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67. CONCLUSION

On the sixth of the following month the king, in compliance with the
promise he had made the cardinal to return to La Rochelle, left his
capital still in amazement at the news which began to spread itself of
Buckingham's assassination.

Although warned that the man she had loved so much was in great danger,
the queen, when his death was announced to her, would not believe the
fact, and even imprudently exclaimed, "it is false; he has just written
to me!"

But the next day she was obliged to believe this fatal intelligence;
Laporte, detained in England, as everyone else had been, by the orders
of Charles I, arrived, and was the bearer of the duke's dying gift to
the queen.

The joy of the king was lively. He did not even give himself the
trouble to dissemble, and displayed it with affectation before the
queen. Louis XIII, like every weak mind, was wanting in generosity.

But the king soon again became dull and indisposed; his brow was not one
of those that long remain clear. He felt that in returning to camp he
should re-enter slavery; nevertheless, he did return.

The cardinal was for him the fascinating serpent, and himself the bird
which flies from branch to branch without power to escape.

The return to La Rochelle, therefore, was profoundly dull. Our four
friends, in particular, astonished their comrades; they traveled
together, side by side, with sad eyes and heads lowered. Athos alone
from time to time raised his expansive brow; a flash kindled in his
eyes, and a bitter smile passed over his lips, then, like his comrades,
he sank again into reverie.

As soon as the escort arrived in a city, when they had conducted the
king to his quarters the four friends either retired to their own or to
some secluded cabaret, where they neither drank nor played; they only
conversed in a low voice, looking around attentively to see that no one
overheard them.

One day, when the king had halted to fly the magpie, and the four
friends, according to their custom, instead of following the sport had
stopped at a cabaret on the high road, a man coming from la Rochelle on
horseback pulled up at the door to drink a glass of wine, and darted a
searching glance into the room where the four Musketeers were sitting.

"Holloa, Monsieur d'Artagnan!" said he, "is not that you whom I see
yonder?"

D'Artagnan raised his head and uttered a cry of joy. It was the man he
called his phantom; it was his stranger of Meung, of the Rue des
Fossoyeurs and of Arras.

D'Artagnan drew his sword, and sprang toward the door.

But this time, instead of avoiding him the stranger jumped from his
horse, and advanced to meet d'Artagnan.

"Ah, monsieur!" said the young man, "I meet you, then, at last! This
time you shall not escape me!"

"Neither is it my intention, monsieur, for this time I was seeking you;
in the name of the king, I arrest you."

"How! what do you say?" cried d'Artagnan.

"I say that you must surrender your sword to me, monsieur, and that
without resistance. This concerns your head, I warn you."

"Who are you, then?" demanded d'Artagnan, lowering the point of his
sword, but without yet surrendering it.

"I am the Chevalier de Rochefort," answered the other, "the equerry of
Monsieur le Cardinal Richelieu, and I have orders to conduct you to his
Eminence."

"We are returning to his Eminence, monsieur the Chevalier," said Athos,
advancing; "and you will please to accept the word of Monsieur
d'Artagnan that he will go straight to La Rochelle."

"I must place him in the hands of guards who will take him into camp."

"We will be his guards, monsieur, upon our word as gentlemen; but
likewise, upon our word as gentlemen," added Athos, knitting his brow,
"Monsieur d'Artagnan shall not leave us."

The Chevalier de Rochefort cast a glance backward, and saw that Porthos
and Aramis had placed themselves between him and the gate; he understood
that he was completely at the mercy of these four men.

"Gentlemen," said he, "if Monsieur d'Artagnan will surrender his sword
to me and join his word to yours, I shall be satisfied with your promise
to convey Monsieur d'Artagnan to the quarters of Monseigneur the
Cardinal."

"You have my word, monsieur, and here is my sword."

"This suits me the better," said Rochefort, "as I wish to continue my
journey."

"If it is for the purpose of rejoining Milady," said Athos, coolly, "it
is useless; you will not find her."

"What has become of her, then?" asked Rochefort, eagerly.

"Return to camp and you shall know."

Rochefort remained for a moment in thought; then, as they were only a
day's journey from Surgeres, whither the cardinal was to come to meet
the king, he resolved to follow the advice of Athos and go with them.
Besides, this return offered him the advantage of watching his prisoner.

They resumed their route.

On the morrow, at three o'clock in the afternoon, they arrived at
Surgeres. The cardinal there awaited Louis XIII. The minister and the
king exchanged numerous caresses, felicitating each other upon the
fortunate chance which had freed France from the inveterate enemy who
set all Europe against her. After which, the cardinal, who had been
informed that d'Artagnan was arrested and who was anxious to see him,
took leave of the king, inviting him to come the next day to view the
work already done upon the dyke.

On returning in the evening to his quarters at the bridge of La Pierre,
the cardinal found, standing before the house he occupied, d'Artagnan,
without his sword, and the three Musketeers armed.

This time, as he was well attended, he looked at them sternly, and made
a sign with his eye and hand for d'Artagnan to follow him.

D'Artagnan obeyed.

