Copyright
Alexandre Dumas.

Twenty years after online

. (page 7 of 38)
Online LibraryAlexandre DumasTwenty years after → online text (page 7 of 38)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


. Digitized



by Google



58 TWENTY YEARS AFTER.

"No, sir, I assure you," muttered Raoul, "it is not.*'

**0h, no, no, I declare it is not I" cried the young girl, while
Raoul turned pale at the idea of his being, perhaps, the cause
of her disaster.

"Nevertheless, Raoul, you must go to Blois, and you must
make your excuse and mine to Mdme. de Saint-Remy, her
mother."

The youth looked pleased. He again took in his strong arms
the little girl, whose pretty golden head and smiling face rested
on his shoulder, and placed her gently in the carriage, then,
jumping on his horse with the elegance and agility of a first-
rate esquire, after bowing to Athos and d'Artagnan, he went
oflF close b3r the door of the carnage, in the irside of which his
eyes were incessantly riveted.



CHAPTER XV.

AT THE CASTLE OF BRAGELONKE.

While this scene was going on, d'Artagnan remained with
Open mouth and confused gaze. Everything had turned out so
differently to what he had expected, that he was stupefied with
wonder.

Athos, who had been observing him and guessing his thoughts,
took his arm, and led him into the garden.

'*Whilst supper is being prepared,*' he said, smiling, "you
will not, my friend, be sorry to hav; the mystery which so
puzzles you cleared up.

"You are surprised at what you see here?"

"Extremely."

"But above all things, / am a marvel to you? Would you
not have known me again, in spite of my eight-and-forty years
of age?"

**I do not find you the same person at all."

"Ah, I understand," cried Athos, with a slight blush. •'Every-
thing, d'Artagnan, even folly, has its limit."

"Then your means, it appears, are improved, you have a
capital house, your own, I presume? You have a park, horses,
servants."

Athos smiled.

••Yes; I inherited this little property when I quitted the army,
as I told you. The park is twenty acres-twenty, comprising
kitchen-gardens and a common. I have two horses — I don't
count my servant's bung-tailed nag. My sporting dogs consist
of two pointers, two harriers, and two setters. And then all
this extravagance is not for myself," added Athos, laughing.

"Yes, I see, for the young man Raoul,'* said d'Artagnan.

"You guess right, my friend; this youth is an orphan, d^-



Digitized



by Google



TWENTY YEARS AFTER. 59

serted by his mother, who left him in the house of a poor country
priest. I have brought him up.

"This child has caused me to recover what I had lost. I
had no longer any wish to live for myself. I have lived for him.
I have corrected the vices th-t I had. I have assumed the vir-
tues that I had not. Precept is much, example is more. I may
be mistaken, but I believe that Raoul will be as accomplished
a gentleman as our degenerate age could display.'*

The remembrance of My Lady, a Frenchwoman, who had won
this title by marrying an English noble, altJhough Athos, her hus-
band, was alive, and whom the four friends had doomed to
death for her manifold crimes, recurred to the Musketeer.

"And are yoU happy?" he said to his friend.

"As happy as it is allowed to one of God's creatures to be
on this earth; but say out all you think, d'Artagnan, for you
liave not done so."

**You are too bad, Athos; one can hide nothing from you,"
answered d'Artagnan. "I wish to ask you if you ever feel any
emotions of terror resembling "

"Remorse! I finish your phrase — ^yes and no. I do not feel
remorse, because she, I believe, deserved her punishment. I do
not feel remorse, because, had we allowed her to live, she
would have persisted in her work of destruction. But I do
not mean, my friend,^ that we were right in what we did. Per-
haps all blood that is shed demands an expiation. Hers has
been accomplished; it remains, possibly, for us to accomplish
ours."

"I have sometimes thought as you do, Athos."

"She had a son, that unhappy woman. Have you ever heard
of him?"

"Never."

