Part 16 out of 20
"He -- he -- is ---- " murmured Grimaud, pale as a ghost and
seizing his master's hand.
"Who? He?" asked Athos.
"Mordaunt," replied Grimaud.
D'Artagnan, Porthos and Aramis uttered a cry of joy.
Athos stepped back and passed his hand across his brow.
"Fatality!" he muttered.
It was, in fact, Mordaunt whom D'Artagnan had followed,
without knowing it. On entering the house he had taken off
his mask and imitation beard, then, mounting a staircase,
had opened a door, and in a room lighted by a single lamp
found himself face to face with a man seated behind a desk.
This man was Cromwell.
Cromwell had two or three of these retreats in London,
unknown except to the most intimate of his friends. Mordaunt
was among these.
"It is you, Mordaunt," he said. "You are late."
"General, I wished to see the ceremony to the end, which
"Ah! I scarcely thought you were so curious as that."
"I am always curious to see the downfall of your honor's
enemies, and he was not among the least of them. But you,
general, were you not at Whitehall?"
"No," said Cromwell.
There was a moment's silence.
"Have you had any account of it?"
"None. I have been here since the morning. I only know that
there was a conspiracy to rescue the king."
"Ah, you knew that?" said Mordaunt.
"It matters little. Four men, disguised as workmen, were to
get the king out of prison and take him to Greenwich, where
a vessel was waiting."
"And knowing all that, your honor remained here, far from
the city, tranquil and inactive."
"Tranquil, yes," replied Cromwell. "But who told you I was
"But -- if the plot had succeeded?"
"I wished it to do so."
"I thought your excellence considered the death of Charles
I. as a misfortune necessary to the welfare of England."
"Yes, his death; but it would have been more seemly not upon
"Why so?" asked Mordaunt.
Cromwell smiled. "Because it could have been said that I had
had him condemned for the sake of justice and had let him
escape out of pity."
"But if he had escaped?"
"Impossible; my precautions were taken."
"And does your honor know the four men who undertook to
"The four Frenchmen, of whom two were sent by the queen to
her husband and two by Mazarin to me."
"And do you think Mazarin commissioned them to act as they
"It is possible. But he will not avow it."
"Because they failed."
"Your honor gave me two of these Frenchmen when they were
only guilty of fighting for Charles I. Now that they are
guilty of a conspiracy against England will your honor give
me all four of them?"
"Take them," said Cromwell.
Mordaunt bowed with a smile of triumphant ferocity.
"Did the people shout at all?" Cromwell asked.
"Very little, except `Long live Cromwell!'"
"Where were you placed?"
Mordaunt tried for a moment to read in the general's face if
this was simply a useless question, or whether he knew
everything. But his piercing eyes could by no means
penetrate the sombre depths of Cromwell's.
"I was so situated as to hear and see everything," he
It was now Cromwell's turn to look fixedly at Mordaunt, and
Mordaunt to make himself impenetrable.
"It appears," said Cromwell, "that this improvised
executioner did his duty remarkably well. The blow, so they
tell me at least, was struck with a master's hand."
Mordaunt remembered that Cromwell had told him he had had no
detailed account, and he was now quite convinced that the
general had been present at the execution, hidden behind
some screen or curtain.
"In fact," said Mordaunt, with a calm voice and immovable
countenance, "a single blow sufficed."
"Perhaps it was some one in that occupation," said Cromwell.
"Do you think so, sir? He did not look like an executioner."
"And who else save an executioner would have wished to fill
that horrible office?"
"But," said Mordaunt, "it might have been some personal
enemy of the king, who had made a vow of vengeance and
accomplished it in this way. Perhaps it was some man of rank
who had grave reasons for hating the fallen king, and who,
learning that the king was about to flee and escape him,
threw himself in the way, with a mask on his face and an axe
in his hand, not as substitute for the executioner, but as
an ambassador of Fate."
"And if that were the case would your honor condemn his
"It is not for me to judge. It rests between his conscience
and his God."
"But if your honor knew this man?"
"I neither know nor wish to know him. Provided Charles is
dead, it is the axe, not the man, we must thank."
"And yet, without the man, the king would have been
"They would have carried him to Greenwich," he said, "and
put him on board a felucca with five barrels of powder in
the hold. Once out to sea, you are too good a politician not
to understand the rest, Mordaunt."
"Yes, they would have all been blown up."
"Just so. The explosion would have done what the axe had
failed to do. Men would have said that the king had escaped
human justice and been overtaken by God's. You see now why I
did not care to know your gentleman in the mask; for really,
in spite of his excellent intentions, I could not thank him
for what he has done."
Mordaunt bowed humbly. "Sir," he said, "you are a profound
thinker and your plan was sublime."
"Say absurd, since it has become useless. The only sublime
ideas in politics are those which bear fruit. So to-night,
Mordaunt, go to Greenwich and ask for the captain of the
felucca Lightning. Show him a white handkerchief knotted at
the four corners and tell the crew to disembark and carry
the powder back to the arsenal, unless, indeed ---- "
"Unless?" said Mordaunt, whose face was lighted by a savage
joy as Cromwell spoke:
"This skiff might be of use to you for personal projects."
"Oh, my lord, my lord!"
"That title," said Cromwell, laughing, "is all very well
here, but take care a word like that does not escape your
lips in public."
"But your honor will soon be called so generally."
"I hope so, at least," said Cromwell, rising and putting on
"You are going, sir?"
"Yes," said Cromwell. "I slept here last night and the night
before, and you know it is not my custom to sleep three
times in the same bed."
"Then," said Mordaunt, "your honor gives me my liberty for
"And even for all day to-morrow, if you want it. Since last
evening," he added, smiling, "you have done enough in my
service, and if you have any personal matters to settle it
is just that I should give you time."
"Thank you, sir; it will be well employed, I hope."
Cromwell turned as he was going.
"Are you armed?" he asked.
"I have my sword."
"And no one waiting for you outside?"
"Then you had better come with me."
"Thank you, sir, but the way by the subterranean passage
would take too much time and I have none to lose."
Cromwell placed his hand on a hidden handle and opened a
door so well concealed by the tapestry that the most
practiced eye could not have discovered it. It closed after
him with a spring. This door communicated with a
subterranean passage, leading under the street to a grotto
in the garden of a house about a hundred yards from that of
the future Protector.
It was just before this that Grimaud had perceived the two
men seated together.
D'Artagnan was the first to recover from his surprise.
"Mordaunt," he cried. "Ah! by Heaven! it is God Himself who
sent us here."
"Yes," said Porthos, "let us break the door in and fall upon
"No," replied D'Artagnan, "no noise. Now, Grimaud, you come
here, climb up to the window again and tell us if Mordaunt
is alone and whether he is preparing to go out or go to bed.
If he comes out we shall catch him. If he stays in we will
break in the window. It is easier and less noisy than the
Grimaud began to scale the wall again.
"Keep guard at the other door, Athos and Aramis. Porthos and
I will stay here."
The friends obeyed.
"He is alone," said Grimaud.
"We did not see his companion come out."
"He may have gone by the other door."
"What is he doing?"
"Putting on his cloak and gloves."
"He's ours," muttered D'Artagnan.
Porthos mechanically drew his dagger from the scabbard.
"Put it up again, my friend," said D'Artagnan. "We must
proceed in an orderly manner."
"Hush!" said Grimaud, "he is coming out. He has put out the
lamp, I can see nothing now."
