The Man in the Iron Mask
Alexandre Dumas, Pere
Part 7 out of 12
The two gentlemen, after having agreed on this point, talked over the
wild freaks of the duke, convinced that France would be served in a very
incomplete manner, as regarded both spirit and practice, in the ensuing
expedition; and having summed up the ducal policy under the one word
vanity, they set forward, in obedience rather to their will than
destiny. The sacrifice was half accomplished.
The Silver Dish.
The journey passed off pretty well. Athos and his son traversed France
at the rate of fifteen leagues per day; sometimes more, sometimes less,
according to the intensity of Raoul's grief. It took them a fortnight to
reach Toulon, and they lost all traces of D'Artagnan at Antibes. They
were forced to believe that the captain of the musketeers was desirous of
preserving an incognito on his route, for Athos derived from his
inquiries an assurance that such a cavalier as he described had exchanged
his horse for a well-closed carriage on quitting Avignon. Raoul was much
affected at not meeting with D'Artagnan. His affectionate heart longed
to take a farewell and received consolation from that heart of steel.
Athos knew from experience that D'Artagnan became impenetrable when
engaged in any serious affair, whether on his own account or on the
service of the king. He even feared to offend his friend, or thwart him
by too pressing inquiries. And yet when Raoul commenced his labor of
classing the flotilla, and got together the _chalands_ and lighters to
send them to Toulon, one of the fishermen told the comte that his boat
had been laid up to refit since a trip he had made on account of a
gentleman who was in great haste to embark. Athos, believing that this
man was telling a falsehood in order to be left at liberty to fish, and
so gain more money when all his companions were gone, insisted upon
having the details. The fisherman informed him that six days previously,
a man had come in the night to hire his boat, for the purpose of visiting
the island of St. Honnorat. The price was agreed upon, but the gentleman
had arrived with an immense carriage case, which he insisted upon
embarking, in spite of the many difficulties that opposed the operation.
The fisherman wished to retract. He had even threatened, but his threats
had procured him nothing but a shower of blows from the gentleman's cane,
which fell upon his shoulders sharp and long. Swearing and grumbling, he
had recourse to the syndic of his brotherhood at Antibes, who administer
justice among themselves and protect each other; but the gentleman had
exhibited a certain paper, at sight of which the syndic, bowing to the
very ground, enjoined obedience from the fisherman, and abused him for
having been refractory. They then departed with the freight.
"But all this does not tell us," said Athos, "how you injured your boat."
"This is the way. I was steering towards St. Honnorat as the gentleman
desired me; but he changed his mind, and pretended that I could not pass
to the south of the abbey."
"And why not?"
"Because, monsieur, there is in front of the square tower of the
Benedictines, towards the southern point, the bank of the _Moines_."
"A rock?" asked Athos.
"Level with the water, but below water; a dangerous passage, yet one I
have cleared a thousand times; the gentleman required me to land him at
"Well, monsieur!" cried the fisherman, with his _Provencal_ accent, "a
man is a sailor, or he is not; he knows his course, or he is nothing but
a fresh-water lubber. I was obstinate, and wished to try the channel.
The gentleman took me by the collar, and told me quietly he would
strangle me. My mate armed himself with a hatchet, and so did I. We had
the affront of the night before to pay him out for. But the gentleman
drew his sword, and used it in such an astonishingly rapid manner, that
we neither of us could get near him. I was about to hurl my hatchet at
his head, and I had a right to do so, hadn't I, monsieur? for a sailor
aboard is master, as a citizen is in his chamber; I was going, then, in
self-defense, to cut the gentleman in two, when, all at once - believe me
or not, monsieur - the great carriage case opened of itself, I don't know
how, and there came out of it a sort of a phantom, his head covered with
a black helmet and a black mask, something terrible to look upon, which
came towards me threatening with its fist."
"And that was - " said Athos.
"That was the devil, monsieur; for the gentleman, with great glee, cried
out, on seeing him: 'Ah! thank you, monseigneur!'"
"A most strange story!" murmured the comte, looking at Raoul.
"And what did you do?" asked the latter of the fisherman.
"You must know, monsieur, that two poor men, such as we are, could be no
match for two gentlemen; but when one of them turned out to be the devil,
we had no earthly chance! My companion and I did not stop to consult one
another; we made but one jump into the sea, for we were within seven or
eight hundred feet of the shore."
"Well, and then?"
"Why, and then, monseigneur, as there was a little wind from the
southwest, the boat drifted into the sands of Sainte-Marguerite's."
"Oh! - but the travelers?"
"Bah! you need not be uneasy about them! It was pretty plain that one
was the devil, and protected the other; for when we recovered the boat,
after she got afloat again, instead of finding these two creatures
injured by the shock, we found nothing, not even the carriage or the
"Very strange! very strange!" repeated the comte. "But after that, what
did you do, my friend?"
"I made my complaint to the governor of Sainte-Marguerite's, who brought
my finger under my nose by telling me if I plagued him with such silly
stories he would have me flogged."
"What! did the governor himself say so?"
"Yes, monsieur; and yet my boat was injured, seriously injured, for the
prow is left upon the point of Sainte-Marguerite's, and the carpenter
asks a hundred and twenty livres to repair it."
"Very well," replied Raoul; "you will be exempted from the service. Go."
"We will go to Sainte-Marguerite's, shall we?" said the comte to
Bragelonne, as the man walked away.
"Yes, monsieur, for there is something to be cleared up; that man does
not seem to me to have told the truth."
"Nor to me either, Raoul. The story of the masked man and the carriage
having disappeared, may be told to conceal some violence these fellows
have committed upon their passengers in the open sea, to punish him for
his persistence in embarking."
"I formed the same suspicion; the carriage was more likely to contain
property than a man."
"We shall see to that, Raoul. The gentleman very much resembles
D'Artagnan; I recognize his methods of proceeding. Alas! we are no
longer the young invincibles of former days. Who knows whether the
hatchet or the iron bar of this miserable coaster has not succeeded in
doing that which the best blades of Europe, balls, and bullets have not
been able to do in forty years?"
That same day they set out for Sainte-Marguerite's, on board a _chasse-
maree_ come from Toulon under orders. The impression they experienced on
landing was a singularly pleasing one. The island seemed loaded with
flowers and fruits. In its cultivated part it served as a garden for the
governor. Orange, pomegranate, and fig trees bent beneath the weight of
their golden or purple fruits. All round this garden, in the
uncultivated parts, red partridges ran about in conveys among the
brambles and tufts of junipers, and at every step of the comte and Raoul
a terrified rabbit quitted his thyme and heath to scuttle away to the
burrow. In fact, this fortunate isle was uninhabited. Flat, offering
nothing but a tiny bay for the convenience of embarkation, and under the
protection of the governor, who went shares with them, smugglers made use
of it as a provisional _entrepot_, at the expense of not killing the game
or devastating the garden. With this compromise, the governor was in a
situation to be satisfied with a garrison of eight men to guard his
fortress, in which twelve cannons accumulated coats of moldy green. The
governor was a sort of happy farmer, harvesting wines, figs, oil, and
oranges, preserving his citrons and _cedrates_ in the sun of his
casemates. The fortress, encircled by a deep ditch, its only guardian,
arose like three heads upon turrets connected with each other by terraces
covered with moss.
Athos and Raoul wandered for some time round the fences of the garden
without finding any one to introduce them to the governor. They ended by
making their own way into the garden. It was at the hottest time of the
day. Each living thing sought its shelter under grass or stone. The
heavens spread their fiery veils as if to stifle all noises, to envelop
all existences; the rabbit under the broom, the fly under the leaf, slept
as the wave did beneath the heavens. Athos saw nothing living but a
soldier, upon the terrace beneath the second and third court, who was
carrying a basket of provisions on his head. This man returned almost
immediately without his basket, and disappeared in the shade of his
sentry-box. Athos supposed he must have been carrying dinner to some
one, and, after having done so, returned to dine himself. All at once
they heard some one call out, and raising their heads, perceived in the
frame of the bars of the window something of a white color, like a hand
that was waved backwards and forwards - something shining, like a
polished weapon struck by the rays of the sun. And before they were
able to ascertain what it was, a luminous train, accompanied by a hissing
sound in the air, called their attention from the donjon to the ground.
A second dull noise was heard from the ditch, and Raoul ran to pick up a
silver plate which was rolling along the dry sand. The hand that had
thrown this plate made a sign to the two gentlemen, and then
disappeared. Athos and Raoul, approaching each other, commenced an
attentive examination of the dusty plate, and they discovered, in
characters traced upon the bottom of it with the point of a knife, this
"_I am the brother of the king of France - a prisoner to-day - a madman
to-morrow. French gentlemen and Christians, pray to God for the soul and
the reason of the son of your old rulers_."
The plate fell from the hands of Athos whilst Raoul was endeavoring to
make out the meaning of these dismal words. At the same moment they
heard a cry from the top of the donjon. Quick as lightning Raoul bent
down his head, and forced down that of his father likewise. A musket-
barrel glittered from the crest of the wall. A white smoke floated like
a plume from the mouth of the musket, and a ball was flattened against a
stone within six inches of the two gentlemen.
"_Cordieu!_" cried Athos. "What, are people assassinated here? Come
down, cowards as you are!"
"Yes, come down!" cried Raoul, furiously shaking his fist at the castle.
One of the assailants - he who was about to fire - replied to these cries
by an exclamation of surprise; and, as his companion, who wished to
continue the attack, had re-seized his loaded musket, he who had cried
out threw up the weapon, and the ball flew into the air. Athos and
Raoul, seeing them disappear from the platform, expected they would come
down to them, and waited with a firm demeanor. Five minutes had not
elapsed, when a stroke upon a drum called the eight soldiers of the
garrison to arms, and they showed themselves on the other side of the
ditch with their muskets in hand. At the head of these men was an
officer, whom Athos and Raoul recognized as the one who had fired the
first musket. The man ordered the soldiers to "make ready."
