Part 15 out of 20
"Why, the idea of taking quarters with Senor Perez seems to
me very reasonable, and for my part I agree to it. We will
invoke the remembrance of that poor De Winter, for whom he
seemed to have a great regard; we will tell him that we have
come as amateurs to see what is going on; we will spend with
him a guinea each per day; and I think that by taking all
these precautions we can be quite undisturbed."
"You forget, Aramis, one precaution of considerable
"What is that?"
"The precaution of changing our clothes."
"Changing our clothes!" exclaimed Porthos. "I don't see why;
we are very comfortable in those we wear."
"To prevent recognition," said D'Artagnan. "Our clothes have
a cut which would proclaim the Frenchman at first sight.
Now, I don't set sufficient store on the cut of my jerkin to
risk being hung at Tyburn or sent for change of scene to the
Indies. I shall buy a chestnut-colored suit. I've remarked
that your Puritans revel in that color."
"But can you find your man?" said Aramis to Athos.
"Oh! to be sure, yes. He lives at the Bedford Tavern,
Greenhall Street. Besides, I can find my way about the city
with my eyes shut."
"I wish we were already there," said D'Artagnan; "and my
advice is that we reach London before daybreak, even if we
kill our horses."
"Come on, then," said Athos, "for unless I am mistaken in my
calculations we have only eight or ten leagues to go."
The friends urged on their horses and arrived, in fact, at
about five o'clock in the morning. They were stopped and
questioned at the gate by which they sought to enter the
city, but Athos replied, in excellent English, that they had
been sent forward by Colonel Harrison to announce to his
colleague, Monsieur Bridge, the approach of the king. That
reply led to several questions about the king's capture, and
Athos gave details so precise and positive that if the
gatekeepers had any suspicions they vanished completely. The
way was therefore opened to the four friends with all sorts
of Puritan congratulations.
Athos was right. He went direct to the Bedford Tavern, and
the host, who recognized him, was delighted to see him again
with such a numerous and promising company.
Though it was scarcely daylight our four travelers found the
town in a great bustle, owing to the reported approach of
Harrison and the king.
The plan of changing their clothes was unanimously adopted.
The landlord sent out for every description of garment, as
if he wanted to fit up his wardrobe. Athos chose a black
coat, which gave him the appearance of a respectable
citizen. Aramis, not wishing to part with his sword,
selected a dark-blue cloak of a military cut. Porthos was
seduced by a wine-colored doublet and sea-green breeches.
D'Artagnan, who had fixed on his color beforehand, had only
to select the shade, and looked in his chestnut suit exactly
like a retired sugar dealer.
"Now," said D'Artagnan, "for the actual man. We must cut off
our hair, that the populace may not insult us. As we no
longer wear the sword of the gentleman we may as well have
the head of the Puritan. This, as you know, is the important
point of distinction between the Covenanter and the
After some discussion this was agreed to and Mousqueton
played the role of barber.
"We look hideous," said Athos.
"And smack of the Puritan to a frightful extent," said
"My head feels actually cold," said Porthos.
"As for me, I feel anxious to preach a sermon," said
"Now," said Athos, "that we cannot even recognize one
another and have therefore no fear of others recognizing us,
let us go and see the king's entrance."
They had not been long in the crowd before loud cries
announced the king's arrival. A carriage had been sent to
meet him, and the gigantic Porthos, who stood a head above
the entire rabble, soon announced that he saw the royal
equipage approaching. D'Artagnan raised himself on tiptoe,
and as the carriage passed, saw Harrison at one window and
Mordaunt at the other.
The next day, Athos, leaning out of his window, which looked
upon the most populous part of the city, heard the Act of
Parliament, which summoned the ex-king, Charles I., to the
bar, publicly cried.
"Parliament indeed!" cried Athos. "Parliament can never have
passed such an act as that."
At this moment the landlord came in.
"Did parliament pass this act?" Athos asked of him in
"Yes, my lord, the pure parliament."
"What do you mean by `the pure parliament'? Are there, then,
"My friend," D'Artagnan interrupted, "as I don't understand
English and we all understand Spanish, have the kindness to
speak to us in that language, which, since it is your own,
you must find pleasure in using when you have the chance."
"Ah! excellent!" said Aramis.
As to Porthos, all his attention was concentrated on the
allurements of the breakfast table.
"You were asking, then?" said the host in Spanish.
"I asked," said Athos, in the same language, "if there are
two parliaments, a pure and an impure?"
"Why, how extraordinary!" said Porthos, slowly raising his
head and looking at his friends with an air of astonishment,
"I understand English, then! I understand what you say!"
"That is because we are talking Spanish, my dear friend,"
"Oh, the devil!" said Porthos, "I am sorry for that; it
would have been one language more."
"When I speak of the pure parliament," resumed the host, "I
mean the one which Colonel Bridge has weeded."
"Ah! really," said D'Artagnan, "these people are very
ingenious. When I go back to France I must suggest some such
convenient course to Cardinal Mazarin and the coadjutor. One
of them will weed the parliament in the name of the court,
and the other in the name of the people; and then there
won't be any parliament at all."
"And who is this Colonel Bridge?" asked Aramis, "and how
does he go to work to weed the parliament?"
"Colonel Bridge," replied the Spaniard, "is a retired
wagoner, a man of much sense, who made one valuable
observation whilst driving his team, namely, that where
there happened to be a stone on the road, it was much easier
to remove the stone than try and make the wheel pass over
it. Now, of two hundred and fifty-one members who composed
the parliament, there were one hundred and ninety-one who
were in the way and might have upset his political wagon. He
took them up, just as he formerly used to take up the stones
from the road, and threw them out of the house."
"Neat," remarked D'Artagnan. "Very!"
"And all these one hundred and ninety-one were Royalists?"
"Without doubt, senor; and you understand that they would
have saved the king."
"To be sure," said Porthos, with majestic common sense;
"they were in the majority."
"And you think," said Aramis, "he will consent to appear
before such a tribunal?"
"He will be forced to do so," smiled the Spaniard.
"Now, Athos!" said D'Artagnan, "do you begin to believe that
it's a ruined cause, and that what with your Harrisons,
Joyces, Bridges and Cromwells, we shall never get the upper
"The king will be delivered at the tribunal," said Athos;
"the very silence of his supporters indicates that they are
D'Artagnan shrugged his shoulders.
"But," said Aramis, "if they dare to condemn their king, it
can only be to exile or imprisonment."
D'Artagnan whistled a little air of incredulity.
"We shall see," said Athos, "for we shall go to the
sittings, I presume."
"You will not have long to wait," said the landlord; "they
"So, then, they drew up the indictments before the king was
"Of course," said D'Artagnan; "they began the day he was
"And you know," said Aramis, "that it was our friend
Mordaunt who made, if not the bargain, at least the
"And you know," added D'Artagnan, "that whenever I catch him
I will kill him, this Mordaunt."
"And I, too," exclaimed Porthos.
"And I, too," added Aramis.
"Touching unanimity!" cried D'Artagnan, "which well becomes
good citizens like us. Let us take a turn around the town
and imbibe a little fog."
"Yes," said Porthos, "'twill be at least a little change
The next morning King Charles I. was haled by a strong guard
before the high court which was to judge him. All London was
crowding to the doors of the house. The throng was terrific,
and it was not till after much pushing and some fighting
that our friends reached their destination. When they did so
they found the three lower rows of benches already occupied;
but being anxious not to be too conspicuous, all, with the
exception of Porthos, who had a fancy to display his red
doublet, were quite satisfied with their places, the more so
as chance had brought them to the centre of their row, so
that they were exactly opposite the arm-chair prepared for
the royal prisoner.
Toward eleven o'clock the king entered the hall, surrounded
by guards, but wearing his head covered, and with a calm
expression turned to every side with a look of complete
assurance, as if he were there to preside at an assembly of
submissive subjects, rather than to meet the accusations of
a rebel court.
