Twenty Years After by Alexandre Dumas, Pere - HTML preview
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The Retreat of PorthosHow D'artagnan, In Discovering The Retreat Of Porthos, Perceives That Wealth Does Not Necessarily Produce Happiness.
D'Artagnan passed through the iron gate and arrived in front of the chateau. He alighted as he saw a species of giant on the steps. Let us do justice to D'Artagnan. Independently of every selfish wish, his heart palpitated with joy when he saw that tall form and martial demeanor, which recalled to him a good and brave man.
He ran to Porthos and threw himself into his arms; the whole body of servants, arranged in a semi-circle at a respectful distance, looked on with humble curiosity. Mousqueton, at the head of them, wiped his eyes. Porthos linked his arm in that of his friend."Ah! how delightful to see you again, dear friend!" he cried, in a voice which was now changed from a baritone into a bass, "you've not then forgotten me?"
"Forget you! oh! dear Du Vallon, does one forget the happiest days of flowery youth, one's dearest friends, the dangers we have dared together? On the contrary, there is not an hour we have passed together that is not present to my memory."
"Yes, yes," said Porthos, trying to give to his mustache a curl which it had lost whilst he had been alone. "Yes, we did some fine things in our time and we gave that poor cardinal a few threads to unravel."And he heaved a sigh.
"Under any circumstances," he resumed, "you are welcome, my dear friend; you will help me to recover my spirits; to-morrow we will hunt the hare on my plain, which is a superb tract of land, or pursue the deer in my woods, which are magnificent. I have four harriers which are considered the swiftest in the county, and a pack of hounds which are unequalled for twenty leagues around."And Porthos heaved another sigh. "But, first," interposed D'Artagnan, "you must present me to Madame du Vallon." A third sigh from Porthos.
"I lost Madame du Vallon two years ago," he said, "and you find me still in affliction on that account. That was the reason why I left my Chateau du Vallon near Corbeil, and came to my estate, Bracieux. Poor Madame du Vallon! her temper was uncertain, but she came at last to accustom herself to my little ways and understand my little wishes."
"So you are free now, and rich?" "Alas!" groaned Porthos, "I am a widower and have forty thousand francs a year. Let us go to breakfast.""I shall be happy to do so; the morning air has made me hungry." "Yes," said Porthos; "my air is excellent."
They went into the chateau; there was nothing but gilding, high and low; the cornices were gilt, the mouldings were gilt, the legs and arms of the chairs were gilt. A table, ready set out, awaited them."You see," said Porthos, "this is my usual style." "Devil take me!" answered D'Artagnan, "I wish you joy of it. The king has nothing like it." "No," answered Porthos, "I hear it said that he is very badly fed by the cardinal, Monsieur de Mazarin. Taste this cutlet, my dear D'Artagnan; 'tis off one of my sheep." "You have very tender mutton and I wish you joy of it." said D'Artagnan. "Yes, the sheep are fed in my meadows, which are excellent pasture." "Give me another cutlet." "No, try this hare, which I had killed yesterday in one of my warrens." "Zounds! what a flavor!" cried D'Artagnan; "ah! they are fed on thyme only, your hares." "And how do you like my wine?" asked Porthos; "it is pleasant, isn't it?" "Capital!" "It is nothing, however, but a wine of the country." "Really?" "Yes, a small declivity to the south, yonder on my hill, gives me twenty hogsheads." "Quite a vineyard, hey?" Porthos sighed for the fifth time -- D'Artagnan had counted his sighs. He became curious to solve the problem. "Well now," he said, "it seems, my dear friend, that something vexes you; you are ill, perhaps? That health, which ---- " "Excellent, my dear friend; better than ever. I could kill an ox with a blow of my fist." "Well, then, family affairs, perhaps?" "Family! I have, happily, only myself in the world to care for." "But what makes you sigh?" "My dear fellow," replied Porthos, "to be candid with you, I am not happy." "You are not happy, Porthos? You who have chateau, meadows, mountains, woods -- you who have forty thousand francs a year -- you -- are -- not -- happy?" "My dear friend, all those things I have, but I am a hermit in the midst of superfluity." "Surrounded, I suppose, only by clodhoppers, with whom you could not associate." Porthos turned rather pale and drank off a large glass of wine.
"No; but just think, there are paltry country squires who have all some title or another and pretend to go back as far as Charlemagne, or at least to Hugh Capet. When I first came here; being the last comer, it was for me to make the first advances. I made them, but you know, my dear friend, Madame du Vallon ---- "Porthos, in pronouncing these words, seemed to gulp down something.
"Madame du Vallon was of doubtful gentility. She had, in her first marriage -- I don't think, D'Artagnan, I am telling you anything new -- married a lawyer; they thought that `nauseous;' you can understand that's a word bad enough to make one kill thirty thousand men. I have killed two, which has made people hold their tongues, but has not made me their friend. So that I have no society; I live alone; I am sick of it -- my mind preys on itself."D'Artagnan smiled. He now saw where the breastplate was weak, and prepared the blow. "But now," he said, "that you are a widower, your wife's connection cannot injure you."
"Yes, but understand me; not being of a race of historic fame, like the De Courcys, who were content to be plain sirs, or the Rohans, who didn't wish to be dukes, all these people, who are all either vicomtes or comtes go before me at church in all the ceremonies, and I can say nothing to them. Ah! If I only were a ---- ""A baron, don't you mean?" cried D'Artagnan, finishing his friend's sentence. "Ah!" cried Porthos; "would I were but a baron!" "Well, my friend, I am come to give you this very title which you wish for so much." Porthos gave a start that shook the room; two or three bottles fell and were broken. Mousqueton ran thither, hearing the noise. Porthos waved his hand to Mousqueton to pick up the bottles. "I am glad to see," said D'Artagnan, "that you have still that honest lad with you." "He is my steward," replied Porthos; "he will never leave me. Go away now, Mouston." "So he's called Mouston," thought D'Artagnan; "'tis too long a word to pronounce `Mousqueton.'"
"Well," he said aloud, "let us resume our conversation later, your people may suspect something; there may be spies about. You can suppose, Porthos, that what I have to say relates to most important matters.""Devil take them; let us walk in the park," answered Porthos, "for the sake of digestion."
"Egad," said D'Artagnan, "the park is like everything else and there are as many fish in your pond as rabbits in your warren; you are a happy man, my friend since you have not only retained your love of the chase, but acquired that of fishing."
"My friend," replied Porthos, "I leave fishing to Mousqueton, -- it is a vulgar pleasure, -- but I shoot sometimes; that is to say, when I am dull, and I sit on one of those marble seats, have my gun brought to me, my favorite dog, and I shoot rabbits.""Really, how very amusing!" "Yes," replied Porthos, with a sigh, "it is amusing." D'Artagnan now no longer counted the sighs. They were innumerable. "However, what had you to say to me?" he resumed; "let us return to that subject." "With pleasure," replied D'Artagnan; "I must, however, first frankly tell you that you must change your mode of life." "How?" "Go into harness again, gird on your sword, run after adventures, and leave as in old times a little of your fat on the roadside."
"Ah! hang it!" said Porthos. "I see you are spoiled, dear friend; you are corpulent, your arm has no longer that movement of which the late cardinal's guards have so many proofs.""Ah! my fist is strong enough I swear," cried Porthos, extending a hand like a shoulder of mutton. "So much the better." "Are we then to go to war?" "By my troth, yes." "Against whom?" "Are you a politician, friend?" "Not in the least." "Are you for Mazarin or for the princes?" "I am for no one." "That is to say, you are for us. Well, I tell you that I come to you from the cardinal." This speech was heard by Porthos in the same sense as if it had still been in the year 1640 and related to the true cardinal. "Ho! ho! What are the wishes of his eminence?" "He wishes to have you in his service." "And who spoke to him of me?" "Rochefort -- you remember him?" "Yes, pardieu! It was he who gave us so much trouble and kept us on the road so much; you gave him three sword-wounds in three separate engagements." "But you know he is now our friend?" "No, I didn't know that. So he cherishes no resentment?"
"You are mistaken, Porthos," said D'Artagnan. "It is I who cherish no resentment." Porthos didn't understand any too clearly; but then we know that understanding was not his strong point. "You say, then," he continued, "that the Count de Rochefort spoke of me to the cardinal?""Yes, and the queen, too." "The queen, do you say?"
"To inspire us with confidence she has even placed in Mazarin's hands that famous diamond -- you remember all about it -- that I once sold to Monsieur des Essarts and of which, I don't know how, she has regained possession.""But it seems to me," said Porthos, "that she would have done much better if she had given it back to you."
"So I think," replied D'Artagnan; "but kings and queens are strange beings and have odd fancies; nevertheless, since they are the ones who have riches and honors, we are devoted to them.""Yes, we are devoted to them," repeated Porthos; "and you -- to whom are you devoted now?" "To the king, the queen, and to the cardinal; moreover, I have answered for your devotion also." "And you say that you have made certain conditions on my behalf?" "Magnificent, my dear fellow, magnificent! In the first place you have plenty of money, haven't you? forty thousand francs income, I think you said."
Porthos began to be suspicious. "Eh! my friend," said he, "one never has too much money. Madame du Vallon left things in much disorder; I am not much of a hand at figures, so that I live almost from hand to mouth.""He is afraid I have come to borrow money," thought D'Artagnan. "Ah, my friend," said he, "it is all the better if you are in difficulties." "How is it all the better?" "Yes, for his eminence will give you all that you want -- land, money, and titles."
"Ah! ah! ah!" said Porthos, opening his eyes at that last word. "Under the other cardinal," continued D'Artagnan, "we didn't know enough to make our profits; this, however, doesn't concern you, with your forty thousand francs income, the happiest man in the world, it seems to me."Porthos sighed.
"At the same time," continued D'Artagnan, "notwithstanding your forty thousand francs a year, and perhaps even for the very reason that you have forty thousand francs a year, it seems to me that a little coronet would do well on your carriage, hey?""Yes indeed," said Porthos.
"Well, my dear friend, win it -- it is at the point of your sword. We shall not interfere with each other -- your object is a title; mine, money. If I can get enough to rebuild Artagnan, which my ancestors, impoverished by the Crusades, allowed to fall into ruins, and to buy thirty acres of land about it, that is all I wish. I shall retire and die tranquilly -- at home.""For my part," said Porthos, "I desire to be made a baron." "You shall be one." "And have you not seen any of our other friends?" "Yes, I have seen Aramis." "And what does he wish? To be a bishop?"
"Aramis," answered D'Artagnan, who did not wish to undeceive Porthos, "Aramis, fancy, has become a monk and a Jesuit, and lives like a bear. My offers did not arouse him, -- did not even tempt him.""So much the worse! He was a clever man. And Athos?" "I have not yet seen him. Do you know where I shall find him?"
"Near Blois. He is called Bragelonne. Only imagine, my dear friend. Athos, who was of as high birth as the emperor and who inherits one estate which gives him the title of comte, what is he to do with all those dignities -- the Comte de la Fere, Comte de Bragelonne?"
"And he has no children with all these titles?" "Ah!" said Porthos, "I have heard that he had adopted a young man who resembles him greatly.""What, Athos? Our Athos, who was as virtuous as Scipio? Have you seen him? "No." "Well, I shall see him to-morrow and tell him about you; but I'm afraid, entre nous, that his liking for wine has aged and degraded him." "Yes, he used to drink a great deal," replied Porthos. "And then he was older than any of us," added D'Artagnan. "Some years only. His gravity made him look older than he was." "Well then, if we can get Athos, all will be well. If we cannot, we will do without him. We two are worth a dozen."
"Yes," said Porthos, smiling at the remembrance of his former exploits; "but we four, altogether, would be equal to thirty-six, more especially as you say the work will not be child's play. Will it last long?""By'r Lady! two or three years perhaps."
"So much the better," cried Porthos. "You have no idea, my friend, how my bones ache since I came here. Sometimes on a Sunday, I take a ride in the fields and on the property of my neighbours, in order to pick up a nice little quarrel, which I am really in want of, but nothing happens. Either they respect or they fear me, which is more likely, but they let me trample down the clover with my dogs, insult and obstruct every one, and I come back still more weary and low-spirited, that's all. At any rate, tell me: there's more chance of fighting in Paris, is there not?"
"In that respect, my dear friend, it's delightful. No more edicts, no more of the cardinal's guards, no more De Jussacs, nor other bloodhounds. I'Gad! underneath a lamp in an inn, anywhere, they ask `Are you one of the Fronde?' They unsheathe, and that's all that is said. The Duke de Guise killed Monsieur de Coligny in the Place Royale and nothing was said of it."
"Ah, things go on gaily, then," said Porthos. "Besides which, in a short time," resumed D'Artagnan, "We shall have set battles, cannonades, conflagrations and there will be great variety.""Well, then, I decide." "I have your word, then?" "Yes, 'tis given. I shall fight heart and soul for Mazarin; but ---- " "But?" "But he must make me a baron." "Zounds!" said D'Artagnan, "that's settled already; I will be responsible for the barony." On this promise being given, Porthos, who had never doubted his friend's assurance, turned back with him toward the castle.
In Which It Is Shown ThatIn Which It Is Shown That If Porthos Was Discontented With His Condition, Mousqueton Was Completely Satisfied With His. As they returned toward the castle, D'Artagnan thought of the miseries of poor human nature, always dissatisfied with what it has, ever desirous of what it has not.
In the position of Porthos, D'Artagnan would have been perfectly happy; and to make Porthos contented there was wanting -- what? five letters to put before his three names, a tiny coronet to paint upon the panels of his carriage!"I shall pass all my life," thought D'Artagnan, "in seeking for a man who is really contented with his lot."
Whilst making this reflection, chance seemed, as it were, to give him the lie direct. When Porthos had left him to give some orders he saw Mousqueton approaching. The face of the steward, despite one slight shade of care, light as a summer cloud, seemed a physiognomy of absolute felicity."Here is what I am looking for," thought D'Artagnan; "but alas! the poor fellow does not know the purpose for which I am here." He then made a sign for Mousqueton to come to him. "Sir," said the servant, "I have a favour to ask you." "Speak out, my friend." "I am afraid to do so. Perhaps you will think, sir, that prosperity has spoiled me?" "Art thou happy, friend?" asked D'Artagnan. "As happy as possible; and yet, sir, you may make me even happier than I am." "Well, speak, if it depends on me." "Oh, sir! it depends on you only." "I listen -- I am waiting to hear."
"Sir, the favor I have to ask of you is, not to call me `Mousqueton' but `Mouston.' Since I have had the honor of being my lord's steward I have taken the last name as more dignified and calculated to make my inferiors respect me. You, sir, know how necessary subordination is in any large establishment of servants."D'Artagnan smiled; Porthos wanted to lengthen out his names, Mousqueton to cut his short. "Well, my dear Mouston," he said, "rest satisfied. I will call thee Mouston; and if it makes thee happy I will not `tutoyer' you any longer." "Oh!" cried Mousqueton, reddening with joy; "if you do me, sir, such honor, I shall be grateful all my life; it is too much to ask." "Alas!" thought D'Artagnan, "it is very little to offset the unexpected tribulations I am bringing to this poor devil who has so warmly welcomed me." "Will monsieur remain long with us?" asked Mousqueton, with a serene and glowing countenance. "I go to-morrow, my friend," replied D'Artagnan. "Ah, monsieur," said Mousqueton, "then you have come here only to awaken our regrets." "I fear that is true," said D'Artagnan, in a low tone.
D'Artagnan was secretly touched with remorse, not at inducing Porthos to enter into schemes in which his life and fortune would be in jeopardy, for Porthos, in the title of baron, had his object and reward; but poor Mousqueton, whose only wish was to be called Mouston -- was it not cruel to snatch him from the delightful state of peace and plenty in which he was?He was thinking of these matters when Porthos summoned him to dinner. "What! to dinner?" said D'Artagnan. "What time is it, then?" "Eh! why, it is after one o'clock." "Your home is a paradise, Porthos; one takes no note of time. I follow you, though I am not hungry." "Come, if one can't always eat, one can always drink -- a maxim of poor Athos, the truth of which I have discovered since I began to be lonely."
D'Artagnan, who as a Gascon, was inclined to sobriety, seemed not so sure as his friend of the truth of Athos's maxim, but he did his best to keep up with his host. Meanwhile his misgivings in regard to Mousqueton recurred to his mind and with greater force because Mousqueton, though he did not himself wait on the table, which would have been beneath him in his new position, appeared at the door from time to time and evinced his gratitude to D'Artagnan by the quality of the wine he directed to be served. Therefore, when, at dessert, upon a sign from D'Artagnan, Porthos had sent away his servants and the two friends were alone:"Porthos," said D'Artagnan, "who will attend you in your campaigns?" "Why," replied Porthos, "Mouston, of course."
This was a blow to D'Artagnan. He could already see the intendant's beaming smile change to a contortion of grief. "But," he said, "Mouston is not so young as he was, my dear fellow; besides, he has grown fat and perhaps has lost his fitness for active service.""That may be true," replied Porthos; "but I am used to him, and besides, he wouldn't be willing to let me go without him, he loves me so much." "Oh, blind self-love!" thought D'Artagnan. "And you," asked Porthos, "haven't you still in your service your old lackey, that good, that brave, that intelligent ---what, then, is his name?" "Planchet -- yes, I have found him again, but he is lackey no longer." "What is he, then?"
