The Man in the Iron Mask
Alexandre Dumas, Pere
Part 11 out of 12
more mortally every day a man but lately so full of life and a desire to
live. He remarked upon the cheeks of Athos the hectic hue of fever,
which feeds upon itself; slow fever, pitiless, born in a fold of the
heart, sheltering itself behind that rampart, growing from the suffering
it engenders, at once cause and effect of a perilous situation. The
comte spoke to nobody; he did not even talk to himself. His thought
feared noise; it approached to that degree of over-excitement which
borders upon ecstasy. Man thus absorbed, though he does not yet belong
to God, already appertains no longer to the earth. The doctor remained
for several hours studying this painful struggle of the will against
superior power; he was terrified at seeing those eyes always fixed, ever
directed on some invisible object; was terrified at the monotonous
beating of that heart from which never a sigh arose to vary the
melancholy state; for often pain becomes the hope of the physician. Half
a day passed away thus. The doctor formed his resolution like a brave
man; he issued suddenly from his place of retreat, and went straight up
to Athos, who beheld him without evincing more surprise than if he had
understood nothing of the apparition.
"Monsieur le comte, I crave your pardon," said the doctor, coming up to
the patient with open arms; "but I have a reproach to make you - you
shall hear me." And he seated himself by the pillow of Athos, who had
great trouble in rousing himself from his preoccupation.
"What is the matter, doctor?" asked the comte, after a silence.
"The matter is, you are ill, monsieur, and have had no advice."
"I! ill!" said Athos, smiling.
"Fever, consumption, weakness, decay, monsieur le comte!"
"Weakness!" replied Athos; "is it possible? I do not get up."
"Come, come! monsieur le comte, no subterfuges; you are a good Christian?"
"I hope so," said Athos.
"Is it your wish to kill yourself?"
"Well! monsieur, you are in a fair way of doing so. Thus to remain is
suicide. Get well! monsieur le comte, get well!"
"Of what? Find the disease first. For my part, I never knew myself
better; never did the sky appear more blue to me; never did I take more
care of my flowers."
"You have a hidden grief."
"Concealed! - not at all; the absence of my son, doctor; that is my
malady, and I do not conceal it."
"Monsieur le comte, your son lives, he is strong, he has all the future
before him - the future of men of merit, of his race; live for him - "
"But I do live, doctor; oh! be satisfied of that," added he, with a
melancholy smile; "for as long as Raoul lives, it will be plainly known,
for as long as he lives, I shall live."
"What do you say?"
"A very simple thing. At this moment, doctor, I leave life suspended
within me. A forgetful, dissipated, indifferent life would be beyond my
strength, now I have no longer Raoul with me. You do not ask the lamp to
burn when the match has not illumed the flame; do not ask me to live
amidst noise and merriment. I vegetate, I prepare myself, I wait. Look,
doctor; remember those soldiers we have so often seen together at the
ports, where they were waiting to embark; lying down, indifferent, half
on one element, half on the other; they were neither at the place where
the sea was going to carry them, nor at the place the earth was going to
lose them; baggage prepared, minds on the stretch, arms stacked - they
waited. I repeat it, the word is the one which paints my present life.
Lying down like the soldiers, my ear on the stretch for the report that
may reach me, I wish to be ready to set out at the first summons. Who
will make me that summons? life or death? God or Raoul? My baggage is
packed, my soul is prepared, I await the signal - I wait, doctor, I wait!"
The doctor knew the temper of that mind; he appreciated the strength of
that body; he reflected for the moment, told himself that words were
useless, remedies absurd, and left the chateau, exhorting Athos's
servants not to quit him for a moment.
The doctor being gone, Athos evinced neither anger nor vexation at having
been disturbed. He did not even desire that all letters that came should
be brought to him directly. He knew very well that every distraction
which should arise would be a joy, a hope, which his servants would have
paid with their blood to procure him. Sleep had become rare. By intense
thinking, Athos forgot himself, for a few hours at most, in a reverie
most profound, more obscure than other people would have called a dream.
The momentary repose which this forgetfulness thus gave the body, still
further fatigued the soul, for Athos lived a double life during these
wanderings of his understanding. One night, he dreamt that Raoul was
dressing himself in a tent, to go upon an expedition commanded by M. de
Beaufort in person. The young man was sad; he clasped his cuirass
slowly, and slowly he girded on his sword.
"What is the matter?" asked his father, tenderly.
"What afflicts me is the death of Porthos, ever so dear a friend,"
replied Raoul. "I suffer here the grief you soon will feel at home."
And the vision disappeared with the slumber of Athos. At daybreak one of
his servants entered his master's apartment, and gave him a letter which
came from Spain.
"The writing of Aramis," thought the comte; and he read.
"Porthos is dead!" cried he, after the first lines. "Oh! Raoul, Raoul!
thanks! thou keepest thy promise, thou warnest me!"
And Athos, seized with a mortal sweat, fainted in his bed, without any
other cause than weakness.
When this fainting of Athos had ceased, the comte, almost ashamed of
having given way before this superior natural event, dressed himself and
ordered his horse, determined to ride to Blois, to open more certain
correspondences with either Africa, D'Artagnan, or Aramis. In fact, this
letter from Aramis informed the Comte de la Fere of the bad success of
the expedition of Belle-Isle. It gave him sufficient details of the
death of Porthos to move the tender and devoted heart of Athos to its
innermost fibers. Athos wished to go and pay his friend Porthos a last
visit. To render this honor to his companion in arms, he meant to send
to D'Artagnan, to prevail upon him to recommence the painful voyage to
Belle-Isle, to accomplish in his company that sad pilgrimage to the tomb
of the giant he had so much loved, then to return to his dwelling to obey
that secret influence which was conducting him to eternity by a
mysterious road. But scarcely had his joyous servants dressed their
master, whom they saw with pleasure preparing for a journey which might
dissipate his melancholy; scarcely had the comte's gentlest horse been
saddled and brought to the door, when the father of Raoul felt his head
become confused, his legs give way, and he clearly perceived the
impossibility of going one step further. He ordered himself to be
carried into the sun; they laid him upon his bed of moss where he passed
a full hour before he could recover his spirits. Nothing could be more
natural than this weakness after then inert repose of the latter days.
Athos took a _bouillon_, to give him strength, and bathed his dried lips
in a glassful of the wine he loved the best - that old Anjou wine
mentioned by Porthos in his admirable will. Then, refreshed, free in
mind, he had his horse brought again; but only with the aid of his
servants was he able painfully to climb into the saddle. He did not go a
hundred paces; a shivering seized him again at the turning of the road.
"This is very strange!" said he to his _valet de chambre_, who
"Let us stop, monsieur - I conjure you!" replied the faithful servant;
"how pale you are getting!"
"That will not prevent my pursuing my route, now I have once started,"
replied the comte. And he gave his horse his head again. But suddenly,
the animal, instead of obeying the thought of his master, stopped. A
movement, of which Athos was unconscious, had checked the bit.
"Something," said Athos, "wills that I should go no further. Support
me," added he, stretching out his arms; "quick! come closer! I feel my
muscles relax - I shall fall from my horse."
The valet had seen the movement made by his master at the moment he
received the order. He went up to him quickly, received the comte in his
arms, and as they were not yet sufficiently distant from the house for
the servants, who had remained at the door to watch their master's
departure, not to perceive the disorder in the usually regular proceeding
of the comte, the valet called his comrades by gestures and voice, and
all hastened to his assistance. Athos had gone but a few steps on his
return, when he felt himself better again. His strength seemed to revive
and with it the desire to go to Blois. He made his horse turn round:
but, at the animal's first steps, he sunk again into a state of torpor
"Well! decidedly," said he, "it is _willed_ that I should stay at home."
His people flocked around him; they lifted him from his horse, and
carried him as quickly as possible into the house. Everything was
prepared in his chamber, and they put him to bed.
"You will be sure to remember," said he, disposing himself to sleep,
"that I expect letters from Africa this very day."
"Monsieur will no doubt hear with pleasure that Blaisois's son is gone on
horseback, to gain an hour over the courier of Blois," replied his _valet
"Thank you," replied Athos, with his placid smile.
The comte fell asleep, but his disturbed slumber resembled torture rather
than repose. The servant who watched him saw several times the
expression of internal suffering shadowed on his features. Perhaps Athos
The day passed away. Blaisois's son returned; the courier had brought no
news. The comte reckoned the minutes with despair; he shuddered when
those minutes made an hour. The idea that he was forgotten seized him
once, and brought on a fearful pang of the heart. Everybody in the house
had given up all hopes of the courier - his hour had long passed. Four
times the express sent to Blois had repeated his journey, and there was
nothing to the address of the comte. Athos knew that the courier only
arrived once a week. Here, then, was a delay of eight mortal days to be
endured. He commenced the night in this painful persuasion. All that a
sick man, irritated by suffering, can add of melancholy suppositions to
probabilities already gloomy, Athos heaped up during the early hours of
this dismal night. The fever rose: it invaded the chest, where the fire
soon caught, according to the expression of the physician, who had been
brought back from Blois by Blaisois at his last journey. Soon it gained
the head. The physician made two successive bleedings, which dislodged
it for the time, but left the patient very weak, and without power of
action in anything but his brain. And yet this redoubtable fever had
ceased. It besieged with its last palpitations the tense extremities; it
ended by yielding as midnight struck.
The physician, seeing the incontestable improvement, returned to Blois,
after having ordered some prescriptions, and declared that the comte was
saved. Then commenced for Athos a strange, indefinable state. Free to
think, his mind turned towards Raoul, that beloved son. His imagination
penetrated the fields of Africa in the environs of Gigelli, where M. de
Beaufort must have landed with his army. A waste of gray rocks, rendered
green in certain parts by the waters of the sea, when it lashed the shore
in storms and tempest. Beyond, the shore, strewed over with these rocks
like gravestones, ascended, in form of an amphitheater among mastic-trees
and cactus, a sort of small town, full of smoke, confused noises, and
terrified movements. All of a sudden, from the bosom of this smoke arose
a flame, which succeeded, creeping along the houses, in covering the
entire surface of the town, and increased by degrees, uniting in its red
and angry vortices tears, screams, and supplicating arms outstretched to
There was, for a moment, a frightful _pele-mele_ of timbers falling to
pieces, of swords broken, of stones calcined, trees burnt and
disappearing. It was a strange thing that in this chaos, in which Athos
distinguished raised arms, in which he heard cries, sobs, and groans, he
did not see one human figure. The cannon thundered at a distance,
musketry madly barked, the sea moaned, flocks made their escape, bounding
over the verdant slope. But not a soldier to apply the match to the
batteries of cannon, not a sailor to assist in maneuvering the fleet, not
a shepherd in charge of the flocks. After the ruin of the village, the
destruction of the forts which dominated it, a ruin and destruction
magically wrought without the co-operation of a single human being, the
flames were extinguished, the smoke began to subside, then diminished in
intensity, paled and disappeared entirely. Night then came over the
scene; night dark upon the earth, brilliant in the firmament. The large
blazing stars which spangled the African sky glittered and gleamed
without illuminating anything.