The judges, proud of having a monarch to humiliate,
evidently prepared to enjoy the right they had arrogated to
themselves, and sent an officer to inform the king that it
was customary for the accused to uncover his head.
Charles, without replying a single word, turned his head in
another direction and pulled his felt hat over it. Then when
the officer was gone he sat down in the arm-chair opposite
the president and struck his boots with a little cane which
he carried in his hand. Parry, who accompanied him, stood
D'Artagnan was looking at Athos, whose face betrayed all
those emotions which the king, possessing more self-control,
had banished from his own. This agitation in one so cold and
calm as Athos, frightened him.
"I hope," he whispered to him, "that you will follow his
majesty's example and not get killed for your folly in this
"Set your mind at rest," replied Athos.
"Aha!" continued D'Artagnan, "it is clear that they are
afraid of something or other; for look, the sentinels are
being reinforced. They had only halberds before, now they
have muskets. The halberds were for the audience in the
rear; the muskets are for us."
"Thirty, forty, fifty, sixty-five men," said Porthos,
counting the reinforcements.
"Ah!" said Aramis, "but you forget the officer."
D'Artagnan grew pale with rage. He recognized Mordaunt, who
with bare sword was marshalling the musketeers behind the
king and opposite the benches.
"Do you think they have recognized us?" said D'Artagnan. "In
that case I should beat a retreat. I don't care to be shot
in a box."
"No," said Aramis, "he has not seen us. He sees no one but
the king. Mon Dieu! how he stares at him, the insolent dog!
Does he hate his majesty as much as he does us?"
"Pardi," answered Athos "we only carried off his mother; the
king has spoiled him of his name and property."
"True," said Aramis; "but silence! the president is speaking
to the king."
"Stuart," Bradshaw was saying, "listen to the roll call of
your judges and address to the court any observations you
may have to make."
The king turned his head away, as if these words had not
been intended for him. Bradshaw waited, and as there was no
reply there was a moment of silence.
Out of the hundred and sixty-three members designated there
were only seventy-three present, for the rest, fearful of
taking part in such an act, had remained away.
When the name of Colonel Fairfax was called, one of those
brief but solemn silences ensued, which announced the
absence of the members who had no wish to take a personal
part in the trial.
"Colonel Fairfax," repeated Bradshaw.
"Fairfax," answered a laughing voice, the silvery tone of
which betrayed it as that of a woman, "is not such a fool as
to be here."
A loud laugh followed these words, pronounced with that
boldness which women draw from their own weakness -- a
weakness which removes them beyond the power of vengeance.
"It is a woman's voice," cried Aramis; "faith, I would give
a good deal if she is young and pretty." And he mounted on
the bench to try and get a sight of her.
"By my soul," said Aramis, "she is charming. Look
D'Artagnan; everybody is looking at her; and in spite of
Bradshaw's gaze she has not turned pale."
"It is Lady Fairfax herself," said D'Artagnan. "Don't you
remember, Porthos, we saw her at General Cromwell's?"
The roll call continued.
"These rascals will adjourn when they find that they are not
in sufficient force," said the Comte de la Fere.
"You don't know them. Athos, look at Mordaunt's smile. Is
that the look of a man whose victim is likely to escape him?
Ah, cursed basilisk, it will be a happy day for me when I
can cross something more than a look with you."
"The king is really very handsome," said Porthos; "and look,
too, though he is a prisoner, how carefully he is dressed.
The feather in his hat is worth at least five-and-twenty
pistoles. Look at it, Aramis."
The roll call finished, the president ordered them to read
the act of accusation. Athos turned pale. A second time he
was disappointed in his expectation. Notwithstanding the
judges were so few the trial was to continue; the king then,
was condemned in advance.
"I told you so, Athos," said D'Artagnan, shrugging his
shoulders. "Now take your courage in both hands and hear
what this gentleman in black is going to say about his
sovereign, with full license and privilege."
Never till then had a more brutal accusation or meaner
insults tarnished kingly majesty.
Charles listened with marked attention, passing over the
insults, noting the grievances, and, when hatred overflowed
all bounds and the accuser turned executioner beforehand,
replying with a smile of lofty scorn.
"The fact is," said D'Artagnan, "if men are punished for
imprudence and triviality, this poor king deserves
punishment. But it seems to me that that which he is just
now undergoing is hard enough."
"In any case," Aramis replied, "the punishment should fall
not on the king, but on his ministers; for the first article
of the constitution is, `The king can do no wrong.'"
"As for me," thought Porthos, giving Mordaunt his whole
attention, "were it not for breaking in on the majesty of
the situation I would leap down from the bench, reach
Mordaunt in three bounds and strangle him; I would then take
him by the feet and knock the life out of these wretched
musketeers who parody the musketeers of France. Meantime,
D'Artagnan, who is full of invention, would find some way to
save the king. I must speak to him about it."
As to Athos, his face aflame, his fists clinched, his lips
bitten till they bled, he sat there foaming with rage at
that endless parliamentary insult and that long enduring
royal patience; the inflexible arm and steadfast heart had
given place to a trembling hand and a body shaken by
At this moment the accuser concluded with these words: "The
present accusation is preferred by us in the name of the
At these words there was a murmur along the benches, and a
second voice, not that of a woman, but a man's, stout and
furious, thundered behind D'Artagnan.
"You lie!" it cried. "Nine-tenths of the English people are
horrified at what you say."
This voice was that of Athos, who, standing up with
outstretched hand and quite out of his mind, thus assailed
the public accuser.
King, judges, spectators, all turned their eyes to the bench
where the four friends were seated. Mordaunt did the same
and recognized the gentleman, around whom the three other
Frenchmen were standing, pale and menacing. His eyes
glittered with delight. He had discovered those to whose
death he had devoted his life. A movement of fury called to
his side some twenty of his musketeers, and pointing to the
bench where his enemies were: "Fire on that bench!" he
But with the rapidity of thought D'Artagnan seized Athos by
the waist, and followed by Porthos with Aramis, leaped down
from the benches, rushed into the passages, and flying down
the staircase were lost in the crowd without, while the
muskets within were pointed on some three thousand
spectators, whose piteous cries and noisy alarm stopped the
impulse already given to bloodshed.
Charles also had recognized the four Frenchmen. He put one
hand on his heart to still its beating and the other over
his eyes, that he might not witness the slaying of his
Mordaunt, pale and trembling with anger, rushed from the
hall sword in hand, followed by six pikemen, pushing,
inquiring and panting in the crowd; and then, having found
The tumult was indescribable. More than half an hour passed
before any one could make himself heard. The judges were
looking for a new outbreak from the benches. The spectators
saw the muskets leveled at them, and divided between fear
and curiosity, remained noisy and excited.
Quiet was at length restored.
"What have you to say in your defense?" asked Bradshaw of
Then rising, with his head still covered, in the tone of a
judge rather than a prisoner, Charles began.
"Before questioning me," he said, "reply to my question. I
was free at Newcastle and had there concluded a treaty with
both houses. Instead of performing your part of this
contract, as I performed mine, you bought me from the
Scotch, cheaply, I know, and that does honor to the economic
talent of your government. But because you have paid the
price of a slave, do you imagine that I have ceased to be
your king? No. To answer you would be to forget it. I shall
only reply to you when you have satisfied me of your right
to question me. To answer you would be to acknowledge you as
my judges, and I only acknowledge you as my executioners."
And in the middle of a deathlike silence, Charles, calm,
lofty, and with his head still covered, sat down again in
"Why are not my Frenchmen here?" he murmured proudly and
turning his eyes to the benches where they had appeared for
a moment; "they would have seen that their friend was worthy
of their defense while alive, and of their tears when dead."
"Well," said the president, seeing that Charles was
determined to remain silent, "so be it. We will judge you in
spite of your silence. You are accused of treason, of abuse
of power, and murder. The evidence will support it. Go, and
another sitting will accomplish what you have postponed in
Charles rose and turned toward Parry, whom he saw pale and
with his temples dewed with moisture.
