Part 14 out of 20
with Cromwell; and since you ask for my prisoners, I bend,
sir, to your wishes. They are yours; take them."
Mordaunt, delighted, advanced, Porthos looking at D'Artagnan
with open-mouthed astonishment. Then D'Artagnan trod on his
foot and Porthos began to understand that this was merely
Mordaunt put his foot on the first step of the door and,
with his hat in hand, prepared to pass by the two friends,
motioning to the four men to follow him.
"But, pardon," said D'Artagnan, with the most charming smile
and putting his hand on the young man's shoulder, "if the
illustrious General Oliver Cromwell has disposed of our
prisoners in your favour, he has, of course, made that act
of donation in writing."
Mordaunt stopped short.
"He has given you some little writing for me -- the least
bit of paper which may show that you come in his name. Be
pleased to give me that scrap of paper so that I may
justify, by a pretext at least, my abandoning my countrymen.
Otherwise, you see, although I am sure that General Oliver
Cromwell can intend them no harm, it would have a bad
Mordaunt recoiled; he felt the blow and discharged a
terrible look at D'Artagnan, who responded by the most
amiable expression that ever graced a human countenance.
"When I tell you a thing, sir," said Mordaunt, "you insult
me by doubting it."
"I!" cried D'Artagnan, "I doubt what you say!" God keep me
from it, my dear Monsieur Mordaunt! On the contrary, I take
you to be a worthy and accomplished gentleman. And then,
sir, do you wish me to speak freely to you?" continued
D'Artagnan, with his frank expression.
"Speak out, sir," said Mordaunt.
"Monsieur du Vallon, yonder, is rich and has forty thousand
francs yearly, so he does not care about money. I do not
speak for him, but for myself."
"Well, sir? What more?"
"Well -- I -- I'm not rich. In Gascony 'tis no dishonor,
sir, nobody is rich; and Henry IV., of glorious memory, who
was the king of the Gascons, as His Majesty Philip IV. is
the king of the Spaniards, never had a penny in his pocket."
"Go on, sir, I see what you wish to get at; and if it is
simply what I think that stops you, I can obviate the
"Ah, I knew well," said the Gascon, "that you were a man of
talent. Well, here's the case, here's where the saddle hurts
me, as we French say. I am an officer of fortune, nothing
else; I have nothing but what my sword brings me in -- that
is to say, more blows than banknotes. Now, on taking
prisoners, this morning, two Frenchmen, who seemed to me of
high birth -- in short, two knights of the Garter -- I said
to myself, my fortune is made. I say two, because in such
circumstances, Monsieur du Vallon, who is rich, always gives
me his prisoners."
Mordaunt, completely deceived by the wordy civility of
D'Artagnan, smiled like a man who understands perfectly the
reasons given him, and said:
"I shall have the order signed directly, sir, and with it
two thousand pistoles; meanwhile, let me take these men
"No," replied D'Artagnan; "what signifies a delay of half an
hour? I am a man of order, sir; let us do things in order."
"Nevertheless," replied Mordaunt, "I could compel you; I
"Ah, sir!" said D'Artagnan, "I see that although we have had
the honor of traveling in your company you do not know us.
We are gentlemen; we are, both of us, able to kill you and
your eight men -- we two only. For Heaven's sake don't be
obstinate, for when others are obstinate I am obstinate
likewise, and then I become ferocious and headstrong, and
there's my friend, who is even more headstrong and ferocious
than myself. Besides, we are sent here by Cardinal Mazarin,
and at this moment represent both the king and the cardinal,
and are, therefore, as ambassadors, able to act with
impunity, a thing that General Oliver Cromwell, who is
assuredly as great a politician as he is a general, is quite
the man to understand. Ask him then, for the written order.
What will that cost you my dear Monsieur Mordaunt?"
"Yes, the written order," said Porthos, who now began to
comprehend what D'Artagnan was aiming at, "we ask only for
However inclined Mordaunt was to have recourse to violence,
he understood the reasons D'Artagnan had given him; besides,
completely ignorant of the friendship which existed between
the four Frenchmen, all his uneasiness disappeared when he
heard of the plausible motive of the ransom. He decided,
therefore, not only to fetch the order, but the two thousand
pistoles, at which he estimated the prisoners. He therefore
mounted his horse and disappeared.
"Good!" thought D'Artagnan; "a quarter of an hour to go to
the tent, a quarter of an hour to return; it is more than we
need." Then turning, without the least change of
countenance, to Porthos, he said, looking him full in the
face: "Friend Porthos, listen to this; first, not a syllable
to either of our friends of what you have heard; it is
unnecessary for them to know the service we are going to
"Very well; I understand."
"Go to the stable; you will find Mousqueton there; saddle
your horses, put your pistols in your saddle-bags, take out
the horses and lead them to the street below this, so that
there will be nothing to do but mount them; all the rest is
Porthos made no remark, but obeyed, with the sublime
confidence he had in his friend.
"I go," he said, "only, shall I enter the chamber where
those gentlemen are?"
"No, it is not worth while."
"Well, do me the kindness to take my purse. which I left on
He then proceeded, with his usual calm gait, to the stable
and went into the very midst of the soldiery, who, foreigner
as he was, could not help admiring his height and the
enormous strength of his great limbs.
At the corner of the street he met Mousqueton and took him
D'Artagnan, meantime, went into the house, whistling a tune
which he had begun before Porthos went away.
"My dear Athos, I have reflected on your arguments and I am
convinced. I am sorry to have had anything to do with this
matter. As you say, Mazarin is a knave. I have resolved to
fly with you, not a word -- be ready. Your swords are in the
corner; do not forget them, they are in many circumstances
very useful; there is Porthos's purse, too."
He put it into his pocket. The two friends were perfectly
"Well, pray, is there anything to be so surprised at?" he
said. "I was blind; Athos has made me see, that's all; come
The two friends went near him.
"Do you see that street? There are the horses. Go out by the
door, turn to the right, jump into your saddles, all will be
right; don't be uneasy at anything except mistaking the
signal. That will be the signal when I call out -- Jesus
"But give us your word that you will come too, D'Artagnan,"
"I swear I will, by Heaven."
"'Tis settled," said Aramis; "at the cry `Jesus Seigneur' we
go out, upset all that stands in our way, run to our horses,
jump into our saddles, spur them; is that all?"
"See, Aramis, as I have told you, D'Artagnan is first
amongst us all," said Athos.
"Very true," replied the Gascon, "but I always run away from
compliments. Don't forget the signal: `Jesus Seigneur!'" and
he went out as he came in, whistling the self-same air.
The soldiers were playing or sleeping; two of them were
singing in a corner, out of tune, the psalm: "On the rivers
D'Artagnan called the sergeant. "My dear friend, General
Cromwell has sent Monsieur Mordaunt to fetch me. Guard the
prisoners well, I beg of you."
The sergeant made a sign, as much as to say he did not
understand French, and D'Artagnan tried to make him
comprehend by signs and gestures. Then he went into the
stable; he found the five horses saddled, his own amongst
"Each of you take a horse by the bridle," he said to Porthos
and Mousqueton; "turn to the left, so that Athos and Aramis
may see you clearly from the window."
"They are coming, then?" said Porthos.
"In a moment."
"You didn't forget my purse?"
"No; be easy."
Porthos and Mousqueton each took a horse by the bridle and
proceeded to their post.
Then D'Artagnan, being alone, struck a light and lighted a
small bit of tinder, mounted his horse and stopped at the
door in the midst of the soldiers. There, caressing as he
pretended, the animal with his hand, he put this bit of
burning tinder in his ear. It was necessary to be as good a
horseman as he was to risk such a scheme, for no sooner had
the animal felt the burning tinder than he uttered a cry of
pain and reared and jumped as if he had been mad.
