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"Tell me," continued Winter, possessed by the same idea, "is
there not a tradition in France that Henry IV., the evening
before the day he was assassinated, when he was playing at
chess with M. de Bassompierre, saw spots of blood on the
chessboard?" »

"Yes," said Athos, "the Marshal often told me so himself."

"Then it was so," murmured Winter, "and the next day
Henry IV. was killed."

"But what has this vision of Henry IV. to do with you, my
lord?" inquired Aramis.

"Nothing; and, indeed, I am mad to amuse you with such
things, when your coming to my tent at such an hour an-
nounces that you are the bearers of important news."

''Yes, my lord," said Athos. "I wish to speak to the King;
I have something important to reveal to him."

"Cannot that be put off till to-morrow?"

"He must know it this moment; and, perhaps it is already
too late."

"Come, then," said Lord Winter.

Lord Winter's tent was pitched by the side of the royal one;
a kind of corridor communicating^ guarded, not by a sentinel,
but by a confidential servant, through whom in any case of
urgency Charles could communicate instantly with his faith-
ful subject.

"These gentlemen are with me," said Winter.

The lackey bowed and let them pass. As he had said, on
a camp-bed, dressed in his black doublet, booted, unbelted,
with his felt hat beside him, lay the King, overcome by sleep
and fatigue. They^ advanced, and Athos, who was first to enter,
gazed a moment in silence on that pale and noble face, en-
circled by his long and matty dark hair, the blue veins showing
through his transparent skin; his eyes seemingly swollen by

Athos sighed deeply; the sigh awoke the King — so lightly did
he sleep.

He opened his eyes.

"Ah !" said he, raising himself on his elbow, "is it you. Count
de la Fere?"

"Yes, sire," replied Athos.

"You were watching me while I slept, and you come to bring
me some news?"


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**AIas! sire," answered Aihos, "your majesty has guessed

"Then it is bad news?"

"Yes, sire."

"Never mind! the messenger is welcome, and you never come
here without giving me pleasure. You, whose devotion recog-
nizes neither country nor misfortune; you, who are sent to me
by Henrietta; whatever news you bring, speak out."

"Sire, Cromwell has arrived this night at Newcastle."

;;Ah!" exclaimed the King, "to fight?''

"No, sire, but to purchase your majesty, who owes four
hundred thousand pounds to the Scottish Army."

"For unpaid wages— yes, I know it. For the last year my
faithful Highlanders have fought for honor alone."

Athos smiled.

"Well, sire! although honor is a fine thing, they are tired
of fighting for it, and to-night they have sold you for two hun-
dred thousand pounds — ^that is to say, the half of what is owing
to them.

"Impossible!" cried the King; "the Scotch sell their King
for two hundred thousand pounds? and who is the Judas who
has concluded this infamous bargain?"

"Lord Leven."

The King sighed deeply, as if his heart would break, and
then buried his face in his hands.

"Oh! the Scotch," he exclaimed; "the Scotch that I called
'my faithful,* to whom I trusted myself, when I could have
fled to Oxford — ^the Scotch ! — ^my own countrymen — ^the Scotch !
my brothers! But are you well assured of it, sir?"

"Lying behind the tent of Lord Leven, I raised the canvas,
and saw and heard all!"

"And when is this to be consummated?"

"To-day; this morning; so your majesty must perceive there
is no time to lose!"

"To do what? since you say I am sold."

"To cross the Tyne, reach Scotland, and join Lord Montrose,
who will not sell you."

"And what shall I wage in Scotland? a war of partizans,
unworthy of a king."

"Robert Bruce's example will absolve you, sire."

"No! no, I have fought too long; they have sold me, they
shall give me up, and the eternal shame of their treason shall
fall on their heads."

"Sire," said Athos, "perhaps a king should act thus, but
not a husband and a father. I have come in the name of your
wife and daughter and two other ^ children you have still in
London, and I say to you, *Live, sire, God wills it !' "

The King raised himself, buckled on his belt, and passing
his handkerchief over his moist forehead, said:

"Well, what is to be done?"


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"Sire, have you in the army even one regiment on which
you may rely?"

'Winter," said the King, "do you believe in the fidelity of

"Sire, they are but men, and men are become both weak and
wicked. I will not answer for them. I would confide my life
to them, but I should hesitate ere I confided to them your

"Well!" said Athos, "since you have not a regiment, we
three devoted men must be enough. Let your majesty mount
and place yourself in the midst of us, and we will cross the
T)aie, reach Scotland, and you are saved."

