Part 18 out of 20
fell the sleeves of a vest of blue velvet, charged in front.
The cavalier in the gilt cuirass fell upon Aramis and struck
a blow that Aramis parried with his wonted skill.
"Ah! 'tis you, Monsieur de Chatillon," cried the chevalier;
"welcome to you -- I expected you."
"I hope I have not made you wait too long, sir," said the
duke; "at all events, here I am."
"Monsieur de Chatillon," cried Aramis, taking from his
saddle-bags a second pistol, "I think if your pistols have
been discharged you are a dead man."
"Thank God, sir, they are not!"
And the duke, pointing his pistol at Aramis, fired. But
Aramis bent his head the instant he saw the duke's finger
press the trigger and the ball passed without touching him.
"Oh! you've missed me," cried Aramis, "but I swear to
Heaven! I will not miss you."
"If I give you time!" cried the duke, spurring on his horse
and rushing upon him with his drawn sword.
Aramis awaited him with that terrible smile which was
peculiar to him on such occasions, and Athos, who saw the
duke advancing toward Aramis with the rapidity of lightning,
was just going to cry out, "Fire! fire, then!" when the shot
was fired. De Chatillon opened his arms and fell back on the
crupper of his horse.
The ball had entered his breast through a notch in the
"I am a dead man," he said, and fell from his horse to the
"I told you this, I am now grieved I have kept my word. Can
I be of any use to you?"
Chatillon made a sign with his hand and Aramis was about to
dismount when he received a violent shock; 'twas a thrust
from a sword, but his cuirass turned aside the blow.
He turned around and seized his new antagonist by the wrist,
when he started back, exclaiming, "Raoul!"
"Raoul?" cried Athos.
The young man recognized at the same instant the voices of
his father and the Chevalier d'Herblay; two officers in the
Parisian forces rushed at that instant on Raoul, but Aramis
protected him with his sword.
"My prisoner!" he cried.
Athos took his son's horse by the bridle and led him forth
out of the melee.
At this crisis of the battle, the prince, who had been
seconding De Chatillon in the second line, appeared in the
midst of the fight; his eagle eye made him known and his
blows proclaimed the hero.
On seeing him, the regiment of Corinth, which the coadjutor
had not been able to reorganize in spite of all his efforts,
threw itself into the midst of the Parisian forces, put them
into confusion and re-entered Charenton flying. The
coadjutor, dragged along with his fugitive forces, passed
near the group formed by Athos, Raoul and Aramis. Aramis
could not in his jealousy avoid being pleased at the
coadjutor's misfortune, and was about to utter some bon mot
more witty than correct, when Athos stopped him.
"On, on!" he cried, "this is no moment for compliments; or
rather, back, for the battle seems to be lost by the
"It is a matter of indifference to me," said Aramis; "I came
here only to meet De Chatillon; I have met him, I am
contented; 'tis something to have met De Chatillon in a
"And besides, we have a prisoner," said Athos, pointing to
The three cavaliers continued their road on full gallop.
"What were you doing in the battle, my friend?" inquired
Athos of the youth; "'twas not your right place, I think, as
you were not equipped for an engagement!"
"I had no intention of fighting to-day, sir; I was charged,
indeed, with a mission to the cardinal and had set out for
Rueil, when, seeing Monsieur de Chatillon charge, an
invincible desire possessed me to charge at his side. It was
then that he told me two cavaliers of the Parisian army were
seeking me and named the Comte de la Fere."
"What! you knew we were there and yet wished to kill your
friend the chevalier?"
"I did not recognize the chevalier in armor, sir!" said
Raoul, blushing; "though I might have known him by his skill
and coolness in danger."
"Thank you for the compliment, my young friend," replied
Aramis, "we can see from whom you learned courtesy. Then you
were going to Rueil?"
"Yes! I have a despatch from the prince to his eminence."
"You must still deliver it," said Athos.
"No false generosity, count! the fate of our friends, to say
nothing of our own, is perhaps in that very despatch."
"This young man must not, however, fail in his duty," said
"In the first place, count, this youth is our prisoner; you
seem to forget that. What I propose to do is fair in war;
the vanquished must not be dainty in the choice of means.
Give me the despatch, Raoul."
The young man hesitated and looked at Athos as if seeking to
read in his eyes a rule of conduct.
"Give him the despatch, Raoul! you are the chevalier's
Raoul gave it up reluctantly; Aramis instantly seized and
"You," he said, "you, who are so trusting, read and reflect
that there is something in this letter important for us to
Athos took the letter, frowning, but an idea that he should
find something in this letter about D'Artagnan conquered his
unwillingness to read it.
"My lord, I shall send this evening to your eminence in
order to reinforce the troop of Monsieur de Comminges, the
ten men you demand. They are good soldiers, fit to confront
the two violent adversaries whose address and resolution
your eminence is fearful of."
"Oh!" cried Athos.
"Well," said Aramis, "what think you about these two enemies
whom it requires, besides Comminges's troop, ten good
soldiers to confront; are they not as like as two drops of
water to D'Artagnan and Porthos?"
"We'll search Paris all day long," said Athos, "and if we
have no news this evening we will return to the road to
Picardy; and I feel no doubt that, thanks to D'Artagnan's
ready invention, we shall then find some clew which will
solve our doubts."
"Yes, let us search Paris and especially inquire of Planchet
if he has yet heard from his former master."
"That poor Planchet! You speak of him very much at your
ease, Aramis; he has probably been killed. All those
fighting citizens went out to battle and they have been
It was, then, with a sentiment of uneasiness whether
Planchet, who alone could give them information, was alive
or dead, that the friends returned to the Place Royale; to
their great surprise they found the citizens still encamped
there, drinking and bantering each other, although,
doubtless, mourned by their families, who thought they were
at Charenton in the thickest of the fighting.
Athos and Aramis again questioned Planchet, but he had seen
nothing of D'Artagnan; they wished to take Planchet with
them, but he could not leave his troop, who at five o'clock
returned home, saying that they were returning from the
battle, whereas they had never lost sight of the bronze
equestrian statue of Louis XIII.
The Road to Picardy.
On leaving Paris, Athos and Aramis well knew that they would
be encountering great danger; but we know that for men like
these there could be no question of danger. Besides, they
felt that the denouement of this second Odyssey was at hand
and that there remained but a single effort to make.
Besides, there was no tranquillity in Paris itself.
Provisions began to fail, and whenever one of the Prince de
Conti's generals wished to gain more influence he got up a
little popular tumult, which he put down again, and thus for
the moment gained a superiority over his colleagues.
In one of these risings. the Duc de Beaufort pillaged the
house and library of Mazarin, in order to give the populace,
as he put it, something to gnaw at. Athos and Aramis left
Paris after this coup-d'etat, which took place on the very
evening of the day in which the Parisians had been beaten at
They quitted Paris, beholding it abandoned to extreme want,
bordering on famine; agitated by fear, torn by faction.
Parisians and Frondeurs as they were, the two friends
expected to find the same misery, the same fears, the same
intrigue in the enemy's camp; but what was their surprise,
after passing Saint Denis, to hear that at Saint Germain
people were singing and laughing, and leading generally
cheerful lives. The two gentlemen traveled by byways in
order not to encounter the Mazarinists scattered about the
Isle of France, and also to escape the Frondeurs, who were
in possession of Normandy and who never failed to conduct
captives to the Duc de Longueville, in order that he might
ascertain whether they were friends or foes. Having escaped
these dangers, they returned by the main road to Boulogne,
at Abbeville, and followed it step by step, examining every
Nevertheless, they were still in a state of uncertainty.