"Well, my dear Parry," said he, "what is the matter, and
what can affect you in this manner?"
"Oh, my king," said Parry, with tears in his eyes and in a
tone of supplication, "do not look to the left as we leave
"And why, Parry?"
"Do not look, I implore you, my king."
"But what is the matter? Speak," said Charles, attempting to
look across the hedge of guards which surrounded him.
"It is -- but you will not look, will you? -- it is because
they have had the axe, with which criminals are executed,
brought and placed there on the table. The sight is
"Fools," said Charles, "do they take me for a coward, like
themselves? You have done well to warn me. Thank you,
When the moment arrived the king followed his guards out of
the hall. As he passed the table on which the axe was laid,
he stopped, and turning with a smile, said:
"Ah! the axe, an ingenious device, and well worthy of those
who know not what a gentleman is; you frighten me not,
executioner's axe," added he, touching it with the cane
which he held in his hand, "and I strike you now, waiting
patiently and Christianly for you to return the blow."
And shrugging his shoulders with unaffected contempt he
passed on. When he reached the door a stream of people, who
had been disappointed in not being able to get into the
house and to make amends had collected to see him come out,
stood on each side, as he passed, many among them glaring on
him with threatening looks.
"How many people," thought he, "and not one true friend."
And as he uttered these words of doubt and depression within
his mind, a voice beside him said:
"Respect to fallen majesty."
The king turned quickly around, with tears in his eyes and
heart. It was an old soldier of the guards who could not see
his king pass captive before him without rendering him this
final homage. But the next moment the unfortunate man was
nearly killed with heavy blows of sword-hilts, and among
those who set upon him the king recognized Captain Groslow.
"Alas!" said Charles, "that is a severe chastisement for a
very trifling fault."
He continued his walk, but he had scarcely gone a hundred
paces, when a furious fellow, leaning between two soldiers,
spat in the king's face, as once an infamous and accursed
Jew spit in the face of Jesus of Nazareth. Loud roars of
laughter and sullen murmurs arose together. The crowd opened
and closed again, undulating like a stormy sea, and the king
imagined that he saw shining in the midst of this living
wave the bright eyes of Athos.
Charles wiped his face and said with a sad smile: "Poor
wretch, for half a crown he would do as much to his own
The king was not mistaken. Athos and his friends, again
mingling with the throng, were taking a last look at the
When the soldier saluted Charles, Athos's heart bounded for
joy; and that unfortunate, on coming to himself, found ten
guineas that the French gentleman had slipped into his
pocket. But when the cowardly insulter spat in the face of
the captive monarch Athos grasped his dagger. But D'Artagnan
stopped his hand and in a hoarse voice cried, "Wait!"
Athos stopped. D'Artagnan, leaning on Athos, made a sign to
Porthos and Aramis to keep near them and then placed himself
behind the man with the bare arms, who was still laughing at
his own vile pleasantry and receiving the congratulations of
The man took his way toward the city. The four friends
followed him. The man, who had the appearance of being a
butcher, descended a little steep and isolated street,
looking on to the river, with two of his friends. Arrived at
the bank of the river the three men perceived that they were
followed, turned around, and looking insolently at the
Frenchmen, passed some jests from one to another.
"I don't know English, Athos," said D'Artagnan; "but you
know it and will interpret for me."
Then quickening their steps they passed the three men, but
turned back immediately, and D'Artagnan walked straight up
to the butcher and touching him on the chest with the tip of
his finger, said to Athos:
"Say this to him in English: `You are a coward. You have
insulted a defenseless man. You have defouled the face of
your king. You must die.'"
Athos, pale as a ghost, repeated these words to the man,
who, seeing the bodeful preparations that were making, put
himself in an attitude of defense. Aramis, at this movement,
drew his sword.
"No," cried D'Artagnan, "no steel. Steel is for gentlemen."
And seizing the butcher by the throat:
"Porthos," said he, "kill this fellow for me with a single
Porthos raised his terrible fist, which whistled through the
air like a sling, and the portentous mass fell with a
smothered crash on the insulter's skull and crushed it. The
man fell like an ox beneath the poleaxe. His companions,
horror-struck, could neither move nor cry out.
"Tell them this, Athos," resumed D'Artagnan; "thus shall all
die who forget that a captive man is sacred and that a
captive king doubly represents the Lord."
Athos repeated D'Artagnan's words.
The fellows looked at the body of their companion, swimming
in blood, and then recovering voice and legs together, ran
"Justice is done," said Porthos, wiping his forehead.
"And now," said D'Artagnan to Athos, "entertain no further
doubts about me; I undertake all that concerns the king."
The parliament condemned Charles to death, as might have
been foreseen. Political judgments are generally vain
formalities, for the same passions which give rise to the
accusation ordain to the condemnation. Such is the atrocious
logic of revolutions.
Although our friends were expecting that condemnation, it
filled them with grief. D'Artagnan, whose mind was never
more fertile in resources than in critical emergencies,
swore again that he would try all conceivable means to
prevent the denouement of the bloody tragedy. But by what
means? As yet he could form no definite plan; all must
depend on circumstances. Meanwhile, it was necessary at all
hazards, in order to gain time, to put some obstacle in the
way of the execution on the following day -- the day
appointed by the judges. The only way of doing that was to
cause the disappearance of the London executioner. The
headsman out of the way, the sentence could not be executed.
True, they could send for the headsman of the nearest town,
but at least a day would be gained, and a day might be
sufficient for the rescue. D'Artagnan took upon himself that
more than difficult task.
Another thing, not less essential, was to warn Charles
Stuart of the attempt to be made, so that he might assist
his rescuers as much as possible, or at least do nothing to
thwart their efforts. Aramis assumed that perilous charge.
Charles Stuart had asked that Bishop Juxon might be
permitted to visit him. Mordaunt had called on the bishop
that very evening to apprise him of the religious desire
expressed by the king and also of Cromwell's permission.
Aramis determined to obtain from the bishop, through fear or
by persuasion, consent that he should enter in the bishop's
place, and clad in his sacerdotal robes, the prison at
Finally, Athos undertook to provide, in any event, the means
of leaving England -- in case either of failure or of
The night having come they made an appointment to meet at
eleven o'clock at the hotel, and each started out to fulfill
his dangerous mission.
The palace of Whitehall was guarded by three regiments of
cavalry and by the fierce anxiety of Cromwell, who came and
went or sent his generals or his agents continually. Alone
in his usual room, lighted by two candles, the condemned
monarch gazed sadly on the luxury of his past greatness,
just as at the last hour one sees the images of life more
mildly brilliant than of yore.
Parry had not quitted his master, and since his condemnation
had not ceased to weep. Charles, leaning on a table, was
gazing at a medallion of his wife and daughter; he was
waiting first for Juxon, then for martyrdom.
At times he thought of those brave French gentlemen who had
appeared to him from a distance of a hundred leagues
fabulous and unreal, like the forms that appear in dreams.
In fact, he sometimes asked himself if all that was
happening to him was not a dream, or at least the delirium
of a fever. He rose and took a few steps as if to rouse
himself from his torpor and went as far as the window; he
saw glittering below him the muskets of the guards. He was
thereupon constrained to admit that he was indeed awake and
that his bloody dream was real.
Charles returned in silence to his chair, rested his elbow
on the table, bowed his head upon his hand and reflected.
"Alas!" he said to himself, "if I only had for a confessor
one of those lights of the church, whose soul has sounded
all the mysteries of life, all the littlenesses of
greatness, perhaps his utterance would overawe the voice
that wails within my soul. But I shall have a priest of
vulgar mind, whose career and fortune I have ruined by my
misfortune. He will speak to me of God and death, as he has
spoken to many another dying man, not understanding that
this one leaves his throne to an usurper, his children to
the cold contempt of public charity."
And he raised the medallion to his lips.