A long silence ensued, which gave, for a moment, repose to the troubled
imagination of Athos; and as he felt that that which he saw was not
terminated, he applied more attentively the eyes of his understanding on
the strange spectacle which his imagination had presented. This
spectacle was soon continued for him. A mild pale moon rose behind the
declivities of the coast, streaking at first the undulating ripples of
the sea, which appeared to have calmed after the roaring it had sent
forth during the vision of Athos - the moon, we say, shed its diamonds
and opals upon the briers and bushes of the hills. The gray rocks, so
many silent and attentive phantoms, appeared to raise their heads to
examine likewise the field of battle by the light of the moon, and Athos
perceived that the field, empty during the combat, was now strewn with
An inexpressible shudder of fear and horror seized his soul as he
recognized the white and blue uniforms of the soldiers of Picardy, with
their long pikes and blue handles, and muskets marked with the _fleur-de-
lis_ on the butts. When he saw all the gaping wounds, looking up to the
bright heavens as if to demand back of them the souls to which they had
opened a passage, - when he saw the slaughtered horses, stiff, their
tongues hanging out at one side of their mouths, sleeping in the shiny
blood congealed around them, staining their furniture and their manes, -
when he saw the white horse of M. de Beaufort, with his head beaten to
pieces, in the first ranks of the dead, Athos passed a cold hand over his
brow, which he was astonished not to find burning. He was convinced by
this touch that he was present, as a spectator, without delirium's
dreadful aid, the day after the battle fought upon the shores of Gigelli
by the army of the expedition, which he had seen leave the coast of
France and disappear upon the dim horizon, and of which he had saluted
with thought and gesture the last cannon-shot fired by the duke as a
signal of farewell to his country.
Who can paint the mortal agony with which his soul followed, like a
vigilant eye, these effigies of clay-cold soldiers, and examined them,
one after the other, to see if Raoul slept among them? Who can express
the intoxication of joy with which Athos bowed before God, and thanked
Him for not having seen him he sought with so much fear among the dead?
In fact, fallen in their ranks, stiff, icy, the dead, still recognizable
with ease, seemed to turn with complacency towards the Comte de la Fere,
to be the better seen by him, during his sad review. But yet, he was
astonished, while viewing all these bodies, not to perceive the
survivors. To such a point did the illusion extend, that this vision was
for him a real voyage made by the father into Africa, to obtain more
exact information respecting his son.
Fatigued, therefore, with having traversed seas and continents, he sought
repose under one of the tents sheltered behind a rock, on the top of
which floated the white _fleur-de-lised_ pennon. He looked for a soldier
to conduct him to the tent of M. de Beaufort. Then, while his eye was
wandering over the plain, turning on all sides, he saw a white form
appear behind the scented myrtles. This figure was clothed in the
costume of an officer; it held in its hand a broken sword; it advanced
slowly towards Athos, who, stopping short and fixing his eyes upon it,
neither spoke nor moved, but wished to open his arms, because in this
silent officer he had already recognized Raoul. The comte attempted to
utter a cry, but it was stifled in his throat. Raoul, with a gesture,
directed him to be silent, placing his finger on his lips and drawing
back by degrees, without Athos being able to see his legs move. The
comte, still paler than Raoul, followed his son, painfully traversing
briers and bushes, stones and ditches, Raoul not appearing to touch the
earth, no obstacle seeming to impede the lightness of his march. The
comte, whom the inequalities of the path fatigued, soon stopped,
exhausted. Raoul still continued to beckon him to follow him. The
tender father, to whom love restored strength, made a last effort, and
climbed the mountain after the young man, who attracted him by gesture
and by smile.
At length he gained the crest of the hill, and saw, thrown out in black,
upon the horizon whitened by the moon, the aerial form of Raoul. Athos
reached forth his hand to get closer to his beloved son upon the plateau,
and the latter also stretched out his; but suddenly, as if the young man
had been drawn away in his own despite, still retreating, he left the
earth, and Athos saw the clear blue sky shine between the feet of his
child and the ground of the hill. Raoul rose insensibly into the void,
smiling, still calling with gesture: - he departed towards heaven. Athos
uttered a cry of tenderness and terror. He looked below again. He saw a
camp destroyed, and all those white bodies of the royal army, like so
many motionless atoms. And, then, raising his head, he saw the figure of
his son still beckoning him to climb the mystic void.
The Angel of Death.
Athos was at this part of his marvelous vision, when the charm was
suddenly broken by a great noise rising from the outer gates. A horse
was heard galloping over the hard gravel of the great alley, and the
sound of noisy and animated conversations ascended to the chamber in
which the comte was dreaming. Athos did not stir from the place he
occupied; he scarcely turned his head towards the door to ascertain the
sooner what these noises could be. A heavy step ascended the stairs; the
horse, which had recently galloped, departed slowly towards the stables.
Great hesitation appeared in the steps, which by degrees approached the
chamber. A door was opened, and Athos, turning a little towards the part
of the room the noise came from, cried, in a weak voice:
"It is a courier from Africa, is it not?"
"No, monsieur le comte," replied a voice which made the father of Raoul
start upright in his bed.
"Grimaud!" murmured he. And the sweat began to pour down his face.
Grimaud appeared in the doorway. It was no longer the Grimaud we have
seen, still young with courage and devotion, when he jumped the first
into the boat destined to convey Raoul de Bragelonne to the vessels of
the royal fleet. 'Twas now a stern and pale old man, his clothes covered
with dust, and hair whitened by old age. He trembled whilst leaning
against the door-frame, and was near falling on seeing, by the light of
the lamps, the countenance of his master. These two men who had lived so
long together in a community of intelligence, and whose eyes, accustomed
to economize expressions, knew how to say so many things silently - these
two old friends, one as noble as the other in heart, if they were unequal
in fortune and birth, remained tongue-tied whilst looking at each other.
By the exchange of a single glance they had just read to the bottom of
each other's hearts. The old servitor bore upon his countenance the
impression of a grief already old, the outward token of a grim
familiarity with woe. He appeared to have no longer in use more than a
single version of his thoughts. As formerly he was accustomed not to
speak much, he was now accustomed not to smile at all. Athos read at a
glance all these shades upon the visage of his faithful servant, and in
the same tone he would have employed to speak to Raoul in his dream:
"Grimaud," said he, "Raoul is dead. _Is it not so?_"
Behind Grimaud the other servants listened breathlessly, with their eyes
fixed upon the bed of their sick master. They heard the terrible
question, and a heart-breaking silence followed.
"Yes," replied the old man, heaving the monosyllable from his chest with
a hoarse, broken sigh.
Then arose voices of lamentation, which groaned without measure, and
filled with regrets and prayers the chamber where the agonized father
sought with his eyes the portrait of his son. This was for Athos like
the transition which led to his dream. Without uttering a cry, without
shedding a tear, patient, mild, resigned as a martyr, he raised his eyes
towards Heaven, in order there to see again, rising above the mountain of
Gigelli, the beloved shade that was leaving him at the moment of
Grimaud's arrival. Without doubt, while looking towards the heavens,
resuming his marvelous dream, he repassed by the same road by which the
vision, at once so terrible and sweet, had led him before; for after
having gently closed his eyes, he reopened them and began to smile: he
had just seen Raoul, who had smiled upon him. With his hands joined upon
his breast, his face turned towards the window, bathed by the fresh air
of night, which brought upon its wings the aroma of the flowers and the
woods, Athos entered, never again to come out of it, into the
contemplation of that paradise which the living never see. God willed,
no doubt, to open to this elect the treasures of eternal beatitude, at
this hour when other men tremble with the idea of being severely received
by the Lord, and cling to this life they know, in the dread of the other
life of which they get but merest glimpses by the dismal murky torch of
death. Athos was spirit-guided by the pure serene soul of his son, which
aspired to be like the paternal soul. Everything for this just man was
melody and perfume in the rough road souls take to return to the
celestial country. After an hour of this ecstasy, Athos softly raised
his hands as white as wax; the smile did not quit his lips, and he
murmured low, so low as scarcely to be audible, these three words
addressed to God or to Raoul:
"HERE I AM!"
And his hands fell slowly, as though he himself had laid them on the bed.
Death had been kind and mild to this noble creature. It had spared him
the tortures of the agony, convulsions of the last departure; had opened
with an indulgent finger the gates of eternity to that noble soul. God
had no doubt ordered it thus that the pious remembrance of this death
should remain in the hearts of those present, and in the memory of other
men - a death which caused to be loved the passage from this life to the
other by those whose existence upon this earth leads them not to dread
the last judgment. Athos preserved, even in the eternal sleep, that
placid and sincere smile - an ornament which was to accompany him to the
tomb. The quietude and calm of his fine features made his servants for a
long time doubt whether he had really quitted life. The comte's people
wished to remove Grimaud, who, from a distance, devoured the face now
quickly growing marble-pale, and did not approach, from pious fear of
bringing to him the breath of death. But Grimaud, fatigued as he was,
refused to leave the room. He sat himself down upon the threshold,
watching his master with the vigilance of a sentinel, jealous to receive
either his first waking look or his last dying sigh. The noises all were
quiet in the house - every one respected the slumber of their lord. But
Grimaud, by anxiously listening, perceived that the comte no longer
breathed. He raised himself with his hands leaning on the ground, looked
to see if there did not appear some motion in the body of his master.
Nothing! Fear seized him; he rose completely up, and, at the very
moment, heard some one coming up the stairs. A noise of spurs knocking
against a sword - a warlike sound familiar to his ears - stopped him as
he was going towards the bed of Athos. A voice more sonorous than brass
or steel resounded within three paces of him.
"Athos! Athos! my friend!" cried this voice, agitated even to tears.
"Monsieur le Chevalier d'Artagnan," faltered out Grimaud.
"Where is he? Where is he?" continued the musketeer. Grimaud seized his
arm in his bony fingers, and pointed to the bed, upon the sheets of which
the livid tints of death already showed.
A choked respiration, the opposite to a sharp cry, swelled the throat of
D'Artagnan. He advanced on tip-toe, trembling, frightened at the noise
his feet made on the floor, his heart rent by a nameless agony. He
placed his ear to the breast of Athos, his face to the comte's mouth.
Neither noise, nor breath! D'Artagnan drew back. Grimaud, who had
followed him with his eyes, and for whom each of his movements had been a
revelation, came timidly; seated himself at the foot of the bed, and
glued his lips to the sheet which was raised by the stiffened feet of his
master. Then large drops began to flow from his red eyes. This old man
in invincible despair, who wept, bent doubled without uttering a word,
presented the most touching spectacle that D'Artagnan, in a life so
filled with emotion, had ever met with.
