Copyright
Alexandre Dumas.

Twenty years after online

. (page 26 of 38)
Online LibraryAlexandre DumasTwenty years after → online text (page 26 of 38)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


night. The King looked around him. He saw a corpse at
his feet; it was Winter's. He uttered not a word nor shed a
tear, but a deadly pallor spread over his face; he knelt down
on the ground, raised Winter's head, and unfastening the
order of the Saint-Esprit, placed it on his own breast.

"Lord Winter is killed, then?" inquired d'Artagnan, fixing
his eyes on the corpse.

"Yes," said Athos, "by his own nephew."

"Come, he was the first of us to go; peace be to him! he
was an honest man," said d'Artagnan.

"Charles Stuart," said the colonel of the English regiment,
approaching the King, who had just put on the insignia of
royalty, "do you yield yourself a prisoner?"

"Colonel Tomlinson," said Charles, "the King cannot 3rieldl
the man alone submits to force."

"Your sword."

The King drew his sword and broke it on his knee.

At this moment a horse without a rider, covered with foam,
his nostrils extended, and his eyes all fire, galloped past, and
recognizing his master, stopped and neighed with pleasure;
it was Arthur.

The King smiled, patted it with his hand, and then jumped
lightly into the saddle.

"Now, gentlemen," said he, "conduct me where you will."

Turning back again he said, "I thought I saw Winter move;
if he still lives, by all you hold most sacred, do not abandon
him."

"Never fret. King Charles," said Mordaunt, "my bullet
pierced his heart."

"Do not breathe a word, nor make the least sign to me or
Porthos," said d'Artagnan to Athos and Aramis, "that you
recognize this man, for My lady is not dead; her soul lives in
the body of this fiend."

The detachment moved towards the town with the royal
captive; but on the road an aide-de-camp from Cromwell sent
orders that Colonel Tomlinson should conduct him to Hold-
enby Castle.

At the same time couriers started in every direction over



Digitized



by Google



24^ TWENTY YEARS AFTER.

England and Europe, to announce that Charles Stuart was
now the pnsoner of Oliver Cromwell, while the Scotch looked
on with sheathed claymores and groimded muskets*



CHAPTER LV.

WJVER CROMWELL.

"Have you been to the general?" said Mordaunt to d'Ar-
tagnan and Porthos; *'you know he sent for you after the
action."

"We went first to put our prisoners in safety," replied d'Ar-
tagnan. "Do you know, sir, these gentlemen are each of them
worth fifteen hundred pounds?"

"Oh! be assured," said Mordaunt, looking at them with an ex-
pression he in vain endeavored to soften, "my soldiers will
guard them—and guard them well, I promise you."

"I shall take better care of them myself," answered d'Artag-
nan; "besides, all they require is a good room, with sentinels,
from which their parole is enough Qiat they will not attempt
to escape. I will go and see about that, and then we shall
have the honor of presenting ourselves to your general, and
receiving his commands for his Eminence."

"You are thinking of starting home soon, then?" inquired
Mordaunt

"Our mission is ended, and there is nothing more to retain
us now but the good pleasure of the great man to whom we
have been sent."

The young man bit his lips, and whispered to his sergeant:

"You will follow these men, and not lose sight of them;
when you have discovered where they lodge, come and await
me at the town gate."

The sergeant nodded that he should be obeyed.

Instead of following the mass of prisoners taken into the
town, Mordaunt turned his steps towards the rising ground
whence Cromwell had witnessed the battle, and on which he
had just had his tent pitched.

Cromwell had given orders that no one was to enter it;
but the sentinel, who knew that Mordaunt was one of his con-
fidential friends, thought the order did not extend to him.
Mordaunt, therefore, raised the canvas flap, and saw Crom-
well seated before a table, his head buried in his hands; his
back was turned to him.

Whether he heard Mordaunt or not as he entered, Crom-
well did not move. Mordaunt remained standing near the
door. At last, after a few moments, Cromwell raised his head,
and, as if he divined that someone was there, he turned
slowly around.



