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The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas [Pere]

Part 16 out of 17

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The abbess, who was the daughter of a noble house, took particular
delight in stories of the court, which so seldom travel to the
extremities of the kingdom, and which, above all, have so much
difficulty in penetrating the walls of convents, at whose threshold the
noise of the world dies away.

Milady, on the contrary, was quite conversant with all aristocratic
intrigues, amid which she had constantly lived for five or six years.
She made it her business, therefore, to amuse the good abbess with the
worldly practices of the court of France, mixed with the eccentric
pursuits of the king; she made for her the scandalous chronicle of the
lords and ladies of the court, whom the abbess knew perfectly by name,
touched lightly on the amours of the queen and the Duke of Buckingham,
talking a great deal to induce her auditor to talk a little.

But the abbess contented herself with listening and smiling without
replying a word. Milady, however, saw that this sort of narrative
amused her very much, and kept at it; only she now let her conversation
drift toward the cardinal.

But she was greatly embarrassed. She did not know whether the abbess
was a royalist or a cardinalist; she therefore confined herself to a
prudent middle course. But the abbess, on her part, maintained a
reserve still more prudent, contenting herself with making a profound
inclination of the head every time the fair traveler pronounced the name
of his Eminence.

Milady began to think she should soon grow weary of a convent life; she
resolved, then, to risk something in order that she might know how to
act afterward. Desirous of seeing how far the discretion of the good
abbess would go, she began to tell a story, obscure at first, but very
circumstantial afterward, about the cardinal, relating the amours of the
minister with Mme. d'Aiguillon, Marion de Lorme, and several other gay

The abbess listened more attentively, grew animated by degrees, and

"Good," thought Milady; "she takes a pleasure in my conversation. If
she is a cardinalist, she has no fanaticism, at least."

She then went on to describe the persecutions exercised by the cardinal
upon his enemies. The abbess only crossed herself, without approving or

This confirmed Milady in her opinion that the abbess was rather royalist
than cardinalist. Milady therefore continued, coloring her narrations
more and more.

"I am very ignorant of these matters," said the abbess, at length; "but
however distant from the court we may be, however remote from the
interests of the world we may be placed, we have very sad examples of
what you have related. And one of our boarders has suffered much from
the vengeance and persecution of the cardinal!"

"One of your boarders?" said Milady; "oh, my God! Poor woman! I pity
her, then."

"And you have reason, for she is much to be pitied. Imprisonment,
menaces, ill treatment-she has suffered everything. But after all,"
resumed the abbess, "Monsieur Cardinal has perhaps plausible motives for
acting thus; and though she has the look of an angel, we must not always
judge people by the appearance."

"Good!" said Milady to herself; "who knows! I am about, perhaps, to
discover something here; I am in the vein."

She tried to give her countenance an appearance of perfect candor.

"Alas," said Milady, "I know it is so. It is said that we must not
trust to the face; but in what, then, shall we place confidence, if not
in the most beautiful work of the Lord? As for me, I shall be deceived
all my life perhaps, but I shall always have faith in a person whose
countenance inspires me with sympathy."

"You would, then, be tempted to believe," said the abbess, "that this
young person is innocent?"

"The cardinal pursues not only crimes," said she: "there are certain
virtues which he pursues more severely than certain offenses."

"Permit me, madame, to express my surprise," said the abbess.

"At what?" said Milady, with the utmost ingenuousness.

"At the language you use."

"What do you find so astonishing in that language?" said Milady,

"You are the friend of the cardinal, for he sends you hither, and yet--"

"And yet I speak ill of him," replied Milady, finishing the thought of
the superior.

"At least you don't speak well of him."

"That is because I am not his friend," said she, sighing, "but his

"But this letter in which he recommends you to me?"

"Is an order for me to confine myself to a sort of prison, from which he
will release me by one of his satellites."

"But why have you not fled?"

"Whither should I go? Do you believe there is a spot on the earth which
the cardinal cannot reach if he takes the trouble to stretch forth his
hand? If I were a man, that would barely be possible; but what can a
woman do? This young boarder of yours, has she tried to fly?"

"No, that is true; but she--that is another thing; I believe she is
detained in France by some love affair."

"Ah," said Milady, with a sigh, "if she loves she is not altogether

"Then," said the abbess, looking at Milady with increasing interest, "I
behold another poor victim?"

"Alas, yes," said Milady.

The abbess looked at her for an instant with uneasiness, as if a fresh
thought suggested itself to her mind.

"You are not an enemy of our holy faith?" said she, hesitatingly.

"Who--I?" cried Milady; "I a Protestant? Oh, no! I call to witness
the God who hears us, that on the contrary I am a fervent Catholic!"

"Then, madame," said the abbess, smiling, "be reassured; the house in
which you are shall not be a very hard prison, and we will do all in our
power to make you cherish your captivity. You will find here, moreover,
the young woman of whom I spoke, who is persecuted, no doubt, in
consequence of some court intrigue. She is amiable and well-behaved."

"What is her name?"

"She was sent to me by someone of high rank, under the name of Kitty. I
have not tried to discover her other name."

"Kitty!" cried Milady. "What? Are you sure?"

"That she is called so? Yes, madame. Do you know her?"

Milady smiled to herself at the idea which had occurred to her that this
might be her old chambermaid. There was connected with the remembrance
of this girl a remembrance of anger; and a desire of vengeance
disordered the features of Milady, which, however, immediately recovered
the calm and benevolent expression which this woman of a hundred faces
had for a moment allowed them to lose.

"And when can I see this young lady, for whom I already feel so great a
sympathy?" asked Milady.

"Why, this evening," said the abbess; "today even. But you have been
traveling these four days, as you told me yourself. This morning you
rose at five o'clock; you must stand in need of repose. Go to bed and
sleep; at dinnertime we will rouse you."

Although Milady would very willingly have gone without sleep, sustained
as she was by all the excitements which a new adventure awakened in her
heart, ever thirsting for intrigues, she nevertheless accepted the offer
of the superior. During the last fifteen days she had experienced so
many and such various emotions that if her frame of iron was still
capable of supporting fatigue, her mind required repose.

She therefore took leave of the abbess, and went to bed, softly rocked
by the ideas of vengeance which the name of Kitty had naturally brought
to her thoughts. She remembered that almost unlimited promise which the
cardinal had given her if she succeeded in her enterprise. She had
succeeded; d'Artagnan was then in her power!

One thing alone frightened her; that was the remembrance of her husband,
the Comte de la Fere, whom she had believed dead, or at least
expatriated, and whom she found again in Athos-the best friend of

But alas, if he was the friend of d'Artagnan, he must have lent him his
assistance in all the proceedings by whose aid the queen had defeated
the project of his Eminence; if he was the friend of d'Artagnan, he was
the enemy of the cardinal; and she doubtless would succeed in involving
him in the vengeance by which she hoped to destroy the young Musketeer.

All these hopes were so many sweet thoughts for Milady; so, rocked by
them, she soon fell asleep.

She was awakened by a soft voice which sounded at the foot of her bed.
She opened her eyes, and saw the abbess, accompanied by a young woman
with light hair and delicate complexion, who fixed upon her a look full
of benevolent curiosity.

The face of the young woman was entirely unknown to her. Each examined
the other with great attention, while exchanging the customary
compliments; both were very handsome, but of quite different styles of
beauty. Milady, however, smiled in observing that she excelled the
young woman by far in her high air and aristocratic bearing. It is true
that the habit of a novice, which the young woman wore, was not very
advantageous in a contest of this kind.

The abbess introduced them to each other. When this formality was
ended, as her duties called her to chapel, she left the two young women

The novice, seeing Milady in bed, was about to follow the example of
the superior; but Milady stopped her.

"How, madame," said she, "I have scarcely seen you, and you already
wish to deprive me of your company, upon which I had counted a little, I
must confess, for the time I have to pass here?"

"No, madame," replied the novice, "only I thought I had chosen my time
ill; you were asleep, you are fatigued."

"Well," said Milady, "what can those who sleep wish for--a happy
awakening? This awakening you have given me; allow me, then, to enjoy
it at my ease," and taking her hand, she drew her toward the armchair by
the bedside.

The novice sat down.