"We shall wait for you, d'Artagnan," said Athos, loud enough for the
cardinal to hear him.

His Eminence bent his brow, stopped for an instant, and then kept on his
way without uttering a single word.

D'Artagnan entered after the cardinal, and behind d'Artagnan the door
was guarded.

His Eminence entered the chamber which served him as a study, and made a
sign to Rochefort to bring in the young Musketeer.

Rochefort obeyed and retired.

D'Artagnan remained alone in front of the cardinal; this was his second
interview with Richelieu, and he afterward confessed that he felt well
assured it would be his last.

Richelieu remained standing, leaning against the mantelpiece; a table
was between him and d'Artagnan.

"Monsieur," said the cardinal, "you have been arrested by my orders."

"So they tell me, monseigneur."

"Do you know why?"

"No, monseigneur, for the only thing for which I could be arrested is
still unknown to your Eminence."

Richelieu looked steadfastly at the young man.

"Holloa!" said he, "what does that mean?"

"If Monseigneur will have the goodness to tell me, in the first place,
what crimes are imputed to me, I will then tell him the deeds I have
really done."

"Crimes are imputed to you which had brought down far loftier heads than
yours, monsieur," said the cardinal.

"What, monseigneur?" said d'Artagnan, with a calmness which astonished
the cardinal himself.

"You are charged with having corresponded with the enemies of the
kingdom; you are charged with having surprised state secrets; you are
charged with having tried to thwart the plans of your general."

"And who charges me with this, monseigneur?" said d'Artagnan, who had
no doubt the accusation came from Milady, "a woman branded by the
justice of the country; a woman who has espoused one man in France and
another in England; a woman who poisoned her second husband and who
attempted both to poison and assassinate me!"

"What do you say, monsieur?" cried the cardinal, astonished; "and of
what woman are you speaking thus?"

"Of Milady de Winter," replied d'Artagnan, "yes, of Milady de Winter, of
whose crimes your Eminence is doubtless ignorant, since you have honored
her with your confidence."

"Monsieur," said the cardinal, "if Milady de Winter has committed the
crimes you lay to her charge, she shall be punished."

"She has been punished, monseigneur."

"And who has punished her?"

"We."

"She is in prison?"

"She is dead."

"Dead!" repeated the cardinal, who could not believe what he heard,
"dead! Did you not say she was dead?"

"Three times she attempted to kill me, and I pardoned her; but she
murdered the woman I loved. Then my friends and I took her, tried her,
and condemned her."

D'Artagnan then related the poisoning of Mme. Bonacieux in the convent
of the Carmelites at Bethune, the trial in the isolated house, and the
execution on the banks of the Lys.

A shudder crept through the body of the cardinal, who did not shudder
readily.

But all at once, as if undergoing the influence of an unspoken thought,
the countenance of the cardinal, till then gloomy, cleared up by
degrees, and recovered perfect serenity.

"So," said the cardinal, in a tone that contrasted strongly with the
severity of his words, "you have constituted yourselves judges, without
remembering that they who punish without license to punish are
assassins?"

"Monseigneur, I swear to you that I never for an instant had the
intention of defending my head against you. I willingly submit to any
punishment your Eminence may please to inflict upon me. I do not hold
life dear enough to be afraid of death."

"Yes, I know you are a man of a stout heart, monsieur," said the
cardinal, with a voice almost affectionate; "I can therefore tell you
beforehand you shall be tried, and even condemned."

"Another might reply to your Eminence that he had his pardon in his
pocket. I content myself with saying: Command, monseigneur; I am
ready."

"Your pardon?" said Richelieu, surprised.

"Yes, monseigneur," said d'Artagnan.

"And signed by whom--by the king?" And the cardinal pronounced these
words with a singular expression of contempt.

"No, by your Eminence."

"By me? You are insane, monsieur."

"Monseigneur will doubtless recognize his own handwriting."

And d'Artagnan presented to the cardinal the precious piece of paper
which Athos had forced from Milady, and which he had given to d'Artagnan
to serve him as a safeguard.

His Eminence took the paper, and read in a slow voice, dwelling upon
every syllable:


"Dec. 3, 1627
"It is by my order and for the good of the state that the bearer of this
has done what he has done.

"RICHELIEU"


The cardinal, after having read these two lines, sank into a profound
reverie; but he did not return the paper to d'Artagnan.

"He is meditating by what sort of punishment he shall cause me to die,"
said the Gascon to himself. "Well, my faith! he shall see how a
gentleman can die."

The young Musketeer was in excellent disposition to die heroically.

Richelieu still continued thinking, rolling and unrolling the paper in
his hands.

At length he raised his head, fixed his eagle look upon that loyal,
open, and intelligent countenance, read upon that face, furrowed with
tears, all the sufferings its possessor had endured in the course of a
month, and reflected for the third or fourth time how much there was in
that youth of twenty-one years before him, and what resources his
activity, his courage, and his shrewdness might offer to a good master.
On the other side, the crimes, the power, and the infernal genius of
Milady had more than once terrified him. He felt something like a
secret joy at being forever relieved of this dangerous accomplice.

