Alexandre Dumas.

Twenty years after online

. (page 31 of 38)
Online LibraryAlexandre DumasTwenty years after → online text (page 31 of 38)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

overturning him.


by Google




In ten minutes the masters slept, but not so the servants,
hungry and uncomfortable.

"Grimaud," said Mousqueton to his companion, who had
just come in after his round with d'Artagnan, "are you thirsty?"

"As thirsty as a Scotch!" was Grimaud's laconic reply.

He sat down and began to cast up the accounts of his party
whose money he managed.

**QJi, law! Vm beginning to feel queer!" cried Blaisois.

"If that's the case," said Mousqueton, with a learned air,
**take some nourishment."

"Do you call that nourishment?" asked Blaisois, pointing to
tlie barley bread and the pot of beer.

"Blaisois," replied Mousqueton, "remember that bread is
the true nourishment of a Frenchman, who is not always able
to get that; ask Grimaud."

"Yes, but beer?" asked Blaisois, sharply; "is that their true

"As to that," answered Mousqueton, puzzled how to get
out of the difficulty, "I must confess, that to me beer is as dis-
agreeable as wine to the English."

"M. "Mousqueton! what, do the English dislike wine?"

"They hate it."

"But I have seen them drink it."

"As a punishment; for example an English prince died
one day because he was put into a butt of Malmsey. I heard
the Chevalier d'Herblay sajr so."

"The fool!" cried Blaisois; "I wish I had been in his place."

"You can be," said Grimaud, writing down his figures.

"How?" asked Blaisois, "I can? Explain yourself."

Grimaud went on with his sum, and cast up the whole.

"Port!" he said, extending his hand in the direction of the
first compartment examined by d'Artagnan and himself.

"How? those barrels I saw through the door?"

*Port!" replied Grimaud, who began a fresh sum.

"I have heard," said Blaisois, "that port is a very good

"Excellent!" cried Mousqueton, smacking his lips.

"Supposing these Englishmen would sell us a bottle," said
the honest Blaisois.

"Sell!" cried Mousqueton, about whom there was a remnant
of his ancient maurauding character left. "One may well per-
ceive, young man, that you are still inexperienced. Why buy
when one can take?"


by Google


**To take?" answered Blaisois. "To covet one's neighbor's
goods is forbidden, I believe."

"What a child Jsh reason!" said Mousqueton, condescend-
ingly; "yes, childish; I repeat the word. Where did you
learn^ pray, to consider the English as your neighbors?

"Had you been ten years engaged in war, as Grimaud and
I have been, my dear Blaisois, you would know the difference
that there is between the goods of others and the goods of
your enemies. Now an Englishman is an enemy; as this port
wine belongs to the English, therefore it belongs to us."

"And our masters?" asked Blaisois, stupefied by this har-
angue, delivered with an air of profound sagacity, "will they
be of your opinion?"

Mousqueton smiled disdainfully.

"I suppose you think it necessary that I should disturb the
repose of these illustrious lords to say, 'Gentlemen, your serv-
ant, Mousqueton, is thirsty/ What does M. de Bracieux care,
think you, whether I am thirsty or not?"

" Tis a very expensive wine," said Blaisois, shaking his

"Were it gold, M. Blaisois, our masters would not deny
themselves this wine. Know that M. de Bracieux is rich
enough to drink a ton of port wine, even if obliged to pay a
pistole for every drop." His manner became more and more
lofty every instant; then he arose, and after finishing off the
beer at one draught, he advanced majestically to the door of
the compartment where the wine was. "Ah! locked!" iie ex-
claimed; ** these devils of English, how suspicious they are!"

"Shut!" cried Blaisois; "ah, the deuce it is; unlucky, for
I feel the sickness coming on more and more."

"Shut!" repeated Mousqueton.

**But," Blaisois ventured to say, "I have heard you relate,
M. Mousqueton, that once on a time, at Chantilly, you fed
your master and yourself with partridges which were snared,
carps caught by a line, and wine drawn with a corkscrew."

"Perfectly true; but there was an air-hole in the cellar, and
the wine was in bottles. I cannot throw the loop through
this partition, nor move with a pack-thread a cask of wine
which may, perhaps, weigh two hogsheads."

"No, but you can take off two or three boards of the parti-
tion," answered Blaisois,. "and bore a hole in the cask with a

Mousqueton opened his great, round eyes to the utmost,
astonished to find in Blaisois qualities for which he did not
give him credit.

" 'Tis true," he said, "but where can I get a chisel to take
the planks out or a gimlet to pierce a cask?"

