Copyright
Alexandre Dumas.

Twenty years after online

. (page 35 of 38)
Online LibraryAlexandre DumasTwenty years after → online text (page 35 of 38)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


"Which cannot last," interrupted Comminges, "the Cardinal
said so; there is no prison here."

"But there are oubliettes I" replied Athos, smiling.

"Oh! that's a different thing; yes, I know there are tra-
ditions of that sort," said Comminges; "it was in the time of the
other Cardinal, who was a great nobleman; but our Mazarin —
impossible! an Italian adventurer could not go to such lengths
towards such men as us. Dungeons are employed as a means
of kindly vengeance, and a low-born fellow, such as he is, dare
not have recourse to them. No, no, be easy on that score. I
shall, however, inform M. d*Artagnan of your arrival here."

Comminges then led the count to a room on the ground
floor of a pavilion, at the end of the orangery. They passed
through a court-yard, as they went, full of soldiers and cour-
tiers. In the centre of this court, in the form of a horse-shoe,
were the buildings oc<;upied by Mazarin, and at each wing the
pavilion (or smaller building) where d'Artagnan was, and that,
level with the orangery, where Athos was to be. Behind each
end of these two wings extended the park.

Athos, when he reached this appointed room, observed,
through the gratings of his window, walls, and roofs ; and was
told, on inquiry, by Comminges, that he was looking on the
back of the pavilion where d'Artagnan was confined.

"Yes, 'tis too true," said Comminges, "'tis almost a prison;
but what a singular fancy this is of yours, Count — ^you, who are
the very flower of our nobility — to go and spend your valor
and loyalty amongst these upstarts, the Frondists ! "

"Besides," said Athos, "what a charming thing it would have
been to serve the Cardinal! Look at that wall — without a
single window — ^which tells you fine things about Mazarin's
gratitude!"

"Yes," replied de Comminges, "more especially if that could
reveal how M. d'Artagnan for this last week has been swearing
at him."

"Poor d'Artagnan," said Athos, with that charming melan-
choly which was one of the external traits of his character, "so



Digitized by



Google



TWENTY YEARS AFTER, 335

brave and good, but terrible to the enemies of those whom he
loves; you have two unruly prisoners there, sir."

"Unruly," Comminges smiled, "you wish to make me afraid,
I suppose. When he came here, M. d*Artagnan provoked ana
braved all the soldiers and inferior officers, in order, I suppose,
to have his sword back — ^that mood lasted some time — ^but
now he's as gentle as a lamb, and sings Gascon songs which
make one die with laughing."
"And du Vallon?" asked Athos.

"Ah, he's quite another sort, a formidable gentleman, indeed.

^ The first day he broke all the doors in with a single^ push of

' his shoulder ; and I expected to see him leave Rueil in the

same way as Samson left Gaza. But his temper cooled down

like his friend's; he not only gets usc^ to his captivity, but

jokes about it."

"So much the better," said Athos: and, on reflection, he
felt convinced that this improvement in the spirits of the two
captives proceeded from some plan formed by d'Artagnan for
their escape.



CHAPTER LXXIX.

CAGED.

Now let us pass the orangery, to the hunting lodge. At the
extremity of the court-yard, where, close to a portico formed
of Ionic columnSj there were dog-kennels, rose an oblong
building, the pavilion of the orangery, a half-circle, enclosing
the court of honors. It was in this summer-house, on the
ground floor, that d'Artagnan and Porthos were confined, suf-
fering the hours of a long imprisonment in a manner suitable
to each different temperament.

D'Artagnan Was walking about like a tiger, his eyes fixed,
growling as he paced along by the bars of a window looking
Ufion the yard of servants' offices.

Porthos was ruminating over an excellent dinner which
had been served up to him.

The one seemed to be deprived of reason, yet he was medi-
tating. The other seemed to meditate,^ yet he was sleeping.
But his sleep was a nightmare which might be guessed by the
incoherent manner in which he snored.