It was a dull, foggy night. A neighboring church clock
slowly struck the hour. The flickering light of the two
candles showed fitful phantom shadows in the lofty room.
These were the ancestors of Charles, standing back dimly in
their tarnished frames.
An awful sadness enveloped the heart of Charles. He buried
his brow in his hands and thought of the world, so beautiful
when one is about to leave it; of the caresses of children,
so pleasing and so sweet, especially when one is parting
from his children never to see them again; then of his wife,
the noble and courageous woman who had sustained him to the
last moment. He drew from his breast the diamond cross and
the star of the Garter which she had sent him by those
generous Frenchmen; he kissed it, and then, as he reflected,
that she would never again see those things till he lay cold
and mutilated in the tomb, there passed over him one of
those icy shivers which may be called forerunners of death.
Then, in that chamber which recalled to him so many royal
souvenirs, whither had come so many courtiers, the scene of
so much flattering homage, alone with a despairing servant,
whose feeble soul could afford no support to his own, the
king at last yielded to sorrow, and his courage sank to a
level with that feebleness, those shadows, and that wintry
cold. That king, who was so grand, so sublime in the hour of
death, meeting his fate with a smile of resignation on his
lips, now in that gloomy hour wiped away a tear which had
fallen on the table and quivered on the gold embroidered
Suddenly the door opened, an ecclesiastic in episcopal robes
entered, followed by two guards, to whom the king waved an
imperious gesture. The guards retired; the room resumed its
"Juxon!" cried Charles, "Juxon, thank you, my last friend;
you come at a fitting moment."
The bishop looked anxiously at the man sobbing in the
"Come, Parry," said the king, "cease your tears."
"If it's Parry," said the bishop, "I have nothing to fear;
so allow me to salute your majesty and to tell you who I am
and for what I am come."
At this sight and this voice Charles was about to cry out,
when Aramis placed his finger on his lips and bowed low to
the king of England.
"The chevalier!" murmured Charles.
"Yes, sire," interrupted Aramis, raising his voice, "Bishop
Juxon, the faithful knight of Christ, obedient to your
Charles clasped his hands, amazed and stupefied to find that
these foreigners, without other motive than that which their
conscience imposed on them, thus combated the will of a
people and the destiny of a king.
"You!" he said, "you! how did you penetrate hither? If they
recognize you, you are lost."
"Care not for me, sire; think only of yourself. You see,
your friends are wakeful. I know not what we shall do yet,
but four determined men can do much. Meanwhile, do not be
surprised at anything that happens; prepare yourself for
Charles shook his head.
"Do you know that I die to-morrow at ten o'clock?"
"Something, your majesty, will happen between now and then
to make the execution impossible."
The king looked at Aramis with astonishment.
At this moment a strange noise, like the unloading of a
cart, and followed by a cry of pain, was heard beneath the
"Do you hear?" said the king.
"I hear," said Aramis, "but I understand neither the noise
nor the cry of pain."
"I know not who can have uttered the cry," said the king,
"but the noise is easily understood. Do you know that I am
to be beheaded outside this window? Well, these boards you
hear unloaded are the posts and planks to build my scaffold.
Some workmen must have fallen underneath them and been
Aramis shuddered in spite of himself.
"You see," said the king, "that it is useless for you to
resist. I am condemned; leave me to my death."
"My king," said Aramis, "they well may raise a scaffold, but
they cannot make an executioner."
"What do you mean?" asked the king.
"I mean that at this hour the headsman has been got out of
the way by force or persuasion. The scaffold will be ready
by to-morrow, but the headsman will be wanting and they will
put it off till the day after to-morrow."
"What then?" said the king.
"To-morrow night we shall rescue you."
"How can that be?" cried the king, whose face was lighted
up, in spite of himself, by a flash of joy.
"Oh! sir," cried Parry, "may you and yours be blessed!"
"How can it be?" repeated the king. "I must know, so that I
may assist you if there is any chance."
"I know nothing about it," continued Aramis, "but the
cleverest, the bravest, the most devoted of us four said to
me when I left him, `Tell the king that to-morrow at ten
o'clock at night, we shall carry him off.' He has said it
and will do it."
"Tell me the name of that generous friend," said the king,
"that I may cherish for him an eternal gratitude, whether he
succeeds or not."
"D'Artagnan, sire, the same who had so nearly rescued you
when Colonel Harrison made his untimely entrance."
"You are, indeed, wonderful men," said the king; "if such
things had been related to me I should not have believed
"Now, sire," resumed Aramis, "listen to me. Do not forget
for a single instant that we are watching over your safety;
observe the smallest gesture, the least bit of song, the
least sign from any one near you; watch everything, hear
everything, interpret everything."
"Oh, chevalier!" cried the king, "what can I say to you?
There is no word, though it should come from the profoundest
depth of my heart, that can express my gratitude. If you
succeed I do not say that you will save a king; no, in
presence of the scaffold as I am, royalty, I assure you, is
a very small affair; but you will save a husband to his
wife, a father to his children. Chevalier, take my hand; it
is that of a friend who will love you to his last sigh."
Aramis stooped to kiss the king's hand, but Charles clasped
his and pressed it to his heart.
At this moment a man entered, without even knocking at the
door. Aramis tried to withdraw his hand, but the king still
held it. The man was one of those Puritans, half preacher
and half soldier, who swarmed around Cromwell.
"What do you want, sir?" said the king.
"I desire to know if the confession of Charles Stuart is at
an end?" said the stranger.
"And what is it to you?" replied the king; "we are not of
the same religion."
"All men are brothers," said the Puritan. "One of my
brothers is about to die and I come to prepare him."
"Bear with him," whispered Aramis; "it is doubtless some
"After my reverend lord bishop," said the king to the man,
"I shall hear you with pleasure, sir."
The man retired, but not before examining the supposed Juxon
with an attention which did not escape the king.
"Chevalier," said the king, when the door was closed, "I
believe you are right and that this man only came here with
evil intentions. Take care that no misfortune befalls you
when you leave."
"I thank your majesty," said Aramis, "but under these robes
I have a coat of mail, a pistol and a dagger."
"Go, then, sir, and God keep you!"
The king accompanied him to the door, where Aramis
pronounced his benediction upon him, and passing through the
ante-rooms, filled with soldiers, jumped into his carriage
and drove to the bishop's palace. Juxon was waiting for him
"Well?" said he, on perceiving Aramis.
"Everything has succeeded as I expected; spies, guards,
satellites, all took me for you, and the king blesses you
while waiting for you to bless him."
"May God protect you, my son; for your example has given me
at the same time hope and courage."
Aramis resumed his own attire and left Juxon with the
assurance that he might again have recourse to him.
He had scarcely gone ten yards in the street when he
perceived that he was followed by a man, wrapped in a large
cloak. He placed his hand on his dagger and stopped. The man
came straight toward him. It was Porthos.
"My dear friend," cried Aramis.
"You see, we had each our mission," said Porthos; "mine was
to guard you and I am doing so. Have you seen the king?"
"Yes, and all goes well."
"We are to meet our friends at the hotel at eleven."
It was then striking half-past ten by St. Paul's.
Arrived at the hotel it was not long before Athos entered.
"All's well," he cried, as he entered; "I have hired a cedar
wherry, as light as a canoe, as easy on the wing as any
swallow. It is waiting for us at Greenwich, opposite the
Isle of Dogs, manned by a captain and four men, who for the
sum of fifty pounds sterling will keep themselves at our
disposition three successive nights. Once on board we drop
down the Thames and in two hours are on the open sea. In
case I am killed, the captain's name is Roger and the skiff
is called the Lightning. A handkerchief, tied at the four
corners, is to be the signal."
Next moment D'Artagnan entered.
"Empty your pockets," said he; "I want a hundred pounds, and
as for my own ---- " and he emptied them inside out.
The sum was collected in a minute. D'Artagnan ran out and
returned directly after.
"There," said he, "it's done. Ough! and not without a deal
of trouble, too."