"He must be about twenty-three years of age," said Athos^
in a low tone. "I often think of that young man, d'Artagnan."

"Strange !^ for 1 had forgotten him," said the lieutenant.

Athos smiled— the smile was melancholy.

"And her brother-in-law, Lord Winter — do you know any-
thing about him?"

"I know that he is in high favor with Charles I."

"The fortunes of that monarch are now at a low ebb. He
shed the blood of Strafford : that confirms what I said just now —
blood will have blood: and the Queen?"

"Henrietta of England is at the Louvre."

"Yes, and I hear in the greatest poverty. Her * daughter
during the bitterest cold, was obliged, for want of fire, to remain
in bed. Why did she not ask from any one of us a home in-
stead of from Mazarin? She should have wanted for nothing."

At this instant they heard the sound of horses' feet.

" Tis Raoul, who is come back," said Athos ; "and we can now
hear how the poor child is. Well," he added, "I hope the ac-
cident has been of no consequence?"



Digitized



by Google



60 TWENTY YEARS AFTER,

"They don't know yet, sir, on account of the swelling; but
the doctor is afraid some muscle may be injured."

At this moment a youth, half-peasant, half-footboy, came to
announce suiJper.

Athos led his guests into a dining room of moderate size,
the windows of which opened on one side on the garden — on
the other on a hothouse, full of magnificent flowers.

D'Artagnan glanced at the dinner service. The plate was
magnificent, old, and belonging to the family. "Let us sit down
V) supper. Call Charles," he added, addressing the boy who
v^aited.

"My good Charles, I particularly recommend to your care
Planchet, the lackey of M. d'Artagnan. He likes good wine
now you have the key to the cellar— he has slept a long time o
a hard bed, so he won't object to a soft one — ^take care of hir
I. beg of you." Charles bowed and retired.

"You think of everything," said d'Artagnan; "and I -tha
you for Planchet, my dear Athos."

Raoul started on hearing this name, and looked at the count
to be quite sure that it was he thus addressed.

"That name sounds strange to you," said Athos, smiling;
"it was my by-name when M. d'Artagnan, two other gallant
friends, and myself performed some feats of arms at the siege
of La Rochelle, under the deceased Cardinal. My friend is
still so kind as to address me by that dear old appellation which
makes my heart glad when I hear it." ^

" 'Tis an illustrious name," said the lieutenant, "and had, one
day, triumphal honors paid to -it."

"What do you mean, sir?" inquired Raoul.

The Musketeer could not refrain from relating one of the
episodes in which he and his host figured in that Odyssey of
gallantry and bravery called "The Three Musketeers."

"D'Artagnan does not tell you, Raoul," said Athos, in his
turn, "that he was reckoned one of the best swordsmen of his
time — 2i thigh of iron, a wrist of steel, a sure eye, and a glance
of fire — ^that's what his adversary met with from him. He was
eighteen, only three jrears older than you are, Raoul, when I saw
him at this work— pitted against tried men."

"And was M. d'Artagnan the conqueror?" said the young man,
with glistening eyes.

"I killed one man, I believe," replied d'Artagnan, with a look
of inquiry directed to Athos ; "another I disarmed, or wounded.
I don't remember which "

'Wounded," said Athos; "oh you were a strong one."

The young man would willingly have prolonged this conver-
sation all night, but Athos pointed out to him that his guest
must need repose. D'Artagnan would fain have declared that
he was not fatigued; but Athos insisted on his retiring to his
chamber, conducted thither by RaouL



— Digitized



by Google



TWENTY YEARS AFTER. 61



CHAPTER XVL

ATHOS AS A DIPLOMATIST.

