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The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas [Pere]

Part 12 out of 17

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There were monks who wore the frock with such an ill grace
that it was easy to perceive they belonged to the church
militant; women a little inconvenienced by their costume as
pages and whose large trousers could not entirely conceal
their rounded forms; and peasants with blackened hands but
with fine limbs, savoring of the man of quality a league

There were also less agreeable visits--for two or three
times reports were spread that the cardinal had nearly been

It is true that the enemies of the cardinal said that it was
he himself who set these bungling assassins to work, in
order to have, if wanted, the right of using reprisals; but
we must not believe everything ministers say, nor everything
their enemies say.

These attempts did not prevent the cardinal, to whom his
most inveterate detractors have never denied personal
bravery, from making nocturnal excursions, sometimes to
communicate to the Duc d'Angouleme important orders,
sometimes to confer with the king, and sometimes to have an
interview with a messenger whom he did not wish to see at

On their part the Musketeers, who had not much to do with
the siege, were not under very strict orders and led a
joyous life. The was the more easy for our three companions
in particular; for being friends of M. de Treville, they
obtained from him special permission to be absent after the
closing of the camp.

Now, one evening when d'Artagnan, who was in the trenches,
was not able to accompany them, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis,
mounted on their battle steeds, enveloped in their war
cloaks, with their hands upon their pistol butts, were
returning from a drinking place called the Red Dovecot,
which Athos had discovered two days before upon the route to
Jarrie, following the road which led to the camp and quite
on their guard, as we have stated, for fear of an ambuscade,
when, about a quarter of a league from the village of
Boisnau, they fancied they heard the sound of horses
approaching them. They immediately all three halted, closed
in, and waited, occupying the middle of the road. In an
instant, and as the moon broke from behind a cloud, they saw
at a turning of the road two horsemen who, on perceiving
them, stopped in their turn, appearing to deliberate whether
they should continue their route or go back. The hesitation
created some suspicion in the three friends, and Athos,
advancing a few paces in front of the others, cried in a
firm voice, "Who goes there?"

"Who goes there, yourselves?" replied one of the horsemen.

"That is not an answer," replied Athos. "Who goes there?
Answer, or we charge."

"Beware of what you are about, gentlemen!" said a clear
voice which seemed accustomed to command.

"It is some superior officer making his night rounds," said
Athos. "What do you wish, gentlemen?"

"Who are you?" said the same voice, in the same commanding
tone. "Answer in your turn, or you may repent of your

"King's Musketeers," said Athos, more and more convinced
that he who interrogated them had the right to do so.

"What company?"

"Company of Treville."

"Advance, and give an account of what you are doing here at
this hour."

The three companions advanced rather humbly--for all were
now convinced that they had to do with someone more powerful
than themselves--leaving Athos the post of speaker.

One of the two riders, he who had spoken second, was ten
paces in front of his companion. Athos made a sign to
Porthos and Aramis also to remain in the rear, and advanced

"Your pardon, my officer," said Athos; "but we were ignorant
with whom we had to do, and you may see that we were good

"Your name?" said the officer, who covered a part of his
face with his cloak.

"But yourself, monsieur," said Athos, who began to be
annoyed by this inquisition, "give me, I beg you, the proof
that you have the right to question me."

"Your name?" repeated the cavalier a second time, letting
his cloak fall, and leaving his face uncovered.

"Monsieur the Cardinal!" cried the stupefied Musketeer.

"Your name?" cried his Eminence, for the third time.

"Athos," said the Musketeer.

The cardinal made a sign to his attendant, who drew near.
"These three Musketeers shall follow us," said he, in an
undertone. "I am not willing it should be known I have left
the camp; and if they follow us we shall be certain they
will tell nobody."

"We are gentlemen, monseigneur," said Athos; "require our
parole, and give yourself no uneasiness. Thank God, we can
keep a secret."

The cardinal fixed his piercing eyes on this courageous

"You have a quick ear, Monsieur Athos," said the cardinal;
"but now listen to this. It is not from mistrust that I
request you to follow me, but for my security. Your
companions are no doubt Messieurs Porthos and Aramis."

"Yes, your Eminence," said Athos, while the two Musketeers
who had remained behind advanced hat in hand.

"I know you, gentlemen," said the cardinal, "I know you. I
know you are not quite my friends, and I am sorry you are
not so; but I know you are brave and loyal gentlemen, and
that confidence may be placed in you. Monsieur Athos, do
me, then, the honor to accompany me; you and your two
friends, and then I shall have an escort to excite envy in
his Majesty, if we should meet him."

The three Musketeers bowed to the necks of their horses.

"Well, upon my honor," said Athos, "your Eminence is right
in taking us with you; we have seen several ill-looking
faces on the road, and we have even had a quarrel at the Red
Dovecot with four of those faces."

"A quarrel, and what for, gentlemen?" said the cardinal;
"you know I don't like quarrelers."

"And that is the reason why I have the honor to inform your
Eminence of what has happened; for you might learn it from
others, and upon a false account believe us to be in fault."

"What have been the results of your quarrel?" said the
cardinal, knitting his brow.

"My friend, Aramis, here, has received a slight sword wound
in the arm, but not enough to prevent him, as your Eminence
may see, from mounting to the assault tomorrow, if your
Eminence orders an escalade."

"But you are not the men to allow sword wounds to be
inflicted upon you thus," said the cardinal. "Come, be
frank, gentlemen, you have settled accounts with somebody!
Confess; you know I have the right of giving absolution."

"I, monseigneur?" said Athos. "I did not even draw my
sword, but I took him who offended me round the body, and
threw him out of the window. It appears that in falling,"
continued Athos, with some hesitation, "he broke his thigh."

"Ah, ah!" said the cardinal; "and you, Monsieur Porthos?"

"I, monseigneur, knowing that dueling is prohibited--I
seized a bench, and gave one of those brigands such a blow
that I believe his shoulder is broken."

"Very well," said the cardinal; "and you, Monsieur Aramis?"

"Monseigneur, being of a very mild disposition, and being,
likewise, of which Monseigneur perhaps is not aware, about
to enter into orders, I endeavored to appease my comrades,
when one of these wretches gave me a wound with a sword,
treacherously, across my left arm. Then I admit my patience
failed me; I drew my sword in my turn, and as he came back
to the charge, I fancied I felt that in throwing himself
upon me, he let it pass through his body. I only know for a
certainty that he fell; and it seemed to me that he was
borne away with his two companions."

"The devil, gentlemen!" said the cardinal, "three men placed
hors de combat in a cabaret squabble! You don't do your
work by halves. And pray what was this quarrel about?"

"These fellows were drunk," said Athos. "and knowing there
was a lady who had arrived at the cabaret this evening, they
wanted to force her door."

"Force her door!" said the cardinal, "and for what purpose?"

"To do her violence, without doubt," said Athos. "I have
had the honor of informing your Eminence that these men were

"And was this lady young and handsome?" asked the cardinal,
with a certain degree of anxiety.

"We did not see her, monseigneur," said Athos.

"You did not see her? Ah, very well," replied the cardinal,
quickly. "You did well to defend the honor of a woman; and
as I am going to the Red Dovecot myself, I shall know if you
have told me the truth."

"Monseigneur," said Athos, haughtily, "we are gentlemen, and
to save our heads we would not be guilty of a falsehood."

"Therefore I do not doubt what you say, Monsieur Athos, I do
not doubt it for a single instant; but," added he, "to
change the conversation, was this lady alone?"

"The lady had a cavalier shut up with her," said Athos, "but
as notwithstanding the noise, this cavalier did not show
himself, it is to be presumed that he is a coward."

"'Judge not rashly', says the Gospel," replied the cardinal.

Athos bowed.

"And now, gentlemen, that's well," continued the cardinal.
"I know what I wish to know; follow me."