"As you all wish, then. Winter, give all the necessary

Winter left the tent; in the meantime the King finished
dressing. The first rays of daybreak penetrated through the
apertures of the tent as Winter re-entered it.

"All is ready, sire," said he.

"For us also?" inquired Athos.

"Grimaud and Blaisois are holding your horses, ready sad-

"In that case," exclaimed Athos, "let us not lose an instant
in setting oflF!"

"Come," added the King.

"Sire,* said Aramis, "will not your piajesty acquaint some of
your friends of this?"

"My friends!" answered Charles, sadly, "I have but three;
one of twenty years, who has never forgotten me, and two of
a week's standing, whom I shall never forget Come, gentle-
men, come."

The King quitted his tent, and found his horse ready, waiting
for him. It was a chestnut that the King had ridden for
three years, and of which he was very fond. It neighed with
delight at seeing him.

"Ah!" said the King, "I was unjust; here is a creature that
loves me. You, at least, will be faithful to me, Arthur."

The horse, as if it had understood those words, bent its red
nostrils towards the King's face, and parting its lips, displayed
all its white teeth as if with pleasure.

"Yes, yes," said the King, caressing it with his hand, "yes,
my Arthur, you are a good creature."

After this little scene, Charles threw himself into the saddle,
and, turning to Atfios, Aramis, and Winter, said:

"Now, gentlemen, I am at your service."

But Athos was standing with his eyes fixed on a black line
which bordered the banks of the Tyne, and seemed to extend
double the length of the camp.

"What is that line?" cried Athos, as vision was still rather
obscured by the uncertain daybreak. "What is that line? I
did not perceive it yesterday."


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"It must be the fog rising from the river," said the King.

"Sire, it is something more opaque than the fog."

"Indeed," said Winter. "It appears to me like a bar of
red color."

"It i&^ the enemy, who have made a sortie from Newcastle,
and are surrounding us!" exclaimed Athos.

"The enemy!" cried the iCing.

"Yes, the enemy. It is too late. Stop a moment; does not
that sunbeam yonder, just by the side of the town, glitter on
Cromwell's guard, the Ironsides?"

"Ah!" said the King, "we shall soon prove whether my High-
landers have betrayed me or not."

"What are you going to do?" asked Athos.

"To give them the order to charge, and trample over these
miserable rebels."

And the King, putting spurs to his horse, set off to the tent
of Lord Leven.

"Follow him," said Athos.

"Come!" exclaimed Aramis.

"Is the King wounded?" cried Lord Winter, "I see spots of
blood on the ground;" and he set off to follow the two friends.

He was stopped by Athos.

"Go and call out your regirnent," said he, "I can foresee
that we shall have need of it directly."

Winter turned his horse, and the two friends rode on. It
had taken but two minutes for the King to reach the tent of
the Scotch commander; he dismounted and entered.

"The King!" they exclaimed, as they all rose in bewilder-

Charles was indeed in the midst of them; his hat on his
head, his brows bent, striking his boot with his riding whip.

"Yes, gentlemien, the King, in person, come to ask an ac-
count of all that has happened."

"What is it, sire?" exclaimed Lord Leven.

"My lord," said the King angrily, "General Cromwell has
arrived at Newcastle; you knew it, and I have not been in-
formed of it; the enemy have left the town, and are now clos-
ing the passages of the Tyne against us; our sentinels have
seen this movement, and I have been left unacquainted with
it. By an infamous treaty, you have sold me for two hun-
dred thousand pounds to the Parliament. Of this treaty at
least I have been warned. This is the matter, gentlemen, an-
swer and exculpate yourselves, for I stand here to accuse you."

"Sire," said Lord Leven, with hesitation, "sire, your majesty
has been deceived by a false report."

"My own eyes have seen the enemy extend itself between
myself and Scotland. With my own ears almost, I have heard
the clauses of the treaty debated."

The Scotch chieftains looked at each other in their turn with
frowning brows.


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"Sire," faltered Lord Leven, crushed down by shame; "sire,
we are ready to give you every proof of our fidelity."

"I ask but one," said the King; "put the army in battle array,
and charge the enemy."

"That cannot be, sire," said the earL 'There is a truce be-
tween us and the English army."

"But if there were, the English army has broken it in leav-
ing the town, contrary to the agreement which kept it there.
Now, I tell you, you must pass with me through this army
across to Scotland, and if you refuse, you may choose between
two names which the contempt of all honest men will brand
you with, you are either cowards or traitors!"

