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"Oh, my Lord Bishop!" he cried, seizing Juxon's hands,
"where is God?"

"My son," replied the bishop with firmness, "you see Him
not, because the passions of the world conceal Him."

"Be seated, Juxon," said the King, falling upon his knees.
"I have now to confess to you. Remain, sir,' he added to
Aramis, who had moved to leave the room, "Remain, Parry, I
have nothing to say that cannot be said befo|-e all."

Juxon sat down and the King, kneeling humbly before him,
began his confession.



Meanwhile, Athos, in his concealment, waited in vain the
signal to recommence his work. Two long hours he waited
in terrible inaction. A death-like silence reigned in the room
above. At last he determined to discover the cause of this


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stillness. He crept from his hole, and stood, hidden by the
black drapery, beneath the scaffold. Peeping out from the
drapery, he could see the rows of halberdiers and Musketeers
round the scaffold, and the first ranks of the populace, sway-
ing and groaning like the sea.

"What's wrong?" he asked himself, trembling more than the
cloth he was holding back. **The people are hurrying on, the
soldiers under arms, and among the spectators I see d'Artag-
nan. What is he waiting for? What is he looking at? Good
God! have they let the headsman escape?"
, Suddenly the dull beating of midffled drums filled the square.
The sound of heavy steps was heard above his head. The
next moment the very planks of the scaffold creaked with
the weight of an advancing procession, and the eager faces of
the spectators confirmed what a last hope at the bottom of
his heart had prevented him believing till then. At the same
moment a well-known voice above him pronounced these words :

"Colonel, I wish to speak to the people."

Athos shuddered from head to foot. It was the King
speaking on the scaffold. By his side stood a man wearing a
mask, and carrying an ax in his hand, which he afterwards laid
upon the block.

The sight of the mask excited a great amount of curiosity
in the people, the foremost of whom strained their eyes to
discover who it could be. But they could discern nothing but
a man of middle height, dressed in bla»ck, apparently aged,
for the end of a grey beard peeped out from the bottom of the
mask which concealed his features.

The King's request had undoubtedly been acceded to by an
affirmative sign, for, in firm, sonorous accents, which vibrated
in the depths of Athos' heart, the King began his speech, ex-
plaining his conduct, and counselling them for the welfare of
England. ^ * ' .

He was interrupted by the clash of the ax grating on the

"Do not touch the ax," said the King, and resumied his

At the end of his speech the King looked tenderly round
upon the people. Then, unfastening the diamond ornament
which the Queen had sent him, he placed it in the hands of
the priest who accompanied Juxon. Then he drew from his
breast a little cross set in diamonds, which, like the order, had
been the gift of Henrietta Maria.

"Sir," said he to the priest, "I shall keep this cross in my hand
till the last moment. You will take it from me when I am

He then took his hat from his head, and threw it on the
ground. One by one he undid the buttons of his doublet, took
It off, and deposited it by the side of his hat. Then, as it waa
cold, he asked for his gown, which was broujajht to him.


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All the preparations were made with a frightful calmness.
One would have thought the King was going to bed, and not
to his coffin.

"Will these be in your way?" he said to the executioner, rais-
ing his long locks; "if so they can be tied up."

Charles accompanied these words with a look designed to
penetrate the mask of the unknown deathsman. His calm, noble
gaze forced the man to turn away his head, and the King re-
peated his question.

"It will do," replied the man in a deep voice, "if you separate
them across the neck."

"This block is very low; is there no other to be had?"

"It is the usual block," answered the man in the mask.

"Do you think you can bdiead me with a single blow?" asked
the King.

"I hope to," was the reply. There was something so strange
in these three words that everybody except the King, shud-

"I do not wish to be taken by surprise," added the King. **!
shall kneel down to pray, do not strike then."

"When shall I strike?"

"When I shall lay my head on the block, and say 'Remember!'
then strike stoutly."

"Gentlemen," said the King to those around him, "I leave
you to brave the tempest, and go before you to a kingdom
which knows no storms. Farewell."

Then he knelt down, made the sign of the cross, and lower-
ing his face to the planks, as if he would have kissed them,
said in a low tone, in French, "Count de la Fer^ are you

"Yes, your majesty," he answered, trembling.