"With his sixteen hundred francs -- you remember, the sixteen hundred francs he earned at the siege of La Rochelle by carrying a letter to Lord de Winter -- he has set up a little shop in the Rue des Lombards and is now a confectioner.""Ah, he is a confectioner in the Rue des Lombards! How does it happen, then, that he is in your service?" "He has been guilty of certain escapades and fears he may be disturbed." And the musketeer narrated to his friend Planchet's adventure. "Well," said Porthos, "if any one had told you in the old times that the day would come when Planchet would rescue Rochefort and that you would protect him in it ---- " "I should not have believed him; but men are changed by events."
"There is nothing truer than that," said Porthos; "but what does not change, or changes for the better, is wine. Taste of this; it is a Spanish wine which our friend Athos thought much of."
At that moment the steward came in to consult his master upon the proceedings of the next day and also with regard to the shooting party which had been proposed.
"We are going to return to the service, Mouston," replied Porthos, still trying to restore his mustache to the military curl it had long lost.
"Into the service -- the king's service?" Mousqueton trembled; even his fat, smooth cheeks shook as he spoke, and he looked at D'Artagnan with an air of reproach; he staggered, and his voice was almost choked.
These last words fell on Mousqueton like a thunderbolt. It was those very terrible old days that made the present so excessively delightful, and the blow was so great he rushed out, overcome, and forgot to shut the door.
The two friends remained alone to speak of the future and to build castles in the air. The good wine which Mousqueton had placed before them traced out in glowing drops to D'Artagnan a fine perspective, shining with quadruples and pistoles, and showed to Porthos a blue ribbon and a ducal mantle; they were, in fact, asleep on the table when the servants came to light them to their bed.
Mousqueton was, however, somewhat consoled by D'Artagnan, who the next day told him that in all probability war would always be carried on in the heart of Paris and within reach of the Chateau du Vallon, which was near Corbeil, or Bracieux, which was near Melun, and of Pierrefonds, which was between Compiegne and Villars-Cotterets."But -- formerly -- it appears," began Mousqueton timidly. "Oh!" said D'Artagnan, "we don't now make war as we did formerly. To-day it's a sort of diplomatic arrangement; ask Planchet."
Mousqueton inquired, therefore, the state of the case of his old friend, who confirmed the statement of D'Artagnan. "But," he added, "in this war prisoners stand a chance of being hung.""The deuce they do!" said Mousqueton; "I think I should like the siege of Rochelle better than this war, then!" Porthos, meantime, asked D'Artagnan to give him his instructions how to proceed on his journey.
"Four days," replied his friend, "are necessary to reach Blois; one day to rest there; three or four days to return to Paris. Set out, therefore, in a week, with your suite, and go to the Hotel de la Chevrette, Rue Tiquetonne, and there await me.""That's agreed," said Porthos.
"As to myself, I shall go around to see Athos; for though I don't think his aid worth much, one must with one's friends observe all due politeness," said D'Artagnan. The friends then took leave of each other on the very border of the estate of Pierrefonds, to which Porthos escorted his friend.
"At least," D'Artagnan said to himself, as he took the road to Villars-Cotterets, "at least I shall not be alone in my undertaking. That devil, Porthos, is a man of prodigious strength; still, if Athos joins us, well, we shall be three of us to laugh at Aramis, that little coxcomb with his too good luck."At Villars-Cotterets he wrote to the cardinal:
"My Lord, -- I have already one man to offer to your eminence, and he is well worth twenty men. I am just setting out for Blois. The Comte de la Fere inhabits the Castle of Bragelonne, in the environs of that city."
Two Angelic Faces
The road was long, but the horses upon which D'Artagnan and Planchet rode had been refreshed in the well supplied stables of the Lord of Bracieux; the master and servant rode side by side, conversing as they went, for D'Artagnan had by degrees thrown off the master and Planchet had entirely ceased to assume the manners of a servant. He had been raised by circumstances to the rank of a confidant to his master. It was many years since D'Artagnan had opened his heart to any one; it happened, however, that these two men, on meeting again, assimilated perfectly. Planchet was in truth no vulgar companion in these new adventures; he was a man of uncommonly sound sense. Without courting danger he never shrank from an encounter; in short, he had been a soldier and arms ennoble a man; it was, therefore, on the footing of friends that D'Artagnan and Planchet arrived in the neighborhood of Blois.Going along, D'Artagnan, shaking his head, said:
"I know that my going to Athos is useless and absurd; but still I owe this courtesy to my old friend, a man who had in him material for the most noble and generous of characters."
"Oh, Monsieur Athos was a noble gentleman," said Planchet, "was he not? Scattering money round about him as Heaven sprinkles rain. Do you remember, sir, that duel with the Englishman in the inclosure des Carmes? Ah! how lofty, how magnificent Monsieur Athos was that day, when he said to his adversary: `You have insisted on knowing my name, sir; so much the worse for you, since I shall be obliged to kill you.' I was near him, those were his exact words, when he stabbed his foe as he said he would, and his adversary fell without saying, `Oh!' 'Tis a noble gentleman -- Monsieur Athos.""Yes, true as Gospel," said D'Artagnan; "but one single fault has swallowed up all these fine qualities."
"I remember well," said Planchet, "he was fond of drinking -- in truth, he drank, but not as other men drink. One seemed, as he raised the wine to his lips, to hear him say, `Come, juice of the grape, and chase away my sorrows.' And how he used to break the stem of a glass or the neck of a bottle! There was no one like him for that."
"And now," replied D'Artagnan, "behold the sad spectacle that awaits us. This noble gentleman with his lofty glance, this handsome cavalier, so brilliant in feats of arms that every one was surprised that he held in his hand a sword only instead of a baton of command! Alas! we shall find him changed into a broken down old man, with garnet nose and eyes that slobber; we shall find him extended on some lawn, whence he will look at us with a languid eye and peradventure will not recognize us. God knows, Planchet, that I should fly from a sight so sad if I did not wish to show my respect for the illustrious shadow of what was once the Comte de la Fere, whom we loved so much." Planchet shook his head and said nothing. It was evident that he shared his master's apprehensions.
"And then," resumed D'Artagnan, "to this decrepitude is probably added poverty, for he must have neglected the little that he had, and the dirty scoundrel, Grimaud, more taciturn than ever and still more drunken than his master -- stay, Planchet, it breaks my heart to merely think of it."
"I fancy myself there and that I see him staggering and hear him stammering," said Planchet, in a piteous tone, "but at all events we shall soon know the real state of things, for I imagine that those lofty walls, now turning ruby in the setting sun, are the walls of Blois.""Probably; and those steeples, pointed and sculptured, that we catch a glimpse of yonder, are similar to those that I have heard described at Chambord."
At this moment one of those heavy wagons, drawn by bullocks, which carry the wood cut in the fine forests of the country to the ports of the Loire, came out of a byroad full of ruts and turned on that which the two horsemen were following. A man carrying a long switch with a nail at the end of it, with which he urged on his slow team, was walking with the cart."Ho! friend," cried Planchet.
"What's your pleasure, gentlemen?" replied the peasant, with a purity of accent peculiar to the people of that district and which might have put to shame the cultured denizens of the Sorbonne and the Rue de l'Universite."We are looking for the house of Monsieur de la Fere," said D'Artagnan. The peasant took off his hat on hearing this revered name. "Gentlemen," he said, "the wood that I am carting is his; I cut it in his copse and I am taking it to the chateau." D'Artagnan determined not to question this man; he did not wish to hear from another what he had himself said to Planchet.
"The chateau!" he said to himself, "what chateau? Ah, I understand! Athos is not a man to be thwarted; he, like Porthos, has obliged his peasantry to call him `my lord,' and to dignify his pettifogging place by the name of chateau. He had a heavy hand -- dear old Athos -- after drinking."
D'Artagnan, after asking the man the right way, continued his route, agitated in spite of himself at the idea of seeing once more that singular man whom he had so truly loved and who had contributed so much by advice and example to his education as a gentleman. He checked by degrees the speed of his horse and went on, his head drooping as if in deep thought.
Soon, as the road turned, the Chateau de la Valliere appeared in view; then, a quarter of a mile beyond, a white house, encircled in sycamores, was visible at the farther end of a group of trees, which spring had powdered with a snow of flowers.
On beholding this house, D'Artagnan, calm as he was in general, felt an unusual disturbance within his heart -- so powerful during the whole course of life are the recollections of youth. He proceeded, nevertheless, and came opposite to an iron gate, ornamented in the taste of the period.
Through the gate was seen kitchen-gardens, carefully attended to, a spacious courtyard, in which neighed several horses held by valets in various liveries, and a carriage, drawn by two horses of the country.
"We are mistaken," said D'Artagnan. "This cannot be the establishment of Athos. Good heavens! suppose he is dead and that this property now belongs to some one who bears his name. Alight, Planchet, and inquire, for I confess that I have scarcely courage so to do."Planchet alighted.
"Thou must add," said D'Artagnan, "that a gentleman who is passing by wishes to have the honor of paying his respects to the Comte de la Fere, and if thou art satisfied with what thou hearest, then mention my name!"
Planchet, leading his horse by the bridle, drew near to the gate and rang the bell, and immediately a servant-man with white hair and of erect stature, notwithstanding his age, presented himself."Does Monsieur le Comte de la Fere live here?" asked Planchet. "Yes, monsieur, it is here he lives," the servant replied to Planchet, who was not in livery. "A nobleman retired from service, is he not?" "Yes." "And who had a lackey named Grimaud?" persisted Planchet, who had prudently considered that he couldn't have too much information.
"Monsieur Grimaud is absent from the chateau for the time being," said the servitor, who, little used as he was to such inquiries, began to examine Planchet from head to foot. "Then," cried Planchet joyously, "I see well that it is the same Comte de la Fere whom we seek. Be good enough to open to me, for I wish to announce to monsieur le comte that my master, one of his friends, is here, and wishes to greet him.""Why didn't you say so?" said the servitor, opening the gate. "But where is your master?" "He is following me."
The servitor opened the gate and walked before Planchet, who made a sign to D'Artagnan. The latter, his heart palpitating more than ever, entered the courtyard without dismounting.Whilst Planchet was standing on the steps before the house he heard a voice say: "Well, where is this gentleman and why do they not bring him here?"
This voice, the sound of which reached D'Artagnan, reawakened in his heart a thousand sentiments, a thousand recollections that he had forgotten. He vaulted hastily from his horse, whilst Planchet, with a smile on his lips, advanced toward the master of the house."But I know you, my lad," said Athos, appearing on the threshold.
"Oh, yes, monsieur le comte, you know me and I know you. I am Planchet -- Planchet, whom you know well." But the honest servant could say no more, so much was he overcome by this unexpected interview."What, Planchet, is Monsieur d'Artagnan here?" "Here I am, my friend, dear Athos!" cried D'Artagnan, in a faltering voice and almost staggering from agitation.
At these words a visible emotion was expressed on the beautiful countenance and calm features of Athos. He rushed toward D'Artagnan with eyes fixed upon him and clasped him in his arms. D'Artagnan, equally moved, pressed him also closely to him, whilst tears stood in his eyes. Athos then took him by the hand and led him into the drawing-room, where there were several people. Every one arose.
"I present to you," he said, "Monsieur le Chevalier D'Artagnan, lieutenant of his majesty's musketeers, a devoted friend and one of the most excellent, brave gentlemen that I have ever known."D'Artagnan received the compliments of those who were present in his own way, and whilst the conversation became general he looked earnestly at Athos.
Strange! Athos was scarcely aged at all! His fine eyes, no longer surrounded by that dark line which nights of dissipation pencil too infallibly, seemed larger, more liquid than ever. His face, a little elongated, had gained in calm dignity what it had lost in feverish excitement. His hand, always wonderfully beautiful and strong, was set off by a ruffle of lace, like certain hands by Titian and Vandyck. He was less stiff than formerly. His long, dark hair, softly powdered here and there with silver tendrils, fell elegantly over his shoulders in wavy curls; his voice was still youthful, as if belonging to a Hercules of twenty-five, and his magnificent teeth, which he had preserved white and sound, gave an indescribable charm to his smile.
Meanwhile the guests, seeing that the two friends were longing to be alone, prepared to depart, when a noise of dogs barking resounded through the courtyard and many persons said at the same moment:"Ah! 'tis Raoul, who is come home."
Athos, as the name of Raoul was pronounced, looked inquisitively at D'Artagnan, in order to see if any curiosity was painted on his face. But D'Artagnan was still in confusion and turned around almost mechanically when a fine young man of fifteen years of age, dressed simply, but in perfect taste, entered the room, raising, as he came, his hat, adorned with a long plume of scarlet feathers.
Nevertheless, D'Artagnan was struck by the appearance of this new personage. It seemed to explain to him the change in Athos; a resemblance between the boy and the man explained the mystery of this regenerated existence. He remained listening and gazing."Here you are, home again, Raoul," said the comte. "Yes, sir," replied the youth, with deep respect, "and I have performed the commission that you gave me." "But what's the matter, Raoul?" said Athos, very anxiously. "You are pale and agitated." "Sir," replied the young man, "it is on account of an accident which has happened to our little neighbor." "To Mademoiselle de la Valliere?" asked Athos, quickly. "What is it?" cried many persons present.
"She was walking with her nurse Marceline, in the place where the woodmen cut the wood, when, passing on horseback, I stopped. She saw me also and in trying to jump from the end of a pile of wood on which she had mounted, the poor child fell and was not able to rise again. I fear that she has badly sprained her ankle."
"Oh, heavens!" cried Athos. "And her mother, Madame de Saint-Remy, have they yet told her of it?"
"No, sir, Madame de Saint-Remy is at Blois with the Duchess of Orleans. I am afraid that what was first done was unskillful, if not worse than useless. I am come, sir, to ask your advice."
The guests now all took leave of Athos, excepting the old Duc de Barbe, who, as an old friend of the family of La Valliere, went to see little Louise and offered to take her to Blois in his carriage."You are right, sir," said Athos. "She will be the sooner with her mother. As for you, Raoul, I am sure it is your fault, some giddiness or folly." "No, sir, I assure you," muttered Raoul, "it is not." "Oh, no, no, I declare it is not!" cried the young girl, while Raoul turned pale at the idea of his being perhaps the cause of her disaster. "Nevertheless, Raoul, you must go to Blois and you must make your excuses and mine to Madame de Saint-Remy."
The youth looked pleased. He again took in his strong arms the little girl, whose pretty golden head and smiling face rested on his shoulder, and placed her gently in the carriage; then jumping on his horse with the elegance of a first-rate esquire, after bowing to Athos and D'Artagnan, he went off close by the door of the carriage, on somebody inside of which his eyes were riveted.
The Castle of Bragelonne
Whilst this scene was going on, D'Artagnan remained with open mouth and a confused gaze. Everything had turned out so differently from what he expected that he was stupefied with wonder.Athos, who had been observing him and guessing his thoughts, took his arm and led him into the garden. "Whilst supper is being prepared," he said, smiling, "you will not, my friend, be sorry to have the mystery which so puzzles you cleared up." "True, monsieur le comte," replied D'Artagnan, who felt that by degrees Athos was resuming that great influence which aristocracy had over him. Athos smiled.
"First and foremost, dear D'Artagnan, we have no title such as count here. When I call you `chevalier,' it is in presenting you to my guests, that they may know who you are. But to you, D'Artagnan, I am, I hope, still dear Athos, your comrade, your friend. Do you intend to stand on ceremony because you are less attached to me than you were?""Oh! God forbid!" "Then let us be as we used to be; let us be open with each other. You are surprised at what you see here?" "Extremely." "But above all things, I am a marvel to you?" "I confess it." "I am still young, am I not? Should you not have known me again, in spite of my eightand-forty years of age?" "On the contrary, I do not find you the same person at all." "I understand," cried Athos, with a gentle blush. "Everything, D'Artagnan, even folly, has its limit." "Then your means, it appears, are improved; you have a capital house -- your own, I presume? You have a park, and horses, servants."
Athos smiled. "Yes, I inherited this little property when I quitted the army, as I told you. The park is twenty acres -- twenty, comprising kitchen-gardens and a common. I have two horses, -- I do not count my servant's bobtailed nag. My sporting dogs consist of two pointers, two harriers and two setters. But then all this extravagance is not for myself," added Athos, laughing."Yes, I see, for the young man Raoul," said D'Artagnan.
"You guess aright, my friend; this youth is an orphan, deserted by his mother, who left him in the house of a poor country priest. I have brought him up. It is Raoul who has worked in me the change you see; I was dried up like a miserable tree, isolated, attached to nothing on earth; it was only a deep affection that could make me take root again and drag me back to life. This child has caused me to recover what I had lost. I had no longer any wish to live for myself, I have lived for him. I have corrected the vices that I had; I have assumed the virtues that I had not. Precept something, but example more. I may be mistaken, but I believe that Raoul will be as accomplished a gentleman as our degenerate age could display."The remembrance of Milady recurred to D'Artagnan. "And you are happy?" he said to his friend. "As happy as it is allowed to one of God's creatures to be on this earth; but say out all you think, D'Artagnan, for you have not yet done so." "You are too bad, Athos; one can hide nothing from you," answered D'Artagnan. "I wished to ask you if you ever feel any emotions of terror resembling ---- "
"Remorse! I finish your phrase. Yes and no. I do not feel remorse, because that woman, I profoundly hold, deserved her punishment. Had she one redeeming trait? I doubt it. I do not feel remorse, because had we allowed her to live she would have persisted in her work of destruction. But I do not mean, my friend that we were right in what we did. Perhaps all blood demands some expiation. Hers had been accomplished; it remains, possibly, for us to accomplish ours.""I have sometimes thought as you do, Athos." "She had a son, that unhappy woman?" "Yes." "Have you ever heard of him?"