"The tool-case!" said Grimaud, still balancing his accounts.

"Oh, yes!" said Mousqueton.

Grimaud, in fact, was not only the accountant, but the arm-


by Google


orer of the party, and as he was a man full of forethought, his
necessary case, carefully rolled up in his valise, contained
every sort of tool for immediate use.

Mousqueton, therefore, was soon provided, and he began his
task. In a few moments he had got out three pieces of board.
He Ixied to pass his body through the aperture, but, not be-
ing like the frog in the fable, who thought he was larger than
he really was, he found he must take out three or four more
boards, before he could get through.

He sighed, and began to work again.

Grimaud had now finished his accounts. He arose, and
stood near Mousqueton.

"I r he said.

"What?" said Mousqueton.
1 pass '

**True, you — " answered Mousqueton, casting a glance at
the long, thin form; **you can pass, and easily, go in, then."

"Rinse the glasses," said Grimaud.

"Now," said Mousqueton, addressing Blaisois, "now you will
see how we old campaigners drink when we are thirsty."

"My cloak," said Grimaud from the bottom of the hold,
"stop up the hole with it."

"Why?" asked Blaisois.

"Simpleton!" exclaimed Mousqueton; "suppose any one came
into the room."

"Ah, true!" cried Blaisois, with evident admiration; "but it
will be dark in the hold."

"Grimaud always sees, dark or light— night as well as day,"
answered Mousgueton.

"Silence!" cried Grimaud, "some one is coming."

In fact, the door of the cabin was opened. Two men, wrapped
in their cloaks, appeared.

"Oh, ho!" said they, "not in bed at a quarter past eleven.
That's against all rules. In a quarter of an hour let every-
one be in bed, and snoring."

These two men then went towards the compartment in which
Grimaud was secreted; opened the door, entered, and shut
it after them.

"Oh!" cried Blaisois; "he's lost!"

"Grimaud's a cunning fox," murmured Mousqueton.

They waited for ten minutes, during which time no noise
was heard to indicate that Grimaud was discovered; and at
the expiration of that anxious interval the two men returned,
closed the door after them, and repeating their orders that
the servants should go to bed, and extinguish the lights, dis-

At that very moment Grimaud drew back the cloak which
hid the aperture, and came in with his face livid, his eyes star-
ing wide open with terror, so that the pupil was contracted
almost to nothing, with a large circle of white around it. He


by Google


held in his hand a tankard full of some substance or another;
and approaching the gleam of light shed by the lamp he uttered
this single monosyllable: **Oh!" with such an expression of
extreme terror that Mousqueton started, alarmed, and Blaisois
was near fainting from fnght.

Both, however, cast an inquisitive glance into the tankard;
it was full of gunpowder.

Convinced that the ship was full of powder instead of hav-
ing a cargo of wine, Gnmaud hastened to awake d'Artagnan,
who had no sooner bcJield him than he perceived that some-
thing extraordinary had taken place. Imposing silence, Grim-
aud put out the little night lamp, then knelt down, and poured
into the lieutenants ear a recital melodramatic enough not to
require play of feature to give it force.

This was the pith of his story.

The first barrel that Grimaud had found on passing into the
cellar, he struck* it was empty. He passed on to another;
it was empty. He passed on to another; it was also empty;
but the third which he tried was, from the dull sound that it'
gave out, evidently full. At this point, Grimaud stopped, and
was preparing to make a hole with his gimlet, when he found
a spigot, he therefore placed his tankard under it, and turned
the spout; something, whatever it was that the cask contained,
fell into the tankard.

Whilst he was thinking that he should first taste the liquor
which the tankard contamed, before taking it to his compan-
ions, the door of the cellar opened, and a man with a lantern
in his hands, and enveloped in a cloak, came and stood just
before the barrel, behind which Grimaud, on hearing him come
in, instantly crept. This was Groslow. He was accompanied
by another man who carried in his hand something whitish,
long and flexible, rolled up, resembling a clothes-line.

"Have you the match?" asked the one who carried the lan-

"Here it is," answered the other.

At the voice of this last speaker, Grimaud started, and felt
a shudder creeping through his very bones. He rose gently,
so that his head was just above the round of the barrel; and,
under the large hat, he recognized the pale face of Mordaunt.
"How long will this slow match burn? ' asked this person.

"Nearly five minutes," replied the captain.

"Then tell the men to be in readiness; don't tell them why,
now; when the clock strikes a quarter after midnight collect
your men. Get down into the long boat."