"How unfortunate I am!" said she; "I have been here six months without
the shadow of recreation. You arrive, and your presence was likely to
afford me delightful company; yet I expect, in all probability, to quit
the convent at any moment."

"How, you are going soon?" asked Milady.

"At least I hope so," said the novice, with an expression of joy which
she made no effort to disguise.

"I think I learned you had suffered persecutions from the cardinal,"
continued Milady; "that would have been another motive for sympathy
between us."

"What I have heard, then, from our good mother is true; you have
likewise been a victim of that wicked priest."

"Hush!" said Milady; "let us not, even here, speak thus of him. All my
misfortunes arise from my having said nearly what you have said before a
woman whom I thought my friend, and who betrayed me. Are you also the
victim of a treachery?"

"No," said the novice, "but of my devotion--of a devotion to a woman I
loved, for whom I would have laid down my life, for whom I would give it

"And who has abandoned you--is that it?"

"I have been sufficiently unjust to believe so; but during the last two
or three days I have obtained proof to the contrary, for which I thank
God--for it would have cost me very dear to think she had forgotten me.
But you, madame, you appear to be free," continued the novice; "and if
you were inclined to fly it only rests with yourself to do so."

"Whither would you have me go, without friends, without money, in a part
of France with which I am unacquainted, and where I have never been

"Oh," cried the novice, "as to friends, you would have them wherever you
want, you appear so good and are so beautiful!"

"That does not prevent," replied Milady, softening her smile so as to
give it an angelic expression, "my being alone or being persecuted."

"Hear me," said the novice; "we must trust in heaven. There always
comes a moment when the good you have done pleads your cause before God;
and see, perhaps it is a happiness for you, humble and powerless as I
am, that you have met with me, for if I leave this place, well-I have
powerful friends, who, after having exerted themselves on my account,
may also exert themselves for you."

"Oh, when I said I was alone," said Milady, hoping to make the novice
talk by talking of herself, "it is not for want of friends in high
places; but these friends themselves tremble before the cardinal. The
queen herself does not dare to oppose the terrible minister. I have
proof that her Majesty, notwithstanding her excellent heart, has more
than once been obliged to abandon to the anger of his Eminence persons
who had served her."

"Trust me, madame; the queen may appear to have abandoned those persons,
but we must not put faith in appearances. The more they are persecuted,
the more she thinks of them; and often, when they least expect it, they
have proof of a kind remembrance."

"Alas!" said Milady, "I believe so; the queen is so good!"

"Oh, you know her, then, that lovely and noble queen, that you speak of
her thus!" cried the novice, with enthusiasm.

"That is to say," replied Milady, driven into her entrenchment, "that I
have not the honor of knowing her personally; but I know a great number
of her most intimate friends. I am acquainted with Monsieur de Putange;
I met Monsieur Dujart in England; I know Monsieur de Treville."

"Monsieur de Treville!" exclaimed the novice, "do you know Monsieur de

"Yes, perfectly well--intimately even."

"The captain of the king's Musketeers?"

"The captain of the king's Musketeers."

"Why, then, only see!" cried the novice; "we shall soon be well
acquainted, almost friends. If you know Monsieur de Treville, you must
have visited him?"

"Often!" said Milady, who, having entered this track, and perceiving
that falsehood succeeded, was determined to follow it to the end.

"With him, then, you must have seen some of his Musketeers?"

"All those he is in the habit of receiving!" replied Milady, for whom
this conversation began to have a real interest.

"Name a few of those whom you know, and you will see if they are my

"Well!" said Milady, embarrassed, "I know Monsieur de Louvigny,
Monsieur de Courtivron, Monsieur de Ferussac."

The novice let her speak, then seeing that she paused, she said, "Don't
you know a gentleman named Athos?"

Milady became as pale as the sheets in which she was lying, and mistress
as she was of herself, could not help uttering a cry, seizing the hand
of the novice, and devouring her with looks.

"What is the matter? Good God!" asked the poor woman, "have I said
anything that has wounded you?"

"No; but the name struck me, because I also have known that gentleman,
and it appeared strange to me to meet with a person who appears to know
him well."

"Oh, yes, very well; not only him, but some of his friends, Messieurs
Porthos and Aramis!"

"Indeed! you know them likewise? I know them," cried Milady, who began
to feel a chill penetrate her heart.

"Well, if you know them, you know that they are good and free
companions. Why do you not apply to them, if you stand in need of

"That is to say," stammered Milady, "I am not really very intimate with
any of them. I know them from having heard one of their friends,
Monsieur d'Artagnan, say a great deal about them."

"You know Monsieur d'Artagnan!" cried the novice, in her turn seizing
the hands of Milady and devouring her with her eyes.

Then remarking the strange expression of Milady's countenance, she said,
"Pardon me, madame; you know him by what title?"

"Why," replied Milady, embarrassed, "why, by the title of friend."

"You deceive me, madame," said the novice; "you have been his mistress!"

"It is you who have been his mistress, madame!" cried Milady, in her

"I?" said the novice.

"Yes, you! I know you now. You are Madame Bonacieux!"

The young woman drew back, filled with surprise and terror.

"Oh, do not deny it! Answer!" continued Milady.

"Well, yes, madame," said the novice, "Are we rivals?"

The countenance of Milady was illumined by so savage a joy that under
any other circumstances Mme. Bonacieux would have fled in terror; but
she was absorbed by jealousy.

"Speak, madame!" resumed Mme. Bonacieux, with an energy of which she
might not have been believed capable. "Have you been, or are you, his

"Oh, no!" cried Milady, with an accent that admitted no doubt of her
truth. "Never, never!"

"I believe you," said Mme. Bonacieux; "but why, then, did you cry out

"Do you not understand?" said Milady, who had already overcome her
agitation and recovered all her presence of mind.

"How can I understand? I know nothing."

"Can you not understand that Monsieur d'Artagnan, being my friend, might
take me into his confidence?"


"Do you not perceive that I know all--your abduction from the little
house at St. Germain, his despair, that of his friends, and their
useless inquiries up to this moment? How could I help being astonished
when, without having the least expectation of such a thing, I meet you
face to face--you, of whom we have so often spoken together, you whom he
loves with all his soul, you whom he had taught me to love before I had
seen you! Ah, dear Constance, I have found you, then; I see you at

And Milady stretched out her arms to Mme. Bonacieux, who, convinced by
what she had just said, saw nothing in this woman whom an instant before
she had believed her rival but a sincere and devoted friend.

"Oh, pardon me, pardon me!" cried she, sinking upon the shoulders of
Milady. "Pardon me, I love him so much!"

These two women held each other for an instant in a close embrace.
Certainly, if Milady's strength had been equal to her hatred, Mme.
Bonacieux would never have left that embrace alive. But not being able
to stifle her, she smiled upon her.

"Oh, you beautiful, good little creature!" said Milady. "How delighted
I am to have found you! Let me look at you!" and while saying these
words, she absolutely devoured her by her looks. "Oh, yes it is you
indeed! From what he has told me, I know you now. I recognize you

The poor young woman could not possibly suspect what frightful cruelty
was behind the rampart of that pure brow, behind those brilliant eyes in
which she read nothing but interest and compassion.

"Then you know what I have suffered," said Mme. Bonacieux, "since he
has told you what he has suffered; but to suffer for him is happiness."

Milady replied mechanically, "Yes, that is happiness." She was thinking
of something else.

"And then," continued Mme. Bonacieux, "my punishment is drawing to a
close. Tomorrow, this evening, perhaps, I shall see him again; and then
the past will no longer exist."

"This evening?" asked Milady, roused from her reverie by these words.
"What do you mean? Do you expect news from him?"

"I expect himself."

"Himself? D'Artagnan here?"


"But that's impossible! He is at the siege of La Rochelle with the
cardinal. He will not return till after the taking of the city."

"Ah, you fancy so! But is there anything impossible for my d'Artagnan,
the noble and loyal gentleman?"

"Oh, I cannot believe you!"

"Well, read, then!" said the unhappy young woman, in the excess of her
pride and joy, presenting a letter to Milady.