"Never." "He must be about twenty-three years of age," said Athos, in a low tone. "I often think of that young man, D'Artagnan.""Strange! for I had forgotten him," said the lieutenant. Athos smiled; the smile was melancholy. "And Lord de Winter -- do you know anything about him?" "I know that he is in high favor with Charles I." "The fortunes of that monarch now are at low water. He shed the blood of Strafford; that confirms what I said just now -- blood will have blood. And the queen?" "What queen?" "Madame Henrietta of England, daughter of Henry IV." "She is at the Louvre, as you know."
"Yes, and I hear in bitter poverty. Her daughter, during the severest cold, was obliged for want of fire to remain in bed. Do you grasp that?" said Athos, shrugging his shoulders; "the daughter of Henry IV. shivering for want of a fagot! Why did she not ask from any one of us a home instead of from Mazarin? She should have wanted nothing.""Have you ever seen the queen of England?" inquired D'Artagnan. "No; but my mother, as a child, saw her. Did I ever tell you that my mother was lady of honor to Marie de Medici " "Never. You know, Athos, you never spoke much of such matters." "Ah, mon Dieu, yes, you are right," Athos replied; "but then there must be some occasion for speaking." "Porthos wouldn't have waited for it so patiently," said D'Artagnan, with a smile. "Every one according to his nature, my dear D'Artagnan. Porthos, in spite of a touch of vanity, has many excellent qualities. Have you seen him?"
"I left him five days ago," said D'Artagnan, and he portrayed with Gascon wit and sprightliness the magnificence of Porthos in his Chateau of Pierrefonds; nor did he neglect to launch a few arrows of wit at the excellent Monsieur Mouston.
"I sometimes wonder," replied Athos, smiling at that gayety which recalled the good old days, "that we could form an association of men who would be, after twenty years of separation, still so closely bound together. Friendship throws out deep roots in honest hearts, D'Artagnan. Believe me, it is only the evil-minded who deny friendship; they cannot understand it. And Aramis?""I have seen him also," said D'Artagnan; "but he seemed to me cold."
"Ah, you have seen Aramis?" said Athos, turning on D'Artagnan a searching look. "Why, it is a veritable pilgrimage, my dear friend, that you are making to the Temple of Friendship, as the poets would say.""Why, yes," replied D'Artagnan, with embarrassment. "Aramis, you know," continued Athos, "is naturally cold, and then he is always involved in intrigues with women." "I believe he is at this moment in a very complicated one," said D'Artagnan. Athos made no reply. "He is not curious," thought D'Artagnan. Athos not only failed to reply, he even changed the subject of conversation. "You see," said he, calling D'Artagnan's attention to the fact that they had come back to the chateau after an hour's walk, "we have made a tour of my domains." "All is charming and everything savors of nobility," replied D'Artagnan. At this instant they heard the sound of horses' feet. "'Tis Raoul who has come back," said Athos; "and we can now hear how the poor child is."
In fact, the young man appeared at the gate, covered with dust, entered the courtyard, leaped from his horse, which he consigned to the charge of a groom, and then went to greet the count and D'Artagnan."Monsieur," said Athos, placing his hand on D'Artagnan's shoulder, "monsieur is the Chevalier D'Artagnan of whom you have often heard me speak, Raoul."
"Monsieur," said the young man, saluting again and more profoundly, "monsieur le comte has pronounced your name before me as an example whenever he wished to speak of an intrepid and generous gentleman."
That little compliment could not fail to move D'Artagnan. He extended a hand to Raoul and said:
"My young friend, all the praises that are given me should be passed on to the count here; for he has educated me in everything and it is not his fault that his pupil profited so little from his instructions. But he will make it up in you I am sure. I like your manner, Raoul, and your politeness has touched me."
Athos was more delighted than can be told. He looked at D'Artagnan with an expression of gratitude and then bestowed on Raoul one of those strange smiles, of which children are so proud when they receive them."Now," said D'Artagnan to himself, noticing that silent play of countenance, "I am sure of it." "I hope the accident has been of no consequence?" "They don't yet know, sir, on account of the swelling; but the doctor is afraid some tendon has been injured." At this moment a little boy, half peasant, half foot-boy, came to announce supper. Athos led his guest into a dining-room of moderate size, the windows of which opened on one side on a garden, on the other on a hot-house full of magnificent flowers.
D'Artagnan glanced at the dinner service. The plate was magnificent, old, and appertaining to the family. D'Artagnan stopped to look at a sideboard on which was a superb ewer of silver."That workmanship is divine!" he exclaimed. "Yes, a chef d'oeuvre of the great Florentine sculptor, Benvenuto Cellini," replied Athos. "What battle does it represent?"
"That of Marignan, just at the point where one of my forefathers is offering his sword to Francis I., who has broken his. It was on that occasion that my ancestor, Enguerrand de la Fere, was made a knight of the Order of St. Michael; besides which, the king, fifteen years afterward, gave him also this ewer and a sword which you may have seen formerly in my house, also a lovely specimen of workmanship. Men were giants in those times," said Athos; "now we are pigmies in comparison. Let us sit down to supper. Call Charles," he added, addressing the boy who waited.
"My good Charles, I particularly recommend to your care Planchet, the laquais of Monsieur D'Artagnan. He likes good wine; now you have the key of the cellar. He has slept a long time on a hard bed, so he won't object to a soft one; take every care of him, I beg of you." Charles bowed and retired.
"You think of everything," said D'Artagnan; "and I thank you for Planchet, my dear Athos."
"That name sounds strange to you," said Athos, smiling; "it was my nom de guerre when Monsieur D'Artagnan, two other gallant friends and myself performed some feats of arms at the siege of La Rochelle, under the deceased cardinal and Monsieur de Bassompierre. My friend is still so kind as to address me by that old and well beloved appellation, which makes my heart glad when I hear it.""'Tis an illustrious name," said the lieutenant, "and had one day triumphal honors paid to it." "What do you mean, sir?" inquired Raoul.
"You have not forgotten St. Gervais, Athos, and the napkin which was converted into a banner?" and he then related to Raoul the story of the bastion, and Raoul fancied he was listening to one of those deeds of arms belonging to days of chivalry, so gloriously recounted by Tasso and Ariosto.
"D'Artagnan does not tell you, Raoul," said Athos, in his turn, "that he was reckoned one of the finest swordsmen of his time -- a knuckle of iron, a wrist of steel, a sure eye and a glance of fire; that's what his adversary met with. He was eighteen, only three years older than you are, Raoul, when I saw him set to work, pitted against tried men.""And did Monsieur D'Artagnan come off the conqueror?" asked the young man, with glistening eye. "I killed one man, if I recollect rightly," replied D'Artagnan, with a look of inquiry directed to Athos; "another I disarmed or wounded, I don't remember which." "Wounded!" said Athos; "it was a phenomenon of skill."
The young man would willingly have prolonged this conversation far into the night, but Athos pointed out to him that his guest must need repose. D'Artagnan would fain have declared that he was not fatigued, but Athos insisted on his retiring to his chamber, conducted thither by Raoul.
Athos as a Diplomatist
D'Artagnan retired to bed -- not to sleep, but to think over all he had heard that evening. Being naturally goodhearted, and having had once a liking for Athos, which had grown into a sincere friendship, he was delighted at thus meeting a man full of intelligence and moral strength, instead of a drunkard. He admitted without annoyance the continued superiority of Athos over himself, devoid as he was of that jealousy which might have saddened a less generous disposition; he was delighted also that the high qualities of Athos appeared to promise favorably for his mission. Nevertheless, it seemed to him that Athos was not in all respects sincere and frank. Who was the youth he had adopted and who bore so striking a resemblance to him? What could explain Athos's having re-entered the world and the extreme sobriety he had observed at table? The absence of Grimaud, whose name had never once been uttered by Athos, gave D'Artagnan uneasiness. It was evident either that he no longer possessed the confidence of his friend, or that Athos was bound by some invisible chain, or that he had been forewarned of the lieutenant's visit.
He could not help thinking of M. Rochefort, whom he had seen in Notre Dame; could De Rochefort have forestalled him with Athos? Again, the moderate fortune which Athos possessed, concealed as it was, so skillfully, seemed to show a regard for appearances and to betray a latent ambition which might be easily aroused. The clear and vigorous intellect of Athos would render him more open to conviction than a less able man would be. He would enter into the minister's schemes with the more ardor, because his natural activity would be doubled by necessity.
Resolved to seek an explanation on all these points on the following day, D'Artagnan, in spite of his fatigue, prepared for an attack and determined that it should take place after breakfast. He determined to cultivate the good-will of the youth Raoul and, either whilst fencing with him or when out shooting, to extract from his simplicity some information which would connect the Athos of old times with the Athos of the present. But D'Artagnan at the same time, being a man of extreme caution, was quite aware what injury he should do himself, if by any indiscretion or awkwardness he should betray has manoeuvering to the experienced eye of Athos. Besides, to tell truth, whilst D'Artagnan was quite disposed to adopt a subtle course against the cunning of Aramis or the vanity of Porthos, he was ashamed to equivocate with Athos, true-hearted, open Athos. It seemed to him that if Porthos and Aramis deemed him superior to them in the arts of diplomacy, they would like him all the better for it; but that Athos, on the contrary, would despise him.
"Ah! why is not Grimaud, the taciturn Grimaud, here?" thought D'Artagnan, "there are so many things his silence would have told me; with Grimaud silence was another form of eloquence!"
There reigned a perfect stillness in the house. D'Artagnan had heard the door shut and the shutters barred; the dogs became in their turn silent. At last a nightingale, lost in a thicket of shrubs, in the midst of its most melodious cadences had fluted low and lower into stillness and fallen asleep. Not a sound was heard in the castle, except of a footstep up and down, in the chamber above -- as he supposed, the bedroom of Athos."He is walking about and thinking," thought D'Artagnan; "but of what? It is impossible to know; everything else might be guessed, but not that." At length Athos went to bed, apparently, for the noise ceased.
Silence and fatigue together overcame D'Artagnan and sleep overtook him also. He was not, however, a good sleeper. Scarcely had dawn gilded his window curtains when he sprang out of bed and opened the windows. Somebody, he perceived, was in the courtyard, moving stealthily. True to his custom of never passing anything over that it was within his power to know, D'Artagnan looked out of the window and perceived the close red coat and brown hair of Raoul.
The young man was opening the door of the stable. He then, with noiseless haste, took out the horse that he had ridden on the previous evening, saddled and bridled it himself and led the animal into the alley to the right of the kitchen-garden, opened a side door which conducted him to a bridle road, shut it after him, and D'Artagnan saw him pass by like a dart, bending, as he went, beneath the pendent flowery branches of maple and acacia. The road, as D'Artagnan had observed, was the way to Blois.
"So!" thought the Gascon "here's a young blade who has already his love affair, who doesn't at all agree with Athos in his hatred to the fair sex. He's not going to hunt, for he has neither dogs nor arms; he's not going on a message, for he goes secretly. Why does he go in secret? Is he afraid of me or of his father? for I am sure the count is his father. By Jove! I shall know about that soon, for I shall soon speak out to Athos."
Day was now advanced; all the noises that had ceased the night before reawakened, one after the other. The bird on the branch, the dog in his kennel, the sheep in the field, the boats moored in the Loire, even, became alive and vocal. The latter, leaving the shore, abandoned themselves gaily to the current. The Gascon gave a last twirl to his mustache, a last turn to his hair, brushed, from habit, the brim of his hat with the sleeve of his doublet, and went downstairs. Scarcely had he descended the last step of the threshold when he saw Athos bent down toward the ground, as if he were looking for a crownpiece in the dust."Good-morning, my dear host," cried D'Artagnan. "Good-day to you; have you slept well?" "Excellently, Athos, but what are you looking for? You are perhaps a tulip fancier?"
"My dear friend, if I am, you must not laugh at me for being so. In the country people alter; one gets to like, without knowing it, all those beautiful objects that God causes to spring from the earth, which are despised in cities. I was looking anxiously for some iris roots I planted here, close to this reservoir, and which some one has trampled upon this morning. These gardeners are the most careless people in the world; in bringing the horse out to the water they've allowed him to walk over the border."D'Artagnan began to smile. "Ah! you think so, do you?" And he took his friend along the alley, where a number of tracks like those which had trampled down the flowerbeds, were visible. "Here are the horse's hoofs again, it seems, Athos," he said carelessly. "Yes, indeed, the marks are recent." "Quite so," replied the lieutenant. "Who went out this morning?" Athos asked, uneasily. "Has any horse got loose?" "Not likely," answered the Gascon; "these marks are regular." "Where is Raoul?" asked Athos; "how is it that I have not seen him?" "Hush!" exclaimed D'Artagnan, putting his finger on his lips; and he related what he had seen, watching Athos all the while. "Ah, he's gone to Blois; the poor boy ---- " "Wherefore?" "Ah, to inquire after the little La Valliere; she has sprained her foot, you know." "You think he has?" "I am sure of it," said Athos; "don't you see that Raoul is in love?" "Indeed! with whom -- with a child seven years old?"
"Dear friend, at Raoul's age the heart is so expansive that it must encircle one object or another, fancied or real. Well, his love is half real, half fanciful. She is the prettiest little creature in the world, with flaxen hair, blue eyes, -- at once saucy and languishing.""But what say you to Raoul's fancy?"
"Nothing -- I laugh at Raoul; but this first desire of the heart is imperious. I remember, just at his age, how deep in love I was with a Grecian statue which our good king, then Henry IV., gave my father, insomuch that I was mad with grief when they told me that the story of Pygmalion was nothing but a fable.""It is mere want of occupation. You do not make Raoul work, so he takes his own way of employing himself." "Exactly; therefore I think of sending him away from here." "You will be wise to do so."
"No doubt of it; but it will break his heart. So long as three or four years ago he used to adorn and adore his little idol, whom he will some day fall in love with in right earnest if he remains here. The parents of little La Valliere have for a long time perceived and been amused at it; now they begin to look concerned.""Nonsense! However, Raoul must be diverted from this fancy. Send him away or you will never make a man of him." "I think I shall send him to Paris." "So!" thought D'Artagnan, and it seemed to him that the moment for attack had arrived. "Suppose," he said, "we roughly chalk out a career for this young man. I wish to consult you about some thing." "Do so." "Do you think it is time for us to enter the service?" "But are you not still in the service -- you, D'Artagnan?" "I mean active service. Our former life, has it still no attractions for you? would you not be happy to begin anew in my society and in that of Porthos, the exploits of our youth?" "Do you propose to me to do so, D'Artagnan?" "Decidedly and honestly." "On whose side?" asked Athos, fixing his clear, benevolent glance on the countenance of the Gascon. "Ah, devil take it, you speak in earnest ---- " "And must have a definite answer. Listen, D'Artagnan. There is but one person, or rather, one cause, to whom a man like me can be useful -- that of the king." "Exactly," answered the musketeer. "Yes, but let us understand each other," returned Athos, seriously. "If by the cause of the king you mean that of Monsieur de Mazarin, we do not understand each other." "I don't say exactly," answered the Gascon, confused.
"Come, D'Artagnan, don't let us play a sidelong game; your hesitation, your evasion, tells me at once on whose side you are; for that party no one dares openly to recruit, and when people recruit for it, it is with averted eyes and humble voice.""Ah! my dear Athos!"
"You know that I am not alluding to you; you are the pearl of brave, bold men. I speak of that spiteful and intriguing Italian -- of the pedant who has tried to put on his own head a crown which he stole from under a pillow -- of the scoundrel who calls his party the party of the king -- who wants to send the princes of the blood to prison, not daring to kill them, as our great cardinal -- our cardinal did -- of the miser, who weighs his gold pieces and keeps the clipped ones for fear, though he is rich, of losing them at play next morning
-- of the impudent fellow who insults the queen, as they say -- so much the worse for her
-- and who is going in three months to make war upon us, in order that he may retain his pensions; is that the master whom you propose to me? I thank you, D'Artagnan."
"You are more impetuous than you were," returned D'Artagnan. "Age has warmed, not chilled your blood. Who informed you this was the master I propose to you? Devil take it," he muttered to himself, "don't let me betray my secrets to a man not inclined to entertain them.""Well, then," said Athos, "what are your schemes? what do you propose?"
"Zounds! nothing more than natural. You live on your estate, happy in golden mediocrity. Porthos has, perhaps, sixty thousand francs income. Aramis has always fifty duchesses quarreling over the priest, as they quarreled formerly over the musketeer; but I -- what have I in the world? I have worn my cuirass these twenty years, kept down in this inferior rank, without going forward or backward, hardly half living. In fact, I am dead. Well! when there is some idea of being resuscitated, you say he's a scoundrel, an impudent fellow, a miser, a bad master! By Jove! I am of your opinion, but find me a better one or give me the means of living."Athos was for a few moments thoughtful. "Good! D'Artagnan is for Mazarin," he said to himself. From that moment he grew very guarded.
