Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Twenty Years After by Alexandre Dumas [Pere]

Part 8 out of 20

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 2.1 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

"The monk!" cried the host; "where is the monk?"

Grimaud sprang toward an open window which looked into the

"He has escaped by this means," exclaimed he.

"Do you think so?" said the host, bewildered; "boy, see if
the mule belonging to the monk is still in the stable."

"There is no mule," cried he to whom this question was

The host clasped his hands and looked around him
suspiciously, whilst Grimaud knit his brows and approached
the wounded man, whose worn, hard features awoke in his mind
such awful recollections of the past.

"There can be no longer any doubt but that it is himself,"
said he.

"Does he still live?" inquired the innkeeper.

Making no reply, Grimaud opened the poor man's jacket to
feel if the heart beat, whilst the host approached in his
turn; but in a moment they both fell back, the host uttering
a cry of horror and Grimaud becoming pallid. The blade of a
dagger was buried up to the hilt in the left side of the

"Run! run for help!" cried Grimaud, "and I will remain
beside him here."

The host quitted the room in agitation, and as for his wife,
she had fled at the sound of her husband's cries.


The Absolution.

This is what had taken place: We have seen that it was not
of his own free will, but, on the contrary, very
reluctantly, that the monk attended the wounded man who had
been recommended to him in so strange a manner. Perhaps he
would have sought to escape by flight had he seen any
possibility of doing so. He was restrained by the threats of
the two gentlemen and by the presence of their attendants,
who doubtless had received their instructions. And besides,
he considered it most expedient, without exhibiting too much
ill-will, to follow to the end his role as confessor.

The monk entered the chamber and approached the bed of the
wounded man. The executioner searched his face with the
quick glance peculiar to those who are about to die and have
no time to lose. He made a movement of surprise and said:

"Father, you are very young."

"Men who bear my robe have no, age," replied the monk,

"Alas, speak to me more gently, father; in my last moments I
need a friend."

"Do you suffer much?" asked the monk.

"Yes, but in my soul much more than in my body."

"We will save your soul," said the young man; "but are you
really the executioner of Bethune, as these people say?"

"That is to say," eagerly replied the wounded man, who
doubtless feared that the name of executioner would take
from him the last help that he could claim -- "that is to
say, I was, but am no longer; it is fifteen years since I
gave up the office. I still assist at executions, but no
longer strike the blow myself -- no, indeed."

"You have, then, a repugnance to your profession?"

"So long as I struck in the name of the law and of justice
my profession allowed me to sleep quietly, sheltered as I
was by justice and law; but since that terrible night when I
became an instrument of private vengeance and when with
personal hatred I raised the sword over one of God's
creatures -- since that day ---- "

The executioner paused and shook his head with an expression
of despair.

"Tell me about it," said the monk, who, sitting on the foot
of the bed, began to be interested in a story so strangely

"Ah!" cried the dying man, with all the effusiveness of a
grief declared after long suppression, "ah! I have sought to
stifle remorse by twenty years of good deeds; I have
assuaged the natural ferocity of those who shed blood; on
every occasion I have exposed my life to save those who were
in danger, and I have preserved lives in exchange for that I
took away. That is not all; the money gained in the exercise
of my profession I have distributed to the poor; I have been
assiduous in attending church and those who formerly fled
from me have become accustomed to seeing me. All have
forgiven me, some have even loved me; but I think that God
has not pardoned me, for the memory of that execution
pursues me constantly and every night I see that woman's
ghost rising before me."

"A woman! You have assassinated a woman, then?" cried the

"You also!" exclaimed the executioner, "you use that word
which sounds ever in my ears -- `assassinated!' I have
assassinated, then, and not executed! I am an assassin,
then, and not an officer of justice!" and he closed his eyes
with a groan.

The monk doubtless feared that he would die without saying
more, for he exclaimed eagerly:

"Go on, I know nothing, as yet; when you have finished your
story, God and I will judge."

"Oh, father," continued the executioner, without opening his
eyes, as if he feared on opening them to see some frightful
object, "it is especially when night comes on and when I
have to cross a river, that this terror which I have been
unable to conquer comes upon me; it then seems as if my hand
grew heavy, as if the cutlass was still in its grasp, as if
the water had the color of blood, and all the voices of
nature -- the whispering of the trees, the murmur of the
wind, the lapping of the wave -- united in a voice tearful,
despairing, terrible, crying to me, `Place for the justice
of God!'"

"Delirium!" murmured the monk, shaking his head.

The executioner opened his eyes, turned toward the young man
and grasped his arm.

"`Delirium,'" he repeated; "`delirium,' do you say? Oh, no!
I remember too well. It was evening; I had thrown the body
into the river and those words which my remorse repeats to
me are those which I in my pride pronounced. After being the
instrument of human justice I aspired to be that of the
justice of God."

"But let me see, how was it done? Speak," said the monk.

"It was at night. A man came to me and showed me an order
and I followed him. Four other noblemen awaited me. They led
me away masked. I reserved the right of refusing if the
office they required of me should seem unjust. We traveled
five or six leagues, serious, silent, and almost without
speaking. At length, through the window of a little hut,
they showed me a woman sitting, leaning on a table, and
said, `there is the person to be executed.'"

"Horrible!" said the monk. "And you obeyed?"

"Father, that woman was a monster. It was said that she had
poisoned her second husband; she had tried to assassinate
her brother-in-law; she had just poisoned a young woman who
was her rival, and before leaving England she had, it was
believed, caused the favorite of the king to be murdered."

"Buckingham?" cried the monk.

"Yes, Buckingham."

"The woman was English, then?"

"No, she was French, but she had married in England."

The monk turned pale, wiped his brow and went and bolted the
door. The executioner thought that he had abandoned him and
fell back, groaning, upon his bed.

"No, no; I am here," said the monk, quickly coming back to
him. "Go on; who were those men?"

"One of them was a foreigner, English, I think. The four
others were French and wore the uniform of musketeers."

"Their names?" asked the monk.

"I don't know them, but the four other noblemen called the
Englishman `my lord.'"

"Was the woman handsome?"

"Young and beautiful. Oh, yes, especially beautiful. I see
her now, as on her knees at my feet, with her head thrown
back, she begged for life. I have never understood how I
could have laid low a head so beautiful, with a face so

The monk seemed agitated by a strange emotion; he trembled
all over; he seemed eager to put a question which yet he
dared not ask. At length, with a violent effort at

"The name of that woman?" he said.

"I don't know what it was. As I have said, she was twice
married, once in France, the second time in England."

"She was young, you say?"

"Twenty-five years old."





"Abundance of hair -- falling over her shoulders?"


"Eyes of an admirable expression?"

"When she chose. Oh, yes, it is she!"

"A voice of strange sweetness?"

"How do you know it?"

The executioner raised himself on his elbow and gazed with a
frightened air at the monk, who became livid.

"And you killed her?" the monk exclaimed. "You were the tool
of those cowards who dared not kill her themselves? You had
no pity for that youthfulness, that beauty, that weakness?
you killed that woman?"

"Alas! I have already told you, father, that woman, under
that angelic appearance, had an infernal soul, and when I
saw her, when I recalled all the evil she had done to me
---- "

"To you? What could she have done to you? Come, tell me!"

"She had seduced and ruined my brother, a priest. She had
fled with him from her convent."

"With your brother?"

"Yes, my brother was her first lover, and she caused his
death. Oh, father, do not look in that way at me! Oh, I am
guilty, then; you will not pardon me?"

The monk recovered his usual expression.

"Yes, yes," he said, "I will pardon you if you tell me all."

"Oh!" cried the executioner, "all! all! all!"