The three Musketeers passed behind his Eminence, who again
enveloped his face in his cloak, and put his horse in
motion, keeping from eight to ten paces in advance of his
four companions.

They soon arrived at the silent, solitary inn. No doubt the
host knew what illustrious visitor was expected, and had
consequently sent intruders out of the way.

Ten paces from the door the cardinal made a sign to his
esquire and the three Musketeers to halt. A saddled horse
was fastened to the window shutter. The cardinal knocked
three times, and in a peculiar manner.

A man, enveloped in a cloak, came out immediately, and
exchanged some rapid words with the cardinal; after which he
mounted his horse, and set off in the direction of Surgeres,
which was likewise the way to Paris.

"Advance, gentlemen," said the cardinal.

"You have told me the truth, my gentlemen," said he,
addressing the Musketeers, "and it will not be my fault if
our encounter this evening be not advantageous to you. In
the meantime, follow me."

The cardinal alighted; the three Musketeers did likewise.
The cardinal threw the bridle of his horse to his esquire;
the three Musketeers fastened the horses to the shutters.

The host stood at the door. For him, the cardinal was only
an officer coming to visit a lady.

"Have you any chamber on the ground floor where these
gentlemen can wait near a good fire?" said the cardinal.

The host opened the door of a large room, in which an old
stove had just been replaced by a large and excellent

"I have this," said he.

"That will do," replied the cardinal. "Enter, gentlemen,
and be kind enough to wait for me; I shall not be more than
half an hour."

And while the three Musketeers entered the ground floor
room, the cardinal, without asking further information,
ascended the staircase like a man who has no need of having
his road pointed out to him.


It was evident that without suspecting it, and actuated
solely by their chivalrous and adventurous character, our
three friends had just rendered a service to someone the
cardinal honored with his special protection.

Now, who was that someone? That was the question the three
Musketeers put to one another. Then, seeing that none of
their replies could throw any light on the subject, Porthos
called the host and asked for dice.

Porthos and Aramis placed themselves at the table and began
to play. Athos walked about in a contemplative mood.

While thinking and walking, Athos passed and repassed before
the pipe of the stove, broken in halves, the other extremity
passing into the chamber above; and every time he passed and
repassed he heard a murmur of words, which at length fixed
his attention. Athos went close to it, and distinguished
some words that appeared to merit so great an interest that
he made a sign to his friends to be silent, remaining
himself bent with his ear directed to the opening of the
lower orifice.

"Listen, Milady," said the cardinal, "the affair is
important. Sit down, and let us talk it over."

"Milady!" murmured Athos.

"I listen to your Eminence with greatest attention," replied
a female voice which made the Musketeer start.

"A small vessel with an English crew, whose captain is on my
side, awaits you at the mouth of Charente, at fort of the
Point. He will set sail tomorrow morning."

"I must go thither tonight?"

"Instantly! That is to say, when you have received my
instructions. Two men, whom you will find at the door on
going out, will serve you as escort. You will allow me to
leave first; then, after half an hour, you can go away in
your turn."

"Yes, monseigneur. Now let us return to the mission with
which you wish to charge me; and as I desire to continue to
merit the confidence of your Eminence, deign to unfold it to
me in terms clear and precise, that I may not commit an

There was an instant of profound silence between the two
interlocutors. It was evident that the cardinal was
weighing beforehand the terms in which he was about to
speak, and that Milady was collecting all her intellectual
faculties to comprehend the things he was about to say, and
to engrave them in her memory when they should be spoken.

Athos took advantage of this moment to tell his two
companions to fasten the door inside, and to make them a
sign to come and listen with him.

The two Musketeers, who loved their ease, brought a chair
for each of themselves and one for Athos. All three then
sat down with their heads together and their ears on the

"You will go to London," continued the cardinal. "Arrived
in London, you will seek Buckingham."

"I must beg your Eminence to observe," said Milady, "that
since the affair of the diamond studs, about which the duke
always suspected me, his Grace distrusts me."

"Well, this time," said the cardinal, "it is not necessary
to steal his confidence, but to present yourself frankly and
loyally as a negotiator."

"Frankly and loyally," repeated Milady, with an unspeakable
expression of duplicity.

"Yes, frankly and loyally," replied the cardinal, in the
same tone. "All this negotiation must be carried on

"I will follow your Eminence's instructions to the letter.
I only wait till you give them."

"You will go to Buckingham in my behalf, and you will tell
him I am acquainted with all the preparations he has made;
but that they give me no uneasiness, since at the first step
he takes I will ruin the queen."

"Will he believe that your Eminence is in a position to
accomplish the threat thus made?"

"Yes; for I have the proofs."

"I must be able to present these proofs for his

"Without doubt. And you will tell him I will publish the
report of Bois-Robert and the Marquis de Beautru, upon the
interview which the duke had at the residence of Madame the
Constable with the queen on the evening Madame the Constable
gave a masquerade. You will tell him, in order that he may
not doubt, that he came there in the costume of the Great
Mogul, which the Chevalier de Guise was to have worn, and
that he purchased this exchange for the sum of three
thousand pistoles."

"Well, monseigneur?"

"All the details of his coming into and going out of the
palace--on the night when he introduced himself in the
character of an Italian fortune teller--you will tell him,
that he may not doubt the correctness of my information;
that he had under his cloak a large white robe dotted with
black tears, death's heads, and crossbones--for in case of a
surprise, he was to pass for the phantom of the White Lady
who, as all the world knows, appears at the Louvre every
time any great event is impending."

"Is that all, monseigneur?"

"Tell him also that I am acquainted with all the details of
the adventure at Amiens; that I will have a little romance
made of it, wittily turned, with a plan of the garden and
portraits of the principal actors in that nocturnal

"I will tell him that."

"Tell him further that I hold Montague in my power; that
Montague is in the Bastille; that no letters were found upon
him, it is true, but that torture may make him tell much of
what he knows, and even what he does not know."


"Then add that his Grace has, in the precipitation with
which he quit the Isle of Re, forgotten and left behind him
in his lodging a certain letter from Madame de Chevreuse
which singularly compromises the queen, inasmuch as it
proves not only that her Majesty can love the enemies of the
king but that she can conspire with the enemies of France.
You recollect perfectly all I have told you, do you not?"

"Your Eminence will judge: the ball of Madame the Constable;
the night at the Louvre; the evening at Amiens; the arrest
of Montague; the letter of Madame de Chevreuse."

"That's it," said the cardinal, "that's it. You have an
excellent memory, Milady."

"But," resumed she to whom the cardinal addressed this
flattering compliment, "if, in spite of all these reasons,
the duke does not give way and continues to menace France?"

"The duke is in love to madness, or rather to folly,"
replied Richelieu, with great bitterness. "Like the ancient
paladins, he has only undertaken this war to obtain a look
from his lady love. If he becomes certain that this war
will cost the honor, and perhaps the liberty, of the lady of
his thoughts, as he says, I will answer for it he will look

"And yet," said Milady, with a persistence that proved she
wished to see clearly to the end of the mission with which
she was about to be charged, "if he persists?"

"If he persists?" said the cardinal. "That is not

"It is possible," said Milady.

"If he persists--" His Eminence made a pause, and resumed:
"If he persists--well, then I shall hope for one of those
events which change the destinies of states."

"If your Eminence would quote to me some one of these events
in history," said Milady, "perhaps I should partake of your
confidence as to the future."

"Well, here, for example," said Richelieu: "when, in 1610,
for a cause similar to that which moves the duke, King Henry
IV, of glorious memory, was about, at the same time, to
invade Flanders and Italy, in order to attack Austria on
both sides. Well, did there not happen an event which saved
Austria? Why should not the king of France have the same
chance as the emperor?"

"Your Eminence means, I presume, the knife stab in the Rue
de la Feronnerie?"