The soldiers, whom he was nearly trampling, ran away.
"Help! help!" cried D'Artagnan; "stop -- my horse has the
In an instant the horse's eyes grew bloodshot and he was
white with foam.
"Help!" cried D'Artagnan. "What! will you let me be killed?
No sooner had he uttered this cry than the door opened and
Athos and Aramis rushed out. The coast, owing to the
Gascon's stratagem, was clear.
"The prisoners are escaping! the prisoners are escaping!"
cried the sergeant.
"Stop! stop!" cried D'Artagnan, giving rein to his famous
steed, who, darting forth, overturned several men.
"Stop! stop!" cried the soldiers, and ran for their arms.
But the prisoners were in their saddles and lost no time
hastening to the nearest gate.
In the middle of the street they saw Grimaud and Blaisois,
who were coming to find their masters. With one wave of his
hand Athos made Grimaud, who followed the little troop,
understand everything, and they passed on like a whirlwind,
D'Artagnan still directing them from behind with his voice.
They passed through the gate like apparitions, without the
guards thinking of detaining them, and reached the open
All this time the soldiers were calling out, "Stop! stop!"
and the sergeant, who began to see that he was the victim of
an artifice, was almost in a frenzy of despair. Whilst all
this was going on, a cavalier in full gallop was seen
approaching. It was Mordaunt with the order in his hand.
"The prisoners!" he exclaimed, jumping off his horse.
The sergeant had not the courage to reply; he showed him the
open door, the empty room. Mordaunt darted to the steps,
understood all, uttered a cry, as if his very heart was
pierced, and fell fainting on the stone steps.
In which it is shown that under the most trying
Circumstances noble Natures never lose their Courage, nor
good Stomachs their Appetites.
The little troop, without looking behind them or exchanging
a word, fled at a rapid gallop, fording a little stream, of
which none of them knew the name, and leaving on their left
a town which Athos declared to be Durham. At last they came
in sight of a small wood, and spurring their horses afresh,
rode in its direction.
As soon as they had disappeared behind a green curtain
sufficiently thick to conceal them from the sight of any one
who might be in pursuit they drew up to hold a council
together. The two grooms held the horses, that they might
take a little rest without being unsaddled, and Grimaud was
posted as sentinel.
"Come, first of all," said Athos to D'Artagnan, "my friend,
that I may shake hands with you -- you, our rescuer -- you,
the true hero of us all."
"Athos is right -- you have my adoration," said Aramis, in
his turn pressing his hand. "To what are you not equal, with
your superior intelligence, infallible eye, your arm of iron
and your enterprising mind!"
"Now," said the Gascon, "that is all well, I accept for
Porthos and myself everything -- thanks and compliments; we
have plenty of time to spare."
The two friends, recalled by D'Artagnan to what was also due
to Porthos, pressed his hand in their turn.
"And now," said Athos, "it is not our plan to run anywhere
and like madmen, but we must map up our campaign. What shall
"What are we going to do, i'faith? It is not very difficult
"Tell us, then, D'Artagnan."
"We are going to reach the nearest seaport, unite our little
resources, hire a vessel and return to France. As for me I
will give my last sou for it. Life is the greatest treasure,
and speaking candidly, ours hangs by a thread."
"What do you say to this, Du Vallon?"
"I," said Porthos, "I am entirely of D'Artagnan's opinion;
this is a `beastly' country, this England."
"You are quite decided, then, to leave it?" asked Athos of
"Egad! I don't see what is to keep me here."
A glance was exchanged between Athos and Aramis.
"Go, then, my friends," said the former, sighing.
"How, go then?" exclaimed D'Artagnan. "Let us go, you mean?"
"No, my friend," said Athos, "you must leave us."
"Leave you!" cried D'Artagnan, quite bewildered at this
"Bah!" said Porthos, "why separate, since we are all
"Because you can and ought to return to France; your mission
is accomplished, but ours is not."
"Your mission is not accomplished?" exclaimed D'Artagnan,
looking in astonishment at Athos.
"No, my friend," replied Athos, in his gentle but decided
voice, "we came here to defend King Charles; we have but ill
defended him -- it remains for us to save him!"
"To save the king?" said D'Artagnan, looking at Aramis as he
had looked at Athos.
Aramis contented himself by making a sign with his head.
D'Artagnan's countenance took an expression of the deepest
compassion; he began to think he had to do with madmen.
"You cannot be speaking seriously, Athos!" said he; "the
king is surrounded by an army, which is conducting him to
London. This army is commanded by a butcher, or the son of a
butcher -- it matters little -- Colonel Harrison. His
majesty, I can assure you, will be tried on his arrival in
London; I have heard enough from the lips of Oliver Cromwell
to know what to expect."
A second look was exchanged between Athos and Aramis.
"And when the trial is ended there will be no delay in
putting the sentence into execution," continued D'Artagnan.
"And to what penalty do you think the king will be
condemned?" asked Athos.
"The penalty of death, I greatly fear; they have gone too
far for him to pardon them, and there is nothing left to
them but one thing, and that is to kill him. Have you never
heard what Oliver Cromwell said when he came to Paris and
was shown the dungeon at Vincennes where Monsieur de Vendome
"What did he say?" asked Porthos.
"`Princes must be knocked on the head.'"
"I remember it," said Athos.
"And you fancy he will not put his maxim into execution, now
that he has got hold of the king?"
"On the contrary, I am certain he will do so. But then that
is all the more reason why we should not abandon the august
head so threatened."
"Athos, you are becoming mad."
"No, my friend," Athos gently replied, "but De Winter sought
us out in France and introduced us, Monsieur d'Herblay and
myself, to Madame Henrietta. Her majesty did us the honor to
ask our aid for her husband. We engaged our word; our word
included everything. It was our strength, our intelligence,
our life, in short, that we promised. It remains now for us
to keep our word. Is that your opinion, D'Herblay?"
"Yes," said Aramis, "we have promised."
"Then," continued Athos, "we have another reason; it is this
-- listen: In France at this moment everything is poor and
paltry. We have a king ten years old, who doesn't yet know
what he wants; we have a queen blinded by a belated passion;
we have a minister who governs France as he would govern a
great farm -- that is to say, intent only on turning out all
the gold he can by the exercise of Italian cunning and
invention; we have princes who set up a personal and
egotistic opposition, who will draw from Mazarin's hands
only a few ingots of gold or some shreds of power granted as
bribes. I have served them without enthusiasm -- God knows
that I estimated them at their real value, and that they are
not high in my esteem -- but on principle. To-day I am
engaged in a different affair. I have encountered misfortune
in a high place, a royal misfortune, a European misfortune;
I attach myself to it. If we can succeed in saving the king
it will be good; if we die for him it will be grand."
"So you know beforehand you must perish!" said D'Artagnan.
"We fear so, and our only regret is to die so far from both
"What will you do in a foreign land, an enemy's country?"
"I traveled in England when I was young, I speak English
like an Englishman, and Aramis, too, knows something of the
language. Ah! if we had you, my friends! With you,
D'Artagnan, with you, Porthos -- all four reunited for the
first time for twenty years -- we would dare not only
England, but the three kingdoms put together!"
"And did you promise the queen," resumed D'Artagnan,
petulantly, "to storm the Tower of London, to kill a hundred
thousand soldiers, to fight victoriously against the wishes
of the nation and the ambition of a man, and when that man
is Cromwell? Do not exaggerate your duty. In Heaven's name,
my dear Athos, do not make a useless sacrifice. When I see
you merely, you look like a reasonable being; when you
speak, I seem to have to do with a madman. Come, Porthos,
join me; say frankly, what do you think of this business?"