"Get down then and quickly."
Grimaud leaped down. The snow deadened the noise of his
"Now go and tell Athos and Aramis to stand on each side of
the door and clap their hands if they catch him. We will do
The next moment the door opened and Mordaunt appeared on the
threshold, face to face with D'Artagnan. Porthos clapped his
hands and the other two came running around. Mordaunt was
livid, but he uttered no cry nor called for assistance.
D'Artagnan quietly pushed him in again, and by the light of
a lamp on the staircase made him ascend the steps backward
one by one, keeping his eyes all the time on Mordaunt's
hands, who, however, knowing that it was useless, attempted
no resistance. At last they stood face to face in the very
room where ten minutes before Mordaunt had been talking to
Porthos came up behind, and unhooking the lamp on the
staircase relit that in the room. Athos and Aramis entered
last and locked the door behind them.
"Oblige me by taking a seat," said D'Artagnan, pushing a
chair toward Mordaunt, who sat down, pale but calm. Aramis,
Porthos and D'Artagnan drew their chairs near him. Athos
alone kept away and sat in the furthest corner of the room,
as if determined to be merely a spectator of the
proceedings. He seemed to be quite overcome. Porthos rubbed
his hands in feverish impatience. Aramis bit his lips till
the blood came.
D'Artagnan alone was calm, at least in appearance.
"Monsieur Mordaunt," he said, "since, after running after
one another so long, chance has at last brought us together,
let us have a little conversation, if you please."
Though Mordaunt had been so completely taken by surprise and
had mounted the stairs in such utter confusion, when once
seated he recovered himself, as it were, and prepared to
seize any possible opportunity of escape. His eye wandered
to a long stout sword on his flank and he instinctively
slipped it around within reach of his right hand.
D'Artagnan was waiting for a reply to his remark and said
nothing. Aramis muttered to himself, "We shall hear nothing
but the usual commonplace things."
Porthos sucked his mustache, muttering, "A good deal of
ceremony to-night about crushing an adder." Athos shrunk
into his corner, pale and motionless as a bas-relief.
The silence, however, could not last forever. So D'Artagnan
"Sir," he said, with desperate politeness, "it seems to me
that you change your costume almost as rapidly as I have
seen the Italian mummers do, whom the Cardinal Mazarin
brought over from Bergamo and whom he doubtless took you to
see during your travels in France."
Mordaunt did not reply.
"Just now," D'Artagnan continued, "you were disguised -- I
mean to say, attired -- as a murderer, and now ---- "
"And now I look very much like a man who is going to be
"Oh! sir," said D'Artagnan, "how can you talk like that when
you are in the company of gentlemen and have such an
excellent sword at your side?"
"No sword is excellent enough to be of use against four
swords and daggers."
"Well, that is scarcely the question. I had the honor of
asking you why you altered your costume. The mask and beard
became you very well, and as to the axe, I do not think it
would be out of keeping even at this moment. Why, then, have
you laid it aside?"
"Because, remembering the scene at Armentieres, I thought I
should find four axes for one, as I was to meet four
"Sir," replied D'Artagnan, in the calmest manner possible,
"you are very young; I shall therefore overlook your
frivolous remarks. What took place at Armentieres has no
connection whatever with the present occasion. We could
scarcely have requested your mother to take a sword and
"Aha! It is a duel, then?" cried Mordaunt, as if disposed to
reply at once to the provocation.
Porthos rose, always ready for this kind of adventure.
"Pardon me," said D'Artagnan. "Do not let us do things in a
hurry. We will arrange the matter rather better. Confess,
Monsieur Mordaunt, that you are anxious to kill some of us."
"All," replied Mordaunt.
"Then, my dear sir; I am convinced that these gentlemen
return your kind wishes and will be delighted to kill you
also. Of course they will do so as honorable gentlemen, and
the best proof I can furnish is this ---- "
So saying, he threw his hat on the ground, pushed back his
chair to the wall and bowed to Mordaunt with true French
"At your service, sir," he continued. "My sword is shorter
than yours, it's true, but, bah! I think the arm will make
up for the sword."
"Halt!" cried Porthos coming forward. "I begin, and without
"Allow me, Porthos," said Aramis.
Athos did not move. He might have been taken for a statue.
Even his breathing seemed to be arrested.
"Gentlemen," said D'Artagnan, "you shall have your turn.
Monsieur Mordaunt dislikes you sufficiently not to refuse
you afterward. You can see it in his eye. So pray keep your
places, like Athos, whose calmness is entirely laudable.
Besides, we will have no words about it. I have particular
business to settle with this gentleman and I shall and will
Porthos and Aramis drew back, disappointed, and drawing his
sword D'Artagnan turned to his adversary:
"Sir, I am waiting for you."
"And for my part, gentlemen, I admire you. You are disputing
which shall fight me first, but you do not consult me who am
most concerned in the matter. I hate you all, but not
equally. I hope to kill all four of you, but I am more
likely to kill the first than the second, the second than
the third, and the third than the last. I claim, then, the
right to choose my opponent. If you refuse this right you
may kill me, but I shall not fight."
"It is but fair," said Porthos and Aramis, hoping he would
choose one of them.
Athos and D'Artagnan said nothing, but their silence seemed
to imply consent.
"Well, then," said Mordaunt, "I choose for my adversary the
man who, not thinking himself worthy to be called Comte de
la Fere, calls himself Athos."
Athos sprang up, but after an instant of motionless silence
he said, to the astonishment of his friends, "Monsieur
Mordaunt, a duel between us is impossible. Submit this
honour to somebody else." And he sat down.
"Ah!" said Mordaunt, with a sneer, "there's one who is
"Zounds!" exclaimed D'Artagnan, bounding toward him, "who
says that Athos is afraid?"
"Let him have his say, D'Artagnan," said Athos, with a smile
of sadness and contempt.
"Is it your decision, Athos?" resumed the Gascon.
"You hear, sir," said D'Artagnan, turning to Mordaunt. "The
Comte de la Fere will not do you the honor of fighting with
you. Choose one of us to replace the Comte de la Fere."
"As long as I don't fight with him it is the same to me with
whom I fight. Put your names into a hat and draw lots."
"A good idea," said D'Artagnan.
"At least that will conciliate us all," said Aramis.
"I should never have thought of that," said Porthos, "and
yet it is very simple."
"Come, Aramis," said D'Artagnan, "write this for us in those
neat little characters in which you wrote to Marie Michon
that the mother of this gentleman intended to assassinate
the Duke of Buckingham."
Mordaunt sustained this new attack without wincing. He stood
with his arms folded, apparently as calm as any man could be
in such circumstances. If he had not courage he had what is
very like it, namely, pride.
Aramis went to Cromwell's desk, tore off three bits of paper
of equal size, wrote on the first his own name and on the
others those of his two companions, and presented them open
to Mordaunt, who by a movement of his head indicated that he
left the matter entirely to Aramis. He then rolled them
separately and put them in a hat, which he handed to
Mordaunt put his hand into the hat, took out one of the
three papers and disdainfully dropped it on the table
without reading it.
"Ah! serpent," muttered D'Artagnan, "I would give my chance
of a captaincy in the mousquetaires for that to be my name."
Aramis opened the paper, and in a voice trembling with hate
and vengeance read "D'Artagnan."
The Gascon uttered a cry of joy and turning to Mordaunt:
"I hope, sir," said he, "you have no objection to make."