Digitized



by Google



TWENTY YEARS AFTER. 24?

**I said I wished to be alone!" he exclaimed, on seeing the
young man.

"They thought this order did not concern me, sir; never-
theless, if you wish it, I am ready to go."

"Ah! it is you, Mordaunt!" said Cromwell, the cloud pass-
ing away by force of will, "since you are here, it is well, you
may remain."

"I come to congratulate you on the capture of Charles
Stuart. You are now master of England."

"I was much more really so two hours ago."

"How so, general?"

"Because England had need of me to take the tjrant, and
now the tyrant is taken. Have you seen him?"

"Yes, sir," said Mordaunt.

"What is his bearing?"

Mordaunt hesitated; but he seemed as if compelled to speak
the truth.

"Calm and dignified," said he.

''What did he say?"

"Some parting words to his friends."

"His friends!" muttered Cromwell. "Yes, he has friends!"
Then he added aloud, "Did he make any resistance?"

"No, sir; with the exception of two or three, everyone
deserted him; he had no means of resistance."

"To whom did he give up his sword?"

"He did not give it up — he broke it."

"He did well; but, instead of breaking it, he might have
used it to more advantage. I heard that the colonel of the
regiment that escorted Charles was killed," said Cromwell,
staring very fixedly at Mordaunt.

"Yes, sir; by me. It was Lord Winter."

"Your uncle!" exclaimed Cromwell.

"My uncle," answered Mordaunt; "but traitors to England
are not of my family."

Cromwell observed the young man a moment in silence, and
then added:

"Mordaunt, you are a dreadful servant of the Lord. And
the Frenchmen, how did they behave?"

"Like brave men."

"Yes, yes," murmured Cromwell; "the French fight well
and if my glass was good, they were foremost in the fight."

"They were," replied Mordaunt.

"After you, however," said Cromwell.

"It was the fault of their horses, not theirs."

Another pause.

"And the Scotch?"

"They kept their word, and never stirred, said Mordaunt

"Scoundrels!"

"Their officers wish to see you, sir."

"I have no time for them. Have they been paid?"



Digitized



by Google



246 TWENTY YEARS AFTBk.

"Yes, to-night."

"Let them, set off and return to their mountains, and there
hide their shame, if their mountains are high enough. I have
nothing more to do with them, or they with me. And now,
go, Mordaimt.**

"Before I go," said Mordaunt, "I have some questions and a
favor to ask you, sir."

"A favor from me?"

Mordaunt bowed.

"I come to you, my leader, my head, my father, and I ask
you, master, are you content with me?"

Cromwell looked at him with astonishment. The yotmg
man remained immovable.

"Yes," said Cromwell; "you have done, since I knew you,
not only your duty, but more than your duty; you have been
a faithful friend, a keen negotiator, and a good soldier."

"Do you remember, sir, it was my idea, this Scotch treaty,
for giving up the King?"

"Yes, the idea was yours. I had not such a contempt for
men before that."

"Was I not a good ambassador in France?"

"Yes, for Mazarin has granted what I desired."

**Have I not always fought tor your glory and interests?"

"Too ardently, perhaps; it is what I have just reproached
you for; but what is the meaning of all these questions?"

"To tell you, my lord, that the moment has now arrived
when, with a single word, you tnay recompense all these ser-
vices."

"Oh!" said Oliver, with slight scorn, "I forgot that every
service merits some reward, and that up to this moment you
have served me for nothing."

"Sir, you can give me in a moment all that I look for."

"What is it? Have they offered you money? Do you wish
a grade? pr a county government?" ^

"Sir, will you grant me my request?"

"Let us hear what it is first."

"Sir, when you have told me to obey an order, have I ever
inquired what it is first? I cannot tell you."

"But a request made so formally '

"Ah! do not fear, sir," said Mordaunt with apparent simplic-
ity, "it will not ruin you."