D'Artagnan retired to bed— not to sleep but to think over
all that he had heard that evening. As he was good-hearted,
and had once had for Athos a liking, which had grown into a
sincere friendship, he was delighted at thus meeting a man
full of intelligence and moral strength, instead of a wretched
drunkard. He admitted, without annoyance, the continued su-
periority of Athos over himself, devoid as he was of that jeal-
ousy which might have s ddened a less generous disposition:
he was delighted also that the high qualities of Athos appeared
to promise favorable for his mission. Nevertheless, it seemed
to him that Athos was not, in all respects, sincere and frank.
Who was the youth whom he had adopted, and who bore so
great a resemblance to him ? What could explain Athos' having
re-entered the world, and the extreme sobriety which he had ob-
served at table? The absence of Grimaud, his old valet, whose
name had never once been uttered by Athos, gave d'Artagnan un-
easiness. It was evidently either that he no longer possessed
the confidence of his friend, or that Athos was bound by some
invisible claim, or that he had been forewarned of the lieu-
tenant's visit.

Resolved to seek an explanation of all these points on the fol-
lowing day, d'Artagnan, m spite of his fatigue, prepared for an
attack, and determined that it should take place after break-
fast He determined to cultivate the good will of the youth
Raoul, and, either whilst fencing with him, or out shooting, to
exact from his simplicity some information which would con-
nect the Athos of the old times with the Athos of the present.
But d'Artagnan, quite disposed to adopt a subtle course against
the cunning of Aramis, or the vanity of Porthos, was ashamed
to equivocate with the truehearted, open Athos.

There was now perfect stillness in the house, except footsteps,
up and down in the chamber above, — as he supposed, the bed-
room of Athos.

"He is walking about and thinking," thought d'Artagnan,
*1)ut of what? It is impossible to know; everything else might
be guessed, but not that."

At length, Athos went to bed, apparently, for the noise ceased.

Silence, and fatigue together, overcame d'Artagnan, and sleep
overtook him also. He was not, however, a good sleeper.
Scarcely had dawn gilded his window-curtains than he sprang
out of bed and opened the windows. Somebody, he perceived,
was in the Qourt-yard, but moving stealthily. True to his cus-



Digitized



by Google



62 TWENTY YBARS AFTER.

torn of never passing anything over that was within his power
to know, d'Artagnan looked out of the window and perceived the
close red coat and brown hair of Raoul.

D'Artagnan saw him ride by like a dart, bending, as he went,
beneath pendant flowery branches of the maple trees and
acacias. The road, as d'Artagnan had observed, was the way
to Blois.

"So!" thought the Gascon, "he is a young blood who has
already his love affair, who doesn't at all agree with Athos in
his hatred to the fair sex. He's not going to hunt, for he has
neither dogs nor arms; he's not going on a message, for he
goes secretly. Why does he go in secret? Is he afraid of
me, or of his father? for I am sure the count is his father. By
Jove! I shall know about that soon, for I shall speak out to
Athos."

Day was advanced as the Gascon went downstairs. Scarcely
had he descended the last step than he saw Athos, bent down
towards the ground, as if he were looking for a coin in the dust.

"Good day to you; have you slept well?"

"Excellently well, Athos; but what are you looking for?
are you a tulip fancier?"

"My dear friend, if I were, you should not laugh at me for be-
ing so. I was looking anxiously for some iris roots which I
planted here, close to this reservoir, and which some one has
trampled upon this morning. ^ These gardeners are the most
careless people in the world; in bringing the horse out of the
water, they've allowed him to walk over the border."

D'Artagnan began to smile.

"Ah ! you think so, do you?"

"Who went out this morning?" Athos asked uneasily. "Has
any horse got loose from the stable?"

'*Not likely," answered the Gascon; "these marks are reg-
ular."

"Where is Raoul?" asked Athos; "how is it that I have not
seen him?"

"Hush!" exclaimed d'Artagnan, putting his finger on his lips;
and he related what he had seen, watching Athos all the while.

"Ah ! he's gone to Blois ; the poor boy — to inquire after little
la Valliere ; she has sprained her foot, you know. Don't you see
that Raoul is in love?"