"Precisely," said the cardinal.

"Does not your Eminence fear that the punishment inflicted
upon Ravaillac may deter anyone who might entertain the idea
of imitating him?"

"There will be, in all times and in all countries,
particularly if religious divisions exist in those
countries, fanatics who ask nothing better than to become
martyrs. Ay, and observe--it just occurs to me that the
Puritans are furious against Buckingham, and their preachers
designate him as the Antichrist."

"Well?" said Milady.

"Well," continued the cardinal, in an indifferent tone, "the
only thing to be sought for at this moment is some woman,
handsome, young, and clever, who has cause of quarrel with
the duke. The duke has had many affairs of gallantry; and
if he has fostered his amours by promises of eternal
constancy, he must likewise have sown the seeds of hatred by
his eternal infidelities."

"No doubt," said Milady, coolly, "such a woman may be

"Well, such a woman, who would place the knife of Jacques
Clement or of Ravaillac in the hands of a fanatic, would
save France."

"Yes; but she would then be the accomplice of an

"Were the accomplices of Ravaillac or of Jacques Clement
ever known?"

"No; for perhaps they were too high-placed for anyone to
dare look for them where they were. The Palace of Justice
would not be burned down for everybody, monseigneur."

"You think, then, that the fire at the Palace of Justice was
not caused by chance?" asked Richelieu, in the tone with
which he would have put a question of no importance.

"I, monseigneur?" replied Milady. "I think nothing; I quote
a fact, that is all. Only I say that if I were named Madame
de Montpensier, or the Queen Marie de Medicis, I should use
less precautions than I take, being simply called Milady

"That is just," said Richelieu. "What do you require,

"I require an order which would ratify beforehand all that I
should think proper to do for the greatest good of France."

"But in the first place, this woman I have described must be
found who is desirous of avenging herself upon the duke."

"She is found," said Milady.

"Then the miserable fanatic must be found who will serve as
an instrument of God's justice."

"He will be found."

"Well," said the cardinal, "then it will be time to claim
the order which you just now required."

"Your Eminence is right," replied Milady; "and I have been
wrong in seeing in the mission with which you honor me
anything but that which it really is--that is, to announce
to his Grace, on the part of your Eminence, that you are
acquainted with the different disguises by means of which he
succeeded in approaching the queen during the fete given by
Madame the Constable; that you have proofs of the interview
granted at the Louvre by the queen to a certain Italian
astrologer who was no other than the Duke of Buckingham;
that you have ordered a little romance of a satirical nature
to be written upon the adventures of Amiens, with a plan of
the gardens in which those adventures took place, and
portraits of the actors who figured in them; that Montague
is in the Bastille, and that the torture may make him say
things he remembers, and even things he has forgotten; that
you possess a certain letter from Madame de Chevreuse, found
in his Grace's lodging, which singularly compromises not
only her who wrote it, but her in whose name it was written.
Then, if he persists, notwithstanding all this--as that is,
as I have said, the limit of my mission--I shall have
nothing to do but to pray God to work a miracle for the
salvation of France. That is it, is it not, monseigneur,
and I shall have nothing else to do?"

"That is it," replied the cardinal, dryly.

"And now," said Milady, without appearing to remark the
change of the duke's tone toward her--"now that I have
received the instructions of your Eminence as concerns your
enemies, Monseigneur will permit me to say a few words to
him of mine?"

"Have you enemies, then?" asked Richelieu.

"Yes, monseigneur, enemies against whom you owe me all your
support, for I made them by serving your Eminence."

"Who are they?" replied the duke.

"In the first place, there is a little intrigante named

"She is in the prison of Nantes."

"That is to say, she was there," replied Milady; "but the
queen has obtained an order from the king by means of which
she has been conveyed to a convent."

"To a convent?" said the duke.

"Yes, to a convent."

"And to which?"

"I don't know; the secret has been well kept."

"But I will know!"

"And your Eminence will tell me in what convent that woman

"I can see nothing inconvenient in that," said the cardinal.

"Well, now I have an enemy much more to be dreaded by me
than this little Madame Bonacieux."

"Who is that?"

"Her lover."

"What is his name?"

"Oh, your Eminence knows him well," cried Milady, carried
away by her anger. "He is the evil genius of both of us.
It is he who in an encounter with your Eminence's Guards
decided the victory in favor of the king's Musketeers; it is
he who gave three desperate wounds to de Wardes, your
emissary, and who caused the affair of the diamond studs to
fail; it is he who, knowing it was I who had Madame
Bonacieux carried off, has sworn my death."

"Ah, ah!" said the cardinal, "I know of whom you speak."

"I mean that miserable d'Artagnan."

"He is a bold fellow," said the cardinal.

"And it is exactly because he is a bold fellow that he is
the more to be feared."

"I must have," said the duke, "a proof of his connection
with Buckingham."

"A proof?" cried Milady; "I will have ten."

"Well, then, it becomes the simplest thing in the world; get
me that proof, and I will send him to the Bastille."

"So far good, monseigneur; but afterwards?"

"When once in the Bastille, there is no afterward!" said the
cardinal, in a low voice. "Ah, pardieu!" continued he, "if
it were as easy for me to get rid of my enemy as it is easy
to get rid of yours, and if it were against such people you
require impunity--"

"Monseigneur," replied Milady, "a fair exchange. Life for
life, man for man; give me one, I will give you the other."

"I don't know what you mean, nor do I even desire to know
what you mean," replied the cardinal; "but I wish to please
you, and see nothing out of the way in giving you what you
demand with respect to so infamous a creature--the more so
as you tell me this d'Artagnan is a libertine, a duelist,
and a traitor."

"An infamous scoundrel, monseigneur, a scoundrel!"

"Give me paper, a quill, and some ink, then," said the

"Here they are, monseigneur."

There was a moment of silence, which proved that the
cardinal was employed in seeking the terms in which he
should write the note, or else in writing it. Athos, who
had not lost a word of the conversation, took his two
companions by the hand, and led them to the other end of the

"Well," said Porthos, "what do you want, and why do you not
let us listen to the end of the conversation?"

"Hush!" said Athos, speaking in a low voice. "We have heard
all it was necessary we should hear; besides, I don't
prevent you from listening, but I must be gone."

"You must be gone!" said Porthos; "and if the cardinal asks
for you, what answer can we make?"

"You will not wait till he asks; you will speak first, and
tell him that I am gone on the lookout, because certain
expressions of our host have given me reason to think the
road is not safe. I will say two words about it to the
cardinal's esquire likewise. The rest concerns myself;
don't be uneasy about that."

"Be prudent, Athos," said Aramis.

"Be easy on that head," replied Athos; "you know I am cool

Porthos and Aramis resumed their places by the stovepipe.

As to Athos, he went out without any mystery, took his
horse, which was tied with those of his friends to the
fastenings of the shutters, in four words convinced the
attendant of the necessity of a vanguard for their return,
carefully examined the priming of his pistols, drew his
sword, and took, like a forlorn hope, the road to the camp.


As Athos had foreseen, it was not long before the cardinal
came down. He opened the door of the room in which the
Musketeers were, and found Porthos playing an earnest game
of dice with Aramis. He cast a rapid glance around the
room, and perceived that one of his men was missing.

"What has become of Monseigneur Athos?" asked he.

"Monseigneur," replied Porthos, "he has gone as a scout, on
account of some words of our host, which made him believe
the road was not safe."

"And you, what have you done, Monsieur Porthos?"

"I have won five pistoles of Aramis."

"Well; now will you return with me?"

"We are at your Eminence's orders."

"To horse, then, gentlemen; for it is getting late."

The attendant was at the door, holding the cardinal's horse
by the bridle. At a short distance a group of two men and
three horses appeared in the shade. These were the two men
who were to conduct Milady to the fort of the Point, and
superintend her embarkation.