The captain resumed standing in contemplation before that smiling dead
man, who seemed to have burnished his last thought, to give his best
friend, the man he had loved next to Raoul, a gracious welcome even
beyond life. And for reply to that exalted flattery of hospitality,
D'Artagnan went and kissed Athos fervently on the brow, and with his
trembling fingers closed his eyes. Then he seated himself by the pillow
without dread of that dead man, who had been so kind and affectionate to
him for five and thirty years. He was feeding his soul with the
remembrances the noble visage of the comte brought to his mind in crowds
- some blooming and charming as that smile - some dark, dismal, and icy
as that visage with its eyes now closed to all eternity.
All at once the bitter flood which mounted from minute to minute invaded
his heart, and swelled his breast almost to bursting. Incapable of
mastering his emotion, he arose, and tearing himself violently from the
chamber where he had just found dead him to whom he came to report the
news of the death of Porthos, he uttered sobs so heart-rending that the
servants, who seemed only to wait for an explosion of grief, answered to
it by their lugubrious clamors, and the dogs of the late comte by their
lamentable howlings. Grimaud was the only one who did not lift up his
voice. Even in the paroxysm of his grief he would not have dared to
profane the dead, or for the first time disturb the slumber of his
master. Had not Athos always bidden him be dumb?
At daybreak D'Artagnan, who had wandered about the lower hall, biting his
fingers to stifle his sighs - D'Artagnan went up once more; and watching
the moments when Grimaud turned his head towards him, he made him a sign
to come to him, which the faithful servant obeyed without making more
noise than a shadow. D'Artagnan went down again, followed by Grimaud;
and when he had gained the vestibule, taking the old man's hands,
"Grimaud," said he, "I have seen how the father died; now let me know
about the son."
Grimaud drew from his breast a large letter, upon the envelope of which
was traced the address of Athos. He recognized the writing of M. de
Beaufort, broke the seal, and began to read, while walking about in the
first steel-chill rays of dawn, in the dark alley of old limes, marked by
the still visible footsteps of the comte who had just died.
The Duc de Beaufort wrote to Athos. The letter destined for the living
only reached the dead. God had changed the address.
"MY DEAR COMTE," wrote the prince, in his large, school-boy's hand, - "a
great misfortune has struck us amidst a great triumph. The king loses
one of the bravest of soldiers. I lose a friend. You lose M. de
Bragelonne. He has died gloriously, so gloriously that I have not the
strength to weep as I could wish. Receive my sad compliments, my dear
comte. Heaven distributes trials according to the greatness of our
hearts. This is an immense one, but not above your courage. Your good
"LE DUC DE BEAUFORT."
The letter contained a relation written by one of the prince's
secretaries. It was the most touching recital, and the most true, of
that dismal episode which unraveled two existences. D'Artagnan,
accustomed to battle emotions, and with a heart armed against tenderness,
could not help starting on reading the name of Raoul, the name of that
beloved boy who had become a shade now - like his father.
"In the morning," said the prince's secretary, "monseigneur commanded the
attack. Normandy and Picardy had taken positions in the rocks dominated
by the heights of the mountain, upon the declivity of which were raised
the bastions of Gigelli.
"The cannon opened the action; the regiments marched full of resolution;
the pikemen with pikes elevated, the musket-bearers with their weapons
ready. The prince followed attentively the march and movements of the
troops, so as to be able to sustain them with a strong reserve. With
monseigneur were the oldest captains and his aides-de-camp. M. le
Vicomte de Bragelonne had received orders not to leave his highness. In
the meantime the enemy's cannon, which at first thundered with little
success against the masses, began to regulate their fire, and the balls,
better directed, killed several men near the prince. The regiments
formed in column, and, advancing against the ramparts, were rather
roughly handled. There was a sort of hesitation in our troops, who found
themselves ill-seconded by the artillery. In fact, the batteries which
had been established the evening before had but a weak and uncertain aim,
on account of their position. The upward direction of the aim lessened
the justness of the shots as well as their range.
"Monseigneur, comprehending the bad effect of this position on the siege
artillery, commanded the frigates moored in the little road to commence a
regular fire against the place. M. de Bragelonne offered himself at once
to carry this order. But monseigneur refused to acquiesce in the
vicomte's request. Monseigneur was right, for he loved and wished to
spare the young nobleman. He was quite right, and the event took upon
itself to justify his foresight and refusal; for scarcely had the
sergeant charged with the message solicited by M. de Bragelonne gained
the seashore, when two shots from long carbines issued from the enemy's
ranks and laid him low. The sergeant fell, dyeing the sand with his
blood; observing which, M. de Bragelonne smiled at monseigneur, who said
to him, 'You see, vicomte, I have saved your life. Report that, some
day, to M. le Comte de la Fere, in order that, learning it from you, he
may thank me.' The young nobleman smiled sadly, and replied to the duke,
'It is true, monseigneur, that but for your kindness I should have been
killed, where the poor sergeant has fallen, and should be at rest.' M.
de Bragelonne made this reply in such a tone that monseigneur answered
him warmly, '_Vrai Dieu!_ Young man, one would say that your mouth
waters for death; but, by the soul of Henry IV., I have promised your
father to bring you back alive; and, please the Lord, I mean to keep my
"Monseigneur de Bragelonne colored, and replied, in a lower voice,
'Monseigneur, pardon me, I beseech you. I have always had a desire to
meet good opportunities; and it is so delightful to distinguish ourselves
before our general, particularly when that general is M. le Duc de
"Monseigneur was a little softened by this; and, turning to the officers
who surrounded him, gave different orders. The grenadiers of the two
regiments got near enough to the ditches and intrenchments to launch
their grenades, which had but small effect. In the meanwhile, M.
d'Estrees, who commanded the fleet, having seen the attempt of the
sergeant to approach the vessels, understood that he must act without
orders, and opened fire. Then the Arabs, finding themselves seriously
injured by the balls from the fleet, and beholding the destruction and
the ruin of their walls, uttered the most fearful cries. Their horsemen
descended the mountain at a gallop, bent over their saddles, and rushed
full tilt upon the columns of infantry, which, crossing their pikes,
stopped this mad assault. Repulsed by the firm attitude of the
battalion, the Arabs threw themselves with fury towards the _etat-major_,
which was not on its guard at that moment.
"The danger was great; monseigneur drew his sword; his secretaries and
people imitated him; the officers of the suite engaged in combat with the
furious Arabs. It was then M. de Bragelonne was able to satisfy the
inclination he had so clearly shown from the commencement of the action.
He fought near the prince with the valor of a Roman, and killed three
Arabs with his small sword. But it was evident that his bravery did not
arise from that sentiment of pride so natural to all who fight. It was
impetuous, affected, even forced; he sought to glut, intoxicate himself
with strife and carnage. He excited himself to such a degree that
monseigneur called to him to stop. He must have heard the voice of
monseigneur, because we who were close to him heard it. He did not,
however, stop, but continued his course to the intrenchments. As M. de
Bragelonne was a well-disciplined officer, this disobedience to the
orders of monseigneur very much surprised everybody, and M. de Beaufort
redoubled his earnestness, crying, 'Stop, Bragelonne! Where are you
going? Stop,' repeated monseigneur, 'I command you!'
"We all, imitating the gesture of M. le duc, we all raised our hands. We
expected that the cavalier would turn bridle; but M. de Bragelonne
continued to ride towards the palisades.
"'Stop, Bragelonne!' repeated the prince, in a very loud voice, 'stop! in
the name of your father!'
"At these words M. de Bragelonne turned round; his countenance expressed
a lively grief, but he did not stop; we then concluded that his horse
must have run away with him. When M. le duc saw cause to conclude that
the vicomte was no longer master of his horse, and had watched him
precede the first grenadiers, his highness cried, 'Musketeers, kill his
horse! A hundred pistoles for the man who kills his horse!' But who
could expect to hit the beast without at least wounding his rider? No
one dared the attempt. At length one presented himself; he was a sharp-
shooter of the regiment of Picardy, named Luzerne, who took aim at the
animal, fired, and hit him in the quarters, for we saw the blood redden
the hair of the horse. Instead of falling, the cursed jennet was
irritated, and carried him on more furiously than ever. Every Picard
who saw this unfortunate young man rushing on to meet certain death,
shouted in the loudest manner, 'Throw yourself off, monsieur le vicomte!
- off! - off! throw yourself off!' M. de Bragelonne was an officer much
beloved in the army. Already had the vicomte arrived within pistol-shot
of the ramparts, when a discharge was poured upon him that enshrouded him
in fire and smoke. We lost sight of him; the smoke dispersed; he was on
foot, upright; his horse was killed.
"The vicomte was summoned to surrender by the Arabs, but he made them a
negative sign with his head, and continued to march towards the
palisades. This was a mortal imprudence. Nevertheless the entire army
was pleased that he would not retreat, since ill-chance had led him so
near. He marched a few paces further, and the two regiments clapped
their hands. It was at this moment the second discharge shook the walls,
and the Vicomte de Bragelonne again disappeared in the smoke; but this
time the smoke dispersed in vain; we no longer saw him standing. He was
down, with his head lower than his legs, among the bushes, and the Arabs
began to think of leaving their intrenchments to come and cut off his
head or take his body - as is the custom with the infidels. But
Monseigneur le Duc de Beaufort had followed all this with his eyes, and
the sad spectacle drew from him many painful sighs. He then cried aloud,
seeing the Arabs running like white phantoms among the mastic-trees,
'Grenadiers! lancers! will you let them take that noble body?'
"Saying these words and waving his sword, he himself rode towards the
enemy. The regiments, rushing in his steps, ran in their turn, uttering
cries as terrible as those of the Arabs were wild.
"The combat commenced over the body of M. de Bragelonne, and with such
inveteracy was it fought that a hundred and sixty Arabs were left upon
the field, by the side of at least fifty of our troops. It was a
lieutenant from Normandy who took the body of the vicomte on his
shoulders and carried it back to the lines. The advantage was, however,
pursued, the regiments took the reserve with them, and the enemy's
palisades were utterly destroyed. At three o'clock the fire of the Arabs
ceased; the hand-to-hand fight lasted two hours; it was a massacre. At
five o'clock we were victorious at all points; the enemy had abandoned
his positions, and M. le duc ordered the white flag to be planted on the
summit of the little mountain. It was then we had time to think of M. de
Bragelonne, who had eight large wounds in his body, through which almost
all his blood had welled away. Still, however, he had breathed, which
afforded inexpressible joy to monseigneur, who insisted on being present
at the first dressing of the wounds and the consultation of the
surgeons. There were two among them who declared M. de Bragelonne would
live. Monseigneur threw his arms around their necks, and promised them a
thousand louis each if they could save him.