"None, whatever," replied the other, drawing his sword and
resting the point on his boot.
The moment that D'Artagnan saw that his wish was
accomplished and his man would not escape him, he recovered
his usual tranquillity. He turned up his cuffs neatly and
rubbed the sole of his right boot on the floor, but did not
fail, however, to remark that Mordaunt was looking about him
in a singular manner.
"Are you ready, sir?" he said at last.
"I was waiting for you, sir," said Mordaunt, raising his
head and casting at his opponent a look it would be
impossible to describe.
"Well, then," said the Gascon, "take care of yourself, for I
am not a bad hand at the rapier."
"Nor I either."
"So much the better; that sets my mind at rest. Defend
"One minute," said the young man. "Give me your word,
gentlemen, that you will not attack me otherwise than one
after the other."
"Is it to have the pleasure of insulting us that you say
that, my little viper?"
"No, but to set my mind at rest, as you observed just now."
"It is for something else than that, I imagine," muttered
D'Artagnan, shaking his head doubtfully.
"On the honor of gentlemen," said Aramis and Porthos.
"In that case, gentlemen, have the kindness to retire into
the corners, so as to give us ample room. We shall require
"Yes, gentlemen," said D'Artagnan, "we must not leave this
person the slightest pretext for behaving badly, which, with
all due respect, I fancy he is anxious still to do."
This new attack made no impression on Mordaunt. The space
was cleared, the two lamps placed on Cromwell's desk, in
order that the combatants might have as much light as
possible; and the swords crossed.
D'Artagnan was too good a swordsman to trifle with his
opponent. He made a rapid and brilliant feint which Mordaunt
"Aha!" he cried with a smile of satisfaction.
And without losing a minute, thinking he saw an opening, he
thrust his right in and forced Mordaunt to parry a counter
en quarte so fine that the point of the weapon might have
turned within a wedding ring.
This time it was Mordaunt who smiled.
"Ah, sir," said D'Artagnan, "you have a wicked smile. It
must have been the devil who taught it you, was it not?"
Mordaunt replied by trying his opponent's weapon with an
amount of strength which the Gascon was astonished to find
in a form apparently so feeble; but thanks to a parry no
less clever than that which Mordaunt had just achieved, he
succeeded in meeting his sword, which slid along his own
without touching his chest.
Mordaunt rapidly sprang back a step.
"Ah! you lose ground, you are turning? Well, as you please,
I even gain something by it, for I no longer see that wicked
smile of yours. You have no idea what a false look you have,
particularly when you are afraid. Look at my eyes and you
will see what no looking-glass has ever shown you -- a frank
and honorable countenance."
To this flow of words, not perhaps in the best taste, but
characteristic of D'Artagnan, whose principal object was to
divert his opponent's attention, Mordaunt did not reply, but
continuing to turn around he succeeded in changing places
He smiled more and more sarcastically and his smile began to
make the Gascon anxious.
"Come, come," cried D'Artagnan, "we must finish with this,"
and in his turn he pressed Mordaunt hard, who continued to
lose ground, but evidently on purpose and without letting
his sword leave the line for a moment. However, as they were
fighting in a room and had not space to go on like that
forever, Mordaunt's foot at last touched the wall, against
which he rested his left hand.
"Ah, this time you cannot lose ground, my fine friend!"
exclaimed D'Artagnan. "Gentlemen, did you ever see a
scorpion pinned to a wall? No. Well, then, you shall see it
In a second D'Artagnan had made three terrible thrusts at
Mordaunt, all of which touched, but only pricked him. The
three friends looked on, panting and astonished. At last
D'Artagnan, having got up too close, stepped back to prepare
a fourth thrust, but the moment when, after a fine, quick
feint, he was attacking as sharply as lightning, the wall
seemed to give way, Mordaunt disappeared through the
opening, and D'Artagnan's blade, caught between the panels,
shivered like a sword of glass. D'Artagnan sprang back; the
wall had closed again.
Mordaunt, in fact, while defending himself, had manoeuvred
so as to reach the secret door by which Cromwell had left,
had felt for the knob with his left hand, pressed it and
The Gascon uttered a furious imprecation, which was answered
by a wild laugh on the other side of the iron panel.
"Help me, gentlemen," cried D'Artagnan, "we must break in
"It is the devil in person!" said Aramis, hastening forward.
"He escapes us," growled Porthos, pushing his huge shoulder
against the hinges, but in vain. "'Sblood! he escapes us."
"So much the better," muttered Athos.
"I thought as much," said D'Artagnan, wasting his strength
in useless efforts. "Zounds, I thought as much when the
wretch kept moving around the room. I thought he was up to
"It's a misfortune, to which his friend, the devil, treats
us," said Aramis.
"It's a piece of good fortune sent from Heaven," said Athos,
evidently much relieved.
"Really!" said D'Artagnan, abandoning the attempt to burst
open the panel after several ineffectual attempts, "Athos, I
cannot imagine how you can talk to us in that way. You
cannot understand the position we are in. In this kind of
game, not to kill is to let one's self be killed. This fox
of a fellow will be sending us a hundred iron-sided beasts
who will pick us off like sparrows in this place. Come,
come, we must be off. If we stay here five minutes more
there's an end of us."
"Yes, you are right."
"But where shall we go?" asked Porthos.
"To the hotel, to be sure, to get our baggage and horses;
and from there, if it please God, to France, where, at
least, I understand the architecture of the houses."
So, suiting the action to the word, D'Artagnan thrust the
remnant of his sword into its scabbard, picked up his hat
and ran down the stairs, followed by the others.
The Skiff "Lightning."
D'Artagnan had judged correctly; Mordaunt felt that he had
no time to lose, and he lost none. He knew the rapidity of
decision and action that characterized his enemies and
resolved to act with reference to that. This time the
musketeers had an adversary who was worthy of them.
After closing the door carefully behind him Mordaunt glided
into the subterranean passage, sheathing on the way his now
useless sword, and thus reached the neighboring house, where
he paused to examine himself and to take breath.
"Good!" he said, "nothing, almost nothing -- scratches,
nothing more; two in the arm and one in the breast. The
wounds that I make are better than that -- witness the
executioner of Bethune, my uncle and King Charles. Now, not
a second to lose, for a second lost will perhaps save them.
They must die -- die all together -- killed at one stroke by
the thunder of men in default of God's. They must disappear,
broken, scattered, annihilated. I will run, then, till my
legs no longer serve, till my heart bursts in my bosom but I
will arrive before they do."
Mordaunt proceeded at a rapid pace to the nearest cavalry
barracks, about a quarter of a league distant. He made that
quarter of a league in four or five minutes. Arrived at the
barracks he made himself known, took the best horse in the
stables, mounted and gained the high road. A quarter of an
hour later he was at Greenwich.
"There is the port," he murmured. "That dark point yonder is
the Isle of Dogs. Good! I am half an hour in advance of
them, an hour, perhaps. Fool that I was! I have almost
killed myself by my needless haste. Now," he added, rising
in the stirrups and looking about him, "which, I wonder, is
At this moment, as if in reply to his words, a man lying on
a coil of cables rose and advanced a few steps toward him.
Mordaunt drew a handkerchief from his pocket, and tying a
knot at each corner -- the signal agreed upon -- waved it in
the air and the man came up to him. He was wrapped in a
large rough cape, which concealed his form and partly his
"Do you wish to go on the water, sir?" said the sailor.