"Indeed ! with whom? with a child of seven years old?"

"Dear friend, at Baoul's age the heart is so ardent that it
must expand towards some object or another, fancied or real;
well, his love is half one — ^half the other. ^ She is the prettiest
little creature in the world, with flaxen hair, blue eyes — at once
saucy and languishing."

"But what say you to Raoul's fancy?'*

"Nothing; I laugh at Raoul; but this first desire of the heart
is imperious."



Digitized



by Google



TWENTY YEARS AFTER. 63

" *Tis want of occupation ; you do not employ Raoul, so he
takes his own way of employing himself/*

"Exactly so; therefore I think of sending him away from this
place, though it will break his heart. So long as three or four
years ago, he used to adorn and adore his little idol, whom he
will some day fall in love with in good earnest, if he remains
here. The parents of little la Valliere have for a long time
perceived and been amused at it; but now they begin to look
grave about it.

"Nonsense, however, Raoul must be diverted from this fancy.
I think I shall send him to Paris."

*'So!" thought d'Artagnan; and it seemed to him that the
moment for attack had arrived. "Suppose/* he said, "we chalk
out a career for this young man. I want to consult you about
something. Do you not think it is time to enter into service,
for you, to include him?'*

"But are you not still in the service? you — d*Artagnan ?**

"I mean into active service. Our former life — has it still
no attraction for you? should you not be happy to begin anew,
in my society, and Porthos', the exploits of our youth?"

**On whose side?" asked Athos, fixing his clear, benevolent
Rlance on the countenance of the Gascon. "Listen, d'Artagnan.
There is but one person — or rather, one cause — ^to whom a man
like me can be useful — ^the King's.*'

"Exactly," answered the Musketeer.

"Yes, but let us understand each other," returned Athos, seri-
ously. "If by the cause of the King you mean that of Mazarin,
we do not understand each other.'*

"I don't say, exactly,** answered the Gascon, confused.

"Come, d'Artagnan, don't let us play a cunning game; your
hesitation, your evasion, tell me at once on whose side you
are; for that party no one dares openly to recruit, and when
people recruit for it, it is with downcast head and low voice."

"Ah, my dear Athos!"

"You know that I am not alluding to you; you are the pearl
of brave and bold nien. I speak of that spiteful and intrigu-
ing Italian — of the pedant who has tried to put on his own
head a crown which he stole from under a pillow — of the
scoundrel who calls his party the party of the King — ^who
wants to send the princes of the blood to prison, not daring to
kill them, as our great Cardinal— our Cardinal did — of the
miser who weighs his gold pieces, and keeps the clipped ones
for fear, though he is rich, of losing them at play next morn-
ing—of the impudent fellow who insults the Queen, as they
say— «o much the worse for her — and who is going, in three
months, to make war upon us, in order that he may retain his
pensions — ^is that the master whom you propose to me? Thanks,
d'Artagnan."

"You are more impetuous than you were," returned d'Artag-
nan.



Digitized



by Google



64 TWENTY YEARS AFTER.

"Age has warmed, not chilled your blood. Who told you
that that was the master I proposed to you? Devil take it,"
he muttered to himself, "don't let me betray my secrets to a
man not inclined to receive them well."

**Well, then," said Athos, "what are your schemes? what do
you propose?"

"Zounds! nothing can be more natural; you live on your
estate, happy in your golden means. Porthos has, perhaps,
sixty thousand francs income. Aramis has always fifty duchesses
who are quarreling for the priest, as they quarrelled formerly
for the Musketeer; but I — ^what have I in the world? I have
worn my cuirass for these twenty years, kept down in with in-
ferior rank, without going forward or backward, without liv-
ing. In fact, I am dead. Well! when I meet a master who
wants to revive me a little, you throw a wet blanket over me by
decrying him as an impudent fellow — ^a miser — a bad master!
By Jove! I'm of your opinion; but find me a better one, or
give me the means of living."