"Answer, then. If she seduced your brother -- you said she
seduced him, did you not?"


"If she caused his death -- you said that she caused his

"Yes," repeated the executioner.

"Then you must know what her name was as a young girl."

"Oh, mon Dieu!" cried the executioner, "I think I am dying.
Absolution, father! absolution."

"Tell me her name and I will give it."

"Her name was ---- My God, have pity on me!" murmured the
executioner; and he fell back on the bed, pale, trembling,
and apparently about to die.

"Her name!" repeated the monk, bending over him as if to
tear from him the name if he would not utter it; "her name!
Speak, or no absolution!"

The dying man collected all his forces.

The monk's eyes glittered.

"Anne de Bueil," murmured the wounded man.

"Anne de Bueil!" cried the monk, standing up and lifting his
hands to Heaven. "Anne de Bueil! You said Anne de Bueil, did
you not?"

"Yes, yes, that was her name; and now absolve me, for I am

"I, absolve you!" cried the priest, with a laugh which made
the dying man's hair stand on end; "I, absolve you? I am not
a priest."

"You are not a priest!" cried the executioner. "What, then,
are you?"

"I am about to tell you, wretched man."

"Oh, mon Dieu!"

"I am John Francis de Winter."

"I do not know you," said the executioner.

"Wait, wait; you are going to know me. I am John Francis de
Winter," he repeated, "and that woman ---- "

"Well, that woman?"

"Was my mother!"

The executioner uttered the first cry, that terrible cry
which had been first heard.

"Oh, pardon me, pardon me!" he murmured; "if not in the name
of God, at least in your own name; if not as priest, then as

"Pardon you!" cried the pretended monk, "pardon you! Perhaps
God will pardon you, but I, never!"

"For pity's sake," said the executioner, extending his arms.

"No pity for him who had no pity! Die, impenitent, die in
despair, die and be damned!" And drawing a poniard from
beneath his robe he thrust it into the breast of the wounded
man, saying, "Here is my absolution!"

Then was heard that second cry, not so loud as the first and
followed by a long groan.

The executioner, who had lifted himself up, fell back upon
his bed. As to the monk, without withdrawing the poniard
from the wound, he ran to the window, opened it, leaped out
into the flowers of a small garden, glided onward to the
stable, took out his mule, went out by a back gate, ran to a
neighbouring thicket, threw off his monkish garb, took from
his valise the complete habiliment of a cavalier, clothed
himself in it, went on foot to the first post, secured there
a horse and continued with a loose rein his journey to


Grimaud Speaks.

Grimaud was left alone with the executioner, who in a few
moments opened his eyes.

"Help, help," he murmured; "oh, God! have I not a single
friend in the world who will aid me either to live or to

"Take courage," said Grimaud; "they are gone to find

"Who are you?" asked the wounded man, fixing his half opened
eyes on Grimaud.

"An old acquaintance," replied Grimaud.

"You?" and the wounded man sought to recall the features of
the person now before him.

"Under what circumstances did we meet?" he asked again.

"One night, twenty years ago, my master fetched you from
Bethune and conducted you to Armentieres."

"I know you well now," said the executioner; "you were one
of the four grooms."

"Just so."

"Where do you come from now?"

"I was passing by and drew up at this inn to rest my horse.
They told me the executioner of Bethune was here and
wounded, when you uttered two piercing cries. At the first
we ran to the door and at the second forced it open."

"And the monk?" exclaimed the executioner, "did you see the

"What monk?"

"The monk that was shut in with me."

"No, he was no longer here; he appears to have fled by the
window. Was he the man that stabbed you?"

"Yes," said the executioner.

Grimaud moved as if to leave the room.

"What are you going to do?" asked the wounded man.

"He must be apprehended."

"Do not attempt it; he has revenged himself and has done
well. Now I may hope that God will forgive me, since my
crime is expiated."

"Explain yourself." said Grimaud.

"The woman whom you and your masters commanded me to kill
---- "


"Yes, Milady; it is true you called her thus."

"What has the monk to do with this Milady?"

"She was his mother."

Grimaud trembled and stared at the dying man in a dull and
leaden manner.

"His mother!" he repeated.

"Yes, his mother."

"But does he know this secret, then?"

"I mistook him for a monk and revealed it to him in

"Unhappy man!" cried Grimaud, whose face was covered with
sweat at the bare idea of the evil results such a revelation
might cause; "unhappy man, you named no one, I hope?"

"I pronounced no name, for I knew none, except his mother's,
as a young girl, and it was by this name that he recognized
her, but he knows that his uncle was among her judges."

Thus speaking, he fell back exhausted. Grimaud, wishing to
relieve him, advanced his hand toward the hilt of the

"Touch me not!" said the executioner; "if this dagger is
withdrawn I shall die."

Grimaud remained with his hand extended; then, striking his
forehead, he exclaimed:

"Oh! if this man should ever discover the names of the
others, my master is lost."

"Haste! haste to him and warn him," cried the wounded man,
"if he still lives; warn his friends, too. My death, believe
me, will not be the end of this atrocious misadventure."

"Where was the monk going?" asked Grimaud.

"Toward Paris."

"Who stopped him?"

"Two young gentlemen, who were on their way to join the army
and the name of one of whom I heard his companion mention --
the Viscount de Bragelonne."

"And it was this young man who brought the monk to you? Then
it was the will of God that it should be so and this it is
which makes it all so awful," continued Grimaud. "And yet
that woman deserved her fate; do you not think so?"

"On one's death-bed the crimes of others appear very small
in comparison with one's own," said the executioner; and
falling back exhausted he closed his eyes.

Grimaud was reluctant to leave the man alone and yet he
perceived the necessity of starting at once to bear these
tidings to the Comte de la Fere. Whilst he thus hesitated
the host re-entered the room, followed not only by a
surgeon, but by many other persons, whom curiosity had
attracted to the spot. The surgeon approached the dying man,
who seemed to have fainted.

"We must first extract the steel from the side," said he,
shaking his head in a significant manner.

The prophecy which the wounded man had just uttered recurred
to Grimaud, who turned away his head. The weapon, as we have
already stated, was plunged into the body to the hilt, and
as the surgeon, taking it by the end, drew it forth, the
wounded man opened his eyes and fixed them on him in a
manner truly frightful. When at last the blade had been
entirely withdrawn, a red froth issued from the mouth of the
wounded man and a stream of blood spouted afresh from the
wound when he at length drew breath; then, fixing his eyes
upon Grimaud with a singular expression, the dying man
uttered the last death-rattle and expired.

Then Grimaud, lifting the dagger from the pool of blood
which was gliding along the room, to the horror of all
present, made a sign to the host to follow him, paid him
with a generosity worthy of his master and again mounted his
horse. Grimaud's first intention had been to return to
Paris, but he remembered the anxiety which his prolonged
absence might occasion Raoul, and reflecting that there were
now only two miles between the vicomte and himself and a
quarter of an hour's riding would unite them, and that the
going, returning and explanation would not occupy an hour,
he put spurs to his horse and a few minutes after had
reached the only inn of Mazingarbe.

Raoul was seated at table with the Count de Guiche and his
tutor, when all at once the door opened and Grimaud
presented himself, travel-stained, dirty, and sprinkled with
the blood of the unhappy executioner.

"Grimaud, my good Grimaud!" exclaimed Raoul "here you are at
last! Excuse me, sirs, this is not a servant, but a friend.
How did you leave the count?" continued he. "Does he regret
me a little? Have you seen him since I left him? Answer, for
I have many things to tell you, too; indeed, the last three
days some odd adventures have happened -- but what is the
matter? how pale you are! and blood, too! What is this?"