"The writing of Madame de Chevreuse!" said Milady to herself. "Ah, I
always thought there was some secret understanding in that quarter!"
And she greedily read the following few lines:

My Dear Child, Hold yourself ready. OUR FRIEND will see you soon,
and he will only see you to release you from that imprisonment in which
your safety required you should be concealed. Prepare, then, for your
departure, and never despair of us.

Our charming Gascon has just proved himself as brave and faithful as
ever. Tell him that certain parties are grateful for the warning he has

"Yes, yes," said Milady; "the letter is precise. Do you know what that
warning was?"

"No, I only suspect he has warned the queen against some fresh
machinations of the cardinal."

"Yes, that's it, no doubt!" said Milady, returning the letter to Mme.
Bonacieux, and letting her head sink pensively upon her bosom.

At that moment they heard the gallop of a horse.

"Oh!" cried Mme. Bonacieux, darting to the window, "can it be he?"

Milady remained still in bed, petrified by surprise; so many unexpected
things happened to her all at once that for the first time she was at a

"He, he!" murmured she; "can it be he?" And she remained in bed with
her eyes fixed.

"Alas, no!" said Mme. Bonacieux; "it is a man I don't know, although he
seems to be coming here. Yes, he checks his pace; he stops at the gate;
he rings."

Milady sprang out of bed.

"You are sure it is not he?" said she.

"Yes, yes, very sure!"

"Perhaps you did not see well."

"Oh, if I were to see the plume of his hat, the end of his cloak, I
should know HIM!"

Milady was dressing herself all the time.

"Yes, he has entered."

"It is for you or me!"

"My God, how agitated you seem!"

"Yes, I admit it. I have not your confidence; I fear the cardinal."

"Hush!" said Mme. Bonacieux; "somebody is coming."

Immediately the door opened, and the superior entered.

"Did you come from Boulogne?" demanded she of Milady.

"Yes," replied she, trying to recover her self-possession. "Who wants

"A man who will not tell his name, but who comes from the cardinal."

"And who wishes to speak with me?"

"Who wishes to speak to a lady recently come from Boulogne."

"Then let him come in, if you please."

"Oh, my God, my God!" cried Mme. Bonacieux. "Can it be bad news?"

"I fear it."

"I will leave you with this stranger; but as soon as he is gone, if you
will permit me, I will return."

"PERMIT you? I BESEECH you."

The superior and Mme. Bonacieux retired.

Milady remained alone, with her eyes fixed upon the door. An instant
later, the jingling of spurs was heard upon the stairs, steps drew near,
the door opened, and a man appeared.

Milady uttered a cry of joy; this man was the Comte de Rochefort--the
demoniacal tool of his Eminence.


"Ah," cried Milady and Rochefort together, "it is you!"

"Yes, it is I."

"And you come?" asked Milady.

"From La Rochelle; and you?"

"From England."


"Dead or desperately wounded, as I left without having been able to hear
anything of him. A fanatic has just assassinated him."

"Ah," said Rochefort, with a smile; "this is a fortunate chance--one
that will delight his Eminence! Have you informed him of it?"

"I wrote to him from Boulogne. But what brings you here?"

"His Eminence was uneasy, and sent me to find you."

"I only arrived yesterday."

"And what have you been doing since yesterday?"

"I have not lost my time."

"Oh, I don't doubt that."

"Do you know whom I have encountered here?"



"How can I?"

"That young woman whom the queen took out of prison."

"The mistress of that fellow d'Artagnan?"

"Yes; Madame Bonacieux, with whose retreat the cardinal was

"Well, well," said Rochefort, "here is a chance which may pair off with
the other! Monsieur Cardinal is indeed a privileged man!"

"Imagine my astonishment," continued Milady, "when I found myself face
to face with this woman!"

"Does she know you?"


"Then she looks upon you as a stranger?"

Milady smiled. "I am her best friend."

"Upon my honor," said Rochefort, "it takes you, my dear countess, to
perform such miracles!"

"And it is well I can, Chevalier," said Milady, "for do you know what is
going on here?"


"They will come for her tomorrow or the day after, with an order from
the queen."

"Indeed! And who?"

"d'Artagnan and his friends."

"Indeed, they will go so far that we shall be obliged to send them to
the Bastille."

"Why is it not done already?"

"What would you? The cardinal has a weakness for these men which I
cannot comprehend."



"Well, then, tell him this, Rochefort. Tell him that our conversation
at the inn of the Red Dovecot was overheard by these four men; tell him
that after his departure one of them came up to me and took from me by
violence the safe-conduct which he had given me; tell him they warned
Lord de Winter of my journey to England; that this time they nearly
foiled my mission as they foiled the affair of the studs; tell him that
among these four men two only are to be feared--d'Artagnan and Athos;
tell him that the third, Aramis, is the lover of Madame de Chevreuse--he
may be left alone, we know his secret, and it may be useful; as to the
fourth, Porthos, he is a fool, a simpleton, a blustering booby, not
worth troubling himself about."

"But these four men must be now at the siege of La Rochelle?"

"I thought so, too; but a letter which Madame Bonacieux has received
from Madame the Constable, and which she has had the imprudence to show
me, leads me to believe that these four men, on the contrary, are on the
road hither to take her away."

"The devil! What's to be done?"

"What did the cardinal say about me?"

"I was to take your dispatches, written or verbal, and return by post;
and when he shall know what you have done, he will advise what you have
to do."

"I must, then, remain here?"

"Here, or in the neighborhood."

"You cannot take me with you?"

"No, the order is imperative. Near the camp you might be recognized;
and your presence, you must be aware, would compromise the cardinal."

"Then I must wait here, or in the neighborhood?"

"Only tell me beforehand where you will wait for intelligence from the
cardinal; let me know always where to find you."

"Observe, it is probable that I may not be able to remain here."


"You forget that my enemies may arrive at any minute."

"That's true; but is this little woman, then, to escape his Eminence?"

"Bah!" said Milady, with a smile that belonged only to herself; "you
forget that I am her best friend."

"Ah, that's true! I may then tell the cardinal, with respect to this
little woman--"

"That he may be at ease."

"Is that all?"

"He will know what that means."

"He will guess, at least. Now, then, what had I better do?"

"Return instantly. It appears to me that the news you bear is worth the
trouble of a little diligence."

"My chaise broke down coming into Lilliers."


"What, CAPITAL?"

"Yes, I want your chaise."

"And how shall I travel, then?"

"On horseback."

"You talk very comfortably,--a hundred and eighty leagues!"

"What's that?"

"One can do it! Afterward?"

"Afterward? Why, in passing through Lilliers you will send me your
chaise, with an order to your servant to place himself at my disposal."


"You have, no doubt, some order from the cardinal about you?"

"I have my FULL POWER."

"Show it to the abbess, and tell her that someone will come and fetch
me, either today or tomorrow, and that I am to follow the person who
presents himself in your name."

"Very well."

"Don't forget to treat me harshly in speaking of me to the abbess."

"To what purpose?"

"I am a victim of the cardinal. It is necessary to inspire confidence
in that poor little Madame Bonacieux."

"That's true. Now, will you make me a report of all that has happened?"

"Why, I have related the events to you. You have a good memory; repeat
what I have told you. A paper may be lost."

"You are right; only let me know where to find you that I may not run
needlessly about the neighborhood."

"That's correct; wait!"

"Do you want a map?"

"Oh, I know this country marvelously!"

"You? When were you here?"

"I was brought up here."


"It is worth something, you see, to have been brought up somewhere."

"You will wait for me, then?"

"Let me reflect a little! Ay, that will do--at Armentieres."

"Where is that Armentieres?"

"A little town on the Lys; I shall only have to cross the river, and I
shall be in a foreign country."

"Capital! but it is understood you will only cross the river in case of

"That is well understood."

"And in that case, how shall I know where you are?"

"You do not want your lackey?"

"Is he a sure man?"

"To the proof."

"Give him to me. Nobody knows him. I will leave him at the place I
quit, and he will conduct you to me."

"And you say you will wait for me at Armentieres?"

"At Armentieres."

"Write that name on a bit of paper, lest I should forget it. There is
nothing compromising in the name of a town. Is it not so?"

"Eh, who knows? Never mind," said Milady, writing the name on half a
sheet of paper; "I will compromise myself."