"That is, when I have lighted the match?"

"I shall undertake that. I wish to be sure of my revenge;
are the oars in the canoe?"

"Everything is ready."

"Tis well."

Mordaunt knelt down and struck one end of the tx^n, in


by Google


the bunghole, in order that he might have nothing to do but
set it on fire at the opposite end with the match.

**I understand it all perfectly, sir," replied Groslow; "but
allow me to say, there is great danger in what you undertake;
would it not be better to entrust one of the men to set fire
to the train?"

**My dear Groslow," answered Mordaunt, "you know the
proverb, *if you want things done well, do them yourself!' I
shall carry it out."

Grimaud had heard all this; had recognized the two mortal
enemies of the Musketeers; had seen Mordaunt lay the train;
then he felt, and felt again, the contents of the tankard that
he held in his hand; and, instead of the liquid expected by
Blaisois and Mousqueton, he felt beneath his fingers the grains
of some coarse powder.

Mordaunt went away with the captain. At the door he
stopped to listen.

"Do you hear how they sleep?" he said.

In fact, Porthos could he heard snoring through the partition.

" Tis God who gives them into our hands," answered Gros-

"This time the devil himself shall not save them^" rejoined

And they went out together.



D'Artagnan, as one may suppose, listened to all these details
with a growing interest. He awoke Aramis, Athos, and Por-
thos; and then, stretching out his arms, and closing them
again, the Gascon collected in one small circle the three heads
of his friends, so near as almost to touch each other.

He then told them the bark was a mine ; that they had Gros-
low for their captain^ and Mordaunt acting under him as his
lieutenant. Something niore deathly than a shudder at this
moment, shook the brave Musketeers. The name of Mordaunt
seemed to exercise over them a mysterious and fatal influence
to bring terror even at the very sound.

-What is to be done?" asked Athos.

D'Artagnan replied by going towards a porthole, just large
enough to let a man through. He turned its lid gently on its

"There," he said, "is our road."

"The deuce — 'tis very cold, my dear friend," said Aramis.

"Stay here, if you like, but I warn you, 'twill be rather too
warm presently."


by Google


**But we cannot swim to the shore."

**The long boat is yonder, towed by the lugger; we can
take possession of it, and cut the connection. Come, my

"A moment's delay," said Athos; **our servants?"

"Here we are," they answered.

Meantime the three friends were standing motionless before
the awful sight which d'Artagnan, in raising the shutters, had
disclosed to them through the narrow opening of the window.

Those who have once beheld such a scene know that there
is nothing more solemn, more striking than the raging sea,
rolling, with its deafening roar, its dark billows, beneath the
pale light of a wintry moon.

"Gracious Heaven! we are hesitating," cried d'Artagnan;
**if we hesitate, what will the servants do?"

"I do not hesitate, you know," said Grimaud.

"Sir," interposed Blaisois, "I warn you that I cannot swim
except in rivers."

"And I not at all," said Mousqueton.

But d'Artagnan had now slipped through the window.

"You have then decided, my friend?" said Athos.

"Yes," the Gascon answered; "Athos! you, who are a perfect
being, bid the spirit to triumph over the body."

"Do you, Aramis, order th^ servants and Porthos to kill
everyone who stands in your way."

And, after pressing the hands of Athos, d'Artagnan chose
a moment when the ship tossed, so that he had only to plunge
into the water up to his waist.

Athos followed him before the vessel rose again on the
waves; the rope which tied the boat to the vessel was then
seen plainly rising out of the sea.

D'Artagnan swam to it, and held it, suspending: himself by
this rope, his head alone out of the water.

In one second Athos joined him.

They then saw two other heads against the bend of the hull
emerging — ^Aramis' and Grimaud's.

"I am uneasy about Blaisois," said Athos; "he can, he says,
only swim in fresh water."

"When people can swim at all they can swim everywhere.
To wherry."

"But Porthos? I do not see him."

"Porthos is coming; he swims like Leviathan."

Porthos, in fact, did not appear. Mousqueton and Blaisois
had been appalled by the sight of the black gulf below them,
and had shrunk back.

"Come along! I shall strangle you both if you don't get
out," said Porthos, at last seizing Mousqueton by the throat.

"Forward! Blaisois."

A groan stifled by the grasp of Porthos, was all the reply
of poor Blaisois, for the giant, taking him neck and heels.


by Google


plunged him into the water head foremost, pushing him out
by the window as if he had been a plank.