The attendant confirmed to the cardinal what the two
Musketeers had already said with respect to Athos. The
cardinal made an approving gesture, and retraced his route
with the same precautions he had used incoming.

Let us leave him to follow the road to the camp protected by
his esquire and the two Musketeers, and return to Athos.

For a hundred paces he maintained the speed at which he
started; but when out of sight he turned his horse to the
right, made a circuit, and came back within twenty paces of
a high hedge to watch the passage of the little troop.
Having recognized the laced hats of his companions and the
golden fringe of the cardinal's cloak, he waited till the
horsemen had turned the angle of the road, and having lost
sight of them, he returned at a gallop to the inn, which was
opened to him without hesitation.

The host recognized him.

"My officer," said Athos, "has forgotten to give a piece of
very important information to the lady, and has sent me back
to repair his forgetfulness."

"Go up," said the host; "she is still in her chamber."

Athos availed himself of the permission, ascended the stairs
with his lightest step, gained the landing, and through the
open door perceived Milady putting on her hat.

He entered the chamber and closed the door behind him. At
the noise he made in pushing the bolt, Milady turned round.

Athos was standing before the door, enveloped in his cloak,
with his hat pulled down over his eyes. On seeing this
figure, mute and immovable as a statue, Milady was

"Who are you, and what do you want?" cried she.

"Humph," murmured Athos, "it is certainly she!"

And letting fall his cloak and raising his hat, he advanced
toward Milady.

"Do you know me, madame?" said he.

Milady made one step forward, and then drew back as if she
had seen a serpent.

"So far, well," said Athos, "I perceive you know me."

"The Comte de la Fere!" murmured Milady, becoming
exceedingly pale, and drawing back till the wall prevented
her from going any farther.

"Yes, Milady," replied Athos; "the Comte de la Fere in
person, who comes expressly from the other world to have the
pleasure of paying you a visit. Sit down, madame, and let
us talk, as the cardinal said."

Milady, under the influence of inexpressible terror, sat
down without uttering a word.

"You certainly are a demon sent upon the earth!" said Athos.
"Your power is great, I know; but you also know that with
the help of God men have often conquered the most terrible
demons. You have once before thrown yourself in my path. I
thought I had crushed you, madame; but either I was deceived
or hell has resuscitated you!"

Milady at these words, which recalled frightful
remembrances, hung down her head with a suppressed groan.

"Yes, hell has resuscitated you," continued Athos. "Hell
has made you rich, hell has given you another name, hell has
almost made you another face; but it has neither effaced the
stains from your soul nor the brand from your body."

Milady arose as if moved by a powerful spring, and her eyes
flashed lightning. Athos remained sitting.

"You believed me to be dead, did you not, as I believed you
to be? And the name of Athos as well concealed the Comte de
la Fere, as the name Milady Clarik concealed Anne de Breuil.
Was it not so you were called when your honored brother
married us? Our position is truly a strange one," continued
Athos, laughing. "We have only lived up to the present time
because we believed each other dead, and because a
remembrance is less oppressive than a living creature,
though a remembrance is sometimes devouring."

"But," said Milady, in a hollow, faint voice, "what brings
you back to me, and what do you want with me?"

"I wish to tell you that though remaining invisible to your
eyes, I have not lost sight of you."

"You know what I have done?"

"I can relate to you, day by day, your actions from your
entrance to the service of the cardinal to this evening."

A smile of incredulity passed over the pale lips of Milady.

"Listen! It was you who cut off the two diamond studs from
the shoulder of the Duke of Buckingham; it was you had the
Madame Bonacieux carried off; it was you who, in love with
de Wardes and thinking to pass the night with him, opened
the door to Monsieur d'Artagnan; it was you who, believing
that de Wardes had deceived you, wished to have him killed
by his rival; it was you who, when this rival had discovered
your infamous secret, wished to have him killed in his turn
by two assassins, whom you sent in pursuit of him; it was
you who, finding the balls had missed their mark, sent
poisoned wine with a forged letter, to make your victim
believe that the wine came from his friends. In short, it
was you who have but now in this chamber, seated in this
chair I now fill, made an engagement with Cardinal Richelieu
to cause the Duke of Buckingham to be assassinated, in
exchange for the promise he has made you to allow you to
assassinate d'Artagnan."

Milady was livid.

"You must be Satan!" cried she.

"Perhaps," said Athos; "But at all events listen well to
this. Assassinate the Duke of Buckingham, or cause him to
be assassinated--I care very little about that! I don't
know him. Besides, he is an Englishman. But do not touch
with the tip of your finger a single hair of d'Artagnan, who
is a faithful friend whom I love and defend, or I swear to
you by the head of my father the crime which you shall have
endeavored to commit, or shall have committed, shall be the

"Monsieur d'Artagnan has cruelly insulted me," said Milady,
in a hollow tone; "Monsieur d'Artagnan shall die!"

"Indeed! Is it possible to insult you, madame?" said Athos,
laughing; "he has insulted you, and he shall die!"

"He shall die!" replied Milady; "she first, and he

Athos was seized with a kind of vertigo. The sight of this
creature, who had nothing of the woman about her, recalled
awful remembrances. He thought how one day, in a less
dangerous situation than the one in which he was now placed,
he had already endeavored to sacrifice her to his honor.
His desire for blood returned, burning his brain and
pervading his frame like a raging fever; he arose in his
turn, reached his hand to his belt, drew forth a pistol, and
cocked it.

Milady, pale as a corpse, endeavored to cry out; but her
swollen tongue could utter no more than a hoarse sound which
had nothing human in it and resembled the rattle of a wild
beast. Motionless against the dark tapestry, with her hair
in disorder, she appeared like a horrid image of terror.

Athos slowly raised his pistol, stretched out his arm so
that the weapon almost touched Milady's forehead, and then,
in a voice the more terrible from having the supreme
calmness of a fixed resolution, "Madame," said he, "you will
this instant deliver to me the paper the cardinal signed; or
upon my soul, I will blow your brains out."

With another man, Milady might have preserved some doubt;
but she knew Athos. Nevertheless, she remained motionless.

"You have one second to decide," said he.

Milady saw by the contraction of his countenance that the
trigger was about to be pulled; she reached her hand quickly
to her bosom, drew out a paper, and held it toward Athos.

"Take it," said she, "and be accursed!"

Athos took the paper, returned the pistol to his belt,
approached the lamp to be assured that it was the paper,
unfolded it, and read:

Dec. 3, 1627

It is by my order and for the good of the state that the
bearer of this has done what he has done.


"And now," said Athos, resuming his cloak and putting on his
hat, "now that I have drawn your teeth, viper, bite if you

And he left the chamber without once looking behind him.

At the door he found the two men and the spare horse which
they held.

"Gentlemen," said he, "Monseigneur's order is, you know, to
conduct that woman, without losing time, to the fort of the
Point, and never to leave her till she is on board."

As these words agreed wholly with the order they had
received, they bowed their heads in sign of assent.

With regard to Athos, he leaped lightly into the saddle and
set out at full gallop; only instead of following the road,
he went across the fields, urging his horse to the utmost
and stopping occasionally to listen.

In one of those halts he heard the steps of several horses
on the road. He had no doubt it was the cardinal and his
escort. He immediately made a new point in advance, rubbed
his horse down with some heath and leaves of trees, and
placed himself across the road, about two hundred paces from
the camp.

"Who goes there?" cried he, as soon as he perceived the

"That is our brave Musketeer, I think," said the cardinal.

"Yes, monseigneur," said Porthos, "it is he."

"Monsieur Athos," said Richelieu, "receive my thanks for the
good guard you have kept. Gentlemen, we are arrived; take
the gate on the left. The watchword is, 'King and Re.'"