"Well," said Rochefort, taking the paper from Milady, folding it, and
placing it in the lining of his hat, "you may be easy. I will do as
children do, for fear of losing the paper--repeat the name along the
route. Now, is that all?"

"I believe so."

"Let us see: Buckingham dead or grievously wounded; your conversation
with the cardinal overheard by the four Musketeers; Lord de Winter
warned of your arrival at Portsmouth; d'Artagnan and Athos to the
Bastille; Aramis the lover of Madame de Chevreuse; Porthos an ass;
Madame Bonacieux found again; to send you the chaise as soon as
possible; to place my lackey at your disposal; to make you out a victim
of the cardinal in order that the abbess may entertain no suspicion;
Armentieres, on the banks of the Lys. Is that all, then?"

"In truth, my dear Chevalier, you are a miracle of memory. A PROPOS,
add one thing--"


"I saw some very pretty woods which almost touch the convent garden.
Say that I am permitted to walk in those woods. Who knows? Perhaps I
shall stand in need of a back door for retreat."

"You think of everything."

"And you forget one thing."


"To ask me if I want money."

"That's true. How much do you want?"

"All you have in gold."

"I have five hundred pistoles, or thereabouts."

"I have as much. With a thousand pistoles one may face everything.
Empty your pockets."


"Right. And you go--"

"In an hour--time to eat a morsel, during which I shall send for a post

"Capital! Adieu, Chevalier."

"Adieu, Countess."

"Commend me to the cardinal."

"Commend me to Satan."

Milady and Rochefort exchanged a smile and separated. An hour afterward
Rochefort set out at a grand gallop; five hours after that he passed
through Arras.

Our readers already know how he was recognized by d'Artagnan, and how
that recognition by inspiring fear in the four Musketeers had given
fresh activity to their journey.


Rochefort had scarcely departed when Mme. Bonacieux re-entered. She
found Milady with a smiling countenance.

"Well," said the young woman, "what you dreaded has happened. This
evening, or tomorrow, the cardinal will send someone to take you away."

"Who told you that, my dear?" asked Milady.

"I heard it from the mouth of the messenger himself."

"Come and sit down close to me," said Milady.

"Here I am."

"Wait till I assure myself that nobody hears us."

"Why all these precautions?"

"You shall know."

Milady arose, went to the door, opened it, looked in the corridor, and
then returned and seated herself close to Mme. Bonacieux.

"Then," said she, "he has well played his part."

"Who has?"

"He who just now presented himself to the abbess as a messenger from the

"It was, then, a part he was playing?"

"Yes, my child."

"That man, then, was not--"

"That man," said Milady, lowering her voice, "is my brother."

"Your brother!" cried Mme. Bonacieux.

"No one must know this secret, my dear, but yourself. If you reveal it
to anyone in the world, I shall be lost, and perhaps yourself likewise."

"Oh, my God!"

"Listen. This is what has happened: My brother, who was coming to my
assistance to take me away by force if it were necessary, met with the
emissary of the cardinal, who was coming in search of me. He followed
him. At a solitary and retired part of the road he drew his sword, and
required the messenger to deliver up to him the papers of which he was
the bearer. The messenger resisted; my brother killed him."

"Oh!" said Mme. Bonacieux, shuddering.

"Remember, that was the only means. Then my brother determined to
substitute cunning for force. He took the papers, and presented himself
here as the emissary of the cardinal, and in an hour or two a carriage
will come to take me away by the orders of his Eminence."

"I understand. It is your brother who sends this carriage."

"Exactly; but that is not all. That letter you have received, and
which you believe to be from Madame de Chevreuse--"


"It is a forgery."

"How can that be?"

"Yes, a forgery; it is a snare to prevent your making any resistance
when they come to fetch you."

"But it is d'Artagnan that will come."

"Do not deceive yourself. D'Artagnan and his friends are detained at the
siege of La Rochelle."

"How do you know that?"

"My brother met some emissaries of the cardinal in the uniform of
Musketeers. You would have been summoned to the gate; you would have
believed yourself about to meet friends; you would have been abducted,
and conducted back to Paris."

"Oh, my God! My senses fail me amid such a chaos of iniquities. I feel,
if this continues," said Mme. Bonacieux, raising her hands to her
forehead, "I shall go mad!"



"I hear a horse's steps; it is my brother setting off again. I should
like to offer him a last salute. Come!"

Milady opened the window, and made a sign to Mme. Bonacieux to join her.
The young woman complied.

Rochefort passed at a gallop.

"Adieu, brother!" cried Milady.

The chevalier raised his head, saw the two young women, and without
stopping, waved his hand in a friendly way to Milady.

"The good George!" said she, closing the window with an expression of
countenance full of affection and melancholy. And she resumed her seat,
as if plunged in reflections entirely personal.

"Dear lady," said Mme. Bonacieux, "pardon me for interrupting you; but
what do you advise me to do? Good heaven! You have more experience
than I have. Speak; I will listen."

"In the first place," said Milady, "it is possible I may be deceived,
and that d'Artagnan and his friends may really come to your assistance."

"Oh, that would be too much!" cried Mme. Bonacieux, "so much happiness
is not in store for me!"

"Then you comprehend it would be only a question of time, a sort of
race, which should arrive first. If your friends are the more speedy,
you are to be saved; if the satellites of the cardinal, you are lost."

"Oh, yes, yes; lost beyond redemption! What, then, to do? What to do?"

"There would be a very simple means, very natural--"

"Tell me what!"

"To wait, concealed in the neighborhood, and assure yourself who are the
men who come to ask for you."

"But where can I wait?"

"Oh, there is no difficulty in that. I shall stop and conceal myself a
few leagues hence until my brother can rejoin me. Well, I take you with
me; we conceal ourselves, and wait together."

"But I shall not be allowed to go; I am almost a prisoner."

"As they believe that I go in consequence of an order from the cardinal,
no one will believe you anxious to follow me."


"Well! The carriage is at the door; you bid me adieu; you mount the
step to embrace me a last time; my brother's servant, who comes to fetch
me, is told how to proceed; he makes a sign to the postillion, and we
set off at a gallop."

"But d'Artagnan! D'Artagnan! if he comes?"

"Shall we not know it?"


"Nothing easier. We will send my brother's servant back to Bethune,
whom, as I told you, we can trust. He shall assume a disguise, and
place himself in front of the convent. If the emissaries of the
cardinal arrive, he will take no notice; if it is Monsieur d'Artagnan
and his friends, he will bring them to us."

"He knows them, then?"

"Doubtless. Has he not seen Monsieur d'Artagnan at my house?"

"Oh, yes, yes; you are right. Thus all may go well--all may be for the
best; but we do not go far from this place?"

"Seven or eight leagues at the most. We will keep on the frontiers, for
instance; and at the first alarm we can leave France."

"And what can we do there?"


"But if they come?"

"My brother's carriage will be here first."

"If I should happen to be any distance from you when the carriage comes
for you--at dinner or supper, for instance?"

"Do one thing."

"What is that?"

"Tell your good superior that in order that we may be as much together
as possible, you ask her permission to share my repast."

"Will she permit it?"

"What inconvenience can it be?"

"Oh, delightful! In this way we shall not be separated for an instant."

"Well, go down to her, then, to make your request. I feel my head a
little confused; I will take a turn in the garden."

"Go and where shall I find you?"

"Here, in an hour."

"Here, in an hour. Oh, you are so kind, and I am so grateful!"

"How can I avoid interesting myself for one who is so beautiful and so
amiable? Are you not the beloved of one of my best friends?"

"Dear d'Artagnan! Oh, how he will thank you!"

"I hope so. Now, then, all is agreed; let us go down."

"You are going into the garden?"


"Go along this corridor, down a little staircase, and you are in it."

"Excellent; thank you!"

And the two women parted, exchanging charming smiles.

Milady had told the truth--her head was confused, for her ill-arranged
plans clashed one another like chaos. She required to be alone that
she might put her thoughts a little into order. She saw vaguely the
future; but she stood in need of a little silence and quiet to give all
her ideas, as yet confused, a distinct form and a regular plan.