**Now, Mouston," he said, "I hope you don't mean to desert
your master?"

**Ah, sir," replied Mousqueton, his eyes filling with tears,
**why did you re-enter the army? We were so hapny in the
Chateau du Pierrefonds!"

And, without any other complaint, passive and J^edient,
either from true devotion to his master, or from the example
set by Blaisois, Mousqueton went into the sea head foremost
A sublime action, at all events, for Mousqueton looked upon
himself as dead. But Porthos was not a man to abandon an old
servant; and when Mousqueton rose above the water, blinded,
he found that he was supported by the large hand of Porthos,
and that he could, without having occasion to move, advance
towards the tow-line with the dignity of a sea-god.

In a few minutes, Porthos had rejoined his companions,
who were already in the canoe; but when, after they had all
got in, it came to his turn, there was great danger that in
putting his huge leg over the edge of the boat he would have
upset the little vessel. Athos was the last to enter.

"Are you all here?" he asked.

"Ah! have you your sword, Athos?" cried d'Artagnan.


•*Cut the painter, then."

Athos drew a sharp poignard from his belt, and cut the cord.
The lugger went on; the boat continued stationary, only tossed
by the waves.

"We did it in high time, Athos!" said d*Artagnan, giving
his hand to the count; "you are going to see something very



Scarcely had d'Artagnan uttered these words than a whistle
was heard resounding on the vessel, which now became dim
in the fog and obscurity.

"That, you may be sure," said' the Gascon, "that means
something new."

They then, at the same instant, perceived a large lantern
carried on a pole on the deck, defining the forms of shadows
behind it.

Suddenly a terrible yell of despair was wafted through the
space, and as if the shrieks of anguish had driven away the
clouds, the veil which hid the moon was cleared away, and


by Google


the grey sails and dark shrouds were outlined beneath the
silvery gleam.

Shadows ran, bewildered, to and fro, on the deck, and mourn-
ful cries accompanied these delirious walkers. In the midst
of these screams they saw standing on the rounded poop-
deck, Mordaunt, with a torch in his hand.

The figures, apparently excited with terror, were Groslow,
who, at the hour fixed by Mordaunt, had collected his men
and the sailors. Groslow, after having listened at Che door of
the cabin to hear if the Musketeers were still asleep, had
gone down into the cellar, convinced by the silence that they
were all in a deep slumber. Then Mordaunt had opened the
door, and run to the train; impetuous as a man who is excited
by revenge and full of confidence — as are those whom God
blinds — he had set fire to the slow-match.

All this while, Groslow and his men were assembled on

**Haul in the painter, and draw the boat to us," said Groslow.

One of the sailors bestrode the side, seized the rope, and
drew it; it came without any resistance.

"It is cut!" he cried, **no yaive!"

"What?" exclaimed Groslow, " 'tis impossible."

** 'Tis true, however," answered the sailor; "there's nothing
in the wake of the ship, besides, here's the rope's end. Look
yourself, sir!"

"What's the matter?" cried Mordaunt, who, coming up out
of the hatchway, rushed to the stern, his torch in his hand'.

"Only that our enemies have escaped — they have cut the
rope, and gone oflF with our yaive."

Mordaunt bounded with one step to the cabin and kicked open
the door.

"Empty!" he exclaimed, "the demons!"

"We must pursue them," said Groslow; "they can't be gone
far, and we can sink them by running them down!"

"Yes, but the train," ejaculated Mordaunt; "I have lighted it."

**A thousand devils!" cried Groslow, rushing to the hatch-
way; "perhaps there is still time to put it out."

Mordaunt answered only by a dreadful laugh, threw his torch
into the sea, and plunged. The instant that Groslow put his
foot upon the steps of the hatchway the ship opened like the
crater of a volcano; a burst of flame arose toward the skies
with an explosion like that of a hundred cannon; the air itself
burned, ignited by brands; then the frightful lightning dis-
appeared, the embers sank down, one after another, into the
abyss, where they were extinguished ; and, except a slight vibra-
tion in the air, after a few minutes had elapsed, one would
have thought that nothing had happened.

But the lugger had disappeared from the surface and Gros-
low and his Siree sailors were annihilated.

Our four friends saw all this ; not a single detail of this fear-


by Google


ful scene escaped them; at one moment, bathed as they were
in a flood of brilliant light, which illumined the sea for the
space of a league, they might each be seen, each in his own
peculiar attitude and manner, expressing the awe, which, even
in their hearts of bronze, they could not help feeling. Soon
the torrent of flame fell all around them; then, at last, the
volcano was extinguished and all was dark over the floating boat
and the rolling ocean.