"Nothing good," replied Porthos.
"Come," continued D'Artagnan, who, irritated that instead of
listening to him Athos seemed to be attending to his own
thoughts, "you have never found yourself the worse for my
advice. Well, then, believe me, Athos, your mission is
ended, and ended nobly; return to France with us."
"Friend," said Athos, "our resolution is irrevocable."
"Then you have some other motive unknown to us?"
Athos smiled and D'Artagnan struck his hand together in
anger and muttered the most convincing reasons that he could
discover; but to all these reasons Athos contented himself
by replying with a calm, sweet smile and Aramis by nodding
"Very well," cried D'Artagnan, at last, furious, "very well,
since you wish it, let us leave our bones in this beggarly
land, where it is always cold, where fine weather is a fog,
fog is rain, and rain a deluge; where the sun represents the
moon and the moon a cream cheese; in truth, whether we die
here or elsewhere matters little, since we must die."
"Only reflect, my good fellow," said Athos, "it is but dying
"Pooh! a little sooner or a little later, it isn't worth
"If I am astonished at anything," remarked Porthos,
sententiously, "it is that it has not already happened."
"Oh, it will happen, you may be sure," said D'Artagnan. "So
it is agreed, and if Porthos makes no objection ---- "
"I," said Porthos, "I will do whatever you please; and
besides, I think what the Comte de la Fere said just now is
"But your future career, D'Artagnan -- your ambition,
"Our future, our ambition!" replied D'Artagnan, with
feverish volubility. "Need we think of that since we are to
save the king? The king saved -- we shall assemble our
friends together -- we will head the Puritans -- reconquer
England; we shall re-enter London -- place him securely on
his throne ---- "
"And he will make us dukes and peers," said Porthos, whose
eyes sparkled with joy at this imaginary prospect.
"Or he will forget us," added D'Artagnan.
"Oh!" said Porthos.
"Well, that has happened, friend Porthos. It seems to me
that we once rendered Anne of Austria a service not much
less than that which to-day we are trying to perform for
Charles I.; but, none the less, Anne of Austria has
forgotten us for twenty years."
"Well, in spite of that, D'Artagnan," said Athos, "you are
not sorry that you were useful to her?"
"No, indeed," said D'Artagnan; "I admit even that in my
darkest moments I find consolation in that remembrance."
"You see, then, D'Artagnan, though princes often are
ungrateful, God never is."
"Athos," said D'Artagnan, "I believe that were you to fall
in with the devil, you would conduct yourself so well that
you would take him with you to Heaven."
"So, then?" said Athos, offering his hand to D'Artagnan.
"'Tis settled," replied D'Artagnan. "I find England a
charming country, and I stay -- but on one condition only."
"What is it?"
"That I am not forced to learn English."
"Well, now," said Athos, triumphantly, "I swear to you, my
friend, by the God who hears us -- I believe that there is a
power watching over us, and that we shall all four see
"So be it!" said D'Artagnan, "but I -- I confess I have a
"Our good D'Artagnan," said Aramis, "represents among us the
opposition in parliament, which always says no, and always
"But in the meantime saves the country," added Athos.
"Well, now that everything is decided," cried Porthos,
rubbing his hands, "suppose we think of dinner! It seems to
me that in the most critical positions of our lives we have
"Oh! yes, speak of dinner in a country where for a feast
they eat boiled mutton, and as a treat drink beer. What the
devil did you come to such a country for, Athos? But I
forgot," added the Gascon, smiling, "pardon, I forgot you
are no longer Athos; but never mind, let us hear your plan
for dinner, Porthos."
"Yes, have you a plan?"
"No! I am hungry, that is all."
"Pardieu, if that is all, I am hungry, too; but it is not
everything to be hungry, one must find something to eat,
unless we browse on the grass, like our horses ---- "
"Ah!" exclaimed Aramis, who was not quite so indifferent to
the good things of the earth as Athos, "do you remember,
when we were at Parpaillot, the beautiful oysters that we
"And the legs of mutton of the salt marshes," said Porthos,
smacking his lips.
"But," suggested D'Artagnan, "have we not our friend
Mousqueton, who managed for us so well at Chantilly,
"Yes," said Porthos, "we have Mousqueton, but since he has
been steward, he has become very heavy; never mind, let us
call him, and to make sure that he will reply agreeably ----
"Here! Mouston," cried Porthos.
Mouston appeared, with a most piteous face.
"What is the matter, my dear M. Mouston?" asked D'Artagnan.
"Are you ill?"
"Sir, I am very hungry," replied Mouston.
"Well, it is just for that reason that we have called you,
my good M. Mouston. Could you not procure us a few of those
nice little rabbits, and some of those delicious partridges,
of which you used to make fricassees at the hotel ---- ?
'Faith, I do not remember the name of the hotel."
"At the hotel of ---- ," said Porthos; "by my faith -- nor
do I remember it either."
"It does not matter; and a few of those bottles of old
Burgundy wine, which cured your master so quickly of his
"Alas! sir," said Mousqueton, "I much fear that what you ask
for are very rare things in this detestable and barren
country, and I think we should do better to go and seek
hospitality from the owner of a little house we see on the
fringe of the forest."
"How! is there a house in the neighborhood?" asked
"Yes, sir," replied Mousqueton.
"Well, let us, as you say, go and ask a dinner from the
master of that house. What is your opinion, gentlemen, and
does not M. Mouston's suggestion appear to you full of
"Oh!" said Aramis, "suppose the master is a Puritan?"
"So much the better, mordioux!" replied D'Artagnan; "if he
is a Puritan we will inform him of the capture of the king,
and in honor of the news he will kill for us his fatted
"But if he should be a cavalier?" said Porthos.
"In that case we will put on an air of mourning and he will
pluck for us his black fowls."
"You are very happy," exclaimed Athos, laughing, in spite of
himself, at the sally of the irresistible Gascon; "for you
see the bright side of everything."
"What would you have?" said D'Artagnan. "I come from a land
where there is not a cloud in the sky."
"It is not like this, then," said Porthos stretching out his
hand to assure himself whether a chill sensation he felt on
his cheek was not really caused by a drop of rain.
"Come, come," said D'Artagnan, "more reason why we should
start on our journey. Halloo, Grimaud!"
"Well, Grimaud, my friend, have you seen anything?" asked
"Nothing!" replied Grimaud.
"Those idiots!" cried Porthos, "they have not even pursued
us. Oh! if we had been in their place!"
"Yes, they are wrong," said D'Artagnan. "I would willingly
have said two words to Mordaunt in this little desert. It is
an excellent spot for bringing down a man in proper style."
"I think, decidedly," observed Aramis, "gentlemen, that the
son hasn't his mother's energy."
"What, my good fellow!" replied Athos, "wait awhile; we have
scarcely left him two hours ago -- he does not know yet in
what direction we came nor where we are. We may say that he
is not equal to his mother when we put foot in France, if we
are not poisoned or killed before then."
"Meanwhile, let us dine," suggested Porthos.
"I'faith, yes," said Athos, "for I am hungry."
"Look out for the black fowls!" cried Aramis.
And the four friends, guided by Mousqueton, took up the way
toward the house, already almost restored to their former
gayety; for they were now, as Athos had said, all four once
more united and of single mind.
Respect to Fallen Majesty.
As our fugitives approached the house, they found the ground
cut up, as if a considerable body of horsemen had preceded
them. Before the door the traces were yet more apparent;
these horsemen, whoever they might be, had halted there.
"Egad!" cried D'Artagnan, "it's quite clear that the king
and his escort have been by here."
