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"I hope," he whispered to him, "that you will follow* his
majesty's example and not get killed for your folly in this den."

"Set your mind at rest," replied Athos.

"Aha!" continued d'Artagnan, "it is clear that they are afraid
of something or other; for, look, the sentinels are being rein-
forced. They had only halberds before, and now they have
muskets. The halberds were for the audience in the area. The
muskets are for us."

"Thirty, forty, fifty, sixty-five men," said Porthos, counting
the reinforcements.

"Ah," said Aramis. "But you forget the officer."

D'Artz^nan grew pale with rage. He had recognized Mor-
daunt, who, with bare sword, was marshalling the Musketeers
before the King, and opposite the benches.

"Do you think they have recognized us?" said d'Artagnan.
"In that case I should beat a retreat. I don't care to be shot
in a trap."

"No," said Aramis, **he has not seen us. He sees no one
but the King. How he stares at him, — the insolent dog! Does
he hate his majesty as much as he does us?"

"Oh," answered Athos, "we only carried off his mother, and
the King has spoiled him of his name and property."

"True," said Aramis; "but silence! the president is speaking
to the King."

"Stuart," Bradshaw was saying, "listen to the roll-call of
your judges, and address to the court any observations you
may have to make."

The King turned his. head away, as if these words had not
been intended for him. Bradshaw waited, and, as there was
no reply, there was a moment of silence.

Out of the hundred and sixty-three members designated, there
were only seventy-three present, for the rest, fearful of taking
part in such an act, remained away.

The roll-call finished, the president ordered them to read the
act of accusation. Athos turned pale. A second time he was
disappointed in his expectation.

"I told you so, Athos," said d'Artagnan, shrugging his
shoulders. "Now pluck up your courage, and hear what this
gentleman in black is going to say about his sovereign, with
full Hcence and privilege."

Never had a more brutal accusation or meaner insults tar-
nished the kingly majesty.

At this moment the accuser concluded with these words:

"The present accusation is preferred by us in the name of
the English people."

At these words there was a murmur along the benches, and
a voice, stout and furious, thundered behind d'Artagnan.


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"You lie," It cried, "and nine-tenths of the English people
shudder at what you say."

This voice was Athos', as, standing up with outstretched
arm, and quite out of his mind, he thus assailed the public

King, judges, spectators, all turned their eyes to the bench
where the four friends were seated. Mordaunt did the same,
and recognized the gentleman, around whom the three other
Frenchmen were standing, pale and menacing. His eyes glit-
tered with delight. He had discovered those to whose death
he had devoted his life. A movement of fury called to his side
some twenty of his musketeers, and, pointing to the bench
where his enemies were, — "Fire on that row," he cried.

But, rapid as thought, d'Artagnan seized Athos by the middle
of the body, and, followed by Porthos with Aramis, leapt down
from the benches, rushed into the passages, and, flying down
the staircase, was lost in the crowd without, while the muskets
within were pointed on some three thousand spectators, whose
piteous , cries and noisy alarms stopped the impulse already
given to bloodshed.

Mordaunt, pale, and trembling with anger, rushed from the
hall, sword in hand, followed by six pikemen, pushing, inqttiring,
and panting in^the crowd, and then, having found nothing, re-

Quiet was at length restored.

"What have you to say in your defense?" asked Bradshaw
of the King.

Then, rising with his head still covered, in the tone of a judge
rather than a prisoner, Charles began.

"Before questioning me," he saidj "reply to my question. I
was free at Newcastle, and had there concluded a treaty with
both houses. Instead of performing your part of this contract,
as I performed mine, you bought me from the Scotch, not
dear, I know, and that does honor to the economy of your
government. But because you have paid the price of a slave,
do you expect that I have ceased to be your King? No! To
answer you would be to forget it. I shall only reply ta you
when you have satisfied me of your right to question me. To
answer you would be to acknowledge you as my judges, and I
only acknowledge you as my executioners." And in the midst
of a death-like silence, Charles, calm, lofty, and with his head
still covered, sat down again in his arm-chair.

"Why are not my Frenchn^en here?" he murmured proudly,
and turning his eyes to the benches where they had appeared
for a moment; "they would have seen that their friend was
worthy of their defense, while alive; and of their tears, when

When the King reached the door, a long stream of people^
who had been disappointed in not being able to get into the
house, and to make amends, had collected to see him come out.