"It is the blood of the unfortunate man whom you left at the
inn and who died in my arms."

"In your arms? -- that man! but know you who he was?"

"He used to be the headsman of Bethune."

"You knew him? and he is dead?"


"Well, sir," said D'Arminges, "it is the common lot; even an
executioner is not exempted. I had a bad opinion of him the
moment I saw his wound, and since he asked for a monk you
know that it was his opinion, too, that death would follow."

At the mention of the monk, Grimaud became pale.

"Come, come," continued D'Arminges, "to dinner;" for like
most men of his age and generation he did not allow
sentiment or sensibility to interfere with a repast.

"You are right, sir," said Raoul. "Come, Grimaud, order
dinner for yourself and when you have rested a little we can

"No, sir, no," said Grimaud. "I cannot stop a moment; I must
start for Paris again immediately."

"What? You start for Paris? You are mistaken; it is Olivain
who leaves me; you are to remain."

"On the contrary, Olivain is to stay and I am to go. I have
come for nothing else but to tell you so."

"But what is the meaning of this change?"

"I cannot tell you."

"Explain yourself."

"I cannot explain myself."

"Come, tell me, what is the joke?"

"Monsieur le vicomte knows that I never joke."

"Yes, but I know also that Monsieur le Comte de la Fere
arranged that you were to remain with me and that Olivain
should return to Paris. I shall follow the count's

"Not under present circumstances, monsieur."

"Perhaps you mean to disobey me?"

"Yes, monsieur, I must."

"You persist, then?"

"Yes, I am going; may you be happy, monsieur," and Grimaud
saluted and turned toward the door to go out.

Raoul, angry and at the same time uneasy, ran after him and
seized him by the arm. "Grimaud!" he cried; "remain; I wish

"Then," replied Grimaud, "you wish me to allow monsieur le
comte to be killed." He saluted and made a movement to

"Grimaud, my friend," said the viscount, "will you leave me
thus, in such anxiety? Speak, speak, in Heaven's name!" And
Raoul fell back trembling upon his chair.

"I can tell you but one thing, sir, for the secret you wish
to know is not my own. You met a monk, did you not?"


The young men looked at each other with an expression of

"You conducted him to the wounded man and you had time to
observe him, and perhaps you would know him again were you
to meet him."

"Yes, yes!" cried both young men.

"Very well; if ever you meet him again, wherever it may be,
whether on the high road or in the street or in a church,
anywhere that he or you may be, put your foot on his neck
and crush him without pity, without mercy, as you would
crush a viper or a scorpion! destroy him utterly and quit
him not until he is dead; the lives of five men are not
safe, in my opinion, as long as he is on the earth."

And without adding another word, Grimaud, profiting by the
astonishment and terror into which he had thrown his
auditors, rushed from the room. Two minutes later the
thunder of a horse's hoofs was heard upon the road; it was
Grimaud, on his way to Paris. When once in the saddle
Grimaud reflected on two things; first, that at the pace he
was going his horse would not carry him ten miles, and
secondly, that he had no money. But Grimaud's ingenuity was
more prolific than his speech, and therefore at the first
halt he sold his steed and with the money obtained from the
purchase took post horses.


On the Eve of Battle.

Raoul was aroused from his sombre reflections by his host,
who rushed into the apartment crying out, "The Spaniards!
the Spaniards!"

That cry was of such importance as to overcome all
preoccupation. The young men made inquiries and ascertained
that the enemy was advancing by way of Houdin and Bethune.

While Monsieur d'Arminges gave orders for the horses to be
made ready for departure, the two young men ascended to the
upper windows of the house and saw in the direction of
Marsin and of Lens a large body of infantry and cavalry.
This time it was not a wandering troop of partisans; it was
an entire army. There was therefore nothing for them to do
but to follow the prudent advice of Monsieur d'Arminges and
beat a retreat. They quickly went downstairs. Monsieur
d'Arminges was already mounted. Olivain had ready the horses
of the young men, and the lackeys of the Count de Guiche
guarded carefully between them the Spanish prisoner, mounted
on a pony which had been bought for his use. As a further
precaution they had bound his hands.

The little company started off at a trot on the road to
Cambrin, where they expected to find the prince. But he was
no longer there, having withdrawn on the previous evening to
La Bassee, misled by false intelligence of the enemy's
movements. Deceived by this intelligence he had concentrated
his forces between Vieille-Chapelle and La Venthie; and
after a reconnoissance along the entire line, in company
with Marshal de Grammont, he had returned and seated himself
before a table, with his officers around him. He questioned
them as to the news they had each been charged to obtain,
but nothing positive had been learned. The hostile army had
disappeared two days before and seemed to have gone out of

Now an enemy is never so near and consequently so
threatening, as when he has completely disappeared. The
prince was, therefore, contrary to his custom, gloomy and
anxious, when an officer entered and announced to Marshal de
Grammont that some one wished to see him.

The Duc de Grammont received permission from the prince by a
glance and went out. The prince followed him with his eyes
and continued looking at the door; no one ventured to speak,
for fear of disturbing him.

Suddenly a dull and heavy noise was heard. The prince leaped
to his feet, extending his hand in the direction whence came
the sound, there was no mistaking it -- it was the noise of
cannon. Every one stood up.

At that moment the door opened.

"Monseigneur," said Marshal de Grammont, with a radiant
face, "will your highness permit my son, Count de Guiche,
and his traveling companion, Viscount de Bragelonne, to come
in and give news of the enemy, whom they have found while we
were looking for him?"

"What!" eagerly replied the prince, "will I permit? I not
only permit, I desire; let them come in."

The marshal introduced the two young men and placed them
face to face with the prince.

"Speak, gentlemen," said the prince, saluting them; "first
speak; we shall have time afterward for the usual
compliments. The most urgent thing now is to learn where the
enemy is and what he is doing."

It fell naturally to the Count de Guiche to make reply; not
only was he the elder, but he had been presented to the
prince by his father. Besides, he had long known the prince,
whilst Raoul now saw him for the first time. He therefore
narrated to the prince what they had seen from the inn at

Meanwhile Raoul closely observed the young general, already
made so famous by the battles of Rocroy, Fribourg, and

Louis de Bourbon, Prince de Conde, who, since the death of
his father, Henri de Bourbon, was called, in accordance with
the custom of that period, Monsieur le Prince, was a young
man, not more than twenty-six or twenty-seven years old,
with the eye of an eagle -- agl' occhi grifani, as Dante
says -- aquiline nose, long, waving hair, of medium height,
well formed, possessed of all the qualities essential to the
successful soldier -- that is to say, the rapid glance,
quick decision, fabulous courage. At the same time he was a
man of elegant manners and strong mind, so that in addition
to the revolution he had made in war, by his new
contributions to its methods, he had also made a revolution
at Paris, among the young noblemen of the court, whose
natural chief he was and who, in distinction from the social
leaders of the ancient court, modeled after Bassompierre,
Bellegarde and the Duke d'Angouleme, were called the

At the first words of the Count de Guiche, the prince,
having in mind the direction whence came the sound of
cannon, had understood everything. The enemy was marching
upon Lens, with the intention, doubtless, of securing
possession of that town and separating from France the army
of France. But in what force was the enemy? Was it a corps
sent out to make a diversion? Was it an entire army? To this
question De Guiche could not respond.

Now, as these questions involved matters of gravest
consequence, it was these to which the prince had especially
desired an answer, exact, precise, positive.

Raoul conquered the very natural feeling of timidity he
experienced and approaching the prince:

"My lord," he said, "will you permit me to hazard a few
words on that subject, which will perhaps relieve you of
your uncertainty?"