"Has the executioner left London?" asked Athos.
"Ah, you see that plan was not sure enough; he might go out
by one gate and return by another."
"Where is he, then?"
"In the cellar."
"The cellar -- what cellar?"
"Our landlord's, to be sure. Mousqueton is propped against
the door and here's the key."
"Bravo!" said Aramis, "how did you manage it?"
"Like everything else, with money; but it cost me dear."
"How much?" asked Athos.
"Five hundred pounds."
"And where did you get so much money?" said Athos. "Had you,
then, that sum?"
"The queen's famous diamond," answered D'Artagnan, with a
"Ah, true," said Aramis. "I recognized it on your finger."
"You bought it back, then, from Monsieur des Essarts?" asked
"Yes, but it was fated that I should not keep it."
"So, then, we are all right as regards the executioner,"
said Athos; "but unfortunately every executioner has his
assistant, his man, or whatever you call him."
"And this one had his," said D'Artagnan; "but, as good luck
would have it, just as I thought I should have two affairs
to manage, our friend was brought home with a broken leg. In
the excess of his zeal he had accompanied the cart
containing the scaffolding as far as the king's window, and
one of the crossbeams fell on his leg and broke it."
"Ah!" cried Aramis, "that accounts for the cry I heard."
"Probably," said D'Artagnan, "but as he is a thoughtful
young man he promised to send four expert workmen in his
place to help those already at the scaffold, and wrote the
moment he was brought home to Master Tom Lowe, an assistant
carpenter and friend of his, to go down to Whitehall, with
three of his friends. Here's the letter he sent by a
messenger, for sixpence, who sold it to me for a guinea."
"And what on earth are you going to do with it?" asked
"Can't you guess, my dear Athos? You, who speak English like
John Bull himself, are Master Tom Lowe, we, your three
companions. Do you understand it now?"
Athos uttered a cry of joy and admiration, ran to a closet
and drew forth workmen's clothes, which the four friends
immediately put on; they then left the hotel, Athos carrying
a saw, Porthos a vise, Aramis an axe and D'Artagnan a hammer
and some nails.
The letter from the executioner's assistant satisfied the
master carpenter that those were the men he expected.
Toward midnight Charles heard a great noise beneath his
window. It arose from blows of hammer and hatchet, clinking
of pincers and cranching of saws.
Lying dressed upon his bed, the noise awoke him with a start
and found a gloomy echo in his heart. He could not endure
it, and sent Parry to ask the sentinel to beg the workmen to
strike more gently and not disturb the last slumber of one
who had been their king. The sentinel was unwilling to leave
his post, but allowed Parry to pass.
Arriving at the window Parry found an unfinished scaffold,
over which they were nailing a covering of black serge.
Raised to the height of twenty feet, so as to be on a level
with the window, it had two lower stories. Parry, odious as
was this sight to him, sought for those among some eight or
ten workmen who were making the most noise; and fixed on two
men, who were loosening the last hooks of the iron balcony.
"My friends," said Parry, mounting the scaffold and standing
beside them, "would you work a little more quietly? The king
wishes to get a sleep."
One of the two, who was standing up, was of gigantic size
and was driving a pick with all his might into the wall,
whilst the other, kneeling beside him, was collecting the
pieces of stone. The face of the first was lost to Parry in
the darkness; but as the second turned around and placed his
finger on his lips Parry started back in amazement.
"Very well, very well," said the workman aloud, in excellent
English. "Tell the king that if he sleeps badly to-night he
will sleep better to-morrow night."
These blunt words, so terrible if taken literally, were
received by the other workmen with a roar of laughter. But
Parry withdrew, thinking he was dreaming.
Charles was impatiently awaiting his return. At the moment
he re-entered, the sentinel who guarded the door put his
head through the opening, curious as to what the king was
doing. The king was lying on his bed, resting on his elbow.
Parry closed the door and approaching the king, his face
radiant with joy:
"Sire," he said, in a low voice, "do you know who these
workmen are who are making so much noise?"
"I? No; how would you have me know?"
Parry bent his head and whispered to the king: "It is the
Comte de la Fere and his friends."
"Raising my scaffold!" cried the king, astounded.
"Yes, and at the same time making a hole in the wall."
The king clasped his hands and raised his eyes to Heaven;
then leaping down from his bed he went to the window, and
pulling aside the curtain tried to distinguish the figures
outside, but in vain.
Parry was not wrong. It was Athos he had recognized, and
Porthos who was boring a hole through the wall.
This hole communicated with a kind of loft -- the space
between the floor of the king's room and the ceiling of the
one below it. Their plan was to pass through the hole they
were making into this loft and cut out from below a piece of
the flooring of the king's room, so as to form a kind of
Through this the king was to escape the next night, and,
hidden by the black covering of the scaffold, was to change
his dress for that of a workman, slip out with his
deliverers, pass the sentinels, who would suspect nothing,
and so reach the skiff that was waiting for him at
Day gilded the tops of the houses. The aperture was finished
and Athos passed through it, carrying the clothes destined
for the king wrapped in black cloth, and the tools with
which he was to open a communication with the king's room.
He had only two hours' work to do to open communication with
the king and, according to the calculations of the four
friends, they had the entire day before them, since, the
executioner being absent, another must be sent for to
D'Artagnan returned to change his workman's clothes for his
chestnut-colored suit, and Porthos to put on his red
doublet. As for Aramis, he went off to the bishop's palace
to see if he could possibly pass in with Juxon to the king's
presence. All three agreed to meet at noon in Whitehall
Place to see how things went on.
Before leaving the scaffold Aramis had approached the
opening where Athos was concealed to tell him that he was
about to make an attempt to gain another interview with the
"Adieu, then, and be of good courage," said Athos. "Report
to the king the condition of affairs. Say to him that when
he is alone it will help us if he will knock on the floor,
for then I can continue my work in safety. Try, Aramis, to
keep near the king. Speak loud, very loud, for they will be
listening at the door. If there is a sentinel within the
apartment, kill him without hesitation. If there are two,
let Parry kill one and you the other. If there are three,
let yourself be slain, but save the king."
"Be easy," said Aramis; "I will take two poniards and give
one to Parry. Is that all?"
"Yes, go; but urge the king strongly not to stand on false
generosity. While you are fighting if there is a fight, he
must flee. The trap once replaced over his head, you being
on the trap, dead or alive, they will need at least ten
minutes to find the hole by which he has escaped. In those
ten minutes we shall have gained the road and the king will
"Everything shall be done as you say, Athos. Your hand, for
perhaps we shall not see each other again."
Athos put his arm around Aramis's neck and embraced him.
"For you," he said. "Now if I die, say to D'Artagnan that I
love him as a son, and embrace him for me. Embrace also our
good and brave Porthos. Adieu."
"Adieu," said Aramis. "I am as sure now that the king will
be saved as I am sure that I clasp the most loyal hand in
Aramis parted from Athos, went down from the scaffold in his
turn and took his way to the hotel, whistling the air of a
song in praise of Cromwell. He found the other two friends
sitting at table before a good fire, drinking a bottle of
port and devouring a cold chicken. Porthos was cursing the
infamous parliamentarians; D'Artagnan ate in silence,
revolving in his mind the most audacious plans.
Aramis related what had been agreed upon. D'Artagnan
approved with a movement of the head and Porthos with his
"Bravo!" he said; "besides, we shall be there at the time of
the flight. What with D'Artagnan, Grimaud and Mousqueton, we
can manage to dispatch eight of them. I say nothing about
Blaisois, for he is only fit to hold the horses. Two minutes
a man makes four minutes. Mousqueton will lose another,
that's five; and in five minutes we shall have galloped a
quarter of a league."
Aramis swallowed a hasty mouthful, gulped a glass of wine
and changed his clothes.
"Now," said he, "I'm off to the bishop's. Take care of the
"All right. Grimaud has relieved Mousqueton and has his foot
on the cellar door."