"We are going to be shot!" cried Raoul; "but, sword in hand, at least,
let us leap the ditch! We shall kill at least two of these scoundrels,
when their muskets are empty." And, suiting the action to the word,
Raoul was springing forward, followed by Athos, when a well-known voice
resounded behind them, "Athos! Raoul!"
"D'Artagnan!" replied the two gentlemen.
"Recover arms! _Mordioux!_" cried the captain to the soldiers. "I was
sure I could not be mistaken!"
"What is the meaning of this?" asked Athos. "What! were we to be shot
"It was I who was going to shoot you, and if the governor missed you, I
should not have missed you, my dear friends. How fortunate it is that I
am accustomed to take a long aim, instead of firing at the instant I
raise my weapon! I thought I recognized you. Ah! my dear friends, how
fortunate!" And D'Artagnan wiped his brow, for he had run fast, and
emotion with him was not feigned.
"How!" said Athos. "And is the gentleman who fired at us the governor of
"And why did he fire at us? What have we done to him?"
"_Pardieu!_ You received what the prisoner threw to you?"
"That is true."
"That plate - the prisoner has written something on it, has he not?"
"Good heavens! I was afraid he had."
And D'Artagnan, with all the marks of mortal disquietude, seized the
plate, to read the inscription. When he had read it, a fearful pallor
spread across his countenance. "Oh! good heavens!" repeated he.
"Silence! - Here is the governor."
"And what will he do to us? Is it our fault?"
"It is true, then?" said Athos, in a subdued voice. "It is true?"
"Silence! I tell you - silence! If he only believes you can read; if he
only suspects you have understood; I love you, my dear friends, I would
willingly be killed for you, but - "
"But - " said Athos and Raoul.
"But I could not save you from perpetual imprisonment if I saved you from
death. Silence, then! Silence again!"
The governor came up, having crossed the ditch upon a plank bridge.
"Well!" said he to D'Artagnan, "what stops us?"
"You are Spaniards - you do not understand a word of French," said the
captain, eagerly, to his friends in a low voice.
"Well!" replied he, addressing the governor, "I was right; these
gentlemen are two Spanish captains with whom I was acquainted at Ypres,
last year; they don't know a word of French."
"Ah!" said the governor, sharply. "And yet they were trying to read the
inscription on the plate."
D'Artagnan took it out of his hands, effacing the characters with the
point of his sword.
"How!" cried the governor, "what are you doing? I cannot read them now!"
"It is a state secret," replied D'Artagnan, bluntly; "and as you know
that, according to the king's orders, it is under the penalty of death
any one should penetrate it, I will, if you like, allow you to read it,
and have you shot immediately afterwards."
During this apostrophe - half serious, half ironical - Athos and Raoul
preserved the coolest, most unconcerned silence.
"But, is it possible," said the governor, "that these gentlemen do not
comprehend at least some words?"
"Suppose they do! If they do understand a few spoken words, it does not
follow that they should understand what is written. They cannot even
read Spanish. A noble Spaniard, remember, ought never to know how to
The governor was obliged to be satisfied with these explanations, but he
was still tenacious. "Invite these gentlemen to come to the fortress,"
"That I will willingly do. I was about to propose it to you." The fact
is, the captain had quite another idea, and would have wished his friends
a hundred leagues off. But he was obliged to make the best of it. He
addressed the two gentlemen in Spanish, giving them a polite invitation,
which they accepted. They all turned towards the entrance of the fort,
and, the incident being at an end, the eight soldiers returned to their
delightful leisure, for a moment disturbed by this unexpected adventure.
Captive and Jailers.
When they had entered the fort, and whilst the governor was making some
preparations for the reception of his guests, "Come," said Athos, "let us
have a word of explanation whilst we are alone."
"It is simply this," replied the musketeer. "I have conducted hither a
prisoner, who the king commands shall not be seen. You came here, he has
thrown something to you through the lattice of his window; I was at
dinner with the governor, I saw the object thrown, and I saw Raoul pick
it up. It does not take long to understand this. I understood it, and I
thought you in intelligence with my prisoner. And then - "
"And then - you commanded us to be shot."
"_Ma foi!_ I admit it; but, if I was the first to seize a musket,
fortunately, I was the last to take aim at you."
"If you had killed me, D'Artagnan, I should have had the good fortune to
die for the royal house of France, and it would be an honor to die by
your hand - you, its noblest and most loyal defender."
"What the devil, Athos, do you mean by the royal house?" stammered
D'Artagnan. "You don't mean that you, a well-informed and sensible man,
can place any faith in the nonsense written by an idiot?"
"I do believe in it."
"With so much the more reason, my dear chevalier, from your having orders
to kill all those who do believe in it," said Raoul.
"That is because," replied the captain of the musketeers - "because every
calumny, however absurd it may be, has the almost certain chance of
"No, D'Artagnan," replied Athos, promptly; "but because the king is not
willing that the secret of his family should transpire among the people,
and cover with shame the executioners of the son of Louis XIII."
"Do not talk in such a childish manner, Athos, or I shall begin to think
you have lost your senses. Besides, explain to me how it is possible
Louis XIII. should have a son in the Isle of Sainte-Marguerite."
"A son whom you have brought hither masked, in a fishing-boat," said
Athos. "Why not?"
D'Artagnan was brought to a pause.
"Oh!" said he; "whence do you know that a fishing-boat - ?"
"Brought you to Sainte-Marguerite's with the carriage containing the
prisoner - with a prisoner whom you styled monseigneur. Oh! I am
acquainted with all that," resumed the comte. D'Artagnan bit his
"If it were true," said he, "that I had brought hither in a boat and with
a carriage a masked prisoner, nothing proves that this prisoner must be a
prince - a prince of the house of France."
"Ask Aramis such riddles," replied Athos, coolly.
"Aramis," cried the musketeer, quite at a stand. "Have you seen Aramis?"
"After his discomfiture at Vaux, yes; I have seen Aramis, a fugitive,
pursued, bewildered, ruined; and Aramis has told me enough to make me
believe in the complaints this unfortunate young prince cut upon the
bottom of the plate."
D'Artagnan's head sunk on his breast in some confusion. "This is the
way," said he, "in which God turns to nothing that which men call
wisdom! A fine secret must that be of which twelve or fifteen persons
hold the tattered fragments! Athos, cursed be the chance which has
brought you face to face with me in this affair! for now - "
"Well," said Athos, with his customary mild severity, "is your secret
lost because I know it? Consult your memory, my friend. Have I not
borne secrets heavier than this?"
"You have never borne one so dangerous," replied D'Artagnan, in a tone of
sadness. "I have something like a sinister idea that all who are
concerned with this secret will die, and die unhappily."
"The will of God be done!" said Athos, "but here is your governor."
D'Artagnan and his friends immediately resumed their parts. The
governor, suspicious and hard, behaved towards D'Artagnan with a
politeness almost amounting to obsequiousness. With respect to the
travelers, he contented himself with offering good cheer, and never
taking his eye from them. Athos and Raoul observed that he often tried
to embarrass them by sudden attacks, or to catch them off their guard;
but neither the one nor the other gave him the least advantage. What
D'Artagnan had said was probable, if the governor did not believe it to
be quite true. They rose from the table to repose awhile.
"What is this man's name? I don't like the looks of him," said Athos to
D'Artagnan in Spanish.
"De Saint-Mars," replied the captain.
"He is, then, I suppose, the prince's jailer?"
"Eh! how can I tell? I may be kept at Sainte-Marguerite forever."
"Oh! no, not you!"
"My friend, I am in the situation of a man who finds a treasure in the
midst of a desert. He would like to carry it away, but he cannot; he
would like to leave it, but he dares not. The king will not dare to
recall me, for no one else would serve him as faithfully as I do; he
regrets not having me near him, from being aware that no one would be of
so much service near his person as myself. But it will happen as it may
"But," observed Raoul, "your not being certain proves that your situation
here is provisional, and you will return to Paris?"
"Ask these gentlemen," interrupted the governor, "what was their purpose
in coming to Saint-Marguerite?"
"They came from learning there was a convent of Benedictines at Sainte-
Honnorat which is considered curious; and from being told there was
excellent shooting in the island."
"That is quite at their service, as well as yours," replied Saint-Mars.
D'Artagnan politely thanked him.
"When will they depart?" added the governor.
"To-morrow," replied D'Artagnan.
M. de Saint-Mars went to make his rounds, and left D'Artagnan alone with
the pretended Spaniards.
"Oh!" exclaimed the musketeer, "here is a life and a society that suits
me very little. I command this man, and he bores me, _mordioux!_ Come,
let us have a shot or two at the rabbits; the walk will be beautiful, and
not fatiguing. The whole island is but a league and a half in length,
with the breadth of a league; a real park. Let us try to amuse
"As you please, D'Artagnan; not for the sake of amusing ourselves, but to
gain an opportunity for talking freely."
D'Artagnan made a sign to a soldier, who brought the gentlemen some guns,
and then returned to the fort.
"And now," said the musketeer, "answer me the question put to you by that
black-looking Saint-Mars: what did you come to do at the Lerin Isles?"
"To bid you farewell."
"Bid me farewell! What do you mean by that? Is Raoul going anywhere?"
"Then I will lay a wager it is with M. de Beaufort."
"With M. de Beaufort it is, my dear friend. You always guess correctly."
Whilst the two friends were commencing their conversation, Raoul, with
his head hanging down and his heart oppressed, seated himself on a mossy
rock, his gun across his knees, looking at the sea - looking at the
heavens, and listening to the voice of his soul; he allowed the sportsmen
to attain a considerable distance from him. D'Artagnan remarked his
"He has not recovered the blow?" said he to Athos.
"He is struck to death."
"Oh! your fears exaggerate, I hope. Raoul is of a tempered nature.
Around all hearts as noble as his, there is a second envelope that forms
a cuirass. The first bleeds, the second resists."
"No," replied Athos, "Raoul will die of it."
"_Mordioux!_" said D'Artagnan, in a melancholy tone. And he did not add
a word to this exclamation. Then, a minute after, "Why do you let him
"Because he insists on going."
"And why do you not go with him?"
"Because I could not bear to see him die."