On his side D'Artagnan became more cautious also. "You spoke to me," Athos resumed, "of Porthos; have you persuaded him to seek his fortune? But he has wealth, I believe, already.""Doubtless he has. But such is man, we always want something more than we already have." "What does Porthos wish for?" "To be a baron." "Ah, true! I forgot," said Athos, laughing. "'Tis true!" thought the Gascon, "where has he heard it? Does he correspond with Aramis? Ah! if I knew that he did I should know all." The conversation was interrupted by the entrance of Raoul. "Is our little neighbor worse?" asked D'Artagnan, seeing a look of vexation on the face of the youth. "Ah, sir!" replied Raoul, "her fall is a very serious one, and without any ostensible injury, the physician fears she will be lame for life." "This is terrible," said Athos. "And what makes me all the more wretched, sir, is, that I was the cause of this misfortune." "How so?" asked Athos. "It was to run to meet me that she leaped from that pile of wood." "There's only one remedy, dear Raoul -- that is, to marry her as a compensation " remarked D'Artagnan. "Ah, sir!" answered Raoul, "you joke about a real misfortune; that is cruel, indeed."
The good understanding between the two friends was not in the least altered by the morning's skirmish. They breakfasted with a good appetite, looking now and then at poor Raoul, who with moist eyes and a full heart, scarcely ate at all.
After breakfast two letters arrived for Athos, who read them with profound attention, whilst D'Artagnan could not restrain himself from jumping up several times on seeing him read these epistles, in one of which, there being at the time a very strong light, he perceived the fine writing of Aramis. The other was in a feminine hand, long, and crossed.
"Come," said D'Artagnan to Raoul, seeing that Athos wished to be alone, "come, let us take a turn in the fencing gallery; that will amuse you."
"See, dear friend, what it is to belong to the army. Faith, you are indeed right not to return to it. Monsieur de Treville is ill, so my company can't do without me; there! my leave is at an end!""Do you return to Paris?" asked Athos, quickly. "Egad! yes; but why don't you come there also?" Athos colored a little and answered: "Should I go, I shall be delighted to see you there." "Halloo, Planchet!" cried the Gascon from the door, "we must set out in ten minutes; give the horses some hay. Then turning to Athos he added: "I seem to miss something here. I am really sorry to go away without having seen Grimaud." "Grimaud!" replied Athos. "I'm surprised you have never so much as asked after him. I have lent him to a friend ---- " "Who will understand the signs he makes?" returned D'Artagnan. "I hope so." The friends embraced cordially; D'Artagnan pressed Raoul's hand. "Will you not come with me?" he said; "I shall pass by Blois." Raoul turned toward Athos, who showed him by a secret sign that he did not wish him to go. "No, monsieur," replied the young man; "I will remain with monsieur le comte." "Adieu, then, to both, my good friends," said D'Artagnan; "may God preserve you! as we used to say when we said good-bye to each other in the late cardinal's time." Athos waved his hand, Raoul bowed, and D'Artagnan and Planchet set out. The count followed them with his eyes, his hands resting on the shoulders of the youth, whose height was almost equal to his own; but as soon as they were out of sight he said: "Raoul, we set out to-night for Paris." "Eh?" cried the young man, turning pale. "You may go and offer your adieux and mine to Madame de Saint-Remy. I shall wait for you here till seven." The young man bent low, with an expression of sorrow and gratitude mingled, and retired in order to saddle his horse. As to D'Artagnan, scarcely, on his side, was he out of sight when he drew from his pocket a letter, which he read over again: "Return immediately to Paris. -- J. M ---- ." "The epistle is laconic," said D'Artagnan; "and if there had not been a postscript, probably I should not have understood it; but happily there is a postscript." And he read that welcome postscript, which made him forget the abruptness of the letter. "P. S. -- Go to the king's treasurer, at Blois; tell him your name and show him this letter; you will receive two hundred pistoles." "Assuredly," said D'Artagnan, "I admire this piece of prose. The cardinal writes better than I thought. Come, Planchet, let us pay a visit to the king's treasurer and then set off." "Toward Paris, sir?" "Toward Paris." And they set out at as hard a canter as their horses could maintain.
The Duc de BeaufortThe circumstances that had hastened the return of D'Artagnan to Paris were as follows:
One evening, when Mazarin, according to custom, went to visit the queen, in passing the guard-chamber he heard loud voices; wishing to know on what topic the soldiers were conversing, he approached with his wonted wolf-like step, pushed open the door and put his head close to the chink.There was a dispute among the guards.
"I tell you," one of them was saying, "that if Coysel predicted that, 'tis as good as true; I know nothing about it, but I have heard say that he's not only an astrologer, but a magician.""Deuce take it, friend, if he's one of thy friends thou wilt ruin him in saying so." "Why?" "Because he may be tried for it." "Ah! absurd! they don't burn sorcerers nowadays." "No? 'Tis not a long time since the late cardinal burnt Urban Grandier, though." "My friend, Urban Grandier wasn't a sorcerer, he was a learned man. He didn't predict the future, he knew the past -- often a more dangerous thing." Mazarin nodded an assent, but wishing to know what this prediction was, about which they disputed, he remained in the same place. "I don't say," resumed the guard, "that Coysel is not a sorcerer, but I say that if his prophecy gets wind, it's a sure way to prevent it's coming true." "How so?"
"Why, in this way: if Coysel says loud enough for the cardinal to hear him, on such or such a day such a prisoner will escape, 'tis plain that the cardinal will take measures of precaution and that the prisoner will not escape."
"Good Lord!" said another guard, who might have been thought asleep on a bench, but who had lost not a syllable of the conversation, "do you suppose that men can escape their destiny? If it is written yonder, in Heaven, that the Duc de Beaufort is to escape, he will escape; and all the precautions of the cardinal will not prevent it."
Mazarin started. He was an Italian and therefore superstitious. He walked straight into the midst of the guards, who on seeing him were silent.
"My lord," said the guard, "I have simply mentioned the prophecy I heard from a man named Coysel, who believes that, be he ever so closely watched and guarded, the Duke of Beaufort will escape before Whitsuntide.""Coysel is a madman!" returned the cardinal.
"No," replied the soldier, tenacious in his credulity; "he has foretold many things which have come to pass; for instance, that the queen would have a son; that Monsieur Coligny would be killed in a duel with the Duc de Guise; and finally, that the coadjutor would be made cardinal. Well! the queen has not only one son, but two; then, Monsieur de Coligny was killed, and ---- ""Yes," said Mazarin, "but the coadjutor is not yet made cardinal!" "No, my lord, but he will be," answered the guard. Mazarin made a grimace, as if he meant to say, "But he does not wear the cardinal's cap;" then he added: "So, my friend, it's your opinion that Monsieur de Beaufort will escape?"
"That's my idea, my lord; and if your eminence were to offer to make me at this moment governor of the castle of Vincennes, I should refuse it. After Whitsuntide it would be another thing."
There is nothing so convincing as a firm conviction. It has its own effect upon the most incredulous; and far from being incredulous, Mazarin was superstitious. He went away thoughtful and anxious and returned to his own room, where he summoned Bernouin and desired him to fetch thither in the morning the special guard he had placed over Monsieur de Beaufort and to awaken him whenever he should arrive.
The guard had, in fact, touched the cardinal in the tenderest point. During the whole five years in which the Duc de Beaufort had been in prison not a day had passed in which the cardinal had not felt a secret dread of his escape. It was not possible, as he knew well, to confine for the whole of his life the grandson of Henry IV., especially when this young prince was scarcely thirty years of age. But however and whensoever he did escape, what hatred he must cherish against him to whom he owed his long imprisonment; who had taken him, rich, brave, glorious, beloved by women, feared by men, to cut off his life's best, happiest years; for it is not life, it is merely existence, in prison! Meantime, Mazarin redoubled his surveillance over the duke. But like the miser in the fable, he could not sleep for thinking of his treasure. Often he awoke in the night, suddenly, dreaming that he had been robbed of Monsieur de Beaufort. Then he inquired about him and had the vexation of hearing that the prisoner played, drank, sang, but that whilst playing, drinking, singing, he often stopped short to vow that Mazarin should pay dear for all the amusements he had forced him to enter into at Vincennes.
So much did this one idea haunt the cardinal even in his sleep, that when at seven in the morning Bernouin came to arouse him, his first words were: "Well, what's the matter? Has Monsieur de Beaufort escaped from Vincennes?""I do not think so, my lord," said Bernouin; "but you will hear about him, for La Ramee is here and awaits the commands of your eminence." "Tell him to come in," said Mazarin, arranging his pillows, so that he might receive the visitor sitting up in bed. The officer entered, a large fat man, with an open physiognomy. His air of perfect serenity made Mazarin uneasy. "Approach, sir," said the cardinal. The officer obeyed. "Do you know what they are saying here?" "No, your eminence." "Well, they say that Monsieur de Beaufort is going to escape from Vincennes, if he has not done so already."
The officer's face expressed complete stupefaction. He opened at once his little eyes and his great mouth, to inhale better the joke his eminence deigned to address to him, and ended by a burst of laughter, so violent that his great limbs shook in hilarity as they would have done in an ague.
"Escape! my lord -- escape! Your eminence does not then know where Monsieur de Beaufort is?"
"No, no!" cried Mazarin, fearing that should his prisoner ever leave his prison he would be the more exasperated against him if he thus retrenched his amusement. He then asked with whom he played."My lord, either with the officers of the guard, with the other prisoners, or with me." "But does he not approach the walls while playing?" "Your eminence doesn't know those walls; they are sixty feet high and I doubt if Monsieur de Beaufort is sufficiently weary of life to risk his neck by jumping off." "Hum!" said the cardinal, beginning to feel more comfortable. "You mean to say, then, my dear Monsieur la Ramee ---- " "That unless Monsieur de Beaufort can contrive to metamorphose himself into a little bird, I will continue answerable for him."
"Take care! you assert a great deal," said Mazarin. "Monsieur de Beaufort told the guards who took him to Vincennes that he had often thought what he should do in case he were put into prison, and that he had found out forty ways of escaping.""My lord, if among these forty there had been one good way he would have been out long ago."
"Come, come; not such a fool as I fancied!" thought Mazarin. "Besides, my lord must remember that Monsieur de Chavigny is governor of Vincennes," continued La Ramee, "and that Monsieur de Chavigny is not friendly to Monsieur de Beaufort.""Yes, but Monsieur de Chavigny is sometimes absent." "When he is absent I am there." "But when you leave him, for instance?"
"Oh! when I leave him, I place in my stead a bold fellow who aspires to be his majesty's special guard. I promise you he keeps a good watch over the prisoner. During the three weeks that he has been with me, I have only had to reproach him with one thing -- being too severe with the prisoners.""And who is this Cerberus?" "A certain Monsieur Grimaud, my lord." "And what was he before he went to Vincennes?" "He was in the country, as I was told by the person who recommended him to me." "And who recommended this man to you?" "The steward of the Duc de Grammont." "He is not a gossip, I hope?" "Lord a mercy, my lord! I thought for a long time that he was dumb; he answers only by signs. It seems his former master accustomed him to that."
"Well, dear Monsieur la Ramee," replied the cardinal "let him prove a true and thankful keeper and we will shut our eyes upon his rural misdeeds and put on his back a uniform to make him respectable, and in the pockets of that uniform some pistoles to drink to the king's health."Mazarin was large in promises, -- quite unlike the virtuous Monsieur Grimaud so bepraised by La Ramee; for he said nothing and did much.
It was now nine o'clock. The cardinal, therefore, got up, perfumed himself, dressed, and went to the queen to tell her what had detained him. The queen, who was scarcely less afraid of Monsieur de Beaufort than the cardinal himself, and who was almost as superstitious as he was, made him repeat word for word all La Ramee's praises of his deputy. Then, when the cardinal had ended:
"Alas, sir! why have we not a Grimaud near every prince?"
Duc de BeaufortDescribes How The Duc De Beaufort Amused His Leisure Hours In The Donjon Of Vincennes.
The captive who was the source of so much alarm to the cardinal and whose means of escape disturbed the repose of the whole court, was wholly unconscious of the terror he caused at the Palais Royal.
He had found himself so strictly guarded that he soon perceived the fruitlessness of any attempt at escape. His vengeance, therefore, consisted in coining curses on the head of Mazarin; he even tried to make some verses on him, but soon gave up the attempt, for Monsieur de Beaufort had not only not received from Heaven the gift of versifying, he had the greatest difficulty in expressing himself in prose.
The duke was the grandson of Henry VI. and Gabrielle d'Estrees -- as good-natured, as brave, as proud, and above all, as Gascon as his ancestor, but less elaborately educated. After having been for some time after the death of Louis XIII. the favorite, the confidant, the first man, in short, at the court, he had been obliged to yield his place to Mazarin and so became the second in influence and favor; and eventually, as he was stupid enough to be vexed at this change of position, the queen had had him arrested and sent to Vincennes in charge of Guitant, who made his appearance in these pages in the beginning of this history and whom we shall see again. It is understood, of course, that when we say "the queen," Mazarin is meant.
During the five years of this seclusion, which would have improved and matured the intellect of any other man, M. de Beaufort, had he not affected to brave the cardinal, despise princes, and walk alone without adherents or disciples, would either have regained his liberty or made partisans. But these considerations never occurred to the duke and every day the cardinal received fresh accounts of him which were as unpleasant as possible to the minister.
After having failed in poetry, Monsieur de Beaufort tried drawing. He drew portraits, with a piece of coal, of the cardinal; and as his talents did not enable him to produce a very good likeness, he wrote under the picture that there might be little doubt regarding the original: "Portrait of the Illustrious Coxcomb, Mazarin." Monsieur de Chavigny, the governor of Vincennes, waited upon the duke to request that he would amuse himself in some other way, or that at all events, if he drew likenesses, he would not put mottoes underneath them. The next day the prisoner's room was full of pictures and mottoes. Monsieur de Beaufort, in common with many other prisoners, was bent upon doing things that were prohibited; and the only resource the governor had was, one day when the duke was playing at tennis, to efface all these drawings, consisting chiefly of profiles. M. de Beaufort did not venture to draw the cardinal's fat face.
The duke thanked Monsieur de Chavigny for having, as he said, cleaned his drawingpaper for him; he then divided the walls of his room into compartments and dedicated each of these compartments to some incident in Mazarin's life. In one was depicted the "Illustrious Coxcomb" receiving a shower of blows from Cardinal Bentivoglio, whose servant he had been; another, the "Illustrious Mazarin" acting the part of Ignatius Loyola in a tragedy of that name; a third, the "Illustrious Mazarin" stealing the portfolio of prime minister from Monsieur de Chavigny, who had expected to have it; a fourth, the "Illustrious Coxcomb Mazarin" refusing to give Laporte, the young king's valet, clean sheets, and saving that "it was quite enough for the king of France to have clean sheets every three months."
The governor, of course, thought proper to threaten his prisoner that if he did not give up drawing such pictures he should be obliged to deprive him of all the means of amusing himself in that manner. To this Monsieur de Beaufort replied that since every opportunity of distinguishing himself in arms was taken from him, he wished to make himself celebrated in the arts; since he could not be a Bayard, he would become a Raphael or a Michael Angelo. Nevertheless, one day when Monsieur de Beaufort was walking in the meadow his fire was put out, his charcoal all removed, taken away; and thus his means of drawing utterly destroyed.
The poor duke swore, fell into a rage, yelled, and declared that they wished to starve him to death as they had starved the Marechal Ornano and the Grand Prior of Vendome; but he refused to promise that he would not make any more drawings and remained without any fire in the room all the winter.
His next act was to purchase a dog from one of his keepers. With this animal, which he called Pistache, he was often shut up for hours alone, superintending, as every one supposed, its education. At last, when Pistache was sufficiently well trained, Monsieur de Beaufort invited the governor and officers of Vincennes to attend a representation which he was going to have in his apartment
The party assembled, the room was lighted with waxlights, and the prisoner, with a bit of plaster he had taken out of the wall of his room, had traced a long white line, representing a cord, on the floor. Pistache, on a signal from his master, placed himself on this line, raised himself on his hind paws, and holding in his front paws a wand with which clothes used to be beaten, he began to dance upon the line with as many contortions as a ropedancer. Having been several times up and down it, he gave the wand back to his master and began without hesitation to perform the same evolutions over again.The intelligent creature was received with loud applause.
The first part of the entertainment being concluded Pistache was desired to say what o'clock it was; he was shown Monsieur de Chavigny's watch; it was then half-past six; the dog raised and dropped his paw six times; the seventh he let it remain upraised. Nothing could be better done; a sun-dial could not have shown the hour with greater precision. Then the question was put to him who was the best jailer in all the prisons in France.
The dog performed three evolutions around the circle and laid himself, with the deepest respect, at the feet of Monsieur de Chavigny, who at first seemed inclined to like the joke and laughed long and loud, but a frown succeeded, and he bit his lips with vexation.Then the duke put to Pistache this difficult question, who was the greatest thief in the world? Pistache went again around the circle, but stopped at no one, and at last went to the door and began to scratch and bark.