"Look," said d'Artagnan, "day is declining. It must be
nearly four o'clock. We have been in this place nearly eighty-
three hours."

"Hem!" muttered Porthos, with a kind of pretence of an«.
swering.

"Did you hear, eternal sleeper?" cried d'Artagnan, irritated



Digitized



by Google



336 TWENTY YEARS AFTER.

that any one could doze during the day when he had the greatest
difficulty in sleeping during the night.

" 'Tis your fault," answered Porthos. **I offered to you
escape."

"By tearing down an iron bar and pushing in a door, Por-
thos. People like us cannot just go out as they like; besides,
going out of this room is not ever3rthing."

"Well, then, let us kill the sentinel, and then we shall have
arms."

"Yes; but before we can kill him — and hard to kill is a Swiss
— he will howl, and the whole piquet will come, and we shall
be taken like foxes — we, who are lions — and thrown into some
dungeon, where we shall not even have the consolation of
seeing this frightful grey sky of Rueil, which is no more like
the sky of Tarbes than the moon to die sun. Lack-a-day! if
we only had some one to instruct us about the physical and
moral topography of this castle. Ah, when one thinks that for
twenty years-nduring which time I did not know what to do
with myself — it never occurred to me to come to study Rueil.
And after all, *tis impossible but that Aramis, or Athos, that
wise gentleman, should discover our retreat, then, faith, it will
be time to act."

"Yes, more especially as it is not very disagreeable here, with
one exception; three days running they have brought us braised
mutton!

"If that occurs a fourth time I shall complain of it, so never
mind."

"And then I feel the loss of my house; *tis a long time since
I visited my castles."

"Forget them for a time; we shall return to them, unless
Mazarin razes them to the ground."

"Do you think that likely?"

"No; the other Cardinal would have done so; but this one
is too low a fellow to risk it."

"You console me, d'Artagnan."

The two prisoners were at this point of their conversation
when Comminges entered, preceded by a sergeant and by two
men, who brought supper m a basket with two handles, filled
with basins and plates.

"What!" exclaimed Porthos, "mutton again?"

"My dear M. de Comminges," said d'Artagnan, "you will
find my friend, du Vallon, will go to the most fatal lengths if
M. Mazarin continues to provide us with this sort of meat; mut-
ton every day."

"I declare," said Porthos, "I shall eat nothing if they do not
take it away."

"Take away the mutton," said Comminges; "I wish M. du
Vallon to sup well, more especially as I have news to give him
which will improve his appetite."

"Is Mazarin put to death?" asked Porthos.



Digitized



by Google



TWENTY YEARS AFTER. 337

"No; I am sorry to tell you he is perfectly well."

"So much the worse," said Porthos.

"Should you be very glad to hear that the Count de la Fere
was well?" asked de Comminges.

D'Artagnan's small eyes were opened to the utmost.

"Glad!" he cried; "I should be more than gladl Happy!
beyond measure!"

"Well, I am desired by him to give you his compliments,
and to say that he is in good health."

"Then you have seen him?"

"Certainly, I have."

"Where? if it is not impertinent."

"Near here," replied de Comminges, smiling; "so near that
if'^the windows which look on the orangery were not stopped
up you might see the place where he is."

"He is wandering about the environs," thought d*Artagnan.
Then he said aloud:

"You met him, I dare say, in the park, hunting, perhaps?"

"No; nearer, nearer still. Look behind this wall," said de
Comminges, knocking against the wall.

"Behind this wall? What is there, then, behind this wall?
I was brought here by night, so devil take me if I know where
I am. The count is then in the chateau!"

"Yes."

"For what reason?"

"The same as yourself."

"Athos is, then, a prisoner?"

"You know well," replied de Comminges, "that there are
no prisoners at Rueil, because there is no prison."

"Don't let us play upon words, sir. Athos has been ar-
rested?"