What was most pressing was to get Mme. Bonacieux away, and convey her to
a place of safety, and there, if matters required, make her a hostage.
Milady began to have doubts of the issue of this terrible duel, in which
her enemies showed as much perseverance as she did animosity.

Besides, she felt as we feel when a storm is coming on--that this issue
was near, and could not fail to be terrible.

The principal thing for her, then, was, as we have said, to keep Mme.
Bonacieux in her power. Mme. Bonacieux was the very life of d'Artagnan.
This was more than his life, the life of the woman he loved; this was,
in case of ill fortune, a means of temporizing and obtaining good

Now, this point was settled; Mme. Bonacieux, without any suspicion,
accompanied her. Once concealed with her at Armentieres, it would be
easy to make her believe that d'Artagnan had not come to Bethune. In
fifteen days at most, Rochefort would be back; besides, during that
fifteen days she would have time to think how she could best avenge
herself on the four friends. She would not be weary, thank God! for
she should enjoy the sweetest pastime such events could accord a woman
of her character--perfecting a beautiful vengeance.

Revolving all this in her mind, she cast her eyes around her, and
arranged the topography of the garden in her head. Milady was like a
good general who contemplates at the same time victory and defeat, and
who is quite prepared, according to the chances of the battle, to march
forward or to beat a retreat.

At the end of an hour she heard a soft voice calling her; it was Mme.
Bonacieux's. The good abbess had naturally consented to her request;
and as a commencement, they were to sup together.

On reaching the courtyard, they heard the noise of a carriage which
stopped at the gate.

Milady listened.

"Do you hear anything?" said she.

"Yes, the rolling of a carriage."

"It is the one my brother sends for us."

"Oh, my God!"

"Come, come! courage!"

The bell of the convent gate was sounded; Milady was not mistaken.

"Go to your chamber," said she to Mme. Bonacieux; "you have perhaps some
jewels you would like to take."

"I have his letters," said she.

"Well, go and fetch them, and come to my apartment. We will snatch some
supper; we shall perhaps travel part of the night, and must keep our
strength up."

"Great God!" said Mme. Bonacieux, placing her hand upon her bosom, "my
heart beats so I cannot walk."

"Courage, courage! remember that in a quarter of an hour you will be
safe; and think that what you are about to do is for HIS sake."

"Yes, yes, everything for him. You have restored my courage by a single
word; go, I will rejoin you."

Milady ran up to her apartment quickly; she there found Rochefort's
lackey, and gave him his instructions.

He was to wait at the gate; if by chance the Musketeers should appear,
the carriage was to set off as fast as possible, pass around the
convent, and go and wait for Milady at a little village which was
situated at the other side of the wood. In this case Milady would cross
the garden and gain the village on foot. As we have already said,
Milady was admirably acquainted with this part of France.

If the Musketeers did not appear, things were to go on as had been
agreed; Mme. Bonacieux was to get into the carriage as if to bid her
adieu, and she was to take away Mme. Bonacieux.

Mme. Bonacieux came in; and to remove all suspicion, if she had any,
Milady repeated to the lackey, before her, the latter part of her

Milady asked some questions about the carriage. It was a chaise drawn
by three horses, driven by a postillion; Rochefort's lackey would
precede it, as courier.

Milady was wrong in fearing that Mme. Bonacieux would have any
suspicion. The poor young woman was too pure to suppose that any female
could be guilty of such perfidy; besides, the name of the Comtesse de
Winter, which she had heard the abbess pronounce, was wholly unknown to
her, and she was even ignorant that a woman had had so great and so
fatal a share in the misfortune of her life.

"You see," said she, when the lackey had gone out, "everything is ready.
The abbess suspects nothing, and believes that I am taken by order of
the cardinal. This man goes to give his last orders; take the least
thing, drink a finger of wine, and let us be gone."

"Yes," said Mme. Bonacieux, mechanically, "yes, let us be gone."

Milady made her a sign to sit down opposite, poured her a small glass of
Spanish wine, and helped her to the wing of a chicken.

"See," said she, "if everything does not second us! Here is night
coming on; by daybreak we shall have reached our retreat, and nobody can
guess where we are. Come, courage! take something."

Mme. Bonacieux ate a few mouthfuls mechanically, and just touched the
glass with her lips.

"Come, come!" said Milady, lifting hers to her mouth, "do as I do."

But at the moment the glass touched her lips, her hand remained
suspended; she heard something on the road which sounded like the
rattling of a distant gallop. Then it grew nearer, and it seemed to
her, almost at the same time, that she heard the neighing of horses.

This noise acted upon her joy like the storm which awakens the sleeper
in the midst of a happy dream; she grew pale and ran to the window,
while Mme. Bonacieux, rising all in a tremble, supported herself upon
her chair to avoid falling. Nothing was yet to be seen, only they heard
the galloping draw nearer.

"Oh, my God!" said Mme. Bonacieux, "what is that noise?"

"That of either our friends or our enemies," said Milady, with her
terrible coolness. "Stay where you are, I will tell you."

Mme. Bonacieux remained standing, mute, motionless, and pale as a

The noise became louder; the horses could not be more than a hundred and
fifty paces distant. If they were not yet to be seen, it was because
the road made an elbow. The noise became so distinct that the horses
might be counted by the rattle of their hoofs.

Milady gazed with all the power of her attention; it was just light
enough for her to see who was coming.

All at once, at the turning of the road she saw the glitter of laced
hats and the waving of feathers; she counted two, then five, then eight
horsemen. One of them preceded the rest by double the length of his

Milady uttered a stifled groan. In the first horseman she recognized

"Oh, my God, my God," cried Mme. Bonacieux, "what is it?"

"It is the uniform of the cardinal's Guards. Not an instant to be lost!
Fly, fly!"

"Yes, yes, let us fly!" repeated Mme. Bonacieux, but without being able
to make a step, glued as she was to the spot by terror.

They heard the horsemen pass under the windows.

"Come, then, come, then!" cried Milady, trying to drag the young woman
along by the arm. "Thanks to the garden, we yet can flee; I have the
key, but make haste! in five minutes it will be too late!"

Mme. Bonacieux tried to walk, made two steps, and sank upon her knees.
Milady tried to raise and carry her, but could not do it.

At this moment they heard the rolling of the carriage, which at the
approach of the Musketeers set off at a gallop. Then three or four
shots were fired.

"For the last time, will you come?" cried Milady.

"Oh, my God, my God! you see my strength fails me; you see plainly I
cannot walk. Flee alone!"

"Flee alone, and leave you here? No, no, never!" cried Milady.

All at once she paused, a livid flash darted from her eyes; she ran to
the table, emptied into Mme. Bonacieux's glass the contents of a ring
which she opened with singular quickness. It was a grain of a reddish
color, which dissolved immediately.

Then, taking the glass with a firm hand, she said, "Drink. This wine
will give you strength, drink!" And she put the glass to the lips of
the young woman, who drank mechanically.

"This is not the way that I wished to avenge myself," said Milady,
replacing the glass upon the table, with an infernal smile, "but, my
faith! we do what we can!" And she rushed out of the room.

Mme. Bonacieux saw her go without being able to follow her; she was like
people who dream they are pursued, and who in vain try to walk.

A few moments passed; a great noise was heard at the gate. Every
instant Mme. Bonacieux expected to see Milady, but she did not return.
Several times, with terror, no doubt, the cold sweat burst from her
burning brow.

At length she heard the grating of the hinges of the opening gates; the
noise of boots and spurs resounded on the stairs. There was a great
murmur of voices which continued to draw near, amid which she seemed to
hear her own name pronounced.

All at once she uttered a loud cry of joy, and darted toward the door;
she had recognized the voice of d'Artagnan.

"d'Artagnan! D'Artagnan!" cried she, "is it you? This way! this

"Constance? Constance?" replied the young man, "where are you? where
are you? My God!"

At the same moment the door of the cell yielded to a shock, rather than
opened; several men rushed into the chamber. Mme. Bonacieux had sunk
into an armchair, without the power of moving.

D'Artagnan threw down a yet-smoking pistol which he held in his hand,
and fell on his knees before his mistress. Athos replaced his in his
belt; Porthos and Aramis, who held their drawn swords in their hands,
returned them to their scabbards.