The eyes of the Scotch flashed fire; and, as often happens
^ on such occasions, from shame they passed to extreme ef-
frontery, and two chieftains of clans advanced towards the

"Ay," said they, "we have promised to deliver Scotland and
England from him who for the last five-and-twenty years has
sucked the blood and gold of Scotland and England. We
have promised, and we will keep our promise. Charles Stuart
you are our prisoner."

And both extended their hands as if to seize the King; but
before they could touch him with the tips of their fingers,
both had fallen — one dead and the other stunned.

Aramis had passed his sword through the body of the first,
and Athos had knocked down the other with the butt-end of
his pistol.

Then, as Lord Leven and the 'other chieftains retired,
alarmed at this unexpected succor, which seemed to fall from
Heaven for him whom they believed already their prisoner,
Athos and Aramis dragged the King from the perjured assem-
bly, into which he had so imprudently ventured, and throwing
themselves on horseback, all three returned at full gallop to the
royal tent.

On their road they perceived Lord Winter marching at the
head of his regiment. The King motioned him to accompany



They all four entered the tent; they had no plan ready, and
had to think of one.

The King threw himself into an arm-chair. **I am lost;"
said he.

"No, sire," replied Athos ; "you are only betrayed."

The King sighed deeply.
, "Betrayed I yes-— betrayed by the Scotch, amongst whom I


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was born; whom I have always loved better than the English.
Oh, traitors that ye are!"

"Sire," said Athos, **this is not a moment for recrimination,
but a time to show yourself a King and a gentleman. Up,
sire, up! for you have here at least three men who will not
betray you. Ah! if we had been five!" murmured Athos,
thinking of d'Artagnan and Porthos.

"What are you saying?" inquired Charles, rising.

**I said, sire, there is more than one thing open. Lord Winter
answered for his regiment, or at least very nearly so — ^we
will not split hairs about words — let him place himself at the
head of his men, we will place ourselves at the side of your
majesty and let us cut through Cromwell's army and reach

"There is another method,*' said Aramis. "Let one of us
put on the dress and mount the Kling's horse. Whilst they
pursue him the King might escape."

"It is good advice," said Athos, **and if the King will da
either of us the honor, we shall be truly grateful to him."

"What do you think of this counsel. Winter?" asked the
King, looking with admiration at these two men, whose chief
idea seemed to be how they could take on their own shoulders
all the dangers which threatened him.

"I think that the only chance/ of saving your majesty has
just been proposed by M. d'Herblay. I humbly entreat your
majesty to choose quickly, for we have not a moment to lose."

"But if I accept, it is death, or at least imprisonment, for
him who takes my place."

*^Jt is the glory of having saved his King!" cried Winter.

The King looked at his old friend with tears in his eyes,
undid the order of the Saint-Esprit which he wore, to honor
the two Frenchmen who were with him, and passed it round
Winter's neck, who received, on his knees, this striking proof
of his sovereign's confidence and friendship.

"It is right," said Athos; "he has served your majesty longer
than we have."

Th<5 King overheard these words, and turned round, with
tears in his eyes.

"Wait a moment, sirs," said he; "I have an order for each of
you also."

He turned to a closet where his own orders were locked up,
and took out two ribbons of the Order of the Garter.

"These cannot be for us?" said Athos.

"Why not, sir?" asked Charles.

"Such are for royalty, and we are but nobles."

"Speak not of crowned heads. I shall not find amongst them
such great hearts as yours. No,^ no, you do yourselves in-
justice; but I am here to do justice to you. On your knees.

Athos knelt down, and the King passed the ribbon from left


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to right as usual, and said: **I make you a knight Be brave,
faithful and loyal. You are brave, faithful, and loyal. I knight
you, Coimt."

Then, turning to Aramis, he said :

"It is now your turn, Chevalier."

The same ceremony recommenced, with the same words,
whilst Winter unlaced his buflF outcoat that he might disguise
himself like a king. Charles, having ended with Aramis the
same as Athos, embraced them both.

"Sire," said Winter, who in this trying emergency felt all
his strength and energy fire up, "we are ready.'

The King looked at the three gentlemen. "Then we must
fly!" said he.

"Fly through an army, sire?" said Athos.

"Then I shall die sword in hand," said Charles. "If ever I
am King again!"