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stood on each side as he passed, many among them glaring on
him with threatening looks.

"How many people," thought he, "knd not one true friend."
And as he uttered these words of doubt and depression within
his mind, a voice near him said:

"Respect to fallen majesty."

The King turned quickly round, with tears in his eyes and
heart. It was an old soldier of the guards, who could not see
his King pass captive before him without rendering him this
last homage. But the next moment the unfortunate man was
nearly stunned with blows from the hilts of swords; and
among those who set upon him the King recognized Captain

"Alas!" said Charles, "that is a severe chastisement for a
very slight fault."

He continued his way; but he had scarcely gone a hundred
paces, when a dirty fellow, leaning between two soldiers, spit
in the King's fade. Loud roars of laughter and sullen murmurs
rose together. The crowd opened and closed again, undulating
like a stormy sea ; and the King imagined that he saw shining
in the midst of this living wave the bright eyes of Athos.

Charles wiped his face, and said, with a sad smile, "Poor
wretch, for half-a-crown he would do as much to his own
father." ^ • ^ ^

The King was not wrong. Athos and his friends, again min-
gling with the throng, were taking a last look at the martyr

When the cowardly insulter had spat in the face of the cap-
tive monarch, Athos had grasped his dagger. But d'Artagnan
stopped his hand, and in a hoarse voice cried, "Wait!"

Atiios stopped. D'Artagnan, leaning on Athos, made a sign
to Porthos and Aramis to keep near them, and then placed him-
self behind the man with the bare arms, who was still laugh'
ing at his own vile pleasantry, and receiving the congratulations
of several others.

The man took his way towards the City. The four friends
followed him. The man, who had the appearance of being a
butcher, descended a little steep and isolated street, looMng
onto the river, with two of his friends. Arrived at the bank
of the river, the three men perceived that they were followed,
turned around, and looked insolently at the Frenchmen.

"Athos," said d'Artagnan, "will you interpret for me?"

At this, d'Artagnan walked straight up to the butcher, and
touching him on the chest with the tip of his finger, said to
Athos :

"Say this to him in English, 'You are a coward. You have
insulted a defenseless man. You have sullied the face of your
King. You must die.'"

Athos, pale as a ghost, repeated these words to the man,
who seeing the unpleasant preparations that were making, fell


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;into an attitude of defense. Aramis, at this movement, drew his

"No," cried d'Artagnan, "no steel. Steel is for gentlemen."

And seizing the butcher by the throat, —

"Porthos," said he, ** knock this fellow down for me with a
single blow."

Porthos raised his terrible arm, which whistled through the
air like a sling, and the heavy mass fell with a dull noise on
the skull of the coward and broke it. The man dropped like
an ox under the mallet. His companions, horror-struck, could
neither move nor cry out.

"Tell them this, Athos," resumed d'Artagnan; ** *thus shall
all die who forget that a fettered man wears a sacred head, and
a captive King doubly his Lord's anointed.' "

The two men looked at the body of their companion, swim-
ming in black blood; and then, recovering voice and legs to-
gether, ran shouting away.

"Justice is done, said Porthos, wiping his forehead.

"And now," said d'Artagnan to Athos, "do not have any
doubts about me; I undertake everything that concerns the



It was easy to foresee that the Parliament would condemn
Charles to death. Political judgments are generally merely
vain formalities, for the same passions which give rise to the
accusations give rise also to the condemnation. Such is the
terrible logic of revolutions.

Meanwhile, before our four friends could mature their plans,
they determined to put every possible obstacle in the way or
the execution of the sentence. To this end they resolved to get
rid of the London executioner; for though, of course, another
could be sent for from the nearest town, there would be still
a delay of a day or two gained. D'Artagnan undertook this
more than difficult task. The next thing was to warn Charles
of the attempt about to be made to save him. Aramis un-
dertook the perilous office. Bishop Juxon had received per-
mission to visit Charles in his prison at Whitehall; Aramis
resolved to persuade the bishop to let him enter with him.
Lastly, Athos was to prepare, in every emergency, the means
of leaving England.

