospitality, D'Artagnan went and kissed
Athos fervently on the brow, and with his trembling fingers closed his eyes.
Then he seated himself by the pillow without dread of that dead man, who had
been so kind and affectionate to him for five and thirty years.
He was feeding his soul with the remembrances the noble visage of the comte
brought to his mind in crowds--some blooming and charming as that smile--some
dark, dismal, and icy as that visage with its eyes now closed to all eternity.
All at once the bitter flood which mounted from minute to minute invaded his heart,
and swelled his breast almost to bursting.
Incapable of mastering his emotion, he arose, and tearing himself violently from
the chamber where he had just found dead him to whom he came to report the news of
the death of Porthos, he uttered sobs so
heart-rending that the servants, who seemed only to wait for an explosion of grief,
answered to it by their lugubrious clamors, and the dogs of the late comte by their
lamentable howlings.
Grimaud was the only one who did not lift up his voice.
Even in the paroxysm of his grief he would not have dared to profane the dead, or for
the first time disturb the slumber of his master.
Had not Athos always bidden him be dumb?
At daybreak D'Artagnan, who had wandered about the lower hall, biting his fingers to
stifle his sighs--D'Artagnan went up once more; and watching the moments when Grimaud
turned his head towards him, he made him a
sign to come to him, which the faithful servant obeyed without making more noise
than a shadow.
D'Artagnan went down again, followed by Grimaud; and when he had gained the
vestibule, taking the old man's hands, "Grimaud," said he, "I have seen how the
father died; now let me know about the son."
Grimaud drew from his breast a large letter, upon the envelope of which was
traced the address of Athos.
He recognized the writing of M. de Beaufort, broke the seal, and began to
read, while walking about in the first steel-chill rays of dawn, in the dark alley
of old limes, marked by the still visible footsteps of the comte who had just died.