"The devil!" said Porthos; "in that case they have eaten
"Bah!" said D'Artagnan, "they will have left a chicken, at
least." He dismounted and knocked on the door. There was no
He pushed open the door and found the first room empty and
"Well?" cried Porthos.
"I can see nobody," said D'Artagnan. "Aha!"
At this word the three friends leaped from their horses and
entered. D'Artagnan had already opened the door of the
second room, and from the expression of his face it was
clear that he there beheld some extraordinary object.
The three friends drew near and discovered a young man
stretched on the ground, bathed in a pool of blood. It was
evident that he had attempted to regain his bed, but had not
had sufficient strength to do so.
Athos, who imagined that he saw him move, was the first to
go up to him.
"Well?" inquired D'Artagnan.
"Well, if he is dead," said Athos, "he has not been so long,
for he is still warm. But no, his heart is beating. Ho,
there, my friend!"
The wounded man heaved a sigh. D'Artagnan took some water in
the hollow of his hand and threw it upon his face. The man
opened his eyes, made an effort to raise his head, and fell
back again. The wound was in the top of his skull and blood
was flawing copiously.
Aramis dipped a cloth into some water and applied it to the
gash. Again the wounded man opened his eyes and looked in
astonishment at these strangers, who appeared to pity him.
"You are among friends," said Athos, in English; "so cheer
up, and tell us, if you have the strength to do so, what has
"The king," muttered the wounded man, "the king is a
"You have seen him?" asked Aramis, in the same language.
The man made no reply.
"Make your mind easy," resumed Athos, "we are all faithful
servants of his majesty."
"Is what you tell me true?" asked the wounded man.
"On our honor as gentlemen."
"Then I may tell you all. I am brother to Parry, his
Athos and Aramis remembered that this was the name by which
De Winter had called the man they had found in the passage
of the king's tent.
"We know him," said Athos, "he never left the king."
"Yes, that is he. Well, he thought of me, when he saw the
king was taken, and as they were passing before the house he
begged in the king's name that they would stop, as the king
was hungry. They brought him into this room and placed
sentinels at the doors and windows. Parry knew this room, as
he had often been to see me when the king was at Newcastle.
He knew that there was a trap-door communicating with a
cellar, from which one could get into the orchard. He made a
sign, which I understood, but the king's guards must have
noticed it and held themselves on guard. I went out as if to
fetch wood, passed through the subterranean passage into the
cellar, and whilst Parry was gently bolting the door, pushed
up the board and beckoned to the king to follow me. Alas! he
would not. But Parry clasped his hands and implored him, and
at last he agreed. I went on first, fortunately. The king
was a few steps behind me, when suddenly I saw something
rise up in front of me like a huge shadow. I wanted to cry
out to warn the king, but that very moment I felt a blow as
if the house was falling on my head, and fell insensible.
When I came to myself again, I was stretched in the same
place. I dragged myself as far as the yard. The king and his
escort were no longer there. I spent perhaps an hour in
coming from the yard to this place; then my strength gave
out and I fainted again."
"And now how are you feeling?"
"Very ill," replied the wounded man.
"Can we do anything for you?" asked Athos.
"Help to put me on the bed; I think I shall feel better
"Have you any one to depend on for assistance?"
"My wife is at Durham and may return at any moment. But you
-- is there nothing that you want?"
"We came here with the intention of asking for something to
"Alas, they have taken everything; there isn't a morsel of
bread in the house."
"You hear, D'Artagnan?" said Athos; "we shall have to look
elsewhere for our dinner."
"It is all one to me now," said D'Artagnan; "I am no longer
"Faith! neither am I," said Porthos.
They carried the man to his bed and called Grimaud to dress
the wound. In the service of the four friends Grimaud had
had so frequent occasion to make lint and bandages that he
had become something of a surgeon.
In the meantime the fugitives had returned to the first
room, where they took counsel together.
"Now," said Aramis, "we know how the matter stands. The king
and his escort have gone this way; we had better take the
opposite direction, eh?"
Athos did not reply; he reflected.
"Yes," said Porthos, "let us take the opposite direction; if
we follow the escort we shall find everything devoured and
die of hunger. What a confounded country this England is!
This is the first time I have gone without my dinner for ten
years, and it is generally my best meal."
"What do you think, D'Artagnan?" asked Athos. "Do you agree
"Not at all," said D'Artagnan; "I am precisely of the
"What! you would follow the escort?" exclaimed Porthos, in
"No, I would join the escort."
Athos's eyes shone with joy.
"Join the escort!" cried Aramis.
"Let D'Artagnan speak," said Athos; "you know he always has
wise advice to give."
"Clearly," said D'Artagnan, "we must go where they will not
look for us. Now, they will be far from looking for us among
the Puritans; therefore, with the Puritans we must go."
"Good, my friend, good!" said Athos. "It is excellent
advice. I was about to give it when you anticipated me."
"That, then, is your opinion?" asked Aramis.
"Yes. They will think we are trying to leave England and
will search for us at the ports; meanwhile we shall reach
London with the king. Once in London we shall be hard to
find -- without considering," continued Athos, throwing a
glance at Aramis, "the chances that may come to us on the
"Yes," said Aramis, "I understand."
"I, however, do not understand," said Porthos. "But no
matter; since it is at the same time the opinion of
D'Artagnan and of Athos, it must be the best."
"But," said Aramis, "shall we not be suspected by Colonel
"Egad!" cried D'Artagnan, "he's just the man I count upon.
Colonel Harrison is one of our friends. We have met him
twice at General Cromwell's. He knows that we were sent from
France by Monsieur Mazarin; he will consider us as brothers.
Besides, is he not a butcher's son? Well, then, Porthos
shall show him how to knock down an ox with a blow of the
fist, and I how to trip up a bull by taking him by the
horns. That will insure his confidence."
Athos smiled. "You are the best companion that I know,
D'Artagnan," he said, offering his hand to the Gascon; "and
I am very happy in having found you again, my dear son."
This was, as we have seen, the term which Athos applied to
D'Artagnan in his more expansive moods.
At this moment Grimaud came in. He had stanched the wound
and the man was better.
The four friends took leave of him and asked if they could
deliver any message for him to his brother.
"Tell him," answered the brave man, "to let the king know
that they have not killed me outright. However insignificant
I am, I am sure that his majesty is concerned for me and
blames himself for my death."
"Be easy," said D'Artagnan, "he will know all before night."
The little troop recommenced their march, and at the end of
two hours perceived a considerable body of horsemen about
half a league ahead.
"My dear friends," said D'Artagnan, "give your swords to
Monsieur Mouston, who will return them to you at the proper
time and place, and do not forget you are our prisoners."
It was not long before they joined the escort. The king was
riding in front, surrounded by troopers, and when he saw
Athos and Aramis a glow of pleasure lighted his pale cheeks.
D'Artagnan passed to the head of the column, and leaving his
friends under the guard of Porthos, went straight to
Harrison, who recognized him as having met him at Cromwell's
and received him as politely as a man of his breeding and
disposition could. It turned out as D'Artagnan had foreseen.
The colonel neither had nor could have any suspicion.
They halted for the king to dine. This time, however, due
precautions were taken to prevent any attempt at escape. In
the large room of the hotel a small table was placed for him
and a large one for the officers.
"Will you dine with me?" asked Harrison of D'Artagnan.
"Gad, I should be very happy, but I have my companion,
Monsieur du Vallon, and the two prisoners, whom I cannot
leave. Let us manage it better. Have a table set for us in a
corner and send us whatever you like from yours."
"Good," answered Harrison.
The matter was arranged as D'Artagnan had suggested, and
when he returned he found the king already seated at his
little table, where Parry waited on him, Harrison and his
officers sitting together at another table, and, in a
corner, places reserved for himself and his companions.