"Well, don't be inactive."
"Inactive, my dear fellow! Ask Porthos. I pass my life upon
Aramis again presented himself at the bishop's. Juxon
consented the more readily to take him with him, as he would
require an assistant priest in case the king should wish to
communicate. Dressed as Aramis had been the night before,
the bishop got into his carriage, and the former, more
disguised by his pallor and sad countenance than his
deacon's dress, got in by his side. The carriage stopped at
the door of the palace.
It was about nine o'clock in the morning.
Nothing was changed. The ante-rooms were still full of
soldiers, the passages still lined by guards. The king was
already sanguine, but when he perceived Aramis his hope
turned to joy. He embraced Juxon and pressed the hand of
Aramis. The bishop affected to speak in a loud voice, before
every one, of their previous interview. The king replied
that the words spoken in that interview had borne their
fruit, and that he desired another under the same
conditions. Juxon turned to those present and begged them to
leave him and his assistant alone with the king. Every one
withdrew. As soon as the door was closed:
"Sire," said Aramis, speaking rapidly, "you are saved; the
London executioner has vanished. His assistant broke his leg
last night beneath your majesty's window -- the cry we heard
was his -- and there is no executioner nearer at hand than
"But the Comte de la Fere?" asked the king.
"Two feet below you; take the poker from the fireplace and
strike three times on the floor. He will answer you."
The king did so, and the moment after, three muffled knocks,
answering the given signal, sounded beneath the floor.
"So," said Charles, "he who knocks down there ---- "
"Is the Comte de la Fere, sire," said Aramis. "He is
preparing a way for your majesty to escape. Parry, for his
part, will raise this slab of marble and a passage will be
"Oh, Juxon," said the king, seizing the bishop's two hands
in his own, "promise that you will pray all your life for
this gentleman and for the other that you hear beneath your
feet, and for two others also, who, wherever they may be,
are on the watch for my safety."
"Sire," replied Juxon, "you shall be obeyed."
Meanwhile, the miner underneath was heard working away
incessantly, when suddenly an unexpected noise resounded in
the passage. Aramis seized the poker and gave the signal to
stop; the noise came nearer and nearer. It was that of a
number of men steadily approaching. The four men stood
motionless. All eyes were fixed on the door, which opened
slowly and with a kind of solemnity.
A parliamentary officer, clothed in black and with a gravity
that augured ill, entered, bowed to the king, and unfolding
a parchment, read the sentence, as is usually done to
criminals before their execution.
"What is this?" said Aramis to Juxon.
Juxon replied with a sign which meant that he knew no more
than Aramis about it.
"Then it is for to-day?" asked the king.
"Was not your majesty warned that it was to take place this
"Then I must die like a common criminal by the hand of the
"The London executioner has disappeared, your majesty, but a
man has offered his services instead. The execution will
therefore only be delayed long enough for you to arrange
your spiritual and temporal affairs."
A slight moisture on his brow was the only trace of emotion
that Charles evinced, as he learned these tidings. But
Aramis was livid. His heart ceased beating, he closed his
eyes and leaned upon the table. Charles perceived it and
took his hand.
"Come, my friend," said he, "courage." Then he turned to the
officer. "Sir, I am ready. There is but little reason why I
should delay you. Firstly, I wish to communicate; secondly,
to embrace my children and bid them farewell for the last
time. Will this be permitted me?"
"Certainly," replied the officer, and left the room.
Aramis dug his nails into his flesh and groaned aloud.
"Oh! my lord bishop," he cried, seizing Juxon's hands,
"where is Providence? where is Providence?"
"My son," replied the bishop, with firmness, "you see Him
not, because the passions of the world conceal Him."
"My son," said the king to Aramis, "do not take it so to
heart. You ask what God is doing. God beholds your devotion
and my martyrdom, and believe me, both will have their
reward. Ascribe to men, then, what is happening, and not to
God. It is men who drive me to death; it is men who make you
"Yes, sire," said Aramis, "yes, you are right. It is men
whom I should hold responsible, and I will hold them
"Be seated, Juxon," said the king, falling upon his knees.
"I have now to confess to you. Remain, sir," he added to
Aramis, who had moved to leave the room. "Remain, Parry. I
have nothing to say that cannot be said before all."
Juxon sat down, and the king, kneeling humbly before him,
began his confession.
The mob had already assembled when the confession
terminated. The king's children next arrived -- the Princess
Charlotte, a beautiful, fair-haired child, with tears in her
eyes, and the Duke of Gloucester, a boy eight or nine years
old, whose tearless eyes and curling lip revealed a growing
pride. He had wept all night long, but would not show his
grief before the people.
Charles's heart melted within him at the sight of those two
children, whom he had not seen for two years and whom he now
met at the moment of death. He turned to brush away a tear,
and then, summoning up all his firmness, drew his daughter
toward him, recommending her to be pious and resigned. Then
he took the boy upon his knee.
"My son," he said to him, "you saw a great number of people
in the streets as you came here. These men are going to
behead your father. Do not forget that. Perhaps some day
they will want to make you king, instead of the Prince of
Wales, or the Duke of York, your elder brothers. But you are
not the king, my son, and can never be so while they are
alive. Swear to me, then, never to let them put a crown upon
your head unless you have a legal right to the crown. For
one day -- listen, my son -- one day, if you do so, they
will doom you to destruction, head and crown, too, and then
you will not be able to die with a calm conscience, as I
die. Swear, my son."
The child stretched out his little hand toward that of his
father and said, "I swear to your majesty."
"Henry," said Charles, "call me your father."
"Father," replied the child, "I swear to you that they shall
kill me sooner than make me king."
"Good, my child. Now kiss me; and you, too, Charlotte. Never
"Oh! never, never!" cried both the children, throwing their
arms around their father's neck.
"Farewell," said Charles, "farewell, my children. Take them
away, Juxon; their tears will deprive me of the courage to
Juxon led them away, and this time the doors were left open.
Meanwhile, Athos, in his concealment, waited in vain the
signal to recommence his work. Two long hours he waited in
terrible inaction. A deathlike silence reigned in the room
above. At last he determined to discover the cause of this
stillness. He crept from his hole and stood, hidden by the
black drapery, beneath the scaffold. Peeping out from the
drapery, he could see the rows of halberdiers and musketeers
around the scaffold and the first ranks of the populace
swaying and groaning like the sea.
"What is the matter, then?" he asked himself, trembling more
than the wind-swayed cloth he was holding back. "The people
are hurrying on, the soldiers under arms, and among the
spectators I see D'Artagnan. What is he waiting for? What is
he looking at? Good God! have they allowed the headsman to
Suddenly the dull beating of muffled drums filled the
square. The sound of heavy steps was heard above his head.
The next moment the very planks of the scaffold creaked with
the weight of an advancing procession, and the eager faces
of the spectators confirmed what a last hope at the bottom
of his heart had prevented him till then believing. At the
same moment a well-known voice above him pronounced these
"Colonel, I want to speak to the people."
Athos shuddered from head to foot. It was the king speaking
on the scaffold.
In fact, after taking a few drops of wine and a piece of
bread, Charles, weary of waiting for death, had suddenly
decided to go to meet it and had given the signal for
movement. Then the two wings of the window facing the square
had been thrown open, and the people had seen silently
advancing from the interior of the vast chamber, first, a
masked man, who, carrying an axe in his hand, was recognized
as the executioner. He approached the block and laid his axe
upon it. Behind him, pale indeed, but marching with a firm
step, was Charles Stuart, who advanced between two priests,
followed by a few superior officers appointed to preside at
the execution and attended by two files of partisans who
took their places on opposite sides of the scaffold.
The sight of the masked man gave rise to a prolonged
sensation. Every one was full of curiosity as to who that
unknown executioner could be who presented himself so
opportunely to assure to the people the promised spectacle,
when the people believed it had been postponed until the
following day. All gazed at him searchingly.