The palace of Whitehall was guarded by three regiments
of cavalry, and still more by the anxiety of Cromwell,
who came and went, or sent his generals or his agents con-
tinually. Alone, in his usual room, lighted by two candles,


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the condemned monarch gazed sadly on the luxury of his
past greatness, just as, at the last hour, one sees the image of
life, milder and more brilliant than ever.

Parry had not quitted his master, and, since his condemna-
tion, had not ceased to weep. Charles, leaning on a table,
was gazing at a medallion of his wife and daughter; he was
waiting first for Juxon, next for martyrdom.

"Alas!" he said to himself, "if I only had for a confessor one
of those lights of the Church, whose soul has sounded all
the mysteries of life, all the littleness of greatness, perhaps his
voice would choke the voice that wails within my soul. But I
shall have a priest of vulgar mind, whose career and fortune I
have ruined by my misfortune. He will speak to me of God
and of death, as he has spoken to many another dying man,
not understanding that this one leaves his throne to a usur-
per and his children to starve."

And he raised the medallion to his lips.

It was a dull, foggy night A neighboring church clock
slowly struck the hour. The pale light of the two candles raised
flickering phantoms in the lofty room. These phantoms were
the ancestors of King Charles, standing out from their
gilt frames. A profound melancholy had possessed itself of
Charles. He buried his brow in his hands, and thought of all
that was so dear to him, now to be left forever. He drew from
his bosom the diamond cross which La Garretiere had sent
him by the hands of those generous Frenchmen, and kissed
it, and remembered that she would not see it again till he
was lying cold and mutilated in the tomb.

Suddenly the door opened, and an ecclesiastic, in episcopal
robes, entered, followed by two guards, to whom the King waved
an imperious gesture. The guards retired. The room resiuned
its obscurity.

"Juxon!" cried Charles, "Juxon, thank you, my last friend,
you are come at a fitting moment."

The bishop looked anxiously at the man sobbing in the In-

"Come, Parry," said the King, "cease your tears."

"If it's Parry," said the bishop, "I have nothing to fear; so
allow me to salute your majesty, and to tell him who I am, and
for what I am come."

At this sight, and this voice, Charles was about to cry out,
when Aramis placed his finger on his lips, and bowed low to
the King of England.

"The chevalier!" murmured Charles.

"Yes, sire," interrupted Aramis, raising his voice, "Bishop
Juxon, faithful chevalier of Christ, and obedient to your
majesty's wishes."

Charles clasped his hands, amazed, stupefied to find that
these foreigners, without other motive than that which their


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conscience imposed on them, thus combated the will of a
people, and the destiny of a King.

"You!" he said, *'you! how did you penetrate hither? If they
recognize you, you are lost"

"Care^ not for me, sire; think only of yourself. You see,
your friends are wakeful. I know not what we shall do yet,
but four determined men can do much. Meanwhile, do not
be surprised at anything that happens; prepare yourself for
every emergency."

Charles shook his head.

**Do you know that I die to-morrow, at ten o'clock?"

** Something, your majesty, will happen, between now and
then, to make the execution impossible."

At this moment, a strange noise, like the unloading of a
esut, and followed by a shriek of pain, was heard beneath the

**What is this noise and this cry?" said Aramis, perplexed.

**I know not who can have uttered that cry," said the King,
''but the noise is easily understood. Do you know that I am
to be beheaded outside this window? Well, this wood, that
you hear fall, is the posts and planks to bmld my scafiFold.
Some workmen must^ have been hurt in unloading them."

Aramis shuddered in spite of himself.

**You see," said the IGng, **that it is useless for you to re-
sist. I am condemned; leave me to my death."

**My King," said Aramis, **they may well raise a scafiFold,
but at this hour, the headsman is removed by force or per-
suasion. The scaffold will be ready by to-morrow, but the
headsman will be wanting, and they will put it off till the day
after to-morrow."

"What then?" said the King.

"To-morrow night we shall rescue you."

**0h! sir," cried Parry, **may you and yours be blessed!"

**I know nothing about it," continued Aramis, "but the
sharpest, bravest, and most devoted of us four, said to me,
when I left him, 'Knight, tell the King, that to-morrow, at
ten o'clock at night, we shall carry him off.' He has said it,
and will do it."

"You are really wonderful men," said the King; "take my
hand, knight, it is that of a friend, who will love you to the

Aramis stooped to kiss ^e King's hand, but Charles clasped
his and pressed it to his heart.