"Faithful friend, noble heart," whispered the King, "I should
not have been rescued. I have addressed my people, and I have
spoken to God; last of all I speak to you. To maintain a
cause which I believe sacred, I have^ lost the thront, and my
children their inheritance. A million in gold remains: I buried
it in tiie vaults of Newcastle Keep. You alone know that this
money exists. Make use of it, then, whenever you think it will
be most useful, for my eldest son's welfare. And now, fare-

"Farewell, saintly, martyred majesty," lisped Athos, chilled
with terror.

A moment's silence ensued, and then, in a full, sonorous
voice, the King said, "Remember!"

He had scarcely uttered the word when a heavy blow shook
the scaffold, and where Athos stood immovable a warm drop
fell upon his brow. He reeled back with a shudder, and the
same moment the drops became a black torrent.

Athos fell on his knees and remained some moments, as if
bewildered or stunned. At last he arose, and taking his hand-


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kerchief, steeped it in the blood of the martyred King. Then,
as the crowd gradually dispersed, he leapt do /n, crept from
behind the drapery, gliding between two horses, mingled with
the crowd, and was the first to arrive at the inn.

Having gained his room, he raised his hand to his forehead,
and finding his fingers covered with the King's blood, fell down



The snow was falling thick, and frozen. Aramis was the
next to come in, and to discover Athos almost insensible. But
at the first words he uttered, the count roused from the kind
of lethargy into which he had sunk.

**Are you wounded?" cried Aramis.

^No, this is his blood. I was under the scaffold. I heard all.
God preserve me from another such hour as I have just passed."

**Here is the order he gave me, and the cross I took from
his hand; he desired they should be returned to the Queen."

"Then here's a handkerchief to wrap them in," replied Athos,
drawing from his pocket the one he had steeped in the King's

"Well, cheer up," said a loud voice from the staircase, which
Porthos had just mounted. **We are all mortal, my poor

**You are late, my dear Porthos."

"Yes, there were some pople on the way who delayed me.
The wretches were dancing. I took one of them by the throat,
and think I throttled him a little. Just then a patrol rode up.
Luckily the man I had had most to do with for some minutes
could not speak, so I took advantage of his silence to walk off."

"Have you seen d'Artagnan?"

''We got separated in the crowd, and I could not find him

"Oh!" said Athos, satirically, "I saw him. He was in the
front row of the crowd, admirably placed for seeing; and, as
on the whole, the sight was curious, he probably wished to
stay to the end."

Oh! Count de la Fere," said a calm voice, though hoarse
with running, "is it you who slander the absent?"

This reproof stung Athos to the heart, but as the impression
produced by seeing d'Artagnan foremost in a coarse, ferocious
crowd had been very strong, he contented himself by replying:

"I do not calumniate you, my friend. They were anxious
about you here, and I told them where you were."

So saying, he stretched out his hand, but the other pretended


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see it, and he let it drop again slowly by his ade.
ghol I am tired," sighed d'Artagnan, sitting down.

not to

"Heighol , ^ ^ ,

** Drink a glass of port," said Aramis, "it will refresh you.'

"Yes, let us drink," said Athos, anxious to make it up by
nobnobbing glasses with d'Artagnan, "let us drink and get away
from this hateful country."

"You are in a hurry," said d'Artagnan.

"But what would you have us to do here, now that the King
is dead?"

"Go, Count," replied d'Artagnan carelessly; "you see noth-
ing to keep you a little longer in England. Well, for my
part, I, a bloodthirsty ruffian, who can go and stand close to a
scaffold, in order to have a better view of the King's execution,
I remain."

Athos turned pale. Every reproach his friend made struck
deeply into his heart

"Hang it!" said Porthos, a little perplexed, "I suppose, as I
came with you, I must leave with you. I can't leave you alone
in this abominable country."

"Thanks, my worthy friend. So then I have a little adven-
ture to propose to you when the count is gone. I want to find
out who was the man in the mask, who so obligingly offered to
cut the King's throat"

"A man in a mask!" cried Athos. "You did not let the ex-
ecutioner escape, then?"

"The executioner is still in the cellar, where, I presume, he
has had a few words conversation with mine hosf s bottles. But
you remind me. Mousqueton, leil; out your prisoner. All is

"But," said Athos, "who^ is the wretch who has dared to
raise his hand against the King?"

"An amateur headsman," replied Aramis, "who, however,
does not handle the ax amiss, as he hoped."

"Did you not see his face?" asked Athos.

"He wore a mas)c"

"But you, Aramis, who were close to him."