"The vicomte heard these transports of joy, and whether he was in
despair, or whether he suffered much from his wounds, he expressed by his
countenance a contradiction, which gave rise to reflection, particularly
in one of the secretaries when he had heard what follows. The third
surgeon was the brother of Sylvain de Saint-Cosme, the most learned of
them all. He probed the wounds in his turn, and said nothing. M. de
Bragelonne fixed his eyes steadily upon the skillful surgeon, and seemed
to interrogate his every movement. The latter, upon being questioned by
monseigneur, replied that he saw plainly three mortal wounds out of
eight, but so strong was the constitution of the wounded, so rich was he
in youth, and so merciful was the goodness of God, that perhaps M. de
Bragelonne might recover, particularly if he did not move in the
slightest manner. Frere Sylvain added, turning towards his assistants,
'Above everything, do not allow him to move, even a finger, or you will
kill him;' and we all left the tent in very low spirits. That secretary
I have mentioned, on leaving the tent, thought he perceived a faint and
sad smile glide over the lips of M. de Bragelonne when the duke said to
him, in a cheerful, kind voice, 'We will save you, vicomte, we will save
"In the evening, when it was believed the wounded youth had taken some
repose, one of the assistants entered his tent, but rushed out again
immediately, uttering loud cries. We all ran up in disorder, M. le duc
with us, and the assistant pointed to the body of M. de Bragelonne upon
the ground, at the foot of his bed, bathed in the remainder of his
blood. It appeared that he had suffered some convulsion, some delirium,
and that he had fallen; that the fall had accelerated his end, according
to the prognosis of Frere Sylvain. We raised the vicomte; he was cold
and dead. He held a lock of fair hair in his right hand, and that hand
was tightly pressed upon his heart."
Then followed the details of the expedition, and of the victory obtained
over the Arabs. D'Artagnan stopped at the account of the death of poor
Raoul. "Oh!" murmured he, "unhappy boy! a suicide!" And turning his
eyes towards the chamber of the chateau, in which Athos slept in eternal
sleep, "They kept their words with each other," said he, in a low voice;
"now I believe them to be happy; they must be reunited." And he returned
through the parterre with slow and melancholy steps. All the village -
all the neighborhood - were filled with grieving neighbors relating to
each other the double catastrophe, and making preparations for the
The Last Canto of the Poem.
On the morrow, all the _noblesse_ of the provinces, of the environs, and
wherever messengers had carried the news, might have been seen arriving
in detachments. D'Artagnan had shut himself up, without being willing to
speak to anybody. Two such heavy deaths falling upon the captain, so
closely after the death of Porthos, for a long time oppressed that spirit
which had hitherto been so indefatigable and invulnerable. Except
Grimaud, who entered his chamber once, the musketeer saw neither servants
nor guests. He supposed, from the noises in the house, and the continual
coming and going, that preparations were being made for the funeral of
the comte. He wrote to the king to ask for an extension of his leave of
absence. Grimaud, as we have said, had entered D'Artagnan's apartment,
had seated himself upon a joint-stool near the door, like a man who
meditates profoundly; then, rising, he made a sign to D'Artagnan to
follow him. The latter obeyed in silence. Grimaud descended to the
comte's bed-chamber, showed the captain with his finger the place of the
empty bed, and raised his eyes eloquently towards Heaven.
"Yes," replied D'Artagnan, "yes, good Grimaud - now with the son he loved
Grimaud left the chamber, and led the way to the hall, where, according
to the custom of the province, the body was laid out, previously to being
put away forever. D'Artagnan was struck at seeing two open coffins in
the hall. In reply to the mute invitation of Grimaud, he approached, and
saw in one of them Athos, still handsome in death, and, in the other,
Raoul with his eyes closed, his cheeks pearly as those of the Palls of
Virgil, with a smile on his violet lips. He shuddered at seeing the
father and son, those two departed souls, represented on earth by two
silent, melancholy bodies, incapable of touching each other, however
close they might be.
"Raoul here!" murmured he. "Oh! Grimaud, why did you not tell me this?"
Grimaud shook his head, and made no reply; but taking D'Artagnan by the
hand, he led him to the coffin, and showed him, under the thin winding-
sheet, the black wounds by which life had escaped. The captain turned
away his eyes, and, judging it was useless to question Grimaud, who would
not answer, he recollected that M. de Beaufort's secretary had written
more than he, D'Artagnan, had had the courage to read. Taking up the
recital of the affair which had cost Raoul his life, he found these
words, which ended the concluding paragraph of the letter:
"Monseigneur le duc has ordered that the body of monsieur le vicomte
should be embalmed, after the manner practiced by the Arabs when they
wish their dead to be carried to their native land; and monsieur le duc
has appointed relays, so that the same confidential servant who brought
up the young man might take back his remains to M. le Comte de la Fere."
"And so," thought D'Artagnan, "I shall follow thy funeral, my dear boy -
I, already old - I, who am of no value on earth - and I shall scatter
dust upon that brow I kissed but two months since. God has willed it to
be so. Thou hast willed it to be so, thyself. I have no longer the
right even to weep. Thou hast chosen death; it seemed to thee a
preferable gift to life."
At length arrived the moment when the chill remains of these two
gentlemen were to be given back to mother earth. There was such an
affluence of military and other people that up to the place of the
sepulture, which was a little chapel on the plain, the road from the city
was filled with horsemen and pedestrians in mourning. Athos had chosen
for his resting-place the little inclosure of a chapel erected by himself
near the boundary of his estates. He had had the stones, cut in 1550,
brought from an old Gothic manor-house in Berry, which had sheltered his
early youth. The chapel, thus rebuilt, transported, was pleasing to the
eye beneath its leafy curtains of poplars and sycamores. It was
ministered in every Sunday, by the cure of the neighboring bourg, to whom
Athos paid an allowance of two hundred francs for this service; and all
the vassals of his domain, with their families, came thither to hear
mass, without having any occasion to go to the city.
Behind the chapel extended, surrounded by two high hedges of hazel, elder
and white thorn, and a deep ditch, the little inclosure - uncultivated,
though gay in its sterility; because the mosses there grew thick, wild
heliotrope and ravenelles there mingled perfumes, while from beneath an
ancient chestnut issued a crystal spring, a prisoner in its marble
cistern, and on the thyme all around alighted thousands of bees from the
neighboring plants, whilst chaffinches and redthroats sang cheerfully
among the flower-spangled hedges. It was to this place the somber
coffins were carried, attended by a silent and respectful crowd. The
office of the dead being celebrated, the last adieux paid to the noble
departed, the assembly dispersed, talking, along the roads, of the
virtues and mild death of the father, of the hopes the son had given, and
of his melancholy end upon the arid coast of Africa.
Little by little, all noises were extinguished, like the lamps
illuminating the humble nave. The minister bowed for the last time to
the altar and the still fresh graves; then, followed by his assistant, he
slowly took the road back to the presbytery. D'Artagnan, left alone,
perceived that night was coming on. He had forgotten the hour, thinking
only of the dead. He arose from the oaken bench on which he was seated
in the chapel, and wished, as the priest had done, to go and bid a last
adieu to the double grave which contained his two lost friends.
A woman was praying, kneeling on the moist earth. D'Artagnan stopped at
the door of the chapel, to avoid disturbing her, and also to endeavor to
find out who was the pious friend who performed this sacred duty with so
much zeal and perseverance. The unknown had hidden her face in her
hands, which were white as alabaster. From the noble simplicity of her
costume, she must be a woman of distinction. Outside the inclosure were
several horses mounted by servants; a travelling carriage was in waiting
for this lady. D'Artagnan in vain sought to make out what caused her
delay. She continued praying, and frequently pressed her handkerchief to
her face, by which D'Artagnan perceived she was weeping. He beheld her
strike her breast with the compunction of a Christian woman. He heard
her several times exclaim as from a wounded heart: "Pardon! pardon!" And
as she appeared to abandon herself entirely to her grief, as she threw
herself down, almost fainting, exhausted by complaints and prayers,
D'Artagnan, touched by this love for his so much regretted friends, made
a few steps towards the grave, in order to interrupt the melancholy
colloquy of the penitent with the dead. But as soon as his step sounded
on the gravel, the unknown raised her head, revealing to D'Artagnan a
face aflood with tears, a well-known face. It was Mademoiselle de la
Valliere! "Monsieur d'Artagnan!" murmured she.
"You!" replied the captain, in a stern voice, "you here! - oh! madame, I
should better have liked to see you decked with flowers in the mansion of
the Comte de la Fere. You would have wept less - and they too - and I!"
"Monsieur!" said she, sobbing.
"For it was you," added this pitiless friend of the dead, - "it was you
who sped these two men to the grave."
"Oh! spare me!"
"God forbid, madame, that I should offend a woman, or that I should make
her weep in vain; but I must say that the place of the murderer is not
upon the grave of her victims." She wished to reply.
"What I now tell you," added he, coldly, "I have already told the king."
She clasped her hands. "I know," said she, "I have caused the death of
the Vicomte de Bragelonne."
"Ah! you know it?"
"The news arrived at court yesterday. I have traveled during the night
forty leagues to come and ask pardon of the comte, whom I supposed to be
still living, and to pray God, on the tomb of Raoul, that he would send
me all the misfortunes I have merited, except a single one. Now,
monsieur, I know that the death of the son has killed the father; I have
two crimes to reproach myself with; I have two punishments to expect from
"I will repeat to you, mademoiselle," said D'Artagnan, "what M. de
Bragelonne said of you, at Antibes, when he already meditated death: 'If
pride and coquetry have misled her, I pardon her while despising her. If
love has produced her error, I pardon her, but I swear that no one could
have loved her as I have done.'"
"You know," interrupted Louise, "that of my love I was about to sacrifice
myself; you know whether I suffered when you met me lost, dying,
abandoned. Well! never have I suffered so much as now; because then I
hoped, desired, - now I have no longer anything to wish for; because this
death drags all my joy into the tomb; because I can no longer dare to
love without remorse, and I feel that he whom I love - oh! it is but
just! - will repay me with the tortures I have made others undergo."
D'Artagnan made no reply; he was too well convinced that she was not
"Well, then," added she, "dear Monsieur d'Artagnan, do not overwhelm me
to-day, I again implore you! I am like the branch torn from the trunk,
I no longer hold to anything in this world - a current drags me on, I
know not whither. I love madly, even to the point of coming to tell it,
wretch that I am, over the ashes of the dead, and I do not blush for it -
I have no remorse on this account. Such love is a religion. Only, as
hereafter you will see me alone, forgotten, disdained; as you will see me
punished, as I am destined to be punished, spare me in my ephemeral
happiness, leave it to me for a few days, for a few minutes. Now, even
at the moment I am speaking to you, perhaps it no longer exists. My God!
this double murder is perhaps already expiated!"
While she was speaking thus, the sound of voices and of horses drew the
attention of the captain. M. de Saint-Aignan came to seek La Valliere.
"The king," he said, "is a prey to jealousy and uneasiness." Saint-
Aignan did not perceive D'Artagnan, half concealed by the trunk of a
chestnut-tree which shaded the double grave. Louise thanked Saint-
Aignan, and dismissed him with a gesture. He rejoined the party outside
"You see, madame," said the captain bitterly to the young woman, - "you
see your happiness still lasts."