But they could discern nothing but a man of middle height,
dressed in black, apparently of a certain age, for the end
of a gray beard peeped out from the bottom of the mask that
hid his features.
The king's request had undoubtedly been acceded to by an
affirmative sign, for in firm, sonorous accents, which
vibrated in the depths of Athos's heart, the king began his
speech, explaining his conduct and counseling the welfare of
"Oh!" said Athos to himself, "is it indeed possible that I
hear what I hear and that I see what I see? Is it possible
that God has abandoned His representative on earth and left
him to die thus miserably? And I have not seen him! I have
not said adieu to him!"
A noise was heard like that the instrument of death would
make if moved upon the block.
"Do not touch the axe," said the king, and resumed his
At the end of his speech the king looked tenderly around
upon the people. Then unfastening the diamond ornament which
the queen had sent him, he placed it in the hands of the
priest who accompanied Juxon. Then he drew from his breast a
little cross set in diamonds, which, like the order, had
been the gift of Henrietta Maria.
"Sir," said he to the priest, "I shall keep this cross in my
hand till the last moment. Take it from me when I am --
"Yes, sire," said a voice, which Athos recognized as that of
He then took his hat from his head and threw it on the
ground. One by one he undid the buttons of his doublet, took
it off and deposited it by the side of his hat. Then, as it
was cold, he asked for his gown, which was brought to him.
All the preparations were made with a frightful calmness.
One would have thought the king was going to bed and not to
"Will these be in your way?" he said to the executioner,
raising his long locks; "if so, they can be tied up."
Charles accompanied these words with a look designed to
penetrate the mask of the unknown headsman. His calm, noble
gaze forced the man to turn away his head. But after the
searching look of the king he encountered the burning eyes
The king, seeing that he did not reply, repeated his
"It will do," replied the man, in a tremulous voice, "if you
separate them across the neck."
The king parted his hair with his hands, and looking at the
block he said:
"This block is very low, is there no other to be had?"
"It is the usual block," answered the man in the mask.
"Do you think you can behead me with a single blow?" asked
"I hope so," was the reply. There was something so strange
in these three words that everybody, except the king,
"I do not wish to be taken by surprise," added the king. "I
shall kneel down to pray; do not strike then."
"When shall I strike?"
"When I shall lay my head on the block and say `Remember!'
then strike boldly."
"Gentlemen," said the king to those around him, "I leave you
to brave the tempest; I go before you to a kingdom which
knows no storms. Farewell."
He looked at Aramis and made a special sign to him with his
"Now," he continued, "withdraw a little and let me say my
prayer, I beseech you. You, also, stand aside," he said to
the masked man. "It is only for a moment and I know that I
belong to you; but remember that you are not to strike till
I give the signal."
Then he knelt down, made the sign of the cross, and lowering
his face to the planks, as if he would have kissed them,
said in a low tone, in French, "Comte de la Fere, are you
"Yes, your majesty," he answered, trembling.
"Faithful friend, noble heart!" said the king, "I should not
have been rescued. I have addressed my people and I have
spoken to God; last of all I speak to you. To maintain a
cause which I believed sacred I have lost the throne and my
children their inheritance. A million in gold remains; it is
buried in the cellars of Newcastle Keep. You only know that
this money exists. Make use of it, then, whenever you think
it will be most useful, for my eldest son's welfare. And
"Farewell, saintly, martyred majesty," lisped Athos, chilled
A moment's silence ensued and then, in a full, sonorous
voice, the king exclaimed: "Remember!"
He had scarcely uttered the word when a heavy blow shook the
scaffold and where Athos stood immovable a warm drop fell
upon his brow. He reeled back with a shudder and the same
moment the drops became a crimson cataract.
Athos fell on his knees and remained some minutes as if
bewildered or stunned. At last he rose and taking his
handkerchief steeped it in the blood of the martyred king.
Then as the crowd gradually dispersed he leaped down, crept
from behind the drapery, glided between two horses, mingled
with the crowd and was the first to arrive at the inn.
Having gained his room he raised his hand to his face, and
observing that his fingers were covered with the monarch's
blood, fell down insensible.
The Man in the Mask.
The snow was falling thick and icy. Aramis was the next to
come in and to discover Athos almost insensible. But at the
first words he uttered the comte roused himself from the
kind of lethargy in which he had sunk.
"Well," said Aramis, "beaten by fate!"
"Beaten!" said Athos. "Noble and unhappy king!"
"Are you wounded?" cried Aramis.
"No, this is his blood."
"Where were you, then?"
"Where you left me -- under the scaffold."
"Did you see it all?"
"No, but I heard all. God preserve me from another such hour
as I have just passed."
"Then you know that I did not leave him?"
"I heard your voice up to the last moment."
"Here is the order he gave me and the cross I took from his
hand; he desired they should be returned to the queen."
"Then here is a handkerchief to wrap them in," replied
Athos, drawing from his pocket the one he had steeped in the
"And what," he continued, "has been done with the poor
"By order of Cromwell royal honors will be accorded to it.
The doctors are embalming the corpse, and when it is ready
it will be placed in a lighted chapel."
"Mockery," muttered Athos, savagely; "royal honors to one
whom they have murdered!"
"Well, cheer up!" said a loud voice from the staircase,
which Porthos had just mounted. "We are all mortal, my poor
"You are late, my dear Porthos."
"Yes, there were some people on the way who delayed me. The
wretches were dancing. I took one of them by the throat and
three-quarters throttled him. Just then a patrol rode up.
Luckily the man I had had most to do with was some minutes
before he could speak, so I took advantage of his silence to
"Have you seen D'Artagnan?"
"We got separated in the crowd and I could not find him
"Oh!" said Athos, satirically, "I saw him. He was in the
front row of the crowd, admirably placed for seeing; and as
on the whole the sight was curious, he probably wished to
stay to the end."
"Ah Comte de la Fere," said a calm voice, though hoarse with
running, "is it your habit to calumniate the absent?"
This reproof stung Athos to the heart, but as the impression
produced by seeing D'Artagnan foremost in a coarse,
ferocious crowd had been very strong, he contented himself
"I am not calumniating you, my friend. They were anxious
about you here; I simply told them where you were. You
didn't know King Charles; to you he was only a foreigner and
you were not obliged to love him."
So saying, he stretched out his hand, but the other
pretended not to see it and he let it drop again slowly by
"Ugh! I am tired," cried D'Artagnan, sitting down.
"Drink a glass of port," said Aramis; "it will refresh you."
"Yes, let us drink," said Athos, anxious to make it up by
hobnobbing with D'Artagnan, "let us drink and get away from
this hateful country. The felucca is waiting for us, you
know; let us leave to-night, we have nothing more to do
"You are in a hurry, sir count," said D'Artagnan.
"But what would you have us to do here, now that the king is
"Go, sir count," replied D'Artagnan, carelessly; "you see
nothing to keep you a little longer in England? Well, for my
part, I, a bloodthirsty ruffian, who can go and stand close
to a scaffold, in order to have a better view of the king's
execution -- I remain."
Athos turned pale. Every reproach his friend uttered struck
deeply in his heart.
"Ah! you remain in London?" said Porthos.
"Yes. And you?"
"Hang it!" said Porthos, a little perplexed between the two,
"I suppose, as I came with you, I must go away with you. I
can't leave you alone in this abominable country."
"Thanks, my worthy friend. So I have a little adventure to
propose to you when the count is gone. I want to find out
who was the man in the mask, who so obligingly offered to
cut the king's throat."
"A man in a mask?" cried Athos. "You did not let the
executioner escape, then?"
"The executioner is still in the cellar, where, I presume,
he has had an interview with mine host's bottles. But you
remind me. Mousqueton!"
"Sir," answered a voice from the depths of the earth.
"Let out your prisoner. All is over."
"But," said Athos, "who is the wretch that has dared to
raise his hand against his king?"
"An amateur headsman," replied Aramis, "who however, does
not handle the axe amiss."