"See, gentlemen," said M. de Beaufort, "this wonderful animal, not finding here what I ask for, seeks it out of doors; you shall, however, have his answer. Pistache, my friend, come here. Is not the greatest thief in the world, Monsieur (the king's secretary) Le Camus, who came to Paris with twenty francs in his pocket and who now possesses ten millions?"The dog shook his head.
"Then is it not," resumed the duke, "the Superintendent Emery, who gave his son, when he was married, three hundred thousand francs and a house, compared to which the Tuileries are a heap of ruins and the Louvre a paltry building?"The dog again shook his head as if to say "no." "Then," said the prisoner, "let's think who it can be. Can it be, can it possibly be, the `Illustrious Coxcomb, Mazarin de Piscina,' hey?" Pistache made violent signs that it was, by raising and lowering his head eight or ten times successively.
"Gentlemen, you see," said the duke to those present, who dared not even smile, "that it is the `Illustrious Coxcomb' who is the greatest thief in the world; at least, according to Pistache.""Let us go on to another of his exercises."
"Gentlemen!" -- there was a profound silence in the room when the duke again addressed them -- "do you not remember that the Duc de Guise taught all the dogs in Paris to jump for Mademoiselle de Pons, whom he styled `the fairest of the fair?' Pistache is going to show you how superior he is to all other dogs. Monsieur de Chavigny, be so good as to lend me your cane."Monsieur de Chavigny handed his cane to Monsieur de Beaufort. Monsieur de Beaufort placed it horizontally at the height of one foot. "Now, Pistache, my good dog, jump the height of this cane for Madame de Montbazon." "But," interposed Monsieur de Chavigny, "it seems to me that Pistache is only doing what other dogs have done when they jumped for Mademoiselle de Pons." "Stop," said the duke, "Pistache, jump for the queen." And he raised his cane six inches higher. The dog sprang, and in spite of the height jumped lightly over it. "And now," said the duke, raising it still six inches higher, "jump for the king." The dog obeyed and jumped quickly over the cane. "Now, then," said the duke, and as he spoke, lowered the cane almost level with the ground; "Pistache, my friend, jump for the `Illustrious Coxcomb, Mazarin de Piscina.'" The dog turned his back to the cane.
"What," asked the duke, "what do you mean?" and he gave him the cane again, first making a semicircle from the head to the tail of Pistache. "Jump then, Monsieur Pistache."But Pistache, as at first, turned round on his legs and stood with his back to the cane.
Monsieur de Beaufort made the experiment a third time, but by this time Pistache's patience was exhausted; he threw himself furiously upon the cane, wrested it from the hands of the prince and broke it with his teeth.
Monsieur de Beaufort took the pieces out of his mouth and presented them with great formality to Monsieur de Chavigny, saying that for that evening the entertainment was ended, but in three months it should be repeated, when Pistache would have learned a few new tricks.Three days afterward Pistache was found dead -- poisoned.
Then the duke said openly that his dog had been killed by a drug with which they meant to poison him; and one day after dinner he went to bed, calling out that he had pains in his stomach and that Mazarin had poisoned him.
This fresh impertinence reached the ears of the cardinal and alarmed him greatly. The donjon of Vincennes was considered very unhealthy and Madame de Rambouillet had said that the room in which the Marechal Ornano and the Grand Prior de Vendome had died was worth its weight in arsenic -- a bon mot which had great success. So it was ordered the prisoner was henceforth to eat nothing that had not previously been tasted, and La Ramee was in consequence placed near him as taster.
Every kind of revenge was practiced upon the duke by the governor in return for the insults of the innocent Pistache. De Chavigny, who, according to report, was a son of Richelieu's, and had been a creature of the late cardinal's, understood tyranny. He took from the duke all the steel knives and silver forks and replaced them with silver knives and wooden forks, pretending that as he had been informed that the duke was to pass all his life at Vincennes, he was afraid of his prisoner attempting suicide. A fortnight afterward the duke, going to the tennis court, found two rows of trees about the size of his little finger planted by the roadside; he asked what they were for and was told that they were to shade him from the sun on some future day. One morning the gardener went to him and told him, as if to please him, that he was going to plant a bed of asparagus for his especial use. Now, since, as every one knows, asparagus takes four years in coming to perfection, this civility infuriated Monsieur de Beaufort.
"Odds fish! as my grandfather used to say, I once reigned in Paris! do you know that? I had the king and Monsieur the whole of one day in my care. The queen at that time liked me and called me the most honest man in the kingdom. Gentlemen and citizens, set me free; I shall go to the Louvre and strangle Mazarin. You shall be my body-guard. I will make you all captains, with good pensions! Odds fish! On! march forward!"
But eloquent as he might be, the eloquence of the grandson of Henry IV. did not touch those hearts of stone; not one man stirred, so Monsieur de Beaufort was obliged to be satisfied with calling them all kinds of rascals underneath the sun.
Sometimes, when Monsieur de Chavigny paid him a visit, the duke used to ask him what he should think if he saw an army of Parisians, all fully armed, appear at Vincennes to deliver him from prison.
"My lord," answered De Chavigny, with a low bow, "I have on the ramparts twenty pieces of artillery and in my casemates thirty thousand guns. I should bombard the troops till not one grain of gunpowder was unexploded."
"Yes, but after you had fired off your thirty thousand guns they would take the donjon; the donjon being taken, I should be obliged to let them hang you -- at which I should be most unhappy, certainly."And in his turn the duke bowed low to Monsieur de Chavigny.
"For myself, on the other hand, my lord," returned the governor, "when the first rebel should pass the threshold of my postern doors I should be obliged to kill you with my own hand, since you were confided peculiarly to my care and as I am obliged to give you up, dead or alive."And once more he bowed low before his highness. These bitter-sweet pleasantries lasted ten minutes, sometimes longer, but always finished thus: Monsieur de Chavigny, turning toward the door, used to call out: "Halloo! La Ramee!" La Ramee came into the room. "La Ramee, I recommend Monsieur le Duc to you, particularly; treat him as a man of his rank and family ought to be treated; that is, never leave him alone an instant."
La Ramee became, therefore, the duke's dinner guest by compulsion -- an eternal keeper, the shadow of his person; but La Ramee -- gay, frank, convivial, fond of play, a great hand at tennis, had one defect in the duke's eyes -- his incorruptibility.
Now, although La Ramee appreciated, as of a certain value, the honor of being shut up with a prisoner of so great importance, still the pleasure of living in intimacy with the grandson of Henry IV. hardly compensated for the loss of that which he had experienced in going from time to time to visit his family.
One may be a jailer or a keeper and at the same time a good father and husband. La Ramee adored his wife and children, whom now he could only catch a glimpse of from the top of the wall, when in order to please him they used to walk on the opposite side of the moat. 'Twas too brief an enjoyment, and La Ramee felt that the gayety of heart he had regarded as the cause of health (of which it was perhaps rather the result) would not long survive such a mode of life.
He accepted, therefore, with delight, an offer made to him by his friend the steward of the Duc de Grammont, to give him a substitute; he also spoke of it to Monsieur de Chavigny, who promised that he would not oppose it in any way -- that is, if he approved of the person proposed.
We consider it useless to draw a physical or moral portrait of Grimaud; if, as we hope, our readers have not wholly forgotten the first part of this work, they must have preserved a clear idea of that estimable individual, who is wholly unchanged, except that he is twenty years older, an advance in life that has made him only more silent; although, since the change that had been working in himself, Athos had given Grimaud permission to speak.But Grimaud had for twelve or fifteen years preserved habitual silence, and a habit of fifteen or twenty years' duration becomes second nature.
Grimaud Begins His Functions
Grimaud thereupon presented himself with his smooth exterior at the donjon of Vincennes. Now Monsieur de Chavigny piqued himself on his infallible penetration; for that which almost proved that he was the son of Richelieu was his everlasting pretension; he examined attentively the countenance of the applicant for place and fancied that the contracted eyebrows, thin lips, hooked nose, and prominent cheek-bones of Grimaud were favorable signs. He addressed about twelve words to him; Grimaud answered in four.
"Here's a promising fellow and it is I who have found out his merits," said Monsieur de Chavigny. "Go," he added, "and make yourself agreeable to Monsieur la Ramee, and tell him that you suit me in all respects."
Grimaud had every quality that could attract a man on duty who wishes to have a deputy. So, after a thousand questions which met with only a word in reply, La Ramee, fascinated by this sobriety in speech, rubbed his hands and engaged Grimaud."My orders?" asked Grimaud. "They are these; never to leave the prisoner alone; to keep away from him every pointed or cutting instrument, and to prevent his conversing any length of time with the keepers." "Those are all?" asked Grimaud. "All now," replied La Ramee. "Good," answered Grimaud; and he went right to the prisoner.
The duke was in the act of combing his beard, which he had allowed to grow, as well as his hair, in order to reproach Mazarin with his wretched appearance and condition. But having some days previously seen from the top of the donjon Madame de Montbazon pass in her carriage, and still cherishing an affection for that beautiful woman, he did not wish to be to her what he wished to be to Mazarin, and in the hope of seeing her again, had asked for a leaden comb, which was allowed him. The comb was to be a leaden one, because his beard, like that of most fair people, was rather red; he therefore dyed it thus whilst combing it.As Grimaud entered he saw this comb on the tea-table; he took it up, and as he took it he made a low bow. The duke looked at this strange figure with surprise. The figure put the comb in its pocket. "Ho! hey! what's that?" cried the duke. "Who is this creature?" Grimaud did not answer, but bowed a second time. "Art thou dumb?" cried the duke. Grimaud made a sign that he was not. "What art thou, then? Answer! I command thee!" said the duke. "A keeper," replied Grimaud. "A keeper!" reiterated the duke; "there was nothing wanting in my collection, except this gallows-bird. Halloo! La Ramee! some one!" La Ramee ran in haste to obey the call. "Who is this wretch who takes my comb and puts it in his pocket?" asked the duke. "One of your guards, my prince; a man of talent and merit, whom you will like, as I and Monsieur de Chavigny do, I am sure." "Why does he take my comb?" "Why do you take my lord's comb?" asked La Ramee. Grimaud drew the comb from his pocket and passing his fingers over the largest teeth, pronounced this one word, "Pointed." "True," said La Ramee. "What does the animal say?" asked the duke. "That the king has forbidden your lordship to have any pointed instrument." "Are you mad, La Ramee? You yourself gave me this comb." "I was very wrong, my lord, for in giving it to you I acted in opposition to my orders." The duke looked furiously at Grimaud. "I perceive that this creature will be my particular aversion," he muttered.
Grimaud, nevertheless, was resolved for certain reasons not at once to come to a full rupture with the prisoner; he wanted to inspire, not a sudden repugnance, but a good, sound, steady hatred; he retired, therefore, and gave place to four guards, who, having breakfasted, could attend on the prisoner.
A fresh practical joke now occurred to the duke. He had asked for crawfish for his breakfast on the following morning; he intended to pass the day in making a small gallows and hang one of the finest of these fish in the middle of his room -- the red color evidently conveying an allusion to the cardinal -- so that he might have the pleasure of hanging Mazarin in effigy without being accused of having hung anything more significant than a crawfish.
The day was employed in preparations for the execution. Every one grows childish in prison, but the character of Monsieur de Beaufort was particularly disposed to become so. In the course of his morning's walk he collected two or three small branches from a tree and found a small piece of broken glass, a discovery that quite delighted him. When he came home he formed his handkerchief into a loop.
Nothing of all this escaped Grimaud, but La Ramee looked on with the curiosity of a father who thinks that he may perhaps get a cheap idea concerning a new toy for his children. The guards looked on it with indifference. When everything was ready, the gallows hung in the middle of the room, the loop made, and when the duke had cast a glance upon the plate of crawfish, in order to select the finest specimen among them, he looked around for his piece of glass; it had disappeared."Who has taken my piece of glass?" asked the duke, frowning. Grimaud made a sign to denote that he had done so. "What! thou again! Why didst thou take it?" "Yes -- why?" asked La Ramee. Grimaud, who held the piece of glass in his hand, said: "Sharp." "True, my lord!" exclaimed La Ramee. "Ah! deuce take it! we have a precious fellow here!" "Monsieur Grimaud!" said the duke, "for your sake I beg of you, never come within the reach of my fist!" "Hush! hush!" cried La Ramee, "give me your gibbet, my lord. I will shape it out for you with my knife." And he took the gibbet and shaped it out as neatly as possible. "That's it," said the duke, "now make me a little hole in the floor whilst I go and fetch the culprit."
La Ramee knelt down and made a hole in the floor; meanwhile the duke hung the crawfish up by a thread. Then he placed the gibbet in the middle of the room, bursting with laughter.
La Ramee laughed also and the guards laughed in chorus; Grimaud, however, did not even smile. He approached La Ramee and showing him the crawfish hung up by the thread:
La Ramee uttered a cry of horror and rushed toward the gibbet, which he broke at once and threw the pieces out of the window. He was going to throw the crawfish out also, when Grimaud snatched it from his hands."Good to eat!" he said, and put it in his pocket.
This scene so enchanted the duke that at the moment he forgave Grimaud for his part in it; but on reflection he hated him more and more, being convinced he had some evil motive for his conduct.
But the story of the crab made a great noise through the interior of the donjon and even outside. Monsieur de Chavigny, who at heart detested the cardinal, took pains to tell the story to two or three friends, who put it into immediate circulation.
The prisoner happened to remark among the guards one man with a very good countenance; and he favored this man the more as Grimaud became the more and more odious to him. One morning he took this man on one side and had succeeded in speaking to him, when Grimaud entered and seeing what was going on approached the duke respectfully, but took the guard by the arm."Go away," he said. The guard obeyed. "You are insupportable!" cried the duke; "I shall beat you." Grimaud bowed. "I will break every bone in your body!" cried the duke. Grimaud bowed, but stepped back. "Mr. Spy," cried the duke, more and more enraged, "I will strangle you with my own hands."
And he extended his hands toward Grimaud, who merely thrust the guard out and shut the door behind him. At the same time he felt the duke's arms on his shoulders like two iron claws; but instead either of calling out or defending himself, he placed his forefinger on his lips and said in a low tone:"Hush!" smiling as he uttered the word. A gesture, a smile and a word from Grimaud, all at once, were so unusual that his highness stopped short, astounded. Grimaud took advantage of that instant to draw from his vest a charming little note with an aristocratic seal, and presented it to the duke without a word. The duke, more and more bewildered, let Grimaud loose and took the note. "From Madame de Montbazon?" he cried. Grimaud nodded assent. The duke tore open the note, passed his hands over his eyes, for he was dazzled and confused, and read:
"My Dear Duke, -- You may entirely confide in the brave lad who will give you this note; he has consented to enter the service of your keeper and to shut himself up at Vincennes with you, in order to prepare and assist your escape, which we are contriving. The moment of your deliverance is at hand; have patience and courage and remember that in spite of time and absence all your friends continue to cherish for you the sentiments they have so long professed and truly entertained."Yours wholly and most affectionately "Marie de Montbazon. "P.S. -- I sign my full name, for I should be vain if I could suppose that after five years of absence you would remember my initials."
The poor duke became perfectly giddy. What for five years he had been wanting -- a faithful servant, a friend, a helping hand -- seemed to have fallen from Heaven just when he expected it the least."Oh, dearest Marie! she thinks of me, then, after five years of separation! Heavens! there is constancy!" Then turning to Grimaud, he said: "And thou, my brave fellow, thou consentest thus to aid me?" Grimaud signified his assent. "And you have come here with that purpose?" Grimaud repeated the sign. "And I was ready to strangle you!" cried the duke. Grimaud smiled.
"Wait, then," said the duke, fumbling in his pocket. "Wait," he continued, renewing his fruitless search; "it shall not be said that such devotion to a grandson of Henry IV. went without recompense."
The duke's endeavors evinced the best intention in the world, but one of the precautions taken at Vincennes was that of allowing prisoners to keep no money. Whereupon Grimaud, observing the duke's disappointment, drew from his pocket a purse filled with gold and handed it to him."Here is what you are looking for," he said. The duke opened the purse and wanted to empty it into Grimaud's hands, but Grimaud shook his head. "Thank you, monseigneur," he said, drawing back; "I am paid." The duke went from one surprise to another. He held out his hand. Grimaud drew near and kissed it respectfully. The grand manner of Athos had left its mark on Grimaud. "What shall we do? and when? and how proceed?" "It is now eleven," answered Grimaud. "Let my lord at two o'clock ask leave to make up a game at tennis with La Ramee and let him send two or three balls over the ramparts." "And then?" "Your highness will approach the walls and call out to a man who works in the moat to send them back again." "I understand," said the duke. Grimaud made a sign that he was going away. "Ah!" cried the duke, "will you not accept any money from me?" "I wish my lord would make me one promise."
"What! speak!" "'Tis this: when we escape together, that I shall go everywhere and be always first; for if my lord should be overtaken and caught, there's every chance of his being brought back to prison, whereas if I am caught the least that can befall me is to be -- hung.""True, on my honor as a gentleman it shall be as thou dost suggest." "Now," resumed Grimaud, "I've only one thing more to ask -- that your highness will continue to detest me." "I'll try," said the duke.