The young woman raised her head with a solemn air. "A day will come,"
said she, "when you will repent of having so misjudged me. On that day,
it is I who will pray God to forgive you for having been unjust towards
me. Besides, I shall suffer so much that you yourself will be the first
to pity my sufferings. Do not reproach me with my fleeting happiness,
Monsieur d'Artagnan; it costs me dear, and I have not paid all my debt."
Saying these words, she again knelt down, softly and affectionately.
"Pardon me the last time, my affianced Raoul!" said she. "I have broken
our chain; we are both destined to die of grief. It is thou who
departest first; fear nothing, I shall follow thee. See, only, that I
have not been base, and that I have come to bid thee this last adieu.
The Lord is my witness, Raoul, that if with my life I could have redeemed
thine, I would have given that life without hesitation. I could not give
my love. Once more, forgive me, dearest, kindest friend."
She strewed a few sweet flowers on the freshly sodded earth; then, wiping
the tears from her eyes, the heavily stricken lady bowed to D'Artagnan,
The captain watched the departure of the horses, horsemen, and carriage,
then crossing his arms upon his swelling chest, "When will it be my turn
to depart?" said he, in an agitated voice. "What is there left for man
after youth, love, glory, friendship, strength, and wealth have
disappeared? That rock, under which sleeps Porthos, who possessed all I
have named; this moss, under which repose Athos and Raoul, who possessed
He hesitated for a moment, with a dull eye; then, drawing himself up,
"Forward! still forward!" said he. "When it is time, God will tell me,
as he foretold the others."
He touched the earth, moistened with the evening dew, with the ends of
his fingers, signed himself as if he had been at the _benitier_ in
church, and retook alone - ever alone - the road to Paris.
Four years after the scene we have just described, two horsemen, well
mounted, traversed Blois early in the morning, for the purpose of
arranging a hawking party the king had arranged to make in that uneven
plain the Loire divides in two, which borders on the one side Meung, on
the other Amboise. These were the keeper of the king's harriers and the
master of the falcons, personages greatly respected in the time of Louis
XIII., but rather neglected by his successor. The horsemen, having
reconnoitered the ground, were returning, their observations made, when
they perceived certain little groups of soldiers, here and there, whom
the sergeants were placing at distances at the openings of the
inclosures. These were the king's musketeers. Behind them came, upon a
splendid horse, the captain, known by his richly embroidered uniform.
His hair was gray, his beard turning so. He seemed a little bent,
although sitting and handling his horse gracefully. He was looking about
"M. d'Artagnan does not get any older," said the keeper of the harriers
to his colleague the falconer; "with ten years more to carry than either
of us, he has the seat of a young man on horseback."
"That is true," replied the falconer. "I don't see any change in him for
the last twenty years."
But this officer was mistaken; D'Artagnan in the last four years had
lived a dozen. Age had printed its pitiless claws at each angle of his
eyes; his brow was bald; his hands, formerly brown and nervous, were
getting white, as if the blood had half forgotten them.
D'Artagnan accosted the officers with the shade of affability which
distinguishes superiors, and received in turn for his courtesy two most
"Ah! what a lucky chance to see you here, Monsieur d'Artagnan!" cried the
"It is rather I who should say that, messieurs," replied the captain,
"for nowadays, the king makes more frequent use of his musketeers than of
"Ah! it is not as it was in the good old times," sighed the falconer.
"Do you remember, Monsieur d'Artagnan, when the late king flew the pie in
the vineyards beyond Beaugence? Ah! _dame!_ you were not the captain of
the musketeers at that time, Monsieur d'Artagnan." (7)
"And you were nothing but under-corporal of the tiercelets," replied
D'Artagnan, laughing. "Never mind that, it was a good time, seeing that
it is always a good time when we are young. Good day, monsieur the
keeper of the harriers."
"You do me honor, monsieur le comte," said the latter. D'Artagnan made
no reply. The title of comte had hardly struck him; D'Artagnan had been
a comte four years.
"Are you not very much fatigued with the long journey you have taken,
monsieur le capitaine?" continued the falconer. "It must be full two
hundred leagues from hence to Pignerol."
"Two hundred and sixty to go, and as many to return," said D'Artagnan,
"And," said the falconer, "is _he_ well?"
"Who?" asked D'Artagnan.
"Why, poor M. Fouquet," continued the falconer, in a low voice. The
keeper of the harriers had prudently withdrawn.
"No," replied D'Artagnan, "the poor man frets terribly; he cannot
comprehend how imprisonment can be a favor; he says that parliament
absolved him by banishing him, and banishment is, or should be, liberty.
He cannot imagine that they had sworn his death, and that to save his
life from the claws of parliament was to be under too much obligation to
"Ah! yes; the poor man had a close chance of the scaffold," replied the
falconer; "it is said that M. Colbert had given orders to the governor of
the Bastile, and that the execution was ordered."
"Enough!" said D'Artagnan, pensively, and with a view of cutting short
"Yes," said the keeper of the harriers, drawing towards them, "M. Fouquet
is now at Pignerol; he has richly deserved it. He had the good fortune
to be conducted there by you; he robbed the king sufficiently."
D'Artagnan launched at the master of the dogs one of his crossest looks,
and said to him, "Monsieur, if any one told me you had eaten your dogs'
meat, not only would I refuse to believe it; but still more, if you were
condemned to the lash or to jail for it, I should pity you and would not
allow people to speak ill of you. And yet, monsieur, honest man as you
may be, I assure you that you are not more so than poor M. Fouquet was."
After having undergone this sharp rebuke, the keeper of the harriers hung
his head, and allowed the falconer to get two steps in advance of him
nearer to D'Artagnan.
"He is content," said the falconer, in a low voice, to the musketeer; "we
all know that harriers are in fashion nowadays; if he were a falconer he
would not talk in that way."
D'Artagnan smiled in a melancholy manner at seeing this great political
question resolved by the discontent of such humble interest. He for a
moment ran over in his mind the glorious existence of the surintendant,
the crumbling of his fortunes, and the melancholy death that awaited him;
and to conclude, "Did M. Fouquet love falconry?" said he.
"Oh, passionately, monsieur!" repeated the falconer, with an accent of
bitter regret and a sigh that was the funeral oration of Fouquet.
D'Artagnan allowed the ill-humor of the one and the regret of the other
to pass, and continued to advance. They could already catch glimpses of
the huntsmen at the issue of the wood, the feathers of the outriders
passing like shooting stars across the clearings, and the white horses
skirting the bosky thickets looking like illuminated apparitions.
"But," resumed D'Artagnan, "will the sport last long? Pray, give us a
good swift bird, for I am very tired. Is it a heron or a swan?"
"Both, Monsieur d'Artagnan," said the falconer; "but you need not be
alarmed; the king is not much of a sportsman; he does not take the field
on his own account, he only wishes to amuse the ladies."
The words "to amuse the ladies" were so strongly accented they set
"Ah!" said he, looking keenly at the falconer.
The keeper of the harriers smiled, no doubt with a view of making it up
with the musketeer.
"Oh! you may safely laugh," said D'Artagnan; "I know nothing of current
news; I only arrived yesterday, after a month's absence. I left the
court mourning the death of the queen-mother. The king was not willing
to take any amusement after receiving the last sigh of Anne of Austria;
but everything comes to an end in this world. Well! then he is no longer
sad? So much the better." (8)
"And everything begins as well as ends," said the keeper with a coarse
"Ah!" said D'Artagnan, a second time, - he burned to know, but dignity
would not allow him to interrogate people below him, - "there is
something beginning, then, it seems?"
The keeper gave him a significant wink; but D'Artagnan was unwilling to
learn anything from this man.
"Shall we see the king early?" asked he of the falconer.
"At seven o'clock, monsieur, I shall fly the birds."
"Who comes with the king? How is Madame? How is the queen?"
"Has she been ill, then?"
"Monsieur, since the last chagrin she suffered, her majesty has been
"What chagrin? You need not fancy your news is old. I have but just
"It appears that the queen, a little neglected since the death of her
mother-in-law, complained to the king, who answered her, - 'Do I not
sleep at home every night, madame? What more do you expect?'"
"Ah!" said D'Artagnan, - "poor woman! She must heartily hate
Mademoiselle de la Valliere."
"Oh, no! not Mademoiselle de la Valliere," replied the falconer.
"Who then - " The blast of a hunting-horn interrupted this
conversation. It summoned the dogs and the hawks. The falconer and his
companions set off immediately, leaving D'Artagnan alone in the midst of
the suspended sentence. The king appeared at a distance, surrounded by
ladies and horsemen. All the troop advanced in beautiful order, at a
foot's pace, the horns of various sorts animating the dogs and horses.
There was an animation in the scene, a mirage of light, of which nothing
now can give an idea, unless it be the fictitious splendor of a theatric
spectacle. D'Artagnan, with an eye a little, just a little, dimmed by
age, distinguished behind the group three carriages. The first was
intended for the queen; it was empty. D'Artagnan, who did not see
Mademoiselle de la Valliere by the king's side, on looking about for her,
saw her in the second carriage. She was alone with two of her women, who
seemed as dull as their mistress. On the left hand of the king, upon a
high-spirited horse, restrained by a bold and skillful hand, shone a lady
of most dazzling beauty. The king smiled upon her, and she smiled upon
the king. Loud laughter followed every word she uttered.
"I must know that woman," thought the musketeer; "who can she be?" And
he stooped towards his friend, the falconer, to whom he addressed the
question he had put to himself.
The falconer was about to reply, when the king, perceiving D'Artagnan,
"Ah, comte!" said he, "you are amongst us once more then! Why have I not
"Sire," replied the captain, "because your majesty was asleep when I
arrived, and not awake when I resumed my duties this morning."
"Still the same," said Louis, in a loud voice, denoting satisfaction.
"Take some rest, comte; I command you to do so. You will dine with me to-
A murmur of admiration surrounded D'Artagnan like a caress. Every one
was eager to salute him. Dining with the king was an honor his majesty
was not so prodigal of as Henry IV. had been. The king passed a few
steps in advance, and D'Artagnan found himself in the midst of a fresh
group, among whom shone Colbert.
"Good-day, Monsieur d'Artagnan," said the minister, with marked
affability, "have you had a pleasant journey?"
"Yes, monsieur," said D'Artagnan, bowing to the neck of his horse.
"I heard the king invite you to his table for this evening," continued
the minister; "you will meet an old friend there."
"An old friend of mine?" asked D'Artagnan, plunging painfully into the
dark waves of the past, which had swallowed up for him so many
friendships and so many hatreds.
"M. le Duc d'Almeda, who is arrived this morning from Spain."
"The Duc d'Almeda?" said D'Artagnan, reflecting in vain.