Several inns were visited by them, several innkeepers
questioned, without a single clew being given to guide their
inquiries, when at Montreuil Athos felt upon the table that
something rough was touching his delicate fingers. He turned
up the cloth and found these hieroglyphics carved upon the
wood with a knife:
"Port .... D'Art .... 2d February."
"This is capital!" said Athos to Aramis, "we were to have
slept here, but we cannot -- we must push on." They rode
forward and reached Abbeville. There the great number of
inns puzzled them; they could not go to all; how could they
guess in which those whom they were seeking had stayed?
"Trust me," said Aramis, "do not expect to find anything in
Abbeville. If we had only been looking for Porthos, Porthos
would have stationed himself in one of the finest hotels and
we could easily have traced him. But D'Artagnan is devoid of
such weaknesses. Porthos would have found it very difficult
even to make him see that he was dying of hunger; he has
gone on his road as inexorable as fate and we must seek him
They continued their route. It had now become a weary and
almost hopeless task, and had it not been for the threefold
motives of honor, friendship and gratitude, implanted in
their hearts, our two travelers would have given up many a
time their rides over the sand, their interrogatories of the
peasantry and their close inspection of faces.
They proceeded thus to Peronne.
Athos began to despair. His noble nature felt that their
ignorance was a sort of reflection upon them. They had not
looked carefully enough for their lost friends. They had not
shown sufficient pertinacity in their inquiries. They were
willing and ready to retrace their steps, when, in crossing
the suburb which leads to the gates of the town, upon a
white wall which was at the corner of a street turning
around the rampart, Athos cast his eyes upon a drawing in
black chalk, which represented, with the awkwardness of a
first attempt, two cavaliers riding furiously; one of them
carried a roll of paper on which were written these words:
"They are following us."
"Oh!" exclaimed Athos, "here it is, as clear as day; pursued
as he was, D'Artagnan would not have tarried here five
minutes had he been pressed very closely, which gives us
hopes that he may have succeeded in escaping."
Aramis shook his head.
"Had he escaped we should either have seen him or have heard
him spoken of."
"You are right, Aramis, let us travel on."
To describe the impatience and anxiety of these two friends
would be impossible. Uneasiness took possession of the
tender, constant heart of Athos, and fearful forecasts were
the torment of the impulsive Aramis. They galloped on for
two or three hours as furiously as the cavaliers on the
wall. All at once, in a narrow pass, they perceived that the
road was partially barricaded by an enormous stone. It had
evidently been rolled across the pass by some arm of giant
"Oh!" he said, looking at the stone, "this is the work of
either Hercules or Porthos. Let us get down, count, and
examine this rock."
They both alighted. The stone had been brought with the
evident intention of barricading the road, but some one
having perceived the obstacle had partially turned it aside.
With the assistance of Blaisois and Grimaud the friends
succeeded in turning the stone over. Upon the side next the
ground were scratched the following words:
"Eight of the light dragoons are pursuing us. If we reach
Compiegne we shall stop at the Peacock. It is kept by a
friend of ours."
"At last we have something definite," said Athos; "let us go
to the Peacock."
"Yes," answered Aramis, "but if we are to get there we must
rest our horses, for they are almost broken-winded."
Aramis was right; they stopped at the first tavern and made
each horse swallow a double quantity of corn steeped in
wine; they gave them three hours' rest and then set off
again. The men themselves were almost dead with fatigue, but
hope supported them.
In six hours they reached Compiegne and alighted at the
Peacock. The host proved to be a worthy man, as bald as a
Chinaman. They asked him if some time ago he had not
received in his house two gentlemen who were pursued by
dragoons; without answering he went out and brought in the
blade of a rapier.
"Do you know that?" he asked.
Athos merely glanced at it.
"'Tis D'Artagnan's sword," he said.
"Does it belong to the smaller or to the larger of the two?"
asked the host.
"To the smaller."
"I see that you are the friends of these gentlemen."
"Well, what has happened to them?"
"They were pursued by eight of the light dragoons, who rode
into the courtyard before they had time to close the gate."
"Eight!" said Aramis; "it surprises me that two such heroes
as Porthos and D'Artagnan should have allowed themselves to
be arrested by eight men."
"The eight men would doubtless have failed had they not been
assisted by twenty soldiers of the regiment of Italians in
the king's service, who are in garrison in this town so that
your friends were overpowered by numbers."
"Arrested, were they?" inquired Athos; "is it known why?"
"No, sir, they were carried off instantly, and had not even
time to tell me why; but as soon as they were gone I found
this broken sword-blade, as I was helping to raise two dead
men and five or six wounded ones."
"'Tis still a consolation that they were not wounded," said
"Where were they taken?" asked Athos.
"Toward the town of Louvres," was the reply.
The two friends having agreed to leave Blaisois and Grimaud
at Compiegne with the horses, resolved to take post horses;
and having snatched a hasty dinner they continued their
journey to Louvres. Here they found only one inn, in which
was consumed a liqueur which preserves its reputation to our
time and which is still made in that town.
"Let us alight here," said Athos. "D'Artagnan will not have
let slip an opportunity of drinking a glass of this liqueur,
and at the same time leaving some trace of himself."
They went into the town and asked for two glasses of
liqueur, at the counter -- as their friends must have done
before them. The counter was covered with a plate of pewter;
upon this plate was written with the point of a large pin:
"Rueil . . . D . ."
"They went to Rueil," cried Aramis.
"Let us go to Rueil," said Athos.
"It is to throw ourselves into the wolf's jaws," said
"Had I been as great a friend of Jonah as I am of D'Artagnan
I should have followed him even into the inside of the whale
itself; and you would have done the same, Aramis."
"Certainly -- but you make me out better than I am, dear
count. Had I been alone I should scarcely have gone to Rueil
without great caution. But where you go, I go."
They then set off for Rueil. Here the deputies of the
parliament had just arrived, in order to enter upon those
famous conferences which were to last three weeks, and
produced eventually that shameful peace, at the conclusion
of which the prince was arrested. Rueil was crowded with
advocates, presidents and councillors, who came from the
Parisians, and, on the side of the court, with officers and
guards; it was therefore easy, in the midst of this
confusion, to remain as unobserved as any one might wish;
besides, the conferences implied a truce, and to arrest two
gentlemen, even Frondeurs, at this time, would have been an
attack on the rights of the people.
The two friends mingled with the crowd and fancied that
every one was occupied with the same thought that tormented
them. They expected to hear some mention made of D'Artagnan
or of Porthos, but every one was engrossed by articles and
reforms. It was the advice of Athos to go straight to the
"My friend," said Aramis, "take care; our safety lies in our
obscurity. If we were to make ourselves known we should be
sent to rejoin our friends in some deep ditch, from which
the devil himself could not take us out. Let us try not to
find them out by accident, but from our notions. Arrested at
Compiegne, they have been carried to Rueil; at Rueil they
have been questioned by the cardinal, who has either kept
them near him or sent them to Saint Germain. As to the
Bastile, they are not there, though the Bastile is
especially for the Frondeurs. They are not dead, for the
death of D'Artagnan would make a sensation. As for Porthos,
I believe him to be eternal, like God, although less
patient. Do not let us despond, but wait at Rueil, for my
conviction is that they are at Rueil. But what ails you? You
"It is this," answered Athos, with a trembling voice.
"I remember that at the Castle of Rueil the Cardinal
Richelieu had some horrible `oubliettes' constructed."
"Oh! never fear," said Aramis. "Richelieu was a gentleman,
our equal in birth, our superior in position. He could, like
the king, touch the greatest of us on the head, and touching
them make such heads shake on their shoulders. But Mazarin
is a low-born rogue, who can at the most take us by the
collar, like an archer. Be calm -- for I am sure that
D'Artagnan and Porthos are at Rueil, alive and well."