D'Artagnan looked his friend earnestly in the face. "You know one
thing," continued the comte, leaning upon the arm of the captain; "you
know that in the course of my life I have been afraid of but few things.
Well! I have an incessant gnawing, insurmountable fear that an hour will
come in which I shall hold the dead body of that boy in my arms."
"Oh!" murmured D'Artagnan; "oh!"
"He will die, I know, I have a perfect conviction of that; but I would
not see him die."
"How is this, Athos? you come and place yourself in the presence of the
bravest man, you say you have ever seen, of your own D'Artagnan, of that
man without an equal, as you formerly called him, and you come and tell
him, with your arms folded, that you are afraid of witnessing the death
of your son, you who have seen all that can be seen in this world! Why
have you this fear, Athos? Man upon this earth must expect everything,
and ought to face everything."
"Listen to me, my friend. After having worn myself out upon this earth
of which you speak, I have preserved but two religions: that of life,
friendship, my duty as a father - that of eternity, love, and respect
for God. Now, I have within me the revelation that if God should decree
that my friend or my son should render up his last sigh in my presence –
oh! no, I cannot even tell you, D'Artagnan!"
"Speak, speak, tell me!"
"I am strong against everything, except against the death of those I
love. For that only there is no remedy. He who dies, gains; he who sees
others die, loses. No, this is it - to know that I should no more meet
on earth him whom I now behold with joy; to know that there would nowhere
be a D'Artagnan any more, nowhere again be a Raoul, oh! I am old, look
you, I have no longer courage; I pray God to spare me in my weakness; but
if he struck me so plainly and in that fashion, I should curse him. A
Christian gentleman ought not to curse his God, D'Artagnan; it is enough
to once have cursed a king!"
"Humph!" sighed D'Artagnan, a little confused by this violent tempest of
"Let me speak to him, Athos. Who knows?"
"Try, if you please, but I am convinced you will not succeed."
"I will not attempt to console him. I will serve him."
"Doubtless, I will. Do you think this would be the first time a woman
had repented of an infidelity? I will go to him, I tell you."
Athos shook his head, and continued his walk alone, D'Artagnan, cutting
across the brambles, rejoined Raoul and held out his hand to him. "Well,
Raoul! You have something to say to me?"
"I have a kindness to ask of you," replied Bragelonne.
"Ask it, then."
"You will some day return to France?"
"I hope so."
"Ought I to write to Mademoiselle de la Valliere?"
"No, you must not."
"But I have many things to say to her."
"Go and say them to her, then."
"Pray, what virtue do you attribute to a letter, which your speech might
"Perhaps you are right."
"She loves the king," said D'Artagnan, bluntly; "and she is an honest
girl." Raoul started. "And you, you whom she abandons, she, perhaps,
loves better than she does the king, but after another fashion."
"D'Artagnan, do you believe she loves the king?"
"To idolatry. Her heart is inaccessible to any other feeling. You might
continue to live near her, and would be her best friend."
"Ah!" exclaimed Raoul, with a passionate burst of repugnance at such a
"Will you do so?"
"It would be base."
"That is a very absurd word, which would lead me to think slightly of
your understanding. Please to understand, Raoul, that it is never base
to do that which is imposed upon us by a superior force. If your heart
says to you, 'Go there, or die,' why go, Raoul. Was she base or brave,
she whom you loved, in preferring the king to you, the king whom her
heart commanded her imperiously to prefer to you? No, she was the
bravest of women. Do, then, as she has done. Oblige yourself. Do you
know one thing of which I am sure, Raoul?"
"What is that?"
"Why, that by seeing her closely with the eyes of a jealous man - "
"Well! you would cease to love her."
"Then I am decided, my dear D'Artagnan."
"To set off to see her again?"
"No; to set off that I may _never_ see her again. I wish to love her
"Ha! I must confess," replied the musketeer, "that is a conclusion which
I was far from expecting."
"This is what I wish, my friend. You will see her again, and you will
give her a letter which, if you think proper, will explain to her, as to
yourself, what is passing in my heart. Read it; I drew it up last
night. Something told me I should see you to-day." He held the letter
out, and D'Artagnan read:
"MADEMOISELLE, - You are not wrong in my eyes in not loving me. You have
only been guilty of one fault towards me, that of having left me to
believe you loved me. This error will cost me my life. I pardon you,
but I cannot pardon myself. It is said that happy lovers are deaf to the
sorrows of rejected lovers. It will not be so with you, who did not love
me, save with anxiety. I am sure that if I had persisted in endeavoring
to change that friendship into love, you would have yielded out of a fear
of bringing about my death, or lessening the esteem I had for you. It is
much more delightful to me to die, knowing that _you_ are free and
satisfied. How much, then, will you love me, when you will no longer
fear either my presence or reproaches? You will love me, because,
however charming a new love may appear to you, God has not made me in
anything inferior to him you have chosen, and because my devotedness, my
sacrifice, and my painful end will assure me, in your eyes, a certain
superiority over him. I have allowed to escape, in the candid credulity
of my heart, the treasure I possessed. Many people tell me that you
loved me enough to lead me to hope you would have loved me much. That
idea takes from my mind all bitterness, and leads me only to blame
myself. You will accept this last farewell, and you will bless me for
having taken refuge in the inviolable asylum where hatred is
extinguished, and where all love endures forever. Adieu, mademoiselle.
If your happiness could be purchased by the last drop of my blood, I
would shed that drop. I willingly make the sacrifice of it to my misery!
"RAOUL, VICOTME DE BRAGELONNE."
"The letter reads very well," said the captain. "I have only one fault to find
"Tell me what that is!" said Raoul.
"Why, it is that it tells everything, except the thing which exhales,
like a mortal poison from your eyes and from your heart; except the
senseless love which still consumes you." Raoul grew paler, but
"Why did you not write simply these words:
"'MADEMOISELLE, - Instead of cursing you, I love you and I die.'"
"That is true," exclaimed Raoul, with a sinister kind of joy.
And tearing the letter he had just taken back, he wrote the following
words upon a leaf of his tablets:
"To procure the happiness of once more telling you I love you, I commit
the baseness of writing to you; and to punish myself for that baseness, I
die." And he signed it.
"You will give her these tablets, captain, will you not?"
"When?" asked the latter.
"On the day," said Bragelonne, pointing to the last sentence, "on the day
when you can place a date under these words." And he sprang away quickly
to join Athos, who was returning with slow steps.
As they re-entered the fort, the sea rose with that rapid, gusty
vehemence which characterizes the Mediterranean; the ill-humor of the
element became a tempest. Something shapeless, and tossed about
violently by the waves, appeared just off the coast.
"What is that?" said Athos, - "a wrecked boat?"
"No, it is not a boat," said D'Artagnan.
"Pardon me," said Raoul, "there is a bark gaining the port rapidly."
"Yes, there is a bark in the creek, which is prudently seeking shelter
here; but that which Athos points to in the sand is not a boat at all –
it has run aground."
"Yes, yes, I see it."
"It is the carriage, which I threw into the sea after landing the
"Well!" said Athos, "if you take my advice, D'Artagnan, you will burn
that carriage, in order that no vestige of it may remain, without which
the fishermen of Antibes, who have believed they had to do with the
devil, will endeavor to prove that your prisoner was but a man."
"Your advice is good, Athos, and I will this night have it carried out,
or rather, I will carry it out myself; but let us go in, for the rain
falls heavily, and the lightning is terrific."
As they were passing over the ramparts to a gallery of which D'Artagnan
had the key, they saw M. de Saint-Mars directing his steps towards the
chamber inhabited by the prisoner. Upon a sign from D'Artagnan, they
concealed themselves in an angle of the staircase.
"What is it?" said Athos.
"You will see. Look. The prisoner is returning from chapel."
And they saw, by the red flashes of lightning against the violet fog
which the wind stamped upon the bank-ward sky, they saw pass gravely, at
six paces behind the governor, a man clothed in black and masked by a
vizor of polished steel, soldered to a helmet of the same nature, which
altogether enveloped the whole of his head. The fire of the heavens cast
red reflections on the polished surface, and these reflections, flying
off capriciously, seemed to be angry looks launched by the unfortunate,
instead of imprecations. In the middle of the gallery, the prisoner
stopped for a moment, to contemplate the infinite horizon, to respire the
sulphurous perfumes of the tempest, to drink in thirstily the hot rain,
and to breathe a sigh resembling a smothered groan.
"Come on, monsieur," said Saint-Mars, sharply, to the prisoner, for he
already became uneasy at seeing him look so long beyond the walls.
"Monsieur, come on!"
"Say monseigneur!" cried Athos, from his corner, with a voice so solemn
and terrible, that the governor trembled from head to foot. Athos
insisted upon respect being paid to fallen majesty. The prisoner turned
"Who spoke?" asked Saint-Mars.
"It was I," replied D'Artagnan, showing himself promptly. "You know that
is the order."
"Call me neither monsieur nor monseigneur," said the prisoner in his
turn, in a voice that penetrated to the very soul of Raoul; "call me
ACCURSED!" He passed on, and the iron door croaked after him.
"There goes a truly unfortunate man!" murmured the musketeer in a hollow
whisper, pointing out to Raoul the chamber inhabited by the prince.
Scarcely had D'Artagnan re-entered his apartment with his two friends,
when one of the soldiers of the fort came to inform him that the governor
was seeking him. The bark which Raoul had perceived at sea, and which
appeared so eager to gain the port, came to Sainte-Marguerite with an
important dispatch for the captain of the musketeers. On opening it,
D'Artagnan recognized the writing of the king: "I should think," said
Louis XIV., "you will have completed the execution of my orders, Monsieur
d'Artagnan; return, then, immediately to Paris, and join me at the
"There is the end of my exile!" cried the musketeer with joy; "God be
praised, I am no longer a jailer!" And he showed the letter to Athos.
"So, then, you must leave us?" replied the latter, in a melancholy tone.
"Yes, but to meet again, dear friend, seeing that Raoul is old enough now
to go alone with M. de Beaufort, and will prefer his father going back in
company with M. d'Artagnan, to forcing him to travel two hundred leagues
solitarily to reach home at La Fere; will you not, Raoul?"