"Here!" cried an old man, white as snow, sitting bent in his carriage,
which he caused to be thrown open to make room for the musketeer.
"_Aramis!_" cried D'Artagnan, struck with profound amazement. And he
felt, inert as it was, the thin arm of the old nobleman hanging round his
Colbert, after having observed them in silence for a few moments, urged
his horse forward, and left the two old friends together.
"And so," said the musketeer, taking Aramis's arm, "you, the exile, the
rebel, are again in France?"
"Ah! and I shall dine with you at the king's table," said Aramis,
smiling. "Yes, will you not ask yourself what is the use of fidelity in
this world? Stop! let us allow poor La Valliere's carriage to pass.
Look, how uneasy she is! How her eyes, dim with tears, follow the king,
who is riding on horseback yonder!"
"With Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente, now Madame de Montespan," replied
"She is jealous. Is she then deserted?"
"Not quite yet, but it will not be long before she _is_." (9)
They chatted together, while following the sport, and Aramis's coachman
drove them so cleverly that they arrived at the instant when the falcon,
attacking the bird, beat him down, and fell upon him. The king alighted;
Madame de Montespan followed his example. They were in front of an
isolated chapel, concealed by huge trees, already despoiled of their
leaves by the first cutting winds of autumn. Behind this chapel was an
inclosure, closed by a latticed gate. The falcon had beaten down his
prey in the inclosure belonging to this little chapel, and the king was
desirous of going in to take the first feather, according to custom. The
_cortege_ formed a circle round the building and the hedges, too small to
receive so many. D'Artagnan held back Aramis by the arm, as he was
about, like the rest, to alight from his carriage, and in a hoarse,
broken voice, "Do you know, Aramis," said he, "whither chance has
"No," replied the duke.
"Here repose men that we knew well," said D'Artagnan, greatly agitated.
Aramis, without divining anything, and with a trembling step, penetrated
into the chapel by a little door which D'Artagnan opened for him. "Where
are they buried?" said he.
"There, in the inclosure. There is a cross, you see, beneath yon little
cypress. The tree of grief is planted over their tomb; don't go to it;
the king is going that way; the heron has fallen just there."
Aramis stopped, and concealed himself in the shade. They then saw,
without being seen, the pale face of La Valliere, who, neglected in her
carriage, at first looked on, with a melancholy heart, from the door, and
then, carried away by jealousy, advanced into the chapel, whence, leaning
against a pillar, she contemplated the king smiling and making signs to
Madame de Montespan to approach, as there was nothing to be afraid of.
Madame de Montespan complied; she took the hand the king held out to her,
and he, plucking out the first feather from the heron, which the falconer
had strangled, placed it in his beautiful companion's hat. She, smiling
in her turn, kissed the hand tenderly which made her this present. The
king grew scarlet with vanity and pleasure; he looked at Madame de
Montespan with all the fire of new love.
"What will you give me in exchange?" said he.
She broke off a little branch of cypress and offered it to the king, who
looked intoxicated with hope.
"Humph!" said Aramis to D'Artagnan; "the present is but a sad one, for
that cypress shades a tomb."
"Yes, and the tomb is that of Raoul de Bragelonne," said D'Artagnan
aloud; "of Raoul, who sleeps under that cross with his father."
A groan resounded - they saw a woman fall fainting to the ground.
Mademoiselle de la Valliere had seen all, heard all.
"Poor woman!" muttered D'Artagnan, as he helped the attendants to carry
back to her carriage the lonely lady whose lot henceforth in life was
That evening D'Artagnan was seated at the king's table, near M. Colbert
and M. le Duc d'Almeda. The king was very gay. He paid a thousand
little attentions to the queen, a thousand kindnesses to Madame, seated
at his left hand, and very sad. It might have been supposed that time of
calm when the king was wont to watch his mother's eyes for the approval
or disapproval of what he had just done.
Of mistresses there was no question at this dinner. The king addressed
Aramis two or three times, calling him M. l'ambassadeur, which increased
the surprise already felt by D'Artagnan at seeing his friend the rebel so
marvelously well received at court.
The king, on rising from table, gave his hand to the queen, and made a
sign to Colbert, whose eye was on his master's face. Colbert took
D'Artagnan and Aramis on one side. The king began to chat with his
sister, whilst Monsieur, very uneasy, entertained the queen with a
preoccupied air, without ceasing to watch his wife and brother from the
corner of his eye. The conversation between Aramis, D'Artagnan, and
Colbert turned upon indifferent subjects. They spoke of preceding
ministers; Colbert related the successful tricks of Mazarin, and desired
those of Richelieu to be related to him. D'Artagnan could not overcome
his surprise at finding this man, with his heavy eyebrows and low
forehead, display so much sound knowledge and cheerful spirits. Aramis
was astonished at that lightness of character which permitted this
serious man to retard with advantage the moment for more important
conversation, to which nobody made any allusion, although all three
interlocutors felt its imminence. It was very plain, from the
embarrassed appearance of Monsieur, how much the conversation of the king
and Madame annoyed him. Madame's eyes were almost red: was she going to
complain? Was she going to expose a little scandal in open court? The
king took her on one side, and in a tone so tender that it must have
reminded the princess of the time when she was loved for herself:
"Sister," said he, "why do I see tears in those lovely eyes?"
"Why - sire - " said she.
"Monsieur is jealous, is he not, sister?"
She looked towards Monsieur, an infallible sign that they were talking
"Yes," said she.
"Listen to me," said the king; "if your friends compromise you, it is not
He spoke these words with so much kindness that Madame, encouraged,
having borne so many solitary griefs so long, was nearly bursting into
tears, so full was her heart.
"Come, come, dear little sister," said the king, "tell me your griefs; on
the word of a brother, I pity them; on the word of a king, I will put an
end to them."
She raised her glorious eyes and, in a melancholy tone:
"It is not my friends who compromise me," said she; "they are either
absent or concealed; they have been brought into disgrace with your
majesty; they, so devoted, so good, so loyal!"
"You say this on account of De Guiche, whom I have exiled, at Monsieur's
"And who, since that unjust exile, has endeavored to get himself killed
once every day."
"Unjust, say you, sister?"
"So unjust, that if I had not had the respect mixed with friendship that
I have always entertained for your majesty - "
"Well! I would have asked my brother Charles, upon whom I can always - "
The king started. "What, then?"
"I would have asked him to have had it represented to you that Monsieur
and his favorite M. le Chevalier de Lorraine ought not with impunity to
constitute themselves the executioners of my honor and my happiness."
"The Chevalier de Lorraine," said the king; "that dismal fellow?"
"Is my mortal enemy. Whilst that man lives in my household, where
Monsieur retains him and delegates his power to him, I shall be the most
miserable woman in the kingdom."
"So," said the king, slowly, "you call your brother of England a better
friend than I am?"
"Actions speak for themselves, sire."
"And you would prefer going to ask assistance there - "
"To my own country!" said she with pride; "yes, sire."
"You are the grandchild of Henry IV. as well as myself, lady. Cousin and
brother-in-law, does not that amount pretty well to the title of brother-
"Then," said Henrietta, "act!"
"Let us form an alliance."
"I have, you say, unjustly exiled De Guiche."
"Oh! yes," said she, blushing.
"De Guiche shall return." (10)
"So far, well."
"And now you say that I do wrong in having in your household the
Chevalier de Lorraine, who gives Monsieur ill advice respecting you?"
"Remember well what I tell you, sire; the Chevalier de Lorraine some day
- Observe, if ever I come to a dreadful end, I beforehand accuse the
Chevalier de Lorraine; he has a spirit that is capable of any crime!"
"The Chevalier de Lorraine shall no longer annoy you - I promise you
"Then that will be a true preliminary of alliance, sire, - I sign; but
since you have done your part, tell me what shall be mine."
"Instead of embroiling me with your brother Charles, you must make him a
more intimate friend than ever."
"That is very easy."
"Oh! not quite so easy as you may suppose, for in ordinary friendship
people embrace or exercise hospitality, and that only costs a kiss or a
return, profitable expenses; but in political friendship - "
"Ah! it's a political friendship, is it?"
"Yes, my sister; and then, instead of embraces and feasts, it is soldiers
- it is soldiers all alive and well equipped - that we must serve up to
our friends; vessels we must offer, all armed with cannons and stored
with provisions. It hence results that we have not always coffers in a
fit condition for such friendships."
"Ah! you are quite right," said Madame; "the coffers of the king of
England have been sonorous for some time."
"But you, my sister, who have so much influence over your brother, you
can secure more than an ambassador could ever get the promise of."
"To effect that I must go to London, my dear brother."
"I have thought so," replied the king, eagerly; "and I have said to
myself that such a voyage would do your health and spirits good."
"Only," interrupted Madame, "it is possible I should fail. The king of
England has dangerous counselors."
"Counselors, do you say?"
"Precisely. If, by chance, your majesty had any intention - I am only
supposing so - of asking Charles II. his alliance in a war - "
"Yes; well! then the king's counselors, who are in number seven -
Mademoiselle Stewart, Mademoiselle Wells, Mademoiselle Gwyn, Miss Orchay,
Mademoiselle Zunga, Miss Davies, and the proud Countess of Castlemaine -
will represent to the king that war costs a great deal of money; that it
is better to give balls and suppers at Hampton Court than to equip ships
of the line at Portsmouth and Greenwich."
"And then your negotiations will fail?"
"Oh! those ladies cause all negotiations to fall through which they don't
"Do you know the idea that has struck me, sister?"
"No; inform me what it is."
"It is that, searching well around you, you might perhaps find a female
counselor to take with you to your brother, whose eloquence might
paralyze the ill-will of the seven others."
"That is really an idea, sire, and I will search."
"You will find what you want."
"I hope so."
"A pretty ambassadress is necessary; an agreeable face is better than an
ugly one, is it not?"
"An animated, lively, audacious character."
"Nobility; that is, enough to enable her to approach the king without
awkwardness - not too lofty, so as not to trouble herself about the
dignity of her race."
"And who knows a little English."
"_Mon Dieu!_ why, some one," cried Madame, "like Mademoiselle de
Keroualle, for instance!"
"Oh! why, yes!" said Louis XIV.; "you have hit the mark, - it is you who
have found, my sister."
"I will take her; she will have no cause to complain, I suppose."
"Oh! no, I will name her _seductrice plenipotentiaire_ at once, and will
add a dowry to the title."
"That is well."
"I fancy you already on your road, my dear little sister, consoled for
all your griefs."
"I will go, on two conditions. The first is, that I shall know what I am
"That is it. The Dutch, you know, insult me daily in their gazettes, and
by their republican attitude. I do not like republics."
"That may easily be imagined, sire."
"I see with pain that these kings of the sea - they call themselves so -
keep trade from France in the Indies, and that their vessels will soon
occupy all the ports of Europe. Such a power is too near me, sister."
"They are your allies, nevertheless."