"Well, then," said Cromwell, "I promise as far as lies in my
power to grant your request Proceed."

"Sir, two prisoners were taken this morning; will you let
me have them?"

"For their ransom? Have they, then, offered a large one?"
inquired Cromwell.

"On the contrary, I think they are poor, sir."

"They must be friends of yours, then?"



Digitized



by Google



TWENTY YEARS AFTER, 249

"Yes, sir," replied Mordaunt, "they are friends, dear friends
of mine, and I would lay down my life for them."

"Very well, Mordaunt," said Cromwell, pleased at having his
opinion of the young man raised once more, **I will give them
to you; I will not even ask who they are; do as you like with
them."

"Thank you, sir!" exclaimed Mordaunt, "thank you; my life
is always at your service, and should I lose it I should still
owe you something I thank you; you have indeed, repaid me
munificently for my service.

And he threw himself at the feet of Cromwell; and in spite
of the efforts of the Puritan general, who did not like this
almost kingly homage, he took his hand and kissed it

"What! said Cromwell, arresting him for a moment as he
rose, "is there nothing more you wish? neither gold nor rank?"

"You have given me all you can give me, and from to-day
your debt is paid."

And Mordaunt darted out of the^ general's tent, his heart
beating, and his eyes sparkling with joy.

Cromwell gazed a moment after him.

"He has killed his uncle!" he murmured. "Alas! what are
my servants? Perhaps those who ask nothing or seem to
ask nothing, have asked more in the eyes of Heaven than those
who tax the country, and steal the bread of the poor. Nobody
serves me for nothing! Charles, who is my prisoner, may still
have friends; but I have none!"

And with a deep sigh he again sank into the reverie which
had been interrupted by Mordaunt



CHAPTER LVI.

LORD HAVE MERCY.

Whilst Mordaunt was making his way to Cromwell's tent,
d'Artagnan and Porthos had brought their prisoners to the
house assigned to them as their dwelling at Newcastle.

The two friends made the prisoners enter the house first,
whilst they stood at the door, desiring Mousqueton to take
all the four horses to the stable.

"Why don't we go in with them?" asked Porthos.

"We must first see what the sergeant wishes us to do," re-
plied d'Artagnan, and he then asked the sergeant his wishes.

"We have had orders," answered the man, "to help you in
taking care of your prisoners."

There could be no fault found with this arrangement; on
the contrary, it seemed to be a delicate attention to be re-
ceived gratefully. D'Artagnan, therefore, thanked the man.



Digitized



by Google



250 TWENTY YEARS AFTER.

and gave him a crown piece, to drink to General Cromweirs
health.

The sergeant answered that Puritans never drank, and put
the crown piece into his pocket

**Ah!" said Porthos, "what a fearful day, my dear d'Ar-
tagnanl"

"What! a fearful day, when we have to-day found our
friends?"

"Yes; but under what circumstances?"

**Tis true that our position is an awkward one; but let us
go in and see more clearly what is to be done."

"Things look very bad, replied Porthos; "I understand now
why Aramis advised me to strangle that horrible Mordaunt."

"Silence!" cried the Gascon; "do not utter that name."

"But," argued Porthos, "I speak French, and they are all
English."

D'Artagnan looked at Porthos with that air of wonder
which a sensible man cannot help feeling at stupidity in every
degree.

But, as Porthos on his side could not comprehend his aston-
ishment, he merely pushed him indoors, saying : "Let us go in. "

They found Athos in profound despondency. Aramis looked
first at Porthos and then at d'Artagnan, without speaking, but
the latter understood his meaning look.

"You want to know how we came here; 'tis easily guessed.
Mazarin sent us with a letter to General Cromwell."

"D*Artagnan! how came you to fall into company with Mor-
daunt, whom I bade you distrust?" asked Athos.

** Mazarin again. Cromwell had sent him to Mazarin. Maz-
arin sent us to Cromwell. There has been a fate in it."

"Yes, you are right, d'Artagnan; a fate which will separate
and ruin us; so, my dear Aramis, say no more about it, and
let us prepare to submit to our destiny."