"Did you not see his face?" asked Athos.
"He wore a mask."
"But you, Aramis, who were close to him?"
"I could see nothing but a gray beard under the fringe of
"Then it must be a man of a certain age."
"Oh!" said D'Artagnan, "that matters little. When one puts
on a mask, it is not difficult to wear a beard under it."
"I am sorry I did not follow him," said Porthos.
"Well, my dear Porthos," said D'Artagnan, "that's the very
thing it came into my head to do."
Athos understood all now.
"Pardon me, D'Artagnan," he said. "I have distrusted God; I
could the more easily distrust you. Pardon me, my friend."
"We will see about that presently," said D'Artagnan, with a
"Well, then?" said Aramis.
"Well, while I was watching -- not the king, as monsieur le
comte thinks, for I know what it is to see a man led to
death, and though I ought to be accustomed to the sight it
always makes me ill -- while I was watching the masked
executioner, the idea came to me, as I said, to find out who
he was. Now, as we are wont to complete ourselves each by
all the rest and to depend on one another for assistance, as
one calls his other hand to aid the first, I looked around
instinctively to see if Porthos was there; for I had seen
you, Aramis, with the king, and you, count, I knew would be
under the scaffold, and for that reason I forgive you," he
added, offering Athos his hand, "for you must have suffered
much. I was looking around for Porthos when I saw near me a
head which had been broken, but which, for better or worse,
had been patched with plaster and with black silk. `Humph!'
thought I, `that looks like my handiwork; I fancy I must
have mended that skull somewhere or other.' And, in fact, it
was that unfortunate Scotchman, Parry's brother, you know,
on whom Groslow amused himself by trying his strength. Well,
this man was making signs to another at my left, and turning
around I recognized the honest Grimaud. `Oh!' said I to him.
Grimaud turned round with a jerk, recognized me, and pointed
to the man in the mask. `Eh!' said he, which meant, `Do you
see him?' `Parbleu!' I answered, and we perfectly understood
one another. Well, everything was finished as you know. The
mob dispersed. I made a sign to Grimaud and the Scotchman,
and we all three retired into a corner of the square. I saw
the executioner return into the king's room, change his
clothes, put on a black hat and a large cloak and disappear.
Five minutes later he came down the grand staircase."
'You followed him?" cried Athos.
"I should think so, but not without difficulty. Every few
minutes he turned around, and thus obliged us to conceal
ourselves. I might have gone up to him and killed him. But I
am not selfish, and I thought it might console you all a
little to have a share in the matter. So we followed him
through the lowest streets in the city, and in half an
hour's time he stopped before a little isolated house.
Grimaud drew out a pistol. `Eh?' said he, showing it. I held
back his arm. The man in the mask stopped before a low door
and drew out a key; but before he placed it in the lock he
turned around to see if he was being followed. Grimaud and I
got behind a tree, and the Scotchman having nowhere to hide
himself, threw himself on his face in the road. Next moment
the door opened and the man disappeared."
"The scoundrel!" said Aramis. "While you have been returning
hither he will have escaped and we shall never find him."
"Come, now, Aramis," said D'Artagnan, "you must be taking me
for some one else."
"Nevertheless," said Athos, "in your absence ---- "
"Well, in my absence haven't I put in my place Grimaud and
the Scotchman? Before he had taken ten steps beyond the door
I had examined the house on all sides. At one of the doors,
that by which he had entered, I placed our Scotchman, making
a sign to him to follow the man wherever he might go, if he
came out again. Then going around the house I placed Grimaud
at the other exit, and here I am. Our game is beaten up. Now
for the tally-ho."
Athos threw himself into D'Artagnan's arms.
"Friend," he said, "you have been too good in pardoning me;
I was wrong, a hundred times wrong. I ought to have known
you better by this time; but we are all possessed of a
malignant spirit, which bids us doubt."
"Humph!" said Porthos. "Don't you think the executioner
might be Master Cromwell, who, to make sure of this affair,
undertook it himself?"
"Ah! just so. Cromwell is stout and short, and this man thin
and lanky, rather tall than otherwise."
"Some condemned soldier, perhaps," suggested Athos, "whom
they have pardoned at the price of regicide."
"No, no," continued D'Artagnan, "it was not the measured
step of a foot soldier, nor was it the gait of a horseman.
If I am not mistaken we have to do with a gentleman."
"A gentleman!" exclaimed Athos. "Impossible! It would be a
dishonor to all the nobility."
"Fine sport, by Jove!" cried Porthos, with a laugh that
shook the windows. "Fine sport!"
"Are you still bent on departure, Athos?" asked D'Artagnan.
"No, I remain," replied Athos, with a threatening gesture
that promised no good to whomsoever it was addressed.
"Swords, then!" cried Aramis, "swords! let us not lose a
The four friends resumed their own clothes, girded on their
swords, ordered Mousqueton and Blaisois to pay the bill and
to arrange everything for immediate departure, and wrapped
in their large cloaks left in search of their game.
The night was dark, snow was falling, the streets were
silent and deserted. D'Artagnan led the way through the
intricate windings and narrow alleys of the city and ere
long they had reached the house in question. For a moment
D'Artagnan thought that Parry's brother had disappeared; but
he was mistaken. The robust Scotchman, accustomed to the
snows of his native hills, had stretched himself against a
post, and like a fallen statue, insensible to the inclemency
of the weather, had allowed the snow to cover him. He rose,
however, as they approached.
"Come," said Athos, "here's another good servant. Really,
honest men are not so scarce as I thought."
"Don't be in a hurry to weave crowns for our Scotchman. I
believe the fellow is here on his own account, for I have
heard that these gentlemen born beyond the Tweed are very
vindictive. I should not like to be Groslow, if he meets
"Well?" said Athos, to the man, in English.
"No one has come out," he replied.
"Then, Porthos and Aramis, will you remain with this man
while we go around to Grimaud?"
Grimaud had made himself a kind of sentry box out of a
hollow willow, and as they drew near he put his head out and
gave a low whistle.
"Soho!" cried Athos.
"Yes," said Grimaud.
"Well, has anybody come out?"
"No, but somebody has gone in."
"A man or a woman?"
"Ah! ah!" said D'Artagnan, "there are two of them, then!"
"I wish there were four," said Athos; "the two parties would
then be equal."
"Perhaps there are four," said D'Artagnan.
"What do you mean?"
"Other men may have entered before them and waited for
"We can find out," said Grimaud. At the same time he pointed
to a window, through the shutters of which a faint light
"That is true," said D'Artagnan, "let us call the others."
They returned around the house to fetch Porthos and Aramis.
"Have you seen anything?" they asked.
"No, but we are going to," replied D'Artagnan, pointing to
Grimaud, who had already climbed some five or six feet from
All four came up together. Grimaud continued to climb like a
cat and succeeded at last in catching hold of a hook, which
served to keep one of the shutters back when opened. Then
resting his foot on a small ledge he made a sign to show all
"Well?" asked D'Artagnan.
Grimaud showed his closed hand, with two fingers spread out.
"Speak," said Athos; "we cannot see your signs. How many are
"Two. One opposite to me, the other with his back to me."
"Good. And the man opposite to you is ----
"The man I saw go in."
"Do you know him?"
"I thought I recognized him, and was not mistaken. Short and
"Who is it?" they all asked together in a low tone.
"General Oliver Cromwell."
The four friends looked at one another.
"And the other?" asked Athos.
"Thin and lanky."
"The executioner," said D'Artagnan and Aramis at the same
"I can see nothing but his back," resumed Grimaud. "But
wait. He is moving; and if he has taken off his mask I shall
be able to see. Ah ---- "
And as if struck in the heart he let go the hook and dropped
with a groan.
"Did you see him?" they all asked.
Yes," said Grimaud, with his hair standing on end.
"The thin, spare man?"
"The executioner, in short?" asked Aramis.
"And who is it?" said Porthos.