"That is why they were wrong in having the medal you have heard of
struck; a medal which represents Holland stopping the sun, as Joshua did,
with this legend: _The sun had stopped before me_. There is not much
fraternity in that, _is_ there?"
"I thought you had forgotten that miserable episode?"
"I never forget anything, sister. And if my true friends, such as your
brother Charles, are willing to second me - " The princess remained
"Listen to me; there is the empire of the seas to be shared," said Louis
XIV. "For this partition, which England submits to, could I not
represent the second party as well as the Dutch?"
"We have Mademoiselle de Keroualle to treat that question," replied
"Your second condition for going, if you please, sister?"
"The consent of Monsieur, my husband."
"You shall have it."
"Then consider me already gone, brother."
On hearing these words, Louis XIV. turned round towards the corner of the
room in which D'Artagnan, Colbert, and Aramis stood, and made an
affirmative sign to his minister. Colbert then broke in on the
conversation suddenly, and said to Aramis:
"Monsieur l'ambassadeur, shall we talk about business?"
D'Artagnan immediately withdrew, from politeness. He directed his steps
towards the fireplace, within hearing of what the king was about to say
to Monsieur, who, evidently uneasy, had gone to him. The face of the
king was animated. Upon his brow was stamped a strength of will, the
expression of which already met no further contradiction in France, and
was soon to meet no more in Europe.
"Monsieur," said the king to his brother, "I am not pleased with M. le
Chevalier de Lorraine. You, who do him the honor to protect him, must
advise him to travel for a few months."
These words fell with the crush of an avalanche upon Monsieur, who adored
his favorite, and concentrated all his affections in him.
"In what has the chevalier been inconsiderate enough to displease your
majesty?" cried he, darting a furious look at Madame.
"I will tell you that when he is gone," said the king, suavely. "And
also when Madame, here, shall have crossed over into England."
"Madame! in England!" murmured Monsieur, in amazement.
"In a week, brother," continued the king, "whilst we will go whither I
will shortly tell you." And the king turned on his heel, smiling in his
brother's face, to sweeten, as it were, the bitter draught he had given
During this time Colbert was talking with the Duc d'Almeda.
"Monsieur," said Colbert to Aramis, "this is the moment for us to come to
an understanding. I have made your peace with the king, and I owed that
clearly to a man of so much merit; but as you have often expressed
friendship for me, an opportunity presents itself for giving me a proof
of it. You are, besides, more a Frenchman than a Spaniard. Shall we
secure - answer me frankly - the neutrality of Spain, if we undertake
anything against the United Provinces?"
"Monsieur," replied Aramis, "the interest of Spain is clear. To embroil
Europe with the Provinces would doubtless be our policy, but the king of
France is an ally of the United Provinces. You are not ignorant,
besides, that it would infer a maritime war, and that France is in no
state to undertake this with advantage."
Colbert, turning round at this moment, saw D'Artagnan who was seeking
some interlocutor, during this "aside" of the king and Monsieur. He
called him, at the same time saying in a low voice to Aramis, "We may
talk openly with D'Artagnan, I suppose?"
"Oh! certainly," replied the ambassador.
"We were saying, M. d'Almeda and I," said Colbert, "that a conflict with
the United Provinces would mean a maritime war."
"That's evident enough," replied the musketeer.
"And what do you think of it, Monsieur d'Artagnan?"
"I think that to carry on such a war successfully, you must have very
large land forces."
"What did you say?" said Colbert, thinking he had ill understood him.
"Why such a large land army?" said Aramis.
"Because the king will be beaten by sea if he has not the English with
him, and that when beaten by sea, he will soon be invaded, either by the
Dutch in his ports, or by the Spaniards by land."
"And Spain neutral?" asked Aramis.
"Neutral as long as the king shall prove stronger," rejoined D'Artagnan.
Colbert admired that sagacity which never touched a question without
enlightening it thoroughly. Aramis smiled, as he had long known that in
diplomacy D'Artagnan acknowledged no superior. Colbert, who, like all
proud men, dwelt upon his fantasy with a certainty of success, resumed
the subject, "Who told you, M. d'Artagnan, that the king had no navy?"
"Oh! I take no heed of these details," replied the captain. "I am but
an indifferent sailor. Like all nervous people, I hate the sea; and yet
I have an idea that, with ships, France being a seaport with two hundred
exits, we might have sailors."
Colbert drew from his pocket a little oblong book divided into two
columns. On the first were the names of vessels, on the other the
figures recapitulating the number of cannon and men requisite to equip
these ships. "I have had the same idea as you," said he to D'Artagnan,
"and I have had an account drawn up of the vessels we have altogether -
"Thirty-five ships! impossible!" cried D'Artagnan.
"Something like two thousand pieces of cannon," said Colbert. "That is
what the king possesses at this moment. Of five and thirty vessels we
can make three squadrons, but I must have five."
"Five!" cried Aramis.
"They will be afloat before the end of the year, gentlemen; the king will
have fifty ship of the line. We may venture on a contest with them, may
"To build vessels," said D'Artagnan, "is difficult, but possible. As to
arming them, how is that to be done? In France there are neither
foundries nor military docks."
"Bah!" replied Colbert, in a bantering tone, "I have planned all that
this year and a half past, did you not know it? Do you know M.
"D'Imfreville?" replied D'Artagnan; "no."
"He is a man I have discovered; he has a specialty; he is a man of genius
- he knows how to set men to work. It is he who has cast cannon and cut
the woods of Bourgogne. And then, monsieur l'ambassadeur, you may not
believe what I am going to tell you, but I have a still further idea."
"Oh, monsieur!" said Aramis, civilly, "I always believe you."
"Calculating upon the character of the Dutch, our allies, I said to
myself, 'They are merchants, they are friendly with the king; they will
be happy to sell to the king what they fabricate for themselves; then the
more we buy' - Ah! I must add this: I have Forant - do you know Forant,
Colbert, in his warmth, forgot himself; he called the captain simply
_D'Artagnan_, as the king did. But the captain only smiled at it.
"No," replied he, "I do not know him."
"That is another man I have discovered, with a genius for buying. This
Forant has purchased for me 350,000 pounds of iron in balls, 200,000
pounds of powder, twelve cargoes of Northern timber, matches, grenades,
pitch, tar - I know not what! with a saving of seven per cent upon what
all those articles would cost me fabricated in France."
"That is a capital and quaint idea," replied D'Artagnan, "to have Dutch
cannon-balls cast which will return to the Dutch."
"Is it not, with loss, too?" And Colbert laughed aloud. He was
delighted with his own joke.
"Still further," added he, "these same Dutch are building for the king,
at this moment, six vessels after the model of the best of their name.
Destouches - Ah! perhaps you don't know Destouches?"
"He is a man who has a sure glance to discern, when a ship is launched,
what are the defects and qualities of that ship - that is valuable,
observe! Nature is truly whimsical. Well, this Destouches appeared to
me to be a man likely to prove useful in marine affairs, and he is
superintending the construction of six vessels of seventy-eight guns,
which the Provinces are building for his majesty. It results from this,
my dear Monsieur d'Artagnan, that the king, if he wished to quarrel with
the Provinces, would have a very pretty fleet. Now, you know better than
anybody else if the land army is efficient."
D'Artagnan and Aramis looked at each other, wondering at the mysterious
labors this man had undertaken in so short a time. Colbert understood
them, and was touched by this best of flatteries.
"If we, in France, were ignorant of what was going on," said D'Artagnan,
"out of France still less must be known."
"That is why I told monsieur l'ambassadeur," said Colbert, "that, Spain
promising its neutrality, England helping us - "
"If England assists you," said Aramis, "I promise the neutrality of
"I take you at your word," Colbert hastened to reply with his blunt
_bonhomie_. "And, _a propos_ of Spain, you have not the 'Golden Fleece,'
Monsieur d'Almeda. I heard the king say the other day that he should
like to see you wear the _grand cordon_ of St. Michael."
Aramis bowed. "Oh!" thought D'Artagnan, "and Porthos is no longer here!
What ells of ribbons would there be for him in these _largesses!_ Dear
"Monsieur d'Artagnan," resumed Colbert, "between us two, you will have, I
wager, an inclination to lead your musketeers into Holland. Can you
swim?" And he laughed like a man in high good humor.
"Like an eel," replied D'Artagnan.
"Ah! but there are some bitter passages of canals and marshes yonder,
Monsieur d'Artagnan, and the best swimmers are sometimes drowned there."
"It is my profession to die for his majesty," said the musketeer. "Only,
as it is seldom in war that much water is met with without a little fire,
I declare to you beforehand, that I will do my best to choose fire. I am
getting old; water freezes me - but fire warms, Monsieur Colbert."
And D'Artagnan looked so handsome still in quasi-juvenile strength as he
pronounced these words, that Colbert, in his turn, could not help
admiring him. D'Artagnan perceived the effect he had produced. He
remembered that the best tradesman is he who fixes a high price upon his
goods, when they are valuable. He prepared his price in advance.
"So, then," said Colbert, "we go into Holland?"
"Yes," replied D'Artagnan; "only - "
"Only?" said M. Colbert.
"Only," repeated D'Artagnan, "there lurks in everything the question of
interest, the question of self-love. It is a very fine title, that of
captain of the musketeers; but observe this: we have now the king's
guards and the military household of the king. A captain of musketeers
ought to command all that, and then he would absorb a hundred thousand
livres a year for expenses."
"Well! but do you suppose the king would haggle with you?" said Colbert.
"Eh! monsieur, you have not understood me," replied D'Artagnan, sure of
carrying his point. "I was telling you that I, an old captain, formerly
chief of the king's guard, having precedence of the _marechaux_ of France
- I saw myself one day in the trenches with two other equals, the captain
of the guards and the colonel commanding the Swiss. Now, at no price
will I suffer that. I have old habits, and I will stand or fall by them."
Colbert felt this blow, but he was prepared for it.
"I have been thinking of what you said just now," replied he.
"About what, monsieur?"
"We were speaking of canals and marshes in which people are drowned."
"Well! if they are drowned, it is for want of a boat, a plank, or a stick."
"Of a stick, however short it may be," said D'Artagnan.
"Exactly," said Colbert. "And, therefore, I never heard of an instance
of a _marechal_ of France being drowned."
D'Artagnan became very pale with joy, and in a not very firm voice,
"People would be very proud of me in my country," said he, "if I were a
_marechal_ of France; but a man must have commanded an expedition in
chief to obtain the _baton_."
"Monsieur!" said Colbert, "here is in this pocket-book which you will
study, a plan of campaign you will have to lead a body of troops to carry
out in the next spring." (12)
D'Artagnan took the book, tremblingly, and his fingers meeting those of
Colbert, the minister pressed the hand of the musketeer loyally.
"Monsieur," said he, "we had both a revenge to take, one over the other.
I have begun; it is now your turn!"