"Zounds! let us speak about things, on the contrary, for
we always agreed to keep on the same side ; and here we are
engaged in conflicting parties."

"Yes," added Athos, "I now ask you, d*Artagnan, what side
you are on? Ah! behold for what end the wretched Mazarin
has made use of you. Do you know in what crime you are
to-day concerned? In the capture of a King, his d^radation,
his death."

"Oh! oh!" cried Porthos, "do you think so?"

"You are exaggerating, Athos; we are not so far gone as
that."

"Good heavens! we are on the very eve of it. I say why
is the King taken prisoner? Those who wish to respect him
as a master, would not buy him as a slave."

"I don't say to the contrary," said d'Artagnan. "But what's
that to us? I am here, because I am a soldier, and have to
obey orders; I have taken an oath to obey, and I do obey; but



Digitized



by Google



TWENTY YEAR3 AFTER. 251

you, who have taken no oath, why are you here, and what
cause do you serve?"

"That most sacred in the world," said Athos; "the cause of
misfortune, and religion, and royalty. A friend, a wife, and a
daughter have done us the honor to call us to their aid. We
have served .them to the best of our poor means, and God
will recompense the will, and forgive the want of power; you
may see matters differently, d^Artagnan, and think otherwise.
I do not attempt to. argue with you, but I blame you."

"Pshaw!" cried d'Artagnan; "what matters it to me, after
all, if Cromwell, who's an Englishman, revolts against his King,
who is a Scotchman? I am myself a Frenchman, I have noth-
ing to do with these things — ^why make me responsible for
them?"

"Why you? Because you, d'Artagnan, a man sprung from
the ancient nobility of France, bearing a good name, >\ earing
a sword, have helped to give up a King to beersellers, store-
keepers, and wagoners. ^ Ah ! d'Artagnan ! perhaps you have done
your duty as a soldier, but, as a gentleman, I say that
you are very culpable."

D'Artagnan was chewing the stalk of a flower, unable to re-
ply, and very uncomfortable, for Aramis was eyeing him., too.

"And you, Porthos, you, a gentleman in manners, in tastes,
in courage, are as much to blame as d'Artagnan."

Porthos colored and hanging his head, said :

"Yes, yes, my dear Count, I feel that you are right."

Athos rose.

"Come," he said, stretching out his hand to d*Artagnan,
"come, don't be sullen, my dear son, for I have said all this
to you, if not in the tone,^ at least with the feelings of a father.
It would have ^ been easier for me merely to have thanked
you for preserving my life, and not to have uttered a word of
all this."

"Doubtless, doubtless, Athos. But this is it: you have sen-
timents, the devil knows what, such as every one can't have.
Who could suppose that a sensible man could leave his house,
France, his ward — a charming youth, for we saw him in the
camp— to fly to the aid of a rotten, worm-eaten royalty, which
is going to crumble one of these days like an old cask? The
sentiments you speak are certainly fine, so fine that they are
superhuman."

"However that may be, d'Artagnan," replied^ Athos, with-
out falling into the snare which his Gascon friend had pre-
pared for him by an appeal to his parental love, "whatsoever
may be, you know, in the bottom of your heart, that it is true;
but I am coming to dispute with my superiors. D'Artagnan,
I am your prisoner, treat me as such."

D'Artagnan said nothing; but, after having gnawed the
flower-stalk, he began to bite his nails. At last, he resumed:

"Po you imagine that they mean to kill you? And where-



Digitized



by Google



252 TWENTY YEARS AFTER.

fore should they do so? What interest have they in your
death? Moreover, you are our prisoner."

"Fool!" cried Aramis, "knowest thou not, then, Mordaunt?
I have merely exchanged with him one look, but that look
convinced me that we were doomed."

"The truth is, I am very sorry that I did not strangle him
as you advised me to do,'* said Porthos.