"But," resumed Athos, "I recur to my first proposal. I know
no better means than to act with candor. I shall seek, not
Mazarin, but the queen, and say to her, `Madame, restore to
us your two servants and our two friends.'"
Aramis shook his head.
"'Tis a last resource, but let us not employ it till it is
imperatively called for; let us rather persevere in our
They continued their inquiries and at last met with a light
dragoon who had formed one of the guard which had escorted
D'Artagnan to Rueil.
Athos, however, perpetually recurred to his proposed
interview with the queen.
"In order to see the queen," said Aramis, "we must first see
the cardinal; and when we have seen the cardinal -- remember
what I tell you, Athos -- we shall be reunited to our
friends, but not in the way you wish. Now, that way of
joining them is not very attractive to me, I confess. Let us
act in freedom, that we may act well and quickly."
"I shall go," he said, "to the queen."
"Well, then," answered Aramis, "pray tell me a day or two
beforehand, that I may take that opportunity of going to
"Zounds! how do I know? perhaps to Madame de Longueville.
She is all-powerful yonder; she will help me. But send me
word should you be arrested, for then I will return
"Why do you not take your chance and be arrested with me?"
"No, I thank you."
"Should we, by being arrested, be all four together again,
we should not, I am not sure, be twenty-four hours in prison
without getting free."
"My friend, since I killed Chatillon, adored of the ladies
of Saint Germain, I am too great a celebrity not to fear a
prison doubly. The queen is likely to follow Mazarin's
counsels and to have me tried."
"Do you think she loves this Italian so much as they say she
"Did she not love an Englishman?"
"My friend, she is a woman."
"No, no, you are deceived -- she is a queen."
"Dear friend, I shall sacrifice myself and go and see Anne
"Adieu, Athos, I am going to raise an army."
"For what purpose?"
"To come back and besiege Rueil."
"Where shall we meet again?"
"At the foot of the cardinal's gallows."
The two friends departed -- Aramis to return to Paris, Athos
to take measures preparatory to an interview with the queen.
The Gratitude of Anne of Austria.
Athos found much less difficulty than he had expected in
obtaining an audience of Anne of Austria. It was granted,
and was to take place after her morning's "levee," at which,
in accordance with his rights of birth, he was entitled to
be present. A vast crowd filled the apartments of Saint
Germain. Anne had never at the Louvre had so large a court;
but this crowd represented chiefly the second class of
nobility, while the Prince de Conti, the Duc de Beaufort and
the coadjutor assembled around them the first nobility of
The greatest possible gayety prevailed at court. The
particular characteristic of this was that more songs were
made than cannons fired during its continuance. The court
made songs on the Parisians and the Parisians on the court;
and the casualties, though not mortal, were painful, as are
all wounds inflicted by the weapon of ridicule.
In the midst of this seeming hilarity, nevertheless,
people's minds were uneasy. Was Mazarin to remain the
favorite and minister of the queen? Was he to be carried
back by the wind which had blown him there? Every one hoped
so, so that the minister felt that all around him, beneath
the homage of the courtiers, lay a fund of hatred, ill
disguised by fear and interest. He felt ill at ease and at a
loss what to do.
Conde himself, whilst fighting for him, lost no opportunity
of ridiculing, of humbling him. The queen, on whom he threw
himself as sole support, seemed to him now not much to be
When the hour appointed for the audience arrived Athos was
obliged to stay until the queen, who was waited upon by a
new deputation from Paris, had consulted with her minister
as to the propriety and manner of receiving them. All were
fully engrossed with the affairs of the day; Athos could not
therefore have chosen a more inauspicious moment to speak of
his friends -- poor atoms, lost in that raging whirlwind.
But Athos was a man of inflexible determination; he firmly
adhered to a purpose once formed, when it seemed to him to
spring from conscience and to be prompted by a sense of
duty. He insisted on being introduced, saying that although
he was not a deputy from Monsieur de Conti, or Monsieur de
Beaufort, or Monsieur de Bouillon, or Monsieur d'Elbeuf, or
the coadjutor, or Madame de Longueville, or Broussel, or the
Parliament, and although he had come on his own private
account, he nevertheless had things to say to her majesty of
the utmost importance.
The conference being finished, the queen summoned him to her
Athos was introduced and announced by name. It was a name
that too often resounded in her majesty's ears and too often
vibrated in her heart for Anne of Austria not to recognize
it; yet she remained impassive, looking at him with that
fixed stare which is tolerated only in women who are queens,
either by the power of beauty or by the right of birth.
"It is then a service which you propose to render us,
count?" asked Anne of Austria, after a moment's silence.
"Yes, madame, another service," said Athos, shocked that the
queen did not seem to recognize him.
Athos had a noble heart, and made, therefore, but a poor
Anne frowned. Mazarin, who was sitting at a table folding up
papers, as if he had only been a secretary of state, looked
"Speak," said the queen.
Mazarin turned again to his papers.
"Madame," resumed Athos, "two of my friends, named
D'Artagnan and Monsieur du Vallon, sent to England by the
cardinal, suddenly disappeared when they set foot on the
shores of France; no one knows what has become of them."
"Well?" said the queen.
"I address myself, therefore, first to the benevolence of
your majesty, that I may know what has become of my friends,
reserving to myself, if necessary, the right of appealing
hereafter to your justice."
"Sir," replied Anne, with a degree of haughtiness which to
certain persons became impertinence, "this is the reason
that you trouble me in the midst of so many absorbing
concerns! an affair for the police! Well, sir, you ought to
know that we no longer have a police, since we are no longer
"I think your majesty will have no need to apply to the
police to know where my friends are, but that if you will
deign to interrogate the cardinal he can reply without any
further inquiry than into his own recollections."
"But, God forgive me!" cried Anne, with that disdainful curl
of the lips peculiar to her, "I believe that you are
"Yes, madame, here I have a right to do so, for it concerns
Monsieur d'Artagnan ---d'Artagnan," he repeated, in such a
manner as to bow the regal brow with recollections of the
weak and erring woman.
The cardinal saw that it was now high time to come to the
assistance of Anne.
"Sir," he said, "I can tell you what is at present unknown
to her majesty. These individuals are under arrest. They
"I beg of your majesty, then," said Athos, calmly and not
replying to Mazarin, "to quash these arrests of Messieurs
d'Artagnan and du Vallon."
"What you ask is merely an affair of discipline and does not
concern me," said the queen.
"Monsieur d'Artagnan never made such an answer as that when
the service of your majesty was concerned," said Athos,
bowing with great dignity. He was going toward the door when
Mazarin stopped him.
"You, too, have been in England, sir?" he said, making a
sign to the queen, who was evidently going to issue a severe
"I was a witness of the last hours of Charles I. Poor king!
culpable, at the most, of weakness, how cruelly punished by
his subjects! Thrones are at this time shaken and it is to
little purpose for devoted hearts to serve the interests of
princes. This is the second time that Monsieur d'Artagnan
has been in England. He went the first time to save the
honor of a great queen; the second, to avert the death of a
"Sir," said Anne to Mazarin, with an accent from which daily
habits of dissimulation could not entirely chase the real
expression, "see if we can do something for these
"I wish to do, madame, all that your majesty pleases."
"Do what Monsieur de la Fere requests; that is your name, is
it not, sir?"
"I have another name, madame -- I am called Athos."
"Madame," said Mazarin, with a smile, "you may rest easy;
your wishes shall be fulfilled."
"You hear, sir?" said the queen.
"Yes, madame, I expected nothing less from the justice of
your majesty. May I not go and see my friends?"
"Yes, sir, you shall see them. But, apropos, you belong to
the Fronde, do you not?"