Saying these words, the cardinal saluted the three friends
with an inclination of his head, and took the right hand,
followed by his attendant--for that night he himself slept
in the camp.

"Well!" said Porthos and Aramis together, as soon as the
cardinal was out of hearing, "well, he signed the paper she

"I know it," said Athos, coolly, "since here it is."

And the three friends did not exchange another word till
they reached their quarters, except to give the watchword to
the sentinels. Only they sent Mousqueton to tell Planchet
that his master was requested, the instant that he left the
trenches, to come to the quarters of the Musketeers.

Milady, as Athos had foreseen, on finding the two men that
awaited her, made no difficulty in following them. She had
had for an instant an inclination to be reconducted to the
cardinal, and relate everything to him; but a revelation on
her part would bring about a revelation on the part of
Athos. She might say that Athos had hanged her; but then
Athos would tell that she was branded. She thought it was
best to preserve silence, to discreetly set off to
accomplish her difficult mission with her usual skill; and
then, all things being accomplished to the satisfaction of
the cardinal, to come to him and claim her vengeance.

In consequence, after having traveled all night, at seven
o'clock she was at the fort of the Point; at eight o'clock
she had embarked; and at nine, the vessel, which with
letters of marque from the cardinal was supposed to be
sailing for Bayonne, raised anchor, and steered its course
toward England.


On arriving at the lodgings of his three friends, d'Artagnan
found them assembled in the same chamber. Athos was
meditating; Porthos was twisting his mustache; Aramis was
saying his prayers in a charming little Book of Hours, bound
in blue velvet.

"Pardieu, gentlemen," said he. "I hope what you have to
tell me is worth the trouble, or else, I warn you, I will
not pardon you for making me come here instead of getting a
little rest after a night spent in taking and dismantling a
bastion. Ah, why were you not there, gentlemen? It was
warm work."

"We were in a place where it was not very cold," replied
Porthos, giving his mustache a twist which was peculiar to

"Hush!" said Athos.

"Oh, oh!" said d'Artagnan, comprehending the slight frown of
the Musketeer. "It appears there is something fresh

"Aramis," said Athos, "you went to breakfast the day before
yesterday at the inn of the Parpaillot, I believe?"


"How did you fare?"

"For my part, I ate but little. The day before yesterday
was a fish day, and they had nothing but meat."

"What," said Athos, "no fish at a seaport?"

"They say," said Aramis, resuming his pious reading, "that
the dyke which the cardinal is making drives them all out
into the open sea."

"But that is not quite what I mean to ask you, Aramis,"
replied Athos. "I want to know if you were left alone, and
nobody interrupted

"Why, I think there were not many intruders. Yes, Athos, I
know what you mean: we shall do very well at the

"Let us go to the Parpaillot, then, for here the walls are
like sheets of paper."

D'Artagnan, who was accustomed to his friend's manner of
acting, and who perceived immediately, by a word, a gesture,
or a sign from him, that the circumstances were serious,
took Athos's arm, and went out without saying anything.
Porthos followed, chatting with Aramis.

On their way they met Grimaud. Athos made him a sign to
come with them. Grimaud, according to custom, obeyed in
silence; the poor lad had nearly come to the pass of
forgetting how to speak.

They arrived at the drinking room of the Parpaillot. It was
seven o'clock in the morning, and daylight began to appear.
The three friends ordered breakfast, and went into a room in
which the host said they would not be disturbed.

Unfortunately, the hour was badly chosen for a private
conference. The morning drum had just been beaten; everyone
shook off the drowsiness of night, and to dispel the humid
morning air, came to take a drop at the inn. Dragoons,
Swiss, Guardsmen, Musketeers, light-horsemen, succeeded one
another with a rapidity which might answer the purpose of
the host very well, but agreed badly with the views of the
four friends. Thus they applied very curtly to the
salutations, healths, and jokes of their companions.

"I see how it will be," said Athos: "we shall get into some
pretty quarrel or other, and we have no need of one just
now. D'Artagnan, tell us what sort of a night you have had,
and we will describe ours afterward."

"Ah, yes," said a light-horseman, with a glass of brandy in
his hand, which he sipped slowly. "I hear you gentlemen of
the Guards have been in the trenches tonight, and that you
did not get much the best of the Rochellais."

D'Artagnan looked at Athos to know if he ought to reply to
this intruder who thus mixed unmasked in their conversation.

"Well," said Athos, "don't you hear Monsieur de Busigny, who
does you the honor to ask you a question? Relate what has
passed during the night, since these gentlemen desire to
know it."

"Have you not taken a bastion?" said a Swiss, who was
drinking rum out of beer glass.

"Yes, monsieur," said d'Artagnan, bowing, "we have had that
honor. We even have, as you may have heard, introduced a
barrel of powder under one of the angles, which in blowing
up made a very pretty breach. Without reckoning that as the
bastion was not built yesterday all the rest of the building
was badly shaken."

"And what bastion is it?" asked a dragoon, with his saber
run through a goose which he was taking to be cooked.

"The bastion St. Gervais," replied d'Artagnan, "from behind
which the Rochellais annoyed our workmen."

"Was that affair hot?"

"Yes, moderately so. We lost five men, and the Rochellais
eight or ten."

"Balzempleu!" said the Swiss, who, notwithstanding the
admirable collection of oaths possessed by the German
language, had acquired a habit of swearing in French.

"But it is probable," said the light-horseman, "that they
will send pioneers this morning to repair the bastion."

"Yes, that's probable," said d'Artagnan.

"Gentlemen," said Athos, "a wager!"

"Ah, wooi, a vager!" cried the Swiss.

"What is it?" said the light-horseman.

"Stop a bit," said the dragoon, placing his saber like a
spit upon the two large iron dogs which held the firebrands
in the chimney, "stop a bit, I am in it. You cursed host! a
dripping pan immediately, that I may not lose a drop of the
fat of this estimable bird."

"You was right," said the Swiss; "goose grease is kood with

"There!" said the dragoon. "Now for the wager! We listen, Monsieur Athos."

"Yes, the wager!" said the light-horseman.

"Well, Monsieur de Busigny, I will bet you," said Athos,
"that my three companions, Messieurs Porthos, Aramis, and
d'Artagnan, and myself, will go and breakfast in the bastion
St. Gervais, and we will remain there an hour, by the watch,
whatever the enemy may do to dislodge us."

Porthos and Aramis looked at each other; they began to

"But," said d'Artagnan, in the ear of Athos, "you are going
to get us all killed without mercy."

"We are much more likely to be killed," said Athos, "if we
do not go."

"My faith, gentlemen," said Porthos, turning round upon his
chair and twisting his mustache, "that's a fair bet, I

"I take it," said M. de Busigny; "so let us fix the stake."

"You are four gentlemen," said Athos, "and we are four; an
unlimited dinner for eight. Will that do?"

"Capitally," replied M. de Busigny.

"Perfectly," said the dragoon.

"That shoots me," said the Swiss.

The fourth auditor, who during all this conversation had
played a mute part, made a sign of the head in proof that he
acquiesced in the proposition.

"The breakfast for these gentlemen is ready," said the host.

"Well, bring it," said Athos.

The host obeyed. Athos called Grimaud, pointed to a large
basket which lay in a corner, and made a sign to him to wrap
the viands up in the napkins.

Grimaud understood that it was to be a breakfast on the
grass, took the basket, packed up the viands, added the
bottles, and then took the basket on his arm.

"But where are you going to eat my breakfast?" asked the

"What matter, if you are paid for it?" said Athos, and he
threw two pistoles majestically on the table.

"Shall I give you the change, my officer?" said the host.

"No, only add two bottles of champagne, and the difference
will be for the napkins."

The host had not quite so good a bargain as he at first
hoped for, but he made amends by slipping in two bottles of
Anjou wine instead of two bottles of champagne.