The table at which the Puritan officers were seated was
round, and whether by chance or coarse intention, Harrison
sat with his back to the king.
The king saw the four gentlemen come in, but appeared to
take no notice of them.
They sat down in such a manner as to turn their backs on
nobody. The officers, table and that of the king were
opposite to them.
"I'faith, colonel," said D'Artagnan, "we are very grateful
for your gracious invitation; for without you we ran the
risk of going without dinner, as we have without breakfast.
My friend here, Monsieur du Vallon, shares my gratitude, for
he was particularly hungry."
"And I am so still," said Porthos bowing to Harrison.
"And how," said Harrison, laughing, "did this serious
calamity of going without breakfast happen to you?"
"In a very simple manner, colonel," said D'Artagnan. "I was
in a hurry to join you and took the road you had already
gone by. You can understand our disappointment when,
arriving at a pretty little house on the skirts of a wood,
which at a distance had quite a gay appearance, with its red
roof and green shutters, we found nothing but a poor wretch
bathed -- Ah! colonel, pay my respects to the officer of
yours who struck that blow."
"Yes," said Harrison, laughing, and looking over at one of
the officers seated at his table. "When Groslow undertakes
this kind of thing there's no need to go over the ground a
"Ah! it was this gentleman?" said D'Artagnan, bowing to the
officer. "I am sorry he does not speak French, that I might
tender him my compliments."
"I am ready to receive and return them, sir," said the
officer, in pretty good French, "for I resided three years
"Then, sir, allow me to assure you that your blow was so
well directed that you have nearly killed your man."
"Nearly? I thought I had quite," said Groslow.
"No. It was a very near thing, but he is not dead."
As he said this, D'Artagnan gave a glance at Parry, who was
standing in front of the king, to show him that the news was
meant for him.
The king, too, who had listened in the greatest agony, now
"Hang it," said Groslow, "I thought I had succeeded better.
If it were not so far from here to the house I would return
and finish him."
"And you would do well, if you are afraid of his recovering;
for you know, if a wound in the head does not kill at once,
it is cured in a week."
And D'Artagnan threw a second glance toward Parry, on whose
face such an expression of joy was manifested that Charles
stretched out his hand to him, smiling.
Parry bent over his master's hand and kissed it
"I've a great desire to drink the king's health," said
"Let me propose it, then," said D'Artagnan.
"Do," said Aramis.
Porthos looked at D'Artagnan, quite amazed at the resources
with which his companion's Gascon sharpness continually
supplied him. D'Artagnan took up his camp tin cup, filled it
with wine and arose.
"Gentlemen," said he, "let us drink to him who presides at
the repast. Here's to our colonel, and let him know that we
are always at his commands as far as London and farther."
And as D'Artagnan, as he spoke, looked at Harrison, the
colonel imagined the toast was for himself. He arose and
bowed to the four friends, whose eyes were fixed on Charles,
while Harrison emptied his glass without the slightest
The king, in return, looked at the four gentlemen and drank
with a smile full of nobility and gratitude.
"Come, gentlemen," cried Harrison, regardless of his
illustrious captive, "let us be off."
"Where do we sleep, colonel?"
"At Thirsk," replied Harrison.
"Parry," said the king, rising too, "my horse; I desire to
go to Thirsk."
"Egad!" said D'Artagnan to Athos, "your king has thoroughly
taken me, and I am quite at his service."
"If what you say is sincere," replied Athos, "he will never
"Because before then we shall have carried him off."
"Well, this time, Athos," said D'Artagnan, "upon my word,
you are mad."
"Have you some plan in your head then?" asked Aramis.
"Ay!" said Porthos, "the thing would not be impossible with
a good plan."
"I have none," said Athos; "but D'Artagnan will discover
D'Artagnan shrugged his shoulders and they proceeded.
D'Artagnan hits on a Plan.
As night closed in they arrived at Thirsk. The four friends
appeared to be entire strangers to one another and
indifferent to the precautions taken for guarding the king.
They withdrew to a private house, and as they had reason
every moment to fear for their safety, they occupied but one
room and provided an exit, which might be useful in case of
an attack. The lackeys were sent to their several posts,
except that Grimaud lay on a truss of straw across the
D'Artagnan was thoughtful and seemed for the moment to have
lost his usual loquacity. Porthos, who could never see
anything that was not self-evident, talked to him as usual.
He replied in monosyllables and Athos and Aramis looked
significantly at one another.
Next morning D'Artagnan was the first to rise. He had been
down to the stables, already taken a look at the horses and
given the necessary orders for the day, whilst Athos and
Aramis were still in bed and Porthos snoring.
At eight o'clock the march was resumed in the same order as
the night before, except that D'Artagnan left his friends
and began to renew the acquaintance which he had already
struck up with Monsieur Groslow.
Groslow, whom D'Artagnan's praises had greatly pleased,
welcomed him with a gracious smile.
"Really, sir," D'Artagnan said to him, "I am pleased to find
one with whom to talk in my own poor tongue. My friend,
Monsieur du Vallon, is of a very melancholy disposition, so
much so, that one can scarcely get three words out of him
all day. As for our two prisoners, you can imagine that they
are but little in the vein for conversation."
"They are hot royalists," said Groslow.
"The more reason they should be sulky with us for having
captured the Stuart, for whom, I hope, you're preparing a
"Why," said Groslow, "that is just what we are taking him to
"And you never by any chance lose sight of him, I presume?"
"I should think not, indeed. You see he has a truly royal
"Ay, there's no fear in the daytime; but at night?"
"We redouble our precautions."
"And what method of surveillance do you employ?"
"Eight men remain constantly in his room."
"The deuce, he is well guarded, then. But besides these
eight men, you doubtless place some guard outside?"
"Oh, no! Just think. What would you have two men without
arms do against eight armed men?"
"Two men -- how do you mean?"
"Yes, the king and his lackey."
"Oh! then they allow the lackey to remain with him?"
"Yes; Stuart begged this favor and Harrison consented. Under
pretense that he's a king it appears he cannot dress or
undress without assistance."
"Really, captain," said D'Artagnan, determined to continue
on the laudatory tack on which he had commenced, "the more I
listen to you the more surprised I am at the easy and
elegant manner in which you speak French. You have lived
three years in Paris? May I ask what you were doing there?"
"My father, who is a merchant, placed me with his
correspondent, who in turn sent his son to join our house in
"Were you pleased with Paris, sir?"
"Yes, but you are much in want of a revolution like our own
-- not against your king, who is a mere child, but against
that lazar of an Italian, the queen's favorite."
"Ah! I am quite of your opinion, sir, and we should soon
make an end of Mazarin if we had only a dozen officers like
yourself, without prejudices, vigilant and incorruptible."
"But," said the officer, "I thought you were in his service
and that it was he who sent you to General Cromwell."
"That is to say I am in the king's service, and that knowing
he wanted to send some one to England, I solicited the
appointment, so great was my desire to know the man of
genius who now governs the three kingdoms. So that when he
proposed to us to draw our swords in honor of old England
you see how we snapped up the proposition."
"Yes, I know that you charged by the side of Mordaunt."
"On his right and left, sir. Ah! there's another brave and
excellent young man."
"Do you know him?" asked the officer.
"Yes, very well. Monsieur du Vallon and myself came from
France with him."
"It appears, too, you kept him waiting a long time at
"What would you have? I was like you, and had a king in
"Aha!" said Groslow; "what king?"
"Our own, to be sure, the little one -- Louis XIV."
"And how long had you to take care of him?"
"Three nights; and, by my troth, I shall always remember
those three nights with a certain pleasure."
"How do you mean?"