"Madame, I serve the king."
"Yes, in your own way."
"My way is the way of all gentlemen, and I know only one
way," answered Athos, haughtily.
"Go, sir, then," said the queen; "you have obtained what you
wish and we know all we desire to know."
Scarcely, however, had the tapestry closed behind Athos when
she said to Mazarin:
"Cardinal, desire them to arrest that insolent fellow before
he leaves the court."
"Your majesty," answered Mazarin, "desires me to do only
what I was going to ask you to let me do. These bravoes who
resuscitate in our epoch the traditions of another reign are
troublesome; since there are two of them already there, let
us add a third."
Athos was not altogether the queen's dupe, but he was not a
man to run away on suspicion -- above all, when distinctly
told that he should see his friends again. He waited, then,
in the ante-chamber with impatience, till he should be
conducted to them.
He walked to the window and looked into the court. He saw
the deputation from the Parisians enter it; they were coming
to assign the definitive place for the conference and to
make their bow to the queen. A very imposing escort awaited
them without the gates.
Athos was looking on attentively, when some one touched him
softly on the shoulder.
"Ah! Monsieur de Comminges," he said.
"Yes, count, and charged with a commission for which I beg
of you to accept my excuses."
"What is it?"
"Be so good as to give me up your sword, count."
Athos smiled and opened the window.
"Aramis!" he cried.
A gentleman turned around. Athos fancied he had seen him
among the crowd. It was Aramis. He bowed with great
friendship to the count.
"Aramis," cried Athos, "I am arrested."
"Good," replied Aramis, calmly.
"Sir," said Athos, turning to Comminges and giving him
politely his sword by the hilt, "here is my sword; have the
kindness to keep it safely for me until I quit my prison. I
prize it -- it was given to my ancestor by King Francis I.
In his time they armed gentlemen, not disarmed them. Now,
whither do you conduct me?"
"Into my room first," replied Comminges; "the queen will
ultimately decide your place of domicile."
Athos followed Comminges without saying a single word.
Cardinal Mazarin as King.
The arrest produced no sensation, indeed was almost unknown,
and scarcely interrupted the course of events. To the
deputation it was formally announced that the queen would
Accordingly, it was admitted to the presence of Anne, who,
silent and lofty as ever, listened to the speeches and
complaints of the deputies; but when they had finished their
harangues not one of them could say, so calm remained her
face, whether or no she had heard them.
On the other hand, Mazarin, present at that audience, heard
very well what those deputies demanded. It was purely and
simply his removal, in terms clear and precise.
The discourse being finished, the queen remained silent.
"Gentlemen," said Mazarin, "I join with you in supplicating
the queen to put an end to the miseries of her subjects. I
have done all in my power to ameliorate them and yet the
belief of the public, you say, is that they proceed from me,
an unhappy foreigner, who has been unable to please the
French. Alas! I have never been understood, and no wonder. I
succeeded a man of the most sublime genius that ever upheld
the sceptre of France. The memory of Richelieu annihilates
me. In vain -- were I an ambitious man -- should I struggle
against such remembrances as he has left; but that I am not
ambitious I am going to prove to you. I own myself
conquered. I shall obey the wishes of the people. If Paris
has injuries to complain of, who has not some wrongs to be
redressed? Paris has been sufficiently punished; enough
blood has flowed, enough misery has humbled a town deprived
of its king and of justice. 'Tis not for me, a private
individual, to disunite a queen from her kingdom. Since you
demand my resignation, I retire."
"Then," said Aramis, in his neighbor's ear, "the conferences
are over. There is nothing to do but to send Monsieur
Mazarin to the most distant frontier and to take care that
he does not return even by that, nor any other entrance into
"One instant, sir," said the man in a gown, whom he
addressed; "a plague on't! how fast you go! one may soon see
that you're a soldier. There's the article of remunerations
and indemnifications to be discussed and set to rights."
"Chancellor," said the queen, turning to Seguier, our old
acquaintance, "you will open the conferences. They can take
place at Rueil. The cardinal has said several things which
have agitated me, therefore I will not speak more fully now.
As to his going or staying, I feel too much gratitude to the
cardinal not to leave him free in all his actions; he shall
do what he wishes to do."
A transient pallor overspread the speaking countenance of
the prime minister; he looked at the queen with anxiety. Her
face was so passionless, that he, as every one else present,
was incapable of reading her thoughts.
"But," added the queen, "in awaiting the cardinal's decision
let there be, if you please, a reference to the king only."
The deputies bowed and left the room.
"What!" exclaimed the queen, when the last of them had
quitted the apartment, "you would yield to these limbs of
the law -- these advocates?"
"To promote your majesty's welfare, madame," replied
Mazarin, fixing his penetrating eyes on the queen, "there is
no sacrifice that I would not make."
Anne dropped her head and fell into one of those reveries so
habitual with her. A recollection of Athos came into her
mind. His fearless deportment, his words, so firm, yet
dignified, the shades which by one word he had evoked,
recalled to her the past in all its intoxication of poetry
and romance, youth, beauty, the eclat of love at twenty
years of age, the bloody death of Buckingham, the only man
whom she had ever really loved, and the heroism of those
obscure champions who had saved her from the double hatred
of Richelieu and the king.
Mazarin looked at her, and whilst she deemed herself alone
and freed from the world of enemies who sought to spy into
her secret thoughts, he read her thoughts in her
countenance, as one sees in a transparent lake clouds pass
-- reflections, like thoughts, of the heavens.
"Must we, then," asked Anne of Austria, "yield to the storm,
buy peace, and patiently and piously await better times?"
Mazarin smiled sarcastically at this speech, which showed
that she had taken the minister's proposal seriously.
Anne's head was bent down -- she had not seen the Italian's
smile; but finding that her question elicited no reply she
"Well, you do not answer, cardinal, what do you think about
"I am thinking, madame, of the allusion made by that
insolent gentleman, whom you have caused to be arrested, to
the Duke of Buckingham -- to him whom you allowed to be
assassinated -- to the Duchess de Chevreuse, whom you
suffered to be exiled -- to the Duc de Beaufort, whom you
imprisoned; but if he made allusion to me it was because he
is ignorant of the relation in which I stand to you."
Anne drew up, as she always did, when anything touched her
pride. She blushed, and that she might not answer, clasped
her beautiful hands till her sharp nails almost pierced
"That man has sagacity, honor and wit, not to mention
likewise that he is a man of undoubted resolution. You know
something about him, do you not, madame? I shall tell him,
therefore, and in doing so I shall confer a personal favor
on him, how he is mistaken in regard to me. What is proposed
to me would be, in fact, almost an abdication, and an
abdication requires reflection."
"An abdication?" repeated Anne; "I thought, sir, that it was
kings alone who abdicated!"
"Well," replied Mazarin, "and am I not almost a king --
king, indeed, of France? Thrown over the foot of the royal
bed, my simar, madame, looks not unlike the mantle worn by
This was one of the humiliations which Mazarin made Anne
undergo more frequently than any other, and one that bowed
her head with shame. Queen Elizabeth and Catherine II. of
Russia are the only two monarchs of their set on record who
were at once sovereigns and lovers. Anne of Austria looked
with a sort of terror at the threatening aspect of the
cardinal -- his physiognomy in such moments was not
destitute of a certain grandeur.
"Sir," she replied, "did I not say, and did you not hear me
say to those people, that you should do as you pleased?"
"In that case," said Mazarin, "I think it must please me
best to remain; not only on account of my own interest, but
for your safety."
"Remain, then, sir; nothing can be more agreeable to me;
only do not allow me to be insulted."