The prince turned and seemed to cover the young man with a
single glance; he smiled on perceiving that he was a child
hardly fifteen years old.

"Certainly, monsieur, speak," he said, softening his stern,
accented tones, as if he were speaking to a woman.

"My lord," said Raoul, blushing, "might examine the Spanish

"Have you a Spanish prisoner?" cried the prince.

"Yes, my lord."

"Ah, that is true," said De Guiche; "I had forgotten it."

"That is easily understood; it was you who took him, count,"
said Raoul, smiling.

The old marshal turned toward the viscount, grateful for
that praise of his son, whilst the prince exclaimed:

"The young man is right; let the prisoner be brought in."

Meanwhile the prince took De Guiche aside and asked him how
the prisoner had been taken and who this young man was.

"Monsieur," said the prince, turning toward Raoul, "I know
that you have a letter from my sister, Madame de
Longueville; but I see that you have preferred commending
yourself to me by giving me good counsel."

"My lord," said Raoul, coloring up, "I did not wish to
interrupt your highness in a conversation so important as
that in which you were engaged with the count. But here is
the letter."

"Very well," said the prince; "give it to me later. Here is
the prisoner; let us attend to what is most pressing."

The prisoner was one of those military adventurers who sold
their blood to whoever would buy, and grew old in stratagems
and spoils. Since he had been taken he had not uttered a
word, so that it was not known to what country he belonged.
The prince looked at him with unspeakable distrust.

"Of what country are you?" asked the prince.

The prisoner muttered a few words in a foreign tongue.

"Ah! ah! it seems that he is a Spaniard. Do you speak
Spanish, Grammont?"

"Faith, my lord, but indifferently."

"And I not at all," said the prince, laughing. "Gentlemen,"
he said, turning to those who were near him "can any one of
you speak Spanish and serve me as interpreter?"

"I can, my lord," said Raoul.

"Ah, you speak Spanish?"

"Enough, I think, to fulfill your highness's wishes on this

Meanwhile the prisoner had remained impassive and as if he
had no understanding of what was taking place.

"My lord asks of what country you are," said the young man,
in the purest Castilian.

"Ich bin ein Deutscher," replied the prisoner.

"What in the devil does he say?" asked the prince. "What new
gibberish is that?"

"He says he is German, my lord," replied Raoul; "but I doubt
it, for his accent is bad and his pronunciation defective."

"Then you speak German, also?" asked the prince.

"Yes, my lord."

"Well enough to question him in that language?"

"Yes, my lord."

"Question him, then."

Raoul began the examination, but the result justified his
opinion. The prisoner did not understand, or seemed not to
understand, what Raoul said to him; and Raoul could hardly
understand his replies, containing a mixture of Flemish and
Alsatian. However, amidst all the prisoner's efforts to
elude a systematic examination, Raoul had recognized his
natural accent.

"Non siete Spagnuolo," he said; "non siete Tedesco; siete

The prisoner started and bit his lips.

"Ah, that," said the prince, "I understand that language
thoroughly; and since he is Italian I will myself continue
the examination. Thank you, viscount," continued the prince,
laughing, "and I appoint you from this moment my

But the prisoner was not less unwilling to respond in
Italian than in the other languages; his aim was to elude
the examination. Therefore, he knew nothing either of the
enemy's numbers, or of those in command, or of the purpose
of the army.

"Very good," said the prince, understanding the reason of
that ignorance; "the man was caught in the act of
assassination and robbery; he might have purchased his life
by speaking; he doesn't wish to speak. Take him out and
shoot him."

The prisoner turned pale. The two soldiers who had brought
him in took him, each by one arm, and led him toward the
door, whilst the prince, turning to Marshal de Grammont,
seemed to have already forgotten the order he had given.

When he reached the threshold of the door the prisoner
stopped. The soldiers, who knew only their orders, attempted
to force him along.

"One moment," said the prisoner, in French. "I am ready to
speak, my lord."

"Ah! ah!" said the prince, laughing, "I thought we should
come to that. I have a sure method of limbering tongues.
Young men, take advantage of it against the time when you
may be in command."

"But on condition," continued the prisoner, "that your
highness will swear that my life shall be safe."

"Upon my honor," said the prince.

"Question, then, my lord."

"Where did the army cross the Lys?"

"Between Saint-Venant and Aire."

"By whom is it commanded?"

"By Count de Fuonsaldagna, General Beck and the archduke."

"Of how many does it consist?"

"Eighteen thousand men and thirty-six cannon."

"And its aim is?"


"You see; gentlemen!" said the prince, turning with a
triumphant air toward Marshal de Grammont and the other

"Yes, my lord," said the marshal, "you have divined all that
was possible to human genius."

"Recall Le Plessis, Bellievre, Villequier and D'Erlac," said
the prince, "recall all the troops that are on this side of
the Lys. Let them hold themselves in readiness to march
to-night. To-morrow, according to all probability, we shall
attack the enemy."

"But, my lord," said Marshal de Grammont, "consider that
when we have collected all our forces we shall have hardly
thirteen thousand men."

"Monsieur le marechal," said the prince, with that wonderful
glance that was peculiar to him, "it is with small armies
that great battles are won."

Then turning toward the prisoner, "Take away that man," he
said, "and keep him carefully in sight. His life is
dependent on the information he has given us; if it is true,
he shall be free; if false, let him be shot."

The prisoner was led away.

"Count de Guiche," said the prince, "it is a long time since
you saw your father, remain here with him. Monsieur," he
continued, addressing Raoul, "if you are not too tired,
follow me."

"To the end of the world, my lord!" cried Raoul, feeling an
unknown enthusiasm for that young general, who seemed to him
so worthy of his renown.

The prince smiled; he despised flatterers, but he
appreciated enthusiasts.

"Come, monsieur," he said, "you are good in council, as we
have already discovered; to-morrow we shall know if you are
good in action."

"And I," said the marshal, "what am I to do?"

"Wait here to receive the troops. I shall either return for
them myself or shall send a courier directing you to bring
them to me. Twenty guards, well mounted, are all that I
shall need for my escort."

"That is very few," said the marshal.

"It is enough," replied the prince. "Have you a good horse,
Monsieur de Bragelonne?"

"My horse was killed this morning, my lord, and I am mounted
provisionally on my lackey's."

"Choose for yourself in my stables the horse you like best.
No false modesty; take the best horse you can find. You will
need it this evening, perhaps; you will certainly need it

Raoul didn't wait to be told twice; he knew that with
superiors, especially when those superiors are princes, the
highest politeness is to obey without delay or argument; he
went down to the stables, picked out a pie-bald Andalusian
horse, saddled and bridled it himself, for Athos had advised
him to trust no one with those important offices at a time
of danger, and went to rejoin the prince, who at that moment
mounted his horse.

"Now, monsieur," he said to Raoul, "will you give me the
letter you have brought?"

Raoul handed the letter to the prince.

"Keep near me," said the latter.

The prince threw his bridle over the pommel of the saddle,
as he was wont to do when he wished to have both hands free,
unsealed the letter of Madame de Longueville and started at
a gallop on the road to Lens, attended by Raoul and his
small escort, whilst messengers sent to recall the troops
set out with a loose rein in other directions. The prince
read as he hastened on.

"Monsieur," he said, after a moment, "they tell me great
things of you. I have only to say, after the little that I
have seen and heard, that I think even better of you than I
have been told.'

Raoul bowed.

Meanwhile, as the little troop drew nearer to Lens, the
noise of the cannon sounded louder. The prince kept his gaze
fixed in the direction of the sound with the steadfastness
of a bird of prey. One would have said that his gaze could
pierce the branches of trees which limited his horizon. From
time to time his nostrils dilated as if eager for the smell
of powder, and he panted like a horse.