"Oh, d'Artagnan, my beloved d'Artagnan! You have come, then, at last!
You have not deceived me! It is indeed thee!"

"Yes, yes, Constance. Reunited!"

"Oh, it was in vain she told me you would not come! I hoped in silence.
I was not willing to fly. Oh, I have done well! How happy I am!"

At this word SHE, Athos, who had seated himself quietly, started up.

"SHE! What she?" asked d'Artagnan.

"Why, my companion. She who out of friendship for me wished to take me
from my persecutors. She who, mistaking you for the cardinal's Guards,
has just fled away."

"Your companion!" cried d'Artagnan, becoming more pale than the white
veil of his mistress. "Of what companion are you speaking, dear

"Of her whose carriage was at the gate; of a woman who calls herself
your friend; of a woman to whom you have told everything."

"Her name, her name!" cried d'Artagnan. "My God, can you not remember
her name?"

"Yes, it was pronounced in my hearing once. Stop--but--it is very
strange--oh, my God, my head swims! I cannot see!"

"Help, help, my friends! her hands are icy cold," cried d'Artagnan.
"She is ill! Great God, she is losing her senses!"

While Porthos was calling for help with all the power of his strong
voice, Aramis ran to the table to get a glass of water; but he stopped
at seeing the horrible alteration that had taken place in the
countenance of Athos, who, standing before the table, his hair rising
from his head, his eyes fixed in stupor, was looking at one of the
glasses, and appeared a prey to the most horrible doubt.

"Oh!' said Athos, "oh, no, it is impossible! God would not permit such
a crime!"

"Water, water!" cried d'Artagnan. "Water!"

"Oh, poor woman, poor woman!" murmured Athos, in a broken voice.

Mme. Bonacieux opened her eyes under the kisses of d'Artagnan.

"She revives!" cried the young man. "Oh, my God, my God, I thank

"Madame!" said Athos, "madame, in the name of heaven, whose empty glass
is this?"

"Mine, monsieur," said the young woman, in a dying voice.

"But who poured the wine for you that was in this glass?"


"But who is SHE?"

"Oh, I remember!" said Mme. Bonacieux, "the Comtesse de Winter."

The four friends uttered one and the same cry, but that of Athos
dominated all the rest.

At that moment the countenance of Mme. Bonacieux became livid; a fearful
agony pervaded her frame, and she sank panting into the arms of Porthos
and Aramis.

D'Artagnan seized the hands of Athos with an anguish difficult to be

"And what do you believe?' His voice was stifled by sobs.

"I believe everything," said Athos biting his lips till the blood sprang
to avoid sighing.

"d'Artagnan, d'Artagnan!" cried Mme. Bonacieux, "where art thou? Do
not leave me! You see I am dying!"

D'Artagnan released the hands of Athos which he still held clasped in
both his own, and hastened to her. Her beautiful face was distorted
with agony; her glassy eyes had no longer their sight; a convulsive
shuddering shook her whole body; the sweat rolled from her brow.

"In the name of heaven, run, call! Aramis! Porthos! Call for help!"

"Useless!" said Athos, "useless! For the poison which SHE pours there
is no antidote."

"Yes, yes! Help, help!" murmured Mme. Bonacieux; "help!"

Then, collecting all her strength, she took the head of the young man
between her hands, looked at him for an instant as if her whole soul
passed into that look, and with a sobbing cry pressed her lips to his.

"Constance, Constance!" cried d'Artagnan.

A sigh escaped from the mouth of Mme. Bonacieux, and dwelt for an
instant on the lips of d'Artagnan. That sigh was the soul, so chaste
and so loving, which reascended to heaven.

D'Artagnan pressed nothing but a corpse in his arms. The young man
uttered a cry, and fell by the side of his mistress as pale and as icy
as herself.

Porthos wept; Aramis pointed toward heaven; Athos made the sign of the

At that moment a man appeared in the doorway, almost as pale as those in
the chamber. He looked around him and saw Mme. Bonacieux dead, and
d'Artagnan in a swoon. He appeared just at that moment of stupor which
follows great catastrophes.

"I was not deceived," said he; "here is Monsieur d'Artagnan; and you are
his friends, Messieurs Athos, Porthos, and Aramis."

The persons whose names were thus pronounced looked at the stranger with
astonishment. It seemed to all three that they knew him.

"Gentlemen," resumed the newcomer, "you are, as I am, in search of a
woman who," added he, with a terrible smile, "must have passed this way,
for I see a corpse."

The three friends remained mute--for although the voice as well as the
countenance reminded them of someone they had seen, they could not
remember under what circumstances.

"Gentlemen," continued the stranger, "since you do not recognize a man
who probably owes his life to you twice, I must name myself. I am Lord
de Winter, brother-in-law of THAT WOMAN."

The three friends uttered a cry of surprise.

Athos rose, and offering him his hand, "Be welcome, my Lord," said he,
"you are one of us."

"I set out five hours after her from Portsmouth," said Lord de Winter.
"I arrived three hours after her at Boulogne. I missed her by twenty
minutes at St. Omer. Finally, at Lilliers I lost all trace of her. I
was going about at random, inquiring of everybody, when I saw you
gallop past. I recognized Monsieur d'Artagnan. I called to you, but
you did not answer me; I wished to follow you, but my horse was too much
fatigued to go at the same pace with yours. And yet it appears, in
spite of all your diligence, you have arrived too late."

"You see!" said Athos, pointing to Mme. Bonacieux dead, and to
d'Artagnan, whom Porthos and Aramis were trying to recall to life.

"Are they both dead?" asked Lord de Winter, sternly.

"No," replied Athos, "fortunately Monsieur d'Artagnan has only fainted."

"Ah, indeed, so much the better!" said Lord de Winter.

At that moment d'Artagnan opened his eyes. He tore himself from the
arms of Porthos and Aramis, and threw himself like a madman on the
corpse of his mistress.

Athos rose, walked toward his friend with a slow and solemn step,
embraced him tenderly, and as he burst into violent sobs, he said to him
with his noble and persuasive voice, "Friend, be a man! Women weep for
the dead; men avenge them!"

"Oh, yes!" cried d'Artagnan, "yes! If it be to avenge her, I am ready
to follow you."

Athos profited by this moment of strength which the hope of vengeance
restored to his unfortunate friend to make a sign to Porthos and Aramis
to go and fetch the superior.

The two friends met her in the corridor, greatly troubled and much upset
by such strange events; she called some of the nuns, who against all
monastic custom found themselves in the presence of five men.

"Madame," said Athos, passing his arm under that of d'Artagnan, "we
abandon to your pious care the body of that unfortunate woman. She was
an angel on earth before being an angel in heaven. Treat her as one of
your sisters. We will return someday to pray over her grave."

D'Artagnan concealed his face in the bosom of Athos, and sobbed aloud.

"Weep," said Athos, "weep, heart full of love, youth, and life! Alas,
would I could weep like you!"

And he drew away his friend, as affectionate as a father, as consoling
as a priest, noble as a man who has suffered much.

All five, followed by their lackeys leading their horses, took their way
to the town of Bethune, whose outskirts they perceived, and stopped
before the first inn they came to.

"But," said d'Artagnan, "shall we not pursue that woman?"

"Later," said Athos. "I have measures to take."

"She will escape us," replied the young man; "she will escape us, and it
will be your fault, Athos."

"I will be accountable for her," said Athos.

D'Artagnan had so much confidence in the word of his friend that he
lowered his head, and entered the inn without reply.

Porthos and Aramis regarded each other, not understanding this assurance
of Athos.

Lord de Winter believed he spoke in this manner to soothe the grief of

"Now, gentlemen," said Athos, when he had ascertained there were five
chambers free in the hotel, "let everyone retire to his own apartment.
d'Artagnan needs to be alone, to weep and to sleep. I take charge of
everything; be easy."

"It appears, however," said Lord de Winter, "if there are any measures
to take against the countess, it concerns me; she is my sister-in-law."

"And me," said Athos, "--she is my wife!"

D'Artagnan smiled--for he understood that Athos was sure of his
vengeance when he revealed such a secret. Porthos and Aramis looked at
each other, and grew pale. Lord de Winter thought Athos was mad.