"Monsieur de Busigny," said Athos, "will you be so kind as
to set your watch with mine, or permit me to regulate mine
by yours?"

"Which you please, monsieur!" said the light-horseman,
drawing from his fob a very handsome watch, studded with
diamonds; "half past seven."

"Thirty-five minutes after seven," said Athos, "by which you
perceive I am five minutes faster than you."

And bowing to all the astonished persons present, the young
men took the road to the bastion St. Gervais, followed by
Grimaud, who carried the basket, ignorant of where he was
going but in the passive obedience which Athos had taught
him not even thinking of asking.

As long as they were within the circle of the camp, the four
friends did not exchange one word; besides, they were
followed by the curious, who, hearing of the wager, were
anxious to know how they would come out of it. But when
once they passed the line of circumvallation and found
themselves in the open plain, d'Artagnan, who was completely
ignorant of what was going forward, thought it was time to
demand an explanation.

"And now, my dear Athos," said he, "do me the kindness to
tell me where we are going?"

"Why, you see plainly enough we are going to the bastion."

"But what are we going to do there?"

"You know well that we go to breakfast there."

"But why did we not breakfast at the Parpaillot?"

"Because we have very important matters to communicate to
one another, and it was impossible to talk five minutes in
that inn without being annoyed by all those importunate
fellows, who keep coming in, saluting you, and addressing
you. Here at least," said Athos, pointing to the bastion,
"they will not come and disturb us."

"It appears to me," said d'Artagnan, with that prudence
which allied itself in him so naturally with excessive
bravery, "that we could have found some retired place on the
downs or the seashore."

"Where we should have been seen all four conferring
together, so that at the end of a quarter of an hour the
cardinal would have been informed by his spies that we were
holding a council."

"Yes," said Aramis, "Athos is right: ANIMADVERTUNTUR IN

"A desert would not have been amiss," said Porthos; "but it
behooved us to find it."

"There is no desert where a bird cannot pass over one's
head, where a fish cannot leap out of the water, where a
rabbit cannot come out of its burrow, and I believe that
bird, fish, and rabbit each becomes a spy of the cardinal.
Better, then, pursue our enterprise; from which, besides, we
cannot retreat without shame. We have made a wager--a wager
which could not have been foreseen, and of which I defy
anyone to divine the true cause. We are going, in order to
win it, to remain an hour in the bastion. Either we shall
be attacked, or not. If we are not, we shall have all the
time to talk, and nobody will hear us--for I guarantee the
walls of the bastion have no ears; if we are, we will talk
of our affairs just the same. Moreover, in defending
ourselves, we shall cover ourselves with glory. You see
that everything is to our advantage."

"Yes," said d'Artagnan; "but we shall indubitably attract a

"Well, my dear," replied Athos, "you know well that the
balls most to be dreaded are not from the enemy."

"But for such an expedition we surely ought to have brought
our muskets."

"You are stupid, friend Porthos. Why should we load
ourselves with a useless burden?"

"I don't find a good musket, twelve cartridges, and a powder
flask very useless in the face of an enemy."

"Well," replied Athos, "have you not heard what d'Artagnan

"What did he say?" demanded Porthos.

"d'Artagnan said that in the attack of last night eight or
ten Frenchmen were killed, and as many Rochellais."

"What then?"

"The bodies were not plundered, were they? It appears the
conquerors had something else to do."


"Well, we shall find their muskets, their cartridges, and
their flasks; and instead of four musketoons and twelve
balls, we shall have fifteen guns and a hundred charges to

"Oh, Athos!" said Aramis, "truly you are a great man."

Porthos nodded in sign of agreement. D'Artagnan alone did
not seem convinced.

Grimaud no doubt shared the misgivings of the young man, for
seeing that they continued to advance toward the
bastion--something he had till then doubted--he pulled his
master by the skirt of his coat.

"Where are we going?" asked he, by a gesture.

Athos pointed to the bastion.

"But," said Grimaud, in the same silent dialect, "we shall
leave our skins there."

Athos raised his eyes and his finger toward heaven.

Grimaud put his basket on the ground and sat down with a
shake of the head.

Athos took a pistol from his belt, looked to see if it was
properly primed, cocked it, and placed the muzzle close to
Grimaud's ear.

Grimaud was on his legs again as if by a spring. Athos then
made him a sign to take up his basket and to walk on first.
Grimaud obeyed. All that Grimaud gained by this momentary
pantomime was to pass from the rear guard to the vanguard.

Arrived at the bastion, the four friends turned round.

More than three hundred soldiers of all kinds were assembled
at the gate of the camp; and in a separate group might be
distinguished M. de Busigny, the dragoon, the Swiss, and the
fourth bettor.

Athos took off his hat, placed it on the end of his sword,
and waved it in the air.

All the spectators returned him his salute, accompanying
this courtesy with a loud hurrah which was audible to the
four; after which all four disappeared in the bastion,
whither Grimaud had preceded them.


As Athos had foreseen, the bastion was only occupied by a
dozen corpses, French and Rochellais.

"Gentlemen," said Athos, who had assumed the command of the
expedition, "while Grimaud spreads the table, let us begin
by collecting the guns and cartridges together. We can talk
while performing that necessary task. These gentlemen,"
added he, pointing to the bodies, "cannot hear us."

"But we could throw them into the ditch," said Porthos,
"after having assured ourselves they have nothing in their

"Yes," said Athos, "that's Grimaud's business."

"Well, then," cried d'Artagnan, "pray let Grimaud search
them and throw them over the walls."

"Heaven forfend!" said Athos; "they may serve us."

"These bodies serve us?" said Porthos. "You are mad, dear

"Judge not rashly, say the gospel and the cardinal," replied
Athos. "How many guns, gentlemen?"

"Twelve," replied Aramis.

"How many shots?"

"A hundred."

"That's quite as many as we shall want. Let us load the

The four Musketeers went to work; and as they were loading
the last musket Grimaud announced that the breakfast was

Athos replied, always by gestures, that that was well, and
indicated to Grimaud, by pointing to a turret that resembled
a pepper caster, that he was to stand as sentinel. Only, to
alleviate the tediousness of the duty, Athos allowed him to
take a loaf, two cutlets, and a bottle of wine.

"And now to table," said Athos.

The four friends seated themselves on the ground with their
legs crossed like Turks, or even tailors.

"And now," said d'Artagnan, "as there is no longer any fear
of being overheard, I hope you are going to let me into your

"I hope at the same time to procure you amusement and glory,
gentlemen," said Athos. "I have induced you to take a
charming promenade; here is a delicious breakfast; and
yonder are five hundred persons, as you may see through the
loopholes, taking us for heroes or madmen--two classes of
imbeciles greatly resembling each other."

"But the secret!" said d'Artagnan.

"The secret is," said Athos, "that I saw Milady last night."

D'Artagnan was lifting a glass to his lips; but at the name
of Milady, his hand trembled so, that he was obliged to put
the glass on the ground again for fear of spilling the

"You saw your wi--"

"Hush!" interrupted Athos. "You forget, my dear, you forget
that these gentlemen are not initiated into my family
affairs like yourself. I have seen Milady."

"Where?" demanded d'Artagnan.

"Within two leagues of this place, at the inn of the Red

"In that case I am lost," said d'Artagnan.

"Not so bad yet," replied Athos; "for by this time she must
have quit the shores of France."

D'Artagnan breathed again.

"But after all," asked Porthos, "who is Milady?"

"A charming woman!" said Athos, sipping a glass of sparkling
wine. "Villainous host!" cried he, "he has given us Anjou
wine instead of champagne, and fancies we know no better!
Yes," continued he, "a charming woman, who entertained kind
views toward our friend d'Artagnan, who, on his part, has
given her some offense for which she tried to revenge
herself a month ago by having him killed by two musket
shots, a week ago by trying to poison him, and yesterday by
demanding his head of the cardinal."