At length they heard the cannon so near that it was evident
they were within a league of the field of battle, and at a
turn of the road they perceived the little village of Aunay.

The peasants were in great commotion. The report of Spanish
cruelty had gone out and every one was frightened. The women
had already fled, taking refuge in Vitry; only a few men
remained. On seeing the prince they hastened to meet him.
One of them recognized him.

"Ah, my lord," he said, "have you come to drive away those
rascal Spaniards and those Lorraine robbers?"

"Yes," said the prince, "if you will serve me as guide."

"Willingly, my lord. Where does your highness wish to go?"

"To some elevated spot whence I can look down on Lens and
the surrounding country ---- "

"In that case, I'm your man."

"I can trust you -- you are a true Frenchman?"

"I am an old soldier of Rocroy, my lord."

"Here," said the prince, handing him a purse, "here is for
Rocroy. Now, do you want a horse, or will you go afoot?"

"Afoot, my lord; I have served always in the infantry.
Besides, I expect to lead your highness into places where
you will have to walk."

"Come, then," said the prince; "let us lose no time."

The peasant started off, running before the prince's horse;
then, a hundred steps from the village, he took a narrow
road hidden at the bottom of the valley. For a half league
they proceeded thus, the cannon-shot sounding so near that
they expected at each discharge to hear the hum of the
balls. At length they entered a path which, going out from
the road, skirted the mountainside. The prince dismounted,
ordered one of his aids and Raoul to follow his example, and
directed the others to await his orders, keeping themselves
meanwhile on the alert. He then began to ascend the path.

In about ten minutes they reached the ruins of an old
chateau; those ruins crowned the summit of a hill which
overlooked the surrounding country. At a distance of hardly
a quarter of a league they looked down on Lens, at bay, and
before Lens the enemy's entire army.

With a single glance the prince took in the extent of
country that lay before him, from Lens as far as Vimy. In a
moment the plan of the battle which on the following day was
to save France the second time from invasion was unrolled in
his mind. He took a pencil, tore a page from his tablets and

My Dear Marshal, -- In an hour Lens will be in the enemy's
possession. Come and rejoin me; bring with you the whole
army. I shall be at Vendin to place it in position.
To-morrow we shall retake Lens and beat the enemy."

Then, turning toward Raoul: "Go, monsieur," he said; "ride
fast and give this letter to Monsieur de Grammont."

Raoul bowed, took the letter, went hastily down the
mountain, leaped on his horse and set out at a gallop. A
quarter of an hour later he was with the marshal.

A portion of the troops had already arrived and the
remainder was expected from moment to moment. Marshal de
Grammont put himself at the head of all the available
cavalry and infantry and took the road to Vendin, leaving
the Duc de Chatillon to await and bring on the rest. All the
artillery was ready to move, and started off at a moment's

It was seven o'clock in the evening when the marshal arrived
at the appointed place. The prince awaited him there. As he
had foreseen, Lens had fallen into the hands of the enemy
immediately after Raoul's departure. The event was announced
by the cessation of the firing.

As the shadows of night deepened the troops summoned by the
prince arrived in successive detachments. Orders were given
that no drum should be beaten, no trumpet sounded.

At nine o'clock the night had fully come. Still a last ray
of twilight lighted the plain. The army marched silently,
the prince at the head of the column. Presently the army
came in sight of Lens; two or three houses were in flames
and a dull noise was heard which indicated what suffering
was endured by a town taken by assault.

The prince assigned to every one his post. Marshal de
Grammont was to hold the extreme left, resting on Mericourt.
The Duc de Chatillon commanded the centre. Finally, the
prince led the right wing, resting on Aunay. The order of
battle on the morrow was to be that of the positions taken
in the evening. Each one, on awaking, would find himself on
the field of battle.

The movement was executed in silence and with precision. At
ten o'clock every one was in his appointed position; at
half-past ten the prince visited the posts and gave his
final orders for the following day.

Three things were especially urged upon the officers, who
were to see that the soldiers observed them scrupulously:
the first, that the different corps should so march that
cavalry and infantry should be on the same line and that
each body should protect its gaps; the second, to go to the
charge no faster than a walk; the third, to let the enemy
fire first.

The prince assigned the Count de Guiche to his father and
kept Bragelonne near his own person; but the two young men
sought the privilege of passing the night together and it
was accorded them. A tent was erected for them near that of
the marshal.

Although the day had been fatiguing, neither of them was
inclined to sleep. And besides, even for old soldiers the
evening before a battle is a serious time; it was so with
greater reason to two young men who were about to witness
for the first time that terrible spectacle. On the evening
before a battle one thinks of a thousand things forgotten
till then; those who are indifferent to one another become
friends and those who are friends become brothers. It need
not be said that if in the depths of the heart there is a
sentiment more tender, it reaches then, quite naturally, the
highest exaltation of which it is capable. Some sentiment of
this kind must have been cherished by each one of these two
friends, for each of them almost immediately sat down by
himself at an end of the tent and began to write.

The letters were long -- the four pages were covered with
closely written words. The writers sometimes looked up at
each other and smiled; they understood without speaking,
their organizations were so delicate and sympathetic. The
letters being finished, each put his own into two envelopes,
so that no one, without tearing the first envelope, could
discover to whom the second was addressed; then they drew
near to each other and smilingly exchanged their letters.

"In case any evil should happen to me," said Bragelonne.

"In case I should be killed," said De Guiche.

They then embraced each other like two brothers, and each
wrapping himself in his cloak they soon passed into that
kindly sleep of youth which is the prerogative of birds,
flowers and infants.


A Dinner in the Old Style.

The second interview between the former musketeers was not
so formal and threatening as the first. Athos, with his
superior understanding, wisely deemed that the supper table
would be the most complete and satisfactory point of
reunion, and at the moment when his friends, in deference to
his deportment and sobriety, dared scarcely speak of some of
their former good dinners, he was the first to propose that
they should all assemble around some well spread table and
abandon themselves unreservedly to their own natural
character and manners -- a freedom which had formerly
contributed so much to that good understanding between them
which gave them the name of the inseparables. For different
reasons this was an agreeable proposition to them all, and
it was therefore agreed that each should leave a very exact
address and that upon the request of any of the associates a
meeting should be convoked at a famous eating house in the
Rue de la Monnaie, of the sign of the Hermitage. The first
rendezvous was fixed for the following Wednesday, at eight
o'clock in the evening precisely.

On that day, in fact, the four friends arrived punctually at
the hour, each from his own abode or occupation. Porthos had
been trying a new horse; D'Artagnan was on guard at the
Louvre; Aramis had been to visit one of his penitents in the
neighborhood; and Athos, whose domicile was established in
the Rue Guenegaud, found himself close at hand. They were,
therefore, somewhat surprised to meet altogether at the door
of the Hermitage, Athos starting out from the Pont Neuf,
Porthos by the Rue de la Roule, D'Artagnan by the Rue des
Fosse Saint Germain l'Auxerrois, and Aramis by the Rue de

The first words exchanged between the four friends, on
account of the ceremony which each of them mingled with
their demonstration, were somewhat forced and even the
repast began with a kind of stiffness. Athos perceived this
embarrassment, and by way of supplying an effectual remedy,
called for four bottles of champagne.