"Sire, you have already honored us more than nobles could
ever aspire to, therefore gratitude is on our side. But we must
not lose time; we have already wasted too much."

The King again shook hands with all three, exchanged hats
with Winter, and went out.

Winter's regiment had ranged on some high ground above
the camp. The King, followed by the three friends, turned
his steps that way. The Scotch camp seemed as if at last
awakened; the soldiers had come out of their tents, and taken
up their station in battle array.

"Do you see that?" said the King. "Perhaps they are peni-
tent, and preparing to march."

"If they are penitent," said Athos, "let them follow us." x

"Well!" said the King, "what shall we do?"

"Let us examine the enemy's army."

At the same instant the eyes of the little group were fixed on
the same line which at daybreak they had mistaken for fog, and
which the morning sun now plainly showed was an armjr in
order of battle. The air was soft and clear, as it always is at
this hour of the morning. The regiments, the standards, and
even the colors of the horses and uniforms were now clearly

On the summit of a rising ground, a little in advance of the
enemy, appeared a short and heavy-looking man; this man was
surrounded by officers. ^ He turned a spy-glass towards the
little group amongst which the King stood.

"Does this man know your majesty personally?" inquired

Charles smiled.

"That man is Cromwell!" said he.

"Ah!" said Athos, "how much time we have lost."

**Now," said the King, "give the word, let us start"

"Will you not give it, sire?" asked Athos.

"No; I make you my lieutenant-general," said the King.


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"Listen, then, Lord Winter. Proceed, sire, I beg. What
we are going to say does not concern your majesty."

The King, smiling, turned a few steps back.

**This is what I propose to do," said Athos. "We will divide
our regiment into two squadrons. You will put yourself at the
head of the first; we and his majesty at the head of the
second. If no obstacles occur, we will both charge together,
force the enemy's line, and throw ourselves into the Tyne,
which we must cross, either by fording or swimming; if, on
the contrary, any repulse should take place, you and your men
must fight to the last man, whilst we and the King proceed
on our road. Once arrived at the brink of the river, should we
even find them three ranks deep, as long as you and your
regiment do your duty, we will look to the rest."

"To horse!" said Lord Winter.

"To horse!" re-echoed Athos; "all is arranged and decided."

"Now, gentlemen," cried the King, "forward! and rally to
the old war cry of France— Mont joye and St Denis. The war
cry of England is too often in the mouths of those traitors."

The Scotch army stood motionless and silent with shame
on viewing these preparations.

Some of the chieftains left the ranks, and broke their swords
in two.

"There," said the King, "that consoles me; they are not all

At this moment Winter's voice was raised with the cry of

The first squadron moved off; the second followed it, and
descended from the platform. A regiment of cuirassiers, nearly
equal as to numbers, issued from behind the hill, and came
full gallop towards it.

The King pointed this out.

"Sire," said Athos, "we foresaw this, and if Lord Winter's i
men do their duty, we are saved instead of lost."

At this moment they heard, above all the galloping and ndgh-
ing of the horses. Winter's voice crying out:

"Sword in hand!"

At these words every sword was drawn, and glittered in the
air like lightning.

"Now, gentlemen," said the King in his turn, excited by this
sight, and the sound of it, "come, gentlemen, sword in hand!"

But Aramis and Athos were the only ones to obey this com-
mand and the King's example.

"We are betrayed," said the King, in a low voice.

"Wait a moment," said Athos, "perhaps they do not recog-
nize your majest3r's voice, and await the order of the captain."

"Hs^ve they^ not heard that of their colonel? But look! look!"
cried the King, drawing up his horse with a sudden jerk,
which threw it back on its haunches, and seizing the bridle of
Athos' horse.


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"Ah, cowards! ah, traitors!" cried out Lord Winter, whose
voice they heard, whilst his men, quitting their ranks, dis-
persed all over the plain.

About a dozen men were ranged around him and awaited the
charge of Cromwell's guards.

"Let us go and die with them!" said the King.

"Let us go," said Athos and Aramis.

"All faithful hearts with me!" cried out Winter.

This voice was heard by the two friends who set off at full

"No quarter," shouted a voice in French, answering to that of
Winter, which made them tremble.

It was a roundhead mounted on a magnificent black horse,
who was charging at the head of the English regiment, of
which in his ardor he was ten steps in advance.

" 'Tis he!" murmured Winter, his eyes glazed, and letting his
sword fall to his side.