Athos was, for a few moments thoughtful.

"Good ! d'Artagnan is for Mazarin," he said to himself.

From that moment he became very guarded.

On his side d'Artagnan was more cautious also.

"You spoke to me," Athos resumed, "of Porthos; what does
he wish for?"

"To be a baron."

"Ah! true! I forgot," said Athos, laughing.

"Tis true," thought the Gascon, "where has he heard it?
Does he correspond with Aramis? Ah! if I knew that he did,
I should know all."

The conversation was interrupted by the entrance of Raoul.

"Is our little neighbor worse? asked Athos, seeing a look of
vexation on the face of the youth.

"Ah, sir!" replied Raoul, **her fall is a very serious one;
and without any apparent injury, the physician fears that she
will be lame for life."

"That is terrible," said Athos.

"And what makes me wretched, sir, is that I am the cause of
this misfortune."

"There's only one remedy, dear Raoul — that is, to marry her
as a compensation," remarked d'Artagnan.

"Ah, sir!" answered Raoul, "you joke about a real misfortune;
that is cruel, indeed."

The good understanding between the two friends was not
in the least altered by the morning skirmish. They breakfasted
with a good appetite, looking now and then at poor Raoul,
who, with moist eyes and a full heart, scarcely ate at all.

After breakfast two letters arrived for Athos, who read
them with deep attention; whilst d'Artagnan could not restrain
himself from jumping up several times, on seeing these epistles,
in one of which, having a very strong sight, he perceived the



Digitized



by Google



TWENTY YEARS AFTER. 65

strong writing of Aramis. The other was in a feminine hand,
long and crossed.

"Come," said d'Artagnan to Raoul— seeing that Athos wished
to be alone — "come, let us take a turn in the fencing gallery,
that will amuse you."

The amusement was rather one-sided, for the Musketeer, in
return for a couple of touches, had buttoned full on the young-
ster a score of hits.

In a quarter of an hour Athos joined them; and, at the
same moment, Charles brought in a letter for d'Artagnan,
which a messenger had just desired might be instantly de-
livered.

It was now the turn of Athos to take a sly look.

D'Artagnan read the letter with apparent calmness, and said,
shaking his head,—

** See, dear friend, what an army is ; my faith, you arc, indeed
right not to return to it. Trcville is ill — so my company can't
do without me; there I my leave is at an end!"

"Do you go back to Paris?" asked Athos quickly.

"Egad I yes; but why don't you come there also?"

Athos colored a little and answered, —

"Should I go, I shall be delighted to see you there."

"Hello, Planchet!" cried Gascon from the door, **we must
set out in ten minutes; give the horses some hay."

Then turning to Atiios, he added, —

"I seem to miss something here. I am real sorry to go away
without having seen Grimaud."

"Grimaud!" replied Athos. "I was surprised you did not ask
after him. I have lent him to a friend "

"Who will understand the signs he makes?" asked d'Artag-
nan.

"I hope so."

The friends embraced cordially; d'Artagnan pressed Raoul's
hand.

"Adieu, then, to both, my good friends," said d'Artagnan;
'*may God preserve you! as we used to say when we said good
bye to each other in the late Cardinal's time."

Athos waved his hand, Raoul bowed, and d'Artagnan and
Planchet set out.

The count followed them with his eyes— his hand resting on
the shoulders of the youth, whose height was almost equal to
his own; but, as soon as they were out of sight, he said, —

"Raoul— we set out to-night for Paris."

"Eh I" cried the young man, turning pale.

"You may go and offer your adieux and mine to Mdme. de
Saint-Remy. I shall wait for you here till seven."

The young man bent low, with an expression of sorrow and
gratitude mingled, and retired to saddle his horse.

As to d'Artagnan, scarcely, on his side, was he out of sight.



Digitized



by Google



65 TWENTY YEARS AFTER,

than he drew from his pocket a letter which he read over
again.

