Twenty Years After
One of the Forty Methods of Escape of the Duc de
Meanwhile time was passing on for the prisoner, as well as for those who were preparing
his escape; only for him it passed more slowly. Unlike other men, who enter with ardor
upon a perilous resolution and grow cold as the moment of execution approaches, the
Duc de Beaufort, whose buoyant courage had become a proverb, seemed to push time
before him and sought most eagerly to hasten the hour of action. In his escape alone,
apart from his plans for the future, which, it must be admitted, were for the present
sufficiently vague and uncertain, there was a beginning of vengeance which filled his
heart. In the first place his escape would be a serious misfortune to Monsieur de
Chavigny, whom he hated for the petty persecutions he owed to him. It would be a still
worse affair for Mazarin, whom he execrated for the greater offences he had committed.
It may be observed that there was a proper proportion in his sentiments toward the
governor of the prison and the minister -- toward the subordinate and the master.
Then Monsieur de Beaufort, who was so familiar with the interior of the Palais Royal,
though he did not know the relations existing between the queen and the cardinal,
pictured to himself, in his prison, all that dramatic excitement which would ensue when
the rumor should run from the minister's cabinet to the chamber of Anne of Austria:
"Monsieur de Beaufort has escaped!" Whilst saying that to himself, Monsieur de
Beaufort smiled pleasantly and imagined himself already outside, breathing the air of the
plains and the forests, pressing a strong horse between his knees and crying out in a loud
voice, "I am free!"
It is true that on coming to himself he found that he was still within four walls; he saw La
Ramee twirling his thumbs ten feet from him, and his guards laughing and drinking in the
ante-chamber. The only thing that was pleasant to him in that odious tableau -- such is the
instability of the human mind -- was the sullen face of Grimaud, for whom he had at first
conceived such a hatred and who now was all his hope. Grimaud seemed to him an
Antinous. It is needless to say that this transformation was visible only to the prisoner's
feverish imagination. Grimaud was still the same, and therefore he retained the entire
confidence of his superior, La Ramee, who now relied upon him more than he did upon
himself, for, as we have said, La Ramee felt at the bottom of his heart a certain weakness
for Monsieur de Beaufort.
And so the good La Ramee made a festivity of the little supper with his prisoner. He had
but one fault -- he was a gourmand; he had found the pates good, the wine excellent. Now
the successor of Pere Marteau had promised him a pate of pheasant instead of a pate of
fowl, and Chambertin wine instead of Macon. All this, set off by the presence of that
excellent prince, who was so good-natured, who invented so droll tricks against Monsieur
de Chavigny and so fine jokes against Mazarin, made for La Ramee the approaching
Pentecost one of the four great feasts of the year. He therefore looked forward to six
o'clock with as much impatience as the duke himself.