The King accompanied him to tiie door, where Aramis pro-
nounced his benediction uimmi him, and, passing through the
ante-rooms, filled with soldiers, jumped into his carriage, and
drove to tibe bishop's palace. Juxon was waiting for him im-

Aramis resumed his own attire, and left Juxon with the no-
tification that he might again have recourse to him.


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He had scarcely gone ten yards in the street, when he per-
ceived that he was followed by a tall man, wrapped in a large
cloak. He placed his hand on his dagger, and stopped. The
man came straight towards him. It was Porthos.

**My dear friend," cried Aramis.

"You see, we had each our mission," said Porthos; **mine
was to guard you, and I was doing so. Have you seen the

"Yes, and all goes well."

**We are to meet our friends at the tavern, at eleven."

It was then striking half -past ten by St. Paul's.

Arrived at Uie hotel, it was not long before Athos entered.
** All's well," he cried, as he entered; **I have hired a cutter,
as narrow as a canoe, and as light as a swallow. It is waiting
for us, opposite the Isle of Dogs, manned by a captain and
four men, who, for the sum of fifty pounds sterling, will keep
themselves at our call three successive nights. Once on board,
we drop down the Thames, and, in two hours, are in the open
sea. In case I am killed, the captain's name is Rogers, and
the bark is called the 'Lightning.* A handkerchief, knotted at
the four corners, is to be the token."

The next moment d'Artagnan entered.

"Empty your pockets," said he, "I want a hundred pounds,
and as for my own »" and he emptied them inside out.

The sum was collected in a minute. D'Artagnan ran out,
and returned directly after.

"There," said he, "it's done. Whew I but not without a deal
of trouble, too."

"Has the executioner left London?" said Aramis.

"No, he is in the cellar, our landlord's. Mousqueton is
sitting on the doorstep, and here's the key."

"Bravo!" said Aramis; "but how did you manage it?"

"Like everything else — ^with money; it cost me five hundred
pounds. The Queen's famous diamond," answered d'Artagnan
with a sigh. ^ ♦

"Ah! true," said Aramis, "I recognized it on your finger."

"You bought it back, then, from M. Essarts?" asked Porthos.

•*Yes, but it was fated that I should not keep it."

"Well, so much for the executioner," said Athos; "but un-
fortunately, every executioner has his assistant, his man, or
whatever jrou call him."

"And this one had his," said d'Artagnan; "but, as good luck
would have it, just as I thought I should have two affairs to
manage, my friend was brought home with a broken leg. In
the excess of his zeal, he had accompanied the cart contain-
ing the scaffolding as far as the King's window, and one of the
planks fell on his leg and brok^ it."

••Ah!" cried Aramis, "that accounts for the cry that I

"Probably," said d'Artagnan; "but as he is a thoughtful


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young man, he promised to send four expert workmen in his
place to help those already at the scaffold, and wrote, the
moment he was brought home, to Master Tom Lowe, a car-
penter and friend of his, to go down to Whitehall, with three
of his mates. Here's the letter he sent by a messenger for
sixpence, who sold it to me for a guinea."

"And what on earth are you going to do with it?" asked

"Can't you guess, my dear Athos? You, who speak English
like John Bull himself, are Master Tom Lowe, we, your Uiree
mates. Do you understand now?"



Towards midnight Charles heard a great noise beneath his
window. It arose from blows of the hammer and hatchet,
clinking of pincers and shrieking of saws.

Lying dressed upon his bed, this noise awoke him with a
start, and found a gloomy echo in his heart. He could not
endure it, and sent Parry to ask the sentinel to beg the* work-
men to strike more gently, and not disturb the last slumber of
one who had been their King. The sentinel was unwilling
to leave his post, but allowed Parry to pass.

Arriving at the window. Parry found an unfinished scaffold,
over which they were nailing a covering of black serge. Raised
to the height of twenty feet, so as to be on a level with
the window, it had two lower stories. Parry, odious as was
this sight to him, sought for those among some eight or ten
workmen, who were making the most noise; and fixed on two
men, who were loosening the last hooks of the iron balcony.