"I mean that my friends, officers in the guards and
mousquetaires, came to keep me company and we passed the
night in feasting, drinking, dicing."
"Ah true," said the Englishman, with a sigh; "you Frenchmen
are born boon companions."
"And don't you play, too, when you are on guard?"
"Never," said the Englishman.
"In that case you must be horribly bored, and have my
"The fact is, I look to my turn for keeping guard with
horror. It's tiresome work to keep awake a whole night."
"Yes, but with a jovial partner and dice, and guineas
clinking on the cloth, the night passes like a dream. You
don't like playing, then?"
"On the contrary, I do."
"Lansquenet, for instance?"
"Devoted to it. I used to play almost every night in
"And since your return to England?"
"I have not handled a card or dice-box."
"I sincerely pity you," said D'Artagnan, with an air of
"Look here," said the Englishman.
"To-morrow I am on guard."
"In Stuart's room?"
"Yes; come and pass the night with me."
"Impossible! why so?"
"I play with Monsieur du Vallon every night. Sometimes we
don't go to bed at all!"
"Well, what of that?"
"Why, he would be annoyed if I did not play with him."
"Does he play well?"
"I have seen him lose as much as two thousand pistoles,
laughing all the while till the tears rolled down."
"Bring him with you, then."
"But how about our prisoners?"
"Let your servants guard them."
"Yes, and give them a chance of escaping," said D'Artagnan.
"Why, one of them is a rich lord from Touraine and the other
a knight of Malta, of noble family. We have arranged the
ransom of each of them -- 2,000 on arriving in France. We
are reluctant to leave for a single moment men whom our
lackeys know to be millionaires. It is true we plundered
them a little when we took them, and I will even confess
that it is their purse that Monsieur du Vallon and I draw on
in our nightly play. Still, they may have concealed some
precious stone, some valuable diamond; so that we are like
those misers who are unable to absent themselves from their
treasures. We have made ourselves the constant guardians of
our men, and while I sleep Monsieur du Vallon watches."
"Ah! ah!" said Groslow.
"You see, then, why I must decline your polite invitation,
which is especially attractive to me, because nothing is so
wearisome as to play night after night with the same person;
the chances always balance and at the month's end nothing is
gained or lost."
"Ah!" said Groslow, sighing; "there is something still more
wearisome, and that is not to play at all."
"I can understand that," said D'Artagnan.
"But, come," resumed the Englishman, "are these men of yours
"In what respect?"
"Are they capable of attempting violence?"
D'Artagnan burst out laughing at the idea.
"Jesus Dieu!" he cried; "one of them is trembling with
fever, having failed to adapt himself to this charming
country of yours, and the other is a knight of Malta, as
timid as a young girl; and for greater security we have
taken from them even their penknives and pocket scissors."
"Well, then," said Groslow, "bring them with you."
"But really ---- " said D'Artagnan.
"I have eight men on guard, you know. Four of them can guard
the king and the other four your prisoners. I'll manage it
somehow, you will see."
"But," said D'Artagnan, "now I think of it -- what is to
prevent our beginning to-night?"
"Nothing at all," said Groslow.
"Just so. Come to us this evening and to-morrow we'll return
"Capital! This evening with you, to-morrow at Stuart's, the
next day with me."
"You see, that with a little forethought one can lead a
merry life anywhere and everywhere," said D'Artagnan.
"Yes, with Frenchmen, and Frenchmen like you."
"And Monsieur du Vallon," added the other. "You will see
what a fellow he is; a man who nearly killed Mazarin between
two doors. They employ him because they are afraid of him.
Ah, there he is calling me now. You'll excuse me, I know."
They exchanged bows and D'Artagnan returned to his
"What on earth can you have been saying to that bulldog?"
"My dear fellow, don't speak like that of Monsieur Groslow.
He's one of my most intimate friends."
"One of your friends!" cried Porthos, "this butcher of
"Hush! my dear Porthos. Monsieur Groslow is perhaps rather
hasty, it's true, but at bottom I have discovered two good
qualities in him -- he is conceited and stupid."
Porthos opened his eyes in amazement; Athos and Aramis
looked at one another and smiled; they knew D'Artagnan, and
knew that he did nothing without a purpose.
"But," continued D'Artagnan, "you shall judge of him for
yourself. He is coming to play with us this evening."
"Oho!" said Porthos, his eyes glistening at the news. "Is he
"He's the son of one of the wealthiest merchants in London."
"And knows lansquenet?"
"Revels in it."
"Good," said Porthos; "we shall pass an agreeable evening."
"The more so, as it will be the prelude to a better."
"We invite him to play to-night; he has invited us in return
to-morrow. But wait. To-night we stop at Derby; and if there
is a bottle of wine in the town let Mousqueton buy it. It
will be well to prepare a light supper, of which you, Athos
and Aramis, are not to partake -- Athos, because I told him
you had a fever; Aramis, because you are a knight of Malta
and won't mix with fellows like us. Do you understand?"
"That's no doubt very fine," said Porthos; "but deuce take
me if I understand at all."
"Porthos, my friend, you know I am descended on the father's
side from the Prophets and on the mother's from the Sybils,
and that I only speak in parables and riddles. Let those who
have ears hear and those who have eyes see; I can tell you
nothing more at present."
"Go ahead, my friend," said Athos; "I am sure that whatever
you do is well done."
"And you, Aramis, are you of that opinion?"
"Entirely so, my dear D'Artagnan."
"Very good," said D'Artagnan; "here indeed are true
believers; it is a pleasure to work miracles before them;
they are not like that unbelieving Porthos, who must see and
touch before he will believe."
"The fact is," said Porthos, with an air of finesse, "I am
D'Artagnan gave him playful buffet on the shoulder, and as
they had reached the station where they were to breakfast,
the conversation ended there.
At five in the evening they sent Mousqueton on before as
agreed upon. Blaisois went with him.
In crossing the principal street in Derby the four friends
perceived Blaisois standing in the doorway of a handsome
house. It was there a lodging was prepared for them.
At the hour agreed upon Groslow came. D'Artagnan received
him as he would have done a friend of twenty years'
standing. Porthos scanned him from head to foot and smiled
when he discovered that in spite of the blow he had
administered to Parry's brother, he was not nearly so strong
as himself. Athos and Aramis suppressed as well as they
could the disgust they felt in the presence of such
coarseness and brutality.
In short, Groslow seemed to be pleased with his reception.
Athos and Aramis kept themselves to their role. At midnight
they withdrew to their chamber, the door of which was left
open on the pretext of kindly consideration. Furthermore,
D'Artagnan went with them, leaving Porthos at play with
Porthos gained fifty pistoles from Groslow, and found him a
more agreeable companion than he had at first believed him
As to Groslow, he promised himself that on the following
evening he would recover from D'Artagnan what he had lost to
Porthos, and on leaving reminded the Gascon of his
The next day was spent as usual. D'Artagnan went from
Captain Groslow to Colonel Harrison and from Colonel
Harrison to his friends. To any one not acquainted with him
he seemed to be in his normal condition; but to his friends
-- to Athos and Aramis -- was apparent a certain
feverishness in his gayety.
"What is he contriving?" asked Aramis.
"Wait," said Athos.
Porthos said nothing, but he handled in his pocket the fifty
pistoles he had gained from Groslow with a degree of
satisfaction which betrayed itself in his whole bearing.
Arrived at Ryston, D'Artagnan assembled his friends. His
face had lost the expression of careless gayety it had worn
like a mask the whole day. Athos pinched Aramis's hand.
"The moment is at hand," he said.
"Yes," returned D'Artagnan, who had overheard him,
"to-night, gentlemen, we rescue the king."
"D'Artagnan," said Athos, "this is no joke, I trust? It
would quite cut me up."