"Yes, just so. Along the Isle of Dogs."
"And perhaps you have a preference for one boat more than
another. You would like one that sails as rapidly as ---- "
"Lightning," interrupted Mordaunt.
"Then mine is the boat you want, sir. I'm your man."
"I begin to think so, particularly if you have not forgotten
a certain signal."
"Here it is, sir," and the sailor took from his coat a
handkerchief, tied at each corner.
"Good, quite right!" cried Mordaunt, springing off his
horse. "There's not a moment to lose; now take my horse to
the nearest inn and conduct me to your vessel."
"But," asked the sailor, "where are your companions? I
thought there were four of you."
"Listen to me, sir. I'm not the man you take me for; you are
in Captain Rogers's post, are you not? under orders from
General Cromwell. Mine, also, are from him!"
"Indeed, sir, I recognize you; you are Captain Mordaunt."
Mordaunt was startled.
"Oh, fear nothing," said the skipper, showing his face. "I
am a friend."
"Captain Groslow!" cried Mordaunt.
"Himself. The general remembered that I had formerly been a
naval officer and he gave me the command of this expedition.
Is there anything new in the wind?"
"I thought, perhaps, that the king's death ---- "
"Has only hastened their flight; in ten minutes they will
perhaps be here."
"What have you come for, then?"
"To embark with you."
"Ah! ah! the general doubted my fidelity?"
"No, but I wish to have a share in my revenge. Haven't you
some one who will relieve me of my horse?"
Groslow whistled and a sailor appeared.
"Patrick," said Groslow, "take this horse to the stables of
the nearest inn. If any one asks you whose it is you can say
that it belongs to an Irish gentleman."
The sailor departed without reply.
"Now," said Mordaunt, "are you not afraid that they will
"There is no danger, dressed as I am in this pilot coat, on
a night as dark as this. Besides even you didn't recognize
me; they will be much less likely to."
"That is true," said Mordaunt, "and they will be far from
thinking of you. Everything is ready, is it not?"
"The cargo on board?"
"Five full casks?"
"And fifty empty ones."
"We are carrying port wine to Anvers."
"Excellent. Now take me aboard and return to your post, for
they will soon be here."
"I am ready."
"It is important that none of your crew should see me."
"I have but one man on board, and I am as sure of him as I
am of myself. Besides, he doesn't know you; like his mates
he is ready to obey our orders knowing nothing of our plan."
"Very well; let us go."
They then went down to the Thames. A boat was fastened to
the shore by a chain fixed to a stake. Groslow jumped in,
followed by Mordaunt, and in five minutes they were quite
away from that world of houses which then crowded the
outskirts of London; and Mordaunt could discern the little
vessel riding at anchor near the Isle of Dogs. When they
reached the side of this felucca, Mordaunt, dexterous in his
eagerness for vengeance, seized a rope and climbed up the
side of the vessel with a coolness and agility very rare
among landsmen. He went with Groslow to the captain's berth,
a sort of temporary cabin of planks, for the chief apartment
had been given up by Captain Rogers to the passengers, who
were to be accommodated at the other end of the boat.
"They will have nothing to do, then at this end?" said
"Nothing at all."
"That's a capital arrangement. Return to Greenwich and bring
them here. I shall hide myself in your cabin. You have a
"That in which we came."
"It appeared light and well constructed."
"Quite a canoe."
"Fasten it to the poop with a rope; put the oars into it, so
that it may follow in the track and there will be nothing to
do except to cut the cord. Put a good supply of rum and
biscuit in it for the seamen; should the night happen to be
stormy they will not be sorry to find something to console
"Consider all this done. Do you wish to see the
"No. When you return I will set the fuse myself, but be
careful to conceal your face, so that you cannot be
recognized by them."
"There's ten o'clock striking at Greenwich."
Groslow, then, having given the sailor on duty an order to
be on the watch with more than usual vigilance, went down
into the longboat and soon reached Greenwich. The wind was
chilly and the jetty was deserted, as he approached it; but
he had no sooner landed than he heard a noise of horses
galloping upon the paved road.
These horsemen were our friends, or rather, an avant garde,
composed of D'Artagnan and Athos. As soon as they arrived at
the spot where Groslow stood they stopped, as if guessing
that he was the man they wanted. Athos alighted and calmly
opened the handkerchief tied at each corner, whilst
D'Artagnan, ever cautious, remained on horseback, one hand
upon his pistol, leaning forward watchfully.
On seeing the appointed signal, Groslow, who had at first
crept behind one of the cannon planted on that spot, walked
straight up to the gentlemen. He was so well wrapped up in
his cloak that it would have been impossible to see his face
even if the night had not been so dark as to render
precaution superfluous; nevertheless, the keen glance of
Athos perceived at once it was not Rogers who stood before
"What do you want with us?" he asked of Groslow.
"I wish to inform you, my lord," replied Groslow, with an
Irish accent, feigned of course, "that if you are looking
for Captain Rogers you will not find him. He fell down this
morning and broke his leg. But I'm his cousin; he told me
everything and desired me to watch instead of him, and in
his place to conduct, wherever they wished to go, the
gentlemen who should bring me a handkerchief tied at each
corner, like that one which you hold and one which I have in
And he drew out the handkerchief.
"Was that all he said?" inquired Athos.
"No, my lord; he said you had engaged to pay seventy pounds
if I landed you safe and sound at Boulogne or any other port
you choose in France."
"What do you think of all this?" said Athos, in a low tone
to D'Artagnan, after explaining to him in French what the
sailor had said in English.
"It seems a likely story to me."
"And to me, too."
"Besides, we can but blow out his brains if he proves
false," said the Gascon; "and you, Athos, you know something
of everything and can be our captain. I dare say you know
how to navigate, should he fail us."
"My dear friend, you guess well. My father meant me for the
navy and I have some vague notions about navigation."
"You see!" cried D'Artagnan.
They then summoned their friends, who, with Blaisois,
Mousqueton and Grimaud, promptly joined them, leaving Parry
behind them, who was to take back to London the horses of
the gentlemen and of their lackeys, which had been sold to
the host in settlement of their account with him. Thanks to
this stroke of business the four friends were able to take
away with them a sum of money which, if not large, was
sufficient as a provision against delays and accidents.
Parry parted from his friends regretfully; they had proposed
his going with them to France, but he had straightway
"It is very simple," Mousqueton had said; "he is thinking of
It was Captain Groslow, the reader will remember, who had
broken Parry's head.
D'Artagnan resumed immediately the attitude of distrust that
was habitual with him. He found the wharf too completely
deserted, the night too dark, the captain too accommodating.
He had reported to Aramis what had taken place, and Aramis,
not less distrustful than he, had increased his suspicions.
A slight click of the tongue against his teeth informed
Athos of the Gascon's uneasiness.
"We have no time now for suspicions," said Athos. "The boat
is waiting for us; come."
"Besides," said Aramis, "what prevents our being distrustful
and going aboard at the same time? We can watch the
"And if he doesn't go straight I will crush him, that's
"Well said, Porthos," replied D'Artagnan. "Let us go, then.
You first, Mousqueton," and he stopped his friends, directing
the valets to go first, in order to test the plank leading
from the pier to the boat.
The three valets passed without accident. Athos followed
them, then Porthos, then Aramis. D'Artagnan went last, still
shaking his head.