Richelieu slowly tore the paper which d'Artagnan had generously
relinquished.

"I am lost!" said d'Artagnan to himself. And he bowed profoundly
before the cardinal, like a man who says, "Lord, Thy will be done!"

The cardinal approached the table, and without sitting down, wrote a few
lines upon a parchment of which two-thirds were already filled, and
affixed his seal.

"That is my condemnation," thought d'Artagnan; "he will spare me the
ENNUI of the Bastille, or the tediousness of a trial. That's very kind
of him."

"Here, monsieur," said the cardinal to the young man. "I have taken
from you one CARTE BLANCHE to give you another. The name is wanting in
this commission; you can write it yourself."

D'Artagnan took the paper hesitatingly and cast his eyes over it; it was
a lieutenant's commission in the Musketeers.

D'Artagnan fell at the feet of the cardinal.

"Monseigneur," said he, "my life is yours; henceforth dispose of it.
But this favor which you bestow upon me I do not merit. I have three
friends who are more meritorious and more worthy--"

"You are a brave youth, d'Artagnan," interrupted the cardinal, tapping
him familiarly on the shoulder, charmed at having vanquished this
rebellious nature. "Do with this commission what you will; only
remember, though the name be blank, it is to you I give it."

"I shall never forget it," replied d'Artagnan. "Your Eminence may be
certain of that."

The cardinal turned and said in a loud voice, "Rochefort!" The
chevalier, who no doubt was near the door, entered immediately.

"Rochefort," said the cardinal, "you see Monsieur d'Artagnan. I receive
him among the number of my friends. Greet each other, then; and be wise
if you wish to preserve your heads."

Rochefort and d'Artagnan coolly greeted each other with their lips; but
the cardinal was there, observing them with his vigilant eye.

They left the chamber at the same time.

"We shall meet again, shall we not, monsieur?"

"When you please," said d'Artagnan.

"An opportunity will come," replied Rochefort.

"Hey?" said the cardinal, opening the door.

The two men smiled at each other, shook hands, and saluted his Eminence.

"We were beginning to grow impatient," said Athos.

"Here I am, my friends," replied d'Artagnan; "not only free, but in
favor."

"Tell us about it."

"This evening; but for the moment, let us separate."

Accordingly, that same evening d'Artagnan repaired to the quarters of
Athos, whom he found in a fair way to empty a bottle of Spanish wine--an
occupation which he religiously accomplished every night.

D'Artagnan related what had taken place between the cardinal and
himself, and drawing the commission from his pocket, said, "Here, my
dear Athos, this naturally belongs to you."

Athos smiled with one of his sweet and expressive smiles.

"Friend," said he, "for Athos this is too much; for the Comte de la Fere
it is too little. Keep the commission; it is yours. Alas! you have
purchased it dearly enough."

D'Artagnan left Athos's chamber and went to that of Porthos. He found
him clothed in a magnificent dress covered with splendid embroidery,
admiring himself before a glass.

"Ah, ah! is that you, dear friend?" exclaimed Porthos. "How do you
think these garments fit me?"

"Wonderfully," said d'Artagnan; but I come to offer you a dress which
will become you still better."

"What?" asked Porthos.

"That of a lieutenant of Musketeers."

D'Artagnan related to Porthos the substance of his interview with the
cardinal, and said, taking the commission from his pocket, "Here, my
friend, write your name upon it and become my chief."

Porthos cast his eyes over the commission and returned it to d'Artagnan,
to the great astonishment of the young man.

"Yes," said he, "yes, that would flatter me very much; but I should not
have time enough to enjoy the distinction. During our expedition to
Bethune the husband of my duchess died; so, my dear, the coffer of the
defunct holding out its arms to me, I shall marry the widow. Look here!
I was trying on my wedding suit. Keep the lieutenancy, my dear, keep
it."

The young man then entered the apartment of Aramis. He found him
kneeling before a PRIEDIEU with his head leaning on an open prayer book.

He described to him his interview with the cardinal, and said, for the
third time drawing his commission from his pocket, "You, our friend, our
intelligence, our invisible protector, accept this commission. You have
merited it more than any of us by your wisdom and your counsels, always
followed by such happy results."

"Alas, dear friend!" said Aramis, "our late adventures have disgusted
me with military life. This time my determination is irrevocably taken.
After the siege I shall enter the house of the Lazarists. Keep the
commission, d'Artagnan; the profession of arms suits you. You will be a
brave and adventurous captain."

D'Artagnan, his eye moist with gratitude though beaming with joy, went
back to Athos, whom he found still at table contemplating the charms of
his last glass of Malaga by the light of his lamp.

"Well," said he, "they likewise have refused me."

"That, dear friend, is because nobody is more worthy than yourself."

He took a quill, wrote the name of d'Artagnan in the commission, and
returned it to him.

"I shall then have no more friends," said the young man. "Alas!
nothing but bitter recollections."

And he let his head sink upon his hands, while two large tears rolled
down his cheeks.

"You are young," replied Athos; "and your bitter recollections have time
to change themselves into sweet remembrances."





The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Category:
General Fiction

Romance Literatures
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