"What! by demanding my head of the cardinal?" cried
d'Artagnan, pale with terror.

"Yes, that is true as the Gospel," said Porthos; "I heard
her with my own ears."

"I also," said Aramis.

"Then," said d'Artagnan, letting his arm fall with
discouragement, "it is useless to struggle longer. I may as
well blow my brains out, and all will be over."

"That's the last folly to be committed," said Athos, "seeing
it is the only one for which there is no remedy."

"But I can never escape," said d'Artagnan, "with such
enemies. First, my stranger of Meung; then de Wardes, to
whom I have given three sword wounds; next Milady, whose
secret I have discovered; finally, the cardinal, whose
vengeance I have balked."

"Well," said Athos, "that only makes four; and we are
four--one for one. Pardieu! if we may believe the signs
Grimaud is making, we are about to have to do with a very
different number of people. What is it, Grimaud?
Considering the gravity of the occasion, I permit you to
speak, my friend; but be laconic, I beg. What do you see?"

"A troop."

"Of how many persons?"

"Twenty men."

"What sort of men?"

"Sixteen pioneers, four soldiers."

"How far distant?"

"Five hundred paces."

"Good! We have just time to finish this fowl and to drink
one glass of wine to your health, d'Artagnan."

"To your health!" repeated Porthos and Aramis.

"Well, then, to my health! although I am very much afraid
that your good wishes will not be of great service to me."

"Bah!" said Athos, "God is great, as say the followers of
Mohammed, and the future is in his hands."

Then, swallowing the contents of his glass, which he put
down close to him, Athos arose carelessly, took the musket
next to him, and drew near to one of the loopholes.

Porthos, Aramis and d'Artagnan followed his example. As to
Grimaud, he received orders to place himself behind the four
friends in order to reload their weapons.

"Pardieu!" said Athos, "it was hardly worth while to
distribute ourselves for twenty fellows armed with pickaxes,
mattocks, and shovels. Grimaud had only to make them a sign
to go away, and I am convinced they would have left us in

"I doubt that," replied d'Artagnan, "for they are advancing
very resolutely. Besides, in addition to the pioneers,
there are four soldiers and a brigadier, armed with

"That's because they don't see us," said Athos.

"My faith," said Aramis, "I must confess I feel a great
repugnance to fire on these poor devils of civilians."

"He is a bad priest," said Porthos, "who has pity for

"In truth," said Athos, "Aramis is right. I will warn

"What the devil are you going to do?" cried d'Artagnan, "you
will be shot."

But Athos heeded not his advice. Mounting on the breach,
with his musket in one hand and his hat in the other, he
said, bowing courteously and addressing the soldiers and the
pioneers, who, astonished at this apparition, stopped fifty
paces from the bastion: "Gentlemen, a few friends and
myself are about to breakfast in this bastion. Now, you
know nothing is more disagreeable than being disturbed when
one is at breakfast. We request you, then, if you really
have business here, to wait till we have finished or repast,
or to come again a short time hence, unless; unless, which
would be far better, you form the salutary resolution to
quit the side of the rebels, and come and drink with us to
the health of the King of France."

"Take care, Athos!" cried d'Artagnan; "don't you see they
are aiming?"

"Yes, yes," said Athos; "but they are only civilians--very
bad marksmen, who will be sure not to hit me."

In fact, at the same instant four shots were fired, and the
balls were flattened against the wall around Athos, but not
one touched him.

Four shots replied to them almost instantaneously, but much
better aimed than those of the aggressors; three soldiers
fell dead, and one of the pioneers was wounded.

"Grimaud," said Athos, still on the breach, "another

Grimaud immediately obeyed. On their part, the three
friends had reloaded their arms; a second discharge followed
the first. The brigadier and two pioneers fell dead; the
rest of the troop took to flight.

"Now, gentlemen, a sortie!" cried Athos.

And the four friends rushed out of the fort, gained the
field of battle, picked up the four muskets of the privates
and the half-pike of the brigadier, and convinced that the
fugitives would not stop till they reached the city, turned
again toward the bastion, bearing with them the trophies of
their victory.

"Reload the muskets, Grimaud," said Athos, "and we,
gentlemen, will go on with our breakfast, and resume our
conversation. Where were we?"

"I recollect you were saying," said d'Artagnan, "that after
having demanded my head of the cardinal, Milady had quit the
shores of France. Whither goes she?" added he, strongly
interested in the route Milady followed.

"She goes into England," said Athos.

"With what view?"

"With the view of assassinating, or causing to be
assassinated, the Duke of Buckingham."

D'Artagnan uttered an exclamation of surprise and

"But this is infamous!" cried he.

"As to that," said Athos, "I beg you to believe that I care
very little about it. Now you have done, Grimaud, take our
brigadier's half-pike, tie a napkin to it, and plant it on
top of our bastion, that these rebels of Rochellais may see
that they have to deal with brave and loyal soldiers of the

Grimaud obeyed without replying. An instant afterward, the
white flag was floating over the heads of the four friends.
A thunder of applause saluted its appearance; half the camp
was at the barrier.

"How?" replied d'Artagnan, "you care little if she kills
Buckingham or causes him to be killed? But the duke is our

"The duke is English; the duke fights against us. Let her
do what she likes with the duke; I care no more about him
than an empty bottle." And Athos threw fifteen paces from
him an empty bottle from which he had poured the last drop
into his glass.

"A moment," said d'Artagnan. "I will not abandon Buckingham
thus. He gave us some very fine horses."

"And moreover, very handsome saddles," said Porthos, who at
the moment wore on his cloak the lace of his own.

"Besides," said Aramis, "God desires the conversion and not
the death of a sinner."

"Amen!" said Athos, "and we will return to that subject
later, if such be your pleasure; but what for the moment
engaged my attention most earnestly, and I am sure you will
understand me, d'Artagnan, was the getting from this woman a
kind of carte blanche which she had extorted from the
cardinal, and by means of which she could with impunity get
rid of you and perhaps of us."

"But this creature must be a demon!" said Porthos, holding
out his plate to Aramis, who was cutting up a fowl.

"And this carte blanche," said d'Artagnan, "this carte
blanche, does it remain in her hands?"

"No, it passed into mine; I will not say without trouble,
for if I did I should tell a lie."

"My dear Athos, I shall no longer count the number of times
I am indebted to you for my life."

"Then it was to go to her that you left us?" said Aramis.


"And you have that letter of the cardinal?" said d'Artagnan.

"Here it is," said Athos; and he took the invaluable paper
from the pocket of his uniform. D'Artagnan unfolded it with
one hand, whose trembling he did not even attempt to
conceal, to read:

Dec. 3, 1627

It is by my order and for the good of the state that the
bearer of this has done what he has done.


"In fact," said Aramis, "it is an absolution according to rule."

"That paper must be torn to pieces," said d'Artagnan, who
fancied he read in it his sentence of death.

"On the contrary," said Athos, "it must be preserved
carefully. I would not give up this paper if covered with
as many gold pieces."

"And what will she do now?" asked the young man.

"Why," replied Athos, carelessly, "she is probably going to
write to the cardinal that a damned Musketeer, named Athos,
has taken her safe-conduct from her by force; she will
advise him in the same letter to get rid of his two friends,
Aramis and Porthos, at the same time. The cardinal will
remember that these are the same men who have often crossed
his path; and then some fine morning he will arrest
d'Artagnan, and for fear he should feel lonely, he will send
us to keep him company in the Bastille."

"Go to! It appears to me you make dull jokes, my dear,"
said Porthos.

"I do not jest," said Athos.

"Do you know," said Porthos, "that to twist that damned
Milady's neck would be a smaller sin than to twist those of
these poor devils of Huguenots, who have committed no other
crime than singing in French the psalms we sing in Latin?"