At this order, given in Athos's habitually calm manner, the
face of the Gascon relaxed and Porthos's brow grew smooth.
Aramis was astonished. He knew that Athos not only never
drank, but more, that he had a kind of repugnance to wine.
This astonishment was doubled when Aramis saw Athos fill a
bumper and toss it off with all his former enthusiasm. His
companions followed his example. In a very few minutes the
four bottles were empty and this excellent specific
succeeded in dissipating even the slightest cloud that might
have rested on their spirits. Now the four friends began to
speak loud, scarcely waiting till one had finished before
another began, and each assumed his favorite attitude on or
at the table. Soon -- strange fact -- Aramis undid two
buttons of his doublet, seeing which, Porthos unfastened his

Battles, long journeys, blows given and received, sufficed
for the first themes of conversation, which turned upon the
silent struggles sustained against him who was now called
the great cardinal.

"Faith," said Aramis, laughing, "we have praised the dead
enough, let us revile the living a little; I should like to
say something evil of Mazarin; is it permissible?"

"Go on, go on," replied D'Artagnan, laughing heartily;
"relate your story and I will applaud it if it is a good

"A great prince," said Aramis, "with whom Mazarin sought an
alliance, was invited by him to send him a list of the
conditions on which he would do him the honor to negotiate
with him. The prince, who had a great repugnance to treat
with such an ill-bred fellow, made out a list, against the
grain, and sent it. In this list there were three conditions
which displeased Mazarin and he offered the prince ten
thousand crowns to renounce them."

"Ah, ha, ha!" laughed the three friends, "not a bad bargain;
and there was no fear of being taken at his word; what did
the prince do then?"

"The prince immediately sent fifty thousand francs to
Mazarin, begging him never to write to him again, and
offered twenty thousand francs more, on condition that he
would never speak to him. What did Mazarin do?"

"Stormed!" suggested Athos.

"Beat the messenger!" cried Porthos.

"Accepted the money!" said D'Artagnan.

"You have guessed it," answered Aramis; and they all laughed
so heartily that the host appeared in order to inquire
whether the gentlemen wanted anything; he thought they were

At last their hilarity calmed down and:

"Faith!" exclaimed D'Artagnan to the two friends, "you may
well wish ill to Mazarin; for I assure you, on his side he
wishes you no good."

"Pooh! really?" asked Athos. "If I thought the fellow knew
me by my name I would be rebaptized, for fear it might be
thought I knew him."

"He knows you better by your actions than your name; he is
quite aware that there are two gentlemen who greatly aided
the escape of Monsieur de Beaufort, and he has instigated an
active search for them, I can answer for it."

"By whom?"

"By me; and this morning he sent for me to ask me if I had
obtained any information."

"And what did you reply?"

"That I had none as yet; but that I was to dine to-day with
two gentlemen, who would be able to give me some."

"You told him that?" said Porthos, a broad smile spreading
over his honest face. "Bravo! and you are not afraid of
that, Athos?"

"No," replied Athos, "it is not the search of Mazarin that I

"Now," said Aramis, "tell me a little what you do fear."

"Nothing for the present; at least, nothing in good

"And with regard to the past?" asked Porthos.

"Oh! the past is another thing," said Athos, sighing; "the
past and the future."

"Are you afraid for your young Raoul?" asked Aramis.

"Well," said D'Artagnan, "one is never killed in a first

"Nor in the second," said Aramis

"Nor in the third," returned Porthos; "and even when one is
killed, one rises again, the proof of which is, that here we

"No," said Athos, "it is not Raoul about whom I am anxious,
for I trust he will conduct himself like a gentleman; and if
he is killed -- well, he will die bravely; but hold --
should such a misfortune happen -- well -- " Athos passed
his hand across his pale brow.

"Well?" asked Aramis.

"Well, I shall look upon it as an expiation."

"Ah!" said D'Artagnan; "I know what you mean."

"And I, too," added Aramis; "but you must not think of that,
Athos; what is past, is past."

"I don't understand," said Porthos.

"The affair at Armentieres," whispered D'Artagnan.

"The affair at Armentieres?" asked he again.


"Oh, yes!" said Porthos; "true, I had forgotten it!"

Athos looked at him intently.

"You have forgotten it, Porthos?" said he.

"Faith! yes, it is so long ago," answered Porthos.

"This affair does not, then, weigh upon your conscience?"

"Faith, no."

"And you, D'Artagnan?"

"I -- I own that when my mind returns to that terrible
period I have no recollection of anything but the rigid
corpse of poor Madame Bonancieux. Yes, yes," murmured he, "I
have often felt regret for the victim, but never the very
slightest remorse for the assassin."

Athos shook his dead doubtfully.

"Consider," said Aramis, "if you admit divine justice and
its participation in the things of this world, that woman
was punished by the will of heaven. We were but the
instruments, that is all."

"But as to free will, Aramis?"

"How acts the judge? He has a free will, yet he fearlessly
condemns. What does the executioner? He is master of his
arm, yet he strikes without remorse."

"The executioner!" muttered Athos, as if arrested by some

"I know that it is terrible," said D'Artagnan; "but when I
reflect that we have killed English, Rochellais, Spaniards,
nay, even French, who never did us any other harm but to aim
at and to miss us, whose only fault was to cross swords with
us and to be unable to ward off our blows -- I can, on my
honor, find an excuse for my share in the murder of that

"As for me," said Porthos, "now that you have reminded me of
it, Athos, I have the scene again before me, as if I now
were there. Milady was there, as it were, where you sit."
(Athos changed color.) "I -- I was where D'Artagnan stands.
I wore a long sword which cut like a Damascus -- you
remember it, Aramis for you always called it Balizarde.
Well, I swear to you, all three, that had the executioner of
Bethune -- was he not of Bethune? -- yes, egad! of Bethune!
-- not been there, I would have cut off the head of that
infamous being without thinking of it, or even after
thinking of it. She was a most atrocious woman."

"And then," said Aramis, with the tone of philosophical
indifference which he had assumed since he had belonged to
the church and in which there was more atheism than
confidence in God, "what is the use of thinking of it all?
At the last hour we must confess this action and God knows
better than we can whether it is a crime, a fault, or a
meritorious deed. I repent of it? Egad! no. Upon my honor
and by the holy cross; I only regret it because she was a

"The most satisfactory part of the matter," said D'Artagnan,
"is that there remains no trace of it."

"She had a son," observed Athos.

"Oh! yes, I know that," said D'Artagnan, "and you mentioned
it to me; but who knows what has become of him? If the
serpent be dead, why not its brood? Do you think his uncle
De Winter would have brought up that young viper? De Winter
probably condemned the son as he had done the mother."

"Then," said Athos, "woe to De Winter, for the child had
done no harm."

"May the devil take me, if the child be not dead," said
Porthos. "There is so much fog in that detestable country,
at least so D'Artagnan declares."

Just as the quaint conclusion reached by Porthos was about
to bring back hilarity to faces now more or less clouded,
hasty footsteps were heard upon the stair and some one
knocked at the door.

"Come in," cried Athos.

"Please your honors," said the host, "a person in a great
hurry wishes to speak to one of you."

"To which of us?" asked all the four friends.

"To him who is called the Comte de la Fere."

"It is I," said Athos, "and what is the name of the person?"


"Ah!" exclaimed Athos, turning pale. "Back already! What can
have happened, then, to Bragelonne?"

"Let him enter," cried D'Artagnan; "let him come up."

But Grimaud had already mounted the staircase and was
waiting on the last step; so springing into the room he
motioned the host to leave it. The door being closed, the
four friends waited in expectation. Grimaud's agitation, his
pallor, the sweat which covered his face, the dust which
soiled his clothes, all indicated that he was the messenger
of some important and terrible news.

"Your honors," said he, "that woman had a child; that child
has become a man; the tigress had a little one, the tiger
has roused himself; he is ready to spring upon you --

Athos glanced around at his friends with a melancholy smile.
Porthos turned to look at his sword, which was hanging on
the wall; Aramis seized his knife; D'Artagnan arose.