"Yesterday, at St. Germain, as he came out from the pres-
ence of the Queen."

The arms of d'Artagnan fell powerless by his side. One
might have supposed hini thunderstruck; a paleness ran like
a cloud over his dark skin, but disappeared immediately.

"A prisoner?" he reiterated.

"A prisoner," repeated Porthos, quite dejected.

Suddenly d'Artagnan looked up, and in his eyes there was
a gleam which scarcely even Porthos observed; but it died
away, and he remained more sorrowful than before.

"Come, come," said Comminges, who, since d'Artagnan, on
the day of Broussel's arrest, had saved him from the hands of
the Parisians, had entertained a real affection for him; ''don't
be downcast, I never thought of bringing you bad news. Laugh
at the mischance whicli has befallen your friend and M. du
Vallon, instead of being in the depths of despair about it."

But d'Artagnan was still in a desponding mood.

"And how did he look?" asked Porthos, who, perceiving



Digitized



by Google



338 TWENTY YEARS AFTER,

that d'Artagnan had allowed the conversation to drop, profited
by it to put in his word.

"Very well, indeed, sir," replied Comminges; **at first, like
you, he seemed distressed; but when he heard that the Car-
dinal was going to pay him a visit this very evening "

"Ah!" cried d'Artagnan; "the Cardinal going to visit the
Count de la Fere?"

"Yes; and the count desired me to tell you that he should
take advantage of this visit to plead for you and for himself."

"Ah! the dear count!" said d'Artagnan.

"A fine thing, indeed!" grunted Porthos. "A great favor!
Zounds! The Count de la Fere, whose family is allied to the
Montmorencys and the Rohans, is well worthy of M. Maz-
arin's civilities."

"N^ver mind!" said d'Artagnan, in his calmest tone, and
looking, but in vain, at Porthos, to see if he comprehended all
the importance of this visit. "*Tis then, M. Mazarin's custom
to walk in his orangery?" he added.

"He shuts himself up there every evening, to ponder over
state affairs."

"It looks as if he would receive the count," observed d'Ar-
tagnan; "of course he will be attended?"

"A couple of guards "

"He talks politics before troopers?"

"No, Swiss who know only German, and stay by the door."

"Let the Cardinal take care of going alone to visit the Count
de la Fere," said d'Artagnan; "for the count must be mad."

Comminges began to laugh. "Really, to hear you talk, one
would suppose you were cannibals. The count is an affable
man; besides, he is unarmed; at the first word from his Emin-
ence the two soldiers about him would run to him."

"Now," said d'Artagnan; "I've one last favor to ask of you,
M. de Comminges."

"At your service, sir."

"You will see the count again?"

"To-morrow morning."

"Will you remember us to him, and ask him to solicit one
favor for me — ^that his Eminence should do me the honor to
give me a hearing ; that is all I want."

"Oh!" muttered Porthos, shaking his head; "never should
I have thought this of him! How misfortune humbles a man!"

"That shall be done," answered de Comminges.

"Tell the count that I am well; that you found me sad, but
resigned."

"I am pleased, sir, to hear that."

"And the same, also, for M. du Vallon "

"Not for mel" cried Porthos; "I'm not at all resigned."
He will be so, monsieur; I know him better than he knows
himself. Be silent, dear du Vallon, and resign yourself."



Digitized



by Google



TWENTY YEARS AFTER. 339

"Adieu, gentlemen," said Comminges: "sleep well!"

"We will try."

Comminges went away, d'Artagnan remaining apparently in
the same attitude of humble resignation; but scarcely had he
departed than he turned, and hugged Porthos with joy not to
be doubted.

**Oh!" cried Porthos; "What's the matter now? Are you mad,
my dear friend?"

**What*s the matter?" returned d*Artagnan; "we are saved!"

"I don't see that at all," answered Porthos. "I think we are
all taken prisoners, except Aramis, and that our chances of
going out are lessened since we were entangled in Mazarin's
trap."