"You are referring to the demands of the rebels and to the
tone in which they stated them? Patience! They have selected
a field of battle on which I am an abler general than they
-- that of a conference. No, we shall beat them by merely
temporizing. They want food already. They will be ten times
worse off in a week."
"Ah, yes! Good heavens! I know it will end in that way; but
it is not they who taunt me with the most wounding
reproaches, but ---- "
"I understand; you mean to allude to the recollections
perpetually revived by these three gentlemen. However, we
have them safe in prison, and they are just sufficiently
culpable for us to keep them in prison as long as we find it
convenient. One only is still not in our power and braves
us. But, devil take him! we shall soon succeed in sending
him to join his boon companions. We have accomplished more
difficult things than that. In the first place I have as a
precaution shut up at Rueil, near me, under my own eyes,
within reach of my hand, the two most intractable ones.
To-day the third will be there also."
"As long as they are in prison all will be well," said Anne,
"but one of these days they will get out."
"Yes, if your majesty releases them."
"Ah!" exclaimed Anne, following the train of her own
thoughts on such occasions, "one regrets Paris!"
"On account of the Bastile, sir, which is so strong and so
"Madame, these conferences will bring us peace; when we have
peace we shall regain Paris; with Paris, the Bastile, and
our four bullies shall rot therein."
Anne frowned slightly when Mazarin, in taking leave, kissed
Mazarin, after this half humble, half gallant attention,
went away. Anne followed him with her eyes, and as he
withdrew, at every step he took, a disdainful smile was seen
playing, then gradually burst upon her lips.
"I once," she said, "despised the love of a cardinal who
never said `I shall do,' but, `I have done so and so.' That
man knew of retreats more secure than Rueil, darker and more
silent even than the Bastile. Degenerate world!"
After quitting Anne, Mazarin took the road to Rueil, where
he usually resided; in those times of disturbance he went
about with numerous followers and often disguised himself.
In military dress he was, indeed, as we have stated, a very
In the court of the old Chateau of Saint Germain he entered
his coach, and reached the Seine at Chatou. The prince had
supplied him with fifty light horse, not so much by way of
guard as to show the deputies how readily the queen's
generals dispersed their troops and to prove that they might
be safely scattered at pleasure. Athos, on horseback,
without his sword and kept in sight by Comminges, followed
the cardinal in silence. Grimaud, finding that his master
had been arrested, fell back into the ranks near Aramis,
without saying a word and as if nothing had happened.
Grimaud had, indeed, during twenty-two years of service,
seen his master extricate himself from so many difficulties
that nothing less than Athos's imminent death was likely to
make him uneasy.
At the branching off of the road toward Paris, Aramis, who
had followed in the cardinal's suite, turned back. Mazarin
went to the right hand and Aramis could see the prisoner
disappear at the turning of the avenue. Athos, at the same
moment, moved by a similar impulse, looked back also. The
two friends exchanged a simple inclination of the head and
Aramis put his finger to his hat, as if to bow, Athos alone
comprehending by that signal that he had some project in his
Ten minutes afterward Mazarin entered the court of that
chateau which his predecessor had built for him at Rueil; as
he alighted, Comminges approached him.
"My lord," he asked, "where does your eminence wish Monsieur
Comte de la Fere to be lodged?"
"In the pavilion of the orangery, of course, in front of the
pavilion where the guard is. I wish every respect to be
shown the count, although he is the prisoner of her majesty
"My lord," answered Comminges, "he begs to be taken to the
place where Monsieur d'Artagnan is confined -- that is, in
the hunting lodge, opposite the orangery.
Mazarin thought for an instant.
Comminges saw that he was undecided.
"'Tis a very strong post," he resumed, "and we have forty
good men, tried soldiers, having no connection with
Frondeurs nor any interest in the Fronde."
"If we put these three men together, Monsieur Comminges,"
said Mazarin, "we must double the guard, and we are not rich
enough in fighting men to commit such acts of prodigality."
Comminges smiled; Mazarin read and construed that smile.
"You do not know these men, Monsieur Comminges, but I know
them, first personally, also by hearsay. I sent them to
carry aid to King Charles and they performed prodigies to
save him; had it not been for an adverse destiny, that
beloved monarch would this day have been among us."
"But since they served your eminence so well, why are they,
my lord cardinal, in prison?"
"In prison?" said Mazarin, "and when has Rueil been a
"Ever since there were prisoners in it," answered Comminges.
"These gentlemen, Comminges, are not prisoners," returned
Mazarin, with his ironical smile, "only guests; but guests
so precious that I have put a grating before each of their
windows and bolts to their doors, that they may not refuse
to continue my visitors. So much do I esteem them that I am
going to make the Comte de la Fere a visit, that I may
converse with him tete-a-tete, and that we may not be
disturbed at our interview you must conduct him, as I said
before, to the pavilion of the orangery; that, you know, is
my daily promenade. Well, while taking my walk I will call
on him and we will talk. Although he professes to be my
enemy I have sympathy for him, and if he is reasonable
perhaps we shall arrange matters."
Comminges bowed, and returned to Athos, who was awaiting
with apparent calmness, but with real anxiety, the result of
"Well?" he said to the lieutenant.
"Sir," replied Comminges, "it seems that it is impossible."
"Monsieur de Comminges," said Athos, "I have been a soldier
all my life and I know the force of orders; but outside your
orders there is a service you can render me."
"I will do it with all my heart," said Comminges; "for I
know who you are and what service you once performed for her
majesty; I know, too, how dear to you is the young man who
came so valiantly to my aid when that old rogue of a
Broussel was arrested. I am entirely at your service, except
only for my orders."
"Thank you, sir; what I am about to ask will not compromise
you in any degree."
"If it should even compromise me a little," said Monsieur de
Comminges, with a smile, "still make your demand. I don't
like Mazarin any better than you do. I serve the queen and
that draws me naturally into the service of the cardinal;
but I serve the one with joy and the other against my will.
Speak, then, I beg of you; I wait and listen."
"Since there is no harm," said Athos, "in my knowing that
D'Artagnan is here, I presume there will be none in his
knowing that I am here."
"I have received no orders on that point."
"Well, then, do me the kindness to give him my regards and
tell him that I am his neighbor. Tell him also what you have
just told me -- that Mazarin has placed me in the pavilion
of the orangery in order to make me a visit, and assure him
that I shall take advantage of this honor he proposes to
accord to me to obtain from him some amelioration of our
"Which cannot last," interrupted Comminges; "the cardinal
said so; there is no prison here."
"But there are oubliettes!" replied Athos, smiling.
"Oh! that's a different thing; yes, I know there are
traditions of that sort," said Comminges. "It was in the
time of the other cardinal, who was a great nobleman; but
our Mazarin -- impossible! an Italian adventurer would not
dare to go such lengths with such men as ourselves.
Oubliettes are employed as a means of kingly vengeance, and
a low-born fellow such as he is would not have recourse to
them. Your arrest is known, that of your friends will soon
be known; and all the nobility of France would demand an
explanation of your disappearance. No, no, be easy on that
score. I will, however, inform Monsieur d'Artagnan of your
Comminges then led the count to a room on the ground floor
of a pavilion, at the end of the orangery. They passed
through a courtyard as they went, full of soldiers and
courtiers. In the centre of this court, in the form of a
horseshoe, were the buildings occupied by Mazarin, and at
each wing the pavilion (or smaller building), where
D'Artagnan was confined, and that, level with the orangery,
where Athos was to be. From the ends of these two wings
extended the park.
Athos, when he reached his appointed room, observed through
the gratings of his window, walls and roofs; and was told,
on inquiry, by Comminges, that he was looking on the back of
the pavilion where D'Artagnan was confined.