"Stop," cried Athos, extending his hand to one of the grated
windows by which the room was lighted; **you will soon know
what to expect, for here he is."

In fact, looking at the place to which Athos pointed, d'Ar-
tagnan saw a horseman coming towards the house full gallop.

It was Mordaunt.

D'Artagnan rushed out of the room.

Porthos wanted to follow him.

"Stay," said d*Artagnan, "and do not come till you hear me
beat with my fingers upon the door as on a drum."

When Mordaunt arrived opposite the house he saw d'Ar-
tagnan upon the threshold, and the soldiers lying on the grass,
here and there, with their arms.

"Halloa!" he cried, "are the prisoners still there?**

"Yes, sir," answered the sergeant, saluting.

" Tis well ; order four men to conduct them to my lodging. "

Four men stepped out to do so.

"What do you want, sir?*' asked d'Artagnan.

"Sir," replied Mordaunt, "I have ordered the two prisoners
that we captured this morning to be conducted to my lodging. "

"Wherefore, sir? Excuse curiosity, but I wish to be en-
lightened on the subject."

"Because these prisoners, sir, are at my disposal, and I choose
to dispose of them as I like."

"Allow me — allow me," said d*Artagnan, "to observe you are
in error. The prisoners belong to those who took them, and
not to those who only saw them taken. You might have taken
Lord Winter — ^who, *tis said, is your uncle— prisoner, but you
preferred killing him; 'tis well— ^we, that is, M. du Vallon and
I, could have killed our prisoners — ^we preferred keeping them."

Mordaunt's very lips were white with rage.

D'Artagnan now saw that affairs were growing worse, and
he beat the guard's march upon the door. At the first beat
Porthos rushed out, and stood on the other side of the door,
filling it up from sill to top.

This movement was observed by Mordaunt

"Sir!" he thus addressed d'Artagnan, "your resistance is
useless, these prisoners have just been given me by my illus-
trious patron, Oliver Cromwell."

These words struck d'Artagnan like a thunderbolt. The blood
mounted to his temples, his eyes became dim ; he saw from what
source the ferocious hopes of the young man aro$c. He put
hij hand to th^ hilt of hi? swordt



Digitized



by Google



TWENTY YEARS AFTER. 253

As to Porthos, he looked inquiringly at d'Artagnan if he
should also draw.

This look of Porthos* made the Gascon regret that he had
summoned the brute force of his friend to aid him in an affair
which seemed to require chiefly cunning.

, "Violence," he said to himself, "would spoil all; d'Artagnan,
my friend, prove to this young serpent that you are not only
stronger, but more subtle than he is."

"Oh!" he said, making a low bow, "why did you not begin
by saying that, M. Mordaunt? What! are you sent by General
Oliver Cromwell, the most illustrious captain of his age?"

"I have this instant left him," replied Mordaunt, alighting,
in order to give his horse to a soldier to hold.

"Why did you not say so at once, my dear sir! all England
is with Cromwell; and. since you ask for my prisoners, I bend,
sir, to your wishes. They are yours, take them."

Mordaunt, delighted, advanced; Porthos looked at d'Artag-
nan with open mouthed astonishment. But d'Artagnan trod
on his foot, and Porthos began to understand that this was
all acting.

Mordaunt put his foot on the first step of the door, and,
with his hat in his hand, prepared to pass by the two friends,
motioning to the four men to follow him.

"But pardon me," said d'Artagnan, stopping the roundhead
short, "since the illustrious general has given my prisoners
into your hands, he has of course confirmed that act in
writing."

Mordaunt retreated, casting a terrible glance at dArtagnan
which was answered by the most amicable and friendly mien
that could be imagined.

"Speak out, sir," said Mordaunt.

"M. du Vallon, yonder, is rich, and has forty thousand francs
yearly, so he does not care about money. I do not speak for
him, but for myself — Fmnot rich. In Gascony 'tis no dishonor,
sir, nobody is rich; and Henry IV., of glorious memory, who
was the King of the Gascons, never had a penny in his pocket."