"What in the devil is the matter with you, my friend?" said
Porthos. "Upon my word you would make Caesar afraid."
"The matter is," replied D'Artagnan, "that I can see upon
this pier neither inspector nor sentinel nor exciseman."
"And you complain of that!" said Porthos. "Everything goes
as if in flowery paths."
"Everything goes too well, Porthos. But no matter; we must
trust in God."
As soon as the plank was withdrawn the captain took his
place at the tiller and made a sign to one of the sailors,
who, boat-hook in hand, began to push out from the labyrinth
of boats in which they were involved. The other sailor had
already seated himself on the port side and was ready to
row. As soon as there was room for rowing, his companion
rejoined him and the boat began to move more rapidly.
"At last we are off!" exclaimed Porthos.
"Alas," said Athos, "we depart alone."
"Yes; but all four together and without a scratch; which is
"We are not yet at our destination," observed the prudent
D'Artagnan; "beware of misadventure."
"Ah, my friend!" cried Porthos, "like the crows, you always
bring bad omens. Who could intercept us on such a night as
this, pitch dark, when one does not see more than twenty
yards before one?"
"Yes, but to-morrow morning ---- "
"To-morrow we shall be at Boulogne."
"I hope so, with all my heart," said the Gascon, "and I
confess my weakness. Yes, Athos, you may laugh, but as long
as we were within gunshot of the pier or of the vessels
lying by it I was looking for a frightful discharge of
musketry which would crush us."
"But," said Porthos, with great wisdom, "that was
impossible, for they would have killed the captain and the
"Bah! much Monsieur Mordaunt would care. You don't imagine
he would consider a little thing like that?"
"At any rate," said Porthos, "I am glad to hear D'Artagnan
admit that he is afraid."
"I not only confess it, but am proud of it," returned the
Gascon; "I'm not such a rhinoceros as you are. Oho! what's
"The Lightning," answered the captain, "our felucca."
"So far, so good," laughed Athos.
They went on board and the captain instantly conducted them
to the berth prepared for them -- a cabin which was to serve
for all purposes and for the whole party; he then tried to
slip away under pretext of giving orders to some one.
"Stop a moment," cried D'Artagnan; "pray how many men have
you on board, captain?"
"I don't understand," was the reply.
"Explain it, Athos."
Groslow, on the question being interpreted, answered,
"Three, without counting myself."
D'Artagnan understood, for while replying the captain had
raised three fingers. "Oh!" he exclaimed, "I begin to be
more at my ease, however, whilst you settle yourselves, I
shall make the round of the boat."
"As for me," said Porthos, "I will see to the supper."
"A very good idea, Porthos," said the Gascon. "Athos lend me
Grimaud, who in the society of his friend Parry has perhaps
picked up a little English, and can act as my interpreter."
"Go, Grimaud," said Athos.
D'Artagnan, finding a lantern on the deck, took it up and
with a pistol in his hand he said to the captain, in
English, "Come," (being, with the classic English oath, the
only English words he knew), and so saying he descended to
the lower deck.
This was divided into three compartments -- one which was
covered by the floor of that room in which Athos, Porthos
and Aramis were to pass the night; the second was to serve
as the sleeping-room for the servants, the third, under the
prow of the ship, was under the temporary cabin in which
Mordaunt was concealed.
"Oho!" cried D'Artagnan, as he went down the steps of the
hatchway, preceded by the lantern, "what a number of
barrels! one would think one was in the cave of Ali Baba.
What is there in them?" he added, putting his lantern on one
of the casks.
The captain seemed inclined to go upon deck again, but
controlling himself he answered:
"Ah! port wine! 'tis a comfort," said the Gascon, "since we
shall not die of thirst. Are they all full?"
Grimaud translated the question, and Groslow, who was wiping
the perspiration from off his forehead, answered:
"Some full, others empty."
D'Artagnan struck the barrels with his hand, and having
ascertained that he spoke the truth, pushed his lantern,
greatly to the captain's alarm, into the interstices between
the barrels, and finding that there was nothing concealed in
"Come along," he said; and he went toward the door of the
"Stop!" said the Englishman, "I have the key of that door;"
and he opened the door, with a trembling hand, into the
second compartment, where Mousqueton and Blaisois were
Here there was evidently nothing to seek or to apprehend and
they passed rapidly to examine the third compartment.
This was the room appropriated to the sailors. Two or three
hammocks hung upon the ceiling, a table and two benches
composed the entire furniture. D'Artagnan picked up two or
three old sails hung on the walls, and meeting nothing to
suspect, regained by the hatchway the deck of the vessel.
"And this room?" he asked, pointing to the captain's cabin.
"That's my room," replied Groslow.
"Open the door."
The captain obeyed. D'Artagnan stretched out his arm in
which he held the lantern, put his head in at the half
opened door, and seeing that the cabin was nothing better
than a shed:
"Good," he said. "If there is an army on board it is not
here that it is hidden. Let us see what Porthos has found
for supper." And thanking the captain, he regained the state
cabin, where his friends were.
Porthos had found nothing, and with him fatigue had
prevailed over hunger. He had fallen asleep and was in a
profound slumber when D'Artagnan returned. Athos and Aramis
were beginning to close their eyes, which they half opened
when their companion came in again.
"Well!" said Aramis.
"All is well; we may sleep tranquilly."
On this assurance the two friends fell asleep; and
D'Artagnan, who was very weary, bade good-night to Grimaud
and laid himself down in his cloak, with naked sword at his
side, in such a manner that his body barricaded the passage,
and it should be impossible to enter the room without
In ten minutes the masters slept; not so the servants
---hungry, and more thirsty than hungry.
Blaisois and Mousqueton set themselves to preparing their bed
which consisted of a plank and a valise. On a hanging table,
which swung to and fro with the rolling of the vessel, were
a pot of beer and three glasses.
"This cursed rolling!" said Blaisois. "I know it will serve
me as it did when we came over."
"And to think," said Mousqueton, "that we have nothing to
fight seasickness with but barley bread and hop beer. Pah!"
"But where is your wicker flask, Monsieur Mousqueton? Have
you lost it?" asked Blaisois.
"No," replied Mousqueton, "Parry kept it. Those devilish
Scotchmen are always thirsty. And you, Grimaud," he said to
his companion, who had just come in after his round with
D'Artagnan, "are you thirsty?"
"As thirsty as a Scotchman!" was Grimaud's laconic reply.
And he sat down and began to cast up the accounts of his
party, whose money he managed.
"Oh, lackadaisy! I'm beginning to feel queer!" cried
"If that's the case," said Mousqueton, with a learned air,
"take some nourishment."
"Do you call that nourishment?" said Blaisois, pointing to
the barley bread and pot of beer upon the table.
"Blaisois," replied Mousqueton, "remember that bread is the
true nourishment of a Frenchman, who is not always able to
get bread, ask Grimaud."
"Yes, but beer?" asked Blaisois sharply, "is that their true
"As to that," answered Mousqueton, puzzled how to get out of
the difficulty, "I must confess that to me beer is as
disagreeable as wine is to the English."
"What! Monsieur Mousqueton! The English -- do they dislike
"They hate it."
"But I have seen them drink it."
"As a punishment. For example, an English prince died one
day because they had put him into a butt of Malmsey. I heard
the Chevalier d'Herblay say so."
"The fool!" cried Blaisois, "I wish I had been in his
"Thou canst be," said Grimaud, writing down his figures.