At this moment La Ramee, after the interview we have described with the cardinal, entered the room. The duke had thrown himself, as he was wont to do in moments of dullness and vexation, on his bed. La Ramee cast an inquiring look around him and observing the same signs of antipathy between the prisoner and his guardian he smiled in token of his inward satisfaction. Then turning to Grimaud:"Very good, my friend, very good. You have been spoken of in a promising quarter and you will soon, I hope, have news that will be agreeable to you." Grimaud saluted in his politest manner and withdrew, as was his custom on the entrance of his superior. "Well, my lord," said La Ramee, with his rude laugh, "you still set yourself against this poor fellow?" "So! 'tis you, La Ramee; in faith, 'tis time you came back again. I threw myself on the bed and turned my nose to the wall, that I mightn't break my promise and strangle Grimaud." "I doubt, however," said La Ramee, in sprightly allusion to the silence of his subordinate, "if he has said anything disagreeable to your highness." "Pardieu! you are right -- a mute from the East! I swear it was time for you to come back, La Ramee, and I was eager to see you again." "Monseigneur is too good," said La Ramee, flattered by the compliment. "Yes," continued the duke, "really, I feel bored today beyond the power of description." "Then let us have a match in the tennis court," exclaimed La Ramee. "If you wish it."
"I am at your service, my lord." "I protest, my dear La Ramee," said the duke, "that you are a charming fellow and that I would stay forever at Vincennes to have the pleasure of your society.""My lord," replied La Ramee, "I think if it depended on the cardinal your wishes would be fulfilled." "What do you mean? Have you seen him lately?" "He sent for me to-day." "Really! to speak to you about me?" "Of what else do you imagine he would speak to me? Really, my lord, you are his nightmare." The duke smiled with bitterness. "Ah, La Ramee! if you would but accept my offers! I would make your fortune." "How? you would no sooner have left prison than your goods would be confiscated." "I shall no sooner be out of prison than I shall be master of Paris." "Pshaw! pshaw! I cannot hear such things said as that; this is a fine conversation with an officer of the king! I see, my lord, I shall be obliged to fetch a second Grimaud!"
"Very well, let us say no more about it. So you and the cardinal have been talking about me? La Ramee, some day when he sends for you, you must let me put on your clothes; I will go in your stead; I will strangle him, and upon my honor, if that is made a condition I will return to prison.""Monseigneur, I see well that I must call Grimaud." "Well, I am wrong. And what did the cuistre [pettifogger] say about me?" "I admit the word, monseigneur, because it rhymes with ministre [minister]. What did he say to me? He told me to watch you." "And why so? why watch me?" asked the duke uneasily. "Because an astrologer had predicted that you would escape." "Ah! an astrologer predicted that?" said the duke, starting in spite of himself. "Oh, mon Dieu! yes! those imbeciles of magicians can only imagine things to torment honest people." "And what did you reply to his most illustrious eminence?" "That if the astrologer in question made almanacs I would advise him not to buy one." "Why not?" "Because before you could escape you would have to be turned into a bird." "Unfortunately, that is true. Let us go and have a game at tennis, La Ramee." "My lord -- I beg your highness's pardon -- but I must beg for half an hour's leave of absence." "Why?" "Because Monseigneur Mazarin is a prouder man than his highness, though not of such high birth: he forgot to ask me to breakfast." "Well, shall I send for some breakfast here?" "No, my lord; I must tell you that the confectioner who lived opposite the castle -- Daddy Marteau, as they called him ---- " "Well?" "Well, he sold his business a week ago to a confectioner from Paris, an invalid, ordered country air for his health." "Well, what have I to do with that?"
"Why, good Lord! this man, your highness, when he saw me stop before his shop, where he has a display of things which would make your mouth water, my lord, asked me to get him the custom of the prisoners in the donjon. `I bought,' said he, `the business of my predecessor on the strength of his assurance that he supplied the castle; whereas, on my honor, Monsieur de Chavigny, though I've been here a week, has not ordered so much as a tartlet.' `But,' I then replied, `probably Monsieur de Chavigny is afraid your pastry is not good.' `My pastry not good! Well, Monsieur La Ramee, you shall judge of it yourself and at once.' `I cannot,' I replied; `it is absolutely necessary for me to return to the chateau.' `Very well,' said he, `go and attend to your affairs, since you seem to be in a hurry, but come back in half an hour.' `In half an hour?' `Yes, have you breakfasted?' `Faith, no.' `Well, here is a pate that will be ready for you, with a bottle of old Burgundy.' So, you see, my lord, since I am hungry, I would, with your highness's leave ---- " And La Ramee bent low."Go, then, animal," said the duke; "but remember, I only allow you half an hour." "May I promise your custom to the successor of Father Marteau, my lord?" "Yes, if he does not put mushrooms in his pies; thou knowest that mushrooms from the wood of Vincennes are fatal to my family."
La Ramee went out, but in five minutes one of the officers of the guard entered in compliance with the strict orders of the cardinal that the prisoner should never be left alone a moment.
But during these five minutes the duke had had time to read again the note from Madame de Montbazon, which proved to the prisoner that his friends were concerting plans for his deliverance, but in what way he knew not.
But his confidence in Grimaud, whose petty persecutions he now perceived were only a blind, increased, and he conceived the highest opinion of his intellect and resolved to trust entirely to his guidance.
The Contents Of The PatesIn Which The Contents Of The Pates Made By The Successor Of Father Marteau Are Described. In half an hour La Ramee returned, full of glee, like most men who have eaten, and more especially drank to their heart's content. The pates were excellent, the wine delicious. The weather was fine and the game at tennis took place in the open air.
At two o'clock the tennis balls began, according to Grimaud's directions, to take the direction of the moat, much to the joy of La Ramee, who marked fifteen whenever the duke sent a ball into the moat; and very soon balls were wanting, so many had gone over. La Ramee then proposed to send some one to pick them up, but the duke remarked that it would be losing time; and going near the rampart himself and looking over, he saw a man working in one of the numerous little gardens cleared out by the peasants on the opposite side of the moat."Hey, friend!" cried the duke. The man raised his head and the duke was about to utter a cry of surprise. The peasant, the gardener, was Rochefort, whom he believed to be in the Bastile. "Well? Who's up there?" said the man. "Be so good as to collect and throw us back our balls," said the duke.
The gardener nodded and began to fling up the balls, which were picked up by La Ramee and the guard. One, however, fell at the duke's feet, and seeing that it was intended for him, he put it into his pocket.La Ramee was in ecstasies at having beaten a prince of the blood.
The duke went indoors and retired to bed, where he spent, indeed, the greater part of every day, as they had taken his books away. La Ramee carried off all his clothes, in order to be certain that the duke would not stir. However, the duke contrived to hide the ball under his bolster and as soon as the door was closed he tore off the cover of the ball with his teeth and found underneath the following letter:
My Lord, -- Your friends are watching over you and the hour of your deliverance is at hand. Ask day after to-morrow to have a pie supplied you by the new confectioner opposite the castle, and who is no other than Noirmont, your former maitre d'hotel. Do not open the pie till you are alone. I hope you will be satisfied with its contents."Your highness's most devoted servant, "In the Bastile, as elsewhere, "Comte de Rochefort.
The duke, who had latterly been allowed a fire, burned the letter, but kept the ball, and went to bed, hiding the ball under his bolster. La Ramee entered; he smiled kindly on the prisoner, for he was an excellent man and had taken a great liking for the captive prince. He endeavored to cheer him up in his solitude."Ah, my friend!" cried the duke, "you are so good; if I could but do as you do, and eat pates and drink Burgundy at the house of Father Marteau's successor." "'Tis true, my lord," answered La Ramee, "that his pates are famous and his wine magnificent." "In any case," said the duke, "his cellar and kitchen might easily excel those of Monsieur de Chavigny." "Well, my lord," said La Ramee, falling into the trap, "what is there to prevent your trying them? Besides, I have promised him your patronage."
"You are right," said the duke. "If I am to remain here permanently, as Monsieur Mazarin has kindly given me to understand, I must provide myself with a diversion for my old age, I must turn gourmand.""My lord," said La Ramee, "if you will take a bit of good advice, don't put that off till you are old."
"Good!" said the Duc de Beaufort to himself, "every man in order that he may lose his heart and soul, must receive from celestial bounty one of the seven capital sins, perhaps two; it seems that Master La Ramee's is gluttony. Let us then take advantage of it." Then, aloud:"Well, my dear La Ramee! the day after to-morrow is a holiday." "Yes, my lord -- Pentecost." "Will you give me a lesson the day after to-morrow?" "In what?" "In gastronomy?"
"Willingly, my lord." "But tete-a-tete. Send the guards to take their meal in the canteen of Monsieur de Chavigny; we'll have a supper here under your direction.""Hum!" said La Ramee.
The proposal was seductive, but La Ramee was an old stager, acquainted with all the traps a prisoner was likely to set. Monsieur de Beaufort had said that he had forty ways of getting out of prison. Did this proposed breakfast cover some stratagem? He reflected, but he remembered that he himself would have charge of the food and the wine and therefore that no powder could be mixed with the food, no drug with the wine. As to getting him drunk, the duke couldn't hope to do that, and he laughed at the mere thought of it. Then an idea came to him which harmonized everything.The duke had followed with anxiety La Ramee's unspoken soliloquy, reading it from point to point upon his face. But presently the exempt's face suddenly brightened. "Well," he asked, "that will do, will it not?" "Yes, my lord, on one condition." "What?" "That Grimaud shall wait on us at table." Nothing could be more agreeable to the duke, however, he had presence of mind enough to exclaim: "To the devil with your Grimaud! He will spoil the feast."
"I will direct him to stand behind your chair, and since he doesn't speak, your highness will neither see nor hear him and with a little effort can imagine him a hundred miles away.""Do you know, my friend, I find one thing very evident in all this, you distrust me." "My lord, the day after to-morrow is Pentecost." "Well, what is Pentecost to me? Are you afraid that the Holy Spirit will come as a tongue of fire to open the doors of my prison?" "No, my lord; but I have already told you what that damned magician predicted." "And what was it?" "That the day of Pentecost would not pass without your highness being out of Vincennes." "You believe in sorcerers, then, you fool?" "I ---I mind them no more than that ---- " and he snapped his fingers; "but it is my Lord Giulio who cares about them; as an Italian he is superstitious." The duke shrugged his shoulders.
"Well, then," with well acted good-humor, "I allow Grimaud, but no one else; you must manage it all. Order whatever you like for supper -- the only thing I specify is one of those pies; and tell the confectioner that I will promise him my custom if he excels this time in his pies -- not only now, but when I leave my prison.""Then you think you will some day leave it?" said La Ramee. "The devil!" replied the prince; "surely, at the death of Mazarin. I am fifteen years younger than he is. At Vincennes, 'tis true, one lives faster ---- " "My lord," replied La Ramee, "my lord ---- " "Or dies sooner, for it comes to the same thing." La Ramee was going out. He stopped, however, at the door for an instant. "Whom does your highness wish me to send to you?" "Any one, except Grimaud." "The officer of the guard, then, with his chessboard?" "Yes." Five minutes afterward the officer entered and the duke seemed to be immersed in the sublime combinations of chess.
A strange thing is the mind, and it is wonderful what revolutions may be wrought in it by a sign, a word, a hope. The duke had been five years in prison, and now to him, looking back upon them, those five years, which had passed so slowly, seemed not so long a time as were the two days, the forty-eight hours, which still parted him from the time fixed for his escape. Besides, there was one thing that engaged his most anxious thought -- in what way was the escape to be effected? They had told him to hope for it, but had not told him what was to be hidden in the mysterious pate. And what friends awaited him without? He had friends, then, after five years in prison? If that were so he was indeed a highly favored prince. He forgot that besides his friends of his own sex, a woman, strange to say, had remembered him. It is true that she had not, perhaps, been scupulously faithful to him, but she had remembered him; that was something.
So the duke had more than enough to think about; accordingly he fared at chess as he had fared at tennis; he made blunder upon blunder and the officer with whom he played found him easy game.
But his successive defeats did service to the duke in one way -- they killed time for him till eight o'clock in the evening; then would come night, and with night, sleep. So, at least, the duke believed; but sleep is a capricious fairy, and it is precisely when one invokes her presence that she is most likely to keep him waiting. The duke waited until midnight, turning on his mattress like St. Laurence on his gridiron. Finally he slept.
But at daybreak he awoke. Wild dreams had disturbed his repose. He dreamed that he was endowed with wings -- he wished to fly away. For a time these wings supported him, but when he reached a certain height this new aid failed him. His wings were broken and he seemed to sink into a bottomless abyss, whence he awoke, bathed in perspiration and nearly as much overcome as if he had really fallen. He fell asleep again and another vision appeared. He was in a subterranean passage by which he was to leave Vincennes. Grimaud was walking before him with a lantern. By degrees the passage narrowed, yet the duke continued his course. At last it became so narrow that the fugitive tried in vain to proceed. The sides of the walls seem to close in, even to press against him. He made fruitless efforts to go on; it was impossible. Nevertheless, he still saw Grimaud with his lantern in front, advancing. He wished to call out to him but could not utter a word. Then at the other extremity he heard the footsteps of those who were pursuing him. These steps came on, came fast. He was discovered; all hope of flight was gone. Still the walls seemed to be closing on him; they appeared to be in concert with his enemies. At last he heard the voice of La Ramee. La Ramee took his hand and laughed aloud. He was captured again, and conducted to the low and vaulted chamber, in which Ornano, Puylaurens, and his uncle had died. Their three graves were there, rising above the ground, and a fourth was also there, yawning for its ghastly tenant.The duke was obliged to make as many efforts to awake as he had done to go to sleep; and La Ramee found him so pale and fatigued that he inquired whether he was ill.
"In fact," said one of the guards who had remained in the chamber and had been kept awake by a toothache, brought on by the dampness of the atmosphere, "my lord has had a very restless night and two or three times, while dreaming, he called for help.""What is the matter with your highness?" asked La Ramee.
"'Tis your fault, you simpleton," answered the duke. "With your idle nonsense yesterday about escaping, you worried me so that I dreamed that I was trying to escape and broke my neck in doing so."La Ramee laughed.
"Come," he said, "'tis a warning from Heaven. Never commit such an imprudence as to try to escape, except in your dreams."
"And you are right, my dear La Ramee," said the duke, wiping away the sweat that stood on his brow, wide awake though he was; "after this I will think of nothing but eating and drinking."
The duke saw that he had not controlled himself as he ought, but at that moment, as if he had listened at the door and comprehended the urgent need of diverting La Ramee's ideas, Grimaud entered and made a sign to La Ramee that he had something to say to him.La Ramee drew near to Grimaud, who spoke to him in a low voice. The duke meanwhile recovered his self-control. "I have already forbidden that man," he said, "to come in here without my permission." "You must pardon him, my lord," said La Ramee, "for I directed him to come." "And why did you so direct when you know that he displeases me?" "My lord will remember that it was agreed between us that he should wait upon us at that famous supper. My lord has forgotten the supper." "No, but I have forgotten Monsieur Grimaud." "My lord understands that there can be no supper unless he is allowed to be present." "Go on, then; have it your own way." "Come here, my lad," said La Ramee, "and hear what I have to say." Grimaud approached, with a very sullen expression on his face. La Ramee continued: "My lord has done me the honor to invite me to a supper to-morrow en tete-a-tete." Grimaud made a sign which meant that he didn't see what that had to do with him.
"Yes, yes," said La Ramee, "the matter concerns you, for you will have the honor to serve us; and besides, however good an appetite we may have and however great our thirst, there will be something left on the plates and in the bottles, and that something will be yours."Grimaud bowed in thanks.
"And now," said La Ramee, "I must ask your highness's pardon, but it seems that Monsieur de Chavigny is to be away for a few days and he has sent me word that he has certain directions to give me before his departure."The duke tried to exchange a glance with Grimaud, but there was no glance in Grimaud's eyes. "Go, then," said the duke, "and return as soon as possible." "Does your highness wish to take revenge for the game of tennis yesterday?" Grimaud intimated by a scarcely perceptible nod that he should consent. "Yes," said the duke, "but take care, my dear La Ramee, for I propose to beat you badly." La Ramee went out. Grimaud looked after him, and when the door was closed he drew out of his pocket a pencil and a sheet of paper. "Write, my lord," he said. "And what?" Grimaud dictated. "All is ready for to-morrow evening. Keep watch from seven to nine. Have two riding horses ready. We shall descend by the first window in the gallery." "What next?" "Sign your name, my lord." The duke signed. "Now, my lord, give me, if you have not lost it, the ball -- that which contained the letter." The duke took it from under his pillow and gave it to Grimaud. Grimaud gave a grim smile. "Well?" asked the duke. "Well, my lord, I sew up the paper in the ball and you, in your game of tennis, will send the ball into the ditch." "But will it not be lost?" "Oh no; there will be some one at hand to pick it up." "A gardener?" Grimaud nodded. "The same as yesterday?" Another nod on the part of Grimaud. "The Count de Rochefort?" Grimaud nodded the third time. "Come, now," said the duke, "give some particulars of the plan for our escape." "That is forbidden me," said Grimaud, "until the last moment." "Who will be waiting for me beyond the ditch?" "I know nothing about it, my lord." "But at least, if you don't want to see me turn crazy, tell what that famous pate will contain." "Two poniards, a knotted rope and a poire d'angoisse."* *This poire d'angoisse was a famous gag, in the form of a pear, which, being thrust into the mouth, by the aid of a spring, dilated, so as to distend the jaws to their greatest width. "Yes, I understand." "My lord observes that there will be enough to go around." "We shall take to ourselves the poniards and the rope," replied the duke. "And make La Ramee eat the pear," answered Grimaud. "My dear Grimaud, thou speakest seldom, but when thou dost, one must do thee justice -- thy words are words of gold."