They were all silent and dejected.

**By Heaven!" at last said Aramis, **by this time, I think, all
must be over.*'

"Here! my lords! save me! help!" cried a voice, whose
mournful accents reaching the four friends, seemed to proceed
from some sea spirit

All looked around; Athos shuddered.

** Tis he! 'tis his voice!" he said.

All still remained silent; the eyes of all were still turned in
the direction where the vessel had disappeared, endeavoring
in vain to penetrate the darkness. After a minute or two
they were able to distinguish a man who approached them,
swimming vigorously.

Athos extended his arm towards him. **Yes, yes, I know
him well," he said.

**He — again!" cried Porthos, who was breathing like a black-
smith's bellows, **why, he's made of iron."

"God's mercy!" muttered Athos.

Aramis and d'Artagnan whispered to each other.

Mordaunt made several strokes more and raised his arm in a
sign of distress above the waves. "Pity, pity me! gentlemen,
in Heaven's name. I feel my strength failing me; I am dying."

The voice that implored aid was so piteous, that it awakened
compassion in Athos.

"Poor wretch!" he exclaimed.

"Indeed," cried d'Artagnan, "people have only to complain;
to you. I believe he's swimming towards us. Does he think we
are going to take him in? Ro^y, Porthos, row." And setting
the example, he ploughed his oar into the sea. Two strokes sent
the boat on twenty fathoms further.

"Ah! ha!" said Porthos to Mordaunt, "I think we have you i
in a tight comer now, my hero! your only port now is below."

"Fie! Porthos!" murmured the Count de la Fere.

"Oh, pray! for mercy's sake don't fly from me. For pity^s
sake!" cried the young man, whose agonized breathing at
times, when his head was under wave, made the icy waters

D'Artagnan, however, who had consulted with Aramis, spoke
to the poor wretch. "Go away," he said, "your repentance
is too recent to inspire confidence. See! the vessel in which
yow wished to fry us is still smoking; and your fix is a bed


by Google


of roses compared to that in which you wished to place us, and
in which you have placed M. Groslow and his companions."

"Sir!" relied Mor daunt, in a tone of deep despair, "my
penitence is sincere. Gentlemen, I am young, scarcely twenty-
three years old. I was drawn on by a very natural resentment
to avenge my mother. You would have done what I did."

Mordaunt wanted now only two or three fathoms to reach
the boat, for the approach of death seemed to give him super-
natural strength.

"Alas!" he said, **am I to die! are you going to kill the son
as you killed the mother? Surely, if I am culpable, and ask
for pardon, I ought to be forgiven."

Then, as if his strength failed him, he seemed unable to
sustain himself above the water, and a wave passed over his
head, which drowned his voice.

**0h! this tortures me!" Athos resumed, as Mordaunt reap-

"For my part," said d'Artagnan, **I say, this must come to
an end. Murderer, as you were, of your uncle ; executioner, as
you were, of King Charles! Incendiary! I recommend you to
sink forthwith to the bottom of the sea; and if you come an-
other stroke nearer, I'll break your head with my oar."

"D'Artagnan! d'Artagnan!" cried Athos, **my son! I en-
treat you; the wretch is dying; and it is horrible to let a man
die without extending a hand to save him. I cannot resist
doing so; he must live."

"Zounds!" replied d'Artagnan, "why don't you give your-
self up directly, feet and hands bound, to that wretch? Ah!
Count de la Fere, you wish to perish by his hands? I, your
son, as you call me; I will not!"

Twas the first time that d'Artagnan had ever refused a re-
quest of Athos.

Aramis calmly drew his sword, which he had' carried be-
tween his teeth as he swam.

"If he lays his hand on the boat's edge, I will cut it ofiF, regi-
cide as he is."

"And I," said Porthos. "Wait."

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

"To throw myself in the water and strangle him."

"Oh, gentlemen!" cried Athos; "be men! be Christians.
See! death is depicted on his face! Ah! do not bring on me
the horrors of remorse! Grant me this poor wretch's life.
I will bless you. I "

"I am d3ring!" cried Mordaunt, "come to me! come to me!"

D'Artagnan began to be touched. The boat at this moment
turned round, and the dying man was by that turn brought
nearer to Athos.

"My lord la Fere!" he said* "I supplicate you! - pity mef
I call on you! where are you? I see you no longer — I am dying
— ^help me!— help me!"


by Google


"Here I am, sir!" said Athos, leaning, and stretching out

Online LibraryAlexandre DumasTwenty years after → online text (page 31 of 38)