"What do you mean, Grimaud?" he exclaimed.

"That Milady's son has left England, that he is in France,
on his road to Paris, if he be not here already."

"The devil he is!" said Porthos. "Are you sure of it?"

"Certain," replied Grimaud.

This announcement was received in silence. Grimaud was so
breathless, so exhausted, that he had fallen back upon a
chair. Athos filled a beaker with champagne and gave it to

"Well, after all," said D'Artagnan, "supposing that he
lives, that he comes to Paris; we have seen many other such.
Let him come."

"Yes," echoed Porthos, glancing affectionately at his sword,
still hanging on the wall; "we can wait for him; let him

"Moreover, he is but a child," said Aramis.

Grimaud rose.

"A child!" he exclaimed. "Do you know what he has done, this
child? Disguised as a monk he discovered the whole history
in confession from the executioner of Bethune, and having
confessed him, after having learned everything from him, he
gave him absolution by planting this dagger into his heart.
See, it is on fire yet with his hot blood, for it is not
thirty hours since it was drawn from the wound."

And Grimaud threw the dagger on the table.

D'Artagnan, Porthos and Aramis rose and in one spontaneous
motion rushed to their swords. Athos alone remained seated,
calm and thoughtful.

"And you say he is dressed as a monk, Grimaud?"

"Yes, as an Augustine monk."

"What sized man is he?"

"About my height; thin, pale, with light blue eyes and tawny
flaxen hair."

"And he did not see Raoul?" asked Athos.

"Yes, on the contrary, they met, and it was the viscount
himself who conducted him to the bed of the dying man."

Athos, in his turn, rising without speaking, went and
unhooked his sword.

"Heigh, sir," said D'Artagnan, trying to laugh, "do you know
we look very much like a flock of silly, mouse-evading
women! How is it that we, four men who have faced armies
without blinking, begin to tremble at the mention of a

"It is true," said Athos, "but this child comes in the name
of Heaven."

And very soon they left the inn.


A Letter from Charles the First.

The reader must now cross the Seine with us and follow us to
the door of the Carmelite Convent in the Rue Saint Jacques.
It is eleven o'clock in the morning and the pious sisters
have just finished saying mass for the success of the armies
of King Charles I. Leaving the church, a woman and a young
girl dressed in black, the one as a widow and the other as
an orphan, have re-entered their cell.

The woman kneels on a prie-dieu of painted wood and at a
short distance from her stands the young girl, leaning
against a chair, weeping.

The woman must have once been handsome, but traces of sorrow
have aged her. The young girl is lovely and her tears only
embellish her; the lady appears to be about forty years of
age, the girl about fourteen.

"Oh, God!" prayed the kneeling suppliant, "protect my
husband, guard my son, and take my wretched life instead!"

"Oh, God!" murmured the girl, "leave me my mother!"

"Your mother can be of no use to you in this world,
Henrietta," said the lady, turning around. "Your mother has
no longer either throne or husband; she has neither son,
money nor friends; the whole world, my poor child, has
abandoned your mother!" And she fell back, weeping, into her
daughter's arms.

"Courage, take courage, my dear mother!" said the girl.

"Ah! 'tis an unfortunate year for kings," said the mother.
"And no one thinks of us in this country, for each must
think about his own affairs. As long as your brother was
with me he kept me up; but he is gone and can no longer send
us news of himself, either to me or to your father. I have
pledged my last jewels, sold your clothes and my own to pay
his servants, who refused to accompany him unless I made
this sacrifice. We are now reduced to live at the expense of
these daughters of Heaven; we are the poor, succored by

"But why not address yourself to your sister, the queen?"
asked the girl.

"Alas! the queen, my sister, is no longer queen, my child.
Another reigns in her name. One day you will be able to
understand how all this is."

"Well, then, to the king, your nephew. Shall I speak to him?
You know how much he loves me, my mother.

"Alas! my nephew is not yet king, and you know Laporte has
told us twenty times that he himself is in need of almost

"Then let us pray to Heaven," said the girl.

The two women who thus knelt in united prayer were the
daughter and grand-daughter of Henry IV., the wife and
daughter of Charles I.

They had just finished their double prayer, when a nun
softly tapped at the door of the cell.

"Enter, my sister," said the queen.

"I trust your majesty will pardon this intrusion on her
meditations, but a foreign lord has arrived from England and
waits in the parlor, demanding the honor of presenting a
letter to your majesty."

"Oh, a letter! a letter from the king, perhaps. News from
your father, do you hear, Henrietta? And the name of this

"Lord de Winter."

"Lord de Winter!" exclaimed the queen, "the friend of my
husband. Oh, bid him enter!"

And the queen advanced to meet the messenger, whose hand she
seized affectionately, whilst he knelt down and presented a
letter to her, contained in a case of gold.

"Ah! my lord!" said the queen, "you bring us three things
which we have not seen for a long time. Gold, a devoted
friend, and a letter from the king, our husband and master."

De Winter bowed again, unable to reply from excess of

On their side the mother and daughter retired into the
embrasure of a window to read eagerly the following letter:

Dear Wife, -- We have now reached the moment of decision. I
have concentrated here at Naseby camp all the resources
Heaven has left me, and I write to you in haste from thence.
Here I await the army of my rebellious subjects. I am about
to struggle for the last time with them. If victorious, I
shall continue the struggle; if beaten, I am lost. I shall
try, in the latter case (alas! in our position, one must
provide for everything), I shall try to gain the coast of
France. But can they, will they receive an unhappy king, who
will bring such a sad story into a country already agitated
by civil discord? Your wisdom and your affection must serve
me as guides. The bearer of this letter will tell you,
madame, what I dare not trust to pen and paper and the risks
of transit. He will explain to you the steps that I expect
you to pursue. I charge him also with my blessing for my
children and with the sentiments of my soul for yourself, my
dearest sweetheart."

The letter bore the signature, not of "Charles, King," but
of "Charles -- still king."

"And let him be no longer king," cried the queen. "Let him
be conquered, exiled, proscribed, provided he still lives.
Alas! in these days the throne is too dangerous a place for
me to wish him to retain it. But my lord, tell me," she
continued, "hide nothing from me -- what is, in truth, the
king's position? Is it as hopeless as he thinks?"

"Alas! madame, more hopeless than he thinks. His majesty has
so good a heart that he cannot understand hatred; is so
loyal that he does not suspect treason! England is torn in
twain by a spirit of disturbance which, I greatly fear,
blood alone can exorcise."

"But Lord Montrose," replied the queen, "I have heard of his
great and rapid successes of battles gained. I heard it said
that he was marching to the frontier to join the king."

"Yes, madame; but on the frontier he was met by Lesly; he
had tried victory by means of superhuman undertakings. Now
victory has abandoned him. Montrose, beaten at Philiphaugh,
was obliged to disperse the remains of his army and to fly,
disguised as a servant. He is at Bergen, in Norway."

"Heaven preserve him!" said the queen. "It is at least a
consolation to know that some who have so often risked their
lives for us are safe. And now, my lord, that I see how
hopeless the position of the king is, tell me with what you
are charged on the part of my royal husband."

"Well, then, madame," said De Winter, "the king wishes you
to try and discover the dispositions of the king and queen
toward him."

"Alas! you know that even now the king is but a child and
the queen a woman weak enough. Here, Monsieur Mazarin is

"Does he desire to play the part in France that Cromwell
plays in England?"

"Oh, no! He is a subtle, conscienceless Italian, who though
he very likely dreams of crime, dares not commit it; and
unlike Cromwell, who disposes of both Houses, Mazarin has
had the queen to support him in his struggle with the

"More reason, then, he should protect a king pursued by

The queen shook her head despairingly.