"Certainly," stammered the latter, with an expression of tender regret.
"No, no, my friend," interrupted Athos, "I will never quit Raoul till the
day his vessel disappears on the horizon. As long as he remains in
France he shall not be separated from me."
"As you please, dear friend; but we will, at least, leave Sainte-
Marguerite together; take advantage of the bark that will convey me back
"With all my heart; we cannot too soon be at a distance from this fort,
and from the spectacle that shocked us so just now."
The three friends quitted the little isle, after paying their respects to
the governor, and by the last flashes of the departing tempest they took
their farewell of the white walls of the fort. D'Artagnan parted from
his friend that same night, after having seen fire set to the carriage
upon the shore by the orders of Saint-Mars, according to the advice the
captain had given him. Before getting on horseback, and after leaving
the arms of Athos: "My friends," said he, "you bear too much resemblance
to two soldiers who are abandoning their post. Something warns me that
Raoul will require being supported by you in his rank. Will you allow me
to ask permission to go over into Africa with a hundred good muskets?
The king will not refuse me, and I will take you with me."
"Monsieur d'Artagnan," replied Raoul, pressing his hand with emotion,
"thanks for that offer, which would give us more than we wish, either
monsieur le comte or I. I, who am young, stand in need of labor of mind
and fatigue of body; monsieur le comte wants the profoundest repose. You
are his best friend. I recommend him to your care. In watching over
him, you are holding both our souls in your hands."
"I must go; my horse is all in a fret," said D'Artagnan, with whom the
most manifest sign of a lively emotion was the change of ideas in
conversation. "Come, comte, how many days longer has Raoul to stay here?"
"Three days at most."
"And how long will it take you to reach home?"
"Oh! a considerable time," replied Athos. "I shall not like the idea of
being separated too quickly from Raoul. Time will travel too fast of
itself to require me to aid it by distance. I shall only make half-
"And why so, my friend? Nothing is more dull than traveling slowly; and
hostelry life does not become a man like you."
"My friend, I came hither on post-horses; but I wish to purchase two
animals of a superior kind. Now, to take them home fresh, it would not
be prudent to make them travel more than seven or eight leagues a day."
"Where is Grimaud?"
"He arrived yesterday morning with Raoul's appointments; and I have left
him to sleep."
"That is, never to come back again," D'Artagnan suffered to escape him.
"Till we meet again, then, dear Athos - and if you are diligent, I shall
embrace you the sooner." So saying, he put his foot in the stirrup,
which Raoul held.
"Farewell!" said the young man, embracing him.
"Farewell!" said D'Artagnan, as he got into his saddle.
His horse made a movement which divided the cavalier from his friends.
This scene had taken place in front of the house chosen by Athos, near
the gates of Antibes, whither D'Artagnan, after his supper, had ordered
his horses to be brought. The road began to branch off there, white and
undulating in the vapors of the night. The horse eagerly respired the
salt, sharp perfume of the marshes. D'Artagnan put him to a trot; and
Athos and Raoul sadly turned towards the house. All at once they heard
the rapid approach of a horse's steps, and first believed it to be one
of those singular repercussions which deceive the ear at every turn in a
road. But it was really the return of the horseman. They uttered a cry
of joyous surprise; and the captain, springing to the ground like a young
man, seized within his arms the two beloved heads of Athos and Raoul. He
held them long embraced thus, without speaking a word, or suffering the
sigh which was bursting his breast to escape him. Then, as rapidly as he
had come back, he set off again, with a sharp application of his spurs to
the sides of his fiery horse.
"Alas!" said the comte, in a low voice, "alas! alas!"
"An evil omen!" on his side, said D'Artagnan to himself, making up for
lost time. "I could not smile upon them. An evil omen!"
The next day Grimaud was on foot again. The service commanded by M. de
Beaufort was happily accomplished. The flotilla, sent to Toulon by the
exertions of Raoul, had set out, dragging after it in little nutshells,
almost invisible, the wives and friends of the fishermen and smugglers
put in requisition for the service of the fleet. The time, so short,
which remained for father and son to live together, appeared to go by
with double rapidity, like some swift stream that flows towards
eternity. Athos and Raoul returned to Toulon, which began to be filled
with the noise of carriages, with the noise of arms, the noise of
neighing horses. The trumpeters sounded their spirited marches; the
drummers signalized their strength; the streets were overflowing with
soldiers, servants, and tradespeople. The Duc de Beaufort was
everywhere, superintending the embarkation with the zeal and interest of
a good captain. He encouraged the humblest of his companions; he scolded
his lieutenants, even those of the highest rank. Artillery, provisions,
baggage, he insisted upon seeing all himself. He examined the equipment
of every soldier; assured himself of the health and soundness of every
horse. It was plain that, light, boastful, egotistical, in his hotel,
the gentleman became the soldier again - the high noble, a captain - in
face of the responsibility he had accepted. And yet, it must be admitted
that, whatever was the care with which he presided over the preparations
for departure, it was easy to perceive careless precipitation, and the
absence of all the precaution that make the French solider the first
soldier in the world, because, in that world, he is the one most
abandoned to his own physical and moral resources. All things having
satisfied, or appearing to have satisfied, the admiral, he paid his
compliments to Raoul, and gave the last orders for sailing, which was
ordered the next morning at daybreak. He invited the comte had his son
to dine with him; but they, under a pretext of service, kept themselves
apart. Gaining their hostelry, situated under the trees of the great
Place, they took their repast in haste, and Athos led Raoul to the rocks
which dominate the city, vast gray mountains, whence the view is infinite
and embraces a liquid horizon which appears, so remote is it, on a level
with the rocks themselves. The night was fine, as it always is in these
happy climes. The moon, rising behind the rocks, unrolled a silver sheet
on the cerulean carpet of the sea. In the roadsteads maneuvered silently
the vessels which had just taken their rank to facilitate the
embarkation. The sea, loaded with phosphoric light, opened beneath the
hulls of the barks that transported the baggage and munitions; every dip
of the prow plowed up this gulf of white flames; from every oar dropped
liquid diamonds. The sailors, rejoicing in the largesses of the admiral,
were heard murmuring their slow and artless songs. Sometimes the
grinding of the chains was mixed with the dull noise of shot falling into
the holds. Such harmonies, such a spectacle, oppress the heart like
fear, and dilate it like hope. All this life speaks of death. Athos had
seated himself with his son, upon the moss, among the brambles of the
promontory. Around their heads passed and repassed large bats, carried
along by the fearful whirl of their blind chase. The feet of Raoul were
over the edge of the cliff, bathed in that void which is peopled by
vertigo, and provokes to self-annihilation. When the moon had risen to
its fullest height, caressing with light the neighboring peaks, when the
watery mirror was illumined in its full extent, and the little red fires
had made their openings in the black masses of every ship, Athos,
collecting all his ideas and all his courage, said:
"God has made all these things that we see, Raoul; He has made us also, -
poor atoms mixed up with this monstrous universe. We shine like those
fires and those stars; we sigh like those waves; we suffer like those
great ships, which are worn out in plowing the waves, in obeying the wind
that urges them towards an end, as the breath of God blows us towards a
port. Everything likes to live, Raoul; and everything seems beautiful to
"Monsieur," said Raoul, "we have before us a beautiful spectacle!"
"How good D'Artagnan is!" interrupted Athos, suddenly, "and what a rare
good fortune it is to be supported during a whole life by such a friend
as he is! That is what you have missed, Raoul."
"A friend!" cried Raoul, "I have wanted a friend!"
"M. de Guiche is an agreeable companion," resumed the comte, coldly, "but
I believe, in the times in which you live, men are more engaged in their
own interests and their own pleasures than they were in ours. You have
sought a secluded life; that is a great happiness, but you have lost your
strength thereby. We four, more weaned from those delicate abstractions
that constitute your joy, furnished much more resistance when misfortune
"I have not interrupted you, monsieur, to tell you that I had a friend,
and that that friend is M. de Guiche. _Certes_, he is good and generous,
and moreover he loves me. But I have lived under the guardianship of
another friendship, monsieur, as precious and as strong as that of which
you speak, since it is yours."
"I have not been a friend for you, Raoul," said Athos.
"Eh! monsieur, and in what respect not?"
"Because I have given you reason to think that life has but one face,
because, sad and severe, alas! I have always cut off for you, without,
God knows, wishing to do so, the joyous buds that spring incessantly
from the fair tree of youth; so that at this moment I repent of not
having made of you a more expansive, dissipated, animated man."
"I know why you say that, monsieur. No, it is not you who have made me
what I am; it was love, which took me at the time when children only have
inclinations; it is the constancy natural to my character, which with
other creatures is but habit. I believed that I should always be as I
was; I thought God had cast me in a path quite clear, quite straight,
bordered with fruits and flowers. I had ever watching over me your
vigilance and strength. I believed myself to be vigilant and strong.
Nothing prepared me; I fell once, and that once deprived me of courage
for the whole of my life. It is quite true that I wrecked myself. Oh,
no, monsieur! you are nothing in my past but happiness - in my future but
hope! No, I have no reproach to make against life such as you made it
for me; I bless you, and I love you ardently."
"My dear Raoul, your words do me good. They prove to me that you will
act a little for me in the time to come."
"I shall only act for you, monsieur."
"Raoul, what I have never hitherto done with respect to you, I will
henceforward do. I will be your friend, not your father. We will live
in expanding ourselves, instead of living and holding ourselves
prisoners, when you come back. And that will be soon, will it not?"
"Certainly, monsieur, for such an expedition cannot last long."
"Soon, then, Raoul, soon, instead of living moderately on my income, I
will give you the capital of my estates. It will suffice for launching
you into the world till my death; and you will give me, I hope, before
that time, the consolation of not seeing my race extinct."
"I will do all you may command," said Raoul, much agitated.
"It is not necessary, Raoul, that your duty as aide-de-camp should lead
you into too hazardous enterprises. You have gone through your ordeal;
you are known to be a true man under fire. Remember that war with Arabs
is a war of snares, ambuscades, and assassinations."
"So it is said, monsieur."
"There is never much glory in falling in an ambuscade. It is a death
which always implies a little rashness or want of foresight. Often,
indeed, he who falls in one meets with but little pity. Those who are
not pitied, Raoul, have died to little purpose. Still further, the
conqueror laughs, and we Frenchmen ought not to allow stupid infidels to
triumph over our faults. Do you clearly understand what I am saying to
you, Raoul? God forbid I should encourage you to avoid encounters."
"I am naturally prudent, monsieur, and I have very good fortune," said
Raoul, with a smile which chilled the heart of his poor father; "for,"
the young man hastened to add, "in twenty combats through which I have
been, I have only received one scratch."
"There is in addition," said Athos, "the climate to be dreaded: that is
an ugly end, to die of fever! King Saint-Louis prayed God to send him an
arrow or the plague, rather than the fever."
"Oh, monsieur! with sobriety, with reasonable exercise - "
"I have already obtained from M. de Beaufort a promise that his
dispatches shall be sent off every fortnight to France. You, as his aide-
de-camp, will be charged with expediting them, and will be sure not to
"No, monsieur," said Raoul, almost choked with emotion.
"Besides, Raoul, as you are a good Christian, and I am one also, we ought
to reckon upon a more special protection of God and His guardian angels.
Promise me that if anything evil should happen to you, on any occasion,
you will think of me at once."
"First and at once! Oh! yes, monsieur."
"And will call upon me?"
"You dream of me sometimes, do you not, Raoul?"
"Every night, monsieur. During my early youth I saw you in my dreams,
calm and mild, with one hand stretched out over my head, and that it was
which made me sleep so soundly - formerly."
"We love each other too dearly," said the comte, "that from this moment,
in which we separate, a portion of both our souls should not travel with
one and the other of us, and should not dwell wherever we may dwell.
Whenever you may be sad, Raoul, I feel that my heart will be dissolved in
sadness; and when you smile on thinking of me, be assured you will send
me, from however remote a distance, a vital scintillation of your joy."
"I will not promise you to be joyous," replied the young man; "but you
may be certain that I will never pass an hour without thinking of you,
not one hour, I swear, unless I shall be dead."
Athos could contain himself no longer; he threw his arm round the neck of
his son, and held him embraced with all the power of his heart. The moon
began to be now eclipsed by twilight; a golden band surrounded the
horizon, announcing the approach of the day. Athos threw his cloak over
the shoulders of Raoul, and led him back to the city, where burdens and
porters were already in motion, like a vast ant-hill. At the extremity
of the plateau which Athos and Bragelonne were quitting, they saw a dark
shadow moving uneasily backwards and forwards, as if in indecision or
ashamed to be seen. It was Grimaud, who in his anxiety had tracked his
master, and was there awaiting him.
"Oh! my good Grimaud," cried Raoul, "what do you want? You are come to
tell us it is time to be gone, have you not?"
"Alone?" said Grimaud, addressing Athos and pointing to Raoul in a tone
of reproach, which showed to what an extent the old man was troubled.
"Oh! you are right!" cried the comte. "No, Raoul shall not go alone; no,
he shall not be left alone in a strange land without some friendly hand
to support him, some friendly heart to recall to him all he loved!"
"I?" said Grimaud.
"You, yes, you!" cried Raoul, touched to the inmost heart.
"Alas!" said Athos, "you are very old, my good Grimaud."
"So much the better," replied the latter, with an inexpressible depth of
feeling and intelligence.
"But the embarkation is begun," said Raoul, "and you are not prepared."
"Yes," said Grimaud, showing the keys of his trunks, mixed with those of
his young master.
"But," again objected Raoul, "you cannot leave monsieur le comte thus
alone; monsieur le comte, whom you have never quitted?"
Grimaud turned his diamond eyes upon Athos and Raoul, as if to measure
the strength of both. The comte uttered not a word.
"Monsieur le comte prefers my going," said Grimaud.
"I do," said Athos, by an inclination of the head.
At that moment the drums suddenly rolled, and the clarions filled the air
with their inspiring notes. The regiments destined for the expedition
began to debouch from the city. They advanced to the number of five,
each composed of forty companies. Royals marched first, distinguished by
their white uniform, faced with blue. The _ordonnance_ colors, quartered
cross-wise, violet and dead leaf, with a sprinkling of golden _fleurs-de-
lis_, left the white-colored flag, with its _fleur-de-lised_ cross, to
dominate the whole. Musketeers at the wings, with their forked sticks
and their muskets on their shoulders; pikemen in the center, with their
lances, fourteen feet in length, marched gayly towards the transports,
which carried them in detail to the ships. The regiments of Picardy,
Navarre, Normandy, and Royal Vaisseau, followed after. M. de Beaufort
had known well how to select his troops. He himself was seen closing the
march with his staff - it would take a full hour before he could reach
the sea. Raoul with Athos turned his steps slowly towards the beach, in
order to take his place when the prince embarked. Grimaud, boiling with
the ardor of a young man, superintended the embarkation of Raoul's
baggage in the admiral's vessel. Athos, with his arm passed through that
of the son he was about to lose, absorbed in melancholy meditation, was
deaf to every noise around him. An officer came quickly towards them to
inform Raoul that M. de Beaufort was anxious to have him by his side.
"Have the kindness to tell the prince," said Raoul, "that I request he
will allow me this hour to enjoy the company of my father."
"No, no," said Athos, "an aide-de-camp ought not thus to quit his
general. Please to tell the prince, monsieur, that the vicomte will join
him immediately." The officer set off at a gallop.
"Whether we part here or part there," added the comte, "it is no less a
separation." He carefully brushed the dust from his son's coat, and
passed his hand over his hair as they walked along. "But, Raoul," said
he, "you want money. M. de Beaufort's train will be splendid, and I am
certain it will be agreeable to you to purchase horses and arms, which
are very dear things in Africa. Now, as you are not actually in the
service of the king or M. de Beaufort, and are simply a volunteer, you
must not reckon upon either pay or largesse. But I should not like you
to want for anything at Gigelli. Here are two hundred pistoles; if you
would please me, Raoul, spend them."
Raoul pressed the hand of his father, and, at the turning of a street,
they saw M. de Beaufort, mounted on a magnificent white _genet_, which
responded by graceful curvets to the applause of the women of the city.
The duke called Raoul, and held out his hand to the comte. He spoke to
him for some time, with such a kindly expression that the heart of the
poor father even felt a little comforted. It was, however, evident to
both father and son that their walk amounted to nothing less than a
punishment. There was a terrible moment - that at which, on quitting the
sands of the shore, the soldiers and sailors exchanged the last kisses
with their families and friends; a supreme moment, in which,
notwithstanding the clearness of the heavens, the warmth of the sun, of
the perfumes of the air, and the rich life that was circulating in their
veins, everything appeared black, everything bitter, everything created
doubts of Providence, nay, at the most, of God. It was customary for the
admiral and his suite to embark last; the cannon waited to announce, with
its formidable voice, that the leader had placed his foot on board his
vessel. Athos, forgetful of both the admiral and the fleet, and of his
own dignity as a strong man, opened his arms to his son, and pressed him
convulsively to his heart.
"Accompany us on board," said the duke, very much affected; "you will
gain a good half-hour."
"No," said Athos, "my farewell has been spoken, I do not wish to voice a
"Then, vicomte, embark - embark quickly!" added the prince, wishing to
spare the tears of these two men, whose hearts were bursting. And
paternally, tenderly, very much as Porthos might have done, he took Raoul
in his arms and placed him in the boat, the oars of which, at a signal,
immediately were dipped in the waves. He himself, forgetful of ceremony,
jumped into his boat, and pushed it off with a vigorous foot. "Adieu!"
Athos replied only by a sign, but he felt something burning on his hand:
it was the respectful kiss of Grimaud - the last farewell of the faithful
dog. This kiss given, Grimaud jumped from the step of the mole upon the
stem of a two-oared yawl, which had just been taken in tow by a _chaland_
served by twelve galley-oars. Athos seated himself on the mole, stunned,
deaf, abandoned. Every instant took from him one of the features, one of
the shades of the pale face of his son. With his arms hanging down, his
eyes fixed, his mouth open, he remained confounded with Raoul - in one
same look, in one same thought, in one same stupor. The sea, by degrees,
carried away boats and faces to that distance at which men become nothing
but points, - loves, nothing but remembrances. Athos saw his son ascend
the ladder of the admiral's ship, he saw him lean upon the rail of the
deck, and place himself in such a manner as to be always an object in the
eye of his father. In vain the cannon thundered, in vain from the ship
sounded the long and lordly tumult, responded to by immense acclamations
from the shore; in vain did the noise deafen the ear of the father, the
smoke obscured the cherished object of his aspirations. Raoul appeared
to him to the last moment; and the imperceptible atom, passing from black
to pale, from pale to white, from white to nothing, disappeared for Athos
- disappeared very long after, to all the eyes of the spectators, had
disappeared both gallant ships and swelling sails. Towards midday, when
the sun devoured space, and scarcely the tops of the masts dominated the
incandescent limit of the sea, Athos perceived a soft aerial shadow rise,
and vanish as soon as seen. This was the smoke of a cannon, which M. de
Beaufort ordered to be fired as a last salute to the coast of France.
The point was buried in its turn beneath the sky, and Athos returned with
slow and painful step to his deserted hostelry.
D'Artagnan had not been able to hide his feelings from his friends so
much as he would have wished. The stoical soldier, the impassive man-at-
arms, overcome by fear and sad presentiments, had yielded, for a few
moments, to human weakness. When, therefore, he had silenced his heart
and calmed the agitation of his nerves, turning towards his lackey, a
silent servant, always listening, in order to obey the more promptly:
"Rabaud," said he, "mind, we must travel thirty leagues a day."
"At your pleasure, captain," replied Rabaud.
And from that moment, D'Artagnan, accommodating his action to the pace of
the horse, like a true centaur, gave up his thoughts to nothing - that is
to say, to everything. He asked himself why the king had sent for him
back; why the Iron Mask had thrown the silver plate at the feet of
Raoul. As to the first subject, the reply was negative; he knew right
well that the king's calling him was from necessity. He still further
knew that Louis XIV. must experience an imperious desire for a private
conversation with one whom the possession of such a secret placed on a
level with the highest powers of the kingdom. But as to saying exactly
what the king's wish was, D'Artagnan found himself completely at a loss.
The musketeer had no doubts, either, upon the reason which had urged the
unfortunate Philippe to reveal his character and birth. Philippe, buried
forever beneath a mask of steel, exiled to a country where the men seemed
little more than slaves of the elements; Philippe, deprived even of the
society of D'Artagnan, who had loaded him with honors and delicate
attentions, had nothing more to see than odious specters in this world,
and, despair beginning to devour him, he poured himself forth in
complaints, in the belief that his revelations would raise up some
avenger for him. The manner in which the musketeer had been near killing
his two best friends, the destiny which had so strangely brought Athos to
participate in the great state secret, the farewell of Raoul, the
obscurity of the future which threatened to end in a melancholy death;
all this threw D'Artagnan incessantly back on lamentable predictions and
forebodings, which the rapidity of his pace did not dissipate, as it used
formerly to do. D'Artagnan passed from these considerations to the
remembrance of the proscribed Porthos and Aramis. He saw them both,
fugitives, tracked, ruined - laborious architects of fortunes they had
lost; and as the king called for his man of execution in hours of
vengeance and malice, D'Artagnan trembled at the very idea of receiving
some commission that would make his very soul bleed. Sometimes,
ascending hills, when the winded horse breathed hard from his red
nostrils, and heaved his flanks, the captain, left to more freedom of
thought, reflected on the prodigious genius of Aramis, a genius of acumen
and intrigue, a match to which the Fronde and the civil war had produced
but twice. Soldier, priest, diplomatist; gallant, avaricious, cunning;
Aramis had never taken the good things of this life except as stepping-
stones to rise to giddier ends. Generous in spirit, if not lofty in
heart, he never did ill but for the sake of shining even yet more
brilliantly. Towards the end of his career, at the moment of reaching
the goal, like the patrician Fuscus, he had made a false step upon a
plank, and had fallen into the sea. But Porthos, good, harmless
Porthos! To see Porthos hungry, to see Mousqueton without gold lace,
imprisoned, perhaps; to see Pierrefonds, Bracieux, razed to the very
stones, dishonored even to the timber, - these were so many poignant
griefs for D'Artagnan, and every time that one of these griefs struck
him, he bounded like a horse at the sting of a gadfly beneath the vaults
of foliage where he has sought shady shelter from the burning sun. Never
was the man of spirit subjected to _ennui_, if his body was exposed to
fatigue; never did the man of healthy body fail to find life light, if he
had something to engage his mind. D'Artagnan, riding fast, thinking as
constantly, alighted from his horse in Pairs, fresh and tender in his
muscles as the athlete preparing for the gymnasium. The king did not
expect him so soon, and had just departed for the chase towards Meudon.
D'Artagnan, instead of riding after the king, as he would formerly have
done, took off his boots, had a bath, and waited till his majesty should
return dusty and tired. He occupied the interval of five hours in
taking, as people say, the air of the house, and in arming himself
against all ill chances. He learned that the king, during the last
fortnight, had been gloomy; that the queen-mother was ill and much
depressed; that Monsieur, the king's brother, was exhibiting a devotional
turn; that Madame had the vapors; and that M. de Guiche was gone to one
of his estates. He learned that M. Colbert was radiant; that M. Fouquet
consulted a fresh physician every day, who still did not cure him, and
that his principal complaint was one which physicians do not usually
cure, unless they are political physicians. The king, D'Artagnan was
told, behaved in the kindest manner to M. Fouquet, and did not allow him
to be ever out of his sight; but the surintendant, touched to the heart,
like one of those fine trees a worm has punctured, was declining daily,
in spite of the royal smile, that sun of court trees. D'Artagnan learned
that Mademoiselle de la Valliere had become indispensable to the king;
that the king, during his sporting excursions, if he did not take her
with him, wrote to her frequently, no longer verses, but, which was much
worse, prose, and that whole pages at a time. Thus, as the political
Pleiad of the day said, the _first king in the world_ was seen descending
from his horse _with an ardor beyond compare_, and on the crown of his
hat scrawling bombastic phrases, which M. de Saint-Aignan, aide-de-camp
in perpetuity, carried to La Valliere at the risk of foundering his
horses. During this time, deer and pheasants were left to the free
enjoyment of their nature, hunted so lazily that, it was said, the art of
venery ran great risk of degenerating at the court of France. D'Artagnan
then thought of the wishes of poor Raoul, of that desponding letter
destined for a woman who passed her life in hoping, and as D'Artagnan
loved to philosophize a little occasionally, he resolved to profit by the
absence of the king to have a minute's talk with Mademoiselle de la
Valliere. This was a very easy affair; while the king was hunting,
Louise was walking with some other ladies in one of the galleries of the
Palais Royal, exactly where the captain of the musketeers had some guards
to inspect. D'Artagnan did not doubt that, if he could but open the
conversation on Raoul, Louise might give him grounds for writing a
consolatory letter to the poor exile; and hope, or at least consolation
for Raoul, in the state of heart in which he had left him, was the sun,
was life to two men, who were very dear to our captain. He directed his
course, therefore, to the spot where he knew he should find Mademoiselle
de la Valliere. D'Artagnan found La Valliere the center of the circle.
In her apparent solitude, the king's favorite received, like a queen,
more, perhaps, than the queen, a homage of which Madame had been so
proud, when all the king's looks were directed to her and commanded the
looks of the courtiers. D'Artagnan, although no squire of dames,
received, nevertheless, civilities and attentions from the ladies; he was
polite, as a brave man always is, and his terrible reputation had
conciliated as much friendship among the men as admiration among the
women. On seeing him enter, therefore, they immediately accosted him;
and, as is not unfrequently the case with fair ladies, opened the attack
by questions. "Where _had_ he been? What _had_ become of him so long?
Why had they not seen him as usual make his fine horse curvet in such
beautiful style, to the delight and astonishment of the curious from the
He replied that he had just come from the land of oranges. This set all
the ladies laughing. Those were times in which everybody traveled, but
in which, notwithstanding, a journey of a hundred leagues was a problem
often solved by death.
"From the land of oranges?" cried Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente. "From
"Eh! eh!" said the musketeer.
"From Malta?" echoed Montalais.
"_Ma foi!_ You are coming very near, ladies."
"Is it an island?" asked La Valliere.
"Mademoiselle," said D'Artagnan; "I will not give you the trouble of
seeking any further; I come from the country where M. de Beaufort is, at
this moment, embarking for Algiers."
"Have you seen the army?" asked several warlike fair ones.
"As plainly as I see you," replied D'Artagnan.
"And the fleet?"
"Yes, I saw everything."
"Have we any of us any friends there?" said Mademoiselle de Tonnay-
Charente, coldly, but in a manner to attract attention to a question that
was not without its calculated aim.
"Why," replied D'Artagnan, "yes; there were M. de la Guillotiere, M. de
Manchy, M. de Bragelonne - "
La Valliere became pale. "M. de Bragelonne!" cried the perfidious
Athenais. "Eh, what! - is he gone to the wars? - he!"
Montalais trod on her toe, but all in vain.
"Do you know what my opinion is?" continued she, addressing D'Artagnan.
"No, mademoiselle; but I should like very much to know it."
"My opinion is, then, that all the men who go to this war are desperate,
desponding men, whom love has treated ill; and who go to try if they
cannot find jet-complexioned women more kind than fair ones have been."
Some of the ladies laughed; La Valliere was evidently confused; Montalais
coughed loud enough to waken the dead.
"Mademoiselle," interrupted D'Artagnan, "you are in error when you speak
of black women at Gigelli; the women there have not jet faces; it is true
they are not white - they are yellow."
"Yellow!" exclaimed the bevy of fair beauties.
"Eh! do not disparage it. I have never seen a finer color to match with
black eyes and a coral mouth."
"So much the better for M. de Bragelonne," said Mademoiselle de Tonnay-
Charente, with persistent malice. "He will make amends for his loss.
A profound silence followed these words; and D'Artagnan had time to
observe and reflect that women - mild doves - treat each other more
cruelly than tigers. But making La Valliere pale did not satisfy
Athenais; she determined to make her blush likewise. Resuming the
conversation without pause, "Do you know, Louise," said she, "that there
is a great sin on your conscience?"
"What sin, mademoiselle?" stammered the unfortunate girl, looking round
her for support, without finding it.
"Eh! - why," continued Athenais, "the poor young man was affianced to
you; he loved you; you cast him off."
"Well, that is a right which every honest woman has," said Montalais, in
an affected tone. "When we know we cannot constitute the happiness of a
man, it is much better to cast him off."
"Cast him off! or refuse him! - that's all very well," said Athenais,
"but that is not the sin Mademoiselle de la Valliere has to reproach
herself with. The actual sin is sending poor Bragelonne to the wars; and
to wars in which death is so very likely to be met with." Louise pressed
her hand over her icy brow. "And if he dies," continued her pitiless
tormentor, "you will have killed him. That is the sin."
Louise, half-dead, caught at the arm of the captain of the musketeers,
whose face betrayed unusual emotion. "You wished to speak with me,
Monsieur d'Artagnan," said she, in a voice broken by anger and pain.
"What had you to say to me?"
D'Artagnan made several steps along the gallery, holding Louise on his
arm; then, when they were far enough removed from the others - "What I
had to say to you, mademoiselle," replied he, "Mademoiselle de Tonnay-
Charente has just expressed; roughly and unkindly, it is true but still
in its entirety."
She uttered a faint cry; pierced to the heart by this new wound, she went
her way, like one of those poor birds which, struck unto death, seek the
shade of the thicket in which to die. She disappeared at one door, at
the moment the king was entering by another. The first glance of the
king was directed towards the empty seat of his mistress. Not perceiving
La Valliere, a frown came over his brow; but as soon as he saw
D'Artagnan, who bowed to him - "Ah! monsieur!" cried he, "you _have_ been
diligent! I am much pleased with you." This was the superlative
expression of royal satisfaction. Many men would have been ready to lay
down their lives for such a speech from the king. The maids of honor and
the courtiers, who had formed a respectful circle round the king on his
entrance, drew back, on observing he wished to speak privately with his
captain of the musketeers. The king led the way out of the gallery,
after having again, with his eyes, sought everywhere for La Valliere,
whose absence he could not account for. The moment they were out of the
reach of curious ears, "Well! Monsieur d'Artagnan," said he, "the
"Is in his prison, sire."
"What did he say on the road?"
"What did he do?"
"There was a moment at which the fisherman - who took me in his boat to
Sainte-Marguerite - revolted, and did his best to kill me. The - the
prisoner defended me instead of attempting to fly."
The king became pale. "Enough!" said he; and D'Artagnan bowed. Louis
walked about his cabinet with hasty steps. "Were you at Antibes," said
he, "when Monsieur de Beaufort came there?"
"No, sire; I was setting off when monsieur le duc arrived."
"Ah!" which was followed by a fresh silence. "Whom did you see there?"
"A great many persons," said D'Artagnan, coolly.
The king perceived he was unwilling to speak. "I have sent for you,
monsieur le capitaine, to desire you to go and prepare my lodgings at
"At Nantes!" cried D'Artagnan.
"Yes, sire, it is in Bretagne. Will you majesty make so long a journey
as to Nantes?"
"The States are assembled there," replied the king. "I have two demands
to make of them: I wish to be there."
"When shall I set out?" said the captain.
"This evening - to-morrow - to-morrow evening; for you must stand in need
"I have rested, sire."
"That is well. Then between this and to-morrow evening, when you please."
D'Artagnan bowed as if to take his leave; but, perceiving the king very
much embarrassed, "Will you majesty," said he, stepping two paces
forward, "take the court with you?"
"Certainly I shall."
"Then you majesty will, doubtless, want the musketeers?" And the eye of
the king sank beneath the penetrating glance of the captain.
"Take a brigade of them," replied Louis.
"Is that all? Has your majesty no other orders to give me?"
"No - ah - yes."
"I am all attention, sire."
"At the castle of Nantes, which I hear is very ill arranged, you will
adopt the practice of placing musketeers at the door of each of the
principal dignitaries I shall take with me."
"Of the principal?"
"For instance, at the door of M. de Lyonne?"
"And that of M. Letellier?"
"Of M. de Brienne?"
"And of monsieur le surintendant?"
"Very well, sire. By to-morrow I shall have set out."
"Oh, yes; but one more word, Monsieur d'Artagnan. At Nantes you will
meet with M. le Duc de Gesvres, captain of the guards. Be sure that your
musketeers are placed before his guards arrive. Precedence always
belongs to the first comer."
"And if M. de Gesvres should question you?"
"Question me, sire! Is it likely that M. de Gesvres should question
me?" And the musketeer, turning cavalierly on his heel, disappeared.
"To Nantes!" said he to himself, as he descended from the stairs. "Why
did he not dare to say, from thence to Belle-Isle?"
As he reached the great gates, one of M. Brienne's clerks came running
after him, exclaiming, "Monsieur d'Artagnan! I beg your pardon - "
"What is the matter, Monsieur Ariste?"
"The king has desired me to give you this order."
"Upon your cash-box?" asked the musketeer.
"No, monsieur; on that of M. Fouquet."
D'Artagnan was surprised, but he took the order, which was in the king's
own writing, and was for two hundred pistoles. "What!" thought he, after
having politely thanked M. Brienne's clerk, "M. Fouquet is to pay for the
journey, then! _Mordioux!_ that is a bit of pure Louis XI. Why was not
this order on the chest of M. Colbert? He would have paid it with such
joy." And D'Artagnan, faithful to his principle of never letting an
order at sight get cold, went straight to the house of M. Fouquet, to
receive his two hundred pistoles.
The Last Supper.
The superintendent had no doubt received advice of the approaching
departure, for he was giving a farewell dinner to his friends. From the
bottom to the top of the house, the hurry of the servants bearing dishes,
and the diligence of the _registres_, denoted an approaching change in
offices and kitchen. D'Artagnan, with his order in his hand, presented
himself at the offices, when he was told it was too late to pay cash, the
chest was closed. He only replied: "On the king's service."
The clerk, a little put out by the serious air of the captain, replied,
that "that was a very respectable reason, but that the customs of the
house were respectable likewise; and that, in consequence, he begged the
bearer to call again next day." D'Artagnan asked if he could not see M.
Fouquet. The clerk replied that M. le surintendant did not interfere
with such details, and rudely closed the outer door in the captain's
face. But the latter had foreseen this stroke, and placed his boot
between the door and the door-case, so that the lock did not catch, and
the clerk was still nose to nose with his interlocutor. This made him
change his tone, and say, with terrified politeness, "If monsieur wishes
to speak to M. le surintendant, he must go to the ante-chambers; these
are the offices, where monseigneur never comes."
"Oh! very well! Where are they?" replied D'Artagnan.
"On the other side of the court," said the clerk, delighted to be free.
D'Artagnan crossed the court, and fell in with a crowd of servants.
"Monseigneur sees nobody at this hour," he was answered by a fellow
carrying a vermeil dish, in which were three pheasants and twelve quails.
"Tell him," said the captain, laying hold of the servant by the end of
his dish, "that I am M. d'Artagnan, captain of his majesty's musketeers."
The fellow uttered a cry of surprise, and disappeared; D'Artagnan
following him slowly. He arrived just in time to meet M. Pelisson in the
ante-chamber: the latter, a little pale, came hastily out of the dining-
room to learn what was the matter. D'Artagnan smiled.
"There is nothing unpleasant, Monsieur Pelisson; only a little order to
receive the money for."
"Ah!" said Fouquet's friend, breathing more freely; and he took the
captain by the hand, and, dragging him behind him, led him into the
dining-room, where a number of friends surrounded the surintendant,
placed in the center, and buried in the cushions of a _fauteuil_. There
were assembled all the Epicureans who so lately at Vaux had done the
honors of the mansion of wit and money in aid of M. Fouquet. Joyous
friends, for the most part faithful, they had not fled their protector at
the approach of the storm, and, in spite of the threatening heavens, in
spite of the trembling earth, they remained there, smiling, cheerful, as
devoted in misfortune as they had been in prosperity. On the left of the
surintendant sat Madame de Belliere; on his right was Madame Fouquet; as
if braving the laws of the world, and putting all vulgar reasons of
propriety to silence, the two protecting angels of this man united to
offer, at the moment of the crisis, the support of their twined arms.
Madame de Belliere was pale, trembling, and full of respectful attentions
for madame la surintendante, who, with one hand on her husband's, was
looking anxiously towards the door by which Pelisson had gone out to
bring D'Artagnan. The captain entered at first full of courtesy, and
afterwards of admiration, when, with his infallible glance, he had
divined as well as taken in the expression of every face. Fouquet raised
himself up in his chair.
"Pardon me, Monsieur d'Artagnan," said he, "if I did not myself receive
you when coming in the king's name." And he pronounced the last words
with a sort of melancholy firmness, which filled the hearts of all his
friends with terror.
"Monseigneur," replied D'Artagnan, "I only come to you in the king's name
to demand payment of an order for two hundred pistoles."
The clouds passed from every brow but that of Fouquet, which still
"Ah! then," said he, "perhaps you also are setting out for Nantes?"
"I do not know whither I am setting out, monseigneur."
"But," said Madame Fouquet, recovered from her fright, "you are not going
so soon, monsieur le capitaine, as not to do us the honor to take a seat
"Madame, I should esteem that a great honor done me, but I am so pressed
for time, that, you see, I have been obliged to permit myself to
interrupt your repast to procure payment of my note."
"The reply to which shall be gold," said Fouquet, making a sign to his
intendant, who went out with the order D'Artagnan handed him.
"Oh!" said the latter, "I was not uneasy about the payment; the house is
A painful smile passed over the pale features of Fouquet.
"Are you in pain?" asked Madame de Belliere.
"Do you feel your attack coming on?" asked Madame Fouquet.
"Neither, thank you both," said Fouquet.
"Your attack?" said D'Artagnan, in his turn; "are you unwell,
"I have a tertian fever, which seized me after the _fete_ at Vaux."
"Caught cold in the grottos, at night, perhaps?"
"No, no; nothing but agitation, that was all."
"The too much heart you displayed in your reception of the king," said La
Fontaine, quietly, without suspicion that he was uttering a sacrilege.
"We cannot devote too much heart to the reception of our king," said
Fouquet, mildly, to his poet.
"Monsieur meant to say the too great ardor," interrupted D'Artagnan, with
perfect frankness and much amenity. "The fact is, monseigneur, that
hospitality was never practiced as at Vaux."
Madame Fouquet permitted her countenance to show clearly that if Fouquet
had conducted himself well towards the king, the king had hardly done the
like to the minister. But D'Artagnan knew the terrible secret. He alone
with Fouquet knew it; those two men had not, the one the courage to
complain, the other the right to accuse. The captain, to whom the two
hundred pistoles were brought, was about to take his leave, when Fouquet,
rising, took a glass of wine, and ordered one to be given to D'Artagnan.
"Monsieur," said he, "to the health of the king, _whatever may happen_."
"And to your health, monseigneur, _whatever may happen_," said D'Artagnan.
He bowed, with these words of evil omen, to all the company, who rose as
soon as they heard the sound of his spurs and boots at the bottom of the
"I, for a moment, thought it was I and not my money he wanted," said
Fouquet, endeavoring to laugh.
"You!" cried his friends; "and what for, in the name of Heaven!"
"Oh! do not deceive yourselves, my dear brothers in Epicurus," said the
superintendent; "I do not wish to make a comparison between the most
humble sinner on the earth, and the God we adore, but remember, he gave
one day to his friends a repast which is called the Last Supper, and
which was nothing but a farewell dinner, like that which we are making at
A painful cry of denial arose from all parts of the table. "Shut the
doors," said Fouquet, and the servants disappeared. "My friends,"
continued Fouquet, lowering his voice, "what was I formerly? What am I
now? Consult among yourselves and reply. A man like me sinks when he
does not continue to rise. What shall we say, then, when he really
sinks? I have no more money, no more credit; I have no longer anything
but powerful enemies, and powerless friends."
"Quick!" cried Pelisson. "Since you explain yourself with such
frankness, it is our duty to be frank, likewise. Yes, you are ruined –
yes, you are hastening to your ruin - stop. And, in the first place,
what money have we left?"
"Seven hundred thousand livres," said the intendant.
"Bread," murmured Madame Fouquet.
"Relays," said Pelisson, "relays, and fly!"
"To Switzerland - to Savoy - but fly!"
"If monseigneur flies," said Madame Belliere, "it will be said that he
was guilty - was afraid."
"More than that, it will be said that I have carried away twenty millions
"We will draw up memoirs to justify you," said La Fontaine. "Fly!"
"I will remain," said Fouquet. "And, besides, does not everything serve
"You have Belle-Isle," cried the Abbe Fouquet.
"And I am naturally going there, when going to Nantes," replied the
superintendent. "Patience, then, patience!"
"Before arriving at Nantes, what a distance!" said Madame Fouquet.
"Yes, I know that well," replied Fouquet. "But what is to be done
there? The king summons me to the States. I know well it is for the
purpose of ruining me; but to refuse to go would be to evince uneasiness."
"Well, I have discovered the means of reconciling everything," cried
Pelisson. "You are going to set out for Nantes."
Fouquet looked at him with an air of surprise.
"But with friends; but in your own carriage as far as Orleans; in your
own barge as far as Nantes; always ready to defend yourself, if you are
attacked; to escape, if you are threatened. In fact, you will carry
your money against all chances; and, whilst flying, you will only have
obeyed the king; then, reaching the sea, when you like, you will embark
for Belle-Isle, and from Belle-Isle you will shoot out wherever it may
please you, like the eagle that leaps into space when it has been driven
from its eyrie."
A general assent followed Pelisson's words. "Yes, do so," said Madame
Fouquet to her husband.
"Do so," said Madame de Belliere.
"Do it! do it!" cried all his friends.
"I will do so," replied Fouquet.
"This very evening?"
"In an hour?"
"With seven hundred thousand livres you can lay the foundation of another
fortune," said the Abbe Fouquet.
"What is there to prevent our arming corsairs at Belle-Isle?"
"And, if necessary, we will go and discover a new world," added La
Fontaine, intoxicated with fresh projects and enthusiasm.
A knock at the door interrupted this concert of joy and hope. "A courier
from the king," said the master of the ceremonies.
A profound silence immediately ensued, as if the message brought by this
courier was nothing but a reply to all the projects given birth to a
moment before. Every one waited to see what the master would do. His
brow was streaming with perspiration, and he was really suffering from
his fever at that instant. He passed into his cabinet, to receive the
king's message. There prevailed, as we have said, such a silence in the
chambers, and throughout the attendance, that from the dining-room could
be heard the voice of Fouquet, saying, "That is well, monsieur." This
voice was, however, broken by fatigue, and trembled with emotion. An
instant after, Fouquet called Gourville, who crossed the gallery amidst
the universal expectation. At length, he himself re-appeared among his
guests; but it was no longer the same pale, spiritless countenance they
had beheld when he left them; from pale he had become livid; and from
spiritless, annihilated. A breathing, living specter, he advanced with
his arms stretched out, his mouth parched, like a shade that comes to
salute the friends of former days. On seeing him thus, every one cried
out, and every one rushed towards Fouquet. The latter, looking at
Pelisson, leaned upon his wife, and pressed the icy hand of the Marquise
"Well," said he, in a voice which had nothing human in it.
"What has happened, my God!" said some one to him.
Fouquet opened his right hand, which was clenched, but glistening with
perspiration, and displayed a paper, upon which Pelisson cast a terrified
glance. He read the following lines, written by the king's hand:
"'DEAR AND WELL-BELOVED MONSIEUR FOUQUET, - Give us, upon that which you
have left of ours, the sum of seven hundred thousand livres, of which we
stand in need to prepare for our departure.
"'And, as we know your health is not good, we pray God to restore you,
and to have you in His holy keeping.
"'The present letter is to serve as a receipt.'"
A murmur of terror circulated through the apartment.
"Well," cried Pelisson, in his turn, "you have received that letter?"
"Received it, yes!"
"What will you do, then?"
"Nothing, since I have received it."
"But - "
"If I have received it, Pelisson, I have paid it," said the surintendant,
with a simplicity that went to the heart of all present.
"You have paid it!" cried Madame Fouquet. "Then we are ruined!"
"Come, no useless words," interrupted Pelisson. "Next to money, life.
Monseigneur, to horse! to horse!"
"What, leave us!" at once cried both the women, wild with grief.
"Eh! monseigneur, in saving yourself, you save us all. To horse!"
"But he cannot hold himself on. Look at him."
"Oh! if he takes time to reflect - " said the intrepid Pelisson.
"He is right," murmured Fouquet.
"Monseigneur! Monseigneur!" cried Gourville, rushing up the stairs, four
steps at once. "Monseigneur!"
"I escorted, as you desired, the king's courier with the money."
"Well! when I arrived at the Palais Royal, I saw - "
"Take breath, my poor friend, take breath; you are suffocating."
"What did you see?" cried the impatient friends.
"I saw the musketeers mounting on horseback," said Gourville.
"There, then!" cried every voice at once; "there, then! is there an
instant to be lost?"
Madame Fouquet rushed downstairs, calling for her horses; Madame de
Belliere flew after her, catching her in her arms, and saying: "Madame,
in the name of his safety, do not betray anything, do not manifest alarm."
Pelisson ran to have the horses put to the carriages. And, in the
meantime, Gourville gathered in his hat all that the weeping friends were
able to throw into it of gold and silver - the last offering, the pious
alms made to misery by poverty. The surintendant, dragged along by some,
carried by others, was shut up in his carriage. Gourville took the
reins, and mounted the box. Pelisson supported Madame Fouquet, who had
fainted. Madame de Belliere had more strength, and was well paid for it;
she received Fouquet's last kiss. Pelisson easily explained this
precipitate departure by saying that an order from the king had summoned
the minister to Nantes.
In M. Colbert's Carriage.
As Gourville had seen, the king's musketeers were mounting and following
their captain. The latter, who did not like to be confined in his
proceedings, left his brigade under the orders of a lieutenant, and set
off on post horses, recommending his men to use all diligence. However
rapidly they might travel, they could not arrive before him. He had
time, in passing along the Rue des Petits-Champs, to see something which
afforded him plenty of food for thought and conjecture. He saw M.
Colbert coming out from his house to get into his carriage, which was
stationed before the door. In this carriage D'Artagnan perceived the
hoods of two women, and being rather curious, he wished to know the names
of the ladies hid beneath these hoods. To get a glimpse at them, for
they kept themselves closely covered up, he urged his horse so near the
carriage, that he drove him against the step with such force as to shake
everything containing and contained. The terrified women uttered, the
one a faint cry, by which D'Artagnan recognized a young woman, the other
an imprecation, in which he recognized the vigor and _aplomb_ that half a
century bestows. The hoods were thrown back: one of the women was Madame
Vanel, the other the Duchesse de Chevreuse. D'Artagnan's eyes were
quicker than those of the ladies; he had seen and known them, whilst they
did not recognize him; and as they laughed at their fright, pressing each
other's hands, -
"Humph!" said D'Artagnan, "the old duchesse is no more inaccessible to
friendship than formerly. _She_ paying her court to the mistress of M.
Colbert! Poor M. Fouquet! that presages you nothing good!"
He rode on. M. Colbert got into his carriage and the distinguished trio
commenced a sufficiently slow pilgrimage toward the wood of Vincennes.
Madame de Chevreuse set down Madame Vanel at her husband's house, and,
left alone with M. Colbert, chatted upon affairs whilst continuing her
ride. She had an inexhaustible fund of conversation, that dear duchesse,
and as she always talked for the ill of others, though ever with a view
to her own good, her conversation amused her interlocutor, and did not
fail to leave a favorable impression.
She taught Colbert, who, poor man! was ignorant of the fact, how great a
minister he was, and how Fouquet would soon become a cipher. She
promised to rally around him, when he should become surintendant, all the
old nobility of the kingdom, and questioned him as to the preponderance
it would be proper to allow La Valliere. She praised him, she blamed
him, she bewildered him. She showed him the secret of so many secrets
that, for a moment, Colbert thought he was doing business with the
devil. She proved to him that she held in her hand the Colbert of to-
day, as she had held the Fouquet of yesterday; and as he asked her very
simply the reason of her hatred for the surintendant: "Why do you
yourself hate him?" said she.
"Madame, in politics," replied he, "the differences of system oft bring
about dissentions between men. M. Fouquet always appeared to me to
practice a system opposed to the true interests of the king."
She interrupted him. - "I will say no more to you about M. Fouquet. The
journey the king is about to take to Nantes will give a good account of
him. M. Fouquet, for me, is a man gone by - and for you also."
Colbert made no reply. "On his return from Nantes," continued the
duchesse, "the king, who is only anxious for a pretext, will find that
the States have not behaved well - that they have made too few
sacrifices. The States will say that the imposts are too heavy, and that
the surintendant has ruined them. The king will lay all the blame on M.
Fouquet, and then - "
"And then?" said Colbert.
"Oh! he will be disgraced. Is not that your opinion?"
Colbert darted a glance at the duchesse, which plainly said: "If M.
Fouquet be only disgraced, you will not be the cause of it."
"Your place, M. Colbert," the duchesse hastened to say, "must be a high
place. Do you perceive any one between the king and yourself, after the
fall of M. Fouquet?"
"I do not understand," said he.
"You _will_ understand. To what does your ambition aspire?"
"I have none."
Back to Full Books