** Which is far too strong for two of us, but not strong
enough for three of us," returned d'Artagnan.

"I don't understand," said Porthos.

"Never mind; let's sit down to table, and take something
to strengthen us for the night."

"What are we to do to-night?"

"Travel — perhaps."

"But "

"Sit down, dear friend, at table. While we are eating, ideas
flow easily. After supper, when they are perfected, I will
communicate my plans to you."

So Porthos sat down to the table without another word,
and ate with an appetite that did honor to the confidence which
d'Artagnan's imagination had inspired him with.



CHAPTER LXXX.

THE STRONG ARM.

Supper was eaten in silence, but not in sadness; from time
to time one of those sweet smiles which were habitual to him
in his moments of good-humor illuminated the face of d'Artag-
i^an. Not one of these smiles was lost on Porthos and at
everyone he uttered an exclamation which betrayed to his
friend that he had not lost sight of the idea which possessed his
brain.

At dessert d'Artagnan reposed in his chair, crossed one leg
over the other, and lounged about like a man perfectly at his
case.

-Well, you were saying you wished to leave this place."

"Ah, indeed! will is not wanting."

"To go away hence you would not mind, you added, knocking
down a door or a wall."

" 'Tis true, I said so, and I say it again."



Digitized



by Google



340 TWENTY YEARS AFTER.

"At what o'clock did we see, pray, the two Swiss guards
walk last night?"

"An hour after sunset"

"If they go out to-day, as they did yesterday, we shall have
the honor, then, of seeing them in half-an-hour?"

"In a quarter of an hour, at most."

"Your arm is still strong enough, is it not, Porthos?"

Porthos unbuttoned his sleeve, raised his shirt, and looked
complacently on his strong arm, as large as the leg of any or-
dinary man.

"Yes, indeed," he said; "pretty good."

"So that you could, without trouble, convert these tongs
into a hoop, and the shovel into a corkscrew?"

"Certainly." And the giant took up these two articles, and,
without any apparent effort, produced in them the metamor-
phosis requested by his companion.

"There!" he cried.

"Capital!" exclaimed the Gascon. "Really, Porthos, you are
a gifted individual!"

I have heard speak," said Porthos, "of a certain Milo of
Crete, who performed wonderful feats, such as binding his
forehead with a cord and bursting it; of killing an ox with
a blow of his fist, and carrying it home on his shoulders, etc.
I used to learn all these facts by heart yonder, down at Pierre-
fonds, and I have done all that he did except breaking a cord
by the swelling of my temples."

"Because your strength is not in your head, Porthos," said
his friend.

"No; it is in my arms and shoulders," answered Porthos,
with simplicity.

"Well, my dear friend, let us go near the window, and try
your strength in severing an iron bar."

Porthos approached the window, took a bar in his hands,
clung to it, and bent it like a bow, so that the two ends came
out of the socket of stone in which for thirty years they had
been fixed.

"Well, friend, the Cardinal, although such a genius, could
never have done that."

"Shall I take out any more of them?" asked Porthos.

"No; that is sufficient; a man can pass through that."

Porthos tried, and passed the trunk of his body through.

"Yes," he said.

"Now run your arm through this opening."

"Why?"

"You will know presently; run it through."

"I wish to know, however, that I may understand," said .
Porthos.

"You will know directly; see, the door of the guard-room
opens. They are going to send into the court the two guards,
who accompany Mazarin when he crosses into the orangery.



Digitized



by Google



TWENTY YEARS AFTER, 341

See, they are coming out, and have closed the door after them."

The two soldiers advanced on the side where the window
was, rubbing their hands, for it was cold, it being the month
of February.

At this moment the door of the guard-house was opened,
and one of the soldiers was summoned away.

"Now," said d'Artagnan, "I am going to call this soldier and
talk to him. Don't lose a word of what I am going to say to
you, Porthos. Everything is in the execution."

"Good, the execution of a plot is my forte."

"I know it well. I depend on you. Look, I shall turn to
the left ; so that the soldier will be at your right, as soon as he
mounts on the bench to talk to us."

"But supposing he doesn't mount?"

**He will ; rely on it. As soon as you see him get up, stretch
out your arm and seize him by his neck. Then raising him
up, you must pull him into our room, taking care to squeeze
so tight that he can't cry out."

"Oh!" said Porthos. "Suppose I were to strangle him?"

"There would only be a Swiss the less in the world; but you
will not do so, I hope. Lay him down here; we'll gag him,
and tie him — no matter where — somewhere. So we shall get
from him one uniform and a sword."

"Marvellous!" exclaimed Porthos; looking at the Gascon
with the most profound admiration.

"Pooh!" replied d'Artagnan.

"Yes," said Porthos, recollecting himself, "but one uniform
and one sword are not enough for two."

"Well; but there's his comrade."

"True;" said Porthos.

"Therefore, when I cough, stretch out your arm."

"Good!"

The two friends then placed themselves as they had agreed,
Porthos being completely hidden in an angle of the window.

"Good evening, comrade," said d'Artagnan, in his most fas-
cinating voice and manner.

"Goot efening, zir," answered the soldier, in a strong accent.

" Tis not too warm for a walk?" resumed d'Artagnan.

"Not doo varm."

"And I think a glass of wine will not be disagreeable to you?"

"A class of vine will pe beiy velcome."

"The fish bites! the fish bites!" whispered the Gascon to
Porthos.

"I understand," said Porthos.

"A bottle, perhaps?"

" A whole pottle ? Yah, zir. " ^

"A whole one, if you will drink to my health."

"Mit bleasure," answered the soldier.

"Come then and take it, friend," said the Gascon.



Digitized



by Google



342 ' TWENTY YEARS AFTER.

**Mit all my heart. How convenient! dere's a pench here!
One would dink it was blaced here on burbose."

**Get on it; that's it, friend.*'

And d'Artagnan coughed.

That instant the arm of Porthos fell. His hand of iron
grasped, quick as lightning, and firm as a pair of pincers, the
soldier's throat. He raised him, almost stiflmg him as he drew
him through the aperture at the risk of flaying him as he
pulled him through. He then laid him down on the floor, where
d'Artagnan, after giving him just time enough to draw his
breath, gagged him with his scarf; and the moment he had
done so began to undress him with the promptitude and dex-
terity of a man who learned his business on the field of battle.
Then the soldier, gagged and bound, was carried inside of
the hearth, the fire of which had been previously extinguished
by the two friends.

"Here's a sword and a dress," said Porthos.

**I take themv" said d'Artagnan, "for myself. If you want
another uniform and sword, you must play the same trick over
again. Stop! I see the other soldier issue from the guard-
room, and come towards us."

"I think," replied Porthos, "it would be imprudent to attempt
the same manoeuvre again ; a failure would be ruinous. No ;
I will go down, seize the man unawares, and bring him to you
ready gagged."

He did as he said. Porthos seized his opportunity, caught
the next soldier by his necl^ gagged him, and pushed him like
a mummy through the bars into the room, amd entered after
himw Then they undressed him as they had done the first;
laid him on their bed, and bound him with the straps which
composed the bed, the bedstead being of oak. This operation
proved as successful as the first

"There," said d'Artagnan, "'tis capital! Now let me try on
the dress of yonder chap. Porthos, I doubt if you can wear
it; but should it be too tight, never mind, you can wear the
breastplate, and the hat with the red feathers."

It happened, however, that the second soldier was a Swiss
of gigantic proportions, so, except that some of the seams
split, his dress fitted Porthos perfectly.

They then dressed themselves.

" 'Tis done ! " they both exclaimed at once. ** As to you,
comrades," they said to the men, "nothing will happen to you
if you are discreet; but if you stir, you are dead men."