"The King! the King!" cried out several voices, deceived by
the blue ribbon, and the chestnut horse of Winter; "take him

"No! it is not the King!" exclaimed the horseman. "Lord
Winter, you are not the King; you are my uncle."

At the same moment, Mordaunt, for it was he, cocked his
pistol at Winter, the fire flashed, and the ball entered the
heart of the old cavalier, who, with one bound on his saddle,
fell back into the arms of Athos, murmuring, "He is revenged."

"Think of my mother!" shouted Mordaunt, as his horse
plunged and darted off at full gallop.

"Wretch!" exclaimed Aramis, raising his pistol, as he passed
by him; but the fire flashed in the pan, and did not go off.

At this moment the whole regiment came up, and fell upon
the few men who had held out, surrounding the two Frenchmen.
Athos, after making sure that Lord Winter was really dead,
let fall the corpse, and said:

"Come, Aramis, now for the honor of France," and the two
Englishmen, who were nearest them, fell mortally wounded.

At the same moment a fearful "hurrah!" rent the air and
thirty blades glittered above their heads.

Suddenly a man sprang out of the English ranks, fell upon
Athos, entwining his muscular arms around him, and tearing
his sword from him, said in his ear:

"Silence! yield yourself— you yield to me; do you not?"

A giant had seized also Aramis' two wrists, who struggled in
vain to release himself from this formidable grasp.

"D'Ar '" exclaimed Athos, whilst the Gascon covered his

mouth with his hand.

"I yield myself prisoner," said Aramis, giving up his sword
to Porthos.

"Fire! fire!" cried out Mordaunt, returning to the group of


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"And wherefore fire?" said 'the colonel; everyone has

"It is the son of My lady," said Athos to d'Artagnan, **I
recognize him."

"It is the monk," whispered Porthos to Aramis.

•*I know it."

And now the ranks began to open. D^Artagnan held the
bridle of Athos' horse, and Porthos that of Aramis. Both of
them attempted to lead his prisoner off the battlefield.

This movement revealed the spot where Winter's l?ody had
fallen. Mordaunt had found it out, and was gazing at it
with an expression of hatred.

Athos, though now qtute cool and collected, put his hand to
his belt, where his loaded pistol still remained.

"What are you about?" said d'Artagnan.

"Let me kill him."

"We are all four lost, if, by the least gesture, you discover
that you recognize him."

Then turning to the young man, he exclaimed :

"A fine prize! friend Mordaunt; we have, both myself and
M. du Vallon, taken two knights of the Garter, nothing less.

"But," said Mordaunt, looking at Athos and Aramis with
bloodshot eyes, "these are Frenchmen, I imagine."

"Tfaith, I don't know. Are you French, sir?" said he to

"I am," replied the latter gravely.

"Very well, my dear sir! you are the prisoner of a fellow

"But the King — ^where is the ICing?" exclaimed Athos anx-

"Oh! we have got him."

"Yes," said Aramis, "through an infamous act of treason."

Porthos pressed his friend's hand, and said to him:

"Yes, sir, all is fair in war, stratagem as well as force. Look

At this instant the squadron — ^that ought to have protected
Charles* retreat — was advancing to meet the English regi-
ments. The King, who was entirely surrounded, walked alone
on foot. He appeared calm, but it was evidently not without
a great effort. Drops of perspiration rolled down his face;
and from time to time he put a handkerchief to his mouth,
to wipe off the blood that flowed from it.

"Behold Nebuchadnezzar!" exclaimed an old Puritan
trooper whose eyes flashed at the sight of one whom he called
the tyrant.

"Do you call him Nebuchadnezzar?'/ said Mordaunt, with
a terrible smile; "no, it is Charles the First, the good King
Charles, who despoils his subjects to enrich himself."

Charles glanced a moment at the insolent creature who ut-
tered this, but he did not recognize him. Nevertheless, the


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calm and religious dignity of his countenance abashed Mor-

"Good morning, gentlemen," said the King to the two gentle-
men who were held by d'Artagnan and Porthos. "The day
has been unfortunate, but it is not your fault, thank God ! But
where is my old friend. Winter?"

The two gentlemen turned away their heads in silence.

"Look for him where Strafford rots," Mordaunt shrilly an-

Charles shuddered. The demon had known how to wound
him. The remembrance of Strafford was a source of lasting
remorse to him — ^the shadow that haunted him by day and

Online LibraryAlexandre DumasTwenty years after → online text (page 25 of 38)