"Now, retire to your chambers," said Athos, "and leave me to act. You
must perceive that in my quality of a husband this concerns me. Only,
d'Artagnan, if you have not lost it, give me the paper which fell from
that man's hat, upon which is written the name of the village of--"

"Ah," said d'Artagnan, "I comprehend! that name written in her hand."

"You see, then," said Athos, "there is a god in heaven still!"


The despair of Athos had given place to a concentrated grief which only
rendered more lucid the brilliant mental faculties of that extraordinary

Possessed by one single thought--that of the promise he had made, and of
the responsibility he had taken--he retired last to his chamber, begged
the host to procure him a map of the province, bent over it, examined
every line traced upon it, perceived that there were four different
roads from Bethune to Armentieres, and summoned the lackeys.

Planchet, Grimaud, Bazin, and Mousqueton presented themselves, and
received clear, positive, and serious orders from Athos.

They must set out the next morning at daybreak, and go to Armentieres--
each by a different route. Planchet, the most intelligent of the four,
was to follow that by which the carriage had gone upon which the four
friends had fired, and which was accompanied, as may be remembered, by
Rochefort's servant.

Athos set the lackeys to work first because, since these men had been in
the service of himself and his friends he had discovered in each of them
different and essential qualities. Then, lackeys who ask questions
inspire less mistrust than masters, and meet with more sympathy among
those to whom they address themselves. Besides, Milady knew the
masters, and did not know the lackeys; on the contrary, the lackeys knew
Milady perfectly.

All four were to meet the next day at eleven o'clock. If they had
discovered Milady's retreat, three were to remain on guard; the fourth
was to return to Bethune in order to inform Athos and serve as a guide
to the four friends. These arrangements made, the lackeys retired.

Athos then arose from his chair, girded on his sword, enveloped himself
in his cloak, and left the hotel. It was nearly ten o'clock. At ten
o'clock in the evening, it is well known, the streets in provincial
towns are very little frequented. Athos nevertheless was visibly
anxious to find someone of whom he could ask a question. At length he
met a belated passenger, went up to him, and spoke a few words to him.
The man he addressed recoiled with terror, and only answered the few
words of the Musketeer by pointing. Athos offered the man half a
pistole to accompany him, but the man refused.

Athos then plunged into the street the man had indicated with his
finger; but arriving at four crossroads, he stopped again, visibly
embarrassed. Nevertheless, as the crossroads offered him a better
chance than any other place of meeting somebody, he stood still. In a
few minutes a night watch passed. Athos repeated to him the same
question he had asked the first person he met. The night watch evinced
the same terror, refused, in his turn, to accompany Athos, and only
pointed with his hand to the road he was to take.

Athos walked in the direction indicated, and reached the suburb situated
at the opposite extremity of the city from that by which he and his
friends had entered it. There he again appeared uneasy and embarrassed,
and stopped for the third time.

Fortunately, a mendicant passed, who, coming up to Athos to ask charity,
Athos offered him half a crown to accompany him where he was going. The
mendicant hesitated at first, but at the sight of the piece of silver
which shone in the darkness he consented, and walked on before Athos.

Arrived at the angle of a street, he pointed to a small house, isolated,
solitary, and dismal. Athos went toward the house, while the mendicant,
who had received his reward, left as fast as his legs could carry him.

Athos went round the house before he could distinguish the door, amid
the red color in which the house was painted. No light appeared through
the chinks of the shutters; no noise gave reason to believe that it was
inhabited. It was dark and silent as the tomb.

Three times Athos knocked without receiving an answer. At the third
knock, however, steps were heard inside. The door at length was opened,
and a man appeared, of high stature, pale complexion, and black hair and

Athos and he exchanged some words in a low voice, then the tall man made
a sign to the Musketeer that he might come in. Athos immediately
profited by the permission, and the door was closed behind him.

The man whom Athos had come so far to seek, and whom he had found with
so much trouble, introduced him into his laboratory, where he was
engaged in fastening together with iron wire the dry bones of a
skeleton. All the frame was adjusted except the head, which lay on the

All the rest of the furniture indicated that the dweller in this house
occupied himself with the study of natural science. There were large
bottles filled with serpents, ticketed according to their species; dried
lizards shone like emeralds set in great squares of black wood, and
bunches of wild odoriferous herbs, doubtless possessed of virtues
unknown to common men, were fastened to the ceiling and hung down in the
corners of the apartment. There was no family, no servant; the tall man
alone inhabited this house.

Athos cast a cold and indifferent glance upon the objects we have
described, and at the invitation of him whom he came to seek sat down
near him.

Then he explained to him the cause of his visit, and the service he
required of him. But scarcely had he expressed his request when the
unknown, who remained standing before the Musketeer, drew back with
signs of terror, and refused. Then Athos took from his pocket a small
paper, on which two lines were written, accompanied by a signature and
a seal, and presented them to him who had made too prematurely these
signs of repugnance. The tall man had scarcely read these lines, seen
the signature, and recognized the seal, when he bowed to denote that he
had no longer any objection to make, and that he was ready to obey.

Athos required no more. He arose, bowed, went out, returned by the same
way he came, re-entered the hotel, and went to his apartment.

At daybreak d'Artagnan entered the chamber, and demanded what was to be

"To wait," replied Athos.

Some minutes after, the superior of the convent sent to inform the
Musketeers that the burial would take place at midday. As to the
poisoner, they had heard no tidings of her whatever, only that she must
have made her escape through the garden, on the sand of which her
footsteps could be traced, and the door of which had been found shut.
As to the key, it had disappeared.

At the hour appointed, Lord de Winter and the four friends repaired to
the convent; the bells tolled, the chapel was open, the grating of the
choir was closed. In the middle of the choir the body of the victim,
clothed in her novitiate dress, was exposed. On each side of the choir
and behind the gratings opening into the convent was assembled the whole
community of the Carmelites, who listened to the divine service, and
mingled their chant with the chant of the priests, without seeing the
profane, or being seen by them.

At the door of the chapel d'Artagnan felt his courage fall anew,
and returned to look for Athos; but Athos had disappeared.

Faithful to his mission of vengeance, Athos had requested to be
conducted to the garden; and there upon the sand following the light
steps of this woman, who left sharp tracks wherever she went, he
advanced toward the gate which led into the wood, and causing it to be
opened, he went out into the forest.

Then all his suspicions were confirmed; the road by which the carriage
had disappeared encircled the forest. Athos followed the road for some
time, his eyes fixed upon the ground; slight stains of blood, which came
from the wound inflicted upon the man who accompanied the carriage as a
courier, or from one of the horses, dotted the road. At the end of
three-quarters of a league, within fifty paces of Festubert, a larger
bloodstain appeared; the ground was trampled by horses. Between the
forest and this accursed spot, a little behind the trampled ground, was
the same track of small feet as in the garden; the carriage had stopped
here. At this spot Milady had come out of the wood, and entered the

Satisfied with this discovery which confirmed all his suspicions, Athos
returned to the hotel, and found Planchet impatiently waiting for him.

Everything was as Athos had foreseen.

Planchet had followed the road; like Athos, he had discovered the stains
of blood; like Athos, he had noted the spot where the horses had halted.
But he had gone farther than Athos--for at the village of Festubert,
while drinking at an inn, he had learned without needing to ask a
question that the evening before, at half-past eight, a wounded man who
accompanied a lady traveling in a post-chaise had been obliged to stop,
unable to go further. The accident was set down to the account of
robbers, who had stopped the chaise in the wood. The man remained in
the village; the woman had had a relay of horses, and continued her

Planchet went in search of the postillion who had driven her, and found
him. He had taken the lady as far as Fromelles; and from Fromelles
she had set out for Armentieres. Planchet took the crossroad, and by
seven o'clock in the morning he was at Armentieres.

There was but one tavern, the Post. Planchet went and presented himself
as a lackey out of a place, who was in search of a situation. He had
not chatted ten minutes with the people of the tavern before he learned
that a woman had come there alone about eleven o'clock the night before,
had engaged a chamber, had sent for the master of the hotel, and told
him she desired to remain some time in the neighborhood.