"I will do you justice, monsieur," replied D'Artagnan, "and implore you
to tell the king that the first opportunity that shall offer, he may
depend upon a victory, or to behold me dead - _or both_."
"Then I will have the _fleurs-de-lis_ for your _marechal's baton_
prepared immediately," said Colbert.
On the morrow, Aramis, who was setting out for Madrid, to negotiate the
neutrality of Spain, came to embrace D'Artagnan at his hotel.
"Let us love each other for four," said D'Artagnan. "We are now but two."
"And you will, perhaps, never see me again, dear D'Artagnan," said
Aramis; "if you knew how I have loved you! I am old, I am extinct - ah,
I am almost dead."
"My friend," said D'Artagnan, "you will live longer than I shall:
diplomacy commands you to live; but, for my part, honor condemns me to
"Bah! such men as we are, monsieur le marechal," said Aramis, "only die
satisfied with joy in glory."
"Ah!" replied D'Artagnan, with a melancholy smile, "I assure you,
monsieur le duc, I feel very little appetite for either."
They once more embraced, and, two hours after, separated - forever.
The Death of D'Artagnan.
Contrary to that which generally happens, whether in politics or morals,
each kept his promises, and did honor to his engagements.
The king recalled M. de Guiche, and banished M. le Chevalier de Lorraine;
so that Monsieur became ill in consequence. Madame set out for London,
where she applied herself so earnestly to make her brother, Charles II.,
acquire a taste for the political counsels of Mademoiselle de Keroualle,
that the alliance between England and France was signed, and the English
vessels, ballasted by a few millions of French gold, made a terrible
campaign against the fleets of the United Provinces. Charles II. had
promised Mademoiselle de Keroualle a little gratitude for her good
counsels; he made her Duchess of Portsmouth. Colbert had promised the
king vessels, munitions, victories. He kept his word, as is well known.
At length Aramis, upon whose promises there was least dependence to be
placed, wrote Colbert the following letter, on the subject of the
negotiations which he had undertaken at Madrid:
"MONSIEUR COLBERT, - I have the honor to expedite to you the R. P. Oliva,
general _ad interim_ of the Society of Jesus, my provisional successor.
The reverend father will explain to you, Monsieur Colbert, that I
preserve to myself the direction of all the affairs of the order which
concern France and Spain; but that I am not willing to retain the title
of general, which would throw too high a side-light on the progress of
the negotiations with which His Catholic Majesty wishes to intrust me. I
shall resume that title by the command of his majesty, when the labors I
have undertaken in concert with you, for the great glory of God and His
Church, shall be brought to a good end. The R. P. Oliva will inform you
likewise, monsieur, of the consent His Catholic Majesty gives to the
signature of a treaty which assures the neutrality of Spain in the event
of a war between France and the United Provinces. This consent will be
valid even if England, instead of being active, should satisfy herself
with remaining neutral. As for Portugal, of which you and I have spoken,
monsieur, I can assure you it will contribute with all its resources to
assist the Most Christian King in his war. I beg you, Monsieur Colbert,
to preserve your friendship and also to believe in my profound
attachment, and to lay my respect at the feet of His Most Christian
"LE DUC D'ALMEDA." (13)
Aramis had performed more than he had promised; it remained to be seen
how the king, M. Colbert, and D'Artagnan would be faithful to each
other. In the spring, as Colbert had predicted, the land army entered on
its campaign. It preceded, in magnificent order, the court of Louis
XIV., who, setting out on horseback, surrounded by carriages filled with
ladies and courtiers, conducted the _elite_ of his kingdom to this
sanguinary _fete_. The officers of the army, it is true, had no other
music save the artillery of the Dutch forts; but it was enough for a
great number, who found in this war honor, advancement, fortune - or
M. d'Artagnan set out commanding a body of twelve thousand men, cavalry,
and infantry, with which he was ordered to take the different places
which form knots of that strategic network called La Frise. Never was an
army conducted more gallantly to an expedition. The officers knew that
their leader, prudent and skillful as he was brave, would not sacrifice a
single man, nor yield an inch of ground without necessity. He had the
old habits of war, to live upon the country, keeping his soldiers singing
and the enemy weeping. The captain of the king's musketeers well knew
his business. Never were opportunities better chosen, _coups-de-main_
better supported, errors of the besieged more quickly taken advantage of.
The army commanded by D'Artagnan took twelve small places within a
month. He was engaged in besieging the thirteenth, which had held out
five days. D'Artagnan caused the trenches to be opened without appearing
to suppose that these people would ever allow themselves to be taken.
The pioneers and laborers were, in the army of this man, a body full of
ideas and zeal, because their commander treated them like soldiers, knew
how to render their work glorious, and never allowed them to be killed if
he could help it. It should have been seen with what eagerness the
marshy glebes of Holland were turned over. Those turf-heaps, mounds of
potter's clay, melted at the word of the soldiers like butter in the
frying-pans of Friesland housewives.
M. d'Artagnan dispatched a courier to the king to give him an account of
the last success, which redoubled the good humor of his majesty and his
inclination to amuse the ladies. These victories of M. d'Artagnan gave
so much majesty to the prince, that Madame de Montespan no longer called
him anything but Louis the Invincible. So that Mademoiselle de la
Valliere, who only called the king Louis the Victorious, lost much of his
majesty's favor. Besides, her eyes were frequently red, and to an
Invincible nothing is more disagreeable than a mistress who weeps while
everything is smiling round her. The star of Mademoiselle de la Valliere
was being drowned in clouds and tears. But the gayety of Madame de
Montespan redoubled with the successes of the king, and consoled him for
every other unpleasant circumstance. It was to D'Artagnan the king owed
this; and his majesty was anxious to acknowledge these services; he wrote
to M. Colbert:
"MONSIEUR COLBERT, - We have a promise to fulfil with M. d'Artagnan, who
so well keeps his. This is to inform you that the time is come for
performing it. All provisions for this purpose you shall be furnished
with in due time.
In consequence of this, Colbert, detaining D'Artagnan's envoy, placed in
the hands of that messenger a letter from himself, and a small coffer of
ebony inlaid with gold, not very important in appearance, but which,
without doubt, was very heavy, as a guard of five men was given to the
messenger, to assist him in carrying it. These people arrived before the
place which D'Artagnan was besieging towards daybreak, and presented
themselves at the lodgings of the general. They were told that M.
d'Artagnan, annoyed by a sortie which the governor, an artful man, had
made the evening before, and in which the works had been destroyed and
seventy-seven men killed, and the reparation of the breaches commenced,
had just gone with twenty companies of grenadiers to reconstruct the
M. Colbert's envoy had orders to go and seek M. d'Artagnan, wherever he
might be, or at whatever hour of the day or night. He directed his
course, therefore, towards the trenches, followed by his escort, all on
horseback. They perceived M. d'Artagnan in the open plain, with his gold-
laced hat, his long cane, and gilt cuffs. He was biting his white
mustache, and wiping off, with his left hand, the dust which the passing
balls threw up from the ground they plowed so near him. They also saw,
amidst this terrible fire, which filled the air with whistling hisses,
officers handling the shovel, soldiers rolling barrows, and vast
fascines, rising by being either carried or dragged by from ten to twenty
men, cover the front of the trench reopened to the center by this
extraordinary effort of the general. In three hours, all was
reinstated. D'Artagnan began to speak more mildly; and he became quite
calm when the captain of the pioneers approached him, hat in hand, to
tell him that the trench was again in proper order. This man had
scarcely finished speaking, when a ball took off one of his legs, and he
fell into the arms of D'Artagnan. The latter lifted up his soldier, and
quietly, with soothing words, carried him into the trench, amidst the
enthusiastic applause of the regiments. From that time it was no longer
a question of valor - the army was delirious; two companies stole away to
the advanced posts, which they instantly destroyed.
When their comrades, restrained with great difficulty by D'Artagnan, saw
them lodged upon the bastions, they rushed forward likewise; and soon a
furious assault was made upon the counterscarp, upon which depended the
safety of the place. D'Artagnan perceived there was only one means left
of checking his army - to take the place. He directed all his force to
the two breaches, where the besieged were busy in repairing. The shock
was terrible; eighteen companies took part in it, and D'Artagnan went
with the rest, within half cannon-shot of the place, to support the
attack by _echelons_. The cries of the Dutch, who were being poniarded
upon their guns by D'Artagnan's grenadiers, were distinctly audible. The
struggle grew fiercer with the despair of the governor, who disputed his
position foot by foot. D'Artagnan, to put an end to the affair, and to
silence the fire, which was unceasing, sent a fresh column, which
penetrated like a very wedge; and he soon perceived upon the ramparts,
through the fire, the terrified flight of the besieged, pursued by the
At this moment the general, breathing feely and full of joy, heard a
voice behind him, saying, "Monsieur, if you please, from M. Colbert."
He broke the seal of the letter, which contained these words:
"MONSIEUR D'ARTAGNAN: - The king commands me to inform you that he has
nominated you marechal of France, as a reward for your magnificent
services, and the honor you do to his arms. The king is highly pleased,
monsieur, with the captures you have made; he commands you, in
particular, to finish the siege you have commenced, with good fortune to
you, and success for him."
D'Artagnan was standing with a radiant countenance and sparkling eye. He
looked up to watch the progress of his troops upon the walls, still
enveloped in red and black volumes of smoke. "I have finished," replied
he to the messenger; "the city will have surrendered in a quarter of an
hour." He then resumed his reading:
"The _coffret_, Monsieur d'Artagnan, is my own present. You will not be
sorry to see that, whilst you warriors are drawing the sword to defend
the king, I am moving the pacific arts to ornament a present worthy of
you. I commend myself to your friendship, monsieur le marechal, and beg
you to believe in mine.
D'Artagnan, intoxicated with joy, made a sign to the messenger, who
approached, with his _coffret_ in his hands. But at the moment the
_marechal_ was going to look at it, a loud explosion resounded from the
ramparts, and called his attention towards the city. "It is strange,"
said D'Artagnan, "that I don't yet see the king's flag on the walls, or
hear the drums beat the _chamade_." He launched three hundred fresh men,
under a high-spirited officer, and ordered another breach to be made.
Then, more tranquilly, he turned towards the _coffret_, which Colbert's
envoy held out to him. - It was his treasure - he had won it.
D'Artagnan was holding out his hand to open the _coffret_, when a ball
from the city crushed the _coffret_ in the arms of the officer, struck
D'Artagnan full in the chest, and knocked him down upon a sloping heap of
earth, whilst the _fleur-de-lised baton_, escaping from the broken box,
came rolling under the powerless hand of the _marechal_. D'Artagnan
endeavored to raise himself. It was thought he had been knocked down
without being wounded. A terrible cry broke from the group of terrified
officers; the _marechal_ was covered with blood; the pallor of death
ascended slowly to his noble countenance. Leaning upon the arms held out
on all sides to receive him, he was able once more to turn his eyes
towards the place, and to distinguish the white flag at the crest of the
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