"I could see nothing but a grey beard under the bottom of
the mask."

"Then it must be a man of some age."

"Oh I" said d'Artagnan, "that matters little. When one puts
on a mask, it is not difficult to wear a beard under it"

"I am sorry I did not follow him," said Porthos.

"Well, my dear Porthos," said d'Artagnan, "that's the very
thing which it came into my head to do.

Athos understood it all now.

"Forgive me, my friend," he said, offering hk hand to d'Ar-

"Well," said d'Artagnan, "while I was looking on, the fancy
took me to discover who this masked volunteer might be.
Well, I looked about for Porthos, and as I did so, I saw near


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mt a head which had been broken, but which, for better or
worse, had been mended with black silk. *Humph!' thought
I, 'that looks like my cut; I fancy I must have mended that
skull somewhere or other/ And in fact, it was that unfortunate
Scotchman, Parry's brother, you Jcnow, on whom Groslow amused
himself by trying his strength. Well, this man was making signs
to another at my left, and ttirning round, I recognized the
honest Grimaud. *Hell > !* said I to him. Grimaud turned round
with a jerk, recognized me, and pointed to the man in the mask.
'Eh?' said he, which meant, *Do you see him?' *Aye!' I an-
swered, and we perfectly understood one another. Well, every-
thing finished you know how. The mob dispersed. I made a
sign to Grimaud and the Scotchman, and we all three retired
into a comer of the square. I saw the executioner return to
the King's room, change his clovhes, put on a black hat and a
large cloak, and disappear. Five minutes later he came down
the grand staircase."

"You followed him?" cried Athos.

"I should think so, but not without difficulty. Every min-
ute he turned round, and thus obliged us to^ conceal our-
selves. I might have gone up to him and killed him. But I am
not selfish; and I thought it might console you all a little to
have a share in the matter. So we followed him through the
lowest streets in the city, and, in half an hour's time, he stopped
before a small, lonely house. Grimaud drew out a pistol. 'Eh ?'
said he, showing it. I held back his arm. The man in the
mask stopped before a low door, and drew out a key ; but before
he placed it in the lock, he turned round to see if he was not
followed. Grimaud and I had got behind a tree, and the Scotch-
man having nowhere to hide himself, threw himself on his face
in the road. Next moment the door opened, and the man disap-
peared. I placed the Scotchman at the door by which he en-
tered, making a sign to follow the man wherever he might go.
if he came out again. Then going round the house, I placed
Grimaud at the other exit, and here I am. Our game is earthed.
Now for the death!"

Athos threw himself into d'Artagnan's arms.

"Humph!" said Porthos, "Don't you think the executioner
might be Master Cromwell himself, who, to n^ake sure of the
aflfair, undertook it himself?"

"Ah! just so. Cromwell is stout and short, and this man thin
and lank, and rather tall than otherwise."

"Some condemned soldier, perhaps," suggested Athos, "whom
they have pardoned at the price of this deed."

"No, no," continued d'Artagnan, "It is not the measured step
of a foot-soldier, nor the easy gait of a horseman. If I am
not mistaken, it was a gentleman's walk."

"A gentleman!" exclaimed Athos. "Impossible! It would
be a disgrace to his whole family."


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"Fine sport, by Jove!'' cried Porthos, with a laugh that shook
the windows. "Fine sport!"

"Swords!" cried Aramis, "swords! and let us not lose a

The four friends resumed their own clothes, girded on their
swords, ordered Mousqueton and Blaisois to pay the bill, and
to arrange everything for immediate departure, and, wrapped
in their large cloaks, left in search of their game.

The night was dark, the snow still falling, and the streets de-
serted. D'Artagnan led the way through the intricate windings
anid narrow alleys of the city, and ere long they had reached
the house in question. For a moment d* Artagnan thought that
Parry's brother had disappeared; but he was mistaken. The
robust Scotchman, accustomed to the snows of his native hills,
had stretched himself against a post, and like a fallen statue,
insensible to the inclemencies of the weather, had allowed the
snow to cover him. He rose, however, as they approached.

"Come," said Athos, "here's another good servant. Really,
honest men are not so scarce as I thought."

"Don't be in a hurry to weave crowns for our Scotchman.
I believe the fellow is here 'for his own hatred; for I have
heard that these gentlemen, bom beyond the Tweed, are very
vindictive. I should not like to be Groslow, if he meets him."