"You are a very odd man, Athos," he replied, "to doubt me
thus. Where and when have you seen me trifle with a friend's
heart and a king's life? I have told you, and I repeat it,
that to-night we rescue Charles I. You left it to me to
discover the means and I have done so."
Porthos looked at D'Artagnan with an expression of profound
admiration. Aramis smiled as one who hopes. Athos was pale,
and trembled in every limb.
"Speak," said Athos.
"We are invited," replied D'Artagnan, "to pass the night
with M. Groslow. But do you know where?"
"In the king's room."
"The king's room?" cried Athos.
"Yes, gentlemen, in the king's room. Groslow is on guard
there this evening, and to pass the time away he has invited
us to keep him company."
"All four of us?" asked Athos.
"Pardieu! certainly, all four; we couldn't leave our
prisoners, could we?"
"Ah! ah!" said Aramis.
"Tell us about it," said Athos, palpitating.
"We are going, then, we two with our swords, you with
daggers. We four have got to master these eight fools and
their stupid captain. Monsieur Porthos, what do you say to
"I say it is easy enough," answered Porthos.
"We dress the king in Groslow's clothes. Mousqueton, Grimaud
and Blaisois have our horses saddled at the end of the first
street. We mount them and before daylight are twenty leagues
Athos placed his two hands on D'Artagnan's shoulders, and
gazed at him with his calm, sad smile.
"I declare, my friend," said he, "that there is not a
creature under the sky who equals you in prowess and in
courage. Whilst we thought you indifferent to our sorrows,
which you couldn't share without crime, you alone among us
have discovered what we were searching for in vain. I repeat
it, D'Artagnan, you are the best one among us; I bless and
love you, my dear son."
"And to think that I couldn't find that out," said Porthos,
scratching his head; "it is so simple."
"But," said Aramis, "if I understand rightly we are to kill
them all, eh?"
Athos shuddered and turned pale.
"Mordioux!" answered D'Artagnan, "I believe we must. I
confess I can discover no other safe and satisfactory way."
"Let us see," said Aramis, "how are we to act?"
"I have arranged two plans. Firstly, at a given signal,
which shall be the words `At last,' you each plunge a dagger
into the heart of the soldier nearest to you. We, on our
side, do the same. That will be four killed. We shall then
be matched, four against the remaining five. If these five
men give themselves up we gag them; if they resist, we kill
them. If by chance our Amphitryon changes his mind and
receives only Porthos and myself, why, then, we must resort
to heroic measures and each give two strokes instead of one.
It will take a little longer time and may make a greater
disturbance, but you will be outside with swords and will
rush in at the proper time."
"But if you yourselves should be struck?" said Athos.
"Impossible!" said D'Artagnan; "those beer drinkers are too
clumsy and awkward. Besides, you will strike at the throat,
Porthos; it kills as quickly and prevents all outcry."
"Very good," said Porthos; "it will be a nice little throat
"Horrible, horrible," exclaimed Athos.
"Nonsense," said D'Artagnan; "you would do as much, Mr.
Humanity, in a battle. But if you think the king's life is
not worth what it must cost there's an end of the matter and
I send to Groslow to say I am ill."
"No, you are right," said Athos.
At this moment a soldier entered to inform them that Groslow
was waiting for them.
"Where?" asked D'Artagnan.
"In the room of the English Nebuchadnezzar," replied the
"Good," replied Athos, whose blood mounted to his face at
the insult offered to royalty; "tell the captain we are
The Puritan then went out. The lackeys had been ordered to
saddle eight horses and to wait, keeping together and
without dismounting, at the corner of a street about twenty
steps from the house where the king was lodged.
It was nine o'clock in the evening; the sentinels had been
relieved at eight and Captain Groslow had been on guard for
an hour. D'Artagnan and Porthos, armed with their swords,
and Athos and Aramis, each carrying a concealed poniard,
approached the house which for the time being was Charles
Stuart's prison. The two latter followed their captors in
the humble guise of captives, without arms.
"Od's bodikins," said Groslow, as the four friends entered,
"I had almost given you up."
D'Artagnan went up to him and whispered in his ear:
"The fact is, we, that is, Monsieur du Vallon and I,
hesitated a little."
D'Artagnan looked significantly toward Athos and Aramis.
"Aha," said Groslow; "on account of political opinions? No
matter. On the contrary," he added, laughing, "if they want
to see their Stuart they shall see him.
"Are we to pass the night in the king's room?" asked
"No, but in the one next to it, and as the door will remain
open it comes to the same thing. Have you provided yourself
with money? I assure you I intend to play the devil's game
D'Artagnan rattled the gold in his pockets.
"Very good," said Groslow, and opened the door of the room.
"I will show you the way," and he went in first.
D'Artagnan turned to look at his friends. Porthos was
perfectly indifferent; Athos, pale, but resolute; Aramis was
wiping a slight moisture from his brow.
The eight guards were at their posts. Four in the king's
room, two at the door between the rooms and two at that by
which the friends had entered. Athos smiled when he saw
their bare swords; he felt it was no longer to be a
butchery, but a fight, and he resumed his usual good humor.
Charles was perceived through the door, lying dressed upon
his bed, at the head of which Parry was seated, reading in a
low voice a chapter from the Bible.
A candle of coarse tallow on a black table lighted up the
handsome and resigned face of the king and that of his
faithful retainer, far less calm.
From time to time Parry stopped, thinking the king, whose
eyes were closed, was really asleep, but Charles would open
his eyes and say with a smile:
"Go on, my good Parry, I am listening."
Groslow advanced to the door of the king's room, replaced on
his head the hat he had taken off to receive his guests,
looked for a moment contemptuously at this simple, yet
touching scene, then turning to D'Artagnan, assumed an air
of triumph at what he had achieved.
"Capital!" cried the Gascon, "you would make a distinguished
"And do you think," asked Groslow, "that Stuart will ever
escape while I am on guard?"
"No, to be sure," replied D'Artagnan; "unless, forsooth, the
sky rains friends upon him."
Groslow's face brightened.
It is impossible to say whether Charles, who kept his eyes
constantly closed, had noticed the insolence of the Puritan
captain, but the moment he heard the clear tone of
D'Artagnan's voice his eyelids rose, in spite of himself.
Parry, too, started and stopped reading.
"What are you thinking about?" said the king; "go on, my
good Parry, unless you are tired."
Parry resumed his reading.
On a table in the next room were lighted candles, cards, two
dice-boxes, and dice.
"Gentlemen," said Groslow, "I beg you will take your places.
I will sit facing Stuart, whom I like so much to see,
especially where he now is, and you, Monsieur d'Artagnan,
opposite to me."
Athos turned red with rage. D'Artagnan frowned at him.
"That's it," said D'Artagnan; "you, Monsieur le Comte de la
Fere, to the right of Monsieur Groslow. You, Chevalier
d'Herblay, to his left. Du Vallon next me. You'll bet for me
and those gentlemen for Monsieur Groslow."
By this arrangement D'Artagnan could nudge Porthos with his
knee and make signs with his eyes to Athos and Aramis.
At the names Comte de la Fere and Chevalier d'Herblay,
Charles opened his eyes, and raising his noble head, in
spite of himself, threw a glance at all the actors in the
At that moment Parry turned over several leaves of his Bible
and read with a loud voice this verse in Jeremiah:
"God said, `Hear ye the words of the prophets my servants,
whom I have sent unto you."
The four friends exchanged glances. The words that Parry had
read assured them that their presence was understood by the
king and was assigned to its real motive. D'Artagnan's eyes
sparkled with joy.