One Of Marie Michon's Adventures
Whilst these projects were being formed by the Duc de Beaufort and Grimaud, the Comte de la Fere and the Vicomte de Bragelonne were entering Paris by the Rue du Faubourg Saint Marcel.They stopped at the sign of the Fox, in the Rue du Vieux Colombier, a tavern known for many years by Athos, and asked for two bedrooms. "You must dress yourself, Raoul," said Athos, "I am going to present you to some one." "To-day, monsieur?" asked the young man. "In half an hour."
The young man bowed. Perhaps, not being endowed with the endurance of Athos, who seemed to be made of iron, he would have preferred a bath in the river Seine of which he had heard so much, and afterward his bed; but the Comte de la Fere had spoken and he had no thought but to obey."By the way," said Athos, "take some pains with your toilet, Raoul; I want you to be approved." "I hope, sir," replied the youth, smiling, "that there's no idea of a marriage for me; you know of my engagement to Louise?" Athos, in his turn, smiled also. "No, don't be alarmed, although it is to a lady that I am going to present you, and I am anxious that you should love her ---- " The young man looked at the count with a certain uneasiness, but at a smile from Athos he was quickly reassured. "How old is she?" inquired the Vicomte de Bragelonne.
"My dear Raoul, learn, once for all, that that is a question which is never asked. When you can find out a woman's age by her face, it is useless to ask it; when you cannot do so, it is indiscreet.""Is she beautiful?" "Sixteen years ago she was deemed not only the prettiest, but the most graceful woman in
This reply reassured the vicomte. A woman who had been a reigning beauty a year before he was born could not be the subject of any scheme for him. He retired to his toilet. When he reappeared, Athos received him with the same paternal smile as that which he had often bestowed on D'Artagnan, but a more profound tenderness for Raoul was now visibly impressed upon his face.
Athos cast a glance at his feet, hands and hair -- those three marks of race. The youth's dark hair was neatly parted and hung in curls, forming a sort of dark frame around his face; such was the fashion of the day. Gloves of gray kid, matching the hat, well displayed the form of a slender and elegant hand; whilst his boots, similar in color to the hat and gloves, confined feet small as those of a boy twelve years old."Come," murmured Athos, "if she is not proud of him, she must be hard to please."
It was three o'clock in the afternoon. The two travelers proceeded to the Rue Saint Dominique and stopped at the door of a magnificent hotel, surmounted with the arms of De Luynes."'Tis here," said Athos.
He entered the hotel and ascended the front steps, and addressing a footman who waited there in a grand livery, asked if the Duchess de Chevreuse was visible and if she could receive the Comte de la Fere?The servant returned with a message to say, that, though the duchess had not the honor of knowing Monsieur de la Fere, she would receive him.
Athos followed the footman, who led him through a long succession of apartments and paused at length before a closed door. Athos made a sign to the Vicomte de Bragelonne to remain where he was.The footman opened the door and announced Monsieur le Comte de la Fere.
Madame de Chevreuse, whose name appears so often in our story "The Three Musketeers," without her actually having appeared in any scene, was still a beautiful woman. Although about forty-four or forty-five years old, she might have passed for thirty-five. She still had her rich fair hair; her large, animated, intelligent eyes, so often opened by intrigue, so often closed by the blindness of love. She had still her nymph-like form, so that when her back was turned she still was not unlike the girl who had jumped, with Anne of Austria, over the moat of the Tuileries in 1563. In all other respects she was the same mad creature who threw over her amours such an air of originality as to make them proverbial for eccentricity in her family.
She was in a little boudoir, hung with blue damask, adorned by red flowers, with a foliage of gold, looking upon a garden; and reclined upon a sofa, her head supported on the rich tapestry which covered it. She held a book in her hand and her arm was supported by a cushion.At the footman's announcement she raised herself a little and peeped out, with some curiosity. Athos appeared.
He was dressed in violet-tinted velvet, trimmed with silk of the same color. His shoulderknots were of burnished silver, his mantle had no gold nor embroidery on it; a simple plume of violet feathers adorned his hat; his boots were of black leather, and at his girdle hung that sword with a magnificent hilt that Porthos had so often admired in the Rue Feron. Splendid lace adorned the falling collar of his shirt, and lace fell also over the top of his boots.In his whole person he bore such an impress of high degree, that Madame de Chevreuse half rose from her seat when she saw him and made him a sign to sit down near her. Athos bowed and obeyed. The footman was withdrawing, but Athos stopped him by a sign.
"Madame," he said to the duchess, "I have had the boldness to present myself at your hotel without being known to you; it has succeeded, since you deign to receive me. I have now the boldness to ask you for an interview of half an hour.""I grant it, monsieur," replied Madame de Chevreuse with her most gracious smile. "But that is not all, madame. Oh, I am very presuming, I am aware. The interview for which I ask is of us two alone, and I very earnestly wish that it may not be interrupted." "I am not at home to any one," said the Duchess de Chevreuse to the footman. "You may go." The footman went out
There ensued a brief silence, during which these two persons, who at first sight recognized each other so clearly as of noble race, examined each other without embarrassment on either side.The duchess was the first to speak. "Well, sir, I am waiting with impatience to hear what you wish to say to me."
"And I, madame," replied Athos, "am looking with admiration." "Sir," said Madame de Chevreuse, "you must excuse me, but I long to know to whom I am talking. You belong to the court, doubtless, yet I have never seen you at court. Have you, by any chance, been in the Bastile?""No, madame, I have not; but very likely I am on the road to it."
"Ah! then tell me who you are, and get along with you upon your journey," replied the duchess, with the gayety which made her so charming, "for I am sufficiently in bad odor already, without compromising myself still more."
"Who I am, madame? My name has been mentioned to you -- the Comte de la Fere; you do not know that name. I once bore another, which you knew, but you have certainly forgotten it.""Tell it me, sir." "Formerly," said the count, "I was Athos." Madame de Chevreuse looked astonished. The name was not wholly forgotten, but mixed up and confused with ancient recollections. "Athos?" said she; "wait a moment." And she placed her hands on her brow, as if to force the fugitive ideas it contained to concentration in a moment. "Shall I help you, madame?" asked Athos. "Yes, do," said the duchess. "This Athos was connected with three young musketeers, named Porthos, D'Artagnan, and ---- " He stopped short. "And Aramis," said the duchess, quickly. "And Aramis; I see you have not forgotten the name." "No," she said; "poor Aramis; a charming man, elegant, discreet, and a writer of poetical verses. I am afraid he has turned out ill," she added. "He has; he is an abbe." "Ah, what a misfortune!" exclaimed the duchess, playing carelessly with her fan. "Indeed, sir, I thank you; you have recalled one of the most agreeable recollections of my youth." "Will you permit me, then, to recall another to you?" "Relating to him?" "Yes and no." "Faith!" said Madame de Chevreuse, "say on. With a man like you I fear nothing." Athos bowed. "Aramis," he continued, "was intimate with a young needlewoman from Tours, a cousin of his, named Marie Michon." "Ah, I knew her!" cried the duchess. "It was to her he wrote from the siege of Rochelle, to warn her of a plot against the Duke of Buckingham." "Exactly so; will you allow me to speak to you of her?" "If," replied the duchess, with a meaning look, "you do not say too much against her." "I should be ungrateful," said Athos, "and I regard ingratitude, not as a fault or a crime, but as a vice, which is much worse." "You ungrateful to Marie Michon, monsieur?" said Madame de Chevreuse, trying to read in Athos's eyes. "But how can that be? You never knew her."
"Eh, madame, who knows?" said Athos. "There is a popular proverb to the effect that it is only mountains that never meet; and popular proverbs contain sometimes a wonderful amount of truth.""Oh, go on, monsieur, go on!" said Madame de Chevreuse eagerly; "you can't imagine how much this conversation interests me."
"You encourage me," said Athos, "I will continue, then. That cousin of Aramis, that Marie Michon, that needlewoman, notwithstanding her low condition, had acquaintances in the highest rank; she called the grandest ladies of the court her friend, and the queen -- proud as she is, in her double character as Austrian and as Spaniard -- called her her sister.""Alas!" said Madame de Chevreuse, with a slight sigh and a little movement of her eyebrows that was peculiarly her own, "since that time everything has changed."
"And the queen had reason for her affection, for Marie was devoted to her -- devoted to that degree that she served her as medium of intercourse with her brother, the king of Spain."
"Which," interrupted the duchess, "is now brought up against her as a great crime." "And therefore," continued Athos, "the cardinal -- the true cardinal, the other one -- determined one fine morning to arrest poor Marie Michon and send her to the Chateau de Loches. Fortunately the affair was not managed so secretly but that it became known to the queen. The case had been provided for: if Marie Michon should be threatened with any danger the queen was to send her a prayer-book bound in green velvet.""That is true, monsieur, you are well informed."
"One morning the green book was brought to her by the Prince de Marsillac. There was no time to lose. Happily Marie and a follower of hers named Kitty could disguise themselves admirably in men's clothes. The prince procured for Marie Michon the dress of a cavalier and for Kitty that of a lackey; he sent them two excellent horses, and the fugitives went out hastily from Tours, shaping their course toward Spain, trembling at the least noise, following unfrequented roads, and asking for hospitality when they found themselves where there was no inn.""Why, really, it was all exactly as you say!" cried Madame de Chevreuse, clapping her hands. "It would indeed be strange if ---- " she checked herself.
"If I should follow the two fugitives to the end of their journey?" said Athos. "No, madame, I will not thus waste your time. We will accompany them only to a little village in Limousin, lying between Tulle and Angouleme -- a little village called Rochel'Abeille."Madame de Chevreuse uttered a cry of surprise, and looked at Athos with an expression of astonishment that made the old musketeer smile. "Wait, madame," continued Athos, "what remains for me to tell you is even more strange than what I have narrated." "Monsieur," said Madame de Chevreuse, "I believe you are a sorcerer; I am prepared for anything. But really -- No matter, go on."
"The journey of that day had been long and wearing; it was a cold day, the eleventh of October, there was no inn or chateau in the village and the homes of the peasants were poor and unattractive. Marie Michon was a very aristocratic person; like her sister the queen, she had been accustomed to pleasing perfumes and fine linen; she resolved, therefore, to seek hospitality of the priest."Athos paused. "Oh, continue!" said the duchess. "I have told you that I am prepared for anything."
"The two travelers knocked at the door. It was late; the priest, who had gone to bed, cried out to them to come in. They entered, for the door was not locked -- there is much confidence among villagers. A lamp burned in the chamber occupied by the priest. Marie Michon, who made the most charming cavalier in the world, pushed open the door, put her head in and asked for hospitality. `Willingly, my young cavalier,' said the priest, `if you will be content with the remains of my supper and with half my chamber.'
"The two travelers consulted for a moment. The priest heard a burst of laughter and then the master, or rather, the mistress, replied: `Thank you, monsieur le cure, I accept.' `Sup, then, and make as little noise as possible,' said the priest, `for I, too, have been on the go all day and shall not be sorry to sleep to-night.'"
Madame de Chevreuse evidently went from surprise to astonishment, and from astonishment to stupefaction. Her face, as she looked at Athos, had taken on an expression that cannot be described. It could be seen that she had wished to speak, but she had remained silent through fear of losing one of her companion's words."What happened then?" she asked. "Then?" said Athos. "Ah, I have come now to what is most difficult." "Speak, speak! One can say anything to me. Besides, it doesn't concern me; it relates to Mademoiselle Marie Michon."
"Ah, that is true," said Athos. "Well, then, Marie Michon had supper with her follower, and then, in accordance with the permission given her, she entered the chamber of her host, Kitty meanwhile taking possession of an armchair in the room first entered, where they had taken their supper.""Really, monsieur," said Madame de Chevreuse, "unless you are the devil in person I don't know how you could become acquainted with all these details."
"A charming woman was that Marie Michon," resumed Athos, "one of those wild creatures who are constantly conceiving the strangest ideas. Now, thinking that her host was a priest, that coquette took it into her head that it would be a happy souvenir for her old age, among the many happy souvenirs she already possessed, if she could win that of having damned an abbe.""Count," said the duchess, "upon my word, you frighten me." "Alas!" continued Athos, "the poor abbe was not a St. Ambroise, and I repeat, Marie Michon was an adorable creature."
"Monsieur!" cried the duchess, seizing Athos's hands, "tell me this moment how you know all these details, or I will send to the convent of the Vieux Augustins for a monk to come and exorcise you."
Athos laughed. "Nothing is easier, madame. A cavalier, charged with an important mission, had come an hour before your arrival, seeking hospitality, at the very moment that the cure, summoned to the bedside of a dying person, left not only his house but the village, for the entire night. The priest having all confidence in his guest, who, besides, was a nobleman, had left to him his house, his supper and his chamber. And therefore Marie came seeking hospitality from the guest of the good abbe and not from the good abbe himself.""And that cavalier, that guest, that nobleman who arrived before she came?" "It was I, the Comte de la Fere," said Athos, rising and bowing respectfully to the Duchess de Chevreuse. The duchess remained a moment stupefied; then, suddenly bursting into laughter: "Ah! upon my word," said she, "it is very droll, and that mad Marie Michon fared better than she expected. Sit down, dear count, and go on with your story."
"At this point I have to accuse myself of a fault, madame. I have told you that I was traveling on an important mission. At daybreak I left the chamber without noise, leaving my charming companion asleep. In the front room the follower was also still asleep, her head leaning back on the chair, in all respects worthy of her mistress. Her pretty face arrested my attention; I approached and recognized that little Kitty whom our friend Aramis had placed with her. In that way I discovered that the charming traveler was ---- ""Marie Michon!" said Madame de Chevreuse, hastily. "Marie Michon," continued Athos. "Then I went out of the house; I proceeded to the stable and found my horse saddled and my lackey ready. We set forth on our journey." "And have you never revisited that village?" eagerly asked Madame de Chevreuse. "A year after, madame." "Well?"
"I wanted to see the good cure again. I found him much preoccupied with an event that he could not at all comprehend. A week before he had received, in a cradle, a beautiful little boy three months old, with a purse filled with gold and a note containing these simple words: `11 October, 1633.'""It was the date of that strange adventure," interrupted Madame de Chevreuse.
"Yes, but he couldn't understand what it meant, for he had spent that night with a dying person and Marie Michon had left his house before his return."
"You must know, monsieur, that Marie Michon, when she returned to France in 1643, immediately sought for information about that child; as a fugitive she could not take care of it, but on her return she wished to have it near her."
"You have kept the secret! you have brought him to see me, thinking to make me happy. Oh, thanks! sir, thanks!" cried Madame de Chevreuse, seizing his hand and trying to put it to her lips; "you have a noble heart."
"I bring him to you, madame," said Athos, withdrawing his hand, "hoping that in your turn you will do something for him; till now I have watched over his education and I have made him, I hope, an accomplished gentleman; but I am now obliged to return to the dangerous and wandering life of party faction. To-morrow I plunge into an adventurous affair in which I may be killed. Then it will devolve on you to push him on in that world where he is called on to occupy a place.""Rest assured," cried the duchess, "I shall do what I can. I have but little influence now, but all that I have shall most assuredly be his. As to his title and fortune ---- " "As to that, madame, I have made over to him the estate of Bragelonne, my inheritance, which will give him ten thousand francs a year and the title of vicomte." "Upon my soul, monsieur," said the duchess, "you are a true nobleman! But I am eager to see our young vicomte. Where is he?" "There, in the salon. I will have him come in, if you really wish it." Athos moved toward the door; the duchess held him back. "Is he handsome?" she asked. Athos smiled. "He resembles his mother." So he opened the door and beckoned the young man in. The duchess could not restrain a cry of joy on seeing so handsome a young cavalier, so far surpassing all that her maternal pride had been able to conceive. "Vicomte, come here," said Athos; "the duchess permits you to kiss her hand." The youth approached with his charming smile and his head bare, and kneeling down, kissed the hand of the Duchess de Chevreuse. "Sir," he said, turning to Athos, "was it not in compassion to my timidity that you told me that this lady was the Duchess de Chevreuse, and is she not the queen?"
"No, vicomte," said Madame de Chevreuse, taking his hand and making him sit near her, while she looked at him with eyes sparkling with pleasure; "no, unhappily, I am not the queen. If I were I should do for you at once the most that you deserve. But let us see; whatever I may be," she added, hardly restraining herself from kissing that pure brow, "let us see what profession you wish to follow."Athos, standing, looked at them both with indescribable pleasure.
"Madame," answered the youth in his sweet voice, "it seems to me that there is only one career for a gentleman -- that of the army. I have been brought up by monsieur le comte with the intention, I believe, of making me a soldier; and he gave me reason to hope that at Paris he would present me to some one who would recommend me to the favor of the prince."
"Yes, I understand it well. Personally, I am on bad terms with him, on account of the quarrels between Madame de Montbazon, my mother-in-law, and Madame de Longueville. But the Prince de Marsillac! Yes, indeed, that's the right thing. The Prince de Marsillac -- my old friend -- will recommend our young friend to Madame de Longueville, who will give him a letter to her brother, the prince, who loves her too tenderly not to do what she wishes immediately."