"My friends," said Parry, when he had mounted the scaf-
fold and stood beside them, "would you work a little more
quietly? The King wishes to get a sleep." One of the two,
who was standing up, was of gigantic size, and was driving a
pick with all his might into the wall, \ hile the other, kneel-
ing beside him was collecting the pieces of stone. The face
of the first was lost to Parry m the darkness, but as the second
turned round and placed his fingers on his lips. Parry started
back in amazement.

"Very well," said the workman aloud in excellent English.
**Tell your master that if he sleeps badly to-night, he will sleep
sound to-morrow."

These blunt words, so terrible if taken literally, were re-
ceived by the other workmen with a roar of laughter. But
Parry withdrew, thinking he was dreaming.

"Sire," said he to the King, when he had returned, "do you


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know who these workmen are who are making so much

"I! no, how would you have me know?"

Parry bent his head and whispered to the King, "It is the
Count de la Fere and his friend."

"Raising my scaffold," cried the King, astonished.

"Yes, and at the same time making a hole in the wall."

The King clasped his hands, and raised his eyes to Heaven;
then, leaping down from his bed, he went to the window, and
pulling aside the curtain tried to distinguish the figures out-
side, but in vain.

Parry was not wrong. It was Athos whom he had recog-
nized, and it was Porthos who was boring a breach through the

This tunnel communicated with a low loft, the space be-
tween the floor of the King's room and the ceiling of the one
below it. Their plan was to pass through the hole they were
making into this loft, and cut out from below a piece of the
flooring of the King's room, so as to form a kind of trap-door.

Through this the King was to escape the next night, and,
hidden by the black covering of the scaffold, was to change
his dress for a workman's, slip out with his deliverers, pass the
sentinels, who would suspect nothing, and so reach the waiting
vessel for him at Greenwich.

Day gilded the tops of the houses. The hole was finished,
and Athos passed through it, carrying the clothes destined for
the King, wrapped in a piece of black cloth, and the tools with
which he was to open a communication with the King's room.

D'Artagnan returned to change his workman's clothes for
his chestnut-colored suit, and Porthos to put on his red doublet.
As for Aramis, he presented himself at the bishop's. Juxon
consented the more readily to take him with him, as he would
require an assistant priest, in case the King should wish to
communicate. The bishop got into his carriage, and Aramis,
more disguised by his pallor and ^ sad countenance than by
his deacon's dress, got in by his side. The carriage stopped
at the palace door.

It was about nine o'clock in the morning.^ The King was
already sanguine, but when he perceived Aramis his hope turned
to joy.

"Oh! Juxon," said the King, seizing the bishop's two hands
in his own, "promise that you will pray all your life for this
gentleman, and for the other that you hear beneath your feet,
and for two others again, who, wherever they may be, are
vigilant, I am sure, for my salvation."

"Sire," replied Juxon, "you shall be obeyed."

Meanwhile, the miner underneath was heard working away
incessantly, when suddenly an unexpectd noise resounded in
the passage. Aramis seized the poker, and gave the signal to
Stop; the noise camejiearer and nearer. It was that of a num-


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ber of men steadily approaching. The four men stood motion-
less. All eyes were fixed on the door, which opened slowly, and
with a kind of solemnity.

A parliamentary officer, clothed in black, and with a gravity
that augured ill, entered, bowed to the King, and, unfolding a
parchment, read him the arrest which is usually made to
criminals before their execution.

"What is this?" said Aramis to Juxon.

Juxon replied with a sign which meant that he knew as little
as Aramis about it.

"Then it is for to-day?" asked the King.

"Was not your majesty warned that it was to take place this



'Then I must die like a common criminal by the hand of the
London executioner?"

"The London executioner has disappeared, your majesty, but
a volunteer has offered his services instead. The execution
will therefore only be delayed long enough for you to arrange
your spiritual and temporal affairs."

A slight moisture on his brow was the only trace of emotion
that Charles evinced, as he learned these tidings. But Aramis
was livid. His heart ceased beating, he closed his eyes, and
leaned upon the table. Charles perceived it, and took his hand.

"Come, my friend," said he, "courage." Then he turned to
the offiicer. " Sir, I am' ready. I have little to delay you. Firstly.
I wish to communicate, secondly, to embrace my children, and
bid them farewell for the last time. Will this be pecmitted

"Certainly," replied the officer, and left the room.

Aramis dug his nails into his flesh and groaned aloud.

Online LibraryAlexandre DumasTwenty years after → online text (page 28 of 38)