"Well?" said Athos to the man in English.

"No one has come out," he replied.

"Then Porthos and Aramis, will you remain with this man,
while we go round to Grimaud?"

Grimaud had made himself a kind of sentry-box out of a
hollow willow, and as they drew near, he put his head out and
gave a low whistle.

"Eh!" said Athos.

"Aye," replied Grimaud.

"Well, has anybody come out?"

"No, but a man has gone in."

"At the same time he pointed to a window, through the shut-
ters of which a faint light streamed.

They turned round the house to fetch Porthos and Aramis,

"Have you seen anything?" they asked.

"No, but we are going to," replied d'Artagnan^ pointing to
Grimaud, who had already climbed some five or six feet from
the ground.

All four came up together. Grimaud continued to climb like
a cat, and succeeded at last in catching hold of a hook which
served to keep one of the shutters back when opened. Then
resting his foot on a small ledge, he made a sign to show that
he was all right.

"Well?" asked d'Artagnan.

Grimaud showed his closed hand, with two fingers spread out.

"Speak," said Athos; "we cannot see your signs. How many
are they?"


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"Two. One opposite to me, the other with his back to me."

"Good. And the man opposite to you is— ?"

"The man I saw go in."

"Short and stout. General Cromwell."

The four friends looked at one another.

"And the other?" asked Athos.

"Thin and lank."

"The executioner," said d*Artagnan and Aramis at the same

"I can see nothing but his back," resumed Grimaud. "But
wait. He is moving; and if he has taken off his mask I shall
be able to see. Ah! "

And, as if struck in the heart, he let go the hook, and dropped
with a groan.

"Did you see him?" they all asked.

"Yes," said Grimaud, with his hair standing on end.

"The thin and spare man, the executioner, it is he," mur-
mured Grimaud, pale as death, and seizing his master's hand.

"Who? He?" asked Athos.

"Mordaunt!" replied Grimaud.

"D'Artagnan, Porthos, and Aramis uttered a cry of joy.

Athos stepped back, and passed his hand over his brow.

"Fatality!'^ he muttered.

Cromwell's private house.

It was, indeed, Mordaunt, whom d'Artagnan followed, with-
out knowing it. On entering the house he had taken off his
mask and the false beard, and mounting a staircase, had opened
a door, and in a room lighted by a single lamp, found himself
face to face with a man seated behind a desk.

This man was Cromwell.

Cromwell had two or three of these retreats in London, un-
known except to the most intimate of his friends. Now Mor-
daunt was among these.

"It is you, Mordaunt," he said. "You are late."

"General, I wished to see the ceremony to the end, which de-
layed me."

"Ah! I scarcely thought you were so curious as that."

"I am always curious to see the downfall of your honor's
enemies, and that one was not among the least of them. But
you, general, were you not at Whitehall?"

"No," said Cromwell. "I only know that there was a con-
spiracy to rescue the King."

"Ah, you knew that," said Mordaunt.

**It matters little. Four men, disguised as workmen, were


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to get the King out of prison,' and take him to Greenwich, where
a cutter was waiting."

"And, knowing all that, your honor remained here, far from
the city, calm and inactive?"

"Calm? yes," replied Cromwell. "But who told you I was

"I thought your excellency considered the death of Charles
I. as a misfortune necessary to the welfare of England?"

"Yes, his death; but it would have been better not on the

"Why so?" asked Mordaunt.^

Cromwell smiled. "Because it could have been said that I
had had him condemned for the sake of justice, and had let him
escape out of pity."

"But if he had escaped?"

"Impossible; my precautions were taken."

"And does your honor know the four men who undertook
to rescue him?"

"The four Frenchmen, of whom two were sent by the Queen
to her husband, and two by Mazarin to me."

"And do you think Mazarin commissioned them to act as
they have done?"

"It is possible. But he will not avow it because they have

"Your honor gave me two of these Frenchmen When they
were only fighting for Charles I. Now that they are guilty of
a conspiracy against England, will your honor give me all four
of them?"

"Take them," said Cromwell.

Mordaunt bowed with a smile of triumphant ferocity.

"Where were you placed?"

Mordaunt tried for a moment to read in the General's face
if this was simply a useless question, or whether he knew every-
thing. But his piercing eye could not penetrate the sombre
depths of Cromwell's.

I was placed so as to hear and see everything," he an-

It was now Cromwell's turn to look fixedly at Mordaunt,
and Mordaunt's to make himself impenetrable.