"What says the abbe?" asked Athos, quietly.

"I say I am entirely of Porthos's opinion," replied Aramis.

"And I, too," said d'Artagnan.

"Fortunately, she is far off," said Porthos, "for I confess
she would worry me if she were here."

"She worries me in England as well as in France," said

"She worries me everywhere," said d'Artagnan.

"But when you held her in your power, why did you not drown
her, strangle her, hang her?" said Porthos. "It is only the
dead who do not return."

"You think so, Porthos?" replied the Musketeer, with a sad
smile which d'Artagnan alone understood.

"I have an idea," said d'Artagnan.

"What is it?" said the Musketeers.

"To arms!" cried Grimaud.

The young men sprang up, and seized their muskets.

This time a small troop advanced, consisting of from twenty
to twenty-five men; but they were not pioneers, they were
soldiers of the garrison.

"Shall we return to the camp?" said Porthos. "I don't think
the sides are equal."

"Impossible, for three reasons," replied Athos. "The first,
that we have not finished breakfast; the second, that we
still have some very important things to say; and the third,
that it yet wants ten minutes before the lapse of the hour."

"Well, then," said Aramis, "we must form a plan of battle."

"That's very simple," replied Athos. "As soon as the enemy
are within musket shot, we must fire upon them. If they
continue to advance, we must fire again. We must fire as
long as we have loaded guns. If those who remain of the
troop persist in coming to the assault, we will allow the
besiegers to get as far as the ditch, and then we will push
down upon their heads that strip of wall which keeps its
perpendicular by a miracle."

"Bravo!" cried Porthos. "Decidedly, Athos, you were born to
be a general, and the cardinal, who fancies himself a great
soldier, is nothing beside you."

"Gentlemen," said Athos, "no divided attention, I beg; let
each one pick out his man."

"I cover mine," said d'Artagnan.

"And I mine," said Porthos.

"And I mine," said Aramis.

"Fire, then," said Athos.

The four muskets made but one report, but four men fell.

The drum immediately beat, and the little troop advanced at
charging pace.

Then the shots were repeated without regularity, but always
aimed with the same accuracy. Nevertheless, as if they had
been aware of the numerical weakness of the friends, the
Rochellais continued to advance in quick time.

With every three shots at least two men fell; but the march
of those who remained was not slackened.

Arrived at the foot of the bastion, there were still more
than a dozen of the enemy. A last discharge welcomed them,
but did not stop them; they jumped into the ditch, and
prepared to scale the breach.

"Now, my friends," said Athos, "finish them at a blow. To
the wall; to the wall!"

And the four friends, seconded by Grimaud, pushed with the
barrels of their muskets an enormous sheet of the wall,
which bent as if pushed by the wind, and detaching itself
from its base, fell with a horrible crash into the ditch.
Then a fearful crash was heard; a cloud of dust mounted
toward the sky--and all was over!

"Can we have destroyed them all, from the first to the
last?" said Athos.

"My faith, it appears so!" said d'Artagnan.

"No," cried Porthos; "there go three or four, limping away."

In fact, three or four of these unfortunate men, covered
with dirt and blood, fled along the hollow way, and at
length regained the city. These were all who were left of
the little troop.

Athos looked at his watch.

"Gentlemen," said he, "we have been here an hour, and our
wager is won; but we will be fair players. Besides,
d'Artagnan has not told us his idea yet."

And the Musketeer, with his usual coolness, reseated himself
before the remains of the breakfast.

"My idea?" said d'Artagnan.

"Yes; you said you had an idea," said Athos.

"Oh, I remember," said d'Artagnan. "Well, I will go to
England a second time; I will go and find Buckingham."

"You shall not do that, d'Artagnan," said Athos, coolly.

"And why not? Have I not been there once?"

"Yes; but at that period we were not at war. At that period
Buckingham was an ally, and not an enemy. What you would
now do amounts to treason."

D'Artagnan perceived the force of this reasoning, and was

"But," said Porthos, "I think I have an idea, in my turn."

"Silence for Monsieur Porthos's idea!" said Aramis.

"I will ask leave of absence of Monsieur de Treville, on
some pretext or other which you must invent; I am not very
clever at pretexts. Milady does not know me; I will get
access to her without her suspecting me, and when I catch my
beauty, I will strangle her."

"Well," replied Athos, "I am not far from approving the idea
of Monsieur Porthos."

"For shame!" said Aramis. "Kill a woman? No, listen to me;
I have the true idea."

"Let us see your idea, Aramis," said Athos, who felt much
deference for the young Musketeer.

"We must inform the queen."

"Ah, my faith, yes!" said Porthos and d'Artagnan, at the
same time; "we are coming nearer to it now."

"Inform the queen!" said Athos; "and how? Have we relations
with the court? Could we send anyone to Paris without its
being known in the camp? From here to Paris it is a hundred
and forty leagues; before our letter was at Angers we should
be in a dungeon."

"As to remitting a letter with safety to her Majesty," said
Aramis, coloring, "I will take that upon myself. I know a
clever person at Tours--"

Aramis stopped on seeing Athos smile.

"Well, do you not adopt this means, Athos?" said d'Artagnan.

"I do not reject it altogether," said Athos; "but I wish to
remind Aramis that he cannot quit the camp, and that nobody
but one of ourselves is trustworthy; that two hours after
the messenger has set out, all the Capuchins, all the
police, all the black caps of the cardinal, will know your
letter by heart, and you and your clever person will be

"Without reckoning," objected Porthos, "that the queen would
save Monsieur de Buckingham, but would take no heed of us."

"Gentlemen," said d'Artagnan, "what Porthos says is full of

"Ah, ah! but what's going on in the city yonder?" said

"They are beating the general alarm."

The four friends listened, and the sound of the drum plainly
reached them.

"You see, they are going to send a whole regiment against
us," said Athos.

"You don't think of holding out against a whole regiment, do
you?" said Porthos.

"Why not?" said Musketeer. "I feel myself quite in a humor
for it; and I would hold out before an army if we had taken
the precaution to bring a dozen more bottles of wine."

"Upon my word, the drum draws near," said d'Artagnan.

"Let it come," said Athos. "It is a quarter of an hour's
journey from here to the city, consequently a quarter of an
hour's journey from the city to hither. That is more than
time enough for us to devise a plan. If we go from this
place we shall never find another so suitable. Ah, stop! I
have it, gentlemen; the right idea has just occurred to me."

"Tell us."

"Allow me to give Grimaud some indispensable orders."

Athos made a sign for his lackey to approach.

"Grimaud," said Athos, pointing to the bodies which lay
under the wall of the bastion, "take those gentlemen, set
them up against the wall, put their hats upon their heads,
and their guns in their hands."

"Oh, the great man!" cried d'Artagnan. "I comprehend now."

"You comprehend?" said Porthos.

"And do you comprehend, Grimaud?" said Aramis.

Grimaud made a sign in the affirmative.

"That's all that is necessary," said Athos; "now for my

"I should like, however, to comprehend," said Porthos.

"That is useless."

"Yes, yes! Athos's idea!" cried Aramis and d'Artagnan, at
the same time.

"This Milady, this woman, this creature, this demon, has a
brother-in-law, as I think you told me, d'Artagnan?"

"Yes, I know him very well; and I also believe that he has
not a very warm affection for his sister-in-law."

"There is no harm in that. If he detested her, it would be
all the better," replied Athos.

"In that case we are as well off as we wish."

"And yet," said Porthos, "I would like to know what Grimaud
is about."

"Silence, Porthos!" said Aramis.

"What is her brother-in-law's name?"

"Lord de Winter."

"Where is he now?"

"He returned to London at the first sound of war."

"Well, there's just the man we want," said Athos. "It is he
whom we must warn. We will have him informed that his

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