"Well, that will do charmingly," said the count; "but may I beg that the greatest haste may be made, for I have reasons for wishing the vicomte not to sleep longer than to-morrow night in Paris!""Do you wish it known that you are interested about him, monsieur le comte?" "Better for him in future that he should be supposed never to have seen me." "Oh, sir!" cried Raoul. "You know, Bragelonne," said Athos, "I never speak without reflection." "Well, comte, I am going instantly," interrupted the duchess, "to send for the Prince de Marsillac, who is happily, in Paris just now. What are you going to do this evening?" "We intend to visit the Abbe Scarron, for whom I have a letter of introduction and at whose house I expect to meet some of my friends." "'Tis well; I will go there also, for a few minutes," said the duchess; "do not quit his salon until you have seen me." Athos bowed and prepared to leave. "Well, monsieur le comte," said the duchess, smiling, "does one leave so solemnly his old friends?" "Ah," murmured Athos, kissing her hand, "had I only sooner known that Marie Michon was so charming a creature!" And he withdrew, sighing.
The Abbe Scarron
There was once in the Rue des Tournelles a house known by all the sedan chairmen and footmen of Paris, and yet, nevertheless, this house was neither that of a great lord nor of a rich man. There was neither dining, nor playing at cards, nor dancing in that house. Nevertheless, it was the rendezvous of the great world and all Paris went there. It was the abode of the little Abbe Scarron.
In the home of the witty abbe dwelt incessant laughter; there all the items of the day had their source and were so quickly transformed, misrepresented, metamorphosed, some into epigrams, some into falsehoods, that every one was anxious to pass an hour with little Scarron, listening to what he said, reporting it to others.
The diminutive Abbe Scarron, who, however, was an abbe only because he owned an abbey, and not because he was in orders, had formerly been one of the gayest prebendaries in the town of Mans, which he inhabited. On a day of the carnival he had taken a notion to provide an unusual entertainment for that good town, of which he was the life and soul. He had made his valet cover him with honey; then, opening a feather bed, he had rolled in it and had thus become the most grotesque fowl it is possible to imagine. He then began to visit his friends of both sexes, in that strange costume. At first he had been followed through astonishment, then with derisive shouts, then the porters had insulted him, then children had thrown stones at him, and finally he was obliged to run, to escape the missiles. As soon as he took to flight every one pursued him, until, pressed on all sides, Scarron found no way of escaping his escort, except by throwing himself into the river; but the water was icy cold. Scarron was heated, the cold seized on him, and when he reached the farther bank he found himself crippled.
Every means had been employed in vain to restore the use of his limbs. He had been subjected to a severe disciplinary course of medicine, at length he sent away all his doctors, declaring that he preferred the disease to the treatment, and came to Paris, where the fame of his wit had preceded him. There he had a chair made on his own plan, and one day, visiting Anne of Austria in this chair, she asked him, charmed as she was with his wit, if he did not wish for a title."Yes, your majesty, there is a title which I covet much," replied Scarron. "And what is that?" "That of being your invalid," answered Scarron. So he was called the queen's invalid, with a pension of fifteen hundred francs.
From that lucky moment Scarron led a happy life, spending both income and principal. One day, however, an emissary of the cardinal's gave him to understand that he was wrong in receiving the coadjutor so often.
"And why?" asked Scarron; "is he not a man of good birth?"
"What?" answered Scarron, "I continue to receive Monsieur Gilles Despreaux, who thinks ill of me, and you wish me to give up seeing the coadjutor, because he thinks ill of another man. Impossible!"The conversation had rested there and Scarron, through sheer obstinacy, had seen Monsieur de Gondy only the more frequently.
Now, the very morning of which we speak was that of his quarter-day payment, and Scarron, as usual, had sent his servant to get his money at the pension-office, but the man had returned and said that the government had no more money to give Monsieur Scarron.
It was on Thursday, the abbe's reception day; people went there in crowds. The cardinal's refusal to pay the pension was known about the town in half an hour and he was abused with wit and vehemence.
In the Rue Saint Honore Athos fell in with two gentlemen whom he did not know, on horseback like himself, followed by a lackey like himself, and going in the same direction that he was. One of them, hat in hand, said to him:"Would you believe it, monsieur? that contemptible Mazarin has stopped poor Scarron's pension."
"That is unreasonable," said Athos, saluting in his turn the two cavaliers. And they separated with courteous gestures.
"It happens well that we are going there this evening," said Athos to the vicomte; "we will pay our compliments to that poor man."
"Oh, no, not at all, vicomte," Athos replied; "he is simply a gentleman of great genius who has fallen into disgrace with the cardinal through having written certain verses against him.""Do gentlemen, then, make verses?" asked Raoul, naively, "I thought it was derogatory."
"So it is, my dear vicomte," said Athos, laughing, "to make bad ones; but to make good ones increases fame -- witness Monsieur de Rotrou. Nevertheless," he continued, in the tone of one who gives wholesome advice, "I think it is better not to make them.""Then," said Raoul, "this Monsieur Scarron is a poet?" "Yes; you are warned, vicomte. Consider well what you do in that house. Talk only by gestures, or rather always listen." "Yes, monsieur," replied Raoul. "You will see me talking with one of my friends, the Abbe d'Herblay, of whom you have often heard me speak." "I remember him, monsieur." "Come near to us from time to time, as if to speak; but do not speak, and do not listen. That little stratagem may serve to keep off interlopers." "Very well, monsieur; I will obey you at all points."
Athos made two visits in Paris; at seven o'clock he and Raoul directed their steps to the Rue des Tournelles; it was stopped by porters, horses and footmen. Athos forced his way through and entered, followed by the young man. The first person that struck him on his entrance was Aramis, planted near a great chair on castors, very large, covered with a canopy of tapestry, under which there moved, enveloped in a quilt of brocade, a little face, youngish, very merry, somewhat pallid, whilst its eyes never ceased to express a sentiment at once lively, intellectual, and amiable. This was the Abbe Scarron, always laughing, joking, complimenting -- yet suffering -- and toying nervously with a small switch.
Around this kind of rolling tent pressed a crowd of gentlemen and ladies. The room was neatly, comfortably furnished. Large valances of silk, embroidered with flowers of gay colors, which were rather faded, fell from the wide windows; the fittings of the room were simple, but in excellent taste. Two well trained servingmen were in attendance on the company. On perceiving Athos, Aramis advanced toward him, took him by the hand and presented him to Scarron. Raoul remained silent, for he was not prepared for the dignity of the bel esprit.After some minutes the door opened and a footman announced Mademoiselle Paulet. Athos touched the shoulder of the vicomte. "Look at this lady, Raoul, she is an historic personage; it was to visit her King Henry IV. was going when he was assassinated."
Every one thronged around Mademoiselle Paulet, for she was always very much the fashion. She was a tall woman, with a slender figure and a forest of golden curls, such as Raphael was fond of and Titian has painted all his Magdalens with. This fawn-colored hair, or, perhaps the sort of ascendancy which she had over other women, gave her the name of "La Lionne." Mademoiselle Paulet took her accustomed seat, but before sitting down, she cast, in all her queen-like grandeur, a look around the room, and her eyes rested on Raoul.Athos smiled.
"Mademoiselle Paulet has observed you, vicomte; go and bow to her; don't try to appear anything but what you are, a true country youth; on no account speak to her of Henry IV.""When shall we two walk together?" Athos then said to Aramis. "Presently -- there are not a sufficient number of people here yet; we shall be remarked." At this moment the door opened and in walked the coadjutor. At this name every one looked around, for his was already a very celebrated name. Athos did the same. He knew the Abbe de Gondy only by report.
He saw a little dark man, ill made and awkward with his hands in everything -- except drawing a sword and firing a pistol -- with something haughty and contemptuous in his face.Scarron turned around toward him and came to meet him in his chair. "Well," said the coadjutor, on seeing him, "you are in disgrace, then, abbe?"
This was the orthodox phrase. It had been said that evening a hundred times -- and Scarron was at his hundredth bon mot on the subject; he was very nearly at the end of his humoristic tether, but one despairing effort saved him.
"Monsieur, the Cardinal Mazarin has been so kind as to think of me," he said.
At this moment the door opened and Madame de Chevreuse was announced. Every one arose. Scarron turned his chair toward the door, Raoul blushed, Athos made a sign to Aramis, who went and hid himself in the enclosure of a window.
In the midst of all the compliments that awaited her on her entrance, the duchess seemed to be looking for some one; at last she found out Raoul and her eyes sparkled; she perceived Athos and became thoughtful; she saw Aramis in the seclusion of the window and gave a start of surprise behind her fan."Apropos," she said, as if to drive away thoughts that pursued her in spite of herself, "how is poor Voiture, do you know, Scarron?" "What, is Monsieur Voiture ill?" inquired a gentleman who had spoken to Athos in the Rue Saint Honore; "what is the matter with him?" "He was acting, but forgot to take the precaution to have a change of linen ready after the performance," said the coadjutor, "so he took cold and is about to die." "Is he then so ill, dear Voiture?" asked Aramis, half hidden by the window curtain.
"Die!" cried Mademoiselle Paulet, bitterly, "he! Why, he is surrounded by sultanas, like a Turk. Madame de Saintot has hastened to him with broth; La Renaudot warms his sheets; the Marquise de Rambouillet sends him his tisanes.""You don't like him, my dear Parthenie," said Scarron. "What an injustice, my dear invalid! I hate him so little that I should be delighted to order masses for the repose of his soul." "You are not called `Lionne' for nothing," observed Madame de Chevreuse, "your teeth are terrible."
"You are unjust to a great poet, it seems to me," Raoul ventured to say. "A great poet! come, one may easily see, vicomte, that you are lately from the provinces and have never so much as seen him. A great poet! he is scarcely five feet high."
"Bravo bravo!" cried a tall man with an enormous mustache and a long rapier, "bravo, fair Paulet, it is high time to put little Voiture in his right place. For my part, I always thought his poetry detestable, and I think I know something about poetry.""Who is this officer," inquired Raoul of Athos, "who is speaking?"
"Monsieur de Scudery, the author of `Clelie,' and of `Le Grand Cyrus,' which were composed partly by him and partly by his sister, who is now talking to that pretty person yonder, near Monsieur Scarron."
Raoul turned and saw two faces just arrived. One was perfectly charming, delicate, pensive, shaded by beautiful dark hair, and eyes soft as velvet, like those lovely flowers, the heartsease, in which shine out the golden petals. The other, of mature age, seemed to have the former one under her charge, and was cold, dry and yellow -- the true type of a duenna or a devotee.
Raoul resolved not to quit the room without having spoken to the beautiful girl with the soft eyes, who by a strange fancy, although she bore no resemblance, reminded him of his poor little Louise, whom he had left in the Chateau de la Valliere and whom, in the midst of all the party, he had never for one moment quite forgotten. Meantime Aramis had drawn near to the coadjutor, who, smiling all the while, contrived to drop some words into his ear. Aramis, notwithstanding his self-control, could not refrain from a slight movement of surprise."Laugh, then," said Monsieur de Retz; "they are looking at us." And leaving Aramis he went to talk with Madame de Chevreuse, who was in the midst of a large group.
Aramis affected a laugh, to divert the attention of certain curious listeners, and perceiving that Athos had betaken himself to the embrasure of a window and remained there, he proceeded to join him, throwing out a few words carelessly as he moved through the room.As soon as the two friends met they began a conversation which was emphasized by frequent gesticulation. Raoul then approached them as Athos had directed him to do. "'Tis a rondeau by Monsieur Voiture that monsieur l'abbe is repeating to me." said Athos in a loud voice, "and I confess I think it incomparable." Raoul stayed only a few minutes near them and then mingled with the group round Madame de Chevreuse. "Well, then?" asked Athos, in a low tone. "It is to be to-morrow," said Aramis hastily. "At what time?" "Six o'clock." "Where?" "At Saint Mande." "Who told you?" "The Count de Rochefort." Some one drew near.
"And then philosophic ideas are wholly wanting in Voiture's works, but I am of the same opinion as the coadjutor -- he is a poet, a true poet." Aramis spoke so as to be heard by everybody."And I, too," murmured the young lady with the velvet eyes. "I have the misfortune also to admire his poetry exceedingly." "Monsieur Scarron, do me the honor," said Raoul, blushing, "to tell me the name of that young lady whose opinion seems so different from that of others of the company." "Ah! my young vicomte," replied Scarron, "I suppose you wish to propose to her an alliance offensive and defensive." Raoul blushed again. "You asked the name of that young lady. She is called the fair Indian." "Excuse me, sir," returned Raoul, blushing still more deeply, "I know no more than I did before. Alas! I am from the country."
"Which means that you know very little about the nonsense which here flows down our streets. So much the better, young man! so much the better! Don't try to understand it -- you will only lose your time."
"You forgive me, then, sir," said Raoul, "and you will deign to tell me who is the person that you call the young Indian?"
"Certainly; one of the most charming persons that lives -- Mademoiselle Frances d'Aubigne."
"Monsieur," said Mademoiselle d'Aubigne to Scarron, as if she wished to join in the conversation he was engaged in with Raoul, "do you not admire Monsieur Voiture's friends? Listen how they pull him to pieces even whilst they praise him; one takes away from him all claim to good sense, another robs him of his poetry, a third of his originality, another of his humor, another of his independence of character, a sixth -- but, good heavens! what will they leave him? as Mademoiselle de Scudery remarks."Scarron and Raoul laughed. The fair Indian, astonished at the sensation her observation produced, looked down and resumed her air of naivete. Athos, still within the inclosure of the window, watched this scene with a smile of disdain on his lips. "Tell the Comte de la Fere to come to me," said Madame de Chevreuse, "I want to speak to him."
"And I," said the coadjutor, "want it to be thought that I do not speak to him. I admire, I love him -- for I know his former adventures -- but I shall not speak to him until the day after to-morrow.""And why day after to-morrow?" asked Madame de Chevreuse. "You will know that to-morrow evening," said the coadjutor, smiling.
"Really, my dear Gondy," said the duchess, "you remind one of the Apocalypse. Monsieur d'Herblay," she added, turning toward Aramis, "will you be my servant once more this evening?""How can you doubt it?" replied Aramis; "this evening, to-morrow, always; command me." "I will, then. Go and look for the Comte de la Fere; I wish to speak with him."
Aramis found Athos and brought him. "Monsieur le comte," said the duchess, giving him a letter, "here is what I promised you; our young friend will be extremely well received.""Madame, he is very happy in owing any obligation to you."
"You have no reason to envy him on that score, for I owe to you the pleasure of knowing him," replied the witty woman, with a smile which recalled Marie Michon to Aramis and to Athos.As she uttered that bon mot, she arose and asked for her carriage. Mademoiselle Paulet had already gone; Mademoiselle de Scudery was going. "Vicomte," said Athos to Raoul, "follow the duchess; beg her to do you the favor to take your arm in going downstairs, and thank her as you descend." The fair Indian approached Scarron. "You are going already?" he said. "One of the last, as you see; if you hear anything of Monsieur Voiture, be so kind as to send me word to-morrow." "Oh!" said Scarron, "he may die now." "Why?" asked the young girl with the velvet eyes. "Certainly; his panegyric has been uttered." They parted, laughing, she turning back to gaze at the poor paralytic man with interest, he looking after her with eyes of love.
One by one the several groups broke up. Scarron seemed not to observe that certain of his guests had talked mysteriously, that letters had passed from hand to hand and that the assembly had seemed to have a secret purpose quite apart from the literary discussion carried on with so much ostentation. What was all that to Scarron? At his house rebellion could be planned with impunity, for, as we have said, since that morning he had ceased to be "the queen's invalid."
As to Raoul, he had attended the duchess to her carriage, where, as she took her seat, she gave him her hand to kiss; then, by one of those wild caprices which made her so adorable and at the same time so dangerous, she had suddenly put her arm around his neck and kissed his forehead, saying:
"Vicomte, may my good wishes and this kiss bring you good fortune!" Then she had pushed him away and directed the coachman to stop at the Hotel de Luynes. The carriage had started, Madame de Chevreuse had made a parting gesture to the young man, and Raoul had returned in a state of stupefaction.
Athos surmised what had taken place and smiled. "Come, vicomte," he said, "it is time for you to go to bed; you will start in the morning for the army of monsieur le prince. Sleep well your last night as citizen.""I am to be a soldier then?" said the young man. "Oh, monsieur, I thank you with all my heart." "Adieu, count," said the Abbe d'Herblay; "I return to my convent." "Adieu, abbe," said the coadjutor, "I am to preach to-morrow and have twenty texts to examine this evening." "Adieu, gentlemen," said the count; "I am going to sleep twenty-four hours; I am just falling down with fatigue." The three men saluted one another, whilst exchanging a last look. Scarron followed their movements with a glance from the corner of his eye.
"Not one of them will do as he says," he murmured, with his little monkey smile; "but they may do as they please, the brave gentlemen! Who knows if they will not manage to restore to me my pension? They can move their arms, they can, and that is much. Alas, I have only my tongue, but I will try to show that it is good for something. Ho, there, Champenois! here, it is eleven o'clock. Come and roll me to bed. Really, that Demoiselle d'Aubigne is very charming!"So the invalid disappeared soon afterward and went into his sleeping-room; and one by one the lights in the salon of the Rue des Tournelles were extinguished.