"You asked me just now if I was in funds," said D'Artagnan,
placing some twenty pistoles upon the table. "Well, in my
turn I advise you to keep a sharp lookout on your treasure,
my dear Monsieur Groslow, for I can tell you we shall not
leave this without robbing you of it."
"Not without my defending it," said Groslow.
"So much the better," said D'Artagnan. "Fight, my dear
captain, fight. You know or you don't know, that that is
what we ask of you."
"Oh! yes," said Groslow, bursting with his usual coarse
laugh, "I know you Frenchmen want nothing but cuts and
Charles had heard and understood it all. A slight color
mounted to his cheeks. The soldiers then saw him stretch his
limbs, little by little, and under the pretense of much heat
throw off the Scotch plaid which covered him.
Athos and Aramis started with delight to find that the king
was lying with his clothes on.
The game began. The luck had turned, and Groslow, having won
some hundred pistoles, was in the merriest possible humor.
Porthos, who had lost the fifty pistoles he had won the
night before and thirty more besides, was very cross and
questioned D'Artagnan with a nudge of the knee as to whether
it would not soon be time to change the game. Athos and
Aramis looked at him inquiringly. But D'Artagnan remained
It struck ten. They heard the guard going its rounds.
"How many rounds do they make a night?" asked D'Artagnan,
drawing more pistoles from his pocket.
"Five," answered Groslow, "one every two hours."
D'Artagnan glanced at Athos and Aramis and for the first
time replied to Porthos's nudge of the knee by a nudge
responsive. Meanwhile, the soldiers whose duty it was to
remain in the king's room, attracted by that love of play so
powerful in all men, had stolen little by little toward the
table, and standing on tiptoe, lounged, watching the game,
over the shoulders of D'Artagnan and Porthos. Those on the
other side had followed their example, thus favoring the
views of the four friends, who preferred having them close
at hand to chasing them about the chamber. The two sentinels
at the door still had their swords unsheathed, but they were
leaning on them while they watched the game.
Athos seemed to grow calm as the critical moment approached.
With his white, aristocratic hands he played with the louis,
bending and straightening them again, as if they were made
of pewter. Aramis, less self-controlled, fumbled continually
with his hidden poniard. Porthos, impatient at his continued
losses, kept up a vigorous play with his knee.
D'Artagnan turned, mechanically looking behind him, and
between the figures of two soldiers he could see Parry
standing up and Charles leaning on his elbow with his hands
clasped and apparently offering a fervent prayer to God.
D'Artagnan saw that the moment was come. He darted a
preparatory glance at Athos and Aramis, who slyly pushed
their chairs a little back so as to leave themselves more
space for action. He gave Porthos a second nudge of the knee
and Porthos got up as if to stretch his legs and took care
at the same time to ascertain that his sword could be drawn
smoothly from the scabbard.
"Hang it!" cried D'Artagnan, "another twenty pistoles lost.
Really, Captain Groslow, you are too much in fortune's way.
This can't last," and he drew another twenty from his
pocket. "One more turn, captain; twenty pistoles on one
throw -- only one, the last."
"Done for twenty," replied Groslow.
And he turned up two cards as usual, a king for D'Artagnan
and an ace for himself.
"A king," said D'Artagnan; "it's a good omen, Master Groslow
-- look out for the king."
And in spite of his extraordinary self-control there was a
strange vibration in the Gascon's voice which made his
Groslow began turning the cards one after another. If he
turned up an ace first he won; if a king he lost.
He turned up a king.
"At last!" cried D'Artagnan.
At this word Athos and Aramis jumped up. Porthos drew back a
step. Daggers and swords were just about to shine, when
suddenly the door was thrown open and Harrison appeared in
the doorway, accompanied by a man enveloped in a large
cloak. Behind this man could be seen the glistening muskets
of half a dozen soldiers.
Groslow jumped up, ashamed at being surprised in the midst
of wine, cards, and dice. But Harrison paid not the least
attention to him, and entering the king's room, followed by
"Charles Stuart," said he, "an order has come to conduct you
to London without stopping day or night. Prepare yourself,
then, to start at once."
"And by whom is this order given?" asked the king.
"By General Oliver Cromwell. And here is Mr. Mordaunt, who
has brought it and is charged with its execution."
"Mordaunt!" muttered the four friends, exchanging glances.
D'Artagnan swept up the money that he and Porthos had lost
and buried it in his huge pocket. Athos and Aramis placed
themselves behind him. At this movement Mordaunt turned
around, recognized them, and uttered an exclamation of
"I'm afraid we are prisoners," whispered D'Artagnan to his
"Not yet," replied Porthos.
"Colonel, colonel," cried Mordaunt, "you are betrayed. These
four Frenchmen have escaped from Newcastle, and no doubt
want to carry off the king. Arrest them."
"Ah! my young man," said D'Artagnan, drawing his sword,
"that is an order sooner given than executed. Fly, friends,
fly!" he added, whirling his sword around him.
The next moment he darted to the door and knocked down two
of the soldiers who guarded it, before they had time to cock
their muskets. Athos and Aramis followed him. Porthos
brought up the rear, and before soldiers, officers, or
colonel had time to recover their surprise all four were in
"Fire!" cried Mordaunt; "fire upon them!"
Three or four shots were fired, but with no other result
than to show the four fugitives turning the corner of the
street safe and sound.
The horses were at the place fixed upon, and they leaped
lightly into their saddles.
"Forward!" cried D'Artagnan, "and spur for your dear lives!"
They galloped away and took the road they had come by in the
morning, namely, in the direction toward Scotland. A few
hundred yards beyond the town D'Artagnan drew rein.
"Halt!" he cried, "this time we shall be pursued. We must
let them leave the village and ride after us on the northern
road, and when they have passed we will take the opposite
There was a stream close by and a bridge across it.
D'Artagnan led his horse under the arch of the bridge. The
others followed. Ten minutes later they heard the rapid
gallop of a troop of horsemen. A few minutes more and the
troop passed over their heads.
As soon as the noise of the hoofs was lost in the distance
D'Artagnan remounted the bank of the stream and scoured the
plain, followed by his three friends, directing their
course, as well as they could guess, toward London.
"This time," said D'Artagnan, when they were sufficiently
distant to proceed at a trot, "I think all is lost and we
have nothing better to do than to reach France. What do you
say, Athos, to that proposition? Isn't it reasonable?"
"Yes, dear friend," Athos replied, "but you said a word the
other day that was more than reasonable -- it was noble and
generous. You said, `Let us die here!' I recall to you that
"Oh," said Porthos, "death is nothing: it isn't death that
can disquiet us, since we don't know what it is. What
troubles me is the idea of defeat. As things are turning
out, I foresee that we must give battle to London, to the
provinces, to all England, and certainly in the end we can't
fail to be beaten."
"We ought to witness this great tragedy even to its last
scene," said Athos. "Whatever happens, let us not leave
England before the crisis. Don't you agree with me, Aramis?"
"Entirely, my dear count. Then, too, I confess I should not
be sorry to come across Mordaunt again. It appears to me
that we have an account to settle with him, and that it is
not our custom to leave a place without paying our debts, of
this kind, at least."
"Ah! that's another thing," said D'Artagnan, "and I should
not mind waiting in London a whole year for a chance of
meeting this Mordaunt in question. Only let us lodge with
some one on whom we can count; for I imagine, just now, that
Noll Cromwell would not be inclined to trifle with us.
Athos, do you know any inn in the whole town where one can
find white sheets, roast beef reasonably cooked, and wine
which is not made of hops and gin?"
"I think I know what you want," replied Athos. "De Winter
took us to the house of a Spaniard, who, he said, had become
naturalized as an Englishman by the guineas of his new
compatriots. What do you say to it, Aramis?"