"Yes, 'tis too true," said Comminges, "'tis almost a prison;
but what a singular fancy this is of yours, count -- you,
who are the very flower of our nobility -- to squander your
valor and loyalty amongst these upstarts, the Frondists!
Really, count, if ever I thought that I had a friend in the
ranks of the royal army, it was you. A Frondeur! you, the
Comte de la Fere, on the side of Broussel, Blancmesnil and
Viole! For shame! you, a Frondeur!"
"On my word of honor," said Athos, "one must be either a
Mazarinist or a Frondeur. For a long time I had these words
whispered in my ears, and I chose the latter; at any rate,
it is a French word. And now, I am a Frondeur -- not of
Broussel's party, nor of Blancmesnil's, nor am I with Viole;
but with the Duc de Beaufort, the Ducs de Bouillon and
d'Elbeuf; with princes, not with presidents, councillors and
low-born lawyers. Besides, what a charming outlook it would
have been to serve the cardinal! Look at that wall --
without a single window -- which tells you fine things about
"Yes," replied De Comminges, "more especially if it could
reveal how Monsieur d'Artagnan for this last week has been
"Poor D'Artagnan'" said Athos, with the charming melancholy
that was one of the traits of his character, "so brave, so
good, so terrible to the enemies of those he loves. You have
two unruly prisoners there, sir."
"Unruly," Comminges smiled; "you wish to terrify me, I
suppose. When he came here, Monsieur D'Artagnan provoked and
braved the soldiers and inferior officers, in order, I
suppose, to have his sword back. That mood lasted some time;
but now he's as gentle as a lamb and sings Gascon songs,
which make one die of laughing."
"And Du Vallon?" asked Athos.
"Ah, he's quite another sort of person -- a formidable
gentleman, indeed. The first day he broke all the doors in
with a single push of his shoulder; and I expected to see
him leave Rueil in the same way as Samson left Gaza. But his
temper cooled down, like his friend's; he not only gets used
to his captivity, but jokes about it."
"So much the better," said Athos.
"Do you think anything else was to be expected of them?"
asked Comminges, who, putting together what Mazarin had said
of his prisoners and what the Comte de la Fere had said,
began to feel a degree of uneasiness.
Athos, on the other hand, reflected that this recent
gentleness of his friends most certainly arose from some
plan formed by D'Artagnan. Unwilling to injure them by
praising them too highly, he replied: "They? They are two
hotheads -- the one a Gascon, the other from Picardy; both
are easily excited, but they quiet down immediately. You
have had a proof of that in what you have just related to
This, too, was the opinion of Comminges, who withdrew
somewhat reassured. Athos remained alone in the vast
chamber, where, according to the cardinal's directions, he
was treated with all the courtesy due to a nobleman. He
awaited Mazarin's promised visit to get some light on his
Strength and Sagacity.
Now let us pass the orangery to the hunting lodge. At the
extremity of the courtyard, where, close to a portico formed
of Ionic columns, were the dog kennels, rose an oblong
building, the pavilion of the orangery, a half circle,
inclosing the court of honor. It was in this pavilion, on
the ground floor, that D'Artagnan and Porthos were confined,
suffering interminable hours of imprisonment in a manner
suitable to each different temperament.
D'Artagnan was pacing to and fro like a caged tiger; with
dilated eyes, growling as he paced along by the bars of a
window looking upon the yard of servant's offices.
Porthos was ruminating over an excellent dinner he had just
The one seemed to be deprived of reason, yet he was
meditating. The other seemed to meditate, yet he was more
than half asleep. But his sleep was a nightmare, which might
be guessed by the incoherent manner in which he sometimes
snored and sometimes snorted.
"Look," said D'Artagnan, "day is declining. It must be
nearly four o'clock. We have been in this place nearly
"Hem!" muttered Porthos, with a kind of pretense of
"Did you hear, eternal sleeper?" cried D'Artagnan, irritated
that any one could doze during the day, when he had the
greatest difficulty in sleeping during the night.
"What?" said Porthos.
"I say we have been here eighty-three hours."
"'Tis your fault," answered Porthos.
"How, my fault?"
"Yes, I offered you escape."
"By pulling out a bar and pushing down a door?"
"Porthos, men like us can't go out from here purely and
"Faith!" said Porthos, "as for me, I could go out with that
purity and that simplicity which it seems to me you despise
D'Artagnan shrugged his shoulders.
"And besides," he said, "going out of this chamber isn't
"Dear friend," said Porthos, "you appear to be in a somewhat
better humor to-day than you were yesterday. Explain to me
why going out of this chamber isn't everything."
"Because, having neither arms nor password, we shouldn't
take fifty steps in the court without knocking against a
Very well," said Porthos, "we will kill the sentinel and we
shall have his arms."
"Yes, but before we can kill him -- and he will be hard to
kill, that Swiss -- he will shriek out and the whole picket
will come, and we shall be taken like foxes, we, who are
lions, and thrown into some dungeon, where we shall not even
have the consolation of seeing this frightful gray sky of
Rueil, which no more resembles the sky of Tarbes than the
moon is like the sun. Lack-a-day! if we only had some one to
instruct us about the physical and moral topography of this
castle. Ah! when one thinks that for twenty years, during
which time I did not know what to do with myself, it never
occurred to me to come to study Rueil."
"What difference does that make?" said Porthos. "We shall go
out all the same."
"Do you know, my dear fellow, why master pastrycooks never
work with their hands?"
"No," said Porthos, "but I should be glad to be informed."
"It is because in the presence of their pupils they fear
that some of their tarts or creams may turn out badly
"Why, then they would be laughed at, and a master pastrycook
must never be laughed at."
"And what have master pastrycooks to do with us?"
"We ought, in our adventures, never to be defeated or give
any one a chance to laugh at us. In England, lately, we
failed, we were beaten, and that is a blemish on our
"By whom, then, were we beaten?" asked Porthos.
"Yes, but we have drowned Monsieur Mordaunt."
"That is true, and that will redeem us a little in the eyes
of posterity, if posterity ever looks at us. But listen,
Porthos: though Monsieur Mordaunt was a man not to be
despised, Mazarin is not less strong than he, and we shall
not easily succeed in drowning him. We must, therefore,
watch and play a close game; for," he added with a sigh, "we
two are equal, perhaps, to eight others; but we are not
equal to the four that you know of."
"That is true," said Porthos, echoing D'Artagnan's sigh.
"Well, Porthos, follow my examples; walk back and forth till
some news of our friends reaches us or till we are visited
by a good idea. But don't sleep as you do all the time;
nothing dulls the intellect like sleep. As to what may lie
before us, it is perhaps less serious than we at first
thought. I don't believe that Monsieur de Mazarin thinks of
cutting off our heads, for heads are not taken off without
previous trial; a trial would make a noise, and a noise
would get the attention of our friends, who would check the
operations of Monsieur de Mazarin."
"How well you reason!" said Porthos, admiringly.
"Well, yes, pretty well," replied D'Artagnan; "and besides,
you see, if they put us on trial, if they cut off our heads,
they must meanwhile either keep us here or transfer us
"Yes, that is inevitable," said Porthos.
"Well, it is impossible but that Master Aramis, that
keen-scented bloodhound, and Athos, that wise and prudent
nobleman, will discover our retreat. Then, believe me, it
will be time to act."
"Yes, we will wait. We can wait the more contentedly, that
it is not absolutely bad here, but for one thing, at least."
"What is that?"
"Did you observe, D'Artagnan, that three days running they
have brought us braised mutton?"
"No; but if it occurs a fourth time I shall complain of it,
so never mind."
"And then I feel the loss of my house, 'tis a long time
since I visited my castles."