"Return immediately to Paris — ^J. M."

"The epistle is laconic," said d*Artagnan; "and if there had
not been a postscript, probably I should not have understood
it; but, happily, there is a postscript."

And he read this sustaining postscript, which made him foi:-
get the abruptness of the letter.

"P. S. Go to the King's treasurer at Blois; tell him your
name, and show him this letter; you will receive two hundred
pistoles."

"Assuredly," said d'Artagnan; "I like this piece of prose,
and the Cardinal writes better than I thought. Come, Planchet,
let us pay a visit to the King's treasurer, and then set off."

"Towards Paris, sir?"

'^Towards Paris."

And both set out on as hard a trot as their horses could go.



CHAPTER XVII.

THE DUKE OF BEAUFORT.

The circumstances which had hastened the return of d'Artag-
nan to Paris were the following: —

During the whole five years in which Duke de Beaufort had
been in prison, not a day had passed in which the Cardinal
had not felt a secret dread of his escape. It was not possible,
as he well knew, to confine f6r the whole of his life the grand-
son of Henry IV., especially when this prince was scarcely
thirty years of age. But, however and whensoever he did es-
cape, what hatred he must cherish against him to whom he
owed his long imprisonment ; who had taken him rich, brave,
glorious, beloved by women, feared by men, to cast off from his
life its happiest years; for it is not existence, but merely
life, in prison. Meanwhile, Mazarin redoubled the watch over
the duke. But, like the miser in the fable, he could not sleep
near his treasure. Often he woke in the night, suddenly, dream-
ing that he had been robbed of Beaufort. Then he inquired
about him, and had the vexation of hearing that the prisoner
played, drank, sang — ^but that whilst playing, drinking, singing,
he often stopped short, to vow that Mazarin should pay dear
for all the amusements he had forced him to enter into at
Vincennes.

So much did this one idea haunt the Cardinal, even in his
sleep, that when, at seven in the morning, Bernouin came to
arouse him, his first words were: — "Well— what's the matter?
Has Lord de Beaufort escaped from Vincennes?"

"I do not think so, my lord," said Bernouin; "but you will



Digitized



by Google



TWENTY YEARS AFTER. 67

hear about him, for his special guard La Ramee is here, and
awaits the commands of your Eminence/'

"Tell him to come in," said Mazarin, arranging his pillows, so
that he might receive him sitting, in bed.

The officer entered — a large fat man, with a good physiog-
nomy. His air of perfect serenity made Mazarin uneasy.

"Approach, sir," said the Cardinal

The officer obeyed.

"Do you know what is said here?"

"No, your Eminence."

"Wellj that Lord de Beaufort is going to escape from Vin-
cennes, if he has not done so already."

The officer's face expressed complete stupefaction. He opened,
at once, his great eyes and his little mouth, to inhale better the
joke that his Eminence deigned to address to him, and ended
by a burst of laughter, so violent, that his great limbs shook in
his hilarity as they would have done in a fever.

"Escape! my lord — escape! Your Eminence can not then
know where M. de Beaufort is?"

**Yes, I do, sir; in the donjon of Vincennes."

"Yes, sir; in a room, the walls of which are seven feet thick,
with grated windows, each bar being as thick as my arm."

"Sir," replied Mazarin, '*with perseverance one may penetrate
tlirough a wall — ^with a watch-spring one may saw through an
iron bar."

"Then my lord does not know that there are eight guards
about him — four in his chamber, four in the ante-chamber — and
they never leave him."

"But he leaves the room, he plays at tennis in the Mall?"

"Sir, those amusements are allowed; but if your Eminence
wishes it, we will discontinue the permission."

"No, no," cried Mazarin, fearing that should his prisoner
ever leave his prison he would be the more exasperated against



Online LibraryAlexandre DumasTwenty years after → online text (page 7 of 38)