Planchet had no need to learn more. He hastened to the rendezvous,
found the lackeys at their posts, placed them as sentinels at all the
outlets of the hotel, and came to find Athos, who had just received this
information when his friends returned.

All their countenances were melancholy and gloomy, even the mild
countenance of Aramis.

"What is to be done?" asked d'Artagnan.

"To wait!" replied Athos.

Each retired to his own apartment.

At eight o'clock in the evening Athos ordered the horses to be saddled,
and Lord de Winter and his friends notified that they must prepare for
the expedition.

In an instant all five were ready. Each examined his arms, and put them
in order. Athos came down last, and found d'Artagnan already on
horseback, and growing impatient.

"Patience!" cried Athos; "one of our party is still wanting."

The four horsemen looked round them with astonishment, for they sought
vainly in their minds to know who this other person could be.

At this moment Planchet brought out Athos's house; the Musketeer leaped
lightly into the saddle.

"Wait for me," cried he, "I will soon be back," and he set off at a

In a quarter of an hour he returned, accompanied by a tall man, masked,
and wrapped in a large red cloak.

Lord de Winter and the three Musketeers looked at one another
inquiringly. Neither could give the others any information, for all
were ignorant who this man could be; nevertheless, they felt convinced
that all was as it should be, as it was done by the order of Athos.

At nine o'clock, guided by Planchet, the little cavalcade set out,
taking the route the carriage had taken.

It was a melancholy sight--that of these six men, traveling in silence,
each plunged in his own thoughts, sad as despair, gloomy as


It was a stormy and dark night; vast clouds covered the heavens,
concealing the stars; the moon would not rise till midnight.

Occasionally, by the light of a flash of lightning which gleamed along
the horizon, the road stretched itself before them, white and solitary;
the flash extinct, all remained in darkness.

Every minute Athos was forced to restrain d'Artagnan, constantly in
advance of the little troop, and to beg him to keep in the line, which
in an instant he again departed from. He had but one thought--to go
forward; and he went.

They passed in silence through the little village of Festubert, where
the wounded servant was, and then skirted the wood of Richebourg. At
Herlier, Planchet, who led the column, turned to the left.

Several times Lord de Winter, Porthos, or Aramis, tried to talk with the
man in the red cloak; but to every interrogation which they put to him
he bowed, without response. The travelers then comprehended that there
must be some reason why the unknown preserved such a silence, and ceased
to address themselves to him.

The storm increased, the flashes succeeded one another more rapidly, the
thunder began to growl, and the wind, the precursor of a hurricane,
whistled in the plumes and the hair of the horsemen.

The cavalcade trotted on more sharply.

A little before they came to Fromelles the storm burst. They spread
their cloaks. There remained three leagues to travel, and they did it
amid torrents of rain.

D'Artagnan took off his hat, and could not be persuaded to make use of
his cloak. He found pleasure in feeling the water trickle over his
burning brow and over his body, agitated by feverish shudders.

The moment the little troop passed Goskal and were approaching the Port,
a man sheltered beneath a tree detached himself from the trunk with
which he had been confounded in the darkness, and advanced into the
middle of the road, putting his finger on his lips.

Athos recognized Grimaud.

"What's the manner?" cried Athos. "Has she left Armentieres?"

Grimaud made a sign in the affirmative. D'Artagnan groaned his teeth.

"Silence, d'Artagnan!" said Athos. I have charged myself with this
affair. It is for me, then, to interrogate Grimaud."

"Where is she?" asked Athos.

Grimaud extended his hands in the direction of the Lys. "Far from
here?" asked Athos.

Grimaud showed his master his forefinger bent.

"Alone?" asked Athos.

Grimaud made the sign yes.

"Gentlemen," said Athos, "she is alone within half a league of us, in
the direction of the river."

"That's well," said d'Artagnan. "lead us, Grimaud."

Grimaud took his course across the country, and acted as guide to the

At the end of five hundred paces, more or less, they came to a rivulet,
which they forded.

By the aid of the lightning they perceived the village of Erquinheim.

"Is she there, Grimaud?" asked Athos.

Grimaud shook his head negatively.

"Silence, then!" cried Athos.

And the troop continued their route.

Another flash illuminated all around them. Grimaud extended his arm,
and by the bluish splendor of the fiery serpent they distinguished a
little isolated house on the banks of the river, within a hundred paces
of a ferry.

One window was lighted.

"Here we are!" said Athos.

At this moment a man who had been crouching in a ditch jumped up and
came towards them. It was Mousqueton. He pointed his finger to the
lighted window.

"She is there," said he.

"And Bazin?" asked Athos.

"While I watched the window, he guarded the door."

"Good!" said Athos. "You are good and faithful servants."

Athos sprang from his horse, gave the bridle to Grimaud, and advanced
toward the window, after having made a sign to the rest of the troop to
go toward the door.

The little house was surrounded by a low, quickset hedge, two or three
feet high. Athos sprang over the hedge and went up to the window, which
was without shutters, but had the half-curtains closely drawn.

He mounted the skirting stone that his eyes might look over the curtain.

By the light of a lamp he saw a woman, wrapped in a dark mantle, seated
upon a stool near a dying fire. Her elbows were placed upon a mean
table, and she leaned her head upon her two hands, which were white as

He could not distinguish her countenance, but a sinister smile passed
over the lips of Athos. He was not deceived; it was she whom he sought.

At this moment a horse neighed. Milady raised her head, saw close to
the panes the pale face of Athos, and screamed.

Athos, perceiving that she knew him, pushed the window with his knee and
hand. The window yielded. The squares were broken to shivers; and
Athos, like the spectre of vengeance, leaped into the room.

Milady rushed to the door and opened it. More pale and menacing than
Athos, d'Artagnan stood on the threshold.

Milady recoiled, uttering a cry. D'Artagnan, believing she might have
means of flight and fearing she should escape, drew a pistol from his
belt; but Athos raised his hand.

"Put back that weapon, d'Artagnan!" said he; "this woman must be tried,
not assassinated. Wait an instant, my friend, and you shall be
satisfied. Come in, gentlemen."

D'Artagnan obeyed; for Athos had the solemn voice and the powerful
gesture of a judge sent by the Lord himself. Behind d'Artagnan entered
Porthos, Aramis, Lord de Winter, and the man in the red cloak.

The four lackeys guarded the door and the window.

Milady had sunk into a chair, with her hands extended, as if to conjure
this terrible apparition. Perceiving her brother-in-law, she uttered a
terrible cry.

"What do you want?" screamed Milady.

"We want," said Athos, "Charlotte Backson, who first was called Comtesse
de la Fere, and afterwards Milady de Winter, Baroness of Sheffield."

"That is I! that is I!" murmured Milady, in extreme terror; "what do
you want?"

"We wish to judge you according to your crime," said Athos; "you shall
be free to defend yourself. Justify yourself if you can. M.
d'Artagnan, it is for you to accuse her first."

D'Artagnan advanced.

"Before God and before men," said he, "I accuse this woman of having
poisoned Constance Bonacieux, who died yesterday evening."

He turned towards Porthos and Aramis.

"We bear witness to this," said the two Musketeers, with one voice.

D'Artagnan continued: "Before God and before men, I accuse this woman
of having attempted to poison me, in wine which she sent me from
Villeroy, with a forged letter, as if that wine came from my friends.
God preserved me, but a man named Brisemont died in my place."

"We bear witness to this," said Porthos and Aramis, in the
same manner as before.

"Before God and before men, I accuse this woman of having urged me to
the murder of the Baron de Wardes; but as no one else can attest the
truth of this accusation, I attest it myself. I have done." And
d'Artagnan passed to the other side of the room with Porthos and Aramis.

"Your turn, my Lord," said Athos.

The baron came forward.

"Before God and before men," said he, "I accuse this woman of having
caused the assassination of the Duke of Buckingham."

"The Duke of Buckingham assassinated!" cried all present, with one

"Yes," said the baron, "assassinated. On receiving the warning letter
you wrote to me, I had this woman arrested, and gave her in charge to a
loyal servant. She corrupted this man; she placed the poniard in his
hand; she made him kill the duke. And at this moment, perhaps, Felton
is paying with his head for the crime of this fury!"

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