"Forget them for a time; we shall return to them, unless
Mazarin razes them to the ground."
"Do you think that likely?"
"No, the other cardinal would have done so, but this one is
too mean a fellow to risk it."
"You reconcile me, D'Artagnan."
"Well, then, assume a cheerful manner, as I do; we must joke
with the guards, we must gain the good-will of the soldiers,
since we can't corrupt them. Try, Porthos, to please them
more than you are wont to do when they are under our
windows. Thus far you have done nothing but show them your
fist; and the more respectable your fist is, Porthos, the
less attractive it is. Ah, I would give much to have five
hundred louis, only."
"So would I," said Porthos, unwilling to be behind
D'Artagnan in generosity; "I would give as much as a hundred
The two prisoners were at this point of their conversation
when Comminges entered, preceded by a sergeant and two men,
who brought supper in a basket with two handles, filled with
basins and plates.
"What!" exclaimed Porthos, "mutton again?"
"My dear Monsieur de Comminges," said D'Artagnan, "you will
find that my friend, Monsieur du Vallon, will go to the most
fatal lengths if Cardinal Mazarin continues to provide us
with this sort of meat; mutton every day."
"I declare," said Porthos, "I shall eat nothing if they do
not take it away."
"Remove the mutton," cried Comminges; "I wish Monsieur du
Vallon to sup well, more especially as I have news to give
him that will improve his appetite."
"Is Mazarin dead?" asked Porthos.
"No; I am sorry to tell you he is perfectly well."
"So much the worse," said Porthos.
"What is that news?" asked D'Artagnan. "News in prison is a
fruit so rare that I trust, Monsieur de Comminges, you will
excuse my impatience -- the more eager since you have given
us to understand that the news is good."
"Should you be glad to hear that the Comte de la Fere is
well?" asked De Comminges.
D'Artagnan's penetrating gray eyes were opened to the
"Glad!" he cried; "I should be more than glad! Happy --
"Well, I am desired by him to give you his compliments and
to say that he is in good health."
D'Artagnan almost leaped with joy. A quick glance conveyed
his thought to Porthos: "If Athos knows where we are, if he
opens communication with us, before long Athos will act."
Porthos was not very quick to understand the language of
glances, but now since the name of Athos had suggested to
him the same idea, he understood.
"Do you say," asked the Gascon, timidly, "that the Comte de
la Fere has commissioned you to give his compliments to
Monsieur du Vallon and myself?"
"Then you have seen him?"
"Certainly I have."
"Where? if I may ask without indiscretion."
"Near here," replied De Comminges, smiling; "so near that if
the windows which look on the orangery were not stopped up
you could see him from where you are."
"He is wandering about the environs of the castle," thought
D'Artagnan. Then he said aloud:
"You met him, I dare say, in the park -- hunting, perhaps?"
"No; nearer, nearer still. Look, behind this wall," said De
Comminges, knocking against the wall.
"Behind this wall? What is there, then, behind this wall? I
was brought here by night, so devil take me if I know where
"Well," said Comminges, "suppose one thing."
"I will suppose anything you please."
"Suppose there were a window in this wall."
"From that window you would see Monsieur de la Fere at his."
"The count, then, is in the chateau?"
"For what reason?"
"The same as yourself."
"Athos -- a prisoner?"
"You know well," replied De Comminges, "that there are no
prisoners at Rueil, because there is no prison."
"Don't let us play upon words, sir. Athos has been
"Yesterday, at Saint Germain, as he came out from the
presence of the queen."
The arms of D'Artagnan fell powerless by his side. One might
have supposed him thunderstruck; a paleness ran like a cloud
over his dark skin, but disappeared immediately.
"A prisoner?" he reiterated.
"A prisoner," repeated Porthos, quite dejected.
Suddenly D'Artagnan looked up and in his eyes there was a
gleam which scarcely even Porthos observed; but it died away
and he appeared more sorrowful than before.
"Come, come," said Comminges, who, since D'Artagnan, on the
day of Broussel's arrest, had saved him from the hands of
the Parisians, had entertained a real affection for him,
"don't be unhappy; I never thought of bringing you bad news.
Laugh at the chance which has brought your friend near to
you and Monsieur du Vallon, instead of being in the depths
of despair about it."
But D'Artagnan was still in a desponding mood.
"And how did he look?" asked Porthos, who, perceiving that
D'Artagnan had allowed the conversation to drop, profited by
it to put in a word or two.
"Very well, indeed, sir," replied Comminges; "at first, like
you, he seemed distressed; but when he heard that the
cardinal was going to pay him a visit this very evening ----
"Ah!" cried D'Artagnan, "the cardinal is about to visit the
Comte de la Fere?"
"Yes; and the count desired me to tell you that he should
take advantage of this visit to plead for you and for
"Ah! our dear count!" said D'Artagnan.
"A fine thing, indeed!" grunted Porthos. "A great favor!
Zounds! Monsieur the Comte de la Fere, whose family is
allied to the Montmorency and the Rohan, is easily the equal
of Monsieur de Mazarin."
"No matter," said D'Artagnan, in his most wheedling tone.
"On reflection, my dear Du Vallon, it is a great honor for
the Comte de la Fere, and gives good reason to hope. In
fact, it seems to me so great an honor for a prisoner that I
think Monsieur de Comminges must be mistaken."
"What? I am mistaken?"
"Monsieur de Mazarin will not come to visit the Comte de la
Fere, but the Comte de la Fere will be sent for to visit
"No, no, no," said Comminges, who made a point of having the
facts appear exactly as they were, "I clearly understood
what the cardinal said to me. He will come and visit the
Comte de la Fere."
D'Artagnan tried to gather from the expression of his eyes
whether Porthos understood the importance of that visit, but
Porthos did not even look toward him.
"It is, then, the cardinal's custom to walk in his
orangery?" asked D'Artagnan.
"Every evening he shuts himself in there. That, it seems, is
where he meditates on state affairs."
"In that case," said D'Artagnan, "I begin to believe that
Monsieur de la Fere will receive the visit of his eminence;
he will, of course, have an escort."
"Yes -- two soldiers."
"And will he talk thus of affairs in presence of two
"The soldiers are Swiss, who understand only German.
Besides, according to all probability they will wait at the
D'Artagnan made a violent effort over himself to keep his
face from being too expressive.
"Let the cardinal take care of going alone to visit the
Comte de la Fere," said D'Artagnan; "for the count must be
Comminges began to laugh. "Oh, oh! why, really, one would
say that you four were anthropaphagi! The count is an
affable man; besides, be is unarmed; at the first word from
his eminence the two soldiers about him would run to his
"Two soldiers," said D'Artagnan, seeming to remember
something, "two soldiers, yes; that, then, is why I hear two
men called every evening and see them walking sometimes for
half an hour, under my window."
"That is it; they are waiting for the cardinal, or rather
for Bernouin, who comes to call them when the cardinal goes
"Fine-looking men, upon my word!" said D'Artagnan.
"They belong to the regiment that was at Lens, which the
prince assigned to the cardinal."
"Ah, monsieur," said D'Artagnan, as if to sum up in a word
all that conversation, "if only his eminence would relent
and grant to Monsieur de la Fere our liberty."
"I wish it with all my heart," said Comminges.
"Then, if he should forget that visit, you would find no
inconvenience in reminding him of it?"
"Not at all."
"Ah, that gives me more confidence."
This skillful turn of the conversation would have seemed a
sublime manoeuvre to any one who could have read the
"Now," said D'Artagnan, "I've one last favor to ask of you,
Monsieur de Comminges."
"At your service, sir."
"You will see the count again?"
"Will you remember us to him and ask him to solicit for me
the same favor that he will have obtained?"