"How?" asked Blaisois, "I can? Explain yourself."
Grimaud went on with his sum and cast up the whole.
"Port," he said, extending his hand in the direction of the
first compartment examined by D'Artagnan and himself.
"Eh? eh? ah? Those barrels I saw through the door?"
"Port!" replied Grimaud, beginning a fresh sum.
"I have heard," said Blaisois, "that port is a very good
"Excellent!" exclaimed Mousqueton, smacking his lips.
"Excellent; there is port wine in the cellar of Monsieur le
Baron de Bracieux."
"Suppose we ask these Englishmen to sell us a bottle," said
the honest Blaisois.
"Sell!" cried Mousqueton, about whom there was a remnant of
his ancient marauding character left. "One may well
perceive, young man, that you are inexperienced. Why buy
what one can take?"
"Take!" said Blaisois; "covet the goods of your neighbor?
That is forbidden, it seems to me."
"Where forbidden?" asked Mousqueton.
"In the commandments of God, or of the church, I don't know
which. I only know it says, `Thou shalt not covet thy
neighbor's goods, nor yet his wife.'"
"That is a child's reason, Monsieur Blaisois," said
Mousqueton in his most patronizing manner. "Yes, you talk
like a child -- I repeat the word. Where have you read in
the Scriptures, I ask you, that the English are your
"Where, that is true," said Blaisois; "at least, I can't now
"A child's reason -- I repeat it," continued Mousqueton. "If
you had been ten years engaged in war, as Grimaud and I have
been, my dear Blaisois, you would know the difference there
is between the goods of others and the goods of enemies. Now
an Englishman is an enemy; this port wine belongs to the
English, therefore it belongs to us."
"And our masters?" asked Blaisois, stupefied by this
harangue, delivered with an air of profound sagacity, "will
they be of your opinion?"
Mousqueton smiled disdainfully.
"I suppose that you think it necessary that I should disturb
the repose of these illustrious lords to say, `Gentlemen,
your servant, Mousqueton, is thirsty.' What does Monsieur
Bracieux care, think you, whether I am thirsty or not?"
"'Tis a very expensive wine," said Blaisois, shaking his
"Were it liquid gold, Monsieur Blaisois, our masters would
not deny themselves this wine. Know that Monsieur de
Bracieux is rich enough to drink a tun of port wine, even if
obliged to pay a pistole for every drop." His manner became
more and more lofty every instant; then he arose and after
finishing off the beer at one draught he advanced
majestically to the door of the compartment where the wine
was. "Ah! locked!" he exclaimed; "these devils of English,
how suspicious they are!"
"Locked!" said Blaisois; "ah! the deuce it is; unlucky, for
my stomach is getting more and more upset."
"Locked!" repeated Mousqueton.
"But," Blaisois ventured to say, "I have heard you relate,
Monsieur Mousqueton, that once on a time, at Chantilly, you
fed your master and yourself by taking partridges in a
snare, carp with a line, and bottles with a slipnoose."
"Perfectly true; but there was an airhole in the cellar and
the wine was in bottles. I cannot throw the loop through
this partition nor move with a pack-thread a cask of wine
which may perhaps weigh two hundred pounds."
"No, but you can take out two or three boards of the
partition," answered Blaisois, "and make a hole in the cask
with a gimlet."
Mousqueton opened his great round eyes to the utmost,
astonished to find in Blaisois qualities for which he did
not give him credit.
"'Tis true," he said; "but where can I get a chisel to take
the planks out, a gimlet to pierce the cask?"
"Trousers," said Grimaud, still squaring his accounts.
"Ah, yes!" said Mousqueton.
Grimaud, in fact, was not only the accountant, but the
armorer of the party; and as he was a man full of
forethought, these trousers, carefully rolled up in his
valise, contained every sort of tool for immediate use.
Mousqueton, therefore, was soon provided with tools and he
began his task. In a few minutes he had extracted three
boards. He tried to pass his body through the aperture, but
not being like the frog in the fable, who thought he was
larger than he really was, he found he must take out three
or four more before he could get through.
He sighed and set to work again.
Grimaud had now finished his accounts. He arose and stood
"I," he said.
"What?" said Mousqueton.
"I can pass."
"That is true," said Mousqueton, glancing at his friend's
long and thin body, "you will pass easily."
"And he knows the full casks," said Blaisois, "for he has
already been in the hold with Monsieur le Chevalier
d'Artagnan. Let Monsieur Grimaud go in, Monsieur Mouston."
"I could go in as well as Grimaud," said Mousqueton, a little
"Yes, but that would take too much time and I am thirsty. I
am getting more and more seasick."
"Go in, then, Grimaud," said Mousqueton, handing him the beer
pot and gimlet.
"Rinse the glasses," said Grimaud. Then with a friendly
gesture toward Mousqueton, that he might forgive him for
finishing an enterprise so brilliantly begun by another, he
glided like a serpent through the opening and disappeared.
Blaisois was in a state of great excitement; he was in
ecstasies. Of all the exploits performed since their arrival
in England by the extraordinary men with whom he had the
honor to be associated, this seemed without question to be
the most wonderful.
"You are about to see" said Mousqueton, looking at Blaisois
with an expression of superiority which the latter did not
even think of questioning, "you are about to see, Blaisois,
how we old soldiers drink when we are thirsty."
"My cloak," said Grimaud, from the bottom of the hold.
"What do you want?" asked Blaisois.
"My cloak -- stop up the aperture with it."
"Why?" asked Blaisois.
"Simpleton!" exclaimed Mousqueton; "suppose any one came into
"Ah, true," cried Blaisois, with evident admiration; "but it
will be dark in the cellar."
"Grimaud always sees, dark or light, night as well as day,"
"That is lucky," said Blaisois. "As for me, when I have no
candle I can't take two steps without knocking against
"That's because you haven't served," said Mousqueton. "Had
you been in the army you would have been able to pick up a
needle on the floor of a closed oven. But hark! I think some
one is coming."
Mousqueton made, with a low whistling sound, the sign of
alarm well known to the lackeys in the days of their youth,
resumed his place at the table and made a sign to Blaisois
to follow his example.
The door of their cabin was opened. Two men, wrapped in
their cloaks, appeared.
"Oho!" said they, "not in bed at a quarter past eleven.
That's against all rules. In a quarter of an hour let every
one be in bed and snoring."
These two men then went toward the compartment in which
Grimaud was secreted; opened the door, entered and shut it
"Ah!" cried Blaisois, "he is lost!"
"Grimaud's a cunning fellow," murmured Mousqueton.
They waited for ten minutes, during which time no noise was
heard that might indicate that Grimaud was discovered, and
at the expiration of that anxious interval the two men
returned, closed the door after them, and repeating their
orders that the servants should go to bed and extinguish
their lights, disappeared.
"Shall we obey?" asked Blaisois. "All this looks
"They said a quarter of an hour. We still have five
minutes," replied Mousqueton.
"Suppose we warn the masters."
"Let's wait for Grimaud."
"But perhaps they have killed him."
"Grimaud would have cried out."
"You know he is almost dumb."
"We should have heard the blow, then."
"But if he doesn't return?"
"Here he is."