"Go on, sir. I see where you wish to come to, and if it is
what I think that stops you, I can obviate that difficulty."

"Ah, I knew well, said the Gascon, "that you are a man of
talent. Well, here's the case; here's where the shoe pinches.
I am an officer of fortune, nothing else; I have nothing but
what my sword brings me in — that is to say^ more blows than
bank notes. Now, on taking prisoners this morning two
Frenchmen, who seemed to me of high birth — ^in short, two
knights of the Garter — I said to myself, *my fortune is made.' "

Mordaunt, completely deceived by the wordy civility of
d'Artagnan, smdled like a^ man who understands perfectly the
reasons given him, and said:

"I shall have the order signed directly, sir, and with it two
thousand pistoles; meanwhile, let me take these men away."



Digitized



by Google



254 TWENTY YEARS APTER.

"No," replied d'Artagnan; "what signifies a delay of half
an hour? I am a man of order, sir; let us do things in order."

**Mark," replied Mordaunt, "I could compel you; I com-
mand here."

"Come, come," replied d*Artagnan, "I see that although we
have had the honor of traveling in your company, you do not
know us. We are gentlemen ; able to kill you and your eight
men; though two only. For Heaven's sake don't be obstinate,
for when others are obstinate, I am obstinate likewise, and
then I become ferocious and headstrong; and there's my friend,
who is even more headstrong and ferocious than I am ; besides,
we are sent here by Cardinal Mazarin, and at this moment repre-
sent both the King and the Cardinal, and are therefore, as am-
bassadors, able to act with impunity, a thing that General
Oliver Cromwell, who is assuredly as great a politician as gen-
eral, is quite a man to understand. Ask him then, for the writ-
ten order. What will that cost you, my dear M. Mordaunt?"

"Yes, the written order," said Portiios, who now began to
comprehend what d'Artagnan was aiming at, "nothing but that
will satisfy us."

However anxious Mordaunt was to have recourse to violence,
he quite understood the reasons that d'Artagnan gave him ; and,
besides, completely ignorant of the friendship which existed be-
tween the four Frenchmen, all his uneasiness disappeared when
he heard of the plausible motive of the ransom. He decided,
therefore, not only to fetch the order, but the two thousand
pistoles at which he estimated the prisoners. He therefore
mounted his horse, and disappeared.

"Good!" thought d'Artagnan; "a quarter of an hour to go to
the tent, a quarter of an hour to return;" then turning, with-
out the least change of countenance, to Porthos, he said, look-
ing him full in the face, "friend Porthos, listen; first, not a
syllable to either of our friends about the service we are
going to render them."

"Very well; I understand."

**Go to the stable; you will find Mousqueton there. Saddle your
horses, put your pistols in your saddle-bags, take out the
horses, and lead them to the street below this, so that there will
be nothing to do but to mount them ; all the rest is my business. "

Porthos made no remark, but obeyed, with the sublime con-
fidence that he had in his friend. He then proceeded, with his
usual calm gait, to the stable, and went into the very midst of
the soldiery, who, Frenchman though he was, could not help ad-
miring his height and powerful limbs.

At the comer of the street he met Mousqueton and took him
with him.

D'Artagnan, meantime, went into the house, whistling a tune
which he had begun before Porthos went away. "My dear
Athos, I have reflected on your arguments, and am convinced.
I am sorry to have had anything to do with this matter. As you



Digitized



by Google



TWENTY YEARS AFTER. 255

say, Mazarin is a knave. I have resolved to flee with you ; not
a word; be ready; your, swords are in the corner; do not for-
get them, they are, in many circumstances, very useful; there's
Perthes' purse, too."

He put it into his pocket. The two friends were stupefied.

"Well— pray, is there anything to be surprised at?" he said.



Online LibraryAlexandre DumasTwenty years after → online text (page 26 of 38)