"You want the cardinal to come here?"
"No; I know my place and am not so presumptuous. Let his
eminence do me the honor to give me a hearing; that is all I
"Oh!" muttered Porthos, shaking his head, "never should I
have thought this of him! How misfortune humbles a man!"
"I promise you it shall be done," answered De Comminges.
"Tell the count that I am well; that you found me sad, but
"I am pleased, sir, to hear that."
"And the same, also, for Monsieur du Vallon ---- "
"Not for me ," cried Porthos; "I am not by any means
"But you will be resigned, my friend."
"He will become so, monsieur; I know him better than he
knows himself. Be silent, dear Du Vallon, and resign
"Adieu, gentlemen," said De Comminges; "sleep well!"
"We will try."
De Comminges went away, D'Artagnan remaining apparently in
the same attitude of humble resignation; but scarcely had he
departed when he turned and clasped Porthos in his arms with
an expression not to be doubted.
"Oh!" cried Porthos; "what's the matter now? Have you gone
mad, my dear friend?"
"What is the matter?" returned D'Artagnan; "we are saved!"
"I don't see that at all," answered Porthos. "I think we are
all taken prisoners, except Aramis, and that our chances of
getting out are lessened since one more of us is caught in
"Which is far too strong for two of us, but not strong
enough for three of us," returned D'Artagnan.
"I don't understand," said Porthos.
"Never mind; let's sit down to table and take something to
strengthen us for the night."
"What are we to do, then, to-night?"
"To travel -- perhaps."
"But ---- "
"Sit down, dear friend, to table. When one is eating, ideas
flow easily. After supper, when they are perfected, I will
communicate my plans to you."
So Porthos sat down to table without another word and ate
with an appetite that did honor to the confidence that was
ever inspired in him by D'Artagnan's inventive imagination.
Strength and Sagacity -- Continued.
Supper was eaten in silence, but not in sadness; for from
time to time one of those sweet smiles which were habitual
to him in moments of good-humor illumined the face of
D'Artagnan. Not a scintilla of these was lost on Porthos;
and at every one he uttered an exclamation which betrayed to
his friend that he had not lost sight of the idea which
possessed his brain.
At dessert D'Artagnan reposed in his chair, crossed one leg
over the other and lounged about like a man perfectly at his
Porthos rested his chin on his hands, placed his elbows on
the table and looked at D'Artagnan with an expression of
confidence which imparted to that colossus an admirable
appearance of good-fellowship.
"Well?" said D'Artagnan, at last.
"Well!" repeated Porthos.
"You were saying, my dear friend ---- "
"No; I said nothing."
"Yes; you were saying you wished to leave this place."
"Ah, indeed! the will was never wanting."
"To get away you would not mind, you added, knocking down a
door or a wall."
"'Tis true -- I said so, and I say it again."
"And I answered you, Porthos, that it was not a good plan;
that we couldn't go a hundred steps without being
recaptured, because we were without clothes to disguise
ourselves and arms to defend ourselves."
"That is true; we should need clothes and arms."
"Well," said D'Artagnan, rising, "we have them, friend
Porthos, and even something better."
"Bah!" said Porthos, looking around.
"Useless to look; everything will come to us when wanted. At
about what time did we see the two Swiss guards walking
"An hour after sunset."
"If they go out to-day as they did yesterday we shall have
the honor, then, of seeing them in half an hour?"
"In a quarter of an hour at most."
"Your arm is still strong enough, is it not, Porthos?"
Porthos unbuttoned his sleeve, raised his shirt and looked
complacently on his strong arm, as large as the leg of any
"Yes, indeed," said he, "I believe so."
"So that you could without trouble convert these tongs into
a hoop and yonder shovel into a corkscrew?"
"Certainly." And the giant took up these two articles, and
without any apparent effort produced in them the
metamorphoses suggested by his companion.
"There!" he cried.
"Capital!" exclaimed the Gascon. "Really, Porthos, you are a
"I have heard speak," said Porthos, "of a certain Milo of
Crotona, who performed wonderful feats, such as binding his
forehead with a cord and bursting it -- of killing an ox
with a blow of his fist and carrying it home on his
shoulders, et cetera. I used to learn all these feat by
heart yonder, down at Pierrefonds, and I have done all that
he did except breaking a cord by the corrugation of my
"Because your strength is not in your head, Porthos," said
"No; it is in my arms and shoulders," answered Porthos with
"Well, my dear friend, let us approach the window and there
you can match your strength against that of an iron bar."
Porthos went to the window, took a bar in his hands, clung
to it and bent it like a bow; so that the two ends came out
of the sockets of stone in which for thirty years they had
"Well! friend, the cardinal, although such a genius, could
never have done that."
"Shall I take out any more of them?" asked Porthos.
"No; that is sufficient; a man can pass through that."
Porthos tried, and passed the upper portion of his body
"Yes," he said.
"Now pass your arm through this opening."
"You will know presently -- pass it."
Porthos obeyed with military promptness and passed his arm
through the opening.
"Admirable!" said D'Artagnan.
"The scheme goes forward, it seems."
"On wheels, dear friend."
"Good! What shall I do now?"
"It is finished, then?"
"No, not yet."
"I should like to understand," said Porthos.
"Listen, my dear friend; in two words you will know all. The
door of the guardhouse opens, as you see."
"Yes, I see."
"They are about to send into our court, which Monsieur de
Mazarin crosses on his way to the orangery, the two guards
who attend him."
"There they are, coming out."
"If only they close the guardhouse door! Good! They close
"Silence! They may hear us."
"I don't understand it at all."
"As you execute you will understand."
"And yet I should have preferred ---- "
"You will have the pleasure of the surprise."
"Ah, that is true."
Porthos remained silent and motionless.
In fact, the two soldiers advanced on the side where the
window was, rubbing their hands, for it was cold, it being
the month of February.
At this moment the door of the guardhouse was opened and one
of the soldiers was summoned away.
"Now," said D'Artagnan, "I am going to call this soldier and
talk to him. Don't lose a word of what I'm going to say to
you, Porthos. Everything lies in the execution."
"Good, the execution of plots is my forte."
"I know it well. I depend on you. Look, I shall turn to the
left, so that the soldier will be at your right, as soon as
he mounts on the bench to talk to us."
"But supposing he doesn't mount?"
"He will; rely upon it. As soon as you see him get up,
stretch out your arm and seize him by the neck. Then,
raising him up as Tobit raised the fish by the gills, you
must pull him into the room, taking care to squeeze him so
tight that he can't cry out."
"Oh!" said Porthos. "Suppose I happen to strangle him?"
"To be sure there would only be a Swiss the less in the
world; but you will not do so, I hope. Lay him down here;
we'll gag him and tie him -- no matter where -- somewhere.
So we shall get from him one uniform and a sword."
"Marvelous!" exclaimed Porthos, looking at the Gascon with
the most profound admiration.
"Pooh!" replied D'Artagnan.
"Yes," said Porthos, recollecting himself, "but one uniform
and one sword will not suffice for two."
"Well; but there's his comrade."
"True," said Porthos.
"Therefore, when I cough, stretch out your arm."
The two friends then placed themselves as they had agreed,
Porthos being completely hidden in an angle of the window.
"Good-evening, comrade," said D'Artagnan in his most
fascinating voice and manner.
"Good-evening, sir," answered the soldier, in a strong
"'Tis not too warm to walk," resumed D'Artagnan.
"And I think a glass of wine will not be disagreeable to
"A glass of wine will be extremely welcome."
"The fish bites -- the fish bites!" whispered the Gascon to
"I understand," said Porthos.
"A bottle, perhaps?"
"A whole bottle? Yes, sir."