At that very moment Grimaud drew back the cloak which hid
the aperture and came in with his face livid, his eyes
staring wide open with terror, so that the pupils were
contracted almost to nothing, with a large circle of white
around them. He held in his hand a tankard full of a dark
substance, and approaching the gleam of light shed by the
lamp he uttered this single monosyllable: "Oh!" with such an
expression of extreme terror that Mousqueton started,
alarmed, and Blaisois was near fainting from fright.
Both, however, cast an inquisitive glance into the tankard
-- it was full of gunpowder.
Convinced that the ship was full of powder instead of having
a cargo of wine, Grimaud hastened to awake D'Artagnan, who
had no sooner beheld him than he perceived that something
extraordinary had taken place. Imposing silence, Grimaud put
out the little night lamp, then knelt down and poured into
the lieutenant's ear a recital melodramatic enough not to
require play of feature to give it pith.
This was the gist of his strange story:
The first barrel that Grimaud had found on passing into the
compartment he struck -- it was empty. He passed on to
another -- it, also, was empty, but the third which he tried
was, from the dull sound it gave out, evidently full. At
this point Grimaud stopped and was preparing to make a hole
with his gimlet, when he found a spigot; he therefore placed
his tankard under it and turned the spout; something,
whatever it was the cask contained, fell silently into the
Whilst he was thinking that he should first taste the liquor
which the tankard contained before taking it to his
companions, the door of the cellar opened and a man with a
lantern in his hands and enveloped in a cloak, came and
stood just before the hogshead, behind which Grimaud, on
hearing him come in, instantly crept. This was Groslow. He
was accompanied by another man, who carried in his hand
something long and flexible rolled up, resembling a washing
line. His face was hidden under the wide brim of his hat.
Grimaud, thinking that they had come, as he had, to try the
port wine, effaced himself behind his cask and consoled
himself with the reflection that if he were discovered the
crime was not a great one.
"Have you the wick?" asked the one who carried the lantern.
"Here it is," answered the other.
At the voice of this last speaker, Grimaud started and felt
a shudder creeping through his very marrow. He rose gently,
so that his head was just above the round of the barrel, and
under the large hat he recognized the pale face of Mordaunt.
"How long will this fuse burn?" asked this person.
"About five minutes," replied the captain.
That voice also was known to Grimaud. He looked from one to
the other and after Mordaunt he recognized Groslow.
"Then tell the men to be in readiness -- don't tell them why
now. When the clock strikes a quarter after midnight collect
your men. Get down into the longboat."
"That is, when I have lighted the match?"
"I will undertake that. I wish to be sure of my revenge. Are
the oars in the boat?"
"Everything is ready."
Mordaunt knelt down and fastened one end of the train to the
spigot, in order that he might have nothing to do but to set
it on fire at the opposite end with the match.
He then arose.
"You hear me -- at a quarter past midnight -- in fact, in
"I understand all perfectly, sir," replied Groslow; "but
allow me to say there is great danger in what you undertake;
would it not be better to intrust one of the men to set fire
to the train?"
"My dear Groslow," answered Mordaunt, "you know the French
proverb, `Nothing one does not do one's self is ever well
done.' I shall abide by that rule."
Grimaud had heard all this, if he had not understood it. But
what he saw made good what he lacked in perfect
comprehension of the language. He had seen the two mortal
enemies of the musketeers, had seen Mordaunt adjust the
fuse; he had heard the proverb, which Mordaunt had given in
French. Then he felt and felt again the contents of the
tankard he held in his hand; and, instead of the lively
liquor expected by Blaisois and Mousqueton, he found beneath
his fingers the grains of some coarse powder.
Mordaunt went away with the captain. At the door he stopped
"Do you hear how they sleep?" he asked.
In fact, Porthos could be heard snoring through the
"'Tis God who gives them into our hands," answered Groslow.
"This time the devil himself shall not save them," rejoined
And they went out together.
End of the Port Wine Mystery.
Grimaud waited till he heard the bolt grind in the lock and
when he was satisfied that he was alone he slowly rose from
his recumbent posture.
"Ah!" he said, wiping with his sleeve large drops of sweat
from his forehead, "how lucky it was that Mousqueton was
He made haste to pass out by the opening, still thinking
himself in a dream; but the sight of the gunpowder in the
tankard proved to him that his dream was a fatal nightmare.
It may be imagined that D'Artagnan listened to these details
with increasing interest; before Grimaud had finished he
rose without noise and putting his mouth to Aramis's ear,
and at the same time touching him on the shoulder to prevent
a sudden movement:
"Chevalier," he said, "get up and don't make the least
Aramis awoke. D'Artagnan, pressing his hand, repeated his
call. Aramis obeyed.
"Athos is near you," said D'Artagnan; "warn him as I have
Aramis easily aroused Athos, whose sleep was light, like
that of all persons of a finely organized constitution. But
there was more difficulty in arousing Porthos. He was
beginning to ask full explanation of that breaking in on his
sleep, which was very annoying to him, when D'Artagnan,
instead of explaining, closed his mouth with his hand.
Then our Gascon, extending his arms, drew to him the heads
of his three friends till they almost touched one another.
"Friends," he said, "we must leave this craft at once or we
are dead men."
"Bah!" said Athos, "are you still afraid?"
"Do you know who is captain of this vessel?"
The shudder of the three musketeers showed to D'Artagnan
that his words began to make some impression on them.
"Groslow!" said Aramis; "the devil!
"Who is this Groslow?" asked Porthos. "I don't remember
"Groslow is the man who broke Parry's head and is now
getting ready to break ours."
"And do you know who is his lieutenant?"
"His lieutenant? There is none," said Athos. "They don't
have lieutenants in a felucca manned by a crew of four."
"Yes, but Monsieur Groslow is not a captain of the ordinary
kind; he has a lieutenant, and that lieutenant is Monsieur
This time the musketeers did more than shudder -- they
almost cried out. Those invincible men were subject to a
mysterious and fatal influence which that name had over
them; the mere sound of it filled them with terror.
"What shall we do?" said Athos.
"We must seize the felucca," said Aramis.
"And kill him," said Porthos.
"The felucca is mined," said D'Artagnan. "Those casks which
I took for casks of port wine are filled with powder. When
Mordaunt finds himself discovered he will destroy all,
friends and foes; and on my word he would be bad company in
going either to Heaven or to hell."
"You have some plan, then?" asked Athos.
"What is it?"
"Have you confidence in me?"
"Give your orders," said the three musketeers.
"Very well; come this way."
D'Artagnan went toward a very small, low window, just large
enough to let a man through. He turned it gently on its
"There," he said, "is our road."
"The deuce! it is a very cold one, my dear friend," said
"Stay here, if you like, but I warn you 'twill be rather too
"But we cannot swim to the shore."
"The longboat is yonder, lashed to the felucca. We will take
possession of it and cut the cable. Come, my friends."
"A moment's delay," said Athos; "our servants?"
"Here we are!" they cried.
Meantime the three friends were standing motionless before
the awful sight which D'Artagnan, in raising the shutters,
had disclosed to them through the narrow opening of the
Those who have once beheld such a spectacle know that there
is nothing more solemn, more striking, than the raging sea,
rolling, with its deafening roar, its dark billows beneath
the pale light of a wintry moon.
"Gracious Heaven, we are hesitating!" cried D'Artagnan; "if
we hesitate what will the servants do?"
"I do not hesitate, you know," said Grimaud.
"Sir," interposed Blaisois, "I warn you that I can only swim
"And I not at all," said Mousqueton.
But D'Artagnan had now slipped through the window.