The soldiers were pliant; they had found the grasp of Por-
thos rather powerful, and that it was no joke to contend
against it.

"Follow me," said d'Artagnan. "The man who lives to see,
shall see."

And, slipping through the aperture, he alighted in the court.



Digitized



by Google



TWENTY YEARS AFTER. 343

CHAPTER LXXXI.

THE KEEN WIT.

Scarcely had the two Frenchmen touched the ground than
a door opened, and the voice of the valet-de-chambre called
out, "Make ready 1"

At the same moment the guard-house was opened, and a
voice called out:

"La Bruyere and du Barthois! March!"

"It seems that I am named la Bruyere," said d'Artagnan.

"And I, du Barthois," added Porthos.

"Where are you?" asked the valet-de-chambre, whose eyes,
dazzled by the light, could not clearly distinguish our heroes
in the gloom.

"Here we are," said the Gascon.

These two newly-enlisted soldiers marched gravely after the
valet-de-chambre, who opened the door of the vestibule; then
another, which seemed to be that of a waiting-room, and show-
ing the tools, he said :

"Your orders are very simple, don't allow anybody, except
one person, to enter here. Do you hear? not a single crea-
ture! Obey that person completely. On your return you can-
not make a mistake. You have only to wait here till I release
you."

D'Artagnan was known to this valet-de-chambre, who was
no other than Bernouin, and he had, during the last six or
eight months, introduced the Gascon a dozen times to the Car-
dinal. The Gascon, therefore, instead of answering, growled
out "Yah! Yah!" in the most German and the least Gascon
accent possible.

As to Porthos, with whom d*Artagnan had insisted on a per-
fect silence, and who did not even now begin to comprehend
the scheme of his friend, which was to follow Mazarin in his
visit to Athos, he was mute. All that he was allowed to say,
in case of emergencies, was the proverbial and solemn Der
Teufel!

Bernouin went away and shut the door. When Porthos
heard the key turn, he began to be alarmed, lest they should
only have exchanged one prison for another.

"Porthos, my friend," said d'Artagnan, "don't distrust Provi-
dence! Let me consider. We have walked eight paces,"
whispered d'Artagnan, "and gone up six steps, so hereabouts is
the pavilion called the orangery. Count de la F^re cannot
be far off, only the doors are locked."

"A grand difficulty!" cried Porthos.

"Hush!" said d'Artagnan.

The sound of a light step was heard in the vestibule. The



Digitized



by Google



344 TWENTY YEARS AFTER.

hinges of the door creaked, and there appeared a cavalier,
wrapped in a brown cloak, with a lantern in his hand, and a
large beaver hat pulled down over his eyes.

Porthos stood with his face against the wall, but he could
not render himself invisible; and the man in the cloak said to
him, giving him his lantern:

"Light the lamp which hangs from the ceiling."

Then, addressing d^Artagnan, —

"You know the watchword?" he said.

"Yah!" replied the Gascon, determined to confine himself to
this specimen of the German tongue.

^Tedescol" answered the cavalier; *'va bene.''

And advancing towards the door opposite to that by which
he came in, he opened it and disappeared behind it, shutting it
as he went.

"Now," asked Porthos, "what are we to do?"

"Now we shall make use of your shoulder, friend Porthos,
if this dqpr should be locked. Everything in its proper^ time,
and all comes right to those who know how to wait patiently*
But first barricade the first door well, and then we will follow
yonder cavalier."

The two friends set to work and crowded the space before
the door with all the furniture in the room, so as not only to
make the passage impassable, but that the door could not open
inwards.

"There!" said d'Artagnan, "we can't be overtaken. Come!
forward!"



CHAPTER LXXXII.
mazarin's dungeons.

At first, on arriving at the door through which Mazarin had
passed, d'Artagnan tried in vain to open it; but on the power-



Online LibraryAlexandre DumasTwenty years after → online text (page 35 of 38)