"It appears," said Cromwell, "that this volunteer executioner
did his duty very well. The blow, so they told me at least,
was struck with a master's hand."

Mordaunt remembered that Cromwell had told him he had
had no detailed account, and he was now quite convinced that
the general had been present at the execution, hidden behind
some curtain or screen.

*' Perhaps it was some one in the trade?" said Cromwell.

"Do you think so, sir? It might have been some personal
enemy of the King, who made a vow of vengeance, and accom-
plished it in this manner."


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"And if that were the case, would your honor condemn his

**It is not for me to judge. It rests between him and God."

"But if your honor knew this man?"

"I neither know, nor wish to know hinL Provided Charles
is dead, it is the ax, not the man, we must thank."

"And yet, without the man, the King would have been res-

Cromwell smiled.

"They would have carried him to Greenwich," he said, "and
put him on board a skiff, with five barrels of powder in the
hold. Once out at sea, you are too good a politician not to
understand the rest, Mordaunt."

"Yes, they would all have been blown up."

"Just so. The explosion would have done what the ax had
failed to do. They would have said that the King had escaped
human justice, and been overtaken by God's arm. You see
now why I did not care to know your gentleman in a mask."

Mordaunt bowed humbly. "Sir, he said, "you are a profound
thinker, and your plan was sublime."

"Say absurd, since it is become useless. The only sublime
ideas in politics, are those which bear fruit. So, to-night, Mor-
daunt, go to Greenwich, and ask for the captain of ^he skiff
'lightning.* Show him a white handkerchief knotted at the
four corners, and tell the crew to disembark, and carry the
powder back to the Arsenal, unless indeed—*—"


"This skiff might be of use to you for your personal pro-

"Oh, my lord, my lord!"

"That title," said Cromwell, laughing, "is all very well here,
but take care a word like that does not escape in public."

"But your honor will soon be called so generally."

"I hope so, at least," said Cromwell, rising and putting on
his cloak.

"Then," said Mordaunt, "your honor gives me full power?"


"Thank you, thank you."

Cromwell turned as he was going.

"Are you armed?" he asked;

"I have my sword."

"And no one waiting for you outside?"


"Then you had better come with me."

"Thank you, sir, but the way by the subterranean passag^e
would take me too much time, and I have none to lose."

Cromwell placed his hand on a hidden handle, and opened
a door so well concealed by the tapestry, that the most prac-
ticed eye could not have discovered it, and which closed after


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him with a spring. This door communicated with a subter-
ranean passage, leading under the street to a grotto in the gar-
den of a house about a hundred yards from that of the future
Lord Protector.

It was just before this that Grimaud had perceived the two
men seated together.

D'Artagnan was the first to recover from his surprise.

"Mordaunt," he cried, "thank Heaven!"

"Yes," said Portho*, "let us knock the door in, and fall upon

"No," replied d*Artagnan, "no noise. Now, Grimaud, you
come here, climb up to the window again^ and tell us if Mor-
daunt is alone, and whether he is preparing to go out or to go
to bed. If he comes out, we shall catch him. If he stays in,
we will break in the window. It is easier and less ncMsy than
the door."

Grimaud began to scale the wall again.

"Keep guard at .the other door, Athos and Aramis. Por-
thos and I will stay here."

The friends obeyed.

"He is alone," said Grimaud.

"We did not see his companion come out"

"He may have gone by the other door."

"What is he doing?"

* Putting on his cloak and gloves."

"He is ours," muttered d'Artagnan.

Porthos mechanically drew his dagger from the scabbard.

"Put it up again, my friend," said d'Artagnan. "We must
proceed in an orderly manner."

"Hush!" said Grimaud, "he is coming out. He has put out
the lamp. I can see nothing now."

"Get down then, get down."

Grimaud leapt down, and the snow deadened the noise of
his fall.

"Now, go and tell Athos and Aramis to stand on each side
of their door, and clap their hands if they catch him. We will
do the same."

The next moment the door opened, and Mordaunt appeared
on the threshold, face to face with d'Artagnan. Porthos
clapped his hands, and the other two came running round.
Mordaunt was livid, but he uttered no call for assistance.
D'Artagnan quietly pushed him in again, and by the light of
a lamp on the staircase made him ascend the steps backward

Online LibraryAlexandre DumasTwenty years after → online text (page 29 of 38)