"You have decided, friend?" said Athos.
"Yes," the Gascon answered; "Athos! you, who are a perfect
being, bid spirit triumph over body. Do you, Aramis, order
the servants. Porthos, kill every one who stands in your
And after pressing the hand of Athos, D'Artagnan chose a
moment when the ship rolled backward, so that he had only to
plunge into the water, which was already up to his waist.
Athos followed him before the felucca rose again on the
waves; the cable which tied the boat to the vessel was then
seen plainly rising out of the sea.
D'Artagnan swam to it and held it, suspending himself by
this rope, his head alone out of water.
In one second Athos joined him.
Then they saw, as the felucca turned, two other heads
peeping, those of Aramis and Grimaud.
"I am uneasy about Blaisois," said Athos; "he can, he says,
only swim in rivers."
"When people can swim at all they can swim anywhere. To the
boat! to the boat!"
"But Porthos, I do not see him."
"Porthos is coming -- he swims like Leviathan."
In fact, Porthos did not appear; for a scene, half tragedy
and half comedy, had been performed by him with Mousqueton
and Blaisois, who, frightened by the noise of the sea, by
the whistling of the wind, by the sight of that dark water
yawning like a gulf beneath them, shrank back instead of
"Come, come!" said Porthos; "jump in."
"But, monsieur," said Mousqueton, "I can't swim; let me stay
"And me, too, monsieur," said Blaisois.
"I assure you, I shall be very much in the way in that
little boat," said Mousqueton.
"And I know I shall drown before reaching it," continued
"Come along! I shall strangle you both if you don't get
out," said Porthos at last, seizing Mousqueton by the throat.
A groan, stifled by the grasp of Porthos, was all the reply
of poor Blaisois, for the giant, taking him neck and heels,
plunged him into the water headforemost, pushing him out of
the window as if he had been a plank.
"Now, Mousqueton," he said, "I hope you don't mean to desert
"Ah, sir," replied Mousqueton, his eyes filling with tears,
"why did you re-enter the army? We were all so happy in the
Chateau de Pierrefonds!"
And without any other complaint, passive and obedient,
either from true devotion to his master or from the example
set by Blaisois, Mousqueton leaped into the sea headforemost.
A sublime action, at all events, for Mousqueton looked upon
himself as dead. But Porthos was not a man to abandon an old
servant, and when Mousqueton rose above the water, blind as a
new-born puppy, he found he was supported by the large hand
of Porthos and that he was thus enabled, without having
occasion even to move, to advance toward the cable with the
dignity of a very triton.
In a few minutes Porthos had rejoined his companions, who
were already in the boat; but when, after they had all got
in, it came to his turn, there was great danger that in
putting his huge leg over the edge of the boat he would
upset the little vessel. Athos was the last to enter.
"Are you all here?" he asked.
"Ah! have you your sword, Athos?" cried D'Artagnan.
"Cut the cable, then."
Athos drew a sharp poniard from his belt and cut the cord.
The felucca went on, the boat continued stationary, rocked
only by the swashing waves.
"Come, Athos!" said D'Artagnan, giving his hand to the
count; "you are going to see something curious," added the
Scarcely had D'Artagnan uttered these words when a ringing
and sudden noise was heard resounding through the felucca,
which had now become dim in the obscurity of the night.
"That, you may be sure," said the Gascon, "means something."
They then at the same instant perceived a large lantern
carried on a pole appear on the deck, defining the forms of
shadows behind it.
Suddenly a terrible cry, a cry of despair, was wafted
through space; and as if the shrieks of anguish had driven
away the clouds, the veil which hid the moon was cleated
away and the gray sails and dark shrouds of the felucca were
plainly visible beneath the silvery light.
Shadows ran, as if bewildered, to and fro on the vessel, and
mournful cries accompanied these delirious walkers. In the
midst of these screams they saw Mordaunt upon the poop with
a torch in hand.
The agitated figures, apparently wild with terror, consisted
of Groslow, who at the hour fixed by Mordaunt had collected
his men and the sailors. Mordaunt, after having listened at
the door of the cabin to hear if the musketeers were still
asleep, had gone down into the cellar, convinced by their
silence that they were all in a deep slumber. Then he had
run to the train, impetuous as a man who is excited by
revenge, and full of confidence, as are those whom God
blinds, he had set fire to the wick of nitre.
All this while Groslow and his men were assembled on deck.
"Haul up the cable and draw the boat to us," said Groslow.
One of the sailors got down the side of the ship, seized the
cable, and drew it; it came without the least resistance.
"The cable is cut!" he cried, "no boat!"
"How! no boat!" exclaimed Groslow; "it is impossible."
"'Tis true, however," answered the sailor; "there's nothing
in the wake of the ship; besides, here's the end of the
"What's the matter?" cried Mordaunt, who, coming up out of
the hatchway, rushed to the stern, waving his torch.
"Only that our enemies have escaped; they have cut the cord
and gone off with the boat."
Mordaunt bounded with one step to the cabin and kicked open
"Empty!" he exclaimed; "the infernal demons!"
"We must pursue them," said Groslow, "they can't be gone
far, and we will sink them, passing over them."
"Yes, but the fire," ejaculated Mordaunt; "I have lighted
"Ten thousand devils!" cried Groslow, rushing to the
hatchway; "perhaps there is still time to save us."
Mordaunt answered only by a terrible laugh, threw his torch
into the sea and plunged in after it. The instant Groslow
put his foot upon the hatchway steps the ship opened like
the crater of a volcano. A burst of flame rose toward the
skies with an explosion like that of a hundred cannon; the
air burned, ignited by flaming embers, then the frightful
lightning disappeared, the brands sank, one after another,
into the abyss, where they were extinguished, and save for a
slight vibration in the air, after a few minutes had elapsed
one would have thought that nothing had happened.
Only -- the felucca had disappeared from the surface of the
sea and Groslow and his three sailors were consumed.
The four friends saw all this -- not a single detail of this
fearful scene escaped them. At one moment, bathed as they
were in a flood of brilliant light, which illumined the sea
for the space of a league, they might each be seen, each by
his own peculiar attitude and manner expressing the awe
which, even in their hearts of bronze, they could not help
experiencing. Soon a torrent of vivid sparks fell around
them -- then, at last, the volcano was extinguished -- then
all was dark and still -- the floating bark and heaving
They sat silent and dejected.
"By Heaven!" at last said Athos, the first to speak, "by
this time, I think, all must be over."
"Here, my lords! save me! help!" cried a voice, whose
mournful accents, reaching the four friends, seemed to
proceed from some phantom of the ocean.
All looked around; Athos himself stared.
"'Tis he! it is his voice!"
All still remained silent, the eyes of all were turned in
the direction where the vessel had disappeared, endeavoring
in vain to penetrate the darkness. After a minute or two
they were able to distinguish a man, who approached them,
Athos extended his arm toward him, pointing him out to his
"Yes, yes, I see him well enough," said D'Artagnan.
"He -- again!" cried Porthos, who was breathing like a
blacksmith's bellows; "why, he is made of iron."
"Oh, my God!" muttered Athos.
Aramis and D'Artagnan whispered to each other.
Mordaunt made several strokes more, and raising his arm in
sign of distress above the waves: "Pity, pity on me,
gentlemen, in Heaven's name! my strength is failing me; I am
The voice that implored aid was so piteous that it awakened
pity in the heart of Athos.