"If I judge for myself, my lord," she said, "the cardinal
will do nothing, and will even, perhaps, act against us. The
presence of my daughter and myself in France is already
irksome to him; much more so would be that of the king. My
lord," added Henrietta, with a melancholy smile, "it is sad
and almost shameful to be obliged to say that we have passed
the winter in the Louvre without money, without linen,
almost without bread, and often not rising from bed because
we wanted fire."

"Horrible!" cried De Winter; "the daughter of Henry IV., and
the wife of King Charles! Wherefore did you not apply, then,
madame, to the first person you saw from us?"

"Such is the hospitality shown to a queen by the minister
from whom a king demands it."

"But I heard that a marriage between the Prince of Wales and
Mademoiselle d'Orleans was spoken of," said De Winter.

"Yes, for an instant I hoped it was so. The young people
felt a mutual esteem; but the queen, who at first sanctioned
their affection, changed her mind, and Monsieur, the Duc
d'Orleans, who had encouraged the familiarity between them,
has forbidden his daughter to think any more about the
union. Oh, my lord!" continued the queen, without
restraining her tears, "it is better to fight as the king
has done, and to die, as perhaps he will, than live in
beggary like me."

"Courage, madame! courage! Do not despair! The interests of
the French crown, endangered at this moment, are to
discountenance rebellion in a neighboring nation. Mazarin,
as a statesman, will understand the politic necessity."

"Are you sure," said the queen doubtfully, "that you have
not been forestalled?"

"By whom?"

"By the Joices, the Prinns, the Cromwells?"

"By a tailor, a coachmaker, a brewer! Ah! I hope, madame,
that the cardinal will not enter into negotiations with such

"Ah! what is he himself?" asked Madame Henrietta.

"But for the honor of the king -- of the queen."

"Well, let us hope he will do something for the sake of
their honor," said the queen. "A true friend's eloquence is
so powerful, my lord, that you have reassured me. Give me
your hand and let us go to the minister; and yet," she
added, "suppose he should refuse and that the king loses the

"His majesty will then take refuge in Holland, where I hear
his highness the Prince of Wales now is."

"And can his majesty count upon many such subjects as
yourself for his flight?"

"Alas! no, madame," answered De Winter; "but the case is
provided for and I am come to France to seek allies."

"Allies!" said the queen, shaking her head.

"Madame," replied De Winter, "provided I can find some of my
good old friends of former times I will answer for

"Come then, my lord," said the queen, with the painful doubt
that is felt by those who have suffered much; "come, and may
Heaven hear you."


Cromwell's Letter.

At the very moment when the queen quitted the convent to go
to the Palais Royal, a young man dismounted at the gate of
this royal abode and announced to the guards that he had
something of importance to communicate to Cardinal Mazarin.
Although the cardinal was often tormented by fear, he was
more often in need of counsel and information, and he was
therefore sufficiently accessible. The true difficulty of
being admitted was not to be found at the first door, and
even the second was passed easily enough; but at the third
watched, besides the guard and the doorkeepers, the faithful
Bernouin, a Cerberus whom no speech could soften, no wand,
even of gold, could charm.

It was therefore at the third door that those who solicited
or were bidden to an audience underwent their formal

The young man having left his horse tied to the gate in the
court, mounted the great staircase and addressed the guard
in the first chamber.

"Cardinal Mazarin?" said he.

"Pass on," replied the guard.

The cavalier entered the second hall, which was guarded by
the musketeers and doorkeepers.

"Have you a letter of audience?" asked a porter, advancing
to the new arrival.

"I have one, but not one from Cardinal Mazarin."

"Enter, and ask for Monsieur Bernouin," said the porter,
opening the door of the third room. Whether he only held his
usual post or whether it was by accident, Monsieur Bernouin
was found standing behind the door and must have heard all
that had passed.

"You seek me, sir," said he. "From whom may the letter be
you bear to his eminence?"

"From General Oliver Cromwell," said the new comer. "Be so
good as to mention this name to his eminence and to bring me
word whether he will receive me -- yes or no."

Saying which, he resumed the proud and sombre bearing
peculiar at that time to Puritans. Bernouin cast an
inquisitorial glance at the person of the young man and
entered the cabinet of the cardinal, to whom he transmitted
the messenger's words.

"A man bringing a letter from Oliver Cromwell?" said
Mazarin. "And what kind of a man?"

"A genuine Englishman, your eminence. Hair sandy-red -- more
red than sandy; gray-blue eyes -- more gray than blue; and
for the rest, stiff and proud."

"Let him give in his letter."

"His eminence asks for the letter," said Bernouin, passing
back into the ante-chamber.

"His eminence cannot see the letter without the bearer of
it," replied the young man; "but to convince you that I am
really the bearer of a letter, see, here it is; and kindly
add," continued he, "that I am not a simple messenger, but
an envoy extraordinary."

Bernouin re-entered the cabinet, returning in a few seconds.
"Enter, sir," said he.

The young man appeared on the threshold of the minister's
closet, in one hand holding his hat, in the other the
letter. Mazarin rose. "Have you, sir," asked he, "a letter
accrediting you to me?"

"There it is, my lord," said the young man.

Mazarin took the letter and read it thus:

"Mr. Mordaunt, one of my secretaries, will remit this letter
of introduction to His Eminence, the Cardinal Mazarin, in
Paris. He is also the bearer of a second confidential
epistle for his eminence.

"Oliver Cromwell.

"Very well, Monsieur Mordaunt," said Mazarin, "give me this
second letter and sit down."

The young man drew from his pocket a second letter,
presented it to the cardinal, and took his seat. The
cardinal, however, did not unseal the letter at once, but
continued to turn it again and again in his hand; then, in
accordance with his usual custom and judging from experience
that few people could hide anything from him when he began
to question them, fixing his eyes upon them at the same
time, he thus addressed the messenger:

"You are very young, Monsieur Mordaunt, for this difficult
task of ambassador, in which the oldest diplomatists often

"My lord, I am twenty-three years of age; but your eminence
is mistaken in saying that I am young. I am older than your
eminence, although I possess not your wisdom. Years of
suffering, in my opinion, count double, and I have suffered
for twenty years."

"Ah, yes, I understand," said Mazarin; "want of fortune,
perhaps. You are poor, are you not?" Then he added to
himself: "These English Revolutionists are all beggars and

"My lord, I ought to have a fortune of six millions, but it
has been taken from me."

"You are not, then, a man of the people?" said Mazarin,

"If I bore my proper title I should be a lord. If I bore my
name you would have heard one of the most illustrious names
of England."

"What is your name, then?" asked Mazarin.

"My name is Mordaunt," replied the young man, bowing.

Mazarin now understood that Cromwell's envoy desired to
retain his incognito. He was silent for an instant, and
during that time he scanned the young man even more
attentively than he had done at first. The messenger was

"Devil take these Puritans," said Mazarin aside; "they are
carved from granite." Then he added aloud, "But you have
relations left you?"

"I have one remaining. Three times I presented myself to ask
his support and three times he ordered his servants to turn
me away."

"Oh, mon Dieu! my dear Mr. Mordaunt," said Mazarin, hoping
by a display of affected pity to catch the young man in a
snare, "how extremely your history interests me! You know
not, then, anything of your birth -- you have never seen
your mother?"

"Yes, my lord; she came three times, whilst I was a child,
to my nurse's house; I remember the last time she came as
well as if it were to-day."

"You have a good memory," said Mazarin.

"Oh! yes, my lord," said the young man, with such peculiar
emphasis that the cardinal felt a shudder run through every

Book of the day: